7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., andread prayers.
Mr. BURCHELL made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral district of Fremantle.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether any request has reached him from the Melbourne Trades Hall Council for an interview with a View to finding some method of settling the present industrial trouble, and, if so, whether the Government are prepared to take any action towards that end?
Mr.WATT. - A request was made tome by the Industrial Disputes Committee of the Trades Hall Council, Melbourne, that I should meet them and representatives of the Federated Seamen’s Union. I received that request this morning, on my return to town, and have already had an interview with representatives of the Industrial Disputes Committee and the Seamen’s Union. We discussed the question fully in all its many bearings, and as a result I am instructing the Controller of Shipping this afternoon to take steps to have convened another compulsory conference.
Settlement of Returned Soldiers
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories state what steps have been taken to redeem the promise made last year to make available for returned soldiers some of the unoccupied lands at Canberra?
– We anticipated that leaseholds in respect of about 8,000 acres would fall in during this year, but so far the principal difficulty in regard to the settlement of the men there has been in respect of the high cost of fencing. Matters of this kind, to some extent, impede the taking up of land by returned soldiers. I can supply the honorable member at any time with full particulars.
Mr. WATT laid upon the table of the House proposals submitted for the consideration of the Governments of the British Empire by the Government of the Commonwealth concerning the administration, conversion, and extinction of the war debts of the British Empire.
Ordered to be printed.
– May I ask the Treasurer whether he intends to proceed to London to place before the British Government or other authorities his scheme for pooling the war debts of the Empire?
– The scheme has been forwarded for the consideration of the British and Dominion Governments, but I have no intention of proceeding to London.
– In view of the importance of Port Stephens as a Naval Base, I desire to ask the Acting Minister for the Navy whether Admiral Viscount Jellicoe will inspect that port before making his report on Naval Bases?
– From the last intimation I received on the subject while in Sydney, I gather that it is the intention of Admiral Viscount Jellicoe to inspect Port Stephens on his return from the Islands.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence inform the House when the Australian Imperial Forces still in Egypt are likely to be brought home?
– I cannot. I shall, however, obtain the latest information, and let the honorable member have it tomorrow.
– I wish to ask the . Acting Minister for the Navy “whether it is a fact that the Wyandra has again been withdrawn from the Tasmanian trade and that some 400 or 500 returned soldiers are consequently waiting in Melbourne for return to their own State?
– I am not quite certain whether or not’ the Wyandra has been withdrawn, but it is quite probable that she has. As a matter’ of fact, the seamen have been controlling this country for the last few weeks.
– Has the Acting Minister for the Navy had brought under his notice the fact that the only two steamers trading with Tasmania, which are not under Government control, are trading with full crews, while allvessels under Government control are tied up?
– The fact has not been brought under my notice, but what the honorable member states is quite possible. It is most remarkable, in connexion with the strike, that while those concerned hold up their own property, and refuse to man Government ships, they man the ships of other people.
– Now that the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) has returned from Sydney, I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he has yet had with him the promised consultation with regard to the drastic sentences passed by the recent court martial on H.M.A.S. Australia?
– I have had a very hurried consultation with my honorable friend and colleague, who returned from Sydney this morning, and, as a result of it, the Cabinet will consider the papers relating to the case as soon as they are all available.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence state whether it is true that returned soldiers, when they receive their discharge, are asked to hand in their overcoats or pay 30s. each for them. If the report is correct, will he give instructions that the “ diggers “ shall be allowed to retain their overcoats without any payment being demanded of them ?
– I will submit the honorable member’s request to the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell).
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence read the reports in the press regarding the disembarkation of returned soldiers from the Orontes and Zealandia at Port Melbourne on Saturday last, and will he have a full inquiry made to ascertain who was responsible for the disgraceful conditions associated with the landing of the men so as to prevent a recurrence of them?
– The matter of the disembarkation of troops has been under the consideration of the Naval and Military authorities for some time. An arrangement was made that disembarkation should take place at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and that if in any case it was found impossible to disembark troops by 2 p.m., the men should remain on board until the following morning. The. Military authorities state that they are not responsible for what happened on Saturday last, because the transports are wholly under the control of the Navy. Negotiations are now pending between the two Departments toprevent any recurrence of the trouble. An end certainly should be put to such a system. I think the original arrangement as to the hours of disembarkation is the only suitable one for this time of the year. “Where troops cannot be landed by 2 p.m. it is far better that they should remain on board until the next morning, rather than that they should be disembarked as they were in the instance referred to on Saturday night.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if it is a fact that Mr. Corbould, mine manager at Mount Elliot, upon whose information the Defence authorities seized Paul Freeman, is about to leave the country, and, if so, whether the honorable gentleman, in the interests of justice, will take such steps as will prevent the man leaving the country until Paul Freeman shall have had an opportunity to have him examined per- medium of a public trial?
– I do not know whether the gentleman referred to is about to leave the country; neither do I know whether he’ had anything to do “with the arrest and deportation of Paul Freeman. I shall, however, make inquiries and take whatever steps I consider necessary in the interests of justice.
Plans for Parliament House - Railway from Jervis Bay.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories inform the House at what stage the reception and judging of the plans for the Federal Capital now rests?
– Speaking generally, Mr. Griffin’s plans are those on which construction is being carried on.
– I am speaking of the plans for the building of Parliament House.
– The matter has been before the Cabinet, and fully considered, and later on the decision will be announced. I may tell the honorable member that a deputation waited on me on the matter, and it was in accordance with the promise then made that the whole question was submitted to the Cabinet. To some extent, this affects the question raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) as to the apportionment of land for returned soldiers. Until some definite decision is come to–
– Unless a decision is come to, there will be some trouble !
– Until some definite decision is come to as to the construction of the Capital, it is very difficult to absolutely settle the terms on which the lands shall be made available.
– Have any steps been taken to redeem the promise made last session to both Houses to complete the survey of the railway from Jervis Bay to Yass-Canberra ? If not, why not?
– That matter has been under consideration, along with works and railways questions.
– Good old consideration !
– I ask the honorable member what would be the position, supposing there was a change of policy in regard to the building of the Federal Capital. The question was asked last year, under certain conditions.
– And the year before.
– If those conditions alter, it may be necessary to alter the construction of the line. The main point we are considering is where the line ought to start from. As a matter of fact, we are prepared for construction to the boundary, but the starting point to Yass is not determined. The question has been considered in connexion with the bigger one of the construction of the Federal Capital.
– As a schedule of pay has been drawn up, provisionally, for the Commonwealth Air Force, does the Assistant Minister of Defenceregard £2 a week, the amount proposed to be paid to privates in the new Force, as a living wage, especially in view of the fact that no additional allowance is proposed for board or clothing? As many of these men have served their country at the Front, and are married, and have families, will he confer withthe Acting Minister for Defence with a view to a revision of the proposed rates?
– I shall look into the matter.
– Is the Acting
Prime Minister aware that a number of firms in Melbourne, who are prepared to makearrangements to carry ontheir businesses and keep their employees engaged, have been compelled to close down because of the stoppage of supplies, particularly of sugar, in connexion with the manufacture of jam and confectionery? I ask the Acting Prime Minister to make inquiry, and take such action as will prevent interference with such industries?
– I do not know whether the honorable member refers to the stoppage of the supplies of sugardue to the shipping strike.
– No, due to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– That company has not charge of these matters; it is under contract with the Government to do certain work. The Government owns the sugar and can dispose of and distribute it, providing means of transport are available. I have not had this particular phase of the question brought under my notice before, but I shall make inquiries, and see how the matter stands.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories why a returned soldier has not been appointed as Administrator of the Northern Territory ?
– No one has been appointed Administrator. The term of Dr. Gilruth does not expire until, I may say, six months from the 1st June. We cannot have two Administrators at the same time, and I have been making arrangements gradually for the work to be done by. the chairmen of various boards, including the chairman of the new Advisory Council.
Release of “ Political “ Prisoners
– Now that peace has been proclaimed, has the Cabinet done anything in the direction of releasing those political prisoners - men and women - who were convicted of carrying the red flag?
– My honorable and genial friend - fresh from the scenes of Labour . in Sydney - has unwittingly made two mistakes. We do not recognise any political prisoners in Australia.
– They are here.
– We do recognise that certain men have broken the law of the Commonwealth, but they are no more political prisoners than other people who have broken other laws.
– Is that your excuse?
– It is not an excuse, but an explanation. The other mistake the honorable member has unwittingly dropped into is that peace has been proclaimed.
– You fired guns and waved flags on Monday !
– Lots of people fire guns in the honorable member’s State, but that is not a sign of peace.
– That is their way of declaring war.
– I intimated to the House last week that the question of the release of any kind of prisoners due to the exercise of clemency by the Governments of Australia on the proclamation of peace had been considered, and that the State Governments had been addressed by the Commonwealth with the object of obtaining a uniform policy. I have not their replies yet, but they will be promptly dealt with when they arrive.
– Following upon the reply given by the Acting Prime Minister to the honorable member for Maranoa-
– It is not in order to ask questions arising out of a reply given by a Minister to a previous question.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I asked a very important question in this House having reference to the liberties of some 6,000 or 7,000 persons. The answer given by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) was an evasion of the question altogether.
– I take leave to say that that is not a personal explanation.
– I was about to call the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he is going beyond the limits of a personal explanation. If he desires to explain something in which he has been personally misrepresented, he is at liberty to do so, but he is going beyond that in debating an answer by a Minister to a previous question.
– I desire to reply to an imputation of motives. The unfortunate part is that the answer given has been published in the press, and, so far as I have been able to see, in no section of the press has the question itself been published.
– The honorable member must see that this is not a personal explanation, but simply a comment on an answer given by a Minister. Unless the honorable member desires to explain something in which he is personally concerned, and to set some matter’ right in which he ‘has been misrepresented, he is not now in order.
– I still desire to make a personal explanation. I regret exceedingly that in doing what I did certain motives have been imputed to me, although’ I acted in the public interest, and not for the purpose of bolstering up myself politically.
– The honorable member will be in order in dealing with that matter in a personal explanation.
– After answering my ‘ question, the Acting Prime Ministersaid -
I may add that in my judgment the practice adopted by some honorable members of using questions on the notice-paper of Parliament as a hoarding on which to advertisetheir own political views should be discontinued.
Those remarks were an imputation, not only upon myself but upon other honorable members. I was actuated hy the highest possible motives in submitting my question. It dealt with a matter affecting the liberties of thousands of people in the Commonwealth which should be protected by the Government.
– I would not have risen but for the extraordinary remarks of the honorable member under the guise of a personal explanation. I say in reply to those remarks, and by way of personal explanation, that the honorable member’s primary question was, “ Would the Government appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into certain matters?’’ The answer of the Government to that question was “ No.” I then went further and explained why that answer was given. It was because we thought that it was a matter for the consideration of the States, and not of the Commonwealth. Then I said that the practice of submitting questions in the way adopted ‘by some honorable members - and they are on both sides of the House - should be discontinued. I did not question the motives of the honorable member. I questioned the method adopted by him in advertising his political views. I say frankly and sincerely that I am sorry if I have hurt the honorable member’s sense of propriety or injured his personal feelings, but I take it that the Leader of the House, which I temporarily am, has a perfect right to offer criticism, not as to the motives of an honorable member, but as to the methods adopted by him which, I think, are against the highest traditions of parliamentary procedure.
– Is it a fact that a number of Naval trainees deserted while at the war, and some of them subsequently enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force? If so, will the Acting Minister for the Navy grantimmunity from punishment, and grant their discharge f rom the Navy when they return to Australia?
– I have had a number of cases of the character to deal with, and they have been decided on their merits in the direction which the honorable member has indicated, but I am not prepared to make a general statement that they will all be dealt with on those lines. I ask the honorable member to submit specific cases.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say what steps have been taken regarding the proposed removal of the quarantine station from North Head, Sydney, to some more suitable place?
– I am having a careful investigation made as to the suitability of Port Stephens or any other coastal place to which the station can be removed.
– Is the Acting Minister for the Navy aware that the statement he made that members of the Seamen’s Union will not work on Commonwealth ships, but are working on privately-owned ships, is not correct? Does he not know that no member of the Seamen’s Union will work on any vessel, whether it be owned by the Government or privately?
– The honorable member can see reports which have been brought under my notice, which show distinctly that members of the Seamen’s Union have refused to work Commonwealth ships.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs make inquiries as to the truth or otherwise of a report very current in Melbourne that a syndicate has cornered the supply of jute goods, with the aid and connivance of some Government officials?
– The whole subject of the supply of jute goods to Australia is now under the consideration of the Government. Having some considerable knowledge of the present position, I can say, without hesitation, that the rumour the honorable member has heard has no foundation, so far as Government officials are concerned. There is a ring in regard to jute goods, but it happens to be in India; and I am sorry to say that it is operating at the present time detrimentally to the interests of the producer here. However, the whole position is receiving the serious consideration of the Government.
– I ask. the Acting Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that, just prior to the recent visit of Admiral Viscount Jellicoe to Cockatoo Island, hundreds of pounds were spent in cleaning up the yard in order to make it presentable ?
– I am not aware that that was done, but if the honorable member wishes to have the information I shall obtain it for him, subject to his putting the question on the notice-paper.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs take into consideration a recent recommendation by Mr. Justice Powers, that the officials employed as meat inspectors be made permanent, and make these men permanent employees of the Department accordingly?
– The matter is under consideration at the present time.
-Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that by a vote of the United States Congress, ratified by thirty-eight of the State Parliaments, the manufacture, sale, and importation of alcoholic liquors was made illegal from yesterday in the United States of America? Will the Acting Prime Minister consider the propriety of giving this Parliament the opportunity to discuss the same question, or allowing the people of Australia to determine the matter?
– I have seen it reported in the press that the action referred to has been taken in the United States Congress, with the effect that the honorable member has described; but the honorable member has probably not forgotten that, preceding that action by many long years and months, the States took their constitutional action on the question.
– They handed over the constitutional power to the Congress.
– That is so. This Parliament is not competent to deal with the subject, however much it may desire todo so, until the Constitution is amended, and nobody knows it more clearly than the honorable member for Brisbane.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation furnish replies to a question put by me, upon notice, last week, regarding the privileges extended to nurses under the Repatriation. Act, and state whether those privileges will include land settlement ?
– I am at a disadvantage through not having been here last week. I therefore do not know exactly what the question was, but I shall make inquiries if the honorable member will put the question on the notice-paper.
– I put it on the noticepaper last week.
– On 2th June the honorable member for
Adelaide (Mr. Yates) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with ‘the following information: -
The statistics for the financial year 1917-18, the latest complete statistics, available, are -
No. It is reported the accommodation at present provided is sufficient for the business transacted.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether in framing his Budget he will favorably consider the allocation of a special grant for the Postmaster-General’s Department to be utilized for the purpose of providing better mail and telephone facilities for primary producers and others residing in remote or sparsely-settled districts?
– I understand the PostmasterGeneral’s Department carries 50 per cent. of the loss on telephone service and 60 per cent. on mail services. It is doubtful whether any other policy than the one now adopted could, with advantage, be operated without an increase in present rates or additional taxation, but this and all other matters affecting finance will be considered when the Budget is being prepared.
Radio Message from Mauritius.
– The honorable member forCapricornia (Mr. Higgs) asked me, on 27th June, whether information had been obtained with regard to the sending of a radio message from Mauritius to Perth about the signing of peace, which I related to the press. I now desire to lay on the table a copy of a. communication from the Navy Department embodying a copy of the report from the officer in charge of the Naval Radio Station at Perth on the matter.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) proposed -
That the paper be printed.
– It is somewhat irregular, at this stage, for a motion to be moved that a paper laid on the table be printed. However, I shall’ take the sense of the House on the matter.
– I understand that the motion is not seconded. If it is, I desire to address myself to it.
– The honorable member for Capricornia will see that, in the circumstances, it would be quite out of order at this stage to accept such a motion.
– I understood that I could not debate the matter. I submit that, according, to the Standing Orders, I am entitled, when the Acting Prime Minister lays a paper on the table of -th,e House, to move that it be printed.
– May I, by leave, say that I could have answered the question, as is frequently done when inquiries are made and information obtained, by reading the report referred to ? I thought it would be much clearer to honorable members if I furnished them with an exact copy of the paper. If honorable members see the paper, I take leave to say they will not be inclined to order that it be printed. If the honorable member for Capricornia will go through it, I shall he prepared to discuss with him later the question of its printing.
– In giving replies to questions, Ministers sometimes intimate that they will lay certain matter incorporated in the reply upon the table, - to save the time of the House. I take it that that matter is to be regarded simply as an answer to the particular question concerned, and not as a paper laid on the table of the House in the ordinary way. At this stage of the proceedings, when questions upon notice are being answered, an answer laid upon the table in a written form, for convenience, in the way I have described, cannot be made the subject of a motion “ That the paper be printed.”
– May I make a personal explanation? I have no wish to embarrass the Government by moving the motion, but the Acting Prime Minister and honorable members generally will realize, on reflection, that the public have a right to be protected against deceptive information. The Minister ought to have been able to give us a proper explanation, which he could make public. If the printing of this document is not in the interests of Australia-
– - It ha3 nothing whatever to do with that. The paper is simply .not worth printing, and I considered that it obtained all the publicity necessary by being- laid .on the table.
– Does the Minister ask me to withdraw the motion ?
– Yes. :
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow :< -
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
For delivery to Thursday Island for war ships. 20th June, 1919, 408.2 tons at 130s. per ton. 28th April, 1919, 415 tons. ‘ Supply arranged by British Admiralty - price unknown at Navy Office.
For delivery to Townsville for war ships. 20th March, 1919, 545 tons at 130s. per ton. 22nd June, 1918, 208.9 tons at 150s. per ton (including demurrage).
For delivery to Fremantle for war ships. 2nd February, 1918, 190.05 tons at 120s. per ton. 10th May, 1918, 402.2 tons at 140s. per ton.
For delivery to Naval Depôt, Williamstown.
January to August, 1918. 14.18 tons at 148s. 6d. per ton.
September. 1918, to June, 1919, 13.99 tons at 153s. 6d. per ton.
April to June, 1919, 147.35 tons at 140s. per ton.
For delivery to Garden Island, Sydney.
January, 1919 (in one quantity), 1,160 tons 5 cwt. 2 qrs. 25 lbs. at 130s. per ton.
Various dates in various quantities, 785 tons 1 cwt. 1 qr. at 135s. per ton.
Various dates in various quantities, 246 tons 13 cwt. 0 qrs. 11 lbs. at 135s. per ton.
Oil fuel requires to be delivered to war ships in bulk ex tank steamers or oil lighters, supplies in casks or drums being unsuitable.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the House -
What amount of bonus has been paid on the production of raw oil?
What amount of raw oil has been produced ?
How much refined oil has been produced; also refined kerosene oil?
Has any benzine oil been produced by the firm (John Fell and Co.) claiming the bonus?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– Honorable members will have read in the press a copy of the cablegram from His Majesty’s Government to the Commonwealth Government, through the GovernorGeneral, in relation to the signing of Peace. That cable was despatched on 28th June, and was received here on Sunday, 29th June. In order that the records of this important matter should be complete, and not because there is any new information contained in it, I desire to lay a copy of that cablegram upon the table, and I move -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have just been told that the message read by the Acting Prime Minister was from the Imperial Government, and that it related to the signing of the Peace Treaty. I did not hear the contents of the message, and I do not think that other honorable members did.
Several Honorable Members. - It was not read.
– We are surely not going to take a message of that description silently ! I ask honorable members to join me in giving three cheers for our victory.
Honorable members, rising, cheered, and sang the National Anthem.
The fourth general report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works was laid upon the table of the House, and (on motion by Mr. Groom) was ordered to be printed.
– On 25th June, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following question:-
Is the Assistant Minister for Defence aware that a certain military police officer in Sydney, who tried to arrest a returned soldier named Williams, has been committed to prison himself for the assault he then committed? Does he know that the returned soldier was ordered to be imprisoned for one day and fined thirty-eight days’ pay by the military court martial? Seeing that the Civil Court found that the military police were at fault, will the Minister arrange that the returned soldier shall receive the money due to him?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The matter is now under consideration, and it is anticipated that a decision will be made shortly.
– On the 26th ultimo, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) asked the following question : -
Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House as to the quantity of butter exported during the years 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, and the price obtained locally and overseas for same?
I informed him that the information would be obtained and supplied. The particulars are as follow: -
The quantities of butter exported from Australia to all destinations during the years 1914-16, and for the period January to June, 1917, were -
The average price obtained per cwt. f.o.b. Australian port being -
The whole of the exportable surplus for the twelve months 1st July, 1917, to 30th June, 1918, and for the twenty-four months 1st September, 1918, to 31st August, 1920, has been sold to the British Government, the quantities delivered under this arrangement being -
and the prices obtained -
For butter grading 90 points, with1s. per cwt. increase or decrease for every point above or below 90 points.
During the months of July and August, for which there was no contract, the export of butter to the United Kingdom amounted to only 2¾ tons.
Prices Obtained Locally.
During the years 1914-15, the price fluctuated from week to week, and it is not possible to supply the information prior to the price being fixed.
The price of butter was first fixed on 25th September, 1910, at £7 9s. 4d. per cwt., and remained at that price during the remainder of that year. 1917. - The price varied from £7 9s. 4d. on the 1st January, to £7 18s.8d. per cwt. 1918. - 22nd January to. 2nd May, £8 12s.8d. per cwt. 2nd May to 7th October, varied from £7 14s. to £8 17s. 7th October to 23rd October (short period), £7 9s. 4d. 23rd October to December, varied from £7 14s. to £8 12s.8d., and to £911s. 4d. in Western Australia.
– On the 27th ultimo, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked the following question : -
Whether the Minister for Trade and Customs will state, for public information, what steps have been taken by the Government to obtain supplies of potash from overseas for the use of the fruit-growers of Australia, and whether there is a possibilityof supplying the requirements of the producers in the immediate future at a reasonable price?
I informed him that the information would be obtained and supplied. The following is the position: -
Since February last, the question of obtaining suppliesof potash has formed the subject of numbers of cables between the Government and the High Commissioner, who has advised that he is obtaining information as to prices from the French Government, who will control supplies of Alsatian potash. Prices at present are very high. A cablegram was recently despatched to the High Commissioner asking him to advise immediately supplies are available, and to quote quantity, grades, and prices. A reply has now been received, stating that Australian agents have been appointed. Supplies should, therefore, soon be obtainable through the ordinary trade channels.
– On the 25th June, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked the following question : -
Will the Assistant Minister for Defence say whether it is the practice of the Defence Department, when making final payments to discharged soldiers, to deduct the amount of fines imposed on the men during their service abroad? If such is the practice, will the Government consider its discontinuance in view of the great service rendered by our soldiers?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
For the information of ex-soldiers, the final account shows clearly in summary form all transactions, and thus fines are shown in the final account, even though (as in the majority of cases) the amounts of the fines had been recovered from the soldier’s drawing rate in the field, thus merely reducing their spending in the past. It is not proposed to remit the fines now, as it would result in the soldiers fined suffering no punishment for offences which have, in many cases, largely reduced the value of their service, and placing such soldiers, upon discharge, on the same footing as soldiers who have committed no offence; in fact, they would generally have more money to draw upon discharge, because nearly all soldiers have spent the whole of their drawing rate abroad.
– On the 25th June the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen) asked me the following question:-
Will the Minister for Home and Territories be good enough to lay on the table of the House the application form which I made out in Sydney, in January last, for a passport to enable me to proceed to London viã America, and also the passport itself?
I have just received the passport from Sydney, and I will lay it on the table of the Library.
The following papers were presented : -
Inter-State Commission Act - Inter-State Commission -
Fifth Annual Report -
Prices Investigation Reports -
No. 10. - Fruit and Vegetables.
No. 11.- Clothing.
No. 12.- Rents.
Ordered to be printed.
Audit Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 145, 159, 160.
Entertainments Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1919, No. 130.
Germany - Further Reports by British (Army) Officers on the Economic Conditions prevailing in - April, 1919. (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
Public Service Act -
Promotion of A. Stuart, Department of Trade and Customs.
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1919, No. 101.
– I move -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to certain commercial activities carried on by the Commonwealth in time of war.
Honorable members will recollect that when the Bill which was designed to extend the operation of the War Precautions Act was before this Chamber, certain announcements were made by Ministers. It was definitely stated that, even though the War Precautions Act was to be extended for a further period, the Government would immediately take steps to inquire into the existing regulations with a view to seeing whether a number of them could not be repealed before the time for the expiry of the Act itself. During the recess we have acted upon that promise, and have examined quite a number of these regulations. As a result we found that we could repeal many of them, and we have acted accordingly. The commercial restrictions embodied in some of the other regulations which have been continued have been re moved as rapidly as the Government could remove them. It was also announced during the debate in the House that there would probably be a necessity to operate some of the regulations even beyond the period for which the War Precautions Act was extended, and a definite promise was given that wherever it was desired so to extend any regulations a measure with this object in view would be submitted to honorable members, . who would be afforded an opportunity of pronouncing judgment in each case. It has been found necessary that a number of the regulations should be continued until the Act itself expires.
– When do the Government say the Act will expire - with the signing of the Peace Treaty or its ratification ?
– We are advised that the “end of the war “ synchronizes with the date of the exchange of ratifications.
The Bill which I now ask leave to introduce gives authority for the extension for a limited and definite period of certain commercial activities carried on by the Commonwealth during the year. I told honorable members on a previous occasion that, because of the limited powers conferred upon us by the Federal Constitution, the closing of the war would present to us some very intricate constitutional problems, and that we had constituted a Committee of eminent legal advisers to advise the Government with respect to legal problems arising out of the war. ‘ That Committee consists of Sir Edward Mitchell, K.C., M.A., LL.B. ; Mr. Adrian Knox, K.C., C.M.G. ; Mr. H. E. Starke, barrister-at-law ; Mr. J. M. Campbell, LL.M. ;–
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister seems to be making an extraordinary departure from the usual procedure by indulging in what is really a second-reading speech on a motion for leave to introduce the Bill. I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and also for an explanation from the Government as to the remarkable action taken by the Minister, merely, it would seem, to beat the wind.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson) . - It is quite a. frequent practice for a Minister, in moving for leave to introduce a Bill of a special character, to explain to the House on that motion the details of the measure, so that honorable members may be at once advised as to its character, and so be enabled to determine whether or not leave should be given for its introduction. That has been the practice in not only this House, but other legislative assemblies.
– The remaining members of this Committee of legal advisers are Professor Harrison Moore, C.M.G., B.A., LL.D., Professor of Law, University of Melbourne; Professor the Honorable J. B. Peden, M.L.C., Professor of Law, University of Sydney; and Mr. E. P. Simpson, of Messrs. Minter, Simpson, & Co., solicitors, of Sydney. Mr. Simpson, after giving us much valuable assistance as a member of this Committee, was compelled by reason of his professional position to retire from it, and in his stead Mr. A. M. Hemsley, of Messrs.- Allen, Allen and Hemsley, solicitors, of Sydney, was appointed. I, as Acting Attorney-General, was appointed chairman of the Committee.
We are under a deep debt of obligation to these eminent lawyers for the valuable assistance they have . gratuitously rendered to the Commonwealth. They have had to attend a great many meetings, and to devote a great deal of time and attention to the consideration of the problems placed before them. They have acted in a purely honorary capacity, and have given of the best that is in them .
Special matters have been referred to the Committee for advice, and in each case this has been done in the form of a draft Bill. For the policy of this legislation the Government take full and sole responsibility. The legal Committee have been asked to advise only as to the competence of Parliament to pass the legislation.
The Commercial Activities Bill deals with the dairy produce regulations, the wool and sheepskins regulations, the sugar regulation, and the flax and wheat regulations. In respect of each of these matters a reference was made to the Committee, the reference being accompanied by a particular Bill with a request for an opinion as to the competence of the Parliament to enact such legislation. The contents of the Bill which I now seek leave to introduce, were orignially submitted to the Committee in the form of five different measures. These measures were subsequently consolidated into one, and the Committee has certified as to the competence of the Parliament to enact it. Since some of the members of the Committee reside in Melbourne while others reside in Sydney, it has been necessary for the two sections to avail themselves of the Post Office to a considerable extent in the course of t’heir deliberations..The Melbourne members of the Committee, consisting of Sir Edward Mitchell, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Starke, Professor Harrison Moore, and I, as ActingAttorneyGeneral, have supplied the following certificate as to the Commercial Activities Bill : -
We have carefully considered this Bill, and are of opinion that it is within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament.
Messrs. Knox and Hemsley, two of the Sydney members of the Committee, have also supplied the following certificate: -
We have carefully considered this Bill, and are of opinion that it is within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament, subjectas regards Part IV. (Sugar) to the proviso that the Bill becomes law before the termination of the war.
Professor Peden, who has been ill, telegraphed - “ I concur in certificate given by Knox and Hemsley.” As to the meaning of the expression ‘ ‘ termination of the war,” I have received the following telegram from Mr. Hemsley : -
Knox and I understand “ termination of war “ to be “ exchange of ratifications.”
Since the signing of these certificates several amendments of a minor character have been incorporated in the measure. These amendments have been initialed by the Melbourne members of the Committee as being within the competence of the Parliament, while a communication from the Sydney members indicates that, in their opinion, the amendments are of an unimportant character ; so that they do not appear generally to affect the certificate which has been given. ‘ In these circumstances, therefore, we submit the Bill with confidence to the House, supported as it is with a certificate from some of the best legal advisers in the Commonwealth as to the competence of the Parliament to enact it. “ .
I trust that honorable members will bear with me while I put before the House details as to each particular activity covered by the Bill, and as to the reasons for the continuation of the regulations relating to them. Generally speaking, the effect of the Bill is to continue in operation the dairy produce regulations until 31st August, 1920; the wool and sheepskins regulations until 30th June, 1920; the sugar price fixation until’ 30th September, 1920; and the flax regulations until 31st December, 1920. The Bill also gives authority for the making of certain agreements that have already been entered into by the Commonwealth with the Governments of the States and the several banks with reference to the past wheat crops, while it purports also to give authority to enter into a further agreement in respect of the 1919- 20 crop. Communications have passed between the States and the Commonwealth Government, and an agreement has been arrived at in regard to the latter crop’.
– With respect to prices?
– An agreement has been arrived at, but I am not in a position at this stage to give the full details.
– When will they be made known ?
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) will probably make them known later on. The communications relating to the agreement have only just come through.
– The Minister ought to be able to say whether or not the price for the 1919-20 crop has been fixed.
– Information that the agreement has been arrived at has only just been received, and details will be announced later on.
The first part of the Bill deals with the dairy produce regulations. The object of the action taken by the Government in connexion with dairy produce was to control the supply of butter for consumption in the Commonwealth and the shipment of the surplus to the United Kingdom. The Imperial Government purchased the surplus produced during the period of the war and during one season on the termination of hostilities. This season will terminate on 31st August, 1920, and the Bill provides for the extension of the regulations up to that date. Early in 1917 it became apparent that supplies of fresh butter would not be sufficient to meet all requirements during the winter months, as production in certain of the dairying States appeared to be likely to fall below normal. It was decided, therefore, to form a Pool to provide against this expected shortage. Committees chosen by the dairying and commercial interests concerned were set up in the various States, with a central committee, of which’ the Chief Prices Commissioner in Melbourne was the chairman. A conference was held in Melbourne, and another, later on, in Sydney, at which certain recommendations were made and approved by the Government. As a result, a quantity of butter was purchased by the Government, put into cool stores, and resold as required through the ordinary channels. By this means the consumers were protected against any danger of shortage of supplies, and at the same time prices were kept within reasonable limits. This Pool was again revived to provide for the winter of 1918, with similar satisfactory results. Although the object was to secure continuity of supplies, and not to make a profit, the transaction in connexion with the two Pools resulted in a substantial profit to the Government, after paying all charges incidental to the administration. Since the closing of the 1918 Pool the pooling system has been continued by the newlyconstituted Commonwealth Dairy Produce Pool Committee.
In 1917 all surplus butter up to 30,000 tons was purchased by the Imperial Government at 151s. per cwt. for 90-point butter, with1s. up or down for every point above or below, as the case might be. At a later stage, the Imperial authorities agreed to pay half the profit realized in Great Britain. The amount of such profit has now been realized and distributed among those entitled to receive it. In 1918 the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) effected a further sale of all surplus butter during the term of the war and for one year thereafter at 175s. per cwt. for 90 points, with1s. up or down.
This contract will run until 31st August, 1920. The control of the whole of the butter supply was vested in a Committee, as it was absolutely necessary to provide for a sufficient local supply as well as establishing an equitable apportionment of the export trade. The Committee consisted of the Minister - who is chairman - a deputy chairman appointed by the Minister, three nominees of the Commonwealth Government, the Commonwealth Dairy Expert, two representatives for each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland in respect of the butter factories in those States, one representative for each of the States of South Australia and Tasmania in respect of the butter factories in those States, and one representative for each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland in respect of the cheese factories in those States. The representatives of the producers in the various States were elected’ by ballot held on 14th October, 1918. Immediately upon the ballot being taken the Committee formerly in existence voluntarily retired and handed over to the newly-elected body. Early in 1919, as the season did not promise to be too satisfactory, a winter Pool for local supplies was also established, and butter for those States which have not a full supply is being supplied from this Pool.
The pooling arrangement that applies to butter also applies to cheese, and an arrangement, similar to that existing in regard to butter, was made with the Imperial Government, the surplus having been sold for the same periods, 1917-18 and 1918-20, the prices obtained being as follows: - 1917- 18-90 pts., 9½d. lb., plusd. up to 94 pts. 83-89 pts., 9¼d. lb. 82 and under, 9d. lb. 1918- 20-90 pts., 10¼d.,plusd. up to 94 pts. 83-89 pts., l0d. lb. 82 and under, 9¾d. lb.
The Pool arrangements as to cheese are managed by the Committee, to which I have already referred. All butter produced anywhere in the Commonwealth (except in Western Australia) is acquired by the Committee, with the exception of butter manufactured by small manufacturers, and butter sold direct to suppliers - which the Committee may exempt from the regulations. After the requirements of the Commonwealth and certain Eastern trade have been provided for, the remainder of the butter is stored until freight is available to enable it to be shipped to England. As the Australian requirements in winter exceed the production, a winter Pool is formed consisting of all butter graded 92 points or over. This is placed on the local market as required. Any surplus is transferred to the Imperial Purchase Account. If the quantity stored in the winter Pool is insufficient for local requirements, the butter purchased on Imperial account is drawn upon.
The method of finance is for the butter factory to supply butter and obtain a certificate of an official grader and a storage warrant. On production of these, with an invoice, to the Commonwealth Bank, the factory is paid. Arrangements are made by the Commonwealth with the Commonwealth Bank to meet all claims made under the regulations.
Thus the regulations involve: -
As the season in relation to which the sale to the Imperial Government has been made does not terminate till 31st August, 1920, it is necessary to continue the operation of the regulations, together with so much of the War Precautions (Prices) Regulations as is required to enable the price of butter to be controlled, until that date, and thereafter to have authority to make the necessary financial adjustment of the Pool’s operations. As I have already stated, the Pool’s activities apply also to cheese, which is dealt with in substantially the same manner as butter.
It will give some idea of the quantity handled by the Dairy Produce Pool Committee if I read the figures showing the butter and cheese purchased for 1917-1918 and 1918-1919, remembering that the latter figures are only up to the 30th June, and do not represent the products of the whole season : -
These figures for 1918-19 do not cover the complete season.
The next important activity is that relating to wool and sheepskins. When negotiations were completed in December, 1916, for the sale to the British Imperial Government, through the Commonwealth Government, of the balance of the Australian wool clip for the season 1916-1917, it became necessary to bring into being an organization for the carrying out of this huge transaction. To this end the War Precautions (Wool) Regulations were promulgated in Statutory Rule No. 322 of 1916. Under these regulations was appointed a controlling body of nine persons (including a nominee of the Commonwealth Government) styled “ The Central Wool Committee.”
Provision was also made for the appointment of a subsidiary Committee in each State, such Committees to have the supervision of matters of detail within their own State, but in all matters of policy and general administration to be subject to the direction of the Central Wool Committee, the sole executive body. The -personnel of the Central and State Wool Committees is representative of the various branches of the wool industry in the following ratio: - 2 wool-growers; 3 wool-sellers; 1 wool-buyer; 1 manufacturer; 1 scourer or fellmonger.
In addition, the Central Wool Committee has a Government nominee, who acts as chairman. Prior to the close of the 1916-17 season the sale was extended to the season 1917-18, and has since been further extended, the present position being that the disposal of the wool clip to the Imperial Government under the existing arrangements will terminate on the 30lh day of June,’ 1920.
As an indication of the magnitude of the wool purchase scheme, the following figures are given : -
From the initiation of the wool scheme to date, the number of bales of wool appraised under the direction of the Central Wool Committee totals 5,008,816. Of this quantity, 164,598 bales were purchased by Australian woollen and wool tops manufacturers, who have priority of selection of their requirements before shipments are made overseas.
In order that wool-scouring works, fell.mongeries, and the re-classing section of the wool industry should not suffer as a result of the sale of the clip, special arrangements were made with the Imperial Government, whereby sufficient wools were to be set aside for scouring or re-classing on their account. The number of bales so treated to date is : -
The amount of £113,425,488 has been received from the Imperial Government to date, and as the estimate for the season 1919-20 is from £45,000,000 to £50,000,000, the wool and sheepskins transactions with the Imperial Government, administered by the Central “Wool Committee, should approximate £165,000,000 sterling, including payments to wool -selling brokers for distribution to wool-growers for settlement of scouring and re-classing accounts, and to cover other expenses incidental to the scheme.
As already mentioned, the present contract will terminate on the 30th day of June, 1920, but this date will not see the end of the functions of the Central and State Wool Committees. Although we keep the regulations in force up to the dates I have specified, authority will have to be given to the respective Committees, as provided in the Bill, to wind up their respective businesses as in the case of an ordinary liquidation.
– But they will have no further control.
– None, except for the purpose of winding up their transactions as provided for in the Bill.
– At what date will the process of winding up start?
– On the date of the expiry of the regulations in each case. Not only will there be a considerable quantity of wool to be shipped overseas, ‘ but numerous other matters of great importance will require close attention, and careful handling in order that the ramifications of the wool trade may be restored to a normal condition with the least possible delay, and also that the transactions to complete the wool purchase scheme shall give satisfaction to all concerned.
It is. of course, well known that, according to the terms of purchase, the Imperial Government is to return to the woolgrowers of Australia 50 per cent. of the profits from the sale of wool other than for Army or Navy requirements. These accounts cannot be finalized for many months after the last shipment of wool from Australia, and the distribution over the different seasons of amounts so received will have to be determined, on the particulars contained in audited accounts to be furnished by the Director ofRaw Materials, London.
The storage sheds erected by the Central Wool Committee, at a cost of £300,000, in the different States, will need to be disposed of, either by sale of buildings and a transfer of land lease, or sale of buildings for removal and termination of landlease. Plant and machinery, office furniture and fittings, &c, purchased since the commencement of operations, will have to be sold, and the proceeds added to the final distribution. Final statements will then have to be prepared for submission to Parliament, and also forwarded to the Imperial authorities, London. Additional statements of a complicated character, setting forth every detail of this huge organization, must be prepared and bear the indorsement of the AuditorGeneral for the Commonwealth as to their correctness, &c.
It will, therefore, be seen that the existence of the Central and State Wool Committees must continue for some time to come, and, as the powers conferred under the War Precautions Act will probably cease to operate within the next few months, it is necessary to bring in special legislation to enable the Central and State Wool Committees to continue their functions until such- time as all matters pertaining to the purchase by the Imperial Government of the Australian wool clip from the seasons 1916-1917 to the seasons 1919-1920 are fully disposed of.
As regards sheepskins, there is certainly freedom of trade within the Commonwealth, but as certain conditions of the wool contract apply also to sheepskins during the continuance of that contract, it is necessary to make provision for the control for export of sheepskins overseas, as in the case of wool.
I propose now to deal with another important activity, namely, that in relation to sugar. The Bill, as honorable members will see, deals only with one particular matter - the fixing of the price of sugar. It purports to give power to the Executive to fix the price of sugar until the date I have mentioned, the 30th September, 1920. The object of the Government action, in the first instance, was to secure the production of sugar in Australia, to arrange for the supplies of sugar for the people, and, finally, to see that the sugar was distributed on equitable terms at a reasonable price. Honorable members will realize, on looking over the past history of the sugar industry, the very serious shortage that threatened throughout the world, and the absolute necessity there was in Australia to make some provision as early as possible in order to secure sugar for the Australian people. This object was attained by -
In 1915, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Sugar Purchase Act, whereby provision Was made for the financial arrangements necessary in connexion with the purchase of sugar by the Commonwealth.
– Why does sugar cost less in New Zealand?
– New Zealand has no duty on sugar. With the exception of New Zealand, no country in the world has been nearly so favorably situated in the matter of sugar as Australia has been during the past few years. Honorable members know what is the accepted policy of the Commonwealth, ‘and I think that we can congratulate ourselves that our foresight in respect of that policy has put Australia in such a position. However, I have no wish to be led into a discussion of that policy.
In 1914 the Australian crop was sufficient to meet consumption, which was then estimated at about 265,000 tons, but in April, 1915, it became evident that a serious shortage was likely to occur in the supplies of sugar, as, owing to the effect of the drought, the Queensland cane crop was estimated to yield a much diminished quantity. Moreover, it appeared, owing to the conditions created by the war, that a serious shortage of sugar supplies was likely to arise, and, therefore, it became essential to make provision for Australian supplies. On the 26th June, 1915, the first agreement was made with the Queensland Government, and on the 6th July, 1915, the first agreement was made with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. The price originally paid for raw sugar had been under £14, but by the 1915 agreement £18 was paid. In 1917 the price was raised to £21 per ton, at which price it still continues. The retail price, 3½d. per lb., for 1A sugar was fixed on the 17th January, 1916, and still continues. The price of £21 per ton, fixed bythe 1917 agreement, has materially stabilized the sugar cane industry. The consumption, however, is now increasing, and is approaching 285,000 tons annually - equal to about 128 lbs. per head of population. The annual turnover of the sugar in Australia represents about £8,000,000 sterling. The price of refined sugar in Melbourne is £29 7s. 6d. in America £46, and inEngland £57.
I have shown all the different elements of the scheme by which sugar is supplied and controlled, and how prices are fixed. The only thing necessary in order to keep our powers in regard to sugar in existence to the 30th September, 1920, the date on which the Queensland contract expires, is the fixing of prices, and that is the only point dealt with, so far as sugar is concerned, in this Bill.
The next matter I wish to refer to is flax. Prior to the war, Russia supplied no less than 80 per cent, of the world’s output of flax fibre. With the . Baltic provinces and the flax-growing districts of Belgium and Northern France in German hands, the shortage of flax fibre among the Allied nations had by the middle of 1917 become very acute. The Imperial Government offered, and is still offering, special inducements to farmers in the British Isles to increase the cultivation of this crop, recognising that it was extremely undesirable that the Empire should remain dependent upon outside sources of supply for the raw material of such an essential industry both in peace and war. On the advice of the Advisory Council of Science and Industry here that flax could be successfully grown in many parts of Australia,’ the Commonwealth Government entered into an agreement with the Imperial Government in the latter part of 1917, whereby the latter agreed to purchase the fibre from the 1918 flax crop at £170 per ton. The Commonwealth Government then appointed a Flax Industry Committee under War Precautions Regulations to carry out a scheme pf development, and guaranteed the Australian farmer £5 per ton for unthreshed flax of standard quality. Through the Committee’s efforts the area under flax was increased from 300 acres in 1917 to 1.400 acres in 1918. This crop is now being treated at various mills in Victoria, to which State the first year’s efforts were necessarily confined, owing to the lack of .time and. seed at the Committee’s disposal. The cessation of hostilities has not, however, ended the difficulty of the British linen trade to obtain its raw material, but has rather accentuated it, as the world’s stocks of linen and other flax fabrics had become practically depleted, and moreover, the conditions in Russia were, and still are, such as to postpone indefinitely the restoration of agricultural and commercial activities in that country. On the Committee’s advice the Commonwealth Government has guaranteed £6 per ton for flax grown in 1919, and has accepted the British Government’s offer to purchase the resultant fibre on the same terms as before, viz., £170 per ton. To enable the Government to carry out the commitments under this guarantee both in regard to the purchase and treat- ment of the flax and to the disposal of the resultant products, it is necessary to provide for the continuance of the powers and functions of the Flax Industry Committee as at present held under War Precautions Regulations. The area sown this year is between 2,000 and 3,000 acres, and the estimated, value of the products that will be obtained from this crop is, with a normal season, about £50,000. Considering that the value of flax products imported annually into Australia is, approximately, £500,000, the desirability of encouraging the cultivation of this crop must be apparent. In addition to the area grown commercially,, the Flax Committee is conducting a number of experiments either on its own behalf or in conjunction with the Agricultural Departments of the various States.
The position is that we find ourselves bound by the compact with the Imperial Government, and we have given guarantees in connexion with the 1919 crop. It is, therefore, essential to continue the War Precautions Regulations dealing with this matter, and continue the powers of the Flax Industry Committee to deal with the obligations to ‘ which we are already committed. The Bill purports to confer that power.
The final matter dealt with in the Bill is wheat. The commencement of what is known as the Wheat Scheme was due primarily to the shortage of freight caused by the war. At the inauguration of the scheme farmers were in bad circumstances owing to a recent drought, and to the fact that the record crop following the drought could not be disposed of overseas owing to freight shortage. The Wheat Scheme was devised in order to overcome, as far as possible, the freight difficulty, and to insure that all growers should have an opportunity of participating equally in the net returns of overseas business. In order to carry out the scheme, a Wheat Board was appointed, of which the Prime Minister, the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, was the chairman, and the other members were the Ministers for Agriculture, respectively, representing the following States: - New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, and representatives of the growers were added at later dates. The States of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia have legislated to place the Wheat Pool on a statutory footing, and New South Wales has undertaken to do so.
It was decided to pool all wheat for the purposes of shipment, local sales, and realization, there being local Pools in each State for local sales, and a general Pool for oversea realizations.
As regards the 1915-1916 crop, an agreement was made between the Commonwealth, the States, and the banks, whereby the banks agreed to provide funds ip anticipation of realization. The moneys received on realization were agreed to be placed with the banks, and applied by them in settlement of the advances. Each State Government which was a party to the agreement guaranteed to make good its liability to the banks, and, in addition, the Commonwealth gave a guarantee that each State Government concerned would make good its liability.
For the 1916-17 Crop:- There was no formal agreement as in the case of the 1915-16 crop, but the financial arrangements were made through the Commonwealth Treasury and the Commonwealth Bank.
For the 1917-18 Crop:- A similar agreement to that made as regards the 1915-16 crop was entered into. The Commonwealth and States agreed to guarantee advances to the growers to the extent of 4s. per bushel f.o.b. (on f.a.q. basis) - the liabilities of States and Commonwealth in respect of those advances being - (a) State Governments are responsible for 3s. ; (6)’ in each State the responsibility for the difference between 3s. and 4s. f.o.b. (on f.a.q. basis) is to be borne equally by Commonwealth Government and the Government of such State.
For the 1918-19 Crop: - A similar agreement to that made as regards., the 1915-16 crop will be entered into, but in respect of this agreement it is desired that there should be statutory authority for the Prime Minister to enter into the agreement on behalf of the Commonwealth. Meantime action has been taken on the assumption of the agreement being entered into.
The price guaranteed for this crop is, in New South Wales, 4s. per bushel delivered at country railway stations, and as regards the other three States 4s. 4d. per bushel, less rail freight from point of delivery to seaboard. The responsibility is apportioned thus : - (a) To the State Governments for 3s., plus all charges, including handling charges, rail freight, administration expenses, interest, and any cost due to calamity or pest damage. (6) Equally between the State (in each State) and the Commonwealth Government - the difference between 4s. 4d., less rail freight, and 3s.
– I think this statement deserves a quorum. * Quorum formed.]*
– The task of the Wheat Board has been of great magnitude, not alone as regards the financial transactions involved, but also in connexion with the transport, overseas of such vast quantifies. Wheat is a low-priced commodity, worth here only a penny a pound. Payments made to growers and to meet expenses have reached a total of £101,250,000. The problem of finance, however, is only one of those with which the Pool management has had to contend. During the operations of the scheme there has been received for realization 468,000,000 bushels, or 13,430,000 tons, to be held for local sale or for over- > seas shipment. In these circumstances, storage arrangements on a most unusual scale have had to be made by the States, and the Wheat Board has been confronted with a task of the utmost seriousness to provide freight. .Sales overseas by the Board have amounted to 6,050,000 tons, and of this quantity there has been shipped 5,200,000 tons. Allowing for local consumption to the end of the year, we have still for sale 2,000,000 tons. Advances have been made, however, against the wheat, whether sold or not, with the result that the Board’s overdraft at the present time amounts to £18,300,000.
As regards this activity, the Bill asks only for statutory authority to confirm the agreements that have been made in the past, and to enter into a contract in respect of the 1919-20 crop.
– Is any provision being made in the Bill for the continuation of the Pool?
– No. The Pool was not constituted by War Precautions Regulations, or by any authority of that nature. It was constituted, as the honorable member knows, in quite a different way. War Precautions (Supplementary) Regulation No. 53 was promulgated, not for the purpose of constituting the Pool, but to provide for the financial undertakings of the Commonwealth in connexion with the Pool.
When we look over the great activities carried out by the Commonwealth during the period of the war, we have reason to be grateful to all those business men, and others connected with production, who gave such material assistance to the Government in enabling our industries to be carried on. These activities weredue solely to the war. The Government intervened only on account of war necessities, and, as the result of the organization ofthese industries material assistance was given . to the Empire at a most critical time. The result of the operations has been to enable production to be carried on steadily throughout Australia during the most trying time in our history. Seeing that this was successfully accomplished by the advice of those gentlemen who gave up unlimited time for no remuneration at all, and actuated solely by a patriotic desire to help their country, we may well, at the conclusion of the war, express our gratitude to them, and our deep sense of thankfulness that we had in Australia such men to help us to carry the war to a successful conclusion.
.- I am rather surprised that this motion is being allowed to go through so quietly. It was impossible to follow the Minister in his long address, but the point I wish to emphasize is that, if this and similar measures on the notice-paper are allowed to go through, extending for one year the operations of certain actions of the Government under the War Precautions Act and other authorities, there is nothing to prevent them from being extended for twenty or even fifty years. Once we admit the principle, there is absolutely nothing to prevent the Government from coming down with an additional Bill extending the censorship, for instance, for another five or ten years. I am one of those who believe that the War Precautions Act itself was illegal in many respects. If it is possible now to do these things under the authority of separate Bills brought before this Parliament, I submit that the Government could have obtained their authority previously in a similar manner. Why was that course not followed? I shall hot debate this motion further than to say that I can see very grave danger in passing the Bill, because I believe that the Government can use it as a precedent for taking similar action regarding all the powers they assumed under the War Precautions Act and its regulations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 25th June (vide page 10042), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That the paper be printed.
.- I desire at the outset to apologize for the absence of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), who has been compelled to go to Sydney owing to a family bereavement, and whose intention was to make, on this motion, a speech hostile to the Government, and to move a hostile amendment. I could have wished that I had more time in which to deal with such a motion as this, not that there is not ample material; in fact, my trouble is that I cannot condense into a reasonable time a commentary on all the sins of the Government during their administration. They would fill a three-volume - I was going to say novel; but, at any rate, a threevolume official statement. During my whole period in Parliament I have never read a more lengthy statement from a Ministry as to their doings, and what they propose to do, than this document, which the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) read the other day, and the reading of which was as wearisome as a twice-told tale.”
It contains several passages regarding the Peace Conference. We know very little about that gathering. The Government have not made us acquainted with the doings of the Conference. Anything we may know has been gained from the daily press. If the Acting Prime Minister was permitted to speak, there is no doubt we could get a great deal of. information, but, knowing the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) so well, we are satisfied that he has placed an embargo upon the Acting Prime Minister giving us this information.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– Then, where is the document as to the terms that were submitted to the Germans weeks ago? Have the Government not been made acquainted with those terms? If they have, where are they, and what are the reasons that we have not had them laid on the table of the House, as one might have expected? Why did not the Government say, “ Here, gentlemen, is a copy of the Peace terms as presented to Germany several weeks ago”?
– The honorable member has questions about that subject upon the notice-paper for to-morrow. Is he not anticipating them ?
– I draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– There are several paragraphs in the Ministerial statement about demobilization, and I shall refer at some length to the Government plot in that connexion. There are paragraphs concerning the unsold portion of the wheat, and the metal markets. The actions of the Government in that regard will, no doubt, come in for considerable criticism from their own supporters, if they have not already arrived at a decision, in the interests of themselves at thenext elections, that there should be unity.
At the end of the literary paragraphs, if I may so call them, there is a list of measures which the Government can have no intention whatever of attempting to pass, if we may observe the signs of the times, and the remarks of gentlemen like Sir Alexander Peacock and others, who say that a general election is imminent, and that they must be ready, “ as they never know what may happen.” That was the statement made the other day at the meeting of the National Federation.
I propose, first, to speakabout the Federal regulations, and, in any criticism of the Government this afternoon, I shall not make many statements of my own, but shall bring before the House and the ActingPrime Minister statements by members of his own party. Take the regulations drawn up by the would-be autocrat, Sir John M. Higgins, approved by the would-be autocrat the Prime Minister, and tolerated by the would-be autocrat the Acting Prime Minister.. The effect of these regulations is to play into the hands of the big companies, and to punish the small producers. That appears to be the policy of the Government, and of a majority of their supporters. Take, for example, the export of ore, and the Federal embargo upon it. The testimony whichI have here is not that of a Ministerial supporter - it comes from an opponent, in the person of Mr. Jones, the Queensland Minister for Mines, who, in an interview of recent date, said -
The Federal regulations had had exactly the effect predicted - the small producers had no alternative but to sell their ores to one of the few large Australian mining and smelting companies on these companies own terms. During the period of the war, £42 on each ton of copper in one transaction was taken by the smelting company for smelting treatment and realization in London. Even after every allowance for war increases, £42 per ton of copper was far too much to take from producers for realization costs. The unsatisfactory condition existed not only with regard to copper, but also with regard to silver lead ores, there being one smelting company which, under the regulations, practically got a monopoly in Australia of the purchase of silver lead ores from small producers. Again, a case in point was that a parcel of ore containing a little over 6 tons of lead was paid by the company for the silver lead in the ore, after deductions, £105 10s. The metal market value of the lead and silver on the day of purchase was £200 10s. Thus it would be seen that £95 was taken by the company for treatment, realization, and profit.
The small producer has been sacrificed for the big man, and yet the National Caucus meeting, which was held in secret in our parliamentary buildings, on 24th June last, carried a resolution expressing its hearty approval of the admirable manner in which the Acting Prime Minister and his colleagues had administered the affairs of Australia. This resolution was seconded by Mr. Corser, of Queensland, who, no doubt, called for three cheers for the Government, or, at least, felt inclined to do so: Mr. Jones, the Queensland Minister for Mines, pro- ceeded -
The Federal regulations were, and are, more keenly felt in Queensland than elsewhere. They deprived the producers of a considerable proportion of the value of their product, which they justly should receive. The case of the molybdenite producer was harder even than the copper producer. No less than £63 10s. per ton of 00 per cent. ore was surrendered to the Commonwealth agents. Dalgety and Company were the sole agents appointed by the Commonwealth.
– That is not correct.
– This is the first time that I have heard the Acting Prime Minister deny the accuracy of the statement made by the Queensland Minister for Mines.
– I have not heard of it before. But I have given the honorable member the information that there are two agents for the Commonwealth - one, the Thermo Electric Company.
– Its appointment is only of recent date.
– No. Its appointment dates back to nearly two years ago.
– Mr. Jones continues -
When it was considered that the ore was exported as produced - no smelting and no treatment - the price was indeed high. In the case of copper smelting, charges were included in the £42 per ton. As a matter of fact, our production of rare metal for one year of the war’ was 513 tons, comprising 11,000 bags, and it cost £18,000 to hand this quantity over to the British Government. . The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) promised an alteration, and succeeded in giving the producer a slight increase by paying for the metal at the place of production, and displacing one monopoly to create another, and that not a State one. The Thermo Company replaced Dalgety and Company. Dalgety’s, at least, were agents, whereas the Thermo Company were large mine owners and producers, and on that company the small producers had to rely.
This was the Prime Minister’s work, and yet the Caucus of the National party deemed it to be their duty at the secret meeting, held the other day, to carry a resolution expressing their entire approval and appreciation of the splendid work done by the Prime Minister in the interests of Australia. This so-called “splendid work” in London was dealt with at Brighton recently by Mr. Hagelthorn, a former member of the Legislative Council of this State. Mr. Hagelthorn is a gentleman who is so highly esteemed by the Acting Prime Minister that the latter, in his usual admirable way of supporting his friends, wrote a letter telling the people that it would be a great loss to Victoria if Mr. Hagelthorn were defeated.
– I made a statement to the press.
– There is no doubt that Mr. Hagelthorn is a man who takes public life seriously, and that his public services are of value. What did this gentleman say? He said -
Now the war was over we should get the fair world’s price for our exports. We were selling our meat at5d. or 5½d. per lb., and it was sold in Great Britain at 13d. Other countries and other Dominions were getting a better price. Our wool was sold at 15½d., but it was now worth 120 per cent. more in the open market. Our best butter was sold at 178s. a cwt., while Irish superfine butter was now. sold under a just concluded contract at 263s. a cwt. If the matter were properly put to her, Great Britain would not object to giving us the full market price for our products if she desired to buy them.
There is no denying that - “ If the matter were properly put.” Now, whose duty was it to put the matter properly to the Imperial Government? Obviously it was the Prime Minister’s duty.
Why should the British Government get 50 per cent. of any profits made on our wool in excess of 15½d. per pound ? Have we not sufficient expenses in connexion with the war, and the carrying out of our obligations, to warrant us in receiving that money ourselves if the pastoralists of Australia are prepared to surrender 50 per cent. of their profits.
– Has the honorable member noticed what the Farmers Convention said about the Wool Pool, namely, that a completely satisfactory arrangement had been made?
– Mr. Hagelthorn says our wool was sold at 15½d. when it was worth 120 per cent. more in the open market.
– It is not a correct statement of fact.
– I happen to have here an extract which will support Mr. Hagelthorn in his statement. On 14th April last the following cable received in Australia was published in the daily press: -
London Wool Sales. excited scenes.
Buyers Fight for the Seats.
The first open wool sale in the two years attracted practically every one connected with the trade. The sale room was thronged to its utmost capacity, buyers having literally to fight their way for seats. The spectators included numerous Australian and New Zealand soldiers who are undergoing a wool course at Bradford, and who were intensely interested. The sale was a very protracted one owing to farthing bids being accepted. Many of the buyers would prefer1d. advances in bids above 20d. per lb.
London, 3rd April. At the wool sales high prices continue to rule. French buyers are operating heavily in Queensland brands. The firmness of the earlier auction in point of prices was fully maintained, and there was no signs of it ceasing. Trawalla touched 52¼d., and averaged 50½d.; Mawalloc-Mawalloc, 51¾d., 50½d; New Zealand, Osno (crossbred), 38½d. and 36d.
Mi. Watt. - For thick grades.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister mean to say that there is no truth in the statement that these prices are 120 per cent. higher than the average price of 15½d. paid for Australian wool?
– My information is that it is an extreme statement. But that statemen was made in June, whereas the honorable member is quoting the prices realized in April.
– Australia is selling her wool at an average of 15½d. per lb., and she has an agreement with’ the British Government under which the latter is to get 50 per cent. of any profit made in excess of that price. We know that very much higher prices have been obtained, and, consequently, I hold that the Government are not administering the affairs of the Commonwealth in an admirable manner.
– Millions and millions of lbs. of wool which have been paid for’ have not been delivered.
– I come now to the question of demobilization, and the plot of the Government to keep our soldiers in the Old Country-
– The word “plot,” I would suggest, isnot parliamentary.
– I say that the Government “ plotted “ to keep our soldiers in the Old Country.
– I know that the honorable member’s own knowledge of parliamentary practice will enable him to realize that such a statement is not in order.
– The offence of the Government merits the use of a term so much stronger that I thought the term “plot” would be regarded as permissible. But, as exception has been taken to it, I will say that the unworthy arrangement by means of which the Government endeavoured to keep our soldiers in the Old Country merits our censure. I have obtained from very good authority the rate at which our soldiers were being sent from London during December of last year and January and February of the present year. I learn that in December last 13,305 men were demobilized, that in January the number was13,562, and that in February it was 5,387. This accounts for a total of 32,254 men in three months, or an average of about 11,000 per month. It seems to me that this was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to keep our soldiers in the Old Country over the next election.
– We are bringing our soldiers back to Australia within a period of six months, whereas we had thought that the work would occupy us twelve months.
– The Government are only bringing them home because this conspiracy to keep them in London was exposed by the press. I will prove my statement.
– The 13th Artillery Brigade revolted because they were being kept there.
– I have no doubt that the revolt of the Canadians also influenced the Government in their action’. As I mentioned before, a defeated candidate for the House of Representatives told me that he was defeated because “ Billy did not stand to me with the soldiers’ votes.” I do not attempt to say precisely what he meant. But it is a curious thing that at the elections any candidate from this side of the chamber who had a majority of only 500,’ in the absence of the soldiers’ votes, was defeated. It has since been explained to me by a soldier who assisted a presiding officer overseas that the ballot-papers of our. men at the Front were put into a squareshaped envelope, which was gummed only on one side, so that it was thus possible, by crumpling up the envelope, to extract the ballot-paper.
– I conducted an election over there, and I can assure the honorable member that his statement is not correct.
– What explanation have the Government for the instructions which they gave to the authorities in London not to bring our soldiers back ? I apprehend that the Acting Prime Minister may furnish some explanation, although he at one time denied that any such instructions had been issued. What happened was this: The soldiers in the Old Country were revolting against being kept there. This circumstance got to the ears of various people, and the correspondent of certain Australian daily newspapers took the matter up. On Tuesday, 25th February last, the Sydney Sun published a cable message saying, “ Australia cannot take back her men because the Department is not ready.” On Wednesday itpublished another cable message, in which Mr. Keith Murdoch declared that there was a ‘ ‘ strange insistence of the Melbourne Departments that demobilization must accord with employment at Home.” The article in which these cables appeared was published under the headings “ Back to Aussie,” “ Deliberate policy of delay,” “ Can Australia absorb men,” “ Strong pressure would get ships.” The Acting Prime Minister on 27th February said that these cables were “ a gross misrepresentation, founded on either ignorance or malice.” That was a very strong statement to make, but. it was only in keeping with other assertions by the honorable gentleman when he desires to destroy an argument or to cast doubt upon the authority of any statement made against the Government.
In a letter dated London, 10th March, 1918, and put in the Sun, Mr. Keith Murdoch wrote as follows : -
I understand that Mr. Watt challenges the accuracy of an article cabled in December, in which I charged the Melbourne Departments, firstly, with delaying the issue of forms for the demobilization index until November, when the other Armies’ indexes were completed; secondly, with adopting a policy of slow demobilization; and, thirdly, with permitting unnecessary delays.
He went on to say -
If Mr. Watt allows independent persons to see undisturbed the complete official files, they will find instructions regarding spreading demobilization over, at least, a year.
Is the Acting Prime Minister prepared to produce the instructions that were sent oversea with respect to demobilization ? Will he, as suggested by Mr. Murdoch, allow honorable members to inspect the complete official file ? Mr. Murdoch was very specific in his statement. He went on to say -
The numbers were limited to 15,000 monthly over a period, and 10,000 monthly over another period. This was basedupon “Australia’s capacity to absorb the men,” and upon somebody’s desire that the men should be camped here rather than unemployed in Australia.
My information came independently from four of the highest sources, and is indeed quite incontestable.
Moreover, the policy was known amongst the Agents-General, leading soldiers, Comforts Funds Commissioners, and the Bed Cross authorities, and was generally condemned.
And yet the National Caucus, held in secret at Parliament House on 24th ult. carried a resolution expressing its hearty approval of the admirable manner in which the Acting Prime Minister and his colleagues had administered the affairs of Australia. A secret Caucus !
– Not secret, but private.
– Mr. Murdoch went on to say in his letter from London, as published in the Sydney Sun -
Apart from definite official statements made to me in December, the following has iust come to my notice: - Addressing the Divisional and Brigade Commanders on 26th November, 1918, after receiving the Government’s instructions from Mr. Hughes, General Monash said - “ Sufficient shipping may be available to carry the whole of the troops to Australia in from six to nine months. But that’s not the only consideration. We have also to consider the capacity ofAustral ia to absorb the men, for it would be a great disaster to have dumped in Australia 200,000 men, who would either be unemployed or would displace those now employed.”
– Will the honorable member say that General Monash stated that these were Government instructions, or that they were merely his own views ?
-He made this speech after receiving instructions from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Mr. Keith Murdoch proceeded to quote General Monash’ s speech as follows: - “ What is more, a great majority of the men now in camp won’t be able to find employment until raw materials are obtained. The carrying of the men and the raw materials must go hand in hand. This is a matter of high policy, and you can take it definitely that the actual period of transport is likely to spread over a period of twelve months, so that if the first man gets away in February, 1919, the last won’t go before February, 1920, not because of the fact that shipping is scarce, but because of the inability of Australia to absorb the men.”
Mr. Murdoch stated further ;
The above is from an official report of the proceedings.
I invite the Acting Prime Minister to lay the official report on the table of the House.
– I have never seen it. The honorable member has not pointed out the limitation to his argument.. I invite the honorable member to say whether all this was Mr. Keith Murdoch’s assumption, or whether.it was an actual fact that General Monash received any instruction from the Government.
– Knowing the Prime Minister as we do, we may rest assured that General Monash would not have dared to make a speech of the kind unless he had received from the Prime Minister instructions that he was to delay demobilization.
– Does the honorable member know General Monash as well as he knows the Prime Minister?
– I do not. The Acting Prime Minister does not dare to say that he will produce the official report of the speech made by General Monash.
– I have not seen it.
– The honorable gentleman’s policy is a policy of hush! Cover it all up! Keep it dark!
Let me now refer the House to a speech made by another Government supporter, or, at all events, by a non-supporter of the Labour party, Mr. Henley, M.L.A., of New South Wales.
– How can the honorable member say that he is a supporter of the Government ?
– He represents the constituency of Burwood in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. I do not wonder that he is no longer a supporter of the National Government, having regard to. his experiences, which I am about to read. In an interview which he gave Mr. Keith Murdoch in London, on l0th March last, he said -
Speaking as a politician, I am dissatisfied with the progress of repatriation. I have done my best to arouse the Government, and have the best reason to believe that the policy at the outset was to return only 10,000 men a month.
No wonder he has ceased to support the National Government -
Of thirty ships offered to the Commonwealth, at least nine were not accepted on the ground that the men were not ready. It was a fatal error.
It seems to me that the Repatriation Department in Australia is unduly afraid of the influx of soldiers. Some 200 men on furlough call on me daily. The majority do not require help. Some of them have got jobs on farms and in businesses, but are pining for repatriation.
Even assuming that they will be temporarily Unemployed, it is preferable to be idle at home than here, where their morale is not likely to improve.
I am convinced that a determined Government pressure would secure the required ships.
– And it did.
– But the Government did nothing until their conspiracy was exposed.
– I think, sir, that the use of the word “conspiracy” is unparliamentary.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the word.
– I shall withdraw it, and say that this was a projected arrangement to keep the men in London or elsewhere for election purposes.
– Order! The honorable member must know that it is wrong to impute improper motives?
– I am glad to hear, sir, that you consider the motive is an improper one. When we know that the Government have kept soldiers in London for that purpose, can we not refer to it? Shall I say that they desired to keep the men abroad–
– That is not correct.
– Shall I say that the Government desired to keep our soldiers abroad so that they might issue to them misleading newspapers paid for by Government money?
– Reiteration does not make an untrue statement a true one. The statement is not correct.
– I do not wonder that the Government desired to delay demobilization, because they had no proper plans prepared for their repatriation. The members of this Government are without constructive capacity. Their party is divided in its aims and objects..
– Notwithstanding the resolution of the party which the honorable member has been quoting?
– I admit that the party is united in one respect, but in one only. It is united in the desire to retain possession of the Treasury bench.
A few days prior to the last general election the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) sent a personal letter to every mother of a soldier in the Commonwealth. 1 have often wondered who bore the cost, and how the right honorable gentleman was able to distribute 250,000 copies of this printed circular throughout the Commonwealth without coming into conflict with the Electoral Act. What is more, how did he obtain the names of these mothers of soldiers? Were the authorities of the Defence Department in league with the Prime Minister to defeat the Australian Parliamentary Labour party at the polls, and to keep his Government in office? If they were not, how did he obtain these names? If I, or any other honorable member, asked the Defence De partment for the names of the mothers of all Australian soldiers, would I be supplied with them? Then, again, one might very well ask, “Who paid for the printing and posting of the circular ? I have here a copy showing that even the Prime Minister’s telephone number, “ 5551” was given in the circular, which read as follows : -
I am writing to you personally, because I know you have a direct interest in this war. To you this mighty struggle is not something remote, which does not concern you, but a matter of life and death ; you know what sacrifices it entails; you know what horrors it involves. To you Australia’s attitude in this war is no mere side issue - but something which overshadows all other things, since it concerns the safety and the welfare of your relations at the Front…..
You are directly interested in this election, because you are directly interested in this war. Strikea blow for those who represent you at the Front by voting against that disloyal element who would desert them in their hour of need. The National Government is for them, and will not desert them nor their dependents now or after the war. The Returned Soldiers’ Associations are with us - the men at the Front are with us - only those who have no interest in this war are against us.
To you, then, I appeal to support the National candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives. By this means you can best support your sons, your brothers, your husbands, and your friends in the trenches……
Yours sincerely, (Signed) W. M. Hughes.
The “ disloyal “ element, of which the right honorable gentleman speaks, is, I suppose, myself and the members of the Australian Labour party. However, the following is a letter from one of these ladies, addressed to myself: - - Street, Mount Morgan, 23rd June, 1919.
My sons - and– were killed at the Front and another son– is a returned soldier, married. I received a pension of £1 per week on account of– for a period of two yeara, receiving the last payment on the 24th October, 1918. Pension was paid at the Mount Morgan Post Office. Since then I have not received anything. I got nothing on account of the death of my son– . My husband is sixty-four years of age and out of work. I am not able to go out and work. I have three children, aged fourteen, eleven, and eight years to keep and maintain. Would you kindly inquire into the matter, and do what you can to having the pension restored to me.
-There are thousands of cases; yet the National Caucus, held in secret in Parliament House, carried a resolution expressing hearty approval of the admirable manner in which the Acting Prime Minister and hiscolleagues administer the affairs of Australia.
Let us turn now to the following statement, which appeared in the Argus of 30th June, only the other day: -
Official Resigns in Disgust.
Sydney, Sunday. - Major Evans, Commissioner in New South Wales under the Commonwealth War Service Homes Act, said to-night that he was severing his connexion with the Commission in disgust. “ The War Services Homes Act of December, 1918,” he said, “ was passed to provide machinery for the erection of 100,000 war homes and for expenditure placed at £50,000,000. Applications from soldiers desirous of taking advantage of the Act poured in. There were soon 2,000 in hand. The number to-day is about 3,000. Every application has been hung up; every applicant has been utterly disappointed. We have done nothing except tell these people to ‘ wait ‘ or ‘ call ‘ again. In most cases it was pathetic; in many it was tragic. There is not even a valuer or a building surveyor - not a single technical officer. We have been aimlessly marking time. The position now is , that under the scheme launched at the beginning of the year nothing has been done in New South Wales except to receive applications. Not one home has been built, nor one purchased. I feel that I have been fooled and that soldiers are being fooled. I will have nothing to do with it.”
Yet the Prime Minister, in his letters to mothers, said that the National Government was for the soldiers, and would not desert them nor their dependants now or after the war.
– I saw the statement that Colonel Walker declined to say anything; but that is only in keeping with the policy of the Government - “hush it up “ and keep it dark.”
– The honorable member saw something different from that, to which I am referring.
– The differences between Colonel Walker and Major Evans have nothing to do with the matter. The question is whether the statement made by Major Evans is correct, namely, that every applicant is told to call again.
– The honorable member said that Major Evans had resigned, whereas the statement is made to-day in the newspapers that he was called on to resign.
– The honorable gentleman may have whatever benefit he can get out of that; but the question remains whether the statements made by Major Evans are correct. Is it true that there have been 3,000 applications, and that no homes have been built, and that it is “pathetic,” and sometimes “tragic,” to see applicants told to call again. Is it truethat six months have elapsed since the Act was passed, and that every application by a returned soldier or soldier’s widow has been hung up ? Yet at a secret caucus of the Win-the-War National party-
– At a party meeting.
– Yet, at a secret party” meeting, a resolution was carried expressing hearty approval of the admirable manner in which the Acting Prime Minister and his colleagues are administering the affairs of Australia.
Now let us go further north to Cairns, and see how the returned soldiers are faring there. The following is an extract fromthe columns of the Daily Record,Rockhampton : -
Position Becoming Desperate at Cairns.
Cairns, 18th April, 1919.
A deputation of returned soldiers waited on Mr. Gillies (Minister for Justice) on his arrival here yesterday, to urge that steps be taken to provide employment for a large number of returned soldiers out of work in the district.
Mr. Gillies said the provisions of the repatriation grant were too difficult for the local authorities to observe, and he promised to telegraph to the Home Secretary asking for help. A large number of men are returning now, and their position was approaching a desperate stage. The Repatriation Committee is unable to help them, on account of the Interminable delays in the Department. Several of the men are Anzac veterans.
Yet we have a National Caucus, held in secret, expressing hearty approval of the administration of the Acting Prime Minister and his colleagues, and the Acting Prime Minister, with his tongue in his cheek, acknowledging the tribute. In the Argus of the 25th ultimo there appeared the following : -
Sustenance Costs £10,000 a Week.
The president of the Victorian branch (Mr.
Palmer) said that the position was serious, and there was no question to which the committee could more properly give its best thoughts and endeavours. Sustenance payments now reached £10,000 a week. But to pay a man sustenance and to repatriate him into a place in civil life were two widely different things. Men were being sent to shire councils who were spending grants obtained from the Government. They were making a few roads and drains; but at best that was only temporary labouring work, and, after a time, the men would be again out of employment. That was the paltriest sort of repatriation. Vocational training was not satisfactory, judged by its results in obtaining work for men when trained. Men were being taught wool-sorting and wool-classing, though it was doubtful if the wool industry could absorb them. Eightyfive per cent. of the wool purchased by the British Government was to be exported in its greasy state. Members of the Australian Imperial , Force were being trained in different phases of the wool business in Bradford. Would positions be found for them on their return, or would their lot bo the same as those taught electroplating in Melbourne? Sixty-nine men were trained, but only twentyfive were able to find positions. Returned men were taught branches of engineering, but, he believed, the Victorian Railway Department, which’ might have been expected to help at a time like this, had not yet employed oneof the trainees.
I am sure honorable members will agree with Mr. Palmer when he speaks of the “ paltriest sort of repatriation.” This expenditure of £10,000 per week means that there are 5,000 men out of work in Melbourne alone, although the Prime Minis ter (Mr. Hughes), in his personal letter to mothers on the 5th May, just prior to the last election, said that the National Government was for the soldiers, and would not desert them or their dependants now or after the war.
From Melbourne to Cairns, all along the east coast of Australia, the same sad story is told, and, no doubt, there is the same story along the south and west coast, right up to Fremantle. “Was it not Senator Millen, the Minister for Repatriation; who, in Sydney, on Monday, 18th November, 1918, said -
It was not apparent that there was any necessity for the establishment of new industries to employ the men. The present industries had satisfactorily absorbed them before the war, and there was no reason why they could not re-absorb them. If that were so, the problem of dealing with the men was limited to making suitable provision to see them over the interregnum between now and when the industries were able to re-absorb them.
If Senator Millen spoke without authority, which we can hardly believe, what must be thought of the action of the Acting Prime Minister and his colleagues in holding up the Tariff so long? A good, sound, scientific, Protective Tariff would establish new industries ; but, no, we are to have the Tariff postponed until the Prime Minister comes back, and until after the election. If the Tariff does come before the House in August, it cannot be passed in a day, and even if it were passed, industries cannot grow up in a night, and the chances are that the whole of the soldiers will be back in Australia before it is put into operation.
Mr.Watt. - The Tariff comes into operation the moment it is tabled.
– The fact of the matter is that the Government are too busily engaged in preparing for the next election to care anything about the returned soldiers or their repatriation. What is the reason for the secret conference now being held in Melbourne? Whoever heard of delegates being asked to come to this conference? Who appointed them? I notice there are six from each State. Did the farmers have anything to do with their appointment? I find that the only plank of any importance before the conference yesterday was that of preferential trade, and it was postponed until the return of the Prime Minister ; and the only two resolutions that seem to’ have been agreed to unanimously embodied the agreement of the conference on a party name, and declared their loyalty to the Empire.
– And that they were anti-Labour.
– There was no resolution to that effect.
– By unanimous mental reservation the conference declared against the Labour party. There is no possible chance of having constructive legislation in Australia, because the Government, although united upon one point that of keeping their seats, are absolutely divided in regard to a National policy for this country.
I intended to refer to the Government as a “ society for the promotion of free trips,” and to deal with Senator Pearce’s visit to the Old Country, but as I have not sufficient time to do it I shall leave that matter to another occasion.
There is one thing about which the Government are united. They are determined to punish any one who happens to be born of enemy parents in this country. I do not know why. Germany has been utterly smashed, and her rulers have been overthrown; a new Parliament has been elected, probably on a more democratic franchise than that which prevails in some of the Allied countries; yet the Government, filled with vindictiveness and a desire for revenge, propose to deport Australian-born children. Not satisfied with having at the last general election deprived many Australian-born adults of the right to vote, they now propose to send away children born in Australia. We were led to believe that the attitude of the Government, towards Germany and Peace, was that expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in this House on the 23rd of February. 1917, when he said -
As to peace, and the terras upon which the Empire should make it, let me state my own view. I have been unsparing in my denunciation of the military power of Germany; but I shall never stand quiet under the criticism of being thought desirous to humiliate and crush a giant nation. I am not in favour of humiliating Germany as such, but I am in favour of destroying the military power of Germany, and to that end I will bend every ounce of energy I possess.
He went on to say that we would be no party to humiliating the German people. Why have the Government entered on a campaign of punishing Australian nativeborn children ? The other night I mentioned a circular which was issued by the Government informing the wives of Germans and other aliens in Australia that their husbands were likely to be deported. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), in reply to the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), said that the circulars were being sent only to individuals, but a few minutes later he said, “ This is the first I have heard of the circular ; “ showing that he is not above making statements which, when placed in juxtaposition, disclose a great discrepancy. I have here a petition from a number of these people in the Ambrose and Mount Larcom District. They state their case in such a manner that it must appeal to every broad-minded man in the House. The petition reads as follows : -
Ambrose and Mount Larcom District
Petition to Mr. W. G. Higgs, M.P
We, the undersigned, address you as the Federal member representing this district, and desire to place our position before you, and ask you to kindly use your best endeavours to place the facts in the proper quarters, with a view to having justice done us. That is all we ask - justice.
Firstly, we might inform you that several of the wives of not naturalized German settlers in this district have received letters from the military authorities notifying them that it is possible their husbands will be deported. - (Copy attached.) The husbands are living with their wives, and have not received any communication whatever as to the possibility of deportation. This has caused them much alarm, and has also greatly disheartened them, as also several others who are single men. These methods seem very strange to us, and we consider that if any such drastic action was’ contemplated, it would be only fair and right that the men concerned should be notified.
We do not know of anything that we have done to warrant such action, as we have been peaceable, law-abiding, and industrious citizens since -coming to the country. Our position is different to that of having, say, been under German rule in some German colony that may have come into British possession as a result of the war.
We left Germany of our own free will, as a result of having had much inducement and encouragement held out to us to come to this country, and we were greatly attracted by the bright prospects in store in the free Commonwealth of Australia.
We came prepared to make this our future home, and have gone on to the virgin scrub land, and by dint of perseverance and industry have carved homes for ourselves, where we would be content to live for the remainder of our lives.
We might point out that our work not only benefits ourselves, but greatly assists in developing thisnew land, thus adding to the common wealth. If we are left here in peace, we will continue industriously to further develop the land up to its highest possible state. We brought with us the whole of our savings for our past life, amounting to £200 and £300, and as much, in one instance, as £400.
We have spent all this, and several years of our life in addition, and have now no desire to leave this country.
Our more youthful years are past, and we certainly do not want to commence life all over again in some other land. We were quite prepared and anxious to become naturalized British subjects; but the war came on, and ever since we have been refused naturalization. We can produce certificates to show that we have never received any punishment for crime in the country of our birth, nor have we conflicted with the law in this country of our adoption, thus showing clearly that we are not what may be termed “ undesirables.” If we are deported, we run the risk of danger of being refused admission to Germany, as we left there voluntarily, and have been away for a period of years.
In the event of the authorities being determined to force us out of the country, and persisting in their determination, although greatly against our wishes, and despite our protests, we would ask that, at the very least, our requests as follows be acceded to: -
We do not think that the above would be asking too much, because, even in Czarist Russia, the above class of concessions were granted.
But, above all, and in conclusion, we will again reiterate and emphasize that we would prefer to remain in this country, and assure you we will give no reason for regret that we be allowed to do so.
We respectfully subscribe ourselves, (Signed) OTTO S. Y. MEIBURG, farmer.
OSKAR RUCKERT, farmer.
MAX BOHMERT, labourer.
ADVEF RUCKERT, farmer.
KARL KONIG, farmer.
MRS. E; ABRAHAM, housewife.
As my time is nearing a conclusion. I am obliged to hurry, but I would say to honorable members of the House who are supporting the Government that they have no excuse for voting against my amendment. It may mean the defeat of the Government if it is carried, but there are fifty-two members on the Ministerial side to twenty-three members of the Opposition, so that honorable members on the Government benches can oust the Government and put another in its place if there is a sufficient majority to carry the amendment. There is no reason why we should change positions in the House. Let honorable members form their Government on the other side, and they will get reasonable support from this side, provided they bring forward legislation which honorable members on the Opposition believe to be in the interests of the Commonwealth. I cannot see why certain honorable members should continue to support the Government. What would the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) say to his constituents ? The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner), the hon- orable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), who was manager of the Worker in Sydney, Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson), the honorable member for Nepean (Mr,. Orchard), the honorable member for New England (Lt.Colonel Abbott), the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Bruce Smith), the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), thu honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister)’, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence), the honorable member for .Grampians (Mr. Jowett), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie), the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) will have to answer to their constituents if they support the amendment; but I advise them not to be afraid. Preferential voting, which, the Government passed in order to keep them in power, will be their salvation. Colonel Knox, who got a party nomination for Corangamite, was defeated. Honorable members need not mind if they do not get the Government’s nomination. They will be better without it. Victory will be an easy matter for them with preferential voting. But they must be prepared to show that they are opposed to the mal administration of the Government by supporting the amendment which I now move. -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words : - “ the Government does not possess the confidence of this- House.”
– I have had some little acquaintance with want of confidence motions, but I have never before heard one proposed by a Leader of an Opposition or his deputy with the galleries so empty and to so thin and listless a House. Evidently, honorable members generally take not the slightest interest in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and see quite clearly its transparent and theatrical nature. I was rather amused at the mingled terms of invitation and threat which, adorned the honorable member’s peroration - if it can be dignified by that name. First of all, he endeavoured to woo some of the staunchest Nationalists of Australia, present or absent, in the hope that, like our ill-fated parent in the Garden of Eden, they would listen to the temptation of the serpent. It is perfectly plain to honorable members on this side of the House that, notwithstanding all the disadvantages there may be in continuing to support the National Government, they are not likely to avoid them by facing the sudden death which would be their fate if they supported the honorable member.
– Is that their difficulty ?
– It is not their difficulty; it is an illustration of their wisdom. I can assure the honorable member who has been incautious enough to lodge this amendment that neither fear, bribery, nor cajolery is likely to affect, so’ far as my judgment goes, the vote of a single man on this side of the House.
– I never knew a speech in Parliament to move an honorable member or change his vote.
– I know the legend that speeches in Parliament have never influenced votes, but I have seen them influence votes scores of times.
– You influenced the corner a few times.
– The honorable member is endeavouring to kill me with flattery, while the honorable member for Capricornia endeavoured to delude the followers of the Government, or the members of the National party, by threats and temptations.
I sympathize with the honorable member for Capricornia in this his maiden effort to move a want-of-confidence motion, more particularly because it is done in the absence of his Leader, who, to our common sorrow, is taken to another State by a domestic bereavement. The Leader of the Opposition has the undivided sympathy of honorable members on both sides of the House. The speech of the honorable member for Capricornia, as his locum tenens, illustrates what an industrious recess he ‘has passed. Ministers thought they were leading the most irksome time of any members of the House, but the time the honorable member for Capricornia has spent- in ransacking the dust-bins of rumour and gossip, in collecting the jargon of the constituencies and the press, proves that he must have lived days of perspiration, labour, and anxiety. But all that the honorable member has shown as the result of his unexpected industry, which blossoms only in Opposition, and. was not apparent when he was occupying this bench-
– Ask your officials if there is any truth in that statement.
– I am not going to put officials between the firing lines of parties. No doubt they have their own private views. All that the honorable member’s unexpected industry has proved is that he regards it as the duty of the Opposition to growl and snarl at even the best of things done during the recess.
The honorable member promised to quote only the evidence of willing witnesses to prove the ineptitude and neglect of the Government. Out of the multitude of those belonging to the National party he quoted only one, my honorable and appreciated friend, Mr. Hagelthorn. All the others were either opponents of the Government, or were quoted from the press.
– You cannot call Mr. Keith Murdoch an opponent of your Government.
– I do not know what I can call him. I have no recollection of ever having spoken to the gentleman referred to. I am dealing with him only as a press propagandist, and I say again, after care and thought in the examination of the problem,, that the statements he made, upon which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition relied, in regard to the demobilization policy of the Government, were as false as they were malicious. . There are men in this House who can quote from first-hand knowledge, superior to my own, what took place in London during November, December, January, February, and March. If the House is sufficiently interested to continue the debate, I would ask the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) to tell the facts as he knows them, as a man who was on the demobilization staff, well acquainted with the intentions of General Monash, the chief of the demobilization staff, and well acquainted , also with the way in which the civil administration, under Mr. Hughes, linked up with that staff. He can tell his own story to the House. He can tell, also, the difficulties which were encountered by the demobilization staff in securing shipping, and bow those difficulties were overcome, much to the advantage of the Australian artisan soldiers’ who equipped our ships, and much to the disadvantage of certain militant trade unionists of Great Britain, who struck at the critical time and prevented the shipments of our men from leaving.
– If that is so, why did Senator Pearce go to England?
– I am dealing with onequestion at a time. Unfortunately, I am not like the honorable member, who gets muddled while trying to deal with three or four at once. i do not know that, after all, it is necessary for the Government to spend much time on the statements that have been made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He complained very much that the Ministerial statement, to which he is endeavouring to attach an amendment, is a long one. That is true. A number of other adjectives might be applied to it. It is a frank one, it is a. necessary one, it is an informative one, it is an educative one. Parliament, instead! of complaining of the length of it, should study, not merely its quantity, but its quality, and all that it tells to both sides of the House.
Mr.Finlayson. - And its camouflage.
– There is no camouflage in it, except to the benighted mind of my honorable friend, who sees through the spectacles of prejudice. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition complained, for example, in submitting his amendment that we have not laid the Peace Treaty on the table. We have not. We have not got it, and we say so in the statement made to Parliament. We tell Parliament that the information at the disposal of the Government is insufficient to warrant the introduction of the consideration of the terms of peace. As soon as we get them, or are in possession of information to enable us to define exactly what they are, they will be brought to Parliament for the determination of Parliament, as we indicate in our statement.
– The press can get the Treaty, and you cannot.
– The press cannot get it. If my honorable friend reads again, and endeavours to get the truth and not merely selected facts to punish the Government with, he will see that many of the vital modifications have never yet been published. In the original publication - which was given by Reuter to the world by the wish of the British Government, and of which we got only a copy - there were huge gaps relating to the indemnity and the economic conditions which have never yet been filled in by the published records of the Treaty. I say frankly to my honorable friend that we have no authoritative information that would enable us to place the paper on the table of the House. The moment we get it it will be laid on the table for the information of honorable members and the country.
– I suppose it is only another “ scrap of paper,” anyway.
– The honorable member does not know, because he has not seen it. If he is guessing in his sleep, or if his mind is still filled with the visions of the war period, I ask him to believe that, so far as we are able to judge from what is published, the statesmen of all the Nations engaged in that Conference have done their best to settle the most difficult problem that ever was thrown upon the shoulders of mortal men to settle. It is very easy indeed for us to sit, 12,000 miles away from the theatre of debate, and criticise the determinations of the Conference. Wise men will hold their tongues until they are able to get the whole thing in perspective and proportion. When that is possible this Parliament, with its ordered and considered opinion, can proceed to decide whether the signatures of the Australian Ministers attached to that Treaty shall be ratified by the deliberate vote of its members.
– Then why did you praise in such exaggerated terms the work done by those gentlemen, when you did not know what it was?
– My honorable friend is again suffering from misconception. I described the fight which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) put up at the Conference.
– There was no press allowed at that Conference. How do you know what the fight was?
– Because the Prime Minister was in. secret and daily communication with us as to the views he was putting, so that his colleagues might know them. They are entitled to measure up his work, and to say to the country that, whenhistory writes the story of Australian representation at this Conference, it will give unqualified approbation to the men who represented Australia at the Peace table.
– What do you get praise for? You have done nothing.
– I am not taking any of it. I was not there; but I give it to the men who were sent to represent Australia, and who did so with credit, and, I think, with ultimate advantage.
– You mean they represented a section of Australia.
– If I were on the Opposition side of the House, as is the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), who knows something of the fight put up there, I would give precisely the same credit to the Leader of this party, if he fought for the united national interests of Australia. If the honorable member for Bourke speaks on this question, whether :he agrees with the terms of the armistice or of the Peace or not, I venture to” think he will give the same credit to the Prime Minister as I am giving. He was there, and he is the only man on that side who was there, and able to judge.
– He showed a profligate disregard of the principles on which the armistice was signed and brought about.
– My honorable friend would savage his nearest friend, if he attacks the honorable member for Bourke.
– I am speaking of the titular Prime Minister of this country.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable- member, but he said “he,” and the last person referred to in my speech was the honorable member for Bourke. Mr. Hughes is not only the titular, but the actual and real, Prime Minister of .this country, all sneers to the contrary notwithstanding.
May 1 traverse hastily, and without wearying honorable members, one or two of the matters to which the honorable member for Capricornia, in his bizarre manner, paid passing notice? He first of all coupled me with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and Sir John Higgins as three of the would-be autocrats of Australia. A man in office in the troublous times from which, I trust, we are now emerging, is called all sorts of terms. I was called by some members of the Government party, as reported in the press, a bully. I was called by another group of men, who should be qualified to know, “too weak-minded to hold office.” The only comfort I had was that both statements could not be true. Whatever contemporary opinion may be, or whatever the opinion of posterity, if we are ever to have one, I am content to say that I am going on doing the job that caine to me accidentally, and doing it as well as I am able. The Ministers associated with me in this task are doing exactly the same, and doing it with more than measurable success - better, I venture to say, Than my honorable friend opposite would have done it if he had stayed in office.
– You are no judge of that.
– No one would accuse the honorable member for East Sydney of being a judge of anything.
– Yes, :he is. He is the chief provoker of mirth in this House, and the chief exponent of noise in the Official Labour party. We may safely say that, while we stand the terms of opprobrium hurled at us the Prime Minister and Sir John Higgins have done their jobs, too, with absolute sincerity and with a very large measure of success. It is very easy for my honorable friend, who, like myself, labours for a screw “ in this House, although out “ screws “ differ for the present in degree, to pelt stones at the man who came forward at the outbreak of w.ar and gave his services to the party with which the honorable member is identified, because it was running the Government of this country the man who organized the Wool Pool, the biggest financial and commercial task that ever confronted any one south of the line, and did it, too, in such a way that, although it was an intricate business, which men have spent decades of work to master, pastoralists and wool-growers, large or small, from one end of Australia to the other, acknowledge the marvellous success attending his operations.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister, say that the “ screw “ we get compensates us for the work we do in this House?
– I do not.
– Then why mention it?
– I want to say why I did it. Sir John Higgins did all this work for nothing. He never asked a penny “ screw,” and has laboured himself almost to a standstill for over four years in gratuitous war service, because his heart was in the national cause and in the war cause. Even if we disagree with them, I think that we should deal lightly with such men. In addition to that, Sir John Higgins has undertaken herculean labours in connexion with metal problems. I do not pretend to know these problems, in some of their phases, as well as my honorable friend. He represents metalproducing centres, whereas I do not.
– Ask the honorable member for Dampier what he thinks.
– The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) disagrees with a great deal which has been done by the Government. But Sir John Higgins laboured with Government after Government, and Minister after Minister, in the pursuit of a policy which was perfectly definite, and which was of a twofoldcharacter. That policy was produced by the Prime Minister himself, and will be indorsed by the public opinion of this country. The main purpose of his metal policy was to place under the control and direction of the Allies, through Britain, the chief forces of munitions development in this country for the period of the war. Surely nobody will deny the rectitude and wisdom of such a policy as that? The second plank in that policy was that, during the period of the war, Australia should work up the raw metal materials into manufactured articles, as far as shecould do so. That meant the encouragement of new industries, and when the Tariff is introduced, my honorable friend will hear from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) some record of the work done in establishing and stabilizing those industries which arose during war time.
– Sheep dip?
– My honorable friend is, as usual, confused. I am talking of metals. To Sir John Higgins we should give nothing but credit. When honorable members know the spirit and motive of his work, the wondrous co-operation he has displayed in assisting Governments and Departments, they will recognise the absolute wisdom and courage of the whole undertaking.
As to wool, it is so very easy to be wise after the event and after hostilities have closed. But when our wool was sold during the Prime Minister’s absence, and with the consent of his colleagues in Australia, almost every pastoral industry arose and said, “ God be thanked.” The men here who know that industry far better than I do, realize that but for that second sale to the Imperial authorities at the 15½d. flat rate, the financial condition of Australia, and of all our great pastoral-producing interests, would have been seriously jeopardized during the remainder of the war. To say that we should now break contracts because the war has closed is surely not the spirit of a British community. If the pastoralists came to the Bar of this House and asked us to cancel the sale on the ground that they could secure higher prices for their wool, I would say that this Parliament should frown down the suggestion.
– The Acting Prime Minister would not expect them to do it.
– That is not what was done in the case of butter.
– I am dealing with wool now. I am content to deal with one matter at a time.
– What about the decision of the Farmers’ Convention?
– I quoted the resolution of that Convention while the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) was speaking. Quite unexpectedly, a body which is supposed to be hostile to some of the methods of the National party gave us that free, unsolicited, but welcome testimony. It merely goes to show that the men on the land who know what was the effect of that contract, are all pleased with it.
– Yesterday the whole of the producers at Ballarat approved of it.
– It is a sort of mutual admiration society yonder.
– It is not. It is merely a concatenation of testimony. The honorable member for Capricornia has said that wool is being sold in the open market in London at 120 per cent. higher than the 15½d. flat rate.
– Mr. Hagelthorn said that.
-The honorable member stated that he said it.
– Does the Acting Prime. Minister deny it?
– I have not denied it yet.. I have merely criticised the honorable member and his mental make-up, which he has shown us to-day in all its stark nakedness. He went further, and quoted figures relating to the sale of certain clips or parts of clips in the English market running up to 52½d.
– Some wool was sold at more than that price by a good deal.
– I do not know what percentage of pure wool those figures include, or what quantity of greasy wool is covered by them. I do not know- whether they refer to the picked samples of the highest grade of wool. But a comparison between the flat rate which embraces all Australian wool and the peak price of the highest grade of wool is an unfortunate one, and can only have been instituted by one who was either ignorant of the methods employed or was hopeful of deluding his hearers.
– Ask the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett).
– The honorable member for Grampians can tell the story .with more authority than either the honorable member for Capricornia or myself. That contract in regard to the sale of our wool was entered into with the full concurrence of all the interests concerned, and even though the war “ crashed “ earlier than we expected, at the time it was made the men associated with that industry came forward and testified to their appreciation, not only of the contract itself, but of the way in which operations had been conducted.
– A lot of them with their tongues in their cheeks.
– The honorable member would ‘disbelieve his own mother-in-law if he had one.
The honorable member also attempted to show that the National party was a divided and a united party. Out of one side of his mouth he sang as a burden or refrain one part of the resolution of appreciation which was passed by the assembled Nationalists last week. He was careful not to quote the other part, which showed that we were united in everything - not merely in reference to the deeds of the recess, but also in regard to the policy for the current session. Hence he got into a morass of contradiction, from which he never emerged, but in which he wallowed like a bullock in a bog. If I may be permitted to make a comment on behalf of the independent gentlemen who sit behind the Government, I would say that it is the most natural thing in the world for honorable members opposite to sing the same song, because they have to do so. They have to learn only one tune, and it is like the Old Hundredth, in that it is used for all occasions.
– It will stand as long asthe Old Hundredth.
– It will not be appreciated half as much as the song which is sung by the Nationalists. But it is a much more difficult thing to gather together men who think for themselves, and to approximate, let alone achieve, the unanimity which distinguished our party meeting, which was not secret, but private.
– The Acting Prime Minister did not say that at the end of last session.
– After three sessions in one year our followers stood the strain very well; but naturally some of them got on one another’s nerves. And what most upset many of them was the frequent utterances by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). After endeavouring to show that this party, which was so divided, was absolutely united, the honorable member for Capricornia went on to say that we had deliberately “ plotted “ and “ conspired “ - until Mr. Speaker made him withdraw both terms - to bring about a slow demobilization of our troops abroad.
– The documents prove that.
– The honorable member has not seen any documents.
– And the Acting Prime Minister will not let me see them.
– When the honorable member’s own Leader was in England, did he feel at all inclined to show to Parliament correspondence which passed between that Leader and his Government?
– T do not see any reason why you should not tell the House what were the instructions issued in regard to demobilization.
– We can do that. But that is not the question. Let me put this view to the honorable member: When the Prime Minister is in London, the only way in which we can confer with him’ is by cable. That conference is precisely the same kind of conference that would take place if he were here in Melbourne. Up to a certain, stage, I regard communications dealing with matters of that kind as Cabinet communications, and as being precisely on the same plane as conversations which pass between Ministers who are not severed by the ocean. But, as a matter of fact, no misunderstanding has occurred here. Demobilization was never ordered to proceed slowly, either here or in London. The difficulty which confronted us made us really believe that our soldiers could not all leave London until about the end of 1919, and it is due to the insistent pressure of the Prime Minister, the skill of the demobilization staffs organized by Sir J ohn Monash, with his Chief of Staff, and eventually to the help of Senator Pearce, that we are able to say that, with the exception of the depot staffs, all our men will have left London by July. That, I think, is a testimony of the excellent demobilization work of the Government. There are’ in this Chamber to-day men who can speak from their own personal knowledge of matters at the London end, and I shall be glad if they will speak quite frankly of what they know, and not of what has been whispered into their ears.
– Can they talk of the French end as well as of the London end?
– Demobilization does not take place in France. The demobilization problem that we were bound to attack commenced from the time that the men landed in England. We had to solve how those who were to be trained could be trained during their enforced idleness, and to learn how shipping could be satisfactorily organized, together with the many other problems that are attendant upon it. It is very easy to pick holes in any system, as the honorable member for Capricornia has tried to do in respect of repatriation. He spent about ten minutes in showing neglect and abandonment of promises on the part of the Government in regard to their repatriation objective. I say that to take in hand a job involving the demobilization of 300,000 men, as they did-
– The Government had five years in which to prepare.
– To take in hand a job of that sort, and to carry it up to the present point with the degree of success which has attended it, is, I submit, an achievement of which this Government and our party may well be proud. We have relatively fewer men on the books of the Repatriation Department seeking relief than are to be found in the Mother Country. Indeed, amongst all the belligerent nations, Australia has developed the widest and wisest repatriation scheme, when it is considered in all its phases. If we do not meet with a larger proportion of failures in the future than we have done the scheme will have worked up to the expectations of its founders. In saying that, I do not profess that it is perfect, any more than any human scheme could bc : but due credit should be given for its proportion of successes, and all attention should not be focussed on its comparatively small percentage of failures.
My honorable friend (Mr. Higgs) has sneered at the National Conference. Why, I do not know. His own party gathers together in State and Federal Conferences every one, two, or three years. This is the first attempt that has ever been made on broad national lines to arrange for- the representatives of national thought, such as support our party, to meet together in Australia and to see how far they can build to their satisfaction an Australian policy.
– The Government and their supporters always charge us with meeting in Caucus, as if it were something terrible. Now they do the same thing.
– We do not. Have not honorable members learned the difference between the party meetings of the Nationalists and the Caucus of the Official Labour party? Let me say very briefly what I think the difference is.
– It will not be true, anyhow
– Order! It is disorderly to interject, and especially disorderly to make an offensive remark of the kind.
– I withdraw the remark, with pleasure.
– Judging by the published ritual of my honorable friends opposite, judging by historic episodes/ which admit of no qualification, the difference between our party and the Official Labour party is that if a man disagrees with the Labour Caucus he goes out, either dead, or marked for slaughter, but never buried in any case, although consigned to everlasting damnation. In our party we can differ, reverse our judgment, and exercise our individual freedom. That is the difference between bond and free.
– According to the published reports, the National party have begun the Caucus process. They turned out the press at one stage of the proceedings of the Conference.
– I believe that, at a certain stage, it is wise that family matters should be debated in private. When I hear of honorable members opposite designing, in secret, their citadel, their armaments, and their method of attack, I consider it unwise for the opposing party to give away their plans. Politics are very much like war : there is a good deal of strategy associated with them.
– Unlike the proceedings of the National party, the Inter-State Labour Conference was not held in secret. It was open to the Labour press.
– My honorable friend (Mr. Blakeley) has imported into this debate its only comic feature since the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Higgs) sat down.
Before I conclude, may I comment, in passing, upon the plea which the honorable member for Capricornia uttered with respect to those of enemy origin or descent in this country. Judging by observations that have fallen from honorable members opposite during this and last week, it seems to be their set intention to make the cause of the Australian Germans their own. That is a dangerous policy. This Government is not after punitive measures with regard to men who live in Australia and who were born in Germany, or born of German parents in Australia, but it has determined to make the safety of this country the supreme law. Honorable members must recognise that that is the obligation of whatever party is in trusted with responsibility; it. must react upon the people as well as upon their trust. It is an absolute obligation which rests upon any Government that may bein power. When Parliament is informed, as I hope to inform it by means of papers laid on the table during the course of the next few days, of exactly what is proposed with regard to certain enemy interests, it will be very hard indeed, I think, for the Official Labour party to say that the Government are wrong in taking the course they propose with respect to certain German interests.
I trust I shall never have in Parliament a harder task than the answering of this amendment has proved to-night. It is so empty, a proposition - not designed to waste time, although it will inevitably have that effect - that I have no hesitation in asking a unanimous National party to vote against it.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 745 p.m..
.- This afternoon the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (Mr. Higgs) gave us a very fine exposition on the maladministration and other shortcomings of the Government, an exposition calm, dispassionate, logical, well-reasoned, and last, but not least, unanswerable. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) did not even attempt to answer it. When that honorable member rose in his place, we on this side of the House, and, I have no doubt, many honorable members opposite, thought that at least some attempt would be made - though, of course, it could not be successful, with the very meagre material he had at hand - to reply to the charges of maladministration, and worse, which were levelled against the Government ; but he met the position somewhat after . tlie manner of a Salvation Army captain. After he had contemptuously dismissed many charges, he began to single out certain -members of the House to give their testimony. He, himself, repeated several testimonials, which had been splendidly stage-managed by the National party, such as resolutions from farmers’ conferences. It was a very fine effort,” indeed, and represented a policy as old. as the hills, but still of use in the way of securing publicity for hi§ Government and party. The farmers at Ballarat cried aloud to Heaven that the National Government was the best they had ever known in their lives, though this is the only time they have said so since the creation of the Government. Because of the nearness of the elections, the astute organizers and leaders of the party deemed it necessary that certain well-managed testimonials should be given, and every day and every week they will come to us, emanating, no doubt, from the room of the Acting Prime Minister or some other Minister. After the honorable gentleman had given testimony from outside people, he called upon brother Jowett for his testimony in regard to wool, the honorable gentleman freely acknowledging that he knew nothing about that business himself. In reply to charges in connexion with the demobilization and transportation of troops, he called on brother Burchell, from whom, no doubt, we shall hear in due course. Then, apparently, he could not see any other on his side, so he called upon brother Anstey, from Bourke, to testify what a great man the Prime Minister of this country (Mr. Hughes) is. Then the Acting Prime Minister sat down, having delivered an empty speech, in which there was not even the slightest attempt to answer the charges made by the Deputy Leader of the Labour party.
I desire to deal with the deportation of certain citizens from this country, and to make my position clear to the House and the country in regard to these deportations generally. I do not care what crime may be charged, no man or woman should be deported without trial. It may have been necessary during war time, though, personally, I am extremely doubtful, to have secret deportation without trial, or without reference to any tribunal other than that probably of the Cabinet Minister or a number of Ministers ; but surely the time has passed when we cannot allow the full light of day to be thrown on every individual in this community against whom a charge is made. I know perfectly well that many citizens of the community have been charged, and, in most of the cases that have come under my personal notice, the charges have been purely political. If there is an ardent anti-conscriptionist in a district, and he has the slightest trace of German blood or other foreign blood in his viens, he will, in 99 cases out of 100, be thrown into Holdsworthy or some other internment camp. In this matter the Government discriminate between the wealthy and the poor, and between those with National party leanings and those with Labour leanings. A German with National party leanings is not imprisoned, and, if he has money to spend in fighting Labour, is allowed’ to go free.
– That is to say, loyal Germans were not imprisoned .
– Their support of the National party constituted their loyalty - the fact that they were prepared to put hundreds of pounds behind the National candidates -but immediately a person with the slightest trace of German blood went behind the Labour party he was deemed disloyal. That in ‘ itself was nothing, because we, on this side, according to the Government, are. all disloyal. Honorable members opposite have termed me, and also the Deputy Leader of the Labour party, disloyal ; there is not one on this side who has not beenso described. Australian citizens, born of German parents, have been put into Holdsworthy, or some other internment camp, if they favoured anti-conscription, and if they were supporters of the Labour party they were disfranchised. That is the way in which the National party and Government have dealt with the alien question in this country.
Much criticism was current in the newspapers and political circles as to the attitude of the Government and their party in their treatment of wealthy Germans. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) came before the people and said that the Government were going to intern all Germans; and almost immediatelya brewer named Resch was interned in New South Wales, amidst the great applause of the National party. Everything was going well, and the war was being won- one wealthy German had been interned ! But how long was he interned ? No longer than it took to complete the elections, and immediately these were over he was released. No more wealthy Germans were interned unless they happened to be anticonscriptionists, and there are still wealthy Germans going about this country. If I am informed rightly, the Consul-General for Germany was left quite unmolested during the war.
– And the Consul in South Australia was interned in his own house.
– Evidently he was a. supporter of the National Government.
– Of course he was.
– In this connexion, the case of Paul Freeman comes into my mind, and I intend to lay a little information before the House with regard to it, because it is typical of quite a large number of other cases. At the present -.time the National Government are dealing with the deportation of Germans. If the wife is German she must go out of the country, but her children, if born in Australia, need not leave. In their ^clemency the National Government have said to the German mother and father, who may have been here for twenty or even fifty years, that they must be daported, though their children may stay behind if they desire. Some of these children, Australian born, have reached the age of manhood and womanhood, and many of the men have served at the Front; and yet this is the treatment meted out to them. No person, whether. s, German, Austrian, or any ‘other nationality, should be deported without trial. Is it that the National Government are afraid because their case is so weak that they dare not face a trial ? Is the evidence they have of such a character that it will not bear the scrutiny of a Court? Personally, I believe that that is the reason, for, if not, what is it?
The case of Paul Freeman is an interesting one. So far as one can learn, he put in most of his time prospecting for gold, silver, and other minerals, and eventually discovered three or four claims, one of which was earning him about £3 per day, 80 miles from Cloncurry, in Queensland. He had something like ‘£500 worth of tools, munitions, and other material used in mining, together with pack horses and gear; and he had a fine home well stocked with food. One night he was awakened bv a noise outside his camp, and heard the question, “ Are you in,
Freeman?” When he replied in the affirmative, the voice continued, “ Come outside, I want to speak to you.” Freeman lit his candle and said, “ Come inside.” A policeman, accompanied by a blackfellow, stepped in and said, “ I have come to arrest you. I want you to come with me.” Freeman said. “ Where is your warrant?” The policeman 6aid, “ I have no warrant but I have a wire.” A’ wire from the Commissioner of Police in Brisbane was the only warrant for the arrest of Paul Freeman. At Cloncurry, where he was taken, Freeman was put through the usual treatment given to criminals. His finger prints were taken, and he was stripped, and all bodily marks were noted. He was told he was to be held for the purpose of deportation. Absolutely no charge was laid against him then or since. At Cloncurry he asked for sufficient time to allow him to fix up his affairs. He was given four days only, but in that time he -failed to arrange matters satisfactorily. As I have shown, he owned, or had an interest in, four fairly good claims. It was probably because of the fact that he had discovered payable minerals in the vicinity of the Mount Elliot mines at Cloncurry that he was got out of the way. Certainly it. was openly stated in Queensland that it was owing to a visit of Mr. Corbold, manager of the Mount Elliot mines, to Melbourne that Freeman was arrested. At any rate, it was a strange coincidence that a couple of days after Mr. Corbold arrived in Melbourne Freeman was arrested and ordered to get ready for deportation.
– The order came by wire.
– That is how the National Government manages things. From Cloncurry he was taken to Townsville, and thence to Brisbane and Sydney. Immediately he arrived in Sydney I wa6 notified and asked to intervene. I got in touch with General. Lee, the State Commandant, and asked for permission to interview Paul Freeman. The Commandant said he could not grant me that permission. He told me that his instructions merely were to keep the man temporarily, and that he had no control over him-. He said that. I would Have to get in touch with the Minister. I telegraphed to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) asking to be allowed to see Freeman so that he might get legal advice. Back came probably one of the most astounding replies any person could get to a communication forwarded to a responsible Minister of the Crown. It was to this effect - “ See Consul-General for America for information Paul Freeman.” This man was arrested at the instigation of the Government, and yet when one asked the head of the Government for information concerning the person arrested, he was referred to the Consul-General representing another country, which has nothing to- do with Australia or ite laws. After three or four days I got this reply, and I went down to see the Consul-General for America. I told him I had been referred to him by the Acting Prime Minister for information concerning a person who had been deported by the Government of this country. Bie said, “I know nothing about him except that he has been deported. “
– Then he had already been sent away?
– The day after I had spoken to the Commandant, Freeman was spirited away, put on board a vessel, and sent to America. He was brought back again, but no one knew anything about it. He was again taken to America and brought back again. It was then an outcry was raised. Freeman had decided that the only way in which he could draw public attention to the treatment meted out by the Government of this country was to “hunger strike,” and he had “ hunger struck “ to such an extent that his method drew the attention of the whole of Australia, with the result that a protest came from all parts of the Commonwealth, and feeling in Sydney, at any rate, ran remarkably high. On more than “one occasion the situation was extremely critical. If an attempt is again made to deport Paul Freeman the Government will have to take the responsibility for anything that may occur. I saw the temper of the crowd in Sydney. I saw 10,000 people going down to Circular Quay, evidently prepared, if necessary, to take this man off the boat, and I believe that if the Government adhere to their resolution to deport him without a trial they will have more on their hands than they can look after. This is no threat or intimidation. It is simply a plain statement of facts as I see them. I went into the whole question, and I claim to know something of the temper of the crowd which went to the boat on the night that Paul Freeman was taken, off. When he was removed to the Garrison Hospital at Victoria Barracks no onewas allowed to see him at that particular stage, but surreptitiously he got a letterout addressed to Mr. W. F. Ahearn of the Sydney Worker. There are several letters I desire to place on record, not only for the edification of honorable members, but also for the information of others who are not present. This is theone which -was addressed to Mr. Ahearn -
Am in a hospital prison cell, and as closely guarded as ever I was. According to orders, only three persons have a right to speak to me, namely, a doctor, a nurse, and a man with a bayonet. My demand (as I expected) to see the American Consul-General or any of my friends met with a refusal. I enclose the letter to Captain Lloyd, which he returned to me.
Things; in my opinion, look ugly for me, for as soon as they brought me from the boat mi an exhausted condition, a warrant officer of theHospital Corps, named Rose (I think he is a; daisy), took every opportunity of coming intomy cell pestering me with impertinent questions, and passing insinuating remarks. X could see his unmanly and dirty intentions.. Following day, when he resumed his unwelcome attentions, and made me think as if he were trying to pump me so as to be able to pimp, seeing that he was a big bully bouncing individual, with intention of unmasking him, I told him to go to hell and leave me alone. At any rate, I could not stand his insults much longer. That done it. He told me he would cut my throat in a minute; but when I quietly (being helpless to resist) offered him my throat to* operate upon with his bayonet, he fumbled at. his belt, and then wanted to pull me “out of mybed and to trample upon me. He fumed, an’o> used very bad language for some time before leaving my cell. However, I told him that the exponent of Prussian militarism was in Holland at present, and that it would be advisable for him to join the ex-great Willie K. I don’t know whether the man showed his personal enmity, or was inspired by someone else. It looks to me as if the Department for Oppression are trying to nurse me back to health, so as to be able to smuggle me out of the country, or else, perhaps, to force me, by the abovedescribed methods, to commit a rash act. I cannot trust them, and somehow feel there is something on foot. You see, as yet, they have not showed the slightest of desires to give me a trial, and are trying their best to prevent me from communicating with anybody on the outside. Please do not trust the official statement of the military authorities too much, for I can already see by the newspapers where it tends to. To-day, at noon, as a protest against being kept excommunicado, and not allowed a trial, I will commence a hunger strike, and will keep it up until the Department of Oppression will relax their torturing grip by giving me a trial and allowing my friends to see me. Somehow I think they will not give me a trial, in which case, of course, I- will be obliged to kick off to Jesus. Please convey my profound gratitude to all those who combined their efforts to relax the strangling grip of Prussianized militarism in Australia on liberty and justice.
The letter to which he refers is addressed to Captain Lloyd, who, I understand, is the head of the Intelligence Corps. Paul Freeman has a different name for it. His letter reads as follows: -
Your order, or perchance orders of those above you, have placed me in a most intolerable and painful position by severing me from all my friends and advisers, whom I so greatly need at the present time. In short, YOU are keeping mc excommunicado.
Knowing the length the Department you serve will go to in trying to accomplish its harm ful tyrannical ends, I urgently demand that you immediately inform the American Consul-General that I wish to see him on important matter, and to give him an unhampered access to my hospital cell. I also demand that similar access be given to P. J. Brookfield, M.L.A., and others.
This was returned to Freeman with the following written upon the back of it: -
Returned. No action taken on offensive let ters. All communications should be addressed to Department of Defence, who control this matter.
It was only when an outcry was made, only when Senator Gardiner, Senator Grant, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony)’, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), and several other honorable members representing New South Wales constituencies took concerted action, that the National Government relaxed the restriction upon any one visiting Paul Freeman. They allowed Senator Grant and myself, with others I have mentioned, to see him. We found him still in the hospital cells. We also find from a letter 1 have received in answer to urgent representations, that it is the intention of the Gb- vernment to deport him, and not give him a trial. Thi6 letter is written from the Department of the Prime Minister -
Melbourne, 24th June, 1019.
With reference to your telegram of the 10th inst.,’ respecting the case of Paul Freeman, -I desire to inform you that this matter was recently considered by Cabinet, which decided that no trial be authorized. Pending inquiries from the authorities of United States as to his nationality, Freeman is to be detained in custody.
For what reason is Paul Freeman to be detained in custody? The most extraordinary thing about this case is that on one occasion, when the outcry became so great that the National party were afraid to remain silent any longer, the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell) came out with a statement that Freeman was alleged to be a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Even if he was, that is no reason why he should be deported from this country without a trial. Whoever he is, he should be given a trial. As an afterthought, some two weeks afterwards, the charge was laid that he was of German parentage. Freeman says he is not, and I would just as soon believe Freeman as I would any member of the Government. After all, it is one man’s word against another’s. The National Government of Australia have completely upset that theory. Magna Charta of 700 years ago means nothing. There is no way in which one can help Freeman or any other person in such an unfortunate position. The Government have suspended the Habeas Corpus Act, and they have suspended Magna Charta. All the liberties which have been fought for down the ages have been abrogated by the National p>arty in their desire to .win the war, and I suppose they think the war will be won still further by the deportation of Freeman ‘and many other people. No person, no matter what his origin, no matter what his beliefs or views, no matter what his nationality, should be deported from this country without an opportunity to have an open trial, to be faced with his accusers, allowed to call witnesses, to cross-examine his accusers, and to have legal advice’.
That is not allowed to Freeman, itwas not allowed to some 200 who have already been deported, and it is not allowed to the Germans who are being deported to-day. If a German has lived in this country for fifty years, and, so far as can be seen, has done nothing to injure this country, he should not be deported. So long as he is a law-abiding citizen, and leads a good life, neither the National Government nor any other Government has a right to deport him, unless it can prove him guilty of some crime against the country or its laws.
The administration of German New Guinea calls for the earnest consideration of the House. I have been told by people who come from New Guinea that many there have said, “ If this is the way the National Government are going to govern this country, for God’s sake give us back German rule.”
– That is what honorable members opposite seem ‘to be advocating generally.
– My honorable friend does not like it.
– No; I got too close to it.
– The honorable member did not get very close to it. He took fine care of that. He was well entrenched in London, like a good many more who went oyer to win the war.
I was given certain information with regard to the flogging which was taking place at Rabaul, by men who had returned from ‘there. I dealt with it at Dubbo, in my electorate, in March last. Three or four days afterwards the following appeared in the papers: -
Law to be Amended.
In a reference to-day to the allegations of Mr. Blakeley, in his Dubbo speech, as to the unmerciful flogging of natives, the Minister for Home and Territories intimated that Cabinet had recently decided to alter the law with relation to flogging, which was a purely German law.
I might also state herethat flogging has been carried out with just as much brutality by theGovernment on the training ship Tingira, but with that I will deal later -
He reiterated that a general revisionof the laws could not take place until after Peace was declared, and the future of the New Guinea Possession finally determined.
The Minister (Mr. Glynn), in so many words, infers that a conquering nation is compelled to carry out the laws of the conquered country. Of course, it is no such thing. The conquering country has its own laws, and carries them out, irrespective of the laws of the conquered country. The strange thing, according to the Minister, is that a general revision of the laws of German New Guinea cannot take place until the future of the Possession has been determined; and yet the Government revised one law, that dealing with flogging. No matter how smallthe offence was, if a planter was not satisfied with the work one of his boys was doing, it was only necessary for him to send along the offender and a note to the officers of the Australian Army, and those officers would carry out the flogging. They would bare the back ofthe na tive, stretch him across a stool, two niggers would hold his legs, and two his hands, and another nigger would stand by and ‘‘lay it on” under the direction, and at the instigation, of officers of the Australian Army, evidently with the cognisance and blessing, untilthe practice was exposed, of the National Government of Australia.
Mr.Brennan. - Where did this take place ?
– In German New Guinea, under the administration, or maladministration, of the National Government. I produce a photograph showing the way the thing is done by the flogging Government.
– And the National party carried a resolution expressing approval of the “ admirable manner “ in which the Government had carried on the administration !
– The honorable member reminds me of the way the National party eulogized the admirable manner in which this country has been governed.
The’ Mirror, of Sydney, laid most astounding charges against the administration of German New Guinea. One of its statements concerned debauchery at Government House, yet the Mirror has not been indicted for it. In another place the same paper charges the Administrator, Brigadier-General Johnston, and his aide, Lieutenant Gwynne, with having a stand-up fight on the lawn of Government House after a certain function had taken place. Yet nothing whatever has been done by the Government. In this article the paper says that because Nur*e Deever was not amenable to the wishes of the Administrator of the Territory she was “sacked.” Nothing has been said or done by the Government in that matter. If the Government will stand by and see their officers charged with such things, words fail me in expressing my contempt. Nurse Deever, after being dismissed, was put in a boat with a number of internees, and sent to Sydney. She was the only woman on board the boat. Protests were made at Rabaul against the treatment Nurse Deever was receiving. Nevertheless, she was sent away in the manner I have described.
– Did the Mirror never retract that statement ?
– No ; but the Government know of it. On those matters I have no other information than the articles in the Mirror.
– It does not follow that a statement is correct because it is in the Mirror.
– It follows that the Government are evidently afraid. Until I exposed the flogging practices at Rabaul, nothing was done by the Government. Up to that time floggings were carried out upon the unfortunate natives with the cognisance of the Government, but when I spoke the Government ordered a thorough and searching investigation of the charges I had made. The Administrator found himself “ not guilty,” and the National Government accepted the acquittal by himself of the person who was charged. It was a case of appealing from Caesar unto Caesar. The National Government must appoint a Royal “Commission to investigate the whole of these charges. If they ‘are not true, the sooner they are- cleared up the better. If they are true, a good many people want “sacking” from the positions they occupy at Rabaul. Another charge made is that one of the Commonwealth boats, costing £100 a day to run, was sent to Sydney for no other apparent reason than to take a lady to the Territory. This lady was given the hospitality of the National Government. A motor car, which had previously been at the disposal of the malarial convalescents, was taken from the hospital. Up to that time six or seven of the patients would go out in this large car in the afternoons for an airing; sometimes three or four batches would be taken out and brought back to the hospital. But when this lady arrived it appears that the car was taken from the convalescents and given to her, and, ultimately, she was given a Government ‘ residence. I am not going to set myself up to judge other people’s morals, but I claim that if- people are going to use the money and the boats of this country for their own pleasure, it is time somebody kicked up a row about it. Two nurses were badly wanted at Rabaul, and the authorities sent to Melbourne for them. Two barmaids were sent up, and did no nursing, but the people of Australia paid.
– How does the honorable . member know that they were barmaids ?
– I can supply the honorable member later on with the names of the hotels from which they came.
I have nothing further to say respecting the maladministration of German New Guinea, except that these charges are so grave and shacking that the Government cannot afford to allow them to go either unrefuted or unproved. They must take steps, by means of a Royal Commission, or some inquiry carried out, not by the persons accused, but by a body quite apart from the Service altogether, to ascertain the facts.
I come new to another phase of the flogging question. Not only do the National Government allow floggings to be administered at Rabaul, but they also had a very bad system of punishment in operation on ‘ board the training ship Tingira, in Sydney Harbor. Much to the surprise and astonishment of many representatives of New South Wales, it was learned recently that flogging was a com- mon occurrence on board this training ship. Representations on the subject were immediately made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace), and others to the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), but the honorable gentleman said that he saw nothing wrong with the system. He held the opinion that a little caning now and again did no harm, and thought that unless caning were resorted to it would be impossible to maintain discipline on board. But again public opinion became so strong that the Minister gave way, and it was not long before flogging was discontinued on the Tingira, owing mainly to the action of the Labour party. But for the exposure brought about by our party I have no doubt that it would still be continued on that vessel.
The Brisbane has recently arrived in Australian waters, and it carries practically a full complement of men who are absolutely tired of the Australian Navy. It is very hard indeed to find on board any of our war-ships that have returned one of the rank and file who will again sign on with the Australian Navy.
– They would be fools if they did.
– Undoubtedly. Under present conditions no man should sign on with the Australian Navy. I make that statement as a representative of the people. The conditions of the Australian Navy are equal to those of the British Navy, which, so far as their undesirableness is concerned, axe in turn equal to those of the navy of any country.
– Big reforms are now being made in the British Navy.
– Only because of the stand taken up by the people. The treatment meted out to the bluejackets is and always has been rotten, and but for the people rising and demanding that the system should be altered, it would have continued to remain rotten. In this new Australian Navy of ours we find a continuance of all the bad features of the British system.
– Surely you do not call it an Australian Navy.
– It is, at all events, under Australian regulations and, to a certain extent, under Australian supervision. The Brisbane, as I have said, arrived in Sydney Harbor recently, and I was given certain information withregard to an incident that fairly illustrates the way in which the Australian Navy is conducted. The system is much akin to that of the Australian military system. Two men on the Brisbane were given leave to attend a cricket match. They attended it, and were returning, chatting, as they walked along the road, when suddenly they heard a voice behind them saying, “’ Get out of the road, damn you !” One of the men at the same moment found himself thrust on one’ side. It was the captain of the Brisbane who thus treated him. This reminds one of the many tales of the brutal tactics of German officers.
– I very much doubt that statement.
– I did not expect the honorable member to believe it, because it is unpalatable to him.
– I do not believe it is true.
– The honorable member’s opinion concerning the matter does not interest me.
– But the honorable member’s statement is not sufficient to show that what is said to have occurred actually did occur.
– Ask for the papers in connexion with the case. The honorable member must accept the evidence of the men as being equal to that of. their commander. Some time after this incident occurred, one of the men - not the man who was pushed aside, but the other - was called before a court martial and charged with contemptuous treatment of his captain. During the hearing, the man who had been pushed by the captain was called as a witness. He would not see his mate wrongfully charged, and he therefore said, “It was I, and not my mate, who was pushed aside.” One would have thought that in the face of such evidence the case against the man wrongfully charged would have been dismissed. That, however, did not occur. Almost immediately after the court rose, the man who had been pushed, but had not been charged, was. arrested, and both were fined on the charge of contemptuous treatment of the captain. The English commander who was in the company of the captain at the time said that the latter spoke three times to the men. If the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) is in earnest in his protestations, he will call for the papers. The English commander gave evidence that the captain spoke three times to the two blue jackets, but that they did not move. They were walking along a road, but did not get out of the way. The captain then pushed one of them aside. The evidence is on record in the books of the Brisbane, and I defy the honorable member for Henty to dispute my statement. Why should the captain of the Brisbane, or of any other Australian vessel, dare to say to another man, “ Get out of my road “ ?
– There is no reason why any man should. It is all so absurd that one doubts very gravely whether any man in the Navy could be so stupid as to order a man in that way.
– I defy my honorable friend if he is in earnest - and I doubt his sincerity - to dispute my statement. Let him call for the papers. These men were fined for having the audacity to walk in front of a captain in the Australian Navy.
– Did this occur in Sydney?
– It did not. I do not know at what port it occurred, but the papers are available to my honorable friend.
The rules and regulations of the Australian Navy provide that every man shall be entitled to twenty-eight days’ leave per annum ; but there is a proviso that if the leave be not taken in the year in which it is due, it shall be reduced by one-half. The men on the Brisbane have been on active service almost continuously for something like four years, and during that time they had practically no opportunity to take their leave. They had thus nearly 120 days of accumulated leave coming to them when they reached Sydney. The benevolent authorities controlling the Navy, however, have decreed that they shall be granted only 60 days’ leave. That is to say, they are to lose 60 days’ leave because of their inability, arising from no fault of their own, to take it as it became due. Last week, in Sydney, when the men were being paid, the paymaster had the effrontery to lay before them a form of receipt setting out that they had no further call upon the Navy. In other words, each man was to give a receipt in full. The men rightly refused to sign such a receipt, except conditionally. I put it to the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) that these men who have accrued leave should not have any deductions made from it because of their inability to take it as it fell due. They ought certainly to be paid in respect of the leave of which they have been deprived. Another incident in connexion with the Brisbane is detailed in a letter from a boy of seventeen, under date of the 26th ultimo, as follows: -
I received your letter about five minutes ago, and am writing straight away. Now, what I am going to say are plain facts, and I am willing to stand by them should the necessity arise.
I omitted to say that the Commander or Captain would not take the word of my witnesses. I was then sentenced to be punished by a warrant and expect to go into detention at Garden Island.
That boy, it appears, is now in Garden Island, where there has been adopted the Prussian methods of giving men loaded drill. It is called the “ coal-basket drill,” and consists of forcing the unfortunate prisoners, for four hours during the morning and four hours in the afternoon, to uselessly carry baskets filled with bricks from one point to another. This is done to this boy because he resented his treatment in good Australian fashion, and he will suffer on Garden Island for ninety days. I do not know whether the “ goose-step “ is inflicted on Garden Island; but, if not, it is about the only German practice not found there.
.- The speech to which wehave just listened is hardly likely to carry weight either in this House or in the country. It had not been my intention to refer to my experiences on the other side, but since the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has stated that I lay entrenched in London, I think it worth while to deal briefly with the facts. I think it was on the 18th October that I left Peronne with the last Australians to leave theFront; and I should like to mention one little incident that then occurred. When we were travelling down the valley of the Somme in the cattle trucks which constituted our conveyance, a man in the brake van signalled to me, and I found him to be one whom I had known for many years in the back country of New South Wales. He and another had some bread and cheese, and, at their invitation, I joined in the meal. One of these men, whose name I could easily furnish, was at one time an organizer for the Shearers’ Union, in New South Wales.’ As we went along, we could see the little crosses over the graves, and sometimes clusters of them, where our boys had fallen. Often the rifles of the men who occupied these newly-made graves were stuck in point down, and their helmets lay on the mounds. This man said to me, “ Mr. Fleming, you knew me years ago, and know that for long I gave my life to the Labour party. You know that I gave up a good position to come to the war; and now just look at those little crosses, and think how I feel, after having given my life to the Labour party, to know’ that those boys arc lying there because the party refused tosend us reinforcements.”
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting. They know that under the Standing Orders the practice is very disorderly, and that honorable members are entitled to make their speeches without interruption.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) gave us a lot of hearsay evidence, which, I suppose, is on a par with his statement about myself. There are many matters with which one could deal, apart altogether from matters personal; and I wish to say that on my return I find, as a lookeron, that the actions of the Government are not all perfect, though they are certainly very much better than any we could have expected from a party which allows an honorable member to make such statements as we have heard within the last half-hour.
– I gave you facts ; disprove them.
– No one could either prove or disprove many of the statements of the honorable member; but I have already disproved the only one with which I could deal. I have no doubt that many other of his statements, if inquired into, would be found just as baseless.
– You have only referred to the statement of the honorable member about your being in London.,
– Surely that discounts thewhole of the honorable member’s statement? If he makes statements, even if they were wild and without any proof, we here are supposed to accept them, but I think the House knows better than to do so.
– It took you three years to start for the Front.
– That is better than not starting at all.
I desire to say a word or two about the work of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in the Old Country. It is well known, that up to the time that honorable gentleman showed his spirit of Empire - until he showed that he understood and fully realized the danger in which this country and our whole civilisation stood - I was about as bitter an opponent as he had. But his most bitter opponent might have been convinced by his actions in the Old Country that he is an extremely worthy representative of Australia. Not only does he do everything in his power to help the soldiers, but he has represented us in the finest possible manner at the Peace Conference. “We are hearing a good deal to-night about the slackness in the returning of our boys. When I was at Home, and had just come out of hospital after being a little while back from Prance, I had an opportunity to talk with the Prime Minister, who .asked me what I thought about the returning of our men. I asked him, “What time can you do it in?” and he replied, ‘ ‘ We cannot get ships to do it in much less than eleven ot twelve months.” I told him that, in my opinion, that was not half fast enough, and that the time would have to be reduced by one-half. He said he was advised that it was impossible to get the shipping; and I replied that no matter what he had been advised in that regard, if he got to work he would be able to reduce the time to the limits I had stated. The Prime Minister did got to work, and did cut the time down by half; and the point is that the Prime Minister had been told by those in responsible positions at Home that what he has achieved, or is achieving, was absolutely impossible. .
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) told us the other night that there is going to be trouble amongst the soldiers in this country in regard to their demobilization and treatment; but my opinion is that most of the soldiers who have returned are well satisfied with their treatment in this country. I have mixed with, and have in my own electorate, soldiers of all ranks and classes, from the coal miner to the wealthy grazier ; and I am firmly convinced, knowing them as I do, that the majority of them think that Australia is doing well by the returned men. I do know, however, that there are things in this country against which the returned soldier has to fight. Trade unions are not the only things which are up against the returned men, and I wish to see this Government do its utmost to make the way as easy as possible for those thousands of men who are unfit to carry on their usual occupations. Many of them may appear to be in the best possible condition, but are not nearly bo well as they look. It ought to be remembered, even at times when people begin to feel doubtful about the actions of many returned men, that their appearance is very often deceiving; and I hope that the Government will extend, and continue to extend, the most sympathetic treatment to them.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Corboy) told us. the other night that there is Prussianism in Australia; and, in order to prove his statement, he gave us a case which he said occurred in the unit to which he belonged. He told us how a man had been ill-used by his colonel at the Front; but he discounted the whole of his statement about Prussianism being in this country when he told us that this colonel could not live in the State from which he came. Surely that is abundant proof that such punishments as were described will not be tolerated in Australia ! There is no doubt’ that, under special circumstances, and with the usual military spirit, there were punishments inflicted on men abroad that were unfair, but you can never get a big organization, such as the military, under the stress and strain of a long war, without some blemishes. However, the honorable member proved as conclusively as possible that Australia will not stand for the unfair treatment of our soldiers; and I am convinced that those guilty of such treatment will find the proper punishment.
We hear a good deal at the present time about the cost of living, and its increase is, in my opinion, due to four causes, the first of which is the inflation of our currency. I am convinced that, until we can reduce the superfluous currency, prices cannot come down in any great degree. I point out, however, that in no country in the world are the necessaries of life so cheap as in Australia to-day.
The Government have put forward what seems to me to be a good scheme in connexion with our war debt. But it would he ‘better, to advance even a step further, not only to have a Commission to attend to all the war loans, as our Government have suggested, hut also to convert them into a common stock, each country being responsible for underwriting its particular portion of the debt. I am convinced that by this means Australia would be saved many millions of pounds ‘before the war debt is liquidated. I believe that the scheme for the allotment of the finances between the Commonwealth and the States, which was put forward in Sydney recently by Mr. Holman, the Premier of . New South “Wales, is better thanany other I have heard put forward in this House. The taxation powers of Australia are duplicated too frequently, and Mr.Holman’s scheme, whereby this Parliament would retain to itself the indirect taxation, while allowing the State Parliaments to impose all direct taxation, would be a fair way out of the difficulty. It would not be a permanent way, but it would be a temporary expedient until the Constitution of Australia is ‘amended. There can be no reasonable doubt in the mind of any man that we are moving fast towards an (amendment of the Federal Constitution. But, until that takes place, a definite line of demarcation should be drawn between the taxation powers of the States and the Commonwealth. I have a report of the Midland Railway Company of “Western Australia. It shows that, the company is being taxed on its lands to the extent of 230s. in the £1.
– Is not thehonorable member making a mistake?
– According to the statement of the chairman of directors of the company, the amount of taxation on the income the company derives from its land is 230s. in the £1. ‘
– Let them sell their land.
– They are endeavouring to sell it as fast as they can. That is my point. They are bringing out settlers from the Old Country to place on the unoccupied lands of Western Australia, but the treatment which they have received, and the lack of sympathy displayed towards them because they happen to he a private concern, has tended to freeze these men out. If we are going to do our duty to Australia, it is absolutely essential that we should adopt a better system of treating the British firms. “Until we are willing to reciprocate with the Old Land to a certain extent in our taxation proposals, so long will our finances be in a bad position. One of the results of the war will be that Great Britain will do its utmost to keep its people within its own boundaries. I know, from my own experience, that there are thousands of good solid English men and women who are looking to Australia as their future home.
– There are thousands of good solid Australians looking for work.
– The more people that come here from the Old Country of the class I mention, the more work there will be for the Australians who are here. Australian soldiers, and the conditions of the war, have given us an advertisement in the Old Land and other countries,, which only one who has been there lately can appreciate. In the United States of America and Canada I met hundreds of people who are turning their eyes to a country which could send out such soldiers and equip them in such a manner as Australia did during the war. If we can only give ordinary consideration to the’ firms in Britain who are concerned in the development of Australia, we shall have in this fair land of ours thousands and hundreds of thousands of the very best stamp of those people from whom we ‘ourselves sprang. Australia’s problem is to people this continent, and even to-day, with the shadow of a war just past, we know well that another shadow already looms on the horizon, and that unless Australia is filled with white people we cannot hold it.
– The Government are deporting white men.
– The Government are deporting enemies of Australia, and rightly so. It is the men who stayed at home who are making a fuss about those who are being deported. Only those who came into contact with the Germans, and could fully realize the German menace, know what it would have meant if Germany had won the war, and not one of them would raise a voice to retain in this country men or women who can be proved to be enemies of Australia.
– Why does the honorable member speak with two voices ?
– I do nob know that I am doing so. I am using one voice. I am prepared to support the Government in removing from Australia any alien who is in any way dangerous to our country, because I know, and every man knows, that there are some nativeborn Australians, of German parentage, who are as bitter against us as is any man who has come here from another land.
Another cause of the high cost of living is-
– High wages.
– No. High wages are not a cause of the increased cost of living to anything like the extent many people imagine they are. I have always been in favour of a country paying high wages, because it means that the purchasing power of the people of that country is enormously increased. But one qf the chief causes of the increased cost of living in Australia is the go-slow policy, which, for instance, can be seen in operation in North Queensland, of which we have heard a good deal to-night.
– What does the honorable member know of North Queensland 1
– I have it on the authority of a man concerned in one of the biggest industries in Queensland, a man sent up there specially to inquire why some of the mines were not paying as they formerly did, that he found on an actuarial basis that, while wages had increased 64 per cent., against which no one with a sense of justice would declaim, efficiency had decreased by 44 per cent. Inflated currency and the go-slow policy are the principal causes in the increased cost of living.
I am also convinced that the fixing of prices has had a good deal to do with the increase in the cost of living. For one thing it has restricted the amount of work which was put into primary production, and has allowed the trader to run free with the manufactured article. Ninetenths of the increases in prices occur in connexion with manufactured articles. The cost of primary products has not risen in anything like the same proportion. The primary producer and the workers of the country have been penalized by the fact that prices have been fixed on primary (production while the trader has been allowed to run free with his manufactured article. We. are suffering from the loss of a great deal of money which should have come here. There has been talk of dissatisfaction among the workers, but there is also considerable dissatisfaction, as well as general unrest, among the producers of this country, and with, much more reason for it. The progress of Australia depends on a fair deal being given to the primary producers. For that reason I wish to lay before the Government as briefly as possible the position as it appears to one who has come back to Australia and regards it from a fresh point of view. In an Australian newspaper of the 15th May last there is a page devoted to the interests of the primary producers. It mentions that they are not getting a fair price for their wool, which, in the ope’n market, they would get. There is no doubt the Government could make out a very good case in answer to that claim. They certainly saved Australia from a very stringent financial position by making the arrangement with the British authorities, and at the same time they put Great Britain in a very much sounder position in the matter of obtaining supplies than it could have secured by any other method. But as every good thing must carry a certain burden with it, we are now, to a certain extent, paying for the advantage we obtained during the years of war. I think the Government should make more plain to the wool-growers of Australia, those who are comparing the prices we are obtaining for our wool .with the prices obtained in the Old Country, that it is only a fair thing to even up on the whole deal. I have heard it said to-night that Great Britain took no risks in connexion with the wool deal. But honorable members know that quite a quantity of wool was lost in torpedoed vessels, and Great Britain bore the whole of the risk of the loss of the wool, or any deterioration that might take place. Any risk except for the 50 per cent, we got out of the profits was to be borne by the Old Land. Is it fair now that the war is over, and we have returned to the ways of peace, to say that the British authorities took an advantage over us?
– Was there no insurance on the wool ?
– Yes; but the British people had to pay for the insurance. A little while ago some of the manufacturers of Australia waited on the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), for whom I have the greatest respect, and asked him to. consider the advisability of placing an export duty on wool. I noticed in a newspaper report that the Minister replied to the effect that the representations of the deputation in favour of an allotment of more wool for local scouring would be brought before the Acting Prime Minister, and that he was impressed with the views of the deputation.
– That is not what I said.
– I am quoting from the newspaper report, and I would be glad if the Minister would deny its accuracy.
– I told them that there was no hope of their getting an export duty on wool.
– These things should be made perfectly clear, so that the producers may see that they are getting a fair deal from the Government. There are many people in the distant parts of Australia who only hear garbled tales from our friends opposite, and Ministers hardly take any action in the way of refuting those statements and showing the people the actual good which has arisen out of the deals made in connexion with our foodstuffs.
A matter which appears to me of still greater importance, and in which there seems to be some ground for complaint, is the. wheat question. I do not see why our Government could not have made an agreement more like that which the Government of New Zealand managed to achieve. That Government also supplied wheat to the Old Country.
– Not very much. It has been buying wheat from us since you went away.
– New Zealand exported some of its wheat and gave its farmers a guarantee of 5s. Id. in the early period of last year, and gives them now up to 6s. a bushel. Yet we are told that our Government can give our farmers a guarantee of only 4s. 2d. a bushel, and they are being paid in such a slow and uncertain way that some of them are realizing on their scrip at a price which brings them in only about 3s. lid. per bushel. With all due deference to what has been done while I have been away, as suggested by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), there must be a screw loose somewhere, and there must be some better method of arriving at a fair distribution to our farmers, who have been compelled by stress of circumstances to realize on their wheat scrip at a price which represents only 3s. lid. per bushel in the aggregate, while our neighbour, New Zealand, is now giving its farmers -up to 6s. While I do not pretend to know all that has been going on in the last two years in this country, I assert that things of that sort make the farmers naturally somewhat discontented. If the Government can by any means find .out where the trouble is, and put our farmers more nearly on an equality with New Zealanders, things will be very much improved from the producing point of view. Our farmers are becoming disgusted to a certain extent with the prices they have been obtaining for their produce, and I know for an absolute fact that a good deal of the country has gone out of cultivation. That is a serious thing for a young and growing community such as this is. If the farmers of New Zealand are guaranteed 6s. a bushel and the farmers of the United States of America and Canada 9s. 2d. a bushel-
– The American Government is paying half of that guarantee. j
– No matter what share the Government is paying, these things are hurting our farmers.
– Our farmers are very well satisfied.
– The great majority are not, and many of the small farmers are feeling the pinch. While I am not complaining about what may have been an impossible position to maintain whilst I was away, I do say that, as things are now, the Government should stretch every possible point and endeavour bv every means they can devise to give our farmers more encouragement for the future.
There is no question about the quality of our wheat. If the Canadians and Americans can be guaranteed 9s. 2d. a bushel for their wheat, no man can say that it is because it is a better product than ours. The following is an extract from Milling, a trade journal published in England : -
Australians say their bread is the best in the world, and we have frequently sampled bread made here from an all-Australian grist, which left nothing to be desired in the way of flavour, colour, pile, and yield. We do not say that all Australian wheat is equally good; but there is not another white wheat in the world possessing better all-round bread qualities. This is saying a lot for any wheat - white, red, or yellow - but Australian has other virtues besides those of good bread-making. To the miller it is “ one of the best.” It will stand more abuse and treatment than most white wheats. The miller is not afraid of wetting it, as he is with the Californian and Blue Stem, or any white wheats, outside Indian. And after he has washed it he is not troubled about grinding it. We have seen it carry 6 per cent, moisture and mill into semolina. Its bran will always fetch a superior price, and because of the pale, creamy tint it will stand more scraping with less colour degradation to the flour than red wheat will.
Besides this, the offals have a “ bouquet “ that makes them appetising to cattle.
Can honorable members find a finer statement concerning any wheat in the world ? If we receive a reduced price for our wheat compared with other wheats, it is not on account of the quality. I have not travelled a great deal about Australia during the last three months, since I came back, but I have been about enough to see that in some of the districts with’ which I am acquainted not more than one-third of the land that was under cultivation three years ago is under cultivation now. If we are going to encourage the wheat production of this country as we should - for primary production is the only way in which we can pay our war debt - we must give the producers who have been suffering from bad times, shortage of shipping, and the actions of the Labour party, some better inducement for the future than they have had in the past.
I hope the programme as put forward by the Government will be carried put to the full, and in the most sympathetic manner possible. In view of the great reputation the Prime Minister has made for himself in the Old Country, and the big things he has achieved there for Australia, I believe that on his return Australia will recognise that we have in him a man who is quite fitted to lead this country on to the great future which has been made possible by the efforts, not of those who stayed at home here to criticise, but of those who went to the other side of the world.
.- The gallant soldier who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Fleming) has blown his trumpet in a manner which must win the admiration of all of us. I feel sure that if every Australian soldier had done as much for his country as the honorable member has done, ever 1 German would be dead. I am not one of those who stopped in this country, and the honorable member i6 not the only member who left his country for his country’s good. I left my country also. I also have been at Villers-Bretonneux, and gazed on Amiens. I have been to the Somme, and looked down the Somme Valley into Peronne, and I can assure the House, since I must pay my testimony to the honorable member’s valour, that everywhere along that valley I found the graves of the Germans whom he had. slaughtered. Sir, such valour needs no commendation from me.
Speaking, not as one of those who stopped at home and know nothing, but as one” who went away, I feel it is only proper that I should also place on record what I have done for my country and my Empire. Let not what I have done go unrecorded. Does any one here realize the change that took place immediately upon my arrival Iri Europe? Before my arrival, Sir Douglas Haig issued his famous order, “Englishmen, our backs are to the wall.” When I arrived, our backs were to the wall no longer. The Germans began their retreat. Before my advent, scarcely a ship could, pass up the Channel. After my advent, the Channel was safe. Before I was there, British cities were bombed from aeroplanes. Once I got there, they were bombed no more. Thus the change took place everywhere. My honorable friend has also told the House of the magnificent advice he tendered to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). It is evident that we sent the wrong mau. We should have sent, not the Prime Minister, but the man who is capable of giving him advice, to negotiate on behalf of this country. I also tendered my advice, and that also was accepted.
The honorable member has dared even at this late hour, and with the experience of this war, to cast a slander upon a body of Australian citizens by saying that Australia failed in its duty and its obligations to the Empire in this great crisis. Whatever may have been the shortcomings of this country, at least it did its duty as much as any other part of the Empire. Regarding the great throw-Back of the Fifth Army, Sir Douglas Haig, in his communication to the British Government - a communication that was then suppressed, and only published at a much later date - admits, speaking not of the Australian Army, but of the Army of Great Britain, where conscription, was a fact, that the Fifth Army was at less than half its strength. Was that our fault ? It happened, and it simply proves that it is impossible, even under the best administration, to keep a particular line always at its full strength. No man discredits Australia more than he who dares to say, at this hour of the day, that this country, far distant from the scene of battle, did. not contribute a6 much, by means of a voluntary system, in manly vigour and valour, in dead and wounded, as any other country that took part in the great struggle which has just ended. And what has been the reward? I assert still that militarism does engender evil. It brutalizes men. While there are many fine officers in every army and on every ship, there are also men who are not so good and not so humane. I say de liberately, without going into details, that it is a demonstrable fact, upon which there is a multiplicity of evidence, that many of the soldiery, after honorably fulfilling their obligations to their country, have been brutally ill-treated by their superiors. After risking their lives for their country, they have been subjected to the most ignominious punishments, for offences which, compared with their records, should have been regarded as trivial. Take the case of those young sailors on a warship which recently returned to Australia. After four years of tense struggle in the North Sea. they returned to Perth. Something happened there which made them feel discontented. They thought they were not being treated properly. The officers could go ashore and fly around, but had absolutely no con’sideration for the large tody of men who had been penned up on the ship week after week. One man who won the honours and decorations of his country for his valour at Zeebrugge was stripped of every honour, and at this very hour is in one of the penitentiaries of this country simply because he violated an order given to him. He offended against the rules and regulations by which alone order can be maintained; but, after all that .these men have done for their country, the punishment for a violation of regulations should be tempered with wisdom and humanity. Honorable members opposite do not say that. ‘ They have no protest to make. They have neither interest in nor sympathy for these poor devils. This is their Government, and they support it. Amongst all the great newspapers of this country, not one raised a voice for these men. That fact stands to the condemnation of the newspapers of Australia, and of every man who occupies a seat in this Chamber and remains silent upon this issue. Not one of us who fails to protest against the treatment of those men can hold himself free of responsibility. I put my protest on record.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) referred to the Paul Freeman case. I do not propose to take up time in dealing with the grievances of an individual. I have no complaint to make ; no denunciation to offer. I merely present a few facts, which also go on record. We have in this country for years invited men of all European nationalities to come here and enjoy the liberties of this land and the riches it has to offer. We have said to them, “ Come and help to build up this country,” Then the Government step in and say, “ “You can stay here so long as you are silent, or, if you speak, you must speak only as we wish you to speak. You may ‘ scab ‘ on your fellow workmen, and we shall support you with the bayonets cf our soldiery and the batons of our police.” On the other hand, if a man holds an opinion contrary to those of the ruling classes of this country, if he dares to offer opposition to their opinions and aspirations, and to take a part in the struggles of the working man, he is treated as an alien. The governmental authorities take him out of his bed at night, tear him away from his women .and children, put him on board some ship, and transport him where no man knows. That is one of the acts of which the Government are guilty.
Let us come back to the plea made in regard to the treatment of Freeman. What is the matter with Paul Freeman? I asked in this House the other day whether the man had been afforded an opportunity to prove his innocence. To that inquiry there was mo answer. Ministers will not answer the question. They simply say that he has been suspect ; that he has offended. They say that he has represented himself to be an American, and that he has offended against the laws in -regard to registration. In that respect he is in the position of thousands of others. Many hundreds of men have failed to comply with the law as to registration, and for that failure have been properly fined. Neglect to comply with that law is a punishable offence, but it is not one that makes a man seizable and liable to be deported without resort to law or trial before Judge or jury. When they have no further excuse, the authorities say, “We have reliable testimony that this man said so-and-so and soandso; that he said that a man who went to the war was lower than a dog.” If he made such a statement, he should be punished. It was an improper statement to make, and the person uttering it should be punished, but by due process of law.
There should be some regard to that principle of British justice which decrees that every man charged with an offence shall at least have the right to defend himself. It would seem, however, that every man is to be the subject of a mere spy system carried on by somebody who behind the door whispers the name of a man and condemns him. Under such a system we have perpetrated here all the horrors of the Inquisition - all the horrors of the star chamber system re-enacted in the name of liberty !
In this very city a man was sent to gaol for six months because he said, in course of private conversation with another man, “ If you are going to- the war you are sillier than a rabbit.” For that statement he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. If Freeman, made the statement attributed to him, then he, too, should receive six months’ imprisonment. The authorities say, however, in further explanation of .their treatment of Paul Freeman, “ We have reliable testimony that this man is not an American, as he represents himself to be. We have reliable testimony that he is a German.” If he is, then by all means punish him. If the authorities had reliable testimony that he was a German, although he represented himself to he an American, why did they not put him into an internment camp? If they had reliable testimony that he had given false testimony in declaring that he was an American, why did they send him to the United States of America? They sent him there because of the evidence they had, and now, having asserted that they have reliable testimony that he is a German, they are proceeding to make inquiries. What for? They are making inquiries to ascertain if he is what they say he is, and until they get some evidence from overseas this man is to be kept in gaol.
This is the sort of thing to which the supporters of the Government give their indorsement. This kind of treatment is applied, not merely to the alien population of this country, but to Englishmen. It applies to men of our own race and blood. The authorities, for some unknown reason, and without any explanation, have seized upon sons of our own soil, and by the exercise of an arbitrary authority as bitter and savage and ferocious as anything ever heard of have put them into internment camps, together with Germans. In this way these men have been condemned at once in the. eyes of their fellow men, and have been subjected to brutal treatment by people who have feelings of national hostility towards them. Then, again, in this country men have been seized and brought before a Court, and when that Court has held them innocent - when it has been impossible to find throughout the length and breadth of Australia a Judge to condemn them - they have been taken at dead of night and transported to different pants of the world. This is what the Government have done.
Take my own case. I refer to it, not because I need any sympathy or because I worry over the treatment to which I was subjected, but because it illustrates, the actual position. I walked into the’ city where I was born, where the mother who bred me lived, where my own brothers and sisters were living, and was suddenly called upon to submit to an interrogation. And why? -Because some unknown individual in Australia, who, as I discovered afterwards, represented himself to be the secretary of a Discharged Soldiers Association and a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, sent a communication to the Old Country. Because of that communication I was called upon to get on the grid-iron. A most peculiar feature of my case was that, apparently, the authorities did not seem to know that I was a member of the Commonwealth Parliament. My public position saved me, but God help the man who had not that status or means to call upon. Before I had even been interrogated, before I had been called into Scotland Yard, and subjected to examination by the military and private detectives of England, I had been recommended for deportation by an Australian officer in London. And this before I had even been asked for an explanation. I was to be deported from the land in which I was born, to the land in which I had spent a life’s domicile. That which England could do to me this country can also do. This Government can send a man out of this country on the ground that it is not has domicile. They can send him to the land of his birth, or wherever they chose to cast him. Thus an Englishman, whose blood has been spilt in building up the Empire, because he has dared to stand up against their odious institutions, because he curses that particular system that has condemned millions of Englishmen to the most abject poverty, may be subjected to an odious inquisition by the classes that rule. Heaven help the man who occupied the position that I did - who had been recommended for deportation without even an explanation - if his position were less fortunate than my own.
As with me, so with other poor devils who have been in this country. What have the Government done with Thomas Barker, an Englishman, a man. who had been a soldier, who had served his Empire under Indian skies? He came to this country, identified with a particular doctrine. According to British traditions that man should have had- freedom of opinion; he should have been free to express his opinions, however odious they might be, and if his opinions had been accepted by the majority, then, however odious, they would have become the law of the country. Thomas Barker practised, talked, and promulgated doctrines which others have taught in England, and for which others have suffered. The authorities prosecuted him on two counts. He was proceeded against in respect of the issue of two cartoons. One of these cartoons was accompanied with the declaration, “ Capitalists, politicians, and others go to the war, and the working man wall follow.” The other showed how Australian soldiers were subjected to a system of crucifixion. He created a strong public protest in this, country against that system. He was the origin of that protest. He knew of the system because he had been a soldier, and out of his actions sprang a public agitation against it. The Government at last had to make overtures to the British authorities, and Lloyd George promised that the punishment of crucifixion should not be imposed upon Australian soldiers. Tom Barker, however, was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment in respect of each charge. In the one case the outcry against his imprisonment was so great that the Government released him, and in the other the Supreme Court ordered his release, because the charge preferred against him was without legal foundation. Then the Government, finding that this man had committed no offence against the laws and institutions of this country, seized him at dead of night and transported him to an island in the South Pacific.
Take the case of the man Simonoff. For what does he stand? What has he done? It is true that he is a Russian. It is true, also, that he was invited to this country, and that if he had been a “ scab “ or an anti-Radical he would have been supported and protected by the batons of the police. Had he been the representative of Czardom he could have remained here. As it was, he was the representative in this country of the Soviet Government. And what did the National Government do with him ? They cast him into gaol, and there they have kept him. I make no complaint. Some supporters of the Government propose to amend the law. I say, “ Don’t.” This modern system of official capitalism, which is more odious in its operation upon freedom and Democracy than anything of the Dark Ages, is a violation of all the traditions of British liberty. It is a violation of the principle of British law that a man accused shall be delivered up for cross-examination, and shall have the right to defend himself. Even England in the darkest hours of its history was never guilty of that which in free Australia and in modern England is being done to-day. In the bloody days of Castlereagh, in the days of the Star Chamber, in the days of the Inquisition, every man had the right at least to ventilate his views; but here there is no such thing.
It is useless to cry or whine about this law; it has been enacted. In the very first year of the war the War Precautions Bill was introduced. I opposed it, and because of it sat apart from my own party, which was then in power. The then AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) said that my objections were preposterous, and so described the agitation against it which was carried on by a few. of us. At last the Bill was passed, and became law.
But it is supposed to be a fundamental principle of even the War Precautions Act that every man charged with an offence under it shall have the right of trial. If I remember rightly, some of the amendments which we moved with that object in view were recast for that very purpose. One of the condemnations made of me was that I wouldnot accept a promise. But what was done ?
– I tried to have certain principles embodied in the Bill, but members of the Labour party opposed me.
– We were all responsible for that measure, but it was understood that even in respect of offences under that war measure men should have the right of trial. The Government, however, have twisted and distorted that requirement of the War Precautions Act by means of the Unlawful Associations Act. I do not resent it. I say to the Government, “ Keep the Act on the statute-book, not merely as a war measure, but as a peace measure..” I declare, however, in the name of God, that if ever I get power in this country that measure, if repealed, shall be re-enacted. And, by God ! those who support it to-day shall have the benefits of its principles.
– You will get some of “your own back.”
– Well, I shall see that law and order are maintained, and that nothing is allowed to be uttered in this country inimical to the safety of the State. And so, some of my friends opposite who support this law, and have no protest to make against it, shall, as I say, have the benefit of the principles they uphold. This is not a day merely of legislation; the world is a marching army. Our soldiers are coming back, and the Government cannot cope with them. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) has told us about fields going out of cultivation ; and that also is just one of the processes of the war. In the older countries there has been a vast absorption of capital into wasteful processes, and, with the disappearance of that capital, the supervision of industry has disappeared. The present system cannot meet thesituation; and since work cannot be found for the growing masses, we are inevitably confronted with revolution which neither this Government nor any other can. avoid.
– It is one of the evidences of the bad case of the Government that they have no reply to such a charge as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has laid against them. Ministers sit opposite in sweet, smug complacency, . smiling when incontrovertible evidence is submitted of the introduction of Prussianism into Australia, and of such occurrences as give the lie to every statement they have made in favour of Democracy. There is, I say, no reply, except a resovlution of the party congratulating the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. “Watt) and . his Ministers, on the “ admirable manner “ in which the affairs of the country are being administered. The Acting Prime Minister this afternoon was quite in his best form, so far as regards the Government attitude towards those great questions which are agitating the public mind. He had nothing but insults, sneers, and gibes for honorable members On this side, and so with his henchman the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming). The Acting Prime Minister said that the motion of no-confidence submitted on behalf of the Labour party, which is a reply to the Government party’s resolution to which I have just referred, is a waste of time, a theatrical display, and an empty proposition. That is the attitude that is going to bring discredit on this country, for it shows that the Government refuse to take the business of the country seriously. We are told that it is a waste of time for this Parliament to talk about the cost of living and of how people are being robbed, to discuss the question of deportations of Australian people without trial, the imprisonment of men without trial, and the arrest of men without any charge being laid against them. The Acting Prime Minister says that it is a waste of time for’ Parliament to consider the treatment of returned soldiers. There was plenty of talk on the Government side about the bravery of the men when they went away, but we receive nothing but insults and sneers when we wish to discuss the circumstances of their coming back. We are told that it is a waste of time for Parliament to discuss what ought to be considered to-day more than anything else, namely, how to so adjust the affairs of the country as to bring about peace and harmony instead of discord. It is said to be a waste of time, to talk about the flogging of Australian sailors on the Australia, or their treatment on board the Brisbane, or to discuss the flogging of natives in Papua. The amendment we are told, is an empty proposition; and yet the Government warty pass a resolution expressing hearty approval of the ‘ admirable manner ‘ ‘ in which the Acting Prime Minister carries on the government of the country.
I am most anxious to-night to confine myself to one particular point. This debate offers very attractive and tempting opportunities to discuss many aspects of what I consider to be, not only maladministration, but government’ distinctly inimical to the welfare of this community. There is no doubt that today we are living in circumstances that cause the most , careless or indifferent citizen to wonder what is going to be the end of the troubles confronting us. This Parliament has re-assembled in the face of industrial unrest and economic disturbance throughout the whole community ; and Australia is not alone in this respect, because the whole world is convulsed. The war is over with Germany, but there has been a transference of the war spirit to other issues. We meet with full knowledge of all those unfortunate events that are stirring the heart of the world, and causing no end of trouble, disturbance, and bloodshed. There is no appearance of peace, and yet there is not one statement in the whole of the proposals put forward by the Government that makes for peace in this country. That is the point to which I desire to devote myself.
There are no fewer than fifteen items referred to in the statement submitted by the Acting Prime Minister when the House re-assembled. We are told of the Peace Conference, demobilization, repatriation, influenza, war debts, Commonwealth, steamers, the visit of Admiral Jellicoe, economy in administration, wheat matters, metals, arbitration, price fixing, War Precautions Act, the coal business, and also of proposals in regard to new legislation. But in the whole catalogue there is not one item that makes for peace in this country, or one that even gives the semblance of helpfulness towards that harmony in the community which is so absolutely essential at the present time if Australia is to do her best and be able to overcome the handicaps imposed by the war. We have these peculiar conditions prevailing all over the world, and our only hope of overcoming the difficulties is to find out what is at the root of them. There must be some reason, some fundamental principle at stake that sets the peoples of the world at each other in the manner we have evidence of to-day. There must be some violent conflicts of opinion on great questions that cause the people of Australia to be divided as they are at present. What are those? I think the principal is what the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) mentioned- that there is only one opinion to be tolerated, and only one view of events to be allowed, only one voice to be heard, and only one song to be sung. We have evidence that the Government of this country is carried on, not to try and discover the best that is in the country or what is for the safety of the country, but to discover that_ which is for the safety of the Government. It was freely said, and quite openly claimed, that the war elections, although designated the win-the-war elections, were really a matter of winning the elections - that was all the Government cared about. Right through the whole of this Government’s control of affairs they have not sought to discover how they can reconcile the conflicting elements in the community; and, whether intentionally or otherwise, they have succeeded in intensifying every feeling of opposition and antagonism that is rampant in all sections of the community. There is not a section of the community, religious, social, political, moral, economic, or any other, in which the Government have not intensified and embittered these antagonisms.
– You ought to be glad of that.
– I am sorry for it, and that is why I am denouncing the Government and their party. It is said that this Government have conducted public affairs in an “ admirable manner,” but this admirable manner has made Australian politics stink in history, and not only abandon every principle for which it ever stood, but fall a victim, to bitterness, strife, and division, which will require a century to remove; indeed, we shall never remove these feelings so long as a Government like the present is in charge.
Let me now give some positive statements. During the 1917 election, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was very careful in pointing ‘ out that not one stone in the temple of Labour legislation would be interfered with, and those who supported him, especially those who had left the Labour party, were very effusive in their promises of adherence, and loyal adherence to Labour principles. They won the election on this misleading attitude - this camouflage of loyalty and patriotism. There is not an action by the Government, by the Prime Minister, or those honorable, members who once “belonged to the Labour party, that has not been directly and continuously in the direction of interfering with every privilege that Labour has secured in this country. We expected this from members of the Tory party or the old Liberal party, or the National party - they have so many names that one really gets confused - but we did not expect it from the others. They had made so many protests, and some of them had been so long in the Labour movement, that we did think that their lifelong principles, or, at any rate, the principles they had declared adherence to, would triumph over accidental circumstances. But as soon as the’ present Prime Minister and his party gained power, they set about destroying every principle that the trade unions of the country had asserted and acted upon, and every privilege they had secured after years of struggle, and they have never failed to grasp the opportunity to deal a blow at unionism. They have not failed to try to destroy the temple of Labour by rending it stone from stone, and if the temp.e hae not been laid in ashes or laid fat, it has not been their fault. And whether we may be able to submit proofs of it or not - of course we should never hope to be able to submit proofs to the satisfaction of the Government and their supporters - the fact remains that not only in Australia, but ail over the world to-day, there is evidence that employers and supporters of the capitalistic system have decided that there -is to be a war to the death with the workers, and that, once and for all, the trade unions must be grappled with and strangled. In the Mother Country most profuse promises were made that if the workers would volunteer and go to the war, and not only that, but also surrender their trade union privileges for the time being in the munition factories, every privilege they had gained would be restored after the war, and a new heaven and earth would be built up. They were told that thing? would never be the same in England after the war as they had been before. But what is the position to-day? The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has told us that there are more men proportionately in England to-day than before the war in destitution, without employment, lying about idling and unable to be placed in positions. Press reports indicate that Great Britain’s conditions to-day give the lie to the promises Mr. Lloyd George gave to the workers when he as’-‘ed them to surrender their privileges.
It has been said even to-night- one would have thought that the time had gone past for such statements as the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) made - that the supporters of the Labour party have not loyally stood by their country. Every statement, official or otherwise, and all the figures that have been submitted, go to prove that itis the workers not only of Australia, but of every country engaged in the war, who have had to bear the burden of the war and do the fighting. Whether there were conscript countries or whether it was Australia, the only country which sent a volunteer army to the war, the workers have been the backbone of the forces »»iq:aged in fighting, and if it had not been for their loyal, steadfast adherence to the things for which they believed our Empire stood during the war, armies would never have been raised in the British Empire or in any other country. Yet while these men have been away fighting, their wives and children at home have been robbed, the trade unions have been attacked, bureaux have been opened to enroll “scabs” to take their places, profiteers have been at large, and landlords have attacked their wives and children and ejected them; and those who have been spared to come back have returned to find their wives and children much worse off than they were before, and that there is no hope of redress for them. The Government say that the- administration of the country has been carried on in an admirable manner, and we are told in this precious statement that the work of repatriation has proceeded swiftly and satisfactorily. No branch of any Returned Soldiers’ League will subscribe to that assertion. I challenge the Government to ask the Returned Soldiers’. League to indorse’ it. One has only to look at the Repatriation Offices or hear the tales of returned soldiers to ascertain the truth. There is not an honorable member who has not amongst his correspondence a very large proportion of letters dealing with the claims, difficulties, and troubles of returned soldiers, also with the claims of the widows, wives, and mothers. A never-ending series of appeals is addressed to honorable members on behalf of returned soldiers. Yet’ the Acting Prime. Minister says that the Opposition are wasting time in calling attention to these matters, and the Government party say that the administration is being carried on in an admirable manner.
This precious statement says that owing to the price-fixing policy of the Government, the people of this country have been saved millions of pounds sterling. Yet the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) has just told us that this same policy has increased the cost of living. The honorable member attacked the Government severely to-night on the wheat question, the wool question, and the cost of living, yet he supported the resolution which expressed approval of the “ admirable manner “ in which the government of the country had been carried on. Following on the statement of the Acting Prime Minister that price-fixing had been successful, we have in the Ministerial statement the announcement that the Government have decided to surrender their price-fixing methods. The thing which is good, according to the Government’s own statement, is so good that they propose to give it up. Immediately the Government withdrew the embargo on the exportation of hides, the price of leather advanced, and the price of boots and shoes advanced. They were not affected by the removal of the embargo to the extent of a single fraction, yet all the stocks held were immediately advanced in price, and the workers had to pay more. The Government are so enamoured of the scheme of price-fixing, and so proud of their method, which saved the country millions of pounds, that they immediately proposed to abandon it. In whose interests? Not in the interests of the people; not in the interests of the consumers; it can only be in the interests of the profiteers and manufacturers. One could only expect it from this Government, because they have to sing the song of the people who sent them here. They know quite well that once they oppose the profiteers and the commercial robbers of this country, their days as a Government will be very short. However, there is a greater power in any community than commercial magnates, financial kings, wool barons, or meat lords, and one of these days, not only in other countries, but also here in Australia, there will be a rising of the Democracy that will sweep the present system out of existence.
– What is the system that is to be swept away?
– Honorable members cannot but be conscious of the fact that a change is coming about. The masses of the people are going to take charge of the affairs of the country.
– They have been doing it all the time.
– They have not. The capitalistic system has outlived its time. Intelligent men who are opposed to the Labour party admit that some new system must be brought into existence. They say that the workers have not had a fair share, and that the affairs of the world are not being conducted on proper lines. How is all this to be changed? We have the choice of two methods - bloody revolution, such as has had, unfortunately, to be adopted in Russia, or a constitutional revolution. Apparently, the Government party are against both methods. They have expressed themselves, as I express myself, against anything in the nature of a revolution by force, but they have also taken the first step to prevent the people of Australia from exercising their rights freely at the ballot-box. Right through the war they have interfered with the electoral laws of the Commonwealth. They have a new proposal in the shape of preferential voting.
– Is that against the people ?
– I think so. They also propose to introduce a new system of electing the Senate.
– The honorable member cannot say that preferential voting is against the liberties of the people.
– I say deliberately that the interference by this Government with the electoral system of the Commonwealth is deliberately intended to prevent the workers from getting control of affairs. .
The economic position in this country is easily the most important question we ought to be considering, and the necessity for discussing if disproves entirely the suggestion of the Acting Prime Minister that we are wasting time. The only proposal put forward by the Government in connexion with the existing industrial trouble is to do nothing. The Ministerial Statement says that there is elaborate legislative machinery to settle industrial disputes; it refers to the fact that the seamen have struck work and thrown idle the whole of the Commonwealth shipping, and that the strike is causing great unemployment; and then it says, “ The Government can offer no concession.” Is that a fair position for any Government to take up in the face of such a crisis as that which we are now facing? I may be overstating the gravity of the case, I may be exaggerating the seriousness of the position, but when we read even what the Age will print as to the scenes at the Trades Hall, the destitution, starvation, privation, want, and’ misery displayed when relief is being distributed at places where food and blankets are given out, it appears to me that all our talk here about a lot of useless and comparatively trivial matters is a waste of time while this festering, running sore is allowedto continue. “What are the Government going to do? They will offer no concessions. They will do nothing. The seamen and their wives and children can starve, the whole of the industries of this country can be thrown out of gear, everything can be closed up, the lights can be put out, the fires go down, and the homes be broken, but the Government will offer no concession. The Acting Prime Minister says that the Ministerial party not only express their hearty approval of the “ admirable manner “ in which the administration has been carried on, but also express their approval of this policy - a policy of no concession, a policy of stand and deliver.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister say that?
– Yes; he said it to-night.
– Let them go to the Arbitration Court, and obey the law. That is all he said.
– The complaint made against the seamen is that they will not go to the Arbitration Court.
– Do you believe in the Arbitration Court?
– I shall get right on to that matter now. I shall leave the question of whether the seamen are right or wrong. I never yet knew a trade union which, in the eyes of an anti-Labour Government, was in the right. I have never known a strike yet that was justified from their point of view. Never once have such a Government admitted that the union was right. The union, in their view, is always wrong, no matter whether it is right or wrong.
– It was a long time before you associated yourself with Labour.
– What does the honorablemember mean ?
– It is a long time since you associated yourself with Labour, is it not ?
– How long?
– That is what I want to. know.
– The honorable member made a statement first. Now he is asking a question. I am not like him. I have belonged only to one party. He has belonged to nearly every party that has been in existence. The party that will give him a position is the party that he will go with.
In 1904 there was passed under the Constitution an Act “ relating to Conciliation and Arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.” Its chief objects were -
On paper that looks excellent. The framers of the Constitution, and the trainers of that Act, chose good language and expressed themselves in good phrases. I believe they were perfectly sincere in their hope that they had established in Australia a system that would make for industrial peace. Yet that very Act has been the cause of more economical trouble than, perhaps, any Act previously enacted.
– Do you mean to say it caused disputes instead of settling them?
– No; but it has prolonged and embittered disputes, as I propose to prove. The Arbitration Court has not been free from attacks. This is what Mr. Justice Higgins, the President of the Court, said in connexion with the Whybrow case, on 11th April, 1910 -
At present the approach to this Court is through a veritable Serbonian bog of technicalities, and the bog is extending. After full consideration T must state it as my opinion that these decisions as to the limits of the Court’s power will make it impracticable to frame awards that will work - will entail, indeed, a gradual paralysis of the functions of the Court. Yet this Court, if it be trusted, and unless it can be trusted it ought not to exist, shows magnificent promise of usefulness to the public. It is in a position to solve problems whicli cannot be solved, to settle disputes which cannot be settled by any tribunal except one that has authority in all parts of Australia. In this very case I showed that in industries where there is Inter-State, competition, the State Wages Boards confessedly cannot do justice.
Here is another statement by the Judge regarding the functions of the Court, and the possibilities of their success, made on 6th April, 1911, in giving judgment regarding the claim of the Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Association against the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, the Mount Lyell Company, and 183 other respondents -
They had now come to the end of the preface to the case, and no further, after an expenditure of nearly three weeks of the Court’s time. He had not been able to take any evidence as to the merits of the claim, but had had to confine his attention to certain legal conundrums. The three weeks had been mainly taken up with- matters all devoid of private benefit or public use. except as bearing on the barren issue. But as had been shown in other cases, as well as the present, the cost and delay of arbitration proceedings before the Court were chiefly due, not to the inquiry as to the merits of the dispute, but to the efforts of some respondents to prevent any arbitration at all. T-Te said this, not as assuming any right to blame them, for they were entitled to avail themselves of the provisions of the law as it stood, but because he conceived it to be his duty to inform the public as to the working of the Act, an Act which touched the public more widely and more intimately than perhaps any other Act, an Act which was meant for practical purposes of the public peace, and not for a game of ingenious wordsplitting.
Those statements of His Honour have been proved over and over again. There has been one section in this .community that has always opposed arbitration - -that is, the employers, and not the workers.
– Is not that an argument for amending- the Act?
– There has been no lack of talk amongst the employers as to the viciousness and foolishness of the arbitration proceeding. Mr. Brookes, the president of the Chamber of Manufacturers, speaking in Melbourne on 15th June, 1914, said -
The awards of the Court of Industrial Appeal were flouted, and the Judge abused as a cruel partisan, and attempts had to he made by a kindly disposed Liberal Minister to tempt the workers to give over striking by ignoring the appeal tribunal, and offering the bribe of another Board or some other concessions. When a dispute could be twisted into a plaint extending over more than one State the manufacturers app’eared before the august presence at a tribunal whose president had such an opinion of manufacturers and employers as to dub them “ highwaymen who had their pistols at the heads of the unfortunate wayfarer, the working man.” (Laughter.) In pronouncing judgment he quoted poetry, thus discovering new and undiscovered laws to political economy. The Judge affirmed that his supreme care was to avoid friction - to achieve which more than justice was done to one side. (Applause.) His recent judgment in the waterside workers’ dispute would probably start a succession of impossible claims threatening the very existence of many industries If manufacturers were asked whether they would welcome the reappointment of this poet-political President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Courts they would cry almost with one voice, “ Send us the earthquake instead.” That at least would’ bring them to the ground ‘at once; the other process was slow torture.
I could quote a large number of statements of that character, all going to show, what is undisputed, that the employing class in this community have always been opposed to the operations of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Here is one of the very latest statements reported no later than last month. A squatter correspondent of the Pastoral ‘Review describes Mr. Justice Higgins as “ that potent exemplar of compound ignorance,” and quotes -
Oh, judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And. mcn have lost their reason.
Yet the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) asks me why the seamen do not go to the Arbitration Court, and accept the decision of a tribunal that the other side has continually insulted, abused, and obstructed. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) asks me why the Act is not amended so as to give the Court more power. Perhaps he is not aware that the Labour party put forward in their policy, at the elections in 1914, this statement -
Notwithstanding its ‘ drawbacks, we look upon arbitration as a civilized system of obtaining justice between all citizens with the minimum disturbance of industrial relationship and the minimum of distress. The present position is intolerable, approaching robbery of hard-earned money. Our aim is industrial peace. But to delay justice is to deny it. Uncertain law is no law. The present Serbonian bog of legal technicalities ruins the unions and is a mockery of justice. To rob the workers of their strenuous earnings in order that they may win through the artificial technicalities of the Courts defeats the very purpose and object of the law. If parties to a dispute cannot get grievances redressed by the Court they will readily resort to the only courses open to thom - strikes and lock-outs. We desire, therefore, the widest possible opportunity to be afforded to all workers and employers to approach the Arbitration Court, and this policy we shall give effect to if returned.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook), in his policy for the same election, said -
We believe that the experience of arbitration as a sole method of settling disputes has proved costly and slow in its operations and unsatisfactory in its results. The Constitution should be amended to permit of the establishment of Industrial Boards . . . and the constitution of a judicial appellate industrial tribunal. . . We confidently submit them (proposals) for comparison anil contrast with the destructive and devouring proposals of our opponents. . . .
– Why did not the Labour party amend the Act when they were in power 1
– A Liberal Government came into power at the elections of 1913, and in the Governor-General’s Speech, at the opening of Parliament in that vear, after the elections, this appeared -
It is proposed to amend the law relating to conciliation and arbitration in such a way as to prohibit preference being granted by the Court to members of any organization, any part of whose funds are directly or indirectly applicable to political purposes; and also to restore the exemption of rural workers from the operation of the Act, believing that the conditions of their employment ought to be left to the States.
The Labour party, when in power, did make attempts to alter the Arbitration Act. They sought authority from the people to so amend the Constitution as to give them unlimited authority in the industrial sphere, and twice that permission was refused.
– Because the people did not trust you
– That was not the reason. It was because the party opposed to us have always been the consistent opponents of arbitration, and have always been against any alterations that would give the workers a better chance to get economic satisfaction. They were consistent in their opposition to the constitutional amendments, because they have always been opposed to arbitration.
– The Government are going to do it now. anyhow.
– I thank the honorable member for reminding me of what the Government are going to do. Here is what they say in their policy speech as to how they are going to alter the Arbitration Act -
A measure to facilitate and expedite the decision in industrial disputes, and improve the methods of the operation of the Arbitration Acts.
That is the relief to be given by the Government ! We are not told what occurred at the meeting of the party the other day-. All we know at present is that the Arbitration Court is to be made available, not only to the existing trade unions, but to any other organization that can hp formed, and that may choose to call itself a trade union. The whole purpose of that amendment is not to promote peace and arbitration and conciliation, but deliberately to fight the unions ac this country If that is the intention of the Government, then, speaking as far as I can speak for the trade unions of Australia, I say we accept the challenge to battle, and will fight the Government for it.
– Fight on.
– If the Government refuse to give us the chance to fight along constitutional lines, they will have to accept the alternative.
– What is the alternative?
– The alternative is that which is going on to-day in Melbourne - direct action. That direct action which is going on to-day is due ‘ to the administration of the Government.
– Due to your inflammatory speeches.
– Do not worry about my inflammatory speeches.
– I was referring to the inflammatory speeches of the honorable member’s party.
– I will not shelter myself behind any privilege the honorable member may be willing to afford me. I take my share of responsibility as a member of my party. I am willing to fight the battle of the workers against whom the honorable member is fighting.
– I am not fighting against them.
– The workers of Australia are being abused, insulted, obstructed, and starved by this Government.
– That is the policy of the honorable member’s party. The Government will offer no concession.
– What concessions are being sought?
– I am not suggesting what the concessions ought to be. I gladly admit that after the Ministerial statement, made last Wednesday, when the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said, “ We will offer no concession,” and that the matter so far as the Government were concerned was closed ; a change has1 come over the scene. To-day the Acting Prime Minister has. stated that the Government are again opening the way towards a settlement of the dispute.
– It has always been open .
– The door has not been open.
– You want Australia to be ruled by the “ red rag “ mob.
– It is of no avail to insult one’s opponents. Calling people names does no good.
– The honorable member was fairly rough on me a few minutes ago.
– I am not attacking the honorable member as an individual. I attack him as a member of a party that passed a resolution expressing hearty approval of the admirable manner in which the Government had carried on the administration of the country and of the policy put forward by them. The honorable member must accept his share of responsibility. Is he satisfied with the manner in which the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth has been carried on ? Is he satisfied with the treatment of the seamen, waterside workers, and other trade unionists ?
– How about the “ red r aggers-“ ?
– They are very well, thank you.
– What about the “red raggers “ intimidating others by the use of the word “ scab “ ?
– No name so well applies to a man who will deliberately take a job from his fellow, or will desert his party, as does the word “ scab.” There is no better name for such a man.
May I put before the House the position of the seamen ? Many supporters of the Government are simply content to accept the one-sided party view given by the press. They do not think it possible for the seamen in this instance to have a legitimate grievance. I have pointed out how not only the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, but the employers right through have shown the failure and the certainty of trouble arising from the operations of the .Act. Mr. Justice Higgins should have been protected long ago from the attacks that have been made upon him. I believe that the employees, when the Conciliation and Arbitration Court was established, made honest efforts to use it to improve their conditions. But the workers have lost faith in that Court. The President of the Court himself said some time ago that the operations of the Court would be paralyzed. What Mr. Justice Higgins told us in 1910 has come true in 1919.
– What does he say today?
– I shall tell the House what he says, and also what the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has said. I remind honorable members that the - seamen have tried the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and that it is not their fault that it is not being used now as a means of settling the present dispute. Because of the peculiar operation of the Act, it has been practically impossible for the seamen .to get near that Court with any degree of satisfaction. There is not only the delay and cost, but also, the obstructive tactics of the shipping people, and, later still, the peculiar attitude of the Shipping Comptroller, acting under the direct instructions of the Government. The seamen are fighting, .not an industrial matter, but a political battle. They could have settled this dispute long ago had they been left free to deal either with the shipping companies or with the Shipping Comptroller. But the Government have taken the control of shipping out of the hands of the shipping companies, and have placed it under the Comptroller of Shipping. They have given such instructions to the Comptroller of Shipping that the trouble has degenerated into, not an industrial, but a political question.
– A clear admission.
– It is not an admission, but something that can be proved.
– I am afraid that it is a very strong charge against the honorable member’s own side.
– No ; the seamen to-day are fighting a political battle against the determined, declared political policy of the Government - a policy that the supporters of the present Administration declare to be admirable.
Here is the position of the seamen. I do not know that the Government party have ever taken the trouble to find out what that position is. I have it stated here, in succinct form, in an interview which a representative of the Brisbane Standard had with’ the general secretary in Brisbane. It appeared in the Brisbane Standard of the 23rd ultimo, ‘ and is the best and clearest statement of the position I have read.-
– Are there no branches other than the Brisbane branch of the Seamen’s Union?
– This statement was made by the general secretary.
– A faked-up statement that suits you.
– If the honorable member would overcome his prejudices for a moment, I should like to point out that there is a case for the seamen. Whether it is bad or. good is immaterial. Here it is, as stated by the general secretary (Mr. Walsh)-
As recently as December last year the seamen came away from the Arbitration Court with an award which we considered unjust and unfair. At that time we asked for a 50 per cent, increase on our then rate of wages, and the Court granted us what was an equivalent to only a 11 per cent, increase. Immediately the decision of the Court became known to the members of the Union, disappointment found expression amongst the members throughout the Commonwealth, and resolutions were adopted by a number of branches disagreeing to the award, and, in one instance, repudiating it. The men determined, further,- that arbitration as in operation throughout the Arbitration Court as a method of redress left so little for the seamen to hope for that they resolved to appeal to it no more.
In January last it was decided to ask th_ ship-owners of Australia to review the seamen’s position in regard to wages, the conditions under which they work, and the accommodation provided for them on board ship. Negotiations were opened up with the Shipping Comptroller (Admiral Clarkson), early in February. Those negotiations had the effect of inducing Admiral Clarkson to grant a conference with the representatives of the seamen on 4th March, but, unfortunately, the Shipping Comptroller contracted influenza, and the conference had to be postponed. An interview was, however, at Admiral Clarkson’s request, held at his residence, and the situation generally was reviewed. _ A promise was given to us that all the conditions of the seamen’s life would be made the subject of a conference which he, Admiral Clarkson, would convene at an early date. It was not until early in April that this conference assembled. After examining exhaustively the list of claims submitted by the seamen’s representatives, we received, on
May 8th, from Admiral Clarkson, a letter containing an unqualified refusal to favorably consider ourclaims.
– “What is the honorable member trying to prove?
– That the seamen have tried the Arbitration Court.
– He is trying to prove that the Brisbane case is true, and it is not.
– I have not referred to the Brisbane case.
– Then what yarn has the honorable member been reading?
– It is no use wasting further time over the honorable member.
– This is a waste of time !
– The honorable member says it is a waste of time to talk about how we may settle this dispute.
– You do not want to settle it ! What are you talking about ?
– The seamen have spent money and time on the Arbitration Court, and they say that it is no good.
– Because it did not give them all they asked for.
– The only reason for dissatisfaction with any Court by anybody is that it does not give him what he asks for. What other cause of complaint could there be?
– Are the Government to give in to that sort of thing?
– The Government will offer no concession. The seamen and their wives and children may starve - they are said to deserve nothing because they will not accept the award of a Court which they regard as no good to them.
– Dissatisfaction with the Court is no reason for its being done away with.
– The meaning is that the Court, as at present constituted, is regarded by both employers and employees as useless for practical purposes. The Acting Prime Minister said the other day, in regard to the Court, that in the Federal Convention the “ big men “ fought for and obtained the establishment of the principle of the settlement of industrial disputes by law, and yet there had been 647 strikes during 1914-5.-6-7.
That shows how faulty the law is. When it is possible for both employers and employees to refuse to arbitratein a dispute, there is no reason to condemn those people, but there is reason why we should alter the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– The Government propose to do so.
– In what direction ?
– Wait until the Bill is here.
– What is proposed is to open the doors of the Court to the registration of “ scab “ unions, the immediate effect of which would be that the legitimate unions which have built up the Court, will withdraw, and the Court will become still more useless.
– That is only assumption.
– The “ red-raggers “ may do that.
– Whatever we choose to call them, such a policy will bring about the alternative of direct action. I do not desire action in this country, but constitutional action.
– You have worked long enough for it.
– I went from one end of the country to the other advocating constitutional means, and the honorable member himself was on the olatform advocating the same policy. Where is the honorable member now ?
– I am not backing up the “ red-rag “ mob that you are supporting.
– I am very proud to belong to a mob that repudiates the suggestion that the Government of the country, with its long catalogue of deportations, imprisonments, and fines, is being carried on in an “ admirable manner.” The seamen are said to be adopting unconstitutional means. If so, from whom did they learn them ? Who are responsible for the adoption of unconstitutional methods? The Government, during the war, adopted, and propose to continue the adoption, of methods of dealing with the affairs of the country that are in violation of every principle of our Constitution. I do not refer to what the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has said about the violation of British justice, or the violation of that democratic idea that is supposed to be embodied in British communities. We have heard a lot about that matter - more, perhaps, than honorable members opposite care to hear ; though they have not heard the last of it yet. From whom do the unions learn the value of ultraconstitutional methods? Who has violated consistently the Constitution of this country during the war? The Government; and I shall give one illustration. Section 41 of the Constitution provides -
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
The Government have passed no fewer than three Acts to deprive Australian people of the right to vote - they have taken from naturalized people, and Australianborn people, their rights as Australian citizens.
– That law was supported by the unanimous vote of the then Labour party.
– The first referendum.
– There was no limitation then on the right to vote. Do I understand the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) to refer to the first referendum on conscription?
– That was not taken by the authority of the Labour party, but in defiance of its decision.
– It was passed by a Labour majority in both Houses.
– It was opposed in this House by loyal members of the Labour party, and it was carried out in defiance of them by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and those who followed him out of the Labour room.
– That is not so.
– Over and over again, throughout the war, the Government have flouted not only this section of the Constitution, but every other section, and every other Act on the statute-book which professes to give to the Australian people the protection of the laws of their own country.
– Why did you not test it in the High Court?
– That is a lawyer’s argument, no doubt.
– It would have proved whether the Act was constitutional or not.
– The workers of this country have had quite enough experience of both the High Court and the Arbitration Court to prevent them spending any more money, and determine them to decide the matter in their own way. I admit that it is a most unfortunate and regrettable position to arrive at when the Arbitration Court is turned down by the workers.
– And also the High Court.
– The High Court is not trusted by the workers, and they do not believe that they will get justice in either Court. The fact is there, and the question is, how is it ? And not only how is it that we have arrived at that position, but how can we improve matters. The Government have thrown down the challenge to the trade unions, and the trade unions will not hesitate to take it up. If the Government are going to fight the trade unions, very well, let it be war, and we shall see who wins. If the workers of the country are forced into direct action, the’ Government will have to take the consequences of direct action.
– Will the honorable member say what challenge has been issued to trade unionism ?
– I very much regret that the Acting Prime Minister was not here earlier, because I specified the very challenges the Government had thrown down, not only continually during the war, when they were insulting and obstructing the trade unions of the country, but in connexion with the present dispute. ‘ All along the attitude of the Government, up to the submission of a policy speech, has been one of challenge to the unions. The position of the Government is “We will offer no concessions.
– This is a declaration of policy, not a challenge.
– Then, I suppose, when Germany declared that its policy was to protect its frontiers against Russian aggression, it was not a challenge?
– It was made a challenge as a result of the policy.
– And your policy is a challenge.
– No; and trade unionism will not say it is. And even if it does apply it is not a challenge to trade unionism generally.
– All over the world to-da”y, rightly or wrongly, there is a feeling amongst the workers that a challenge has been made against unionism; and they are ready to fight.
– It is pure imagination!
– Then how is it that I am not alone in the idea? I read newspapers and literature of other countries, and I find exactly the same attitude in every other part of the world - war is on between capitalism and unionism.
– I do not mind saying that I thoroughly believe in trade unionism, and I have, never issued any challenge to it.
– You say you believe in unionism, and yet every act of this Government since the 1917 elections has been a challenge to the trade unions of this country. There has’ been the opening of loyalist bureaux ; the protection of loyalist workers and promises to them, and the Government have even gone to the length, as I said before, of supplying from the Repatriation Department men to take the place of others on strike.
– I know nothing of that.
– But. I do, and I can give you facts.
– Do you not think it would be more judicious for a man of your influence in Labour circles to try to pacify things rather than to stir them up ? .
– The whole of my appeal in connexion with statements I make is that, instead of continuing this policy of antagonism and opposition, we should unite and endeavour to discover a means to bring about a settlement and harmony.
– The honorable member knows that, so far >as the Government are concerned, during the last twelve months they have done that consistently every hour.
– That may be so as far as the Government are concerned, but it is most unfortunate that the worker cannot see any evidence of it.
– Most of them do.
– Most of them do not. It is because the workers of the country believe they are up against the political challenge - a political fight and not an industrial fight - that there is a lot of unrest in the country to-day.
– The representatives of the Victorian Trades Hall never put that view to me; in fact, their sentiments have been the opposite whenever I have met them in the last twelve months.
– I have already read the statement made by the General Secretary of the Seamen’s Union in regard to the action of Admiral Clarkson, and his letter containing an unqualified refusal to favorably consider the men’s claims.
– That is not a challenge to unionism.
– Let me finish my sentence. Why was there such a sudden change in policy? There is evidence of only one thing, namely, Government interference with Admiral Clarkson in the carrying out of his duties.
– There was no interference at all at that period with Admiral Clarkson.
– I am not prepared to say that it is possible for me to prove it, but I have as clear evidence as any man can have, and the statement is absolutely believed by the workers outside, that it would have been easily possible long before now to come to an arrangement with both the shipping companies and Admiral Clarkson if it had not been for Government interference.
– The workers are mistaken ‘ in that belief.
– It would take a good deal to convince them of that.
– I am sorry; but it is true.
– And it has been so; especially since the Acting Prime Minister, in his policy speech, refused to favour any concessions. I congratulate the honorable gentleman on the fact that since he made that speech he has seen his way to take a more favorable and humane view of the position.
– I have not altered my view at all.
– I am glad that the honorable member hasnot only extended financial relief in the aid of distress, but has been able to announce that another attempt is to be made to settle the dispute.
– That is by the Court.
– I do not care whether it is by the Court or by what method; we are anxious to settle the dispute in such a manner as to bring about industrial harmony.
– I have not altered my view in regard to this vital matter - that the Court was the proper place to settle that dispute. Let the Court decide it now.
– The honorable gentleman has not, perhaps to my disadvantage, heard the argument I put up that the employers have all along obstructed the Court in its operations. The President of the Court pointed out, in 1910 and 1911, that the functions of the Court were being paralyzed by legal technicalities. Honorable members well remember that when the Labour party proposed to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act Sir William Irvine said that it needed amending, because the Court argued as to the meaning of the word conciliation and the meaning of the word arbitration, and as to what was meant by “ preventing” a dispute or “ settling “ a dispute. He said that the Court would argue for days as to whether there was a dispute or not, and that employers and employees had become so disgusted with the delays and expenses of the Arbitration Court that it was a discredited institution. The seamen decided, after their experience of the Court last December, that it was of no use to them as a. means of obtaining redress. It is a most unfortunate circumstance, but it is only unfortunate because this Parliament and the country have refused to recognise the danger of allowing arbitration to be a discredited policy, and of allowing the Arbitration Court to become a discredited institution, and because we are not taking steps to make the industrial laws of this country effective for the pre vention and settlement of industrial disputes.
– Every litigant who does not succeed finds fault with the Court which dealt with his case. It applies to every one.
– Of course it does, and it is a peculiar circumstance that in regard to the Arbitration Court both employers and employees are agreed that its functions are neither useful nor effective. When an award is made, the workers complain that the employers try to get behind it, and the employers complain that the employees are trying to get behind it; the agreement is not binding on one side or the other. We have degenerated into a most unfortunate position in regard to arbitration.
– Let the honorable member, who is an arbitrationist, take up the cudgels against Mr. Walsh, who is not an arbitrationist, and get the workers to the Court.
– There is not an honorable member of this House who does not believe in the principle of arbitration, not only in the matter of industrial disputes, but also in the matter of international disputes; but one has to deal, not with theories, but with facts; and the facts lead us to realize that on both sides the Arbitration Court is declared a failure, and that our arbitration lawsare declared useless. Are we to allow such a condition of affairs to continue? If the Arbitration Act amendment outlined in the policy speech is to follow suggestions which have been made to open wide the doors of the Arbitration Court to all sorts and kinds of unions, there will only be more trouble, disaster, sorrow, and misery. It is because I wish to avoid this that I make my speech tonight. I have confined myself to this subject because I believe that it is easily the most pressing and urgent reform required in Australia to-day.
We have a load of debt, and we can only carry it as we so arrange the industrial operations of this country to produce the maximum it is possible for Australia to produce. We must so organize our industrial affairs as to create and make money in this country. Otherwise we shall be in a fearful financial mess. I have no fear as to the courage of the Australian people in these matters, but I do fear very much that, unless a better feeling is instilled into the community, we are going to reach disaster instead of harmony. Unless some satisfaction is given to the workers of the country, unless they know they are going to get a better deal than before, there is going to be trouble. Unless a better method of settling industrial disputes is devised than that of the present Arbitration Court, the workers will feel that there is only one thing for them to do - what the seamen have done. It is most regrettable, but there is no other course open to men who are dissatisfied with the Arbitration Court. In any case they are only adopting the methods of the profiteers and manufacturers, the men who support Ministerialists and keep them in office, those who adopt direct action in regard to the cost of living and the price of goods and of every article that the people of the country have to use. It is because I do not believe in direct action that I want the Government to consider how they can amend the arbitration laws in order to make the Arbitration Court useful. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but it is no laughing matter to us.
– Direct action is a very useful weapon to have up one’s sleeve.
– The workers cannot be robbed of the weapon. It is easy for honorable members to laugh, but it is no joke to the thousands of people who are in trouble, sorrow, and want to-day.
– Because of the “ redrag “ crowd.
– Let the honorable member make no mistake about it. Today in Australia, as in every other country, the cry is “ Bread or Bolshevism.” That was the cry in Germany the other day. It is useless attempting to throw dust in each other’s eyes. We are up against it. What is it to be ? Peace or war? Are the capitalists of this country or other countries to surrender part of their robberies and give the workers a fair deal, or are they going to fight them ? The war is on, and I hope that in Australia we shall settle it on civilized Christian lines, and not on the lines adopted in some other countries. We can do it. If the Government are willing, we can settle these things on constitutional lines, but Ministers are making it mighty hard for us.
– Every recent piece of legislation has made it easy, but the honorable member is endeavouring to sow the seeds of the other method.
– We cannot go on the platforms of the country and say’ that we approve of the “ admirable manner “ in which the affairs of the country are being administered. How can we justify the deportations that are taking place or the internment of Australian citizens ? How can we tell the people that it is not true when it is only Labour supporters or opponents of the Government who are being seized and ill-treated and when we know that the Government are exercising an evident discretion in favour of their own supporters, the profiteers, by removing the price-fixing regulations and giving a free field and every favour to those who all through the war, and even more so to-day, have shown their readiness to rob the widows and children of the country in the matter of the price of goods and the cost of things generally ? We are asked to approve of this. We cannot do so. That is why we have launched this amendment. It may seem a waste of time to Ministerialists, but these matters are near to us, and touch us very keenly. It hurts us to see men onstrike going about the streets with nothing to do, because idle men and hungry men are dangerous.
– Then get a crew and send our Tasmanian soldiers home.
– The Acting Prime Minister can get a crew together tomorrow. The Seamen’s Union has. offered over and over again to man ships conveying returned soldiers and food supplies, and without payment.
– One crew engaged in the work has just gone out on strike, yet there are hundreds of returned men waiting to cross to Tasmania.
– Tasmanian members ought to know something about the conditions under which the seamen work.
How many of them have taken the trouble to go into the forecastle of a ship to see the accommodation provided * It is very easy for us on our cushioned seats to talk about the seamen and ask, “ Why do they not do this ? “ and, “ Why do they not do that? “ This country has never yet recognised the duty it owes to its seamen.
– The honorable member said that a crew could be got to convey the Tasmanian soldiers to their homes.
– Yes, at a price. Really I am surprised that men are willing to accept the conditions prevailing on ships to-day. But they are prepared to accept the accommodation provided and certain wages, yet the Government say, “ No, we will fight you.”
– The construction of a ship cannot be altered by an argument before a Court.
– But the Navigation Act provides for alterations.
– In the construction of new vessels.
– The vessels which are here now could be altered.
– Not all of them.
– Not all of them, I admit, but I am pleased that the honorable member admits that the accommodation needs altering.
– I do admit it.
– Then why not have it altered?
– The Government policy says that the Navigation Act is to be proclaimed.
– I have seen no mention of it.
We want to transfer into the affairs of this country the moral equivalent of those virtues we have seen exemplified during the war. When we think of the courage, resourcefulness, and aptitude of the Australians during the war, and read accounts of brave and heroic deeds, we wonder how men could have done such things.
– And yet some of them have died here from influenza while you are holding them up.
– And some of them have died because the Repatriation Department did not work swiftly and smoothly. Everything done by the De partment which, according to the Acting Prime Minister is so splendid an institution, and which has come up to the expectations of the Government has been so good yet it is allowing soldiers to go about the streets some of them begging and cadging, because they can get neither sustenance nor work.
– That is not correct.
– What proof does the Minister require?
– The submission of specific cases.
– There is no lack of them. Any branch of the Returned Soldiers League will deny that the Repatriation Department is working swiftly or smoothly, or that returned soldiers are not being allowed to go about destitute. Honorable members are inundated with appeals for the consideration ofsuch cases. A man with a wife and children is asked to live on something like £2 per week.
We want to transfer the aptitude, resourcefulness, and courage to which I have referred to civil affairs. We want our soldiers to bring into civil life those virtues and those heroic qualities which have made their name so famous, and which will stand to them right through history. Yet the attitude of the Government is such as to destroy in them the best which they have developed in the war, and to encourage in them only the worst. I believe there is a bright future for Australia if the forces of the community are united, if bitterness is cut out, and if there is a cessation of insults. To-night, the very first remark of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) was an insult to every honorable member on this side. Are we going to stand it? I do not propose to do so. While the war was on I put up with a good deal, but now that the war is over there is not a man in this House who is going to insult me. I shall fight honorable members opposite at every opportunity so long as they continue to do these things. No man on that side will be allowed to hurl at me any charge of disloyalty without challenge. What my comrades do is their own business but so far as I am concerned there will be a row in this House every time the party opposite carry on that kind of fighting. If you, sir, so desire, I am prepared to be sent outside, but I am determined that neither the honorable member for Robertson nor any other honorable member on that side shall continue to hurl these abominable insults across the chamber, either at me or my colleagues, without protest. Are honorable members opposite going to give up that kind of thing so that we may unite for the good government of this country]
– You know quite well what the honorable member for Robertson meant.
– He knew that what he said was a lie, and the honorable member for Henty knows it, too.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw that imputation.
– I am trying to make up my mind whether I ought to withdraw it or not.
– I hope the honorable member will not persist in that attitude.
– I withdraw the statement in deference to you, sir, and for no other reason. I leave it at that.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I should like the attention of honorable members while I communicate the contents of two cablegrams which have just arrived from the British Government relating to the celebration of peace, in order that they may be proclaimed, as the King desires, to-morrow morning.
– This unusual procedure will receive our attention.
– I hope the honorable member will not be so graceless, at a time like this, as to deal with so important a matter in that way. The following is the first telegram from the Secretary of State for the Colonies: -
July 1st. My telegrams June 18th, June 28th. Peace celebrations. Following proclamation has been issued today:
By the King, a Proclamation, George R.I. Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to bring to a close the late widespread and sanguinary war, in which we were engaged against Germany and her Allies, we therefore, adoring the Divine goodness and duly considering that the great and general blessings of peace do call for public and solemn acknowledgment, have thought fit, by and with the advice of our Privy Council, to issue this our Royal Proclamation hereby appointing and commanding that a general thanksgiving to Almighty God for these His manifold and great mercies be observed throughout our Dominions on Sunday, the sixth day of July; and for the better and more devout solemnization of the same we have given directions to the most reverend the archbishops and the right reverend the bishops of England to compose a form of prayer suitable to this occasion to be used in all churches and chapels, and to take care for the timely dispersing of the same throughout their respective dioceses : and to the same end we do further advertise and exhort the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and all spiritual authorities and ministers of religion in their respective churches and other places of public worship throughout our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and in all quarters of our Dominions beyond the seas to take part, as it may properly behove them to do, in this great and common act of worship, and we do strictly charge and command that the said public day of thanksgiving be religiously observed by all as they tender the favour of Almighty God; and have the sense of His benefits.
Given at our Court at Buckingham Palace this first day of July, in the year of our Lord One thousand nine hundred and nineteen, and in the tenth year of our reign.
God save the King !
Please arrange for publication at once. It is wish of His Majesty that all parts of the Empire should, as far as possible, unite in observing July 6th as day of thanksgiving. Reason for alteration of date from that previously proposed is to approximate day of general thanksgiving as nearly as possible to date of signatures of peace with Germany. Further telegram will be sent as to Peace celebrations generally.
The further telegram referred to is as follows : - 1st July. - With reference to my telegram 1st July, Proclamation general thanksgiving. As date of religious ceremony put forward, thought desirable fix earlier date Peace celebrations generally, and accordingly decided, with His Majesty’s sanction, hold celebrations United Kingdom, Saturday, 19th July, and to have all celebrations on one day. Hope that all parts of the Empire will join, as far as possible, in celebrating Peace on that day; but it is realized, of course, that this may not be possible in all cases for various local reasons. Much regret that it has been impossible to communicate to you alteration in plans sooner, but decision of His Majesty’s Government only reached to-day. General opinion here strongly in favour of earlier date.
Beyond expressing briefly, but earnestly, the appreciation I think of every member of the House of the termination of this great war by the final signature of the Peace Treaty and the proclamation of peace; in which I believe the whole nation will spontaneously join, I have to add that it is the desire of the Government to fulfil, as far as possible the wish of His Majesty and his Ministers. We shall take all steps throughout Australia to assist the holding of thanksgiving services next Sunday, and to synchronize on next Saturday fortnight the celebration of this great event throughout the Empire.
.- I hope that every one will devoutly pray that the hearts of the Government may be softened towards all those who are suffering poverty, distress, or imprisonment through the misguided zeal of the Government.
– As next Sundayis to be aday of prayer and thanksgiving for the signing of peace, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the advisability of releasing all those people who are now in gaol for causes connected with the war?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.23 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 July 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190702_reps_7_88/>.