7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform honorable members that at 2.10 p.m. to-day, in the north Library, His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, on behalf of the British and Foreign Bible Society, will present to this Parliament a Bible and lectern to commemorate the signing of Peace. I should be glad if honorable members, with their lady friends, would make it convenient to attend the ceremony.
– I desire to ask the Acting Leader of the House whether, in view of the fact that the Labour Conference under the League of Nations Covenant will, according to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), shortly be held at Washington, the Government will take into consideration the advisableness of consulting the trade unions of Australia with the object of devising means of sending to that Conference men who will fittingly represent them?
-Yes.. My recollection is that it is an integral part of the Covenant that the forces of labour and of capital shall be equally represented in any such enterprise.
– If, as foreshadowed, the Conference is to be held in October, early action will be necessary.
– It may be heldin October, but, judging by newspaper reports, things seem to be a little unsettled in the United States of America.
-Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether there is any truth in the report that an Imperial Conference is to be held early next year ; and, if so, whether it is the intention of the Government to send to that Conference representatives of all. political parties, including the Farmers’ party?
– There appears to be no end to the multiplication of parties in almost every country. 1 am unable to say for the moment whether there is to be an Imperial Conference early next year.
– There has been some talk about it in Canada.
– Quite so; and I should think it very probable that such a Conference will be held. Whatever other Dominion is represented at such a Conference, it would be a calamity for Australia to be absent. We are further away from the heart of the Empire than is any other Dominion. Representatives: of Canada may cross over in a week for all sorts of consultations with the Imperial Government. I strongly emphasize the absolute necessity of Australia being represented at all such Conferences, whenever and wherever they may take place.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether any person or persons, individually or collectively, have ‘ approached the Government to ask permission for, or to advocate, the exportation of horse flesh?
– Certain representations have been made to the Government, both by associations and individuals, in regard to the exportation of horse flesh.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether action has been taken to expedite the proclamation of the Navigation Act?
– Yes; certain action has been taken, and I hope before very long to be able to make a definite announcement to the House.
– Will the Minister for , the Navy inform the House at an early date what steps the Government are tak ing to secure additional refrigerated space on oversea shipping to relieve the congested condition of our cool stores at the present time?
– I am unable to say at the moment what action has been taken by the Government. I do know, however, that efforts are being made at the other end of the world to secure increased refrigerated space for the carriage of our meat overseas. If the honorable member will give notice of his question, I will furnish him with a full answer.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy whether he or the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), as the representatives of Australia at the Peace Conference, made any definite proposition to nations other than Great Britain, and particularly to Prance, in regard to preferential trade? If so, will he acquaint the House at the earliestpossible date of the nature of that proposition?
– My impression is that no such undertaking has been given to any nation. I suggest to the honorable member that he give notice of his question; he will then obtain a complete answer from the Prime Minister.
– Will the Minister for the Navy state what steps, if any, have been taken to release InterState steamers from Government control?
– The question is one which I think I should answer. In ordinary circumstances, the present system of control will shortly lapse, and the question of whether it should be continued is now being discussed with the steam-ship owners. We have to take every carethat the Australian coastal service is not denuded of shipping owing t to the inducements offered to ship-owners to send their vessels to other ports where much better freights are offering, and where high prices can be obtained for their ships.
Leave to Clerical Staff, Cockatoo Island
– On 31st July last, the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Groom) promised that all temporary employees in the Commonweal th service who had been on active service would be given leave to the extent to which they would have been entitled to it had they remained in Australia. Will the Minister for the Navy, in agreement with that promise, give instructions that the same consideration be given to temporary employees on the Clerical Staff at Cockatoo Naval Dockyards?
– Yes, I think every possible consideration should be given to those who have “ done their bit “ overseas.
– In view of the congested condition of cool stores in Australia, and pending the provision of the insulated shipping space necessary to convey our frozen produce overseas, will the Government take steps to provide the necessary cool storage for rabbits and other frozen produce?
– It is easy to ask that we should begin immediately to duplicate our cool storage buildings. I suggest that the better way to relieve the situation would be to ship the frozen produce at present in our cool stores.
– The better way would be to sell it at cheap rates to the people.
– My honorable friend is always anxious to sell cheaply the produce of other people’s labour.
– And to get as much as he can for his own.
– Exactly. Whenever any one else’s labour is involved, he will sell it cheaply.
– On a point of order, I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister is not entitled, in replying to a question, to debate it, and make a long speech.
– The easiest way to avoid debates on lengthy replies is to refrain from interjections which provoke replies. If honorable members do not desire to hear answers to questions, and intimate that fact, Ministers will doubtless refrain from replying to them. I am unable to say what should be the answer made by a Minister to any question put to him. Obviously many questions are of such a nature -as to involve more or less lengthy replies.
– I wish only to emphasize the point that I am not in favour of cheap or sweated labour, whether it be that of the rabbit trapper, the wheat farmer, or any one else. This country should pay the best wages to everybody.
– What about my question?
–I hope sincerely that we may soon” have more ships to relieve the situation.
– Some little time ago the Postmaster-General promised to look into the position of allowance postmasters and postmistresses. “Will he tell the House what has been the result of his inquiry ?
– The matter has. been looked into, with the result that I have decided to remove the cause of the complaints so frequently made by honorable members, that I have been sweating employees of the Department. I have determined, having regard to the financial position, to reduce the ‘hours of service where I cannot increase the rates of pay. That, I think, will be effective.-
– In view of the fact that Japan is subsidizing shipping, and that cement from that country can be landed in Australia at 8s. per ton, will the Minister for Trade and Customs see that no reduction din the duty on cement takes place?
– The matter has already received my consideration in con.nexion with the forthcoming Tariff.
– I desire to ask the Assistant Minister for Defence a question relating to Australian-bom soldiers who enlisted in British regiments. . These men were in Great Britain when the war broke out, and, being anxious to volunteer, were induced to join British regiments. They endeavoured afterwards, without success, to secure a transfer to Australian units, with the result .that, on their return to Australia they are treated as British reservists, and are hot entitled to the privilege’s extended to members of the ALF. in respect of Australian rates of pay and repatriation rights. Will the Department of Defence take action to remedy this state of ‘affairs?
– I will submit the matter to the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell).
– In view of the disquieting statement made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. -Poynton) regarding the prospects of the new loan now being raised, will the Government take into consideration the question of the extent to which that uncertainty may be created by the uneasiness in the public mind as to the Government’s attitude towards the Tariff and the protection of Australian industries, and by the fear that Ministers are intent on plunging the country into a premature election?
– It is perfectly clear that my friend believes an1 election is to be held very soon.
Honorable members interjecting,,
– Order! I ask ‘honorable members to allow the Minister, to reply.
– I hope and be’lieve that the people of Australia will undoubtedly have the cash to give us that’ loan, and give it in an ‘overwhelmingly generous manner.
COURT MARTIAL. on H.M.A.S. “ Australia “ - Deportations.
– Yesterday, -when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) asked a question about the release of the men who were sentenced for mutiny on the H.M.A.S. Australia, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) did not treat honorable members with that de- ference to which we had been accustomed from the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton). The latter informed us that the Government were doing everything they could in the matter to get the British Admiralty to let these men out of gaol, but his colleague adopted a bellicose attitude, and practically defied honorable members of the Opposition.
– Under the cover of making a personal explanation the honorable member is not entitled to reflect on any other honorable member.
– I have no desire to do so. What I am not permitted to say now I can say directly the House goes into Committee of Supply. Let me quote the exact, words used by the Minister as recorded by Ilansard -
May I say to my friends- opposite, since they will have it that way,, that all the statements they caro to make in the House will not influence the Navy to the extent of a hair’s breadth-
– In the .matter of discipline.
– It was when the Minister made use of these remarks that I interjected as follows: -
It is a pity some of them do not sink the ships in Sydney Harbor. That is what they ought to do. It would’ make the -Navy take notice of them.
My words in cold print would seem to indicate that I was inciting the men on- the Australian Fleet to mutiny and rebellion, but such a thought was as far from my mind as it possibly could be. Having subjected myself to military discipline in my past, I know, as- every other honorable member knows, that discipline must be maintained, not, , only in a Fleet, but also among any body of men. Therefore I am sorry that I interjected as I did1, seeing that my words bear the construction that T sought to incite the men on these vessels to mutiny. My only desire was to get them out of gaol.
– But the Minister incited the honorable member to say what he did.
– I object to that statement. It is- out of order, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) certainly seems to convey a reflection on the Minister for the Navy, and as he takes- exception to it, I ask the honorable member to withdraw it. The interjection in itself was disorderly, but the personal nature of it rendered it more so.
– I think that my interjection conveyed the right meaning, but if the Minister objects to it, I certainly withdraw it.
– I confess that it was the Minister’s attitude in. answering the question put by the honorable member for East Sydney that fired me, because- 1 feel very strongly on this’ matter. I apologize to’ the House for taking up honorable members’ time in making this explanation, but in cold print my words bear a construction, that was as far from my intention as the poles are asunder.
– -Following the graceful example of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), I wish to say a few words of explanation. Some little time ago, on the discussion of a motion for the adjournment of the House to consider the question of deportations, I brought up the case of a person, whom I did not designate by name, but whom I indicated, and whose name I subsequently handed in- to the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), whowas in charge: of the House at the time. I made a complaint m regard to that man and his proposed deportation, and, of course, I made it on good faith and on evidence which I considered was absolutely sufficiently sound to justify it. However, I have found since then, that I had no basis of complaint, as the man had none, and I say now that he was not badly or unfairly treated by the Defence authorities. It is only right that I should doi this. Having such a perfect gallery of excellent grievances, I have no need’ to introduce any fictitious ones.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence,upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the House of -
The total number of blind soldiers returned from the war ; also, the number yet to return?
The number of totally incapacitated soldiers in the Australian Imperial Force ?
The number of mental cases as a result of active service?
The number of deceased soldiers who have left dependants?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question’s are as follow: -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will, in accordance with a request made to the honorable member for Melbourne by patent agents, supply answers to the following questions: -
Is it a fact that the Commissioner of Patents is still demanding that companies established in America shall answer the following question when applying for patents in Australia, viz.: - “Are you a company (or firm) constituted in and. carrying on business in the territory of a State at war with the King”?
Will the Attorney-General state whether patents will he refused to American companies if they do not answer what is held to be an out-of-date question?
When will the Commissioner of Patents cease wholly to demand written answers to such questions?
Mr. GROOM (for Mr. Hughes).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The matter is being considered by the Government in connexion with Lord Jellicoe’s report.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has he, as promised, had inquiries made as to the advisability of establishing a quarantine station at some suitable place in Northern Tasmania ?
– As all quarantine restrictions on travel between Tasmania and the mainland have now been withdrawn, the necessity for the immediate establishment of a quarantine station in Northern Tasmania does not require further consideration. The question of a permanent quarantine station in Northern Tasmania demands careful consideration. No decision has yet been reached.
– On the 20th ultimo the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) stated in this House -
It has been the custom on the East-West Railway line, when any one is sick or injured along the line, to send a message to Port Augusta for the ambulance to wait there for the patient. I am informed that of late this arrangement has been cut out by the Department. Will the Minister for Works andRailways inquire why, with a view to reestablishing the custom, as it was of great assistance to those who are sick on that long journey, or those injured out in the wilds of Australia?
My reply thereto was -
I was not aware of the practice having been discontinued. It seems a very proper one to continue, and I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Railways Commissioner immediately.
I have meanwhile made inquiries, and am informed by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner that that practice has not been discontinued.
Profiteering - Labour and Party Propaganda - War-time Profits Taxation - Finance : Paper Currency - Patent Medicines: Mattei Remedies - Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms - War Debt and Reparation - Repatriation : Hand-woven Tweed : Housing Accommodation - Immigration - Export of Horse-flesh - Wheat Prices - Post and Telegraph Department: Country Post and Telephone Services: Mail Contractors - Old-age Pensions - Soldiers’ Pensions - Overseas Cable and Wireless Communication - InterState Shipping Service - Shaw Wireless Works - Government Purchase of Ships - Export of Base Metals - Blythe River Iron Deposits.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from llth September (vide page 12273) on motion by Mr. Poynton -
That there be granted to His Majesty, for or towards defraying the services of the year 1910-20, a sum not exceeding £6,088,542.
– The chief feature of the debate upon this motion has been the manner in which honorable members of the Opposition have constantly referred to the question of profiteering. One would almost imagine from their remarks that they claimed a monopoly of the subject, and that honorable members on the Ministerial side were anxious to see profiteering kept going in perpetuity. Of course, it is quite unnecessary for us to say that we are just as anxious as honorable members opposite to see profiteering brought to as speedy an end as possible; but I am rather inclined to think that the motive influencing honorable members opposite is not so much the desire to get rid of the profiteer as it is to use him as a very desirable political card. With the prospect of an early election they believe that it will be a nice cry to put before the electors in order to accentuate the differences between capital and labour. Instead of our having real peace in the community, we shall have as much class hatred as it is possible to bringabout.
– The honorable member is creating class hatred now.
– We are all pleased to see the honorable member for Macquarie return to us in health and strength, and he will understand that my remark does not apply to him, but the subject has been brought forward in season and out of season in every debate during the last few months. It is not the profiteering that is troubling honorable members opposite so much. It is the class hatred that, from their pointof view, is so desirable for the purposes of their party propaganda. We hear a great deal about the party being given representation at all . Conferences, but the question is: which party opposite is to be given representation? According to this morning’s newspapers, those engaged in the boot trade of Sydney have, to their honour, instituted a Whitley Commission Board, in order to bring about better relations between employers and employed. But in the same issue we read that the Trades and Labour Council of Sydney condemns the movement, because its members are anxious, like honorable members opposite, to keep class hatred alive, for the purpose of arousing rebellion in the country. That is their object. If Ave are to have an International Conference, I hope the Government will seriously consider whom they are going to allow to represent Labour on it. Are they going to permit this revolutionary crew, who do not represent Labour, to represent it, or are they going to allow the men behind the Whitley Commission to do so? The two cursed storm centres in Australia are the Trades Hall, Sydney, and the Trades Hall, Melbourne. They are keeping up this embittered feeling for their own ends, to the detriment of the welfare of the people of this country.
– Leave Sydney alone.
– The honorable member takes his orders from the Sydney Trades Hall. I say emphatically that the section on the other side of the House that professes and claims to represent Labour does not represent it. I represent it better than they do. I represent it on the lines of the Whitley Commission, that can save the workers and bring prosperity to this country, and to every other country where it is tried.
Now that the question of profiteering has been raised in this debate, let me ask what is the cause of profiteering, and who created it? This House is very largely responsible. I do not say that the House did it intentionally, but it committed an error of judgment in fixing the rates of tax . in the War-time Profits Tax Act. We did not take the whole of the wartime profits, as we should have done. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), when Treasurer in a Labour Government, proposed, I think, to take 60 per cent., the ‘remaining 40- per cent, to go to the individual. Both in the Caucus and’ out of it I was in favour of taking every pound of the war-time profits. If a man was -eager to make a profit - and every one of us, if in the same position, would be equally guilty - -and he knew .that the -Government were going to take 60 per cent, and leave him 40 -per cent., he would naturally increase his prices in order to increase his share of the profits. The responsibility for profiteering, if it exists to the extent claimed by honorable members and the -press, rests largely, if not wholly, with this House.
– If you take ail a man’s profits, there is no incentive for him to work at all.
– I am speaking of war profits. I think the ultimate solution of this question lies in ‘a recognition of the principle that all war profits should go to the Treasury. There is a difficulty in dealing with Trusts and Combines, hut 1 think we can cope with them by limiting their profits. We could allow them a certain net profit, although I am not prepared at this stage to suggest any definite figure. That is the line on which the House and the country will have to proceed. There should not be high prices in the case of locally-manufactured productions, but until we get back to normal freight conditions, it would he better if some of the oversea commodities, which are absolutely essential to us, were imported solely by the Government, rather than that private individuals should be allowed to make great profits out of them at the expense of the consumers and the public generally. This Parliament and the country must face this question, and the sooner we do it the better. We are not likely to get much assistance from the State Parliaments. Individuals at times grow tired of power, and give it up, but there has never yet been an instance of an organization or combination of interests relaxing its grasp of power unless it is absolutely kicked out. Until the public take up this question of the powers of the Commonwealth and States, the States will never do anything except squabble among themselves, and devise every conceivable scheme to keep the powers they have. We must remodel our Federal Constitution on the lines of the Constitution of Canada. That is the only type of Federation that can be worked under the British connexion.
– Could that be done by any amendment of the Constitution as it stands, or would it be necessary to recast the whole position ?
Me. ARCHIBALD. - I think it would be quite possible, by means of two or three carefully-drafted amendments-, hut the quickest and most effective way would be a Convention on the same lines as the one which built up our present Constitution. A Constitution like outs, which is simply a “ pup “ of the American Constitution, can be worked on. a Republican principle such as obtains in America; but it is utterly impossible to do it under the connexion with the British Crown, and as T am strongly in. favour of the British connexion, and the last man to think of having anything else, I consider that out best way is to set about putting our own house in order so that our Constitution will be able to work as smoothly as does that of South Africa or Canada.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has shown a great amount of industry and taken a great deal of in terest in connexion with banking returns, but I would respectfully call his attention to a phase of the question which he appears to overlook. He pays too much attention to’ bankers simply as custodians of money, and loses sight of the fact that they are also dealers in credit. After we instituted the Australian. Note issue, there was a strong feeling, both outside and inside the House, expressed here by Sir William Irvine and others, that we were increasing the issue out of proportion to the gold reserve, and beyond the point of safety. . There was some talk about the danger of a collapse, although fears of that kind were never well-founded. One of the reasons for the present high prices is the tremendous amount of paper money in circulation all over the world, and the appreciation of gold. A number of professors are wandering about, both here and in other countries, offering quack remedies and nostrums, but all their spouting on tubs cannot do- away with the inevitable working of the economic laws which govern currency. “We cannot get away from Gresham’s law, the effects of which we are now realizing. Of course, the amount of paper money in circulation in Australia is a mere bagatelle, -and I am not referring to it at all, nor questioning, the undoubted safety and soundness of our. present currency ; but in England, and all the Allied countries, there is a perfect deluge of paper money in existence, and the fact that the exchange value of the English sovereign in New York was 17s. 6d. last week indicates that Gresham’s law is in operation. I do not know what the exchange value of the English sovereign in New York is to-day. I hope it has improved; but it is more likely to have gone down to 17s., and that result is only the logical effect of the quantity of. paper money that is in circulation. I am giving, not the views of political quacks and mountebanks, but of shrewd men who- understand the financial position of the world. The position is serious, although I do not say it cannot be got over: It requires careful, calm, and dispassionate review, and no man who- occupies a seat in the Australian Parliament should deliberately inflame the minds of the people outside on the question. Seeing that the people are already suffering enough from high prices, members who address them should at least tell them the truth, and not make statements which are a long way from it. It has been suggested that Europe and even Australia will have to live on credit. If that means anything, it means that we shall have practically to live on the production of Australia, both primary and secondary, before it is actually available, by means of bills of credit and so forth. I do not say that such a. thing could not be done. It can be done, and I believe it will be done; but when a proposal of that kind is seriously put forward as a means of carrying the community through the present troubled times, it is no occasion for political mountebanks to wander about and. inflame- the public mind merely to make party capital for- their own personal ends. . Men who do . that are nothing but a. gang of place-hunters who want power, and care absolutely nothing for the true interests of the country. I do not propose to say any more on the subject of profiteering, but it is a problem that must be, and I believe will be, faced. But we shall face it more effectively if we -deal with the matter honestly, and give the outside public the facts of the case.
I wish to deal with one matter in. connexion, with the administration of. the Trade and Customs Department. A great amount of irritation can be caused through the Government interfering with matters that do not concern them at all. In South Australia, there is strong feeling on account of the action of the Trade and Customs Department in suppressing the sale of the Mattei remedies. Those remedies have been in use in South Australia for a number of years, and many people believe that they have derived much good from them. The agent for them was Mr. Wendt, a prominent jeweller in Adelaide. The old gentleman did not seek to make any profit out of the sale of these remedies; he distributed them as a work of love, and on his death he bequeathed the agency to his son, through whom the people have been able to get the remedies without having to pay any handling cost or middleman’s profit. Experts discovered that certain so-called remedies are injurious, and the Customs Act was amended to enable their importation! to be prohibited. If there are any so-called remedies which are “ injurious, suppress them by all means, and put in gaol those who deal in them. Prison is the proper place for persons who dishonestly make money out of the ailments of their neighbours. The Customs Department obtained the formula of the Mattei remedies, and experts pronounced that they contained nothing that would give any benefit to those who used them. They did not discover that the remedies contained any ingredients that would be injurious to the human system. If patent medicines are doing no harm, why should the Government interfere with their sale? One. of the Mattei remedies contains three or four ingredients which the Government experts say will do nobody any good.. How do they know that? Medical experts profess to, know everything, but when .there is -an epidemic of disease in the community they show they know nothing at all. How can they say that certain ingredients mixed iri fixed proportions will not produce beneficial results? I, a layman, say it is impossible for a medical man to make any such positive declaration. In any case, though these patent medicines may not do much good by themselves, yet the people have faith in them, and that faith helps to effect a cure. Of the thousands of people in Melbourne and other cities who go to doctors only half are ill; the others merely fancy they are ill. To the latter a doctor gives a bottle of coloured water, and as they have faith in that prescription they consider themselves cured in a short time. The reputation of the medical profession is maintained by the fact that the doctors cure people who really have no ailments, and it is a profitablegame. In defending the distribution of the Mattei remedies, I have a right to ask why the Government should allow the medical profession to sell coloured water to people who merely fancy they are ill. Is not that fraud? I do not blame the medical profession very much; we mustall recognise human nature, and it would be contrary to human nature to refuse to sell to people something they fancy they need. A medical friend of mine said to me, “Why blame me? A patient comes to me and says he is ill. I know there is nothing the matter with him, but if I tell him so he goes to another doctor around the corner,” who says, ‘ You will be dead in a week if you do not take my prescription.’ “
– Does the honorable member include the whole of the medical profession in that description?
– Yes. Even a doctor on the higher rungs of the profession, who charges £10 10s. for an interview, will not tell a patient that there is nothing the matter with him if by so doing he will jeopardize the’ substantial income he is getting from that patient’s family. ‘
– I shall have to introduce the honorable member to my medical adviser. From him he will get good treatment.
– I am not referring to doctors in their treatment of serious illness. I should be sorry if my reflections were applied to all members of the medical profession in all circumstances. I divide the medical profession into three classes. One-third of the doctors and surgeons ought to be gaoled for getting money under false pretences; others know a little and do small harm; the remainder of the profession are really able men, who can tell by the look of a patient what is the matter with him. They have an instinct for the profession, and .without that instinct no man can be a good physician. I ask -the Government to allow the Mattei remedies to be distributed in South Australia. One man has told me that they have done him a great amount of good. I said that 1 did not think they had done him much good; except in so far as he believed they had. He insisted that the remedies themselves had actually been efficacious. By” a little ingenuity he was able to get a supply of these remedies from Italy, but the Customs Department seized them, and will not release them. This Parliament has a right to say that no man shall take advantage of the ailments or the credulity of his neighbours, but when there is a- demand for a patent medicine which the authorities cannot prove to be in any way injurious, this Parliament is going outside its province in prohibiting the distribution of it.
Honorable members may think that I am treating this subject in a spirit of levity, but I remind them of the history of “ the Peculiar People,” a sect who were, common in London in the sixties. They comprised mostly engine-drivers, firemen, and other employees of” the Great Eastern Railway. They, did not believe in employing the services of a doctor at all ; they were harmless, honest, Christian people who followed literally the teaching of the Old Book,, that the Lord will restore those who have faith. The Peculiar People practised that faith, and official returns showed that they were the most healthy community in the East end of London, but they fell foul of the Government through not calling in medical aid in cases of illness amongst infants. I recollect several prosecutions at. the Old Bailey in the. early sixties on charges of manslaughter, because children had died without having received medical attention. The last of these cases was tried before Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, who stopped the proceedings and asked that the elders of the sect should see him in his room. There he told them that whilst the law did not desire to interfere with their faith, they must employ the services of a doctor in cases of illness amongst children. On their giving that promise, the accused person was liberated on bail, and from that date no further prosecutions have taken place. In the old files of the London Daily Telegraph honorable members may read articles written, on this subject by the late George Augustus Sala, and they show a record of a community of working people noted for their simple and blameless lives, and who were healthier than any other section of the East End population. Therefore, len no honorable member tell me that there is no power in faith to cure ailments. How far faith will cure in other cases I cannot say; I merely mention what happened in connexion with one sect who practised faith-healing. This Parliament has no right to prevent any person using so-called remedies unless they can be proved to be injurious. I again ask the Government to remove the prohibition on the sale of the Mattei remedies
– With much that was said by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat I absolutely agree. I would not contradict anybody who stated that Mrs. Eddy, the Christian Scientist, has done more good in curing illness than has any body of medical men in the world.
I desire, without heat, to continue my remarks on a matter with which I was dealing last evening. I was unable to state then what had been the loss on the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. Honorable members on both sides have contradicted my statements. In justice to myself, I have obtained authentic information for the year 1917-18, and it shows that the .loss was £1,309. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), in dealing with this matter, excluded wages, which could hardly be done in connexion with any business concern. It would be very easy to conduct a restaurant in Melbourne and give good food and attention if ‘the proprietor had not to pay wages. Therefore I think the statement made by the honorable member may be reviewed from different points of view. I understand that no rent is paid,- and nothing for lighting, though T believe a certain amount is allowed for firing. Further, no expense is incurred for cutlery, except in the way of replacements, or for linen, crockery, or glassware. If honorable members desire a club, which they sometimes are accused of enjoying here, let them contribute to. its upkeep. It has been thought by some that I objected to paying the prices asked in the Refreshment Rooms ; hut that I have never done. I have objected, however, to a difference being made between the price asked from a member for meals and the price charged in the case of others who are ‘permitted to use the Refreshment Rooms. People outside, perhaps more than we do, regard it as an honour to dine in Parliament House; and I am sure that no. honorable, member would object if a little extra were charged in the case of visitors.- I have not the figures for this year, because the accounts have not been audited up to 30th June. There may be great loss .experienced in the event of the Houses suddenly adjourning, and no one remaining to partake of the meals; and I suggest that the proper method, under the circumstances, would be either to donate the food to some charitable institution, or enter into a contract with a city caterer who could make use of it. Personally, I should like to see the experiment tried of permitting the Refreshment Rooms staff, who have been here for some years, and are all steady, reliable men, to form a small co-operative company amongst themselves to carry out the necessary catering. If that were done, this little com-pany could also have a restaurant in the city, where any waste, such as that I have referred to, could be absorbed. I wish to emphasize that honorable members pay full value for what they receive in the Refreshment Rooms; and it is an absolutely false idea, which is entertained widely outside, that we have here a nice little club, where we can eat and drink what we desire.
I believe that some 700,000 men offered their military services to Australia ; and I notice from the records that the percentage refused was larger than the percentage accepted. This, of course, would become accentuated as we approached the end of the war, and oik younger men. were going away. Of the 700,000 men who offered, some 430,000 were accepted. These figures show that at least 70 per cent, of our available mcn of military age offered their services. We have been told by the Prime Minister (Mi-. Hughes) that of our war expenditure of £350,000,000, we may possibly receive £50,000,000 by way of indemnity. Before . the war the wealth of Australia was estimated at £1,200,000,000, and since the war we have been told by our Statist and other authorities that the wealth has more than doubled. We may- take the cost of the war at £400,000,000, and the present ‘wealth of Australia at not less than £1,600,000,000. Honorable members, of course, will recognise that that estimate is only approximate; but could even the wealthiest combine of capitalists in the world, headed by Rockefeller, with his £200,000,000, hope to purchase Australia for even double the present valuation t As a matter of fact, we, as a people, would not -permit it. If we allow 33 pel cent, on the £1,600,000,000, we have £520,000,000. That, I recognise, is a very large ‘amount; so we may allow 25 per cent., representing £400,000,000, which would pay every penny of the debt incurred for the war, and afford substantial. relief to every man, woman, and child who, at the -present time, are in some cases being unfairly taxed.
We must all agree that the -soldiers, in their interview with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) yesterday, “hit the nail on the head”; and I am glad to observe that the honorable gentleman, in regard to the hand-weaving of Anzac tweeds, gave the. men an answer that would have been given long ago in. this House if the common-sense ability of the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) had been at the disposal of the Department. “We all know that many of our returned men ane not getting a fair chance.. Some, blessed with good luck - or, shall I say, influence - can obtain loans from the Repatriation Department, where others with fair claims, who have done good , work, and earned equal honour, are refused. One decent fellow who required £25 for furniture was, after a few weeks’ delay, absolutely denied, and another man - one of the finest physically I ever examined - was refused £150, which he desired to devote to the purchase of a fishing boat, in order to supply food that is at present sadly needed in Melbourne.
Under these circumstances, I ‘ have thought out a plan, which I shall probably bring before the House in the form of a motion at an early date. If this sugges- tion of mine were adopted we could supply a home,, for every returned soldier without the possibility of the Government losing 10 per cent, of the money advanced. The Government would- hold the whole of the security in their hand’s, and would be able to follow the good example of New South Wales, where, two years ago, I learned that there were 900 war widows who have had no fear of the landlord’s knock. In Victoria, which approximates most nearly to New South Wales in the matter of population,, there was only one widow so happily circumstanced, and she had been provided for, at Brunswick, by the kindly contributions of kindly individuals. The motion, of which I shall probably give notice next week, is in the following terms: -
That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that every returned soldier, sailor, or nurse, who has fought in the fighting line, and who is married, or about to be married, or the widow of those who paid the supreme sacrifice of death, shall be entitled to the use of a house for a rental of ls. per month during the lifetime of such husband or wife, or, in the case of their death leaving children, until the youngest child shall reach 16 years of age.
That such Anzac welcome homes shall be built, where possible, in healthy garden suburbs, where high position, healthy surroundings, and cheap, reasonably-priced land can be obtained, and, where needed (and- electricity isobtainable), tram lines to be laid down.
That in order to prevent exploitation, the Commonwealth Government enact that compulsory purchase shall be made law on the basis of the land tax valuation of the State and Commonwealth, or either of them, with costs for disturbance to the owners.
That on the death of the husband and wife, without leaving children, or where orphans are left, on the youngest reaching 16- years, such Anzac home shall be let or sold, and the assets used- to liquidate the Anzac Home Advance Fund. (,5) That all Anzac homes he of varied standardized plans, varying in- size with number of children.
That, in order to finance the Anzac homes, the Federal Government be empowered’ to issue notes, eaT-marked as the Anzac Homes Currency Notes, guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government, by the value of the land and houses, and also by the increased future value known as the unearned increment. That these notes be issued and legalized as currency without interest, and issued as required, and that when any assets were returned* by rents or sales, &c, the value of such asset should be cancelled in Anzac Home Currency Notes of equal value in order that in the course of time, assisted by the yearly contribution of State and Commonwealth Governments, the whole issue would be desroyed, but the homes would remain as a permanent asset.
In my early days I thought that if we could eliminate the landlord, fairly and justly, it would be a benefit to the community; and in the case of a number of houses of which I was the nominal owner - barring a few “blisters” - I made the tenants their own owners much to their present satisfaction. I also have the happiness to enjoy the good feeling of these people for what I then did. In support of the suggestion made in the motion I have just read, I should like to give a concrete example, which, but for the ability and energy of an American author, would have been lost to the world. I allude to the building of the Guernsey market by means of the issue of currency scrip. In the early days of last century, when money could not be borrowed in London so easily as just prior to the war, the Guernsey people desired to raise capital for the building of their market. At Guernsey, at the time, there was a very able Governor, who suggested that, as the people had amongst them brickmakers, carpenters, stonemasons, and other tradesmen, they should set to work and build the markets themselves. This wise suggestion bore fruit, and in the course <of three or four years the people decided to issue currency scrip for, I .believe, £10,000. This scrip the shopkeepers and citizens agreed to accept in currency, and a very ingenious and able scheme was involved. I ought also to mention that the hew municipality agreed to accept the scrip in payment of rates and taxes. The markets were built, and immediately every stall was rented, no stalls being allowed in the narrow streets of Guernsey. As the rents were paid for the stalls each year, scrip to that amount was burnt, the occasion being observed as a holiday. As time went on the whole of the scrip was destroyed, and the citizens found themselves in possession of a building for ever, which yielded them some £500 a year.
In the State Parliament, the present Mr. Justice Higgins, when a member, had a return prepared, which showed that Victoria had borrowed some £50,000,000, and had paid back something over £53,000,000 in interest and a small portion of the capital’; but the State still owed about £50,000^000. Had the State Government, in the building of their railways, adopted a plan similar to ‘that carried -out in Guernsey, the railways of the State would now be free of ‘debt. “We all know that the great trouble with the railways is the immense amount of interest they have to earn ; and this, I think, emphasizes the value of the suggestion I am making. If such a plan were adopted under our present circumstances, the Government, in providing for out returned soldiers, could not possibly lose any money, for, as I have already said, they would hold as security every house and every acre devoted to that purpose. In addition -to that, “ there would be the increased values of the future, and we all -know how values have gone up. The Government would also have the knowledge that they were freeing a large number of homes for our citizens. Landlords, after all, are like other business med. When there are ten. persons after the ‘one house, ‘up goes the rent. I have met only one man who was prepared not to raise the rents for his houses during ‘the war period. He was a Jewish gentleman, and when I approached him on the subject, he asked me whether I thought a return of 6 per cent, on his capital was too much to expect ? I replied that I did not think it was. ‘He claimed that that was all he was receiving., but when I told him that I was speaking on behalf of something like fifty tenants, and urged him not to put up his rentals, he ultimately agreed not to do so. He inquired, however, why it should have been necessary for me, as a’ member of Parliament, to make this request? “Why,” he asked, “ does not the Government insist that no rents shall be raised during war time?”
There I leave the matter. Whether a general election takes place almost immediately or not for some months hence, I shall remain true to the pledge I gave at the last general election, that neither by word of mouth nor by a -vote would I do anything to impose upon the workers of this country the burden of the war loans and interest thereon. They should not be called upon to meet our huge war indebtedness. We are here for only a brief span,on this rock, whirling through space, which we call the earth, but -the earth itself will be here for all. time. Mr. Hugh Mahon, when representing Kalgoorlie in ‘this House, once submitted a motion that all war debts and interest thereon should be provided for by a special tax on the land. I agree with that proposition. The land will be here when we are but dust and ashes, and it> should provide for our war expenditure. If the’ wealth of Australia to-day is £1,600,000,000, who will say that twenty years hence it will not be £5,000,000,000, I have given brief expression to my views on this subject, and I hope that some one will be able to evolve an even better scheme.
.- I have listened with much interest to the speeches made during this debate, and’ particularly to the remarks made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), regarding the high cost of living, which he showed to be due. to a certain extent to our inflated paper currency. In every European country -there is an inflated paper currency at the present time, and in this respect we are the least offenders. It cannot be denied that the prices of commodities are the highest where the greatest amount of paper currency is in circulation. If we desire to reduce the cost of living, we should deal with the question of the* circulation of paper money. If we could devise some means of paying off our notes - we might even fund them - I think we should remove one of the causes for the great increase in prices. In 1914, when our population was practically what it is today, our note circulation amounted to £6,589,798. When the note issue was in the hands of the - private banks, which had a gold backing, our paper circulation was about £4,000,000. but when the Commonwealth printing; press got to work, the paper currency used by the same people as’ before increased to a large extent. The notes in circulation jumped from £6,589,798 in 1914 to £19,000,000 in February last, and whereas the banks held £7,000,000 of notes in 1914, they were holding in February last £37,000,000 in notes. Prior to the Commonwealth .note issue we had a gold currency, and any surplus gold was exported as an ordinary commercial commodity. Since then, owing to the war and other causes, the Government have taken possession of practically the whole of our gold, and have substituted for it a paper currency, with the result that a great number of our, banks to-day have only paper instead of gold reserves, and in clearing, settle in paper instead of gold. They are able, therefore, to extend credits on their paper backing. In . these circumstances a bank . is prepared to extend its credit to five times the amount of its reserves in gold. It is thus made possible for people to obtain accommodation from the banks against, not a gold, but a paper, currency. That may be all very well from the point ‘ of view of the convenience of trade, but it has a serious effect upon the Commonwealth.
In a leading article published recently . in the Melbourne Herald, it was stated that the trade balance against Great Britain was £800,000,000, and that the rate of exchange against the Empire was something like 15 per cent. Let us follow up that point, and see to what extent this high rate of exchange against the Empire affects the cost of living. It means that when we export to the United States of America £100 worth of wool we receive in return only £85 worth of commodities. In other words, the consumers have to pay, not only the duty on the commodities we import, but the 15 per cent, against us in respect of the exchange rate, because the trade balance is against us. This is due to the fact that we have lost our gold currency and have substituted for it a paper currency. When these commodities, valued at £85, but- for which we have paid £100, reach Australia, the people compete for them with paper money, with the result’ that prices go up more than ever. The paper currency permits of this increased competition. In this way prices have gone up to the extent of 50 per cent. The sooner we tackle this question, not only in Australia, but throughout the Empire, the better for our people. The sooner we revert to a gold currency the better it will be for Australia.
– But does the honorable member suggest that the paper currency is responsible for the high price of meat?
– It is not wholly, but partly, responsible for the increase in prices. When we give the people of Australia, in place of the gold and paper currency of £”6,000,000, which was quit3 sufficient for their purposes a few years ago, a paper currency of £45,000,000, this increased paper currency must necessarily mean increased, competition for goods.
– Most countries have a large paper currency, and had it before the war.
– But the paper currency has enormously increased since the outbreak of the war.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that a gold currency of £6,000,000 would be sufficient tocover all the business transactions of Australia?
– It was sufficient before the Commonwealth took over the note issue.
– At that time, I think, we had a circulation of £10,000,0001
- Mr. Knibbs shows that in 1914, with a gold backing of only 40 per cent., we had a note circulation of only £6,000,000.
– When the note issue was controlled by the private banks the paper money in circulation was much loss for the reason that the bank notes issued in any one State were subject to a discount of from 5 per cent. to 10 per cent. in any other State. On the other hand,
One can get the full face value of a Commonwealth note in any part of Australia.
– Iadmit that when a note circulation of only £4,000,000 was sufficient for our purposes we had gold as well as notes in circulation, whereas today we have only paper in circulation. I hope the whole question of the note issue and its bearing on the high cost of living will be tackled at an early date.
Regarding the question of immigration, let me say at once that it should receive the early and serious consideration of the Government. While our boys were at the. Front they proved the very best immigration agents we could have had. They spoke of the attractions that Australia held out; and while the iron is hot, I think the Government should send some of our returned soldiers to America, Great Britain, France and other Allied countries to address associations of ex-soldiers of those countries and endeavour to induce the best of them to emigrate to Australia. We have a huge continent, as big as Europe, with only 5,000,000 people in it, and every immigrant we get will help to share the burden of debt which is now crushing us down.
– Let us provide employment in new industries and we shall soon get the people here.
– There are plenty of avenues of employment in rural work;: in fact, the country districts are being kept back through the scarcity of labour.
– Then, how is it that the Repatriation Department is spending over. £1,000,000 in sustenance money? Why does it not find work for returned men instead of paying them sustenance money ?
– The mistake has been made in building up huge cities. Moat of the returned men who cannot find employment are city workers, and. the sooner we develop our country districts and make them more attractive, the better it will be for Australia. In New South Wales, there is a great demand for labour in. country districts, but people will not leave the - cities, to which they have become accustomed.
– Will the honorable member guarantee to find employment for twenty men in his electorate?
– Yes-; and in the honorable member’s electorate also.
– Then to-morrow I shall take the honorable member at his word.
– But I want them to be rural workers.
The only way in, which we can get out, of our debt of £350,000,000 is to increase production as much as possible. Yesterday I was pleased to hear several honorable members representing country districts ask the Government to remove the prohibition on. the export of. horseflesh. Some weeks ago, in: response to a request by pastoralists of New South Wales, I submitted the same question to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and I am pleased that the horses are having- a good gallop in this Committee.
– You cannot raise a” virile population on horseflesh.
– I do not ask the honorable member to eat it. I simply suggest that we should be- permitted to send horseflesh to countries where there is -a demand for it. Icannot follow the argument of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford.) that the exportation of horseflesh f romAustralia would destroy our beef trade. We export beef, mutton, pork, and rabbits; and a man who gets beef does not mistake it for pork or rabbit. Why should horseflesh be mistaken for beef, mutton, or rabbit ? Surely it can be easily distinguished. The exportation of, horseflesh would be one means of enabling us to decrease our great liability. According to Mr. Knibbs, there were 2,437,000 horses in Australia in 1916. Horses are useful until they are twelve years of age, after which they gradually decline so far as usefulness to man is concerned. Thus 8½ per cent., or 204,000, of our horses are put out of use each year, but these are mostly animals useful for fattening. If each horse should realize £12, it would mean £2,448,000 additional income derived by the people of Australia through the sale of horseflesh.
– Does it not sound lovely?
– There is a great demand in Europe for horseflesh. The Imperial authorities sold 17,000 of their aged and crippled horses on the Western Front to French butchers. If the people of Europe want horseflesh, and we can supply it, we ought to be able to send it to them.
– They would rather have beef.
– The honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) told us yesterday that the German prisoners in England went on strike because they were fed on beef instead of getting their allowance of horseflesh. In 1915, Australia exported 24,107 horses, valued at £459,978, an average of about £19 per head. Those were mostly horses suitable for coaches and gun teams, and the greater part of them were sent to India.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the horses should be slaughtered in Australia?
– There would be no other means of dealing with them. They would be slaughtered here and sent away as horseflesh.
– There is not sufficient shipping.
– We will not always be in the same position in regard to shipping. Normal conditions will soon be established, and then we ought to be able to send away horseflesh just as we send away other flesh. Before the introduction of motor cars, motor lorries, and railways, we had to depend upon horses for means of communication ; but every year now we find motor vehicles and railroads displacing these animals, and motor tractors replacing plough horses on farms. In future, the plough horse will be almost a thing of the past; and the question will be to what use our horses can be put. It is far easier to fatten a horse than to fatten a bullock. If a backward store bullock and a comparatively poor horse are put into a good paddock, the horse will be prime fat in two months, whereas it will take a year to fatten the bullock.. Each year a number of horses become crippled, or are put out of use from other causes. In times of drought they are shot. There is, at the present time, one of the worst droughts on record. Many teamsters and others have been spending every penny they possess in order to keep their horses in good condition; but now they have come to the limit of their means, and have been obliged to sacrifice their teams. By compelling the owners of these teams to slaughter their animals and bury them, Australia is losing wealth that otherwise might be a benefit to the community if the Government would only permit the export of horseflesh. In the far-back areas of some of the States there are a lot of brumbies running wild. Mr. Kidman stated in Sydney the other day that he is sending men out to shoot 2,000 of them, because they are a menace to his properties. I noticed the other day that the Police Department of New South Wales sold splendid horses in the township of Carcoar, about 8 miles from where I live, for as low as 5s. per head. I also noticed that a teamster in the township of Rockleigh, in the district of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls), sold sixty splendid draught horses in good condition for £5 per head, because he could not afford to buy fodder for them. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) knows as well as I do that many people have turned their horses out, and that many others have died on their hands simply for the want of food, owing to the drought. If we had had a market for those horses before the drought reached the ‘ stage that it afterwards reached, they could all have been put to some commercial use.
I was pleased to hear that the Government had decided to make a payment on account of the Wheat Pools. I cannot stress too emphaticallythe importance of the Government considering the present condition of the wheat-growers of Australia. The figures of production for the 1918-19 Pool are: New South “Wales, 13,801,000 bushels; Victoria, 22,918,000 bushels; South Australia, 20,563,000 bushels; Western Australia, 7,341,000 bushels, or a total production of 64,623,000 bushels, a tremendous reduction on previous years. The local consumption of wheat in Australia, at 6 bushels per capita, amounts, roughly, to 30,000,000 bushels. I cannot understand why the Government do not fix the price of wheat to the local millers on the parity of the price ruling abroad. Why should the millers be allowed to obtain wheat at 5s. per bushel, whereas the parity abroad, the f.o.b. price, is 8s. 6d. ? The millers .and local consumers should pay the full oversea parity for whatever wheat they consume.
– Eight shillings arid sixpence?
– If it is 8s. 6d., they “ should pay 8s. 6d. The producers of Australia should receive the uttermost farthing for their production.
– You have to pay freight before you get that 8s. 6d. That is a monstrous proposition.
– In the United States of America the guaranteed price was 9s. 2d. per bushel.
– Or ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I intend to direct my remarks to the Department of the Postmaster-General. I hoped he would be present, so that some notice might be taken of the grievances which I intend to relate. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) referred to grievances similar to, what occur in my electorate. The hours at various telephone offices have been considerably reduced, very much to the inconvenience Of the residents. This is the class of treatment meted out to them : -
Sir, - I have to intimate that, as it is considered that public requirements will he adequately met if the hours of attendance at the telephone office are fixed at three per diem, namely, from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday to Saturday, arrangements have been made accordingly, to take effect on and from the 22nd September, 1010.
That is the letter I received from the Deputy Postmaster-General for New South Wales. A similar reduction of hours has taken place in seventy odd telephone offices in the electorate of Macquarie. Three hours per day for the telephone is positively useless to the great bulk of country residents. The worker cannot use the telephone between 9 a.m. and noon, because he has to work from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. The man working on the. land is usually busy from 6 in the morning till 6 at night, and it is not possible for him to leave his work to send a telephone message, so he has to let many important matters go in consequence. A farmer may be working 2 miles away from the post-office, and it is unreasonable to expect him to leave his work at 11 in the morning to telephone a firm about bags or other requirements before 12 noon. I admit, in fairness to the ‘PostmasterGeneral, that regulations have been made whereby any person can send a telephone message after the fixed hours by paying a sum of, I think, 2s. 6d. for the first hour, . and an increased rate after that time. That extra charge goes to the postal attendant, and none of it goes into the funds of the Postal Department. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) distinctly said this morning that the hours of country telephone services have been reduced in order to give the attendants at the various offices an increase in pay. His idea, therefore, is that if you reduce the hours of a servant you increase his pay! When the question of sweating was mentioned, the Minister said he was not sweating his employees, because he had reduced their hours from six and seven to three.
– Are they able to go away?
– No. Many of these officials work three hours per day for the Postmaster-General for an allowance of about 5s. per week, and the PostmasterGeneral says that is not sweating. He makes out that he is lenient to them, but they cannot take on any other positions, because they cannot fulfil their hours at other occupations. They have taken the telephone office on as a sideline, more for the convenience of the Postmaster-General and the public than for their own benefit and prosperity. The Postmaster-General knows that many of these country postal attendants are on the verge of making an application for an increase iri pay, and, in order to forestall them, he says, “ I will reduce the hours.” Petition after petition has been forwarded to him, protesting against the reduction in the hours, but, his Department simply replies that under no circumstances can the conditions be. altered, because there is not sufficient revenue coming from the particular offices concerned towarrant the PostmasterGeneral in keeping them open for longer periods. I have written the PostmasterGeneral repeatedly on the. matter, and have not received a. satisfactory reply in a single instance. On each and every occasion he has said that owing, to the falling off of postal business in that locality the hours must be. reduced. I. do not altogether blame him for. this-, because, in the majority of. cases, he does. not. know the conditions which exist in those districts.. The alterations are made on the recommendation of. the district postal inspector. He receives a report from somebody, but who that is
I do not know, ‘and then forwards his. recommendation to the. Deputy Postmaster.General, who decides on that recommendation to reduce the hours.. I had’ hoped the; Postmaster-General would make an. explanation on the question. This is by. no means a trifling grievance. It affects practically every country resident, and bitter complaints are being made daily about the methods adopted by the PostmasterGeneral’s ‘Department:
The Minister or his Deputies have also been advised that owing to drought conditions it is scarcely possible for many country mail contractors to fulfil their contracts: The DeputyPostmaster-General in New South Wales said that owing to the existing conditions he intended to make some allowance for fodder, and so forth-, but, nothing definite has. yet been done in that direction, despite the fact that the mail contractors have had to face a rise in the: price of chaff from £4 to £14 per. ton in. many districts.. Corn. has. increased in price from 4s. 6d. to 9s. per bushel, and many mail contractors are. on the verge of, throwing up their contracts; and allowing the Postmaster-General.or his Deputy to run the job themselves, if they so desire..
– They. are. paying11s. per bag for chaff in my district.
– The price in my district runs from 10s. 6d. to11s. 6d. It is not possible for the average contractor to complete his contract under those conditions.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I ask for a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– When criticism is directed against the administration of any Department the Minister controlling it. should be in the House. On several occasions whenI have dealt with matters concerning the postal administration the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster)has been absent. The complaints I make are not imaginary or trivial grievances, and the least that can be expected of the PostmasterGeneral is that he shall attend in his place and listen to honorable members with a view to rectifying any wrong. Today the postal service in the country is much inferior to that in the. cities; and. I have every reason to believe that the Minister’s own electorate receives far more consideration than do many other country electorates.
– That ought not to. be.
– It ought not to be, but it. is so. The Minister has introduced a system of economy-, either false or; real, which is causing inconvenience and hardship to many country residents: The reduction in the. hours of. post-offices and country telephone exchanges is not desired’ by the officials in those offices, because such reduction means lower wages. If the Postmaster-General had, in his desire to assist the employees, given an increase in. salaries and a smaller reduction of hours no complaint would have been made. I have pointed out previously that, in many country districts the men employed on the land cannot leave their work early in. order to go to a post-office and get in touch with the business people, and the result is that on many occasions- they are unable to place orders which are of greatimportance to them. If the- new system affected only a; few people no great exception could be taken to it, becauseI recognise that it would be hard to maintain elaborate postal facilities in every hole and corner of, Australia. But the majority of the places from which serious complaints’ come have fairly large populations, the’ bulk of whom are primary producers.. They are just as much entitled to consideration as are the city merchants. Upon no consideration, would the Post- master-Gen eTal attempt to curtail the city postal and telephonic ‘conveniences to the extent that he has done in the country. The reduction in “the hours of country offices is a grave public scandal. For the last twelve months complaints have been made regarding the matter, but despite repeated applications to the Postal Department no satisfaction has been given; .the only answer of the Postmaster-General has been .that it is necessary for him to economize in his Department. Economy is being effected at the .expense and inconvenience of the .country producers. I am certain that all honorable members agree “that the country telephonic and telegraphic facilities are inadequate, and that the Postmaster-General ought .to .extend them, in order to enable country people to conduct their business in the regular and convenient fashion.
Some considerable time ago I asked in .the House whether the Government would consider -the .advisability of increasing the old-age pension. The reply 2. received was that on account of serious financial obligations the Government could not see ‘their way clear ito grant such an increase. The consequence is that the old-age pensioner is still obliged to live upon :a paltry pittance. The original pension was 10s. per week, which, on account of the high cost of living and other altered conditions, was increased about three or four years ago to 12s. 6d. per week. If the pensioner was entitled to that increase three years ago he is certainly entitled to another increase of 5s. at the present time. I have prepared a list of the necessary commodities that the pensioner can purchase with his allowance of 12s. 6d. per week, and I feel sure that it is applicable to nine out of ten cases. The first outgoing which he has to meet, if he does not live in a tent, is rent, for which I have allowed 2s. 6d. as a minimum.
– Pensioners cannot get accommodation for 2s. 6d. per week.
– Those who are wholly dependent upon their pensions cannot pay more. For meat I have allowed 3s. 9d. per week, bread ls., sugar 7d., tea 9d., tobacco ls., newspaper 6d., fuel 2s. Those items total 12s. Id. per week. No honorable member will deny that those are bare necessities. No pensioner should be expected to live within those limits of expenditure, but that is as far as the pension will enable Trim to go. With an additional 5s. per week the pensioners could buy only -vegetables, clothes, and blankets. They -could not afford to pay more than 2s. for vegetables and another 2s. ‘for blankets and clothes. Consequently even with a pension of 5s. they -would be in pitiable circumstances. If the Government can recklessly spend money - and nobody can deny that that has been done - they ought to be able to give to these old people who have “blazed the track “ the means of reasonably comfortable living. Many of the old people who to-day are receiving 12s. 6d. per week are justly entitled to considerably more for-the labour they performed in the early days of Australia. I have -visited many of these old people and noted ‘the conditions under which they live. No honorable member would care to see his -relatives living under the -same conditions.
– Do not ‘their relatives do anything for them ?
– Many of them have no -relatives to whom they can look for assistance; they are wholly dependentupon the amount the Commonwealth pays them.
– In any case, the relatives may be in poor circumstances.
– Very often that is the case. It is the” -duty of the Government to protect as far as possible those old men and women who have pioneered this country. The 10s. per week paid when the pensions were first instituted was more beneficial than £1 at the present time, in view of the decreased purchasing power of money. It may be said by some that these old people should utilize their energies and time in gardening, and so forth.
– They cannot get land enough .
– That is so. Then, again, if any -old-age pensioner happens to get a job at 21s. or 22s. a week his pension is stopped. I have known repeated cases of old ladies drawing a pension for four or five years, and it then being discovered that their husbands, up to the last twelve months of the period, had been earning £2 or £1 10s. per “week. When the husband himself applied for a pension it was in many cases granted, but the amount overdrawn by his wife was deducted. There are many cases of pensioners living on 18s. or 19s. a fortnight, simply because of an error of this kind made in the early stages. I hope the claims of the old-age pensioners will receive more careful consideration than in the past.
I should now like to refer briefly to the pensions being- meted out to our returned soldiers. In many cases these pensions are satisfactory, but in others much hardship is involved. If a man returns from the Front minus a leg or an arm, he really is totally incapacitated, because he would find it impossible to compete with the average worker on the labour market. The pension allowed to a single man for an injury of this kind is 22s. 6d. per week, which is totally inadequate to maintain him. Of course,’ if he is a married man a certain allowance is made for his wife and each of his children; but the single man is certainly not compensated for the hardships that he has undergone. Such men ought to be given sufficient to maintain them in common decency, and I hope their case “will receive more favorable consideration.
– I have listened with great interest to the. discussion, from which I gather that the great desire of honorable members is to insure the ‘prosperity of Australia. Prosperity, in my opinion, can only be created by a thorough organization of our methods of production, and it is my intention this afternoon to suggest to the Government that they should deal Avith a question which will have to be’ dealt with at an early stage if we are to progress as we desire. I refer to the provision of better means of communication with the Old World by cable, or, preferably, by wireless. This is a subject to whicli 1 have given much attention, and I have arrived at the opinion that we could encourage commerce and create trade within our shores if we had better and cheaper means of communication.That we have not proper means at the present time was clearly demonstrated during the recent terrible war, when we found our cables very much congested, and business consequently considerably hampered. It was impossible to communicate with any promptitude with those people abroad who are desirous of obtaining our products. The three cables over which all our messages must go are quite inadequate even in normal times such as we may expect. The splendid work done by our men at the Front, in protecting France, Belgium, and Australia, have given us an advertisement such as we never had before, and I am convinced that our population is going to increase and our commerce grow. We should be in no way hampered by inadequate means of communication, and no one can deny that the cable service, is now not only inadequate, but too costly. The charge for cable messages to the United Kingdom is 3s. a word; to France it is 3s. 6d. by the Pacific route, and 3s. by the Eastern; to Italy, by the Pacific, 3s. 9d., by the Eastern, 3s.; to Spain and Portugal, by the Pacific, 4s. 0½d., and 4s. Id., and by the Eastern, 3s.; to China, by the Pacific, 6s. lid., by the Eastern, 2s. 6d.; to Japan, by the Pacific, 7s. 4½d., by the Eastern, 3s. 8d.; to India, the Pacific offers no’ service, and the charge by the Eastern, the only route, is 2s. 6d. ; to Java, by the Pacific, 6s. 10d., by the Eastern, 2s. 6d.; to Egypt, bv the only route available, the charge is 3s. 5d. ; to South Africa, the lowest charge is 2s. 2d. ; to Canada, by the Pacific, 2s. 4d.; and to the United States of America, 2s. 4d. If by . any chance our line to Canada were to break down, there is only the costly United States route at 4s, The charge to South America is from 3s. ld. to 9s. 3½d. per word.
We have already worked up a big trade with many of these countries I have mentioned, particularly Java,- and that trade will go on increasing. The energetic people of Australia are intensely interested in the development of the eastern tinfields, and they have been well rewarded for their courage. -in undertaking the venture. With South America, again, better communication is necessary. It would ‘be invaluable to business people. We hope to build up a very big trade with China; but our means of communication with that country is not what it should be. It is of no use for us to send out Trade Commissioners to other countries if we are not able to assure business men that there is at their disposal an easy means of communication with those countries. The cost of procuring goods is charged to the consumer eventually, and the cost of our communication with the Old World adds materially ‘to our cost of living. In my opinion, the time has arrived when, by the appointment of a commission of experts, or some other means, steps should be taken by the Government to bring about the establish- ment of commercial wireless in Australia. Speaking from memory, I think that for the last ten years there ‘ has been communication established by a wireless system between Ireland and Canada, and there is now also a system working from Carnarvon, in Wales, to New Jersey, in the United States of America. The latter system is worked, not only with wireless apparatus, but is connected up with land lines, and it is possible now to send a telegraphic message from London to New York in the course of a few minutes. It is difficult to say what might have happened during the war had it not been for the existence of this splendid means of communication ‘between the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
We have practically no commercial wireless system established in Australia. Some honorable members may consider that the establishment of such a system is impracticable; but wireless telegraphy has long gone past the experimental stage. One of Marconi’s engineers has made a most wonderful discovery. He has found that what is known as static electricity, or the disturbance of the ether by lightning, operates vertically, whilst the current sent out by ether waves operates horizontally. This engineer has invented a most wonderful machine, now part of the wireless apparatus, which prevents the static electricity - the high potential lightning current - from interfering at any time with the electrical current generated and used for wireless telegraphy. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was in the Old Country, he was able to send a message to Australia traversing approximately 12,000 miles, by means of this wonderful system. Its development here would considerably reduce the cost of our communication with the Old World. It is difficult to estimate what it would mean to the business people of Australia, and to consumers in this country, if Ave could bring down the- cost of living by the adoption of scientific means of communication of this kind. In proof of what I am saying, I quote the following statement reported to have been made by Mr. Godfrey . Isaacs, managing director of the Marconi Company:-
Assuming a distance of 6,000 or 12,000 miles, and a traffic of 10,000 words a day, at the rate of 2s. a word, that would give the wireless a very handsome profit. So soon as possible the rate would be reduced to ls. 6d. a word, and he believed that the traffic would correspondingly increase, and/ would reach nearly 20,000 words a day. When it reached 40,000 words a day,, a ls. rate would be introduced, and when it reached SO.,000 words a day, a rate of 3d. per word would be charged, and would give the same receipts as the 2s. rate, and the 3d. rate would compare with the 3s. per word cable rate of to-day for such a volume of business.
That demonstrates the value of the adoption of this scientific means of communication. Are we in Australia going to stand still in this matter? I am not concerned as to who controls the wireless system; but surely the Government are not going to adopt a dog-in-the-manger policy. If they will not undertake this important work themselves, they should let some one else undertake it. I do not know how far the Marconi Company may be protected in their possession of the highly scientific machinery I have referred to; but they seem to have been the principal electrical engineers who had the courage to devote their time and money to experimenting with a view to making possible the efficient wireless communication to which I, have referred. I can quite understand that the Commonwealth Government could not afford to go in for such elaborate experiments as the Marconi Company have undertaken. In the first place, the Government have not ‘ at their disposal the necessary highly qualified engineers, whilst at the head of the Marconi Company there is the inventor of the wireless system, or the man who put to practical use the discovery made by another very brilliant man. many years ago, and made it possible to have communication on land and sea without metallic connexion. I ask the Government to give this matter their earnest consideration. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) reminds me that it is desired to .finish the consideration of the Bill this afternoon, and I shall, therefore, be very brief in what I have to say. .
– I do not think that the Minister has the slightest hope of being able to do so.
– This is the third day on which the- Bill has been under consideration.
– The matter with which I am dealing is one which I regard as of the utmost importance. I never criticise the Government in this
House without offering some suggestion which, if adopted, will in my opinion, enable them to’ do something beneficial for the. community. If we are to progress as we desire, and to produce the wealth which is so necessary to enable us to , pay our -enormous debt, wemusthave improved means of communication with the rest of the world. If we had this cheap means of communication which I am advocating, Australian representatives of the English press would beable to Bend information to the Old World which would give Australia theprominence we desire, and would let people abroadknow how things here actually are.
– What would be the use of sending a message by wireless which the people for whom it is not intended couldget?
– The Minister puts a question to me which I am very pleased to answer. Wireless telegraphy has now been brought to such a high pitch of perfectionthat means are adopted for tuningwireless instruments one with another. The high potential instrument in ‘the Old Country would have ‘such an enormous pressure behind it that noother wirelesssystem could cut into its ‘messages.It could be easily arranged for instruments of the Navy with lowervoltage to come in at atime to be agreed upon.
– Outsiders cut into messages in America during the war.
Mr.LAIRD SMITH.- That may be so, butthat’ cutting in was stopped during the war. The Government could take powerby Act of Parliament, ‘ not only to fix the rate per word to be charged, but to impose certain restrictions. I fail to understand how it would be possible for the Governmentto control the monopoly here. It wouldbe necessary for them to have a world monopoly, but they can have no influence or control outside Australia.
We are told by scientists of the day that improvements in wireless telephony are such that we shall be able within the nextsixmonthsto speak with London. A few days ago an aeronaut flying at an altitude of 5,000 feet over New York was able,by means ofwireless telephony, to speak with people in the streets of that city. Insteadof tryingtoblock scientists in every way, we ought to encourage them to continue their excellent work. My views with regard to Government monopolies are well known. Every great enterprise likely to become a monopoly should, in my opinion, be controlled -by the State ; but I am not going to stand by the State when it . attempts tostem the tide of progress by ‘preventing the establishment of a scientific industry in our midst. I hope that Ministers will : give this matter the consideration that it warrants. My only regret is that my time is so limited that I cannot deal fully with it. I have made electricity a life-long study, and keep myself in touch with every advancement made.
I do not agree withthe honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) that, because of our war liabilities, people who come here are likely to be overburdened with debt. Those who settle in Australiawill be as free from debt and as well off as any people in the world. If we let it go forth that this isthe best country in which to settle, we shall secure all the immigrants we want.
I was delighted to hear the Minister in charge of Shipping (Mr. Poynton) say this morning, in answer to a question, that the Government were taking action with the object of ‘retaining our coastal shipping. Tasmania has sufferedmore than enough by reason of the shortage of shipping, but it would have suffered far more if ordinary competition had been allowed to continue, and ship-owners had been free to withdraw their vessels from the Australian coastal service. I donot criticise the Government because of any shortage of shipping from which we have suffered,because I realize that, had our Inter-State shipping been open to the competition of theworld, and free from Government control, it would not have remained here. As the result of the action taken, by the Government, we secured a muchbetter service than would otherwise have been possible. Ihope that by amicable arrangement with the shipping companies, they will be able to insure to the island State of which I am a representative, as well as to other parts of the Commonwealth whose trade and . commerce depend so largely upon shipping facilities, the means of communication necessary to enable us to get our products to market.
.Yesterday I informed the Minister in charge of this Bill (Mr. Poynton) that I intended to submit an amendment, and I propose to do so now, not with a view to delaying the passing of Supply to-day,but to enable a vote to be taken onthe question of whether or not there should be a further inquiry into the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works. On several occasions the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) and I have asked questions regarding that inquiry, and I am anxious that there should be a vote on the subject. I, therefore, propose to move -
That thefollowing words be added : - “ and that the ‘Government appoint a High Court Judge or other Judge to inquire fully into the purchaseof -the Shaw Wireless Works, and that the inquiry be open to the public and the press.’’
– Thehonorable member will not be in order in moving to attach any condition to the grant of Supply. He may move for a reduction of the vote, but he cannot move to impose a condition. It is laid down that the Committee cannot attach -a condition or expression of opinion to such a motion, or alter the destination of the proposed vote. The honorable member may move either at this stage or in Committee on the Bill to reduce the amount.
– Then I shall move-
That the proposed vote of £6,088,542 he reduced by £1.
This amendment will allow honorable members an opportunity to vote on the question of whether there should be a further inquiry into the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works. It will be remembered that, as the result of an iniquiry which took place last year, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen), then Minister for Trade and Customs, was gazetted out of office, and that a member of another place, who was also a representative of Tasmania, resigned his seat. The inquiry on that occasion was a secret one, and we have not had an opportunity to discuss the report of the Commission which conducted it. In submitting it to the House and moving that it he printed, the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) made a speech, and was followed later by the honorable member for Bass, who defended himself from the imputations made against him in the report. No other honorable member, however, had -an opportunity to deal with it. I moved the adjournment of the debate on themotion”That the report be printed,” and since thenthe question has not been before this Parliament. I maintain that we have a right to deal with it. The report was more widely read by honorable members than any other report that hasbeen presented to this Parliament.
– I hope that Senator Gardiner’s speech on the report has also been widely read.
– I hope so. We were not givenany information as to who were examined by the Commission. Although at the time of the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works I was a Minister of the Crown, I was absolutely ignorant of the charges made before the Commission. It could have ‘examined my banking account just as it examined the bankingaccounts of others, with the object of ascertaining whether it was inflated.
Mr.Gregory. - Does not the honorable member think that an inquiry was needed?
– I do not urge that it was unnecessary. I am asking now that there should be a further inquiry, and I am ‘confident that had a vote been taken at the close of the speech made by the honorable member for Bass, the House would have unanimously decided that the matter should not be allowed to stand where it was.
– It certainly should not have been allowed to stand where it was.
– Quite so-. The honorable member for Bass was gazetted out of office on 13th December last. The matter was referred to by the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in moving the adjournment of the House that day, and his remarks are recorded on page 9296 of Hansard. Mr. -Jensen spoke on the 18th December, and on the 19th of the same month I asked a question as to whether further inquiry was to be made. The honour of every member of Parliament is concerned in thismatter, and particularly every member of the Ministry at that time. I, as an ex-Minister, emphatically say that the matter cannot be allowed to remain where it is. Several other names were. mentioned besides that of Senator Long, who has resigned, and that of Mr. Jensen, who made his defence in this Parliament. Ex-Senator Long resigned on the 20th December, 1918, and at 1.30 a.m. on the same date this House and another place adjourned. On the 23rd January Mr. Jensen left this country to go abroad, and the Ministry’s decisionwas not known until the 7th February - fifteen days after. Immediately the decision of the Government was made known, the exMinisters drafted the following letter to the Acting Prime Minister: -
The Parliament of the Commonwealth.
House of Representatives,
Melbourne, 7th February, 1919.
The Hon. W. A. Watt, M.P.,
Acting Prime Minister,
Commonwealth of Australia.
We, the undersigned, members of the Hughes Cabinet at the time of the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works, respectfully request that your Government will reconsider its decision to make no further inquiry into the said purchase.
We are not satisfiedwith the secret nature of the inquiry conducted by the members of the Royal Commission on. Navy and DefenceAdministration, and we are of opinion that only an investigation by a Judge or Judges of the High Court of Australia - men accustomed to sift and weigh evidence, to admit relevant statements, and to reject that which is irrelevant - will satisfy public opinion.
Further, we submit that an inquiry into matters affecting the honour of members of the Parliament should be held in open Court.
We have nothing to conceal, and we invite the strictest and fullest investigation.
Hoping for an early reply, we are,
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) Albert Gardiner, formerly VicePresident of the Executive Council.
Frank G. Tudor, formerly Minister for Customs.
King O’Malley, formerly Minister for Home Affairs.
That letter was written immediately the Government decided there was to be no further inquiry.
– Although the letter was dated 7th February, 1919, it was not despatched, or at least it was not received, until some time later.
– I can explain that quite easily. Senator Gardiner was in the country at the time, and it was written immediately after the Government made their decision.
– The letter was received on or about 24th March.
– Were all the members mentioned Ministers when the wireless works were purchased?
– Yes, when they were purchased by the Hughes Cabinet, some time during 1916, and that is why we desire a full inquiry. The Minister for Works and Railways has stated that our letter was not received by the Government until about the 24th March. Immediately the Government announced their intention of not holding any further inquiry, the letter I have read was despatched to Senator Gardiner, who was in the country, and it took some time to obtain his signature. It did not arrive in Melbourne promptly, but so soon as it did it was signed by the others, and forwarded to the then Acting Prime Minister. . The communication was sent after the Government had decided thatno further inquiry should be held. We ask for a full and open inquiry, because we consider we are entitled to it. I have nothing to conceal in connexion with this or any other transaction that took place while I was a memberof that Cabinet, and the same applies to the other members. I hope there will be a full and open inquiry, because the Government cannot afford to allow the matter to stand where it is.
A question was asked the other day. as to whether the report of Admiral Jellicoe on the wireless installation in Sydney, could not be made public. At the present juncture I am not concerned very much whether the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works was a good or a bad bargain, but I am concerned with the honour of members of Parliament. It is right to have a full and proper investigation, and that no suspicion should rest on any member of the late Cabinet. Every member should be given an opportunity of clearing himself, and thus preventing any suspicion resting upon him. Ex-Senator Long, who has already gone out of public life, is anxious that further inquiry should be made. He said that until the report was presented he did not know the nature of the evidence given against him.
– That is not borne out by his own admissions.
– I am giving you his own statement.
– I am giving you facts, and you should he careful in the statement you are making.
– I am giving you his statement. Ex-Senator Long assures me that he was not aware of the evidence given against him by, I think, a couple of ladies. .
– He was presentat the inquiry.
– He was not present except when he was a witness.
– I would like the honorable member to see the evidence.
– I have read it.
– I can supply details to show that the. honorable member’s statement is not correct.
– I suppose that report was read as closely as were many other similar reports, and that isnot saying much, because such documents usually find their way into the waste-paper basket.
– He cross-examined no less than seven witnesses himself.
– Very likely; but he was not at the inquiry when evidence was given against him. Ex-Senator Long has informed me that he was not aware of the nature of some of the evidence given against him until he saw the report.
– The evidence was taken in shorthand, and was made available to him after it had been transcribed.
– I am giving the gentleman’s own statement. We. have heard Mr. Jensen’s statement concerning this matter, and I am anxious that there should be a full inquiry, whichwe as members of Parliament and public men, are entitled to. I was hoping that I would have an opportunity of moving an amendment without interfering with the Supply Bill, but as you have informed me, Mr. Chanter, that I cannot do so unless I move for a reduction of the vote by ?1, I have been compelled to pursue this course.
.- The request of. the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) is that there should be a further inquiry into the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works which, as he pointed out, was effected in August, 1916, when he and the colleagues he has mentioned were members of the Cabinet. In reply, I would remind the honorable mem ber that, in the first place, the Commission was appointed under the Royal Commissions Act, and had full and complete power to conduct the inquiry to the fullest possible extent. The Commission had power to call such witnesses as it desired, and to conduct its proceedings as it thought fit. In exercising its discretion, the Commission decided to examine witnesses in camera, but, after taking evidence, the facts elicited and the evidence were made public.
– The whole of the evidence ?
– I understood there was some secret evidence taken.
– No ; not at this inquiry, of which the evidence has been published. From the time the first witness was called in this inquiry, all the evidence taken was printed and is contained inthe report which has been circulated. The whole of the exhibits were not printed, but they were made accessible to any honorable member who desired to see them.
– The public are not allowed to see them.
Mr.GROOM. -They were available for the persons concerned to see them. I have no desire to bring the name of exSenator Long into the matter unduly, but I am compelled to say that there is no justification for the statement that he was not advised as to the date of the holding of the inquiry.
– He told me that he was not aware of much of the evidence.
– It is true that he did not appear on the first day, but let me read this from page 31 of the report of the Royal Commission -
). - If you. would prefer it, you can leave your questions until to-morrow, and, in the meantime examine this transcript.
He refers there to the evidence taken on the first day.
Senator Long. I should be very glad to adopt the suggestion. The whole thing has been sprung on me, and I may be very glad to avail myself of the evidence of Mr. Cornwell and the other evidence which is presented to the Commission.
Mr. Starke. ; I think it a reasonable request for the Commission to grant.
– Yes; we are only too pleased to afford you the facility of reading the evidence, and if you wish to be represented by counsel you may.
They could not do more. I can give other instances to show the part that exSenator Long took in the proceedings, and there is an indication showing that he had perused the evidence. According to page 47 of the report ex-Senator Long examined Mr. Cornwell as follows: -
I want toask you just one or two questions concerning the conversation that I had with you on some dateat Randwick, and also as to one or two matters, statements that you made in reply to Mr.Starke. Mr. Starke suggested that you were very suspiciousof me, isthat so?
There is other evidence to show that he was present and took part in the crossexamination of seven witnesses - Senator Russell, on page 41 of the’ report, Mr. Higgs on page ‘46, Mr. Price on page 46, Mr. Cornwellon page 47, Senator Gardiner on page52, Mr. Burr on pages 53 and 54, and Miss Hoad on page 67.
The viewtaken by the Government is that the whole matter was thoroughly and completely investigated by the Royal Commission, and, as there isno possibility of further facts. being elicited, there is no justification for further inquiry. According to Hansard of the 10th December, 1918,page 8992, the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said-
The Government have consultedthe chairman and secretary of the Commission and the law advisers of the Commission as to whether a further investigation of any kind would elicit any additional information relating to the transaction, and in each case the answer was an emphatic negative.
But the Government did not let the matter restthere.
– That was three days before the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen) was gazetted out of office.
– I was just about to explain that. It was subsequently that the honorable member for Bass addressed the House, and a long debate took place in the Senate, and afterwards the Government reconsidered the matter in order to ascertain if there was any justification for. further inquiry regarding the transaction. It came to the conclusion, after consulting with the law authorities, who were given a free hand in the matter, that no such justification existed. The Royal Commission had absolute control of the conduct of its inquiry. It had the fullest authority under the Royal Commissions Act to make the most complete investigation, and in order to assist . it to do so the Government, at the request of the Chairman, had placed at its disposal, the services of the Assistant CrownSolicitor, and eminent counsel in the person of Mr. H. E. Starke. The object of the Government was to have : the fullest investigation made. After the House adjourned at the end of last year, Cabinet again referred the case to the Commonwealth’s legal advisers ‘to see whether any advantage would be gained by a further inquiry regarding the transaction, and whether it was at allpossible to elicit further facts that would elucidate the matter, or furnish additional information.. Mr. Starke replied that the ‘Royal Commission on the Administration of the Navy Department had madeacomplete and exhaustive inquiry, and that hewasstill of the same opinion as previously,andthat he could notsuggestany line of inquiry that might elicit further information.
– What is the opinion of the Government atthe present time?
– We have not altered our opinion ; we hold there is no advantagetobe gained “from holding another inquiry into the ‘matter. The whole case has beenthoroughly investigated, and all material facts,likely tobe ofassistance to aRoyal Commission in forming a judgment, havebeen elicited by the inquiry already held.
– What was the decision of the Royal Commission ?
– The duty of the Royal Commission, was to inquire and report upon the facts. The Commissioners fulfilled that duty, and’ the honorable member willsee their findings set out at length in their report. How could we do more than was done ? The Opinion of the legal officers of the Government was that no inquiry could elicit any further facts than those which had already been ascertained. On 8th February last the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) made an announcement which it is only right I shouldput on record in the following terms : -
The public will remember that the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works was thoroughly investigated by theRoyal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration.The Commission, which exercised very wide powers under the terms of the appointment and the provisions of the Royal Commissions Act, presented a comprehensive report, accompanied by a full record of the evidence taken. As a result, Mr. Jensen was removed from the Government, and Senator Long tendered his resignation from the Senate.
– It is an insult to the Minister that there is no quorum in the chamber.
– That is not the honorable member’s motive.
– It is my motive, because I believe the Minister: is endeavouring to smother something.[Quorum formed.]
– The then Acting Prime Minister continued -
At the request of the Government, eminent counsel and the Assistant Grown Solicitor, who both assisted the Commissioner throughout, the whole of the examination, have considercd the question of a further investigation. Their opinion having only just reached the Attorney-General’s Department, Cabinet this week carefully reviewed the whole question. Counsel advised that the. matter had been completely and exhaustively investigated, and that there were no further lines of inquiry which would be likely to elicit any fresh facts. Cabinet therefore approved of the recommendation of the Acting Attorney-General that no further inquiry should be held. The position of Senator Long, however, as announced by me inthe House, was specially referred to counsel and. the Assistant Crown Solicitor to consider and. advise as to whether the evidence disclosed any facts which would justify or demand action in a Court of law. Counsel on this question advised that a prosecution would not succeed; and Cabinet accordingly decided that no further action he taken.
-What counsel was that?
– They were Mr. Mann, now. a Justice of the Supreme Court; and Professor Harrison Moore. The other counsel referred to was Mr. H. E. Starke. Subsequently a letter was received, signed by Senator Gardiner, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), Mr. O’Malley, and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). This letter, which, although dated 7th February, was not forwarded until 24th March, was replied to by the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), who pointed out that no reasons had. been advanced for any further inquiry. To-day we, occupy exactly the same position.. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor.), asks for a general inquiry to be conducted by a High Court Judge. But he has. indicated no new lines which such an investigation could take, and he has’ given no indication of any fresh facts which are likely to be elicited.. In the circumstances, it looks as if he desires a vague fishing, inquiry to elucidate nothing in particular. In justice to all the pare tics concerned, the Government cannot consent to such a proposal. If there were an intimation of any fresh material matter being available, the position would be different. The Government referred this question to independent counsel–
– To counsel who represented the Government at the previous inquiry.
– The gentleman in question did not represent the Government. He was present to assist the Commission in the elucidation of the whole matter.
– He was asked to pass judgment on his own work.
– He was not. He was merely asked; whether any fresh facts were likely to be elicited by a. further inquiry: The honorable member himself cannot suggest any fresh line of investigation. The whole matter, I repeat, was inquired into by an independent, tribunal, and the Government arrived at the conclusion that no useful purpose would: be served by ‘ appointing a costly Commission, to traverse exactly the same ground.
– It is as dirty a business as theReady-Watson affair, and. the honorable gentleman knows it.
– In the interests of all the parties concerned, this matter was completely ‘investigated; and, in justice to those who took part in the inquiry, the action taken by the Government was’ the only course open to them. In the circumstances, I ask honorable members to reject the amendment.
.- I regret that the Government have decided to take the course indicated by the Minister for Works and Railways, and I warn honorable members opposite that they should not accept the advice of Ministers by voting against a proposal for an open inquiry into this matter by a Judge of the’ High Court. I have read a good deal about this case, and the names of men have been mentioned in connexion with it in such a way as to suggest wrongdoing on their part. I refuse to believe that they have been guilty of any wrongdoing whatever. It is very easy to understand why people mention the names of members of Parliament so lightly. It is very easy to give a man a bad name; and I attach no importance whatever to the fact that the name of any member of this Chamber, or of the other branch of the
Legislature, may be associated with the proceedings connected with the purchase of the Shaw “Wireless Works.
From the very inception of this trouble, the action of the Government has been questionable. When the Age newspaper . published a series of articles, drawing attention to the report of the Commission which investigated the affairs of the Navy and Defence Departments, and asked what action the Government proposed to take in regard to the Minister who bad spent money in opposition to the recommendation of the Naval Board, Ministers pretended that they did not know who was the Minister referred to. But they knew all the time. The then Acting Prime Minister knew all the time. I invite honorable members to read a speech upon this matter, which was delivered in the Senate last session bySenator Gardiner. There they will find that, according to the evidence given by a man named Augustine Carroll before the Commission which inquired into the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works, the then Acting Prime Minister had been made acquainted with the charges preferred against Mr. Jensen. That man went before the Commission and told the Commission his story. Senator Gardiner said -
If honorable senators will take the trouble to examine the records which are in the Prime Minister’s Department they will find that this Commission first held a secret inquiry. At that inquiry they examined a man named Carroll, who made quite a number of statements about Mr. Watt.
What I understand as to this man Carroll was that he told the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that he knew of certain things against the Minister (Mr. Jensen), and wanted the honorable member to bring the matter up in the House.
– That was before the honorable member for Balaclava was in the Ministry.
– Yes. The honorable member refused to bring the matter up in the House because it was said - I am speaking from memory - that he was on the same side as Mr. Jensen in ‘the conscription campaign, and did not care to do it. That is what Carroll says. Then, after the honorable member for Balaclava entered the Government, Carroll said that he declined to bring the matter up because he was a colleague of Mr. Jensen’s. Carroll, it appears, for some reason, went to Mr. Jensen’s office, and Mr. Jensen arranged to have a couple of detectives there to hear what he had to say. Carroll went to a solicitor and put his case before him, and the solicitor advised Carroll to go to the Commission and tell all he knew. He went to the Commission and told his story. Why was the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) not called by the Commission to ascertain what truth there was in Carroll’s statements ? We have no evidence that he went before the Commission. Apparently he was not called. Here is the singular part of the thing: Mr. H. E. Starke was engaged either by Mr. Jensen or by’ the Government to go to the Commission and cross-examine Carroll.
– That was at the preliminary investigation.
– It was at the secret inquiry referred’ to by Senator Gardiner. He was engaged by the Government or by Mr. Jensen to assist the Commission in cross-examining Carroll, and then months afterwards, when the Government were forced by the Melbourne Age and by members of this House to take action in regard to the Minister, they engaged Mr. Starke to assist the Commission. Mr. Starke evidently appeared in a dual capacity. First of all he appeared to protect Mr. Jensen.
– That is not correct.
– Andthen he appeared afterwards-
– He had an absolutely free hand at the Commission. He was under no instructions whatever from the Government.
– Was that on the second occasion ?
– In the conduct of the inquiry. He did appear on the second occasion, during the conduct of the inquiry, the evidence of which is before the honorable member.
– Will the honorable gentleman tell me whether Mr. Starke was paid by the Government on the first occasion ?
– Of course he will be paid by the Government for any work he did.
– On the first occasion, as well as the second ?
– I have not seen the fees or the payments that were made, but I will make inquiries and inform the honorable member.
– It is very important. The Governmnet should tell the Committee whether they engaged Mr. Starke to assist the Commission in the interests of Mr. Jensen on the first occasion referred to by Senator Gardiner.
– They did not. I am telling the honorable member that Mr. Starke was appointed to assist the Commission in elucidating the facts. I said so distinctly.
– Mr. Starke appeared on two occasions before the Commission, once at the secret inquiry ref erred to. by Senator Gardiner. Does the honorable’ gentleman deny that ?
– I will tell the honorable member the facts.
– The honorable gentleman cannot deny it.
– The instructions that he received were to appear there to assist in elucidating the whole of “the facts in connexion with this case.
– On what date?
– Whenever he appeared.
– The Minister has refused to give me a straight answer. He is suggesting now that Mr. Starke was instructed by the Government to appear on the first occasion.
– There was no secret inquiry about Carroll. The whole inquiry was conducted in the manner shown by the records. The instructions were to get at the whole of the facts in connexion with the case.
– I am nutting a straight question to the Minister. Mr. Starke appeared before the Commission to crossexamine Carroll. Did he appear there in the interests of the Government or of Mr. Jensen?
– He appeared in the interests of the Commission to get at the whole of the facts of the case.
– On both occasions?
– Yes, on every occasion that he appeared.
– The Minister now admits, though he declined to admit it before, that Mr. Starke appeared before that Commission on every occasion, appointed and paid by the Government, to assist the Commission.
– Was it not to get out the facts interesting to the public?
– That was his object - to assist in elucidating the facts before the Commission.
– The members of the Government pretended not to know who the Minister concerned was. Here is the reply of the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to me -
I have re-read the paragraph referred to by the honorable member in theRoyal Commission’s report on the Navy administration, dated 18th September, 1918. The section from which the honorable member has extracted the statement in the question affords me. no information as to who the Minister was to whom attention is directed. Probably a minute examination of the evidence would make this clear. However, all the Ministers who have ever been in control of the Navy Department are at present included in the National Government, but I see no reason to pursue the drastic course which the honorable member suggests.
I asked whether the Government were prepared to dismiss that Minister from office, and the Government said they were not prepared to take that course. By their answers through the then Acting Prime Minister they suggested that they did not know who the Minister referred to was, and all the time, on the admission of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), they knew that they had employed Mr. Starke to assist’ the Commission to get at the facts or otherwise, as stated by Carroll.
– I did not say anything about the facts as stated by Carroll. I told the honorable member that counsel was instructed to assist the Commission to elucidate the whole of the facts in connexion with the case.
– All these things show the need for an open inquiry. The Commission consisted of three business men, with Mr. McBeath, a member of a Flinderslane firm, as chairman. None of those gentlemen had any legal knowledge, and there we had the spectacle of Mr. Starke on one side and Mr. Cussen on the other, arguing as to what these gentlemen ought to admit in the way of evidence. I venture to say that they admitted as evidence statements which would not be admitted by a High Court Judge or any other Judge trained in the knowledge and administration of the law. It appears that Carroll has been described by Mr. Starke, according to Senator Gardiner, as “ an unmitigated liar.” Yet he has: been allowed to. get away from Australia to. America. He was given a passport out of the country. The. Government dare not, in view of what has come out, refuse to grant a public inquiry by a High Court Judge, and every man who votes against that inquiry will have to take the responsibility for his action when he. appears before his electors.
– Perhaps the Government dare not grant the inquiry.
– What are. the public ‘ saying? Mr. R. F. Toutcher, Nationalist member for Stawell and Ararat, said the other day in the Victorian Legislative Assembly -
We are charged with’ the responsibility of safeguarding the rights of our people, and’ we have to safeguard the reputations of our public men. Are there some scandals in the Commonwealth Parliament that evidently will not bear the light of day? I should like to know why the present Commonwealth Government decline to let in the light of day on the Shaw wireless scandal. I was speaking some little time ago to one of the Commissioners whounearthed’ that scandal, and I asked him why the Commissioners did not make a full inquiry; and I understood from him that he had hoped - he was speaking’ before the Federal Parliament had met - there was sufficient honour in the public men of Australia, when theFederalParliament did meet, for a demand to be made that there should be a- full investigation of the matter; if they were jealous of their honour as public men.,
There a responsible member of the Victorian Parliament states that he had’ a conversation with a member of the Commission, who expressed the hope that there was sufficient public honour in the members of the Commonwealth Parliament and. Government to cause a full inquiry to be made. The report continues : -
Mr.Ryan (Nationalist member for Essendon ) . - Are you referring to one of the Com. missioners who made the inquiry?
Mr. TOUTCHER. ; Yes. It would not be fair to give his name.
Mr.Ryan. - As there, were only two of them, it would not be difficult to ascertain which of them you refer to. It must have been one of the two.
-(the Hon. J. E. Mackey).- I do not think this matter should be mentioned further. It is wholly outside the province of this Parliament. Such statements may tend to provoke conflicts between the Parliaments.
Mr. TOUTCHER. ; I will not pursue the matter further; hut I thought that, in view of the rumours and innuendoes that are floating about it was a proper thing to mention it, because public men cannot be too jealous of their honour:
The Government have no other course than to agree to the amendment. If they refuse, the public will be able to draw their own conclusions.
.- I wish to make my position clear-. I be lieve this matter should1 be’ sifted to a greater extent than it has been. I am going to vote against the amendment, however, but if any distinct request comes from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen), who is most deeply concerned, I shall be quite willing to vote for the appointment of aRoyal Commission or any other body with authority to make’ a complete investigation into all the circumstances. I have it on the best, of authority that the amendment did. not emanate from the gentleman most conearned.
– I moved the amendment without consulting any one; but I informed the honorable member for Bass yesterday what. I was going to do,and Ialso told the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) and; the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) yesterday morning or afternoon.
– You did not take this action at the request of. the honorable; memberfor Bass!
-If he. makes a request I shall vote for a further inquiry.
– I do not think the Government should endeavour topassthis Bill to-day.
– We have already had three days on Supply.
– If we had thirty days it. would not be too much.
– But the Public Service must be paid .
– This Bill presents one of those few opportunities available to honorable members to ventilate certain matters. I know that the men in. the Public Service must be paid, but the Government should bring down Supply in plenty of time.
– You had a whole week. On the next occasion you will not get so much time-.
– Now we have a threat from the Minister in charge that if on a Supply Bill we dare to debate questions our time will be more restricted than ever on some future occasion.
– You are not punishing the Government. You are only punishing the Service outside. I have no axe to grind.
– This Bill gives us an opportunity to deal with certain matters. I wish to refer to the position of internees in Australia, and particularly the case of Paul Hermann.
– You can bring that up on the adjournment.
– The Minister knows what that means. He can count me out.
– We will not do that. I promise the honorable member we will give him a chance on the adjournment. .
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by £1 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I desire to refer to a subject upon whichI have been fighting the Government for the past three years at least. I had proposed to move the adjournment of the House about a fortnight ago, but I was dissuaded at the earnest solicitation of Ministers, who gave the assurance that the matter at issue would be dealt with at once. I deferred taking action then, but I feel now that it is impossible to permit the present condition of affairs to continue. I would have liked to venture a few words of appreciation upon the work of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and Sir Joseph Cook at the Peace Conference, but at this late hour I will not delay honorable members further than to say that now that those gentlemen are home again, it is surely time we reverted to constitutional methods of government. So soon as the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy had returned to this Parliament the time was ripe for the presentation of a Ministerial statement respecting transactions undertaken in the Old Country - the purchase of ships, the contemplated actions of the Government in regard to that purchase, and contracts made with the Imperial Government in wool, wheat, metals, &c. This Parliament has certain powers, and it should exercise them. Parliament should be, and must be, consulted. We have gone too far; we have been drifting all the tune. If we are to have a Czar, an autocrat, here - doing as he likes without consulting Parliament - it is surely time for Parliament to take action, or else to say to the Prime Minister, “ We are quite satisfied, and are perfectly willing, to permit you to do as you wish without seeking parliamentary authority at all.”
I desire to refer specifically to the . refusal of the Government to permit the export of base metals. We are informed that it is the policy of the Government that, so far as possible, Australia shall be self-supporting. We are told that we should try to build up our manufactures, and to utilize our base metals to promote the industries of Australia. That has been the policy of the Government for the past four years. Surely at some time or other during that period the Government could have, and should have, introduced aBill,or framed certain regulations’, for the control of the base-metal output. Surely this Parliament should have been consulted, should have been informed, of the purposes and ambitions of the Government. The Commonwealth Parliament could have passed legislation to confer upon the Government the necessary power to do what they sought to do. But the Government say they will not permit any one in Australia to trade in base metal ores without their permission, and then only through certain Combines. We, in Western Australia, have had to send our copper right away from the north-west coast to the eastern coast for treatment. Is there any shortage of copper on this side of Australia for the. building up of industries? Is the policy of the Government aimed at such a purpose? At a time when copper was quoted at more than £100 per ton, 11 per cent, ore was shipped from Whim Creek to Port Kembla. It did not even pay the cost of treatment ,aud transit, although worth £11 per ton, and men have been turned out of work. The mine has been closed down; hundreds are out of employment. Is it fair that men should be encouraged to put money into ventures away in the far north-west of Australia and be treated in this manner, and that, then, the Government should say, “ We will smother you; not because we desire to destroy industries, but because we want to hand these metals over to the manipulator and the exploiter “ ? For those are the people into whose hands our output of base metals is being delivered. On the other hand, surely some special concession might have been made to retain a white -population in the far north.
I told honorable members some little while ago about men who had discovered a magnificent lead deposit in Western Australia. There have been very heartening particulars in the press during the past day or two regarding a discovery of gold in the Hampton Plains district. Honorable members are always glad to hear ‘of new discoveries, knowing that they mean production and development. With respect to the lead deposit, I have visited the mine, which i§ situated some 80 or 90 miles north of Geraldton. Out of a small pot-hole - for they have not gone down more than about 40 feet - the parties working there have taken out about £70,000 worth of ore in less than three .years, hut their profit has been less than £4,000.
– Who has got the difference?
– The manipulators L The men owning this lead mine informed me that they have now an English buyer for their ore. They are prepared’ to put on 100 hands immediately. Large numbers of men are out of employment. We, in Western Australia, are suffering from depression. Why cannot we securethe requisite permit for export to Great Britain? What parliamentary authority have the Government to prohibit permission? Sir John Higgins, apparently, rules the Government in regard to all these matters. The Government delay, and delay, and delay; and they ask us to sit quiet. They ask us to keep our faith, and to wait and see! I would not mind if Parliament were tosay, “We will not permit metals to be exported from Australia while they are wanted for the development of local industries.” Nearly every honorable member of this House has received a copy of a document issued by the Mine ManagersAssociation of Western Australia, wherein the owners of. certain tin minesshow that £21 a ton has been lost to them, and has gone to the manipulators on this side of the Commonwealth. The parties on this side arenot asking for what the Government are forcing us to send them. From Queensland the same complaint as that which I have to voice on behalf of Western Australia may be heard. The Cobar Smelters Association works have been compelled to close down. They haveestablished their own smelters and their own electrolytic plant. They could export electrolytic copper. Theassociation sent a letter to the Government indicating that they would be compelled to put off large numbers of men, not only from their own property, but from a number of small mines dependent upon them for the purchase -of their oreoutput. They referred to the losses accruing to the State through the nontransit of goods over the railways - fuel, timber, and the like. All thev asked’, for was the right to sell their copper ; but they could not get a permit. They were given to understand that they would haveto sell through the Copper Producers Association. Why should they be compelled to hand over the control of their mine and its output ‘to any outside body?” Had time permitted me to go fully into- this question, I would have moved for a reduction of £100,000 upon the proposed vote; and, thus, I would have compelled honorable members to arrive at a definite decision. Protests have emanated from practically every State: from Tasmania in regard to its tin; from Queensland with respect to copper ores; and from New South “Wales and Western Australia. It is for honorable members to say whether they consider the Government justified in refusing, time after time, to grant permits.
Sir John Higgins has acted as adviser to the Government. Who is this gentleman? He is the man who, while financial adviser to the Government, strongly recommended the purchase, for £110,000, of the Blythe River iron deposits. I have before me a letter in which he points out how satisfied he is in regard to the value of this property.
– The Government did not purchase it.
– No ; thanks to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) and myself.
– The honorable member said that Sir John Higgins was running the Government. If that were so, why did he not purchase the property ?
– I am not here to answer stupid questions. Does the honorable member believe that the man who was “drafting the agreement, and fixing up the sale, should also be able to draw a cheque for £110,000? But a Committee of the Government was formed-
– The honorable member said that the mines were bought.
– The options were bought.
– Will the honorable member tell me to whom copper was to be sold?
– In every instance tin and copper were to be sold to approved countries. We never asked for anything else. We were agreeable that the Government should make any regulations they chose as to whether the copper should go to England, France, or America. But we did complain of the injustice of compelling us to pay £500 to join the Copper Producers’ Association., to pay that body 1 per cent, for handling our ore, and to bind ourselves to allow them to make our contracts for the next fifty years. I have produced the correspondence and agreement in proof of my statement. It was unfair that any company should be compelled to join the Copper Producers’ Association on pain of being denied the opportunity to sell their product. I have been fighting this matter for three years, and only an hour ago I was assured that the matter would be considered by the Government at the earliest possible moment.
– Is it a fact that the people to whom the honorable member refers desired to sell their ore to Japan ?
– That is not a fact, but I do not wish the honorable member to misunderstand me. The Whim Creek copper mine had been exporting ore to England for many years. About 80,000 tons of hand-picked ore had been sent to Great Britain, and, with the profits, the company built a railway to the coast, and set up a special leaching plant, at a cost of about £80,000. That plant proved a failure. Later, when the manager went to Sydney he consulted engineers by whom, special tests were made with the oxides from Whim Creek. As a result he was under the impression that if the company could find money for the purpose of erecting another plant on the design recommended in Sydney, they would be enabled to treat the enormous body of 7 and 8 per cent, oxidized ore, now lying in the dumps, the surplus left after the hand picking. About two years ago, while the war was still in progress and this country was supplying copper to Janan, the company asked to be allowed to send their ore to that country for treatment. It must be remembered that the Government were selling zinc, lead, and copper to Japan at the time, and had they acceded . to the request made I am satisfied that the profits from the treatment of the ore would have proved sufficient to erect a new plant and afforded employment for 400 or 500 men .to-day. But the Government refused, and insisted on the ore being sent to Kembla, and the’ 11 per cent, ore sent showed a direct loss.
I now desire to refer to the transactions in connexion with the Blythe River iron deposits, a.nd the action of Sir JohnHiggins in connexion therewith. That gentleman specially recommended this proposition to the Government, telling the Government that he would prefer them to have it. but that he was quite satisfied that he could get his friends in England to run it. The expenditure in connexion with this, when the scheme was completed, would mean £1,109,684.
– Is that for the mine itself?
– No, that includes steamers, sidings, wharfs, metal mixers, and so forth.
– Is it not a fact that many years ago this iron deposit was known to be of no use?
– I cannot say, because I never heard of it before. Sir John Higgins, in offering the property for £110,000, said-
I have every reason to believe that I can place the venture in England with personal friends, to whom I introduced the scheme when in London eight years ago- -
Do not forget the date - and I personally prefer following this course. However, should the Commonwealth Government decide to purchase the properties, and not desire to erect works, my friends may be prepared to consider a proposal to open the mines and erect works. . . .
The matter was referred to a Committee of the Cabinet, who approved of the acceptance of the option, and the Government paid £3,185 as ‘a deposit.
– What were the Government going to do with the property after they bought it? ‘
– The reports suggest an expenditure of over a million sterling. I have heard of “ wild cats “ - of some very smellful transactions - but I honestly believe that if some of the fumes from this business could have been got over the German trenches, the war would have finished long before it did. Here is the report of the three men who were sent by the Government to examine the mine -
Although the property has been known for many years, and a considerable amount of money expended by the present owners, very little work of a useful or developmental nature has been done.
The only works, of any importance are the three tunnels shown on the plan herewith,and known respectively as the “’ upper,” “’ middle,” and “ river.” These were put in about eight years ago, and little or no work has been’ done since.
In addition, there are a number of prospecting trenches on the leases, and two small open cuts, or “ quarries,” towards the north-east end of the outcrop.
– Does the report not say anything about the properties of the’ ore?
– The report says-
The results from the various underground workings are especially disappointing. The “ middle “ tunnel results simply substantiate the poor opinion formed of this portion of the outcrop from surface inspection, and the same may even be said of the “ river “ tunnel. Some of the ore in the “ upper “ tunnel, however, looked fairly, good, and some nice clean ore is showing in one or two places on the surface immediately over the tunnel; the results go a long way towards proving the irregularity and noncontinuity of the better grade of ore exposed on the surface to the south-west, and also that shown in sample trench “ B “ to the north-east.
In conclusion the report says -
It is to be regretted that the result of our examination has been to force us to the opinion that the property is, at the present time, of no economic value; our investigations have shown that - (a) the bulk of the deposit is far too saliceous to be considered as an iron ore at the present day; and (b) that the quantity of good ore is too small to be considered of any economic importance.
Have honorable members ever heard of a more disgraceful ramp or attempt to foist a wild-cat venture on the Government? And remember this was recommended to it by the gentleman who, since the war started, has been their special mining adviser.
These are the extraordinary things that have been going on in connexion with the administration of the metal business. On the last occasion when I dealt with this matter I referred to the Zinc Producers’ Association, and do not intend to repeat what I then said. I do say, however, that there is an outcry from every State in regard to the action taken by the advisers of the Government in controlling these industries. Had the Government framed regulations - had they passed legislation which would give them effective control - no one would have complained, because Parliament would then have been responsible. But, time after time we find business of this kind . completed in a hole-and-corner method. When Ministers are interrogated we are told that the business is of a secret nature, and cannot be disclosed to the public. What reason can there be for that attitude ? Itis impossible there can be any reason to justify theGovernment in acting as they are doing at the present time.
– The war is over.
-In any case, where was the harm, so long as the goods went to an approved country.? A Metal Ex- change has been created, and such an exchange I approve; but will honorable members believe that I got from Sir Robert Garran the articles of association of the Exchange only on the condition that they were regarded as confidential. No person is allowed to sell ore except through the Exchange. Why did the Government not come and ask Parliament to give them power to make that regulation 1 We have had the Cobar Smelters Associated Company, month after month, writing to the Government merely asking permission to sell .their copper to approved countries. Why should that company give to an outside organization absolute control over their business for 50 years ? I do not think that honorable members realize what the position means. The leading metal organizations in Australia were called to a conference in the Attorney-General’s room, for the purpose of forming a Combine, but the Broken Hill and Mount Lyell companies objected to join the Zinc Producers’ Association. They would have to pay £500 to join the association, and 1 per cent, for the handling of the ores, and at the same time leave the association the whole power to make contracts and fix prices, not for the duration of the war, but for a period of fifty years. However, they were forced to join. They are doing the same with copper, and are trying to do the same with tin.
– That is not binding on this Parliament.
– No, but the agreement has been made. I think that this Parliament would nullify such an agreement, but the people concerned have had to sign it.
– Did they not, before the war, sign a similar agreement for the Germans ?
– If we were desirous of breaking down one monopoly, surely we are not going to put another in its place.
– I notice there Was no objection to the German monopoly.
– Of what use is it for the honorable member to go back to the period prior to the war?
– To show the inconsistency of the whole thing. There was no objection to the German monopoly, but when an Australian monopoly is created, we are invited to believe that it ls everything that is bad.
– Has an Australian monopoly been created? The honorable member has only to consider for a moment to realize that it is only a few exploiters and manipulators in the cities who have been, given control of these matters, and that is what I object to. That is what I hate. I demand that the Government shall give good reasons for, and show that good results will follow from, the course of action that has been adopted in this matter. If they are not asked to do so, God knows what may happen in the future if a similar course is adopted in connexion with other industries - with wool, and wheat, and other products.
– What is the good of the honorable member talking? There is no Minister listening to him.
– We shall find some method of dealing with the matter. If the hour had not been so late I had intended to move a reduction, of the proposed vote by £100,000, to secure attention being given to this matter. I shall not do that now, but I hope that what I have said will make the Government realize that strong exception is taken to the course they have followed. I trust also that in this matter Parliament will assume the responsibility which properly belongs to it. During the war I was prepared to excuse the Government for doing many things with which I did not concur, but now that the war is over the position is entirely changed, and there can be no justification for the Government continuing to deal with the metal industry in the manner in which they have dealt with it. I had the promise of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) that as soon as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) re- . turned this matter would be settled. I remind Ministers that no good can result from asking the people of Western Australia to send their ores over here, and to continue to insist that they shall do so will only make enemies for the Government in Western Australia. I conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will give this matter favorable consideration without further delay. I am sorry to have been compelled to delay honorable members on this occasion, but Ministers are aware that I have felt very strongly upon these matters for a long time, and things cannot be allowed to remain as they are at present.
.- I shall not at this stage go into the whole policy of the Government in connexion with the metal industry, but when a statement of that policy is made the Government will be able to show the tremendous advantages which Australia has gained from the action which has been taken.
– Which the capitalists have gained.
– No, which Australia has- gained. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is aware that I promised him that as soon as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) returned I would put the matter to which he has called attention .before him. I have interviewed different -officers, and they are in a position to submit a recommendation to the Prime Minister. It will be recommended, an;d’ the Prime Minister will agree, that temporary relief should be given to the Western Australian people in the matter of the- disposal of base metal ores.
– Temporary only?
– The honorable member will learn, when the announcement is made, that relief will be given to the Western Australian people for the time being I am not in a position now to make a complete statement of the matter, as the Prime Minister has not yet fully dealt with i*- I can only assure the honorable member for Dampier at this stage that relief will be granted in this- connexion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Committee of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Hughes and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in. a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented- by Mr. Groom, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
The f following papers were presented : -
Papers presented to the British Parliament: -
Education - Third Interim Report of the Adult Education Committee - Libraries and Museums.
Labour - Interim Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Scheme of OutofWork Donation.
League of Nations - Covenant, with a Commentary thereon.
War Savings Committee (National) - Third Annual Report - 2nd June, 1919.
Women’s Advisory Committee - Report of the Sub-Committee appointed to consider the position after the War of women holding temporary appointments in Government Departments.
Peace Treaty - Bill introduced into the British Parliament.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– On more than one occasion reference has been made in this House to the case of Paul Herman, who, after the armistice,- was interned. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) and I interested ourselves in this case, because we knew of no reason for the man’s internment, and as the result of our representations the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell) definitely promised the honorable member for Adelaide that Herman would be released. I was under the impression that he was released a month ago; but to-day a telegram was received from Sydney stating that -
Paul Herman not yet released. Public indignation against continued internment and deportation of husbands of British women. Petition to mayor, public meeting of protest. Native-born still interned.
Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) tells us that, now that the war is over, our flag flies over a free people, this young man remains in internment, and no reason for his detention is forthcoming. He does not know ‘why he has been dealt with in this way. I have known him for twentyfive years. His father came here because of his utter detestation of Prussian rule, and he has no German sympathies. I hope the Government will carry out their promise to release this man.
I desire also to refer to the position of ayoung woman in my constituency who is married to a German namedO. G. F. W/ilhelm, now in the internment camp, Sydney.
– Is he naturalized?
– No. The following letter has been received by Mrs. Wilhelm from Captain Lempriere, of the. Intelligence Section, General Staff: -
You are informed that Prisoner-of-war O. G. F. Wilhelm has been ordered to be repatriated to Germany, and the Department now desires to know whether or not you desire to accompany your husband? If so, please forward thefollowing particulars to this section: -
Your full name and country of birth.
Full name, age, and sex of your children (if any) who will be accompanying you.
What notice you require to complete your arrangementsbefore embarking, inclusive of the time necessarily occupied in travelling to Sydney for that purpose.
Great Britain is resuming trade relations with Germany, and we are told that some of our raw material is going there for certain purposes. Why, then, should this man be deported? He has been a good citizen, and is married to an Australian girl, whose mother fosteredthree Australian soldiers, one of whom was killed at the Front. Her family is well known in Williamstown, and there is no doubt as to the loyalty of every member of it. Her husband does not know why he is to be deported, and I fail to understand why the Government shouldbe prepared in this way. to separate husbands and wives. This young woman does not desire to go to Germany. She was bom here, and, as a matter of fact, I understand she will not accompany her husband. Are husband and wife to be separated and divorced because of action taken, without warrant, by the Government? Some common sense should bo displayed in dealing with these matters. I hope die Minister will promise to inquire into this case, and to secure leniency for this man if he ‘has not committed any heinous crime.
– I will have the matter referred to the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell). Has the man applied to remain here?
– Yes; and his case has been dealt with. I do not ask that any alien who has proved himself to he an enemy to Australia, in the true sense of the word, should be allowed to remain here; but I think it is foolish to deport men who have been taunted into making rash statements. For instance, I know a German who came to Australia many years agobecause he objected to the Prussian system of government.’’ After the war broke out he was constantly taunted - told that the British were going to smash the Germans, and that he could not stand up against an Australian. He showed that he could do so, and, as a result, was deported. I hope the Minister will look into these matters.
.- I understood the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) a few minutes ago to say something of a personal nature regarding myself, and I, consequently, answered in vigorous language. I understand, however, that he did not intend to be in any way personal.
– Not at all.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s withdrawal. I want to say, with all earnestness, that the people are tired of the smothering up that goes on in connexion with so-called public inquiries. They are not content with what has happened in regard to the Yates case, the Watson case, or the Shaw wireless purchase case. I am prepared to resign my seat and tocontest an election with any Minister onthe question of whether or not these secret tribunals should not be opened up in the name of justice.
As to the Shaw wireless case, I believe that Father Shaw died either as the result of violenceor the administration of poison. I ask the Minister to have the remains of the deceased gentleman exhumed, so that it may be ascertained whether he died as the result of a foul blow or frompoison. There are in this community religious men who share my opinion as to the causes leading up to Father Shaw’s death. Shooting cases are far too frequent in Melbourne, and no man can draw a fairly large sum out of a bank without that fact being fairly well known to one or other of ‘the gangs that infest our city.
If a. public inquiry is not made now into the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works, such an investigation will be ordered by the next Parliament, because the people will not be humbugged in this way. Any one who reads Senator Gardiner’s speech on the subject, or the records, will agree that the evidence given before the Board would not have been admitted in any Court of law. Imagine a man saying that he knew what occurred in a certain Sydney hotel at a time when he was in Melbourne.
Did not the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) say he would make ex-Senator Watson prove his statements’ concerning the Ready case in open Court? I am willing to give any member of the Ministry an opportunity to contest my seat on the question of whether or not this matter should not be inquired into in open Court by a member of the Supreme Court Bench.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190912_reps_7_89/>.