7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - I have to announce that I have this day issued a writ in connexion with the by-election for the Echuca Division. The dates fixed are those announced to the House yesterday.
Refutation of Inaccurate Statements
– Has the Minister representing the Minister administering the Wheat Pools noticed the seriously inaccurate statements made yesterday in another place about the condition of wheat in the various Pools, and as to scrip values ? Will the Government in future give on the spot an effective refutation to such damaging, irresponsible statements, so as to protect farmers from rushing to the Stock Exchange and sacrificing their certificates ?
– I noticed in the press this morning a report of a speech on the subject made yesterday in another place I can only say that the statement appeared to me to bo injudicious. I shall bring the matter under the notice of the responsible Minister, and ascertain whether it is pos sible for him to make a statement that will be calculated to undo the harm that the remarks referred to are likely to cause.
Sustenance Allowance and Employment
– Has the Acting Leader of the House observed a report in this morning’s press of a speech made by Mr. J. W. McKenzie, ex-president of the Returned Soldiers Association, and one of its chief spokesmen, in which the statement is made that the sustenance allowance is a mere sop to get over the incompetence shown by the Government authorities in providing a decent living for returned men? If so, will the Government get a move on in order that these men may be found employment and prevented from becoming members of the unemployed?
– This question should have been addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. It is well known that the sustenance allowance was carefully considered, that it is made for a specific purpose, and that it is thoroughly appreciated by all. who participate in it. As to the general work of the Department in finding employment for returned soldiers, recent statistics show that it is exceedingly efficient. As honorable members are aware, trade and industry throughout Australia have been dislocated by the influenza epidemic and the occurrence of strikes. The records recently quoted by the Minister show that, notwithstanding these drawbacks, the Department has been most effectively and efficiently administered in the direction of finding employment for our returned men.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether it is a fact that, on more than one occasion, the present seamen’s strike could have been ended but for stupid and ill-informed comments in the press?
– I am not in a position to express an opinion on the point raised by the honorable member.
Questions as to Government Policy.
– Is the Acting AttorneyGeneral in a position to state the policy of the Government withregard to the Commonwealth Police Force?
– Order! It is not in order to ask for an expression of opinion from Ministers as to matters of policy.
– Then I shall ask the Acting Attorney-General whether he is in a position to state what action the Government intend to take with regard to the Commonwealth police?
– I ask the honorable member to allow his question to stand over until the presentation of the Budget statement. The information will then be given.
– With all respect to you, Mr. Speaker, may I ask under what standing order the putting of questions to Ministers in regard to the policy of the Government is prohibited?
– It has been laid down by previous rulings in this House and bySpeakers of the House of Commons, and it is also mentioned in May., and other parliamentary authorities, that expressions of opinion on matters of policy should not be made the subject of questions put to Ministers on the floor of the House.
– Will the Acting Treasurer state whether the Government have yet come to a decision with regard to the per capita payment in future to be made to the States?
– That is also a matter which might well be left over until the Budget statement is presented to the House. Honorable members will then receive full information on the subject.
The following paper was presented : -
Repatriation Department - Report upon the organization and activities of - 8th April, 1918, to 30th June, 1919.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– A member of the Forces (private) who loses a limb receives £3 per fortnight for six months, thereafter £2 5s. per fortnight. In addition, the Repatriation Department provide vocational training, and, until the member is able to earn a living wage, grant him an allowance which will bring his income, inclusive of pension, up to 42s. per week.
asked the Acting Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
3 and 4. No balance-sheet has been issued, but the actual cost of handling the coal is approximately11½d. per ton.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs,’ upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Income Tax Returns
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
As graziers and farmers throughout New South Wales are suffering from the ravages of an unprecedented drought, and in view of the complicated nature of the returns required, will he instruct the Department to allow three months’ grace for the furnishing of income tax returns?
– It is not considered desirable that a general extension should be given, but, on application to the DeputyCommissioner of Taxation, extension will be granted in individual cases where a farmer can show that he is unable to complete his return by the gazetted date.
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The question of the conservation of wheat stocks, in view of the unfavorable prospects for the coming season, will be discussed at the meeting of the Australian Wheat Board, which will commence to-morrow.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
If he has taken, or will take, steps to return to Australia the survivors of thehoming pigeons which were freely lent to the Defence Department by the members of Australian homing pigeon clubs; the promise, it is stated, having been made that the surviving birds would be returned to their owners?
– There was no question of sale or loan of these birds to the Defence Department, the proposal, as stated to the various pigeon-breeders and societies, being to give the pigeon-breeders an opportunity of making practical use of their special talents, to assist in connexion with the war. As the birds were a gift to the Imperial Government for war purposes, it is not proposed to ask for their return.
Employment - ‘Loans ros Land Settlement.
asked the Minister representing the Minister ‘for Repatriation, upon notice -
– Definite particulars are being obtained from the several States, but it is anticipated that the whole amount will be absorbed.
asked the. Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting . Attorney-General, upon notice -
If, in view of the partial relaxation of the War Precautious Act, he will remove any regulations which prevent Australian manufacturing jewellers from manufacturing souvenirs bearing the name of “ Anzac “ ?
– It is not considered desirable to take the course the honorable member suggests.
Mr. FENTON (for Mr. BRENNAN asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is the Government favorable, opposed, or neutral with regard to the Allied military operations in Russia?
– It is not the practice to express an opinion upon matters of policy in reply to questions on notice, and the practice is equally applicable to questions concerning matters involving the policy of the Imperial Government.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that some three weeks ago a Japanese boat, after unloading merchandise at Rabaul, was prevented by the Commonwealth authorities from loading a quantity of copra and produce intended for the mainland of Australia?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information desired by the honorable member, and will furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government has consulted with the Governments of the States with a view to having uniform legislation introduced in all’ the States for the purpose of checking or minimizing profiteering?
– No. It is noted, however, that action: is being taken in certain of the States ; but, in the light of experience, it is doubtful if an effort to secure uniformity would he successful.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
- Last week the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked, with reference -to the running of the trams in Melbourne, whether it would be possible to make the stoppage, considered necessary, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and allow the trams to continue running at night time for the convenience of the public, as this would not consume any more coal, and the fires could be banked up. I have now to say that this matter has received the consideration, of the Central Coal Board. The present regulations were drawn np at a conference of the tramway and electric power managements with the Board. It was at the time suggested that a reduction of running might be effected during the day, but. those competent to speak on this subject stated that no economy of fuel could he effected by such a proposition, as it would be necessary to maintain pressure of steam to meet recurrent load, and it was therefore decided that the only effective way of saving fuel was to cut off tram services entirely in the evenings and let the steam down. The hour of 7 p.m. was fixed, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, and was concurred in by the various tramway managements.
– On the 17th ultimo, in answer to a question of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) as to the quantity of fresh fruits other than apples exported to Europe during 1918- 1919, I stated that the quantities of pears and grapes exported to the United Kingdom during that period were: - Victoria, 282 centals; New South Wales, 2,075 centals; Western Australia, 921 centals. I now find that the figures given represented exports of these fruits to all destinations. The exports to the United Kingdom were as under: - Victoria, 120 centals pears; New South Wales, nil; Western Australia, nil.
– On the 7th August the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) asked the following question: - Whether it is a fact that rifle clubs throughout New South Wales are unable to hold their usual shooting competitions because the usual funds are delayed, and no arrangement has been made for granting railway passes? I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
This question is at present under consideration in connexion with the Budget proposals.
– On the 25th July the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked the following question : -
The replies are: -
– On the 8th August the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked the following question : -
The attention of the Acting Prime Minister has doubtless been directed to the fact that certain Australians are engaged in Northern Russia in connexion with the military operations which are being carried on there. Having regard to the fact that these soldiers were not recruited, and are not controlled by the Australian Government, will the honorable gentleman take the steps necessary to see that the good name of the Australian soldier and of Australia itself is not tarnished by association with what so many good Australians conceive to be an iniquitous invasion upon the Russian proletariat?
The answer is: -
There is no force operating in Russia that is organized and paid by or directed and controlled from the Commonwealth, nor is anything known of a force exclusively composed of or operating as Australians.
No member of the Australian Imperial Force with dependants in Australia is permitted to take his discharge abroad unless such dependants consent, and until a soldier is discharged from the Australian Imperial Force he cannot enlist in an Imperial unit. The Australians who are reported in the press as operating with an Imperial unit in Russia are doubtless ex-soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force who have no dependants in Australia, and who have applied for and obtained their discharges in England from the Australian Imperial Force.
Troopship “Somali” : Case op Gunner Yates - Customs Department : Case op Alexander Henry - Mr. Chanter and Dr. Maloney - Defence Administration - Repatriation : Hand-woven Tweed Industry: Naval Militia - High Prices and Profiteering: Amendment of Constitution - Dismissal of Telephone Mechanics - Permanent Military Forces: Appointments to Instructional Staff: Physical Standard - Earnings of Invalid and Old-age Pensioners - Australian Imperial Force: Next-of-Kin Badges : Employment of Father and Son : Pensions to Widowed Mothers : Food Supply on Troopship “Port Lyttleton” : Deceased Soldiers’ Estates - Tabling of Papers : Prosecution of Mr. Mathews, M.P. : Formula for Steel for Shrapnel Shells - Seamen’s Strike : Payment of Ships’ Officers : Relief of Seamen - Defence Department : Bonuses to Armourers - InterState Trade: Inspection of Produce - Industrial Troubles : Profitsharing and Co-partnership.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the House a matter affecting not only myself, but the good name of the Commonwealth in its treatment of soldiers and officers. When I returned to Australia I did what I thought was a good turn to those who were concerned in the dispute on the troopship Somali, but I was charged with inciting to mutiny, and, under a dragnet clause that is part of the regulations of the British Amy, with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. I was guilty of neither of those offences. The evidence has not yet been laid on the table of the Library, or I might make pointed reference to it in order to prove my statement in that regard. During the trial not one individual was brought forward who said he was influenced in any way into being mutinous by anything I said to ham. Some of the evidence brought against me was secured by means of the civil police, who went throughout Victoria to obtain it. Two witnesses were brought from country districts to Melbourne for the purpose. Their evidence was of such a character that one of them was treated as hostile and cross-questioned by the representative of the Crown. The evidence of the other was not very weighty, but both of them came down under the impression, which they made no secret of, that they were coming to Melbourne to give evidence on my behalf. That was the kind of witness brought down to give evidence against me so far as the ‘,’ digger “ was concerned. As regards officers, all the evidence on which I was convicted was given by sergeant-majors, and any man who knows what a sergeant-major is need not be told that he is the gobetween between the tyranny of the officer and the victim to which it is to be applied. Not one of them gave conclusive evidence that I had done anything to incite the men to mutiny. If I had the evidence here, I could quote passages which prove that the sergeant-major of the ship, who was the brigade sergeantmajor on the voyage, swore that he stood within 10 feet of me when I made the utterance complained of. The other sergeant-major said he was coming from the hospital along the hurricane deck, and that he stood alongside the other officer. That was an absolute impossibility, because the well deck was in between the hospital and the place where I addressed the troops. That point, however, was taken no notice of. That is a sample of the evidence given against me by the officers who came forward to swear that I incited to mutiny.
I assure honorable members that if I had been the bloodthirsty individual they make me out to be, and had wanted to create a real mutiny on the vessel on that voyage, it would not have taken more than five minutes to do so. I did not want a mutiny. I simply wanted the “ diggers “ to get the treatment to which they were entitled as men who had gone overseas and suffered greatly on behalf of the Empire. The conditions under which they came home were none too nice, and the food that was put up was absolutely refused by them on several occasions. It is strange that such arrangements should be made by the Military Department for feeding the troops, seeing that the Red Cross Society sent on board to us at different times Australian jam in Australian tins as a gift.’ We often had cakes, confectionery, and fruit distributed to us by the Red Cross Society of Australia, but from the contractors with whom the Department arranged to supply -the transport we had jam: that I saw taken on board, made in Sumatra, and put up in kerosene tins. I saw that jam put out for the troops, and just as religiously emptied through the port-hole. I do not want to stress those points, but one gentleman has made a statement that the food was good, and that his troops did not object to it. If that gentleman was a member of the House I could challenge his statement, inasmuch as it was his own light horsemen, who, on one occasion, would not eat the morning stew until it was inspected by the officers. They carried it straight up as it was, without touching it, so that there should be no question about its quality. It was called “ Hello “ stew, because you said “Hello” every time you saw a bit of meat in it, it was so thin. However, the troops put u,p with that sort of thing and got along fairly well. They also put up with the inconvenience of sleeping between decks on a troopship. That, also, is none too nice when you get 1100 men between decks and’ their hammocks are slung so close that they touch one another. The men strip before turning in, and the vapors from the human body distribute themselves between’ those decks. The portholes at times have to be closed, and consequently the air often becomes very foetid. In the ship, the basins in the lavatory were only a span apart. I spanned them to make sure of the distance between them, and there were sixty odd in one lavatory. . After rising in the morning, having your bath, and doing your toilet, you had to take your breakfast in the very same place that you had slept in, before there had been time to ventilate it. The conditions were bad enough even when we were travelling, when the windchutes tended to clear the atmosphere between decks after a certain period.
That is the sort of life the “ digger “ leads when he comes across the sea in a transport. » I come now to the question of the alleged offence for which I claim that I unjustly paid the penalty. Not only was I robbed of my liberty for a certain time, but it cost me a fair sum out of pocket. I consider that I have been very harshly dealt with in the view taken of my action on that occasion. When we arrived at Colombo, we had one case of sickness aboard. We carried twenty-six Cingalese who had offered their services to the Empire, but who were not required on account of the Armistice being signed, and they were brought back to their homes on our ship. It was one of these men that was sick, and he was taken ashore at Colombo. That is the only suspicious case of influenza that we had throughout the trip. We left Colombo, and had a good run down to Western Australia. There we were informed that influenza was prevalent in Australia, and that the troops who disembarked in Western Australia would have to go through a period of quarantine for the protection of the people on shore. So far, good. I do not think any of the Western Australians complained about having to do that period of quarantine. The remainder of the troops’ were told that inhalation chambers would be provided on the boat for use on the voyage to Adelaide, and that if the inhalation process was undergone properly we would not have to undergo quarantine when we reached port. It took us approximately, six days, and we went through the inhalation process religiously every morning. Every man was up at the period fixed for him, and went through the process. The evidence given by the officer commanding the troops, notwithstanding what may be said regarding a few high temperatures,’ showed that when the health officers came aboard at the Semaphore they pronounced the ship clean. It was stated in the newspapers next day by Dr. Hone, the quarantine officer, that the Somali was a clean ship. We were paraded at 9 o’clock on the morning of our arrival there, and the usual order given when troops are to disembark was issued, that we were to bring up any kit bags we had with us, and stow them on the starboard deck. Hammocks were to be handed in, and half-an-hour after lunch our mess utensils were also to be handed in. We were to be paid prior to disembarkation. All these orders were carried out; the troops paraded on the mess deck, and had their temperatures taken, and everything went “ as merry as a marriage bell “ ; but we were there until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and no word came as to what we were to do. At 4 o’clock some one came along and said that I had better go down and get a hammock, because every one down below was grabbing a hammock. I went below and secured one, and then I returned to the deck to get my kit bag. There had been a stack of kit bags, about 10 feet high, but when I got on deck they were strewn over the place, and men were trampling on one another’s bags in an endeavour to find their own. That annoyed me considerably. I knew that my wife and daughter, the latter with a baby in arms, were expecting me, and I was not too pleased to think that they had been waiting on the wharf from 9 o’clock in the morning without knowing what was going to happen to the troops on the boat. Consequently, I paraded before Major Arnall. I did not go direct to the ship’s captain, as .Major Chanter says I did. I did not do that on any occasion. I spoke to Major Arnall and pointed to the kit bags strewn about the deck. I said, “ We have paraded according to your orders, and now look at the kit bags being trodden on.” I had not been allowed to remain in England long enough to purchase souvenirs to bring home to my people, and it did not affect me whether my bag was trampled on or not; but I realized that others might have souvenirs in their kit bags. I said, “ This is not the way to treat men who have done so much in the interests of their country.. I Have been told to get my hammock. Are we to stay on board to-night?” He said, “ The health officers came on board this morning and inspected the ship, and have gone away, but as to what is to take place I am just as ignorant as you are.” I said, “ I feel very wild about it.” Then I explained how my wife and daughter were waiting for me on shore, and he said, “ If I were in your position I would feel as you do,” candidly admitting that the attitude I took up was the one he would have taken up in the same circumstances. We did not know what was to be done to us until we received the newspapers on the following morning, and they contained the information that the Somali had arrived, and had been declared a clean ship, but that she was to go into quarantine for seven days. I asked permission to write a letter to the Register, and the Officer Commanding said that as the censorship restrictions had been lifted I could do so. Thereupon I wrote a letter to the Register, pointing out the position as we found it. I stated that there were 1,100 men between decks on the vessel, that she was a still ship, and did not have the wind chutes that were provided on the voyage out, and, that there was nothing to prevent an outbreak of influenza going right through the vessel. I added that men who had risked their lives in France were now obliged to run a greater risk of death by remaining on the vessel in such circumstances. During the day a lot of the troops came to me, and asked what I thought it best to do. I did not advise them in any way, but I did something off my own bat. I prepared a telegram, jointly signed by South Australians, to Brigadier-‘General Antill, but I would not allow any man to be coerced into signing it, nor would I allow any one to sign it who had not first read it. I then paraded before the Officer Commanding, and asked him if he would get the South Australian officers to sign it. He said that he could not do so, as he thought he had done all that was necessary by appealing to the shore authorities against the quarantining of the vessel. Thereupon I asked permission to send the telegram to Brigadier-General Antill.’ The Officer Commanding said that I could do what I liked in that respect. I drafted the telegram on a cigarette wrapper which was lying on the deck at the time, and this was the wording of the ‘message which was forwarded to BrigadierGeneral Antill -
Undersigned soldiers 4th Military District desire your intervention for immediate release from quarantine. Authorities acknowledge clean ship. Contend that further detention between decks of still ship liable to breed outbreak rather than prevent same. - Yates.
There were seventy-two South Australians on the Somali, and sixty-six of them voluntarily signed the telegram, only one nian refusing to do so. Time being the essence of the contract, I sent it without the other signatures, but subsequently those South Australians who had not signed it came to me and expressed their regret that they had not had the opportunity of doing so. There was nothing in the message contrary to military discipline. It simply stated that we resented unnecessary quarantining in our own port, without our relatives and friends being given the opportunity of learning what was to be done with us. After despatching the message I mingled myself with the crowd, who were engaged in catching sharks. A shark was caught, and I have one of its teeth. The men gave it to me, mounted in gold, as a tribute to the work I had done for them. In the evening some of the troops from the other States began to display impatience at the delay, and they asked me to draft a ‘petition to Brigadier-General Antill. I said, “What for?” They said, “ We want you to draw up a .petition similar to the one you sent to the Brigadier.” I was not anxious to mix myself up in anything that would be likely to lead .people to believe I was seeking to foment trouble. I said to them, “I appreciate your position, but I am sorry I cannot help you. I have done what I thought was best, by sending a telegram on behalf of the men who are in their own home ‘port. Anything that you want to do you can do off your own bat. I take my share pf the responsibility attaching to anything I do myself, but I do not propose to do anything beyond what I ‘have already done.” They turned from me rather crestfallen, and one man said, “ We thought that you would write it out for us.” I said, “ Oh, if you simply want me to draft your petition, get me a piece of paper and I will do so.” At this time lights were out, and I had to go into the second saloon to get the necessary light. I drafted a petition for these men, and had nothing more to do with it. On
Ifr. Yates. the next day when I was on the mess deck I saw the men signing it. It was signed by 718 of them, and was sent ashore - by whom I .do not know. I had nothing to do with it after preparing it, although I am aware that the men went to the Officer Commanding for permission to send the petition ashore.
Nothing else happened on board the Somali until Friday morning, when we were again paraded. As on the Tuesday morning our kit-bags were put on deck, our hammocks and our mess utensils were handed in, and we were notified that we were to be paraded for disembarkation at 10 o’clock in the morning. Tuesday morning’s performance was repeated. The kit-bags were walked over, we had to draw our hammocks again, and again I paraded before the Officer Commanding and told ‘him that the position, was intolerable. I asked whether it was a fair thing to .parade us twice and go through the same (performance as we had on Tuesday. The South Australian troops asked me to intercede on their behalf and get release for them from the ship. I told .them that if they wished me to act on their behalf I would speak for them if they had a representative number of South Australians. They asked at what time they should assemble. I said, “Any time you like, but let me know when everyone is there.” They made the time 4 o’clock in the afternoon. As there was not a representative gathering of the men, I refused to approach the Officer Commanding in their behalf, but decided to interview Mm on my own account. I felt that I was aggrieved, and had a right to speak to him regarding the treatment of the men. I was again paraded before him in the ordinary official way. I did not go up to him and give him a tap on the shoulder. I went to the orderly room, and asked the runner to tell the Officer Commanding that I wished! to speak to- him. If, in so doing, I transgressed any military rule, the fault was not mine. I could have been told that there was a more proper method of approaching the Officer Commanding. The court martial admitted that there was no lack of discipline in my action in interviewing the Officer Commanding, and that gives the lie direct to the statement made by Major Chanter that I went to Major Arnall’s office. I spoke to the Officer Commanding regarding the treatment themen werereceiving, and he informed me that he had paraded the men on that day because somebody had called out from a tug-boat on the previous night, “ Get ready to go off to-morrow morning.” He had no right to take action on such an instruction, because, as was afterwards proved, it was not authoritative. He told me that he considered the position unfortunate, but that he had done his best to get the men ashore. This conversation took place on the deck outside the Officer Commanding’s office. The men standing near knew what I was speaking about, and as I left the Officer Commanding, they clamoured about me with a request to be told what I had said, and what he had replied. I told them that the interview had been a personal one, and that Major Arnall knew no more than we did. The men had to remain on board. Thereupon they resolved to hold a meeting on the poop-deck, and I was requested to explain the position to them. I did so.
Then came a proposal that we should allow Major Arnall from 2.30 till 5 o’clock to acquaint the shore authorities by wireless that unless we were released from quarantine we would seize the boat and go ashore. Previously a proposal had been made that the rafts and other loose deck fittings should be cast into the gulf as a demonstration of the chagrin of the troops, but as that action would not get the men ashore, somebody moved that an ultimatum be given to the Officer Commanding that unless he assented to the request of the men, they would take action on their own account. I said to them, “Before you do this, give the Officer Commanding an opportunity to communicate with the shore authorities.” They decided to do that, and asked me to interview him. I said, “Am I to tell him what you propose?” and they replied “Yes.” I told them that I would act only as one of them, and not. in my capacity as a member of Parliament, as I had no more authority than any other private on the boat. I also stipulated that, in preferring their request to the Officer Commanding, I should be accompanied by one man from each State represented on the ship. We were paraded before the Officer Commanding. I introduced the deputation, and explained the demands of the men. When I had finished speaking, in order to prove to the Officer Commanding that this was not a one-man show, I made every member of the deputation express his views.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - What punishment did the honorable member get for all this?
– I was sentenced to sixty days in gaol, and lost eighty-five days’ pay.
– The honorable member was jolly lucky.
– I spoke as one of the deputation, and was listened to by the Officer Commanding. All he did was to requestthat the ultimatum should be extended until 6 o’clock, and promise that he would do as the deputation requested. The names of the five men who with me comprised the deputation were not taken, and in that respect I consider that I was treated unjustly. The Officer Commanding did not tell us that we were taking a course in contravention of the regulations ; he did not tell us that we were liable to be placed under arrest, and that he would take such action if we persisted in our attitude.
– He might have given you warning before you started.
– He certainly ought to have done so.
A statement of theproceedings appeared in the Adelaide press, supplied, not by Major Arnall, but by Major J. C. Chanter. It was he who supplied the information which resultedin my being sent to prison.
– Is he any relation to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter)?
– I do not know.
– Why not say that you do know ?
– I ask because, if the officer you refer to is the son of the honorable member for Riverina, he is a good man.
– Is he? My request on behalf of the men was made to the Officer Commanding troops, Major Arnall. Nothing was said about our acting contrary to regulations, but we were promised that our request would be complied with, and a wireless message sent to the shore authorities. I believe that the message was transmitted ashore, but the authorities on board acted very cutely. There was quiet on the ship during the afternoon until about 6 o’clock, but it was significant that the niggers on board were told to remove all oars and rowlocks from the boats.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - The authorities must have known that Yates intended to get busy.
– The reason was that they “had the wind up.” During the afternoon I was summoned to the captain’s cabin; Major Chanter said that I went there on my own initiative. Captain Warner and Major Arnall were present and entertained me for about an hour in impressing upon me the seriousness of my action in leading the men. I assured them that I was not leading the men, but was only acting as their spokesman. Captain Warner tried to influence me by telling me that he knew I would not have attained to the position of a member of the Commonwealth Parliament if I had not some influence over bodies of men; if I used my authority with them the men would be more reasonable. I replied, “ If the purpose of that talk is to induce me to squib on those men, cut it out. If you have anything to suggest I will convey your proposals to them.” He then proceeded to explain to me what would be the position if the men smashed the boats or took any action of that kind. He pointed out what would happen if we attempted to smash any of the boats or the ship. He actually sympathized with us in our position. He said to me, “ Look here, Yates, I am as. good a Labour man as you are. ‘ There was a time in the history of the Peninsular and Oriental Company when we, as officers, made all sorts of representations to the board of management in regard to our, working conditions, but they would not listen to us.” The chairman of directors, he said - I think he spoke of a Mr. Arkwright - was obdurate, and would not listen to their requests, with the result that they had to take direct action. He said, “ We all walked off the ships, and in that way we soon brought the directors to their bearings.” Officers of the Peninsular and Oriental Company to-day are getting fair treatment as the result of taking action of the kind which the captain urged me to advise the men not to take. His efforts in that direction were futile so far as I was concerned. At 6 o’clock I was sought for by a runner, who brought me again before the captain. The captain then showed me a wireless message, setting out that if we observed the regulations until the following morning we would be ,put ashore. He allowed me to show that message to the men. When I read it, they cheered me. An hour later I was again sent for by the captain, and was told that a mistake had occurred. As it had been found impossible to decipher one word of the message, they had asked that it should be repeated, and it was now found that the correct message was to the effect that we would be taken off on the following Monday, the day on which we were due for release. I took that message to the men, and they became “ropey.” Steam was being got up, and the ship was on the move. It was then that I tried to prevent the men from taking drastic action. The captain had told me that he was ordered by the Navy Office to cruise round the Gulf, and I said to the men, “ Look here, chaps, you will have a clean ship and plenty of fresh air. We may go to Port Wakefield, or across the Gulf to Edithburg, or to Kangaroo Island, so that things will not be too bad. You have put up your fight, and I would advise you now to ‘ grin and bear it.’ “
The men, however, were not ta be influenced by me. It was moved that the master of the ship be given an hour in which to send a wireless message to the authorities ashore, that we must return to the anchorage, otherwise they would take charge of the ship, and themselves return her to it. I pointed out that it was all very well to make that threat, but it would be necessary for them to have a man who could navigate a ship to take charge. It was said that the cap- tain, in such circumstances, would be entitled to protect his bridge, even to the extent of using firearms. Some one in the crowd then interjected, “ That is all right. If he has a ‘ squirt,’ so have we.” I mention this to show what was the temper of the men at the time. Another man jumped up, and said that he had a mate’s certificate, and could take the bridge. I pointed out that while that was all very well, he would still have to find men to work the engines and do the firing. The man who had said that he was possessed of a mate’s certificate then asked whether there were any engineers amongst the men, and two certificated engineers volunteered for service, as well as five A.B.’s and four or five firemen. This man then said, “This is good enough for me, Yates. I can take the ship back to her anchorage.” I replied, “ If you think you are competent to do so, well and good; but I would point out that you are proposing to take a very serious step. Unless that step is taken on the authority of the men as a whole, I will have nothing to do with it. Youmust whip up all the men, so that I may know whether or not the majority are in favour of what you propose.” As many as possible were then brought up on deck. I refused to allow the question to be decided on the voices. A show of hands was then taken, and it was such as to lead me to take the action I did.
Again, however, I would not be the leader of the movement. I said, “ If I am going to take this resolution to the Officer Commanding, or the captain, I must be accompanied by the same men that went with me on the last occasion. Four out of the five agreed to go with me; the fifth backed out, saying that he would have nothing to do with a proposal to take charge of theship, but another manpromptly took his place. We then waited on the captain. We did not threaten the Officer Commanding that we would take charge ofthe ship. He was “ out of the joke.” It was a matter between the captain and the men. We went to the captain, and that was the only occasion on which we approached his cabin without being sent for; but permission was obtained through the ship’s orderly. We gave him the resolution, and he was not unsympathetic. When
I told him the men were desperate, he said, “If you go on with this proposal, we will not attempt to stop you. It would be useless, since you outnumber us by fifty to one.” There was no opposition on the part of either the militaryor ship’s officers. They recognised that the position was serious.
– I should think they did.
– I am not relating this story merely to give the newspapers something to write about. My only desire is to show that I was unfairly treated. I am not the only man that has been dealt with unfairly by the Military Department. When I was in Darlinghurst I met a soldier who was serving a sentence of twelve months’ imprisonment for fighting another private, and I will give the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell) credit for the fact that when I put before him the whole of the evidence relating to that case he caused the sentence to be reduced by onehalf.
– What sort of a sentence would have been passed on him had he struck an officer?
– Heaven only knows. Some of the sentences imposed by courts martial are atrocious. We speak about the brutality of German officers, but some of our officers, as members of courts martial, “put the hard word” on our men to such an extent that one would scarcely think they were dealing with human beings.
I am bringing this matter before the House in order to focus public attention on the treatment meted out to these men. When our soldiers went away they were heroes, but when they fell into the clutches of officers with an abnormal regard for discipline, their treatment was such as to justify action of the kind of which I have been speaking. I am telling a plain, unvarnished tale. I challenge contradiction. I have not embellished the facts in any way in order to put my own position in a more favorable light.
When we waited on the captain with the final resolution carried by the men, he again offered to send a wireless message to the shore authorities asking for permission to return to the anchorage. He was making that offer when the first or second officer came in and said, “ Sir, there is a tug boat signalling us to stop.” The captain told him to slow down the ship, and promised to be on deck a minute or two later. By the time that our interview with him had concluded the ship had stopped. .The “ diggers “ meantime had been doing a little signalling on their own account. They had gone to the tail light, put a hat over it, and having read the signal from the tug boat calling on us to stop, had signalled in reply, “ Are you prepared to fight?”
Dr. Hone, who was on board the tug, must also have “ had the wind up “ before he reached us. After leaving the captain’s cabin I returned to the rear of the ship where I usually sat with a chum, and I did not kn’ow what was happening until I was sent for. The crowd of boys who lined the ship’s decks opened up to let me through, and I found myself in the presence of Dr. Hone. He asked, “ Is this Yates «” I replied, “Yes.” He then asked, “ Where is the rest of the deputation?” I called up the other men. It will thus be seen that Dr. Hone recognised the other members of the deputation as well as myself. His first statement to us was, “ I knew nothing about the trouble on the Somali until I got this message at 7 o’clock, this evening, whereupon I came straight off in the tug .” The “ message “ to which he referred was the petition which we had sent to Antill some days before. Dr. Hone quickly reasoned out the matter with us, and even discussed the ways and means of taking off the men. After he had given his decision I went to the rear part of the ship, and had to mount the rail of the hurricanedeck in order to address the men. Dr. Hone stood in the well while I was speaking, and reminded me of one or two points that I had missed in acquainting the crowd of his decision in the matter. In his presence I called out to the men, “ Did you get it?” and when some of them answered in the negative, I repeated the statement. Dr. Hone thus actually took part in the meeting, itself. He was present, there was great cheering, and everything ended happily for the time being. We were taken, off to Torrens Island, and the treatment extended to us there by the
Red Cross Society cannot be too strongly praised. Hot and cold baths were provided for us at the Quarantine Station, and the Red Cross ladies plied us with tea, fruit, cakes, tobacco, and cigarettes from the time that we landed until the day on which we cleared.
This is the whole “incident” in respect of which I had to do sixty days’ detention, and to lose ninety-five days’ pay, as well as incur legal fees amounting to £92 7s. 7d. I did not get “a spin “ from the day that I entered the Forces.
– Nor did any other member of Parliament.
– After we landed, I treated the whole incident as finished. I had no regrets for what I had done. I had said to the “ diggers,” “ I do not want you to take drastic action, but whatever happens I will be with you. If you insist upon taking the ship to the anchorage, although I urge you not to do so, I will be with you. I will not leave you in the lurch.” I heard nothing more of the matter until one afternoon I was walking down King William-street, and was met by one of the “ diggers,” who told me that I was “ in for it “ because of a statement made about me in the Register by Major Chanter. I took an opportunity to see what Major Chanter had said, and the next day I was arrested. I have asked a number of questions in regard to this gentleman, for I have seen a regulation under which he is culpable of going outside the military authorities and giving information to the press - information which subsequently cost me sixty days’ liberty. If a private had done what Major Chanter did he would have been punished, and I relate the circumstance to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise), who knows well what he is doing when be gives camouflage replies to my questions. The Assistant Minister knows darned well that, if I had given information to the public on a matter the subject of a court-martial I should have been punished !by the loss of my liberty; but Major Chanter, with the connivance of the Defence Department, has not yet paid the penalty. I should not have minded if Major Chanter had told the truth as to what I did any more than I minded meeting the consequences; but my complaint is that I did nothing more than represent a grievance on behalf of the men.
– You presided at a meeting and put a mutinous motion.
– What would the Assistant Minister have done in similar circumstances ?
– There was differential treatment meted out to Gunner Yates because he sits on one side of the House.
– That is absolutely wrong, and you know it.
– What is the military going to do with me now ? A dictum of the military is that you must first obey commands and complain afterwards; and I am complaining now. Although I am out of uniform, my complaint is just as strong, and ought to be heard as readily as if I were still in uniform, I did all I was commandedto do ; I never fell foul of my officers inFrance, and numbers of others never did until the Armistice was signed, and there was a little lack of that discipline of which, when necessary, there had been such an admirable example. However, the Register, on the 5th February, published a report by a special reporter of what Major Chanter had stated.
– What evidence have you that Major Chanter gave the statement to the press ?
– I am glad the Assistant Minister asks that question, for he told me that Major Chanter had no knowledge that what he stated was going into the press.
-That is not the answer.
– I will give the Assistant Minister’s own answer to my questions, of which I asked a series. One reply was -
The Assistant Minister has perused the extract from the press-
That is the extract from the Register. That answer was given on Friday, 11th July, when I askedthe Assistant Minister the following questions: -
The replies I received were as follow: -
On Wednesday, 13th August, I asked the honorable gentleman -
The reply was -
I know that it was received in evidence. I know that Major Harry Arnall put in the press cutting from the Register as evidence. Apparently the Assistant Minister (Mr. Wise) has never inquired into the matter. When Friend told me that they had put in the press cutting, I said that what had happened served him right for making a statement to the press, and pointed out to him that I had refused to do so. The chief evidence against him was his own statement in the press, and it was not put in as evidence against me but as evidence against him. When I spoke about Major Chanter having given a statement to the press the Assistant Minister said that Major Chanter had no knowledge that he was giving information to the press, or that it would be published. But I waited on Captain Norman Malcolm, who saw Major Chanter when the Somali came in, and took his statement. Captain Malcolm went with the Light Horse to Egypt, and was a troop comrade of Major Chanter. Only last Monday, on the railway station, I asked Captain Malcolm whether Major Chanter, if he said he did not know the statement he made was going to be published, would be saying what was untrue, and Captain Malcolm replied, “In my opinion, yes; we went away and had dinner, and I took the statement down in my notebook.” Captain Malcolm is, I believe, employed on the press to do military work. If Major Chanter says he did not know his friend, Captain Malcolm, took down the statement for publication, he is, in my opinion, telling a deliberate lie.
– Then your opinion is absolutely wrong. I say he did not know.
– It matters not whether he knew1 or not, the indiscretion was his; and if a private had been guilty of it, he would have had to pay the penalty. This is what Major Chanter said to the press -
Major J. C. Chanter, D.S.O., a Light Horse officer, who left Australia with the 9th Light Horse Regiment in February, 1915, and has latterly been attached to the 4th Light Horse Brigade, was one of the ship’s complement, and he stated on Tuesday that the general conduct of the men -was excellent. They were a splendid lot of men, and quite amenable to reason, but a small section, who were led by Rp. Yates, adopted unusual methods of obtaining redress for their grievances. Instead of approaching the CO. of the boat through “their officers, they went to him direct, and delegates were appointed from the various units to meet the CO. in conference on any matter which they considered required attention.
They never met the Commanding Officer but on the one specific subject of quarantine, and that subject alone was dealt with, and certain action was threatened unless certain results were obtained. The statement goes on -
When the troops reached Colombo they were told, according to Major Chanter, that any shore leave then received would be deducted from the period granted on their arrival in Australia. The result was that the men remained ‘ on the boat, and gave no trouble. Then when . they got to Fremantle they were not allowed” ashore owing to a reported outbreak of influenza. As a matter of fact, the only case resembling influenza was that of the ship’s carpenter, who resumed work four days after the report of his sickness. Shore leave was consequently disallowed, and the men were given to understand that they would undergo a course of disinfection on their voyage to the Eastern States, where they would be immediately landed if there were no further outbreaks. Every day on the voyage to the Largs Bay anchorage the men were treated in fumigation rooms, and then, on their arrival, they were told that they would have to undergo seven days’ quarantine before the boat continued on it3 voyage. This was naturally interpreted to mean that when the Somali reached Melbourne, Sydney, and Queensland, similar periods of quarantine would be enforced, and all the men felt they had a grievance, although only a few expressed it, and become militant. It was then that Rp. Yates proceeded to the commanding officer, and told him that if the men were not allowed on shore they would seize the ship’s boats and land themselves.
That makes it a “ one-man show “ -
To obviate this trouble the captain of the Somali decided to put to sea, and anchor further out, and the boat was got under weigh. When the intention became known, Mr. Yates went direct to the captain’s cabin -
Listen to this - and told him that unless he anchored the Somali within five minutes -
Within five minutes!’ What an idiotic thing to say - ‘that a ship under weigh could anchor in five minutes - the men would seize the ship, and they would place one of their followers, who had a master’s certificate, in charge. The captain decided, consequently, to anchor.
He goes on to say -
When Major F. S. Hone, the quarantine officer, went on board the steamer, some of the more militant faction formed a guard over the companionway, and when he attempted to leave the ship they prevented him from doing so, informing him at’ the same time that if they had to remain he would have to stop with them.
That is what Major Chanter said in regard to the quarantine officer, but when the Register republished the statement, it appeared as follows: -
When Dr. Hone, quarantine officer, arrived, the men under Gnr. Yates formed a guard over the companionway, and when he attempted to leave the ship they prevented him from doing so, informing him at the same time that if they had to romain he would have to stop with them.
I never went near the middle of the ship after the thing was over, and I did not know that the quarantine officer was being held on board ; I never knew that a few men had not followed us down to the poop-deck to hear the result. But that is what Major Chanter says of me, and the whole thing is a lie.
– It is what the newspaper says; not what he says.
– I shall be pleased to tell Captain Malcolm what Major Chanter’s father thinks of his reporting.
– Major Chanter’s father will tellyou the truth directly.
– Major Chanter’s father will tell me what has been given him as the truth,but I challenge any man to deny or refute anything I have said as to what tookplace on the vessel.
– Is it probable that Major Chanter will say such a ridiculous thing as that the ship had to he anchored in five minutes if he thought the statement was going to be published?
– I am satisfied that Captain Malcolm, when heuses his pencil, does not make such a blunder as that suggested. Major Chanter made a still further statement to the Register, in which he eulogized his bâtman, who was one of the Gordons, a nephew of the Hon. D.J. Gordon whoat one time represented Boothby in this House. Major Chanter paid a high compliment to Gordon, and, for all I know, it was well merited. However, I can. rely, I think, on Gordon to take a fair view of whatI said ; and I may add that when I was arrested I received, amongst other telegrams, one from him offering to give evidence on my behalf. Strange to say, one of the wires that came from Port Pirie was from Colin Gordon, “ If want witnesses, call me.” That is from the batman of Major Chanter, who, in his statement, charges me with being a man who did not know military discipline, a man who incited to mutiny, and a man who was guilty of conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.
– Did Major Chanter ever deny that report?
– So far as I know, Major Chanter never made any comment on it. When he knew that it involved my liberty, the least he should have done, out of good taste, and in fairness to me, when he saw the Register on the following day, and knowing the attitude that Major Arnall was going to take in regard to my action, was to say that he did not make the statement with a view to prejudicing me or my case when the military came to deal with it. He had ample opportunities to contradict it, but he did not do so. I believe that if it had not been for that statement being madein the press, there is a possibility that Major
Arnall would not have gone any further in the matter, because Major Arnall did not in any way show hostility to the attitude I took up on board the ship. So far as my connexion with him went, Major Arnall commiserated with the men, and was sorry that such a thing had happened, and used his best endeavours to get things put right.
– He should have given you full warning of where you were being led to.
– I had no warning, and I had done nothing in Major Arnall’s opinion that called for the action that was subsequently taken. I am satisfied that if it had been left to Major Arnall alone, I would not have been prosecuted. When the statement appeared in the papers, however, as one man told me in King William-street, I was a “ gone coon,” and it was certain that the military would take action. I was charged in company with one of the other men. It was urged against him that he was one of those who said, ‘ ‘ We have had a puncture or two before, and if it means another puncture, we can put up with it.” That was urged against him in evidence, and was not contradicted. There is also his own statement that he did something. I did nothing. I made no statement to the press, and I let no one know of the action I took. Yet I was sentenced to sixty days.
– Did Major Chanter give evidence?
– No, he was never called. The Age said he would be called as a witness, and we naturally supposed that he would be. The Age also mentioned Major Chanter as Commanding Officer of the ship. Major Chanter corrected that statement the next day, as the records show, so that he knew he was wrongly described in the Age. He was simply one of the troops travelling home, and was as much amenable to the command of Major Arnall as I was. If he could correct the Age, it was his duty, if he was being misreported and misrepresented in the Register, or if something was published in the Register which he would rather not have had appear as prejudicing me, to correct it. Why has he not made any statement? Why, although I have asked so many questions in the
House, has no word come from him ? He has not even written to me to tell me that I have taken quite a wrong view of his statement, and that he had no intention of making it for publication. He must have known, assuming that Mr. Norman Malcolm was not an incompetent reporter, that what he said would be urged against me, and that it would prejudice my case when I was tried.
I suggest to the Assistant Minister for Defence that I have not had a fair spin in this matter, that I have been unjustly treated, and that, in future, more care should be taken. Thank God, the war is over, and the drastic application of militarism to our people is at an end. There are, however, a lot of other cases which I hope the Minister will sympathetically consider. I believe a number of purely military offenders have been released; but there are also a number of civil cases of which I have instanced one. For example, two men fighting would constitute a civil case, which in civil life would entail a fine of perhaps 50s. As the case I mentioned secured the individual twelve months’ imprisonment,I dare say if we went through the whole of the “ crimes “ which are still being expiated by members of the Australian Imperial Faroe, and which are considered civil offences, we should find that many of the penalties inflicted were far too severe. I trust that, after what I have said of my case, and the penally imposed upon me, these cases will be reviewed, and many men released by the Minister.
.- I am loth to intervene; but the statements made concerning a son of whom I feel proud are such as to warrant some reply from me. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has practically given him the lie, direct. Those who know the two men - the honorable member who has spoken, and my son, who gave his services to his country, not only for two years in the South African war, but for four years in the war just ended, and who came back after gaining by his own merit the award of the D.S.O. from the King - will admit that my son’s word can fairly be put against the honorable member’s word. I have these facts from my son direct, and I believe the Department has a written statement from him also. He tells me that, on the boat arriving at Adelaide, they were allowed to go on shore. He went on shore, and there met a brother officer with whom he had fought side by side in the various Egyptian campaigns. He lunched with him, and in the conversation at the table this friend said to him, “ I hear there has been some trouble on the Somali.” Then, in a conversational way, my son told him what had happened, but not all that the newspaper said, because some of it has been corrected, notwithstanding the statement just made by the honorable member for Adelaide. However, my son did tell his friend the facts of the case. I believe that conversation was telegraphed across to the Melbourne Argus. I am not aware that any report appeared in the Age, nor do I think it did. Butwhen it appeared in the Argus, one part was absolutely incorrect. That was the part regarding the captain of the ship. I was present when my son went into the Argus office and pointed out to the subeditor that that part was not correct. That was the part where it was said, as was just read by the honorable member for Adelaide, that when the captain of the ship was requested by the men to stop the ship, or they would take command of it, the captain brought the ship to a standstill. The honorable member for Adelaide admits that he was present on that occasion.
– He brought it to a standstill to let Dr. Hone aboard.
– The captain replied that he knew his duty, and was going to carry it out, irrespective of threats.
– Oh, no; he did not.
– That is the captain’s statement.
– Not in Court.
– What the honorable member for Adelaide has said here was not said in Court. Why not? The honorable member had the fullest opportunity to say in Court all the things he has said here to-day, but did not avail himself of it.
– Wait until the papers are laid upon the table of the Library, and read them. I made my statement to the Court.
Mr. CHANTER. ME read the honorable member’s statement to the Court, and know exactly what took place in Court so far as the press reports can give me the information. I had no feeling one way or the other against the honorable member,, nor should I have taken any notice of the matter had not the honorable member been so persistent in trying to make out here that my son, Major Chanter, hail a vendetta against him, and deliberately went to the press to make a statement in the full knowledge that his statement would be used to damage the honorable member, and influence the Court in the honorable member’s case, although it was not known at the time that the honorable member was going to be tried at all.
– His brother officer says that he knew.
– I hold myself responsible only for what my. son has said to me. I say unhesitatingly, speaking as his mouth-piece here, that when he lunched with1 Captain Malcolm they discussed, as officers will do, various military matters, and he had not the slightest knowledge then that Captain Malcolm was in any way connected with the press.
– Did he see him taking it down in his pocket-book1!
– Not being present, I do not know. ,
– I am telling you what Norman Malcolm says.
– The honorable member says that this was done to influence the Department, and had a certain weight at the trial. As a matter of fact, it was not the Military Department that instituted the trial. It was the Navy Department that brought the matter forward, because there was an attempt on the part of the men on that boat to take command of it and do what they willed with it.
– And Yates stopped it, and they gaoled him for stopping it.
– I heard the evidence in the Court.
– And I heard the evidence for half-an-hour until they kicked me out.
– Both the honorable members who have interjected were in Court, and can -tell the House what transpired there. I am speaking only of what was reported in the press.
– Can the Navy Department institute a military court martial ?
– The Navy Department can do so, and it was their duty to draw attention to the matter.
– The Navy Department did not try me.
– No; but it was the Navy Department that initiated the prosecution against the honorable member for the attempt to take the command of the ship out of the captain’s hands.
– I was npt charged with that. I was charged with a military offence. Where do you get your information from regarding the action of the Navy Department?
– I am not going to traverse that part of the matter.
– Why did not Major Chanter deny that part of the report in the paper in Adelaide?
– Because it is true. He did not deny it then, and does not deny it now. He states that what he said to Captain Malcolm, not knowing that Captain Malcolm was connected with the press, was the absolute truth, and he does not withdraw one word of it.
– There was no spite in it?
– No. I am quite prepared to let the honorable member for Adelaide be judged on his own statement of the case. He said that the men on board were mutinous/
– No, I did not.
– He said that the men on board were so discontented that they told the captain that if he did not bring the ship to a standstill they would take command of it. Is not that mutiny ?
– Then I fail to understand the meaning of the term.
– That is the threat. The act is mutiny, but the threat is not.
– The threat was made. The only time my son interfered on board the boat was when a number of the men were, rightly or wrongly, attempting, and for a time succeeding, to prevent
Dr. Hone from leaving the boat for the shore. Although my son was not on duty in any shape or form, he interfered. But, knowing that the men he loved so well, and with whom he had fought, were doing absolutely wrong, he pleaded with them to allow the doctor to go on shore, and urged them to adopt the proper method of seeking redress for their grievance.
Thehonorable member for Adelaide lays emphasis on the fact that Major Chanter committed a breach of a military regulation by divulging to the press something equivalent to a military secret. As a matter of fact, my son did not do this, nor had he any such intention in his mind. The honorable member knows that on the day Major Chanter lunched with Captain Malcolm there was no thought of any proceedings being taken against him, and I have yet to learn that the statement about which the honorable member has complained so much was even before the court martial. Whether he did it wilfully or not, the honorable member led us to understand that there were two statements before the court martial - one made by Major Chanter and one made by Private Friend. Private Friend’s statement might have been before the court martial, but Major Chanter’s was not. Therefore, my son did not in any way interfere with the honorable member’s case.
– Yes he did, quite sufficiently.
-I want the honorable member to be fair. I have no desire to aggravate his case in any way.
– You cannot aggravate it any more.
– The honorable member knows that the trouble on board the Somali was that, in breach of the military regulations, he and others were permitted to ignore the officers on duty and go direct to Major Arnall, who admits that he sympathized with the men rather than otherwise. I do not wish to aggravate the honorable member’s case, but it was not the only offence with which he was charged on that vessel.
-Say what I was charged with; I do not mind.
-Seeing that the honorable member asks for it, I will give one little instance. Does he deny that he refused to obey military orders at lifebelt drill?
– And that he was brought before the Officer Commanding for his refusal ?
– But by whom?
Mr.CHANTER. - By his officer.
– Who was my officer? Go on. Say “ Captain Chanter.”
– Order! The honorable member must not repeatedly shout out interjections in that disorderly fashion.
– It was Captain Chanter; but it was not the Major Chanter about whom the honorable member is complaining.
– No wonder the major “ slugged “ me when I “ put it up “ on the captain.
– Order! The honorable member has had his full time to make his speech free from undue interruptions. It is right that he should permit other honorable members to have the same privilege.
– I apologize.
– Life-belt drill isa most important task on board a ship, and is imposed on men for their own protection. They are called upon to parade and put on their life-belts in the proper way, so that the officers who are charged with the responsibility should know that their troops are properly equipped in case of accident. Every man on board the Somali paraded on that occasion with the exception of the honorable member, who refused to obey the order.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– The honorable member was reported for his refusal to put on a life-belt.
– That is correct; but the honorable member said that I did not parade.
– The honorable member paraded, but he refused to obey a military instruction to put on his lifebelt, so that his officer could see that he was properly equipped in case of accident. It was a nice example to set to the other men.
My son did not know that Captain Malcolm was connected with a newspaper, and did not know that his statement was going into the press. It was simply something said in conversation at a luncheon table. In any case it was the truth, and nothing but the truth, and Major Chanter does not wish to withdraw a solitary word of what he said. If he had so desired he could easily have solicited the Defence Department to call him to give evidence at the court martial.
– He could not have given evidence there, because he was not in attendance.
-He was there. It is simply a question of the word of the honorable member against the word of my son, and I place the career of the two men side by side, and ask the public to believe that the statement made by my son is absolutely correct. I have no desire to refer to the matter further than to say that I know the public will give their verdict in favour of the man who has spoken the truth.
– I do not propose to go into the whole of the facts in this case, because I do not think this is the proper place to review the evidence and findings of a court martial, but after listening to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), no one could be surprised that he was found guilty and punished. In order to follow his statement with something definite, I propose to quote one or two passages from the evidence given before the couut martial. According to the evidence of Major Arnall, Gunner Yates came to him with four or five other men. Then the evidence proceeds -
Gunner Yates was the first speaker. He said that the men were tired of staying on board the ship in quarantine, and that arrangements would have to bo made by 5 o’clock that afternoon or they intended to take possession of the boats and go ashore…… I also told them that, if the worst came to the worst, I, as Officer Commanding troops, was held responsible for the discipline on the ship, and that I intended to do my duty. The accused replied, “ We know that, sir, and we expect there will be some broken heads before it is all over.”
The captain of the vessel when he heard what had been threatened, sent for Gunner Yates, who came to see him with Major Arnall. This is the evidence as to the conversation which took place-
I said, “I hear there is talk of lowering the boats down and rowing yourselves ashore, and I understand that you are the spokesman for a body of men who intend to do this.” and I said, “Now, you are a member of Parliament, I understand,’ for Adelaide, and therefore you have got influence with the men; I know you have got influence with those men; you will understand you will be responsible for doing this, but I have to address you, as you are the spokesman for the men, and you will be held responsible for any actions that those men do. I am not going to allow you to lower the boats down, and I shall take all precautions that I can. Before you do this, let me advise you to think over seriously what it means to lower the boats down and row ashore. In the first place, you will have to deal with the naval, the military, and the civil authorities. The ship is in quarantine, and the authorities, to the best of their ability, are doing this to prevent this contagious disease spreading, and it is an irksome thing, but we have all got to put up with it.” I pointed out the seriousness of it and the stupidity of it.
What did the accused say ? - The reply he made was that the men were very much irked at being kept on board; they understood, when they left Fremantle, that after seven days the ship would be free of quarantine, and they resented the quarantine authorities’ action. . .
Were they paraded before you? - No.
Who spoke? - Yates spoke. I asked them what they had come there for, and then Yates said, “ Well, Captain, we are very sorry, you are a victim of circumstances. Wo are not satisfied with the present state of tilings, and if you do not turn back we shall have to put somebody else in command, and, in other words, commandeer the ship.”…..
What did you say to him? - I said to him, “You do not realize what that means; it is mutiny on the high seas; and I pointed out to him the seriousness of it. I said, “ Supposing you do take charge of the ship, what are you going to do with her? You could not let that anchor down.”
Did he say anything to you? - He said, “We have got a man with a master’s certificate on board.” I said, “Have you? You have got a man with a master’s certificate who does not know the ship, and your orders will not be carried out unless they come through me, and it is a very foolish tiling to do.” I expostulated with him on the seriousness of what he intended to do.
These two pieces of evidence are sufficient to show that Gunner Yates was properly convicted.
– There are not two words in it correct.
– Of course, the honorable member would have us think that this sworn evidence is not to be believed.
. If members of the Commonwealth Public Service feel that they are labouring under a grievance it would be an unfortunate position for them if they were debarred from having their cases brought before the House. I wish to draw “attention to the case of Alexander Henry, SubCollector of Customs in Adelaide. I take it that he must be a trustworthy officer because of the positions he has held, and I take it also that his services must have been of some value to the Departments in which he has served. Prior to the establishment of Federation he was employed by the. New South Wales Government, and in the earlier days of Federation he was stationed in the neighbourhood of Sydney. He was afterwards transferred to Bourke, from Bourke to Wilcannia, and then from Wilcannia to Broken Hill. Undoubtedly he was sent to some very salubrious places. Of course, officers of the Commonwealth Service cannot pick and choose where they are to work, but there are places such as the capital cities, the larger- inland towns, and some of the coastal towns, which are not unpleasant if one is appointed to carry out his official duties in them. On the other hand, the places where this gentleman was located are not localities one would choose for a holiday or places where one would seek employment if it could possibly be obtained elsewhere. The House should firmly insist that no officer should be subjected to injustice because of a prejudice against him on the part of any person in authority. Every man has his own peculiarities; none of us are perfect. But so long as an officer does his duty efficiently and respectfully to those in authority he has certain rights of which nobody should be able to deprive him. I shall not support anybody who does not treat with respect those who are placed in authority above him. But it would appe’ar that for some reasons best known to themselves former Comptrollers-General of Customs had a set against this man. I make no complaint of the closing- of the office at
Broken Hill; I believe it was closed on the recommendation of the Comptroller, Mr. Mills. Henry states that in 1907 Mr. Lockyer forced him to go to Broken Hill, and compelled him to do the -work at a salary £45 per annum below the minimum fixed for the position of SubCollector of Customs at Broken Hill. That statement is either true or false; so far as I have been able to ascertain, it is perfectly true. I do not ask for the ordinary official reply to this complaint. Usually when a complaint is made the official answer is, “The regulations are against you.” Very good. Regulations are made for the carrying on of the work of a Department. But when we insist that they be observed by those in subordinate positions we should likewise insist that they should not be broken by those in authority when it suits them to do so. This officer complains that at short notice he was transferred from Wilcannia to Broken Hill. That took place in the “ boom “ year, and he was unable to find hotel ‘accommodation or suitable lodgings for himself and family. Some friends gave them a bedroom and lodging temporarily, and finally Henry was compelled to purchase a residence, -which, with additions, cost £1,002. An officer of the Customs Department is obliged to go wherever he is sent, but a man appointed to the position of Sub-Collector at Broken Hill ought not to be left like a dog dying for lack of a kennel. I fully understand the conditions that obtained in Broken Hill during the “ boom “ days! For postal officials the Department, very rightly, provides substantial residential accommodation at Broken Hill and all other towns of importance. Why should the Customs Department evade the responsibility of providing proper accommodation for its officers? In this instance the Department did not care a cuss how its officer fared. The country expects members of Parliament to maintain with some dignity the positions they occupy, and it has a similar expectation of persons occupying responsible positions like that of Sub-Collector of Customs at an important centre. Mr. Henry asserts that on the 31st March, 1917, Mr. Mills closed the Broken. Hill Customs House, and directed him, in order to suit the convenience of the Department, to take the recreation leave that was due to him. Permission to dis- pose of his furniture and residence was obtained, and they were submitted at auction, with the following result - Furniture, cost £179 13s. 10d., amount received £70, loss £109 13s.10d. ; residence, cost £1,0021s. 9d., amount received £586, loss £4161s. 9d., to which must be aded £29 3s. for expenses in connexion with the sale. He claims also £450 on account of salary, representing an underpayment of £45 per annum for over nine years. I remember reading, when a young man, that Professor Huxley, in replying in the Nineteenth Century to a statement by Gladstone, said thatan official statement was only another name for a lie. I should be sorry to say that of all official statements, but there are some of which that description is true. I do not ask for the issue raised in this ease to be dodged or obscured. Either it is true or false that this man was paid less than the regulations entitled him to, and that the regulation was broken by the Comptroller. If that allegation is true, this man was honestly entitled to the salary that he was refused. He states, further, that in 1904 he was next in seniority to Mr. Inspector Banks, of New South Wales, who is now in receipt of £560 per annum, and also senior to any departmental officer in the State of South Australia.
– What is his salary now?
– I cannot say offhand, but as Sub-Collector of Customs in Adelaide, where revenue to the amount of £350,000 was collected by the Department during the last financial year, he occupies one of the most important positions in South Australia. I make no complaint about his present position; I am asking that justice be done him in respect of past occurrences. When a member of the outside public has a grievance he sends a petition of right to the King, and the fiat goes forth to the Supreme Court of the State from which the petition came, “ Let that right be done.” When any member of the Public Service exercises his right to petition Parliament, by getting some honorable member to state his grievance, the allegation is not answered when the Minister in charge of the Department says, “This did not occur during my administration; it occurred some years ago. I am too busy to rake up these old matters.” If an injustice has been done, it is never too late to make reparation. The Department of Trade and Customs seems to have no concern in the accommodation provided for its officers. That does not matter at large ports where accommodation is not difficult to find. But in places like Broken Hill and Wilcannia, the Department should find residences for itsofficials. Henry was sent from Wilcannia to Broken Hill at short notice, and was obliged to buy a residence and furniture. Later, altered circumstances made the closing of the Broken Hill office necessary in the interests of economy and good government. For that, neither the Sub-Collector nor the Department is to blame ; but it is hard on the officer that he should be asked to sacrifice the house and furniture which he had to buy at “ boom “ prices. He must have been a careful and economical man to withstand the eccentricities of the Department of Trade and Customs.
The whole matter may be put in a nutshell. Mr. Henry petitioned the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who at that time occupied the unique position of being Prime Minister, Attorney-General, and Minister for Trade and Customs, and concluded his petition as follows: -
Your petitioner, therefore, humbly prays -
That you will be pleased to recommend that your petitioner should have been paid, and to direct that he he paid as from the 14th October, 1907, a salary of £380 per annum at least, or that the Commonwealth Government grant to your petitioner such a sum of money as will be adequate to compensate him for the injustice from which he has suffered for upwards of nine years.
That such recommendation be forwarded to the Public Service Commissioner, and that he be requested by the Commonwealth Government to hold a special inquiry upon the subject of your petitioner’s salary, and to recommend that such salary be paid to your petitioner as is fairly appropriate to the work and duties performed by him in his office of SubCollector of Customs at Broken Hill.
That you will be pleased to make such other recommendations as the justice of the matter may require.
The Prime Minister, with his natural gift for getting quickly at the kernel of a complaint, put a minute on the papers to the effect that it was a matter for settlement between the Comptroller-General and the Public Service Commissioner. That was the correctview to take. It should not be necessary to trouble honorable members with grievances of this kind, but, unfortunately, in this case both the Comptroller-General of Customs and the Public Service Commissioner continued to “ sit tight.” They take the view that the petition relates to something that occurred years ago, and that they are not going to bother their head’s about it. And they will continue to take up that attitude until the Minister for Trade and Customs is strong enough to say that the matter must be settled on certain lines.
– It is a very hard case.
– It is the hardest case that has come under my notice during the whole of my public life. I am surprised that the Government has not previously taken action in regard to it.
I do not wish to labour tie question this afternoon. I have brought it before the House because I have already approached the Department in regard to it, and have practically been told that the authorities do not feel justified in taking any action. I appeal to honorable members to carefully study the facts. I shall expect an answer to my complaint, and I promise the Government that they will have to give me an answer in the same public way that I have put the case before them. I am sure that honorable members on both sides of the House will agree with me that this man has a substantial grievance. However much we may differ on political questions, I think we are agreed that the Commonwealth Parliament should never be too busy to be unable to deal with a serious grievance on the part of a public servant, and to see that justice is done.
.- Before commencing my speech, I should like to have a quorum formed. [Quorum formed.] I intend to take part in the debate that has been initiated by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) in regard to the trouble on the Somali, and I have asked for the attendance of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter), because I desire to make some reference to statements he has made this afternoon. There is an old saying that “ It is a wise man that knows his own father;” but a man who knows everything that his son says and does in his absence is infinitely wiser.
– You cannot say a word to prove that my son is untruthful.
– I intend to refer to the attitude taken up by the honorable member in regard to myself. I made a sworn declaration concerning a certain action taken by him while he was acting as Deputy Speaker on one occasion in 1916, but at the request of the Acting Leader of the House at that time (Sir Joseph Cook), I seconded his motion to delete it from Hansard on the understanding that he would go into the matter with the honorable member for Riverina after hearing the evidence I could produce. The present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) was to decide whether the honorable member was right or wrong. He decided, after hearing my evidence, that the honorable member was in the wrong, but the honorable member was not man enough to admit it. The Minister for the Navysaid, from his place in this House, that if he were the honorable member for Riverina he would withdraw his denial of my statement. The honorable member has not done so. I read my sworn declaration outside this House, where I could not plead privilege, and said that if the honorable member would make a declaration that my sworn statement was incorrect I would prosecute him for perjury.
– The honorable member went all over my electorate and lied about me.
– Order! That remark must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– I did not go into the honorable member’s electorate, but I circulated copies of my sworn declaration, and would have prosecuted the honorable member if he had dared to make a sworn declaration contradicting my statement. This man, who defended Freeman and Wallace–
– What does the honorable member want me to withdraw?
– The untrue statement you made concerning me.
– I never made an untrue statement concerning the honorable member.
-I ask the honorable member for Melbourne to .withdraw his accusation.
– I withdraw it, sir. If I had more of the wisdom of the serpent, when the honorable member asked me what I wished him to withdraw I should have referred him to my sworn declaration. How dare the honorable member make statements in this House as to what his son, Major Chanter, said or did on an occasion when he was not present? He has said that the incident on the Somali amounted to mutiny. Rubbish! A man may say to another, “I will kill you;” but the threat is as nothing unless the threatened action follows. Threatened men live long. It is utterly wrong, I contend, to stamp the Somali incident as a mutiny.
I do not wish to say anything against Major Chanter. He has been to the Front to fight for his country, and we must have” some reverence for a man who has been prepared to do that. It would have been far better, however, had he made a sworn declaration concerning the Somali incident, and have requested his father to read it here. As it is, the honorable member for Riverina has merely repeated statements by his son as against sworn evidence given in the witness-box.
– The statements that I have put before the House are on record in the Department, and can be obtained.
– Did your son give evidence ?
– It would have been better had he made a sworn declaration as to the facts, so that you could have read it in this House. The honorable member defended Freeman and Wallace.
– What about them?
– Go and ask Freeman now what he thinks of you.
– Do not let us have innuendoes. Be a man and say straight out what you mean.
– You do not like a little of your own soup.
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– The Defence Department is rotten - lock, stock, and barrel. The Minister who controls it (Senator Pearce) lied in the Senate and in the witness-box concerning the Gunner Perry case. He lied when he said that the fence surrounding a certain hospital to which reference was made during that case was over 7 feet high. When he was giving evidence before the Court of Inquiry, I asked him, through Mr. Woolf, whether his statement to that effect, as reported in Hansard, was not absurd. His reply was, “No; I know it is over 6 feet high.”’ As & matter of fact, it is only 4 ft. 6 in. high.
We have seen £60,000 paid to a phantom regiment, and men imprisoned, in spite of the assurance by Mr. Fisher, when Leader of the Government, that the civil law would be dominant as against the military law. I asked many questions on this point, and have never allowed any proposal to pass unless I was satisfied that the civil law would be the superior; indeed, I went so far as to refuse to take the pledge of the then AttorneyGeneral, and insist on Mr. Fisher being brought into the House to assure us on the point.
I accuse the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) of trying to ruin, month after month, the Anzac hand-weaving trade. Some time ago, I brought fifty or sixty samples of cloth into the House, and some honorable members were so pleased with them that they purchased some. I have never yet met a member of Parliament, or a private person, who has tried this cloth and is not satisfied “with it. The industry,, however, has never had a “dog’s chance.” At first, if a soldier employed was in receipt of a pension, the amount of pension was deducted from the money he earned. I am sorry to say that Senator Millen was not stating the truth, or perhaps it would he more polite to say that he was inaccurate, when he declared that none of the soldiers thus employed was injured.
That was when I asked the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. “Watt) why the Anzac soldiers, who were engaged making cloth, had not some of their pro.ducts shown in the Queen’s Hall along with the work of other soldiers. We all know that no soldier receives a pension unless he is proved unfit from a military point of view, either through severe illness, or, more likely, by reason of wounds. The method in the factory was that if a man was receiving 15s. per week as a pension, it was deducted from his wages, which were thus reduced to 27s. per week. If a man had not been injured, he was allowed to earn £2 2s. Certain yarn supplied was worse than shoddy. It is true that it is all wool, but, as I have shown on previous occasions, it is of very short staple. In company with a member of a State Legislature, I showed Senator Millen some samples, and he said that they were terrible, and their production must be stopped. This yarn was made up, and sent to Buckley and Nunn’s, by whom, as it was not fit for the use of adults, it was made up into children’s garments.
– Why use it for children’s garments if it is not fit fox adults 1
– An adult is supposed to be heavier, and, at certain parts, wears out the cloth more rapidly than children.
– Any one who says that, does not know children !
– I am giving the alleged reason. I desire to say nothing disparaging of Messrs. Buckley and Nunn, to whom I tender my thanks for coming forward at an awkward moment, and taking all the output they were allowed to sell. As the representative of Melbourne, however, I, do object to this firm only being allowed to obtain the wool. This tweed, manufactured at 7s. or 7s. 6d. per yard, would give those engaged £A to £4 10s. per man for weaving. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) asked on one occasion why this cloth was not sold at 10s., and I repeat the question. If it were sold at 10s. 6d. per yard by the roll to warehousemen and tailors, it would give a profit of 33^ per cent. All others who purchased in suit lengths, which is more expensive than purchasing by the roll, might be charged is. or ls. (id. a yard extra.
The other day I mentioned the fact that ai number of gentlemen in this city were willing to put their money into this industry if they had a guarantee that good yarn would be supplied from the Government mills; but this suggestion, like all else connected with Senator Millen, is hung up. Of all the contemptible things in connexion with the business the worst is an attempt to reduce the remuneration of the men. The usual way of paying weavers is so much per yard as the cloth leaves the loom, but the Department desires to pay the . men by the yard after the cloth has been shrunk, and cloth shrinks from to of a yard, according to the material. Thus the Government sought to save a paltry 6d. or so on the weaving. If the Government will guarantee that the Government mills at Geelong will supply good yarn, any one can make good wages at the trade.
– Are the mills still refusing to supply good yarn?
– The yarn is pretty good now, and the price is. not bad. Senator Millen, in a statement he made, said that there were thirteen men, engaged in the industry, to whom the Government had an obligation, and he was quite willing to keep them in the business and find out what they could do. How many more years does Senator Millen want to “find out”? ~A~s I have said, there are private gentlemen who are willing to give this industry a show if the yarn is guaranteed, and I ‘thank Mr. Sinclair for standing up against his officers, the Department, and even against the Ministry, and refusing to make cloth from vile stuff that is worse than shoddy.
If the business had been properly managed there would have been, not thirteen men, but 500 or 600 men earning good wages, and cloth for a suit could have been bought for 32s. 6d., and of a quality that is not sold in England under 21s. a yard. Honorable members may think I am drawing the long bow, but the Reverend S. H. Cox - who, by the way, is a relative of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) - stated at Geelong that cloth from the Geelong mills went out at 8s. per yard, but, after going through the big warehouses in Melbourne, it was returned to Geelong to be sold at 21s. and 25s. per yard. This, Mr. Cox said, was not a question of the Tariff, but one for parliamentary action. That statement was made in the presence of Mr. Smale, the manager of the mills, and his next officer, and they did not contradict it when in conversation with me ‘afterwards.
– What prevents the “ cloth being bought direct?
– The warehousemen prevent it. The statement I refer to was reported in the Geelong Times of 4th July last.
– If the honorable member .will hand me the statement I shall send to Mr. Smale and inquire if it is true that cloth is dealt with in that way.
– I think that must mean private mills, and not the Government mills.
- Mr. Cox does not say so. However, will the Government sell to tailors cloth by the roll at the same price at which it is sold to the warehouses 1
– All the cloth turned out at the Government mills is, I think, exclusively for Defence purposes.
– We are arriving at a stage when there will not be enough work for Defence purposes.
– Do the Government mills supply the public ?
– That is under consideration now.
– The Government will have my support and approval if they manufacture for the public at & profit of 33J per cent., and break down the influence of the warehouses. These facts disclose a clear case of profiteering.
If a tailor is sufficiently energetic to ask for a roll of cloth, he should be charged the same price as the warehousemen are charged. Some time ago I made inquiries regarding “Blighty” tweeds, which are just the same as the Harris tweeds, though without the peat smell, and are sold in lengths of 7 and 8 yards. The 8- yard lengths are for women’s overcoats, and the 7-yard lengths are for men’s suitings. Any one can go into the shop and purchase this cloth. The weavers are returned soldiers of the same calibre as our men, only they are British. They are given a splendid chance, and earn up to £4 10s. per week in Glasgow and Aberdeen. The only difference between that cloth and the cloth I am wearing is that the yarn is handturned by a spinning wheel, like that used by Marguerite in Faust. That is the only difference between the so-called Harris tweed, Or the present Blighty tweed, and the tweed our men make. In the latter case the yarn is spun by machinery. There is no reason why, instead of thirteen men. there should not be 500 or more employed at this work if the Government wish it to continue. Au educated gentleman at the Working Men’s College assured me that any intelligent man could learn simple weaving work, such as this, in three weeks. Foy and Gibson do the dressing and fixing up at a cost of 4Jd. after the tweed has beenwoven, and I am glad to give them credit for all they have done. But for that firm the industry would have been killed through the inaction and opposition of the Repatriation Department, especially before Senator Millen took charge. When the State War Department were in control, they helped the industry greatly, and it was the lament of the men them employed that the officer in charge was removed when the Commonwealth took things over.
– As a matter of fact, it is the Repatriation Commission that is the trouble.
– Then get rid of them.
I have heard one or two members onthe Ministerial side say there is no profiteering. I hope to prove, from the lips of the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), through an answer he gave to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) yesterday, as reported in the Argus today, that profiteering does exist. This is the report as it appeared in the Argus -
The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) was asked in the House of Representatives yesterday by Mr. Tudor whether his attention had been directed to the press reports that the United States Government was pursuing the profiteer and the men who hoarded supplies of foodstuffs, and that 500 arrests were expected. Would the Attorney-General promise that a similar proportion of profiteers would be arrested in Australia in the next few weeks?
Mr. Groom replied that Mr. Tudor was Minister for Trade and Customs when profiteering was rampant. . . .
– The honorable member will see, from the Hansard proof of my remarks yesterday, that what I said was, “ If profiteering was rampant at all, it was rampant when the honorable member for Yarra was Minister for Trade and Customs, at the beginning of the war.” It was not a question of the existence of profiteering, but the power to deal with it.
– Does the Minister say that there is profiteering, or not?
– I say there is no power on the part of the Commonwealth to deal with profiteering so far as Intra-State trade and commerce is concerned.
– The Minister’s reply to the question put yesterday, as reported in the Argus, was -
Mr. Groom replied that Mr. Tudor was Minister for Trade and Customs when profiteering was rampant, and knew the difficulties of dealing with the position.
I do not know yet what position the Minister takes up. Does he say that there is no profiteering at the present time?
– I say that profiteering is a question now being investigated by the State Government to ascertain the extent to which it exists.
– I see the Minister will not give me a direct answer to my question. Any man who says that there is not more profiteering now than there was three years ago has not kept his eyes open, and does not use his brains. It is infamous that we are not doing something to stop the profiteering that is going on. There is not a man, woman, or child outside but is suffering. When the adjournment of the House was moved the other day, it was shown that the price of boots had been greatly increased. I have shown what has happened in regard to cloth after it is sold from the Geelong mills. There is an old song to the effect that “ We walked right in and turned around and walked right out again.” So this cloth is sent from the mills into the Flinders-lane warehouse, and then is sent out again to Geelong, and charged so many hundred per cent. more. We have read what is happening in regard to the price of hats. A statement was published this morning showing that over 1,000,000 carcasses are in cool storage in Melbourne, and that there has been an enormous increase in the price of meat since 1909. Women who used to buy good meat now have to buy bones and boil them down for soup. Honorable members should see the poor people being served with small portions of soup by the relief committee at the Trades Hall. There is soup there every day so long as funds are provided. It takes my mind back to the time when over 250,000 meals were served at the old Trades Hall following the debacle of the land boom. In those days people could get three loads of sheep’s heads free, delivered at the door. To-day, owing to profiteering and other causes, which have brought about an increased price, meat cannot be obtained at a reasonable figure, although 1,000,000 carcasses are held in cold storage. What are the Government doing? What is the House doing? One can call from the house-tops, and nothing is done. It has been suggested to me that the Government intend to wait until their Leader comes back, when he will fight profiteering. I have fought him when I thought he was wrong, but if he does right in this matter he will have my full support and cordial approbation. Something must be done. Every day the Government delay they are doing themselves neither honour nor justice.
Take the case of bread, which is called the staff of life. The Conservatives in England at the latter end of the last century were somewhat astonished when Jonathan Hutchinson, the greatest surgeon of the day, advocated the nationalization of bread. His remarks, owing to the high position he held, caused a great deal of discussion in 1897 or 1898. We may have to come to that some day, because it seems infamous that so much should be charged for bread after the bountiful harvests with which God has blessed this country. Had there been a famine, one could have understood it. Mr. Wilkinson, one of the brilliant scholars of the Melbourne. University, shows clearly in his book on The Trusts of Australia, that when flour was sold at £11 10s. per ton, which is higher than the present price, bread was sold at 5½d. and 6id. per 4-lb loaf. If people buy a 1-lb. loaf, which goes under the name of fancy bread, they now pay 2½d., or at the rate of lOd. for 4 lbs. Rolls are charged ever so much more. All these fancy breads are so much fake or camouflage to rob the people. I have taken the trouble to ask members of the House who have had farming experience what is a fair pruce for wheat per bushel to give a return to the man on the land. I have also made inquiries in various States, and have been told that from 4s. to 4s. 3d. per bushel at the station will pay. From my experience of the miles of country I saw under wheat in Western Australia, that price will give the farmer a fighting show.
– It would be a fighting show at the price of articles to-day !
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) told me only last week that the price I have mentioned was fair. I have not yet met a farmer who says it is not fair.
– You try it and see, when you have to pay £3 and £3 10s. per week for wages.
– What does the honorable member think is a fair price?
– You would not make anything out of it under 5s. 6d. per bushel in view of the price of bags and wages - that is, taking a five-year period.
– I do not think even 5s. 6d. per bushel would justify the price now being charged for bread. Does the honorable member say that wheat-farming would not pay unless wheat was 5s. 6d. per bushel delivered at the station?
– Yes, taking a number of seasons together.
– Then I cannot go into that matter, but the honorable mem ber is the first I have heard who is of that opinion. No one on this side would refuse the farmer who grows wheat a fair price. Let the price be fixed at whatever is a fair thing. Then let the price of gristing be fixed, say, at lOd. per bushel, or whatever is a fair amount. Then let the Government, if they want to stop profiteering, fix the price of flour at, say, £10 7s. 6d. or £10 15s. per ton, and let any miller be imprisoned who refuses to supply flour at the price fixed by the Government to any baker who wants it. The price of bread should then be fixed over the counter, allowing the baker to charge extra for delivery. If the Government will only adopt that common-sense method in regard to the two most important necessaries - meat and bread - much of the present difficulty would be overcome, because the profiteering in the staples of life would be done away with. The Government control sugar, and supply it at 3£d. per lb., but what kind of sugar is being supplied now ; and, if the Colonial Sugar Refining Company made the huge profit of £3,000,000, which they could camouflage by putting it into so-called capital, why did not the Government insist that they should reduce the price of sugar or supply proper white sugar ?
– They are now charging more for unrefined sugar than they charged for refined sugar.
– They charge anything they like, and the Government do nothing. If Ministers are waiting for the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to return and put down the profiteers with a great fanfare and blast of trumpets, it appeal’s to me that the creators of this House should be put in a position to control it. ‘ The autocratic rule we have had since the war has cursed the world makes rae all the more sure that there should be some greater check upon Parliament. I know that the majority on the Government bench are pledged to the referendum and initiative. If they would only make that the law of the land, then the people could rightly accept the blame.
Ministers have lost a grand opportunity. Even at this last moment, why do they not publish the fact that profiteering will be attacked ? It would save them from the accusation that they are in favour of the profiteer. During the war Ministers did good work for the public Tiy fixing prices. “Why cannot it be done in peace time? However, I am tired of speaking to four of five members, and, exactly as I did when I commenced my address, I call attention to the want of a quorum in justice to the honorable .member who follows me.- [Quorum formed.]
.- The Victorian Ministry have appointed a Commission to inquire into profiteering, tut evidently they intend to allow it to perambulate in its own sweet way, and take its own time about submitting recommendations. I have noticed that some ©f the leaders in the State House question whether there is the profiteering in the community that some people talk about. I am a family man, and I speak on behalf of 99-J per cent, of the people who have to pay domestic bills when I say that, in order to eke out an existence, we are paying practically double, and sometimes more, than the price we paid in the prewar period. I intend to quote from the recommendations of the Inter-State Commission in their report on clothing. It cannot be said that the Inter-State Commissioners are Labour supporters. While the Government took drastic action in certain directions during the war, it is regrettable that they did not carry into effect the recommendations of the Commission, and it will be a lasting disgrace to this Parliament if honorable members do not insist that some step be taken to relieve the distress from which the country is now suffering.
– They are waiting for “ the Government “ to come back from Great Britain.
– It has been said of the Ministry that they are a “ one-man show” from start to finish. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) left Great Britain he said that profiteering bred Bolshevism, and in South Africa, on his way out to Australia, he said he would have to fight with tooth and claw both the profiteer and the Bolshevist; but, if it be true that the profiteer breeds Bolshevism, his first attack should be made upon the profiteer. Profiteering is one of the direst calamities that people can suffer, and any Government that will tackle in real earnest the question of the cost of living will have my whole-hearted support. I am afraid that Ministers and their supporters will be held back from attacking the profiteer because there is a general election looming in the near future, and it is well known that the people who have been indulging in profiteering are among those who contribute fairly heavily towards the election funds of what is known as the National party. If, on this occasion, these profiteers do not contribute to the funds of that party, it will be because they may have a lingering doubt that it will not serve them faithfully in the coming Parliament.
Both sides of the House will agree with the following introductory remarks in the recommendations of the Inter-State Commission upon clothing: -
Nothing in the present inquiry has been more striking than the reiterated emphasis of Australia’s dependence upon importations. That the greatest wool-producing country in the world should occupy such a singular position in regard to woollen clothing is a continual challenge to the thought and interest of its citizens. In times of war the capacity to provide from its own resources an abundance of suitable clothing, alike for the soldier and for the citizen, is an object of capital importance, but it is in times of peace that tHe preparations must be made by which alone that object can be attained.
Although Australia is capable of producing practically every class of raw material necessary for the purpose of clothing its people, it is dependent upon importation for the greater portion of such material for the purpose of manufacture. W,e depend upon importations wholly for our supplies of cotton, linen, and silk goods, and in respect to woollens it is questionable whether we are in a position to clothe one-third of our people unaided by importations.
That is an indictment against the Parliament which controls the affairs of the greatest wool-producing country in the world. I feel sorry for those who say that we in Australia live more cheaply than do people in other parts pf the world. But the cost of living should be less in a country which is overflowing with r,aw materials that ought to be turned into the finished- articles. There has not been the increase in New Zealand we have experienced in Australia. Even in South Africa, which is largely de- pendent on importations, and has not the supply of raw material for manufactured foodstuffs or clothing, the people live more cheaply than do even the people of New Zealand. We ought not to hesitate one moment to bring about relief, especially when we have an unbiased recommendation from the Inter:State Commission. Here are some figures from their report -
Even under the wai- conditions there was no necessity for such a rise in prices. I am not quoting from the speech of an orator on the Yarra-bank or a Trades Hall man. The inquiry was made by gifted men, who had ability to extract and analyze evidence, and they have given to Parliament information which he who runs may read. With such startling evidence before us, it is not for us to sit idle and say that we have no proof that profiteering is taking place in this country. The reports of the Inter-State Commission show that prices increased in some instances by 280 per cent, from 1914 to 1918. To-day any person who goes into a shop to purchase a pair of boots is told that the price has risen so much above that which he formerly paid, and that in a few weeks it will be considerably higher. The position in regard t,o clothing is the same. It has been stated that if a man wishes to clothe himself with an ordinary sac suit he will have to pay about £16 16s. in the near future.
– I. can get a decent suit in Melbourne for £7 7s.
– The honorable member must be buying standardized suits.
– No;’ I priced some to-day at Buckley and Nunn’s. I can buy a tailor-made suit, pure wool cloth, for £7 7s. Those tweeds” are made at Marrickville and other Australian factories.
– The honorable member will admit that even if he is able to get a suit for £7 7s. to-day he could have purchased the same outfit in 1914 for £3 3s. or £3 10s. My statement is based on information that was published in the press. A man in the trade told me that the price of a suit is likely to be £17 17s. shortly.
– Of course, if the honorable member wants the best imported Donegal and West of England tweeds, he must pay a big price for them.
– I am speaking of ordinary Australian cloths. I have purchased in a number of shops recently, and I was told in respect of every commodity I bought, including even medicines and chemicals, that the prices are still soaring. Everywhere I was worried, ‘ Buy now ; the prices will be higher in a few weeks’ time.” There is no justification for these abnormal increases. They amount to nothing more nor less than daylight robbery of the public. The Inter-State Commission quotes the following increases in prices of other goods that are used every day in the home: -
This information was given to Parliament by the Inter-State Commission in order to enable us to legislate for the protection of the public.
– Those are all imported goods.
– Of course, no cotton goods are produced in Australia. We have heard a great deal about the Coats’ monopoly, and in regard to it the InterState Commission says -
The supply and distribution of sewing cottons are almost entirely in the hands of two great British groups of companies, one of which, the Coats group, is represented in Australia by the Central Agency Limited, and the other, the English Thread Company, by Richard Allen and Sons Pty. Ltd., Melbourne, and Direct Agencies Limited, Sydney.
The Central Agency, a British company, is the distributing company for what is popularly known’ as the Coats Combine, an amalgamation of companies consisting of J. and P. Coats Limited, Clark and Co., Jonas Brook, Chadwick’s Limited, and Kerr’s Limited.
The English Thread Company originally comsisted of fourteen firms, but other large firms were subsequently included.
Coats died a multi-millionaire. I do not know whether he will find his way to the place to which we all hope to go when we shuffle off this mortal coil. But I imagine that St. Peter will be reluctant to pass through the gates a man whohas amassed a fortune out of the distress he has caused to the poor.
On the subject of men’s clothing, I refer the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) to the following particulars given to the Inter-State Commission by the president of the Master Tailors’ Association : -
The price more than doubled, and I believe it is even higher to-day.
– Has the honorable member considered how many different costs are included in that total ?
– I have quoted all the details, including the profit made by the tailor,
– Does the Inter-State Commission show that the profit a tailor gets is more or less than it was?
– The Interstate Commission allowed a profit of 33 per cent. in 1914 and in 1918. The increase in wages during that time amounted to only 5s. per suit, and represents a small part of the total increase. But three other persons participate in the enhanced price, namely, the manufacturer of the tweed, the manufacturer of the trimmings, and the makers of the suit.
– Now, find the profiteer.
– He is to be found in the manufacturer of the material, particularly woollens. I shall quote figures that ought to astound the honorable member, as a sensible man. I met to-day in the city a man who, in politics, is probably a Conservative, and who is very well versed in all the operations in
Flinders-lane. He told me that when the girls employed in the work-rooms of a firm that manufactures clothing obtained an increase in wages which averaged about 2s. 6d. per suit, the firm increased the price to the public by 10s. That is one instance of how the public is being robbed. In the prices of hats there has been a considerable increase.
– The price to-day is nothing to what it will be in future.
– The reports of the Inter-State Commission should be made available, not only to members of Parliament, but to members of the general public. If the people had access to the information which they contain, there would be considerably greater protest against the profiteers than there is to-day. I have been informed that early in the war the Defence Department let a contract for military hats at 78s. per dozen.When the next contract was advertised, the manufacturers combined and tendered at 87s. per dozen. The Minister who controlled the Department at that time said, “ You made the first lot for 78s. per dozen, and, so far as I have been able to ascertain, made a very good profit out of the Department in war time. If you are not prepared to accept this contract at the same price. I shall commandeer your hat mills, and the Department will make its own requirements.” Faced with that alternative, the manufacturers tendered at the old price of 78s. per dozen. I do not know whether they have made attempts since to profiteer at the expense of the Defence Department.
In regard to woollens, I direct the attention of the honorable member for New England to the following table in the report of the Inter-State Commission : -
The manufacturers of cloth came in, and with a very big hand grabbed these enormous profits.
– Does not the report show that nearly the whole of those profits were made out of contracts entered into with the Defence Department?
– Practically all of them were.
– Contracts deliberately let at high prices by the Government then in power to make their own factory’s figures look all right.
– Not at all. These figuresshow the grabbing, rapacious character of some of these individuals. At a time when their country was in the throes of the greatest war in history, these grasping hawks came in and demanded exorbitant prices for the very clothing required for our soldiers. This is the comment of the Inter-State Commission -
It is much to be regretted that the greater proportion of their excessive profits were derived during the period in which they were engaged in supplying material for the clothing of our soldiers, and when they were acting in unison.
They combined to keep up prices.
It is unnecessary to look much further for evidence to show the profiteering that is going on. The Prime Minister Mr. Hughes) submitted certain questions to the Inter-State Commission, and their answer to the first inquiry was as follows : -
The enhanced prices are directly attributable to the war, and to the fact that local manufacturers, wholesale and retail distributors, have to a large extent taken advantage of abnormal conditions for the purpose of increasing their profits.
In these few words we have summed up the rapacity of some of the so-called respectable citizens of Australia. The comment applies to firms that were in affluent circumstances before the war broke out. Instead of charging exorbitant prices for the material for our soldiers, these firms, having done so well in this sunny land of ours, might well have said, “ The country is at war. We shall be true to it, and, as patriotic men, be content to secure only a very limited profit.” But no ; these men, whom we may be able to get at by means of an amendment of the Constitution, have robbed the country by these exorbitant charges at a time of dire distress. If such men can be described as patriotic, respectable citizens, then the English language . has lost its original meaning. The indictments I have quoted, and which are laid at the door of some of the chief manufacturers of Australia, are not made by Labour men, but by an independent Commission, as the result of exhaustive evidence taken by it. The Government, meantime, is supinely looking on. Surely it would be worth while to take risks!
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done?
– The War Precautions Regulations are still in force. They have been in operation for practically five years, but little or nothing has been done under them to stop the depredations of. these people.
– What would the honorable member do ?
– I shall tell the honorable member. As I mentioned just now, a number of manufacturers had manufactured military hats for the Government for 78s. per dozen, but when further contracts were invited, they met and decided to put up the price to 87s. per dozen. When this higher price was put before the Minister, he said to these men, “ The first contract at 78s. per dozen was carried out by some of yon men. If you are prepared to go on making these hats at that price you can have the contract. But if you insist upon the increased price, I will commandeer your mills, and the Government will manufacture the hats required for our military men.” That is what I would do in all these cases. I would be prepared to do anything to put a stop to the people being robbed as they have been consistently robbed during the bitter period of the war.
– If the honorable member were Prime Minister, what would he do in regard to this matter?
-tI would nationalize these mills, and manufacture for the public.
– ‘ ‘ Nationalize ! ‘ ‘ That is an easy word to use.
– The Government have had power to do these things under the War Precautions Act during the last four years or more.
– Then the honor- able member would nationalize the whole of the woollen mills in Australia?
– If the Government did that, they would confer a great boon upon the people. I do not believe that any thinking man would object to that being done in the interests of the general public. The “welsher” at Flemington is punished by the Victoria Racing Club ; the burglar is sent to gaol; but here we have men who have been robbing the people and the Government, and their supporters, who are supposed to be policing the country, do nothing to put down their profiteering. They actually laugh’ at what is going on.
– If you were an inspector of factories, what would you do-
– ‘Supposing you were the Archangel Gabriel-
– But I am not ; all the halos are around your head.
– Not at all. Honorable members opposite are very disturbed. If there is one question agitating the public mind to-day, it is the way in which the people are being robbed. Not one honorable member opposite dare excuse the actions of these firms. Profiteering is more rampant to-day than ever it was. The distress of the people is greater than ever, and the supineness, indifference, and utter callousness of the Government to all that is going on, in this respect, is worse than ever it was. With increasing distress and increased necessity to take action, there is but increased apathy on the part of the Government.
It is true, as the Prime Minister said in England, that profiteering breeds Bolshevism. If there is anything calculated to cause a spirit of rebellion to rise up in the hearts of law-abiding citizens, it is the belief that they are being robbed. I do not know how some people live. A workman has to pay 9s. and 10s. for a pair of boots for a child of two or three years, and if he requires woollen clothing for his children he has to pay the exorbitant prices demanded by the profiteers. Even a Tory like Mr. Bonar Law is prepared to do something to put down profiteering. He will not go as far as the miners desire by nationalizing the coal mines of Great Britain, but that is coming. Mr. Bonar Law, speaking in the House of Commons some twelve months ago, said that in two years the dividends paid on shipping shares, which had cost him £8,000, amounted to £7,000. I dare say that by now, on his capital outlay of £8,000, he has received dividends totalling £12,000. The British Government are making some effort to stop profiteering, whereas Australia, which should set an example to the world, is in this respect lagging far behind? The people will take us to account for this neglect, and rightly so. We cannot remain silent while they are being robbed by the profiteers.
I do not know how one-half of the people manage to live at the present time. Apart altogether from the industrial trouble, there is much distress. Even men whom I thought to be almost independent have been bitterly complaining to me of the difficulty of making ends meet owing to the increase in the cost of living. Men who have been for years in receipt of good salaries are coming to me from time to time, and are saying, “ If the Federal Parliament cannot help us, is there not some Parliament that oan relieve the situation?” If such men feel the pinch, what must be the position of those who are earning only £2 or £3 a week, and some less?
Is it right for this Parliament to remain idle? I know that the old parrot cry, “ We have not the constitutional power to deal with’ profiteering,” will again be raised. But little has been done by the Government under its war powers during the last four or five years. The Labour party tried to secure an amendment of the Constitution, conferring much wider powers on the National Parliament. On the first occasion, its proposals were rejected by a majority of something like 250,000 votes; but on the second occasion, we were within an ace of carrying some of our amendments. Sub sequently further proposals to amend the Constitution were, made, but largely owing to the influence and promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the referendum was not put to the people. To-day, I believe far more drastic propositions would be carried. I believe that the people would: even vote for Unification, if they were satisfied that the National Parliament would thus have full power to deal with the profiteers. If we have an election within the next month or so, the people will not rest content unless, ,at the same time, proposed amendments of the Constitution are submitted to them - amendments such as will not permit any encroachment on the part of the States upon the privileges of the National Legislature. My fear is that while we leave the State Constitutions as they are, we shall not have a free hand to deal with this question.
Section 51 of the Constitution covers what are known as the thirty-nine articles. Its opening provision is, “ The Parliament shall have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth.” Then follow the thirty-nine articles, setting out the subjects in respect of which we may legislate. I would submit to the people a proposal to strike out all but the opening clause of the section, so that the National Parliament would- be given the broad power to “ make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth.”
– What would become of the State Parliaments if that were carried ? _
– They would automatically drop out, or would, at least, have to re-model their Constitutions in accordance with the decision of the people. If such an. amendment were made, we would be as free as are the Parliaments of the United Kingdom-, Canada, and South Africa, to discharge national duties in the interests of the whole df the people. I do not think that anything short of such an amendment would satisfy the people, or give us the power that we really require. Even the drastic amendments which the Labour party attempted to carry out would not put us in a position of absolute safety. In these days of high prices and distress, let us act like brothers to those who are suffering, and do all we can to relieve them.
I now come to an act of injustice to at least twelve telephone mechanics in this State of Victoria. These are the only mechanics in Australia, I believe, who were included in a promise made by Mr. Fisher, when Prime Minister in 1915. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), and other honorable members, know tie facts of the case; and I may say that we have done everything within reason to obtain justice for these men whose claims are distinctly in accord with the promise to which I have referred.
– I hope the honorable member will state the whole case to the House.
– I intend to quote from the speech delivered by Mr. Fisher when an amending Public Service Bill was before us. I may say at the outset that by a subsequent Act the rights that these men. understood they enjoyed have been taken away. I am sorry that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) is not present, but I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without calling attention to the matter. Certain telephonemechanics, prior to the war, had passed an examination qualifying them for permanent appointment. When the war broke out the Ministry of the day had had to revise their idea in regard to promotion in the Public Service. A large number of public servants were enlisting, and it was not considered right in their absence abroad to give promotion to those left behind. It was, therefore, decided by the Fisher Government, which was then in power, not to make appointments or promotions while the war lasted. But the promise was given that those who had been made eligible would become eligible for appointment for nine months after the conclusion of the war. If, as Mr. Lloyd George has said, the ratifications of peace will be exchanged by 1st September, those telephone mechanics, who qualified prior to the war, would be eligible for permanent appointment for nine months afterwards. I should like to quote from Hansard of the 1st September, 1915, page 6599, in reference to an amending Public Service Bill which was then before the House. Mr. Fisher, in introducing that Bill, said -
Clause 13 provides that any person who, as a successful examinee, is eligible for appointment to the Public Service, will continue to be so eligible until nine months after the termination of the war. Instructions have been issued to the effect that no permanent appointments be made until the termination of the war. Persons who have already qualified by examination, however, will not be passed over.
It will be seen that Mr. Fisher, without any prompting from honorable members, said that persons who had already qualifiedfor examination would not be passed over. Later on in the discussion on the Bill, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) drew attention to clause 13, which read as follows -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the principal Act …. any person who, having successfully passed any prescribed examination . . . . is at the commencement of this Act eligible for appointment to the Public Service, shall continue to be so eligible until nine months after the termination of the present state of war.
The following is the Hansard report of the discussion on that clause -
.- (This clause is very good as far as it goes.
– I propose to amend it by omitting the words “ is at the commencement of this Act,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words, “on the 1st day of August, 1914.” That will take the provision back to two or three days prior to the commencement of the war.
– And will include those who are at present eligible?
– These men will be eligible after the war for permanent appointment, but I wish to know whether they are to be continued in the meantime in temporary employment.
– The question raised by the honorable member is a fundamental one. All those who are ready to be examined, or who have successfully passed their examination, but have not joined the Defence Forces, will continue to be eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth service. They will retain the positions and emoluments they now enjoy, according to their ability, but they will not be permanently appointed to those positions until nine months after the close of the war. They will have practically all the rights and privileges that they would have had had they been statutorily appointed, with the exception that they will not be permanent officers until nine months after the close of the war. The object is to secure that those officers who have been away should not be prejudiced in their positions because of the fact that they’ have been absent from the country. That is the whole object of the measure. To make it clear I will move - :
That the words “ is at the commencement of the Act “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ was on the 4th day of August, 1914.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment: Standing Orders suspended, and Bill passed through its remaining stages.
On whichever side of the House we sit we all have a high sense of justice, and whatever political opinions the men concerned may have, they relied on the promise of the then Prime Minister. If that gentleman’s words mean anything they mean that these men were secure in their right to appointment within nine months after the conclusion of the war. But what has been the result ? Since then we have passed another amending Public Service Act, in which there is a clause giving preference to returned soldiers. That distinct promise was given by Mr. Fisher, and those men who do not object to preference to returned soldiers complain -that others who are not returned soldiers have been permanently appointed to positions while they themselves have been left out in the cold. The other day the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was told, in reply to a question, that two returned soldiers had been appointed as junior mechanics, but I have the best of evidence for a belief that these were not returned soldiers, while between sixty and seventy appointments have been made of junior mechanics over those men who five years ago were promised that their rights would be conserved, but who to-day are walking the streets out of employment. Some married on the strength of the promise given by Mr. Fisher, and I believe that nearly all of them now have wives and families, and have incurred liabilities in order to establish homes for themselves. For six weeks now their services have been dispensed with. One of these men, I may say, is gifted with inventive genius, and gave to the Department an idea which, I believe, has been the means of saving money to the country. The head of the Department told this man that he understood he had an idea in regard to a certain instrument, and asked him to elaborate it. This the man did, with’ advantage to the Department, and now he is out of employment, and his wife and family are suffering. I do not think I am committing any breach of confidence in saying that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), when the matter was brought under ‘his notice, realized that an injustice was being done; but I believe that legal opinion has been obtained by the Government to the effect that the later Public Service Amendment Act gives a prior right to returned soldiers. Even if that be so, I question whether if Parliament, when that Public Service Amendment Bill was before it, had had a full knowledge of the facts, it would have accepted the measure. I presume that had this war not occured, these men would have been appointed in the latter part of August, 1934, and would now be permanent employees; but because of our desire -to do justice to those who “went to the Front, these men have to waive their claims. They discharged their duties during the whole course of the war, and have proved themselves efficient. It is not fair for us to discharge technicallytrained mechanics who have big family responsibilities, while, at the same time, sending abroad for equipment and material that can be made here. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said that the Postal Department is a big employing Department, where, surely, there was room for, at any rate, some of these men. It is heart-breaking to see fine fellows like these idle, while work to which they have been trained is sent abroad. These men have presented their case in the most reasonable. and moderate fashion, and, in spite of the legal opinion that I have referred to, I am sure that honorable members will not tolerate the injustice that is being done. I hope that honorable members will join in urging on the Government that if these men cannot be returned to their original positions, other employment may be found for them. Many of them have paid fees to technical colleges in order to qualify themselves for the service of the public, and they have spent four or five of. the best years of their life in public work only to be now turned adrift. The country cannot afford to lose men like these; and we should do our best to retain their services in some capacity.
I now wish to refer to the case of those men of smaller stature who enlisted and fought so well during the war. I take an interest in this matter, because I played some little part in getting the standard height for enlistment reduced to 5 ft. 3 in., and I know that quitea number of such men went to the Front, and, so far as I can gather, fought as wellas, and, indeed, in some cases better than, their taller brethren. But now that the war is over they are not, I think, getting a fair deal. I do not know whether the responsibility lies with some 6-foot officer who believes that no one. can fight if he be under a certain height, but for certain appointments in this country there is still a stipulation as to inches. Some of these sturdy little nuggets are of the toughest constitutions, and the hardest workers; indeed, I knew a family, who could almost be described as one of dwarfs, but which was quite conspicuous in this respect. The 5-ft; 3-in. man who went to the Front did equally as well as those of greater stature, yet an advertisement of this nature appears calling for applications from the Instructional Staff in connexion with the Permanent Forces, stipulating that applicants must be at least 5 ft.7½ in. high, with a chest measurement of 35 inches. This debars even men of 5 ft. 7 in. in height from appointment to these permanent positions. We owe a debt to all those men who went to the Front, no matter what their height was, and no such barrier as this should be raised. The Assistant Minister ‘ (Mr. Wise), in reply to my question, said that the Department desired to keep these officers up to a certain height. Some men or shorter stature have, since they returned from the Front, been temporarily occupying positions as instructors. They have been among the best in structors that we have in the Permanent Forces to-day; yet they are to have no chance of permanent appointment. This House should not tolerate treatment of that kind.
– The Government ought to have sympathy with men of small stature.
– That, is true, because some Ministers are not very tall themselves. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) expressed surprise when I put the question, that a 6-foot man should be such an advocate for a 5-ft. 3-in. man. I believe in doing what is fair towards men who have done their duty to their country.
I trust that attention will be paid to the three questions with which I have dealt. Honorable members cannot neglect to take some action in regard to the profiteering that is going on. We ought to deal fairly with men who have rendered good service in the public Departments, and give them a chance of earning promotion, and certainly, when permanent positions are being given out in the Defence Forces, we should pay some attention to the claims of men of lower stature.
Sitting suspended from 6.24 to 7.45 p.m.
. -I wish to draw attention to a matter which concerns a welldeserving section of the people, the blind, who are doing work in basket-making and mat-making in our various institutions. Many of them are quite ingenious in the class of work they undertake, and give full value for the money they receive, but, unfortunately, the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act prevent them from earning more than £58 10s. a year, including the amount of the invalid pension.
– Is that the case?
– I made inquiries from the Treasury by telephone this afternoon, and I was informed that the maximum amount of the pension allowed is £31 4s. per annum, and that a person drawing this pension is also permitted to earn up to £27 6s. per annum. In my opinion, blind persons ought to be allowed to earn a maximum of £2 10s. per week, and still draw the pension.
– Why should there be any limit to their earnings?
– These people are not asking for higher pensions. They simply ask that they be allowed to earn as much as they possibly can to augment their pensions.
– Would not an amendment of the law be necessary ?
– No doubt it would be necessary. Some years ago I pressed this question at every opportunity afforded to me, and the excuse advanced was that if these people were given the privilege of earning more money it would automatically add to the invalid pension list numbers of people already earning good wages. If that is the case, why cannot the law be amended to limit this privilege to the blind? They are great sufferers, but the majority of them are industrious, and it would not make much difference if the whole of the basketmaking and mat-making work were left to them, provided they could supply the requirements of the community. In any case, they ought to be given an opportunity to earn a living wage, and enjoy some of the comforts and privileges of which they are now deprived , and which are enjoyed by those who can walk abroad and see the glories of the world and the beauties of nature. The married blind who are living with their families have a great struggle if they are debarred from earning a fair and reasonable wage. The regulation to which I object might have the effect of pauperizing men. These people are most intelligent, and take a pleasure in their work; but if we deprive them of the opportunity of adding to their pensions, how gloomy their existence will be. Surely our draftsman can provide a clause to enable them to secure that which they richly deserve. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) knows of their sufferings, and I hope that before the termination of this session an amending Bill will be brought forward to give them, not generous treatment, but simply justice.
I want to bring under the notice of the Defence Department a matter dealing with the issue of mothers’ brooches.
Of four young men in one family who went to the Front, three were killed, and only one has returned to Australia. During his absence the mother died, and a sister became next-of-kin. The brother who returned has signed all the documents necessary to entitle the sister to the brooch, which would have been issued to the mother had she lived; but when the sister made application for it there were no bars to it. She was informed that, although a mother would have been entitled to a brooch with bars, a sister was not entitled, as next-of-kin, to the bars.
– Was there another sister ?
– She is a married woman, and, as far as I know, she is the only sister.
– If there was more than one sister, I could understand the Department having a regulation dealing with the matter; but if she was the only sister, she should certainly have got what the mother would have received.
– I am not sure that she was the only sister, but the brother had signed all the documents entitling her to participate in what the mother would have received had she lived . If the mother had lived, and had received a brooch with bars, there would have been nothing to prevent her handing it over to the sister. These are matters that irritate the public. This lady did not receive a courteous reply when she went to the Defence Department to make inquiries. The result was that she came away very much depressed, and her husband having sought my assistance, I endeavoured to get the bars attached to the brooch. I was informed by the Departmentthat a regulation prevented it being done. I hope that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Wise) will look into this matter, and that he will stretch a point to give the next-of-kin that to which she is entitled forthe sacrifice made by her brother. Why should there be all this straw-splitting ? I hope that the regulation which prevents this lady from getting the bars attached to the brooch will be abolished, and that something will be done toprevent a repetitionof this kind of thing, which is continually bringing the Defence Department into discredit.
I have been asked by the Secretary of the Hobart branch of the Returned Soldiers Association if a regulation prevents a father and son from being employed by the Department. I could understand a regulation which would prevent a father and son from being employed in the same office, or branch of the Department; but one which prevents a son who returns from the war from securing employment in the Defence Department because his father is already employed in it is absurd. I hope the Assistant Minister will also look into this matter, and clear it up. If there is proper supervision and discipline in the Department, just as good work ought to be done by a father and son as could be done by them if they were perfect strangers to one another.
– I wish to deal with several matters in connexion with the Defence Department and the Navy Department. The first is in reference to the granting of pensions to widowed mothers.
Mr.Wise. - That is a Treasury matter.
– At any rate, it is an outcome of the war. Widowed mothers are allowed pensions, but there are many widowed mothers who, while not fully dependent upon the earnings of their sons, have been able to establish a right to the pension, and hold the belief that in the future, as they become older and more dependent on others, their pensions will be increased. On the whole, the officers administering the War Pensions Act have treated them in a fairly sympathetic way, but there are so many anomalous cases that one fails to understand why these officers do not carry out the spirit of the Act For instance, the son of a widow in my constituency went to the Front. She married a second time, and her husband also went to the war. The son was killed; the husband returned, and, like many another soldier, was so upset in mind and habits that his wife found it necessary to live apart from him. That woman has been unable to establish her right to a pension as. a widowed mother because the Department says that she was not dependent upon her son when, at eighteen years of age, he left for the Front. If that young man had lived he would be now about twenty-two years of age, and in the ordinary course of events would be helping to maintain his mother.
– He might have got married.
– That can be said of the deceased son of every widowed mother. I am anxious to see this woman establish her claim to a pension as a widowed mother. Other widowed mothers who have no more claim than she has - many, indeed, have less - are in receipt of pensions. The Department is even paying pensions to dependent fathers in some cases. I have interested myself in this woman’s case, and the reply of the Department is that as she was not dependent upon her son when he went away, she was not eligible for a pension. I bring the matter before the House because ordinary correspondence with the Department does not give these cases publicity or get them remedied.. The spirit of the Act is that widowed mothers are entitled to a pension, and I submit that this woman has not been treated as I think she ought to be.
Under the Defence. Act, service in the Army and Navy for home defence is compulsory . The operation of this section in connexion with the Navy causes injustices that ought to bring condemnation upon this Parliament. I blame, not the present Government, but rather the whole Parliament, for not having made provision to deal with cases such as this to which I wish to refer. Young fellows, after they are eighteen years of age, when, perhaps, they are indentured to a trade, are called up for service by proclamation. A lad who is called for service in the Navy may be sent to Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale, or to one of the islands to do garrison duty. After two or three months there he may be released ; then called up again for five or six months, and again returned to civil life. One young fellow was compulsorily called up for service with the Naval Forces, and was sent to England on a troopship. Honorable members may recollect that towards the end of 1915 there was some trouble with the seamen, and the then Minister for the Navy (Mr. Jensen) called up the young men in the Naval Militia, and forced them to take a troopship to England. The man to whom I refer was on that vessel, and throughout the trip was subject to naval discipline. On returning to Australia he tried to enlist with the Australian Imperial Force, but because he was in the Naval Militia he was not accepted. He made another endeavour to get to the Front, but again was prevented. Then he was called up for duty on the Psyche. That boat cruised about the Australian coast for some time, and in December, 1918, after the war was over, the young fellow was discharged. He had lost three years of training at his trade, and is now thrown on the world without any occupation or a chance of availing himself of the opportunities that are given to the members of the Australian Imperial Force. Will any person say that it is just to make these young men suffer all their lives because they were compulsorily called up for service in defence of their country ? It is because of cases of this character that conscription is so generally hated by the community. If this young man had not, by reason of his residence in a certain locality, been obliged to train with the Naval Forces, he would have been a military trainee, and if he had not gone to the Front he would by now have been a journeyman and able to earn a decent livelihood. I have placed this case and others before the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), who, although very sympathetic, has said that if he were to give the assistance that is asked he would be acting contrary to the Act.
– I havetwice put a proposition before the Repatriation Commissioner. He ruled out my request on the first occasion. I have not heard the result of the second application; but the Navy officers are of the opinion that these lads are eligible for the benefits of the Repatriation Act.
– This is the letter I received from the Navy Department -
Dear Sir, -
Re No. 403 E. F. Russell, A.B./R.A.N.B.T.
I desire to acknowledge the receipt of your memorandum of the 13th August covering copy of letter from the above-named relative to his application for vocational training, and in reply, would advise that Mr. Russell is not eligible for this assistance. Under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1917-1918, those eligible for asistance are - “ Any person Who -
Thisman was serving on a ship of war, the Psyche.
With regard to naval ratings, the Commission has considered the eligibility for benefits under the Repatriation Act and regulations of the following classes of men serving with the Royal Australian Navy, and those eligible for assistance are: -
Class A. Royal Australian Naval Sea-going Forces (enlisted men).
Class B. Mine sweeping section, Royal Australian Naval Brigade.
Is it right that we should treat in this fashion young men who rendered war service with the Navy ? They had no choice as to which branch of the service they would join; being resident in a certain place they were compelled to serve with the Naval Militia. The young man whose case I am particularly stressing performed his duties well, and has a record of good conduct. Now he is without a trade, and the Commonwealth says it has no responsibility towards him. It is the duty of the Government to order some inquiry into these cases. I should be quite content if the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) would investigate them, and see if something cannot be done to right the wrongs of these young men. There were cases of others who were indentured, and when they returned from naval service were over the apprenticeship age. Forthree years they have been absent from their trade. They are now asked to go back to the second-year work of an apprentice, and accept secondyear pay. That was not the intention of Parliament when it passed the Defence Act. In one instance the firm to which a naval trainee was apprenticed had gone out of business when he was released from naval service, but the Department provided for him. Representing a maritime constituency, many such cases come under my notice, and I am continually approaching the Minister regarding them. He admits that I have no other course than to appeal to him for redress. It would not cost a great deal to make some reparation to these men. Any such action would be indorsed by Parliament and the people. I knowthat the Government are probably afraid of the possible far-reaching effects of any concession they might make in this direction. Men who have served on troopships or have been engaged in minesweeping, may ask to be similarly treated. Already the munition workers have made claims upon the Government for consideration. They did certain war work for the Empire, and took the risks of sea travelling. So did the men employed on troopships; one man I know was on three different vessels that were torpedoed. The munition workers get no reparation unless for immediate losses of tools or personal effects. The Government fear the possibility of having to compensate all persons who have assisted in the war. I would not say that the people whom I have enumerated are not entitled to the Repatriation benefits, but I do say that young men who were compulsorily serving in the Naval Militia, and who were not allowed to enlist in the Army, should receive consideration. I hope the Government will do something to alleviate the conditions of men who are without a trade, although they have reached an age at which they should be taking upon themselves the responsibilities of married life.
I wish nowto refer to the complaints as to the food supply on the troopship Port Lyttleton. A few days ago I asked the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to appoint two returned soldiers from each side of the House as a committee to inquire into the complaints of the men while the evidence was still available and the facts were fresh in their memories. He promised to go into the matter, but all that I have got, and all that I ever shall get I suppose, unless we continue to draw public attention to the case, is the following letter: -
Melbourne, loth August, 1919.
Dear Sir, -With reference to the questions raised in the House of Representatives on the 8th August by yourself and the honorable member for Fremantle, regarding conditions on the troopship Port Lyttleton, I desire to inform you that, as promised, I have made inquiries from my colleague, the Acting Minister for Defence, who has furnished me with the following extract from the voyage report of the Officer Commanding troops on that vessel - Major B. Work, V.C., D.S.O.:-
Messing Arrangements and Food Supplies. -The arrangements and food supplies were good; on one or two occasions there were complaints regarding the food, but they were not serious. It was realized by all that it is impossible for every article to be always perfect, but, taken as a whole, the quality of the food was very good, and the quantity correct and sufficient. Any defect that may have occurred was immediately rectified with the eager cooperation of the ship’s officers.
Imay add that Major Wark has been instructed to furnish a further report in regard to the matter.
Up to the present, the Department of Defence has not received any report from Mr. Heitmann’s representative.
McM. Glynn, for Acting Prime Minister.
Isupplied the name of Mr. Heitmann’s representative - Private Brown, of the 59th Battalion. The Defence Department should have got in touch with him and have learned from him whether he received many complaints as to the food supplies onboard. It has not attempted to do so. To-day I received this further letter : -
Melbourne, 18th August, 1919.
Dear Sir, -In continuation of my letter of the 15th August, relative to conditions on the troopship Port Lyttleton, I now wish to inform you that a further report has been obtained from Major Wark, V.C., D.S.O., copy of which I append fir your information : -
The men complained that stew did not contain enough vegetables. The cooks in the galley were changed daily, asit was discovered they were selling food tothe troops. The galley was also placed out of bounds. No complaints were subsequently received. One pudding was placed outside the ship captain’s door, which the men were ordered to remove, and instructed not to waste good food. The pudding was not ordered to be thrown overboard. Complaints were investigated each day, but, except in one or two minor instances, -which were rectified, the mcn had little to say regarding the food, lt is considered the feeding and other ship’s arrangements were excellent.
GEO. H. WISE,
for Acting Prime Minister.
These letters .plainly show that there was something very wrong on board this transport. It is admitted that the cook was in the habit of selling food to the nien at night. I believe that he’ used to sell them chipped potatoes at ls. 6d. per plate. These potatoes must have come out of the ordinary supplies. Action was taken to put a stop to the practice, but the only result was that thereafter the men had to pay 2s. per plate for their chipped potatoes. It is admitted by the officers that that sort of thing had to be stopped. The pudding which was placed at the door of the Officer Commanding was unfit to eat. It was .placed there for that reason. I heard of these complaints by accident. I heard some of the men joking about the food supplies and saying that the stew served out was uneatable. I was told by the men. that the complaint was, not as Major Wark reports, that there were not enough vegetables, but that there were no vegetables in it. Stew of that kind would have a bad effect on the health of the men who partook of it.
I have made this complaint because I think it is the duty of the Defence Department to thoroughly investigate all such matters and to punish those responsible for the trouble. If that were done, we would have an end to such occurrences, but when the Department retards these investigations or shows a disinclination to enter upon them it merely encourages the continuance of such practices. No attempt has been made by it to ascertain from Mr. Heitmann’s representative on board ship whether any complaints were made to him. I shall endeavour to get into touch with him and to obtain his version of the facts. Cases of this kind have caused trouble on all our troopships. It was something of the sort that led to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) being sent to gaol. Major Wark is no doubt a very brave and gallant officer, but he was remiss in his duty in attending to the wants of the boys who had fought with him. The food served up to the officers would, of course, be good. When we are doing very well ourselves we are apt sometimes to be unmindful of the wants of others; but Major Wark, having been through the war with these men, should have investigated their complaints and have insisted upon their food supplies being good and adequate.
I know of aim Officer Commanding troops on board a transport who dealt with such complaints in a way quite different from that adopted by Major Wark. When a complaint was made to him that the food supplied to the men was insufficient he detailed a quartermaster to see that the meat was weighed out and that full weight was given. The quartermaster shortly after returned to the Officer Commanding and told him that the cook, with a knife in his hand, had chased him out of the galley. The cook objected to his intrusion. The Officer Commanding might have taken certain action in accordance with military discipline, but instead of doing so he appointed the champion boxer an. board ship as a temporary quartermaster and told him it was. hu duty to see that the meat supplies were properly weighed out. A quarter- of an hour later one of the officers waited on the Officer Commanding and said, “ You will have to appoint another cook, sir.” There was no more trouble on board that ship as far as food supplies were concerned.
– Are the cooks military men,? Are they not members of the -staff?
– -They are. It is admitted that the cooks on the Port Lyttleton were trafficking.
– Ask the honorable mem- . ber for West Sydney (Mr. Wallace) whether he was ever on a ship where the cooks did not traffic.
– That is how many of them supplement their wages.
– Quite so; but we should see that that sort of thing does not take place, at all events, on our troopships.
I have said that it was a somewhat similar trouble on the troopship Somali which led to the honorable member for Adelaide (Gunner Yates) being sentenced (by a court martial. I shall never be satisfied until the Commonwealth compensates him for the indignity to which he was subjected, and reimburses him the amount withheld from his pay, as well as the cost to which he was put in having to defend himself before the court martial. I do not want to be personal in this matter, but I insist that justice shall be done. I sat out Gunner Yates’ court martial for three days, and heard the evidence in chief. The only officer who seemed to be at all competent was the prosecuting officer, who, I understand, is a lawyer; but it was easy to see that he was disgusted with his job. Gunner Yates was accused of failing to make representations through the proper channels in regard to the complaints of the men on the Somali. As a matter of fact, the ordinary channels were availed of, but no redress could be secured. Gunner Yates’ counsel at the court martial asked the captain of the ship, “Did you ever send for Yates?” He replied, “ I think I sent for him once.” Further cross-examined, however, he eventually admitted that he had sent for Gunner Yates on five different occasions. “Now,” said the lawyer, “Why did you send for him ?” “ I sent for him,” said the captain, “because he was a representative man, and I thought he might have some influence with the men.” The honorable member was punished because lie had some influence with the men, and prevented a mutiny. There were threatennings, but no mutiny actuallytook place. The man who should have been punished for the trouble that took place on the Somali was General Antill, State Commandant of South Australia. How the hell he came to be made a general, I do not know. For six days complaints were addressed to him in vain. While the ship was lying off shore - close to the city from which many of the boys came - they were not even able to obtain a piece of soap. They complained that lice were again appearing on their bodies. They had no comforts, but the officers’ had. many. The man who was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment, and went to gaol with Gunner Yates for participating in the trouble, is about the most inoffensive looking “ pirate “ I ever saw. He had devoted the whole of his time, both in the Old Country and aboard ship, to the Soldiers’ Comforts Fund. He was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment really for looking after the interests of tlie men.
A great deal has been said about Dr. Hone, the quarantine officer for South Australia. In Court it- was given in evidence on oath that Dr. Hone, who was the cause of the men being kept on shore, did not know until 1 o’clock at night that there was trouble on the ship. This must have been the fault of somebody; and it was evident, from his demeanour, that the Officer Commanding did not like his job. I suppose he could not “ give away “ his superior officer - one of the conditions of the military life. The peculiar thing is that Gunner Yates went ashore while the ship came east. Certain things appeared in the newspapers, and, because of this, six days afterwards Gunner Yates was arrested, brought to Melbourne under guard, tried, and sentenced to 60 days. When sentence was passed, Gunner Yates was recommended to mercy because of the lack of discipline on the ship, but he completed his full sentence, a portion of it in Darlinghurst Gaol, where no soldier should have been sent under such a charge. I was through Darlinghurst Gaol five months ago, and I can certainly say that it is not a fit place in which to detain anybody, more especially a man who desires to keep clean. As a matter of fact, Gunner Yates stopped a riot, and did not cause one, and the officers who tried him ought to have appreciated the fact. There has been no attempt made to alter the treatment of the men on transports, find the officers have not exhibited that feeling they should to men who fought, were wounded, and risked death under them, and gave them the opportunity to obtain honour. All this, however, is nothing new. Many officers regard their men as a father does his son, but others are careless,or have a vindictive and superior feeling towards them. It all depends on the temperament of the officer, and if an officer’s temperament interferes with his doing justice to his men he ought tobe punished.
– There is no punishment for officers, but there is for men.
– That is absolutely wrong. I have seen officers cashiered and sent back to Australia for trivial offences, and not a word has been heard about it. Cashiering is the most severe of punishments.
– But officers’ names are smothered up.
– I agree that cashiering is a great punishment for any man, but I contend that the whole care of an Officer Commanding on a ship should be the well-being of the men under him.
– It is so, generally.
– I admit that many officers take that view.
– You must not judge by the exceptions.
– When there are these exceptions, the Defence Department ought to do something. Five days after the Port Lyttleton arrived, I was at a welcome home to seventeen men, who had travelled on six different ships.Four of these men said that the food supply was good, while one said it was patchy, but after a row it was put right. In the case of the Port Lyttleton, however, the matter was never put right.
– I was told by my nephew, who came home on that vessel, that there were no cases of sickness, and that the men were splendidly looked after.
– Those youngsters at the party to which I refer made a joke of the privations they had undergone on the transports.
– There are men who growl at what is provided in the diningroom in this House.
– I admit that.
– You listen only to the growlers.
– Nothing of the sort. My desire is to prevent trouble in the future, and I contend that the Department ought to investigate every case.
– The contract between the Australian Government, the British authorities, and the steam-ship companies is for certain treatment for each of the three classes of officers, noncommissioned officers, and men; and the ship has to provide a standard of food. There is not a permanent transport staff, but the services of officers returning to Australia are utilized. Some of these officers do their duty properly, and some do it badly, and if the men are neglected there is chaos and trouble. How can that be prevented?
– That is the unfortunate circumstance, but an Officer Commanding who neglects his duty should be condemned along with the Department who permits it.
– If the Officer Commanding and his adjutants are lax there is bad food, and chaos right through.
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) told us that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Heitmann), in his military capacity, had appointed men to take complaints. This, of course, was a most unmilitary procedure, but it was done; and I can give the name of one - Private Brown, of the 59th Battalion. In reply to an inquiry by me, I was told that up to the present the Defence Department has not received any report from the Heitmann representatives. What I desire is that the Department should not wait for any report, but look into matters for itself. The trouble right through the Army and Navy is that in ease of trouble the men are punished, and not the officers.
– They smother up the officers’ names.
– Cashiering is a severe punishment, but I am not going into that phase of the question now.
– The private is branded throughout Australia, and why not the officer ?
– Gunner Yates was branded. If the Heitmann representatives are to be of any use they should be asked what their opinion is of the treatment of the men. I can tell the Government that, so far as Gunner Yates is concerned, the time will arrive when they will have to compensate him for the indignity cast on him and the money the Government robbed him of.
I now wish to deal with the case of one- James Mathews. As honorable members are aware, I was summoned before a Court in Maryborough in 1917 for having made a false statement. The magistrate found me guilty of making a false statement, but discharged me because, in his opinion, I had good reason for believing the statement to be true. As a member of this House, and as a unit in the community, I have a right to produce evidence to prove my innocence, and I endeavoured to get certain papers placed on tlie Library table. That request was refused.-
– The Government are ashamed of the papers.
– The war was on, and I kept quiet under the refusal. Now the war is over, however, I have again asked the Government that all the papers connected with their endeavour to secure and formula for steel for shrapnel shells in 1914, and also the papers connected with my own case shall be produced. In the case of the shrapnel shells I am informed that the Government do not consider it advisable to lay these papers on the table of the Library, and, as to my own case, that it is not the practice to lay on the table of the Library papers in relation to prosecutions instituted by the Commonwealth. This means that an innocent nian can be arrested, tried, and gaoled without being allowed to produce evidence in proof of his innocence. I observe that a number of members are smiling, apparently at the idea of my being kept in the “ booby hatch “ for six months; but, in any case, I am going to take my liberty in my hands again. The prosecution of myself was initiated by the Defence Department under the War Precautions Act, and the information was signed by General Williams, State Commandant. I have, as I said, endeavoured to get evidence in the hands of the Department to prove my innocence^ but it has been refused. The facts of the case as to the steel formula are that in 1915 manufacturers in my division, though political opponents, sent to me as their representative, and asked me to introduce them as a deputation to Senator Pearce with a view to their manufacturing shrapnel in order to meet the great demand for ammunition -at the time. The deputation came to Parliament House, but when I saw Senator Pearce he said to’ me that it was of no use his receiving them, because the Government could not get the formula from the British Government, as it was a secret formula. He promised, however, that when Mr. Mackay came from America he would bring the American formula with him, and that it would be given to our manufacturers here. When Mr. Mackay returned it was found that the American formula was useless ; as a . matter of fact, there are millions of shells in the United States and Canada to-day that were never sent across the seas because of their inferior quality of the steel. Then they applied again to the British Government, and could not get the information, because the firms which have the secret formula were manufacturing steel, and would not give it up to the Government. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce)’ told me so himself, and I made the statement publicly in this House, abd from dozens of platforms, but the Minister for Defence followed me to Maryborough, and he was asked if it was true.. He would not answer the question, and they would not let him go on until he had answered it. He came to Melbourne next day, and slipped a summons on me to appear at the Maryborough Court, while he went away to Western Australia. He was my witness, and he cleared out to another State, after summoning me to appear in Court. That is not a fair way to treat any man. I assure honorable members opposite that I abhor their politics, but I would not try to gaol one of them inno,cently ; and I think I ought to get the same treatment from my political opponents as I would concede to them. I would hound every one of them out of politi.cs to-morrow, and they would do the same to me. Of course, we all expect that, but I would not injure one of them . personally. If any man can come down so low as to try to injure another person by inflicting upon h’im a punishment when he knows that that person is innocent, the latter should get an opportunity from this House and Parliament- to prove his innocence.
– What was the charge ?
– I was charged under the War Precautions Act with making a false statement. I could prove that it was not a fake statement if I could get the papers, but the Government will not give them up. The war is over, so what effect can the papers have on it now? I am not asking for the secret formula., but for the papers which show that the formula was refused.
– For what reason do- they refuse?
– The Government will give no reasons. They simply say, “It is not considered advisable to lay these papers, on the table of the Library.” These papers contain the evidence of my innocence. I suppose the magistrate who tried me, like all these men, looked upon me as a convict the moment I came into Court. In the ordinary parlance of the boy in the street, the moment I saw him, I felt I was a “gonner,” and so I was until I got into the witness-box, and gave my evidence on oath. I know he believed me, but he would not say I was innocent by dismissing the case. He found that I had made a false statement, but he dismissed the case on the ground that I had very good reasons for believing that the statement was correct. Now that the war is over, I want the opportunity to prove that I was innocent. Why do the Government persist in refusing the papers ? The Government are getting too fond of gaoling their political opponents, and deporting those who disagree with them. I am not the only one the Government have tried to gaol, and afterwards refused the opportunity, which ought to be obtainable from’ the Department, to prove his innocence.
– No one who knows Senator Pearce as well as I do would believe him against you.
– Still he is a Minister of the Crown, and as such is respected by many people. Nothing could be more Hunnish than for a Minister to endeavour to gaol a man for spite, and for the Government then to refuse him the right to prove his innocence. This Government will have to be careful. I have told them on several occasions that they are too fond of gaoling men. They think the way to stop political opposition is to imprison or deport their opponents. They had better stop it. It amounts to political corruption to down your political opponents by any means, fair or foul.
– If you knew a man was an Anarchist or a Bolshevik; and he was a political opponent of yours, would you not deport him ?
– No. That is where the Government make a mistake. They have not the sense to allow people bo give expression to their opinions. Personally, the honorable member knows that I am no anarchist.
– Would you keep an Anarchist or a Bolshevik here?
– Yes, so long as he did nothing. If you allow people to ventilate their opinions, much of their talk . is regarded as so much wind. If honorable members opposite went down to Melbourne Ports and talked there, they could not do Democracy any harm, and we would not gaol them. A man writes an article in condemnation of the present economic system, and the Government say, ‘ ‘ If this man goes on writing much longer like this he will convince some people. We will suppress his writings by bringing in an Act to make it criminal for him to write in this strain, and if he persists we will gaol him.” A section of the community said they were going to fly the red flag. The Government issued an order that it was not to be flown, and began arresting people for flying it. Itdid no good, and had no more effect on the community than the flying of the red flag would have had if it had been allowed. The Government knew this, but they were vengeful and spiteful: It was the same feeling that caused me to be summoned at Maryborough in an endeavour to gaol me. I intend to go to Maryborough, and in the same place make the same statement again, and show the people of Maryborough that the Government will not let me have the evidence. We will see then if they will arrest me again. I shall take the chance.
I believe that a number of the ships that are laid up at present are under the control of the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), and that the Government have to pay certain moneys to the owners under the chartering agreement.. I am told that the Government pay the engineers, but do not pay the officers.
– Mr. Watt’s statement is that the ship owners have not taken any charter money during the whole period of the strike.
– Then the Government are not to blame, and I shall have to make the complaint to the companies. It seems peculiar that while one section is being paid the other is not. However, if the Minister says that it has nothing to do with the Government, I must leave it at that.
– It is equally queer that we should have to be feeding hundreds of strikers who will not work.
– The Government are not feeding any of the seamen.
– We get letters from them boasting about it, and throwing it in our teeth.
– Some may do that, I know that those who are being supplied with food and money are not seamen or their dependants. The great bulk of them have nothing to do with sea callings, andhave been thrown out of employment because of the stopping of industries. Some of them may have taunted the Government. It may be merely chaff; but the pitiablepart of it is that 99 per cent. of those who are suffering to-day have nothing to do with the seamen’s strike.
An extraordinary length of time is being taken before the curator settles the estates of men who were killed abroad. It is peculiar that something cannot be done to get these matters settled.
– There are not many outstanding now. The arrears have been pulled up tremendously, though I know there are still a few cases.
– I have two cases myself. In most instances the evidence that the man has been killed is very strong, and most of the money involved comes from the Defence Department.
– The trouble has been in getting the effective statements from the other side. That is being gradually cured now.
– In one case, the woman tells me that she has been waiting over nine months.
– Yes, there are some cases up to the end of the year still outstanding; but steps are being taken to finalize them, without waiting for further advices.
– It seems a pity that a widow should have to wait so long for a settlement. It would not matter very much if the Government lost a few pounds so long as the widow was assisted.
– They are taking means to finalize all the outstanding cases.
– I am glad that is being done.
I believe certain bonuses have been given in the Defence Department in lieu of increased pay, but I am told that the armourers, the artificers, and others have not received them. How is it that this distinction is made?
– I do not know anything about it.
– I have had several complaints. The men say they have to live under the same conditions as others who have received bonuses, and the Minister might well look into the question.
– If the honorable member will give me particulars I shall make inquiries.
– One class concerned is the armourers at the barracks, and I believe that those who are known as artificers have also been passed over.
I am still waiting to get at the Government for trying to gaol me. I hope they will refrain from trying to gaol anybody else. The trouble with the seamen is due to the fact that the Government have rushed in and gaoled Walsh, their general secretary.
– He asked for it.
– Possibly he did, but Ministers were only too willing to do it. That is my objection to the Government. The arch-fiend who started it was the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), but Ministers seem to be following in his footsteps with a very strong desire to gaol men on the slightest evidence. I hope that all this will be discontinued. People ought to be able to express themselves without the fear of gaol. They ought to be permitted to fly the red flag and tell the truth, as I did, without fear of prosecution.
– I wish to indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) in- reference to the case of Mr. Henry, of the Customs Department. That gentleman feels that he has a good claim against the Department in that he has not been paid the salary which was due to the position he held at Broken Hill for a number of years, and because, as a result of the Department moving him about from place to place, he suffered a loss of about £900 on the sale of his property and furniture. I am not concerned as to the amount of his loss ; I am concerned in his case because I happen to know that he is not a man who would bring forward a bogus claim. He has too good a sense of what is equitable, just, and businesslike to put forward a claim which has no foundation. The Public Service Commissioner and the Customs Department seem to have arrived at a deadlock about the matter. For the honour of Parliament we ought to have a more satisfactory answer than has yet been vouchsafed.
– Ask Senator Thomas about it.
– I shall not trouble him or any one else. Ministers do not always know the ins and outs of cases. The merits of officers’ claims do not often reach the Minister’s eye, and I am underthe impression that this is one of those cases. The only reply we can get is that the Trade and Customs Department is of opinion that Mr. Henry has suffered no injustice. That is no answer. Surely the Department can say something more. If some satisfaction is not given to this public servant, his case will have to be brought forward in a more forcible way. I shall back up the honorable member for Hindmarsh in any step he takes to see that Mr. Henry gets justice.
Many years ‘ ago I brought forward a motion on several occasions to the effect that it was time the Commonwealth took over the inspection of produce passing from State to State, but although the House eventually indorsed my motion nothing has been done to carry it into effect.
– I have always been heartily in sympathy with what the honorable member desired, but if the. States still maintained their own inspectors what could the Commonwealth do?
– If the honorable member would remember, he would see that I suggested that, even if ‘the Commonwealth had the constitutional power to do so, which I doubted, it should not attempt to force its inspectors on the States, but should approach them and seek to have the inspection machinery transferred to the Commonwealth. If that were done even now, it would ease a lot of misgiving which exists in the ‘minds of the producers. They seem to think that they are not getting proper treatment when their produce is passing from one State to another. If their goods are rejected at the New South Wales border, they naturally imagine that the State of New South Wales is not giving them a fair deal bv rejecting their produce in order to preserve the local market for local growers. Of course there may be no foundation for that belief, but if the work of inspecting produce passing from one State to another is a Federal matter, that ground for suspicion is at once removed.I do not think anything has been done in this direction. If my memory serves me right, three years ago, the honorable member -for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, informed me that, while the war was in progress, the Government did not intend to do anything to carry out the proposition which Parliament had indorsed. I am led to the conclusion that the Government at that time, and also the Government now in office, have not tried very hard to bring about this very desirable change.
Persons who are in receipt df the oldage pension are not permitted to augment the pension by earning more than 10s. a week, and with the present high cost of living, they find it very hard to exist. It would not be unfair to the community at large, or to other pensioners who are unable to augment their pensions, if those persons who are able to do so were permitted to earn more than the 10s. a week the regulations now permit them to earn. In fact, it would be in the public interest. I hope the Government will look into this question, and see if they cannot do something to meet many of these cases. I do not think that it will require great ingenuity on their part to tackle the matter and frame the necessary legislation.
During the course of this session we have heard a great deal about the high cost of living, and I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to refer to the subject. I have not been able to speak upon it before. The debate in which it has arisen has proceeded long enough to justify its being brought to a close, .but I have listened with a great deal of interest to the various speeches that have been made. I am afraid that many honorable members who have addressed tlie House upon the subject have spoken to it with very little point. It has been their practice to call attention to the high cost of living, and then break off, and accuse honorable members on the Ministerial side of not having done anything or of being unwilling to do anything to bring about a remedy. That is low-down politics. For instance, I object to the remarks made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) to-day, in which he accused honorable members on this side of the Chamber of being callous and indifferent to the sufferings of the people who are affected by the high cost of living. The attempt to relieve the present state of affairs is not a task attaching to one side more than the other, and it is useless to utter a tirade against Trusts and Combines or single traders unless an attempt is made to suggest a remedy. Honorable members oppo- site rely om the old stock remedy of the Labour party, and that is to nationalize everything. I do not object to the nationalization of certain things if the circumstances are favorable to it; but it is crude politics to say that the way to overcome the high price of commodities is to nationalize everything. The man who talks in that way cannot have studied the history of such: matters, and quite misses the mark. The last state of any country adopting a wholesale scheme of nationalization would be much worse than the present. However, there is no doubt that something must be done to remedy the existing state of affairs, and I agree with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) that the regulation of profits would be a step in the right direction. I believe that the Prices Commission, if given the opportunity, could do something effective on those lines. I have come to the conclusion, from my attendance -at the Commission, that the Commissioners were beginning to realize that the fixation of prices was not of much use, but that something might be done in the direction of Regulating profits.
– Has the Commonwealth Parliament constitutional power to limit profits ?
– I do not know. The Government claim that it is useless to accuse them of not attempting to meet the present conditions. They say that they have not constitutional power to do so. At the same time, until Peace is ratified, they have certain powers under the War Precautions Act, and they could have done a little in this direction if only for the purpose of giving the States a start. Most of the States are passing legislation in regard to the fixing of prices, but that is a very crude remedy. It means that the Prices Commission must always have its finger on the pulse of the trading community in order to see that the price fixed is a fair one. If a number of traders approach the Commission, and point out that they cannot sell their newly-purchased goods at the price previously fixed, they are allowed to charge a higher price. Then, of course, the public become dissatisfied, and there is a demand for . an increase in wages. And so the thing goes on. The consumer is bled a little more with every turn of the wheel.
It is time the Federal Government tried to make an agreement with theStates in regard to this matter, and that some body representative of all sections of political opinion was appointed to suggest some alteration of the Constitution to meet the circumstances of the case, so thatthe States might do their duty and the Commonwealth might supplement the action of the States in any way that was found necessary. As one who took a great interest in the past referenda, I believe that a procedure of that kind would be far quicker and more effective than the taking of another referendum. When a series of proposed amendments of the Constitution is submitted to the people, by referendum, the changes are so revolutionary that the people will not accept them. In the past we have asked the people for constitutional powers in excess of what were immediately necessary. Naturally, the people became frightened, and the State Parliaments opposed the transfer of those powers to the Commonwealth.
– The people were frightened into rejecting the referenda.
– I think the honorable member for Adelaide was not in this House when the last referendum was taken.
– But I was secretary to the Labour party in South Australia, and I know whence the money came to oppose the granting of the powers the Commonwealth sought.
– Never at any time in my political life have I received money from anybody to fight or support any proposal. We hear a lot about money being spent in this and that way, but none of it has ever come into my possession. If some of the proposed amendments of the Constitution had been submitted separately to the people, and we could have come to an agreement as to how far the desired powers would be used, there would have been no diffi culty in getting from the people authority for this Parliament to deal with Trusts and Combines.
– Were not the amendments put separately, and did not the honorable member advise the people to reject them?.
-I, as an individual, indicated to the electors the proposals with which I agreed and others which I would support if certain alterations in them were made. A referendum should always be treated as a non-party matter, and it was only on the occasion of the second referendum that the Labour party introduced party feeling. If the partisan passions of the people are aroused, how can we get from them aalm, judicial pronouncement upon the issue at stake?
It would be better in the public interest if honorable members, instead of trying to make political capital out of the high cost of living, were to tell the people that high prices have ruled before, and that the present inflation is not likely to remain indefinitely. The records show that over many years prices have risen and fallen; that will occur again. I do not argue on that ground that nothing should be done to reduce the cost of living, because I foresee that some time must elapse beforeprices come down to normal. I urge the Federal Government to invite the States to a convention, to. discuss what alterations in the Constitution are really required. Then, if the States are satisfied, they can concede to the Commonwealth the necessary powers, thus avoiding the trouble, expense, and delay of a referendum. That would be the cheapest and most amicable way of settling the difficulty. The platform of the National Federation contains a plank for the amendment of the Constitution in that way.
– Has any State agreed to concede powers to the Commonwealth?
– (Have the States been approached in the way I have suggested ?
– Yes; the issue has been raised at Premiers’ Conferences.
– I am not talking about Premiers’ Conferences, or any other periodical occurrences like influenza and measles. The people are suffering to-day by reason of the high cost of living; and I am anxious to find a remedy, not to merely talk about tlie matter and throw mud at my political opponents. I believe that a convention representative of all sections of political thought would suggest a practical and efficient means of giving relief. Why should any honorable member say, even before the proposal has been tested, that the State Parliaments are not as ready as the Commonwealth Parliament is to do their duty to the people?
– Is- not the honorable member prepared to trust the whole of the people to say what powers the Commonwealth Parliament should have?
– Yes, if we could fairly hear the voice of the people. The only way in which that could be done is by means of a referendum. I desire a more expeditious procedure.
In regard to the ups and downs of prices, honorable members will find by consulting the records that during the first half of the last century there was a fall of about 60 per cent, in prices. Between 1850 and 1875, prices recovered about 30 per cent. From 1873 to 1896, there was another fall of 40 per cent. ; and from 1896 to 1914 they rose approximately 35 per cent., and there has been a gradual rise ever since. It would be well if honorable members- would explain to the people a few of the causes of advancing prices. The increases are not all attributable to one cause. One of the chief factors at the present time is the inflation of the currency. The rise in wages has probably very little to do with the cost of production. There are American factories, the employees of which receive the best wages paid for that class of work in any part of the world; but owing to efficient management, and the large scope of the business, the unit of production cost is less than in Japanese factories, in which the workers are paid about 2s. Gd. per week. That shows that increased wages are only a small factor in the cost of production. My idea is that a’ convention might result in a. reasonable alteration of the Constitution,, which would give the Commonwealth, all requisite powers to deal with trade and commerce without necessarily openingwide the doors for the use of other powers that this Parliament does not require at the present time.
– Why should there beany restriction of the power of the people ?
– I do not wish torestrict tlie people’s power. I am asking honorable ‘ members to do something to give the people power instead of merely talking about it. This Parliament is anagent of the people. The State Parliaments -are also> agents of the people. Theone principal has to pay all the time for the doings of those, agents.
– It is about time the people swept the State Parliaments outof existence.
– That is a matter for the people to decide. They will take that step when it is necessary.
I would treat the profiteer as a criminal. If we can get the necessary constitutional alterations, we can make a close and effective scrutiny of the affairs - of business men. If the profiteer is tobe treated as a criminal, it will not matter how far we probe into his business affairs to discover whether or not he is fleecing the people. I should make as thorough as possible the examination of ‘ his business operations, and would give the Commonwealth power to investigate - his affairs at any time. If a man werefound to be profiteering, he should receive drastic treatment.
– What is your definition of profiteering
– If a retailer had. his goods marked up at certain prices today and a month later had increased those prices to an, inordinate degree, although he had not incurred any additional outlay in respect pf them, I should certainly say that he was profiteering and should be dealt with accordingly. By limiting profits we would not curb legitimate trade to the extent that we should: do by fixing prices. If a manhas to pay more forhis goods be willnot supply the public unless be can obtain an enhanced price for them.
Mr.Considine. - But if profit-making is moral and legitimate, why prevent it ?
– I am not going into ethical or mystical questions of that kind. Let us deal with the problems that confront us and not raise imaginary difficulties.
– But production for use and not for profit is a live question today.
– We are not discussing that matter at the present moment.
– What would the honorable member consider to be inordinate profits?
– We should allow a man to make a reasonable profit, and what was a reasonable profit to allow in each trade would have to be determined by the Prices Commissioner and his expert assistants.
– Some companies pay a regular dividend of 10 per cent. The Woollen Mills pay a dividend of 31 per cent. Is that an inordinate profit?
– I could not say, unless I had the details of the business before me. After all, my knowledge of the business might not be sufficient to enable me to determine what was a fair profit to allow in that case.
-How does the honorable member propose to deal with the inflation of the currency which he says is responsible for highprices?
– It is largely responsible for high prices, while another contributing cause is the scarcity of commodities. The drought is serious enough at the present time, but if it develops I do not know what will be the price of fat stock. I believe it is possible to obtain store sheep in the Riverina for practically nothing, and if the drought continues, it is impossible to say what will be the. price of fat meat. It is idle to say that prices will not go up if the demand is large and the supply is short.
– Does the honorable member suggest that meat is dear because of the scarcity of stock in Australia ?
– If the drought develops, as it threatens to do, the scarcity of feed must certainly lead to still further increases in the price of stock.
– Does not the honorable member think that the drought will break with the return of the Prime Minister?
– If the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) were accompanied by a breaking of the drought, the people would be very thankful. He would be able to claim that he had done far more than politicians, as a whole, could ever hope to do. He would be able to say that he had made two blades of grass grow where only one grew before, and two ears of corn to shoot up where none appeared before. That, according to Dean Swift, is more than a whole world of politicians could achieve.
My desire is to make a few suggestions as to the best means of reducing the high cost of living. We on this side of the House have every sympathy with the people, and have more practical suggestions to offer than have honorable members opposite. Granted an extension of our Constitutional powers, we shall be able to deal effectively with Trusts. I am not in favour of a wholesale system of nationalization. The day of big businesses has come to stay. Throughout the world we have big business combinations and associations, and under a proper system of control the people reap the advantages of such combinations in the lowering of the cost of production and distribution.
– But do we get the benefit of reduced cost of production due to big combinations ?
– Undoubtedly we do. Although Trusts and other like bodies may for a time confer such benefits on the community, the day inevitably arrives when many of them become so strong that they can actually control the raw products used by them as well as the price of the manufactured article to the consumer. When they reach that monopolistic stage they become an actual danger to the community. Corporations have “neither souls to be damned nor Bodies to be kicked.” and, like the tiger, when they taste blood, in the shape of high dividends, they want more of it. Their position is often so strong that they can keep up prices. We should be able, however, to control such organizations by the taxation or regulation of profits. “ There are various means of control that have not yet been attempted in this country, but which are far more reasonable from a business standpoint than are many of the proposals for dealing with Trusts that have been made by honorable members opposite. A convention representing all sections of thought in Australia should be able to arrive at a satisfactory decision as to an amendment of the Constitution designed to meet our wants.
There is another point to which I desire to refer, and which I shall elaborate on another occasion. I am a great believer in the principles of co-operation, profitsharing, and co-partnery. These are among the most sensible schemes that have been propounded for the alleviation of industrial troubles.
– They come too late.
– It is never too late to mend. I am not so foolish as to believe that we shall find a panacea for every ill. But for a long time not only political economists, but all the great captains of industry - the enlightened thought of the world - have favoured cooperation, profit-sharing, and copartnery. The more enlightened of our captains of industry who do not look at business as a mere matter of £ s. d. ; who do not want to keep their employees in a rut, but are anxious to improve their position, believe in these principles. They have come to the conclusion that, where practicable, they ought to be applied. Such remedies follow natural lines. After all, they constitute an appeal to human selfishness, and enlightened selfishness is the mainspring of most economic action. There is such a thing as enlightened selfishness as well as mean and sordid selfishness, just as we can have lofty as well as petty ambitions, a lust for power, or any other sui al blesses of mind. Seeing that profit-sharing and co-partnery give a man some incentive to do his best, I think it is along those lines that some measure of success is likely to be secure’d in the alleviation of industrial trouble. This policy is being tried so widely, and with such success, that it only requires a few more instances of its adoption for it to gather great strength. If we can convert many of our employees from mere workers into partners-
– Not too much on the partners !
– I know that my friends on the other side are always suspicious if one offers them anything. They seem to think that all who approach them are trying to inveigle them into some trap. It is true that co-partnership would not be a very good thing for those men who form the executive of unions, and do the agitating in industrial circles. But it would promote the interests of the country and of both employers and employed, while at the same time stimulating production. It would give the worker who attended to his own affairs something like a decent recompense, because the bigger the profits the more money he would have to handle at the end of the year. He would not only get his minimum wage, but a share of the profits, and if he cared to go in for the best form of co-partnership, and accept shares, there is no reason why in time he should not become a director. It would do what our friends opposite are crying out for - give tlie worker a fair share of the product of his labour. Unfortunately the Labour people claim that the worker shall have all the product, while tlie capitalist - the man of brains and the inventor - is given nothing. What rot it is to claim that only manual labour should be considered ! A man like Edison sees an opportunity that may be turned to profit, and- erects a factory in which he employs thousands of men. He may harness ai waterfall, and fill a great public want, and in the process make, perhaps, £100,000. In the course of years, however, he pays millions of pounds in wages; but in the present day he would be called a profiteer, and regarded as an enemy of society. It is all nonsense to say that the whole product of Labour belongs to the worker. It only means that fca© worker desires to be put in- the privileged position of a monopolist. On the other hand, if the management and the workers pull together, and regard the whole concern, not as the property of the capitalist, but of the people engaged, there is some chance of giving to the worker that fair share of the profit he is entitled to. If the worker at the end of the year be given a portion of the profits or shares in the business, there will be no need to raise prices because wages have gone up. The fund, which pays all concerned is, after all, what a business earns, and it would not be necessary to raise prices because the workers drew a minimum wage, plus a bonus, or so many shares. This is the’ sort of scheme that will do away with much of the bitterness that at present exists, and much of which is due to ai want of knowledge by one class or the other.
Hitherto some of these attempts, after an agreement has been arrived at, have miscarried, very often owing to the fact that employers have tried to take away surreptitiously what they profess to give. That difficulty could be easily got over, for there is no reason why every such agreement should not be registered, and approved by some public official. All that is required is the elimination of the mere political element and class bitterness inorder to achieve tangible and beneficial results. This is a big subject with many phases, and I hope on another occasion to deal with it more thoroughly in detail. At present, I merely ask the Government to keep in mind the points I have placed before them.
.- 1 offer no apology for taking a little time, even at this hour, to discuss the question of prices. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) has chastised members on this side for constantly complaining about the high cost of living, and offering no remedy. So far as that is concerned, the Inter-State Commission was appointed, I believe, by a Labour Government, to inquire into the high cost of living, and it ha6 brought forward many reports which all go to show that in this country there are combinations in relation to almost every line of goods. Competition and the law of supply and demand, of which we formerly heard so much, have entirely disappeared. There is no such thing as competition to-day. The price of every commodity is arranged and fixed, and every hand through which a commodity passes claims a share of the profit. As a consequence, the cost of living has been increasing by leaps and bounds. During the war .people made very little complaint, because they were under the impression that this was part of the price we had to pay to secure victory. But it is many months since the Armistice was signed, and the people naturally expect the cost of living to fall. To-day, however, if we take the commo>dities selected by the statisticians, not including clothing and other things, we find that the increase in prices represents between 50 and 60 per cent., as against an increase of something, like 25 per cent, in wages. This means that the purchasing power of the people is reduced by at least 25 per cent., and that the sovereign to-day is not worth more than 15s. The conditions have been borne with patience. Working people have denied themselves many things during the last three or four years. Families have gone short qf clothing, and, generally, have not lived at the same standard as formerly. Those who were in a position to save prior to the war have had their savings eaten away, and those who lived from hand to mouth have simply had to deny themselves. All this tends to degeneracy so far as the race is concerned, and it is not in the interests of the country that such a state of things should be permitted one hour longer than can be avoided. If we have not the power now to fix prices, we had the power during the war; and in many directions we have never attempted to regulate them. Increases have been permitted without any restraint whatever, except, as I say, in a small way in some directions. We are now told that under the Constitution we can no longer deal even with these. I warn the Government that they cannot hoodwink the people all the time. If, when we had the power during the war, we did not regulate prices, what is the use of telling the people that we have not the power now ? No matter what party is in power, it is the duty of Parliament to protect the people from the plundering that is going on. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) said that those who were guilty of this plundering should be treated as criminals, but nothing is being done to find out the guilty persons. We have introduced legislation interfering with the liberty of the subject in certain directions, but we have left those profiteering people to go scot-free.
– I think Parliament was a contributor to profiteering when it passed the War-time Profits Tax Bill.
-The honorable member may be right, but whether it is so or not, the present state of tilings is leading to discontent. During the war the people’s loyalty led them to suffer patiently, but now they are looking for redress.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) suggested that we should ask the States for certain powers, but we must not forget that we did do that after the second referendum, and the States agreed. The trouble is, however, that when put to the test the States did not keep faith with us. We must face the situation. We cannot leave it any longer. We must, as a Government or as a Parliament, take the matter into immediate consideration. It will not brook further delay. We ought to inform the State Governments of the position, and ask them if they are going to exercise these powers and deal with the profiteers at once. I do not approve of the appointment of committees and commissions. It is only killing time and intensifying the evil. We have sufficient evidence already from the Inter-State Commission to warrant the State or Federal Governments taking action. If we cannot do so, let us ask the States to give us the power to act on behalf of the whole of the people. After all, no one can expect six different State Governments to operate six different laws in regard to the cost of living. It must be controlled by one Parliament, and that the Federal. We should ask the States to give us the powers^ If they will not, let us go to the people at once and ask them to amend the Constitution, and arm us with authority to act. If we go to them as a united party they will do what we want. It is no good going, as we did before, as a divided Parliament. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), who now advocates an amendment of the Constitution, opposed the proposals when they were before the people previonsly. Let us point out to the people that the powers are necessary; get those powers, and with the reports of the Inter-State Commission before us, deal with the profiteering evil at once. That is the solution of the difficulty; but talking is of no use.
There are one or two things that we have the power to deal with in some way without an amendment of the Constitution. -Take the question of the price of boots. I have in my possession a letter from a business man, who has been informed that the ordinary boots that the average working man wears, which he purchased wholesale for 13s. Id. in June last, are now 21s., and that it is further contemplated that another rise will take place within the next couple of weeks. Where are they going to ? The manufacturers put that increase down to the high price of hides. When I asked a question yesterday about the price of hides, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) said that the grazier was getting only 30s. for the hide.’
– He said that was the average.
– Then if hides are bringing to-day from £3 to £5 each, who is getting the difference?
– Those would be off beasts that died. Hides have brought as much as £7 and over in this country.
– What is the pastoralist getting ?
– The average hide is about 55 lbs., and the price runs from 16d. to 21d. per lb.
– Does the pastoralist get that amount?
– Of course, he does; he gets it in the open market.
– Then the state-, ment of the honorable member for Robertson was not correct.
– Of course, it is not correct.
– If they are getting that price for hides, I do not hesitate to say that it is far too much’. They are getting as much for the hide to-day as they got for the whole beast a few years ago.
– But the honorable member knows that the whole world wants hides.
– It is because of the price existing abroad in countries where they have no beasts to kill that our people are being charged such high prices for boots. We are not justified in regulating the .cost of living here by what happens abroad. If other countries cannot produce sufficient, and depend upon us for supplies, let us decide that before we export our surplus our own people must get what they require at a reasonable price.
– Do not you think that the price is really governed by the prices in America and England? Is not that the parity?
– The price here ought not to be so governed.
– What about the prices ruling abroad for wheat, meat, and everything else?
– If we have a surplus of .all those things that -we produce here”, I do -not mind what you do with it, but we should insist on Australia being supplied first at a reasonable rate.
– Will you apply the same principle when there is a drought, and the farmers are producing at a loss ?
– When the farmers are suffering from a drought they are entitled to assistance from the Government.
– Then the producer is not to sell where supply and demand is the ruling principle?
– The law of supply and demand comes very little into operation now. But let us say it does in this case.
– It always operates in regard to foodstuffs.
– Not with the combinations operating now, as shown by the reports of the Inter-State Commission. If the London parity for hides is £5 per head, and prior to the war they were worth £2 per head in Australia, and the cost of our boots was regulated accordingly, will any one argue that if hides go up to £10- each abroad our people are to pay five times as much for their boots as they did prior to the war? «If they are, the Government must immediately set about raising the wages of everybody in Australia up to a corresponding level.
– That is the secret of it.
– But the Govern ment do not do it. ‘ If the price is not kept down here, there must be an increase in the wage-earning power of every individual in the community.
– You must, in common fairness, insure the producer against loss in time of drought. Does the honorable member think that would be possible?
– The farmer, like “ every other person, will have his ups and downs. He has to depend on the seasons, just as the workman has to depend on employment. If the State did the proper thing, some means would be devised of providing ‘a livelihood for everybody who is willing to work and unable to get work.
– The home consumer is paying only 5s. for wheat, while the export value is 8s.
– In the East.
– The honorable member points to- one commodity where something has been done, but, generally ‘ speaking, there has been no concession to our people. I do not mind what you charge so long as you bring the level of wages up to the cost of living, so that the wage-earner can-provide for his family in decent comfort, and put aside something for a rainy day. That is all the people want, and you cannot have a contented community without it.
– Is not that a better solution than to attempt to interfere with the rights of the producers?
– I do not mind what you do, so long as you do something. My complaint is that we are doing nothing. I warn the Government that they are standing on the edge of a volcano. Thousands of loyal citizens who have done their part in the warare now feeling the pangs of hunger because of the way things are going, and they cannot stand the strain much longer.
– The price of wool, and of the raw materials for woollens, has never been raised a farthing during the whole period of the war.
– Then there is room for a close investigation intothe doings of those engaged in the woollen business, because a suit of clothes that could bebought prior to the war for five guineas now costs ten guineas, and an article in last night’s paper stated that, according to the tailors, it will cost seventeen guineas next winter.
– The last statement is all rubbish.
– I hope itis, but time will tell. This Parliament must do something. We must either get the power from the States, or go to the people at once. We can no longer allow things to go on as they are going now. Honorable members talk about Bolsheviks and extremists, but they are making them every day by hundreds, because nothing is being done in this vital matter.
– The consumer in Australia has had a wonderfully good deal from the producer during the war period in nearly all the staple lines.
– We have produced abundance of the staple commodities, and have exported considerably, but the fact remains that over 1,000,000 carcasses of sheep and lambs remain in cold storage. Ever since we perfected cold storage, the prices of tilings have. Been going up. We have been able to store the surplus, and the people have had to pay more. This matter is of immense importance to me, because I can see the effect it has on the working people outside. They cannot bear the strain. It is useless to say that the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to give them relief. This is the institution which is expected to control things in their interests, and if we are recreant to our duty, and do nothing to obtain the power we should have, the great mass of the people outside will take some action on their own account. Week after week we get no further ahead, and prices still soar. The price of rabbits, which are a pest in this country, and which we seek to exterminate, has suddenly advanced to such a figure that the cost of skins is likely to close the hat-making industry in which nearly 600 people are employed.
– The honorable member will admit that the proceeds from the sale of rabbits go to the working men.
– I suppose that the working men get a certain proportion of every advance in price.
– He gets the whole of the advance in the price of rabbits. The land-holder gives him the rabbits to kill.
– But does he get the price which the skins are bringing in Melbourne to-day?
– Yes; they are sold in the open market.
– Then the rabbittrappers are very fortunate men; but that fact does not justify increasing prices to such a height that there is danger that an industry employing 600 men will have to cease operations. This is a matter of vital importance. People look to this Parliament to protect them and prevent them from being robbed. Evidence accumulates showing that in every commodity there are Rings, Combines, and Monopolies regulating prices to the detriment of the community, and the sooner we awake to the fact, and deal with the question in the proper way, so much the. better it will be for this Parliament. If we do not, there will be a discontent in the country which will lead to something worse.
Question resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 10.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190821_reps_7_89/>.