8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER- I have received from the honorable member forYarra an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House ‘ to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The desirability of all native-born and naturalized Australian citizens who were interned knowing the charges on which they were interned, so that they may have an opportunity of disproving such charges; and the necessity of having an inquiry into the treat-, ment of internees and the administration of internment camps.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra) [11.4].- The last occasion on which this matter was brought before the House was, I think, when it was raised by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), a year ago, or a little less, and the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) dealt with the subject, and made a reply to what was said. On the 15th April, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following questions upon notice, to which I received the replies attached to them: -
How many persons are at present interned in Australia? - Thirty-two.
When is it intended to release them? -
Such as are not repatriated will be released as soon as transport arrangements are completed, which will take place at an early date.
The war is now over, and we are at peace with Germany - the native country of many of the persons who were interned. I think that no member of the House has fewer naturalized Germans, or Australians born of German parentage, as his constituents than I have. When the first referendum was taken, and such persons bad to vote under section 9, only twenty or thirty votes were so recorded in the Yarra electorate, and most of those who voted under the section were proved not to be of German origin. One of them was able to trace back his parentage for 200 years, and to show his British ancestry for the whole of that period, which is, perhaps, more than most of us could do. Therefore, I am not moving now with the idea, of catching votes; I am actuated merely by the desire that every person in this community shall receive fair treatment. Those who have been internedshould not be allowed to rest under the stigma of having done something justifying their internment. Recently, at Loxton, in South. Australia, an inquiry was conducted on behalf of the Government by Mr. Hewitson, S.M., into the alleged disloyalty of certain Germans there. Thisextract shows how the magistrate reported about one of those against whom the charge of disloyalty was made: -
The Commissioner referred to Mr. Drabsch’s “ undeniable war services as Chairman of the Recruiting Committee, the Australian Soldiers’ Fund, and Belgian Relief Fund, his proved public and private utterances and the enlistment of one of his own sons, apparently with his approval,” and found that this accusation was based only on ill-founded and ungenerous, suspicion.
What is said of Mr. Drabsch is true, I think, of a number of other citizens, whose only fault was that they bore a German name. But every one knows that many Germans left their native country because of their aversion to the German- military system. That was true of the head teacher of a school to which I went about forty years ago, and
I . believe was the case with the father of Mr. Ulbrich, an organizer for the Nationalist party in this city. Yet the sons of some of these men were interned, and they were not informed of the charges against them. They feel, however, that their internment is a reflection upon them. Mr. Drabsch was taken from the State in which he was born, and where his home is, to New South Wales, and was them for some time.
Mr. Richard Foster. - A long time. You have picked out the best of the crowd.
Mr. TUDOR. - The magistrate’s report was handed to me last night, and, naturally, I have begun with the strongest case, but not one charge made against the people of Loxton is true.
Mr. Blundell. - Was it not proved that a number of these men marched down the streets of Loxton doing the goose-step?
Mr. Blundell. - The whole crowd of them were absolutely disloyal.
Mr. TUDOR. - I am not defending disloyalty, and would not do so for a moment, whoever might be concerned. But I say that those who were interned on suspicion only should be given a chance to clear their characters.
Mr. Blundell. - No one objects to that.
Mr. TUDOR. - Every member of this House has political and personal enemies, some of whom would be glad to see us interned. Many persons were interned because of the carrying of mere tales against them by persons who were either personal or political opponents.
Mr. Hughes. - Where would I be if my enemies had their way with me?
Mr. TUDOR. - Perhaps the honorable member deserved internment as much as some of those who were interned.
Mr. Hughes. - I know nothing about the reasons for the internment; all I did was to sanction the action that was taken.
Mr. TUDOR. - I came across only oneman who was interned, and he was interned at his own request, because, having been dismissed from his employment, he could not get work, and his wife and children were starving. He would not loaf on his family. His boy had enlisted, and was wounded. Many with German names were not accepted for military service, and enlisted under assumed names.
Mr. Hughes. - I understand that the honorable member wishes for the liberation of certain men.Where are those to whom he refers?
Mr. TUDOR.- I shall read one or two letters that I have received from Germans, some of them naturalized in Australia. They have property in New Guinea.
Mr. Blakeley. - And at Nauru.
Mr. Hughes. - All who were in the camp at Liverpool have been released on parole.
Mr. TUDOR.- In reply to a question that I put to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) two or three weeks ago I was told that there were then thirtytwo persons interned in Australia, and that most of them were to be sent out of the country. One of these men, Mr. A. Becker, who is interned in the Longworthy Camp, on the 23rd December last addressed a letter to His Excellency the Governor-General, and forwarded a copy of it to the Secretary of the Federal Labour party. In this letter he stated -
I was a planter atRabaul, German New Guinea. Was interned August, 1915. At that time I was in partnership with my brotherinlaw in a plantation there. My brother-in-law died and left a wife and thirteen children. I am anxious to return there to look after the plantation and protect the widow and children.
I sent the letter with a covering note to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) on the 1st instant. I have not yet received an answer, but understand that the reply is to be that no aliens are at present being permitted to return to this Territory. On the 8th instant Becker wrote to the Secretary of our party a letter in which he stated -
To-day a high official from Melbourne visited this camp and informed each of us individually that not one of us interned deportees from late Gorman New Guinea would be allowed to return, as it was the policy of the Government, to his island home-. I am thus for ever deported from my nearest relations, and ever deprived of seeing those dear to me again. I have clone no wrong whatsoever. Have never been put to any trial as regards my deportation, and consider the action of the Government a most cruel and inhuman one. Please, sir, bring my case before Parliament, and let the Government state the reasons for their cruel action. Besides me there are others who have their children in that colony, and are deprived of even making arrangements for their support, or saying good-bye to them.
Here is another letter from a Mr. E. Gruendler, who is interned in the Holdsworthy Camp, New South Wales. ‘Writing on the 7th instant to the Secretary of the Federal Labour party he says -
I have worked in the Marshall Islands (late German New Guinea) since 1903, where I was married in 1906. In1913 I was sent by the firm for which I was working to Nauru, from where I was deported to Australia, and interned in November, 1915. After the capture of Nauru by the Australian Military Forces I gave my oath of neutrality, and I have never broken my oath rendered. Nevertheless, I was brought down here without any legal proceedings whatsoever, nor any trial. My wife and four children, who are half-castes of Nauru, have since had to live as best they could, without any support whatsoever from the Government.
This morning a high official from the Defence Department, Melbourne, visited this camp and interviewed each one of the internees individually. I was told that I could not go back to my home at Nauru and join my family again, but that I could go to Germany, or to some neutral country. I am sure that my wife would object to be sent to Germany, as being born inthe islands. I appeal to you and your party to see that justice will be done in my case, and that the cruel action of the Commonwealth Government will be stopped, and I am being allowed to return to my field of work, and to my home and family. The only crime, if you will accept it as such, is that I am born in Germany.
If there is anything against these men I do not want to appeal, but I do not believe in a display of vindictiveness after the fight is over. Is it to be said, “ This man has a German name; we will therefore collar ‘ his possession in the island “ ? If that is so, then the people in my electorate might just as well say, “Wertheim is a German name. Wertheim has a large piano factory in Richmond. We will ‘ cop ‘ it.” That would be absolutely absurd. Wertheim had a son who joined the A.I.F. and fought overseas. To punish people merely because they were born in Germany would be to ignore the true spirit of Australia and Australians. We believe in fair treatment.
Gruendler tells us that he married a half-caste. There are many white men who have lived on these islands with coloured women and have not married them. I do not defend the marriage of whites with half-castes or blacks, but I would far sooner see a man marry a coloured woman than get one of them into trouble and forsake her. That, unfortunately, has been done, to their everlasting discredit, even by people of our own race . If it be true, as stated by these men, that the policy of the Government is not to allow any of them to return to their island homes, I urge that the whole matter be reconsidered. The Australian-born children of German parents and naturalized citizens who have been interned should at least know what charge is made against them. They should know whether or not they have been interned merely because of suspicion. It may be that some enemy, either political, social, or personal, has made untrue statements concerning them, and I hope they will be given an opportunity to disprove these statements.
As to the proposed inquiry into the German Concentration Camps, if the whole of the men have been released, perhaps no good purpose would be served by an investigation.
Mr. Hughes. - I spoke only of the Liverpool Camp. I do not know whether there are others.
Mr. TUDOR. - I believe that Liverpool is the only camp for internees.
Mr. Hughes. - It is on the point of being closed.
Mr. TUDOR. - But are the Government deporting these men? If so, an injustice will be done. If we are afraid to allow two or three of these men to return to the islands where they were working when arrested, 1 can only say that we have not a very strong hold upon those islands. I ask for fair treatment for these men. Some two years ago Senator Gardiner asked permission to visit the German Concentration Camp, but was told that he could not conversewith any one of the internees except in the presence of a military officer. I do not know whether the honorable senator raised the question in the Senate, but perhaps, since the war was still in progress, he allowed it to go. Some time ago about a dozen of us waited privately upon the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), who was then Acting Prime Minister, and who, later on, mentioned the interview in the House. We then practically asked him to do what we are asking to-day. Over eighteen months have elapsed since the armistice, and now that the Peace Treaty has been signed, we should see to it that no injustice is suffered by these men. The fact that they were interned will be for all time a stigma against them and against their children, so that they ought fairly to be given an opportunity to clear themselves, if they can, of any charge that is made against them.
Mr. HUGHES (Bendigo- Prime Minister and Attorney-General) [11.25]. - I regret that I have not at my disposal official information that would aid me to deal in detail with what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has said. In the circumstances, I can only approach the matter from a general stand-point. So far as I know, the Liverpool Concentration Camp is on the point of closing.
Mr. Tudor. - Is that what is known as the Holdsworthy Camp?
Mr. HUGHES. - Yes. Yesterday morning I approved of the closing of that camp, and the release on parole of the persons therein. If that be, as the honorable member and I both think, the only German Concentration Camp in Australia, we can therefore dismiss from our minds one of the points raised by him.
The honorable member has urged that Australians born of German parents, who have been interned upon suspicion, should have an opportunity to clear themselves, and that Germans with homes in some of the islands should have an opportunity to return thereto, and to take up their property again. As to the first point, I do not know whether it is now a live question.
Mr. Tudor. - It is with many of them. They feel that a stigma is unjustly resting upon them.
Mr. HUGHES. - Very well; I quite agree with the honorable member that a charge of disloyalty is hard to repel. On the other hand, it is not less hard to sheet home. Let me take a case that will be quite familiar to honorable members - that of loyalty to a leader or to a party. If I am asked to say whether a man is loyal or disloyal to his party, and I say, “ Well, I do not think he is loyal,” I may be asked to point to an instance of his disloyalty. It may well happen that I cannot do that, yet be convinced of the fact. Everybody may know that a man is disloyal to his leader or to his party, yet cannot . point to an instance by way of proof. It is as impalpable as Banquo’s ghost. So much for that.
During this war racial feelings were naturally stirred to their very dregs. Speaking generally, men took sides. There can be no doubt that there were two sides to this question. There was the side of Australia, the Empire, and the Allies, and there was the other side. Some impartial persons might have been able to regard the position with indifference, and to show that a good case could be put up for the other side. But there were so few as to be negligible. To the overwhelming majority there was only one side. They, however, would not hear the other side, nor would the other side hear us. As those persons in our midst who saw only the other side were as dangerous to the body politic as leprosy, or some other foul disease, is to the body physical, it was necessary to segregate and intern them. And we had to take them on suspicion, just as a medical man has to commit to an institution any suspicious case. He says to a man, “You say you are healthy, but you have come off a steamer infected with small-pox. I do not know whether ot mot you have smallpox, but I shall quarantine you until the period of incubation is past, and then I shall know definitely.” It was for precisely analogous reasons that we placed certain men in internment camps. No doubt we made mistakes; but not very many. And in any case, those interned could not complain of harsh treatment. I visited Holdsworthy Camp, and I am bound to say that the Germans there were fed, housed, and treated better in every way than were the Australian soldiers. I was greeted most familarly by men who had been working on the wharfs, and had been members of my old union for many years. They came forward, and said, “ Hallo, Billy, how ‘are you?”
Mr. Mahony. - The Prime Minister knows why those men were there. They could not get work, and that is why they surrendered themselves for internment.
Mr. HUGHES.- The war is over, and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it shows a mean and narrow nature to continue a quarrel after the occasion for it has passed. I am not one to do that. While I fight, I fight for all I am worth, but when the fight is over the quarrel is ended. I would be the last to deny justice to any citizen of this country because he happened to bear a foreign name, or because his father came from Germany. What have those things to do with his case, anyhow? I will consider this matter in a friendly and sympathetic spirit, and if it be said that any man has been denied justice - I speak not of the past, but of any nian who wishes to clear his character, who says that he was accused of disloyalty, but that he never was disloyal - he should be given a chance to state his case.
I have been asked in this House many times about the Tanunda Club. I have given the answers that questions of that kind deserve. But when I read the evidence concerning Tanunda I thought I would like to go there with a Union Jack and an Australian flag as big as this chamber, to hoist them in the town, and make every one of the men there walk underneath them.
Mr. Gabb. - They would do it, and salute the flags, too.
Mr. HUGHES.- The less the honorable member says about the Tanunda Club the better. Some of the men who were most bitter were not Germans at all.
Mr. Marr. - They were traitors.
Mr. HUGHES.- There are plenty of Germans in this country who, during the war, and under the most provoking and trying circumstances, were loyal. But there were some of our own race who were very far from being loyal.. Therefore, when I speak of the Tanunda Club I speak not only of the Germans. It is perfectly true that the majority of those of German parentage felt’ for Germany a sympathy that was quite natural. What could, be more natural than that during a struggle between Germany and Great Britain those who have German blood in their veins should lean towards Germany? That was the most natural attitude in the world, and, the struggle being over, I say to them, “You did really what human nature and the promptings of your race impelled you to do.” But I wish to make it perfectly clear that I do not admit for one moment that the action taken in regard to Tanunda Club and similar cases was not amply justified by the circumstances. There were throughout the country absolute hotbeds of conspiracy and sedition, and they would have broken into open rebellion had the Opportunity but presented itself.
I desire to say a few words about the German Islands in the Pacific. We have taken over those islands, and we must have a policy for their administration. That policy must .be one which will insure the development of the islands by the British race, primarily by the Australians. I do not mean development by white labour, because that is out of the question. Besides, we have no earthly right to say to the Papuans and other islanders that they must stand aside and must not work in their own country. Such an attitude would be nothing short of impudence. But German settlement has gone to considerable lengths in those islands, and German influence is still dominant. We shall never be able to control the trade and develop these islands unless we substitute Australian or British for German control and ownership of the land. Acting on that policy, we have not encouraged the German settlers of the islands, who were interned and brought to Australia, to return. Broadly speaking, our policy is to substitute British or Australian ownership for German ownership. No injustice will be done to the individuals ; everything will be done according to the .terms of the Peace Treaty. But, speaking generally, we should have fought in vain the ‘battles for those islands if we proposed to leave the effective control of them - for those who own the lands own the country - in the hands of the very nation from whom we wrested them after a desperate and bloody struggle. We do not propose to do that. Many of the soldiers of Australia are desirous of settling in the islands; and, after all, although no one has yet raised his voice in their behalf, there is an Australian soldiers’ side to this German, question, and it must not be forgotten. I do not believe that the Australian soldier wishes to be vindictive towards the German. But he very properly says, “ I have fought a desperate and dreadful fight. You promised to give me a chance in life after the war was over. These islands are necessary for the defence of Aus- tralia. With whom do you propose to garrison them - with Germans or with Australians?” That is the point. And common sense suggests the answer, “We shall garrison them with those upon whom we can rely when the hour of danger comes
Mr. SPEAKER. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. HUGHES. - I can only add that I shall see that the men. whose cases have been referred to get a fair deal.
Mr. WIENHOLT (Moreton) [11.40].. - The motion of the Leader of the Opposition may be divided into three parts, and I shall deal with them in their order of importance. So far as the internment camps are concerned, I cannot support the Leader of the Opposition, because I was a prisoner of the Germans for six months, and I know that the conditions of the Germans interned in Australia were much superior to the conditions of the British and Australian prisoners who were in German hands. Nobody who was interned in Australia has any real cause for complaint, and I do not believe that complaint regarding their conditions is made by them. I have said to the internees, “It is all very well to say you have been unjustly interned, but when a country is at war it cannot take any chances. You may not be guilty of disloyalty, but, as a policy of precaution, if for no other reason, the Government are quite justified in interning you. And, although you have been interned, you have had the advantage of a feeling of security, and the knowledge that you will be able to sit down to your mess in the evening, or next morning, with some regularity. That is more than the men at the Front could feel.” The Leader of the Opposition said that he was not particular about the latter portion of hia motion referring to an inquiry.
Mr. Tudor - That is so. If the internments are practically finished, not much advantage can be gained by an inquiry.
Mr. WIENHOLT. - I agree with the honorable gentleman. I am not much concerned about the future of the Germans in the colonies of which we have taken possession. They were our enemies, and became ordinary prisoners of war. They had no reason whatever to com- plain of being interned. Indeed, I have beard recently from friends that the whole of the original settlers of German East Africa have been sent back to Germany. I agree with the argument advanced by the Prime Minister in regard to the Pacific Islands. According to how we use them, they will be a source of either weakness or strength from a defence point of view. I am not one to advocate the vindictive treatment of these people. They ought to be given the full value of their plantations, and with their families be treated reasonably and courteously; but I believe that it would be better, even for these people themselves, to adopt the Prime Minister’s policy of settling the islands with Australians and other Britishers.
Now we come to the treatment of our native-born and naturalized subjects, and this is a different question altogether. In regard to these, I entirely agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), and intend to support the motion, if only for that part of it alone. The Prime Minister said that disloyalty, or feelings of disloyalty, were to a great extent stirred up amongst those who had been guilty of it - and I agree this may have been so - by some who were not Germans. It is not a question of giving these people - our naturalized or native fellowAustralians - a chance to clear themselves, but of affording them an opportunity io have something proved against them. The British Constitution rests on the principle that no man shall be tried or convicted unheard; and if we depart from that principle in these particular instances we may do so in others. If we treat these men in any way differently from their fellowAustralians, we shall, make their naturalization a “ scrap of paper,” and nothing more. I am not here to defend any man who has done anything disloyal. A man who in war time does anything to prejudice the men at the Front ought to be placed in front of a firing party - I advocate no mercy to him - but no man should be punished or penalized unheard.
I have on a previous occasion referred to what I regard as the injustice of taking away the franchise from our fellowAustralians. Many of the sons of these men went to the war, and all too many did not return. I intend to support the latter part of the motion; and I also intend, as far as it is possible for one member to do so, to fight the cause of these native-born and fellow-citizens.
Mr. GABB (Angas) [11.48].- It afford* me great pleasure to find the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Tudor) bringing this question before the House. TheLabour party, in the past, has stood for humanity and justice, and we find it today maintaining the same attitude. I shall address my remarks principally tothe request for a Royal Commission, or a Select Committee, to give Australianborn Germans an opportunity to clear themselves from the charges of disloyalty. I should have liked to deal with the internment camps,, and the treatment meted out to the internees, but that is not possible within the limited time at my disposal. Another reason which causes moto leave that portion of the subject untouched is that the War Precautions Act still operates, and I should be rather timid in using some of the information I have received from interned men in caseit might be used against them. I shall confine myself, therefore, to the request that these Australian-born subjects havea chance for justice.
In South Australia recently, Mr. T. Hewitson, S.M., was appointed a Royal Commission to inquire and report on allegations publicly made in support of accusations of disloyalty against Germans at Loxton, and he has presented his report to His Excellency the LieutenantGovernor, Sir George Murray. It is on the findings of this magistrate that I make my appeal; I do not rely on my own conclusions, but on what this gentleman, with his trained mind, after sifting the evidence, has given as his verdict. In the course of his report he says -
In view of the state of the public mind, particularly as it must have been in the Loxton British community, after the alleged German military display, and later -when the first news of German frightfulness had sent a thrill of loathing of German militarism through the Empire, it was not surprising to find that ambiguous or equivocal or even primA facie innocent German doings and utterances had, for many persons, only one significance. Aa appeared in evidence, there was a strong suspicion of the Germans, and that suspicion had to be taken into account in assessing the truevalue of the judgments and impressions of the British concerning the attitude and conduct of
German neighbours, individually and collectively.
The magistrate admits, what we all know, that under the influence of the lashings of the press, particularly, it was possible that people were suspicious of anything that had a German name or flavour, and, therefore, persons from the beginning were suspected and watched. The point I wish to impress on honorable members is that I am not making an appeal for aliens, because those to whom I am referring are as much Australian as any one here. Their ancestors may have come from another country, but some of them are of the second and third generations. I wish to bring under the notice of the House the case of two men who are Australian-born, and residents of Loxton. The honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) said that one of these men, Mr. Drabsch, was the “ pick of the bunch,” but I know others in South Australia - and the honorable member ought to know them, too - who are just as good as the man re«ferred to. I am rather surprised that the honorable member, who comes from a district where there are probably men similarly situated, should express such an opinion. The report of the magistrate goes on -
The first Loxton Recruiting Committee; comprising Mr. A. W. R. Drabsch (chairman), Mr. H. T. Eime (secretary), Major Esselbach, and Mr. K. Wallace, were in office when Sergeant Kempster, in the capacity of recruiting officer, arrived at Loxton in’ February, 1916.
I desire military members of this House to take notice of this part of the report, because it contains the magistrate’s comment on one of the military men concerned -
The sergeant, in effect, accused the committee of purposely hampering him, or neglecting to assist him, by refusing to supply him with a conveyance to take him round the district. “I here remark of Sergeant Kempster,” says the Commissioner, “and the comment which follows applies to all the incidents in which he is concerned, that his wounds are a voucher for the gallant discharge of his obligations to the Empire during two visits to the Front. He appears to have been zealously anxious to succeed, but the matter and manner of his testimony conveyed the impression that either by temperament or by reason of his experiences at the Front he was inclined to prejudge and misjudge any committee constituted, as this was.”
The magistrate points out that, because this Recruiting Committee was so’ con- stituted, this officer was inclined .to prejudge and misjudge the members on that account - “His statements were (unavoidably, perhaps) vague and general. Some were exaggerated, some contradictory, and one, at least, obviously unreliable, as where he stated as a fact within his knowledge that which in the nature of things could be only hearsay or surmise. Either his memory was sadly at fault, or he was prepared to make out his case without regard to the truth. I find that the evidence does not support the sergeant’s imputations.”
Mr. Drabsch and Mr. Eime. who were chairman and secretary respectively of the Committee, were put in the internment camp, and kept there. Thank goodness, in their case they had a chance, by means of this Royal Commission, of clearing themselves somewhat. There are many others, however, in South Australia - I should say there are, at any rate.., twenty Australian-born, not to mention naturalized, men - who ought to be accorded an equal opportunity.
Sir Granville Ryrie. - Can you give me the date when these two men were interned ?
Mr. GABB. - I cannot give the honorable gentleman the year. My point is that there are others, who, if they had the opportunity, would no doubt be able to clear themselves. One man of whom I know intended to go into business after he came out of the internment camp, and secured a place in a certain town in. South Australia; but, no doubt, because of his internment, pressure was brought to bear, and he was unable to keep the premises. There is no doubt that unless these men have an opportunity to disprove the charges against them, they will be penalized if they attempt to enter into business operations. In my own district there are, I think, three men who are amongst the leading business men of the towns in which they reside, and they are placed in a very unfair position by reason of the imputations resting on them. I had intended to show the work which Mr. Drabsch did on different patriotic committees, and so forth, and to emphasize the fact that he had a son at tHe Front; but time will not permit of this.
It is to be noted that the Royal Commission could deal only with the cases at Loxton, and then not as fully as they should have been dealt with. This was due to the fact that the military had the right to withhold the necessary documents. The report of the magistrate goes on to say -
It was not within either the duty or the authority of the Commissioner to review the actions of the Department of Defence in’ relation to internments. In that respect the powers invoked by that Department were contained in the Aliens Instruction Order, No. 2, 1915. Alien enemies might be interned for carrying arms; for failing without good cause to report under instruction 20, which provided for periodical reports; for refusing to sign parole; and on reasonable suspicion of disaffection, or whose freedom was or might become prejudicial to the Allies’ cause. The last ground extended to naturalized and other persons.
I do not object to that, in so far as it applied to aliens, because such action was absolutely necessary, but the last ground mentioned extended to “ naturalized and other persons,” in whose cases suspicion was enough to bring about internment. Even if it is granted that such “suspicion” may be necessary in war-time, it is not necessary to-day; and where is the harm of giving these men a chance to clear themselves? The report proceeds -
Clearly no inference of actual disaffection or disloyalty was to be drawn from the mere fact of internment -
That is a little solace to those who were interned - and both the scope of the Commission and the restrictions imposed on grounds of public policy by the rules of the Defence Department barred investigation of each particular case.
Every fair-minded man on either side of the House would, I think, like something done to give our fellow Australians a “ fair go.” I should like to make some reference to Tanunda, as the Prime Minister has attacked it, because I have moved freely amongst the people there. I have known them to be loyal citizens; and if the Prime Minister were to do so as he suggests, namely, to hoist the Union Jack in the midst of the town, he would be able to get nearly every man in Tanunda - if not every individual - to walk past and salute the flag. The Prime Minister argues that the German blood is in their -veins, and that, necessarily therefore, their leanings must be towards Germany. He loses sight of the fact, apparently, that their fathers or grandparents came out here because of the treatment which they suffered in Germany. Is it not only natural, but inevitable, that those forefathers should have instilled into the minds of their Australian-born descendants a hatred of the German system which drove them out of the Fatherland; and that, instead of those children being pro-German, their feelings should be entirely in the opposite direction? The hall-mark of a small-minded man is fanaticism. I have no doubt that among the members of the Ministry there are men big and broadminded enough to treat all their fellowcitizens in a decent manner; but I am quite certain that the Prime Minister i3 not big-minded enough to give these German descendants a decent show. I warn the Prime Minister that if I cannot get more satisfaction in response to my straight and fair questions in regard to the Tanunda Club, I shall move the adjournment of the House one day, and see if justice cannot be done. ‘ The Prime Minister must either have a dirty case, or no case at all, otherwise he would properly endeavour to have my questions answered instead of continually sidetracking them. If the Government can refuse to answer or trickily dodge answers to questions, what is the use of honorable members placing them upon the notice-paper? I am not bringing forward this subject because I want, or like, to do so, but because injustice has been done, and I feel bound, therefore, to endeavour to counter it.
Mr. RODGERS (Wannon) [12.2].- I support the principle which has been very clearly enunciated by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt). It is to the effect that, in the spirit of the very best British traditions, we owe to all those of whom we are the guardians - whether they be native-born or naturalized - the right of fair trial before being adjudged guilty and punished. Whatever may have been drastically necessary in time of war, when empires were flying at each other’s throats, does not apply today. Days of trial and stress were not the times for sickly or weak administration. There is another phase of the question, and it goes a long way beyond the points raised in this motion. It has to do with the future life of Australia. I trust that our statesmanship will be sufficiently broad and generous to realize that, if we are’ to people this country from the white races of the earth, “we must always remember that nothing so rankles in the minds of a community as a sense of injustice. We want no racial animosities in this country. I feel certain that this Parliament will say that if grave errors have been made during the war owing to the inevitable stress of those perilous days, opportunity should now be afforded, if possible, to redress our mistakes.
Mr. PROWSE (Swan) [12.5].- I believe that the objects of this motion could be satisfactorily met in the cases of those who were interned merely upon suspicion or because -they bore German names. The Prime Minister has stressed that these people were interned at a time when our nation was at war, and when immediate, definite, and drastic steps had to be taken at a crucial stage in our history. I presume that the military authorities have in their possession the whole of the particulars concerning every internee. If there is nothing actually provable against them, beyond the fact that their names are German and that they were interned on suspicion, would it not now be far better, far more effective and economical, if the individuals in question were furnished with discharge certificates? These documents could be drafted to show that there was no charge brought against them, and no act of disloyalty proven. As for those against whom there was either the charge or a strong suggestion of disloyalty, I hold that they should be brought to trial, even now, and that only such persons should be tried; and, moreover, that if they should be found to have been openly disloyal they should be deported forthwith. There are quite a number of Australian-born who -bear German names, as well as others, against whom the military authorities can bring no charge whatever. Surely they could be sent back into the community with a clean, record ! To have been interned should not, in itself, be regarded as a stigma. In the case of numbers of internees, the only thing that can have been held against them, either by the authoritiesor their fellow-citizens, is that they have German names. We cannot remove their names; neither can we blot out the fact that they were interned during the war. We are not ashamed, of course, that they were interned. But I wonder whether the German or Austrian authorities are likely to be issuing certificates to interned Britons, to make known that there was nothing held against them. I doubt if our late enemies are likely to spend any money upon such a procedure. Nevertheless, if we had nothing against those whom we interned we should issue certificates so phrased that they might present them, whenever necessary, in order to clear themselves from any hint’ of disloyalty.
Dr. MALONEY (Melbourne) [12.8].- I am bound to agree with much the Prime Minister has said this morning, and with a great deal, also, of that which was uttered by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt). But the motion opens up a very big question. The war is over, but are we Australians showing any tendency towards proving as generous as the people of the Homeland? The individual who happens to have control of that Imperial Department which deals with all the Dominions is a born German, whose name is Lord Milner.
Mr. Fleming. - I doubt if the honorable member is correct. Was he not largely educated in Germany, but of English parentage?
Dr. MALONEY.- Are not the facts rather that Lord Milner was born in England of German parents? I am confident that he is of pure German blood.
Mr. Fleming. - I believe the honorable member is not correct in saying so.
Dr. MALONEY.- Perhaps the honorable member for Robertson will say that His Majesty the King has no German blood in his veins. Perhaps he will say that the words appearing upon the crest of the Prince of Wales, namely, “ Ich Dien,” are not German. If I ever make a misstatement, however, I will welcome its correction. We know full well that the man who was at the head of the British Navy at the outbreak of war was a born Prussian, and that it was the intense feeling in England and Scotland, and largely in Ireland, too, I suppose, which compelled the powers that be to enforce his retirement. Does the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) know that the Royal family itself has changed its German name, and that if Her late Majesty Queen Victoria had been an ordinary humble personage she would have been known as Mrs. Wettin?
But the Royal family changed its name; and ‘ all credit to it for having done so. I, certainly, am not prepared to say that the people of the British Isles were wrong in feeling that if Battenberg had remained at the head of the British Navy our ships ere now would have been under the North Sea. I belonged to the Turn Verein in this city - and am proud to 3ay so - for close upon forty years. “During the whole of that time I had dear friends among the German community in Melbourne. Thirty of them offered their services in the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force; and some there are from among them who will never come back. My Democracy was first learned within the walls of the Turn Verein, from those old rebels who were compelled te fly from Germany in 1S48. And when that old veteran, Techo, desired - away back in 1S88 - to revisit Germany in order that he might look once more upon the spot where he was born, and then return to die in the country which had been so kind to him, that brute-beast, Bismarck, would not permit him to enter the Fatherland, even though an amnesty had been proclaimed in the early fifties. This veteran and his old mate stood at the frontiers of Germany, and in their anger they spat upon the German territory on which Bismarek would not allow them to tread again. When the Turn Verein was closed during the war the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) justly said that there was nothing against that institution, but that he thought it would be better to close it. For such physique as now stands me in good stead I have to thank the Turn Verein gymnasium. The Government have been seeking to buy the property, for official purposes, at very much less than its value. I personally offered the Government £10,000. The money was not mine, but my name was linked with that of a gentleman who was prepared to furnish the capital. However, that has been turned down, and I am glad that the City of Melbourne Swimming Club is now making negotiations. I sincerely hope these will be successful.
Mr. Jowett. - I hope that institution will be opened this winter.
Dr. MALONEY.- I, too, trust so, and that the free teaching of physical culture will be undertaken as is desired. The
Turn Verein was a workmen’s club. When on one occasion I visited the swell “ German club, situated in a lane off Collins-street, 1” quickly saw that it was there that the Germans in our midst were carrying on the old Prussian ideals. Its members held that no one was respectable unless he Was, at the very least, a lieutenant. One of them said to me, “ Will you permit us to have the honour of putting you up for membership?” I” said, “ No ; I belong to the Turn Verein.” “But,” he expostulated, “that’ is a common workmen’s club.” I will not repeat the answer which I tendered, but will merely indicate that it was so hot that the individual concerned never spoke to me again. I preferred to be associated with the workmen’s club. Of those who were members of that aristocratic Prussian institution I have no hesitation in saying that the majority were enemies in our midst. I have lost two beloved German friends in this war, and one who ended his life most unhappily in Sydney as the outcome of a trouble of which I had been unaware. Now that the waT is over we have nothing against the naturalized or Australian-born Germans, and it is our right and duty to restore to them the freedom of this land. I have sought for information in many directions, but I have not heard of a single instance in which the German, nation, with all its faults, has not played the game towards the naturalized Germans of British birth, but, of course, I know that there are very few Englishmen who have become naturalized Germans. A little while ago students at the Melbourne University, who took the course of modern languages, were compelled to pass in German and French. There may have been an alteration, but if not, the State Government, which endows the University, should insist on the students -being given the choice of one of the languages of our allied nations, or perhaps the language of a neutral country.
I am quite in keeping with the declaration that Nauru must be defended by people of our own race. I firmly believe that a majority of native-born Australians of German blood are loyal to this country just as the native-born Americans of German blood expressed their fealty and loyalty to the flag of the United States of
America in the greatest procession of men of German blood that ever marched through the streets of an American city. I cannot say that I have had Prussians as friends, but many members of the Turn Verein, who were born in SchlesweigHolstein, Wurtemberg, and South Germany, I count among my friends. Even they were not too fond of the Prussians. Being of German blood, they had the right to be admitted as members of the club, but the other members were not too fond of them. A;- for their children, I have always said that the land they live in will encompass them, and in spite of nationality will ultimately gain them. On one occasion at a function of the Tura Verein, at which the German Consul presided, I was asked by some of my friends if I would say a few words. At first I declined, saying that I knew their German system better than they did themselves, but they assured me that they intended to carry their programme right through to the drinking of the health of the Consul. They did so. Then a little revolution broke out. They would not permit the Consul to leave the chair until the Dutch Consul and I had spoken. I took the opportunity .of telling them that I did not blame them for loving their Germany, ‘but that I stood for a higher thing, namely, that it was the duty of every man to give his loyalty to that country which was most kind to him, and that once he had sworn fealty to that country, it deprived him of whatever sentiment he might attach to the country which chanced to give him birth. I told them that I, as an Australian, loving Australia, claimed their children, and their children’s children, and I pointed out that ultimately Australia would hold them. After the function my old friend, eighty or ninety years, of age, came to me and asked me what had put the idea into my head. He said that he had had the greatest difficulty in making his children talk German, and had failed to get his grandchildren to do so. I told him that they were now good Australians, and would soon forget Germany. It is only a matter of a generation or two, a small period in the life of a State. Therefore, let us be generous in our treatment of these people. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt. If there is no proof that they have been disloyal, let them go free, and let us judge them by their future behaviour. But let us send away those who have been disloyal, those who have proved to be traitors to this country. There is, however, one difficulty. Native-born Australians married to Germans may be desirous of going to America.
Mr. Fleming. - The honorable member was quite right about Lord Milner. He was born in Germany, but of English parentage.
Dr. MALONEY.- I know that the honorable members wishes to put that matter straight, and if I have made an error, I am prepared to apologize. The American Consul will not vise passports of those which bear alien names. America may be right in adopting such a policy, because they have a much bigger German question than we have here, but at the same time it may be carried too fax. However, the fact should be made widely known, so that those people who are anxious to go to America will not be applying for what they will be refused. It would save a lot of heartburning if it were made perfectly plain that the United States of America Government do not desire that any one of German blood or name should go to America, because many persons have already sold their businesses and secured their passports, and there is every probability that when they are prepared to leave Australia they will be blocked by the United States of America consul.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE (North Sydney - Assistant Minister for Defence) [12.23] - I am not one who believes in harboring a vindictive spirit towards Germans or those of German parentage, but we ought to look at this question broadly, because there is every reason why we should have some feeling in the matter when we recollect that 56,000 of our men died in the great war. It has been .proved up to the hilt that Germany was the cause of that war, and entered into it most unwarrantably.
Mr. Considine. - International capital was the cause of the war.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE.- Australia entered the war because Great Britain upheld her promise to the little nation of Belgium to preserve her neutrality, and because Germany was prepared to tear up her little scraps of paper, etcetera. We all know the cause of . the war. What crime had Belgium committed? The crime of depending on the word of a Prussian king, and for doing so her country was overrun, her fields were trodden under, her cities were ruined, her art treasures were destroyed, and her womenfolk were violated. We went into the war for these reasons, and came out of the bloody struggle with the loss of 56,000 of the flower of Australia’s manhood, and it is only reasonable that we should bear some malice and vindictiveness towards that nation which caused this loss.
Mr. Gabb. - The Minister differentiates between Australians of German origin and those of German birth.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE. - I do. The man of German parentage living in Australia who has proved himself a loyal citizen should possess all the privileges of an Australian citizen. I bear no malice to Australians of German parentage, unless they have been proved to have been guilty of some disloyal act, but where such proof is forthcoming they are deserving of internment.
Mr. Parker Moloney. - Will the Minister give them a chance of disproving the charge of disloyalty?
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE.- I am prepared to give them every chance of doing so. There were fifty-eight persons interned in the Holdsworthy Camp who were Australian born of German parentage, or were naturalized German subjects, and of this number forty were interned during the regime of the Labour Government, of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was a member.
Mr. Tudor. - No native-born Australian was interned in Holdsworthy Camp unless Cabinet gave its assent. While I was a member of the Cabinet there were only four or five of such cases.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE.- The information supplied to me is to the effect that, of the fifty-eight persons interned, forty were interned prior to the 14th November, 1916.
Mr. Tudor. - I left the Government in September, 1916, and cannot be blamed for anything that happened after that date. I have stated the facts as I remember them. There were only four or five native-born Australians whose cases came before the Cabinet of which I was a member.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE. - No doubt the matter can be clearly proved. The rule was that each case of internment of an Australian citizen had to come before Cabinet.
Mr. Tudor. - Not if it was a case of a naturalized German subject.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE. - The point is that a good many of the cases complained of were dealt with by the Cabinet of which the honorable member was a member.
Mr. Tudor. - At that time we had to intern men on suspicion, but now they have the right to clear themselves of that suspicion. Anything I did then I would do again. I do not claim that those who used disloyal utterances should be allowed to go free.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE. - The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) referred to the case of a man named Drabsch. He was interned on the 1st July, 1916, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was a member of the Government thatwas in power, and responsible for these internments. It is that Government, and not the present Government, that is responsible for them. Therefore, the remarks which have been made by honorable members opposite have been directed against the actions of their leader, not against something done by this Government.
Mr. Gabb. - The head of the Government that interned these men is also the head of the present Government.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE. - I am absolutely certain that no nation in the world would have treated its enemy subjects in the liberal, kind-hearted way in which the Australian Government treated those whom it interned.
Mr. Considine. - We want an investigation into the treatment that was given to them.
Sir GRANVILLE RYRIE. - You can have all the investigations into that matter that you wish. But let me quote some statements about the condition of the internment camp at Holdsworthy made by an absolutely impartial person, the Acting Consul for Switzerland, who at the time was in charge of German interests in Australia. I shall not read the whole report, hut this is what he said about the state df the kitchens and the food -
Having arrived at the main compound shortly before midday, the three kitchens were at once inspected, and found to be in a condition of the utmost cleanliness. I was present when the midday meal was served to the internees, who, in reply to my inquiry, stated that everything was served that day as usual. Quite a number of internees were questioned, and none but minor complaints were made, mostly irrelevant to my inquiry. The food was clean and wholesome, consisting - in two of the kitchens- of fried meat-balls and potatoes, and fresh meat, soup, and tea, and Irish stew in the third kitchen. The food gave general satisfaction, within the scale of rations, to the great majority of those I questioned.
As a light upon the sanitary condition of the camp, I direct attention to this statement -
The percentage of sickness was admitted to be very small. . . . During the period of the last “six months, only eight deaths took place out of 5,190 internees.- The internees looked to be in a healthy condition.
The death rate among the internees at Holdsworthy Camp was lower than in any other part of Australia. Let those facts be contrasted with the facts relating to the treatment of our prisoners in Germany, the reading of which makes one’s blood boil. In my opinion, it would be most unwise to have an inquiry opening up all the matters dealt with in the motion. One of my reasons for saying this is that in many cases men were interned on the evidence of loyal Germans, and in some cases on that of their own relatives. Of course, such evidence is always to be viewed with some suspicion of ulterior motives, but every case was gone into thoroughly. Much of the evidence obtained by the authorities was given secretly, and in a matter of this kind evidence like that is not to be rejected. But if every case is opened up, and the names of all the informers made public, the lives of many who informed the authorities of the disloyal actions or words of friends and relatives would not bo worth living, and some of them might be murdered. There are many other reasons for not stirring up these matters. It is said by some that the war is over and we should wipe the slate clean. But it is very hard for those who were at the war, and for those who lost
Sir Granville Ryrie. relatives and friends there, and especially for the widows and orphans of soldiers, to say, “ “We will wipe the slateclean so far as the Germans are concerned, and forget everything.” That might be the charitable thing to do, but it would be a hard thing to do. In my opinion, only harm would result from an inquiry by a Royal Commission, and J hope that honorable members will not press for it.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [12.36] - 1” support the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), but .for a reason which differs from those which have been advanced. I should like an investigation in order to make certain that those who have been released are absolutely loyal, and that fairness has been shown in releasing some men and deporting others. Those who are disloyal should be deported, but loyal men should be allowed to remain here. As to Australianborn persons, whatever their parentage, they are entitled to remain in this country, and they should have been allowed to vote on every national proposition that was put before the people during the war, because no one could be more an Australian than the man born here. There is a way of dealing with traitors in war-time.
Mr. McDonald. - And at any other time.
Dr. EARLE PAGE.- Naturalized Germans, and men of German extraction who have been in the country .for many years without taking out letters of naturalization, are in a different category, and should be allowed to remain in Australia only on it being conclusively proved that they have been loyal to us. I agree with the Prime Minister that, during the war, it was proper to intern these men on suspicion. He likened the action that had been taken in regard to aliens to that which is taken when contacts are quarantined along with persons suffering from an infectious disease. There are, however, persons who are known as carriers who, though recovered from a disease themselves, carry infection to others. There are those who were absolutely true to us during the war, and are so still, but persons who showed their disloyalty during the period when our national existence was at stake have no right to remain here, and should be deported. Yet there seems to have been a certain amount of subterraneous manipulation in these cases. It has been stated that it was necessary to keep certain medical men in Australia, not because of their loyalty to this country, but because of the .professional work they are able to do, and the special skill that they possess. That was said regarding two well-known German surgeons, one of whom was recently released. He was brought to Melbourne from Holdsworthy, and was about to be put on a steamer for Java, when, through some influence, he was set at liberty, and allowed to practise his profession again. Now, the glory of British surgery is its proficiency in that special branch of which this man is said to be the only skilled exponent in Australia. Sir Robert Jones stands unrivalled as the world’s master of orthopaedic surgery, and there are dozens of men in Australia who, before the war, had more skill than this German surgeon, and scores now who, by reason of their experience with war casualties, excel him in skill. This man must have been disloyal, or his loyalty must have been seriously ‘suspected; otherwise he would not have been interned. At an extraordinary general meeting of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association, held in Sydney last week, it was resolved -
That if there are in existence any legitimate grounds or special reasons, other than those suggested for the continued delay in the repatriation of Max Herz to his Fatherland, the British Medical Association, New South Wales branch, would be glad to be advised of them, so that ho may not be the subject of unjust treatment should he ultimately succeed in avoiding repatriation.
That is a fair proposal. In justice to those amongst whom this man is going to live, and in justice to the man himself, the cards” should be put on the table so that all may know how he stands.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (Hume) [12.43]. - As there remains only a little more than a quarter of an hour for the finishing of the debate, and some members opposite may desire to speak, I shall be as brief as possible. I notice, with some degree of satisfaction, the altered attitude of the Prime Minister towards the request for an inquiry. He says to-day that he has no serious objection to the request for an inquiry now made by those who were interned. I remember his at- titude of some months ago, when I introduced to him a deputation of returned soldiers from a district in my division, who approached him in reference to certain persons whom they believed to have been wrongfully interned. These returned men, although they had fought for the liberties of this country, felt that they could not support an injustice, and wished to hear from the Prime Minister himself what were the charges levelled against the internees.
Mr. Gabb. - All honour to them.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.- There were three returned men on the deputation; but they also presented a petition signed by a number of ‘other returned soldiers in the district, so that it will be seen that this was not a mere holeandcorner affair. At the close of the interview, after the Prime Minister had emphatically refused to make known what the charges were, I said to him, “ Am I to understand that, these men will have to go down to their graves without having made known to them the charges alleged against them.” He replied that the nature of the charges could not be disclosed, and he held out no hope that they would ever be made known. That being so, I am somewhat pleased to find the right honorable gentleman taking up a different attitude to-day. At the same time, I am very suspicious that his promise of to-day will go the way of all others. I do not expect that much will come out of it; but will give the Prime Minister the benefit of any doubt in my mind, in the hope, that something will be done.
I shall deal with this question in a general way, without mentioning the names of individuals. I have here a copy of a letter addressed to the Minister for
Defence (Senator Pearce) by a New South Wales solicitor, who was intrusted with the cases of some of the internees. The reply that he received illustrates the way. in which all these cases have been treated. At the head of his letter, this solicitor gave the names of several internees at Holdsworthy Camp, for whom he was acting, and wrote -
As solicitor for and on behalf of the above internees, 1 have the honour to request that -
Detailed particulars and dates of the charges upon which they have been interned be supplied to them through mu
That an inquiry be held before any civil or military authority as to the truth or otherwise of such charges, and that they be thus afforded an opportunity of being heard, with counsel or attorney, in their own defence.
These internees are not alien enemies. My clients affirm their innocence, and claim to be loyal subjects of His Majesty the King. They most respectfully and earnestly ask that you will accord them the privilege and opportunity, as requested, of asserting and proving their innocence.
The writer of this letter, Mr. John Wilkinson, who, I need hardly say, is an Australian born, with no enemy blood in his veins, appends the following certificate to a copy of this letter which I have received -
I certify the above to be true extracts from my letter to the Honorable the Minister for Defence of the 8th April, 1918, and that my application for details of the charges and the granting of an open trial was absolutely refused.
Senator Pearce’s reply to Mr. Wilkinson’s letter was a lengthy one, and I will therefore summarize it. He stated that it would not be in the public interest to make known, the charges, but that the men concerned might furnish the Department with particulars of any distinct act of loyalty on their part. In reply to that offer, one of the internees, who was a councillor, furnished through his solicitor to the Department a statement showing that, six months before his internment, he submitted to the shire council of which he was a member the most comprehensive scheme ever placed before a municipality for helping returned soldiers to settle on the land, and that he had invited the council to appeal to farmers in the district to make land available for the purpose. He offered 100 acres of his own land free of rent for the use of returned soldiers. It was suggested by him that others should do the same, and that machinery and teams should be supplied to help returned men so settled to harvest their crops. He also showed that he had taken part in recruiting.
Mr. Brennan. - All this was no good. What was wanted was lip-loyalty.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.- He was not a lip-loyalist. Instead of “flapping the flag,” he did practical work. This man gave distinct cases in which he had assisted in recruiting, and showed that he had given permission to his own son to go to the Front. All this, however, was of no avail. The final answer was that he would have no opportunity to state his case, and that the charge made against him would not be made known. That is one example of the treatment meted out to these men. There are many others to which, if time permitted, I could refer. In one case an internee pointed out to the Defence Department, through his solicitor, that he had a son at the Front. We all know that there was a provision in the regulations that no man who had a son at the Front should be interned, even if he were of German origin. But it took this man a considerable time to have this simple fact made known to the Department. I have here a letter from the Minister for Defence, in which he states that it was not known that the man had a son at the Front, otherwise he would not have been interned. His release was immediately ordered. The fact that so much time elapsed before he could make it known to the Department that hie son had gone to the Front shows the conspiracy that was going on.
Dr. Earle Page. - It was just muddling
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY.- I think there was something more at the back of it all. I agree with the Leader of my party (Mr. Tudor) that throughout the war a spirit of vindictiveness was rampant. The Prime Minister admits that the war period was one of frenzy - that men were not able to view things in their true perspective, and there were undoubtedly, unfortunate victims of this frenzy. In many cases internees were Australianborn of the second generation, and the way in which they were treated was cruel. I know some of these men to be quiet, inoffensive citizens. A returned man said on the occasion of the interview with the Prime Minister to which I referred, “ One of these men is the most inoffensive man in our district. If you were to kick him on the shins he would not injure you.” All that we ask ‘is that there shall be extended to these men the right conceded to even the worst criminal in the country. Even a man who is taken in the act of committing a murder is not sent to the gallows without a trial. These men ask for an open inquiry. They desire that the charges against them shall be made known, and no man who believes in
British liberty will be prepared ‘to deny them this.
I have tried to discuss this matter without any display of heat, but I desire to say to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) that while I agree with his protest against the action of the Government in robbing some of our Australianborn citizens of their votes, he had an excellent opportunity, almost as soon as he entered this House, of showing, in the most emphatic way, his contempt for the Government. He had an opportunity to vote to remove them from office, but on that occasion he crossed over and voted against his own party to keep the Government where they are. I shall not occupy my full time, because I know that the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) desires to speak in the few minutes remaining for the consideration of this question ; but I shall expect the Prime Minister to honour his promise.
Mr. GREGORY (Dampier) [12.55].- I shall have ample time to express my views. While the war was on many mistakes were doubtless made. It is quite possible that many persons were arrested on suspicion, or upon information given in confidence by different people. Such cases must occur in war time, and it would be absolutely wrong for the Government to grant an inquiry into the reasons which actuated the Minister in regard to many of these1 internments. I am satisfied that many persons must have been unjustly interned, but during a war such as thatthrough which we have just passed some injustices are sure to occur. It is time, however, that we got back to the conditions that prevailed before the war. I am not content to leave our civil rights or the civil rights of any of our people in the hands of the Defence Department. It is the duty of the Government, as soon as possible, ito take from the Defence Department the control of all these matters, and to put them under the control of either the Department of Home and Territories or the Attorney-General’s Department. If any of these people at a time of great crisis committed an offence against our country, they should have been punished before now.
Mr. Poynton. - Can the honorable member point to any part of the world where, during the war, internees were given a trial ?
Mr. GREGORY- I am merely pointing out that by this time those who have been interned ought to know exactly where they stand. It is idle to talk about the clemency that has been displayed. I brought before the Government the case of two Australian girls, the daughters of a respected resident of Fremantle, who had a son fighting at the Front. In prewar days, when we were at peace with Germany, and the Germans were our friends, the girls married two naturalized Germans.
Mr. Poynton. - Did I not fix up that case for the honorable member ?
Mr. GREGORY.- The honorable gentleman helped us very considerably. TheAustralian Government ultimately gave apassport to one of these girls and her husband to go to Fiji; but, unfortunately,, on arrival they were not allowed to land. They were hunted by a mob, their passport was taken from them, and they were even refused permission to return to Australia. Action was taken to enable them to come back here, and I understand the husband is being deported to Switzerland. A decided effort was made by the Defence Department to denaturalize many Germans who had secured naturalization papers. In one case a friend of my own, with a splendid record of twenty years as a naturalized British subject, was interned. It may be that he was properly interned, but he and all others who have been dealt with in this way should know the charges made against them. If there is any charge against them it should be dealt with immediately. If there is not, then they should be no longer left with the suspicion hanging over their heads. It is time that the Government determined to deal promptly with these matters. Where offences have been committed, I hope that punishment will be meted out.
Sir Robert Best. - There must be public inquiry.
Mr. GREGORY. - We must have a public inquiry in regard to these cases, which have not yet been “finalized,” if further punishment is desired.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, Yes. The system was abandoned in 1915, and since then the selection has been made on a Commonwealth basis, which insures that the best material shall be obtained, irrespective of State boundaries. 2 and 3. There were only four applications from Queensland in 1919, although particulars of the examination had been sent to all schools (public and private), and advertised in the press. Of the applicants, three failed educationally, and one was selected for appointment as a ‘ cadet midshipman.
Meteorological andWireless Stations.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the dangers and losses caused by want of knowledge of cyclone disturbances between Rockhampton and Cairns, the Minister will take the necessary steps to establish a meteorological station, together with wireless apparatus, on the Willis group of islands, about 275 miles from Townsville?
– This matter is being considered in connexion with the preparation of the Estimates for next financial year.
Mr.FENTON (for Dr. Maloney) asked the Minister forWorks and Railways, upon notice -
Is Mr. Balsillie in the Commonwealth Service?
If so, what salary does he receive?
Are the rain experiments made at the cost of the Commonwealth Government?
If so, what is the total cost to date?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. Mr. Balsillie is not an officer of the Commonwealth Service, and does not receive any remuneration in connexion with rainstimulation experiments. 3 and 4. Yes, at Hopetoun and Riverina; the Commonwealth is paying the cost of the experiments, and the amounts expended at these two places total about £2,900. Prior to the stations at these two places being established, there were some preliminary experiments on the East-West railway.
Employees at Cockatoo and Garden Islands.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I shall have inquiries made in the matter.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will allow the honorable member for Angas an opportunity of perusing the whole of the papers in connexion with the closing of the Tanunda Club?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether steps will be taken to prevent the export from Australia of stud rams to countries which may become serious competitors in the wool market?
– Information is being obtained as to the extent to which stud rams have been exported, in order that the Government may be able to consider what, if any, steps need to be taken to protect the interests of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
Messages from the Governor-General reported, transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., for the years ended the 30th June, 1918, and the 30th June, 1919, respectively.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to Committee of Supply.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Bill received from the Senate, and(on motion by Mr. Poynton) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Poynton) read a first time.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives.
The following papers were presented : -
Annual Report on Papua, 1918-19.
Annual Report of the Australian Institute of Tropical Medicine, 1919.
Ordered to be printed.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Subject to this Act, the members of the Commission first appointed under tin’s Act shall hold office for the term of five years, and shall be eligible for re-appointment. . . .
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Leave out “ five “ and insert “ three “.
Senate’s Message. - Amendment disagreed to.
– It is the intention of the Government to ask the House not to insist upon this amendment. The Senate objects to it for the same reasons as I urged when the amendment was moved, namely, that the reduction of the period from five to three years would limit the scope of selection. Honorable members will recollect that I most reluctantly allowed the amendment to be made. The commissionerships will be very important positions, and in filling them we should have the widest possible selection in order that we may get the most capable men.
– Does not the same argument apply to members of Parliament, who are elected only for three years ?
– Not to the same extent. No three men in this House have the disposal of the same amount of money as will pass through the hands of. the three Commissioners.
– We vote millions of pounds annually.
– That responsibility is shared by the whole seventy-five members, but there will be only three Commissioners, and it would be a mistake to limit the field of selection by shortening the period of appointment. I therefore move -
That the amendment be not insisted on.
.- The Committee agreed to this amendment without a division.
– Because the Minister said that the numbers were against him.
– The Government accepted the amendment, and it was carried on the voices, but apparently when the numbers are against the Government in this House it is easy for them to get their representative in another place to move that the amendment be not accepted. That was done in connexion with this amendment. Evidently the Minister was not sincere when he accepted the amendment in this Chamber. Three years is a sufficiently long period for the appointment. Except for the administrationof the war pensions, the work of the Repatriation Department is drawing to a close. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has said on more than one occasion that the work of his Department is approaching its end. With the exception of about 14,000 or 15,000 men all of our soldiers have returned to Australia. Many of them are being given vocational training, sustenance allowance, and assistance in other ways which must soon come to an end. It is estimated by those who are in the best position to know that two years will be sufficient for the vocational training of these men in various industries, because it does not mean a long apprenticeship as, for instance, to engineering. I do not say the men are more receptive at the ages at which they have arrived, but they are more likely to persevere than are boys who are just leaving school. Under the circumstances, I see no necessity for the appointment of the Commission for five years. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) suggests that if we reject the amendment it will mean a double dissolution, but that would not be possible under section 57 of the Constitution; at any rate, if the Government desired a double dissolution, they would select a more important question than this. The reason given for the inclusion of the Pensions Department under the Repatriation administration was that the arrangement in three yeaTS could be reviewed, and I believe that influenced the voting of honorable members on the point.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in his objection to the proposal of the Government. I am more convinced than ever that our best interests can be served by limiting the period to three years. I am dead against building up any new Department. I have learned unofficially from soldiers outside that the idea is not that of the Government, but is urged by the returned soldiers, and the Government, therefore, cannot advance the contention that they themselves believe that it is essential to proper administration. If the information I have received is not correct, let the Government say so. I contend that what is intended is merely a buffer between the Government and those who are objecting to certain, action in the administration. I can easily conceive that if the suggestion were submitted by the soldiers it would .be acceptable from a Ministerial point of view, especially from the point of view of the Minister in charge of the Department. However, my objection is to the creation of new Departments that are not absolutely essential, and I have heard nothing to convince me that the proposed change is in the interests of efficiency.
– I move -
That the following words be added: - “but is amended by inserting the word ‘ months ‘ after the word ‘ three ‘ “.
The speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) is entirely in accord with my views. The whole proposal before us is absolutely ridiculous, and had I been present when this Bill was considered in Committee I should have moved an amendment to express my view. The bulk of the pensions work is already completed, and if there is one satisfactory feature in connexion with the provision made for returned soldiers it is the manlier in which that work has been done by the existing Department. The staff of that Department is fully organized to deal with old-age and invalid pensions, and experience has shown that it is thoroughly competent for the work in connexion with the soldiers. This work the Department has been doing quite satisfactorily for four years; and now, when about nine-tenths of it has been completed, it is proposed to create a new Department to do the “ washing up.” My abject in moving the amendment is to have the work continued as in the past. There is not an honorable member - not even amongst the new members - who has not had these matters brought under his notice; and I challenge any one to say that as much satisfaction has not been found with the Pensions Department as with any branch of the Repatriation administration or of the military service. My desire is to test the feeling of the House as to whether a new Department should be created.
– I should like to remind the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) exactly where we stand in relation to the Bill. In the early stages of the measure the question arose as to what the character of the Commission should be. We constituted the Commission as a corporation; it was provided that the members; should be appointed for a period of five years, at the expiration of which another body of men would be appointed, and so on. We discussed very fully whether the period of office should be five years or three years. The House decided there should be three Commissioners, but the point at issue now is whether their term of appointment shall be for three years or five years. We have to realize that, although a great amount of repatriation work has been done already, the Commission will be charged with the discharge of many functions for a long time to come.
– What are they?
– The granting of assistance to the widows, children, and other dependants of deceased soldiers, providing medical attendance for all those soldiers. whose illnesses may recur up to ten or fifteen years hence, and the care of soldiers who may be in consumptive homes, hostels, and other institutions.
– That means a new Department.
– It does not; it means continuing the existing functions of the Repatriation Commission, and I feel sure the desire of honorable members is that the country should stand up to its obligations.
– That being so, now is the time when we should lay down permanently the basis of our policy. The point at issue between the House of Representatives and the Senate is the term, but the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) now cuts clean across that issue. The point he refers to was raised by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), and we had a test vote on it.
– But that does not necessarily prevent it being raised again if it is within the Standing Orders.
– No, but there ought to be some finality.
– The Committee protested against the creation of another permanent Department.
– The Committee must be judged by its actions.
– The Senate has brought all this trouble on you.
– No ; but the honorable member for Franklin now wants the Committee to go back upon its tracks. He raises the issue that the transfer of certain functions will mean the creation of a new Department; but we have already incorporated the whole of the pensions clauses as part and parcel of the Bill.
– A course which we protested against.
– The Repatriation Commission therefore will be an administrative, not merely an advisory, body; and it is very desirable, to achieve the best results, that the tenure of the personnel should be secure, because experience gained over a longer term of years in dealing with complicated cases will enable the head of the Department to become practically a repository of information in connexion with the cases that may come before the Commission. A new Department will not be created. The magistrates who today are dealing with these matters will go over to the Repatriation Department, but ‘ of necessity the Deputy Commissioners will give way to the State Boards. For administrative reasons five years would be preferable to a term of three years, because the Commission will be dealing with large sums of money, and it is advisable that we should get the very best men available for the work. The Commissioners, when appointed, will be disqualified from carrying on any private calling. We want to secure the best men available, but if we accept a limitation of three years we shall, by so doing, limit our choice.
– Rather that than that we should build up new Departments.
– That point of view is based upon an entire misconception. What is intended is that there shall be merely a transfer of officers from one Department to another. Returned soldiers have had considerable experience in getting their varied wants attended to, and surely they are fairly competent judges of the advisableness of concentrating all this work in one Department.
– If the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin is carried, will the effect be to limit the appointment of the Commissioners absolutely to three months?
– That is so. Of course, I recognise that the amendment is, in effect, a test question, seeing that on the face of it the honorable member’s suggestion is really impracticable.
– I moved the amendment solely as a test question. If the words proposed by myself are added, I take it that the Government would drop this provision altogether.
– It would have to drop the measure. The idea of the honorable member is to prevent the Repatriation Department from dealing with pensions at all. The issue between the Senate and this Chamber is another matter, and is confined to the tenure of the Commissioners in office: The amendment of the honorable member for Franklin would, in effect, re-open the whole Bill regarding an essential principle. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment, and to stand by the proposals of the Government.
– I desire to raise a point of order. The amendment of the honorable member for Franklin is to limit the tenure of office to three months. I ask for a ruling whether it is competent for this Committee to so materially alter its own previous decision. If the amendment is agreed to the Bill will be virtually destroyed. In those circumstances, is the amendment in order?
– On the point of order-
– I do not want to hear the honorable member. I am quite satisfied that, under standing order 202, the amendment is in order.
.- The Minister has explained that there is to be no duplication of Departments or creation of new Departments. To limit the appointment of Commissioners to three years, if the work of the Department were likely to be practically ended within that period, would be satisfactory; and, of course, the Commissioners, if necessary, could be reappointed. The only objection raised by the Government to the term being made three years, rather than five, is that the shorter period would limit the choice. I think the Government will be able to make a selection from very many competent men, who would be willing to serve, even although the term might be three years. I have all along strongly favoured the proposal that the Pensions Department should be brought within the control of the Repatriation Commission. My only regret is that the scope of the Commission is limited in that it will not control the matters of war service homes and soldiers’ settlements. That is my sole objection to the Bill. I am surprised at the honorable member for Franklin having proposed his amendment. So far as I can recall, there was no hint on the part of honorable members of disapproval of the principles underlying the Bill when it was originally considered in this chamber. The object of the honorable member now, obviously, is to destroy the Bill. Of course, I do not intend to support him ; neither do I favour the limitation of office to three years.
.- So far as I can recall the proceedings of this Committee, when honorable members were originally considering the Bill, opinion was divided on the question whether the Pensions Department should be placed under the control of the Commissioners or retained as at present. A decision was arrived at, and now tha amendment of the honorable member for Franklin seeks to limit the tenure of the Commissioners, in respect of all purposes, to a period of three months. Their functions cover more than the administration of pensions, the question on which the Committee was tested before. The functions of the Commissioners are much wider, and the Minister has referred to some of them. I do not recollect the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) testing this question in the Committee previously.
– I was not here.
– The effect of carrying the amendment he has moved will be to condemn the appointment of Commissioners altogether. Is that what the .honorable member wants? Does he desire to prevent the appointment of Commissioners altogether ?
– Yes; to leave it under the control of the existing Departments.
– If that be so, the honorable member, by his amendment, is attacking a vital principle of the Bill.
– Which the Committee has already affirmed.
– It appears to me remarkable thatno opportunity was taken when the Bill was previously under consideration in Committee, to move in the direction in which this amendment goes. There is a clear issue as to whether the appointments should be for five years or three years. The Government previously accepted a proposal to make the term three years. Now, the Minister has given a reason why they should go back on that acceptance. I understand that the reason why the Government accepted the three years’ term before was a very strong reason - the fact that the numbers were against them. I can understand the powerful persuasion of numbers in a question of this kind. Perhaps the Minister will inform me, by interjection, whether he feels that the numbers are with him on this ‘occasion.
– We shall soon see.
– Whatever the result of the voting on this amendment may be, I hope that we shall still have preserved to us . the right to decide whether the term of office of the Commissioners shall be five years or three years.
– The question I put to the Committee was only the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams). The other matter may come up for consideration later.
– The amendment is more far-reaching than that which was moved when the Bill was previously before us in Committee.
– If this amendment is carried, we shall have an opportunity to decide only whether the term of office shall be five months or three months.
– I quite understand that if this amendment is carried it will destroy the Bill. I wish it to be made clear that whatever the effect of the voting on the amendment may be, we shall still be in a position to divide on the question of whether the term shall be five years or three years.
– I do not think we shall if the amendment is carried.
.- It is well known to honorable members that when this Bill was under consideration in
Committee before, I voted for an amendment providing that the Pensions Department should not be transferred to the control of the Repatriation Commission. I wish to be consistent; but, unused to the procedure of Parliament, I am somewhat confused as to the effect of the amendment now before the Committee. I believe that the administration of the Pensions Department should be left where it is, and the Repatriation Commission should be confined to the administration of matters connected solely with repatriation. Whether the word “ months “ is substituted for the word “years” or not, I cannot see that the result would be to in any way alter the provision with respect to the administration of the Pensions Department included in the Bill. If the amendment is intended to secure the abolition of the Repatriation Commission, that is quite a different matter.
– That is the object of the amendment.
– Then the question of the. transfer of the Pensions Department to the Repatriation Commission does not arise under the amendment, which is intended practically to prevent the appointment of the Commission.
– The administration of the Pensions Department comes into the matter, as well as a number of other things.
– I take it that if the Commission is not to be appointed, there will practically be no Repatriation Bill. I should like to be advised by some older parliamentarian present as to the effect of voting for the amendment.
– We could not have a Commission, the members of which had to be appointed every three months.
– I wish to understand whether, in voting for the amendment, we shall be voting to prevent the transfer of the Pensions Department to the control of the Repatriation Commission, or to prevent the appointment of any Repatriation Commission at all. If the honorable member for Franklin will, answer that question, I shall better know how to cast my vote.
– The intention of the amendment is, without a doubt, to prevent the appointment of the Repatriation Commission.
– And has nothing to dc with the control of the Pensions Department?
– The honorable member for Franklin says the intention is to destroy the Repatriation Commission.
– When this Bill was under consideration in Committee on the last occasion, whilst I did not like the idea of transferring the Pensions Department to the Repatriation Commission, I knew that this measure provided for benefits which are not provided for under the existing Act. I am not disposed to vote for the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Corner party (Mr. Mcwilliams), when to do so may be to lose benefits which returned soldiers may derive under this Bill. I am prepared to vote for a term of three years, as against five years for the members of the Repatriation Commission ; but I am not prepared to cast a vote which would deprive many .soldiers of benefits under this Bill which are not provided for under the existing law. In this measure, provision is made for increased pensions, and it includes people excluded from benefits under the existing law. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) asks what will happen to the women and children; but they will be looked after. He says we have to keep up hospitals, but they would be kept up whether this Bill were passed or not. He asks, “What about the consumptive patients; how are they to be dealt with?” Are they not being dealt with now? Unless the Government have some better arguments than have been put up against the amendment so far, they have a very bad case. This House should be careful to retain control of the appointment of the Commissioners, and if we appoint them only for three years, we can reappoint them if they prove worthy, and if their services are still further required. I contend that their work should be done in three years, and the various existing Departments should continue to carry on their work as they are doing now. If we create a new Department for five years, we are setting up a very expensive system at a time when expenditure ought to be curtailed. I hope that the Committee will have the opportunity of taking a direct vote upon the question, of whether the appointment of the Commissioners shall be for five years or threeyears, and I trust that honorable members will adhere to their previous decision to limit the period to three years.
.- When this question was dealt with previously, on the amendment of the honorable member for Wannon to limit theperiod of appointment to three years, the argument put forward was that thepowers conferred upon the Repatriation Commissioners by the Bill were strictly limited in point of time, and there was no need for the appointment of Commissioners for a longer period than threeyears. Honorable members had to cometo a determination upon the point without being able to give consideration to thepowers proposed to be bestowed upon theCommissioners, because they were fixed by a later clause than that which fixed their term of appointment; and in this; connexion Ministers contended that if theadministration of pensions was not intrusted to the Commission, and if additional duties were not given to it, to a very large extent there would be no justification for its appointment. It was pointed’ out by an honorable member on the Ministerial side of the House that the existing Repatriation Department administration was capable of carryingto a completion the work already undertaken; and that unless additional powers were given to the Commissioners by incorporating in the Bill the proposal which the Committee will be discussingin a few moments, namely, the grantingof assistance to co-operative companies of returned soldiers, there would be absolutely no reason for the formation of new machinery in connexion with the administration of repatriation matters. I have had considerable personal knowledge and experience of repatriation work in country districts, and I realizethat, to a large extent, the Federal portion of this class of work has already been done. As I showed a fortnight ago, if the Commonwealth had retained control of the moneys handed over to the States in connexion with repatriation, and if the Repatriation Commission wereclothed with authority to .take part in thehandling of that work, the Commis- sioners would be provided with occupation for a lifetime; but in the present circumstances there is no necessity whatever for the appointment of a new Commission with powers so limited as they have been by the Government.
.- The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has up to the present made a most excellent showing as Leader of the Country party ; but I hardly think he realizes that if his amendment is carried the work of repatriation will be held up for a considerable time, because no Government can afford to permit its Bill to be made ridiculous, as it would appear to be if the word which the honorable member wishes to have inserted in the clause is. placed there. If the Committee insists on its original amendment, the clause will read -
Subject to this Act, the members of the Commission first appointed under this Act shall hold office for the term of three years, and shall be eligible for re-appointment.
But the honorable member wishes the clause to provide that the Commissioners are to be appointed for three months only.
– Yes; on the understanding that no Commission will be appointed.
– I think the Chairman, if he desired to be very strict, might, under the Standing Orders, declare that the amendment comes under the category of frivolous amendments, because, unless the honorable member for Franklin seriously intends to wreck the Bill, he has moved a frivolous amendment.
– It would not wreck the Bill if the Commission were not appointed.
– The Minister declares that if the honorable member’s amendment is carried it will wreck the Bill. No self -respecting Ministry could ‘ allow such .an amendment to be carried. I am not particular whether the period of the appointment of the Commissioners is three years or five years. The point is not material enough to hold up the Bill. If the Minister says that he is willing to agree with the attitude of another place I am prepared to support him iri fixing the period at five years.
– Surely it is competent for a Committee of this House to give instructions to the Government on occasions. We may be practically unanimous in regard to a certain course of procedure, and ought to be in a position to exercise our judgment in that direction. The object of the amendment is to give an instruction to the Ministry to avoid the creation of a new Department, which may make greater demands upon the public purse, and to draft the measure on lines that will enable the work of repatriation to be conducted as it has been in the past. From every quarter we have had the information that the task of the Administration in the matter of repatriation is, in most aspects, coming to an. end; but that only seems to be an incentive to this “economy” Government to establish a new Department. I support the amendment, because I am opposed to the Government creating expensive machinery which is quite unnecessary.
– The honorable member wishes to wreck the Bill.
– That is not so. If the amendment is accepted, it will simply be an instruction to the Government to bring in a Bill in accordance with the wishes of the Committee. All the benefits given by the Bill will remain, but they will be administered differently. Evidently the Government are too prone to spend public money, because they grasp at the opportunity given to them to do so by. a Chamber that has no control of the public purse. We are the people who are responsible to our constituencies for the expenditure of public moneys, and we ought to guard the public purse jealously. The Government delight in ruthlessly scattering public money, and I hope the country will realize that when we provided that the Commissioners were to be appointed for a term of three years instead of five we were taking a step in the right direction.
– The Senate was counted out to-day.
– I do not think that we should take much notice of the Senate.
– Let us take a division.
– I am prepared to assist in that direction, but I must, answer the extraordinary statement of the Minister, that by carrying the amendment we will be depriving the soldiers of the benefits that would accrue to them. It is a most cruel and unfair statement, and is not in accordance with fact, because no Government would be prepared, even if the amendment were carried, to drop the Bill and thus deprive those who are to benefit. I shall vote for the amendment in the hope that it will be carried, because I believe the Repatriation Department will proceed smoothly under the old regime, and that it is altogether unnecessary to create another Department.
.– I am glad to be able to take this opportunity of assisting the Government to carry out at least one of their pledges, if it means the establishment of a tribunal on which the soldiers will be represented. If theamendment is carried and the Commission dispensed with, I do not see how the Government can carry out their pledges. I therefore, with great pleasure, support the Government on this occasion.
– The Government are submitting two amendments made in another place, and if this House agrees to delete the provision relating to co-operative concerns there is no need for the appointment of a Commission. If the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) is carried, the Government have threatened to drop the Bill altogether, and carry out the pensions work by the present Department, and the other work by the Repatriation Department, by granting that body extended powers. I believe that such a proposal would meet with the approval of the majority of the members of this House if the whip is not cracked. I am surprised that the Government allowed their colleagues in another place to submit these two amendments to this House. One provides that the Commissioners shall be appointed for a term of five years, instead of three, but the Government know that by deleting the provision relating to co-operative concerns the work of the Commissioners will be so reduced that there will be no need to extend their term. The whole thing is a farce, and I am in favour of the work being carried on by the present Department with extended powers, if necessary.
.- The plausible speech of the Minister for
Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) was as devoid of argument as any speech ever delivered by a member of this Chamber, and that is saying a good deal. I fully believe that the amendment carried in another place would be accepted by the returned soldiers in this Chamber, who have formed a union, and who believe that the Government will have to meet their wishes if they are to have their support. I draw honorable members’ attention, however, to the fact that sooner .or later the Government will have to face the financial position, and any honorable member who disregards the seriousness of the situation is not fit to be a member of this House. As I have stated previously, this is an attempt to create a new Department, and its cost will exceed all expectations. If honorable members only realized the expenditure that is likely to be incurred they would not be so anxious to pass a in ea sure of this character. Although the Bill as it left this Chamber provided that the Commissioners were to be appointed for three years, there is nothing in the measure to prevent them being reappointed for a further period. I do not see why the taxpayers should be thus involved in further unnecessary expenditure. Our war debt has to be reduced, and it must not be regarded as a perpetual liability.
– Order! I am afraid the honorable gentleman is departing from the question before the Committee.
– :I am merely drawing attention to the indebtedness of the Commonwealth, and the fact that the creation of new Departments involves us still further, I believe I am doing right in supporting the honorable member for Franklin, because the whole of the work proposed under this Bill can be carried out by existing Departments. I understand that twenty-one additional appointments will have to be made. As the returned soldier members of this Chamber have formed themselves into an organization, they are likely to stand by their friends in the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League some of whom will be interested in the new appointments. If the Bill is passed it will be a useful instrument in the hands of the Government, and will enable them to incur additional unwarranted expenditure. There are, of course, necessary military expenditures; but unjustifiable expenditure remains for all time a burden on the taxpayers. To show my consistency I shall have to vote with the honorable member for Franklin. In public life one must always be consistent. Then he will be appreciated, even though he may make mistakes. But I appeal to young members not to think only of popularity. A great orator once said that when the multitude applauded him he felt that he had made a mistake. I hope that the Committee will not give way to the Senate in this matter.
Question - that the word “ months “ proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. McWilliams’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 32
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I propose, as the mover of the amendment, to stand by the three-years term. I must express my surprise that, the Minis ter in charge of the Bill in another place has not taken the cue from the Minister in charge here, who so accurately sensed the feeling of the Committee at the time, that he did not test the matter by a division. I am sure that honorable members are strongly of the opinion that the House of Representatives is the guardian of the finances of this country. It is faced with the rejection of what amounts to a financial provision, or to a financial control regulation.
– Then it should not have originated in the Senate, if that is so.
– It is surprising to me that the general tact and wisdom of the Minister in another place did not lead him to see that this House will not surrender to another Chamber its rights so far as the control of the finances is concerned. Another place should be reminded that this Chamber is primarily responsible for the finances.
Motion - That the Committee does not insist on the amendment - negatived; amendment insisted on.
House of Representatives’ Amendment. - Insert the following new clause: - “ 47a. The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist soldiers in establishing industries on a co-operative basis, such industries to include the manufacture of boots, woollen goods, and clothing, tanning, woolscouring, fellmongering (and kindred industries), saw-milling, and other enterprises.”
Senate’s Message. - Amendment disagreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That the amendment be not insisted on.
.- The amendment, as moved by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), contains the germ of a great idea, and I regret that the Senate has rejected it. I propose to move an amendment as an alternative to the clause as adopted here. There is no doubt that to lend money indiscriminately to any group of men who care to commence an industry, such as bootmaking, saw-milling, or any other cooperative enterprise of that kind, might land the Government in very serious financial loss.
– Money is not, to be lent indiscriminately.
– It is true that the clause contains the words “with the consent of the Minister,” but the Minister will be unable to cope with, the many demands that will be made upon him by hundreds and thousands of men, for I am sure it would run into that, number of men. If the Government announced that they would advance money to any group of citizens in Australia - not necessarily returned soldiers - who desired to enter into co-operative enterprises, without asking those citizens to put up any money whatever, a request would come in from every street in every town in Australia for the loan of money to go on with some enterprise.
– What is the question before the Committee?
– The proposal of this Chamber for assistance to soldiers in establishing co-operative industries. I purpose to disagree with the Senate’s rejection of the amendment, and to substitute an alternative one. Honorable members will agree that what is easily acquired is not very much thought of. Many years ago in Queensland the Government endeavoured to assist the unemployed, and to that end furnished them with funds to establish village settlements. No money was put up by the unemployed, but various groups received assistance from the Government. They went on to the land, and as soon as the money was done the co-operative societies burst up and became insolvent. It is true, as the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) reminds me, that in some cases these co-operative village settlers were given very bad land, but in one case they got very good land, at Lake Weyba, in the Gympie district. Their committee decided that some members of the group should fell timber, others plough, and others fish. They had a quarrel as to who should build, who should cut timber, and who should fish, and finally they were all on the lake fishing. Under my alternative proposal the clause would read -
The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist soldiers by way of loan to the extent of pound for pound contributed by them in cash or war bonds for the purpose of establishing industries on a co-operative basis, such industries to include the manufacture of boots, woollen goods, and clothing, tanning, wool-scouring, fellmongering (and kindred industries), sawmilling, and other enterprises.
I shall also propose the framing of regulations to determine when these loans should be repayable.
Mr.Considine. - What is the essential difference between the honorable member’s amendment and that moved by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) ?
– The essential difference is that those who form themselves into groups for . the purpose of conducting enterprises on co-operative lines under my proposal will have to furnish some guarantee that they believe in their enterprise.
– More than one-half of these men have not a penny, and do not know where to obtain money.
– If, for instance, ten returned soldiers, each holding a £100 war bond, joined together, they could go to the Commissioners and say, “We propose to buy a plant for the manufacture of boots, and we ask the Government to advance £1,000 by way of loan.”
– How far would that go?
– Not very far, but for purposes of illustration we could multiply the number by 10. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; progress reported.
Debate resumed from 23rd April (vide page 1487), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts Act, the following members bo appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, viz.: - Mr. Bayley, Mr. Fenton, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Prowse, and Mr. West.
– I understand that an arrangement has been made between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for a further proposition, and I hope honorable members will consent to this motion without further debate. There is no reason why it should be delayed; we can leave the further question to be rectified later on.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 April 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200430_reps_8_91/>.