7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories in what capacity, if any, Dr. Gilruth is acting abroad for the Government 1
– The term of Dr. Gilruth’s appointment expires on the 30th proximo. On the termination of his practical work as Administrator of the Northern Territory at the end ‘ of last May, he was granted six months’ holiday in accordance with the terms of his original appointment by my predecessor’ in office. He made a claim ‘ for something like eleven months’ leave, but I allowed him six months, and was justified in doing bo by the law, as well as under the arrangement made upon his appointment. He went Home on vacation, and is doing no work for my Department, nor is he receiving any pay from it except in the way of the house allowance of £500 a year granted him by my predecessor in office, and which continues as part of his salary. His salary as Administrator was originally fixed ait £1,750 a year, bub a compromise was come to, under which he was granted £500 per annum by way of house allowance. I think that, while in England, he is carrying out some work for tha Department of Trade and Customs, but on that point the honorable member had better address a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Will the Minister foi Trade and Customs state what work Dr. Gilruth is carrying out in England for his Department?
– As Dr. Gilruth was leaving for England on holiday, he consented while there to inquire into certain matters on which the Department o£ Trade and Customs desired to have information.
Appointment of Additional Justices
– Will the Acting Attorney-General inform the House as to the truth or otherwise of the report” that it is the intention’ of the Government to make four additional appointments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court Bench, and, if so, who are the likely appointees ?
– There is not the slightest justification for the paragraph to which the honorable member refers.
– Is the Treasurer prepared to make a statement giving details regarding the proposed gratuity to returned soldiers? Will he state the basis upon which the gratuity is to be paid?
– As the honorable member is aware, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is not present-
– We were promised that a statement would be made this week.
– I aim not quite sure when he will return from Queensland-
– Not this week.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) may know, but I am not quite sure when he will return. It depends-
– He will not be leaving before Thursday.
– Order! The question was addressed to the Treasurer, and not to the honorable member for East Sydney.
– Will the Acting Minister for Repatriation state whether any provision has yet been made to meet the case of returned men who have purchased, or have arranged to purchase, houses already available in the Commonwealth ?
– Yes; the agreement under which we are working with the Commonwealth Bank meets such cases.
– But they are not being met.
– If the honorable member will bring under my notice any specific case, I will see that inquiries are immediately made.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet decided upon a policy for the encouragement of what are known as war-time industries? Will he state what degree of protection is to be afforded these industries by regulation against oversea competition?
– The honorable member’s question relates to a matter of Government policy. It is not customary to answer such questions without notice.
Situation at Darwin.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories what he is doing with regard to the outbreak in the Nor Shorn Territory. Does he propose to send back the officers under an armed escort? I- ask this question because of the extraordinary correspondence which has been made available in another place, and from which it would appear that the government of the Territory has been so badly administered that local residents might have some grounds for complaint.
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, if he will put it on the notice-paper, I shall be able to answer it with greater accuracy to-morrow. The second part of it relates to a question of policy. As I said yesterday, I am working in the direction of restoring and maintaining . order in the Territory, and if it is necessary to go into. allegations of grievances, I will see that the proper machinery for such an inquiry is at once applied.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs in reference to the supply of sugar for manufacturing purposes in Western Australia. I have been in communication with his Department on the subject, and have been informed that 1,000 tons of sugar will be sent to Western Australia this month. Such a supply will not meet the requirements of the State. Local manufacturers are not obtaining a sufficient supply to enable them to carry on their operations. On the other hand, importations of manufactured confectionery from the Eastern States are undercutting the local article. Will the Minister have inquiries made with a view to seeing that a better supply of sugar is maintained to Western Australia, and that the distribution is arranged on a more equitable basis amongst the manufacturers?
– I shall be very glad to have inquiries made into the matter. Every possible effort is being made to get to Western Australia a sufficient supply of sugar, but the quantity is conditioned by two things, first, the scarcity of shipping offering, and secondly the amount of refined sugar that we can obtain from the refineries.
– Is it correct that the Prime Minister has been arrested in Brisbane for inciting to an outbreak of Bolshevism there yesterday? In order to preserve the peace in. that usually calm and orderly city, will the Commonwealth Government assure the State Government of their support, if that is necessary ?
– I am not aware of any such occurrence as the honorable member mentions, but strange things occur in Brisbane now and then. The honorable member may rest assured that the provisions of the Constitution, as amplified by the Defence Act, will be observed by the Commonwealth Government if the State Government applies for assistance.
– With a view to allaying the feeling engendered in Sydney in connexion with the proposal to establish hospitals for consumptive soldiers on the seaboard, will the Assistant Minister for Defence inform the House whether it is a fact that the Acting Minister for Defence has now arranged for the creation of a special committee of advice, two members of the committee to be nominated by the British Medical Association in Sydney, and the third by the British Medical Association in Melbourne, so that the Department will get the best advice upon this question free of all departmental influence?
– Yes. The Acting Minister for Defence has agreed to do what the honorable member states.
– In view of the fact that the Government have decided to abandon the Institute of Science and Industry Bill-
– Not to abandon it; to postpone it.
– Seeing that Parliament is to be dissolved, the Bill will be abandoned. It will have to be placed on the notice-paper afresh. It cannot be reestablished on the notice-paper at the stage which it has now reached, as could be done with a Bill from session to session. In view, then, of the fact that the Government have decided to abandon the Bill, what do they propose to do with the officers already appointed, and is it their intention to proceed with the publication of the expensive magazine now being issued monthly?
–The Government have not abandoned the Bill; they have only postponed it. For the rest, it depends entirely upon whether Parliament votes the necessary money.
-Will the House be given an opportunity before the dissolution to discuss the Estimates, or is it the intention of the Treasurer to introduce a Supply Bill? If the latter, what is the amount to be asked for and the period to be covered?
– I thought the honorable member, as an ex-Treasurer, would have understood, when he received a copy of the Supply Bill this morning, that that was the Bill the Government proposed to pass.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware th’at there lias been a considerable increase in the price of tea recently?* Will he inquire why that increase has been made, and, if possible, protect the public against further increases ?
– I am aware that there has been an increase in the price of tea. It is largely, if not entirely, due to the rate of exchange in the Eastern markets.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to .the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will make an early announcement setting out the intentions of the Government in relation to the per capita grant to the States?
– ‘The proposals of the Commonwealth Government in relation to the per capita payments to Sta/tes were made at a Conference of Premiers and Treasurers in January, 1919. No agreement was reached, and I propose to ask the Government to consider the whole question again in the light of the proposition to call a statutory Convention during next year.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– (The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Advances to Western Australia
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Yes. Funds were made available under the Wheat Storage Act 1917, but were not availed of by Western Australia.. ‘This Act was a war measure, and, as the war has ended, funds for silos will not now be provided by the Commonwealth Government. I can trace no application by the Government of the State of Western Australia.
Compensation to Officers,
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The quantity of wheat so sold was 56,000,000 bushels. No commission is payable on Government sales, but such remuneration as may be determined by the Wheat Board is payable for necessary services for carrying through and completing the work. The amount of such remuneration has not yet been determined.
Sale to Retailers
asked the Assistant “Minister’ for Defence, upon notice -
– I am having inquiries made into the matter, and will inform the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable” member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Commonwealth enrolment is compulsory, and the Divisional Returning Officer, who has the continuous assistance of the lettercarriers under an organized system of review, is, under the law, responsible for the effective maintenance of the roll for the division. The Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Queensland has been informed that any assistance which might be rendered by the Queensland police would be in the direction of advising qualified persons, not correctly enrolled, to send or deliver to the proper Registrar claims for enrolment or transfer of enrolment, as the ‘case requires.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and .replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What is the present position of rifle clubs in connexion with subsidies or grants?
– It has not been possible to make the full pre-war provision on this year’s Estimates for effective and’ other grants to rifle clubs. Provision is made for half the usual effective grant this financial year, and reductions have also had to be made in other items of the rifle club vote as shown in the Estimates,
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to impose upon Australian citizens the restriction debarring them from voting at the general election similar to what was imposed in regard to the War Service Referendum?
– The disqualifications imposed by the (Military Service Referendum) Regulations 1917 related only to the referendum held on the 20th December, 1917. These regulations have been repealed. The Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act 1917, which provides for the disqualification of certain naturalized persons born in enemy countries, is still in operation, and is expressed to expire six months after the exchange of Peace ratifications.
– On 10th October the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) asked the Prime Minister the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Australian Wheat Boardto negotiate with agents in Australia, as business transacted through local agents would involve additional expenditure by reason of the fact that commission would have to be paid both to the London Committee and to the local agents.
The persons who negotiated with the Board in the present instance were acting as agents, and to have done business through them would, therefore, not have resulted in a saving.
Apart from this aspect of the matter, it is not considered that there is any immediate prospect of business with Sweden on a satisfactory basis. An inquiry for 20,000 tons of wheat for Sweden has been received through the London Committee, but the price the buyers are prepared to pay is not likely to prove acceptable.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act. -
Land acquired under, at Prahran, Victoria for repatriation purposes.
Public Service Act. -
Promotions of H. H. Ford, and W. G. Bones, Department of the Treasury.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to make provision for determining the date of the termination of the present war, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to continue in force for a limited time the War Precautions (Enemy Shareholders) Regulations, the War Precautions (Land. Transfer) Regulations, the War Precautions (Mining) Regulations, and the War Precautions (Shipping) Regulations.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members are aware that there is in force at present a Statute called the Electoral (War-time) Act,which expired six months after the declaration of peace. The object of that measure was to provide for voting by men who had enlisted and gone to the Front. The total number of men returned from the Front to date is about 250,000. Those embarked, and at present on voyage to Australia, number 8,000; those overseas in military employment and receiving training, 7,500; and those awaiting embarkation, in hospitals, absent without leave, 4,500; making a grand total of 270,000. From the information supplied to me by the’ Defence Department, I expect that all those men will have returned to Australia by the 13th December, except 6,000, who may remain abroad for a considerable time. Some of them are in various occupations, and others cannot be found. We must, therefore, amend the Electoral (Wartime) Act, because it cannot possibly be applied to members of the Forces who have returned from the Front. There are in force two Acts which will apply to the coming election. One is the Electoral (War-time) Act, which provides for voting by members of the Forces who are twenty-one years of age and upwards, and the other is for the Electoral Act of 1918, section 39 of which provides for voting by all members enrolled in the Australian Imperial Force irrespective of age. But it is necessary under that Act that, in order to be qualified to vote, the soldier must be enrolled. This Bill is introduced for the purpose of modifying the existing law in order to allow members of the Forces to vote whether or not they are enrolled, and, by regulations, to make the necessary provisions for voting by all members of the Forces. As a matter of fact, on the return of soldiers from the Front, they have been apprized by the Electoral Department, through the Defence Department, of the necessity for enrolment. Some did enroll; other did not. I am of opinion that men who have done their duty by serving their country, and adding to its reputation in a way that has been exceptional and exemplary, should be afforded every facility for voting at the forthcoming election. This Bill is introduced primarily for that purpose, and it deals not only with men who are enrolled, and who arrived before the issue of the writ, but also with those who are not enrolled - with those whocame before the issue of the writ by special provisions which will be in the regulations, and with those who may arrive after nomination day by affording exceptional facilities. If a man does not enroll on arrival in Australia before the issue of writs he can get a certificate from the Commandant from the State to which he belongs. Such a certificate was issued under the Electoral (War Time) Act to those entitled to vote at the last election. We are now providing that soldiers shall get this certificate, and that the Electoral Returning Officer of the State shall indorse on it the division to which the soldier belongs. That will entitle him on presenting the certificate to vote at any polling booth within a State.
– Can he select any division ?
– No; if he is not enrolled he will vote for the division according to the military or naval roll. A man enlists at a particular place, and from that fact his district is known, and hia division will be the division indicated on the military roll.
– Will he use a ballot-paper different from that used by other electors ?
– A soldier will practically make an absent voter’s declaration, and vote on a form similar to an absentvoting form.
– How about Australian soldiers who enlisted in England?
– If a man has enlisted in the Australian Forces he will be entitled to vote. Section 4 of the War-time Electoral Act defines a “ member of the Forces “ as a person who is or has been a member of the Commonwealth Naval or Military Forces enlisted or appointed for active service outside Australia, or on a ship of war, and a person engaged as a munition or other worker under agreement with the Commonwealth Government outside Australia, and it also includes a person who is or has been a member of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Service, accepted or appointed by the Director of Medical Services.
– Then the definition does not include an Australian who happened to be in England when the war broke out, and enlisted in the British Army ?
– It includes only those who enlisted in the Australian Forces. There may be unenrolled members of the Forces who reach Australia from abroad after the nominations, and in their case, information will be supplied by the Defence Department as to the transports on the water and those on board. Arrangements will be made so that such members may vote at the first capital city of the
State at which the vessel calls. The names having been supplied by the Defence Department, the Commonwealth electoral officers will make the necessary preparations, and send on the forms to the porta, where the local electoral officers will see that the votes are taken. If such men are enrolled they may vote by post; if not, they vote as absent voters.
Some question has been asked as to the continuance of the method of voting with reference to ‘ ‘ Ministerial parties “ or “ Opposition parties “ adopted at the last election. That method cannot possibly be applied under present circumstances, and it is abolished.
I have indicated the chief amendments proposed by the Bill, the remainder of which is for Committee consideration. We must give every possible consideration to men who have gone to the Front. They have done their duty as men of honour, with wonderful loyalty, and we must see that they are afforded every facility for voting.
.- I regret that this Bill is necessary. It is only necessary because the Government are endeavouring to exploit what they ‘believe is popular opinion. Without doubt a great number of people have shouted in welcoming the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who thinks that this is the time to go to the country.
– Do you not think he deserves it?
– As to that, I think that the Prime Minister has been the greatest failure in the public life of the Commonwealth. Everything he has done since he left our party has been a failure. It must be remembered that the Prime Minister and his Government endeavoured to keep the soldiers in the Old Country for another two years, and it was only when that action was. exposed by Mr. Keith Murdoch that the Government reversed their attitude. It was a very easy matter for the Prime Minister to get leave of absence for our gallant -men - to intervene between them and British soldiers who did not understand them - and, of course, the men are very grateful. But is that a reason why this country should be rushed into a sudden general election ? Are we to have an election simply because the Prime Minister hopes by going to the1 country now, to get a renewal of power? Everybody is agreed that we should do our best to enable the soldiers to exercise the franchise, and we shall do all we can to attain that object.
– This is what is called cordially supporting the Bill !
– I am availing myself of an opportunity to make a few observations concerning the action of the Government under the Electoral (War-time) Act in May, 1917. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) will see that there is nothing wrong done at the present election. We all desire our soldiers to have a vote. I am sorry that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) is retiring from the chamber, because I wish to address myself particularly to him in view of the fact that, to my great regret, he is about to leave the House of Representatives for ever.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - He always speaks well of you !
– The honorable member who interjects does not, and I am sure that when he looked at an interjection of his in cold print this morning he must have felt very sorry. However, I ask the honorable member for Wentworth whether he can approve of the action of his Government in issuing a Government newspaper to soldiers at the Front, and maligning and misrepresenting the Opposition in every way, while, on the other hand, he made promises to the soldiers in the way of increased pensions, promises which have never been fulfilled? I ask the honorable member whether h? has not heard that the provisions of the Electoral Act were vilely abused in the Old World by the emissaries of the Government. No honest politician can stand for unfair tactics.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - If you mean in England and France, what you say is not correct.
– A defeated candidate at the last election said to me, “ I lost my seat because “ Billy “ did not stand to me with the soldiers’ votes.” The soldiers’ ballot-papers contained the words “Ministerial “ and “ Opposition,,” but when many of the soldiers went away from Australia’ we were the Ministerialists, and it is quite possible that numbers of them voted for Ministerialists in the belief that they were voting for members . of the Labour party. My own opinion is that numbers of soldiers’ votes were recorded for divisions to which they did not rightly belong. It was quite an easy matter to do so. Was it not a most singular fact that when the poll was counted in Australia there were eleven doubtful seats. - the Capricornia seat was included among the doubtful ones, although I had a majority of over 2,000 votes - and that every Labour man who had not a majority of 500 of the votes cast in his own division was ‘ ‘ outed ‘ ‘ by the votes of the soldiers abroad ? I have heard many soldiers say that the majority vote in their, company or battalion was in favour of the Labour party. It is a bad thing for any country when there is in- ‘terference with the ballot-box. I am not in favour of any unfair play or trickery. A nation is on the down grade when it§ Government commences to manipulate the ballot-box. I have read that in one nation which once had a great empire and has lost it, it was the custom to have a false bottom to the ballot-box in which votes for the Government candidates were secreted. We do not want anything of that sort to occur in Australia, and I hope that the Government will see that there is fair play.
In connexion with this election, are wa to have a circular issued by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), as was the case last time ? Do those honorable members who believe in fair play think that it was fair play for the Prime Minister to issue to every mother of a soldier in Australia a leaflet . with the heading, “ Prime Minister’s Department,” and bearing a block that purported to be the Prime Minister’s signature and the Australian coat of arms? There must have been 250,000 of those circulars sent out.
– Were they issued at the expense of the Government1?
– That is what I wish to ‘ know. How was it that the Prime Minister was able to get the names of the mothers of soldiers so that he could address to them what, to the minds of many, must have appeared to be a personal communication? The letter commenced, “ Dear Mrs.- .” Is the Defence
Department to be used during this election to help the Government?
– No; except to identify the men who have been in the Australian Imperial Force.
– Did the Minister know what was done last time when the Prime Minister issued hundreds of thousands of circulars to the mothers of the soldiers of Australia through the Defence Department or through the Electoral Office, or, having got the names from the Defence Department, through the socalled National Federation ?
– There is no proof that that was done.
– I can show the honorable member one of those letters. It was addressed to a lady in my constituency.
– I was a soldier’s father, but I received no circular.
– What is the use of fame or notoriety if a Minister is unknown to the Defence Department ?. Prom what wo are now told we understand that the Defence Department is endeavouring to keep in touch with the soldiers to get. them on the roll or enable them to vote. That is quite right.
– The Defence Department is not doing more than the Statute provides. I have never heard that it has done more.
– According to the Minister, the Department is going to keep in touch with the men. It will get all particulars concerning the men who are returning and meet them at the boat’s. That is all right. Let the soldiers have the chance to vote ; but do not let the Prime Minister use the Defence Department for the purpose of getting a number of names and addresses so that he may make use of them for his personal ends. I can produce a letter which was sent on behalf of the Prime Minister.
– I knew nothing of that circular. I know nothing of it to-day, except what .the honorable member has said. The Electoral Branch of the Home and Territories Department had nothing to do with it.
– I do not claim that the Electoral Branch had anything to do with it, but I may inform him that the Prime Minister issued a circular which I can produce for his inspection. I do not object to the Government going to the greatest trouble possible and spending money - up to £100 in the case of the election for members of the House of Representatives. They have no right to spend more. On the last occasion they spent thousands of pounds. They broke their own law, and should have prosecuted themselves.
– The honorable member must have had some experience of the law.
– My experience is that it is very difficult to keep within this particular provision. We are allowed only £100 for printing and other expenses, and a day or two ago I received from a printer an estimate of £50 for the printing of 20,000 leaflets. I plead with the Government to give us fair play on this occasion. At the last general election we certainly did not receive fair play at their hands. They published a newspaper, which was printed with Government money - money raised, by way of taxation, from our supporters as well as from supporters of their own party- in which we were frequently libelled, and many mean and contemptible suggestions were made regarding the policy of the Labour party. I hope that the Government will not again resort to such tactics.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– Here is a man who would not have been in the House but for a mistake that was made with the oversea votes
– I have not the slightest doubt that, as the honorable member says, if it had not been for some mistake made in the manipulation of the overseas vote- at the last general election I should not have been returned.
– And the honorable member would not be here to-day if Mr. Ryan had had his way.
– The honorable member will not be here after this week if Mr. Ryan has his way. As regards the special provisions of this Bill, I desire to express my pleasure that the Government have at last realized their duty to returned sailors and soldiers in providing them with voting facilities. On three different occasions when I brought this matter up the Government would not even accept my suggestion that every soldier, irrespective of his age or whereabouts, should be given an opportunity to vote. Every facility should be given to soldiers, either in Australia or on their way back to Australia, as well as to those who may arrive during the election period, to record their votes, and any step in that direction will be heartily welcomed by me
I am not going into the history that has been covered by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). There are some incidents associated with the last election that the Government themselves, I think, would like to forget. It would be highly advisable if the hand of God could wipe the slate clean of some of the episodes of the last election.
– The honorable member will arrange that.
– I hope that after the forthcoming election I shall have something to do with the use of the sponge in the Electoral Branch of the Department of Home and Territories. Some one will have a big task in cleaning up the mess that has been made there by the Government. Never before was the machinery of government prostituted for party purposes as it was during the last election by die party now in power, and some one will have to undertake the big patriotic task of rehabilitating the good name of this country so far as its electoral work is concerned.
– What about the men who voted five times for the honorable member ?
– If the honorable member knows of any one who voted five times at the one election for any member of this House, he is a traitor to his country if he does not disclose the facts, and have that individual prosecuted.
– The honorable member knows that men were prosecuted and heavily fined for voting as I have said. They admitted the offence. And yet the honorable member professes to be innocent of the facts.
– Yes; this is the first I have heard of such a case. If any individual was allowed to. vote five times at the last election, the fault rested, not so much with the man as with the electoral machinery that made it possible for him to do so.
– If those men had not done so, the honorable member would not have been returned. It is not the soldiers he has to thank for his election.
– The honorable member is beginning to discover something.
– I am. I thought I knew a good deal about the tricks adopted by the Government at the last general election, but apparently there are some things of which I have yet to learn.
– Why reflect for political purposes on the Chief Electoral Officer ?
– I certainly make no reflection on the conduct of the last election for Brisbane by the electoral officers. As I said yesterday, I have the utmost confidence in the electoral officers if they are not interfered with. It is the interference of which I complain.
– Apparently the honorable member complains that the men who voted five times for him were fined.
– I know nothing of the matter. I can lay the flattering unction to my soul, that I have fought four elections, and that my hands are clean and my conscience clear. I put up a fair and honest fight, and will do so again.
In regard to the Bill before the House, are we clearly to understand that the provision made in it for voting by members of the Forces who are not enrolled, as well as by others who have become enrolled since their return, or are entitled to enrolment even while absent, will apply not only to soldiers but to sailors, doctors, nurses, war workers, munition workers, and all others who have been engaged on war service? It is quite possible that many war workers have had their names removed from the roll and are not aware of that fact. It should be clearly and explicitly provided that every individual who went abroad on war work - whether as a soldier, sailor, doctor, nurse, or munition worker - shall have the right to vote. In. these days, there seems to be a tendency to belittle theser.VICes rendered by munition workers. I believe they deserve a good deal of consideration, not only in regard to enrolment and the right to vote, but in other respects. I should be glad if the Minister would inform the House, either now or later, whether the provision made in this Bill for those who are not enrolled to secure a certificate enabling them to vote, will apply all ‘round?
– The definition provisions of the Electoral (War-time) Act cover the class mentioned by the honorable member. It covers munition workers officially engaged.
– Having received that clear and explicit assurance from the Minister, I am prepared to give my hearty support to the Bill.
.- In some respects I much preferthe Electoral (Wartime) Act to the Bill now before us. Honorable members are aware that at the general election in 1917 a great many of our soldiers, munition workers, and nurses were away, and that a Bill was passed to enable them to record their votes. In that Bill provision was made to cover the death of a member between the day of nomination and the date of election. That step was deliberately taken because of our experience in connexion with the death of Senator McGregor in 1914, after nominations had closed, but before the date of polling had arrived. It was deliberately provided in the Act of 1917 that in such circumstances the Leader of the party to which the deceased candidate belonged should have a right to nominate another candidate in his stead. It isnow proposed torepeal that section. In a great many constituencies, if the candidate died between the day of nomination and the day of election, the whole of’ the supporters of the party to which he belonged would be disfranchised, although in that electorate they might be in a majority of four to one. In the electorate of Yarra, for instance, there is an overwhelming preponderance of Labour supporters. On the last two or three occasions I have won there by a majority of three or four to one. If anything happened to me between the day of nomination and the day of election, the whole of the supporters of Labour in that electorate would be absolutely disfranchised.No one will say that arepresentative of the Employers Federation, or an advocate of profiteering, would have a chance of winning that seat, yet those who are anti-Labour must believe in profiteering.
– I do not. I denounce profiteering wherever I go.
– The honorable member may say that he is infabour of a certain thing, but when he has a chance to vote for it - just as he had a chance yesterday to vote for proportional representation - he votes against it. There are at least twenty-five Federal electorates where either the Labour party or the Ministerial party would be absolutely disfranchised in the event of the death of their respective candidates in the circumstances I have mentioned. I therefore regret that the
Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) does not propose to allow the section of the principal Act providing’ for such a contingency to stand. He has said privately that the reason for its discontinuance is that it would mean that the party to which the deceased candidate belonged would really have in its own hands the filling of the vacancy.We have provided in the Electoral Act that where a candidate dies before polling day, his executors shall be entitled to a refund, of the deposit lodged by him. I believed when we passed that Act, the case of the late Senator McGregor being fresh in our minds, that we were providing deliberately for this contingency. There was a unanimous feeling on both sides that provision should be made for it. It is an absolutely wise provision. It is not right to def ranchise an electorate on either side. What was our unfortunate experience on one occasion may be the experience of the other side at any time, but I sincerely hope that it will not happen. Neither party should seek to take advantage of so deplorable an occurrence as the death of a candidate. I am not pleading only for the party on this side. I urge the Minister to incorporate in our Electoral Act a provision by which neither party will be disfranchised on an occasion of that sort. I ask this of the Minister as a matter of justice to the electors.
-Was it ever in any Act?
– It was in the Electoral (War-time) Act.
– It was incidental to the party marking of that Act.
– Yes ; but it went further. Section 15 of that Act, which was passed before the 1917 elections, provided : -
If in any election for the Senate or for the House of Representatives any candidate representing the Ministerial party or the Opposition party dies after the date of nominations and before polling day, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition, as the case may loe, may certify to the Chief Electoral Officer in writing the name of the person recognised by him as a substitute candidate, and thereupon such substitute candidate shall, upon production’ to the Chief Electoral Officer of written consent to his nomination, be deemed to have been duly nominated in the place of the deceased candidate.
That is a reasonable provision, fair to both sides. I do not think either side could claim to secure an advantage from it. At an average election, about twentyfive seats are likely to fall to the Labour party, about twenty-five to the anti-Labour party, and the Teal fight is as to the remaining twenty-five. On the . way that they go depends the question of which party will have a majority in this Chamber. Practically, you can divide the electorates into three - one-third being definitely Labour, one- third definitely antiLabour, and the other third being those upon which a good fight may be put up on any occasion. This provision will, therefore, not favour one party as against the other. It can certainly be put into this Bill, which would decide the matter in the event of any such unfortunate occurrence between the day of nomination and the day of election. I hope that such a provision will be permanentlyincor porated in the electoral law. The debates that took place when this matter was last discussed show clearly that it was the intention of both sides to incorporate it permanently in our’ electoral machinery. The Minister says it was only done on the last occasion because the parties were marked as “ Ministerial,” and “ Opposition.” As there are so few soldiers away now, it is not necessary to mark the parties in that way; but many of the returned men have been away for four or five years, and are absolutely out of touch with Australian politics. In many cases, they do not know to what party members belong. At a recent gathering of returned soldiers in a metropolitan electorate, two of the returned men were speaking to an exmember of this .House and myself, and expressed surprise to learn’ that he had been defeated at the last election. The soldiers do not know what has transpired in Aus; tralia. I was looking up recently the pamphlets called All for Australia, issued on the last occasion to the, soldiers overseas. For misrepresentation, they- stand in a class by themselves.
– Does this Bill propose to suppress them?
– No ; but there will be no money spent in that way this time. - It will not be worth while. There will not be so many soldiers overseas to deceive as on the last occasion. That paper told “ more lies to the square inch than any other newspaper I have ever seen.
– Look how the soldiers are treating the gay deceiver 1
– I will guarantee to get more returned soldiers’ votes in my electorate than any man they can bring against me. Last time the Government could not fool the soldiers, although they were 12,000 miles away from Australia. I beat the Government, with all their lies, - as contained in that “ rag “ which was sent to the soldiers. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) can tell honorable members how, when we endeavoured to have advertisements put in the English papers, our money was refused. They would not publish anything in favour of the Labour party. Was that fair play? The .honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) stands for the suppression of one side, and circulating lies about them without giving them a chance to reply.
– I am surprised to hear the honorable member engage in that wholesale vilification. It is not like him.
– The honorable member stands for preventing one side ‘being heard.
– I have never stood for anything of the kind.
– The party to which the honorable member now belongs stood for it. We had no opportunity to have anything put before the soldiers on the lastoccasion. However, the soldiers are back now. The -Government can rig up any sort of demonstration if they like to pay for it.
– I am afraid the discussion is wandering into fields not covered by the Bill.
– I am urging that some of the provisions of the original Act should be retained, and spoke incidentally of the procedure indulged in at the last election.
– I thought the honorable member was replying to an irrelevant interjection.
– I could not help the interjection, but I was not going to allow it to pass without a reply from me.
-Order! I ask honorable members not to interject, irrelevantly or otherwise. All interjections are disorderly.
– We are told that on this occasion the Bill will apply to only 6,000 votes, because it is expected that before the 13th December practically the whole- of the soldiers will ‘be back.
– There are about 6,000 men remaining in the Old Country who will not be covered by this Bill.
– What about all the others ?
– They are all provided for.
– In what way ?
– Either as regular electors, or, if not enrolled, they are to be allowed to vote without enrolment. If they arrive late. the transports will be met at the port of call, and the men will be enabled to vote as absent voters if the port of call is not in their own State.
– Is that the arrangement df they arrive at Fremantle or Albany subsequent to the day of election ?
– Subsequent to the day of nomination. The name of every man arriving will be sent to the electoral officers over there, and, no matter’ what State they belong to, their votes will be taken on the boat.
– Will the list be at head-quarters and be sent to the various States ?
– It will ‘be sent to the Chief Electoral Officer, who will send along the necessary papers to the ports. We know the ports that the transports will call at, and will have the machinery there for them. The names, of the soldiers will be supplied to the Chief Electoral Officer.
– Will they be sent to the various States?
– They will be sent on by the Chief Electoral Officer to the States concerned.
– If either side is allowed an opportunity to scrutinize those names, will the same treatment be accorded to both sides?
– Of course. If there is any scrutiny, both sides must be in it.
– There are three sides.
– I have no objection to thirty-three sides having the’ opportunity, if necessary. The provision for scrutiny, contained in paragraph c of section 17 of the original Act, is cut out of this Bill. I ask the Minister to see that, if the list of the men coming back is made available to the Ministerial representative, it is also made available to the representative of the Opposition.
– I have never known any distinction to be made between parties iv. that way.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) made a statement on that question this afternoon, and during the last election I saw a copy of a letter that purported to come from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), urging the mothers of the soldiers to vote for his party. It had his rubber stamp signature on it.
– I know nothing of it, as Minister.
– I do. On that occasion the whole of the lists must have been made available to the Prime Minister, or his Publicity Department, for the purpose of circularizing the mothers. I am certain that some honorable members on the other side have seen copies of that document, although it was not sent to all mothers. My wife did not receive one, because, presumably, the persons directing affairs knew that it would be useless.
– That rather spoils the thing.
– I have- never said that all mothers received a copy. In any case, it would be safe for the Prime Minister’s officers to pick out those who were certain to be oppositionists, and refrain from sending copies to them. If 300,000 copies were sent out on that occasion, it shows that one side got a list of names. Both sides have a right to be placed on the same footing.
– Would such a letter influence them ?
– It was couched in very strong language. I have been looking through the publication All for Australia, which will be very useful during the forthcoming campaign. It will be interesting to set before the public the promises made to the boys at the Front that £22,000,000 would be available for repatriation, and that the pensions would be raised to £2, because 30s. was not enough. I shall compare the mountain of promises’ with the dustheap of performances.
I have asked the Minister to explain why the provision relating to the substitution of another nominee in the event of the death of one candidate has been struck out, and I desire ‘also an assurance that if the list which is being prepared by the Defence Department for the Electoral Office is made available to either party contesting the election it will be made available to both. If there are more than two parties the others may make a claim for themselves. The Minister has taken a step in the wrong direction by removing the provision in relation to scrutineers for soldiers’ votes. Votes recorded in a polling booth are not so much in need of scrutiny as are those recorded in other places, for the soldiers themselves allege that a certain amount of influence was brought to bear upon them at the time of the last election. I regret that the Minister has seen .fit to do more than continue the existing Act relating to the voting of soldiers, with such minor alterations as may be necessary.
.- I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has changed his mind’ with regard to the nomination of a substitute in the event of the death of a candidate. Ever since I came into this Parliament I have fought for the introduction of that system. In 1907, when the Deakin Government amended the Electoral Act, I moved an amendment to that end, but it was not accepted by the Government, who were supported by the members of the Labour party. Later, when Labour came into power, I again moved the same amendment, but without success, the only support accorded me on that occasion coming, from the present Postmaster - General (Mr. Webster). Later I made another attempt to have that reform introduced.
– It was inserted in the Act of 1917.
– It was inserted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) at my request.
– The amendment was made on account of the consequences attending the death of Senator McGregor while he was a candidate for re-election.
– That incident proved to the Labour party the necessity for amending the Act, and I regret very much that the Minister proposes to withdraw the reform then introduced. It is a fair provision, and should be allowed to remain in the Act.
The accusation by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) regarding the use of trickery in connexion with the soldiers’ votes at the last election is a very serious reflection on QuartermasterSergeant McGrath, who was authorized by the Government to watch the interests of the Labour party in England and at the Front.
– He was authorized by the Labour party to do so.
– And he was obstructed by the Government.
– He cabled a message that everything connected with the voting and counting abroad was first class’.
– It was arranged that each party should nominate scrutineers, and Quartermaster - Sergeant McGrath represented the Labour party. He has stated over and over again that everything was “ on the square.” I assure honorable members that while the Government issued circulars to the soldiers, Quartermaster-Sergeant McGrath sent out tens of thousands of circulars in the interests of the Labour party, and used the machinery of the Defence Department in London for the purpose. 1 have seen some of those circulars. There was no misrepresentation by the National party, and there was no misunderstanding on the part of the soldiers. Every digger knew exactly for whom he was voting, and the parties to which the candidates belonged. It is misleading to say that the soldiers voted under a misapprehension, and that certain honorable members owed their election to that fact.
I hope that even now the Minister (Mr. Glynn) will see his way to re-insert the provisions relating to the nomination of a substitute in the event of the death of a candidate before polling day.
– I in-‘ dorse the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) regarding the decease of a candidate between the date of nomination and election day. I said last night that we ought to try to approximate our electoral laws to the wishes of the general community, and the insertion of a provision for the nomination of a substitute in the event of the nominee of one party dying before election day is one means of doing that. In an electorate such as Yarra, if the Labour candidate dies before election day, another candidate, who does not represent the views of the majority of the people in the district, will be elected. The late Senator McGregor died on the day after nominations for the Senate closed, and it was necessary for the Labour party in South Australia, in order to conserve their strength to decide to concentrate the Labour vote upon one of the Liberal candidates. The result was the election of Senator Shannon by a total vote which is never likely to be equalled by any Senate candidate in that State. He received all the votes of Labour supporters - and Labour at that time was predominant in South Australia - and also the straggling Liberal backing. But in that case the death of a candidate did not make such a great difference, because he was only one of a party team of six. In a single member constituency the effect of the death of a candidate is much worse, because it may leave the majority of people in the district disfranchised for the following three years. There is no logical reason for the elimination of that portion of the existing law.
My chief purpose in speaking on this Bill is to refer to the continuance of Part 3 of the principal Act, which deals with the disqualification of certain persons. That disqualification was inserted while the country was at war, and the majority of the sections deal with enemy subjects. For all practical purposes we are no longer at war. We are only awaiting the carrying out of certain parliamentary formalities in different countries in connexion with the ratification of the Peace Treaty when all countries will again be on an equality, and there will be no longer any enemy aliens. Nearly all our troops have returned, and there is now no fear of aggression from any other country. It is misleading to say that we are still in any sense in a state of war.We shallbe doing an injustice to many good patriotic and loyal citizens if we continue in operation that part of the existing Act which forbids voting by persons born in any of the countries of our former enemies. They were disfranchised, not only in regard to the conscription referendum - an issue that was held at the time to be vital to the country - but also for the coming general election, which will determine the composition of this Parliament for the next three years. They as citizens will be required to pay whatever taxation is imposed by the new Parliament, but will have no opportunity by recording their votes of securing representation. That provision is distinctly vicious in its application. As far as the War Precautions Act allowed, the Government came down heavily on any person who was supposed to be disloyal during the war, and disloyalists have been searched for with a fine tooth-comb. I am advised that a lot of persons were interned, not because of any disloyal utterance or action, but in order that they might be kept under surveillance and restraint, and thus have no opportunity to do anything to the detriment of the Commonwealth while we were at war. A large body of those who were held not to be loyal citizens have been, or are being, deported. Therefore, the persons against whom the disqualification was directed are no longer a menace to the country. Perhaps that disqualification will apply more severely to the Angas electorate than to any other part of South Australia, because it contains more German villages and settlers than any other district. Whilst we might during the time of war look askance at, and be suspicious of, any person with a German name, the Minister will admit that a large number of the German settlers could not be more loyal ifthey were British-born. These people are to be disfranchised, not because there is anything against them, but because during the war it was thought advisable not to. give them an opportunity to swing their votes in favour of their country of origin on the question of conscription. But quite a different set of circumstances confront us to-day; and if we are to be just to those people, we must give them their rights as free naturalized British subjects. Our boasted British freedom is being put to the test; and it is to be hoped that these citizens will not be denied the right of saying who shall be their rulers for the next three years.
Part III. of the original Act, which deals with the disqualification of certain persons, provides -
Section 10 -
Nothing contained in sub-section (1) of this section shall be construed as preventing any of the following persons from voting, namely -
any member of the Forces who is serving outside Australia.
any person who produces to the Presiding Officer a certificate signed by the District Commandant of a Military District, or an officer thereto authorized by him, that that person is or has been a member of the Forces, or who has applied for enlist- ment as a member of the Forces, or who lias applied for enlistment as a member of the Forces and has been rejected as medically unfit or is a parent or the wife, brother, or sister of a person who is or lias been a member of the Forces, or of a person who lias so applied and been rejected;
any person who satisfies the Presiding Officer that lie is or has been at any time during the present war a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth
– The honorable member is not in order in reading sections of the principal Act which are outside the scope of the amendments proposed by the Bill. ‘
– I wish to indicate that in Committee I shall move to delete the whole of Part III. of the original Act.
– The honorable member is not in order in quoting the sections at length now, and his proposal is outside the order of leave.
– ‘These citizens, in order to prove their bona fides, and obtain the right’ to vote, have to subject themselves to what I consider is a humiliation. A man who may have offered himself for enlistment and have been rejected has to obtain a certificate from the Defence Department in verification of that fact. Further, men who have been overseas must also prove the fact by producing a document obtained from the Defence Department. “We all know that every discharged soldier carries his discharge in his pocket ; and I should think that ought to be sufficient to prove his bona fides. It is according to British instincts and tradition that after a fight, whether we be the victors or the defeated, we are prepared to shake hands; but that spirit is not observed in the Bill before us. Although it is twelve months since the signing of the armistice, which represents the end of the war, it is proposed to continue these iniquitous provisions, which apply not only to disloyal people, but to loyal British subjects. Originally, these provisions were intended to apply only to a referendum on the question of conscription ; and I do not see that any honorable member can justly oppose a proposal to delete the whole of Part III. of the original Act. The class of citizens to whom I am referring pay their taxes, and we mix with them socially on level terms; nevertheless, the disabilities in force dur ing the war are to be continued when it comes to electing a Parliament for the next three years.
– The honorable member must not proceed further on those lines. What he is discussing now is outside the scope, and purpose of this amending Bill, which relates to certain sectionof the Act, and does not include the sections now being debated by the honorable member.
-I take it. that when I submit an amendment in Committee I shall be permitted to extend my remarks on the desirability of repealing this portion of the Act. I hope that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) will take note of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), and reconsider the question of the substitution of a candidate when the original candidate happens to die between the nomination and the election.
.- I do not know’ whether the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) is aware that electoral officials in the country are striking off the rolls the names of soldiers who are absent from the country.
– I have never heard of it.
– I understood that all electoral officers were instructed that the names of soldiers on active service should not be removed because of the fact that they are absent from the country. In order to avoid any complications in this regard, I suggest that the officers be definitely instructed on the point. I do not think the matter has come under the notice of the leading’ electoral officials, for they are well aware of what ought to be done.
– I have already said that every possible liberality will be observed in regard to technicalities of that sort.
– Only last week I saw a letter from the wife of an officer, who is still on the other side of the world, stating, not only that his name had been objected to, but that it had actually been struck off the roll, on the ground that he is an absentee.
– There may be some individual mistakes.
– I merely mention the matter so that no injustice may be done in the future. Do I understand that this
Bill is to give a vote to soldiers whether or not they are twenty-one years of age?
– Yes. At present they can vote, but they must be on the electoral roll. This Bill facilitates their voting, although they may not be on the roll.
– Do I understand that this Bill does not remove the disqualification from Australian-born persons of German parentage ?
– They are not disqualified
– They never were disqualified.
– I have in my mini the case which occurred in the electorate of the honorable member for Grampian-. (Mr. Jowett). This person, who was bornin Australia of German parents, is the father of a lad by whom the supreme sacrifice was made at the Front, and yet he has to go through what he considers humiliating forms in order to obtain the right to vote.
– In what way are they humiliating ?
– This man has proved himself a good Australiancitizen, and the forms to which I refer are felt by him to be humiliating.
– There must always be some hard cases.
– There are hard cases, not only connected with people of German parentage, but with others.
– It is better to have hard cases than go too far the other way.
– Many men who are as good Australian citizens as I have met, decline to go through these humiliating forms in order to get a vote.
– If they think so little of the vote, they had better stay off the roll.
– They think much of the vote, but object to the humiliation.
I hope that in the taking of the soldiers’ vote nothing will be resorted to of a distasteful nature. Many things, were written and said during the conscription campaign that reflected little credit on these responsible. It seems strange that in Australia, where we boast of our freedom, we cannot fight our elections on political principles, which are very often put in the background while extraneous questions are introduced for the purpose of influencing the decision. We ought to fight “ fair and square,” particularly when we are appealing so the soldiers, and the fighting has not been fair and square in past elections. Notwithstanding many misstatements made for the purpose of misleading the soldiers abroad , when the conscription question was before us,I find that they gave a very even vote, there being 103,000 in favour and 93,910 against. It oughtto be remembered by people who cast reflections on those who, in accordance with their convictions, voted against conscription, that they are also casting reflections on nearly 100,000 soldiers who voted the other way. An accurate and fair statement of the position should be put before the soldiers, who should then be allowed , to vote according to their judgment and conscience. So long as the Minister for Home and Territories is at the helm of the Electoral administration, I know that he will not allow any interference by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) or any other Minister.
– It has never been done while I have been in control of the Department.
– Whether it was behind his back or not, something has been done since the Minister has been in control of the Department. However, I have every confidence that he will deal out even-handed justice to all parties.
– And we have every confidence in the Electoral Officers.
– I was speaking of the Ministerial head. Very often things are done contrary to the advice of the Electoral Officers. I think the time has arrived when the Chief Electoral Officer should be placed high and dry above any Ministerial influence. He has certain Statutes to administer, and should be in a position to tell any Minister to stand aside so that the law maybe carried out.
– The Chief Electoral Officer did that when Mr. King O’Malley was Minister.
– Yes; and I believe he would do it again. Unfortunately, outside the instructions of the Chief Electoral Officer, or even of the Minister, the Prime Minister has taken certain action which was not in accord with the Electoral law, and was a violation of those principles which should be our guide at election times.
– He has certainly never done so while I have been administering the Department.
– I do not know that the Minister had control of affairs in regard to the issue of literature.
– That has nothing to do with the Electoral Branch of the Department.
– In many cases, it seems to me that the issue of literature is a violation of the Act. It is certainly an undesirable practice. Provisions which were included in the law by the Fisher Government limit the possibility of influencing votes in a manner which is altogether wrong, and I am glad to see that the present Government have retained those sections. I am satisfied that, if the Minister says to every one else, ‘ Hands off ! I am the gentleman who is responsible for the conduct of this election,” a fair deal will be meted out to the electors. We want the election to be a clean one, and we do not want those matters introduced which are likely to influence the voters in a wrong way. Let us fight the election on principles.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions and Citation) -
.- Is not this the clause that will bring into operation that part of the principal Act which disfranchises certain persons?
– It applies to voting at the Referendum.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Repeal of sections 15 and 16)
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put: The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 6a. Part III. of the principal Act is hereby repealed.”
On the second reading I explained the injustice that will be done by Part III. of the Act, under which very many estimable residents of Australia were prevented from voting at the Conscription Referendums. It was felt that they might give a biased vote upon the question of compelling our troops to proceed overseas to fight against the people of those enemy countries from which their parents had come. The majority of these citizens are loyal to Australia. They are paying taxes, and have to bear all the obligations of citizenship. It is unfair to prevent them from having a voice in the selection of the persons who are to control the affairs of this country for the next three years, and it is iniquitous to carry our enmity to the extent of imposing it on our own citizens in the matter of voting at the ordinary general elections for this Parliament.
– (Hon. J. M. Chanter). - Order! .No amendment can be moved which is outside the scope of the Bill. As the Bill which has been read a second time in the House contains no provision with reference to the question the honorable member proposes to deal with, I am compelled to rule his amendment out of order.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That Orders of the Day 2 and 3 be postponed until a later hour this day.
.- I do not object to the Government proposing to vary the order of business set out in the notice-paper, but I think that we should have had notice of their intention to take such a course so soon after the opening of the sitting. One of the measures which it is proposed ‘ to postpone is the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, in connexion with which certain representations have been made, not only to me, but to honorable members generally, on behalf of the blind people of the community. I advised one of their representatives that this Bill would be brought on this afternoon, . but it is now to be postponed. It is very difficult for a blind man to attend here, but the Government do not even state why this postponement is proposed.
– I have to consult the convenience of the Treasurer ‘(Mr. Watt). The honorable member realizes that we, too, have difficulties.
– Quite so; but when the order of business ds to be varied, some notice should be afforded honorable members to enable them to make arrangements accordingly
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a small measure arising out. of the Northern Territory agreement. It will be recollected that in 1907 an agreement was made between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia for the transfer of the Northern Territory to the ‘Commonwealth Government, and also for the transfer of the Oodnadatta railway to the control of the Commonwealth. One of the conditions of the contract was that the Commonwealth would- *-
Give and continue to give to the State and its citizens equal facilities at least in transport of goods and passengers on ‘ the Port Augusta railway to those provided by the State Government at the present time and at rates not exceeding those at present in force.
Under that provision ‘the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is not permitted to charge rates in excess of t/hose which’ existed on 7th December, 1907. Since then, however, conditions have considerably changed, awd the .South Australian Government itself has been compelled, owing to the increased cost of railway management, to raise freights and fares on its own lines. The Commonwealth Government, having regard to these altered conditions, approached the State Government with a view to securing a variation of the agreement, and, on the 21st instant, an agreement was signed by the Premier of South Australia and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth providing for the elimination of the clause to which I have referred, and for the substitution in its place of a provision entitling the Commonwealth to charge “ rates not exceeding those for the time being in force on the railways of the State for similar services.”
– So that if the South Australian railway freights come down the rates on the Oodnadatta line will come down.
– Yes. We assimilate our rates with, those of the State. Citizens of South Australia in respect of the Oodnadatta line will be given rates similar to those prevailing on the ‘ State railways.
– Is the .South Australian Government going to introduce a Bill in the State Parliament to ratify the agreement ?
– Yes. The agreement is subject to ratification by the two Parliaments concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Is it the pleasure of ‘the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
Honorable Members. - Hear., hear !
.. - Some of us -have been called upon, as members <of the Public Accounts Committee, to consider the original . agreement.
– And we recommended that a variation of it on .these lines should be secured
– Yes ; and I am glad that the Minister has acted with ‘such expedition.
– We have been negotiating with the South Australian Government for some time in regard Ito the matter.
– Quite so. Had .the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner been allowed to -charge on’ ‘the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway the same rates as .are charged -on the South Aus- tralian ‘State railways, . .the Commonwealth would have been £17,000 better off than it is to-day. In justice to the South Australian officials, I ought to say that they held the opinion that, under the original agreement, rates on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway should rise or fall just as rates on the State railways rose or fell.. Unfortunately, the legal interpretation of the agreement was that that could not be done. This Bill will lead to an increased revenue being obtained from the line, and will so enable us to pay off a little of the “ dead horse “ that we took over with it.
.- Like the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), I, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, had the privilege .of heading evidence with regard to this matter, and joined with my colleagues on that Committee in recommending that an alteration of the original agreement should be obtained. South Australian officials thought that it would be open to the Commonwealth to make an arrangement of this kind without any. alteration of the agreement. They were of the opinion that the original agreement would allow of a rise, or fall in rates on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway in sympathy with any rise or fall of rates in respect of the State lines. That was the intention of some of those who were responsible for the drafting of the original agreement; but it was found that a variation of it would be necessary to enable that course to be followed, South Australia having agreed to this variation,, and, since a Bill to ratify the new- agreement is to be passed through the State Legislature, there will be no further, difficulty in regard -to the- matter. I would point out “to the Minister, however, that the Oodnadatta line plays an important part in the development of the Northern Territory, and that, having regard to the desirableness of encouraging the cattle traffic upon it, the Commonwealth should be very careful not to unduly raise rates. I am glad that this Bill has been introduced.
– I offer no opposition to this Bill, which gives to the Commonwealth a right which it ought to possess in administering the national -asset which South Australia handed over to the Federation. I take exception to the remark made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that the increased revenue which will be derived from the line as the result of the raising of rates will enable us to pay off some of the “ dead horse “ which we took over, in” connexion with the Territory, from the State Government. If the Territory is a “ dead horse,” then all the more shame to the Commonwealth. It shows that the Commonwealth Government does not know how to develop it. If a band of capitalists secured possession of it, they would very quickly show the people how to develop it. When Australia federated, and we were told that we were to be one people, with one destiny, it was only reasonable that a small State like South Australia should not be burdened with a tract of country with which it could not be expected to deal. Every strategist tells us that the Northern Territory, with its lack of population, is one of the greatest menaces to our safety, and Ave could hardly expect South Australia to shoulder the responsibility of a new nation in that regard. Had South Australia retained possession of it, I am sure that it would have done more than the Commonwealth has done towards liquidating the liabilities associated with it. It is time that the. Government applied themselves to the task of developing the Territory. There we have an opportunity of exploiting the possibilities of nearly every tropical product. Very little will be done in that direction, however, until the Territory is brought into closer touch with the States. If the Oodnadatta railway were extended to the Macdonnell Ranges or Alice Springs, it would touch some of the potentialities of the Northern Territory, and give an opportunity to wipe off some of the “ dead horse,” which, so to speak, would have been revivified into a livehorse.. I hope we shall tackle the question of the Northern Territory quickly, and seriously, and in a proper frame of mind, because the spirit of Federation is going to be broken down if the States are to be treated as South Australia has been. Only the other day the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) came to South Australia and made a statement with regard to what was going to be spent in that State. But the money is not on the Estimates. Hardly a penny is being spent in South Australia for developmental purposes by that Department, and the same thing applies to the Northern Territory.
– That is the fault of South Australia not agreeing to an improvement, by which she would have come out at the top instead of the bottom.
– That does not get over the insincerity of Ministers. The honorable member was present, and heard thePostmasterGeneral say he was glad the question had been brought up, and that so many Federal members were present at the deputation, because he would want their assistance to consummate his ideas. When we look at his Estimates, there is no idea, on them. “Mr. Richard Foster. - Because the people at Port Adelaide would not agree on a site.
– I am referring to the improvement of the General Post Office, Adelaide. The Bill does nothing for South Australia, and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) has advised the Minister to be careful how he uses it, lest he kills the goose that lays the golden eggs, if I may apply that description to the Northern Territory. Judging by the Estimates, and the lethargic manner in which this matter is being dealt with. I have no fear of the Minister treading too heavily on something which is likely to produce some revenue, where it produces none at the present time. I wish again to enter an emphatic protest on behalf of South Australia, and to galvanize the Government into a little life, if possible. Whatever Government is in power must recognise that the carrying out of the agreement,. and the extension of the railway, is not merely a matter of doing justice to South Australia. It means making use of one of the parts of the
Commonwealth which is going to prove an Eldorado as soon as those who are supposed to do so control and develop it properly.
– I cannot raise any opposition to this Bill on principle, because it is equitable. I sympathize with the statement of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) that care ought to be exercised, in dealing with interior country, not to exact heavier freights than the country will stand. This measure is really in accord with the spirit of the original agreement. It is not much more than twelve “months since the South Australian freights were raised. I believe they were raised twice during a period of twelve or eighteen months, because of the conditions of railway finance. That was an absolute necessity. While they have been raised by the South Australian Railways Commissioner within South Australia proper, it is only fair that the portion of the line worked by South Australia on behalf of the Commonwealth should have the benefit of the increases. The increase will help us to reduce considerably the deficit on the line; but if we want to get rid of a burdensome deficit every year - although relatively it is not a big one - we should bridge the 300 miles of desert country which lies between the present terminus and the Macdonnell Ranges. The bridging of that gap, to say nothing, of going further northward, would, I believe, convert the railway into an undertaking that would practically pay its way.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a ‘third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure is necessitated by the fact that during the existence of the War Precautions Act we framed a number of regulations, dealing in various ways with legal proceedings relating to contracts and other matters. The object of the Bill is not to re-enact the regulations, but, in substance, it does the same thing.
The first schedule contains a number of regulations dealing with the classes of les;al proceedings to which the Bill applies. Statutory Rule No. 112 of 1916, made under the War Precautions Act, provided that no person or company should, without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral, bring any action upon * contract relating to the sale or delivery of goods, the bringing of which action was certified by the Attorney-General in writing to be, in his opinion, unfair, be- cause the person against whom the action was proposed to be brought had, before the regulation was made, entered into a contract or agreement with the Government of the Commonwealth, or of the United Kingdom, or any Munitions Board. If the Attorney-General certified that any such action was in the circumstances unfair, it was barred. Honorable members will see the justice of that provision. The Commonwealth Government might want supplies from a certain person, in the . interests of the Commonwealth, or of the United Kingdom, and if, by reason of the agreement to supply the Commonwealth, tha contractor did not fulfil his contract with some private person, that private person was prevented from bringing action against him for breach of contract.
Two other classes of case affected the Wheat Pool. One of the regulations provided that no person could, without the consent of the Attorney-General, bring an action against the Government of a State, or the Attorney-General, or Railways Commissioner or Commissioners, or any other authority, of a State, in respect or in consequence pf the refusal or failure of such State, or State authorities, to supply him with trucks for the conveyance of wheat. Honorable members will see the’ importance of that provision. When Wheat Pools were constituted, it was desirable to have the wheat brought to a common centre. If a State Railways Commissioner could not supply the trucks, the intention was to protect him fr.om any action being brought without 1 the consent of the Attorney-General. Another regulation provided that no person should, . without the consent of the Attorney-General, institute an action arising out of the non-performance of a contract for the sale or delivery of any wheat or flour, or take any further steps in any such action against the Government of the Commonwealth, or of any State,, or any officer of the Commonwealth or of a State, or any Commonwealth or State authority. The object of that was also to protect the authorities in relation to the Wheat Pool.
Another class of case in which legal proceedings were restrained was that of companies incorporated in Australia which had taken action to alter their articles of association in order to remove enemy interests from the company, and had done so in consequence of a request from the Attorney-General. By a War Precautions regulation no person was allowed to bring any action against any such 6ompany without the consent of the AttorneyGeneral in respect of any such alteration. Action was also prohibited, without the consent of the Attorney-General, in cases where any dividends’ in respect of shares standing in the name of any enemy subject in the books of any company incorporated in England, and having a branch register in .Australia - which dividends would have been payable and paid in Australia to that person had a state of war not existed - had been paid to the British Public Trustee. The reasons of public policy dictating the regulations in all those cases will be apparent to the House.
There is another class of case connected with shipping. It was provided that, where a person was under a contract to deliver goods, and any failure to deliver them or any part of them arose, no action should be brought, if the AttorneyGeneral certified that, in his opinion, the bringing of the action was unfair by reason of any action or direction of the Commonwealth Shipping Board, or of the Controller of Shipping. It was necessary in the public interest to control shipping. And where a contract to deliver certain goods could not be fulfilled on account of the control of shipping in the public interest, no action could be brought if the Attorney-General certified in the manner I have just referred to. Honorable members will see the principle that underlies all these regulations. The point is that a certificate had to be given in some cases in regard to the fairness or unfairness of the action involved. During, the operation of these regulations, the Attorney-General has refused certificates in some cases, and in others has issued certificates. The object of the Bill is to provide that when all these regulations cease with the expiry of the War Precautions Act, the certificates which have been issued shall be preserved, and the bringing of airy action shall be prevented.
Those provisions relate to past actions; but a cause of action may have arisen during the war for non-performance in various ways of contracts that had been entered into. The Bill provides that with respect to causes of action that have arisen during the war the same principle shall continue in operation for all time.
That is but fair and just. This is a permanent piece of legislation, but covering only causes of action that arose during the war! A person who knew that during the war he could not get a certificate might lie low until the War Precautions Act had expired, and then issue a writ and attempt to recover damages, which, under the circumstances, he was not entitled to get. The proposed law in that respect is clearly set out in clause 3 -
A person shall not bring any action or counterclaim, or take any step in any action or counterclaim brought, in respect of any matter in respect of which the prescribed authority has, in pursuance of the provisions of any of the regulations specified in the first schedule -
That relates to all things that happened during the existence of the War Precautions Act. Clause 5 dealswith what may be termed the possibility of future actions, and provides -
That re-enacts the substance of the regulation to which I have already referred.
The second schedule deals with two classes of action. One is proceedings for libel and slander instituted by persons who were alleged to be enemy subjects.
It is considered inadvisable to allow such actions to proceed without theconsent of the Attorney-General. Regulation 7 prevents any person bringing a civil action or instituting criminal proceedings - in respectof anything said or done or permitted to be said or done by the defendant which states or implies that the plaintiff or prosecutor (as the case may be) is an enemy subject or a person of enemy origin or association, or influence, or controlled by enemy subjects, or having or intended to have any connexion with enemy subjects, or with subjects of a country with which the King is now at war either personally or in his trade or business.
Again, Regulation . 8 provided that, without theconsent of the Attorney-General, no person should bring any action against any employer,or any organization, or body of persons, or any member or officer of any such association or body, for refusal to employ or work with persons alleged to be enemy subjects. Clause 4 deals with both those regulations, and provides -
A person shall notbring any action or take any step in any action brought, in respect of any matter in respect of which the prescribed authority has, in pursuanceof the provisions of any of the regulations specified in the second schedule refused to grant to him consent to the bringing of theaction, or to the taking of the step in the action, as the case may be.
That preserves the consent and refusals given or made during the war. I have outlined briefly the provisions of the Bill. In the interests of justice it is right and proper that the certificates andconsents given in respectof matters arising out of war conditions, andconcerning which it was felt to be in the public interest that no action should bebrought, without the consent of the Attorney-General, shouldbepreserved.
.- I should like to hear from the Minister (Mr. Groom) what war precautions regulations still remain in existence.There are some to whichI take very strong objection.
Mr.Groom. - This Bill relates only to legal proceedings.
Mr.Sinclair. - Why not adjourn the debate for an hour? We ought to look into this matter.
– If the honorable memberwill move the adjournment of the debate when I have finished I shall support him. I have objected all along to proceeding with these measures without proper consideration,butI have never received the support of one honorable member on the Government side.
– But this is a special case.
-Regulations are being kept in existence that serve no useful purpose. Last Saturday the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) accompanied one deputation and I another to the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), both relating to subjects similar to that we are now discussing. I asked that certain regulations under the War Precautions Act should, be repealed. It is absurd to continue some of them in operation nearly twelve months after the signing of the armistice. We are told that Parliament would be asked to specifically legislate in regard to all regulations that the Government desired to continue in operation.
– To what particular regulation does the honorable member refer?
– The regulation which prevents the flying of the red flag.
– That will not hurt anybody.
– I am no “flagflapper,” and the regulation does not affect me personally, but I urge that it be wiped out. Why should we continue a regulation which serves no useful purpose?
– There are bigger issues in this Bill than the flying of the red flag.
– Why did Lloyd George and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) praise the raising of the red flag in Russia?
– It would be better to allow the honorable member for Yarra to’ make his own speech.
– There are several regulations to which I object. I_ have never said that all the regulations are bad, but the majority of them were used for purposes for which they were never intended. I have asked for certain of them to be repealed, and I particularly object to the prohibition against the flying of the red flag. If a man goes to the Sydney Domain, or the Yarra Bank, or the Botanic Park, in Adelaide, and flies a red flag with the word “ Socialism “ upon it in white letters, he will be gaoled. But if an auctioneer flies a flag of the same colour with his name upon it in white letters, he is not interfered with.
We are told that a prosecution can only be undertaken with the consent of the Attorney-General. During the last election the Argus made a statement concerning me, and I applied to the Attorney-General to prosecute the proprietors of that journal. After, about a week I received a reply from his Department to the effect that if I chose to swear a declaration that the statement was absolutely ..untrue he would be prepared to allow a prosecution. I sent the necessary declaration to the Attorney-General, but I have heard nothing further of the- matter, although two years and six months have elapsed. Had I been a member of the Government party my treatment would have been different. The Attorney-General gave himself permission to prosecute many persons. That regulation was. used for the advantage of one party only. I have previously read in the House the correspondence relating to this matter. Is it right’ that I should be compelled to go to a political opponent and ask his permission to prosecute a person or newspaper for a statement that I considered improper? I have previously asked in the House whether the Prime Minister, in the prosecutions that he instituted as Attorney-General, used his private funds , or public money. If he was using public money to prosecute persons for statements made concerning himself, the same privilege ought to be extended to me.
– Who is finding the money for Ryan in the case of Ryan v. The Argus?
-Ryan, I suppose, though the Argus has lost the case up to now.
– I do not think so.
– The Argus lost the appeal the other day, as the honorable member must know if he reads the newspapers.
– I want to know who is finding the money. I think the Queensland people will have to find it.
– Very likely, I do not know : but I would object to that just as strongly as I am objecting to the action of the Prime Minister. I object to the honorable gentleman taking power to himself to say whether I should prosecute the A rous for misstatements against myself. If it is right for him to use the public money in such cases it should also be right for me. But, as I have already said, I have received no answer to my communications, although I raised the question before the Prime Minister went Home.
– How long is the Bill to remain in operation?
– There is no time fixed.
– The Government are in a very peculiar position. They declared they had no power so far as price fixing is concerned, and when the regulations were removed the prices went up in the case of many articles, as I showed three months and a half ago.
– Then it is not true that the Government did not keep prices down during the war ?
– I believe that while I was Minister for Trade and Customs I kept prices down more than they have been kept down since. The effect of one or two actions I took, even before the decision of the High Court in the bread case, was to keep down prices.
– And some of those actions were not very just.
– Every action I took was absolutely just, as I am prepared to show, anywhere.
– You are speaking of preventing the export of butter.
– I said that the people of Australia had the first right to Australian butter, and I saw that it was sold to them at the same price at which it was exported. I did not believe in an artificial shortage being created by manipulations here for the purpose of increasing the price.
– Is it a fact that the Queensland Government have shipped first class butter graded as second class in order to get it away?
– I do not think so; the butter would be graded by a Commonwealth official. I do not believe the statement of the honorable member - it is like some ofthe statements he usually makes.
– You had better be careful before you contradict it.
– I say that I do not believe it.
– The truth of it is not affected whether you believe it or not.
– I do not believe the statement made by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith).
– I did not make the statement; I asked whether it was a fact.
– I say that I do not believe the statement. The honorable member is absolutely the worst in the House for misrepresentation - for doing as he did the other day when he misrepresented the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates).
– I should be very clever to beat the honorable member himself at misrepresentation.
– I have never misrepresented anybody; my reputation in the House refutes any statement to the contrary.
– The honorable member is not discussing this Bill.
– I know; but every honorable member opposite, including the clever, cunning honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), who in a few weeks will be an ex-member, I hope–
– A vain hope!
– Will the honorable member discuss the Bill.
– Is the honorable member in order in expressing a hope that I may die before the declaration of the poll for Illawarra?
– The honorable member for Yarra is not in order in departing from the question before the Chair, to which any sentiments or wishes he may have in regard to the honorable member for Illawarra are extraneous. Perhaps, if honorable members assist the honorable member for Yarra, as well as the Speaker, by refraining from interjecting, these digressions will not be indulged in.
– I did not refer to the “ late “ member, but to the “ ex-member.”
– Is the honorable member in order in discussing the election at Illawarra?
– I merely desired to put the position clearly before the House. I object to the Prime Minister being given the proposed power, which was used for party political purposes right through the referendum campaign, and may be similarly used right through the coming election campaign. As I say, I never received a reply to my communications in reference to the misleading statements made about myself in the Argus.
– You ought to have received a reply.
– I thank the honorable member; at least there is one just person on the other side. I object to this Bill, and suggest that it would be far better for the Government to wipe out the whole of the regulations.
– In certain cases where the interests of the public demand, ships have to be deviated from one course to another, and, in consequence, it has been impossible on the part of persons who had agreed to supply to so supply.
– But the War Precautions Act has been used for other purposes. The Minister will not meet honorable members on this side, either in regard to the War Precautions Act and regulations, or anything else; and yet he asks us to help the Government. I shall not vote for the Bill.
.- I wish to direct special attention to one of the most contemptible regulations ever issued by a Government. It is a regulation that this Bill perpetuates. It is as follows: - war Precautions ( Supplementary) Regulationno. 7. (Statutory Rules 1917,No. 302.)
Under that regulation, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) went from one end of the country to the other branding his political opponents as in the pay of Germany, with the German mouth to their ear, and the German hand in their palm, and as acting in the interests of Germany against this country.
Before he did so, knowing he could be brought before the Courts of the country for malicious and criminal libel and slander, this brave man, this “ chocolate soldier “ with the “ digger’s “ hat - who represents himself throughout the country as the representative of Australian soldiers, which he never was and never can be - took care to protect himself.
There is no Australian soldier who would act in the cowardly fashion that this man has acted, this man who first protects himself against the law of criminal libel, and then lies about his excolleagues and slanders them from every platform. He protects himself by a regulation which) prevents any one bringing him before the Courts without his own consent. If ‘he slanders any member on this side of the House, his consent has to be sought and obtained before any action could be taken against him in the Courts. No honorable member opposite can defend such a contemptible regulation.
– Do you know, as a fact, that the Prime Minister did this?
– I do. To a man who has used such contemptible language as he did in the last campaign, and now uses in Queensland, there is no limit to the Billingsgate abuse and slander in which he may indulge. Yet it is proposed to continue the power to this dictator to carry on that kind of campaign throughout the coming elections.
The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that it is on the cards there may be an Imperial proclamation that the British Empire has ceased to be in a state of war with Germany, and that the very moment it is issued the contemptible regulation I have read falls to the ground. But as that proclamation may be issued before the elections, or during their course, the Government is re-enacting the regulation so that it may continue to operate, notwithstanding that this country it not at war with Germany.
– Has it ever been abused ?
– Yes, violently abused.
– In what cases?
– The Argus made statements which brought it within the regulation, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) made application to the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) for leave to. prosecute, but, as we have already been told, that leave has not been granted from that day to this. In New South Wales, Percy Hunter and Archdale Parkhill made statements which were absolutely untrue and brought them within the regulation. A committee with which I was associated took proper action, through Mr. Roberts, a solicitor, for permission to prosecute.. We went to the officer in charge of the Crown Solicitor’s Office, in Sydney, and his reply was that he had no power to give permission, and that the application would have to be referred to the Attor ney-General in Melbourne. The application was so referred, but, although many months have elapsed, there has never been a reply from that day to this.
The political agents of the Government may lie, slander, and abuse to their heart’s content, and the Prime Minister and Attorney-General, whose example they follow, stands between them and the law.
What has been my experience ? What kind of treatment was meted out to me when I said things that were absolutely true? The Prime Minister followed me with six prosecutions, but, although the magistrates are not particularly favorable to the party with which I am associated, he was not able to get one to impose a fine on me. I was charged with making a false statement when I said that a Sixth. Division had been instituted. Although I got Christmas cards from soldiers, who enlisted from my electorate, showing the badge colours of that division, and although soldiers have told me that they have been transferred to that division, Iwas hauled up before a Court and charged with having made false statements likely to prejudice the electors. It was not a false statement; it was the truth, but the Government initiated these vile prosecutions of political opponents because they knew that they could not stand on the platforms of the country and give them a fair deal.
These contemptible actions of persecution were inaugurated and carried out through this disgraceful legislation which honorable members are now asked to re-enact. We are asked to do so in order that it may be made use of in the coming campaign by the Prime Minister, who struts about and talks of British justice. No conduct of Germany has been more contemptible.
– That is a most extraordinary statement.
– It is absolutely true. The verdict of any white man of ordinary intelligence would be that nothing could be more contemptible than the enactment of cowardly regulations and the use of them for the persecution of political opponents.
A Government must have a very sorry case to put before the country if, notwithstanding the fact that it has hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money at its disposal to throw into the campaign, and all the machinery of government at its back, it will yet make use of these contemptible means for “ cooking “ its opponents. Honorable members call themselves Englishmen, yet they are prepared to perpetuate this kind of thing in the coming campaign. Side track it or twist it as they like, it is a disgrace to any man of the British race.
– The honorable member has said the most disgraceful thing I have ever heard.
– It is deserved. It is necessary to use strong words to call attention to this contemptible legislation. Is there any language that will adequately describe such cowardly conduct?
– I ask the honorable member to make use of less immoderate language. The Standing Orders prohibit any reflection upon a vote of the House. I call his attention to the fact that he is reflecting upon legislation passed by the House. He is also making use of this Bill for the purpose of launching out upon a most extraordinary . diatribe of a personal nature against the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). This, also, he is not entitled to do under the Standing Orders.
– What I am discussing is not legislation passed by the House, but regulations passed by a little clique behind the Government.
– A regulation framed under the authority of an. Act passed by this House is legislation of this House, unless disallowed by the House. In any case, the honorable member can; speak quite as strongly and quite as forcibly without making use of the kind of language in which he has been indulging.
– I shall bow to your direction in regard to any unparliamentary language I may use to which you may call my attention, but beyond that I propose to use my own discretion.
– The honorable member cannot set the rules of the House at defiance. He must obey the ruling of the Speaker. It must be patent to every honorable member on either side of the House that the character of the honorable member’s speech is not in accord with the decorum and procedure of Parliament.
– I am quite willing to obey the Standing Orders, and withdraw any language that is unparliamentary.
We are in a different position to:day in regard to this regulation. Previously all that was necessary to enact it was for three members of the Ministry, or two with the Governor-General, to constitute themselves an Executive Council and issue it. A small coterie of Ministers could issue regulations seriously affecting the rights of every man in the country.
I do not go round the country seeking to make statements to bring myself into conflict with other people or the law, but I say publicly in this House that this regulation will not stop me from expressing my opinion, no matter how many prosecutions are “ sooled “ on to me. This regulation provides that no action for relief can be taken if a statement is made that a citizen of this country is of enemy origin. Although a man’s great grandfather fifteen generations back may have been a German, and he may be the descendant of generation after generation of Australians, our imported Prime Minister, this Welsh Kaiser of ours, may slander him, and there can be no action taken in a Court of law for justice against him unless his consent is first obtained.
Every honorable member of this House who supports this Bill votes to give this regulation his authority and the hall-mark of his approval. The difference between dealing with this regulation and the previous issue of it under the War Precautions Act is that honorable members who support this Bill vote to make this regulation a permanent piece of legislation. It is just as well for us to realize what we are doing. This kind of thing can be carried too far. Some of it might recoil on the heads of honorable members opposite. “No justification, was put forward for this regulation by the Minister (Mr. Groom) in introducing the Bill. He did not say a word about it.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. He could not have been in the chamber when I was speaking.
– The Minister emphasized the , position in regard to shipping and contracts, but’ said nothing about these slanders, which may be heaped up against any man. although there may be no suggestion of enemy origin about him. Although my parentage is British on both sides right back, the Prime Minister can slander me as being of German descent and under German influence, or as being in association with Germans, and I would have no redress against him without his own consent. It is an awful position in which to place any citizen. In the violence of an election campaign attacks of this kind may be made upon Australian born.
– The Bill simply provides that the protection given during the war shall continue, but makes no reference to fresh slanders.
– Does the Minister agree with that statement!
– This Bill does not apply to any slanders .uttered after the war. The Bill provides that where the AttorneyGeneral has refused to consent to the bringing of an action against any person, no such action can be instituted. I have already explained this fully to hon<orable members.
– Surely the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) did not think that honorable members on the Ministerial side would vote to continue a regulation which would seek to do what the honorable member imagined was the purpose of this Bill ?
– On the eve of an election, honorable members on the Ministerial side, out of party loyalty, may not be too anxious to vote against their Government. They may be quite ignorant of the effect of their votes. I have not the slightest doubt that, if honorable members had known the possibilities for injury contained in the War Precautions Act, they would never have passed it. The Bill would have been objected to on all sides.
– Some objection was raised to it by the Liberal party.
– There was a little objection taken, but there was no division called for. In any case, we had no knowledge of warlike operations, and thought that we were simply enacting a law which if was found necessary to pass in Great Britain in war time. We had no experience of the, powers which lay hidden in such legislation. If honorable members had known then the uses to which it would be put, they would not have passed it in the form in which it w.as enacted.
– We trusted the Gor eminent, although it was a Labour Government.
– I trust no Government. I would object to this class of legislation on one side as on the other. I propose to vote against this Bill. I shall give no vote consciously to extend the operations of the War Precautions Act. So much wrong has been perpetrated under the War Precautions Act and its regulations, and there has been such an abuse of them, that I shall be no party to the continuance of any part of that Act for one moment longer than can be avoided. I shall avail myself, of every opportunity to vote against it.
.- I, too, have no difficulty in making up my mind to record a vote against this Bill. As I understand the_ Bill, it is designed to keep alive certain regulations which are set out in the schedule to it, and which, in ordinary circumstances- if any circumstances in connexion with the War Precautions Act and the regulations passed thereunder could be regarded as ordinary - would come to an end three months after the proclamation of peace by the GovernorGeneral. When I addressed a question to the Minister a few days ago as to when peace would be proclaimed in this country, he, although apparently desiring to help me, was unable to give the slightest assurance as to when this long looked for proclamation would be issued. I would oppose this Bill even supposing the wide discretion which it vests in the Attorney-General, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), were to be left with a man in whose integrity- and honesty I had faith, and whose word I was absolutely prepared to take. But none of those conditions apply to the right honorable gentleman. I may, sir, be sceptical; it. may be due to the peculiar constitution of my own temperament ; but whatever the reason - and it may be altogether alien to the Attorney-General himself - I would not accept the right honorable gentleman’s word upon the simplest question of fact, -even if sworn to in the most solemn circumstances under which any man could give his word. That is the character of the man - -
– Order! The honorable member is now following, a line of action to which I have already called attention as being distinctly out of order. He is availing himself of this ‘ opportunity, not to discuss the Bill, but to express his private opinion concerning another honorable member, and to cast very offensive personal reflections upon him. I ask the honorable member not to do that, since it is entirely out of order.
– And cowardly, in the absence of the Prime Minister.
– Such reflections, whether uttered in the presence or in the absence of the honorable member to whom they refer, would be entirely in contravention of the Standing Orders. Criticism of administration is quite legitimate; but personal vilification of any honorable member i3 not permissible.
– The right honorable gentleman’s absence is apparently a counsel of prudence on his own part, which dictates the fact that he is very rarely here.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the Attorney-General on a motion for the second reading of this Bill. He may discuss the principle and merits of the Bill; but, under cover of discussing it, he is not entitled to make a personal attack upon any honorable member.
– You, sir, perhaps have overlooked the fact that. the most important feature of the Bill is that it involves the character of the AttorneyGeneral, since it involves his discretion. It reposes in him most important and farreaching powers, and so far as those powers extend, absolutely constitutes him a dictator.
– The honorable nit.ni- ber will be in order in discussing the pro- . visions of the Bill, but’ not in reflecting on any honorable member.
– The Attorney-General is mentioned in the Bill.
– Even, if every honorable member were mentioned in the Bill, it would be contrary to the Standing
Orders for an honorable member to reflect upon any one of them.
– I will endeavour, sir, when you have fully discharged your duty, to put forward a connected argument with regard to this Bill. The conscientious discharge of that duty some- what embarrasses one who is trying to discuss the Bill; but, notwithstanding that embarrassment, I will continue, within the strict, and all too narrow, limits of the Standing Orders, to discuss it.
I was pointing out that this Bill gives the Attorney-General, in regard to a variety of matters, a discretion from which there is no appeal. It gives him a discretion which will enable him to deal with intricate matters of trade and commerce, with contractual relations between individuals, and also to gratify his intense predisposition - I prefer to speak of it as his insensate bigotry - against persons who even remotely may be of a race other than his own. Having regard to the fact that the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Groom) asks us to accept this measure, vesting this discretion in the Attorney-General, I am absolutely entitled to consider the character of the man in whom we are asked to vest such powers.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - The honorable member who has asked, “ What is- wron % with Bolshevism?” attacks the Prime Minister.
– I have not heard of or mot a Bolshevik whom I would not trust with these powers rather than vest them in the Prime Minister.
– The Bolsheviks have broken every one of the Ten Commandments, and yet the honorable member applauds them.
– The honorable member, from his safe , position so far behind the line, saw very little of the Bolsheviks about which he could tell us.
– -The honorable member did not even go there.
– I made no pretence. In that respect I differ from the honorable member.
– Nor does the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) make any pretence. He went.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4-5 p.m.
– I was considering some of the unpleasant consequences of the appointment of a dictator. One of the most unpleasant is that it diverts our attention from the consideration of principles to the contemplation of the personal element, and involves us, from the necessities of the case, in bitter personalities which are distasteful to” most of us, and certainly are to me. The effect of this Bill is to prolong in perpetuity certain regulations made under the War Precautions .Act. It is only right that that important phase of the Bill should be thoroughly understood. Those of us who were lured on with the ardent hope of shortly seeing the end of this iniquitous law, now find in this proposal, at the end of the war, in a time of peace, and in the last hours of a dying Parliament, a determination on the part of the Government to perpetuate this obnoxious class of legislation. As these regulations do not come to- an end with the end of June, 1919, they would, in the ordinary course, come to an end a, certain number of months after the proclamation of peace. But neither the date originally prescribed, nor the proclamation of peace, will be any longer relevant as imposing a term upon the operation of this Bill. As we did in the case of the Necessary Commodities Bill, we are proceeding to pass a measure, without any limitation as to time, embodying certain war precautions regulations which, in other circumstances, we had good reason to hope would soon come to an end.
The really important part of the B:U is contained in the schedule. I apprehend that, in Committee, the schedule will be taken as a whole, and not put in part for separate consideration, and therefore I may be pardoned for referring to it now in greater detail than wouldordinarily be permitted. I pass over the first three matters in the schedule, and come to Regulation No. .46, Statutory Rule No. 200 of 1918. I find from this that no person shall, without the consent in writing of the Attorney-General, bring an action; or. take any step in an action brought, against any company incorporated in Australia-
– Order! I must ask the honorable member not to discuss the schedule in detail until the Committee stage is reached. It is not customary -to discuss, on the motion for the second reading, the details of a schedule. The honorable member can do so very fully in <Committee.
– I am afraid >w*’ shall never get an opportunity to discuss them in detail.
– There is the proper stage of a Bill to -discuss its details. It would be quite out of order to -do so -now. !Mr. BRENNAN.- The (first provision in .the .Bill to -which I take grave exception is that part -which prevents any person, without ‘the -consent of the AttorneyGeneral, from instituting .an -action against any company in reference to any matter arising out df an alteration of the articles of association of the company, where the alteration has for its object in the first place the removal -of what is called an .enemy interest, and in the second place has ‘been made at the request of the Attorney-General. . If -an alteration is made in the contract of a company with its shareholders and ‘the public, involving the rights and privileges of one or more of the shareholders, it is sufficient to show that this perhaps material .alteration has been made at the request .of the Attorney-General, and for the purpose of removing -what is ‘here called an enemy interest. Who .are to be the judges of what is an enemy interest? The Attorney-General, in secret, will decide what is an enemy interest, and will then address, or not address., his request’ to the company that the alteration be made, in- the articles of association. We have sufficient, knowledge of the Prime Minister’s attitude towards enemy interests in this country to -make us profoundly suspicious of anything he may do in that regard. When we remember that, in connexion with the base metals of Australia, and in the name of patriotism, and with the avowed object of rooting out enemy influences, he set up a number of millionaires in place of the diffused interests of persons, some of whom may have been more or less alien, we are able tq conclude what the attitude of the honorable member acting as Attorney-General would be when he came to determine in his mind what constituted an enemy, interest.
There is provision in this Bill for depriving of their just rights persons who an ay have a. claim for non-delivery or short delivery of goods, if, so please you, the Attorney-General considers that an action of the kind proposed is unfair. Thus the distinguished Minister., whose .standard of fairness is ‘what we ‘know it to be, as to say whether the action -for -breach of contract is in ;the circumstances fair or unfair. “Regardless of -the best established principles of -the administration of ‘British ‘law, -the ‘test as to whether -an faction is fair or -not fair will ‘be -applied in -secret, and the -question -will be ‘decided in -secret, under influences –which we know not, -and. in circumstances which may not %e published, by a gentleman whom I -do not trust for a single moment
Bait , mere is “worse in this Bill ‘ Theseare -civil rights. It is true that it is a. serious thing .to invade -the .civil -rights of the -community. It -is a very -gra>ve thing’ ito lower the -confidence of the public in .the open .-administration -of the law of -the land :in connexion even with civil matters and rights and wrongs. But it becomes an infinitely graver matter when we permit the found; >of justice in the administration of criminal law i;o be tampered with in this way. We find in .this Bill that no person may bring or continue an action or criminal .proceeding by reason of *he fact that somebody has -said ©if him that he is an enemy subject, or person of enemy origin or association, or influenced ‘or controlled by enemy subjects.
It is a .serious thing to say about a man that he is influenced by enemy subjects, or that he is a man of enemy association; , but, as the honorable member for Cook (Mr. -Catts) has already fairly indicated in language which, in my opinion, could not be made too strong, the unsavoury fact is that the right honorable gentleman, who is a past-master in vilification, and who had scarcely set his foot in Australia before he set the country by the ears by reason of his vituperative attacks upon men better than himself, may vilify whom he pleases, and shelter himself in the sanctuary that the Ministry propose to give him against prosecution. What does the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) think of it? He has always been opposed to me in politics.; but I believe at least he is honorable. Does he think it is clean or decent to say that a man who is notorious for vilification, who has held up high dignitaries in this country .to obloquy and contempt, in the most cowardly attacks that the mind of man could invent-
– Order.! I must ask the honorable member toceasethis vituperation and address himself to the matter before the Chair . The honorable member is wandering off into matters alien to the Bill, and devoting himself for the most part to a personal attack upon an honorable member of theHouse. I have already called the honorable member’s attention to the fact that this cannot, under theStanding Orders, apart from allother considerations, be allowed.
– Theright honorable gentleman, who is invested with this power under the Bill, and who is constituted by the Bill , a dictator , as to these matters, may himself decide whether he shall he prosecutedor not. He may give or withholdhis consent fora prosecution launchedagainst himself. in circumstancesknown tothe Leader ofthe Opposition (Mr. Tudor),weapproached the righthonorable member in hisofficial capacity toconsent to aprosecution upon facts which I laid before himby declaration - facts whichunques- tionably entitled me tothecourtesyof an answer,and, I think, with as little question bound him to prosecute.Yet he, as the chief law officer ofthe Commonwealth, did not even acknowledge the representations made to him by declaration in that formal way, and in accordance withthe regulationswhich he himselfhad passed. At the very time when he was fulminating prosecutions against others under regu- ations akin to this, when we sought, as we were entitled to do, to use his official position for the purpose of launching prosecutions, hedeclined to exercise his f unction as Attorney-General oftthe Commonwealth. We propose now to give him an extended and definite power. I wish I had the privilege under the Standing Orders to be half as vituperative as I have heard him be. I have not that privilege.; but at least I have the right, and I will exercise it within the all too narrow limits which apparently the Standing Orders prescribe for us, to condemn this Bill and the proposals involved in it with all the vigour I can command. I saidearlier that one of theun pleasantfeatures of creating a dictator was that we had to examine the character of the man whom we invested with those great powers. It is not a pleasant duty, but it is one which cannot the shirked,andthe fulfilmentof which may not be preventedby any man in thiscountry .
I find, byagain referring to the general terms of the Bill, that action against an employer for dismissing an employee may not betaken without the consent of the Attorney-General, if, as it is stated, that employee was dismissed or refused association withhis fellow men on the ground that he is an enemy subject, or a person who has been a subject of “ a country with which the King is now at war “ - although one would have thought that the war was substantially over. Which of us on this side of the House would havea possible chance, underthose circumstances, of getting the consent of the Attorney-General to institute an action if the test of our loyalty remainedwith the honorable gentleman? We know what his public declarations have been in regard to the loyalty ofmyself , and others, and the category in which he has placed each of us; yet, forsooth, becausehe declares, under the influence of representations secretly made to him, that a person is disloyal, that person shall be robbed of his right of going to the Court. I couldhave wished to have discussed in greater detail this measure, which is really a Bill within a Bill. It is a measure which is designed to give effect for all time to certain regulations which otherwise would have been temporary. There is no limitation , to the length of time for which this Bill will operate.
– The honorable member knows that this deals alsowith causes of action arising during the war.
– This Bill does precisely whatthe Bill relating to the control of necessary commodities does. It annexes to itself certain regulations which were made under another Statute, and which would, in the ordinary course of events,have expired within a short period, and to the operation of this measure embodying those regulations there is no limitation of timewhatever. It may be that the masters referred to inthe schedules arenecessarily temporary, and depend upon conditions incidental to and arising out of the war; butthefact remains that this Bill is permanent in character, and, so far as one can see at present, there is no immediate hope of any time being fixed when we may be able to say that these arbitrary powers no longer reside with the Attorney-General.
Debate (on motion by Lt.-Colonel Abbott) adjourned.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Groom), read a first time.
Lt.-Colonel ABBOTT (New England) [8.10]. - We have heard from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) an outburst of vilification. The whole of his remarks, from start to finish, consisted of a personal attack on the Prime Minister and Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes). When one sits inthis National Parliament and hears such remarks, one’s blood is turned cold by the audacity of the honorable member in attacking a gentleman who has done more than any other person to uphold the British flag and to fight for the rights of Australia. The honorable member for Batman did not raise his finger one iota to win the war for the Empire, to uphold the British flag, or to bring this country safely through the. struggle. This is the honorable member who has asked, “ What is wrong with Bolshevism?” and who declares that he would rather have a Bolshevist than the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member will not be in order in making use of those expressions towards another honorable member of the House.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT. - Anything in my remarks that was objectionable or untrue, I am prepared to withdraw.
– That wipes out all the honorable member has said.
.- The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) is to administer this Bill, and the honorable member for Batman asks thepeople to believe everything that is bad of him. The war was won, in a large measure, by the splendid Imperialism, the British bulldog pluck, and the fine statesmanship of the man who is the Prime Minister of Australia to-day. Every digger does not carry a brief for the Prime Minister, but all our soldiers were able to realize who was for them and who was against them. The voice of the Prime Minister was at times like that of a man crying in the wilderness, for the whole of the people of Europe were opposed to him; but, by his straightforwardness and courage, by his Imperialism and British bulldog pluck, hehas raised Australia to a pinnacle of fame from which I hope it will never be dragged by the honorable member for Batman and others of his ilk. The safety of Australia and all that that means was won for men like the honorable member for Batman by those 60,000 Australian boys whose bones are bleaching on Gallipoli, in France, and elsewhere, and by the thousands who, luckily, have returned. He would have given us peace by negotiation with the Germans. He was an advocate of the resolutions of the Perth Labour Conference in favour of peace at any price. Yet he asks the people to believe that the Prime Minister is a man in whom they can place no confidence. Let the acts of the two men speak for themselves. The honorable member cannot fool the people of Europe -he cannot deceive the 45,000,000 people in Great Britain; they do not see things through party-coloured glasses. And will the people of Australia be misled by the animus which the honorable member for Batman admits he feels towards one who is his adversary, but who occupies the highest position to which the people can elect any man. They will weigh the Prime Minister’s record against that of the honorable member, who has shown an absence , of. patriotism, and never raised his finger to shield the boys who were giving their lives in Europe for the protection of the Empire he - was seeking to break down.
We are on the eve of an election, but, as honorable members know, that does not concern me. I shall not be a candidate. In the war I fought for the British flag and the British Empire, but the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) had not the courage to put the uniform on. In a speech he delivered in Melbourne he said that, if he were forced into the firing line, he would not raise his hand to stop a German ; yet, at the same time, he claimed the protection of’.the flag. He now has the audacity to suggest that, while I was on active service, I was safe behind the lines. Thank God, I was at Gallipoli, and went through the campaign there; for we can never have a second Gallipoli. None of us expected to get out alive ; but did the honorable member raise his finger, to help recruiting? Did he offer himself, though he was of fighting age? No; probably for family, pocket, or party reasons he remained safe in Australia. Before I went to Prance I was nearly finished with enteric and dysentery, and lost four stone weight; and nil that time the honorable member remained at his home, drawing his parliamentary salary, and living in the lap of luxury. Did he do anything to uphold the Empire and the flag? By all the means in his power he endeavoured to drag down this beautiful country of ours, while our boys were fighting for him and his. And what did he do in order to help those boys?
– I remind the honorable member that he is discussing the honorable member for Batman, and not the Bill.
.- I am only partly discussing the honorable member, and I claim your indulgence, sir, for various and strong reasons. I have not spoken more than three or four times in this House; and I should not have been drawn into this personal controversy but for the vile innuendoes of an honorable member who is worthy of epithets which, by the rules of the House, I cannot apply to him. He -has not lifted a finger to protect the mothers and “ kiddies “ of Australia.
– I have every sympathy with the honorable member’s natural feeling of resentment at certain remarks which have been made, but I . remind him that I intervened t.o try to stop the honorable member for Batman, and another honorable member, from making offensive personal attacks on the Prime Minister. I cannot allow the honorable member to do what I would not permit other honorable members to do.
– I shall endeavour to .keep as close to the track as the honorable member for Batman did. I should like to draw an analogy between that honorable member and the Prime Minister, who, as Attorney-General, will have the administration of this Bill when it becomes law. In doing that, I am en- titled .to show whether we are doing right in reposing this implicit confidence in the gentleman at the head of the Government. 1
-The honorable member will be in order in doing that.
– It was that I was endeavouring to do when I was interrupted by honorable members opposite.
In 1913 the people of the northern parts of New South Wales were good enough, in their wisdom or their foolishness, to elect me to this House. When the war broke out I thought it my duty, as one who had been a “ tin “ soldier, to leave my wife and family, and, with two of my boys, go to the Front. One of these boys, who was only eighteen years of age when he enlisted, died in France from bronchial pneumonia, or what is commonly called influenza, two days before the armistice. I return to Australia to find a Bill of this kind opposed by persons who have never shown their noses out of this country, and who have all along enjoyed the protection which the British flag can give them. In all this opposition by the honorable member for Batman we can see the cloven hoof - when we draw aside the rags we see the real man. , This House is used as a place in which to make a vile attack on one who is perhaps on the highest pinnacle of fame in the civilized world to-day, excepting, perhaps, only the members of the great Council of Four.. Our Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has risen from the humblest position. YeaTs ago, in New South Wales, I knew him when be . was making only a few shillings a day ; and yet he has risen to the most prominent position to which the people can elevate him.
We desire to hand down the heritage of this country to our children, and our, children’s ; children, so. that they may enjoy the wide freedom we have all hitherto enjoyed. It is necessary that there should be a Bill of this kind to protect the people until the aftermath of the war shall have passed away. Our legal advisers tell us that such a measure is absolutely necessary in order that we may conserve what has been won on the field of battle; but we have all this opposition from the honorable member for Batman and others of the same ilk. Thank God, honorable members opposite are not all of the same colour. Without making any invidious distinctions, we recognise that a large majority, while rightly holding their own political views, are loyal to the Empire and the country.
With regret, I permanently leave this House on Friday, and there are many reasons why I should take this step. My home is 1,000 miles away from here, and my health, after the last winter in France, is not within 50 per cent, of what it was when I went to the Front. The only chance that a member of this House has to do his duty as a representative is to get rid of all other interests, and, as it were, localize himself at the Seat of Government; but I am not prepared to sacrifice my family, my business, and my health. Those who aTe more favorably circumstanced than myself can do much, more than I in the way of promoting the fine spirit of nationality in Australia. I believe that some 90 per cent, of the ‘honorable members opposite are truly loyal. It is true that they may hold political views different from those of honorable members on this side; but I admire men who have the courage of their opinions. There are many honorable members opposite whom I respect; and I regret that they have to- associate with such- men as the representative of Batman, who is doing all he can to be- smirch , the Prime Minister in the eyes of the people, although he sat with the right honorable gentleman for so many years. On the eve of the elections, he is telling his constituents, and the people of Australia generally, that if the proposed power be given to the Prime Minister, the right honorable gentleman will be able to “kick over the traces” and do underhand, dirty tricks of- a criminal nature. ‘ This, the honorable member tells us, the Prime Minister will be able to do without fear of prosecution, because, under the Bill, he, as Attorney-General, has to consent to any prosecution that is undertaken. The suggestion here made is an absolute lie. Mr. Speaker, I withdraw those words. If we believe what the honorable member for Batman says, the Prime Minister will drive ‘a “ coach and four “ through this Bill.
The honorable member for Batman has talked about criminal proceedings, but there is nothing whatever in the Bill regarding these, and he spoke only with a view to misleading the public. The Bill deals with libel .and slander, of which the honorable member himself is an adept and an expert.
– The honorable member must withdraw those words.
.- I withdraw the words, Mr. Speaker. The Bill deals only with proceedings so far as libel and slander are concerned; but the honorable member is asking the people to believe that criminal proceedings are contemplated. I say, -with the greatest politeness possible in my present temperamental condition that, if the honorable member for Batman will only peruse the Bill, he will find that it refers to any cause of action that has arisen during the term of the’ war. Infringements of the War Precautions Act and regulations may have happened six months ago, or even three years ago, and not yet have been discovered. Take the wheat scandal, for instance; what may not come to light yet? There may be a hundred and one offences that have not been discovered; and, if the regulations are allowed to lapse, the offenders will go scot free. The Bill covers the period between 3.1st August, 1914, and the date of the conclusion of the war, and it is only right that it should do so.’ Why should we, as the National Assembly of Australia, allow the War Precautions Act and regulations to lapse when it is quite likely that in six months’ time it may be discovered that people have been defrauding the Commonwealth since the war began? Whata hue and cry there would be if such a discovery were made and there was no law under which the offenders could be punished. What would be the attitude of the honorable member for Batman if he happened to be a member of the House when such a contingency arose? The honorable member, of course, would be in Opposition, because he is always “ agin the Government.” What an outcry he and others of his stamp, and of his “ loyalty,” would make if offenders were discovered and the Government had allowed the Act and regulations to lapse ! Although the offences committed might have involved a loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds, the guilty would escape without punishment; and then we should hear from the honorable member for Batman. Rightly and properly, the Government have asked the House to pass this measure in order to give protection to the people of Australia; and the honorable member for Batman knows in his heart that the legislation is necessary. But, on theeve of the election, when he and his fellow Bolsheviks have an axe to grind, he tells the public that the power conferred by the Bill will be used by the Prime Minister to the damnation of his fellow subjects, for the uplifting of a political party, and for party political purposes generally.
– What question is the honorable member speaking to?
.- I am speaking the truth as a loyalist, and as a man who believes in loyalty. I am rubbing it into a man who is everything that is characteristic of iconoclast, a man who is a breaker of images, and would drag down and besmirch the good name of Australia.
– I like the look of the honorable member.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT. - I do not like the look of the honorable member for Batman. A man witha face like the backof abus ought tobe in another place.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT.- I maynot have another opportunity of saying a word in this National Parliament; but I hope that I shall have no other occasion to be brought to my feet to attack a man who descends to the tactics which the honorable member for Batman has employed to-day. On the 13th December he will see whether the Prime Minister of Australia, who is to be given the power that this Bill bestows, is upheld by the people of Australia, and whether the pedestal on which he has been placed in Great Britain, and on which he has been hoisted in Australia, is built on sure and sound foundations. I leave it to the good taste of the electors to say whether or not he deserves it.
What has the right honorable gentleman done in his private or political career of which he should be ashamed, except perhaps on the question of conscription, which, after all, was only a matter of opinion, men on the opposite side of the House who said “ Good old John Bull!” nevertheless could not see eye to eye with him. I admire them for their courage; but then we see the honorable member for Batman, who has not during his political career done anything for the uplifting of his fellow-men or the building up of Australia; and, on the other hand, the Prime Minister, . whose every public and private action has shown that he is prepared to sink his own individuality
– I rise to a point of order. This extravagant personal puff of the Prime Minister is highly amusing, and I am loath to interrupt it; but I am obliged to point out that, from the beginning to the present time, it has been a contravention of the ruling that you, sir, laid down for me when I was speaking.
– The point raised bythe honorable member has to be sustained so far as it involves a digression from the question before the House; but I remind him that he was guilty of thevery thing of which he now complains, with this difference -that one is a eulogy, the other was a splenetic denunciation, and I had to call hisattention to the same departure from the Standing Orders.
– Does that make the honorable member right?
-No. I have already on several occasions intimatedto the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) that he was not in order in making an attack on the honorable member for Batman; but I am bound to say that the honorable member for Batman gave him ample provocation for replying in kind. to statements already made by the honorable member in reference to the Prime Minister, and the honorable member is quite justified in refuting accusations as long as he uses decorous language.
– In other words, the honorable member for Batman is hoist by his own petard. He has sown the seed, and is afraid of the harvest. Before severing my connexion, with the National Parliament of Australia, I hope to have the opportunity of speaking on other matters not of such a personal nature, but more in the national interest. I have to apologize for having been so personal as to attack a man who is beneath contempt, so far as his attitude towards the war was concerned.
– I insist on the honorable member eschewing expressions of that kind. They are altogether unparliamentary, and against’ the Standing Orders.
– I do not wish him to withdraw anything.
– It is not a question of what the honorable member desires; it is a question of the observance of the rules of the House.
– I am prepared to cross swords with the honorable member for Batman, but not with the Chair. I have too much’ respect for Mr. Speaker to do so.
– I do not want the honorable member to withdraw, but I point out that he has been called upon to withdraw, and, therefore, must do so.
– This discussion is going right away from the question before the Chair. The honorable member for New England has had ample latitude, and. now I ask him to discontinue his present line of argument.
– The words that I wished to utter must be lost to the world. Perhaps it is just as well.
The people of Australia ought to be prepared to trust those who have steered the ship of State during the perilous times of war and its aftermath, and to repose in the hands of the Attorney-
General the power that was given to him during the hard, strenuous days of the war. I ask them to judge by his actions and his deeds whether he is likely to abuse the trust that is placed in his hands. I have no fear that he will, or that the Statute will be administered in any other way but equitably and justly. The high officers of the State are prepared, and at all times are in duty bound, to administer every measure with justice, and I have no fear of the result of the poll on. the 13th December in its bearing on the question of whether the people will repose their trust in the Prime Minister or whether the honorable member for Batman is right in saying that he is a despicable man, in whom he can place no trust. I leave the decision to the good taste of the people, and I am perfectly sure that in a couple of months we shall be able to say whether the honorable member for Batman and men of his kidney are correct in their predictions, or whether the name and reputation which the Prime Minister has earned in other parts of the world will b’e reflected here in a greater measure, so that he may be able to do in Australia the good work he has done on the other side of the world in ‘ the past few years.
.- It is regrettable that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) should have treated the House to such a violent outburst of feeling. ‘ We have always looked upon him with a kindly eye on this side, because he has invariably been fair and careful in his use of language ; but to-night ‘something, seems tic have happened to him, and, without discussing the merits of the Bill, he has, unfortunately for the character and dignity of the House, treated us to a display to which we are not accustomed, by a violent personal attack upon another honorable member
– If the honorable member had been in the Chamber he would have understood my justification for it. ‘ .
– I heard all that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said. There was .nothing in it which has not been said by every honorable member on this side of the chamber times almost without number. The honorable member for New Eng– land, however, may be excused, because, to hia credit, he went to the other side of the world to do what he conceived to be his duty, and from all the reports we have heard, he did it well. But, while he was abroad, things were taking place in Australia of which he was entirely ignorant, and of the importance of which he has not yet got the slightest grasp.
– Arid when he came back he called a conference up in New England to break away from his party.
– That is a lie !
– It is said that distance lends enchantment to the view. Over in France the soldiers were only allowed to hear one side of what was going on in Australia, and the honorable member is to be excused if he has a distorted and false view of things in Australia. Those of us who were in this country at the ‘time have ho such yiew of things. We knew what was going on here; how, under the War Precautions Act, regulations were being issued broadcast and poured out daily from the Government Printing Office, robbing this country of every vestige of freedom; depriving us of liberties enjoyed by British subjects for centuries, and abrogating every right, of every British subject; and we know that they were all employed in one direction, namely, for party political purposes. If the honorable member had known all those things he would have understood something of the feelings we have in regard to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) .
– The War Precautions Act was passed by the Labour party in 1914.
– But ‘when the Bill was introduced we were given most solemn and specific assurances that it would be used only for particular purposes, legitimate and proper purposes in the circumstances. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) was not here at the time, but Sir William Irvine, the then member for Flinders; the present Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) ; the Minister who introduced this Bill *(Mr. Groom); the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) ; the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) ; and the honorable member for Booyong (Sir Robert Best), who were then sitting in Opposition, protested that the enormous power given by the War Precautions Act could and was likely to be used in a manner detrimental to the interests of the country, that it was autocratic to a degree, and that no such power had ever been previously vested in any Government or any man. But Mr. Fisher, who was then Prime Minister, and the Attorney-‘General at that time (Mr. Hughes), gave their positive assurance that the Bill would only be used for a specific purpose, and would be judiciously and impartially administered. I remind the honorable member for Calare of the further fact that while the Labour Government had control of the War Precautions Act, not the slightest objection was ever taken by honorable members or the public in regard to the administration of it. It was used for legitimate purposes, and those purposes only. Not one single complaint was uttered by a member of the Opposition in regard to its administration. It was only when the Prime Minister broke away from the Labour party that trouble began.
– Is not the real solution of the difficulty the fact that the war did not begin to get serious until then ?
– I do not think so. The honorable member must accept my assurance on that point, because I happen to know what occurred in the inner circles of the party with regard to it. I can excuse the honorable member for New England, because he did not know what was going on in this country, and still has an exaggerated opinion as to what the Prime Minister has done. We who have suffered his attacks realize that to perpetuate the power which this Bill proposes to continue, is to bestow upon him a power which is a danger to the community. I had hoped that all the spleen, bitterness, and vindictive.ness exhibited by the Prime Minister during the- last election was at an end ; but, judging by the speech which he made at Brisbane last night, we are to have the same old fight-the same old bitterness and trouble.
– His speech seems to have been appreciated.
– Of course it was, by those who were admitted by ticket.
– Order! I am afraid that the discussion is now digressing to a matter quite foreign to the Bill.
– The speech, made by the honorable member for New England. (Lt-Colonel Abbott), has led me to make* remarks quite foreign to the argument that I had intended te advance with, regard to this. Bill. I invite honorable members opposite not to consider the Bill from the point of view of whether the office, of the AttorneyGeneral, is held by Mr.. Hughes or not. It proposes to give to. the. Attorney-General, whoever he may be, for all time, and not iri! ‘ any limited, sense, the. power to say what shall take place in regard to the administration of justice in this country. The honorable, member for New England said there, was no reference in the Bill to- criminal proceedings.
– Except in. regard to- slander, defamation, and) matters of that kind.
– I invite the honorable member to read clause 7 of 6he second! schedule,, where it is distinctly laid down that -
No. person, shall, without the’ written consent of the Attorney-General’, Bring any action, for relief, or take’ any step, in any action brought, or institute criminal proceedings, or- take any step in any criminal proceedings, instituted, against any person-, and sot on.
– But. the latter part of the clause- is important. It shows, that it is limited to actions for libel and slander.
– It goes on to say, - in. respect of anything said or: done or permitted to be said or done by the defendant which states or- implies- that the plaintiff or prosecutor- (.as the case may be) is am enemy subject, or a person of. enemy, origin or asso-cia,tions, or influenced’ or controlled’ -by enemy subjects; or- having- or- intending to have any connexion with enemy subjects or with, subjects, of a country with which the King; is now at, war,, either, personally, or im his trade or business : Provided that, if the AttorneyGeneral is satisfied that the statement or implication, hast been made- maliciously/ or- recklessly,, he shall not withhold consent.
I am trying to consider this Bill altogether apart from the consideration that the Tight honorable member- for Bendigo is the Attorney-General for the time being.. These powers are to be vested in the Attorney-General, whoever he may be; for all time-, and honoraMe. members! have*, to ask themselves whether: they/ are; going- to allow the Attorney-General! tei say whether- criminal proceedings, im regard to any of these matters shall, or shall- not lie
– What scares me is that the honorable member for Batman (Mr.. Brennan), might have the- administration of this measure. If he does; God help us’.
–If, as seems more than likely, the honorable member for Batman, is Attorney-General after the 13th December,, the. honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd); need have no fear as to what he will do.
– I think that in that event the Act would be, repealed..
– I should hope that the mew Labour Government, very early next year- would repeal this- Act and everything; connected with the War Precautions Act. No- more disgraceful measure ever stained the records of this or any other country.
This,. I admit, is a. highly technical legal measure, and it is interesting- to hear- the lawyers; in the House discuss., it. They certainly exhibit a very wide difference of opinion in- regard to its virtues ;. and laymen see in it provisions that cause them some concern. Why is there any hunry fora- this. Bill? It is- distinctly provided: that the War Precautions, Act shall’ remain in operation until the 31st day of July, 1919, or for a period of three months after the. then existing; state of war; whichever is the larter date-., We are about to pass a Bill which- sets’ out that the termination of .the.- present war shall be the date declared by the GovernorGeneral by proclamation! to be “ as near as may be- the date of the exchange or- deposit of ratifications of the Treaty or Treaties- of Peace;”; thus the war may not come to, an end officially/ fan a week or a month hence, and tha War Precautions Act willi not cease- to; operate for three months- after that time.. That being; so,, the Act and the.- regulations sought to, be perpetuated Hinder thi® Bill cannot cease to have effect until,, at the earliest, the end of January next.. Why, then, are the Government in. such a hurry to pass this Bill?
Siu- Robert Best.: - In adil probability Parliament will not be sitting in January.
– I have a very sound suspicion, that the real1 reason for the- urgent passing- o-f this- Sill- is that the- Government desire to make use- of it during- the coming- elections’..
– That is an outrageous statement.
– As- to that, I would remind1 honorable members o£ some of the- incidents- of the- last election,, and of the use which the Prime- Minister made of this very power on, that occasion. ;Sir Robert Best. - -To- which gower does- the honorable’ member refer ?.
– The power- of the- Attorney-General to1 refuse his consent to an, action- for libell or slander.
– What did he do? Give us an. instance.
– The. honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) gave a personal’ and’ specific illustration this afternoon.. He stated’ that, when; he wished to bring, an action for libel against the Argus newspaper,, which had attacked him, Be had to ask the permission of the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), to bring, that action,, and that permission! was refused.. Throughout, the last election campaign the AttorneyGeneral’, under the War- Precautions Act; made- charges audi instituted prosecutions against members and others opposed to him-, but in- no case- were we- allowed’ to bring an action to protect ourselves from, not only his, vituperative, attacks,, but the lying, slanderous statements, made by the press supporting him1. .
– Give us- an, instance.
-:! willi tell the honorable member of one- interesting little incident which happened while he was away. A lady in this, city wished to- take proceedings to collect £1,000 due om mortgage by the p resent Prime Minister, and she had to get permission from him, as Attorney-General, to- prosecute him .as. Prime Minister.
– That is quite wrong.
Mr.. -FINLAYSON- Why do honorable members opposite ask for illustra-t ion si if they do mo4 want theam?
– Does the honorable member say that the lady had to obtain the consent of the Attorney-General to institute-, proceedings against him?’ ‘
– That is not- correct, and the honorable member knows that it is not.
Mie. FINLAYSON.- I. know that- it is true1. It was stated here..
Six- Robert Best: - The1 honorable member- knows that it is not correct; yet he makes- the statement.
– I do make the statement, and if I had, the. papers at hand’ I’ could prove the correctness of it.
Oh. the business-paper we have thirteen different measures, which, the- Government desire- to carry before Friday, evening - measures which the- Government say i,t is absolutely necessary to pass Before, the prorogation!. And yet the introduction and) discussion of those measures, is- being delayed, by this- attempt to rush through a Bill- which, in no circumstances can be declared necessary or urgent.. I have already pointed out that we have a guarantee that the powers- here, proposed to be- perpetuated, will remain: operative for three months after the declaration: of peace.. This Bill purports to perpetuate a number of the- regulations made under the War Precautions Act,, which affect some of the most vital interests; of this country/.. When I. remember the com- . plaints which, poured! into this House from the business men of this community against continual interference under the War Precautions regulations with the trading and industrial operations of the Commonwealth,. I am at ai loss, to know how business representatives in this House are going to justify, not a limited’ perpetuation, of-‘ those- powers, but a statutory guarantee for all time that they are to. be-, exercised at the discretion of one man, whoever that man may be.
– His Brisbane speech seems to have disturbed the honorable member’s equanimity.
– It; will take more than anything “Billy Hughes.” can say to disturb my equanimity.’ He threatened me with, a prosecution, but. it did not materialize.
– I suppose the honorable member deserved it..
– (No doubt I did1. What I did was an offence against a War- Precautions regulation providing that no cartoon should be published and no statement made tending to bring the Prime Minister into ridicule, or the Government policy into contempt.
– That was, during the war.
– No matter when it was, for the first time in the history of this country it was an offence to comment adversely on the policy of the Government.
– That is not correct.
– The existence of. a state of war did not justify this sort of thing. Because the country is at war, the rights of everybody do not go overboard, nor do we jettison everything that we have fought for previously, although, evidently, the Prime Minister thought so. I exercised my right to criticise the Government policy to the full. I did not go out of my way to look for prosecution; but I did not do anything to dodge it.
I ask the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), and other gentlemen who understand and largely represent business interests, to look at what they are proposing to hand over to the autocratic control of one man. Let them get out of their minds the idea that it is the present Prime Minister. It might he the honorable member for Batman Let them look where they are going. Let me read through what the Bill would allow the honorable member for Batman to control after the next election. Clause 3 deals with a prohibition in respect to actions to which the Attorney-General has refused his consent, and says that the Attorney-General may refuse to grant his consent to any action that he thinks- is unfair. Clause 4 deals with a prohibition in respect to libel actions to which the Attorney-General has refused his consent. The Attorney-General is there again set up as the arbiter of whether the action is fair or unfair. Clause 5 deals with the prohibition of actions, except with the consent of the Attorney-General-
– Arising during the war.
– No. The honorable member for Batman, as AttorneyGeneral, would have the right under this Bill to say whether or not ‘ an action should be pressed against any person for any particular purpose mentioned in the Bill.
The first clause of the schedule gives the Attorney-General power to deal with certain actions on contracts which are not to be brought without his consent. The next clause says that no action can be begun against- State authorities without his consent ; another clause says that proceedings cannot be taken without the Attorney-General’s consent on contracts relating to wheat and flour; the next says that actions against companies removing enemy influence may not be taken without his consent. The same provision is made with regard to actions relating to dividends paid to the British Public Trustee, or to libel and slander proceedings by persons alleged to be enemy subjects. Proceedings for refusal to employ or work with persons alleged to be enemy subjects cannot be begun without the Attorney-General’s consent.
Here is the secret. of the whole thing. Yesterday the new Chief Justice of Australia was sworn in, and I am sure we all read with much interest and appreciation the remarks he made in response to the congratulations tendered to him on his acceptance of office. . The Age of to-day reports him as follows : -
It could not be disputed that the due administration of justice was the sheet anchor of every civilized community, and it was indispensable that justice should be done according to law, uprightly, deliberately, and resolutely, so that rights might be enforced and wrongs redressed with such certainty and ‘Confidence that no suitor might have just cause to complain; and with such proper dignity as might insure respect for the judicial office. The whole world was seething with unrest to an extent without precedent in. history. There was a real danger that appeals to force might be regarded as more effective, and, consequently, more desirable, than appeals to the law; and that made it more than ever necessary that there should be nothing lacking in the administration of justice in this country.
I agree most heartily and absolutely with every sentence uttered there and with the sentiment behind the words; but this Bill proposes to interpose an extra-judicial authority between the people and the Courts of Justice. Why should it be necessary in any circumstances, particularly after the war period is over, to obtain the consent of the ‘AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, no matter who he may be, before any citizen who feels himself aggrieved in regard to any matter covered by the provisions of this Bill may take action? According to the second schedule, War Precautions Regulation No. 8, Statutory Rule No. 122 of 1916, provides that no person shall, without the authority of the Attorney-General, take any action against an employer, or against associations of employees, or officers of industrial unions in respect of certain matters. If what the new Chief Justice says is Tight, that in order to overcome the effects of industrial unrest, and guarantee that law and not force shall dominate our industrial operations, no authority should interpose between the people and the Courts of law, how can the adoption of this schedule be justified? It specifically gives the Attorney-General the right to say whether an action shall or shall not be taken into Court. To say that the Courts of law are to -be open, that justice is to be impartial, and that access to the law is to be freely given to the humblest citizen, is to deny the ‘plain words and plain meaning of this Bill.
– And the same principle is in many Acts of Parliament passed before the war. It is in the Anti-Trust Act of 1906, which I introduced.
– I am not quarrelling as to whether the principle has been accepted before or not. I am complaining that it is proposed to perpetuate in this Bill, not for any limited period, but permanently as a statutory provision, the right of the Attorney-General to interfere and intervene between the people of this country who seek redress for any conceivable wrong, and the Courts of justice. The Bill perpetuates some of the worst features of the War Precautions Act of ignoble fame, through which some things that will not redound to the credit of Australia, or add to her glory, will go down to history.
The honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott) may talk in his flamboyant style as much as he chooses about the pinnacle of fame which Australia has reached. We- all appreciate the fact that Australia has gained a name and position that she did not previously possess. We know how and why that is, and it is our business to protect that name and fame, and so to conserve Australia’s future interests that no individual man shall interfere to prevent the p’roper operation of the judicial affairs of this country, or to pervert the course of law. Under this Bill, the Attorney-General has unlimited and autocratic powers of veto in regard to measures that may or may not be taken under this Bill.
– It is the AttorneyGeneral or Solicitor-General, a fact which all of you have ignored from beginning to end.
- T noticed it, but did not refer to it, because I did not pretend to be able to express a legal opinion as to the particular virtues of the two offices. I should say, as a layman, that if there is any advantage it is in favour of the Attorney-General having the power, because he is a member of this House, and we, as the custodians of the people’s interests, can deal with .him on the floor of the House. The Solicitor-General is purely an official.
– What would you do with the Attorney-General if he gave an unfair decision?
– We could do what the Prime Minister does so well - we could talk about him.
Mr.- Corser. - You cannot find fault with him on that score.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay was sent here to talk, but his party will not let him. “The only subject he is allowed to talk on is sugar. If he attempts to discuss anything else, they pull him down.
The honorable member for New England said that the Prime Minister was not likely to abuse these powers. He may not. He may have recanted and reformed. He may possibly think it . wise to smooth down a good many of his irritating methods; but all the time I have in my mind, as ‘ the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) has in his, the reflection that an Attorney-General may arise who cannot be trusted with these powers. It was bad enough under the War Precautions Act, but, even if we -allowed the Attorney-General unlimited and autocratic powers under a temporary measure of that sort, what reason is there for giving him permanent powers under this Bill to interfere in these matters ? If there has been a danger in the ‘administration of this power by the present Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) there is a danger that a worse Attorney-General may be in office. These powers can only be intrusted to a Government who will be able to regard things impartially, but while party feeling runs high no Government and no AttorneyGeneral, especially one with the temperament of the present Attorney-General, can deal impartially with cases that may be brought before him. The administration of justice in this country ought to be above ali suspicion of partiality and political party feeling, but who is prepared to say that the present AttorneyGeneral is able to approach with an impartial mind any question, particularly one relating to political subjects such as libel, slander, or industrial operations? We are poisoning the stream of justice at its head- This Bill is a flat contradiction of the sentiment expressed by the new Chief Justice of Australia yesterday, and will only continue and carry into civil life a lot of the unfortunate trouble and bitterness created during the war with considerable disadvantage to Australia.
.- I desire to confine my remarks to the Bill. Like every honorable member, I have read the measure very carefully, and I find that its most striking feature is the extraordinary power given to the Attorney’General. Naturally, therefore, the exercise of power by the Attorney-General under this Bill has been given considerable prominence during the debate. I have been astounded by the attitude of the members of the Opposition with regard to the measure. Hypocrisy readied its utmost limit in their remarks, because, although they have denounced the Bill and the Act upon which it is founded, that Act was passed by them when they were in power. The date on which the original War Precautions Act was introduced was 29th October, 1914. By whom was it introduced? By those honorable gentlemen who now sit upon the Opposition benches, and who, with the most consummate hypocrisy, have attacked this Bill.
– I withdraw the remark. I am still determined to keep my remarks within the four corners of the measure. The War Precautions Act was amended on the 13th December, 1915, when the same honorable gentlemen who are attacking this Bill were in power.
– Which Bill? This Bill or “Bill” Hughes*
– I shall meet my friend the duke on that point later. I find that the War Precautions Act was amended on the 13th May, 1916. By whom? By the party who have debased and degraded this House by their accusations this evening.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to be a little more moderate in his language. Expressions of an offensive nature directed against other honorable members are not in order. I ask the honorable member to address himself bo the Bill.
– I thank you, sir, for your most kindly suggestion. I will endeavour to escape from the vicious atmosphere by which the debate upon this Bill has been surrounded. I propose to deal, first, with the Bill itself, and then with the remarks of honorable members opposite regarding the actions of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) under the War Precautions Act. I regret that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) is not present. He said this afternoon that the actions of the Attorney-General under the War Precautions Act were more contemptible than anything done by Germany.
– He is a good man!
– The honorable and gallant member may think that the honorable member for Cook is a good man. The honorable member for Cook will be to honorable members opposite like the old man of the sea to Sinbad the Sailor. He is around .their neck, and they’ cannot get rid of him; and they cannot rid themselves, in the eyes of the people of a share in the responsibility for the vile, atrocious, and disloyal remarks that honorable member has made.
– I think that that statement ought to be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the remark and apologize. I have already said that it is difficult to escape from the atmosphere that has been created by honorable members opposite, but I am doing my best. I ask honorable members to consider for a moment what must be the mentality and soul of a man who could say that the actions of the AttorneyGeneral, under the War Precautions Act, were more contemptible than, the deeds committed bv Germany.
– It is true.
– No, no! I cannot believe that remark from my friend the duke; I know his heart too well.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that it is very objectionable for the honorable member for Grampians to refer to the honorable member for Melbourne! Ports (Mr. Mathews) as “ the duke.” I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
– Owing to the interjections by honorable members, I did not hear the remark complained of. It is not proper to refer to any honorable member other than by the name of the constituency he represents.
– I withdraw and apologize. I say to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, at all events, “Have you not love enough to bear with me when that rash humour which, my mother gave me makes me forgetful?” From him, at all events, I will not accept any statement that is hostile and unfair, because I know that whatever his lips may utter in this House, at heart the honorable member is as loyal a Britisher as ever entered this building.
– Perhaps the honorable member will now address his remarks to the Bill.
– Unfortunately, there is a Bill before the House. The honorable member foi” Cook (Mr. Catts) states’ that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has done things more contemptible than were ever done by Germany. I ask you, sir, as a student of psychology, to consider the mentality of a man who could utter such atrocious and malignant slanders.
– I admit that I have many opportunities in this House for the study of psychology, and the subject is interesting, but I suggest that it is high time the honorable member addressed his remarks to the Bill before the House, otherwise he should resume his seat.
– This Bill from beginning to end concerns the actions of the Attorney-General. Therefore, when an honorable member opposite calumniates the Attorney-General with regard to his actions under the War Precautions Act, I submit that those actions are a proper subject for debate. I should like to remind those loyal and patriotic members who heard the statements made by the honorable member for Cook of what Germany was guilty during the war. Under orders from the High Command, German soldiers butchered the women and children of Belgium.
– Is that in the Bill?
– Throughout the debate the actions of the Attorney-General have been referred to, and I am entitled to refute the statement made by the honorable member for Cook. As honorable members well know, the Germans committed crimes the horror of which staggered humanity. Yet there is on the Opposition side an honorable member of such mentality - will the rules of the House permit me to say brutality?
– I think that remark should be withdrawn.
– I withdraw and apologize. Does not the- remark of the honorable member for Cook show that his mind and the minds of those who hold the same views have become so saturated with a malignant poison, so far as the relations between the Empire, our Allies, and Australia are concerned, that they, have absolutely lost their mental balance.
– Order ! The honorable member commenced his speech by saying that he would confine his remarks to the Bill. He has been speaking for several minutes and has not said much in fulfilment of his promise. I ask the honorable member to desist- from personalities and to debate the Bill.
– I remind honorable members that this Bill was introduced, not by this’ Government and party, but by honorable members opposite when they were in power.
– Were not some of the members of the present Government members of that Labour Government?
– The present Prime Minister was then Prime Minister, but the responsibility for the introduction of the Act must be shared by every member opposite, above all, by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor).
– Why was I prevented from prosecuting the Argus ?
– I have no doubt that such contingencies were carefully considered and provided for when the Labour party introduced the measure. In any case, it is impossible to put the responsibility on this Government and their supporters for the introduction of the War Precautions Act, or for what has ‘been done under it.
The honorable member for Cook, in his speech, took occasion to sneer at me for being an Englishman.
– Quite right, too!
– Of course, the honorable member for Batman does not mean what he says. No one knows better than himself the words of that great statesman - that great Irishman - Edmund Burke, who said to the people, “You love and cling to England, because in all the ages she has been the refuge of the oppressed of all mankind.”
– It would be much more to the point if the honorable member would address himself to what is contained in the Bill.
– The honorable member for Cook, after having sneered at me for being an Englishman, sneered at the Prime Minister for being a Welshman. But, as I said at the time, what is wrong with Welshmen ? What have they done during this war ? Let us compare the record of the honorable member for Cook with the . record of Welshmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen in the war. Is it not true that two of the greatest living men that Britain has ever produced are Welshmen ? I refer to Lloyd George - whose name will be immortal - and also to William Morris Hughes. Our Prime Minister may not have had such heavy responsibilities, or such opportunities, as Mr. Lloyd George, but he also has made his name immortal as standing, from the beginning of the war - even when surrounded by honorable members opposite - for the Empire, for Australia, and for civilization. The honorable member for Cook, having sneered at the Prime Minister and myself, went on to say that he himself is an Australian.
– Do you think that he is?
– I take his word, as I would that of any honorable member. The honorable member has every right to be proud of being an Australian.
– Are Australians proud of him?
– Are the 300,000 men, who fought for our lives and liberties, as proud of him as he is of being an Australian? I, too, am proud of Australians, for my children are Australian. If the mother of the honorable member for Cook had not come to Australia, probably from England, he could never have been born here.
When honorable members opposite question the actions of the Prime Minis ter in administering the War Precautions Act and regulations, which the Labour party introduced-
– Not the regulations.
– I am glad to be reminded of that. I can always depend on - shall I say? - the greatest statesman and financier Australia has ever produced, in the person of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), to put me right if ever I am inclined to go astray. However, I desire to point out that two of the most important regulations which appear in the schedule of the Bill- Statutory Rule, 1916, No. 112, and Statutory Rule, 1916, No. 122 - wereissued when the Labour party was in power.
The honorable member for Cook made a comparison between the actions of the Prime Minister during the war and the actions of the Labour party which’ the honorable member follows. Perhaps I might ask whether the honorable member does not lead the Labour party - whether he is the one who inspires all their deeds, or one who merely follows? However that may be, the Prime Minister, from the beginning of the war, never spared himself, day or night, in stirring the poeple up to fight for Australia and civilization. But what has been the action- of the party represented in this House by the honorable member for Cook? In June last year, when the tide of disaster began to set against the Allies, and Germany, apparently, was nearing victory - and would have achieved it but for the valour of the Australian, Canadian, and other soldiers - when the issue was trembling in the balance, there was a by-election for Flinders. A Labour candidate was chosen by the Labour organizations in the person of Mr. Gordon Holmes, and a manifesto was issued to the electors by that party, in which occurred the words, “ The Labour party stands for the immediate cessation of fighting.” This was at a time when the German armies had almost overpowered the British and Allied armies. Our sons by tens of thousands had fallen fighting to preserve our homes, liberties, and lives.
– Has this to do with the Bill?
– Yes; the honorable member has spoken about the Bill, and he shall hear my reply. My remarks have to do with the administration of the Bill, and I say that while our men were fighting bravely to stem the German advance, and had been almost overwhelmed - when the whole world knew that if we ceased to fight Germany would conquer and’ crush mankind - the party and people whose views have been voiced to-night by the honorable member for Cook made use of the remarkable words I have quoted. I remember that, when speaking” during the Flinders contest, I repeated the words very often, in order that they should not be forgotten, and they were burned into my mind. - That was the attitude ‘ of the Labour party, members of which now insult the intelligence and honour of mankind by accusing the Prime Minister of having done worse things under the War Percautions Act and regulations than were ever done by the Germans.
.- It is rather refreshing to hear of the quantity of matter that this Bill contains. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has given us a lot of information as to the effect of the various clauses, and as to what the operation of the measure will mean to the public; and, no doubt, the people will be very much enlightened when they read his remarks in Hansard. The honorable member concluded his speech with one of those perorations which seem to be the common property of those who were not at the war.
– I had a son at the war!
– I grant that the honorable member’s family have done their duty; but the point I am making is that those who were not at the war seem to have a conception of it different from that of those who were actually there. I was in the parts of which the honorable member was speaking just after Fritz had pushed through to that crucial point at Villers Bretonneux, where I was stationed until the “,,hop over” at Hamel. I did not hear .the “diggers” speak in the same way; ,and if they had had to listen to all this balderdash about the War Precautions Act, they would refer to it as the product of a male cow. We hear honorable members, with tears in their voices, speaking of what our lads have accomplished. I am prepared to give them all the credit due to them. All that we can give them is not sufficient to recompense them for the valour they dis- played in the job they took on. . The “ digger “ is . prepared to accept credit which is given to him in that way; but all this “ sobbing sister “ sort of tali does not go down, or justify the passage of this Bill or the heaping of abuse on the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) or the Labour party, who seek to point out that it is not the innocent measure that the Ministerial party would have us believe it is. That is why I take exception to the manner in which honorable members speak about the war. I can be accepted as one of the ordinary, common “ diggers,” and as one who is capable of judging their feelings. I did not go away as an officer. I had no batman. I could not order others about, or give them twenty-five days’ CB. if they did not please me, or rob them of the money due to them. I went there and did actual work, dodging as the others did when the shells came over. I can say what the ‘‘digger” wants without the use of hysterical language. He wants what he is justly entitled to for what he has done; but if he has a mother or sister, father or brother who thinks that, the regeneration of society can be best achieved by going on the Yarra-bank and waving a red flag, he does not want any War Precautions Act that will put that mother or sister, father or brother, in gaol. If I had- any relative who held different political views, I would not desire to give him a lot of “ hifalutin “ language such as we have had to-night, or seek to imprison him for doing what he conceived to be in the best interests of the country.
It is true that the Labour party passed this legislation. I recollect all the arguments used at the time about abolishing the Habeas Corpus Act and the Bill of Rights, and about putting into the hands of one man a power that should not be reposed, in one individual. The reply given to us is well known to those who were in the House’ then, especially to those members of our party who are now in the present Government. The reply given to us by the genial Mr. Fisher, sitting at the table, was, “What have you to fear? Is it not your own AttorneyGeneral who is administering the Act? If you are not prepared to trust him with the power, you might as well put him out of office.” It was all right as long as the then Attorney ^General acted for our party, which he had helped to construct; but one never finds out that a servant is untrue or untrustworthy until he is discovered in the act of robbing one, or doing his work as it should not be done. It is then one condemns him in terms in which it is right he should be condemned in accordance with the action which has called for that condemnation. So it was with regard to the Attorney-General. “When he was asked why he required the enormous powers given to him by the War Precautions Bill, his statement was to this effect : “ Supposing that a German warship has got into Hobson’s Bay, and has started shelling Melbourne, we have no power to control the war when- it comes home so closely to us.” ‘That was the specious argument he used.
– His argument was a correct one.
– I was one of those who believed in the then Attorney-General of the Fisher Government, but it was not so much the statement he’ made as it was what it meant ultimately. We were assured that we need have no fear that any ill-use would be made of the measure.
We have already passed a Bill to protect the wool-growers so long as it is necessary to carry out the contracts made by the Commonwealth Government “during the war period. The same measure covers the wheat-growers, the dairy producers, and the flax and sugar contracts. In a few moments we shall be dealing With a measure relating to four other matters, including shipping. I am prepared to give the Government all the power necessary to consummate what was done under the War Precautions Act in regard to these matters, which must be carried to a successful conclusion, but I notice there i3 no desire to extend the War Pre-‘ cautions Act, holus bolus, in order to deal with profiteering. We must have an election for that. We must give the Prime Minister another three years of office. .We must have an emasculated alteration of the Constitution.
– I understand that you people are to secure a majority, so that this Bill will be all to your advantage.
– It is quite on the cards that we shall secure a majority, in which case one of the sorest and most vicious members in Opposition will be the hon orable member who has so facetiously interjected. I hope that his expectations will be realized. We shall tell the electors that the Constitution alteration proposals are not what the Labour party conceived. They are an -emasculated, leg-ironed and leg-roped skeleton of what we put forward. If we secure the majority which the honorable member suggests we may, it will not be long before we put a real referendum question to the electors to give to the Commonwealth Government the full powers it requires to properly govern this country, and the War Precautions Act Will be a thing of the past. It will be a long time before I again accept the assurance of any honorable member with the faith with which I accepted that given by Mr. Fisher and his Attorney-General in regard to the War Precautions Act.
Some honorable members say that this Bill can only extend until the end of December, 1920. The second and third paragraphs of the preamble provide -
And whereas in order to provide for such regulation and control, certain regulations (being the regulations specified in the schedules fo this Act) were duly made under the provisions of the War Precautions Act 1914-16.
And. whereas by the War Precautions Act 1918 the operation of the War Precautions Act 1914-1916 was limited to the longer of the following periods, namely, the period of three months after the then existing state of war, and the period ending on the 31st day of July, One thousand nine hundred and nineteen.
That would indicate the limitation £6 the operation of the regulations referred to in the schedule; but the next paragraph provides -
And whereas it is expedient that the protection afforded by the said regulations should, in relation to actions and proceedings in respect of matters arising during the continuance of the War Precautions Act 1914-1916, continue to have the force of law, notwithstanding the expiration of that Act:
This paragraph distinctly says that the protection afforded by the said regulation should, in relation to . actions and proceedings in respect of matters arising during the continuance of the War Precautions Act, continue to have the force of law, notwithstanding the expiration of that Act. If the English language means anything, the protection afforded by the regulations under the War Precautions Act is to continue to have the force of law for all time. I am prepared to accept the Minister’s assurance that the protection given here is “ during the war” only, and that this Bill will only operate in regard to matters arising out of the war. That is an essential thing to learn about this Bill. Another important point is how the Act is to be administered. The late Sir George Reid is said to have declared that he did not care what Act was passed as long as the administration of it was placed in his hands, since, in that event, his will would be paramount. I wish to be perfectly clear on the point as to whether or not this Bill relates only to matters arising from or consequent upon the war. Will it relate to any matter arising after the termination of the war. It is very necessary that the general community should know what will really be the effect of the operation of the Bill.
I desire now to swing back to remarks that have been made on the Ministerial side of the House in reply to the caustic criticism which the Opposition has levelled at the action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who, it has been said, is unlikely to administer this measure in the interests of the community as a whole. We have been told by Ministerial supporters that the War Precautions Act was passed by the Labour party. While thatis so, the only regulations framed under it during the Labour regime were those necessary for the proper control of trade and commerce of Australia. All those regulations which impose restrictions on the liberty of the people, and which have led to so much abuse, were passed by the Government now in power. Many of them were made during the conscription campaign. It was then that the rights of the people were assailed and the powers conferred by the Act were abused. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has said that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) has. declared that the Prime Minister administered the War Precautions Act more severely than it would have been administered in Germany. Such a statement might have been correctly made. In reply to those who say that the War Precautions Act was passed by the Labour Government, I would point out that it is not so much the Act as the way in which it has been administered that has caused trouble. On more than one occasion it has been put to an illicit use. In passing it we only followed the precedent created for us by the British Government. The
British Parliament passed the Defence of the Realm Act, which, when I was in England, was written and spoken of as “ Dora.” That Act, however, has not been so viciously administered as the War Precautions Act has been. Then, again, I would remind honorable members that “ Dora “ has been repealed. The British Government are not now carrying on under war regulations, and they do. not demand that permission to institute any proceedings under the civil law shall be obtained from the Attorney-General.
– Britain is now trading with Germany.
– There is no war at the present time, and, therefore, there is no “ enemy.” The state of war ceases to exist from the date of the exchange or deposit of ratifications of the Treaty of Peace. That fact ought to be realized here. If, as is set out in one part of this Bill, these provisions are merely to cover matters arising out of thewar, well and good; but if they mean an extension of the War Precautions Act for all time, we should be so informed. If, as the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has said, this is one of the most vicious measures that has ever disgraced the statute-book of any country, we should reject it. We should do nothing that will perpetuate an Act, the administration of which has beenmimical to the best interests of the community as a whole.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative. .
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That after the word “if”, line 6, the words “ at the commencement of this Act “ be inserted.
– I want to have from the Minister (Mr. Groom) a statement as to what will be the effect of this Bill. I desire to know whether, in respect of any proposed action for libel or slander, the consent of the Attorney-General would have to be obtained if the matter complained of arose after the war, or whether any proceedings could be taken for statements made concerning the war at the present time ?
. -I appreciate the point which the honorable member has in view. The War Precautions Act is to continue in force for three months after the termination of war. The date of the termination of the war will be fixed by proclamation issued by the GovernorGeneral, and will be, as nearly as may be, the date of the exchange of ratifications of the Treaties of Peace made with Germany and Austria. This measure will apply to all causes of action arising during the war period.
– That is to say, between August, 1914, and the date of the ratification of the Peace Treaty.
– Yes; from the date of the outbreak of war to the date of the termination of the war as fixed by proclamation. Anything that occurs after that period is not covered by this Bill. The Bill applies to two things. During the war certain consents had to be obtained. If those consents were refused during the war, then this Bill preserves the rights of persons in cases where such consents were refused. It applies, also, to cases that occurred during the war, but in respect of which no application was made for consent, and in which, therefore, consent was not refused. After the war this procedure still applies, so that consent has to be sought to those actions which arose during the war, but which it is desired to instituteat the close of the war. That is the way the measure will work
. During the coming campaign, some candidates may on the platform accuse others of having been in receipt of German money during the war, or of having been in concert with German agents, or with persons of enemy origin, or of using their influence to hamper the Allies in the success1 ful prosecution of the war, and in other ways make libellous statements connected with the war. While this Bill is in operation, can any one make such statements with impunity if the Attorney-General happens to be on his side, and refuses to give his consent to a prosecution?
– That regulation will continue to operate until the expiration of the War Precautions Act, irrespective of this legislation. That is to say, it will continue to operate until three months after the close of the war, and will, therefore, be in operation during the election campaign.
– Not by virtue of this Bill.
– By virtue of the War Precautions Act. But that particular clause would also operate by virtue of this Bill
– If the war terminates in three months’ time, and a set of circumstances suchas I have indicated arises in six months’ time, will this Bill cover them?
– No. As soon as the War Precautions Act expires, this provision willnot cover the class of action to which the honorable member refers. The power is perpetuated with regard to contracts, and the other several classes of actions specified.
– That is, until the contracts expire? It would not cover any new contracts?
– It will not cover any new breaches of contract after the close of the war. It is intended to cover only the period of the war and actions arising during that period. This Bill does not touch any causes of action that arise after that. That is the justice and righteousness of the provision.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the words “ during the war,” lines 7 and 8, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ without the consent of the Attorney-General or other authority.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6, schedules, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Billbe now read a second time.
There are no new principles in the measure, beyond an amendment to allow war workers, munition workers, and others to participate in the benefits of the principal Act, and a provision to prevent estate agents, or similar persons, from using the term “war service homes” as an advertisement. The Bill makes it an offence to use the term for advertising or other purposes, except with the permission of the Minister. It is not right that people should exploit the war service homes legislation of Parliament for their own purposes. The provisions relating to war workers, munition workers, and others enable the benefits to the Act to be extended to them all,’ with the exception of those who have had their agreements terminated during the course of the war by the Minister owing to some fault of their own. Every other war worker who was sent away under agreement with the Government will be included.
– What about those who are returned sick ?
– The Bill applies to every person who has served the Imperial Government and the Ministry of Muni tions during the war, and “whose agreement with the Commonwealth, or the Minister of State for Defence, was not determined by reason of his failure to observe and perform any term or condition contained in the agreement, or by reason of his dismissal from any work in Great Britain during the continuance of the agreement because of any conduct of the worker which, in the opinion of the Minister, was such as to justify the determination of the agreement.” The disqualification would not apply in a case of sickness or other disability which was not the fault of the worker. The remaining clauses contain only technical alterations, which have been shown by experience to be necessary in theadministration of the Act. A number of difficulties have arisen in some cases owing to the faulty drafting of the original measure, and in others to circumstances that were not anticipated when the Act was originally framed.
The amendment of section 4 of the principal Act, made by paragraph a of clause 2 of the Bill, is necessary in order to impose upon a person executing a mortgage under sub-section 6 of section 19 the duties and obligations of a borrower under the Act. Mortgages are sometimes taken over by the Commissioner under the Act. The law authorities hold that the mortgagor in that case does not come within the definition of “ borrower “ as it stands in the original Act, a borrower being defined as one to whom an advance has been made. In this instance, technically, there has been no advance, as a mortgage has merely been taken over. The remaining parts of the definition clause simply make munition workers and war workers eligible for homes and advances under the Act. The number of munition workers, including chemists and constructional draftsmen, engaged in the Ministry of Munitions, is 3,053. The number of war workers, such as labourers, fettlers, and navvies who were doing work either at the Front or in connexion with war-like operations, is 2,243. These together add 5,296 to the number of persons eligible for advances under the War Service Homes Act. It is provided that war workers whose services are not satisfactorily terminated shall not be eligible for benefits.
Clause 3 is necessary for the following reasons: As section 16 of the Act stands at present, it applies to land whether acquired by agreement or by compulsory process. It is practically impossible to obtain, by agreement, land free from all trust charges, &c. We can do that when we compulsorily acquire land, but not otherwise. The proposed amendment will restrict the section to land acquired by compulsory process. Land acquired by agreement will become vested in the Commissioner in the ordinary way as matter of transfer.
– What is meant by compulsory acquirement? Does that refer to the Commonwealth or the States?
– Under the War Service Homes Act, the States do not compulsorily acquire the land; that is done by the Commonwealth. The acquisition of land for the settlement of soldiers is carried out by the States, the Commonwealth merely undertaking the finance. But in regard to land for War Service Homes, the land itself is dealt with by the Commonwealth. Consequently, it becomes necessary in some cases, particularly where it is proposed to . have group settlement, to acquire a considerable area. This gives us power to compulsorily acquire land.
In regard to clause 4, it has been found impracticable to compute, in the manner prescribed in sub-section 5 of section 19, the weekly payments due by the purchaser, and it is considered preferable that the computation thereof should be left for determination under section 29, sub-section 1, and other sections of the Act. Further, it is considered that the provision that a purchaser occupying a dwelling house of the Commissioner should be extended to cover persons to whom -an advance has been made. .
Sub-section 6 of section 19 at present provides that when a purchaser has paid in reduction of the purchase money onefifth of the amount, and has paid the1 amounts due up to that time by way of instalments, and has. complied with the conditions of the contract of sale, he may execute a mortgage to the Commissioner for the balance of the purchase money. But, owing.to the following circumstances, it is considered desirable that a new subsection should be substituted, viz., 1, other moneys besides those due by way of instalments are payable under the contract of sale; that refers to survey fees, release of mortgages, stamp duty, &c, and it is necessary to provide for those as well as the actual land fees, the whole being a debt owing by the purchaser; 2, conditions are prescribed by the Act and regulations as well as the contract of sale; 3, the repayment of other moneys besides the purchase money should be secured by the mortgage given by the purchaser; and, 4, the last sentence of the present sub-section 6 appears to be unnecessary, and, if read literally, would prevent a purchaser obtaining a transfer on payment of the purchase money ki full. What we desire to do is to give a transfer entirely to the purchaser as soon as his obligation has been fulfilled. The present section does not allow that to be done, but that was never intended.
The additional words proposed to be inserted in sub-section 9 of section 19 appear to be necessary to bring the provision with regard to interest into line with the definition of capital cost. The whole of the amendments to section 19 are intended to tighten up the section and facilitate administration.
Clause 5 amends section 29. It is proposed in paragraph a to insert additional words, without which the Commissioner would be bound to make payments of principal equal throughout the whole term, and to add to those the varying amounts of interest from time to time due at the date of each instalment. That would give rise to a great deal of unnecessary calculation, and of work that it is desirable to avoid. Moreover, the purchaser would not. know exactly what amount he would be required to pay each time.
– You are adopting a Credit Foncier system ?
– Yes. The ordinary building-society method of making equal payments, which include principal and interest, appears to have been the intention; but without the additional words, that intention cannot be carried out. The Act as it stands limits the repayments te weekly, fortnightly, and monthly instalments. That limitation has been found inconvenient. The .amendment proposed in paragraph 6 of clause 5 will enable instalments to be made in accordance with the contract of sale at such intervals as are thought fit. That is to say, each purchaser can arrange to pay quarterly, half-yearly, or at any other interval that suits his own convenience. The extent sion of the period over which instalments. are payable under the contract of sale or mortgage of a dwelling-house to be erected, composed of wood or iron, from twenty to twenty-five years, is required, because it is considered that the provision of section 31 will insure that the’ house is kept in good and substantial repair for that period. As regards houses of this type already erected, the policy of the Commission will not be altered as. the period of training is determined after taking into consideration the state of repair and the probable life of the dwelling house. That is really done in the soldier’s interest, and gives him a longer period than he would otherwise have for repayment.
Clause 6 is a new clause,- suggested in lieu of section 19, sub-section 5, covering both purchasers and borrowers. The conferring on the Commissioner of the powers under other laws is usual in mortgages, and would facilitate the obtaining by the Commissioner of possession of the land should a purchaser or borrower make default in the conditions governing the purchase or advance.
Clause 7 amends section 31. Without the additional words proposed in paragraph a the section would appear to contemplate the full amount being paid to the Commissioner in one payment. That is not required, and it is desired that power be given to enable repayment to be made by instalments.
In regard to paragraph 6, the words proposed to be omitted are inappropriate to the circumstances, and the suggested words are necessary in order to bring the section into line with section 18. The limitation on expenditure applies to the Commissioner, and not to the purchaser. The amount of purchase money payable by the purchaser is limited by section 19, which defines capital cost.
The amendments proposed in clause 8, paragraphs a and b, appear to be necessary to carry into1 effect the intention of the section that the purchaser or borrower, so long as any money is due to the Commissioner, has to remain in occupation of the house.
In regard to clause 9, section 33 of the original Act appears self -contradictory, inasmuch as it contemplates a borrower’s title being divested, from him, and thereafter a subsequent sale by the Commissioner of the borrower’s estate and interest. It is also desirable that the sec tion shall be extended to provide for the insolvency of a purchaser as well as of a borrower, and for the nonapplication of the insolvency laws to the dwelling house, and that the section should be extended to cases in which the dwellinghouse is seized in execution of a judgment debt. In any of such cases it appears to be desirable that powers similar to those given by sub-section 2 of section 32 should be vested in the Commissioner.
Clause 10a amends section 35. As the section now stands, read literally, it would invalidate a transfer by the Commissioner under other sections of the Act. The additional words, therefore, appear necessary. The amendment in paragraph b is consequential on the amendment of section 33.
With regard to paragraph c, at present the transfer to the devisee only is to be recognised, and the only case in which there can be a devisee is that in which the purchaser or borrower has left a will. In that case an administrator would be an administrator “with the will annexed,” and if he is not such an administrator he could not be a devisee. It is, however, desired that an executor or administrator should have power of disposition of the dwelling-house in the ordinary course of the administration of the estate, and the words “ to a devisee “ should, therefore, be omitted. That is to say, whether or not there is a will, the administrator of the esr.ate is to be empowered to deal with the house. At present he cannot do so. Paragraph ti! corrects a printer’s error. Section 35 as a whole applies to both, purchasers and -borrowers. Sub-section 26 (i) and (ii), however, only applies to a borrower. The amendment in paragraph e is necessary to apply these subsections to the purchaser. A number of these amendments have become necessary, because- it was not recognised when the original Bill was drafted, that not only would homes be built, but arrangements would be made to purchase houses already built.
In regard to clause 11, the present insurance scheme relates to dwelling-houses only. The scheme provided by the new clause will enable not only dwellinghouses, but also all material on house sites for the erection of homes to be insured. As the law stands at present, an insurance policy cannot be effected on the material with which the soldier is to build his home.
– Will the soldier have to pay the premium?
– Yes; it will not be a very great amount, but it will be part of the purchase price.
– Therefore, it will be compulsory for the soldier to insure the material?
– I do not think that it will be absolutely compulsory; he may insure if he so desires. Power is also given by the proposed clause to make regulations to do all things necessary in connexion with the insurance scheme. I take it that under those regulations it would be competent for the Minister to stipulate that the material would be insured.
Clause 12 repeals section 41. The only substantial difference proposed is that the insurance money may be applied to make good both damage to and total destruction of a dwelling-house and other property. Apparently as the Act was originally drafted the insurance would apply only to total destruction.
Clause 13 amends section 47, and enables the Commissioner, on the application of the Repatriation Department, to provide a dwelling-house for the use of a totally and permanently incapacitated Australian soldier. A blind soldier may not be totally and permanently incapacitated, and’ the amendment proposed by the clause is intended to give him the benefit of the provisions of section 47.
– Do the Government carry the insurance risk themselves?
– I am not sure, but I think they do. The last clause is that to which I directed “ attention in my opening remarks. It simply deals with the wrongful use of the words “ War Service Homes “ for advertising purposes, and provides that such use shall not be made of them without the permission of the Minister.
– Does the Commonwealth Bank operate the machinery both in regard to building and financing?
– In some instances, yes; but not in all. There is an agreement which enables the Bank in certain instances to build, but the intention is that the Commissioner shall do the major portion of the work in this connexion.
Under the agreement, the Bank will have power in isolated cases to erect certain homes. The Commissioner will not be absolutely limited to the building in group settlements, but his principal activities will rather be directed towards the larger portion of the scheme, leaving to the Bank the erection of isolated homes from time to time.
– Is the test of public tender provided for?
– The main Act may so provide, but I. cannot say. The ‘Commissioner does call for tenders, and, so far as I know, the Bank does also, because I have seen quite a number. In some instances, when tenders have been too high in the opinion of the Commissioner, he has proceeded to erect buildings by day labour, and in every such instance lie ‘has been able to do so well within his estimate, and at a lower amount than shown in the tenders. These matters must more or less be left to his discretion.
– It is a proper tiling to have the test of public tender.
– I can assure the honorable member on that point. I do not think there is anything of a controversial nature in the Bill ‘as introduced, and I trust it will pass without delay.
.- On the last day on which Parliament sat last year the original War Service Homes Bill was introduced. Speaking from memory, that was a little while .before the dinner adjournment, and the measure had. to be put through that night. Assuming that 150,000 of the returned men, or - about half of those, including munition workers and others, who are entitled to such homes, were provided with them at an average price of £650, the total expenditure would amount to £100,000,000; and yet we passed that original Bill in one evening after the bulk of the honorable members had gone home
– About the best thing we did that session’!
– It is absolutely scandalous, in. my opinion, that so little time should be devoted to this important subject in the dying hours of Parliament, within a couple- of days of its dissolution. With the Minister, I. hope that the Bill will pass without delay, but’ we ought to consider it carefully, and see that everything is done that ought to be done.
Unless we are expected to consider measures of the kind, Parliament, apart from the passing of Supply, need only be called together for a few hours before the close of the session. In my opinion, this is not treating the House fairly.
Senator Millen, the Minister for Repatriation, has tackled a herculean task, and must find it most difficult to satisfy all returned soldiers in their many requests. I understand that Australia ‘ is the only country that is at present taking any steps in this direction. Of course, we hope to have this £100,000,000 repaid within a certain time.
– There will never be £100,000,000 out at one time.
– That is so. If I may judge by a return presented by Senator Millen, it appears that, although the Bill was passed last December, the number of houses under construction throughout Australia at the end of the first nine months was less than 1,000.
– It is difficult to get building materials.
– I grant that. Last Saturday I was with a deputation representative of trade union officials, who are committees of vocational training, which waited on the head of the Department in order to ascertain how vocational training and the building of homes were operating together.
– The committees are doing good work.
– Although the trade unions sent representatives to the committees as soon as they were asked, the employers did not do so.
– They are working together all right now.
– The employers did not send representatives for many months, even in Victoria, and that I regard as a pity.
– The shipping strike hung up operations for., three months.
– In regard to some materials.
– -It was impossible to go on with the building.
– Materials from overseas were not prevented from coming in.
– The work could not go’ on until bricks were available.
– That is so; but brickmaking went. on in New South Wales as usual.
– What about South Australia ?
– I understand that in South Australia, at the end of nine months, there was only one house under construction.
– The difficulty is to get timber.
– And also bricks and roofing materials. I have seen it stated in the newspapers - though it has been denied by the Housing Committee - that it is not intended to import made-up sashes, doors, and so forth, from overseas for the construction of these houses. It is quite possible we may have to import soft timbers, the average consumption of which in Australia is about 600,000,000 feet, apart from the hardwoods. The bulk of the hardwood in Australia is used for sleepers and such purposes.
– Any amount of scantling and weatherboards are made from hardwood.
– There is plenty of hardwood in Queeusland.
– I have gone into that matter, and I have tried as much as any one to get for the Australian hardwoods, an effective duty. In my opinion, it will be impossible to obtain the necessary quantity of softwood for the building of these homes, as well as for ordinary building operations. I only wish, we had a proper system of afforestation in Australia for the production of softwoods. We have magnificent hardwoods, unequalled, . I believe, in any part of the world.
Parliament has not. had a fair opportunity to discuss this measure, seeing that it must be dealt with by the Senate. We all admit that the very best we can do for our soldiers is not too much; and we intend to make them, as far as possible, independent of the landlord. We owe that much to our soldiers, in view of the present scarcity of houses. I think the Inter-State Commission estimates that in Melbourne and Sydney alone there is a shortage - of 25,000 houses, and the shortage is becoming accentuated every day.
I understand that the Commonwealth Bank is doing the whole of the financing for this scheme, and that the ‘bank has to pass plans before any advance is made.
– Is not one set of architects seeing to all the buildings?
– Yes; these architects are employed by the War Service Homes
Department. The honorable gentleman himself, I believe, was at the opening of the first home built in Australia, and it happened to be in his electorate.
– How did the honorable member manage that?
– The only reason I can give, on the spur of the moment, is that the honorable member is such a loyal supporter of the Government.
– I did not know where the home was until I was invited to the ceremony.
– There is one reform which I am glad to observe in the administration of the Act. Originally, a soldier was prohibited from using any part of a war service home as a shop, and it is gratifying to know that the regulation has been altered so as to permit of a small shop - not sufficient to make the place a shop first and a residence afterwards. This alteration will prove a greatadvantage to men who may have been gassed or wounded, and who are anxious to set up in a small way for themselves. One case which came under my notice was that of a man who was employed as a storeman in a factory, and who was anxious to open a small shop in a rising seaside resort, but was prevented from doing so by the original regulation. If he is incapacitated later through the return of the injury he has received, he may be allowed to make a living through a shop.
There are one or two amendments that I think are necessary. Last year, a proposal was put forward in the Senate to provide each soldier’s widow with a free home. I hope that we shall be able to make that provision to-night.Nothing on earth can replace the husband a woman has lost.
– Except another.
– Then the woman is no longer a widow. It may be a difficult matter to make provision for cases of remarriage, but, at any rate, we ought to make a beginning in the direction I have indicated. We ought also to do something for the blind soldier.
– We ought to keep him.
– I understand that the Prime , Minister (Mr. Hughes) said, at Brisbane, that the blind soldier was to be paid £4 per week. However, that matter is dealt with in another measure. We should provide the blindsoldier with a free home, and make him, to that extent, independent.
I protest against the late hour at which this Bill is brought forward. We had a similar experience last year when the original Act was passed. I remember that the honorable memberfor Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who had the call, gave way to the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott), so that he could speak to the matter -before catching his train on the last day of the sitting of the House. It is not fair to honorable members, or to the important subject dealt with, or to the men who receive the benefits of this legislation, to have to deal with it in this hurried way.
– How much will it cost to provide the widows of our soldiers with homes, remembering that we had 60,000 men killed?
– I have no idea, but the Government could ascertain from the Defence Department how many husbands were killed. It is unfair to deal with this class of legislation in, such a hurried way. Apart from making provision for munition workers and war workers, this Bill has been found necessary because of defects discovered in the original measure. It is when proper consideration is not given to measures that such defects creep in.
I congratulate the Government on having made provision for munition workers and war workers. A great deal of misapprehension exists in regard to these men. They did not have anything like the good time the people of Australia thought they had. Our most skilled men went away, men who were foremenand managers of large engineering shops here, yet they did not receive as war workers half of what unskilled and untrained girls were earning in the factories.
– Why was that?
– On account of the contract they signed here.
– They were on day wages, and could not get piece-work.
– Even if they so desired it, they could not get piece-work on what they were doing.
– Is it not a general rule that a man makes more money on piecework?
– It is not always the case. It all depends on the class of. mau and on how he sticks to his work; sometimes he must stick very solidly to his work to earn good money. However, I congratulate the Government on including munition workers and war workers in the benefits to be conferred by the Act. I hope that at another time a greater opportunity will be afforded for the discussion of one of the most important measures that could come before this House.
.- I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in what he has said in regard to the time allowed for discussing this Bill. We debated the original measure in the same .circumstances.
I have been in communication with the Navy Department in regard to the position of men who were engaged as wireless operators, &c, on the ships engaged on the Australian coast in relation to the naval war bonus; and, so far as I can see, these men will not come under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act. To me it seems to be an injustice. When they entered the naval service they had to go where they were told, and although they were prepared to go overseas, some of them have been for three years on the Australian coast, and have been absent from the mainland for at* least fifteen months.
– Is the honorable member referring to mine-sweepers?
– Yes, to mine-sweepers and wireless operators. They are just as much entitled to consideration as are munition workers and navvies who went overseas. It was only to-day that I received a communication upon the position of these men in regard to the naval war bonus. I gather that because they did not go overseas they are not entitled to that bonus, although they were subjected to all the hardships and service which . the men overseas had to undergo - much more than were navvies and munition workers.
– I think that they are included in the Bill.
– Unfortunately for us, the Minister is a novice in regard to these matters. He does not understand his Bill, but has simply read a statement prepared by the Departmental officers.
– Unlike the honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. West), I congratulate > the Minister (Mr. Greene) on the way in which he introduced the Bill. The remark of the honorable member was not justified), and was absolutely uncalled for, because the Minister explained every clause in detail. I sympathize with the honorable member in his desire to include mine-sweepers and some other members of the mercantile marine who were in waters infested by submarines, and were moving among mine-fields. I feel that those who -went to the Old Country as munition workers did not run any greater risk than, say, the crews of the steam-ship Katoomba and the Indarra, off our own coast, or the crew of the Warilda, which was torpedoed in the English Channel while running a continuous ferry service between France and England. If there is to be any extension of the principle, we should consider, not only the men who engaged in mine-sweeping on our own coast, but also the men of our mercantile marine, who went overseas and took a considerably greater risk than was to be experienced at any time on the shores of our own island continent. -
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has referred to the delay in the construction of war service homes. A superficial examination of the facts would suggest that there had been some unnecessary delay, but when we go carefully into the matter and discover that at the time of the passing of the principal Act there was no organization, that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) had to invite applications all over Australia . for the position of War Service Homes Commissioner, and that the Commissioner when appointed had to get his staff together, We must recognise that there is ho room, for complaint. Any one who has tried to establish a new Department will appreciate the difficulties encountered in respect of personnel alone, apart altogether from other considerations. I therefore feel that the charge of delay can be freely answered on behalf of the Minister for Repatriation, who had an entirely new trail to blaze, and did the work remarkably well. There was also the question of building material to be dealt- with. The Department had to consider, not merely how to obtain adequate supplies of bricks and timber, but how to secure those supplies at reasonable prices. The Commissioner would have been roundly condemned’ had’ he agreed to the prices originally asked by the Timber Combine. I am glad that I had an opportunity to introduce him to at least one mill-owner in this State who has placed at his disposal the whole of the output of his mill for the next ten years, so that he may keep outside the Combine and obtain the timber required: by him at a reasonable rate. The desire of the Commissioner is to build the war service homes at a cost that will insure a considerable reduction on what our returned soldiers would have to pay if they went to a private contractor.
– Although there has been a great increase in the price of material, the increase in wages paid has been a mere nothing.
– I have said nothing as to wages rates in the timber or the brick-making industry. I do not want to pull down wages, and have never tried to do so.
– I know that.
– I am merely pointing out reasons for the delay that has occurred. A Department with ramifications such as those of the Department of Repatriation could not be organized in a few weeks. Its organization has necessarily taken some .months, and we are only now securing the results of that organization in the fact that, week by week, and month by month, additional homes are being built and purchased for the men. As I understand the scheme, it is divided into two paris - the purchase of homes and the ‘construction of homes. In the construction of homes, the Department has not only to consider the desire of the individual to build in a particular locality, but also the larger question of community settlement which must . necessarily have attention.
I come now to the position of munition workers. Is it not possible for the Government to recognise the claims of the munition workers - and they are not numerous - who went to England outside the contract entered into between the Commonwealth and the Ministry of Munitions? There are, in Australia, a number of tradesmen who went to England, most of them paying their own passages, and’ ‘entered upon work which of necessity was controlled by the Min istry of Munitions. All forms of munition manufacture there were controlled by that Ministry. That being so, it is easy to prove the bona fides of any of these men. It is easy to ascertain when a man left here, when he arrived in the Old Country, and the date of his return to Australia. There are tabulated statistics in. respect of all those matters. In these circumstances, is ‘ not the Minister prepared to bring within the scope of this Bill that type of munition worker in addition to those who went to England under contract? If we are to recognise the war service of the one section, it is only fair that we should recognise the service of the other.
– The matter has been considered, but it is thought that it would not be practicable.
– May I ask why? Mr. Greene. - Because of the difficulty of establishing the facts.
– I am surprised to hear that. There was an organization in England which dealt with war workers and .munition workers. It. was organized by the Commonwealth, and conducted at the expense of .the Commonwealth. That organization should be able to supply full particulars.
– ‘If we attempted to do what the honorable member suggests, it would mean postponing the whole system.
– I do not agree with the honorable gentleman. Even if it is impossible to apply the scheme to those men at the present time, provision should be made in this Bill for its application to them. In the United Kingdom labour battalions were formed and put into, uniform. They automatically secured whatever advantages attached to the wearing of uniform, and now in the process of re-absorbing them into civil life they come within, the category of soldiers. That is not. done here.
– I assure the honorable member that the matter raised by him was very carefully considered, and that it was decided that, in the circumstances, we could not do now, at all events, what he suggests.
– I regret to heir that, and I repeat that, in my judgment, there is no practical objection to my proposal. If such persons were brought within the definition clauses of this Bill, it would be only reasonable to assume that the Government would make each man, before it attempted to deal with him, substantiate his statement from the records.
In this Bill the Government are deal. ing with the financial relationship between the Commissioner on. the one hand and the returned soldier or the munition worker on the other. I should like to know what will be the legal position in respect of purchases already made and buildings .already constructed, ot where the negotiations have .reached a sufficiently mature stage to be binding on both parties. Will the principal Act,- as it stands, continue to apply to such cases, or -will the provisions of this Bill, in the event of its becoming law, automatically apply to them? Will that be the position, or are we to have two separate agreements - one set consisting of those entered into prior to the passing of this Bill, and the other consisting of agreements entered into under the Bill? The Government are interfering - rightly, I believe - under this Bill with the financial terms and conditions of repayment. Will those who have signed legal documents relating to the purchase or construction of homes come under the original Act or under this amending Bill?
– How could a contract already entered into be varied?
-^! am asking for information.
– If this Bill gives additional advantages, those who have already entered into contracts will be glad to avail themselves of them.
– I Should think so. The Minister may not be in a position to answer the question offhand, but it is a matter of vital interest to those concerned. 1
The question of insurance is also dealt with in this Bill’. I doubt whether it is wise to refrain from specifically setting out the amount of insurance to be effected and the rates of premiums to be paid. The Bill does not state what is the .percentage of premium to be -paid.
– It might be varied.
– I agree that the rate of insurance in respect of a wooden building, for instance, .would be higher than that in respect of a brick building.
– I mean that it will vary with the experience of the Department as to what is the cost of insurance.
– I am anxious to obtain information on this point. I do not know that it is altogether sound to burden the few hundreds that come under the scheme during the first ‘year of its operations with its full cost, and to reduce it very materially to those who come “under it in the years to come.
– Surely the original person will get the benefit of any reduction?
– I do not see how he is going to. If you follow the honorable member’s argument out, it means that the initial cost, and a fair margin to cover the risk, would have to be paid entirely by the first few hundreds, as against the spreading of that cost over an. ordinarily accepted period. I am anxious for a further statement from the Government regarding insurance. The Minister said a new provision was to be inserted and the old one repealed, and gave us a disquisition on the subject of insurance, but he did not detail what the Government proposed to do under proposed new section 38. It is possible to state the absurd hypothesis that the regulation may provide that the amount of insurance shall be 25 per cent, above the cost. ‘If it were provided that the amount over which insurance shall be effected must be, at least, the cost of the building, or 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of it, we should have some idea of what the amount of insurance was going to be, and then we could fix a percentage for the premiums.
The Leader of the Opposition raised the question of the war widow. We would all like to be generous and grant adequate assistance in the way of homes to all those who have lost their breadwinners at the war, but, before voting in favour of a bald proposition of that kind, I should want to know considerably more about the number likely to be involved, the amount of money it was proposed to expend, and whether the Leader of the Opposition intended that widows in affluent circumstances should participate in the additional grant. It is an exceedingly difficult proposition to’ get down to bedrock, and it is essential that something more than a bald assertion regarding homes for war widows should be placed -before the Souse, so .that honorable -members may know exactly what they are voting on.
– My remarks will be more of a congratulatory rather than of a critical character. The Government are to be commended for having so early recognised the need for an amendment pf the Act as to bring forward these alterations to-night. Obviously, the experience of the past year has convinced them of the need for these amendments, which, so far as they go, are very good and readily acceptable. 1 cannot understand the argument of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) that, before voting for homes for widows of soldiers, he would want to know the number of them and the amount of money to be involved. That is not the crux of the question. If it is right to do the thing, it should be done, no matter how many will be included. The question we have to decide is whether we ought to provide homes for widows and other dependants of deceased soldiers. _ ,
– I did not say I was against the principle, but we ought to know where it will lead us.
– We should lay down the :principle, but obviously we must impose certain limitations and conditions. If a widow marries again, it is reasonable that her right to the house should discontinue.
– It would be a fair thing for her to complete the purchase.
– If she so wishes, she should have the opportunity to complete the purchase. If she is able to do so, I should say, “ Good luck to her. Let her have the house.” These are matters of detail which can be settled once we - accept the principle. Probably the Minister (Mr. Greene) is not prepared to go that length to-night. In launching a new and big scheme involving millions’ of money we have to go a step at a time, and make sure of each step as we go along. I am not prepared to rush the Commissioner and the Department in regard to this matter, but the needs of the widows is one of the subjects that will call for the most urgent consideration in any extensions of the Act that take place.
It would be a pity, and objectionable, if we attempted to put into the Bill any hard and fast rule regarding insurance. Obviously, the insurance conditions will vary with experience. The Queensland State Insurance Office has been enabled, by experience in the working of the Department, even to cancel payments for a whole year, and, in connexion with the employers’ compulsory insurance scheme, to give an absolute rebate of ‘the premiums for twelve months. There should be no misconception about the principle that the War Service Homes Commissioner should - control his ‘ own insurance scheme. He should not be under the domination or influence of any outside insurance authority. Experience, not only in State schemes, ‘ but in institutional s ellem es such as those connected with churches, has shown that a big Department like this is able to control its own insurance policy beneficially and effectively. I judge, from reading the Bill, that there is an insurance trust account, and that a sub-department of the War Service Homes Department is operated and controlled by the Commissioner for the benefit and to the advantage of those who make use of this legislation.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) raised a point that needs emphasizing. In any further extensions of the Act, provision should be made for all those who were accepted for service, whether home or overseas. Under the definition, members of the Naval and Military Forces are included, and “ Australian soldier “ means “ a person who was a member of the Naval or Military Forces of Australia employed in active service outside Australia or on a ship of war.” The Bill also includes the members of nursing corps who were accepted and employed on active1 service outside Australia, and, in addition, those who served in Naval or Military Forces other than those of the Commonwealth. We must not overlook the fact that large numbers of men and women in Australia were accepted for service, and did splendid work in the Commonwealth. Their services, to the extent to which they were ‘ available, were equally valuable with those of persons who went overseas. Many of them were anxious to go overseas, but were told by the Defence Department that they were of- more value in Australia. They are now handicapped by exclusion from the definition. Their case might be noted by the Minister for future consideration in any extension of the Act, because extensions are bound to come. All who were accepted for service in connexion with the war, whether for home or oversea service, should receive something approaching equal and impartial consideration.
The general terms of the measure show that the Commissioner is being guided ‘ by experience to make some effort to meet the necessities of cases as they arise. Now that a beginning has been made with the erection of homes, I hope an active and progressive policy will be pursued, so that those who wish to take advantage of the Act may be able to do so with the least possible delay.
I -would suggest one other extension. Although the Bill is made to apply exclusively to those who went overseas, it applies, within that limitation, only to those who are married, or about to be married, or who have dependants for whom they have to provide a home.
– Others can come under the provisions of the Act, as time goes on.
– Then soldiers who to-day are in neither of those categories may, at any future time, if they meet the conditions, take advantage of the Act?
– That is so, as long as the Act exists.
– I am glad to hear that the Act will cover every soldier who went overseas, so long as he comes along with_the necessary qualifications.
– It is apparent to any one who has given any consideration to the subject that the expenditure of this vast sum of money in homes cannot be made in a brief period. While, so far as I am concerned, the privileges qf the Act might be extended to every resident of Australia, there is a defect in the administration which should be pointed out. The munition worker, or war worker, or Horseferry-road soldier, who returned last year, has a preference over the man who went right through on active- service from the landing until the armistice, but returned a month or two after him. We know that we are unable to at once provide homes for all the classes of men who have given war service, and our first duty is to see that those who bore the heat and burden of the day have preference over those who had lighter jobs in connexion with the war. If we do otherwise we shall, I think, rightly bring upon ourselves the severe condemnation of those who, because of their long service, have not returned to Australia in .time to get priority in the applications, and lara, in consequence, penalized. Those who have been in the firing line should have preference every time, and in the consideration of these claims we should first do justice to those who have done most in connexion with the war, before attempting to deal with the less important claims of others who have not faced the same dangers as did the men in the firing line.
I have previously expressed my view in regard to the purchase of homes already existing, and I repeat that I am more than disappointed with the progress in -dealing with such applications. Some of them have been on the files three, four, and five months, and have not yet been finalized. Whatever may be the facts in regard to the new homes, very little expedition has been shown in dealing with the numerous applications made for the purchase of homes already in existence. In this connexion I call the attention of the Minister (Mr. Greene) to the fact that a very grave injustice is being done to some soldiers, whose applications have been declined. When the War Service Homes Bill was first proposed, an assurance was given to the soldiers who had already returned that they might go ahead and make arrangements to purchase homes, and then come to the Department, by which their cases would be dealt with in a generous way. Many of them made arrangements with the owners, undertook to pay certain prices, and actually entered .into occupation of houses. But when the applications ‘were sent in the Bank replied that the properties were slightly over-valued, or that the frontage was insufficient, or that the building was not constructed of the ; right material, and therefore the Bank would not finance the purchase. Thus the agreements made by the men on the assurance we gave them that all would be well could not be kept.
– I think the instructions given to the soldier when he applies for a home warn him not to pay a deposit until the security is approved by the Department.
– That relates to soldiers who have made applications more recently. I am referring to others, who entered into contracts for the purchase of homes .on the assurance given in the press and _elsewhere when the War Service Homes Bill was first mooted. Those soldiers should not be penalized because of their having acted in good faith upon the promise of the Government.’ Whatever may be done by the Department in regard to obligations not yet entered into by the soldier, I say that in regard to those other’s who, by reason of the assurance given to them, have entered into contracts, the Government are bound to stick to them,’ even if they made bad bargains.
– That -was a very risky assurance.
– I do not know’ that it was. A man who is buying a house for himself is more likely to study the proposition carefully than is an inspector, whose sympathy with the soldier is not always very keen.
– But ought we not to protect the soldiers against entering into a bad bargain ?
– We ought to help the soldier, but not to “ mollycoddle “ him too much. After all, it ..is the soldier’s own money which is being spent. We may advise him what are the defects in the bargain, but if he prefers to have a house in a certain locality, he is entitled to spend his own money as he wishes. Whatsoever may be the nature of the bargains made by the soldiers who entered into contracts to buy houses already in existence, it seems to me that we were responsible for inducing them to make those arrangements, and we ought not to penalize them by putting them in a difficult financial position because they acted in good faith on the promise that we .made.
– I have very great sympathy with the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). Some soldiers, no doubt, commit errors of judgment in regard to property, but others are as well qualified to. value property as is any architect. Recently, there came under my notice the case of a young married man who was desirous of settling in Ascot Vale, .where his relatives lived. That is a very desirable suburb. He was a very cute young fellow, and knew his way about in business matters. He carefully examined a property, and his wife agreed with him that the place was suitable. Competent valuers agreed that the owner was not asking an exorbitant price. The valuer for the Bank assured the soldier’s wife that everything was all right, and that there would be no difficulty about purchasing the property. But, to the man’s great astonishment and disappointment, the Bank notified him that the valuer’s estimate was not as favorable as it ought to be, and the application was refused. He Was advised to acquire a block of land and then apply for the assistance of the Bank in erecting a house thereon. That seems to be playing into the hands ‘of a firm of architects. I do not attach any blame to the particular firm’ that is doing most of the business for the Commonwealth Bank, but sometimes architects have extravagant views about people’s requirements in respect of a house. Many architects, who may very well be qualified to build large edifices like this Parliament House or a bank, may not be the best fitted to design an ordinary home for a soldier. I suggest that when competent valuers certify that fair prices are being asked for existing houses, the purchase of them- is the speediest way of providing good homes for our soldiers.
– Many existing homes are being purchased.
– A great many more might be purchased; and I do not think that many mistakes would be made. I know that the soldier to whom I have referred was very greatly disappointed. Suppose that he succeeds in finding a. suitable building allotment, will the Bank assist him to purchase the land, and afterwards erect a house thereon? I quite’ agree with the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) that at the present rate of progress it will be a long time before the requirements of our returned soldiers are met and they are settled down . in comfortable homes.
The Minister stated that when a man enters into an agreement with the Bank to purchase a house under certain terms and conditions, he is required to reside in it permanently until the house is paid for. a soldier may lose his employment in the district in which he has purchased a home, and he may be obliged to seek work in some other district, or even in another State. In such circumstances, must that man remain tied to the house he has bought ?
– No; there is provision in the Act to deal with such cases.
– At any rate, _ there should be. Just as the ordinary civilian population moves from place to place in search of work, so will some returned soldiers find it necessary to be not tied to one locality; and the War Service Homes Act must not be made of such cast-iron rigidity as to allow no discretion in cases of that kind.
The erection and purchase of thousands of soldiers’ homes is a big enough business to enable the Government to do their own insurance business.
– That is being done.
– I” believe that in that way a considerable sum of money can besaved. I do not think that we should fear that the first occupants of these houses will have to bear the heaviest burden of the Insurance Fund. Perhaps in the first few years they will be called upon to pay a higher rate than will be required later, but as the system grows and the rates are reduced, they, I assume, will benefit accordingly.
– I agree with the suggestion made by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) that everybody who helped in connexion with the war should be considered in this scheme. Many men who rendered splendid service to their country are being excluded from all the ‘benefits of the War Service Homes Act and other privileges that have been given to soldiers and sailors’ and their dependants. I refer particularly to wireless operators on transports.
– Why not include all the men in the mercantile marine?
– Yes ; but I am more concerned at this moment with the claims of the wireless operators, who seem to have been shut out- of many of the privileges that are being accorded to those who rendered war service in- other capacities. I know of the pitiful case of a man who was a wireless operator on a vessel which was torpedoed, as a result of which he lost his life; and his dependants have not been able, so far as I can gather, to participate in any of the benefits that are available to ‘the dependants of a soldier. The man, in working as an operator on a transport sailing in danger-infested seas, was doing as noble and risky a duty as any man who went to the Front and fought.
– Could not his case be more properly . dealt with by an amendment of the War Pensions Act ?
– That may be. I am only referring to his case to illustrate my argument regarding the injustice of shutting out these men from the privileges given to others who rendered war services. I have often thought of the risk taken by the wireless operator at Cocos Island when he literally took his life in his hands by sending out messages for help while the Emden was raiding the island. It is easy to imagine what would have been the treatment meted out to him by the Germans had not the Sydney come opportunely to the rescue. The Emden was destroyed because that young fellow performed his duty, and I believe that his services have been recognised in some way. Most honorable members know of young men who, before the outbreak of war, were practising wireless telegraphy in an amateur fashion, but who made themselves proficient, obtained a certificate from the Navy Department, and then travelled to and from Australia as operators on transports,, some of which were torpedoed.’ Yet that very desirable class is being excluded from the benefits of the scheme which i3 now before the House. These people should be included in the homes scheme, the pensions scheme, and other provision we are making for those who went to the Front. We have no time now to thoroughly consider these matters, but I hope that in future the classes I have mentioned will be included. I am quite in accord with the principle of the Bill, which I hope will be extended in the way I have suggested.
Lt.-Colonel ABBOTT (New England) [12.1 a.m.]. - I should like to bringunder the notice of the Minister (Mr. Greene) the shortcomings in the administration of the war service homes scheme. It is generally recognised that our returned soldiers - and I give a liberal interpretation to that term - object to what they call being “messed about.” In other words, the soldiers desire that once an application is lodged it shall be promptly either accepted or rejected. I can give instances in which on account of the delay which has taken place men have been quite brokenhearted.
– Nearly all the applications are cleaned up now, and we are about square.
.- I am not speaking merely from hearsay, but from applications that have been brought under my notice. In New South Wales there is a tendency on the part of land-owners to refuse to deal with a soldier under the War Service Homes Act. Supposing there is a good demand for land in a town or district, the owner declines to enter into an agreement with a soldier, because, although the price offered may be satisfactory, there is a fear that the business will be dangled about for three months or six months,. and in the end refused, with the result that a buyer has been lost. The land-owner feels that a transaction with an ordinary civilian can be concluded in two or three weeks, and it ought to be possible to have the same promptitude in the case of a soldier. If the vendor and the soldier knew that finality would be reached within a reasonable time, more satisfactory sales would take place than has been the case in the last few months.
– I remind the honorable member that sometimes the lawyers “hang up “transactions.
– If the lawyers “ hang up “ the business, why not “ hang “ the lawyers ? I do not see why a lawyer should be permitted to prevent the carrying out of the Act, with the result that the value of the measure is much decreased.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.9 to 12.45 a.m.
Clause 2 (Definitions).
– I would like an assurance from the Minister (Mr. Greene) that he will consider favorably the question of including in the benefits given by this legislation munition workers who went to Great Britain from Australia outside a contract, and whose case is practically on allfours with that of men who went overseas under contract. Their names and records are known. They paid their own passages to Great Britain with a view to doing some work on behalf of the Empire, and I think they are justified in asking to be included among those who are entitled to the benefits given by the Bill. Men who left Australia on Australian ships, and were engaged on transport work and in carrying out other duties that took them into the danger zone, should also be entitled to participate in these benefits equally with those munition workers and war workers who left Australia under contract. They undertook perilous tasks. They went through stretches of water sown with mines. Many of them were engaged in mine-sweeping in order to keep the waterways clear for commercial traffic and for the safe transport of our troops. In fact, the steamship Warilda, which was torpedoed between England and France, was manned by an Australian crew.
The original Act provides that Australians who served in the Navaland Military Forces of any part of the King’s Dominions outside Australia come under its provisions. An Australian seaman who left the Commonwealth in an ordinary ship and subsequently joined the Naval Reserve in the United Kingdom, even though he had the easiest of shore jobs, is entitled to all the benefits of this measure. Once he wore the King’s uniform on the other side of the world he became entitled to them, and it is due to the mercantile marine of Australia that men who went outside the Commonwealth on transport and other work should also be entitled to them. Recently I witnessed the arrival of an Australian liner at Melbourne. The captain and chief officer of the vessel were wearing distinguishing marks which indicated that they were officers of the Naval Reserve, and would come under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act, but I venture to say that the ordinary seamen, firemen, and other3 on that steamer would not. For the purpose of including in the benefits of the Act the classes of men to whom I have referred, I move -
That before paragraph a the following paragraph bo inserted ’ (aa) by inserting the following paragraph after paragraph (d) : -
was a member of the Australian mercantile marine engaged on transport or other duty outside of Australia, and who prior to such appointment for service resided in Australia.”
I hope that the Government will see their way to accept this amendment. It will do justice to a very deserving body of men who risked their lives time after time in connexion with the conduct of the- war.
– I can give the honorable member the assurance that as soon as. possible the Government will carefully consider whether the provisions of the Act can be extended to munition workers who went to Britain on their own accord and engaged in munition work there, and to members of the mercantile marine who resided in Australia and served overseas in the class of work referred to in the amendment which the honorable member has submitted. Until we have had an opportunity of looking into this matter thoroughly and seeing exactly what is involved it is impossible to agree to the extension of the Act to any other class than those already provided for.
– Will Australians who served in the British Forces be included in the Act?
– They are already included. The original Act was limited to members of the Forces, Naval or Military, who had served outside of Australia, but the Government have decided to include war workers and munition workers, and there is not the slightest doubt that as time goes on our experience will demonstrate the necessity for extending the Act in other directions. However, Ministers feel that at the present time they have accepted a responsibility in regard to as many persons as it will be possible to deal with for some considerable time. When the Act, as amended, gets into operation we can see exactly what amount of money will be involved, and’ how far it will be possible to make provision for other persons.
.I had drafted an amendment which I thought would cover the position of the class of men referred to by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell). Recently a man who had been enlisted by the Navy Department to engage in a class of work approximating war service, but not in a war zone as a belligerent, approached me to know what his position was under this Act. He had seen three years’ service. I submitted his request to the Navy Department and was informed that he could not be included under the War Service Homes Act. In my opinion, there are many persons who are as much entitled to the benefits of the Act as are those who are now included. It is only fair that the Government should accept the suggestion of the honorable member -for; Fremantle, or the suggestion that I have drafted to include “ any person enlisted for war service by the Navy Department,” which would ‘include wireless operators, mine sweepers, and persons serving on transports. They were taken away . from their ordinary sphere of life to render service in the only class of -work in which they could offer their services on behalf of the Empire, and I think it only right that, having rendered good service to the Empire, they should participate in the slight reward which this Bill offers to them in providing them with the opportunity to secure homes for themselves. I hope that before the Bill goes through .the Minister will reconsider the matter and see whether he cannot give these men the assurance that they may be included in the benefits of this legislation at a time when they can take steps to begin and finalize payments on the purchase of houses. It ought to be done now, because it may be a long time before we have another opportunity of raising this question.
– The Government ought to reconsider this question, because if any class of men has been, neglected in regard to repatriation benefits it is those who have been engaged in the mercantile marine during the war, and without whose splendid services in mine sweeping and similar dangerous work it would have been impossible for us to win the war. The Government should- not have gone in for this class of legislation unless they were prepared to go to the fullest extent. . By not including any particular class of persons who rendered service during the war they are practically placing a stigma upon them. All those, who are entitled to express opinions on the war pay a tribute to the splendid work performed by the mercantile marine, but there the matter always ends. The mercantile marine can get a blessing and a vote of thanks, but nothing more. If there is anything calculated to make these men smart under a sense of injustice, it is neglect of that kind. I .hope that the Government will not be unmindful of the claims of these men. “We shall certainly go a step too far if we fail to extend the provisions of this Bill to this very deserving class of men, and so, in effect, attach a stigma to them.
– Wireless operators engaged on transports during the war have been allowed to join the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ League, and I understand that their claims are to be backed up by the League. Sub-branches of the League are being formed by these men, and a little later on their claims for consideration will be brought before this Parliament. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) that wireless operators and all others engaged on transport duty have rendered signal service to the country. No finer work could be performed than that undertaken by men who manned vessels which had to travel mine-infested seas. Many of these vessels were torpedoed-
– And the wireless operators stuck to their ships until the last.
– Yes- very often bringing help by means of their S.O.S. signals. I do not wish to labour this question. The Government have promised to take into consideration the claims of these men, and I certainly think that they should be brought within the scope of the Bill. We should be careful hot to inflict an injustice upon any section of those who have done their duty nobly and well. I know that the Government have no desire to exclude these men from the scope of the Bill, and I am satisfied that, even if this Parliament does not recognise their services, the incoming Parliament will.
– But we’ must provide for them ‘in this Bill.
– I agree with the honorable member. We should at least have from the Minister in charge of the
Bill (Mr. Greene) a promise that, if he cannot see his way now to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), he will arrange with the representative of the Government in the Senate to give effect to it when the Bill is before that Chamber. If the amendment goes to a division, as I hope it will, I believe that a majority of the Committee will support it.
– I fully recognise that it is impossible for the Minister or any other individual to say off-hand the extent to which this amendment, if adopted, would carry the Government in the way of commitments; yet I think that the argument advanced by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr, Burchell) is well worthy of consideration. Those who have been working below decks on our transports are deserving of the ‘best consideration that the country can give them. When we were going through the danger zone they took the gravest risks. I can speak from my own experience. On one occasion, when we were more or less in trouble, I went below to see how the firemen, greasers, engineers, and others were standing to their jobs. I found that they were practically like rats’ in a trap. No man with whom I came in contact while abroad seemed to be more worthy of consideration than were these men, who were standing by their jobs down below, regardless of what might be happening on deck. The officers, sailors, soldiers, and others on deck could see’ what was happening, and to some extent forecast what was likely to happen, but the men below were like men in the dark, and they seem to me to be as much deserving of recognition at the hands of the Government as are any who took part in the war. Those who worked on our transports, travelling backward^ and forwards between Australia and the Old Country, taking the risk not only of submarines, but of mines and raiders, and having no chance of escape, should have their services recognized in the freest and most thorough manner by the Commonwealth.
.We are all agreed that as far as is humanly possible we must do our duty, by not only the men who fought in the war, but those who’ assisted in connexion with it. For that reason I feel very much inclined to vote for the amendment. In my mind, however, we are apt to promise far more than we can perform in connexion with a huge undertaking of this kind. While I presume the Administration will see that the most needy, the cripple and infirm, and those least capable of looking after themselves are first catered for, it is clear that this great undertaking must be a work of years. Doubtless many amendments of the original Act will be carried before the last of these just claims can be filially dealt with.
– Why should it be a matter of years ?
– Because it is a matter of building tens of thousands of dwellings.
– Then have some of the men to wait for years before they reap the benefits of this scheme?
– Houses cannot be constructed by the mere touch of a magician’s wand. Provision has to be made not only for the sinews of war, but for the necessary workmen and material. Any attempt to build on a wholesale scale will render these buildings too expensive from the point of view of both the soldiers and the Government.
This great scheme might be made an important factor in the work of decentralization. The natural trend of population nowadays is towards our large cities, where all the refinements and comforts of civilization are obtainable. It is obvious that our country is bleeding to death because of the way in which people are attracted to our large centres of population. It is therefore essential in connexion with a great work of this kind, that the Government should avail themselves of every avenue for the possible employment of large numbers of people in country districts, and that this scheme should be used to some extent in the work of decentralization. Hundreds, if not thousands of our returned -men will be settled upon Crown lands, much of which is in a virgin state, and I presume that under the repatriation scheme, such settlers will receive only the advance usually made by the Commonwealth. As one who has been through the mill, and who knows what it is to convert a piece of rough bush land into a home, I do not hesitate to say that the advance is a very meagre one to provide’ for the necessary work of improvement and preliminary stocking. Those of our returned men who settle upon Crown lands, therefore, will have to live in all sorts of improvised huts and cottages, just as we selectors of thirty or forty years ago had to do. I submit that the benefits of this scheme should be made available to these men. The more educated men and women of to-day will not consent to live in bark huts or hovels, and will compare their lot without much satisfaction to themselves with that of men and women settled under this measure in our large cities. I think that the benefits of this building scheme, where claimed, should be extended to those of our returned men who settle on the land.
Then again we have large inland towns where land is much cheaper than is that adjacent to our big cities, and where there are natural facilities for the establishment of industries* which must be built up- if we are to meet even a tithe of the huge obligations that we are piling upon thi country. Sites adjacent to these inland towns should be used to a far greater extent than they have been in the working out of this great scheme..
With regard to the extension of the benefits of the scheme to those covered by the Bill, and also by the amendment, there can be very little doubt as to the obligation under which the country rests. The Government, however, must cut according to its cloth. While I feel that no ‘man or woman, with a sense of responsibility towards those who have done so much for us will begrudge the expense, I recognise that it becomes a matter of ways and means.
– The Government have not said that they cannot afford to do what is proposed.
– No, but it is impossible to form even an approximate estimate of what this scheme will cost. Unless we utilize this huge building scheme in the work of decentralization, it will break down of its own weight. No one can view with any sense of satisfaction the conditions now obtaining in regard to the housing of our people. A progressive movement is being made in New South Wales, where there is being launched a’ housing scheme almost as generous in its provision for ordinary civilians as is this in its application to our returned men. To illustrate the intensity of this problem in its application to people up-country, where, owing to our cursed system of land monopoly,- many cannot obtain even a small block of land on which to build a home, I may say that a few days ago, I met a fine young . Australian woman driving with her four little ones in a sulky. She begged me to try to get from the Lands Department permission for her husband to build a little cottage on a Crown reserve near a school: “ We are share farming,” she said, “ and are only yearly tenants^ Our babies are growing up, and we are in a position to build a cottage if we could only get a small allotment of land within striking distance of the farm we are working.” Cases of this kind could, if necessary, be multiplied. A curse must come to the land whose alleged statesmanship cannot evolve a better system. Here is a class of the most desirable of settlers, willing to take upon themselves the responsibilities of family life, to settle in the country and face the rudest conditions of nature in order to gain a livelihood, but they “are denied the opportunity to obtain even an acre of land in what is practically an empty continent. Surely this scheme can be utilized -to meet their case. Probably, long before the legitimate claims of those who fought and bled for this country, or the claims of the descendants of those who have fallen, are satisfied, systems of public housing embracing the whole of the civil population will be in full operation. I have supported this legislation from the beginning, and applaud the efforts of the Government to improve it. I hope the extension em- bodied in the amendment will be accepted by them also.
– I make a further appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment, if he can.
– I have every sympathy, as has the Government, with what the honorable member is trying to do, but these things are not quite so simple as’ they look, and it is not easy to do exactly what the honorable member suggests. The amendment in the form in which he submitted it means nothing. The clause is simply a string of definitions, each standing by itself. What he proposes is not a definition.
– The honorable member has amended the amendment so as to bring it into conformity with the Act. .
– In the first place, what does the honorable member mean by “ the Australian mercantile marine *’ ? We must have a definition of it. No doubt he wants to include in it the men who manned German ships and went backwards and forwards across the sea as often as any one else, but it is doubtful if they were members of the Australian mercantile marine.
– What is the definition of it?
– I could not say. No doubt quite a number of other residents of Australia sailed between here and England in ships belonging to other countries, but those ships cannot by any stretch of imagination be considered part of the Australian mercantile service. I have no doubt the honorable member wants to include those men. I could quote a number of other examples to show the honorable member the extreme difficulty of including those we want to include, without at the same time opening the door so wide as to admit a great many that we do not want to include. “All I can promise is that the Government will give the most careful consideration to the proposal, and also to tie case of the wireless men. I. doubt whether they would be members of the Australian- mercantile marine. I cannot promise that it will be done this session. If it is found possible to get a definition which will include the men we want to include, and exclude those whom we do not, and if it is possible also to proceed with the work of building the homes with such rapidity that we can extend’ the scheme to other classes without injury to those whom we set out primarily, to serve, the Government will give the matter favorable consideration.
– That is very satisfactory.
– The Minister tells us what the Government may do on some future occasion, but he does not know that, the Government will be there. He may not be there himself. Who is to do it?
– Will you do it?
– I will do it now. Too many promises of something to be done on a future occasion are “being made to the soldiers and war workers.
– Do not load the scheme up too much.
– We cannot load it up too much. We cannot do too much for these men.
Apparently, the Government have money to burn, and evidently this country has immense wealth to be allocated lo this purpose. The cases brought under notice by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) are evidently deserving of inclusion. Cases of great hardship have been represented to me of dependants of men who were away as war workers who were not provided for by. the Australian .Government. Honorable members, like myself, have had to chase some Imperial officer to have provision made for war workers and their dependants. The same thing applies to some of the cases referred to by the honorable member.
I see no such difficuly as has been put forward by the Minister. If the wording of the amendment submitted by the honorable member does not entirely fit in with the Bill, and it is carried, the Government know the purpose of. it, and can, be’fore the Bill is dealt with by the Senate, submit the matter to the Parliamentary Draftsman. Then they can have the amendment incorporated in the Bill in the Senate in such a form as to give proper legal effect to the intention of the mover and of the Committee. There is no difficulty in that regard.
This is a dying Parliament, and a great many may be missing after the election. It . is of no use to say that we propose to do this on some future occasion. We have the opportunity of doing it now. If the obligation of doing it rests on us, this is the time to do it. We should not pass the responsibility cm to somebody else on some future occasion, which may or may not occur. I see no difficulty in the way of voting for the amendment, and if the honorable member for Fremantle, or some other honorable member, will call for a division, I will make one to insist on a division taking place.
– I have no doubt that all round- the Committee there is the greatest possible sympathy for the men whom the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) desires to bring within the scope of the housing provision, but
I .am confident also that we ought to accept the Minister’s assurance in the spirit in which it is given. It is no kindness to any section that assisted in winning the war to create the false impression that all can be included within the scheme, at all events for many years to come- It is a great mistake to raise false hopes of that kind. If the fighting men are provided for first, as they should be, it will be many years before their requirements can be properly met. Honorable members, ought to think of the enormous financial liability in which we are involving the Commonwealth. That alone is a difficulty, but a greater difficulty still is the provision of materials for building on the scale that we axe undertaking. It is an utter impossibility to satisfy the demands for timber on anything like half the scale that seems to have been fixed upon by some honorable members. Bricks, also, cannot be got. If we. do not increase the price of building considerably, we shall at least make it impossible to reduce what is already an enormous cost. All over Australia where suitable timber is found, those who are producing it are taxed to their utmost capacity. “ Timberyards in different parts of the Commonwealth are unable to satisfy orders placed with them more than twelve months ago, nor is there any likelihood of satisfying them, because the orders of the Repatriation Department will more than tax all their resources. If we are to give proper consideration to the financial responsibilities involved in this- question, we ought to have an estimate of what these things mean before we increase the area of the scheme. We know that we cannot satisfy the demands of all these people for many years to come. I urge honorable members, as a matter of fair dealing with the Government, because this is a big contract for them to undertake, not to be so eager to include all these demands at once, when we know it is utterly impossible to satisfy them.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) raises, perhaps, some new considerations that require thinking over, but the Committee is practically unanimous that these men should’ be considered and included.
– It is impossible, without injuring the other men.
– That is so, but, whatever Government is in power, the most urgent case will be dealt with first.
– The cases of the fighting men are the most urgent.
– Their consideration will not be precluded.
– Then there are the dependants. They cannot be handled for years.
– That is so, but so long as we leave out a deserving section of men, the impression will be left on their minds that Parliament has refused to recognise their claims. We can include them, but I quite agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) and others that in regard to the immediate expenditure there is a big section of cases deserving of the first consideration. They can be included. I have not the slightest doubt that at some time or other we shall be obliged to cater for. those men.
– In years to come.
– Why not now ?
– We shall be creating a false impression.
– They are deserving of consideration, and why should we not include them and allow them to take their chance with the others ? Of course, the claims of the most deserving should be attended to first. I think the Minister (Mr. Greene) might very well promise to have an amendment framed for insertion in the Senate. I shall vote for the amendment, because I feel that otherwise I would be doing an injustice to a very deserving class of men.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Burchell’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section nineteen of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting sub-section (6.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section : - “ (6.) At any time after the purchaser has paid in reduction of the purchase money a sum amounting to not less than one-fifth of the purchase money . … he may, if be so desires, . . . . . execute in favour of the Commissioner a mortgage in the prescribed form for the balance of the purchase money and interest and all other moneys payable under the contract of sale, and thereupon he shall be entitled to obtain from the Commissioner a transfer of the land.” ; and. . .
.Although I do not object to the innovation introduced by this clause, Parliament must look upon this scheme as a business proposition. We expect at some date to get back all the money from those to whom we are lending in connexion with these War Service Homes. That money is being raised on the credit of the country, and it is not desired by the Government or Parliament that any of it shall be lost, if loss can be avoided. The clause provides that after the purchaser has paid one-fifth of the purchase money the house may be transferred to him, and the balance secured by mortgage in favour of the Commissioner. Wooden houses have been given a life of twenty-five years, and it seems to me that if a mortgage for an indefinite period is taken there will be a grave danger of the whole of the security being lost. This clause should be safeguarded by providing that the mortgage shall be for a short period, and may be renewed if the house continues in sound condition and the security remains good. The Government may be giving away all the security to a bad tenant who, after paying one-fifth, has the house transferred to him on mortgage, and then pays nothing further for the next twenty-five years, at the end of which possibly the house is of no value,, and the Government have lost both the loan and the security.
.- The point raised by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) is important. In the case of wooden nouses, the Government would safeguard the investment by requiring the purchaser to pay two-fifths of the purchase money before transferring the house to him, and then allowing the other three-fifths to be secured by mortgage. This matter ought to ‘be carefully considered by the Government.
– Section 31 of the principal Act provides -
Every purchaser- and every borrower shall, until the whole amount of purchase money or advance due by him has been paid or repaid, keep in good and tenantable repair, to the satisfaction of the Commissioner, all buildings, fences, fixtures, and improvements upon the land comprised in the contract of sale, mortgage, or other security. . . .
In the event of the conditions not being complied with, the Commissioner may enter upon and take posession of the property.
– But the purchaser is to be given a free title after he has paid one-fifth of the purchase money.
– I am . assured that section 31 applies during the whole currency of the contract.
– Not when the title has been handed over.
– I understand that it applies right through the period of the contract, regardless of whether or not the man has received the title. The Department is of opinion that, as the Commissioner has power under section 31 to insist upon the house being kept in a proper state of repair and to foreclose in the event of the conditions not being complied with, no undue risk is being taken.
– According to the Bill, the life of a wooden house is only twenty-five years if it is kept in repair.
– I know wooden houses which are more than twenty-five years old.
– What advantage is it to the tenant to have a mortgage? He cannot get the title.
– The soldier is put in a position to feel that he is more the owner of his home than if he were simply there as a tenant. That is the way the Bill is drawn; and as I say, I do not think the Government run any undue risk in giving men the right to have a mortgage over their property) instead of having the other arrangements.
.- I move -
That the words “ and interest,” line 15, be left out.
I hope this amendment will be carried as an indication to the Government thai they ought not to charge interest upon loans to soldiers for home building.
– How are the Government going- to pay interest on the money they raise ?
– The Commonwealth Bank is to make these advances.
– A person who deposits money in the Bank gets interest on it.
– But the Bank makes greater advances than it has deposits; it expands credits » on the deposits it has, and from the expanded credits makes profits. What the honorable member desires is that the Commonwealth shall make a profit out of the soldiers.
We were told” to-night that these homes will not be built for many years, for, according to the honorable member for Werriwa. (Mr. Lynch) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), the providing of them has to be a very gradual process.
The Bank issues credits against bricks and mortar and land, which they hold as security. Anybody can go to the Bank and get an advance at 6 per cent., and on these advances the Commonwealth Bank makes ite profits. The Bank started with no capital, and it already has accumulated profits of nearly £2,000,000 by lending money at 6 per cent. These profits are to be added to by charging the soldiers and their dependants 6 per cent, on the advances.
I shall not labour the matter any further, but merely express the hope that the amendment will be accepted.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Catts’ amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved inthe affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Insurance of dwelling houses, &c).
– It seems to me that considerable saving could be effected in connexion with the insurance. Apparently the scheme in the mind of the Commissioner is that there shall be an independent policy for each house erected; but the administration would be much more economical if the Government undertook the insurance, and included the premiums with the interest and capital.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Section 47 of the principal Act is amended by inserting after the word “ incapacitated “ the words “ or any blinded “
Section proposed to be amended -
The Commissioner may, if requested so to do by any prescribed authority of the Department of Repatriation, provide a dwelling-house for the use of any totally and permanently incapacitated Australian soldier. . . .
– I move -
That after the word “blinded,” line 3, the following words be added: - “Australian soldier, or any Australian soldier who has lost one or more limbs or portion of a limb, or female dependant of an”
According to the definitions - “ Female dependant “ means the widow of an Australian soldier, munition worker, or war worker, or, in the case of a deceased Australian soldier, munition worker, or war worker who was not marrried, his mother, provided that -
The two classes I propose shall be included for the purpose of free homes for limbless men and widows, Section 47 of the Act will then read -
The case of the limbless men is deserving of this provision of a home. A man with one leg or one arm, or a man who has lost a portion of an arm or a leg, has a sufficient handicap to carry, without having to provide a home for himself. Such men, however, have not been at all well treated.
In New South Wales, the State Premier, in his policy speech in 191 7, stated that the pensions of limbless soldiers would be increased by the State Government by 10s. over what is paid by the Commonwealth. Later on, when called upon in the State House to carry that promise into effect, he said that the Commonwealth proposed to do it, and his statement was confirmed by the Prime Minister through the press.
Two years afterwards, -when, a deputation of limbless men waited on the Prime Minister a few weeks ago, when he landed at Fremantle, and pointed, out that it was impossible for them to live on the small amounts they were receiving, it transpired that the promise made by Mr. Holman, and indorsed by the Prime Minister in the public press, had not been fulfilled.
Last week a limbless man in my electorate, who had been receiving 15s. a week, came to me. He found that’ his allowance had been stopped, and a fight has to be put up to have it renewed.
– A limbless man receives £1 2s. 6d. per week.
– Not in all cases. They were promised £2 per -week. I have put the case of the limbless men in a nutshell. I need not say any more upon that subject.
The next case is that of the widows. Two typical cases have come under my notice in. the last few weeks. One is that of Mrs. Wilson, of Metropolitan-road, Enmore. She has a large family of young children, one of whom is a cripple. It is almost impossible for the mother to leave this child. It needs constant attention. Yet the mother has to pay rent. She canriot purchase a home under the conditions laid down in the Bill. Her only income is the pension allowed to her, and the small allowance paid for each dependent child. She cannot leave her young children to go out and earn money.
– Does the honorable member advocate that a home should be provided for all widows!
– Irrespective of their financial position?
– I do not think that there would be many who, on account .of their financial (position, should npt be included. There is no time when a Bill goes through this House to make provision for all these fine distinctions. If the Government deem it necessary, they can have a re-draft of the amendment submitted in the Senate.
Mrs. Taylor, of Ryde, has brought another case under notice - that of a widow with seven dependent children. The fact that a committee, of which Mrs. Taylor is the secretary, is raising a benefit for this widow, demonstrates that the pension allowed to her, together with the amount paid for each child, is insufficient to keep the family going. It is another case in which a home should be provided.
In regard to this matter of widows’ homes, most extravagant promises were made in New South Wales. The Premier of the State said, “ We guarantee to provide a home for life for every war widow.” There was no limitation about it. Men were invited to enlist under those conditions. But . now we find the State Government gently sliding out of its obligations in this respect, and the people of the States, who really, believe that a promise made by one Government is as good as one made by another, realize that their Ministers have gone back on their word, and that the only terms upon which widows can obtain homes for themselves and their children are practically those which are accorded to any ordinary citizen in the community. I hope that the amendment will be accepted.
– If the Minister in charge of Shipping (Mr. Poynton) is correct in his interjection, that the allowance for a limbless soldier is £1 2s. 6d. per week, all I can say is that it is certainly insufficient.
– That is the pension of a man who has suffered the loss of one leg.
– Some limbless men are not receiving £1- 2s. 6d. per week.
– If that is so, they have not presented their cases properly. If their cases were submitted properly. Uley would be receiving the full amount of the pensions.
I rise to draw attention to what appears to me to be a possible danger to the genuine soldier if we go on attempting to extend the operations of the measure to all and sundry. There is only, a certain amount of money available, and if we try to spread it too far, the genuine man is likely to suffer. We learn from the press that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) reached Brisbane, the Rejected Volunteers Association sought to be placed on the same footing as soldiers in regard to war service homes. The whole position is becoming ridiculous. While one agrees that everything that can be done should be done to help those who took part in the war, and the dependants of those who suffered, it is a crime against the men who did the job to extend the operation of this legislation to such an extent that, their prospects of obtaining benefits under it may be considerably damaged.
.- I support the amendment, not with any desire of blocking the Bill or harassing the Government, but because I believe that what it seeks to do for our maimed soldiers is little enough. Prior to going to the war I suggested that the War Pensions Act should be amended to provide that all those who lost both legs or arms, and soldiers who had become blind, should be paid a living wage for the rest of their lives. I have always been considerate of any unfortunate who happened to be born a cripple, and have always maintained that we were uncivilized so long as we compelled blind persons to work to earn a living wage. I am not the most vigorous man in the world, but I enjoy full health, bodily strength, and I regard .the loss of a limb as one of the biggest knock-backs in life. The payment of rent is a handicap even to a man who is healthy and is working for wages, but it is doubly so when it has to be provided regularly out of the small amount that is paid by way of pension to a man who has become incapacitated through wounds received during the war. Therefore I think that those who have done patriotic and noble service which has resulted in their being maimed should be provided with homes. I pay little heed to the suggestion that we have not the money. That was the cry which was urged when war broke out. It was only the other day that I was reading the remarks of a Minister on the question of finance in the early days of the war. It was said that if so much money was taken out of .circulation, industry would be disturbed when the wheels should be kept going, and we found Mr. Fisher timorous about borrowing £20,000,000 in Australia, and calling for £5,000,000 at a time in order that the financial equilibrium might not be disturbed. Yet, since then, we have raised £200,000,000 from the people of Australia, and the trade and commerce of the country have gone on just as vigorously as they did prior to the -war. As the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) has suggested, the money is there lying on deposit available in the financial institutions. Let us take what we want without interest. The Government are welcome to my little bit so long as I have enough to keep me going from week to week. We have heard the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) stating that he was prepared to pay his £1 or more in order that taxation might be levied in the manner, he suggested. We have heard the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) urging that instead of levying an income tax, all incomes over £400 should be taken by the Government. With these practical suggestions before us, we see that the matter of finance should not stand in the way of redeeming the promises we made to the men when they were induced to enlist. They were told that nothing would be too good for them. The least we can do is to take care that they will not be - troubled by landlords, and will always have a home over their heads. War pensions do not make up for what they have lost. The pension granted to a widow with four or five children will not make up for the loss’ of the bread-winner. With so many children, she is not likely to have many men making her an offer of marriage, and what we are proposing to offer her in the way of a free house will be little enough as a return for what she has done for the Empire. I shall support the amendment providing for free homes for limbless soldiers and widows of soldiers.
– I agree with all that has been said as to our failure to treat maimed, incapacitated, and blind soldier.’as well as they should, be treated at the hands of the Commonwealth. I do not think, however, that it is best to propose to furnish them with homes under .1 scheme- which would moa a that provision would be made for only some of them. The correct thing to do is to make adequate provision for all. This question has been placed before the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) over and over again; and I understand that it is intended to provide a far more adequate pension for men of this class. Blind soldiers should certainly have such a pension as will approximate to what were their average earnings before they enlisted. With such a pension these men would be free to come within or remain outside the scope of the War Service Homes Act.. I think we are making a great mistake in connexion with this free home scheme. We ought to estimate the proper amount to be paid to every returned soldier by way of a return for the sacrifices he has made, and leave him free either to invest or to refrain from investing in this scheme. The continual extension of the War Service homes scheme will make it impossible to do justice at once to any of these classes. While maimed, blind and incapacitated soldiers are waiting for homes to be erected, they will not receive that treatment which ought to be extended to them, and which they would receive if, instead of dealing with them by this means, we were to provide them with an adequate pension.
The same remark will, apply to the case mentioned by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts). I do not think we are doing enough, for the children of soldiers, and particularly for those who are in the care of the widows of soldiers. The ‘ Commonwealth can make no better investment than that of properly rearing the children of soldiers. We are not making as adequate provision for them as we ought to do. That is one reason why, in regard to those who have the principal claim upon us, I think that some of the money that will not be spent under this scheme for some years should be devoted to’ relieving the necessities of cases such as have been mentioned here, and with which every honorable member is familiar. One of the first actions taken by the Government should be to provide the widows of soldiers with adequate means of rearing their families. Apart, altogether,- from the debt that we owe to the widow of the soldier, the upbringing of the children is one of the most urgent needs of the Commonwealth, and we should be happy to undertake the duty. I do not see my way to vote for the amendment, but I certainly shall vote at the earliest opportunity for a thoroughly adequate pension for incapacitated and Blind soldiers, and a reasonable pension for. those who, in connexion with the war, have lost limbs.
.- The speech just . delivered bv the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) is, no doubt, the result of his environment.
The honorable member says that the time is not ripe to do anything for the widows of soldiers.
– I said quite the reverse. I want at once to provide something in the way of cash for them.
-The honorable member wants to do something by means of some other Bill which is not before us. According to this morning’s issue of the Argus, the Government have decided that blind soldiers shall receive, at least, SA per week, in addition, to the provision of free housing. I want to put forward a plea for the widows of soldiers.
– Let us give them enough ready money to enable them to maintain their children properly.
– By means of an increased pension?
– I have met many widows of soldiers in my own electorate, and doubtless there are many in all other divisions of the Commonwealth. I was recently interviewed by the widow of a man who at the time of his enlistment was receiving 17s. per day. He enlisted as a private at 6s. per day, and was killed. The widow, who was left with two or three children, had managed to save a little of his deferred pay, and wanted to put it down as a deposit on the purchase of a house. That was before the war service homes scheme had been brought into operation. Her anxiety was to get rid of the landlord. Those who have not rented a house, and do not know how the great bulk of the residents of a working-class suburb live, have no idea of the fear that such people entertain that they will not be able to pay their rent. They can make their children do without boots- and other necessities, but they must have their rent ready every week when the landlord .calls.
I hope the Government will see their way- to accept this amendment, because the claims of the widows of soldiers are unanswerable. It is for the Government to say whether such a woman should be granted a free house only so long as she remains a widow, but surely every one will admit that she .has .made a great sacrifice. It is said that if the widows of soldiers were granted increased- pensions, the money so received by them in many, cases would be quickly spent. This amendment is not open to that objection. It proposes that permanent provision shall be made for them, and I can think of no better war memorial than the provision of free homes for the widows of men who have fallen while on active service.
.-r-During the debate reference has been made to a deputation which waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in Perth shortly after his arrival from England. As I had the privilege of introducing that deputation, I know something of the requests that were made on behalf of the families of blind soldiers in our community. The right honorable’ gentleman pointed out that he was not in a position to go into minute details in regard to repatriation, war pensions, and War Service homes schemes, but promised that the representations made would receive every possible consideration at the hands of the Government. The fact that provision is made in this Bill for blind soldiers is proof of the intention of the Government to favorably consider the requests of the men. In addition to that, soldiers who are permanently incapacitated can have dwellings constructed for them by the War Service Homes Commissioner at the request of the Repatriation Department.
A further request was made by the deputation that the pension for blind soldiers should be increased to £4 per week, with an additional allowance to provide for an attendant.’ The general president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Association has stated that he interprets the Prime Minister’s statement as meaning that their requests have been acceded to. This then is a fair indication of the attitude of the Government. I disagree entirely with honorable members opposite on the question of providing homes for war widows. The principle is wrong. I would’ infinitely prefer to increase the pension to widows and ‘orphans to such an extent as would cover the whole of their needs. Provision can be made for them in that way far more satisfactorily than in the way proposed by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts). Their needs vary. There are widows with no families, widows with only one child, and widows with five or six children to support. We would be able to deal with their case far more satisfactorily by increasing the amount of their pension. Every one is entirely in sympathy with the widows and orphans who, as the result of the war, have lost their bread-winners. We have to determine, however, the best way of meeting the need that undoubtedly exists. I understand that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is at the present time considering the whole question of war pensions and their incidence, as well as the question of allowances to widows and orphans generally, and that it is the intention of the Government, in conformity with the requests that have been made to them by those directly representative of the soldiers, to make some fairly liberal extensions of the amounts paid to widows and orphans. It is because I believe that the right method of handling this question is to deal with it by the way of pensions, and not to grant a free house to every widow, irrespective of her pecuniary position that, much though I should like to vote for the amendment, I shall be compelled to vote against it.
– One aspect of this matter which Ministerialists seem to overlook is that it is not proposed to give houses to the people mentioned in the amendment, but simply to give them the use of the houses. The Act as amended by the Bill will provide -
The Commissioner may, if requested so to do by any prescribed authority of the Department of Repatriation, provide a dwelling-house for the use of -any totally and permanently incapacitated or any blinded Australian soldier-
Then ‘to those would be added the persons mentioned in the amendment. It is further provided -
For the purposes of this Act the Minister, for Repatriation shall be deemed to be the purchaser of any dwelling-house provided by the Commissioner in pursuance of this section.
If there is any virtue in the suggestion of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) that we should provide through the Pensions Department sufficient money for all their needs, and as one of their essential needs is a dwelling-house, the amendment meets the case. T fail to see how it will be any disadvantage to ‘ the Government scheme. There is no essential difference between giving them sufficient through the Pensions Department to pay rent for a house, and allowing them the use of a house through the War Service Homes Department with the assistance of the Department of Repatriation.
To provide houses for widows or incapacitated soldiers would mean, at the outside, £25 a year each, estimating thu cost of the house at £500, and calculating interest at 5 per cent. It would be a much more effective recognition of the position of these people, and their unfortunate circumstances caused by the war, to give them a guarantee of a home under prescribed conditions. Necessarily, the financial position of ‘each widow would have to be considered. The number of her dependants and the question of her re-marriage would also have to be taken into account. If she re-married, it might be an advantage for the Commissioner to allow her the option of purchasing the home. The amendment does not in any essential respect affect the position of the Department or load it with any serious additional cost. The number of widows would not be very large, and only the most urgent cases would be relieved first. The number of men who had lost an arm or leg would not be very great. The expenditure would not be more than from £50,000 to £100,000 a year, which is<,not a very heavy expenditure to meet our responsibilities to people so seriously handicapped.
– That would cover only about 150 houses.
– Five thousand houses at £25 per year each would cost only £125,000 a year. Even if 6 per cent, was allowed, it would work out at only £30 per house per annum.
– You cannot pay for interest and upkeep under 10 per cent.
– I do not think the Commissioner will pay anything like that.
– Municipal taxes and water rates will have to be met.
– In any case, I am much more in favour of providing a home than of increasing the pension to cover the expense of a home. I shall support the amendment.
– Compare the position of a blind soldier with that of - a widow with six or seven young and dependent children. The Prime Minster (Mr. Hughes) is reported in yesterday’s Age to have said at Brisbane -
The Government have agreed to pay to blind soldiers the amount which the executive and the blind soldiers throughout Australia wanted.
In this morning’s Argus he is reported to have said at Brisbane that -
The league’s request for better pensions for blind soldiers had been granted. What the league asked in this instance was a pension of £4 a week, and that the blind soldier he allowed £1 per week house allowance, irrespective of where he lived.
– That is different from the request made in Perth.
– It may be an allowance for an attendant to take the blind soldier about, and on top of that this Bill may give him a free home.
– The newspaper report says “house allowance,” but in Perth they distinctly asked for an allowance to cover the pay of an attendant.
– The blind soldier certainly deserves everything that can be given to him;- but he is able to earn more than a widow can. In the blind institutions, which honorable members will find worth visiting, both in Melbourne and Sydney, a blind soldier will be taken in and paid a substantial living allowance, probably of £2 or £3 a week, ‘from the public subscriptions, while being taught an interesting occupation.
– You are not advocating that they should not get what they ask for?
– By no means. I am only showing how favorably situated thev are compared with the widow. Four pounds a week and a free house means nothing less than £6 a week as a minimum to a blind soldier.
– It is worth’ it.
– I am not disputing it. If it comes to a question of necessity, the case of a widow with a number of young children is much harder than that of the blind soldier, for whom a house is being provided.
The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) and the. honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) are prepared to help the widows by increasing their pensions. There is no opportunity of doing so. There is no Bill before the House for the purpose, nor can they obtain from the Government an opportunity in this Parliament to vote for such an increase. It is idle to say you believe in doing a thing which you have no opportunity of doing. That is an old parliamentary dodge.
– I object to the honorable member alluding to my statement as a dodge.
– The honorable member for Cook knows as much about parliamentary dodges as anybody I know.
– I hope I do. One very astute parliamentarian in this House says on the public platform, “ I have never in my life voted against or objected to the incorporation of a Labour principle in a Bill.” But when he stands up here to deal with any such proposal, he always says, “ This is not the right way to do it. If I could only put it into some other Bill, I would be prepared to do it, but this is the wrong way and the wrong time,.” It is the old, old story in Parliament - if you do not want to vote for a thing, but are anxious to side-step it, point out how much better it could be done in some other way, which you. have no opportunity of following.
These promises have been made to widows and limbless men. The honorable member for Fremantle said he introduced a deputation of limbless men, who pointed out that they could not make a “do” of it under present arrangements.
Throughout New South Wales the inducement was held out that the widows of soldiers would be provided with free houses.
– I said the Government were giving evidence of acceding to the requests made at that deputation.
– What is the evidence ?
– The fact that they have agreed to increase the blind pensions.
– I am talking of the limbless men.
– Both limbless and blind men were on the deputation.
– Then the Government have picked out the men who are better provided for from an economic point of view to give them free houses, while leaving the widows and the limbless men, who are not so well provided for, out of the shelter concession.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added (Mr. J. H. Catts’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Watt) agreed to -
That if is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the issue of securities in relation to loans and for other purposes in connexion therewith.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Sir Joseph Cook do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill of a technical nature, and may be described as formal. At present Commonwealth loans must be raised in accordance with the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act or the Treasury-bills
– - »
Act, but doubt has arisen in the minds of the. legal advisers of the Crown as to whether those Acts are sufficiently wide to enable the Government to comply with legal requirements in connexion with borrowing outside Australia. For example, Dominion loans raised in London are subject to the Imperial Acts, known as the Colonial Stock Acts 1877. to 1900, and the authority of the Commonwealth Treasurer to borrow is set out in much detail in the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act. The latter, though, in effect, the same as the Colonial Stock Acts of Great Britain, is slightly different in verbiage, and the proposal now submitted to the House will prevent any clashing which may arise from the different wording. Exact compliance with the law of Great Britain is very important, because Commonwealth Stock issued in London under conditions other than those set out in the Colonial Stock Acts could not be made a Trustee Stock, and, if trustees could not invest in Commonwealth stock, our borrowing would suffer disadvantage to some extent.
Another important requirement of English law is that the Legislature of the borrowing Dominion must have made due provision for paying money in accordance with the judgment of any Court of competent jurisdiction in the United Kingdom. The Bill includes provision in that direction. The Government are not asking for authority to borrow any money in addition to that which we are already authorized to raise. Honorable members have my assurance that the Bill will give the Government no authority exceeding that which we now possess in relation to loans raised within Australia. The measure is designed to give greater assurance to trustee lenders in Great Britain, and if honorable members will scan the measure they will see for themselves the necessity for this measure, which will give greater solidity to our operations on the British market if there should be any necessity to approach it.
.- Is it the intention of the Government to borrow money outside of Australia? The Treasurer has stated that the Bill does not give the Government any greater borrowing powers than they have at the present time.
– It does not authorize the raising of any more money.
– Is there authority to borrow abroad now?
– What is the amount of the unutilized loan authorization?
– About £40,000,000.
– And the Commonwealth can go abroad and borrow that money ?
– During the last four or five years we have got into the habit of borrowing in Australia, and to-day it is the exception, rather than the rule, to approach the foreign money market. Most of us are of opinion that it is wise to confine our borrowing to Australia.
– We must not carry that policy too far.
– Possibly. The States have a number of loans falling due, and they will require to borrow in order to renew them. I think Victoria will shortly have to renew a loan of £3,000,000, and New South Wales another big loan. I rose principally for the purpose of inquiring from the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) whether it is intended by the Commonwealth to go to the United Kingdom, or elsewhere, for money. It has been suggested that we should borrow in the United States. If that is proposed, do the Government intend to pay a. higher rate of interest than is being paid in the Commonwealth to-day?
– So far as one can form an opinion on the purposes of the Bill in the short time allowed for its perusal, and from the brief explanatory speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), its main object is to put the Commonwealth into such a position with the Courts and conditions in the Mother Country that we shall widen our sphere of borrowing, and thereby make more easy the obtaining of money in the future. If that is its purpose and effect, the Bill is to be commended.
– It also proposes to enable trustees in England to invest in Australian stock.
– That is so. The only question that arises in my mind is in regard to borrowing in the United States. This Bill would not cover any operations in that country. We would first have to bring ourselves into line with
American financial conditions and .laws. So far as this Bill will help us in view of the difficulties that must arise very, soon in raising new moneys, it is to be commended, and the explanation of the Treasurer is all that might reasonably be expected under the circumstances.
.I am very sorry to see this Bill before the House, because it is an indication that the Government propose to recommence borrowing abroad. This means more exports of labour products -from this country. We already, as a Commonwealth, owe £87,000,000 to the British Government in connexion with the wax. Mr. McBeath put the figures at £120,000,000, but the Treasurer says it is £87,000,000. Apparently the Government, having authority to raise £80,000,000, and having obtained half of it, now propose to go abroad for the balance.
– Do you not see that we are in a better position to negotiate if we can go elsewhere ?
– I do not see any occasion to go elsewhere. The great bulk of the expenditure for which these loans are being raised takes place in Australia, and it is only a matter of arranging a medium of currency to enable us to exchange our’ own products within our own borders.
– I merely suggest that if there are two or three people from whom one can borrow we can surely do better than otherwise
– That is not the object. The object is to have a number of pawnshops set up throughout Great Britain and America in order that the Australian lender may be told that the Government can go elsewhere for money.
Clause 5 provides that the GovernorGeneral may establish registries at any place outside the Commonwealth and appoint registrars or deputy registrars as he thinks necessary.
What is that but the creation of a number of pawnshops in America or England, just as one might create a- number of butchers’ shops ? Instead of having a man to ladle out meat or sugar, we shall have a man to ladle out scraps of ‘paper on the security of the Commonwealth; that is what it means.
So far as America is concerned, there seems ‘ to be concurrent provision in Estimates for general oversight to the amount of close on £17,000. This means a Commissioner in America, with all the paraphernalia of such an office; and, apparently, part of his duty will be to superintend the registries. -
I did think, when the Commonwealth commenced to raise necessary moneys in connexion with the war within Australia, that we were not going in the future to borrow from outside. It would be better if we could make some arrangement for the gradual liquidation of our outside debt, so that all transactions should take place amongst ourselves. I venture to say that if the question were seriously tackled, we could gradually rid ourselves of the necessity of having to export an enormous amount of labour products to other parts of the world merely for accommodation.
I regret that we are- breaking away from the policy of issuing credits in Australia, and, apparently, going to add to the enormous oversea debt of the States by Commonwealth commitments, that ought, in my opinion, to be arranged here.
Apparently this is not for the importation of goods, but in order to provide for war commitments, inside Australia. It is only a matter of arranging the currency of some medium of exchange amongst ourselves to be able to do without foreign loans.
– I hope the object of the Bill is exactly what the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) hopes it is not. Local borrowing is an exceedingly good thing; but it can be carried too far. Had any one told us before the war that the Commonwealth could have borrowed the large amount it has in Australia, the statement would scarcely have been credited. But there is no honorable member or person in the community who does not know that the flotation of these loans is having a very serious effect on the national and industrial life of Australia. The value of money has advanced enormously, and I think we have very nearly drained dry the sources of borrowing in Australia, unless we propose to call up the moneys which are now .being used in commerce and mortgages and the ordinary business of Australia. Such a step would have a serious effect; and I regret, for this reason, that the moratorium was not extended for a longer period. When the mortgages fall due in February the Government will find it absolutely essential to extend the moratorium in order to prevent the whole or a large percentage of them being called up.
If this House were to compel the Government to confine their borrowing operations entirely to Australia, the mostserious disaster might occur to practically every industry, and especially to the great landed industry, which such a very large percentage of the mortgages affect. I hope that if the Government have to borrow further, as they most certainly will, they will have the fullest possible range so as to- secure the best conditions and the cheapest rates. To attempt to compel the Government to confine themselves to Australia, in view of what has already been done in the way of war loans, and with a drought overhanging us, would be fatal. . I welcome the Bill, and hope the Government will exercise it to its fullest extent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the clauses be put as a whole ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
.I did not speak on the second reading, because I was not present when the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) explained . its provisions. I am not going to attempt to discuss the measure in detail, but merely desire to express the opinion which I expressed when borrowing by the Commonwealth was first started by Mr. Fisher for defence purposes, that the time has arrived when some other system of finance should be found. Any one can borrow if he has security and there is money to lend. There is nothing new, scientific, or clever in borrowing.
– There is nothing new in breathing, but we all do it.
– But we do not borrow some one else’s air to breathe; we have our own air, and do not pay another man for the privilege of. breathing it. Our present financial system is something like breathing; we breathe in money, breathe it out, and breathe it in again, but pay heavily for doing so, and the Treasurer(Mr. Watt), by his interjection, has only emphasized my point.
I register my protest against a borrowing policy. There is another system of finance that would be much more advantageous, and I must explain that I do not claim to be by any means its originator. Other men who have studied finance have promulgated a scheme whereby .wealth, finance, money, the medium of exchange - call it what you will - which is in the Commonwealth, can be, and is being, used by the Commonwealth. A system could be . evolved if the minds of -honorable members were properly applied to it, and the Commonwealth relieved of the necessity of building up a great debt, as at present.
On the occasion when Mr. Fisher raised his first loan of £20,000,000, it was in £5,000,000 instalments, because he was afraid of going on the market for the whole amount. I may tell honorable members that I was opposed to Mr. Fisher in the proposals he then raised. I did not voice any objections on the floor of the House, because I had pledged myself not to do so. On that occasion I followed the Caucus dictation, if that is any information to the House. But, in the only place in which I could voice my protest, I did so, and I told Mr. Fisher that he was doing nothing new, and I was supported in that opinion by a remark made in the House of Lords by Lord St. Albans to the same effect in regard to the British financial borrowing policy. I told Mr. Fisher that he was doing no more than the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Joseph Cook) would have done had he been Treasurer at the time; it was a case of a Labour man following in the rut of the Conservative party, although the Labour party have striven for so many years to defeat it. I pointed out that I had to support him in the House on a majority decision of the party; but that the proposal was against my wishes. Since then, however, I have opposed the borrowing policy, and now that I am free to express myself, I utter an emphatic protest against it. I hope that the community in general will give a verdict on the matter at the next election. It is not new to the electors, and if there is anything in the Labour party’s proposals for the nationalization of finance, they will have a further opportunity of bringing them forward. We have already had two nibbles at it by the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank and the note issue, which., I think, can readily be extended. However, without any desire to go further into the matter, I raise my protest against the Commonwealth borrowing from sources to which the money has to be returned when out requirements can be met by devising a different- system of finance.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) , has not denied the soft impeachment that this Bill is an indication of His intenton to seek avenues outside the Commonwealth for raising money. Mr. Winston Churchill has made the statement that, although the economic condition of Great Britain is secure, that country is in a very straitened position from a financial point of - view. If the’ Treasurer wishes to go outside the Commonwealth to borrow money, he may have to look to some other place than Britain. I do not know, whether we have yet tapped the American money market, but the combine of managers of fiduciary institutions there is one of the greatest in the world, and if we require to go outside Australia to raise money, we shall be bitten in respect to the rate of interest we shall be called upon to pay. The payment of interest in Australia on money borrowed locally means that at regular intervals there is a large sum of money available for reinvestment, not only in further- Government bonds, but also in industrial concerns. It is said to be difficult to raise money at present, but whenever we find people prepared to invest capital in indus/trial concerns, mining enterprises, and such matters, the Treasurer seems to place an embargo on the smaller concerns, which ‘has a crippling effect, not only upon . the expenditure of money, but also upon the employment of labour; while, on the other hand, any big firm, such as Mark Foy’s, which is desirous of extending its business, is given every facility to increase its capital.
– The only embargo is that placed on “ rooks.” ‘ There is no embargo on the general investor.
– We should always place an embargo on those who are out to”rook” the public. If the Treasurer decides to go outside Australia to borrow money, I see no ray of hope in the matter of getting relief. We may have temporary assistance from this source, but our interest bill will be larger, and the pay ment of it to persons outside Australia will not have the good effect on .the community here that its payment- locally would have.
– In introducing this Bill, I did not touch, advisedly, upon the wisdom or necessity of borrowing as a national principle in time of war. There aTe more appropriate occasions for discussing such a question, when some would feel inclined to join issue with the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), particularly in regard to the mysterious theories of finance he has advanced, and to which he alluded but did not explain. Neither did I discuss the question of whether it was wise to borrow in Australia or overseas. I think every one understands the obvious fact that, other things being equal, it is better to pay interest to our own people. .However, notwithstanding the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), I could not make the announcement that this Bill was an indication of the Government’s intention to borrow overseas. Honorable members are sufficiently familiar with the financial world to realize that a Treasurer does not announce what he intends to do. He generally tries his market to see where the best advantage can be obtained. Already the Government has the power to borrow largely- overseas. It has not done so, but has been borrowing in Australia, and will continue to borrow here up to legitimate limits, without unnecessarily draining the font and source from which our war and peace loans are met, and from which our industrial undertakings generally are financed. The doubt has arisen as to whether, -in a loan operation overseas, the Commonwealth will’ have the full benefit- of the Trustees Act of Great Britain; and it is my duty, as finance Minister of the Commonwealth, to remove that doubt.- If I am to conduct financial operations, I shall buy in the cheapest market, all things considered; but I think that the Treasurer ought to be placed in the position of being able to do so by the votes of his fellow members. I want to be in such a position that if money is available overseas in Great Britain or America, which is cheaper, all things being considered, than elsewhere, I can borrow it.
– The honorable the Treasurer will be very lucky if he can get it cheaper overseas.
– The Treasurer is not likely to sail out into the money trust and get bitten without knowing what he is about to do. Any Treasurer who would embark on a loan flotation without knowing what he was likely to be called upon to pay would be unworthy of his trust. Notwithstanding the wonderful success of the loan operations of the. last eighteen months or two years - far beyond the most sanguine expectations of the most optimistic financiers of the early war years, if not of pre-war times - there may come a day when it would be imprudent to still further drain the source from, which our undertakings generally are financed. Unless it is a matter of paramount importance, to meet the nation’s necessities, it may be unwise to borrow for State purposes to such an extent that for the moment industries of the country may have to mark time. The Government should be in a position to borrow money in the cheapest market, always keeping in view the benefit derived by raising locally, if it is possible to do so. This Bill has been introduced for the purpose of removing a debt which has arisen, and for the purpose of giving greater elasticity to the operations of the Treasurer in raising money for the requirements of the Commonwealth.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is introduced for the purpose of fixing the date of the termination of the war. In quite a number of our Statutes reference is made to the termination of the present war, and it is desirable to have that term clearlydefined. The same trouble has been encountered in the United Kingdom. There a special Committee, presided over by Mr. Justice Atkin, was appointed by the AttorneyGeneral to report upon what constituted the termination of the war, and in its report the Committee said -
In our opinion, speaking of the legislation generally, the war cannot be said to end until peace is finally and irrevocably obtained; and that point of time cannot be earlier than the date when the Treaty of Peace is finally binding on the respective belligerent parties, and that is the date when ratifications are exchanged.
A Bill was introduced in the House of Commons and was referred to a Select Committee which made a report on the Bill. The measure is now an Act of Parliament, having been assented to on the 21st November, 1918, and upon that Act, the Bill now before this House is based. It is provided that the Governor-General may by proclamation declare what date shall be deemed to be the date of the termination of the. present war, and that this date shall beas nearly as may be the date of the exchange or deposit of ratifications of the Treaty or Treaties of Peace. It is further provided that, for the purposes of any provision in any Act, Order in Council, proclamation, or regulation referring expressly or impliedly, or in whatever form of words, to the present war or the present hostilities, the present war shall, unless the context otherwise indicates, be deemed to have continued to, and to have ended on, the date declared by the Governor-General in accordance with the Bill.
– What is ratification ?.
– It means the final exchange between the plenipotentiaries generally. It would be impossible for me to say when the final ratification will take place. In that respect we shall be guided by the Imperial authorities.
– Will the speed of the exchange or . deposit of the ratification of the Treaty of Peace be dependent on the Treaty with Germany, or upon other Treaties which have not yet been signed? For instance, the Treaty with Turkey may not be signed for a couple of years yet.
– I think the proper practice will be to follow the guidance of the Imperial authorities.
I wish to emphasize the point that this Bill will not affect the operation of the War Precautions Act. Section 2 of that Act provides that - “ The present state of war “ means the period from’ the fourth day of August One thousand nine hundred and fourteen at the hour of eleven o’clock post meridiem reckoned according to Greenwich standard time, until the issue of a proclamation by the GovernorGeneral that the war betweenHis Majesty the
King and the German Emperor and between His Majesty the King and the Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary has ceased.
That, in effect, sets forth when the War Precautions Act will terminate. We are not, by means of this Bill, interfering with that provision, because in clause 3 we expressly provide that, “ unless the context otherwise indicates,” the present war shall “ be deemed to have continued to, and to have ended on, the date declared by the Governor-General in pursuance of the last preceding section.” Section. 2 of the War Precautions Act does “ otherwise indicate,” and this Bill, therefore, deals only with other measures, of which honorable members are aware. There is also in clause 4 another provision which follows the lines of the British Act by declaring that “ notwithstanding the issue of a proclamation in pursuance of section 2 of this Act,” the Governor-General may fix as the date of the termination of certain statutory powers an earlier date than the date declared in the proclamation. The Bill follows the lines of Imperial legisla- « tion, and I hope that it will be speedily passed.
.- I understand that by the passing of this Bill we shall get a stage nearer to the termination of the War Precautions Act except in respect to those parts of it which the Parliament has deliberately decided to continue in operation.
– The War Precautions Act itself dennes the period of its operation. It is to cease to operate three months after the date of the exchange of ratifications of the Peace Treaties.
– The War Precautions Act has undoubtedly caused much annoyance to the community, and has been used in a way that was never contemplated by Parliament. The present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) was Leader of the Opposition at the time of its introduction, and received from the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) an assurance as to the way in which the extensive powers for which it provided would be exercised. By means of the Commercial Activities Bill, this Parliament has extended certain regulations made under the Act with regard to the wheat, wool, flax, sugar and dairy produce pools. We have during the present sitting, by means of the Legal Proceedings Control Bill, extended for all time certain War Precautions regulations dealing with causes of action arising - during the war, and we have yet to deal with another measure to continue in operation certain War Precautions regulations. Are we to understand that, subject to those three exceptions, the War Precautions Act will cease to operate three months after the date of the exchange of ratifications of the Peace Treaty.
– Yes; all the War Precautions Act regulations will cease to operate unless they are specially incorporated in another Act of Parliament.
– And a Bill incorporating them would have to come before the Parliament.
– That is correct!
– It is difficult to analyze the Bill put before us, because, although the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) tells us that it follows the lines of an Imperial Act, a copy of that Act is not available to honorable members.
– I have a copy of it.
– And apparently, the honorable gentleman has had time, to study it, whereas the House has not seen it, and has learned of it this morning for the .first time. The honorable gentleman tells us that the Imperial Act declares that the Empire shall be deemed to be in a state of war until the King issues a proclamation, or ratifications of the Peace Treaties have been exchanged.
– We are at war until peace is made.
– We know that peace has been in operation for some time, and that the enemy is not able to resume hostilities. It seems to me that this measure will extend the life of the War Precautions Act.
– No, because we have expressly used the words “ unless the context otherwise provides,” and the .War Precautions Act does not otherwise provide.
– We are now passing a Bill setting out the way in which the Governor-General shall declare the termination of the war. Surely, when the Governor-General- issues a proclamation that a state of war has ceased to exist, we at that moment technically cease to be at war.
– The Empire is at war.
– It was not necessary to pass a special Act to enable, the Governor-General to issue a proclamation that a condition of war had arisen. Why cannot the Governor-General in the same way - without any preliminary legislation - issue a proclamation to the effect that a state of war has ceased to exist? The appearances are that the Government are introducing a number of. measures for the express purpose of extending the right to exercise special powers, which were intended to be exercised only in time of war. All these war measures should have been repealed long ago.
– I shall be glad when they can be repealed. Mr. J. H. CATTS. - They* can be repealed whenever the Government desire to repeal them.
– It is easy to find an excuse for continuing them.
– That is suggested by this measure. All sorts of Boards have been set up and offices created under the War Precautions Act; and these constitute a multitude of reasons why the Act should operate.
We are very suspicious of the exercise of these extraordinary powers. I shall’ be no party to the passing of the Bill, and shall call1 for a division on the motion for the second reading. It should be pointed out to the people that all sorts’ of devices’’ are being, resorted, to to enable these extraordinary war powers to be exercised when there is no war.
– The honorable member’s party wanted to have some of them extended for a period of ten years’.
– The honorable member knows feat that is incorrect.
– It is true; the’ honorable member was away at the time.
– When the Commercial Activities Bill!, which covers a number of War Precautions regulations, was be-, fore the House,, a number of amendments were moved by members of the Labour party to extend) the operation of certain Pools for ten years;
Mr.- J. H. CATTS.- I would not have voted for any proposal to extend war powers, and it is inconceivable that the Labour party should have brought forward ‘ anything of the kind’. I am satisfied’ that our’ party would be opposed to the continuance of the powers which have been arbitrarily and outrageously exercised during the war. Mr. Fleming. - They wanted the continuance, of such of the war precautions powers as suited them.
– I do not think that is possible. We are told that this Bill follows the lines of the English Act, but we have no opportunity to compare it with that Act.
– Surely the honorable member will accept the word of the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom).
– The House ac- cepted the word of the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes), when he was a member of the Labour Government, in regard to the exercise of powers under the War Precautions Act. What has been the result ?
– I think every one will accept the word of the Acting AttorneyGeneral.
– Certainly ; but’ since he will not be called upon to exercise’ these powers, “ guff “ of feat kind is quite beside fee wark. I repeat feat we have n© opportunity of comparing this Bill wife fee British Act,, and feat it seems to have all the appearances of technically extending fee period during, which a state of war exists long afteT the war has’ actually terminated,, the object being to enable the Government to- exercise war powers which they could not exercise without an artificial extension of the war period.
’. - I propose .to state briefly the real attitude of the Opposition towards the Commercial Activities Bill. It was not as stated by the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr.. Groom). The Bill proposed to extend by statutory authority certain things that had previously been done under war authority. The objecion of’ the Opposition was that a limit was put on that statutory authority. As it was evidently possible under fee constitutional powers of fee Commonwealth to’ continue those commercial activities- for a limited period in order to preserve the interests’ of Australia in commercial affairs, we contended feat it must also be legal and proper- to extend them for s further period’, and snake their- operations practically unlimited. It was not a war power in’ any sense whatever. It was* a commercial power. The proposal of the Government was to exercise that commercial power under statutory authority, although we had previously been advised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that we had not the right under the Constitution to use it. The Acting AttorneyGeneral submitted a certificate, issued by certain eminent legal gentlemen, who had been asked by the Government whether we had those powers under the Constitution.
– The present Chief Justice was one of them.
-Yes. They certified that under the Constitution we had the power to exercise those commercial activities under Statute.
– They certified that the Bills as presented were within the competence of the Parliament to pass.
– All we held was that, if the Constitution allowed us to exercise those commercial activities under Statute for a limited period, there was no logical reason why the period should not be extended to ten years.
– What view would the High Court take of that ?
– The Minister was not concerned about the probable attitude of the High Court. An interjection came from the other side of the House to the effect that those who thought the Bill unconstitutional should have it tested, and the reply was that it would be tested.
– Order! The honorable member is out of order in debating a measure which the House has already disposed of.
– My only object was to state correctly the attitude of the Opposition at the time. No matter what we say, however, our statements will be deliberately misrepresented by the other side for party purposes.
If I entertained the same suspicions as the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts)with regard to the purpose of this Bill, I should certainly vote against it; but I cannot see that it means an extension of the powers under the War Precautions Act. I understand that the signatories to the Peace Treaty have agreed to adopt this means of declaring that the war is officially at an end. I suppose certain legal considerations require the adoption of this particular form. The Government is the competent authority to declare that the war has finished, as it declared that the war had started. The Bill does not offer tome any threats or fears or dangers along the lines suggested by the honorable member for Cook, although we have every reason to be suspicious of any move by the Government in this direction. They have become so fond of the powers they possess under the War Precautions Act that they are anxious to hang on to them. I am anxious that they should get rid of them, and if I saw anything in the Bill to indicate a danger of extension of that Act, I would oppose it.
– It technically extends the period of the war, which means that the war powers are extended.
– The War Precautions Act must be affected by the length of the war, but I cannot imagine that the Bill will give the Government any power to prolong the period of the war. It simply gives them the power to declare officially through the Governor-General when the war has ended.
– At a time suitable to them.
– In this case I think we can give them the benefit of the doubt.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
. - I take it that this Bill represents the fastening of a lock on the door, and that the key will be provided when the proclamation is issued declaring the war officially at an end?
– It is to provide for the legal technical ending of the war, for the purpose of the Acts, Orders in Council, proclamations, or regulations.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The object of the measure is to allow the continuation, until the 31st day of December, 1920, of the operation of the War Precautions regulations in relation to enemy shareholders, land transfer, mining, and shipping. . The intention is that during that period the regulations in question shall have the force of law. Nothing new is being introduced. Under the War Precautions Act the regulations would continue in force for a period of three months after the issue of the proclamation referred to in the Act. Honorable members know the object of the enemy shareholders regulations. Regulation 4 provided that every enemy subject who was, on and after the 29th day of January, 1916, a shareholder in any company must, on or before the 15th day of April, 1916, transfer his shares to the public trustee. Similar provision was made to apply to naturalized persons of enemy origin, unless an exemption was obtained from the Attorney-General. The trustee has power to hold the shares for a period of twelve months after the war, or to sell t them. Under regulation 11 power was given for the disposal of the proceeds. Regulation 12 provided for the disposal of dividends, and regulation 14 dealt with the transfer of shares in contravention of the regulations. The general purpose of this series of regulations was to prevent the control of companies by enemy interests.
The object of the land transfer regulations was to prevent the transfer of land to enemy subjects, or to naturalized persons of enemy origin without the consent of the Attorney-General. The prohibition extended to the making of certain leases, and the giving of certain mortgages.
The object of the mining regulations was to preserve for British subjects the interests in mining or metallurgical companies and businesses.
The shipping regulations, which are most important, bring us to a consideration of the conditions arising out of the war. Honorable members know the heavy loss of shipping caused by enemy action during the war, and the consequent dislocation of Empire trade. Requests were made to Australia to allow as great a transfer as possible of Australian ships from Australian waters. It became necessary in the interests of the Empire and of Australia to constitute a Shipping Controller, with Deputy Controllers, an InterState Central Committee, and local committees, with power of control over these vessels. Machinery was provided in the regulations for requisitioning ships, fixing the charter rates, and fixing also certain rates and charges. The Controller was given power within certain limits to vary the rates and charges without the consent of the Prime Minister, but it was necessary to obtain his consent for any increase of more than 10 per cent. The control provided for in the regulations was absolutely essential in order to obtain the best results from the limited quantity of shipping left in Australia. On the whole, the control has made for the effective transport of goods between the Australian States, and at the same time has given material assistance to the Empire. The conditions arising out of the Avar wi.th respect to shipping have not yet ceased, and the Shipping Controller is of the opinion that he requires these powers for at least twelve months longer, for the purpose of regulating shipping in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I thought he desired to get rid of them as soon as he could.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. When I introduced the Bill for the extension of the War Precautions Act in November last, the Shipping - Controller reported in favour of an extension of the regulations. That is the advice I have received from him personally. In his opinion, the continuance of these regulations for at least twelve months is necessary, in order to allow the industry to settle down after the war.
– He has expressed a different opinion to me.
– But honorable members know that I have stated the facts. The shortage of shipping still prevails, and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) must realize the difficulty there is in getting adequate tonnage to carry our goods on the , Australian coast. Very great pressure to alleviate the necessities of Queensland has been brought to bear on the Government. Certainly some of the disadvantages of the shortage of shipping were accentuated by the- recent strike. Queensland is suffering through inability to get fodder from the southern States, whilst the latter have experienced difficulty in obtaining sugar from the north.
– The strike made all the difference.
– It ‘ intensified the trouble. There was also the interference with shipping by the States in connexion with quarantine. In one State the health authorities kept the ships seven days in quarantine, and then the Government complained because no more ships were being sent to be similarly detained. But, apart from those particular difficulties, the shortage of shipping is still acute, and the necessity remains for having a Committee of control which will insure that the Commonwealth gets the best returns possible from the tonnage available.
– Do the Government propose to continue in existence the present Shipping Committee?
– The Government propose to continue the existing regulations; but there is power to vary any of them from time to time, in order to meet the changing conditions. In the meantime,in order to secure shipping in the interests of . Australia, it is deemed advisable to extend the duration of the War Precautions regulations relating to shipping.
.- For the first time in the history of this Parliament, the House is afforded an opportunity of discussing a statutory rule. Many of us have been waiting for over nineteen years for this opportunity. On occasions we have given notice of motions relating to regulations made under the W ar Precautions Act ; but an opportunity to discuss any of them only comes to us at 4 o’clock in the morning, in the last hours of the Parliament.
– The House had the same opportunity of dealing with the regulations that were attached to the Commercial Activities Bill.
– Never before have we had regulations before us in such a com plete form. The regulations that are extended by this Bill cover eighteen pages of closely printed matter, and comprise sixty-one statutory rules. We are asked to consider and pass the measure in a few minutes. Many members have gone to their constituencies, and may not know what is proposed.
– The Bill only continues existing regulations.
– I admit that, and those relating to shipping are the ones which particularly concern the Australian people. As no enemy subjects can hold shares in any Australian company, the whole of the shipping on our coast to-day is under either British or Australian control. The Government say that it is wise to continue Commonwealth control of shipping for another twelve months. A remark was made by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) that I had stated on many occasions that I would not keep the War Precautions regulations in operation for five minutes. I certainly would not continue the whole of them. But nobody has ever heard me say that I regarded as bad all the regulations made under the War Precautions Act. This is the proper way in which to deal with regulations under an Act. They are now properly before Parliament, although I do not think it right to include in the one Bill regulations affecting four different matters. Let each subject stand by itself. If the Government have a good case in respect of some things, do not load it up with weak regulations, hoping that the justifiable ones will secure the carrying of the others.
– I have never been able to ascertain if the ships on the Australian coast are under Government control.
– I do not think anybody else has been able to get enlightenmenton that point. What these regulations do is to prevent the sale of any of the vessels outside of Australia. But that control could have been .exercised without recourse to the War Precautions Act at all. The Government have power to do that under the Customs Act.
– It is a very necessary power just now.
– It is; and I think I did as much as any Minister to operate it.
– The regulations are necessary not only to control the sale of shipping, but also to continue the organization of the industry.
– I realize that. I have not had an opportunity to more than glance at the measure owing to the haste with which legislation is being passed through this House. I am glad that the Government have printed the regulations in a precise and handy form, because they will be useful for reference in the future. If Parliament can extend its control over the .matters specified in the Bill for another twelve months-
– We were told we could not extend the moratorium.
– We were told that the Commonwealth had no power to do this, that, and the other thing. But those of us who believe that the Commonwealth powers can be exercised in a certain direction will have plenty of precedents to guide us when the occasion arises, because the Government have not thought it necessary to support this Bill with a certificate by any legal committee that it is within the competence of this Parliament. The Bill establishes a number of precedents’ which will be useful to those who believe that the Commonwealth’s authority should ‘be exercised to a far greater extent in certain directions. It will certainly encourage us to test those powers when the’ opportunity is afforded us. We may have in power a Government who will not be afraid to do things, and - to whom the Constitution will not be the cast-iron affair it has been in the past. If we have power after the ratification of the Treaty to do the things specified in this Bill, we shall have an opportunity at some future date to take action in certain other directions, by using the powers of the Federal authority on behalf of the whole people, and not merely on behalf of a section.
– I offer my protest against the extension of these regulations, but I know opposition is futile at 4 o’clock in the morning, when there are present only eighteen members out of seventy-five, and nine of them are asleep. It is only flogging the air to try to make the slightest alteration in a Bill introduced to the House at this hour, after we have been sitting since 3 p.m., and passing Bill after Bill with little or no consideration. This measure mixes up enemy shareholders with our own citizens. I remember putting up a fight in the House last year, when the present Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) was asking for the extension of some of the powers under the War Precautions Act, and I and others secured the limitation of the Act until the 31st July, or three months after the termination of. the war, whichever was the longer time. The honorable gentleman assured me then that there would be ample time in which to deal with the various measures the Government might desire to clear up.
– I also stated that there would be other things which would need controlling, but they would come before Parliament in special measures.
– That is quite true. But there was an understanding that the War Precautions Act, with the exception of a few details, would cease to operate three months after the ratification of the Peace Treaty.
– I think that promise has been kept.
– I do not intend to debate the regulations relating to enemy shareholders, land transfers, and mining, because I conceive them to be amongst the things to which the Acting AttorneyGeneral referred last year; but in regard to shipping I take an entirely different view. The Government have the idea that because they have a Committee controlling shipping, the industry is being worked to more advantage in the interest of Australia than it would be under private enterprise. That opinion is entirely wrong.
– Government control prevents the sale of vessels on the Australian coast.
– It does to a certain extent; but no Australian shipping company has brought one new vessel on to the coast since the outbreak of war. “The companies have built new vessels, but they are trading abroad.
– Because they can earn more.
– Of course; and if these regulations are continued, those ships will never be brought on to our coast.
– It costs twice as much to load them now as it did when the companies did the loading themselves.
– That is so ; and the longer the Government keep control over the shipping industry, the worse it will be for
Australia. Every day the Government keep control they are tending to increase the price of goods to the consumer, and thereby raising the cost pf living, against which they protest so much.- I state deliberately that no Government-regulated business can be so economically conducted as can a business managed by private enterprise. The hands of the Controller have been forced on more than one occasion to raise the freights in Australia, and whenever it has been done it was because there is not the same economical management by the control ‘ at present exercised as there would be under the control of the shipping companies.
Let me put this aspect of the case : Under these regulations an agent is paid 5 per cent, commission on the control of his own ships. It is to the interest of the agent that the greatest turnover and the greatest expenditure shall take place on the ships, because he gets a bigger percentage. It is not to the interests of a solitary soul concerned to keep down expenses; their financial interests are all the other way, namely, sending up the cost, and thereby increasing the commission; and this is being done.
I know some large shipping firms here who, having built ships in the Old Country, are trading them there, and will not bring them to Australia to be controlled by the Government. If we had the misfortune to lose one or two vessels on the coast they would be replaced; and if we continue this hidebound control it is only a matter of a short time before we shall find the shipping industry far more congested than it is to-day. Heaven knows it is bad enough now; the congestion is such that the Government cannot ship goods. They are crying out for 20,000. tons of shipping for New Zealand and cannot get it; but I could get boats if I wanted them.
– Then it is not the fault of the Harbor Trust?
– No. There is much that could be said on this Bill, but at this time of the morning, with only eighteen members out of seventy-five present, and half of the eighteen asleep, what is the good of continuing the debate? The physical strength of honorable members has naturally given out; they are not youngsters, and not accustomed to overtime. As a rule, like decent men, they get to bed about 11 o’clock, and are fit for work next morning.
– We are getting double pay, of course!
– We are not doing half as much work. We are doing what is called “ work,” but we are getting the same class of legislation as we got last year, such as the War Service Homes Act, the blunders in which had to be rectified by a Bill passed to-night.
– In the case of all Bills, experience shows the necessity for amendments.
– That is .because of the way in which the Bills are passed by this Parliament. What Bill passed to-night has received any decent consideration or explanation ? The Acting AttorneyGeneral , in introducing this Bill, did not do himself justice, and I do not blame him. for, physically, he could not be expected to do so. He has introduced a great number of Bills to-night, and, like the rest of us, he is mentally tired. This method of doing business is not only wrong, but it does more harm to the community which, it is supposed to benefit than if the Bills were not passed at all.
– And it brings Parliament into disrepute.
– Quite so. I again protest against the extension of these powers, particularly the shipping power. The control, as it is now, is injuring and not benefiting Australia. . I shall move in Committee that the operation of the Bill in this regard be limited to the 31st March next year, thus giving five more months, which is quite long enough.
As I said on a previous occasion, the fact that certain powers have been given into the hands of Ministers has created the opinion in their minds that business cannot get along without their control. But the principles that the Minister (Mr. Groom) and myself have always stood for, though he has back-slided a little since the Coalition- mean that free enterprise is much better for the development of the country than Government control. The sooner we get back to healthy and normal conditions of public life the better ‘ it will be, not only for the community generally, but for private interests.
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) that it is better to leave most of these enterprises under the control of the companies or individuals than that of the Government. But in the present case there is something to which the honorable member has not referred, and that is the fact that if we gave up the control of those ships tomorrow, the probability is that, within two months, there would not be a ship on this coast.
– The ships could not be taken away.
– The owners could take them away and dispose of them for double the amount they would have got before the war. What would be the condition of the trade of Australia without any shipping here? I do not see how the Government, could have done anything else in the interest of the community than keep control of the shipping, at any rate, up to the time proposed in the Bill. It is absolutely essential that the Commonwealth should continue control if InterState trading is not to lapse into chaos.
– It would have been informative if the Minister (Mr. Groom) had been able to disclose exactly how we had been standing from time to time in regard to the shipping, control - how we stood in the pre-war period, how we stood twelve months and two years after the commencement of the war, and how we stand to-day. Some of us, perhaps, may have a rough-and-ready idea as to the size of the Inter-State shipping fleet, and as to the number of vessels allowed to depart by the order of the British Government for transport, hospital, and other purposes. We ought to know how far Government control has prevented these ships coming back to ply their trade in these waters. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd.) has stated that the Government, while they continue this control, will not encourage ships that have been built in war time to the order of companies, Australian in their character and capital, to come to Australia, but he says that he himself, as a private individual, if he required ships, could obtain them. It seems rem!arkable that a private business man can obtain ships, while the Government are not able to hold out sufficient inducement to bring them ‘to Australia.
– There are 2,500,000 more tons of shipping afloat now than there was before war broke out.
– I do not think these figures exactly tally with the figures given in shipping circles in England.
– My figures are according’ to Lloyd’s Register.
– Some few yeaTs ago, in the pre-war period, it was generally understood that the shipping tonnage of the world was about 40,000,000 tons. I do not know whether- that included the coastal shipping of the United States.
– The total tonnage was then 47,000,000.
– And the figures of the period seemed to show that British bottoms were 20,000,000 tons, or about half of the total. Now, however, I understand that the British tonnage has been considerably reduced, and I presume that the increase to 47,000,000 tons is largely accounted for by the activities in American and J apanese yards.
– American yards principally.
– It is marvellous how the Japanese companies are increasing their fleets. The two countries, America and Japan, have in this regard been placed right on their feet through the waT, while other countries, to a large extent, are in the pawnshop in more senses than. one. The information for which I have asked ought to be given to the House.
– There is now only 50 per cent, of the tonnage we had on the Australian coast before the war.
– I do not think we are even so well served as that. If ‘this proposed legislation means the protecting of Australian interests, and the preventing of ship-owners from taking their ships from these waters, and using them for more remunerative trade purposes in other waters, it is desirable. There are some honorable members, however, who contend that, under the Customs Act, or some other measures, the Government may prevent owners from removing shipping from our coasts. We are in a most peculiar position in regard to shipping. Although shipping firms may protest that they are still sailing under their own flags, and although they maintain a separate identity, their protestations aTe all so much balderdash, because the Inchcape people and others have combined, and have such a monopoly of British, and American shipping that they” can hold up the commerce of the world, and say, “ You must pay our freights, otherwise you can have no bottoms for your cargoes.” The time has arrived for the Australian Parliament to do something to protect the interests of Australia, and if the Bill will help in that direction I shall be pleased to give it my support. However, I would “like to know how far our justifiable interference with the shipping along our coasts has helped Australia, and how we are employing our vessels in carrying trade from port to port.
– It is most extraordinary that we should have this Bill presented at 4 o’clock in the morning, without a word of explanation as to our relations with the companies whose vessels have been taken over. For four years the Government have had in their hands the coastal trade, of Australia under a running charter, and not one word has been given to this House as to whether they have been run at a profit or loss. By this morning’s mail from Tasmania I received the following cutting from the Hobart Mercury: -
For what were supposed to be good reasons, his Government took over all Inter-State shipping, and, as people in Tasmania have very good reason for knowing, we had a worse service and higher rates than when we were at the mercy of the Shipping Ring.
– The point is whether the rates which they are paying compare favorably with those which are paid in other countries.
– And ‘ the fact must be l>orne in our mind that half our Interstate vessels have been sent to the other side of the world.
– When the British Government had their backs to the wall, and required transports from Australia to provide means of communication between England and elsewhere for the purpose of obtaining food supplies for the Old Country and the Army, the Government of Australia very properly allowed a certain proportion of the vessels engaged in our Interestate trade to be taken away from that trade and placed at the disposal of the Imperial authorities, and no one raised a voice of protest. Even Tasmania, which suffers more from the restriction- of shipping than does any other portion of the Commonwealth, said that if Great Britain needed these boats for the purpose of feeding its people or carrying on the war it could have them freely. I think that about 45 or 50 per cent, of our total tonnage was loaned to the Old Country in those circumstances; but when the emergency was over those vessels ought to have been returned to Australia.
– A great many of them have been sold.
– I would like the Minister to say whether that statement is correct.
– I am not in a position to do so.
– I know that it is a fact. The Adelaide Steam-ship Company has sold some of its boats.
– No boats have been sold except the Willochra, which was not on the Australian coastal trade, and the Indarra.
– The inability of the Minister to answer my question shows how unfortunate we are in having to discuss the Bill in the absence of those Ministers who are acquainted with all the details, and could supply the necessary information..
If the Government intend to maintain the existing Shipping Board, I shall vote against the Bill. The question is whether the Government are controlling shipping or not.
– The honorable member knows that the Government are controlling shipping.
– I do not think so. Prior to the war, the freight on fruits from Tasmania to Great Britain was 2s. 6d. and 2s. 9d. per case; but when the submarine menace was at its worst, and war insurance rates were highest, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen) informed honorable members representing Tasmanian constituencies that the ships could not continue to carry fruit at the existing rate, and he raised the freight to 3s. 6d. per case. It was only a fair charge, and allowed sufficient margin of profit. But when the honorable member for Bass ceased to be Minister for Trade and Customs, and the submarine menace had vanished, and the war was practically over, the rate of freight was raised to 7s. 7#d. per case. In these circumstances, were the Government controlling .the rates, on overseas shipping?
– The honorable member must recollect that the Board which deals with overseas freights is not under the control of the Commonwealth Government, but is a British Board.
– I do not think so. I think that there is a regulation providing for a Board called the Overseas Shipping Board, which is presided over by Sir Owen Cox, and comprises the managers of the shipping companies in Australia.
– It is acting under the direction of the Imperial authorities.
– What is the point which the honorable member seeks to establish?
– Are freights between Australia and England controlled by the Federal Government?
– The oversea trade is outside our control.
– Prior to the war the freight on fruit to England was 2s. 9d. per case. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen), when Minister for Trade and Customs, pointed out to the representatives of Tasmania that owing to the submarine risk and increased charges consequent upon the war, 2s. 9d. was not a fair rate, and that he meant to fix the freight at 3s. 6d. per case. He fixed it at that rate, and would not allow the shipping companies to charge more.
– I am doubtful as to that. I do not know of any occasion when the Australian Government has been able to fix oversea freights.
– Whether the then Minister for Trade and Customs fixed the freight or did not, he would not allow the oversea shipping companies to charge more than 3s. 6d. per case. After his retirement, and at a time when submarining had ceased, and war risks had been considerably reduced - I ‘refer to the months of March, April, and May of this year- the freight was raised to 7s. 7½d per case. Are the Government controlling the Inter-State freights?
– Were the recent increases made by the Government or the shipping companies?
– I am not personally familiar with the circumstances; but I think tha’t the Inter-State Board recommended the increases, and that the Minister approved of them.
– The increases could not have been made without such approval.
– Wot under the regulations.
– Under the contracts entered into between the Federal Government, the Union Steam-ship Company, and Huddart, Parker, and Company Limited, for the carriage of mails between the mainland and Tasmania, those companies cannot raise freights or fares without the consent of the PostmasterGeneral. I asked the honorable gentleman (Mr. Webster) a few days ago whether freights had been increased without his knowledge, and he said he knew nothing of the increase.
– I think that arrangement has been superseded under the general InterState power which enables the Board and the Controller to do certain things within certain limits beyond which the approval of the Minister has to be obtained.
– Outside the contract?
– Supplementary to the contract. I think that is so.
– Wm the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) give us an assurance that some alteration will be made in the constitution of the Inter-State Shipping Board, which consists of Sir William Clarkson and the managers of the .six shipping companies interested. That is not a fair tribunal to control the whole of the coastal and Inter-State shipping trade of Australia.
– It is a most expert body.
– Quite so. Some of the managers of these companies are personal friends of my own, and I have nothing to say against them as individuals; but why should we have such a Board constituted, with the exception of Sir William Clarkson, of the managers of the companies interested.
– It is the same all over the world.
– Yes; and the conditions have been very unsatisfactory in many parts of the world. The Shipping Ring beat the British Government.
– Because the British Government, unlike the Australian Government, did not commandeer the ships. Had they commandeered all vessels on the British register they would have avoided much trouble.
– The combination was too strong for them.
– I think it was.
– The Shipping Combine was also strong enough to beat the Government of the United States of America. We have taken over the whole of the vessels engaged in the Inter-State and coastal trade, yet the freight on coal between Newcastle and Melbourne, which prior to the war was 5s. 6d. per ton, was raised to 8s. lOd. per ton, although there were no war risks on the Australian’ coast between Newcastle and Melbourne. I am speaking from memory, but I think I am right in saying that there has been a recent increase of ls. 9d. per ton, so that the freight on coal between Newcastle and Melbourne- has practically been doubled. Can any one say that the cost of that trade justifies such an increase?
– I will say that, speaking generally, the rates operating here since the commandeering of vessels engaged in the Australian coastal trade have been lower than in any other part of the world. Generally speaking, .that is because of the action of the Government in commandeering the vessels.
– Meat, in Australia to-day is cheaper than in any other part of the world. Would the honorable gentleman raise it to the London parity ? The Government have taken over the control of these vessels,- and are making a profit in running them.
– There was a profit until the influenza epidemic, which dislocated traffic, and just about wiped out any profit that was being made.
– The influenza epidemic did not interfere with. the coal trade between Newcastle and Melbourne.
– It interfered generally with the whole charter.
– Quarantine was not applied to vessels engaged in that trade. Will any one say that there was any justification for practically doubling the freight on coal between Newcastle and Melbourne?
– Surely one must judge by comparisons. In the northern hemisphere freights went up eight and nine times higher than the pre-war rates.
– What has that to do with the question? Meat went up in England during the war to 2s. 6d. per lb., but if the Government had commandeered the supply here they would not have charged that price in Australia. The Government have commandeered our Inter-State shipping, not to make money by running them, but to give Australia a ‘better service than would have obtained had they not done so.
– Of course, the ships would have gone off the coast, and we would not have had any service.
– They could not have left the coast.
– A great number of them would have done so. .
– They could not, because the Department of Trade and Customs would not have granted them a clearance. Neither England nor the United States commandeered shipping there, bub they refused to grant a clearance to any ship. The position is the same here. Under the Customs Act a ship cannot leave an Australian port without obtaining her clearance, and no Government would give a ship a clearance if it was going to leave our coast in the circumstances under consideration.
Throughout the trading community of Australia there is dissatisfaction with the constitution of the present Board. The whole of the Inter-State trade has been given over to a Board consisting of Sir William Clarkson, who is not a commercial man, and six managers of the shipping companies.
– Sir William Clarkson is 3 very capable man.
– He may be a first-class man in his own profession, but he has had no commercial training or experience. The other members of the Board are managers of the companies interested
– But they are not interested in the working of the Fleet. We have now to pay for that.
– It is well known that these vessels are being run at a much greater cost than when they, were controlled by the companies themselves.
– The report of the Controller of Shipping is that, as a, result of the control, the efficiency of the Fleet was increased by 25 per cent. This is admitted by the managers of the shipping companies. It is the result of running the’ Fleet, so to speak, “under the one hat.”
– What does the honorable member mean by “efficiency” ?
– Better carrying and earning capacity, ‘ because of the absence of the former competition.
– There has practically been no competition for twenty years in the Australian coastal . shipping trade. On what route was there any competition ?
– There was competition on the whole of the east coast, of the mainland, in respect of time-table and rates, between the whole of the companies.
– It was impossible before the Board took control to obtain a charter to take a cargo of produce from Queensland to Tasmania, or vice versd
– They were not selling charters at that time.
– Because of the “ honorable understanding “ between the shipping companies, under which they would not compete or trespass on each, other’s, trading waters.
– They would run their vessels alongside one another, and compete for cargo.
– The honorable member is very innocent.
– I have known a vessel to come into port with only half a cargo, and a vessel belonging to another company to come in next day with only half a cargo; but under the present system the -two half cargoes are carried by the one vessel.
– If the honorable member knows anything about the matter-
– I do; I have acted as agent for a shipping company.
– The so-called competition is such that if a man asks a shipping company to quote a price the quotation will be supplied him, and when he goes to another office to obtain a quotation, he finds that the telephone has already .been employed.
– That is quite right. They will not compete as far as prices are concerned, but in respect of cargo, they will.
– There was a. competitive waste which has now been eliminated.
– The honorable ‘ member for Wide. Bay (Mr. Corser) has corroborated my statement that for many years there has not been any competition as regards prices in the coastal trade.
– There has been in respect of cargo.
– But if there is a standard price all round, it cannot be said that there is any competition from the point of view of the public. The more boats are competing “ for freights, the quicker the goods will be carried. If i you keep, your boats until you get a full hold, you are not increasing the frequency of your service, even though you may be doing it more economically.
Has anything been done by the Government regarding the oversea freights for refrigerated space between Australia and England ? We ,have started co-operative fruit concerns in Southern Tasmania, and some in Northern Tasmania. The Minister sent over Dr. Griffith Taylor, a most admirable man, who addressed splendid meetings, and induced all ‘ the different co-operative companies to link up. They have done this within the last six or seven weeks. The Port Huon Company has bought its own schooner, running between Melbourne and Hobart, and recently bought a plant to do its own pulping. The co-operative companies have extended their operations, and will ship this year 400,000 cases of apples to England. If the Government have any voice in the control of shipping, will they allot to those co-operative companies half of the space for which Tasmania has applied ? They can allot the other half to anybody they like. Tasmania has asked for space for 800,000 cases.
– The trouble in the past has been that they could not take any allotted space, because every one was acting for himself. If they are organized they can get the space that they want.
– The Treasurer and the Minister for the Navy say that the British Government are still controlling the ships on this trade. ‘ The Government, some time ago, asked to be allowed to control the refrigerated space. They will therefore have control of this matter. I accept the offer of the Minister in charge of shipping (Mr. Poynton). The co-operative people simply ask for half the space, so that they can do their own business in their own way. They are carrying out the excellent advice of the Government expert, and sending their own man .to London to conduct their sales. They are prepared to pay whatever price the Government charge others for space. They are asking no favour. All they want is to be no longer at the mercy of the monopolists. There has been a -space monopolist at work in Victoria, in regard to fruit. There is a monopolist in Tasmania. We are trying to break down that monopoly, by co-operation. Last year’ the damnable effect of monopoly was that , whilst the growers were offered 7s. and 7s. 6d. a case for their fruit in Hobart they had to sell it for 6s., because someone else had taken the space. I urge the Government not to let that occur again. They can stop it if they give the cooperative people a fair deal.
– The honorable member is talking of ‘ the past. If you had had co-operation in the past cue things that happened would not have happened over there. They’ could not undertake’ to supply.
– if our people say, “ We guarantee to pay for space for 400,000 cases even if we do not use it, and let you give the other half of the space to any one you like,” will the Minister guarantee them that apace? Victoria has been suffering from this monopoly, because one man has secured the whole of the space and farmed it out as he liked.
– I tried to tackle the problem in Victoria nine years ago.
– There is a splendid opportunity to tackle it now, with the growth of the co-operative system. Tha same process as has been adopted in Tasmania could well be adopted in Victoria, to the great advantage of the growers. There are splendid co-operative companies here, and they work in conjunction with the co-operative companies in other States.
– The honorable member can take this assurance: that the Government as a whole wishes to give the primary ‘producer the full return for his produce, so far as it can.
– Then wm the
Government give them half the space, if it is within their power ?
– I do not know the arrangements, but that is our aim.
– I am sure that the Minister, in charge of shipping (Mr. Poynton) would give it if he had the power. If the Government are going to extend the shipping regulations, will they give the trading public some representation on the Board ? The present members of the Board are first class business men, but other representatives could be added. The Interestate service now or in the near future could be better run without Government control.
– You have been saying all the time that there is a ring amongst them.
– That was in reference to the oversea boats. The ring exists to-day, ‘ and freights are still going up. They are higher to-day than they have ever been.
– Do you think it costs £600 more to run each of those boats since the award was given and the coal price was increased ?
– The increased costs have accounted for a good deal. The increases in wages add labour conditions generally in the timber mills have sent the price of timber up. It is impossible to have it at both ends. If- on the boats higher wages are given from the captain down to the cook, and the loading and discharging costs are made higher, the public will have to pay for the increase in freights, and, as a matter of fact, they do. The shipping companies do not care what charges are put on.
– You have had the cheapest freights in the world during the whole of the war period. The last increase was only 10 per cent.
– There was a somewhat larger increase before.
– It was only on certain, lines, and it was taken off.
– When the big coal strike was on the companies abolished the return tickets. They said they could not guarantee to return .passengers because they might not be able to run their boats back. They charged single ticket rates going and coming, and thereby secured a considerable increase of revenue. That system obtains today.
I am impelled to make an earnest appeal to the Government for consideration for the fruit-growers of Tasmania. I wish honorable members could see the conditions to which they have been brought by the shipping arrangements. Everything they have in the world depends on getting their’ fruit away. I do not believe that the best is being made of the boats. In their own interests it would be better for the Government to add to the Board of control one or two members representing the public or the commercial men of Australia, or a couple of members of the House. The fact that, this Bill is being allowed to go through without much protest must not be taken as an indication that the trading public are satisfied with the constitution of the Shipping Board, or with the manner in which it is carrying out the whole of its functions.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) put up arguments in one direction, and then seemed to be converted to the view that the Government were doing the right thing; but he returned to the charge again and again. The only question on which we could be in harmony is that of the smaller States. The honorable member referred to the personnel of the Board. Apparently the regulations circulated here early yesterday afternoon have not been read, otherwise the honorable member would know that no decision of the Board can have any force or effect until approved by the Controller of Shipping. The Controller of Shipping is the representative of the public. I am glad the Government are going to maintain their hold on Inter-State shipping. Having regard to the fact that the Adelaide Steam-ship Company has disposed of the Willochra, which, although it has not been trading on the coast, could have been used to replace the Warilda which was torpedoed, and that the Indarra is now flying the Orient Company’s flag, it is necessary that the Government should continue their control in order to protect Australian interests.
– One of the largest companies on the Australian coast made application for permission to sell the whole of their fleet. The Government instantly refused the request.
– Half of the fleets in Australia have been sold.
– None of the vessels of which the Government have control have been allowed to be sold.
– The regulations provide that the working expenses of the vessels shall be paid out of the revenue they earn, and that the net proceeds, if any, are to be paid into the general revenue fund. In regard to the general question of control there are some mer chants in Western Australia who object to the interference with their trade that has resulted from what they regard as the undue preference given to requisitions from the eastern coast over those from the west. I must confess that since my return to my public duties in Australia, and my association with Admiral Clark? son, the Shipping Controller, he has treated Western Australia fairly, and on an equality with other parts of the Commonwealth. Whilst, on the other hand, I have voiced the complaints of the Western Australian merchants, I wish also to place on record my personal experience of the Controller and his work.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) referred to the Shipping Conference and the gathering together throughout the world of the various shipping companies into huge Combines. A little time ago I read a newspaper statement showing the names of the companies that are banding together with the Inchcape, Ellerman, and Furness- Withy lines. Under the control of Lord Inchcape we find the British-India Steam Navigation Company, the Peninsular and Oriental Company, the Federal Company, the New Zealand Shipping Company, the Orient Company, the Union Steam-ship Company of New Zealand, and the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company. In the two last-named” companies, particularly, we see the thin end of the wedge of control of Australian shipping’ from the other side of the world.
– That Combine is controlling nearly 9,000,000 tons of shipping.
– It controls nearly the whole of the American and British ships.
– And I think we can about burst up that Combine.
– I hope we can, but it is a pretty big proposition for even the honorable member to tackle. With the evidence before us of the overseas control of ships trading on the Australian coast, honorable members would be exceedingly foolish if they agreed to the Government relaxing the existing control of Australian ships. The fact that the Australasian’ United Steam Navigation Company is under Inchcape management, and that the Indarra is to-day flying the Orient Company’s flag, which is also under the same control, is a fair indication of what may be expected if this measure does not receive the support of the House.
In regard to the Commonwealth line, and general policy of ship construction, I believe that the Government, will be compelled, because the present control must be lifted sooner or later - to engage in the Inter-State trade with their own steamers. However, that is a matter for the future, and need not concern us very much to-day.
The only other phase of the Bill with which I wish to deal is that relating to the control of mining. A short time ago I asked the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), as Acting Treasurer, a question regarding the control of capital for investment in mining ventures. The honorable gentleman assured me that the Government were not unduly interfering with the development of the mining industry. .1 acknowledge that reply, and ask the Government to give every reasonable facility for the investment of capital in mining enterprises, consistent with their obligation to control the introduction of foreign capital which hitherto came from enemy sources. I hope the Government, when dealing with applications for the flotation of mining companies, will give every possible consideration to the new discoveries, particularly those on the Hampton Plains.
– I think that every application has been approved.
– I give the Minister credit for that. I accept the past actions of the Government as an indication of what will be done in the future, and I merely ask them not to deviate from the policy they have already- laid down.
.I congratulate the Government on the introduction of this Bill, which is one of the most necessary and wisest of the many that have been dealt with at the fag-end of the session. I do not agree with the remarks that have been made by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams). My experience of Admiral Clarkson and the Inter-State Shipping Committee has convinced me that it would be difficult to find a more able body of men for the work they are doing. They are experts who thoroughly understand the shipping business, and they have no self-interest to serve other than. to maintain their reputation as able business managers. I have found Admiral Clarkson very considerate in difficult circumstances. It would be a dis astrous thing for the Commonwealth if shipping became scarcer than it is to-day. When the Wauchope was burnt in quarantine, the Marrawah had to be taken off the service to Ulverstone, in my electorate. But I found that the Shipping Committee were operating a policy with which everybody would agree. I can quite understand that there is greater efficiency ‘ under their management, because the whole business is organized by expert managers. They have induced the growers to form committeesat every port, and .when a boat is available for cargo the secretary, is notified that the vessel will visit the port on a certain date, and will have a stated amount of space available. The local committee then allots the cargo to fill that space, with the result that the vessel leaves with’ a full load. In the Tasmanian trade preference is very properly given to foodstuffs over timber and other nonperishable products in respect of both goods sent from the mainland to Tasmania and vice versa
– The shipping companies have been doing that for forty years.
– They have not. The honorable member forgets that to-day there is not half as many ships available to handle the business as there were before the war. During the recent troublous times many farmers seemed likely to be ruined, owing to their inability to -send potatoes and other perishable products to the mainland. If the present Commonwealth control were not extended the few ships that are still on the coast would not be there for long, and the producers would be ruined entirely, because they .would have no means of export to the only market that is open to them. There is also in existence now an organized system of loading that did not operate before the formation of the Shipping Committee. Never before did the boats carry full cargoes.-
– They did. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has seen ships depart full and leaving a second cargo behind them.
– Previously, although the various companies were agreed on the question of fares and freights, there was no such organization as that arranged by the Shipping Committee. They have arranged that the loading shall be divided so that where it is not possible to shift all the cargo that is available, they shift the maximum possible in the circumstances. Some attention is paid, also, to market prices. The Committee assured me this week that they are making an effort to supply boats to remove from Tasmania chaff, which’, is bringing a high price to-day, so that the grower may be able to get the full benefit of the market. That is not done by the shipping companies in ordinary circumstances.
– That was always done.
– The honorable member thinks that everything would be put right if he were a member of the Committee. I know what I am talking about, and am stating what I know to the credit of the gentlemen with whom he has been finding fault. They do not know how to manage their business; he does. They have had considerable trouble through the shortage of shipping, accentuated by the strike and the influenza epidemic, and it would be a calamity to Australia if permission were given for any of the ships at present on the coast to be sold to companies abroad. My experience is that the work of the Shipping Committee is being done very well, and the conditions are being fairly met,, though there is not nearly sufficient shipping. We could not afford to lose a single vessel, and the smallest boats are being used to carry’ goods, particularly from the Island State, and on the coasts of Queensland and Western Australia. As far as possible the requirements of each place are being met under conditions which were undreamt of before the war. I do not know whether any of the ships which, in the stress of the war, were permitted to get away, will return to our shores, but the chances are that they will be disposed of abroad, and that we shall never see them again.
– We -must not forget that 100,000,000 people in Europe are starring.
– I think that we too often forget the conditions that prevail elsewhere. We in Australia, with plenty of food, are not justified in grumbling at all; and hence I have no sympathy with those who growl when all in authority are doing the best they can under abnormal conditions.
I hope, with the honorable member- for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), to see shipbuilding continued in Australia until we have enough vessels for the Inter-State as well as the oversea trade. The Shipping Conference and Combine in Britain has been going for many years. I was on the Overseas Shipping Commission some years ago, as a member of this House, and heard evidence in all the main ports of the States. We found the conditions of the’ Tasmanian fruit-growers to be as described by the. honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams). The trade was practically under the control of one man.
– Do you not think it time for me to put up a fight for the growers ?
– I am not finding fault with the honorable member. Oh one occasion, when. I took part in a State election in Tasmania, I addressed a meeting of fruit-growers in New Norfolk,- one of the largest meetings ever held in the State, and I urged them to go in for the co-operative system, in view of the fact’ that the gentleman, of whom we all know, obtained the space and left them to take the risk. I am glad to say that fruitgrowers have followed my advice; and all that is wanted is good organization of the shipping trade: Space was refused to individuals, and the growers we’re compelled to form themselves into committees in order that all might.be fairly treated in this connexion. I strongly support the Bill, because I believe there should be Government control until the circumstances change very materially.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Subject to this section . . .
The War Precautions (Shipping) Regulations shall . . . continue in force until the 31st December, 1920, and shall during such continuance have the force of law.
.- I move -
That the words “ The War Precautions (Shipping) Regulations” be left out.
My intention in submitting this amendment is to limit the operation of the Bill in regard to the shipping regulations only until the 31st March next year.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time:
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for an indemnity in relation to acts committed during the war, and for other purposes.
Bill presented,and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill for the purpose of indemnifying persons who acted under the authority of the Commonwealth during the period of the war.
– Give us an illustration.
– At present there is no particular claim against the Government in respect of any act committed by any officer, civil or military, during the war on behalf of the Government, for the public safety and defence of the Commonwealth.
– Is this another copy of an English Act?
– In this case the precedent is a South African Statute.
– Are there any cases pending here?
– No. This Bill is simply brought forward in order to afford protection to the officers.
.As the Minister says that he is not aware of a single case that is proposed to be brought against the Commonwealth, or any officer of the Commonwealth, there is no need for urgency in regard to this Bill, and it could be allowed to go in with the other slaughtered innocents.
– Later on we should be sorry for doing that.
– If there is any case pending, and the Minister is acquainted with it, honorable members should know, of it. We should not be asked to vote blindly on a Bill simply because the Minister may know of something which he will not disclose to us. I do not think he has put up a case for the measure.
– There is a good case for it.
– Then the Minister should let us know what it is.
– What is the honorable member frightened of?
– The Government have no right to protect themselves behind the law in a way that might do injury to a private individual, who finds it is bad enough to fight the Government in any circumstances. I urge the Minister to withdraw the Bill.
– If the honorable member wants a further assurance as to the necessity for the Bill, we do not mind postponing the consideration of it until he has an opportunity of making inquiries. The Government will supply him with all the information available.
– In those circumstances, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I am sorry that I could not have done this seven or eighthours ago, but, with the acquiescence and support of honorable members allround the Chamber, we have made very good progress. I acknowledge the good nature of the debate, and the work done, I think, will prove of value to the country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.50 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191022_reps_7_90/>.