8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers;
Mr. McLachlan’s Report.
– When does the Government intend to place members in possession of Mr. McLachlan’s report on the Public Service?
– The question was answered yesterday in the Senate, to the effect that the report would be presented to Parliament before the Public Service Bill was introduced.
– In view of the great congestion of business in the federal Arbitration Court, will the Government favorably consider the appointment of an assistant deputy Judge for the clearing up of arrears?
– The Government proposes to appoint some one to act in place of Mr. Justice Powers.
– Will an additional Judge be appointed?
– The Government will considerthe matter.
Issue to Teachers
– Yesterday the Prime Minister informedme, in reply to a question asking whether Hansard could be forwarded to the head teachers of the schools of the Commonwealth, that the matter was one for the determination of the President and the Speaker. I, therefore, ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have done anything in regard’ to it?
– In view of the present cost of publishing and printing Hansard, and having regard to the necessity for economy owing to the serious shortage of paper and the enormous increase in the price of that commodity, it is not proposed to extend beyond its present limits the free circulation of Hansard. Each application will, however, be dealt with on its merits.
Mr.RILEY. - Some time ago you, Mr. Speaker, promised to see what could be done in regard to raising the salaries of the attendants employed in this building. I should like to know if any determination has been come toon the matter.
– The salaries of the employees of the House are at present under review by Mr. President and myselfinconnexion with the preparation of the Estimates for thenew financial year.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, so that we may see it before the Bill is introduced?
– When the Bill is introduced a copy of the agreement will be found to be embodied in its schedule.
– To the north of this building lies a piece of land whose present condition isan insult to the people of Melbourne, and harmful to the children in the neighborhood. Will you, Mr. Speaker, bring under the notice of the
State Government the condition of this piece of land, so that they may improve it?
– I presume that the honorable member refers to the triangular enclosure bounded by Nicholson and Albert streets and the temporary rightofway which cuts it off from the main grounds of Parliament House, and furnishes direct communication between Spring-street and Albert-street. The condition of this ground has been on several occasions tinder the consideration of Mr. President and myself, and we have made certain proposals concerning it to the State Government, but these have so far not been approved’. We are unwilling, under present conditions, to expend any large amount of public money upon the ground, thinking, that we ought to do only what is necessary to maintain it in the order in which we are obliged to keep it by the terms of the agreement under which the Commonwealth Parliament occupies these premises; but we have offered to remove the present iron fence, and to reerect it in place of the picket fence, so far as it will go, along one side of the right-of-way, and to lay out the ground in a manner corresponding with that in which a similar piece of ground on. the south, side of the building has been, laid out, handing it then to the State authorities to maintain, or to pass on to the control of the city council, or of some other body. Of ‘course, we have not presumed to dictate to the State Government what they should do with the land, but we have made certain suggestions for their consideration. A plan has been prepared and submitted to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, and one or two other gentlemen connected with the House Committee, and a little while ago we had a conference with them about the matter, when we were led to believe that our proposals were not viewed favorably, because of the possibility that, at some future time, the land might be required as a site for a public building, or for an extension of this building. They, however, promised- to lay the matter before the State Joint House Committee for their consideration. Since then we have seen Mr. McPherson, the State Treasurer, who is sympathetically disposed towards our proposal, to spend £1,000 on putting the land in order before handing it over to the State Government. He promised to use his best efforts to induce a change of heart so far as those other gentlemen are concerned, and the matter is at the present time, I believe, under their consideration. Similar proposals were made on a former occasion by the President and myself, and were then generally favorably received, but the then President of the Legislative “Council, since deceased, would not agree to them.
– Has the Prime Minister noted in the daily press the statement that certain persons propose- to purchase the White Hart Hotel? In view of a proposal to erect a memorial of a national character in honour of our fallen soldiers, will the Government consider the advisability of buying the White Hart and the Imperial hotels, demolishing those buildings, and on the space thus made available, erecting a memorial such as will honour for all time the memory of those who died in defence of their country ?
– The matter of establishing a national memorial is in the hands of a Committee, which has made some recommendations which certainly do not coincide with that put forward by the honorable, member. All I can say in reply to his question is that the Government will consider his proposal.
– In view of the early termination of the operations of the State Wool ‘ Committees, will the Prime Minister consider, the advisability of giving some compensation to the clerical staff, who have been for years, working under the minimum rate of wage?
– I am not aware that the officers employed by the State Wool Committees’ hase been working under the minimum rate of wage, but if that is the case it seems quite wrong. However, I shall bring the- matter before the notice of the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee.
– In view of the widespread interest taken in the Tariff, can the Prime Minister give the House an approximate idea of the date on which it will come up for consideration-?
– I think the answer to the honorable member’s question is that we shall deal with the Tariff as soon as possible.
Report (No. 1) of the Joint Printing
Committee presented by Mr. Corser, read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
Soldier Settlement: School Improvements
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Mr. WEST (for Mr. Austin Chapman) asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The matter of providing funds is still under the consideration of the Treasurer.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When will the increase in wages granted to letter carriers by the award tabled on the 26th March be paid to them?
– Provided Parliament does not disapprove of the award referred to, it will come into operation on and from 26th April, 1920, and consequential adjustments of salaries of the officers concerned will be made as early as possible after that date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.Yes. 2. (a) Mr. Barratt was paid a lump sum for his services. In the case of Mr. Nelson, a daily rate was paid. The total amount paid was £74911s. 6d. (b) Yes. (c). Steamer fare was paid in respect of Mr. “Nelson only. The amount paid was £32 10s.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Imperial Contract: Productionof Pap ers - Growers’ Profits on Re-sales.
asked the Prime Minister, uponnotice -
Will he furnish the House with particulars in respect of each clip, showing -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Prime Minister has received any communications from the chairman of the Central Wool Committee regarding growers’ profits on the resales of wool by the British Wool Control?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the desire amongst woolgrowers, particularly in the drought-stricken parts, for definite information regarding their expected share of the profits from the oversea sales of wool, he will take immediatesteps to ascertain in a direct way from the Imperial authorities - (a) the approximate amount of the payment which may be expected by Australian wool-growers; (b) the dateon which the interim dividend is likely to be paid?
Mr.HUGHES.-I refer the honorable member to my answer to the honorable member forWannon’s (Mr. Rodgers) question. I have been endeavouring for some time to get this information from the. British Government, but without success. In this connexion I would invite the honorable member’s attention to my recent statement in the press on the subject.
Reported Finds in New SouthWales - Papuan Fields and Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
In view of the vital importance of the discovery of oil in the Commonwealth, will he consider having a report made on the reported finds of oil at Grafton, Coombell, Penrith, and Richmond, in New South Wales, by the experts now employed by the Commonwealth after their investigations in Papua have been completed.?
– The agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, under which that company’s experts are now working in Papua, is limited in its scope ‘ to that Territory. Subject to the approval of the Government of New South Wales, the Commonwealth Government will consider favorably the suggestion to arrange for investigation by the experts after their work in. New Guinea is completed.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether it is true, as reported, that the Australian Government have made arrangements, in conjunction with the British Government, to allow the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to. work the Papuan oil-fields?
– TheAustralian and British Governments entered into an arrangement last year with the AngloPersian Company, under which the company agreed to thoroughly prospect the oil-bearing regions in Papua, in order to bring the work to the development stage. The agreement gives the company no interest in the field, and leaves it quite open to the Governments to make such arrangements for subsequent- working, if the fields are proved to contain oil in commercial quantities, as they think proper. The Governments are to defray the expenses incurred by the company.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether be will supply the House with information regarding the amount of sugar supplied to each individual fruit-grower in New South Wales during the past eight months?
– It is not possible to supply the information desired by the honorable member, as the individual fruit-growers get their sugar through the ordinary- trade channels.
Restriction of Trade
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am unable to say. In any case, this matter would be- one for the attention of the Government of New South Wales.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as fol low: -
War Service Homes
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:*
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Only enemy aliens reported under the Aliens Restriction Order during war time. All these have been relieved from reporting unless specially ordered to report, and this order has been made only in a few isolated cases, where it was desired to keep in touch with the person affected. Other aliens were registered under the Aliens Registration Regulations, and were not required to report.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As he stated that the Government do not propose to allow the Tanunda Club to re-open at present, will he inform the House the reason for the Government’s refusal to allow such club to re-open?
– I shall be glad to consider any sound reasons which the honorable member can supply for opening the club.
Sale of Exportable Surplus
Mi-. GIBSON asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Action has been taken in conformity with these resolutions; but it is impossible to say what will be done until after the delegates reach England. 4 and 5. The Conference referred to carried the following resolutions dealing with these matters: - “ That normal quantities for usual oversea trade be reserved, and it be permitted to reserve any further limited quantities at its discretion for new trade.” “ That it be a recommendation that in the event of our effecting a sale with the Imperial Government, the existing Committee be re-appointed for a further term of twelve months.”
The necessity or otherwise of operating this arrangement will depend entirely upon the terms of any contract made.
– On the 14th April, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) asked, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On 15th instant, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter) asked -
In reference to the application of the Cargellico Progress Association for the construction of a telephone line between Ungarie and Cargellico, will the Postmaster-General state upon whose official report the estimated deficiency of £70 per annum was based; and the grounds for arriving at such estimate?
An interim reply was then furnished. I am now able to supply the following answer : -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, reports that the estimated deficiency was based upon the report of the District Inspector, and that it was arrived at after crediting the proposal with the revenue likely to be derived from the existing offices, and from new offices at. Winnunga, Tullibigeal, and Burgoonev, which are on the route, and taking into consideration the probability of private connexions at each office on the line.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Peace - Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany, signed at Versailles, 28th June, 1919 - Index. (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
Wool Clips - Cablegrams, &c, constituting the contract between the Imperial and the Commonwealth Governments regarding the purchase of Australian Wool Clips.
.- I move -
That this House is of opinion that the fairest method of calculation for purposes of the Federal income tax as applied to primary producers would be upon a basis of five years’ operations.
I am hopeful that this motion will receive the sympathetic consideration of honorable members. On many occasions the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said that the only way in which Australia can meet its financial obligations is by increasing production. To achieve that result we should endeavour to induce many of the people in the cities to settle in the country. That can be accomplished only if rural life is made equally as attractive as is life in the cities at the present time. Throughout Australia there are a number of large cities which hold out such inducements to young men in the country that some counter attraction is necessary. I ask the House to pass this motion, and I ask the Government to give some relief to the primary producers who. to-day, are very unfairly treated in respect of taxation. Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, volume 2, page 310, lays down four maxims which I commend to the attention of the Treasurer, and which, although written over 150 years ago, are worth quoting to-day -
For many years past it has been apparent that the system of taxing the primary producers upon the result of ‘each individual year’s operations is most unfair. There are some years in which the farmers are assured of a profit, but in the case of the sugar-cane grower no reason able deduction is made for the ‘heavy expense incurred in producing the crop. It is well known that in the southern parts of Queensland and in New South Wales sugar cane is a two-year crop. The Queensland Farmers Union has supplied me with many instances of the injustice of which I am complaining. Amongst them is the case of a cane grower who, in 1915, spent £194 in preparing his land for cane, and, in 1916, £146. In 1917 his crop yielded a return of £717, but he was not allowed any deduction for his principal expenditure, because it had not been incurred in the’ taxation year. His average income for the two years was £359 per annum, but he was compelled to pay income tax on the full amount of £717 in the one year. Another instance is that of a grower who spent £260 in preparing his land for cane in the latter part of 1918 and the beginning of 1919, and who will not harvest his crop until this year. It is only necessary to work the land until the cane has obtained sufficient growth to smother the weeds. The proceeds of his crop will appear in the income tax return as clear profit, except for the cost of harvesting The orchardist, the dairy farmer, and the grazier all run the risk of adverse seasons, and frequently experience heavy losses, from which they may take many years to recover. The averaging of incomes in these cases would afford great relief. It is most important that honorable members should realize that the lot of the dairyman in particular is very unfortunate in States which are subject to drought, and I ask the House to take notice of this paragraph from report No. 3 by the Inter-State Commission in regard to the conditions of the dairying industry in Victoria -
A witness deputed by the Victorian Farmers Union, comprising 6,000 members, put the matter from two points of view. He first of all estimated under average conditions the cost of producing milk, and the returns obtained from it. In the result he showed that a man working sixty hours a week would earn only 2Cs. Cd. a week during nine months of the year. He next gave the actual results of his own working, with two brothers as his partners. The earnings of each per hour were as follow in the years mentioned: -
The witness, judging by the way his figures were submitted, carried on his farm on expert lines, but on a small scale, and 8 miles from the butter factory.
It is stated thai at no period since the dairying was established has the production of butter given a return of Od. per hour for the labour required to produce it. Taken over a period of three consecutive years, and that “ during recent years the number of farms that were formerly used as dairy farms which are now used for other purposes is astonishing.” The cause of the process of elimination is put down to the general better condition in other callings, in most of which ls. to 2s. per hour is assured without risk and with no Sunday labour.
The position in New South Wales and. Queensland is quite as bad, if not worse. The Inter-State Commission, in Report No. 8, deals with the conditions of the dairy farmers in New South Wales, and says -
As in relation to Victoria, returns for years before- and during the war from dairy farms situated in various parts of the States- were examined. The examination of these accounts and the evidence given, by numerous witnesses confirm the opinion of the Commission, that even in good seasons dairy farmers earn only moderate profits in an occupation which entails long hours of employment, and which is particularly susceptible to adverse seasonal influences. Everywhere the same opinion is held, that if it were not for the fact that it is for the most part carried on by families this important, industry would no longer figure in the forefront of the Commonwealth’s primary industries.
There is more capital invested in the dairying industry in proportion to the returns than in any other occupation, yet, on the- average, the dairy farmer receives as a reward for his efforts an amount which any labourer would despise as wag-es. I am chiefly interested in the lot of the- small man, because I find that those, who are farming large areas do not experience this disability to the same extent. Th& position of men who are practically responsible for the closer settlement in many parts of Australia calls for sympathetic consideration. They must take the risk of varying seasons and bear the losses occasioned by drought and disease, but they do not get anything like the consideration to which they are entitled from those in authority. No wonder there is a drift from the country to the- cities. With the prospects of better rewards and more generous treatment in the way of taxation, the reverse should certainly be the case. It is true that our dairy farmers- do not make necessary provision for times of drought, but it is equally true that, with the small areas of land that are held by them, it is quite impossible to place any large area under crop, for the purposes of conservation. I know of numbers of instances in which men are dairying on 40 to 160 acres, and it would be impossible for them to place sufficient area under crop to provide for the lean years to come. Every dry season means large payments for fodder in order to keep their cattle alive, and it frequently happens that both money and stock are lost. I know of one man who was anxious to get out of mining, and who leased a farm of 100 acres. After a very hard struggle he succceeded in getting a small herd together, and the venture was just becoming payable when the drought of last year came along and wiped out almost the whole of his herd. The conservation of water and fodder iscertainly necessary in Australia, and I look, forward to either the State Governments, or the Federal Government giving the land-holders a lead in such an important matter.
I anticipate that the officers of the Taxation Department will raise objections t& any alteration of the present Acts in the direction I have indicated.; but, while the problem of administration may have its difficulties) I. certainly think they can be overcome. I trust the Treasurer will give my motion sympathetic consideration, and will evolve some scheme whereby the cane-growers-, and the dairymen ‘ in particular, may be enabled, when they happen to have a profit,, to deduct the whole cost of their production in their respective industries so far as income taxation is concerned.
;.- J. have much pleasure in seconding the motion, and would like to give a few reasons why I think it should receive the most sympathetic consideration at the hands of the Government. At the present moment Australia is, in my opinion, suffering the worst drought that has ever been recorded’ in the history of white men in this country. I have gone to a great deal of trouble in the last month or two to obtain the opinions of those most qualified to speak in the various far-flung districts of the continent, and I am convinced, not only from my own experience - which is necessarily limited- to a portion of one State - but from the consensus of opinion ‘ amongst a great number of men interested in grazing, that tor-day the graziers are. suffering the worst time they have ever endured. Australia will, I think, receive a shock when th©. stock returns are sent in at the end of this year.
I am glad that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has raised the question at the present time. While I do not consider that his proposal -would meet the difficulties of the graziers, dairy farmers, and other primary producers as fully as they should be met, I know that the majority of those interested are in ‘favour of some proposal of this kind. Person al lj, I think we should go very much further, and wipe out taxation on the natural increase of flocks and herds. This would do more to relieve the great primary producing industries than almost anything wa could devise in this Parliament. At the present time men engaged in these industries are paying ‘ in a triplicate way - they are paying ordinary land taxation, they are paying income tax, and they are taxed on the natural increases, on which they never realize. This year will be a striking example of the last mentioned’ fact. There will be very few, except in particularly favoured districts, who will ever realize on the young’ stock which they have had to acccount for in their returns, and on which they will be taxed. In the first place, the land tax itself is quite sufficient for a man to carry. No other trader in the community is taxed on his capital as the land-owner is taxed on his land. But land taxation ‘ is a recognised principle in this country, and land-owners have become more or les3 accustomed to it. Some day, perhaps, they will see the inequity of this taxation, and will point out forcibly why they should be relieved of what is after all a most unfair discrimination against them. Droughts are intermittent, and we have to pay income tax - -by “ we,” I mean primary producers generally - whatever the result of the year’s operations may be. While on- paper these men may seem to be making quite good incomes, when they come to realize in practical effect they may have lost on the whole year; yet they have to pay income tax on this fictitious basis. They .pay income tax on what they have never realized, and under no consideration will the taxgatherers allow any remission for losses. Many years ac’® in the State Parliament of New South Wales I had quite a long contest with the Income Tax Commissioner on this very point. After three or four years the Commissioner admitted that taxation on natural increases which were never realized on, was an utterly unjust burden, and should be remitted; but we never got beyond the admission. The statement was definitely made, and published in all the newspapers throughout my electorate, that this taxation would in future not be collected, or, rather, would be remitted, when loss could be proved on stock on which it. had been paid. That declaration, however, was never put into force, and from that day to this these men have gone on paying every year.
The suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) would to a certain extent meet the case, because,, if a man may average over five years, he will have time to ascertain whether or not he is going to realize- on a majority of his stock. Anything that this House can do to encourage the lot of the primary producer would be of great benefit. There are many men, particularly in Queensland and in the west of New South Wales, who* have lost half of their property. There are, to my certain knowledge, some holdings in both States which have been absolutely abandoned. In some places the owners did their best to keep up provision for stockmen, boundary riders, and others on the back stations ; but lately, in some cases, they have been obliged to give up their places and let those unfortunate men get out of their difficulty the best way they could. There are certain stations west of the Darling without a single hoof or a man on them, because, during the terrific drought now raging, it is found impossible to obtain the necessary ‘provisions. We, sitting here in all the comforts of this city, find it very hard - even those of us who have gone through these droughts also find it hard - to visualize what is happening. I impress on the Government that, whatever may be the present state of Our - finances, much depends, not only on the production which these men are responsible for under ordinary conditions, baton keeping up their hearts in order to induce them to carry on.
Some of these men :are practically heartbroken, and are being forced to abandon their holdings,, in certain instances for the first time, and so far as others are concerned, for the second time. They all say that while city people are in a position to lead pleasanter lives than ever, the man on the land is receiving less consideration than ever. Our great industries to-day are in a precarious position, and if the Government can do anything at all - even as much as to agree to this motion - to encourage producers to carry on, they will be performing signal service to the community generally.
In the matter of wool, a great deal can be done, also, to encourage the struggling man out-back to carry on. I have now no complaint to make with respect to the agreement between this Government and the Imperial authorities. I was on the other side of the world when it was made. Had I been here, I would have had something to say about it. Even from the beginning it was apparent to one in possession of practical knowledge and experience that there were too many loopholes in the arrangement. It is easy to speak after the event. It is simple enough to see now what should have been done then; but any practical man in this House should have been able to point out where certain difficulties were bound to arise. No one in Australia has any idea to-day what we are going to get from the British Government. It is impossible to estimate more than very roughly the sum we are likely to receive as our share of the profits made by the Imperial authorities. In another place, a few days ago, an honorable senator went to considerable trouble to show that there should be a rebate to Australia amounting to between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000. I have approached the same matter from a different angle. I have worked up such figures . as are available, and my estimate is practically the same as that of the honorable senator. Men interested outside of political circles have also worked out estimates from a purely - practical stand-point, and they, too, reckon that the rebate which we should get from the Old Country is likely to be anything between £20,000,000 and £40,000,000. If the Government can see their way clear to give an authoritative idea of how we stand, and can furnish the man who grew the wool, and whose property, to a certain degree, it still is, with clear information respecting his dividends, much will have been done to put new heart into those who are suffering to-day.
– But we cannot get any such information from the Government.
– It seems to me that the Government have been dealing too much with the “Wool Board. If they appeal directly to the British Government they may not be supplied with actual figures, but surely the Imperial authorities will respond with something of a more or less satisfactory nature. They should know, within a few millions, where the Australian wool-grower stands. A statement which appeared in the papers during the past few days was most discouraging to those who have an interest in the Wool Pool. And these and other primary producers are the men who should not be faced with discouragement, but with practical sympathy, at this difficult stage. Their burdens are very heavy ; their losses in the aggregate have been enormous. It will take them years to pull up again, under the best conditions. But if they are assured of a reasonable dividend from their wool, and if this Government will indicate practical sympathy for primary producers in their administration, I am sure that the men on the land will carry on with those big hearts of theirs as they have done from the beginning. Unless brighter days are close ahead, the breaking point must come. There will be individual ruin and national financial depression.
.- I support the motion. It furnishes the most reasonable and fairest scheme of levying taxation upon the primary producer. It is almost too obvious to warrant argument that the proper means of assessing a producer’s income would be to estimate upon a period covering a number of years.
– Why not apply the same principle to all of us?
– Our incomes are not so precarious from one year to the next as those of primary producers. If I thought that the introduction of a system of taxation assessment based upon this motion would have the effect of allowing individuals to escape their obligations, I would not support it. That, however, is not the idea, I feel sure. Primary producers, particularly those engaged in wheat-growing or stock raising, may have the good fortune to make £3,000 in one year, but may lose £2,000 during the following year. For two or three years they may make no income at all. The assessment should be based upon a given number of years.
– That applies to mining speculation and stock exchange business as well.
– The country can do well without that kind of thing, and I would readily support a motion for its abolition. We cannot do without the primary producer, however. A five-year term, as suggested in the motion, should be reasonable and workable. A man’s losses and gains could be fairly assessed over that period. Producers would have a chance to level up between the good years and the ‘bad. To recite an individual case which has come under my notice, a man residing in my constituency purchased some sheep during one year and made a profit of £300 or £400 upon them. This example may be in the nature of a speculation, but it is typical of the activities of many primary producers. The deal in question occurred during the war, and the individual had to pay, by way of war-timo profits taxation, between £20 and £40. During the following year he bought more sheep, but lost £200 or £300 on his deal. It is equitable that he should be allowed to deduct his losses of one year to balance his gains in the former period. I hope the motion will meet with the favour of the House.
.- I shall say very little in regard to the motion, but what I shall .say will be in support of it. There can be no logical argument against the principle which it suggests and its adoption. It has been pointed out that a man may lose £2,000 on the operations of one year, and make £2,000 on the operations of the next year, and be taxed on the profits of the good year, without regard to the loss on the bad year. That was actually my case. In 1914, the farming partnership in which I am interested lost £2,000, and in 1915 it made £2,000. It was not taxed in 1914, but in 1915 it was taxed on £2,000, notwithstanding that for the previous two years no profit at all had been made. Any measure which filches revenue from producers and others in that way is boorish, and in no sense fair. On the operations of three years I made £1,000, but was taxed as if I had made £3,000. The suggestion of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has been adopted in the taxation systems of most civilized countries. The honorable member cited an authority on the subject of taxation to show that the object should be to take a portion of the surplus from a man’s revenue, leaving as much as possible with him, and to see that as much as possible of what he gave went into the Exchequer. To apply that principle in Australia we should eliminate one set of taxation officers and offices, and provide for the collection of Federal and State taxation by the one Department. I agree that the fairest method of calculation for the purposes of income taxation is to take the operations of five years as a basis. I am sorry that the motion is not more than a mere affirmation of opinion. We should not continue to be taxed under the present arbitrary and unjust system.
.- I am a manufacturer, not a primary producer, and am interested, therefore, mainly in secondary industries. But I am in favour of the motion, because I do not think that any other industry is so dependent’ for success on favorable weather conditions as is that of the primary producers. In my opinion, the motion should commend itself to honorable members.
– I am in hearty accord with the views expressed by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay). Any ohe who looks round about him at the present time, particularly in New South Wales, must see the need for doing something in the nature of what he suggests. During the past six months I have travelled through a great deal of New South Wales, and have no hesitation in saying that that State is now suffering one of the worst droughts that has ever afflicted it. Furthermore, the season before this was a very bad one.- There have now been practically three years of drought, and according to those who have made a study of weather conditions, all the indications make still another drought probable, though I hope that we may not have another drought. But if this next season is good, and farmers are able te make a little out of their wheat or fruit ot other produce, it is reasonable that, in the assessment of their incomes, the losses of the preceding bad years should be allowed as a set-off. I have figures here, which I shall reserve for another occasion, showing how great the loss of stock has been all over New South Wales; but if next season is a good one the Income Tax Department will make no allowance for those losses. The statistics show how, in the aggregate, the farmers have suffered’ by bad seasons. The year 1914 was one of the worst that the country has experienced, ‘ and the yield of -wheat in New South Wales in 1914-15 was only 1’2,S30,000 bushels. Next, year it was five times as much, namely, 66,764,000 bushels. But the Income Tax Department, in taxing on the returns for the good year, made no allowance for the losses on the bad year. Again, the wheat yield for 1917-18 was 37.712,000 bushels, and that of next year less than half as much, or 17,832,000 bushels. Yet the farmers when assessed for the next good year will have no allowance made for 191S-19, which was a bad year. _ I know of several persons in New South “Wales and elsewhere who are going out of wheat-growing, and taking te fruit-growing. But during last season thousands of pounds worth of fruit had to be allowed to rot because the housewives who usually turn their surplus fruit into jam could not get the necessary sugar. Next year sugar may be more plentiful, but the Income Tax Commissioner will show no consideration for the losses of last season. It is, ‘however, unnecessary to discuss this matter in detail. The broad equity of the proposal is so apparent that it requires no bolstering up. I claim to know a little of the suffering of the wool-growers, particularly in the drought-stricken areas of New South Wales, and when speaking on the Address-in-Reply I said that I would have no hesitation, were the matter left in my hands, about cancelling the contract between the Imperial authorities and Australia. The Minister remarked that that was a peculiar statement to make, and -that it would be a terrible thing to break the contract. There is plenty of evidence, however, that the Imperial authorities have already broken the contract in several respects. In some cases they have allotted wool to the manufacturers at ls. per lb. less than the price which it brought at auction. That, in my opinion, is a violation of the contract: Again, only the other day it was reported in the newspapers that the British Minister for Supplies had stated’ that the contract had been broken by the Imperial authorities. There was not a written contract, but merely an agreement made by means of various’ cablegrams, and if the Imperial authorities can break it at their own sweet will, my suggestion that we should cancel it in the interests of the suffering primary producers of Australia was not an outrageous one. However, it received very little support, and I do not suppose that I would get much assistance were I to endeavour to do anything further in regard to the matter. I emphasize the fact that the Imperial authorities have violated the agreement. _ I would not have suggested its cancellation had’ it not been so disregarded by the Imperial Government. I am disgusted with the la.ck of information that is given in reply to questions placed on the notice-paper. I put a question to the Prime Minister to-day in regard to the terms of the contract with the Imperial Government, asking when the dividend was likely to be .paid to our primary producers in respect of the half share of wool sales overseas, but the right honorable gentleman gave me no information in his reply. will be Stewart. - The primary producers will be very disgusted when they hear his reply.
– The Prime Minister may treat the matter lightly, but there are hundreds of struggling settlers who have been practically driven off the land as the result of one of the worst droughts from which Australia has suffered.
– The Prime Minis ter has done everything that a man can do to obtain the information.
– The British Minister for Supplies tells us that the. information is now in the hands of the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee.
– The Government have not got it. It is useless blaming the Prime Minister for not giving information which he has not got.
– The Prime Minister might take steps to see whether there is any truth in the statement made by the British Minister. I know that it has always been hard to get any information out of the Central Wool Committee, and it behoves the Prime Minister to get it.
– I have already told the honorable member as plainly as I could that the Prime Minister has taken every possible step to get the information.
– “ Every possible step “ is very wide action, but the Prime Minister has not told us what steps he has taken. Has he cabled to Great Britain?
– When I asked the Prime Minister whether he would undertake to ascertain the information in a direct way, he did not tell me that he had cabled.
– I hope that the honorable member will take my word that the Prime Minister has done everything possible.
– I do not doubt the statement of the Minister for the Navy, but I would very much like to have heard it from the lips of the Prime Minister. If I did not press this matter, I would be failing in my duty to those people who are most anxiously awaiting this information, and to whom the payment of the dividend is a serious matter. There are many men who. after two years of drought, will not be able to struggle along, and whom- the next income tax assessment will not trouble very much, because by then they will have been forced off the land. I enter my protest against the policy of “keep it dark” as practised by the Central Wool Committee and the Prime Minister, or whoever is responsible, and I urge that every moans should be exercised to ascertain the earliest date on which this dividend may be expected, and also what it is likely to be. I would have no hesitation in cancelling the contract with the Imperial Government. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to tell us that if he had known at the time he made the contract as much as he knows to-day, he ‘would not have entered into it. As the Im perial authorities have broken the agreement, why should we regard it as somer thing which is sacrosanct, something that cannot be touched - something that is too holy even to be mentioned. The Imperial authorities choose to break it whenever it suits them to do so, and I say that we ought to cancel it, so that our wool-growers may get the whole of the profits on their own wool. In any event, if that cannot be done, the primary producers of Australia are entitled to their half share of the immense profits made in Great Britain as the result of the re-sales of our wool overseas. They are certainly entitled to the fullest information that can he given to them by the Government in regard to a matter in which they are so vitally concerned.
.- The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) is under a big misapprehension. I presume that, like .many other candidates at the recent election, he found it good fighting material to accuse the Government of having robbed the primary producers in the matter of wool, wheat, and other things, but had he been, here during the last Parliament he would have been better informed upon the subject, and would not have made such statements. The agreement for the sale of the Australian wool clip to the British Government was made four or five years ago, when the war was raging… and no matter how it was arrived at, whether by cablegrams or otherwise, it was a fair and honorable contract, which it behoves Australia to keep. We ‘had in Australia wool that the Imperial authorities required for- the purpose of carrying on the war, but we had no ships in which to export it. Had it gone to America in American vessels, it would probably have found its way to Germany, because at that stage America was not in the war. In the circumstances our Government made the best possible arrangement for the disposal, of our wool, and as it turns out, a better arrangement than tha wool-growers of Australia were anxious to accept. It is useless for the honorable member for Hume to accuse the Government of being at fault. They made an agreement, which was at the time a good agreement, and it cannot be cancelled just as we like. Great Britain has our wool and our dividends, in fact it has everything, and if we cancelled the agreement, as the honorable member suggests, we would be in a worse position than we are, at the present time. I understand that the Home authorities have sold our wool under auction prices because it paid them to do so, but I am informed that the Commonwealth Government have done all they can to prevent a recurrence of this, and that it has now ceased. I suppose that our Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is not likely to go to sleep on the matter when he is at Home. I presume that he will bring the Imperial authorities up to the scratch in regard to the production of a statement of accounts in reference to the wool that has been sold and the profits derived therefrom. I do not know whether the Central Wool Committee have the information for which the honorable member asks, but the Prime Minister has told us that he has not it, and I believe his statement, and that he has done all it is possible to do. I suppose that some day we shall learn what dividends Australia is to receive; no one will be more anxious than the Prime Minister to get the figures; but if the information is not vouchsafed by the Imperial authorities, of course he cannot give it to honorable members.
– What has all this to do with the motion before the House?
– The honorable member should have put that question to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), who raised the issue. I do not propose to take up any more time in discussing it.
I am quite in accord with what the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) has done, and I heartily indorse all his arguments. If, for the purpose of income taxation, those who are engaged in a great permanent industry, such as primary production, cannot have all their affairs averaged over a period of three or five years, as the case may be, there is no set of people in the community who should. In Australia, especially on the mainland, the fluctuations of climate are so great that although a man may make a fair cheque on one year’s operations, he may lose money for two or three succeeding years. If we want to have in Australia a virile and patriotic people we must have our land occupied in small areas. No country has a patriotic people if it does not have a good landed community. The settlement of .farmers and orchardists on small areas seems to attach them to their country more than the pursuit of any other industry seems to do. The arguments put forward by the honorable member for Lilley are unanswerable. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion.
.- I desire to support the motion of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), and I trust that-the House will have an opportunity of voting on it, because it is one of the most important questions that have ever been discussed here. The honorable member for Lilley has quoted from a great financial and economic authority in reference to the incidence and fairness of the income tax, and ever since that great writer wrote about the subject 150 years ago, it has been admitted that one of the fairest and most just taxes is that form of income tax which calls upon the citizens of a country to pay in proportion to the revenues they derive. But an income tax is only just and fair when it is paid upon income that is actual income. I want to draw a clear line of distinction between actual income and what is known as taxable income. It is unfortunate that what is known as taxable income is frequently based on valuations made upon live stock that are in existence at the end of one particular year, but which live stock may cease to exist before they can possibly be sold and paid for. This applies more particularly to farmers and graziers. “Under the present system, where the income tax is levied on the income of each separate year no provision is made’ for the years of losses. It is not possible for a farmer or grazier to carry on operations without meeting with years of losses, and frequently they are years of very serious losses. It is impossible to say how many -sheep are still alive in New South Wales, despite the drought, at the present moment.
– Or anywhere else in the Commonwealth.
– Or anywhere else in the Commonwealth. There have been enormous losses of stock, not only in New South Wales, but in Queensland, during the last twelve months, and the whole history of farming and grazing in Australia is a history of years of losses alternating at irregular intervals with years of plenty.
This is a subject in which I took an interest long before I had the honour to represent a constituency in this House. On 26th August, 1915, I addressed a letter to the editor of the Argus, in which I stated -
I have before me the balance-sheet and report of the Tyrell Downs Agricultural and Pastoral Company, which shows an actual loss of £6,354 3s. 5d. for the operations during 1914-15, and a special meeting of the shareholders was recently held to authorize the directors to obtain further advances to enable the company to carry on operations.
I “am” assured that the experience quoted above is not at all exceptional. Indeed, there must be many thousands of farmers and graziers throughout Australia in the same parlous state. Some have lost much more and some less, but the same principle is involved right through.
That company carried on both grazing and wheat-farming operations.
– Every grazier at his death leaves an immense fortune.
– The press publish the details of estates of deceased graziers who have left large fortunes, but there are many who leave nothing.
– They do not publish the names of those who leave nothing at all.
– That is so.
– It might be said-
– I am glad ‘ to know that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who is familiar with the vicissitudes of the farming and grazing community of Queensland, is here to listen to my remarks. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) has said, the newspapers do not publish details of the losses of farmers and graziers, who have toiled early and late, have suffered hardships, and run all the risks of this most arduous and hazardous occupation, and in the end have failed. On the average, I do not think those engaged in primary industries have done anything like as well as have those engaged in many manufacturing, trading, and other occupations. We are not here, however, to make comparisons to the advantage or disadvantage of any industry or occupation. Our object is to ask for justice to those engaged in every useful occupation. In my letter to the Argus, to which I have just referred, I set out figures showing the enormous disadvantages under which farmers and graziers then laboured, in so far as income tax is concerned, as compared with practically all other members of the community. I took the case of a farmer and that of a merchant, each of whom, over a period of five years, had secured a net income of £8,000. In speaking of net income, I had in mind actual income, and not “ taxable income,” which is very often purely fictitious, although the primary producer is taxed upon it. It involves no stretch of the imagination to say that in two years out of five a farmer and grazier, instead of making money, will frequently lose very considerable sums. His position is very different from that of the merchant, whose income is not so rauch dependent upon the fluctuations of the seasons. In 1914-15, which was a very bad year, I estimated in this comparative statement that the farmer lost £4,000. That would not have been an excessive loss for a man engaged in producing meat, wool, and wheat in that year.
– If he. lost £4,000, what was his capital when he started operations 1
– He probably started with a certain amount of capital, which he lost, but was able to continue by means of his credit. If it were not for the credit which the primary producers so rightly enjoy, Australia would not be in the happy position she occupies to-day. To return to my comparison, which I have brought up to date, the farmer in 1914-15, I have assumed, lost £4,000, and in 1915-16 he made a loss of £1,000. In 1916-17, he had a good year, and his net income amounted to £3,000. In 1917-18 he had another time of prosperity, and his net income amounted to £4,000, while in 1918-19 he had a “ bumper “ year, and his net income amounted to £6,000. In respect of his income for 1916-17, although he had lost heavily during the two preceding years, he would be taxed at a higher rate than the merchant, who has averaged the same net income of £1600 a year as the farmer has done. The farmer would pay income tax at the rate of ls. 5§d. in the £1, amounting to £222 13s. 2d. On his income of £4,000 in ,1917-lS he would pay income tax at the rate of 2s. 5id. in the £1; representing £487 10s., while in respect of his income of £6,000 in 1918-19 he would he taxed at the rate of 3s. 5£d. in the £1, and would pay £1,035 18s. 9d. Thus in respect of his total income of £S,000 in five years, this primary producer would pay income tax amounting to £1,746 ls. lid.- Let us see now what the merchant would pay in respect of a similar income spread -over a five years’ period. I have not a word to say against the merchants or those engaged in many other delightful and fairly remunerative occupations in our big cities. I give these figures only to illustrate the exceedingly unfair method by which primary producers are taxed. In respect to the merchant, I assume that in 1914-15 his net income amounted to £1,300, on which, at Sd. in the £1, he would pay income tax amounting to £42 13s. id.’ For 1915-16 his income was £1,900, and the tax had been increased by 25 per cent. He also paid a higher rate upon £1,900 than he did upon £1,300. His tax therefore was at the rate of ls. 0 3-5d., amounting to £100 3s. lOd. In 1916-17 his income was £1,600, upon which he would be taxed at the rate of 11 1/4 d. in the £1, and pay £75. In 1917-18, when the higher rate came into operation, he earned £1,300, and paid income tax at the rate of ls. id. in the £1, amounting to £69 6s. 4d. In 1918-19 his net income was £1,900, and on this he would pay income tax at the Tate of ls. 4id. in the £1, amounting to £130 5s. Thus in respect of his income of £S,000 earned over a period of ‘five years he would pay income tax amounting to only £417 Ss. 3d., as against £1,746 ls. lid. paid by the primary producer in respect of the same net income earned during the same period. These figures are absolutely accurate, and may, I am satisfied, be confirmed on reference to the Income Tax Commissioners. They show that the primary producer under the present system actually pays four times as much income tax as a typical merchant would have to pay in respect to the same amount of net income. The representative, Federal Governments and many others have suggested all sorts of palliatives to meet this difficulty, but the only solution calculated to give equal justice to the primary producer and every other citizen is that of average income tax which I have the greatest pleasure in supporting.
– I do not propose to place any obstacle in the way of a vote on this motion, which I recognise is of great importance. It goes to the very root of some of those problems that profoundly affect the welfare of this country. Ever since I have .been in Parliament - and my political career now extends over thirty years - I have always stood for the man on the land, and although I represent a city constituency, I shall still continue to stand for him. Whether or not we recognise the fact, the whole industrial and social pyramid is based upon the land of the country, and anything which interferes with the prosperity of “the primary producers and acts unfairly and prejudicially to them profoundly affects the whole body politic and the economic superstructure which is reared upon the land. Therefore, in an assembly such as this we should adopt a sympathetic attitude towards these very terrible and agonizing problems, which are calculated to break the heart of any ordinary man. I refer, of course, to the devastating drought. In regard to them, there should be only one attitude on the part of any Government, and that is an attitude of profound sympathy.
As to the particular form in which relief should be given to the primary producer, opinions vary greatly. There are very real departmental objections to the proposal.
– We shall always find them.
– I know that, but one must not imagine that the Department is out merely to rook people.
Mi-. James Page. - Does the Minister think it fair to make the man on the land pay four times as much taxation on the same amount of income as is paid by a man engaged’ in manufacturing?
– I do not.
– If there are only departmental objections in the way they can be easily overcome.
– Not so easily as the honorable member thinks. There are difficulties inherent in the proposal itself. If it were adopted, the taxpayer with a diminishing income would be hard hit by this proposal for averaging incomes, because he would be required to pay taxation on income he had not received in the year for which the taxation was paid.
– The Acting Treasurer started well, but he is now spoiling his speech.
– That is not my intention, but we should at least look at the facts. If a man’s income is diminishing, he will have to pay taxation on the income which he has not received in the period for which he is taxed.
– -He is doing that now.
– Then may I suggest that this proposal does not remedy the trouble.
– It will equalize the taxation, because a man will get advantage from his losses’.
– He may in some cases, but not in all. On the other hand, if the income is constantly ascending over the five years, the revenue will suffer, and the taxpayer will not pay as much taxation as he should. Those two. propositions are unassailable. What is the remedy ? The problem is complex, and not easy of solution. Moreover, other aspects must be considered. Where, for instance, are we to draw the line between primary and secondary industries? The latter incur losses as well as the primary industries.
– Secondary industries are not dependent upon the elements.
– But they are dependent upon other circumstances which affect them adversely. Is the principle contained in this motion to be applied all through the area of taxation? If so, it will mean a serious diminution in the revenue derivable from this source, and that, as honorable members will see, having regard to our obligations, will simply mean that we shall probably have to put on the same shoulders in some other form the same burden of taxation. Therefore, the adoption of this proposal will leave us still with some problems to face. Whatever happens in regard to income tax, or any other impost, the total amount of taxation which the Government must raise cannot be diminished. I say that advisedly, in view of the tremendous obligations to be met.
– Give the primary producers your sympathy, and tell them they will get nothing.
– We are not seeking a reduction, but a re-adjustment of taxation.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) would give the primary producers his sympathy, and anything else they wanted; but I am sorry that I. as Acting Treasurer, cannot do that. I am pointing out the obstacles which I see in the way - the revenue requirements, the difficulty of making the tax equal, fair, and just - this proposal hardly does ‘that - and the difficulty in relation to other industries which by parity of reasoning will require consideration also if the scheme be adopted.
– Other industries are not liable to the same fluctuations.
– I am not suggesting that they are; but in my experience of Government, people have a knack of saying, “ You have done this for Soandso, you must do it for me.” The fundamental principle, indeed, the constitutional requirement in connexion with anything the Governnent do, is that we shall treat all taxpayers fairly and equally, as far as we possibly can.
– I quite agree with that.
– The Government are fully alive to the grave importance of this matter, and, although I am searching the question in this way in order to point out that it is not free of difficulty, and that the proposal contained in the motion will not exactly solve it, I yet ask honorable members to understand that the Government are concerned in regard to this matter, and are seeking to find a way out.
We have already made a proposal for a. full inquiry into the question. In the Governor-General’s Speech, we set out that it was our intention to appoint, at an early date, a Royal Commission to consider the whole incidence of Commonwealth taxation. Already a commission for that purpose has been drafted, from which I shall read a few lines to indicate to honorable members that, as far back as last month, the very matter they are discussing was receiving the Government’s attention. I find these words - to place the burden of taxation equally upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it-.
These, it will be seen, are the very words quoted by the honorable member for Lilley. And in the following paragraph - to extend special consideration to those primary producers who experience the effects of drought.
I make that quotation merely to show that the Government have not been asleep in regard to this matter, but are seriously considering the whole question. I have no objection to honorable members taking a vote upon the motion ; but I should prefer that they did not, on the distinct promise I make to them that this inquiry will be commenced almost immediately - as soon as it can be set in motion, and that the whole question will be taken into the fullest consideration.
– The Government will be assisted by a vote upon this motion.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear ! Let us have a vote.
– May I congratulatehonorable members opposite on the new-found sympathy they display for the great producing interests of this country? Apparently, the whole House is in agreement. Why, therefore, do we need a vote ? What does a vote matter when the House is unanimous?
.- I had prepared some material for a speech which I thought would assist the House in arriving at the conclusion that the primary producers,especially the dairy farmers, are unfairly taxed. But in view of the sympathy with which the motion has been received, it is not necessary for me to speak at length. I merely express my pleasure at the sympathy which has been extended by honorable members, and by the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook); but I remind the right honorable gentleman that an ounce of help is worth a ton of sympathy. A lot of sympathy has been expressed for us in the past, but we have had no help in the form of relief for the primary producer from the burden of taxation. In many instances he is taxed three times as much in proportion to his income as is a person engaged in any other industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 15th April (vide page 1247), on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that as early as practicable a Constitutional Convention should be summoned for the purpose of considering the need, substance, and form of any amendment of section 51 of the Constitution, and that such Convention shall-
.- It is pleasing to note that members of all parties in the House have indicated, by the sentiments they have expressed inside and outside the House, that they favour the appointment of a Convention to deal with the amendment of the Constitution. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) suggests that the Convention should be elected on the proportional representation system, in regard to which many things can be said both for and against. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) suggests that the States shall be divided into areas, each of which shall return two members. In the case of New South Wales, for instance, the idea is that the State shall be divided into five areas with a view to insuring that all interests are represented. I agree with the honorable member that it is necessary to have all interests represented in the Convention, but I do not approve of dividing the States in this way. The war has taught the Australian people one lesson at least; it has taught them to think on Australian, and not merely on State lines. The soldiers who fought and worked for
Australia dropped their State and parochial sentiments; and it i6 very rare indeed to find a soldier who does not describe himself as an Australian, and not as the resident of any particular State. I am sure that if the people, as a whole, be given the opportunity, they are sufficiently broadminded to insure in the election of members for the proposed Convention that all interets are adequately represented. I only hope that sufficient time will be given to all candidates for membership to place their views before all classes of people in the State, including those people who live in the out-back districts. There is no reason in the world why the members of this House, representing, as they do, labour interests, primary producing interests, national interests, and so forth, should not combine in order to insure that no interests are left unrepresented. Of course, I know that there is such a thing as party feeling in the House, but, on a question of such importance as this, some arrangement of the kind might well be arrived at.
I do not speak as a lawyer, but, in my opinion, we in Australia are living under the best and freest Constitution in the world.
– How many Constitutions has the honorable member studied ?
– As I say, I am not a lawyer, but I have studied a few; and I am decidedly of opinion that we should not tinker or play with our Constitution. If members of the House would discuss the question here in a non-party spirit, before an appeal to the country is made on the subject, there is no reason why they should not arrive at an amicable agreement as to the proposals to be placed before the people. I am quite with’ the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in thinking that each State should have ten representatives, regardless of size or population.
– The Constitution was framed on that basis.
– That is so. According to the electoral returns, I do not think that Tasmania and Western Australia are at present quite entitled to five members in this House-
– In the case of Western Australia, the figures just about qualify the State for five members.
– I am not saying that I would be in favour of decreasing the present representation of those States, but merely wish to suggest that if, as has been advocated, New South Wales were divided into ten new States, the right of each of these new States to five members could not well be denied, especially in view of the fact that the population of New South Wales is about ten times that of Tasmania.
– The electors in the honorable member’s constituency, and in my own constituency, just about equal the total number of electors in Tasmania.
– Very likely ; but I think that if new States were created it would be advisable to give them the same representation that is given to existing States. This would mean thirty-six senators for New South Wales, and fifty members of the House of Representatives. We are all agreed that a Convention on the Constitution is necessary.
– Why? Why does this Parliament not do its work?
– I take it from the interjection that this Parliament is prepared to do its work, and I think that this is the proper place in which to discuss the question. My only regret is that we cannot devote more time to its discussion now.
– A Bill to create a Convention will be introduced.
– Under the circumstances it might be advisable to defer the discussion until that Bill is before us. It has been suggested by some one that some of the State Parliaments should have the right to nominate members for the Convention. With that idea I do not agree, for I am in favour of the election of the candidates remaining solely in the hands of the people.
– You regard the people as above Parliament?
– Yes; they are the masters of the situation.
– Only for a little while
– For one day every three years !
– At any rate, I am in favour of the people electing the whole nf the representatives to the Convention. I am not a Unificationist, but I think that the Commonwealth ought to be given extended powers. At present, it is quite evident that there are powers which we do not now possess, but which we ought to be able to exercise. In my view it is infra dig. that the Prime Minister of Australia should have to go to the Premiers of the various States and ask for the concession of powers to the Commonwealth. . For instance, within the last week I have heard that the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to pass a company law ; and surely that is a matter which ought to lie with the National Parliament ?
– The honorable member must first convert the State Parliaments to that view.
– After all, the State Parliaments,, in my view, represent the parochial spirit which we desire to “wipe out”; we ought to think imperially as Australians. Then, again, in regard to the arbitration laws, we find that, although the cost of living does not differ materially throughout the States, there are different awards for identical trades. In New South Wales the standard living wage has been set at £3 17s. 6d., which employers are compelled to pay. In the boot trade, for instance, employers must gay that minimum wage in New South Wales, and manufacturers in other States, who work under lower awards, are able to undersell them.
– I think there is a Commonwealth award in the boot industry, and that at least half of the skilled operatives are paid more than the awarded wage.
– I grant I may have given a wrong illustration, but there is no reason why industries should not be brought under Commonwealth awards, making special provisions, of course, for men employed in the Northern Territory, Northern Queensland, and other tropical districts.
As a sequel to the carrying of this motion, it will be necessary to hold an election. I do not think any honorable member desires to enter upon an election campaign in the near future.
– We want to get rid of you.
– As a matter of fact, it would be to our advantage to go to the electors, and be sent back here- again.
– That infers that the honorable member is discovering that this is a National Parliament without national power.
– That is so; but it is far better to bring about reform by evolution than by revolution. Judging from our experience with the Constitution during the past twenty years, we should admit tha>t we do not possess powers in certain directions such as a National Parliament should have. Several matters which I have in mind should be solely in the control of the Commonwealth authorities. Take, for example, the absurdity of requiring citizens to furnish dual taxation returns. Is there anything more foolish than to make the public send in separate State and Federal returns?
– Is it not more foolish that 5,000,000 people should be ruled by fourteen legislatures?
– It is. It does appear to me that some of the powers possessed bv State Parliaments to-day should be in the possession of the National legislature. We do not want an election, however, just now. Outside of Parliament, honorable members who may protest against that sentiment from their seats in this chamber, will agree that elections are no good. If it could be possible to extend the life of this House for a term of- five years, instead of .three, I would be pre-, pared to agree to such .a change in our Constitution.
– We do not want to see your Government in power for five years.
– As a matter of fact, it is probably in the best interests of Australia that there should be occasional changes of administration.
– What the people of Australia want is one Parliament for Australia.
– One Parliament for Australia, with some bodies - say, county councils - would provide a far better administrative system than exists to-day with the State and Federal Parliaments. This is a most important question, and to dispose of it after a comparatively few minutes’ debate is not seemly. Considerable time should be devoted to its consideration. I trust that a vote Will not be taken at this juncture, but that the Government will shortly provide an opportunity for honorable members to thresh the whole matter out, and so make way for the introduction of a Bill proposing a Convention such as will meet the wishes of the whole community.
.- The question of the alteration of the Constitution is among the most important to-day. The development of Australia has been seriously hampered because of the restrictions contained in our Constitution. If it is the desire of this Parliament to allow Australia to expand as it should, it will be necessary for us to take immediate steps to amend the Constitution in order to provide proper scope for development. It is the duty of all parties in public life to take the earliest opportunity to place before the people their platforms and ideals concerning Constitution amendment. The mere calling together of a Convention and throwing the Constitution to it. as one would throw a bone to a dog, will merely bring about party strife. Our Constitution will become the plaything of parties. Its amendment is too big a question to be so treated. We want to do the best thing possible for Australia. This country should be given the fullest opportunity to develop along proper lines. Honorable members on this side have realized the importance of that fact for a considerable time, and at our party’s InterState Conventions, which are representative of the whole of the great Labour movement, the subject has been seriously considered from every angle. As an outcome, we have placed before the public our platform in regard to the amendment of the Constitution. I think it will do a vast amount of good if the details of that platform are placed on record, and I will therefore proceed to read them. If honorable members really understood the Labour proposals, I am confident that numbers of them would give us their support. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat, for example, in a groping manner admitted the truth of the very point we stand for, when he spoke of county councils taking the place of present-day State Legislatures. We choose to call them provincial Legislatures, however. If that section of the House which chooses to call itself the Country party would study the Labour proposals, its adherents in this chamber would find that we stand for the very thing they themselves advocate; that is, decentralization of administration. While Australia is suffering from the pernicious system of centralization to-day, against which country members are crying out, these latter gentlemen have not yet, apparently, studied our proposals. To enable them to do so, I shall furnish for the Hansard record the official proposals of the Australian Labour movement in reference to the amendment of the Constitution. I should say, first, that we do not propose to call a convention at all. We base our objection to that procedure upon two grounds. Primarily, there is the matter of the enormous cost of plunging Australia so soon after a general election into the turmoil of what would undoubtedly become a party political fight. Our second ground of objection is that we say, “ Here is a Parliament just elected by the people. Surely the Government of the day should take the responsibility for setting out what they stand for. Do they stand for wide powers being held by the Commonwealth, or for the narrowing of the Federal scope?” The moment in which the Australian Labour party regains possession of the Federal Treasury benches we shall take steps to put our ideals into operation. We intend immediately to submit to the people a referendum asking for the powers indicated in our manifesto for the amendment of the Constitution. Our proposals are these -
The Labour party propose, when returned to power in the Federal Parliament, to submit to the electors, at the earliest possible opportunity, a referendum to alter the Commonwealth Constitution, to provide full sovereign powers under its Constitution, and to empower the Commonwealth Parliament to create any number of Provincial Legislatures as may be necessary for the good local government of the people.
The proposal provides: -
The Commonwealth Constitution to be amended to provide full sovereign powers for the good government of the people.
The amended Constitution to also include: -
Provision for the Initiative Referendum whereby the electors may initiate or recall legislation,
No referendum to be put to the people within six months (before or after) of a general election.
The High Court to be the final Court of Appeal in any Australian cause.
The Senate to be abolished, and the House of Representatives to consist of 100 members; each electorate to have as near as possible an equal number of electors.
Adult franchise to be made part of the Constitution.
It is certainly necessary to embody in the Constitution, so that it may for all time be preserved to the people of Australia, the adult franchise which they now enjoy -
Provincial Legislatures, etc.
The Commonwealth shall grant to each province a uniform written Constitution, setting out the powers and duties of the Legislatures thereof. Such Constitution may be amended from time to time as may be required.
Each province shall be governed by a Legislature to be composed of a reasonable number of members.
The term of office of members to be three years.
Members to be paid such uniform salary as shall be determined.
Commonwealth electoral rolls to be used at all elections.
The provincial Legislature shall have power under its Constitution to make laws for the government of the people within the province.
The Commonwealth shall take over all present State debts. The Commonwealth Government to, as far as possible, collect all revenue, thus obviating the expense of duplication in collecting taxes, &c.
The Commonwealth Parliament shall grant a uniform Constitution to provide for municipal government, the supervision of administration to be the duty of the provinces.
In order that the electors of Australia may know what form of local government it is intended to substitute for State Parliaments, it is suggested that the Commonwealth should be divided into thirty-one provinces, the boundaries of which are shown on the attached plan.
The boundaries of the proposed divisions are shown on a map which I should like to have reproduced in Hansard were that possible. It is to be remembered that the Labour movement does not bind itself hard and fast to its proposals regarding the number of provinces and their boundaries. Those proposals are put forward merely as a basis for discussion. To each of the large capital cities is allotted a province, and, so far as possible, the other provinces have been arranged to give community of interests. They will be agricultural, dairying, or pastoral, in the main. Broadly, the scheme is this: There shall be one central and supreme authority, the Federal Parliament, which will consist of one House, to be known as the House of Representatives, containing 100 members, the Senate being abolished. It will deal with the big problems with which Australia must deal as a nation. To thirty-one provincial Legislatures would be given a written Constitution, empowering them to legislate for the good government of their provinces in matters of local importance, but not falling within the category of national questions. Below them, again, would come the municipal councils. That seems to be as perfect a system of government as it is possible to obtain in our present social state. It is suggested that Australia shall be divided into the following divisions: -
The suggested provincial boundaries are -
No. 1. - Papua. Estimated number of electors, 1,000.
No. 2. - Northern Territory, including the Kimberley district of West Australia. Estimated number of electors, 3,000.
No. 3. - Gold-fields District, W.A., extending from South Australian border to No. 1 rabbitproof fence (including Kalgoorlie Federal electorate, and portion of Dampier electorate east of No. 1 rabbit-proof fence). Estimated number of electors, 28,000.
No. 4. - Portion of Dampier Federal electorate, west of No. 1 rabbit-proof fence, and south to the 129th parallel of latitude. Estimated number of electors, 12,500.
No. 5. - Greater Perth, including the Perth and Fremantle Federal electorates, and portion of Swan electorate, within 25 miles of Perth. Estimated number of electors, 77,000.
No. 6. - South-western portion of W.A., including electorate of Swan and portion of Dampier electorate south from the 129th parallel of latitude. Estimated number of electors, 17,043.
No. 7. - The portion of South Australia west from a line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. Estimated number of electors, 7,300.
No. 8. - North-eastern portion of South Australia, including the Federal electorates of Wakefield, northern portion of Angas, and eastern portion of Grey, from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, to N.S.W. border. Estimated number of electors, 86,000.
No. 9.- South-eastern portion of South Australia, including Federal electorates of Barker and southern portion of Angas, excepting such portions as may be within 25 miles of Adelaide. Estimated number of electors, 41.000.
No. 10. - Greater Adelaide, including the Federal electorate of Adelaide, and such portions of the electorates of Hindmarsh, Boothby, Angas, and Barker as may be within 25 miles of the city of Adelaide. Estimated number of electors, 128,000.
No. 11. - Western District of Victoria, including Federal electorates of Corangamite, Wannon (except subdivisions of Dimboola,
Kaniva, Jeparit, and Nhill), and the Stawell and Glenorchy subdivisions of Grampians. Estimated number of electors, 70,000.
No. 12. - North-western District of Victoria, including the Federal electorates of Wimmera, Bendigo (except Elmore, Goornong, Castlemaine, Maldon, and Taradale. subdivisions), Dunolly, Inglewood, St. Arnaud, and Wedderburn subdivisions of Grampians, and Dimboola, Kaniva, Jeparit, and Nhill subdivisions of Wannon. Estimated number of electors, 75,000.
No. 13. - Includes Federal electorate of Ballarat, Corio (except subdivisions of Diamond Creek. Melton, Sunbury, Wallan,Werribee, and Whittlesea), Grampians (except subdivisions of Dunolly, Inglewood, St. Arnaud, and Wedderburn), and the Castlemaine, Maldon, and Taradale subdivisions of Bendigo. Estimated number of electors,88,000.
No. 14. -Greater Melbourne, including the Federal electorates of Balaclava, Batman, Bourke, Fawkner, Henty, Kooyong, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Melbourne Ports, Yarra, Corio (part), Flinders (part). Estimated number of electors, 450,000.
No. 15. - North-eastern, including the Federal electorates of Echuca, Indi, and the Elmore and Goornong subdivisions of Bendigo. Estimated number of electors, 70,000.
No. 16. - Gippsland, including the Federal electorates of Gippsland,and the Berwick, Bunyip, Cowes, Dromana, Drouin, Frankston, Korumburra, Lang Lang, Loch, Pakenham, and Wonthaggi subdivisions of Flinders. Estimated number of electors, 56,000.
No. 17. - Eden-Monaro, including the Federal electorates of Eden-Monaro and eastern portion of Hume. Estimated number of electors, 44,000.
No.18. - Includes Federal electorates of Riverina (except portion north of Lachlan River), Hume (western portion), and small portion of Barrier east of LachlanRiver. Estimated number of electors, 63,000.
No. 19. - Includes Federal electorates of Werriwa, Illawarra (except subdivisions adjacent to Sydney), and the Cowra subdivision of Calare. Estimated number of electors, 63,000.
No. 20. - Includes the Federal electorates of Darling, Barrier (except small portion east of Lachlan River), Calare (western portion), and small portion of Riverina north of Lachlan River. Estimated number of electors, 65,000.
No. 21. - Greater Sydney, including the Federal electorates of Cook, Dalley, East Sydney, Lang, North Sydney, Parkes, Parraraatta, South Sydney, Wentworth, West Sydney, northern portion of Illawarra and Nepean (except four northern subdivisions). Estimated number of electors, 540,000.
No. 22. - Includes Newcastle and Hunter Federal electorates. Estimated number of electors,81,000.
No. 23. - Includes the Federal electorates of Robertson, Macquarie, eastern portion of Calare, and small portion of Nepean. Estimated number of electors, 90,000.
No. 24. - Includes the Federal electorates of Gwydir, New England (except small northern portion), and Cowper (except small northern portion). Estimated number of electors. 88,000.
No. 25. - Includes the Federal electorates of Richmond, New England (small part), Cowper (small part), and southern half of the Darling Downs and Moreton electorates of Queensland. Estimated number of electors, 75,000.
No. 26. - Includes the Federal electorates of Maranoa, Darling Downs (northern portion, including Toowoomba), and the northern portion of Moreton electorate. Estimated number of electors, 64,000.
No. 27. - Greater Brisbane, includes the Federal electorates of Brisbane, Oxley, Moreton (part, including Logan and Ipswich districts), and southern portion of Lilley. Estimated number of electors, 135,000.
No. 28. - Includes the Federal electorates of Capricornia, Wide Bay, and the northern portion of Lilley. Estimated number of electors, 83,000. No. 29. - Includes the Federal electorates of Herbert and Kennedy. Estimated number of electors, 72,500. No. 30. - Includes the Federal electorates of Bass, Darwin, and Wilmot. Estimated number of electors, 60,000. No. 31. - Includes the Federal electorates of Denison and Franklin. Estimated number of electors, 48,000.
These are not proposed boundaries for Federal electorates. That is the way in which the Australian Labour party would divide Australia for the purposes of local government.
– There would be a local body for the administration of local affairs.
– Would such a body be similar to a County Council in the United Kingdom?
– It would be much upon the same lines. We do not stand hard and fast to all the details of our proposal, but these are the principles we have laid down for the purpose of doing away with the fictitious boundaries that now exist between one Australian State and another, and which we say should be wiped out, so that Australia may, for the purpose of local government, be divided in accordance with proper community of interests, having due regard for local conditions. In this way we would at once get rid of the great trouble of centralization that now exists. Our platform provides for the very thing for which the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is fighting - the creation of other States. Of course it would not give him just everything he wants in this particular direction, but the principle for which he is fighting would be achieved, namely, decentralization and local administration of local affairs. I am sure that if the honorable member for Cowper and others would consider our proposals they would support them.
– Is it proposed to pay the members of provincial councils?
– That is a matter of detail in no way affecting the principle of the proposal, but of course it is something that would certainly be decided by the supreme central body, the National Parliament.
– Is it proposed to increase the number of members of the Central Parliament? On what boundaries would members of that Parliament be elected?
– At present Australia is governed by seven separate Parliaments, that is to say, it has fourteen Houses of Parliament, containing 6S6 members. There are 111 legislators in the Federal Houses of Parliament. Our proposal is to abolish the Senate and increase the number of members in the House of Representatives to 100, thus bringing about an actual net reduction in the number of Federal legislators.
– Would the honorable member abolish State Governments altogether ?
– State Governments as known at present would go out of existence, because all State geographical boundaries would be wiped out, and in their place the local provincial governing bodies of which I have just spoken would be substituted.
– Who would control the railways ?
– ..The Federal Parliament would, and any honorable member who would hold up the State control of railways as an obstacle to the proposal of the Australian Labour party little realizes his obligations as a representative man. The Federal control of railways would do more to develop Australia than can anything else, because immediate steps would be taken to bring about a uniform gauge throughout Australia. When this is done the people of Australia will have cause to be exceedingly thankful.
The suggestion is that these provinces shall be governed by from ten to fifteen members in provinces of less than 100,000 electors, from fifteen to twenty members in provinces of 100,000 to 200,000 electors, and probably twentyfive members in the Greater Melbourne province, and thirty in the Greater Sydney province, with its 540,000 electors. The total number of provincial legislators would not exceed 400, as against 5’75 members of existing State Parliaments. In that respect there would he an immediate saving to the people of Australia. I put forward the proposals of the Australian Labour party in this regard for the sei;ious consideration of representative men.
– How are you going to bring it all about?
– After the next appeal to ‘the people at a general election, the members of the Australian Labour party will have possession of the Treasury bench, and one of the first measures introduced will be a Bill to enable a referendum to be taken to amend the Constitution on these lines. Let me read this from our platform -
The powers and duties of provincial legislatures will be fully defined when the referendum asking the” electors to agree to the Constitution alteration is being put to the people.
The proposal will be debated’ in Parliament in detail, and when the matter is put before the people they will be given the opportunity of saying whether the present cumbersome system of government shall ‘be maintained, or whether it shall be substituted by a system which is flexible and easy of application to the national needs of Australia, and also to the local requirements.
A great object lesson can be drawn by a study of the existing written Constitutions of the English-speaking peoples of which Australia is the third. America suffers exactly as Australia suffers, owing to the fact that the local authority is above the central authority. The American Constitution gives the supreme power to the local authority, and restricts the power of what should be the supreme body, namely, the national legislature. In Canada the position is reversed. The central authority has supreme power over the local body. The difference between the American and Australian Constitutions, and the more recently drafted South African Constitution, i« that, while the former cannot be altered hy the national Parliament, the central legislature in South Africa, which is not a. Federation but a Unification, can bring
About any alterations it deems necessary. It is impossible for us to alter our Constitution, but South Africa, having the advantage of profiting by the errors made by America and Australia, was able to Avoid the disabilities under which we suffer. Its Constitution is flexible.- When the elected representatives of the people find that they are hampered by its limitations, when they deem that.it does not give them power to do what they consider it is necessary to do in the development of the country, they can alter it. In my opinion, the Australian Federal Parliament should have the same power. Who should ‘be the greatest authority in the land but the elected representatives of the people, provided, of course, that they are chosen upon adult suffrage ? I do not stand Tor the placing of the dead hand of the past upon the advancement of a country or its people. The people should be prepared to lift from Australia the dead hand of the past. “We have a written Constitution which is tying us down and hampering us in every direction. It says in effect, “ Thus far shalt thou go and’ no further.”’ If the people of Australia desire to go beyond the scope of the present Constitution, this Parliament should have power to remove the difficulties in the way, and to give the people an opportunity to develop along the lines which they think best for themselves. We all know that as a result of the war, old .preconceived ideas and notions are, so to speak, being tossed into the melting-pot as rapidly as possible. The country that desires to exist and develop must be prepared to conform to the newer ideals that are coming into being to-day. We have so to mould our constitutional powers as to bring them more nearly into conformity with the desires of the people. We must give the people an opportunity to achieve in a constitutional and proper way the objects they have in view. We cannot overlook the danger that confronts us. It is obvious to every thoughtful man. Throughout the world the great mass of the people are not content with the old state of affairs. They are shaking off the chains of the past. They are determined to have something better. Block the advancement of these people by the dead hand of the Constitution, and they will take other than constitutional means bo secure what they desire. The world to-day is almost a seething mass of revolt against the old order of things, the old state of society. What are we in Australia going to do ? Are we to shut our eyes and leave the people to grope their way out of the difficulty as best they may ? Is it not better that we should give them an opportunity to carry out what they desire in a sane, orderly, and constitutional way? Should we not guide their steps along safe roads ? Every thoughtful man who desires the advancement of his country, and’ is anxious that we should have a better state of society than we have had, will recognise that that is the course for us to pursue. These are the lines upon which we should work, and I therefore advocate the amendment of the Constitution.
– Does the Labour party propose that the Commonwealth should take over the State debts?
– Yes, . that is con.tained in our programme. We propose that the Commonwealth shall take over all present State debts, and that it should, as far as possible, collect all revenue, thus obviating the expense of duplication in the collection of taxes.
I shall not weary the House any longer. I have put forward the programme of the great Labour movement composed of the toiling men and women, who, after all, make a nation. The representatives of the toilers have given serious consideration to this question. We put forward this programme, realizing our responsibility to the people, and prepared to shoulder it. We “are not going to shirk any of our responsibilities, and we say that the Government of the day should shoulder their responsibility instead of proposing to hand over the work of amending the Constitution to some outside elective body. If we are to have an elected Convention, shall we not all be candidates ? Who are better fitted’ than are members of Parliament for the work of the Convention? And’ who would have a better chance of election ? Those who hold the confidence of the people to-day are likely to enjoy the confidence of the people when the time comes for the election of the Convention. The Government should not shirk their responsibility. If they believe in an Australian Constitution for Australian men and women they will submit to Parliament the necessary measure, and give honorable members an opportunity to take a direct vote upon it.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) should have the thanks of the House for bringing forward this motion, and thus giving honorable members an opportunity for what I might describe as a preliminary canter on the question of the amendment of the Constitution. I speak of this as being only a preliminary canter, since the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has mentioned that the Government intend to bring down a Bill for the creation of a Convention to consider amendments of the Constitution. I would prefer to reserve any observations I have to make on the subject until that Bill is before the House; but as honorable members are giving expression to their general views on the question, I should like also to place mine on record. The Prime Minister stated that it was the desire of the Government to obtain a free expression of opinion on the subject. I congratulate the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) upon his very able speech. He mentioned many matters in respect of which I am in agreement with him, but, the programme of his party goes so far that I do not think it could possibly be carried in toto. The proposed amendment of the Constitution should not bo limited, as the motion provides, to section 51. Other sections also need to be amended. The Constitution has stood the test of time, and has stood ib well, but as the Prime Minister said recently, it has out-grown itself, and must be widened. On that point I think we are all in agreement. It needs to be so amended as to enable us to avoid duplication of taxation and of services. It lacks also provisions in regard to the electoral rolls and the power which we should have to deal with companies. Victoria has somewhat efficient company laws, but those of New South Wales are quite impossible. It is time the Commonwealth had power to take in hand company legislation and to widen our company laws. As the Prime Minister has reminded us, by far the greater part of the business of the Commonwealth is carried on by companies, and the Commonwealth Parliament should be able to determine the laws under which they shall operate.
I agree with the view expressed by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), that the Convention, if it is not to be a failure, must have the confidence of the people, and we can secure a Convention in which the people will have confidence only upon an elective basis. The people should be able to elect the members of the Convention. We should have in the Convention all great leaders - the leading men in the Federal and State Parliaments, and the leaders of the industrial world. We should have in the Convention the recognised leaders of the Labour party, as well as lawyers and representatives of capital, scientists, accountants, and so forth, so that the amendments proposed by the Convention will have every chance of being accepted by the people.
When travelling abroad, one is struck by the fact that the further one gets away from this great continent, the less one hears of the individual States, and the more one hears of Australia. ‘ The change of view responsible for this manifested itself also in the “ diggers “ ; they recemented that outlook. When they went overseas to fight, they spoke not of the individual States, but of Australia. I do not say that the State ‘Parliaments should be done away with, but the Commonwealth Parliament certainly ought to have greater power to promote the wellbeing of the whole Commonwealth, and, indirectly, to help the States. In foreign countries, the people know practically nothing of the individual States; it is of “Australia” that they . speak. The Commonwealth Parliament has not sufficient power to properly carry out what should be its duties. I should like the States to give the Commonwealth an opportunity to secure those wider powers which are essential to it. We look to the Convention to suggest amendments of the Constitution, which, while increasing the powers of the Commonwealth, will not wholly obliterate the State Parliaments.
I think there is every chance of the recommendations of the Convention being ratified by the people if the Convention itself does not ask for too much. Throughout the world, extraordinary things have happened since the war. There have been remarkable happenings, for instance, in respect of the drink traffic in the United States. I was through
America three times during the war. It was then “ wet,” and I found it one of the hardest-drinking countries I had ever visited. Cocktails were the rule, morning, noon, and night, with wine, in addition, for dinner. And yet that country, composed of forty-eight States, has gone “ dry “ ona two-thirds vote of the States. That is something which a visitor to the States a few years ago would have been prepared to say would never be carried into effect. Changes like these give us hope that whatever the Convention “wisely puts before the people for ratification will be accepted.
The question should not be fought in a party spirit. It is a national matter, vitally affecting the existence and progress of this country; and if the brains of the Opposition will co-operate with the brains on this side of the House, I am convinced that we shall be able to secure the Convention we want, and obtain for the Commonwealth Parliament the extension of powers of which it stands so much in need.
.- The alteration of the Constitution is one of the most important matters that this House could deal with; therefore no suggested alteration should be put before the country in a half-hearted way. In many districts I have heard the explanation given that the .last referenda proposals were defeated simply because the people did not understand them. The issues had not been sufficiently explained to the people before they were called upon to vote. As representatives of the people, it is our duty to thoroughly discuss and decide upon any scheme of constitutional amendment before it is put before the electors. The matter should be discussed not only in Cabinet but on the floor of the House and on non-party lines, so that every honorable member may have an opportunity to express his opinion upon any scheme submitted by the Government. When Parliament has come to a decision the people throughout the Commonwealth should be made aware through the press and Hansard of the considerations upon which our recommendations were based. If that course were pursued, the electors would consider the issues seriously, and come to a proper judgment.
I listened attentively to the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr.
Mahony) regarding the policy of constitutional alteration that will be attempted if the Labour party come into power. The scheme enunciated by the honorable member means clearly the abolition of State Parliaments and robbing the far-distant States of the right, which they greatly prize, of framing their own legislation in domestic affairs and building and controlling their own railway lines. I particularly asked by interjection whether under that ‘scheme the States would be deprived of the right to build railways, and the honorable member replied that the Commonwealth Government would construct all railways. That may be a good idea from the point of view of people who live in Melbourne, Sydney, or Adelaide, but it is diametrically opposed to the best interests of the more distant States. It is essential that they should be allowed opportunities to work out their own destiny. What chance would Queensland and Western Australia have of developing their great territories if they were compelled to adopt the same railway policy as is suited to a small State like Victoria? Consider the question of railway gauges, for instance. I speak with a most intimate knowledge of tho railway construction policy of Queensland, and I recollect that we had to decide whether we should build expensive railway lines on the broad gauge or adopt a policy of cheap narrow-gauge lines, so that we could, with their aid, develop a greater portion of the 429,000,000 acres comprised in that State.
– The Queensland railways are only tramways.
– At any rate they have proved very useful for the work foi which they were intended. Queensland could not have constructed anything approaching as great a length of railway had it adopted an expensive system such as that in Victoria. To-day Queensland has, I think, about 1,000 miles of railway more than has any other State in the Commonwealth; we could not have had that mileage if we had adopted the expensive broad-gauge system. Only a few years ago a discussion arose in Queensland regarding the linking up of the lines that run from the various ports, and making available’ for closer settlement a larger tract of country. In reply to a question
I asked in the Queensland Parliament at that time, I was told that 137,000,000 acres of land in that State was untenanted. In order to encourage closer settlement, the Queensland Government declined to renew large pastoral leases that had expired, but made available for the late tenants land further in the interior t at the same time extending our railways, thus utilizing portion of the 137,000,000 acres of untenanted country. The old stations were divided into grazing farms of 25,000 or 30,000 acres each. By that means more country was settled, and more produce was made available to be carried by the existing railways. We could not have afforded to do that except by means of a narrow-gauge railway system. New and large States like Queensland and Western Australia must continue the narrow-gauge system, otherwise great areas of their laud will remain untenanted for a long time.
The people of Queensland are absolutely averse to centralization. We had before us the evil of centralization in New South Wales. The unfortunate primary producers in the west of that State are required to send their produce 350 to 400 miles further than they need have done had not the State gone in for a policy of centralization in connexion with railway construction. Queensland, on the other hand, resolved upon a policy of developing the ports along the northern coast, and building lines thence into the hinterland. That has been done successfully, and to-day the people are reaping the benefit. Therefore, it is easy to understand that the people in Queensland and Western Australia, having before them the example of other States, are opposed to centralization. They are opposed also to Unification . They believe in controlling their own destinies in all domestic affairs.
– Where does the honorable member draw the line of demarcation between Unification and the right of a State to mind its own affairs ?
– The line of demarcation -was fixed ‘before Federation commenced, and I do not go back upon anything that was done then. I am quite prepared to give the Commonwealth greater power, but I am opposed to the abolition of State Parliaments. I believe that we can control the affairs of this great continent far better if we continue the present system of allowing the State© to legislate in respect to their own internal affairs. Australia is not a small country like the United Kingdom, although even there discontent is rife because the people of Ireland have not con- ‘ trol of their own internal affairs. The same feeling is just as strong in the northern and western States of this Commonwealth, although we are all agreeable to giving the Commonwealth such powers as are necessary to protect the principle of Inter-State Free Trade.
– We cannot look to Queensland for an example in regard to Inter-State Free Trade.
– I regret that in respect of later years that is true. Under war conditions a great deal was .done throughout Australia that should never have been done, and, to my mind, the Queensland embargo on the export of cattle to New South Wales was a contravention of the intention of the people when they accepted Federation.
If the Constitution is to be amended r the alterations should not be put to the people piecemeal. Let us as their representatives thoroughly consider the matter, and place before them a full and complete scheme, and not be continually spending £80,000 on a referendum. We have the experience of the last twenty years to guide us, and we should be able to evolve one complete scheme of amendment that will rectify all the shortcomings which the Constitution has been found te possess.
– Does the honorable member consider that a Convention isnecessary ?
– I do not - at any rate,, not yet. Whatever the Government may do outside in consultation with ‘the States, they should lay before this House a scheme which we can thresh out, and so be able to recommend various alterations to be settled by the people on a referendum.
– You would utilize the machinery provided ‘by the Constitution?
– Yes. I can quite understand that the majority of the people living in the southern parts of Australia may look at these questions in a vastly different light from that of those who are pioneering, and have to carve out an existence in new country. Such people have to undertake works which residents- of the cities are not called upon to face, such work having been done for the city’ people hy their forefathers.
– Since the honorable member is so frank, does he consider that the Commonwealth Parliament has power to deal with profiteering?
– The Queensland Parliament has that power.
– I am asking about the Commonwealth Parliament.
– As the honorable member has mentioned the subject, I think that in Queensland we should revert to the rule that applied when the- Labour party went into power, they had handed over to them a good scheme for the housing of workmen - a scheme that has never been improved on in any State of the Federation. The honorable member tries to give credit. ‘to the Labour party for having conferred the benefit of low rents and lower prices, which belonged to the liberal party.
– The honorable member is, I think, going beyond the question.
– You are quite right, air, but I was led away by the interjections. I should like honorable members to consider what the suggested scheme would mean to some of the States of the Commonwealth - what it would mean to Queensland. It would in many respects wipe out the powers of the Queensland Parliament and Government, which would really be reduced to the position of a shire council. They would lose control of the State’s development and progress in industrial matters. Many of the industries carried on in the north are quite unknown to the people in the south; the latter, unfortunately, have very little interest in the primary production of tropical and- semi-tropical States. The conditions ‘are such that no authority can control these industries so well as men on the spot who know all the circumstances; and the result of a change such as that suggested would prove disastrous to Australia. If industries of the kind were crushed because of the absence of sympathetic legislation in the Federal Parliament, we should have very large areas of country which we should not be justified in withholding from neighbours with large surplus populations. Those vast .areas of millions and millions of acres -can be utilized, but not on such a scheme as that which has been propounded; and the necessary encouragement of industries can only be given by local government fully seized with all the conditions. It is a serious matter to take risks that may involve this Government in the consideration of the question whether coloured races shall be allowed to settle the tropical parts of Queensland, the Northern. Territory, and Western Australia. Honorable members should be sympathetic with those States instead of trying to take away from them that which is essential to the success of tropical culture and white settlement. From my experience in the Federal Parliament I am quite sure that control would not be so well exercised from Melbourne as it is by the State Government.
– The policy outlined by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is a complete system of decentralization.
– That is right so far a» country is concerned, but not so far as representation is concerned. It stands to reason that we in the north would be outvoted in every way.
– The honorable member cannot have followed what I said. What he refers to were only the boundaries of the local provincial bodies, and not the boundaries of the Federal electorates.
– But the honorable member spoke of the number of representatives of the smaller States as compared with the number for the larger States.
– I did not speak on that point at all.
– One could hardly come to any other conclusion than that which I indicate.
– Those divisions were for the purposes of local government, and were not the divisions of the Federal electorates.
– I know the honorable member said that, but, at the same time, what suggestion did he make for Federal representation in the various States ?
– I suggested that the Federal Parliament should itself decide what the boundaries of the various Federal electorates should be.
– That is, to leave it to the majority to decide what representation there should be.
– Do we not do that now ? I suggest that the honorable member read a Ilansard proof of my speech, when he will see exactly what I did say.
– I am sure the honorable member would not wish us for one moment to believe that there ought not to be equal representation in Tasmania, Western Australia, and’ Queensland, as under the Labour proposals the Senate would be abolished, otherwise, the tendency must be to give the greater representation to the majority in the southern States, for we know that, unfortunately, the increase of population in the large cities is much greater than in the country. We have been told that in Sydney and suburbs alone there is a population of 2,000,000 out of the total population of some 5,000,000 in the Commonwealth. Are these 2,000,000 people to say what the representation shall be in the three States I have mentioned ? I venture to say that in Queensland, for instance, we would have very poor representation, and that our industries in the tropical and semi-tropical districts, instead of being encouraged, would be practically ruined. Only live local government is able to afford that assistance which is so essential to industries of the kind. I hope to have another opportunity at no distant date of dealing more fully with this matter. My difficulty in speaking with my throat in its present condition after an operation makes it very difficult for me to concentrate my thoughts and make my voice and views dear on a question of such importance.
.- I regret that I do not approach this question with adequate preparation, but I do not care to allow this opportunity to pass without making a few remarks. I dare say that in almost every capital city of the Commonwealth there are men prepared to draw up a paper Constitution for the Commonwealth, but I have very grave doubts whether the people of Australia are anxious to alter the present Constitution. It must be remembered that it took nearly fifty years to educate the public of Australia up to Federation. I suppose there were four or five different agitations at intervals of about ten years, and it will be remembered that about twenty years ago there v/as a very bitter fight between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists. On the whole, the Federal Constitution, as drawn up by the men who were appointed by the people - voting as the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) proposes in his motion - has stood the test of time, and is very nearly all that the majority of the people appear to want. I am led to that conclusion by the rejection, during the past ten years, of four or five different ‘ questions put before the people with a view to increasing the powers of this Parliament.
– And rejected, no matter what party has presented those questions.
– Just so. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro now proposes an elected Convention of ten delegates from each State. I am inclined to the opinion, in view of the reception given to the Commonwealth Constitution, as drawn up by the Convention which met prior ‘ to the elected Convention at Bathurst, that the people of Australia are not likely to accept an amended draft unless it be the result of the labours of an elected Convention. There may be something in the contention of the Prime Minister that there should be representatives from the Federal Parliament at the Convention; and there may also be something in the opinion of Mr. Fihelly, in Queensland, who contends that there should be representation of the State Parliaments also at the Convention. But if honorable members think that every member of the Federal and State Parliaments will seek to be elected as a delegate to the Convention they are very much mistaken. There will be, in fact, a very limited number who will care to take part in the election of representatives. I am very anxious that there shall be more States in this Commonwealth. When the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) asks this House whether it is in favour of the continuance of fourteen Parliaments in Australia, he should look abroad and examine the position with regard to territories as large as ours, both in Europe and America, in which there are more’ than fourteen Parliaments.
– But with enormously greater populations.
– The proposal of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that there should be thirty-one provinces, with thirty-one provincial Legislatures, means that there would be thirty-one Parliaments in Australia. I should like to know whether honorable members have made up their minds concerning what the powers of these provincial Legislatures should be. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has publicly stated that he would abolish the State Parliaments. If that is his interpretation of the proposition presented by the honorable member for Dalley, then I am against it. lama” State Righter “ in that regard. Members of this Parliament are incompetent to deal with the whole of Australia’s requirements.
– This is something new from the honorable member.
– No, I have said these things frequently. I have denied that I am a Unificationist.
– What does the honorable member mean by Unification?
– One Parliament governing Australia.
– But Unification does not mean wholly that.
– The honorable member for Yarra has said he is in favour of the abolition of State Parliaments.
– And of the substitution’ of State councils.
– The platform as set out by the honorable member for Dalley is one that has to be interpreted by the authority of the Labour movement.
– Does the honorable member see any objection to the Canadian Constitution ?
– Let us not get away from the point. I have been in thi3 Parliament for many years, and have seen what a failure we have made, as a Federal Legislature, of the Northern Territory, for example. We have had the power to concede to the Territory some form of representation, and how much representation have we given that portion of the Commonwealth? It should be kept in mind that we shall not succeed in inducing the people to vote for any amendment of the Constitution unless they know exactly what such amendment means. We must tell the people whether we propose to take from the State Legis latures, for example, the administration of land, and of mines, and the control of education.
– Surely the matter of education ought to be uniform.
– I have my doubts about that. We might find that one State prefers to adopt what I consider the best form of education, wherein a boy would be put in a theoretical school for one week, and in a practical school, where he would learn the use of his hands, for the next week. The outcome of that method of education would be that we would not have youths, as at present, who have gone through the University, and have added letters to their names, but who, nevertheless, cannot get jobs. There are many things in regard to which provincial Legislatures, if they had’ the powers, could undertake experiments, but which the national Legislature could never carry on.
– Have they not got the powers to-day?
– They have, but the honorable member would take them away. It is better that the matter of education should be in the hands of the provincial Legislatures. Educational reforms are largely a matter -of experiment. There are many powers now held by the States in regard to which experiments may be wisely and successfully conducted. Even in regard to labour legislation, I am not satisfied that, if this Parliament had’ all necessary power to deal with the subject, that would be the best thing for the workers of Australia. The workers are dissatisfied with arbitration. Many people find fault to-day, because they say that a Judge of the Arbitration Court is not in a position to know the details of every industry, and that batter results can be obtained by medium of the industrial wages boards upon which there are direct representatives both of the workers and’ of their employers. The wages board system in Victoria has been, with certain reservations, _ a considerable success.
– An overwhelming success in contrast with the Arbitration Court.
– Then, again, labour legislation is largely experimental. At this stage I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 8 p.m.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I move-
That all the words after the word” That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ this House protests against the misleading answers given to the honorable member for Hindmarsh by the Defence Department in relation to the services in the Australian Imperial Force of Mr. G. E. Yates, ex-member for Adelaide.”
The Prime Minister, when moving the second reading of the War Gratuity Bill, said (Hansard, page 626) -
It is very sad to think that the honorable gentlemen opposite have not one returned soldier in their ranks.
I thereupon interjected -
Our returned soldiers were beaten by some of the men on your side who did not go to the war.
To that the Prime Minister replied -
I do not know about soldiers who did not go to the war.
Of course, my reference was not to soldiers who had not gone to the war, but to civilians -
There were in the last Parliament a couple of gentlemen who sat behind the honorable gentleman who wore the uniform of soldiers; but, though I am not a soldier, I say deliberately I wasa good deal nearer the Front, very many times, than ever they were.
I interjected again that that was not true of Mr. Corboy, and I would have added cither names had not you, Mr. Speaker, rightly intervened by calling the honor- able member to order. A slight scene was created, during which the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was named. When my turn came to speak on the War Gratuity Bill (Hansard, page 692) I referred to this incident -
I was cut off in my interjection when I sought to mention two other names, viz., Mr. McGrath and Mr. Yates.No one will say that Mr. Corboy. the late member for Swan, was not in the thick of the fighting right from Gallipoli to Flanders. The other two whose names were mentioned were defeated at the last election by non-combatants, and. furthermore,’ one of them, the late member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), was defeated by a younger man. It ill-becomes the Prime Minister or any one to cast a slur upon men who formerly sat in the House and “ did their bit.”
LastWeekthe honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) addressed a series of questions to the Assistant Minister for Defence, of which the first five were these -
To them these replies were given -
That means, of course, that he was the whole of the time with the Artillery.
Then followed this question -
It is to the answer given to it that I take most exception -
There are apparently in the Defence Department - I do not refer to the Minister - persons who desire to damn, as far as they can., every Labour man who saw service with the Australian Imperial” Force. Mr. Yates naturally felt hurt at the replies which I have read, and sent me the following letter, of which a copy was sent to every member of this party, because he considered that he had the right to place the facts before them, and to protest against the misrepresentation contained in the answers I have read. This is the letter I refer to -
Buller-street, Prospect, 16th April, 1920.
The unwarranted attack upon myself by the Prime Minister, together with the wilfully misleading reply given by the Minister for Defence to the question submitted to him by the member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) demands immediate denial and correction, and I look to you to see that at least I am protected from vilification, even though it is impossible to obtain fair treatment. In the replies given as to my service, it would appear that though no information can be vouchsafed as to my service in the field, the trivial and less important feature is known and distorted to make it appear that I had remained behind during the final offensive of August 8. I have no desire to claim glory for any effort that I may have made, but I “do demand just recognition of my services to my country. I joined the battery on May 23 -
That was admitted by the Defence Department - and was a member of the gun crew in my turn until August 25, during which period I served the gun in the engagements at VillersBretonneux, Morlancourt, Hamel, the big offensive, and during the evacuation in broad daylight under enemy fire of our position at Rosières. I remained a working member of the battery until August 25, when I was detailed
That would be about seventeen days after the offensive - to guard a baggage dump at Blangy Tronville. I remained there until September 15-
Not 25th October, as the Defence Department said - and on that day proceeded to rejoin the battery at Feuillieres, passing on the way between Corbie and Bray the Prime Minister and the member for Fremantle . (Mr. Burchell), who were surveying the scene of the battle of Hamel from the roadside, where Mr. Burchell acknowledged my salute when I hailed him as I passed. I was again left in charge of the dump when the battery moved forward, rejoining it at Tincourt on the 27th. I was once more left in charge of the dump for a further period, and subsequently rejoined the battery at Mauretz on October 13, and from there was evacuated to Rouen Hospital.
He was in hospital at the time the Defence Department say he was still guarding the baggage dump. If their records are worth anything, the Department must know that he was sent into hospital because he was gassed -
This must be recorded on the files, and the Minister misstated facts when he replied that I was located at Blangy-Tronville until October 25 or later. This, briefly, is my service with my unit, and a reference to Major Retchford, my commanding officer, will verify these facts. I have no desire to bask in the reflected glory of the efforts of others, but I do protest at being maligned in the manner that I have been. My services guarding the dump, if that is to ‘ be the measure of my usefulness as a soldier, will more than favorably compare with the task of racing around France in a limousine, or defending the ramparts of Piccadilly Circus. When I offered my services I was beyond the age of military service, and could well have done as others did, and remained at home to protect my interests. I have never regretted until now the step I then took nor the responsibilities it brought upon me, and at no time during my career as a soldier have I asked a favour or received one.
I performed those tasks assigned to me willingly > and, I believe, creditably; and I look to you as my leader to make my position clear by reading this to the House. I fear no investigation into my career as a soldier, and have nothing to regret, apologize for or be ashamed of, and can wear my badge as a token that I have conscientiously earned it.
He also sent me a private letter in which, on this subject, he said -
I was evacuated to hospital at the time the Minister for Defence saYs that I was still at Blangy-Tronville, and my medical sheet will show this. If the records are so incomplete as he says mine is, how are they going to award the bars to the medals for the engagements participated in? Are they to be indiscriminately scattered about without being verified? On Mav 26th, three days after I joined the battery, 1, and a man named Mackie, a Queenslander, had our gas masks taken from us to have triple eye-pieces fitted, and we were not supplied with emergency masks. This is a court martial offence.
On the part of the officer responsible.
That night we were in action, and Fritz got our position with high explosive and gas. Mackie and I were forced to lie in a hole near the gun with blankets over our heads, until the gun on our right was hit and all the gunners wounded. We were then ordered to fly to the signallers’ dugout, which was gasproof, and this we did across three hundred yards of shell-ploughed flat, with shell still coming over, so you see I was not long there before I got my baptism and took some risk. That night we had five casualties, and I suffered two days’ sickness and the loss of my voice for a week as my share. A week or so later Gunner Brook died from result of gas at the same position. We also buried Lieutenant Spence, who was killed at the forward waggon lines at the same place. While we were behind Morlancourt we were shelled oat one night, and next morning Lieutenant Creed, a Victorian, visited our gun-pit to see how close to our dugout was the enormous hole one shell made that nearly sent us all. to kingdom come. I could enumerate many more instances of risks run at times when we were holding the line, which have no reference to the engagements referred to in my letter.
I had occasion to visit Adelaide before Gunner Yates was sent overseas - I think in connexion with the election of 1917 - and as the Commonwealth representative of the Division of Adelaide and a member of the Labour party, he applied for a day’s leave so that he might meet me there, but leave was refused to him, and I remember receiving from him a telegram to that effect. About this he says -
Dollman’s reply to me on that occasion was that they did not know me as a politician but as a soldier, and I always played that part. . . . A third of my wealth was at the disposal of the Commonwealth, free of interest, and while I have no desire to parade this, I am forced to do so in my own defence.
He subscribed to the Commonwealth war loan, and did not accept the interest it bore. To my way of thinking, he is making a mistake in refusing the interest on this money, but that is what he has done, and his statement in regard to the matter is capable of verification by reference to the Treasury Department.
– The letter of Gunner Yates proceeds and concludes as follows : -
In regard to my being detailed to guard the baggage dump, when that happened Major Retchford said to me, “ Yates, I am a much younger man than you, but I find this life a heavy strain, and I am going to give 3’ou an easier job.” And I fully appreciated the major’s consideration, though I had played my part in any job assigned to me. .
I desire to place these letters on record. I do it more willingly because Gunner Yates is a member of the party which I have the honour to lead, but I would do it for any man in order that he might obtain justice. I object to any Department being so politically biased that it will fail to give credit to a man who has gone overseas and “ done his bit.” Once a man enlists he is compelled to do what his military superiors call upon him to do. Those honorable members who went overseas could not go about and say that they would do this or that. They were obliged to do what their superiors told them to do. Gunner Yates was refused permission to meet me in Adelaide, and his treatment in this respect was in striking comparison with that which was meted out to the principal censor in South Australia, who, being a member of the Prime Minister’s party, went to meet the right honorable gentleman on his visit to the same city, and was photographed with him as one of his principal supporters. I do not say that Gunner Yates did not make mistakes. No man can say that he has never made a mistake. I have made mistakes, and I will make more if I am spared to live. But to say the least of it, it is not a creditable thing for the Defence Department to endeavor to damn this man’s military record and make out that he had not done something he was asked to do or to say that he was guarding a baggage dump, when, as a matter of fact, at that time he was in hospital after having been gassed. It is a military scandal.
– Was the information supplied by the Honorary Minister false in fact?
– It was absolutely false, according to the statement of Gunner Yates, which can be verified. I presume that medals will be distributed to each soldier, with bars denoting the engage-, ments in which each man took part. How are these bar3 to be affixed to Gunner Yates’ medal if the Department does not know that he was at VillersBretonneux, Morlancourt, Hamel, and the other places mentioned.? It is known that he was a member of a gun crew.
– Gunner Yates refers to his commanding officer.
– Yes, I happened to know him personally many years ago, but I have not the remotest idea where he is to-day. However, he could show that the answers supplied to the Honorary Minister by the Defence Department were misstatements in a number of cases for the purpose of doing a wrong to a man who has no opportunity of defending himself in the House. It is a wrong which I hope will be righted by those honorable members who desire fair play to be given to any man, irrespective of the party to which he belongs, who went overseas to do his duty. I hope this will be done. Unless it can be proved that he shirked his duty or did not go where he was sent, it must be admitted that he did his duty and did go where he was sent. If he was not in the fighting line it was the mistake of his superiors and not his. However, he claims that he was in certain engagements, and I have no reason to disbelieve him. In any case his statement can be proved by his commanding officer. I hope that honorable members will look at the matter carefully, because^ I think the Department have made a serious mistake, and I trust they will rectify it, in order that credit may be given where it is due.
– I have listened to what seems to me to have been a long tirade of abuse from the Leader of the Opposition. He and other honorable members of the Opposition have accused me of having deliberately supplied certain answers to questions submitted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin).
– The honorable gentleman was not accused of having done so.
– Yes, I am. I gave the answers to the honorable member’s questions, and am now told that I deliberately gave what were practically false replies.
I have heard a lot about Gunner Yates to-night. Previously I had not heard very much of the case. I ‘had simply heard it mentioned. The gravamen of the charge now made against the officers of the Defence Department who supplied the answers I read in the House is that in the latter part of my reply I said that-
It is understood Gunner Yates was one of a small guard which remained there until the 25th October, 1918, or later, and, therefore, did not participate in the big offensive.
– That is a direct denial of the statement of Gunner Yates.
– The Leader of the. Opposition (Mr. Tudor) says that this portion of my reply was inserted purposely in order to belittle the services of Gunner Yates.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Has it escaped the notice of those honorable members who say “ hear, hear,” that this portion of my reply was given in answer to a question? The honorable member for Hindmarsh asked -
Is it a fact that the 50th Battery was engaged in the raid on Villiers-Bretonneux on the 15th June, 1918; Morlancourt, 29th July, 1918; the taking of Hamel, 4th July, 1918; and the -big offensive of 8th August, 1918, during which time Gunner Yates formed one of the gun crew?
Because I replied that Gunner Yates was not one of that gun crew, I am now accused of having attempted to belittle his services.
– He was one of a gun crew.
– The Leader of the Opposition says that Gunner Yates’ statement proves that he wa3 one of that gun crew. That is a nice way to prove it. I do not say that Gunner Yates’ statements are all they should be, or that they are all true, but evidently honorable members are prepared to accept them against the statements of the responsible officers in the Defence Department and mine in furnishing a reply to the question put by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– I did not reflect on the Assistant Minister. The answers were handed to him by the Defence Department. The Minister admits that he did not know much about the case until tonight.
– I admit that I did not know much about the case. When the question was put on the businesspaper for a reply the only way in which I could furnish an answer was by consulting the responsible departmental officers. I cannot be supposed to know all these things myself. 1 am not in a position to ascertain the facts for myself. I must rely on the departmental officers. I do not think it will be 3aid that Major Lean, the officer in charge of Base Records, is actuated by any motive except a desire to give correct information to any one who requires it. He furnished the following particulars on the 9th April last : -
– “Engagements not known.” That is not bad !
– The engagements in which Gunner Yates served are not known. I dare say that by a very lengthy search throughout the records; we might ascertain the engagements in which each individual private served, but it would be a very difficult process, when we remember that it would mean the searching of the records of 200,000 or 300,000 men. The information could be got if reasonable time were allowed.
– This man’s record is worthy of it.
– I am quite prepared to see that an exhaustive inquiry is made, because I have absolutely no reason for not giving the facts to the House as I know them. If there was anything in the records that would show that Gunner Yates’ service was all that it should have been, I would be only too delighted to put it forward, because it is a. cruel thing to malign a man who has gone overseas and done hia bit. It is a very difficult matter for a. man to fight against a calumny. Once it is uttered, it very soon runs on like a bush fire, and is all over the country before the person who has set it going realizes what he has done. I would not have Gunner Yates or any other member of the rank and file maligned, or have his record besmirched, if I could possibly avoid it. Major Lean’s report continues -
As to whether he formed part of a gun’s crew can only be definitely stated by his commanding officer. Perhaps Lieutenant-Colonel H. O. Caddy, C.M.G., D.S.O., who commanded his brigade, can supply some information on this subject. Nothing is shown on his records as to recruiting leave.
The matter was referred to LieutenantColonel Caddy, and his letter is pretty definite. It reads as follows: -
Re your inquiry of 10th inst. No. 3S614, Gunner G. E. Yates was taken on the strength of the 13th Brigade, A.F.A., A.I.F., and posted to the 50th Battery on 23rd May, 191S, and was evacuated sick on loth October, 1918.
– That is not in harmony with your answer, of last week, to the effect that he was on guard at the dump until the 25th October, or later.
– My answer was -
– Colonel Caddy says he was in hospital om the 15th October.
– He says -
And was evacuated sick on 15th October, 1918.
– So that he could not have been at the dump “ until 25th October, or ‘later.’”
– Whoever supplied the Minister with the information on which he based his answer should be severely reprimanded.
– There does appear to he a discrepancy there, and I shall have it looked into. I said to the officers of the Department when I took up my present position, “ If any of you sell me a pup, then you will all know it.” Colonel Caddy goes on to say-
That battery fired portion of the barrage which was required in support of a raid near Villers-Bretonneux on the 15th June, 1918, and was in action near Fouilly at the time. Similarly the battery participated in a minor operation near Morlancourt on the 29th July, 191S, and also in the Hamel operation of 4th July, 191S. I cannot say whether Gunner Yates formed part of one of the 50th Battery gun detachments or not. I have no records showing that. Possibly his B.C. may remember.
Before commencing the big offensive, beginning on 8th August, 1918, the brigade formed a dump of surplus stores and baggage at Blangy-Tronville, near Amiens, and Gunner Yates formed one of a guard of one N.C.O. and three men (I am not quite sure of the figures ) which remained there until the 25th October, or later. So that Gunner Yates certainly did not participate in the big offensive commencing on8th August, 1918.
If you desire to obtain further information, I could communicate with MajorRetchford, his B.C., and the R.M.O., who, I think, could give me further information; but one is in Sydney and the other at Albury.
– The error in the date is made in the same document. That is where it comes from.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE. This Brigade Commander says distinctly that Gunner Yates did not take part in the big offensive, because he was on duty at the dump. I gave that information as my reply to the latter part of the question. Great exception has been taken to it by the Leader of the Opposition; and to judge from interjections made by honorable members opposite, they apparently thought that this information was given merely to besmirch the record of Gunner Yates. It was nothing of the kind. It was given in answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. He asked if Gunner Yates was not one of a gun crew in the big offensive, and this was the information elicited from the officers.
– Has the Minister taken steps to communicate with the commanding officer of the battery?
– There was not very much time to do it before, but I assure the Leader of the Opposition that I shall see that further investigation is made into the case. I do not want to hide any of the truth about Gunner Yates, or anybody else. I recognise that a man has the right to demand the very fullest inquiry when these things are said, because you cannot say a worse thing about a man than that he shirked his duty in the field.
– While you are speaking, the men behind you are besmirching his character, and that makes us suspicious.
– Who is doing so?
– The honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) has been making most insulting inter jections while the Minister has been speaking.
– The only interjection I made while the Minister was speaking was that the document itself had made the mistake, and that is a fact.
– You said something before that.
– Order ! All these discussions across the chamber are irregular.
– I am not going to deal with the other part of the Leader of the. Opposition’s speech. I do not think it is necessary to say anything regarding Gunner Yates’ application for leave prior to going away, as it does not really affect the case; but I would point out to the Leader of the Opposition, and to other honorable members opposite, that Gunner Yates did not behave as an ordinary private when he enlisted. He presumed on his position as a member of Parliament, which he should not have done. He should have been treated only in the same manner as any other private.
– This is a serious charge which you are laying against him. What did he do?
– For instance, at a meeting, he made public a lot of correspondence which I do not think he should have made public; and because he was not granted leave, he sent to the Minister for Defence, who was the head of the Department, telegrams and letters which I do not think even honorable members opposite would say were quite the thing.
– From camp?
– I presume he sent them from camp.
– He still held a dual position and he was not the only one that used it.
– That is just the point. The Minister for Defence pointed out that leave was granted only to those members who were being opposed in their electorates, in order to enable them to fight their election; but Gunner Yates was not opposed in his electorate, and on that ground the Minister refused to grant him leave. However, I do not think we shall get any further by opening up what occurred before he went away. There is no doubt that they were at cross purposes over the whole business, and telegrams and letters passed which certainly should not pass between a soldier and the Minister for Defence. I do not think there is any desire on the part of any one in the Department to do an injustice to Gunner
Yates or any other private; nor do I think it was necessary for the Leader of the Opposition to say that it was because Gunner Yates held different political views from those of this party that an endeavour was made to besmirch his record or to give misleading answers. .
– You will admit that if I think that, I am far more honest in stating it than in keeping it to myself?
– Quite so. I assure the honorable member that I shall see that a further investigation is made. We will obtain information from the man who actually commanded the battery. If there is in the Department any information that I can obtain that will clear Gunner Yates I shall be pleased to produce it.
.- The reply made by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) to the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Tudor) makes it perfectly clear either that bias has been displayed in the treatment of Gunner Yates, or that the officers in charge of the records are inefficient. We have to judge between Gunner Yates and certain departmental officers, and I, for one, especially in view of my own experience, and that of many other honorable members, during the last four years, am prepared to accept Gunner Yates’ word in preference to that of the departmental officers.
– Others may not be prepared to do so.
– Quite so. The fact that the honorable gentleman has information which, if not directly contradictory of that which he has previously given to the Blouse, at least does not tally with it, shows either bias or incapacity on the part of those who prepared for the Minister answers to questions on the subject. As to the honorable gentleman suggesting that his honour had been impugned by statements made from this side of the House to-night, I think we may pass over the statement, because I am sure that he does not seriously believe that we are impugning his honour. The experience of many members of the Opposition is not such as to lead them to have any degree of confidence in the departmental officers. Gunner Yates has made certain statements which are contradicted in the departmental , records. In one instance, the contradiction goes in one direction, and in another it is, in quite a different direction. The fact that questions put by members have been answered in such a slipshod fashion that the dates do not tally also makes one think that there is political bias against Gunner Yates. My own belief.is that there has been gross bias on the part of departmental officers. There is, for instance, the Ozanne case, which is sub judice. Apparently, certain of the “ brass hats “ in the service are quite willing to serve -their master, the ‘ Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes)-
– The honorable member has just said that the Ozanne case is sub judice.
– I care not for that. The Parliament is above the Judiciary, and while I am. a member of this House I shall talk on any subject I please, regardless of whether or not it is being dealt with in any Court.
– That is if Mr. Speaker will allow you to do so.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that matter.
– I am not prepared to accept the word of the “ brass hats “ who have sold themselves to the National Government. Throughout the war, men high in the Departments, and especially in the Defence Department, have sold themselves body and soul - have put men ( in gaol, and done the most contemptible I things - because, in some instances, they have been ordered to do so by their masters, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Actions have been taken which, to say the least, are unworthy of gentlemen. In the very near future, no doubt, evidence will be adduced from men who allowed themselves to be used as political tools, and who complied with their master’s demand to be supplied with certain cablegrams, which were to be published on the eve of an election in order to defeat a candidate.
-Order! The honorable member is not now dealing with the question immediately before the Chair.
– It bears generally on the question of the Defence Department’s treatment of Labour members.
– The question before the Chair relates to the case of Gunner Yates specifically, and not in general terms to honorable members.
– His case is very much on a par -with many others that have occurred during this war. The honour of Gunner Yates has been besmirched by departmental officers who have supplied information to the Assistant Minister. An inquiry by departmental officers is not sufficient. The honour of an ex-member of this House, who, I anticipate, will be with us again in 1923, or even earlier, is impugned by some of the “ brass hats “ of the Department. The Government should agree to the appointment of a Select Committee to examine the whole of the papers available in Australia, and to interrogate the officers commanding the brigade and division with which Gunner Yates was connected. If the Minister will agree to the appointment of a Select Committee to go into the case it will be to the advantage of Gunner Yates and all concerned.
– I sincerely hope that no member of this House would be so unchivalrous, not to say unfair, as to deny to any soldier who proceeded abroad the fullest credit for the service rendered by him. Gunner Yates has given day and date in respect of the engagements in which he took part. Thus material has been supplied, the accuracy of which can be verified or disproved. The information now supplied should’, enable the Minister to at least give to this House, at a future date, and after the closest investigation, the full facts of the case. Gunner Yates is entitled to every credit for his service abroad, and the mere fact that while in Parliament he sat on the Opposition benches I hope will not induce any honorable member to detract in the slightest degree from the credit due to him. At the same time I think the Opposition do Gunner Yates’ case a measure of injustice when they set to work to besmirch the character of the officers of the Department* who supplied certain information.
– Not without reason.
– I have heard nothing to disprove the statements made by the officers. :
– Then the honorable member could not have listened to the debate.
– I have followed it closely, and have observed that there is an immaterial discrepancy of ten days between the statement of the officer supplying the report and that of Gunner Yates as to the date when he was sent into hospital. That is not a’ matter of substance at all’.
– He states that he was a certain time on service and a certain time in charge of the dumps. Mr. James Page. - But, even supposing that he were in charge of the dumps, somebody had to be in charge of them.
– If he was ordered to that duty, there is no discredit attaching to it.
– The report does not state that he went into hospital as the result of being gassed.
– That question is not involved here. The question which is involved is as to whether it wa3 the loth or 25th October when he was retired to the hospital. The sole point which I desire to make is that the Minister is called upon to furnish this House with the facts from the information which he now has before him, and the very definite statements that have been made by Gunner Yates will enable him to get at those facts. But it is very unreasonable for the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to make such aspersions as he has done against the officers of the Defence Department.
– My arrest was ordered in Sydney by the “ brass hats,” and I have a very keen recollection of it.
– The honorable member has complained of the honour of Gunner Yates having been besmirched, and yet he himself set to work to besmirch the honour of the officers of the Department who have furnished the Minister with certain information that is disclosed by the records.
– But they are remarkably silent -with regard to his achievements.
– They have given all the information at their disposal, and they could do no more. That information has been supplied in direct answer to pointed questions put by honorable members opposite.
– They were due to statements made by the Prime Minister that two members from this side of the Chamber had gone overseas to fight, but had seen no fighting.
– The questions put have been categorically answered. I am anxious that Gunner Yates should be given the fullest credit for his services.
– Would not the honorable member, himself object if he had been evacuated, into hospital as a reSult of being gassed on the loth October, seeing that that statement corroborates the statement of Gunner Yates?
– The question of why he was sent into the hospital is not material. There is no doubt that he was sent there. The question we have to consider is whether it was on the 15th or the 25th October when he was ordered into hospital. That is the only difference between the statements which have been made, and it is not a difference which justifies the aspersions that have; been so freely indulged in against the officers of the Department. With honorable members opposite I join in their request to ths Minister that the most exhaustive inquiry shall be conducted into this matter, in order that, with the facts before it, Gunner Yates may be judged by this House. I trust that the fullest credit will be given to Gunner Yates for the service which he has rendered, and I hope that he will prove himself to be just as entitled i.u the thanks of the community as have been other honorable members who went abroad.
.- It strikes me that the principal cause of all this recrimination - the statement of the Prime Minister that Gunner Yates, in common with other members upon this side of the House, had enlisted for service abroad, but had seen no fighting - has been entirely overlooked. The whole trouble originated with the attack of the right honorable gentleman, who attempted to show that there was not a single soldier representative upon this side of the chamber, and that those of its members who had gone overseas had simply been masquerading in soldiers’ uniforms. That statement is only part and parcel of the continuous campaign of deliberate misrepresentation which was adopted by the National party and their officials right throughout the war period, and has been pursued ever since. Upon Hie one hand they denounced those of us who did not go to the war as traitors to the Empire, whilst on the other they branded as cowards and dodgers of thetrenches members of the Opposition who did go. This is part of the reward of the latter. No wonder that GunnerYates says, in his letter to bis leader, that “ he has never regretted until now “ his share in the European conflict. Thi* is the reward of members of the Opposition who went to fight .for the flag and who trusted their honour in the hands of honorable members opposite. Gunner Yates received a portion of his rewards upon his return to Australia. His services to the Empire, and his efforts to> remedy the conditions which existed ons the transport by which he travelled home, were rewarded by imprisonment. When an attempt was .made by means of questions to put him right, clerical errorsoccurred. AH mention of Gunner Yates’’ record appears to be missing. There is no record of what lie ha& done, but insinuations are made that he did not do something which ho did, .and he has therefore appealed ito ‘his commandingofficer to back up his own statement. When these questions were asked, instead’ of the Minister requesting their postponement until the required information was received., he .answered them on the meagreinformation which was then available. Seeing .that the answers still further reflected upon Gunner Yates, the latter has* sent forth his vindication, and has appealed to his commanding officer to confirm his own statement as to his servicesIt is quite evident that the Minister had not previously read the correspondence on this matter, otherwise he would have noted the discrepancy between the reply and the letter which he read. Obviously, merely a casual search was made in order to vindicate Gunner Yates or otherwise. Instead, the statement has been broadcasted .through the press that Gunner Yates pretended to have rendered some service to this country which he had not rendered. Such tactics are quite inharmony with the campaign of the Nationalist party outside in regard tomembers of the Opposition, irrespective of whether or not they went to the war. Under our parliamentary procedure I am? not at liberty to refer to other cases with which honorable members are fully acquainted. They have heard of the little bills for cigars and drinks of other ex-members from the Opposition side of the Chamber. These have been printed’ in big headlines in the newspapers, in order to damage men who went overseas expecting to get a square deal from honorable members opposite.
– Seventeen pounds, was it not?
– The honorable member justifies all that I have said. He has evidently been paying particular attention to these items. Naturally he would, and no doubt he made use of them during the recent election campaign.
– The honorable member’s evil mind leads him to impute motives without justification.
– Order ! These interjections have nothing to do. with the question.
– It is not a question of my evil mind, but of the honorable member’s evil record. I do not propose to delay the House any further with my comments on the. matter, but I think it is quite obvious to honorable members, especially to those who are new to £he House, that the character of no man, whether he ‘be soldier or civilian, if he be opposed to those in authority, who have the chance to suppress facts, and damn with faint praise, is safe in the hands .of the party opposite, and their record- since they have been in office stinks in the nostrils of the people on account of their evil doings.
– My concern in this matter is that the real culprit is escaping. The Prime Minister was the cause of the whole trouble. Nobody blames the Assistant Minister for the answer which was given to him by his departmental officers. The fact is that the Prime Minister will do anything or say anything to beat his political opponents. He will resort to any methods; in fact, it is hard to set a limit to what he will do. In this chamber he made a sneering and contemptible a.ttack upon the soldier members of the Labour party. I expected that the returned soldiers on the Government side would have risen in revolt. I have heard every one of them traduced by somebody, but believing that the statements were lies, I have gone out of my way to contradict them. Surely there is something else in parliamentary life than the desire to avail oneself of every opportunity to defeat, one’s political opponents. That was the object of the Prime Minister when he said that the soldier members on this side had never smelt powder, and that he had been nearer to the firing line than they were.
Do honorable members know that every time the right honorable gentleman went to the Front the soldiers cursed him, because they had to parade against their will ? There are men on the Government side who know that as well as I do. Whenever he went into the trenches he was well protected, and other men were subjected to additional risk in order to insure his safety.
– They showed their feeling towards him when he came back, did they not?
– That was because the Prime Minister had bribed them.
– Order ! I call upon the honorable member for Angas to withdraw the statement that the Prime Minister bribed the soldiers. Being new to the usage of the House, the honorable member may not be aware that such reflections upon an honorable member are not in order.
– I withdraw .in deference to your ruling, sir, but not because I said something that is untrue.
– The honorable member is not permitted to qualify a withdrawal. In accordance with the rules of the House he must completely withdraw the allegation he -made.
– I withdraw it.
– The Prime Minister said that he was nearer to> the firing line than were the honorable members who enlisted from this side of the House. If that is true it is not to his credit. General Holmes was killed when he was engaged in showing Mr. Holman around in France. Every soldier knows that when there was any particular stir in our lines, the enemy knew it, and paid special attention to the locality. Therefore, the visit of anybody who was surrounded with the glamour of a political .position exposed other men to additional risk. The Prime Minister would have done better to have kept away from the firing line. Whatever the right honorable gentleman is in private life, for political purposes he would do .anything. That has always been his method in public life. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), will agree that the battery commander must have a complete record of Gunner Yates’ service. The record may not be known to the colonel of a brigade of artillery, because the brigade might be scattered along a front of 20 or 30 miles, but the battery commander would know the record of each of his men through his pay sergeant, and ought to be able to ascertain exactly where each man was on a certain date. This matter is of sufficient importance to warrant the Assistant Minister making inquiry of the battery officers.
– I have said that that will be done.
– Anybody hearing the Prime Minister’s statement in this House, and then reading the answers supplied by the . Assistant Minister to Une questions which arose out of the Prime Minister’s allegations, could come to no other conclusion than that what the Prime Minister said was perfectly correct. There is no statement in the answer that on the 25th October Gunner Yates was admitted to hospital on account of gas poisoning.
– I have information to the effect that on 14th October, 1918, he was admitted sick to 48 Casualty Clearing Station, Prance, suffering from erythema.
– Gunner Yates, in his letter, has made a definite statement. How foolish he would be to do that if it was not correct, because he must know that the Minister, could at once refute it. Rather than make an incorrect statement, it would be better for him to allow the Prime Minister’s allegation to go unchallenged. But he demands that his statement be placed in Hansard as a refutation of the charge against him. Gunner Yates has hopes of continuing his public life, but an allegation such as. that made by the Prime Minister would damn him. The Prime Minister ought to apologize to the House for the sneering accusation he made against members on this side. Am I to follow his example, and every .time I hear soldier members on the Ministerial side traduced agree by innuendo or sneers with the allegations made against them? If I were to resort to repeating gossip of that kind, in order to down a political opponent, I would feel such contempt for myself that I could not appear in public again. The Prime Minister ought to be prevented from saying these things. I believe that he received his information from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who, like him, would resort to any methods to beat his political opponents. We have evidence of that in his past record. In regard to the final paragraph of the answer to the questions that were asked, the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) will agree with me that, whilst the reference to guarding ammunition dumps might be understood by a soldier, it would convey to the general public the impression that Gunner Yates was out of the firing line altogether. No doubt the statement was made for that purpose, whereas the men guarding the dumps might have been subject to either artillery fire or aerial attack. The public would infer that they were only caretakers of baggage.
– The question lent itself to that reply. In fact, that reply had to be given to the question as to whether he was one of a gun crew ‘who took part in the big offensive on a certain date. The answer merely indicated where he was on that date.
- Mr. Yates declares that he was at the big offensive, and the departmental records ought to show whether he is speaking the truth or not. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) will admit that it is quite possible that at no stage was a battery of artillery at its full strength, so a colonel would probably not know if Gunner Yates were present or not, but the battery commander should know, and there ought to be an investigation into the whole of the circumstances. Mr. Yates says that he was in action, and therefore did risk his life on many occasions.
– The Assistant Minister admits that the battery was engaged.
– But he does not know whether Mr. Yates was present or not.
– Mr. Yates says he was, and that is good enough for us.
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) will know that only one section of a battery of artillery might be in action at one time. Mr. Yates has made the statement that he was in action at the big offensive, but the authorities say they do not know whether he was or not. In consequence of the sneering charge made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) it is up to the Assistant Minister for Defence to prove whether Mr. Yates’ statements are true or ‘otherwise. That is all I ask, and I hope that there will be an end to these charges across the table about feather-bed soldiers on this side of the House. If I were to repeat what I have heard about the remissness of some soldier members opposite, about how they shirked their duties, and how they got promotion, I should deserve to be kicked out of the House for giving credence to such statements. As I have refrained from repeating such stories which have come to my ears, surely the Prime Minister ought to do likewise.
.- As one of the soldier members of the House, the course of the debate is very distasteful to me. I am sorry th 66 the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made any remarks concerning the conduct of Gunner Yates, for, as a soldier myself, I should never attempt to criticise any ether soldier’s conduct. I have no information about these matters, but even if I had, I should certainly give Gunner Yates the benefit of the doubt. As a soldier, I would value ‘ the good opinion of the men with whom I had fought more highly than even that of - the officers under whom I served, or even the public of Australia, and Gunner Yates must know perfectly well whether or not if he has their good opinion. I have no reason to think he has not. During the last few weeks the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), in his reference to military matters, has appeared to draw a distinction between what he calls the “ rankers “ and the officers; I may inform him that the old meaning of the term “ ranker “ was, I believe, an officer who had enlisted and worked his way up from the ranks. But I think the Leader of the Opposition, when he used the term “ ranker,” meant a private in the ranks. Mr. Tudor. - A private or a gunner still in the ranks.
– Well, I hope he will not use the expression again in that way, because I am a ranker myself. I enlisted in three campaigns as an ordinary trooper, and, if I managed to work UP to an officer’s rank, as many others did, that fact does’ not, I hope, make me any less the trooper at heart.
I trust that there never, will be any distinction’ made between rankers and officers, because I hate this attempt to associate soldiers in any political quarrel, and to create feeling between the troopers, or diggers, and those who may have been officers. It is distasteful to me to hear any criticism of the reputation of Gunner Yates or any other soldier or officer. I am sure other soldier members of the House think as I do in the matter. We have a little Soldiers Committee, as everybody knows - and which has been wrongly named a party - representing soldier members on this side of the House, because there happens to be soldiers only in the Country and Nationalist parties, but I am quite sure that if there were soldier members in the Labour party, they would be with us in the Committee,and we would be proud to have them. It is my sincere wish that no further time will be spent running down any soldier’s reputation. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) has promised - and I want him to keep his promise) - that he will get any further information that is available about Gunner Yates, and I hope it will be published in Ilansard, so that Gunner Yates’ reputation may be placed above criticism.
.- All honorable members with a tendency towards Labour principles have a vivid recollection of the difficult path they had to tread during the whole course of the war, because of the attempt of those opposed to the Australian Labour movement to discredit them, in order to further the interests of certain other political parties. We have before us the case of an ex-member who has been prominent in Labour politics, and who in every respect has proved himself to be a man. The answers to the questions that I asked the Assistant Minister for Defence afforded an opportunity for a wrong impression to be created concerning the efforts of a Labourite during the course of the war. The answer to question No. 6 was -
It is understood that Gunner Yates was one of a small guard which remained there until 25th February, 1918. “ It is understood “ ! There is really nothing definite there; but within that answer there is room for innuendo and suspicious inference; and when a man’s reputation is at stake, not only as a private citizen, but as a- public man, such an answer is sufficient to damn and blight his future career. The circumstances call for most emphatic protest, not only from members on this side, but from members on either side who have any desire to see fair play. I appreciate the fact that to-night we have had an assurance that further investigation is to be made into this case, I wish to impress on the Government and the country at large that Mr. Yates asks for no favour or privilege, but only for justice. He courts every inquiry, and we hope that the promised investigation will be of the most exhaustive character, so that his case may be judged on its merits and his reputation cleared. Great publicity was given to my questions and the answers’ to them, and I hope that publicity as great will be given to any future proceedings. Mr. Yates desires no limelight or glory, but only, as I say, justice. It is to be hoped that those who have been responsible for the possibility of creating wrong impressions in the minds of the community regarding Mr. Yates, will in the future recognise their duty towards each and every citizen of the Commonwealth. It is further to be hoped that a more honest and tolerant spirit will prevail on the part of those who have hitherto seized every occasion to vilify the war efforts of people who support Labour principles. It must be realized that every citizen who took part in the war followed the course which he felt most becoming and worthy of himself as a citizen. It ill becomes any man, irrespective of what service he may have rendered, to reflect on the service rendered by another, in this instance, more especially in view of the position which Mr. Yates held in the Army. He was willing to serve, and did serve, in such capacity as was allocated by the commanding officers to him, incurring all the risks and dangers by actual participation in the engagements, which are definitely proved by date and data in the statement of his case submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, and he ought to be given credit for what he did ; at any rate, his reputation, as a soldier, a citizen, and a public man ought to be cleared.
.- -I feel a certain amount of diffidence in rising to discuss this question to-night. I greatly deprecate all the “mud-slinging” that has gone over various soldiers’ records. Honorable members opposite appear to regard all the departmental officers of the Defence Department a& actuated by political bias ; and this was particularly so in the case of the honorable member for the Barrier (Mr. Considine).
– I said nothing of the sort. I said that your party is so actuated.
– The circumstance of the difference of ten days in the date can be very easily explained Prom my reading or hearing of the letter, Gunner Yates himself admits having been on guard’ at the depot. He was away from, his unit at the time, and consequently his company commander, or battery commander, would not have the details of which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) spoke. . Any one who was at the Front knows that the moment a man gets away on detail work, touch with him is lost for the time being, and probably he is not brought back on the strength of the unit until the guard’s return. The guard, on which Gunner Yates was, returned on the 25th October, and that would be the next date on which he would appear on the roll of his unit. In the meantime, unfortunately, he was evacuated to hospital with erythema, not, as was stated earlier in the night, with gas. I wish to state here, however, that probably the erythema was brought on by the effects of the gas. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), who condemns everything connected with the Nationalist party, gave a very fair illustration of what he knows of returned soldiers, when he accused them of having been bribed. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has stated that members of the National party are doing all they possibly can to discredit the work of soldier members of the party on the other side.
– That is true. They have done so.
– I differ from the honorable member. The majority of the men in my own command were believers in the political creed of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– I am glad the honorable member recognises that.
– And I cannot pay those men too much honour. To say that any one on this side refuses to give soldier members of the Labour party credit for what they have done is wrong.. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) mentioned the Soldiers Committee in the course of his speech, and stated that if there were a returned soldier on the opposite side, the members of that Committee would be Very glad indeed to have him join in their deliberations. 1 can assure honorable members that such is the feeling of the members of that Committee that were there returned soldiers on the Opposition side they would bo working with the present members of the Committee as one body for one interest. I trust that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) will cause a full inquiry to be made into the case of Gunner Yates, and will see that he is credited with the whole of the work that he did overseas. I trust that his complete record will be made public in order that his statements, if correct, may be substantiated.
.- In supporting the motion, I echo the opinion expressed by two or three honorable members on this side, that in this matter the real culprit is the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). This is not by any means the first time he has offended in the same way. His sneering remarks concerning soldier members of the Labour party, and his reflections upon Gunner Yates, naturally aroused resentment on this side amongst those who know the sterling character of Gunner Yates, and were responsible for the questions asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). Those questions cornered the Prime Minister, and I am prepared to. express the opinion that the Defence Department was asked to supply answers to the questions which would in some way substantiate his remarks. I say that the Defence Department in this matter has been used as a political institution, and was so used in hundreds of other instances during the last four or five years. I think that it is a matter for regret, with many honorable members opposite, that the Department cannot be used in the same way so effectively in the future. The reflections which the Prime Minister made upon Gunner Yates should earn for him the condemnation of all returned men. I heard an interjection, I think from the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), that that opinion was not borne out by the way in which the returned soldiers received the Prime Minister on his return. If the honorable member knew as much about that matter as other people do, he would not have made that remark, because it is known that all those things were stage-managed and arranged beforehand. It seems to me a very peculiar thing that the gentlemen, whoever they were, who supplied the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) with the answers to the questions put by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), could not find out whether Gunner Yates took part in the great offensive, or was gassed and sent to hospital, but they could find out that he was somewhere in charge of a baggage dump, thus implying that he was well out of the firing line. Why are these methods adopted, and why is Gunner Yates persecuted in this way? These things are not done in an irresponsible way, but, in my opinion, in pursuance of a deep-laid plan. I say emphatically that the Nationalist Government and the Defence Department do not want returned soldiers on this side of the House, because if they were here they could not be gagged so effectively as they can be outside. That is one of the reasons why any method has been adopted to prevent returned soldiers getting into this Parliament to advocate Labour principles. Tho Assistant Minister for Defence said that he would not like any returned soldier to have his character or service falsely represented. I give the honorable gentleman credit for some intelligence, and I say that he should have known that the answers to the questions of the honorable member for Hindmarsh carried with them innuendoes which would misrepresent the case of Gunner Yates. For that reason, whatever other honorable members on this side may be prepared to do, I cannot completely exonerate the Assistant Minister for Defence from blame in this matter. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not charge the honorable gentleman with any wilful misrepresentation. There might be some excuse for him if he read the answers to the questions supplied to him without studying them, but even then he must accept responsibility for them just the same. The object of the questions was to reply to the slurs of the Prime Minister, but the answers supplied to them contain innuendoes which put Gunner Yates in a false position, have hurt his feelings, and wounded his pride as a returned soldier to such an extent that in his letter he feels compelled to say that he has not up till now regretted the step he had taken. He was over the age which made him eligible for active service, and might have pointed to that fact to avoid enlistment if he so desired, but he voluntarily went overseas prepared to lay down his life for the cause we were fighting for, and his reward from the other side is that he has to admit that it was not until be got back again to free Australia that he had to regret the action he took. I have heard other returned men express a similar opinion, though not for the same, reason. I say that the action of the Defence Department is to be condemned when they treat a returned soldier in such a way as to make him sorry that he ever went to the Front. During the past few years the Nationalist party has been exploiting the spirit of patriotism to gratify its own petty ambitions, or to secure some position of advantage. Evidences such as these serve merely to confirm in one’s mind the accuracy of that famous saying of Dr. Johnson that the plea of patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
Dr. MALONEY (Melbourne) [9.411.- J feel sure that the House will be content with the assurance of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). The mere fact that he has told the officers under his control that if they ever try to “ sell him a pup “ he will make them answer for it reassures me that here we have to deal with a soldier. There is one thing standing to the credit of Gunner Yates, apart from his war service, which, perhaps, may not be said of any other individual in the Forces. He was not only willing to offer his life, but gave onethird of his money free of interest. It may interest honorable members to know how little from all the wealth of Australia was offered free of interest by those who could give when their country was in need. The sum of only about £1,200 was given, and out of that two unions each donated £100. The highest individual sum was £400; while - most pathetic of all - there were five gifts each of £10. These, indeed, represented the widow’s mite. I feel confident that the Assistant Minister for Defence will get to the bottom of these answers furnished by some official under his authority, but I also want the honorable gentleman to understand and appreciate my experience with the upper circle in the Defence Department. I dare say he would be unable to furnish me with a single instance, except that which I have in mind, where a court martial has given its deci910n in favour of a soldier, after which the case has been brought before a civil court for a fresh trial. I accuse the circle in the Defence Department, with regard to the case of Gunner Perry, of having brought about his trial again, under a magistrate named Cohen. I accuse the Department of having withheld from me for seven days opportunity to look at the files concerned with that case. I accuse the Department of having faked those files. I accuse its officials of having employed a medical man who, according to sworn evidence in Court, acknowledged that he had tormented this unfortunate soldier, Perry, by applying electricity to his ear, and to the red of his lips, and of endeavouring to place electricity to the tip of his tongue. I may say that, as for that doctor, when he sets up in practice in any part of Australia it is my intention to give a public lecture in his close neighbourhood, and read out to the public his evidence in this case.
– The honorable member is departing altogether from the matter before the House.
– I am desiring to show that the Defence Department, run by its professional soldier clique, will do anything to bolster up its own aims and opinions. I have said publicly, and in this House also, that even the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) told untruths in the Senate, and in the witnessbox, and did so wilfully. I have said that outside, where there is not the protection nf privilege; and the Minister for Defence dare not sue me for what I stated, because he knew in his heart that what I said was true. As the Assistant Minister for Defence has seen active service, he must be impressed with the ridiculousness of a system wherein a man may rise to the rank of General without ever having smelt gunpowder.
– Order! This is quite outside the scope of the subject under consideration.
– I will connect it, sir, by venturing the opinion that it may have been carelessness on the part of the officer concerned in furnishing answers such as he did. If his mistake was justifiable, I hope that no very serious consequences will follow, but if it was not a mistake I am confident that the Assistant Minister will tell the seller of the “ pup “ that he had better not try such tactics again.
– According to the departmental records, Gunner Yates was supposed to have been suffering from erythema. What is that?
– According to a work which I hold in my hand, the definition is given as follows : -
Superficial redness, with burningpains of a part of the integuments, varying in extent and form, disappearing momentarily on pressure, usually of an acute character, and uninfectious.
I wonder if the Assistant Minister can inform me whether these conditions follow upon a soldier having been gassed.
– I am not in a position to say.
– Gunner Yates was gassed in May, and this was during October.
– Whatever steps may be taken by the Assistant Minister, I desire to emphasize my protest against the circle of professional soldiers being allowed to continue in control of the Defence Department. I have the greatest admiration for men who left their avocations and went freely and voluntarily to the Front. They distinguished themselves equally with the very best professionals. I want to see now that their opportunities to rise to positions of power shall not be blocked by the professional clique.
.- In view of the promise given by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), I ask leave to withdraw the motion, and trust that in justice to Mr. Yates the inquiry will be a thorough one.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Original question resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 21st April, vide page 1397) :
In this part of this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Child “ means . . .
– Last evening I expressed my intention of moving that this portion of the Bill shall be administered ‘by the existing Pensions Branch. I listened with interest to the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) when he was explaining why, in his opinion, another Department should be created, and I was not at all impressed with the case he submitted. He said that there would be a saving in time, but I cannot see how a saving could be effected. As pointed out by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), three-fourths of this work has been done by the existing branch, and I have not heard any complaints regarding the manner in which the work is performed. Since I have been a member of this new Parliament, I have not had a great deal to do with the Pensions Branch, but I know sufficient to say that the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in New South Wales is a thoroughly efficient officer, and is in control of a wellorganized Department. If, as the Minister suggests, time is to be saved, I do not see how that can be done by creating a new Department when we have one already in existence with the machinery available for carrying on the work. If we create a new Department it will mean appointing additional officers, and will necessarily entail loss of time. Under the proposal of the Government there would be two Departments, and even if complaints have been made concerning the existing branch, it is better to bear with the ills we have than to fly to those we know not of. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said he would agree to the establishment of a new Department if it were of a temporary nature, but that is an unreasonable attitude to adopt, as it would necessitate creating a temporary
Department to perform permanent -work. I trust the Minister will see his way clear to accede to the wishes of honorable members on this side, and that when a vote is taken it will not be a party one. 1 do not think honorable members opposite have any grounds on which they can base complaints against the existing Pensions Branch, but we may incur risks by handing over thi? work to another body.
– On -which the soldiers are directly represented.
– I am considering the matter from a soldiers’ point of view, and 1 propose to move, in the soldiers’ interests, an amendment with the idea of expediting the work. A new Department could not be expected to settle down to work in a week or two, and it is likely that it would be months before the officers would thoroughly understand their duties. I move -
That the following words be inserted before the word “ In “ :- “ This part of this Act shall be administered by the existing Pensions Department.”
.- I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and consider that .unless there is some real complaint concerning the method of conducting business in the present Pensions Branch, there is no valid reason why a new branch should be established. The existing Pensions Branch is dealing expeditiously with old-age pensions and maternity allowances, and it would be preferable to allow that Branch to administer this portion of the Bill instead of appointing Committees in each State The work of the Pensions Branch of the Treasury Department, except the mere routine work of paying the pensions, has been nearly completed.* because there remain nob 10 per cent, of the soldiers to be dealt with. In the Sydney office, tie card system is in vogue, and every pensioner’s name is carded, and his case can be dealt with in a moment, should action be necessary in regard to it. I have not “met a soldier who has complained of delays in that branch. What is now proposed, however, is to remove the war pensions work from the .Treasury to the Repatriation Department. It j6 alleged that this will convenience pensioners, but, as a matter of fact, it will not affect them, because they will still, as now, go to the various postoffices to receive their pensions, and if they have to submit to examination, or the like, the new arrangement will be no more convenient than the present. At the present time, war pensions are being dealt with by the officers who deal also with old-age and invalid pensions, and nothing would be gained by creating a special staff to deal merely with war pensions. In my opinion, the Pensions Branch of the Treasury Department eontains some of the best officers we have in the service, and when the PostmasterGeneral next visits New South Wales, he might, by visiting the Pensions Branch there, learn something which he could apply with benefit to the working of hie own Department.
– I hope that honorable members will not agree to a proposal to create a special war Pensions Branch under the Repatriation Department. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is known for his encomiums upon that great, belle factor to the human race who made two blades of grass grow where one grew before. In this instance, the Government is trying to make two pensions branches where one has hitherto sufficed. Why should the administration of war pensions be removed from the Pensions Branch of the Treasury Department, which has done good work up to now? At the present time, four-fifths of the pensions applications have been dealt with, and honorable members who, as we all did at the last election, promised to support economy in the management of public affairs, ought not to agree to what is really a doublebanking proposal. At the present time, every tenth person that you meet in the street is a public servant - the statistics show that - and apparently the Government will not be satisfied until every ninth person is a public servant. I remember well how, when the late Sir William Lyne, as Minister, was starting the Works Department, the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who was then in Opposition, said, “ Although you ask now only for an UnderSecretary and a couple of clerks, my experience of political life tells me that in every following year you will propose increases to the staff, until from the tiny seed that is being sown now, a great Department has grown.” At that time the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr.
Croom) looked upon the Ministers then in power as so many little tin gods, and believed all that they told him. Now he wishes us to accept pap similar to that on which he was fed, but I decline to do so. If it is necessary to have all the Departments under one roof, why not put the old-age and invalid pensions work upon the Repatriation Department?
– And the post-offices, too, because the pensions are paid by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– Yes. Ministers know how these public Departments grow. This is an instance in which the spirit of economy can be put to the test. We ought not to duplicate work. As the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said last night, we should not try to make two Departments grow where one sufficed before. The Pensions Branch has very little to do with war pensions. It is now merely an office for the registration of pensions. Payments are made by the Postal Department, which, I suppose, will still continue to make them. I would gladly support Ministers if they could show me that their proposal would lead to a. saving of money. But they know full well what the creation of another Department means. It will grow night and day, winter and summer, in season and out of season.
– This is not the creation of another Department; it is merely the transfer of certain agencies from- one Department to another.
– It is merely an attempt to justify the existence of a permanent Department.
– The Council of Defence has met and promised the taxpayers that it will bring down the expenses of the Defence Department next year to the pre-war figures - at least, so we are informed by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) through the columns of the press. The idea is to absorb the men they are getting rid of in the Defence Department by transferring them to the Repatriation Department, more particularly for work in connexion with the payment of pensions. That is how it is proposed to save money in the Defence Department.
– That statement is not correct.
– Then what do the Government propose to do with the men they are to dismiss from the Defence Department ?
– I do not know.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done with them ?
– I would employ them in some useful occupation, where they can earn money and be of use to the Commonwealth. I would not create another Department to absorb them. When I read the speech with which this Bill was introduced in the Senate I thought that the Government were joking. I had not imagined that they would- propose to create another Department. I have never heard a growl from any one that the Treasury officers have been administering the War Pensions Act badly. I can only draw my own conclusions as to why it is proposed to create this new Department. We know that when the work of repatriating our soldiers is concluded there will be nothing left for the Repatriation Department to do, and, seeing that pensions are to be paid for the next forty or fifty years, it is proposed to intrust this branch of work to this new Department so that there may be some ground for its permanency. I hope that honorable members on both sides will be true to their election pledges. I cannon see how any man at this critical period of the finances can tell the country that so much money has been saved for the taxpayers by creating another Department out of a Department already in existence, or, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said last night, by making two Departments do what one Department did very we’ll before. I believe the Committee is in favour of knocking this provision out of the Bill. If that, is done, the Government can incorporate the new schedule of amounts payable for different disabilities in the Pensions Bill, and- “ everything in the garden will be lovely.” If honorable members want to preserve the finances and to help the taxpayers by reducing taxation, I appeal to them not to create any more Government Departments. They should rather reduce them, but not so that they will be inefficient.
.- I cannot support the amendment, nor can I follow the reasoning of those who have argued that if the War Pensions Branch of the Pensions Department is brought under (the control of the Repatriation Commission it will mean creating another Department, I understand that there is a branch of the Pensions Department administering war pensions in particular. That branch will be brought under the control of the Repatriation Commission. That is the whole position, and the change is very advisable. I said yesterday, speaking to an amendment for which I voted, that my only regret was that the Bill did not bring certain other Departments under the control of the Commission, and that if we withheld from the Commission the administration of the Pensions Branch, the War Service Homes Branch, and the Soldiers’ Settlement Branch, there was not much justification for creating a highly-paid Commission to administer the Department. Honorable members opposite say they have heard no criticism of the administration of the War Pensions Branch. I know of cases where those who claim to be soldiers’ dependants are receiving pensions to which I am sure they are not entitled, and I have numerous letters from soldiers’ dependants who I have assured myself have a right to pensions but have not been granted them. If the whole of the repatriation business is controlled by one Commission, its members will quickly get into touch with it and the Department and the returned soldier and his dependants will soon be in sympathy with one another. The administration will be carried on much more easily and better than it will be if the various activities remain separated. I know of cases in Tasmania where soldiers are still drawing pensions who were placed on land by the Soldiers’ Settlement Branch, and who have not been able to do one day’s work since I returned from the Front some nine months ago. That is not an advisable state of affairs, and would not be likely to continue if the whole of these activities were placed under the one Commission. The work will be done quicker and better if the War Pensions Branch is brought under the control of the Commission. It will be all under the one roof, and it will not mean creating a new Department or duplication. I do not think the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr.
Page) was serious when he suggested bringing the whole of the Pensions Department under the control of the Repatriation Commission, nor do I think he would vote for it. It is advisableto bring as many of the activities of repatriation under the one head as possible.
Question - That the words proposed tobe inserted be so inserted (Mr. Parker Moloney’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted in the definition of “Member of the Forces “ : - “(d) or who has been engaged abroad in the manufacture of munitions.”
On previous occasions I have endeavoured to impress upon honorable members the obligations of this country to those who have rendered service to the Empire as munition workers, and who have not been brought within the scope of this measure or others designed to recognise services rendered. The munition workers have a just claim to inclusion in a measure of this character, because they served the
Empire well during a critical period, but they have received scant consideration. The merits of their claim were discussed when the Bill was before another place, and the Minister then in charge of it, when speaking to the question of whether munition workers should be included, said -
I readily admit that munition workers rendered an exceedingly useful service to the nation, and if the question of finance did not intrude I should readily accept the amendment.
The question of finance should not make it possible for us to do an injustice to a section of men who have rendered valuable service to the Empire. I believe that those who proceeded abroad as munition workers do not exceed 5,000. It would not be necessary to provide pensions for the whole of them, but there are some very deserving cases to whom the principle of repatriation should apply. I have here the case of a man who went abroad as a munition worker, and who is to-day physically unfit to follow his former employment. Whilst engaged as a munition worker he contracted bronchitis, which has become chronic, and his circumstances to-day, as the result of his ill-health, are such that he has had to sell up his home, and be subject to many disabilities. Not only has he been subject to these disabilities, but his wife and family have had to share them. I have here a medical certificate which proves that this man is suffering ‘from chronic bronchitis and that he is unable to resume his ordinary avocation.
– Does the doctor say that his chronic bronchitis is due to the munition making?
– I will read the medical certificate of a captain who was the registrar of No. 5 Australian General Hospital of the Australian Military Forces. It says -
This is to certify that Munition-worker W. H. Gardiner was medically examined at No. 5 Australian General Hospital on the 24th December, 1918. The board considers that though he is under no hospital treatment at present and is fit to take up light employment, he is not fit to resume his occupation as a boiler assistant.
That is the certificate of a medical officer in the Australian Military Forces, 3rd Military District.
– The same statement is applicable to men here in connexion with friendly societies. What the honorable member has quoted is an ordinary medical certificate. It does not say that the man’s disability is due to his labours as a munition worker.
– If we are going to evade our obligations to these men by so closely defining ill-health which may reasonably be attributed to their service abroad, we shall be acting in a very niggardly fashion. Many of the fumes in which a munition worker is required to labour are such as tend to bring on the complaint from which this man is suffering. We ought to be generous to cases of this kind in which irreparable injury has been done to the health of men who were rendering the country valuable service.
– But the honorable member wishes to repatriate those who are not suffering from that disability.
– I shall be satisfied if the Government will include in the Bill persons who are deserving of repatriation and who are subject to disabilities such as I have indicated.
There is another case, which I wish to cite - the one of which I spoke when another measure, which we have since finalized, was under review here. I refer to a number of men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and who because of special qualifications were ordered by the Defence Department to take up duties in the munition factories of England as chemists. I ask the Minister whether he is prepared in this Bill to make the same provision for these men as the Minister who was in charge of the War Gratuity Bill was willing to make for them in that measure. Seeing that the merit of their service was recognized in the latter Bill, there is no argument which can justify their exclusion from this measure. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has himself admitted that these men rendered valuable service to the Empire, and has intimated that he would be willing to’ repatriate them but for the financial consideration that would be involved. That financial consideration, subject to the inclusion of I these men, is of such a character that it ought notto unjustly determine our attitude, and the nature of the provision we should make in the matter of repatriation. They have had to make sacrifices, as have also their wives and families. I know of one man who has been obliged even to sell up his home in order to meet the calls that have been made upon him. If we allow such cases to go unrecognised, we shall be doing something which will be unworthy of us as members of this Parliament and not in accordance with the wish of the people of this country. I move the amendment in the hope that the Government will see the necessity for doing justice to the munition workers who answered the call of their country in its hour of crisis, and who on their return to Australia have been subject in many instances to the disabilities of unemployment.
Question - That the words proposed to be insertedbe so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 24 -
The Governor-General may appoint such special magistrates of the Commonwealth as he thinks necessary for the purposes of this. Act.
– This is another matter of which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was speaking last night. What does this mean but an attempt to duplicate the number of police magistrates?
– It means that there must be power to appoint when a vacancy occurs
– Then I move-
That after the word “ Act,” line 4, the words “ and those appointed shall be returned) soldiers “ be inserted.
I invite members of the Returned Soldiers’ Committee to support the amendment.
.- I am surprised that the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) is not standing up for the rights of naval men. Why should they not have an opportunity of getting these appointments also?
– I hope representatives of the Navy are here now looking on at your game.
– It is time the Minister looked after their interests, at all events.
– I hope I am by showing how you are delaying the Bill.
– I am anxious to see justice done to both branches of the Service. It is not fair that returned soldiers should always get the first look in. This is a fair request, and I suggest that the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) should include naval men in his amendment.
.- I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without expressing my approval of the amendment and the suggestion that we should also give our naval men a chance for these toy positions. We are told that the Government are in favour of providing employment for returned soldiers and sailors, and surely they should have a chance for positions requiring other than pick and shovel work. I really think the Government ought to thank members on this side for giving them an opportunity of remedying what perhaps was an oversight on their part. I suggest that the Minister report progress.
– Let honorable members count the House out.
– We will, too.
– I know you will.-
– If the Minister plays that game, he will find honorable members on this side are able to do the same.
– And do not forget that the returned soldiers will know what you are doing.
– Order! The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) are entirely out of order. I ask them to be silent.
– I hope the Minister is not going to lose his temper.
– All right. Go on with your “ stone- wall.”
.- I hope the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) will agree to include the words “ sailors “ in his amendment.
– Go on.
– Yes, we will. I shall use all the forms of the Committee.
– Order ! The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) is distinctly disorderly in uttering threats. ‘
– I make an appeal on behalf of the men of the Australian Navy, and also those who served in the Imperial Navy. No member of this House has a more intimate knowledge of the effectiveness of their work in all parts of the world during the war than the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), and I hope he will support the amendment with the addition suggested. We all realize that if it had not been for the naval defence Great Britain would have “ gone down” in the war; and, therefore, .1 think we should include sailors within the scope of this provision. We recognise the good work the military side performed, but it would have been utterly impossible to convey our soldiers to Europe if it had not been for the equally good work of the Navy. It was the unceasing watchfulness and high sense of duty of our sailors that rendered the military defence effective. In praising our returned soldiers we are forgetting “ Jack, the handy man in blue” - handy in both peace and war. Our sailors suffered severely during the ‘ conflict, and many families are now bereaved by the loss of fathers, brothers, and sons; but the services thus rendered have not been recognised in any shape or form. I look to the honorable member for Wentworth, who spent some time amongst them, and’ did some good work himself in the North Sea and other parts, to raise his voice against an injustice being perpetuated. It is to be hoped that that honorable member’s influence with the Minister for the Navy (,Sir Joseph Cook) will result in a recognition of the claims I am now advocating. Our submarines also rendered great service along with other Australian-manned ships. Neither must we forget the wireless staff, which performed important duties, sending wireless messages of warning thousands of miles over the sea, and thus enabling our defenders to escape mine-fields, raiders, and so forth. It is the duty of every honorable member who has been in close touch with these men to see that their work receives due recognition. It is no use honorable members setting themselves up as the friends of certain branches or sections of our Defence Forces. The real test is their standing up in this House and by their actions showing that the services rendered have not been forgotten. I am not prepared to allow the honorable member for Wentworth to simply talk about his interest in the Navy, but require some tangible proof of that interest. I ask the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) to tell the Committee something of the good work done by the wireless staff, in order that they may receive some recognition.
– Order! I again direct the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the actions of the honorable members for Wentworth and Parkes are not before the Committee.
– If the Minister is prepared to give me leave to continue my remarks to-morrow I might then be able to confine them to matters that will be in order.
– I want to get some work done.
– It is open to the honorable member to move the Chairman out of the chair.
– Then I move-
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report progress.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
In doing so, I should like to say that I hope we shall get the Bill through tomorrow. The only thought I have had–
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not debate the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I merely desire to express the hope that honorable members will pass the Repatriation Bill to-morrow.
– It will not pass if I can prevent it. You made me miss my tram to-night, and I will make you miss your train to-morrow. I will pay you out!
– The position is this–
– That is the position so far as I am concerned. I promise you.
– I will be glad if the honorable member will let me speak, unless he is going to take charge of the House altogether.
– I do not want to take charge. The Minister wants to take charge of me.
– We have got through twenty-four clauses of the Bill. There are about forty more to be dealt with, besides the schedules, and the only thought in my mind is to get a little forward with the measure. This has been a lost day so far as business is concerned, and 1 thought it not unreasonable that we should proceed some distance with this very important measure. It appears, however, that I was wrong in entertaining any such reasonable idea. I again appeal to honorable members to assist the Government to get the Bill through tomorrow. It is urgent. The returned soldiers concerned are waiting for it, and no one desires to do other than the best thing possible in regard to those who are to receive benefits under this measure. However, to pass the Bill to-morrow we shall have to get a head of steam up, which, apparently, we have not been able to do throughout this week. I confess to being very disappointed.
.- The Minister for the Navy is unreasonable when he makes such a confession. He has spoken of to-day having been wasted. What was the day wasted on ? Upon two motions submitted by honorable members on the Government side, who occupied the whole of the time, up to the dinner adjournment.
– And mighty important matters they were I
– That is not what your Minister calls them.
– The Minister for the Navy has just said that the time of the House was wasted.
– I defy the honorable member to find the word “ wasted” in anything I have -said. I said no such thing.
– The Minister stated that we had done nothing to-day.
– I said you had done no Government business to-day. Will you try to be accurate for once?
– There is no need to talk like that. I can assure the Minister that this is not the way to get business passed. Honorable members on this side have some rights.
– We have none where the Minister for the Navy is concerned.
– We may be few in number, and may be liable to suffer by the closure.
– Who has said that we have closured you ?
– You are not game to try.
– I hope the Government will not closure us, and I do not think it will be necessary to do so. With respect to the Repatriation Bill, we are as keenly interested in its passage -as honorable members opposite. The question is not with respect to the number of clauses. It is a matter of principles, and there are three main principles involved. First, there is the appointment of the Commission, then there is the appointment of the Boards, and, thirdly, there is the matter of pensions. The Government have got past all three of those principles. The remainder of the Bill could be dealt with in half-an-hour.
– You will not get it in half-an-hour to-morrow.
– The Minister in charge of the Bill asked rae this evening, in the matter,, -of the business which I was to bring before the House when moving an amendment upon the grievance day mo-1 tion - a -procedure often adopted, by the way - whether I would be agreeable to hurry, so that honorable members might be free to deal with the Repatriation Bill. There were several honorable members upon this side who had prepared speeches, but they agreed not to’ occupy time in talking, in order that the way might be cleared for the consideration of the Repatriation Bill. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H.Catts) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) had prepared remarks in connexion with the motion dealing with Gunner Yates. I personally spoke to every honorable member on this side, with the idea that we should agree to hurry forward our business, in order to let the Government get to its Bill. Moreover, the Government Whip informed us that the Ministry had agreed, in the event of our making way as rapidly as possible, to adjourn at 11 o’clock.
– The Whip had no authority to make such an intimation.
– Still, the net result of the night’s work upon the BUI is the. passage of one clause.
– Yes, the last contentious clause in the Bill. However, I have no intention of delaying honorable members at this late hour, and I do not desire to participate in another all-night sitting during the remainder of my association with this Parliament, if I car avoid it. I believe I hold the unenviable record of having taken part in more allnight sittings than any other honorable, member.
– I might be inclined to challenge that assertion; but all I asked for was that the Committee should get through with that portion of the Bill dealing with pensions.
– That is to say, with twenty-one clauses. My own desire is that the Bill shall be agreed to at the earliest possible moment. I promise that,, for my part, that shall be brought about; and, as honorable members know, I have never gone back on any promise.
.. - Both the Leader of die Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and I tried’ to curtail discus-, sion with regard to the motion concerning
Gunner Yates, in order that the Government might be free, at the earliest possible moment, to bring forward their business. We were informed that if we did facilitate Government business the House would be adjourned at 11 o’clock. When the Government secured a decision upon the pensions section of the Bill, I expected that the promise to adjourn would have been kept. All I can say is that if the Government had kept their promise, this Bill would go through to-morrow. But I warn the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) that he will not witness the final passage of the measure unless he is prepared to sit here to-morrow night. He succeeded in preventing me from catching my train this evening, and I will undertake to stop him from getting on board his train to-morrow. There would have been no waste of time after the House had begun work at 8 o’clock to-night but for what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said a little time ago about former members of the Opposition who had gone to the war.
– We should sit another dayaweek
– We should sit every day, and Sundays as well, and then we would be able to secure “ double time” for our services.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 April 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200422_reps_8_91/>.