8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker, in reference to a paragraph that appeared in to-day’s press relative to the presentation of an address to the Prince of Wales, on behalf of Parliament, by the Presiding Officer of another branch of the Legislature. Will you kindly inform the House if any precedent exists under which the Presiding Officer of the Senate can act as the mouthpiece of this Chamber ? What is the usual procedure followed in the presentation of addresses by Parliament to the King or his representative?
– I knew nothing of the matter to which the honorable member refers until I saw the paragraph in a morning newspaper, but I have since had an interview with the President concerning it, from which I have learned that some proposal of the kind referred to is in contemplation.
I wish to say that neither the Presiding Officer ofthe other Chamber nor any other authority, except the Speaker of this Chamber, can act as the mouth-piece of this House. No other authority can claim to speak on behalf of this branch of the Legislature.
The procedure followed in the presentation of addresses to the King or his representative has been that each House has, on motion, adopted the address, which has then been presented to the representative of the Crown by the Presiding Officer of each House respectively. The last occasion on which Parliament presented an address to the Crown was after the capitulation of Germany andthe virtual termination of the war, when each House adopted an address of congratulation to His Majesty the King, and the addresses wore presented by the Presiding Officers of the respective Chambers, namely, by the President for the Senate, and by me, as Speaker, for this House, on ground common to both Houses; on that occasion it was on the steps in front to this building. On all other occasions when addresses have been presented to the King’s representative, they have been presented, so far as I can learn, by the Presiding Officer of each Chamber on behalf of the branch of the Legislature over which he presides. The Speaker is the official medium of communication between the House of Representatives and the Crown.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if the statement which appeared in the press the other day, indicating possible new proposals for dealing with the forthcoming wool clip, accurately represent his intentions and those of the Government?
– I did not read it through, and therefore I am unable to answer the question positively, but seeing that the. proposals were presented in a very condensed form, it is highly improbable that it does. I noted that certain things which in my view are material were omitted. However, I shall look at the report again, and see whether it may be said to accurately reflect my opinions. It does not, and cannot be said to, set out the opinions of the Government, because it was not intended to do so.
– In view of the cabled announcement of astonishment from overseas, and the false light in which what must be regarded as premature proposals in connexion with, the wool clip appear, and also to prevent the Australian woolgrowers being put into a false position, will the Prime Minister take steps to cable that the proposals are not those of the Australian Government?
– Until I know what proposals the honorable member alludes to - and I am not at all sure that he knows what proposals have been put forward - I can hardly refute any statement that has beenmade, and I certainly do not propose to embarrass the wool-growers of Australia, or this Government, by having cable communication with the British Government over a matter that does not concern it. Our 1920-21 wool clip is the property of the growers of Australia, and the British Government have no more to do with it than the French or the American Government.
– The following para graph appeared in this morning’s Argus -
Australia’s Advice to be Sought.
The United Press correspondent in Washington says that the advice of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada will be sought before Great Britain renews her alliance with Japan.
He adds that the renewal of the alliance is considered certain.
Before any alliance is renewed, or made with other Governments or nations, will Parliament be informed of its terms and conditions, or are these treaties to be regarded as secret documents ?
– The honorable member, in the most loose and casual way, asks me a question on a matter of vital importance affecting the fate of nations. Possibly he may express surprise when I say that I am not prepared to answer his question on the spur of the moment any more than I would be able to explain offhand some of the passages in Genesis or Leviticus.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Branch in the capital cities have been extended to the employees in the country and suburban post-offices ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. This matter is now receiving my attention. 3, 4, 5, and 6. Inquiries are being made.
Designs and Plans
asked the Minister in Charge of Shipbuilding, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Owing to the difficulty being experienced by mail contractors in the drought-stricken areas in carrying out their contracts, will the Government see that a further allowance is paid to all mail contractors so affected, so as to enable them to carry out their contracts?
– A liberal allowance has already been made by the Government. Any further cases deserving special consideration will be dealt with on their merits.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, owing to the precarious state of the wheat-growing industry in Australia, and the serious decline in the area cultivated, the Government will take steps to give a guarantee of 7s.6d. per bushel for the next season’s wheat crop ?
– The policy of the Government on this matter has been already stated.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Payment for Holidays
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– I can give only a general answer to this question. We are arranging the matter as far as possible in association with the two States chiefly concerned, and I hope that the result will be that we shall he generous. Precisely what we shall do I do not at present know.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commissioner has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Soldier Employees : Resignations : Temporary Employees
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Acting Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Public Service statistics are compiled for financial years. The number of resignations for 1917-18 was 658; for 1918-19, 936; and for the nine months, July, 1919, to March, 1920, 1,037.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– As I indicated yesterday, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Nepean, Commonwealth employees in New South Wales are paid under Federal Public Service awards. The Deputy President of the Arbitration Court, on 9th April, 1920, fixed the basic wage for the Commonwealth at £3 10s. per week, and this is being paid from 26th April. The adoption of State rates would involve differential Federal rates, which is not desirable or practicable.
Duplication of Plant
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the reported arrival at Fremantle of Mr. Louis Sinclair, honorary secretary of the Commercial Committees of the Allied Parliaments of Europe, he has any official knowledge of this gentleman and his mission to Australia?
– (By leave.) - I wish to lay on the table a corrected copy of the memorandum regarding the co-operation of the British Admiralty with theCommonwealth Government for the development of oil resources in Papua in substitution for the document which was laid on the table last night, and ordered to be printed, but in which the signatures were omitted. I move -
That the paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Alternative amendment disagreed to by the Senate: - 47a. (1) The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist soldiers by way of loan to the extent of one pound for one pound contributed by them in cash or war bonds for the purpose of establishing industries on a cooperative basis, such industries to include the manufacture of boots, woollen goods, and clothing, tanning, wool-scouring, fellmongering (and kindred industries), sawmilling and other enterprises.
The regulations may prescribe the conditions upon which any loan granted in pursuance of this section shall be repayable.
– After extended consideration of the position created by the attitude of the Senate in regard to the alternative amendment of this House, dealing with advances to returned soldiers for the purpose of establishing industries on a co-operative basis, to which the Senate has disagreed and with a view to reaching finality on the matter - because we are anxious that the advantages given by the Bill shall be extended to those who are to participate in them - the Government have decided to ask honorable members not to insist on this amendment, but to substitute another amendment, and submit it to the Senate for acceptance. Therefore, I move -
That the alternative amendment to amendment No. 30, disagreed to by the Senate, be not insisted on, but that, in place thereof, the following clause be inserted in the Bill: - 47a. (1) The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist Australian soldiers by way of loan, to an extent not exceeding one pound for each one pound contributed by them in Treasury bonds issued under section 13 of the War Gratuity Act 1920, or in cash, for the purpose of establishing co-operative businesses.
The amount of any loan granted in pursuance of this section shall not exceed £150 and shall bear interest at such rate as the Commission determines.
The aggregate amount of loans granted in pursuance of this section shall not exceed £250,000.
An Australian soldier who has a share or interest in a business in respect of which a loan has been granted in pursuance of this section shall not transfer his share or interest -
unless the transferee is an Australian soldier approved by the Commission, or
where the transferee is not an Australian soldier, unless, in the opinion of the Commission, there are special circumstances which render the transfer desirable.
No person shall, without the consent of the Commission, enter into a mortgage, or give any lien, over the property of a business in respect of which a loan has been granted in pursuance of this section, and any mortgage or lien entered into or given in contravention of this subsection shall be void and of no effect.
The Commission, or any person thereto authorized by the Commission, shall at all times have access to, and may inspect, the books and premises of any business in respect of which a loan has been granted in pursuance of this section, and if, upon such inspection, the Commission considers that the business is being conducted in such a manner -
as to depreciate the security of the Commission for the moneys lent by it; or
as to prejudice the interests of the shareholders of the business, the Commission may require such alteration in the control or conduct of the business as it thinks desirable.
Notwithstanding anything in this section a loan shall not be granted for the establishment of a co-operative business -
unless application for the loan is received by the Commission within twelve months after the commencement of this Act or the discharge of the applicants from the Forces, whichever last happens;
unless the applicants satisfy the Commission that they are qualified to carry on that business;
unless the agreement, deed or articles of association entered into by the applicants is approved by the Commission; and
if, in the opinion of the Commission, the applicants have been satisfactorily established in civil life.
For the purposes of this section “ co-operative business “ means a business which, subject to the rights of the Commission in respect of any loans granted for establishing the business, is owned by persons engaged therein.
The regulations may prescribe the conditions upon which loans may be granted in pursuance of this section and the conditions upon which such loans shall be repayable.
That is an honest attempt to have businesses established by returned soldiers on co-operative lines, and it will be perfectly safe from the point of view of the taxpayers generally. The original proposition of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and that of thehonorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) were somewhat loosely drawn, and the Government felt that it was necessary either to elaborate the provision on the lines of the present proposal or to bring down a special Bill for the purpose.
– A Bill would have been better.
– Yes; that is why so much detail has been required in this new alternative amendment. There is not the slightest hope of our coming to an amicable arrangement with the Senate for the acceptance of our other proposal, and the only alternative is to send forward this new proposal or drop the Bill altogether, thus depriving those who are to participate in its extended benefits of the advantages it gives. There is no doubt it is a much more liberal measure than the Act on the statute-book to-day.
– Senators do not seem to care whether the Bill is lost or not. Let us put the onus on them.
– That is not such an easy matter. We have responsibilities here.
– They have responsibilities also.
– I have no desire to create friction between the two Houses on those lines. Some honorable senators are opposed to the proposition right out, but from what I can gather from reading the Hansard report of the Senate’s proceedings, the principal objection to our proposal was because of the loose way in which it was drafted. All cause for objection on that ground is removed by the new proposal, because it imposes fairly stringent conditions. As custodians of the public purse, it is the duty of this House, as well as of the Senate, to see that legislation of this character is so drafted as to adequately protect the Commonwealth revenue and provide no opportunities for abuse.
– In view of the very great importance of this amendment, which has only come under the notice of honorable members during the last few moments, I ask the Minister to report progress.
.- I sincerely regret that the Minister has not given the Committee more opportunity to consider these proposals. I take very grave exception to his suggestion that my amendment was loosely drawn. It was most carefully drafted, and the addition of the last paragraph, at the request of the Minister, providing that regulations might prescribe the conditions under which any loan should be repayable, made the clause almost perfect.
– Was it not drawn by the draftsman ?
– No; but it was submitted to the draftsman. Reading hurriedly the first portion of the amendment which the Minister has just placed before the Committee, it would appear that the Government propose to grant not more than £150 in any one loan.
– That is in conformity with the regulations under the existing Act.
– Of what advantage would such a loan be in carrying out the desires of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), whose original amendment was designed to encourage cooperative enterprises in saw-milling, bootmaking, and other industries.
– The limitation to £150 applies only to individual soldiers.
– The proposed new alternative does not say that, thus indicating how loosely it has been drafted. If the amendment does mean that £150 may be given to each soldier engaged in a co-operative enterprise, how far will the £250,000 go ?
– At any rate it will provide an opportunity of seeing how the scheme will work.
– I ask the indulgence of the Committee while I read the following letter sent to me by Mr. George Lawson, the Honorary Secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, Brisbane branch: -
At a largely attended meeting, comprising returned sisters, sailors, and soldiers, held on Friday last, I was directed to forward to you the following resolution, which was carried unanimously : - “ That this meeting of returned sisters, sailors, and soldiers urges the Federal Government to support the proposal whereby the Government will subsidize the soldiers’ cooperative scheme, either by assisting on the basis of £1 for £1, as outlined by Mr. Higgs,
M.H.R., or by making advances to returned soldiers for investment in co-operative enterprises. This meeting is of opinion that a successful co-operative scheme will do much to solve the present high cost of living, and to foster Australian industries.”
I commend the foregoing resolution for your kind co-operation, and trust that you maybe successful in placing this concession on the statute-book.
I do not desire to delay the passage of this Bill. It should be put into operation as soon as possible. But I fear that the alternative proposal suggested by the Minister can only lead to delay. I am satisfied that honorable members will not accept the amendment in its present loosely drawn state, for the reason that there is a doubt as to whether the £150 is to be granted to each individual or to each group.
– We can easily rectify that.
– If there is something to be rectified in the Minister’s amendment, why did he cast reflections on the drafting of my amendment? Here is another difficulty. Sub-clause 7 reads -
Notwithstanding anything in this section, a loan shall not be granted for the establishment of a co-operative business -
Probably over 200,000 soldiers are at work to-day. I understand that of all who have returned only about 18,000 are receiving sustenance. The great majority of the returned men are engaged in the factories, workshops, mines, or other places of employment. I suppose that most of them are, in the opinion of the Department, satisfactorily re-established in civil life. Therefore, if the Minister can prove that “ Digger “ Jones has been working at, say, Bedggood’s factory for over six mouths, that man will be considered satisfactorily re-established in civil life, and he will not be entitled to any loan. The very men who might make a success of the co-operative scheme are probably those men who have been already re- absorbed in civil life. I suggest, and I will vote accordingly, that the Minister should withdraw his alternative amendment, and bring in a Bill to give effect to this scheme. If the proposal is to be placed on a proper basis, it ought to be introduced in the form of a Bill, so that the clauses may be properly drafted to insure a practicable scheme in which the interests of both the Commonwealth and the returned soldiers will be properly safeguarded.
.- After only a cursory glance at the proposition submitted : by the Government, a number of difficulties have been discovered. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has pointed to several mistakes, which the Minister, of course, has readily promised to rectify; but if mistakes can be found in this proposition after a mere cursory glance at it, it is probable that mature consideration would disclose many more. The suggestion that this scheme should be withdrawn from the Bill and embodied in a separate measure is one to which I shall not agree unless I have an assurance from the Minister as to the approximate date on which the new measure will be introduced. It seems to me that this new alternative scheme has been drafted at the behest of the leaders of the Senate, who are not the custodians of the public purse, and in such a form as to place almost insuperable difficulties in the way of returned soldiers who desire to become their own masters. It would exclude from the operation of the system applicants who, in the opinion of the Commission, had been satisfactorily settled in civil life. A concrete instance of the injustice which this would work is to be found in the statement made a few days ago by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). The honorable member stated that he saw a number of returned soldiers doing the major work of a saw-milling business at a railway siding, and was told by them that the only reason why they did not start for themselves was that they had not the necessary capital. With a little assistance from the Government they would be able to start for themselves ; but, under this alternative proposal, they wouldbe regarded as having been “ satisfactorily settled in civil life.” These are the very class of men we want to reach. They would probably become leaders of others, and would be responsible for the industrial salvation of quite a number. I join with the honorable member for Capricornia in urging that the matter be allowed to stand over until a later hour, so that we might have time to consider it. I shall cer tainly oppose the proposition as it comes from the Senate.
. -I appeal to the Committee to pass this proposal in the form in which it is presented. All that the Government have sought to do since we last met is to try to give shape to certain safeguards that are necessary if this is to be a workable scheme.
– The Government have safeguarded it all right.
Mr.Tudor. - So that not one man will be able to get a penny.
– Such observations are perfectly idle; no fairreading of the alternative clause would justify any such language. The idea of the honorable member for Capricornia, as originally proposed, is retained in this alternative proposition. All that it is proposed to do is to frame a set of workable conditions under which that idea can be carried into effect.
– Could not that have been done by regulation under the original clause?
– That is precisely what the Committee objected to. The Committee said that it desired to know exactly what was proposed to be done. Here is an effort to satisfy the Committee, and yet it meets with objection. I hope we shall get back to the consideration of this matter on reasonable lines.
– It is only fair that we should have time to consider the Government’s alternative proposal.
– Give us an opportunity to digest it.
– The honorable member knows that there is nothing novel in it.
– It makes provision for only 1,666 men.
– I propose, if I may, to deal with that matter. It is time that something was said of the finances of the Commonwealth. The House itself seems to me to be getting into an irresponsible mood regarding finance. We have ever so many economy propositions, yet every day I hear from all round the. House suggestions, the carrying out of which would involve an expenditure of millions of pounds. And these suggestions come from, the very men who are most clamant for economy. I would remind the Committee that the financial outlook is very serious.
– Why did not the Minister say so at the outset, instead of coming down with this alternative scheme?
– I am saying so, and this further amendment says so in the plainest terms. It says in effect that there is a limit to which we can go, even in connexion with so desirable an objective as the repatriation of our soldiers. The Government would’ like to go quite as far as would any honorable member in that direction. This Sill is not necessarily a law of the Medes and Persians. It can develop just as the whole scheme of repatriation has done. This Bill represents a stage in the evolution of the scheme. As experience shows more and more to be necessary, more and more can be done. The Bill imposes upon us quite enough financial obligations for the immediate outlook, and these limitations are imposed so that we may know exactly what we are facing. That is necessary in the interests of the financial position of the country.
– The best way to relieve the financial position is to produce more.
– I am perfectly certain that my honorable friend, sitting just where he is, could cause millions to come out of the ground instanter. I am quite unable to do that. I could speak as the honorable member has done, but that would not give us the cash; it would not help us to face the liabilities outstanding at the present time.
May I remind honorable members that the Bill as it stands is far more liberal than the soldiers themselves expected, a great deal more liberal than any promises that were made to them at the general elections, when a specific limitation was placed on the amount to be devoted to the purposes of this Bill. The Government cannot allow itself to be committed to an unlimited expenditure in regard to this Bill, or any other. The financial outlook is too serious for that.
– Do you not think that the limit that has been fixed is too low?
– No; though if it proved too low, proposals to increase it could be made later. I ask my honorable friends to get this scheme into operation, and if it is proved that more money can be usefully and reproductively .spent on these lines, the Government can always be asked for it. The Bill is much more liberal than was intended. According to the Prime Minister’s pronunciamiento to the country, the expenditure under it was to be £650,000, but the increase in war pensions alone, for which it makes provision, will run into at least £1,250,000, and there are many other increases. We must pull up somewhere. Certain proposals may be justified on their abstract merits, and when regarded apart from their relation to the Bill as a whole; but I beg honorable members to consider what the measure involves financially, and I ask them to say whether it does not make a generous contribution for the welfare of the soldiers.
May I remind honorable members of a few of the commitments of this new Parliament? It may seem to some honorable gentlemen a small thing to ask for an increase here or there, but if they ever have to find the money for the whole, they will experience great difficulty in doing so. ‘The War Gratuity Bill will increase our interest expenditure next year ‘by £1,500,000, and we shall want another £1,500,000 to- meet other increases in interest on expenditure on behalf of soldiers or their dependants. In this Bill the war pensions are increased by £1,250,000; the slight increase that has been made in the old-age pensions will add £750,000 to the bill for next year and it looks as though the awards of the Courts would increase our expenditure by another £750,000. It is estimated, too, that the expenses of the Repatriation Department will run to another £1,000,000 next year.
– But there is the money that you will get through the Customs House next year.
– We shall need it all, and a great deal more. I have enumerated only four or five of the outstanding increases of expenditure. They will magnify our expenditure for next year by between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000. Then there is a clamour for an increase in the postal expenditure. What that increase will be I cannot pretend to say. Again, the cost of running all the Departments will increase, because of the rise in the price of materials, upkeep, and everything else that makes living more expensive. Will honorable members tell me where we are to get all the money that we shall need?
– -From the profiteer.
– All we have been able to get from the profiteer this year is about £2,000,000.
– The honorable member is referring to the war-time profits tax, but that has ceased now.
– It really lapses at the end of this year, but we shall get some revenue from it next year. Apparently next year our expenditure may be anything between £7,000,000 and £9,000,000 more than this year, and the increase will be due nearly entirely to the war and the consequent repatriation of the soldiers. Yet I am told by honorable members that we should spend still more heavily. Dp not they see that our financial condition will nob permit us to do so? We must keep within our means and resources. No doubt were I in Opposition, I could criticise the Pill as effectively as its opponents are doing, because it is easy to criticise and to say that this and that should be done. But we have to make up our minds as to what is a fair thing under all the circumstances, and having regard to the difficulty of getting the money that will be needed, I cannot regard proposals for expenditure as though they related to water-tight compartments. I have to consider them in relation to the finances generally; and our expenditure is mounting to a figure that is becoming appalling. This year, in connexion with repatriation, we shall spend something over £8,000,000 on land settlement, £5,000,000 on housing, £500,000 on postal arrangements, and another £500,000 on advances to the States to provide employment.
– That wants looking into.
– It all want3 looking into. Vocational training, sustenance, furniture, tools, medical treatment, &c, will cost nearly £5,000,000. Altogether we shall have to spend about £19,250,000 upon the soldiers and their dependants.
– How much is spent in sustenance?
– I think about £2,000,000.
– When I put clown the amount at that figure last week, Senator Millen said that mine was an overestimate.
– Well, it may be incorrect. I cannot tell the honorable member the exact amount now. The item given to me covers vocational training, sustenance, furniture, tools, medical treatment, and so forth, and runs into £4,700,000 for the year.
– But sustenance
– Never mind sustenance - never mind details. The outlook for next year is £21,000,000 for those same purposes, and for war pensions next year our liability is between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000, and it is more likely to be nearer £7,000,000. I invite honorable members to keep these facts in mind when they so readily make proposals for expenditure of one kind or another. We have to ‘’ bring up “ somewhere - there is some limit - if we are to keep within our compass and our means. I suggest strongly that to-day we arc doing a fair and generous thin,; by ‘these men. We cannot possibly do what honorable members suggest by the implications of their speeches. We cannot set every man up in business, or give him chances, other than his own calling affords. No country could afford to do that, and no country has attempted it. In these respects we have done more than any other country on the globe.
– That is a question; the Australian insurance was a fraud in comparison with that in America.
– There is no question about the matter.
– I should like to see the data placed on the table.
– There is no manner of doubt, in my judgment, and the honorable member will find that what I say is right. We have the prospect of having to raise, in addition to revenue, about £30,000,000 in fresh loan moneys during next year. Altogether, I tell honorable members the financial outlook is just as serious as it can be. Our revenue is coming in well, and our financial position is sound, but it requires careful handling. We can -just as easily make a mess of things as not, unless we stiffen ourselves to meet the financial obligations which are peaking up at so rapid and acute a rate. This year we are coming to the apex; we have been steadily climbing up year by year, and to-day we are getting to the top. I therefore suggest to honorable members that they do not push their proposals any further, for we cannot afford to carry them out until we shape ourselves differently, and see what the outlook is likely to be in the near future. We have as big a load as we can conveniently carry, and I beg honorable members to accept the Bill as it is - to accept it as a fair and generous contribution on the lines promised at- the elections and since. On the whole, it is a Bill and a proposal which I believe fairly satisfies the soldiers as a whole. I hope honorable members will do nothing to-day, or at any other time, to jeopardize our proposals or overload them in any unreasonable way, having regard to the obligations we have to face in the near future.
. –The Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has said either too much or too little. Under cover of asking honorable members to defeat the amendment that was carried by this House, he has delivered what is practically ti semi-Budget speech; to quote his own words, the amendment has to be judged by the financial outlook. The honorable gentleman should have delivered that speech when the Bill was introduced; he ought to have told us that the financial outlook is black, and that we have to pay all these millions for pensions, war service homes, and so forth. The Ministers of the two big spending Departments - Defence and Repatriation - are not in this House, the Ministers (Senator Millen and Senator Pearce) both being members of another place. There they are gradually getting control of the spending of this money, and those two Departments spend more than the whole of the other Departments put together. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt), in his Budget speech, showed that we are spending £78,000,000 on war, up to the end of June, this year, an expenditure representing £1,500,000 a week.
– And the honorable member desires to spend more on repatriation !
– The Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) should be honest, and dec! aire that the Government will not accept an amendment, instead of offering a subterfuge of this kind.
– It is not a subterfuge in any shape or form.
– The Government proposal pretends to do something that it will not do.
– It does not.
– It pretends to give, those men assistance, when the limitations in the amendment cut away that assistance.
– That is not so.
– Why do not the Government apply the same conditions to men who go on the land ? Why not give them the treatment that is given to men who enlisted from the cities or big towns, or even from the bush, but who have’ no opportunity of going on the land 1
– The’ amount suggested - £250,000 - will repatriate only 80 men on the land.
– .The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) interjected that it would repatriate 1,666 men.
– Is not that a very good beginning ?
– Is it a good beginning for this Commonwealth, in view of the 400,000 men who want away ? The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), whose amendment was defeated in the Senate, was quite correct when he said that the best type of returned men have gone back to their own work without applying to the Repatriation Department, and because they have done this they are deprived of the benefits proposed by the Bill.
– All honour to them !
– I quite agree with’ the honorable gentleman; but why cut them off from the benefits of a measure of this kind ? A man who has gone steadily to work himself is to have no assistance, and he is in the same position if he has been back more than twelve months, thus cutting out the original Anzac men.
– That is not so, as the honorable member will see on reference to the Bill.
– Yes, I see that the Anzac men have a chance, but, after all, only 1,666 men will get any assistance under the Bill. I shall be pleased to support the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) in his original amendment, or any substitute for it, in order to show that we were earnest in all the promises we made to the men on the platform. I made promises on the platform, and to those . promises I shall be true, though apparently other honorable members would desire to evade them on the ground that they are afraid of a financial crash. We should have had to raise a great deal more money than this co-operative proposal would involve if the Parliament had accepted the proposals for conscription, which were supported by the Acting Treasurer (Sir joseph Cook), and which would have resulted in the raising of 200,000 more men. I shall vote against the proposal of the Government.
.- I agree with honorable members who have made an appeal to the Government not to press this amendment to a division without giving honorable members more time for consideration. I certainly do not feel in a position to express an opinion without more time being allowed. The difficulty in which we find ourselves now very largely arises from the fact that the Government really does nob believe in this amendment. I do not think that the Government believed in the amendment that was originally proposed by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and the amendment before us, after all, is, I feel very strongly, only a kind of makeshift.
The speech of the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) gives one pause, and leads one to consider whether we ought to pass this, or any other such amendment, involving as it does increased expenditure at a time when the country can very ill afford it. I cannot understand the position that some honorable members seem to have taken up when on the recruiting platform. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. , Tudor) speaks of the lavish promises he made to the men to whom he appealed.
– That every one made.
– That every one did not make. I did as much on the recruiting platform as most honorable members, and, speaking for myself, I defy any honorable member to say that on any occasion I held out any promises to the men to whom I appealed. I made my appeal from the highest stand-point - the stand- point of their duty to the country, and to their fellows at the Front ; and I never made any promise as to what would be done for them, or given to them, on their return. I may say that I found the appeal I did make to the men an effective one. I agree with the Acting Treasurer that Australia has acted justly by the men who went to the Front, and I think, if we were to ask the average returned soldier, he would say that he has been fairly and well treated. This cooperative movement is something over and above anything that was promised, I believe, by any one to the soldiers before they went away.
– But because a man went away a navvy, you would not refuse to give him a show to get out of the ruck?
– Certainly not; but this is not necessarily a part of our repatriation scheme, and it ought to be considered apart from it. All I am contending for at present is time for consideration. I believe, with the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), that this proposal is so important and farreaching in its consequences as to require a separate Bill.
– That would mean much delay.
– It might mean delay, but what is the delay of a few weeks or months in a great movement of this kind? There is a new and great principle involved in this proposal - and we are establishing a new departure. My experience of the House, so far, has beenthat there is far too much impulsive legislation. Honorable members vote on impulse, instead of being given time for calm consideration so that their votes may be the expression of a mature opinion formed by a well-informed mind. As I have not had time to read this new amendment, I cannot honestly vote upon it, because my vote would mean nothing.
My mind is not informed. I have not had time for consideration. One para- graph catches my’ eye, the one to which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has drawn attention, dealing with the classes of men to whom advances will not be made. Included among them are men who in the opinion of the Commission have been satisfactorily established in civil life. It all depends on what is meant by the words “ satisfactorily established in civil life.” A man whom I know has come hack from the Front after four and a half years’ service, and instead of loafing on .the Repatriation Department, as some men have done, and drawing sustenance for months, he, by his own endeavours, ‘ gol a billet after drawing sustenance for three weeks only. However, at the end of six months, for some reason or other, his employment come to an end, and when he went to the Repatriation Department to see whether they could give him further assistance or not, they said to him, “No, your case .has been dealt with.” Evidently the Repatriation Department consider that he has been satisfactorily established in civil life. That being the ease, a man most deserving of sharing in the benefits of the scheme now under consideration would be told by the Repatriation Commission, “You have been satisfactorily established in civil life, and are not eligible to participate in these benefits.” To make matters worse, this man, who has a wife and four children, received notice from his landlord two or three days after he became unemployed, and was called upon to leave the house upon which he had been paying rent regularly for 3ix years. This is just one phase that occurs to me, but I certainly require time to consider the whole matter. I am sorry that, I am not able to respond to the appeal of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) . I ask him now to respond to our appeal and give us a little more time for the consideration of the whole question.
– I am in accord with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that this proposal should be left in our hands for a day or two in order to enable us to give it more consideration. I did not have the privilege of hearing the debates on this matter, and have not had the opportunity of learning what influenced this Chamber in deciding to assist in establishing returned soldiers in cooperative industries, but I think no better channel could be made available for them in regard to their future employment. From a cursory glance at the proposal before us, it appears to me that a returned soldier who ought to bare a perfect right to participate in the benefits of the pro vision will. not be permitted to do so if he is now following his usual civil employment. There are dozens of returned soldiers whose cases have come under my notice, who have found, on resuming their usual occupation, that their health has been so impaired that they have not been able to earn what their fellow-employees can make, or what they were drawing before the war. They would like to get into businesses of their own, and I have had applications from them asking for assistance from the Repatriation Department to enable them to do so. If they sought assistance under the proposal before the Committee, very likely it would be held by the Repatriation Commission that these men would not be entitled to it, because they had been satisfactorily established! in their usual occupations. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) says that honorable members ought to agree to this provision because of the position of the finances. We all know that the finances are not in a good position. We know, in fact, that it is getting worse, and that, as things are going, some day or other we may have financial chaos; but I cannot see in what way the argument of the Minister applies to the proposal before the Committee. He invites us to agree to the amendment, and commit the country to an expenditure of £250,000, but I cannot see in what way it would add to the burden of the country if no limitation is placed on the classes of returned soldiers who may participate in the benefits given by the provision, so long as they are bond fide. I have heard the remark that there are some men who have not done quite the right thing, who could have found work, but made no attempt to get it, who, in other words, have malingered ; but if there are men of that type - I do not say that there are - they will have the opportunity of benefiting under this scheme, whereas the man who has found ‘work for himself on his return will not participate.
– We are committed -to the expenditure of £250,000, but we cannot get the money for nothing.
– Land settlement is still to go on.
-I believe that everything possible should be done for those who went abroad to fight for us, and if we can place them in suitable avocations we ought to do so>, but I understand that in many cases a good deal of the money advanced to place soldiers on the land’ is to be returned to us in the shape of repayments. The argument of the Minister for the Navy, that we have already committed ourselves to the expenditure of about £20,000,000 for .repatriation - it will probably be nearly £30,000,000 before we are through- is only misleading, and gives no assistance to the Committee. The Government would be well advised to allow the matter to remain in abeyance for a day or two to give honorable members an opportunity of considering it. According to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who is a Government Supporter, the Ministry are not in earnest in regard to this proposal. It would appear that they .are endeavouring to find! an easy way of coming to a settlement with another place. But I contend that this House ought not to whittle away its rights in regard to finances. It will be a bad day for the country when we allow the Senate, to control the public purse We ought to insist on our rights, and should not back and fill on a matter of this kind. We came to a deliberate conclusion that the amendment we sent to the Senate was appropriate for “the measure, and the Government have done wrong in bringing forward an alternative proposal - it really is sufficient to form a Bill in itself - and.’ asking us to consider and accept it at a moment’s notice.
– We have already put in a fortnight on this very same question.
– Well, another fortnight would not he too long to wait, notwithstanding the fact that it is necessary to ‘get the Bill passed as early as possible. The men need not suffer in consequence’ of the delay. The payments can be made retrospective. We are not justified in agreeing to this proposal on the reasons advanced to-day. Where shall we find ourselves if we allow things to drift in this way ? The experience of the honorable member for Fawkner is that we agree to matters too hastily. Bills .involving the expenditure of millions of pounds, just the same as those involving the expenditure of thousands of pounds, are passed without receiving the due consideration they deserve. I quite agree with the Minister for the Navy that there are honorable members who are constantly talking about the financial position, yet are willing .to still further extend the benefits that are granted to returned soldiers. But I am not going to withdraw from my position. If there is any malingering, or any injustice perpetrated on the part of the returned soldiers, it is a matter that should be rectified by those who are administering the Act. But we cannot escape from the promises made to the genuine man, the one who went abroad at our request, and to whom we made the promise that everything possible would be done for him on his return, or for his dependants in the event of his decease. Because the financial position is acute we cannot get away from the promises made in this chamber .and elsewhere. I have heard almost every member promise in this House to do his best to conserve the interests of the returned soldiers in return for the sacrifices they made, on our behalf. But now that the war is over, we are told that we are not able to find cash or do anything for these men if we can avoid it. We cannot honorably evade our responsibilities in this respect. This amendment involves too much to be dealt with hastily; it should receive the most careful consideration. I object to the proposed limitation to the assistance that is to be given; the fullest opportunity ought to be given to all returned soldiers. I have in mind some who are following certain occupations, working three parts time or half time, and often losing a day’s work, on- account of impaired health, due to warlike operations. Those men- should be given an opportunity of getting out of such occupations. “ The majority of them have no money; but by pooling their war gratuity bonds and the loans from the £250,000 which the Government propose to make available, groups of a dozen or fifteen might be able to engage in co-operative enterprises, and thus make their future easier. We have a perfect right to ask the Government to give us time to consider this proposal. We should not be asked to accept it in a hurry, merely in order to overcome a difficulty that has occurred with the- Senate. We -should have an opportunity to study the proposal paragraph by paragraph and line by line. _ It is largely because of the haste with which we did many things during the war that we find’ ourselves in our present financial position. Much money was squandered because of this House not giving full and proper consideration to measures that were brought before it. I admit that we were all much alike. In the early stages of the war we were carried away with the desire to do all we possibly could to help the Allied cause, and we voted for things which perhaps in our calmer moments we would not have supported. Now we have to foot the bill, and it is an ever-growing one. I fear that in the very near future a financial slump is inevitable. We cannot continue increasing indefinitely the cost of commodities and labour; we must reach a dead-end sooner or later. When that stage is reached we shall have financial chaos, and thousands of men will be unemployed. Those men who went abroad to do their part in the war will suffer, and largely through careless legislation and administration during the last five or six years. The time has arrived when this House should reassert itself as a deliberative assembly, and consider every proposal brought before it, in order to do what is best in the interests of the country. If we do that, we may have some chance of escaping from the financial difficulty which the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has just foreshadowed. The information he gave should have been given to the House when the Repatriation Bill was first under consideration. We should not be told at this stage that we should be very careful as to what we do, that the country already 0 Ves so much money, and that our proposals are opening up fresh avenues of expenditure. That has nothing at all to do with the proposal now before us. If the financial position is as the Minister has described it, the Government had no right to accept the proposal moved, in the first place, by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). If the country is not capable of bearing the expenditure now, it was not capable of doing so then; therefore, that argument, -introduced at this stage, counts for very little. This scheme cannot be given that earnest consideration that is necessary unless honorable members are given more time to study the pros and cons. The Minister in charge of the Bill would be acting wisely if he agreed to report progress, and delay further consideration of the measure for a few days.
– Is it not time that some Government supporters were in the Chamber ? Only three Ministerialists are present. I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.’]
.- I also ask the Government to report progress.
– Not at present. I cannot see that anything is to be gained by doing so.
– If the honorable member for Dampier will move to report progress, I will support him.
– I do not care to do that. If the Government see fit to continue, it will be their funeral, not ours. One cannot help being struck with the fact that some persons, who during the war could not be counted upon to render the assistance which the country needed, are by their eagerness to assist the returned soldiers to-day seeking to make political capital out of this matter. We should realize what this proposal means to the country and to the returned soldiers, and, casting all party politics aside, work together with the one desire of doing the best we can for the men who made sacrifices for us. - Already, large sums of money have been expended on repatriation; other large sums have been promised, and if the proposal now before us is adopted it will lead to a considerably greater expenditure than the £250,000 mentioned in the Government amendment. We ought to recognise that if this assistance is to be given at all, £250,000 will be quite inadequate. I realize that it is only through cooperation that we shall be able to give the assistance that is desired ; but I would prefer that every soldier who was qualified should be entitled -to the same measure of help regardless of whether or not he wa9 in business before he went to the war. I can see no reason why the man who was in business before he enlisted should receive generous assistance from the Government on his return, whilst the man who’ was working for wages should get no assistance at all. A wages worker may have enlisted as a private, gained high promotion, even won the Victoria Cross, but under the regulations he cannot be assisted because he enlisted as a wages man. But I can see no other means of rendering practical assistance in this way except through cooperative effort. To my mind, the amendment which this Committee carried, at the instance of the honorable member for Capricornia(Mr. Higgs), was of negligible value. Itis useless for the Government to limit their assistance to £1 for every £l subscribed by the soldiers themselves. There is nothing generous in such a proposal ; I believe that any financial company would assist to that extent, on the security offered. When the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia was first proposed, I realized that to be of any value the Government assistance should be at the rate of £3 for every £1 subscribed by the soldier. I still hold that view. The question is, however, how much money we can afford to spend. The Treasurer has told us of his financial difficulties, arising out of the enormous cost of repatriation and war pensions. I should like to impress upon the Committee that the greater proportion of the £20,000,000 of which the Treasurer spoke represents debts due by the States to the Commonwealth in connexion with repatriation. To a great extent, it is the States which are taking theresponsibility.
– The Commonwealth is paying the interest.
– Not all of it. The Commonwealth makes rebates in interest, but those rebates are given to the soldier, not to the States. Therefore, the States are taking a great measure ofthe responsibility for the huge sums of money that are being expended on repatriation. The Commonwealth finds the money, and the States are responsible. So far as land settlement is concerned, the States are taking practically the whole of the responsibility. I should like to know a little more as to the financial position. I was not here when the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) spoke, but it is idle for the Government to say that there is a shortage of money, and that they cannot repatriate our soldiers as they would like to do, when they are prepared at the same time to expend a large stun of money in building the Federal Capital.
– The Capital will pay for itself.
– I have heard many absurd remarks in that regard. I have no wish to be offensive, but I do not think that the honorable member really believes that the Capital would pay for itself.
– Is it as bad as the construction of the East-West railway ?
– J ust as bad in. the matter of worthless expenditure of money and the length of time occupied in carrying out the work. There can be no reasonable excuse for opposing the desire of the Committee on the score of economy when we find before the House other proposals for heavy expenditure, such as I have quoted.
I disapprove of the proposal to confine advances under this heading to £250,000, and I also think that advances of £1 for £1 would be useless. If a man can hand in bonds or cash by way of security, then subject to the Commission being satisfied as to the proposed method of expenditure, the Department should be able to advance at least £2 for every £1 put up. The limiting of the aggregate expenditure under this heading does not display on the part of the Government a keen desire to assist those who are certainly deserving of assistance. Quitea number of men. who gave up good positions to fight our battles overseas, have found it impossible, on their return, to secure assistance from the Department in establishing themselves in business. I know a young man who, having qualified as a dentist, went to New Zealand, where he secured an appointment at a salary of £6 a week. On the outbreak of the war he returned to Victoria, and enlisted. He worked as a dentist at the Barracks for about six months at a nominal wage of something like 13s. per day, and then went to the Front. He was in the danger zone in France, taking the same risks as many soldiers, and at the end of about four years returned to Victoria, and asked the Repatriation Department for an advance of £200 to enable him to buy an outfit so that he might set up in practice for himself.Under the regulations, however, it was impossible for the Department to grant him any assistance because he had not been in business before he enlisted. That, to my mind, is unfair. It is unfair that a man who happened to be in business when he enlisted should receive assistance in reestablishing himself on his return, and that another man who was not in business before he volunteered should be denied such help.
– Under this proposal, if a. man wished to enter into a co-operative enterprise, he would receive assistance, bub if he desired to set up for himself, he would not.
– I believe we have too many people rushing into small city businesses at the present time. Should we not encourage a man who desired to set up for himself as a blacksmith, a saddler, or a bootmaker in a country district? I would help such men in preference to those who wished to start a wood and coal yard, a ham and beef shop, or a small grocery business in one of our cities. A man who set up for himself in a country town, and was helped by the Department to the extent of £150 or £200 in securing his tools of trade, would do good for himself, and his industry would be valuable to the whole community. I do not care whether it is by means of co-operation or any other system that we grant help as long as we give to every man who went away a fair chance to be repatriated. The proposal to which the Senate has objected would help a number of those of whom I have been speaking to establish themselves in some business. Many of them would be able - perhaps only in a small way - to set up a co-operative boot factory, or a sawmill, or to embark in other industries. If the Government would, reasonably entertain the desire of the Committee that a little more generous assistance should be given to those who were not in business before they went away, I am satisfied that we should be able to come to some satisfactory arrangement.
– Assistance to individuals ?
– I should like assistance to be given- to the men individually as well as collectively. I would remind, the Committee that even if this proposal be rejected the Commission will still have power, by way of regulation, to give whatever assistance ifr pleases. Unfortunately, the regulations in the past have prevented assistance being given in the way I have suggested. The passing of the provision to which another place has objected would be an instruction to- the Commission that the Parliament desired this assistance to be granted, I hope, therefore, that the Government will not push the question to a. division this evening. If they do, the decision of the Committee, I believe, will be very strongly against them. It is probable, however, that if we were given time to consider the proposal, and to suggest some reasonable compromise, we might be able to propound a scheme which would not entail upon the Government too great an outlay, and yet would be effective and advantageous in its working.
.- I do not approach the consideration of this question from a party point of view. It is to be regretted that the Bill was not introduced in the last Parliament. In that event many of the differences that arose between the contending parties at the last general election would have been less irritating than they were. The two parties could have faced the country with a proposal to give our returned men a fair chance. At no time during the recruiting campaign was it said that in our treatment of returned soldiers we would differentiate, between Harry Brown, who worked in a saw pit, and James Jones, who worked on the land. We said that we would look after the dependants of all who went to the Front. This Bill, however, differentiates between different classes of men. According to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), the alternative proposal made by the Senate would provide for the settlement of only 1,666 men’. By what right are we to say to one class of men, “You are the sheep,” and to another “ You are the goats.” The honorable member who was responsible for the original amendment providing for the assistance of returned soldiers in co-operative enterprises will always be able to regard with satisfaction the action taken by him, and the f uture will do him honour. He did not propose that there should be any differential treatment. The Acting* Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) urged that there was need for economy. He admits, however, that the war-time profits tax has yielded only £2,000,000. Mr. W. L. Baillieu, to his eternal credit, publicly stated that that tax had never touched men like himself. It was not meant to do the work that we expected of it. Why do the Government not come forward with a strong measure of taxation which would take in a fair and equitable way from those who have most of this world’s goods? It does not suit the Government to do anything of the kind, but it does suit them to meet demands of this kind with the cry, “ The finances will not stand it.” I know that the finances of the Commonwealth are in a dangerous state, and no one is more anxious than I am that they should be protected. It is for that reason I advocate the initiative and referendum and recall, since in that way the people would be able to control the Government. Sir John Quick, who may be fairly regarded as one of the leading jurists of Australia, says that the Government have full power-
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the question before the Chair.
– - I am afraid that I was following the bad example of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who, I was glad to hear, confessed that, were. Le still in Opposition, he might have something to say against the Bill. “We remember how, in the old days, he uSed to find fault with everything. It may be necessary to enact that-
Notwithstanding anything in this section, a loan shall not he granted for the establishment of a co-operative ‘business - (a.) unless application for the loan is received by the Commission within twelve months after the commencement of this Act or the discharge of the applicants from the Forces, whichever last happens.
I find no great fault with that provision. It limits the time within which an application may be made. The proposed new clause continues -
Unless the applicants satisfy .the Commission that they are qualified to carry on that business.
That would be fair if the clause stopped there. Then comes paragraph c -
Unless the agreement, deed, or articles of association entered into by the applicants is approved by the ‘Commission.
I do not see any great need for criticism with regard to that- But paragraph d imposes this condition -
If, in the opinion of the Commission, the applicants have been satisfactorily established in civil life.
I think that that is an infamy; and I agree with what has fallen from the hon orable members for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and Dampier (Mr. Gregory).
– Are you in favour of adjourning the debate?
– I think that the Government, instead of holding a holeandcorner meeting outside the chamber, which I presume is being done, should seize the reins. There is nothing to be afraid of in what is the remnant of the laughing-stock of the past and the abomination of the present. Some of the senators, when they salute the President, are much in the position of gladiators saluting Caesar - they are men about to die, their term expiring in June next. But until then those elected by the people must keep out of the so-called sacred chamber. I think that the Government should adjourn the debate until next Friday or Tuesday. The second Chamber should not boss this Chamber. There is only one way of preventing that.. GovernorGeneral Denman, to his eternal honour, was man enough to refuse a double dissolution, and was replaced by another sent here to give it. The only way in which this House can control the other Chamber is by sending it to the people; and if the ruling power in tha community will not grant the Government of the day a double dissolution for that purpose, we , had better get another to take his place. I suggest to the Government that they should follow the advice given by members on their side. In conclusion I draw attention to the state of the Committee. [QuoruM formed.)
Motion (by Mr. James Page) put -
That the Chairman do leave the ‘chair and report progress.
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I moved that progress be reported, because I. desired to show what a number of hypocrites there are in this House, who spoke in favour of a postponement, and voted against it. Amongst these members the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) was very vehement in his protests against the continuation of the discussion.
– Is a man a hypocrite because he declines to destroy the Bill?
– A man is a hypocrite when he speaks in favour of the adjournment of a discussion and then votes against it.
-Was that your reason for moving that progress be reported ?
– If the honorable member would do what he is paid for doing, and stay in the House, he would know what my reasons were. The honorable member ought to remain at his place, because he is a Government “hack” supposed to be at the beck and call of the Ministers. I am merely trying to show what a number of hypocrites there are opposite.
– I must ask the honorable member not to use the word “ hypocrite.”
– May I set it to music, then? Since a week last Friday, when the Bill was sent from the Senate, the Government have been drawing up this amendment, and they now ask us to digest it without any time for consideration. This I regard as most unfair; the amendment ought to have reached us, at any rate, by post this morning. However, from what little I have seen of the amendment, I have arrived at the conclusion that the Government do not intend to do anything at all in regard to the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), or the proposal of thehonorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill). The former proposal was accepted by the Government, and sent to the Senate, the members of which, however, thought fit to reject it. The other day, when the division was taken in another place, we had the unusual spectacle of Ministers and Whips, with one senator from Tasmania, voting in favour of the proposal, and all the other senators voting against it. Even now we have no guarantee that the bridge built by the Government will be availed of. The members of the House who constituted themselves a Returned Soldiers’ Committee, came into existence with a great flourish of trumpets in the newspapers. They appointed a chairman and secretary, and, in order to show that they did not intend any harm to the Government, but were only a “ milk-and-water “ crowd, they emphasized the fact that a Minister was among them.
– This is the first time I ever knew I was a “ wowser “ !
– Are the returned men behind the Government a lot of “ wowsers “ ?
– I am one.
– My definition of a “ wowser “ is a man who does not believe in anything,” even in himself.
– That is your definition!
– Of course it is, and it is the orthodox and authorized definition. Does the honorable member who interjects believe in the amendment or not? He is a returned soldier, and I have enough faith in him to think that he desires to do his best for the men who fought with him.
– Where is the money to come from, to finance these co-operative concerns ?
– Here we have the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), and the representative of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company asking where the money is to come from. Does the honorable member forget that he was one of the loudest in assenting when the Government asked for money to carry on the war? It would appear that the Government can find money to send men to the Front, but not to settle them in peace time.
– The Government are settling them.
– Then what is the honorable member crying about? For settling men on the land any amount is available, but there is no money available for those men who went from the towns, and were formerly engaged in secondary industries.
– How many men would claim under these ‘provisions of the Bill?
– Not one,with the Government amendments.
– That is what the Government desire.
– Of course. This proposal of the Government is not an amendment to the Bill, but a Bill in itself.
– Why do you desire more money to be provided if no one is going to claim it?
– I do not desire the Government proposal to be carried. There are clauses in the Bill in which I believe, and others in which I do not believe; but the Government ought to be protected, and if money is advanced for co-operative industries the Minister should be satisfied that there is some chance of solvency and success.
– The Minister is not an expert in businesses.
– Why have we appointed three Commissioners if not to give the Minister advice? Will not these Commissioners make all the necessary inquiries and then advise the Minister? I may say there is no Minister of the Crown in Australia whom I would so trust to deal with millions as I would the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen).
– But he has no personal experience of business.
– I do not expect a Minister to have all the necessary knowledge, but I do expect him to have men around him who have. At any rate, a Minister always has the means of obtaining expert advice. No Minister, however reckless, would dare to throw money about indiscriminately over every wild-cat scheme. It will be observed that no man who has already been repatriated can avail himself of the proposed scheme. If a number of men desired, for instance, to start a co-operative machine boot factory, and sought to have a man who had already repatriated himself as their organizer or manager, they could not have their wishes complied with simply because of the fact that the man was already repatriated.
– That difficulty could be got overby simply excluding men who had already been repatriated by the Department.
– There could not be discrimination of that kind. It seems to me ridiculous to talk about providing. £250,000 in view of the 400,000 men who enlisted.
– Do you think that more than 1,600 men would claim under this provision ?
– I do not think so. The number, in my opinion, would be very small, because most men who have been accustomedto work for wages have, according to my experience, a holy dread of co-operative concerns. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) put up a. strong case for men who, for instance, might desire to co-operatively work a small saw-milling plant or a contracting plant. Many men, whom I know personally, were general station hands and typical bushmen before they went to the Front, capable of any work in the country. They might not be able to do everything in a cabinet-making manner, but still they were good rough carpenters. They were the sons of pioneers who had gone out into western Queensland and there built their homes, some of which are standing after thirty or forty years. These men returned with distinguished honours won on the field.
– Would not £250,000 be a great help to such men?
– No. When I. went out back I required no help from anybody, because I knew that, given health and strength, I could carve my own way. We must remember that the world is not so wide as it was forty years ago - that even Australia is not so wide. But there are golden opportunities. Put me down in Rockhampton with nothing but my swag, and in twelve months I would have a bank balance. There is no country in the world where a working man with no capital to start on can get on as well as he does here. But what does the Repatriation Department do to help the Australian bushmen? No one knows better than does the honorable member for North Sydney (Sir Granville Ryrie) the value of the typical Australian bushman. He knows the initiative he can display, and that the man who has been reared in the bush does not knock off for breakfast, dinner, or tea, but only knocks off when his job is finished. Yet because he was a common, ordinary, general bush labourer before going to the war, he cannot get assistance under this proposal, even to the extent of 5s. All the Repatriation Department can give him is a new swag, a> billycan. and dillybag, 1 lb. of tea, a few pounds of sugar and flour, a tin of “ bullocky’s joy,”’ and send him on the road rejoicing, saying, “ We have repatriated you in exactly the position you occupied before the war.” I know many men who served with the Light Horse under the honorable membar for North Sydney. They say that the Australian bushwhacker as a fighting unit on a horse is second to none in .the world. Yet these ordinary bushmen, the noblest creation of God, men with initiative, and strong in their beliefs and desires, can get no assistance if they wish to band together and do something for themselves after all they have seen. And, God knows, some of them have seen a let; they have come back different men. But under this provision we cannot give them twopence, because they have already been repatriated into the position they occupied before they enlisted. Of two brothers who went away, one was killed and the other returned’ maimed. Two brothers who remained at home have selections alongside the parents’ land, but because the brother who has returned from the Front was not a grazing farmer before he enlisted,, the Repatriation Department cannot give him a grazing farm. However, the squatters and graziers of the Stanthorpe district have raised money among themselves, and without the assistance of a single copper from the Commonwealth, have put him into a better position than that of any other man placed on the land by the Repatriation Department. I have said, times OUt of number, that we cannot do too much for the men who have done so much for us, and I smile when I hear the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) saying that we must look after the taxpayers’ money, and that we have to find money for ‘this and money for that. When these chaps were fighting in Palestine or in the mud of Flanders doing their bit, there was no mention of money among them. They did not cavil about money when they were protecting this fair land of ours, making it easy for us to live here, and protecting the interests of the taxpayers. What would have been the position of these taxpayers if Great Britain had gone down in the war?’ It would have been a case of “ There ain’t going to be no taxpayers.” The interests, of the .taxpayers would have been guarded by- Germans, and a great many young fellows I see on these benches to-day would have been, swinging on the nearest trees. I read the books the German officers wrote prior to the war, saying what they proposed to do to the youth of Australia, and they made me shudder,, especially during the dark days of April, 1918’. The Zeebrugge incident was a flash of consolation. After Villers-Bretonneux I realized that our Australian troops were second to none in the world. To them we owe the liberty we enjoy to-day, and why should we cavil at giving them a few thousand pounds or a few million pounds ? They would get all I could give them, or all I could get for them. Anything I can do to improve their lot I am willing to do. I do not propose to study the taxpayer’s’ interests. I shall have regard only for the interests of the returned soldiers, who have made this country easy to live in. Let us give them a little of the benefits of the new world they have made for us. Do not let us be niggardly. Surely we cannot say that the soldiers were niggardly to us? Between 50,000 and 60,000 of them are lying dead for our welfare. Yet here we are cavilling about a few “ quid “ for them. We ought to make life as easy as possible for those who have returned, and no man has put forward a better proposal for helping them than has the honorable member for
Echuca (Mr. Hill). Bad and all as is the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) to the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca, it is preferable to the one now submitted by the Government. Do not let us be humbugs.
– Does’ the honorable member really think that our attitude to the returned soldiers is such as to justify our being called humbugs ?
– I was referring to all honorable members. The repatriation of our soldiers up to date is second to none in the world. Australia has done well in this respect ; but at the finish do not let us be niggardly. Do not let us say that those who wish to go on to the land can have thousands of pounds and all they require, but those who wish to commence secondary industries should not be entitled to assistance.
– Does not the honorable member think that there is room for an honest difference of opinion without the accusation being made that we are niggardly?
– Opinions differ in all cases’, even in this respect. I remember the arguments advanced when the1 first Pensions Bill was under discussion. I do not accuse the Government of being niggardly,; they are doing’ well, and- I can quite understand the Acting Treasurer being anxious to look after the finances of the country, but we ought to give the returned men a chance of establishing themselves on a co-operative basis. I have sufficient confidence in Senator Millen to know that he will want to see :a good pro1position. in any scheme brought forward, and if we leave the matter to him, the soldier, the country, and’ the taxpayer, about whose interests the Acting’ Treasurer is so anxious, will get a -square deal I ask honorable members to send back to the Senate the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) to the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca’, and if they do not care to agree to it, let them, go te the country. Let us have a double dissolution. “We have nothing to fear. It would be a case of heads- 1 win, tails you lose- If the ‘Committee i3 true- to itself it cannot accept the Government’s backdown on this matter.
– Instead of coming forward with, an amendment of this kind, which seeks to convey the idea that the Government are conceding what is asked for in the proposal of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), but yet gives nothing, it would have been a decent thing if the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton) had gone back to his original attitude. He told us in the beginning that he could not accept the new clause submitted by the honorable member for Echuca. He said that no Government on earth would accept it. It was on such Socialistic lines that he could, not think of accepting it. Hia present proposal seems to be a case of giving with the one hand and taking back with the other. However, I rise particularly because the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has given us some- figures which prove that I contended, when speaking to -the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca, that the amount of money paid by this Government to returned soldiers in the shape of sustenance is £2,000,000.- As a matter of fact, the Acting Treasurer amply verifies my figures, and gives the answer which I intended to give to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) when he challenged my statement. I mention that in passing because it affects the amendment submitted by the Government. Under the proposal which is now before the Committee, provision would’ be made for only 1,600 men. That is- to say, if the total amount of £250,000 to be provided is divided into amounts of £15®, only 1,600 men can benefit. That will go a very little way towards- satisfying’ the 18,000 men who, we are told, are out of employment ‘ to-day, and are living, on sustenance. I should think that the number of men unemployed, and drawing, sustenance is nearer 20,000. Allow that number £2 per week each, “ and the weekly bill for sustenance becomes £40,000, equal to about £2,000’,000’ per annum. The figures given the Committee to-day by the Minister for the Navy substantiate the state-, ment I made a few days ago, and which the Minister for Repatriation was at great pains to challenge.
– I did not make that statement, and I will not allow the honorable member to thrust it upon me.
– The Minister for the Navy mentioned a sum of £4,700,000, which he said included sustenance payments. I asked him how much of it represented sustenance, and he replied “ £2,000,000.”
– He immediately afterwards withdrew the statement, and said that he did not know what the figure was.
– I did not make the statement at all. It simply means that if the honorable member for Hume intends to adopt that attitude in debate, no Minister will answer any question he asks. I certainly will not.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the Minister. If he says that he did not mention that amount–
– I did not mention it in the sense in which the honorable member is using it. I could not give the honorable members precise figures. I told him that I thought that about £2,000,000 had been spent on sustenance. Now the honorable member says that I stated that £2,000,000 was being spent on sustenance.
– The total amount mentioned by the Minister was £4,700,000. Was that the expenditure for the year?
– I asked how much of it represented sustenance money, and the Minister replied “£2,000,000.” If he now says that he did not mean £2,000,000 for the year, I accept his statement. However, apart from that, the fact that there are from 18,000 to 20,000 men drawing sustenance would account for an annual expenditure of about £2,000,000 per annum, and my statement to that effect a few days ago was sufficiently accurate as to be not worth contradiction by the Minister for Repatriation. The proposal which this Committee adopted at the instance of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) in the first place, would have provided an excellent opportunity for many of the men who very often, through no fault of their own, are compelled to draw sustenance from the Department. If they were provided with a chance of engaging in a co-operative business, the Department would be relieved of an expenditure for which it gets no return, whilst the men themselves would be deriving some of the benefits of that new world for labour which we were told was to come into being after the war. But according to the scheme put forward by the Government there is to be no new world for labour; men are to go back into the old grooves in which they worked before the war. If in the opinion of the Commission applicants for loans under the proposalwe are now considering have been satisfactorily re-established in civillife, theywill get no assistance to embark on any business venture. Many of the soldiers who have returned to their old employment have all the qualifications necessary to achieve success in saw-milling, bootmaking, and other industries. But, according to the terms of the clause suggested by the Government, men who have returned to their former employment will be deemed to be finally repatriated, and ineligible for the benefits of this scheme. There is nothing in this amendment to indicate any honest desire on the part of the Government to redeem their promise to give to the soldiers opportunities commensurate with the great sacrifices they have made for this country during the war. Paragraph b of sub-clause 7 provides that no assistance shall be given “unless the applicants satisfy the Commission that they are qualified to carry on that business.” How is the question of qualification to be decided? Are the members of the Commission to be Jacks of all trades, orwill they employ a magic wand which will disclose whether a man has qualifications to make a success of a particular business? That paragraph alone is sufficient to unduly limit the assistance to be given to returned soldiers.
– We could hardly give it indiscriminately.
– I agree that there must be some discrimination, but I cannot see how this provision will operate. Some members of the Commission may be men without any industrial or technical training. How can they judge upon that question? A man who to-day is earning £3 or £4 at his old employment, may have particular qualifications for conducting a saw-milling business. Under the Government’s alternative proposal, he would have no opportunity, because he might not have given any evidence that he had the necessary qualifications. Paragraphsb and d of sub-clause 7 impose limitations which destroy the whole scheme, and they are in themselves sufficient to make me vote against the Government proposition. I am quite in accord with those who desire that the consideration of this matter should be postponed, in order that honorable members may have an opportunity to look more closely into it, because the two paragraphs to which I have just referred satisfy me that we should not entertain the scheme as it stands.
.This proposal undoubtedly involves a principleof very great importance. I can well understand that there may be a considerable section of the community who will argue that it is not right to use Commonwealth funds to assist even a returned soldier to start in business in opposition to them. Firms and companies which have been established by individuals who have put into them their own hard-earned savings–
– Saved while the soldiers were fighting.
– Let us put aside for a moment war-time considerations, and deal with this as a peace proposal. How are companies formed ? A man discovers what he conceives to be a good business enterprise, and invites others to join with him in putting capital into it. That capital consists either of the money of the men themselves, or money borrowed from a financial institution on the security of capital which people have saved. These men put their money into a saw-milling or boot-manufacturing establishment, or, it may be, into a co-operative society such as that of which the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) is a director. We, in Parliament, now come along with a proposal to use Government funds in helping returned soldiers, to the extent of £1 for £1, to start in opposition to them. Firms like Messrs. Bedggood and Company, the Marshall Shoe Company, a sawmilling company at Maryborough, or other companies who have been in business for some time, and have built up a big industry despite, in many cases, severe competition, might object to the proposal. Such political economists might reasonably be expected to look at the matter from the point of view which I have just put. I at first saw some reason for opposing this measure on the ground that it was not fair to use Government money, for which these thrifty people, with others, are responsible, as a means of making advances to other groups of persons to compete with them, and probably to put them out of business.
– No efficient manufacturing company would worry about an inefficient co-operative enterprise.
– Isthe honorable member right in concluding that the cooperative enterprises of returned soldiers would be inefficient? In some cases ‘they may, and probably will, be inefficient, and a considerable amount of money may be lost. On the other hand, many of them will be efficient. Last night I introduced to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) a deputation of four returned soldiers, who did not want money from the Government, but stated that . they purposed establishing a co-operative Anzac tweed manufacturing business, and desired permission to obtain from the Government mills every week 300 lbs. of yarn, for which they were willing to pay the highest price for cash. Having seen these men, and heard what they had to say, and having seen the samples of tweeds which they produced, I was quite satisfied that they would not be inefficient.
– That is not the type of men to whom I referred.
– But the honorable member did not qualify his remarks .
– I shall do so.
– The honorable member said that a successful manufacturing company would not be afraid of inefficient cooperative companies. Many efficient bodies of soldiers drawn from the 250,000 men who have: returned will be prepared to put up, either by way of war gratuity bonds or cash, £1 for every £1 advanced by the Government to establish them in co-operative enterprises, and they will prove very effective competitors with those already established in business. While we must all sympathize with those who by their energy, thrift, business capacity, and experience have established businesses in; competition with one another, and who object to Government money being expended in starting enterprises in opposition to them, the production of wealth in Australia at the present time is so limited that there is plenty of room for competition. If we may judge from the stories we hear as to the inability to place orders for bricks, cement, tiles, and galvanized iron for the building trade, there must be ample room for others to set up for ‘ themselves. As in the building trade, so in the clothing and other industries.
The Assistant Minister for Defence said last night that it might be found difficult to supply the ‘ four returned soldiers with 300 lbs. of yarn each week, because the Commonwealth Woollen Mills were working at their highest pressure to- supply the demand for cloth for returned soldiers. The fact that there is such a limited production in Australia is fair reason for this proposal. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said, “ We want more work and more production, of wealth in this country to enable us to bear our interest burdens and to pay our debts.” I agree with him. I agree also with, the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that the financial position is extremely serious . The right honorable gentleman took that as his text when dealing with the proposal to make advances on the £1 for £1 basis to returned soldiers to assist them in co-operative enterprises. The country is not going to suffer from advances that are made to such enterprises, because, despite the suggestion of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), they will be largely reproductive. I agree with the honorable member, however, that there will be cases of inefficient men starting co-operative enterprises, and losing their own as well as the Government’s money.
– There are also legitimate opportunities for returned soldiers to embark on co-operative enterprises.
– When this scheme has been working for some time, there will probably be the same proportion of failures among returned soldiers that there is at present in the general business community, as shown by the annual bankruptcy records for the Commonwealth. I would remind the Acting Treasurer that what is causing trouble with respect to our finances is that we are advancing - and we have to do so, perhaps: - about £36,000 every week by way of sustenance money. Something like £2,000,000 is now being spent each year to maintain returned soldiers who are out of employment. That, as an honorable member interjects, is, largely, a dead loss. The £250,000 proposed to be devoted to this scheme will be put into more or less efficient production, of wealth, or its effective distribution, which is the same tiling.
Let us contrast this proposed expenditure of £250,000 with the £2,000,000 per annum expended as sustenance money, and which is going to men who deserve it as well as to some who do not. The fact that some who are receiving sustenance should not get it is a phase of repatriation upon which public men do not like to dwell, but the percentage of ne’erdowells is exceedingly small.
I should like the Minister in charge of the Bill to agree to the Government proposal being dealt with clause by clause, so that we may have an opportunity to amend it in detail. The honorable gentleman himself has agreed to amend the sub-clause providing for an advance of £150. He says that it is not intended that the total advance made in any case shall be only £150.
– I am prepared so> to amend it that that will be the amount in respect of each original shareholder. We are also prepared to increase the aggregate expenditure for which our alternative scheme provides from £250,000 to £500,000.
– Then I should like the Minister to ask the . Chairman to put seriatim in paragraph 7 the Government’s alternative clause, which is divided into nine sub-clauses.
’.- The experience that members have had with this Government makes it seem quite natural that an amendment should be proposed to block any scheme’ for cooperation among returned soldiers. Ashas been pointed out by the mover of one of the original amendments, the conditions in the new clause now proposed are such that very few returned soldiers would apply for Government assistanceon behalf of a co-operative business. The House decided that it would be a good thing to allow the RepatriationDepartment to advance money ‘for the assistance of .co-operative undertakings on the part of returned men, but the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) put his finger on the spot when he suggested that vested interests may consider themselves menaced by this proposal. The daily increase in the cost of the necessaries of life has again called the attention of thinking men to the possibility of reducing the cost of living by the extension of co-operative enterprises, and a Government whose every actionhas shown that it will support vested interests and monopolies to the death naturally at this juncture makes a proposal which, although camouflaged, has for its object the discouragement of co-operation, fearing, perhaps, that it may go in this young country further than it has gone even, in Great Britain, where it has become a danger to vested interests. Here, co-operation might well extend from the secondary to the primary industries, and our returned men should be encouraged in co-operative effort. It has been interjected that private enterprise has nothing to fear from inefficient co-operative enterprise on the part of soldiers. That may be so; but it is not necessary that every member of a co-operative concern shall possess expert knowledge of its business undertakings. Members of a cooperation! may be at once employees, or workers, inthe business, and shareholders, having their say in the control of affairs, and drawing their part of the profits. But I expected that this Nationalist Government would fight, both here and in another place, to prevent the returned soldier from being repatriated in any better occupation, than that which he was followingbefore his enlistment. It is thought by them that if a man was breaking stones before he went away, he should he satisfied to break stones on his return; or, as has been said, that if a man was carrying a swag before he enlisted, he might regard himself as sufficiently repatriated if he were given a swag to carry on his return. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), as Acting Treasurer, spoke of our financial difficulties; yet, when the war was on, money was as nothing, and could be found for everything. All sorts of promises were made to the soldiers when they went away, and all sorts of difficulties are now being raised to prevent the fulfilment of those promises. When members of the Labour party spoke about expense in connexion with certain issues put before the people they were held up to scorn; but the Nationalist party, now that the soldiers are back, and vested interests are secure again, are not concerned with the welfare of the soldiers. They speak now of pounds, shillings, and pence, and are willing that our returned men shall have to adopt uncongenial occupations, or occupations detrimental to their health and well-being, notwithstanding their sufferings on the other side of the world. The almighty dollar is again to be set on its pedestal and worshipped, and vested interests are to be protected at any cost.
.- I should like to see the measure become law, but I am not willing that we should give -way to the Senate on the matter that is under discussion. This afternoon the Minister for the Navy, as Acting Treasurer, drew a black picture of the finances of the country, but I would remind him that our financial position to-day is the same as it was when the Government accepted the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and sent it to the Senate, a few days ago. The Government was then prepared to finance co-operative soldier concerns, yet now that the Senate has rejected our proposal, the Minister for the Navy tells us of the millions that are needed for the government of the country. Our financial affairs should be well looked after, seeing that we have ‘the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) now in London, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) as Acting Treasurer, and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) as Assistant Treasurer, to pay regard to them.
– Let us abolish the Senate.
– I shall not speak on that subject, but I would remind Ministers that the establishment of successful cooperative enterprises by returned men would reduce the expenditure on sustenance, which now costs the country thousands of pounds a week.
– We shall still have sustenance to pay. Directly a man got out of work, the honorable member would be the first to go to the Department for sustenance.
– I have not gone to the Department for sustenance for any man, recognising that the officials had their hands full. I have not criticised the Repatriation Department. My desire, however, is to get the men off the books of the Department. In Sydney, last week, I saw returned soldiers coming out of the office in droves, after having been registered. If these men can be got to cooperate in the production of wealth, which we are told is what the country mo3b needs at the present moment, it will reduce our expenditure. Returned men are already bound together by ties of sympathy and association, and may be expected to co-operate in business very effectively. The original proposal sent to the Senate was not moved in any party spirit, but I think that that now put before us by the Government is so hedged round with restrictions and difficulties that returned men could as easily geb an advance from a bank or other institution as from the Repatriation Department. It must not be forgotten that all money advanced will be repaid with interest. Under ordinary circumstances, it may be difficult for co-operative concerns to obtain advances from the banks, and, therefor, the Government should grant assistance to them. If advances are made, the Government will be the first creditor, and will take no risk. When the Minister for the Navy spoke of the expenditure on war service homes, he appeared to forget that the cost of those homes, together with interest, will be repaid to the Treasury, and these repayments will furnish. us with a rent roll for many years. Our financial commitments in respect of soldiers’ houses, I regard as reproductive, and the money that has been spent will gradually return to the Treasury. This expenditure is one of the best investments that could be made, and it is taking place under what is really a co-operative arrangement. I shall not dwell on the advantages of co-operation, because the subject is worn threadbare, but the Government would - be well advised to report progress, so that a conference might be held at which some understanding could be arrived at. I object to the dropping out of the Bill of a scheme for co-operation, in order that a new Bill may be introduced to provide for co-operation. If this Bill is put through without any provision for cooperation, the Government will feel under no obligation to bring in another Bill to provide for it. Therefore, I hope that members generally, and especially those . members who represent the soldiers, will insist that the soldiers shall be given a fair deal. There is no need to mention the directions in which cooperation might succeed ; but the Minister for the Navy must be aware that a little money put into a co-operative affair will sometimes make men independent within a few years, and the Government will in any case get back the capital it advances. No loss could be incurred by the Government because they would have first claim upon any industry established in that way.
– We have had some experience of business propositions in Australia, and the assets, in some cases, have not been worth much.
– I quite agree that there have been failures so far as’ private businesses are concerned. There have also been failures in co-operative effort, but they do not count, because there is, in other directions, abundant evidence of the success of co-operative movements in this country. I shall vote for the retention of that portion of the Bill which will give our returned soldiers an opportunity to co-operate in industrial enterprises as well as in land matters.
.- I am sorry that upon the first occasion we have been asked to make a pronouncement upon the question of co-operation the test has taken the form of an amendment moved by a private member - with the very best of intentions, I admit - instead of a carefully-prepared plan launched by the Government upon welldefined lines. The proposal of the Minister for Home and Territories does not afford honorable members a fair opportunity of making a pronouncement upon the question df co-operation, or upon the lines on which the movement should be established, or the safeguards which should be adopted in the conduct of such enterprises.- It seems to me that when we are called upon to consider a business proposition involving the public estate, it should be separated entirely from sympathetic considerations, that it should be upon sound lines, and subject to all those safeguards with which an ordinary business enterprise is surrounded. I notice that manufacturing operations are to form the basis of the financial assistance which is to be granted. Now we know that the cost of manufacturing operations to-day is at its very top. I do. not think that the amendment of the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), which has already been disposed of, sought to limit the assistance to be granted to individual soldiers to £250. The amendment submitted ‘by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and with which another place has disagreed, attempted to place the granting of financial assistance to these men upon a pound for pound basis, without any limitation as to amount. Now the proposal of the Government brings this form of assistance into line with the financial assistance granted to any other beneficiary under the Act - namely, £150 - and seeks to limit the trial of co-operation in this country to an expenditure of £250,000. Spread over the whole of our returned soldiers, I must confess that that expenditure upon the establishment of manufactories will afford only a very meagre trial to the co-operative system. The honorable member for Capricornia spoke of the possible objection that established industries might have to the starting of new enterprises by soldier co-operators. My own opinion is that the up-to-date manufacturer will not be very much upset by the opposition of any new co-operative venture established by our soldiers if the Commonwealth expenditure under this beading is restricted to £250,000. The proposal now before us does not give us a fair chance of considering the question of co-operation by our soldiers in secondary industries. I know that there have been complaints by some of our returned men of differential treatment .as compared with that accorded to their comrades who enter our primary industries. The latter may obtain, up to £2,500 worth of land, in addition to an advance of £625, to enable them to .secure a home and purchase implements, stock, &c. When this fact is borne in mind, the assistance proposed to be granted to soldiers who are willing to engage in our secondary industries appears to be of a very negligible character. The Minister has told us that the financial assistance given to business enterprises by State Governments ‘has produced very unsatisfactory results, and that a very big percentage of those who have received such assistance have failed. Now we have put before us a new proposal, and one which involves the settlement of our returned soldiers in our secondary industries. I do not think that a sum of £250,000 is sufficient for that purpose.
– Suppose that we increase the amount to £500,000. The honorable member will then have a chance of reconsidering the matter later on.
– That would be a much more substantial sum. I wish to put before the Committee what I regard as the essentials to success in cooperation. I recognise the safeguards which it is sought to establish in what is necessarily a hurriedly drawn proposal on the part of the Government, and I also recognise the value of affinity amongst individuals, particularly in connexion with our primary industries. Take, for example, the dairying industry, which came to the rescue of this State about a quarter of a century ago, when its finances were in a very unsatisfactory condition. At that time a great revival took place in the dairying industry, and the cooperative system was adopted for the purpose of producing a standard article, eliminating all the expense possible, and marketing that article under the best possible conditions. That was an illustration of co-operation in which all the cooperators had something definitely in common. In the first place they had a knowledge of their industry, and in the second they had the capital and plant which were essential to enable them to work in that industry. But it is a much more difficult proposition to establish cooperative enterprises in which anybody may take shares and set up as cooperators - enterprises, too, in which it is essential that only highly skilled men should be employed. To-day efficiency is the dominant feature in connexion with our secondary industries.
-Order ! This is a very interesting dissertation on cooperation, but I scarcely see that it is relevant to the question before the Chair.
– There is no member of this Committee to whose ruling I would rather defer than to yours, sir ; but I claim a little more latitude to enable me to complete my argument. I ask the honorable member for Echuca and bis associates in the Country party not to ignore the danger that would result from encouraging a number of young men who may have very little in common to forsake rural industries and come together as co-operators in any manufacturing industry, unless they can absolutely assure them that by so doing they will achieve better results. I know that the Minister for Repatriation has stated that, in our secondary industries, there are men who are earning good rewards for their labour. I know, too, that, by 30th June next, we shallhave settled upon the land in Victoria alone 6,350 returned soldiers, a majority of whom were rural workers, notwithstanding that to-day the greatest difficulty experienced in country disticts is to obtain such workers. We have, further, expended the sum. of £6,000,000 in this State upon the purchase of land for soldier settlement. The establishment of returned soldiers in our secondary industries upon a co-operative basis will only tend to accentuate that difficulty. However, that is not a sufficient reason for denying them their chance in life. They have earned it, and this country has generously acknowledged its debt to them. This proposal, unless carefully guarded, may lead to all kinds of wild-cat schemes. We are all familiar with the glowing pictures which company promoters can paint, and he will indeed be a pretty astute Minister who will be able to shatter such pictures. I would like to see the Minister who, upon the eve of a general election, would stand up for the public estate by denying applicants this particular form of assistance. Of course, there is one safeguard in the proposal submitted, namely, that which limits the amount which may be advanced. The present inroads on the public purse are sufficient to rivet the attention, not only of honorable members, but of the whole community; and I do not think that the country is awake to what is ahead, though a forced loan of some £30,000,000 will probably make people take notice. A proposal of this kind in regard to secondary industries is altogether different from a proposal for the establishment of homes, either in the country or in the town.
– The States are doing more for civilians in the latter respect than for soldiers.
– I do not think they are. I do not think we could possibly have more generous provision than is being made for the establishment of soldiers’ homes either in the country or in the suburban areas; no better provision has been made elsewhere in the world.
– What about Queensland before the war?
– In Queensland the public estate consists of leasehold lands not yet alienated, and it is an easy matter to make what appears a munificent gift; but when we come to deal with private lands, the circumstances are different. I have grave misgivings with regard to the success of the proposed co-operation in secondary industries. High technical skill, efficiency, up-to-date plant, and sufficient capital are all necessary factors, and these would be very difficult to obtain. If these co-operative proposals are adopted, they will commit the Government to more than appears in the Bill. If the amount be increased to £500,000, the Minister in charge will have to “ follow his money,” because money cannot be advanced for industries, and the industries allowed to collapse; and it may be necessary to advance still more, or lose all. This is a hazardous undertaking for any Government, and one that does not appeal to me.
– Do you not think that land settlement is somewhat hazardous?
– It has its hazardous side. The maps and plans of the country, from the days of the earliest settlement, tell a doleful history, for many good men have fallen in. their attempts to subdue the land. But. in all business the proportion of successes is, after all, small, and the proposal before us would, as I say, be hazardous for the Government in connexion with either primary or secondary industries. When I have learnt the fate of the proposal before us, I. shall probably move an amendment to the effect that where the Government is satisfied of the bona fides and the prospects of success ofan enterprise, the money for the gratuity bonds be found, even if to the total amount, for the purpose; and the. money used will then be the money of the soldiers. I take it that if the. £26,000,000 or £28,000,000 were paid to the men in the form now adopted, it would become the spending money of the country, and not find its way into any essential industries; further, it would go into the hands of those least accustomed to spend money to the best advantage. No doubt some of the men could spend it wisely, but, for the most part, they are young,, immature men, without business experience. I commend the suggestion I have made to the Government.
Mr: JOWETT (Grampians) [8.0). - I move -
That the motion be amended by leaving out of sub-clause 1 of the proposed new clause the words “ one pound for each pound contributed by them,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ two pounds on the part of the Commission for each pound contributed by each Australian soldier.”
The alternative clause proposed try the Government supports the principle contained in the original amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), wherein he set down a basis of assistance, namely, £1 for £1. The original limit of assistance, namely, £150, meant that each soldier would have to contribute £150 also. My amendment provides that for every sum of £150 loaned by the Government the soldier so benefited will be required to contribute only £75. The effect will be to considerably broaden the scope of the measure. Very many soldiers could find £75 who could not finance themselves to the extent of £150. My proposal is free from the suggestion of reckless financial extravagance, and will not increase the financial responsibilities of the Government. The individual limit will still remain at £150. The total commitments of the Government will not be increased. I regret that the Minister (Mr. Poynton) could not see his way clear to accept my suggestion earlier in the day that, following upon his presentation of the long and involved new clause, progress should be reported. It is not fair to ask honorable members to accept without study a proposition of this nature. Personally, I was constrained to absent myself from the chamber during the course of important debate, so that I might consider the matter in quiet.
– I think the honorable member could have presented his amendment in considerably simpler form if he had moved to leave out the words “ one pound,” with a view to insert in their stead “ two pounds.” However, by offering such a suggestion I do not imply that the Government intends to accept the honorable member’s amendment. It is truethat, if it is agreed to, it will not increase the liability of the Government in regard to the amounts to be furnished soldier appli cants; but the honorable member apparently overlooks that the basis of £2 for £1 would reduce the Government’s security by 50 per cent. The considerable risk attaching to the proposition generally has furnished probably the chief objection of the Government to the introduction of the original principle.
– Still, the risk would be a good one.
– I do not think it would be. The Government cannot accept the amendment. I wish to suggest the most acceptable procedure in taking a test vote at this stage. Unless the division be limited to the amendment of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), or to the specific portion of the new clause on which his amendment is proposed,the effect may be that opportunity to subsequently amend the new clause will have been forfeited. I myself have one or two amendments to propose. It is desired to make it absolutely clear that a maximum of £150 may be furnished to each individual soldier, and the Government propose to provide that the aggregate amount of loans shall be £500,000. instead of £250,000. I also propose to amend paragraph d of subclause 7. This provision prevents the granting of loans if, in the opinion of the Commission, the applicants have been satisfactorily established in civil life. I propose to amend it to read as follows : - .
If, in the opinion of the Commission, the. applicants have been reasonably and satisfactorily assisted to re-establish themselves in civil life.
In many cases men have had considerable assistance from the Repatriation Department to re-establish themselves in civil life, and surely they ought not to be given assistance again under this scheme.
– The Department take the view that if they give a man pick and shovel work they are finished with him.
-If they do so we shall hear about it. I have indicated the amendments I propose, and also the fact that the Government cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Grampians.
.- I differ from the Minister (Mr. Poynton) when he states that the proposal of the honorable member for Grampians will increase the Government’s liability by 50 per cent.
– I said it will reduce the Government’s security by 50 per cent.
– In one case the Government would be advancing 50 per cent., and in another case 66§ per cent., or 16-§ per cent, more than originally pro- posed, and every one knows that among bankers a two-thirds security is regarded as ample in a properly-conducted business. I am pleased that the Minister has prefaced this discussion by stating that he is not willing to accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), because it is a happy augury. Almost invariably we find that there is a volte face, and that the Committee is usually willing to go further than the Minister intends to go.
– This will be an exception to the rule.
– I trust that in this case the experience we have had in the past will be repeated. The Government do not seem to have known their own minds on this question, which has been a game of battledore and shuttlecock between the two Houses for over two weeks. We have had divisions on nonparty lines here to some extent, but in another place the party whip seems to have cracked, and, as a. consequence, our proposal is now before us in! a mangled form. The debate to-day would not have been so extended if honorable members had been allowed ample time to consider the proposal brought forward by the Government this afternoon. In: common with the honorable member for Grampians, I was compelled to retire from the chamber in order to consider it in quieter surroundings, but when we examined it we found that its provisions were almost wholly those which had been discussed at length in the chamber, and had . been advocated by honorable members sitting in this corner. We found that we were in perfect agreement with the proposal except as regards the amount of money to be advanced, and the classes of .soldiers to be assisted. On this occasion there is no need to debate the general question of co-operation, but as we are wedded to the principle we ought to insist on its finding a place in this Bill. However, we are discussing co-operation among men who have the spirit of camaraderie well developed, and who have proved, even when- they are not officered by men senior in rank, and are left to their own resources, that they conduct themselves with the greatest order and to general satisfaction. We ought to look with a conciliatory eye om this proposition, and be prepared to give it more favorable consideration than if it were one applying to civilians. Early in the debate on this matter we were told that the amount at which the Government would be involved would be anything from £40,000,000 to £100,000,000, but we find now that the amount has been reduced to £500,000, and there is not a great deal of difference between this amount and the small sum which the honorable member for Echuca (Mi Hill) indicated would be required when he was setting forth his proposal. I am afraid that if we adhere to the £1 for £1 basis a large number of men whose gratuities would not amount to £100 each will be shut out. It is not expecting too much of honorable members to ask them to take a sporting risk when dealing with soldiers. We have heard a great deal about the millions spent on repatriation, and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has told us about the enormous improvements that have accrued from that expenditure, but many millions have been spent on land settlement under conditions which are not very much more liberal than those which were in vogue for civilians before and during the war, and which still apply to them. It has always bean possible in New South Wales for two or three men who see a property they like to agree among themselves and the owner’ as to its value, and having done so,, to get the Government to resume it, so that they may cut it up into small blocks, the Government finding 96 per cent, of the total outlay. In Queensland, also, the State will advance up to 75 per cent, for the purchase of homes, whereas the War Service Homes Act only goes a little further. But surely men who have been away for four or five years at the threshold of their manhood, and who have had to give up their careers and the possibilities of making money that the man who stayed behind had, d. serve a little more consideration in the matter of getting homes than those who did not goaway. I admit that .there has been a large amount of money paid away in sustenance, and that a great deal of work has been done in the matter of repatriation, particularly by the Local Committees, but there are hundreds of men who cannot get assistance because they had no proper calling or business before they enlisted. Under the present proposal they will now have an opportunity of establishing themselves in businesses with reasonable assistance from the Government. Otherwise they will not be able to do so. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has alluded to the need for a scheme similar to this, or perhaps an amendment of the regulations under the Repatriation Act to enable men who were not in a position to complete their training in any calling to set up in new businesses. At present there is no such provision. A case in point is that of two brothers who went to the war. One was a tobacconist, the other assisted in the shop. The elder brother was killed, and the younger would now like to get possession of the business his brother carried on, and which must be carried on, because the building has no value except from the fact that it is a tobacconist’s shop. However, as the business did not actually belong to him, he can get no assistance from the Repatriation Department. Five* or six men may be anxious to establish themselves in a tannery or in a saw-mill, but they cannot get assistance by reason of the fact that they have had no previous record of business. I think that in this case the Commonwealth should act as their banker. That is all the amendment asks, and surely it is not asking too much to amend this proposal in order to make it sufficiently generous to the men, to whom it will be really valuable.
– I intend to vote against the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) because, by increasing the amount to be subscribed by the Government from £1 to £2 for every £1 contributed by the soldier, we will be decreasing the number of participants. A certain amount is to be allotted, and, although the Government ‘intend increasing the amount, the number of men to benefit must naturally be reduced. If the Government increase the maximum amount from £250,000 to £500,000, and subsidize the soldiers’ payments £1 for £1; 3,200 men would benefit, but by increasing the Government subsidy from £1 to £2 for each £1 contributed by the soldier, only 1,600 will be able to participate.
In considering this measure from the stand-point of a returned soldier, I cannot conceive of anything that can be more correctly characterized a ‘ f wild-cat ‘ ‘ scheme than the one embodied in the amendment. There is no one in this chamber who has the interests of the returned soldiers more at heart than I have, and I am prepared to concede that honorable members on the Opposition benches are also their supporters. But we have to recognise that they are their friends now because the war is over, and, though they are espousing their cause to-day, they kept their mouths tightly closed when the conflict was in progress, and never said one word to induce others to go forward and assist in the fight. It is all very well for members of the Country party to say that we should assist the returned soldiers by establishing them in co-operative concerns, and if we had the money I would be in favour of giving them all we reasonably could!. But can we, as members of the National Parliament and custodians of the public purse, honestly and conscientiously support this proposal when we have a national debt of approximately £740,000,000, and an additional debt of £90,000,000 to be met this year? Honorable members must nob overlook the fact that we owe Great Britain £90,000,000, and that our interest bill for the next year will fee £9,000,000 more. Who’ is going to pay it?
– The returned soldier will assist if you- give him a chance.
– He will, of course, take his share with other members of the community.
– If the war had lasted for another six months, who would have found the money? ‘
– We would all have contributed’.
– Then why cannot we pass this ?
– That is no reason why we should saddle the country with greater financial responsibilities than we have at present. If we had. the money available to finance such a proposition, I would be one of its keenest supporters. If I, as a returned soldier, thought I could organize a co-operative concern that would have the advantages that the honorable member for Grampians predicts, I would be the first to do so. I have been elected as a member of this Chamber, not merely to represent my own views, but the opinions of those who sent me here. I believe that most honorable members have the interest of their country at heart, and if they have they must admit that we should not saddle the community with additional financial obligations. Every one who has been to the war in any capacity has become more or less unsettled.
– Speak for yourself.
– Well, I am unsettled, and every one admits that returned soldiers, although better men physically and much improved as a result of their experiences abroad, are more or less unsettled in business. By adopting this proposal we will be causing dissatisfaction and discontent in the minds of many, because men who are now fairly well placed will say, “This is a good thing, and I am on it.”
– Why should they not. do so?
– Does the honorable member realize that of the 300,000 who went abroad, only 1,600 would be able to participate if the amendment is carried? It is an unfair proposition to a majority of the men, and if we concede the point to some we must concede it to all. Many statements have been made concerning the promises that were made to the soldiers before they embarked, but is there an honorable member prepared to say that the soldiers went to fight for what they were promised? I hope I am in a position to express the views of the soldiers, and in doing so I can say that we went abroad with higher motives than securing benefits on our return. The men who returned bodily and mentally strong are the fortunate ones; and I am loath to believe that honorable members would say that I went away because I knew that I would receive a war gratuity. A definite statement has been made that men left Australia because they were promised certain concessions on their return. That is an insult to the soldiers of Australia. We did not go to fight because we would receive a gratuity or benefits under the repatriation scheme. Considering the attention returned soldiers are receiving, I think it can be said that the Government have acted most magnanimously. There is not a member of this Chamber who can prove that co-operative concerns where the shareholders were the employees have ever been a success.
– One of the largest concerns in England is successfully conducted on that basis.
– The honorable memberdid not give particulars to the House. I have had experience in connexion with co-operative concerns, and I know of one in Sydney where a man who had been in business for forty years handed over theconcern to four of his employees, ‘who failed after two years’ work, because they could not decide as to who was to be the master. If a co-operative concern were to be established by ten members of this Chamber, would they be satisfied with an equal division of the profits? I do not think so. A business to be successfully conducted must have a manager, and that is usually where the difficulty arises.
– If what the honorable member is saying i3 true there is not much hope for the returned soldiers’ co-operative concern to be established in South Australia. . .
– If the honorable, member can prove to my satisfaction that such undertakings are likely to be successful they will have my support. If we are to have co-operative undertakings, let them be conducted with the capital provided by those who are to participate in the profits.
When the War Gratuity Bill was before this House the Government . conceded the point that any men desiring to start a co-operative business who proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioners and the Minister that the business wa3 likely to be successful could have their bonds cashed, and that should be sufficient. If, for example, a dozen men were to contribute £100 each, an amount of £1,200 would be available to start a business. Personally I believe that we have arrived at the point when we are leaning too much on Government support; and the country that depends on the nationalization of its industries is on the downward path. When once we endeavour to dispense with private enterprise and competition we are courting failure. It would have been better if the Government bad dropped this proposal altogether and passed the Bill so that returned soldiers, particularly the blind and maimed, would have been in a position to receive the extra benefits so urgently needed. If that were done the Government could then introduce a separate measure embodying the principle under discussion, and thus enable us to have a more lengthy and profitable debate on the whole question. After the consideration this question has received I trust honorable members will, in their wisdom, vote against the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians, because in view of our financial position I do not see how we can support it.
.– I would not haven , spoken if the last speaker had not accused the returned soldiers of being men lacking in stability and determination. He also opposed the principle of co-operation. Originally the House agreed to accept this proposal, but since it was first sent to another place it has been amended to such an extent that we do not know where we are. In the earlier part of the debate reference was made to industrial unrest, which, it was stated, has increased. Why has it increased ? We know the profiteer . has been going on unchecked, and although we have the War Precautions Act on our statute-book its provisions have been used only to serve a particular cause. I am going to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians. I hope that the Committee will give to it the support to which it is justly entitled. According to a booklet issued by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), there are engaged in vocational training 5,000 returned soldiers in New South Wales, 4,000 in Victoria, 2,000 in Queensland, 1,000 in South Australia, 1,000 in Western Australia, and 500 in Tasmania. The Department is paying them sustenance as well as training them. Their work is a distinct credit to the Government, and the quality of their output is marvellous. I saw one man who had been only four months at a trade turning out work equal in quality to that of apprentices who have been two or three years at it. Amongst these returned soldiers are some of the finest men in the Commonwealth; indeed, they have been said by our own Generals to be amongst the finest men in the world. Yet Government supporters doubt those men, and predict for them nothing but failure. They did wonders at Gallipoli and elsewhere, but now they are told that they cannot possibly do anything for themselves. The reason for this attitude on the part of the Government is their desire to please the Trusts and Combines. It would appear that the Government hold a brief for the Combines in this country.
– The honorable member has no right to say such a thing.
– I have a perfect right to do so. The way in which this proposal has been opposed is an absolute disgrace and a scandal. In connexion with the war there was a great deal of lip loyalty. Motor cars decorated with flags met the returning soldiers - -
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– We should endeavour to give in some practical form the reasonable assistance which we promised to the soldiers. I agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) that they do not look for it; probably they do not expect it, but we promised it, and it is our duty to honour that promise to the fullest degree. I listened to the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) explaining the financial situation; his speech was loaded with common sense. But I believe that the majority of honorable members will nevertheless vote to build a bush” capital at a cost of £3,500,000. And we are told that the foundation stone of the Capitol is to be laid by the Prince of Wales. Surely, if we have money to squander in this way, we can find a few pounds with which to start additional industries. The reason for so much opposition to this co-operative scheme is that if the soldiers are given a chance- they will achieve successes that will be too great to please quite a number of companies in Victoria. This scheme will be one means of minimizing industrial unrest and of peacefully establishing a number of industries. If, having been given a chance, they fail, it will give to honorable members the argument that the profiteers have not been making so much money as is generally supposed. I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and I trust that it will receive the support of the Committee. The State’ Government of Victoria is already giving assistance on the £2 to £1 basis, and in one instance is advancing the whole of the money required for the establishment of freezing works. If assistance is given to the soldiers on the £1 for £1 basis, with the safeguards that have been provided, there will be no wild-cat schemes, or, if there are, the fault will He with the Minister and the Commission. All that they will require to do in administering this proposal will be to proceed carefully. I have no intention of harassing the Government, but I desire fair play, ‘and I am convinced that if this scheme is given a reasonable test it will prove highly successful.
– If I thought that a fair percentage of the men who will benefit by this proposal would be successful, I would support the Country party with all my heart, but I have reasons for believing that they will not. Co-operative effort is not new by any means.
– That question is not at issue.
– It is at issue. The history of the co-operative movement in this country during the last forty or fifty years-
– The question of cooperation is not before the Chair.
– With all due deference to you, sir, the question of co-operation is absolutely involved in this proposal.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians.
– The amendment is to increase the liabilities of the Government by instructing them to advance money at the rate of £2 for every £1 advanced by the soldiers, instead of on a £1 for £1 basis, in connexion with co-operative projects. I maintain that I am perfectly in order.
– The honorable member may refer to cooperation in order to illustrate his argument, but his remarks must be directed to the amendment which is before the Committee.
– My argument has a distinct bearing on the Governmen’t’s liability in assisting cooperation by returned soldiers. The prizes won from co-operative efforts under infinitely more favorable conditions have been few indeed. This proposal implies co-operation in connexion with small concerns; the limitation placed upon the amount precludes assistance to any big project. The day of small businesses is past. Honorable members know that thousands of small business men have been ruined during the last ten years.
– They are greater slaves than the wage-earners.
– Infinitely, because the wage-earners are not slaves at all. The policy of honorable members opposite has been chiefly responsible for the killing of the small business men. To-day the conditions are such that it is almost impossible for small concerns to live.
– The big concerns support the honorable member’s party, and run it.
– At any rate I do not support a large number of them. I ask the Government to stand fast on the £1 for £1 proposition. Even that will not be good business, for it will not be safe. I indorse the. remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr). This is nothing less than a “wildcat” scheme, and honorable members will realize that before long. The Government ‘have got off the right track. I desire to restrict them to a minimum of liability in connexion with this reckless venture. I would like to see the whole scheme rejected; it would be in the general interests of returned soldiers if that were done. I indorse what was said by the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in regard to the liabilities of this country. Honorable members ought to realize that we are getting right up to the limit of our resources, and that if we do not have continued good seasons for the next three or four years, we shall exceed the limit. I ask the Committee to consider the financial position of the country, and not to support ventures of this kind, because the successes in the past do not justify the confidence which some honorable members have in cooperative schemes. It is the duty of the Government not to give advances to soldiers on the basis of £2 for £1.
– The general amount involved is only equal to four 6d. drinks per head of the population.
– What has that to do with the question? This scheme will create a spirit of unrest amongst returned soldiers, and will give the Department worries that I should not like it to be called upon to bear. Why is another place practically unanimous in its attitude upon this question? Because the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), with whom its members are associated day by day, knows too well of scores and hundreds of experiments in connexion with repatriation up to date, and knows the result of them. That Minister has been extolled over and over again by honorable members here ever since this Parliament opened, and when he gives the benefit of his experience we ought to listen to it.
– These are their proposals.
– I cannot believe that they are the proposals of Senator Millen. They are Government proposals, to minimize what is a wretched thing.
. -We have been sparring for some time on this proposal in its varied forms. It was originally submitted to this Chamber by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and the Committee recognised that a certain principle wasinvolved in it. Another place turned it down. We submitted a further amendment, and this another place has also rejected. In all that this Committee has passed, it has recognised a principle. I had some sympathy with the turning down of the first proposal that went forward, on the ground that if a certain amountwas granted to returned soldiers in the fashion then suggested, many of them, without much good intention, could say, “We will give it a try; it will cost us nothing.” The amendment now proposed will, first of all, reduce the number of applicants, and, secondly, will give security to the Government. When a returned man comes along with his 10s. to the Government’s £1 he shows an earnest intention to do something for himself. That is the security which the Government will have. I do not think that the trouble of the Department will be so great when the soldier will be under an obligation to present so much money on his own account before he starts. The Committee and another place will be perfectly safe in accepting the amendment as nowsubmitted. These men should get a chance. I hope it will be clearly understood that those who have gone back into their businesses or offices are not to take the passing of this proposal as an intimation that there are other fields open to them. Many of our worthy soldiers have not had a distinct chance. Some men are not capable of managing a business of their own, and would be the first to admit it. They like to get a weekly wage or salary, but there are others who desire to embark in enterprises and get a start in life. I certainly admire them for that, and think we should give them that chance, which will involve a very small amount of money compared with what we are finding for soldiers who desire to embark on other avocations, such as taking up land. For these reasons I propose to support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Jowett). I am as conscious as any other member of the gravity of the financial position of Australia, but I feel that this will not be money wasted. ‘It will be sent into avenues of business and production, to which we must look more than anything else in order to produce further money to meet our financial obligations.
– I must differ from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) in the reasons he gives for not supporting the amendment. One is that it will limit the number of soldiers who will participate in the benefits accruing from the principle of cooperation. He said it was only a simple proportion sum, but I cannot work it out to the same conclusion as he does. If the amount that will be advanced to each individual soldier remains at £150, as it does in the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and the soldier is to advance only £75, then the liabilities of the Government will be no greater, and the same number of soldiers will participate.
– The chances of success will be much less. It is a more wild-cat scheme than it was bef ore.
– That is another question, which I am not arguing at present. I take serious exception, also, to what was said by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook). He accused the party behind the Government of not supporting the principle of co-operation–
– Of not supporting the soldier.
– That is much worse; but, as a soldier myself, I shall not answer that accusation, because we, as returned soldiers, have had a lot of funny things hurled across the floor at us during this debate. It is evidently parliamentary to say funny things about your opponents, perhaps to irritate them or to make them change their minds. Although I am a young politician, I am not young in the ways of the world, and I am not likely to be even irritated by some of the remarks that have been made to-day about the attitude of the soldier members on this side of the Chamber towards the returned soldiers. I am certain, that the soldiers whom we represent understand our attitude perfectly, and have full confidence in the representation we will give them. But the statement of the honorable member for Indi, that members behind the Government were not supporting this scheme of cooperationbecause they support the profiteer and the Combines, is unfair to the House. The Committee has already affirmed its approval of the principle of co-operation, and of extending it to the returned soldier, by voting twice for this proposal. Is it fair, then, to say that Government supporters are opposing it because they represent the profiteer and the Combines? The object of bringing down this amendment is to place the proposal in such a form as will be acceptable to another place. That point has been lost sight of by some honorable members who have spoken to-day. The proposal has been twice sent to another place and rejected. Would it not be a further waste of time to amend it only to such an extent that it will be practically certain of another rejection? I do not intend to support the amendment now before the Chamber for that reason only . I have as much confidence in the returned soldier as any member of the Committee. A great many statements have been made in commending the soldier for his business capabilities, while others have said that, even if the soldier is a better man physically for his war experience, he has become unsettled by it, and is therefore unlikely to handle business schemes as sensibly as he would have done before the war. I disagree with that statement, and regard the argument as futile. I. should like to see the proposal as it is now before the Committee carried, with the one amendment proposed by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton). If it is accepted here in that form, I am sure it will be confirmed in another place. We shall then be able to get rid of the Repatriation Bill - none too soon, because the soldiers in general are waiting anxiously to see it become law. They do not want to read in the papers every day that we are still discussing it, and coming to no finality.
.- I shall support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), because we should show the returned soldiers, as far as we can, that we have confidence in them, and this is one sure way of doing it. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) claimed it as a fact, although it is not a fact, that there were no successful cooperative societies anywhere in which the employees were shareholders. Any one who understands what co-operation means knows that that is not correct. The greatest co-operative concern in Great Britain is one in which the employees are shareholders, and it is distinctly successful.
– I said where the whole of the shareholders were employees.
– I am referring to companies in which a big part of the shareholders are employees. The honorable member assumes that, because he does not know of any instance of a co-operative society where the major part of the shareholders are employees being a success, it necessarily follows that where a number of returned soldiers enter into a co-operative concern, and are employees, it must be a failure also. If that is his inference, it shows a lack of faith in the returned soldier, which should not be shown by any one who knows them so well as the honorable member must know them. It seems to me, both from the appeal made by the Acting Treasurer (SirJoseph Cook), and from much that has been said here to-day, that the opinion is abroad that the returned soldiers are bound to make a mess of this business. Why so? Why is £250,000 advanced by the Government to be thrown into the sea because it goes to returned soldiers who desire to establish co-operative concerns? We should take the opposite stand. We should have faith in these men. They were good enough for us when they were overseas in time of war, and we should have faith that they will be good enough for us in time of peace. Instead of regarding this proposed expenditure of £500,000 as money to be thrown into the sea, we should look upon it as an expenditure that will be reproductive, and likely to enable us in some small measure to increase our production as we desire to do. It seems to me that this opposition to the granting of monetary assistance to returned soldiers anxious to embark upon cooperative enterprises is due to the ingrained conservative instinct of some of our honorable friends opposite. Any proposal that seems likely to clash with individual effort is sure to be opposed by them. Much of their opposition is doubtless due to the fear that the success here and there of co-operative enterprises on the part of returned soldiers will lead to the spread of the principle. The principle, however, will spread despite their efforts, and will be one of the main forces making for better living conditions, and relieving the pressure of our social system. It has been said by honorable members opposite that the Labour party are looking after the returned soldiers now that the war is over.
– The honorable member will not be in order in pursuing that line or argument.
– It is remarkablethat such an argument is permissible from one Bide, but is out of order when it is taken up by an honorable member on this side. The Labour party has the interests of returned soldiers at heart. We are showing that we have their interests at heart in regard to this as well as many other matters. If it were true, as the honorable member for Parkes has declared - and I certainly do not admit it - that we did not have the welfare of the soldiers at heart during the war, then a mere sense of gratitude should lead us now to do our best for them. They will want our assistance. The Acting Treasurer has uttered a wail to-day in regard to this expenditure, and as time passes our returned men will be more and more in need of assistance from us. I can see the dawn of the day when they will recognise that we have shown ourselves to be their true friends by placing full confidence in them, and fighting to give them an opportunity to settle themselves so that they may become as successful in peace as they have been in war.
.- If this were the only proposal f or the benefit of returned soldiers that had emanated from this Chamber, then the proposition submitted to the Government, as well as that put forward by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), would be indeed very meagre. But, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) said, in effect, in his very manly statement, the Government have just passed a Bill providing for returned soldiers a gratuity involving from £26,000,000 to £28,000,000. The honorable member asked that they should be given an opportunity to use their own money in effective co-operation amongst themselves. If the life they have led has created in them the true spirit of cooperation - if the spirit is there - I daresay they will muster into groups to carry on industries. I should like, even at this late hour, to ask the Government - if they are seriously thinking of giving a national stimulus to co-operation - to reconsider the whole question of cashing the war gratuity on a co-operative basis, thereby helping the returned soldiers to enter into co-operative enterprises with their own money. That would be in accordance with the true principle ofco-operation.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Jowett’s amendment) stand part of the proposed alternative amendment - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That the motion be amended by inserting after the words “pounds,” in sub-clause 2 of the proposed new clause, the words “ for each original shareholder engaged in the business in respect of which the loan is granted.”
That the motion be amended by omitting the words “ Two hundred and fifty,” in subclause 3 of the proposed new clause, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Five hundred.”
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That the motion be amended by omitting the words “ satisfactorily established,” in subclause 7, paragraph d, of the proposed new clause, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “reasonably and satisfactorily assisted to re-establish themselves.”
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question soresolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the Senate, and, on motion by Mr. Poynton, read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 7th May, vide page 1930).
Clause 2 -
This Act shallbe deemed to have commenced on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and nineteen.
.- I move -
That the word “ July “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ January.”
My desire is that the Act shall be deemed to have commenced on the 1st day of January, 1916. I submit this amendment because some time ago the AuditorGeneral desired to audit the books and accounts of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, but was prevented from doing so. I could never ascertain why he was refused permission to audit those accounts, especially as the Government were interested in the company. They had given that company a licence to manufacture wool tops and to sell them conditionally that they received 50 per cent, of the profits. The agreement under which the Government entered into this so-called partnership provided that an auditor should be appointed to audit the accounts of the company. But the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee, which was managing this business on behalf of the Government, decided to appoint, not the AuditorGeneral of the Commonwealth, but an outside auditor.
– Will the honorable member’s amendment effect his object, seeing that this company is not a Government concern ?
– The honorable member will see that I have given notice of a later amendment, which provides that the Auditor-General shall audit all the books and accounts of offices of the Commonwealth, and that he shall also be permitted to audit the accounts of “ any persons, firm, or company carrying on business in which the Government is pecuniarily interested, or from which the Government expect to derive a share of the profits from that business.” That amendment I wish to have inserted after clause 8. As I have already explained, the Auditor-General desired to audit the accounts of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, and the then Treasurer (Lord Forrest), thought that as the Government were interested in the venture he should be allowed to do so. However, Sir John Higgins, the Chairman ofthe Central Wool Committee, thought otherwise, and would not permit the Auditor-General to audit the company’s accounts. That is the position as it exists to-day. In my opinion, the Auditor-General should be empowered to audit those accounts, and had he been able to do so, possibly certain impending litigation would have been avoided. To my mind, the only reason why Sir John Higgins objected to the Auditor-General being permitted to audit the accounts of the company was that he feared any such audit would disclose that Mr. F. W. Hughes had proved himself too clever for the Central Wool Committee.
– Do not say that.
– I wish that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) were present, because he was a member of the Central Wool Committee at the time this agreement was entered into, as were also Mr. Falkiner and others. It appears to me that they did not examine closely enough the wording of that agreement. There was a word in it, namely, “ amortisation,” which, like charity, covers a multitude of profits, if not of “sins.”
– What was the real effect of that word ? Did it allow the company to write down their plant?
– The word may mean anything. It may mean the establishment of a sinking fund to pay off debts, or it may cover repairs to machinery, or depreciation. The only reason which I can conceive why Sir John. Higgins objected to the Auditor-General being allowed to audit the company’s accounts was that such an audit would disclose that Mr. F. W. Hughes and his company had been able, under the agreement with the Commonwealth, to secure very large profits, and that it would have supported me in my contention that such a valuable concession as was granted to this company should have been submitted to public tender. However, honorable members are familiar with the history of the case, and I shall, therefore, content myself with moving the amendment:
– Will the honorable member’s amendment have the effect of permitting an audit by the Auditor-General to take place?
-It will have that effect only when conjoined with the further amendment to clause 8 of which I have given notice.
– The honorable member desires this legislation to be retrospective ?
– That is the object of empowering the Auditor-General to audit the books of the company.
.- I do not know what the Government propose to do, but I understand that if we make the amendment suggested it will have retrospective action, and I know that in taxation Bills we always have to be very careful in this regard. I am anxious to give the Auditor-General this power as to the future, but to make the provision retrospective is another matter. I do not believe in any company being able to flout the Government or the Auditor-General; butif a bad contract was made, giving great advantages to one company which were not open to other companies, then the fault lies with the Government. I am not clear whether or not this contract was made by the Government of which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) and myself were members.
– This is the first agreement, not the one entered into the other day.
– Quite so; but I understand that the amendment is retrospective from the beginning of January, 1916. If the contract was made by the Government of which I was a member I shall vote for the amendment. I am anxious that no one shall be in a position to say that I refused to make the provision retrospective because the contract was made by a Government with which I was concerned.
.- I do not think the company would object to an investigation of its affairs; but the fact that it is proposed to go back and examine into the affairs of F. W. Hughes and Company would seem to indicate that there is something wrong with the contract.
– I did not say so.
– But that might be inf erred. I should not object if the amendment were made broad enough to take in all shipping, coal, and other companies with which the Government have done business or made contracts.
– The amendment is broad enough.
– Only one company is mentioned, and I understand that the amendment is not retrospective in regard to other companies.
– Yes, it is.
– I shall be pleased if that is the case. Messrs. F. W. Hughes and Company offered to show their books, and everything done was agreed to by the Government and the Wool Board. If the amendment is wide enough, as suggested, I do not see much objection to it.
– I suggest that this amendment should not be persisted in. I have not been able to follow the matter very closely, but, I understand that Mr. Allard was appointed auditor, and I respectfully suggest that that gentleman’s reputation as an auditor and a citizen is quite equal to that of any one in the community. Any audit conducted by him would, I venture to say, carry as much
Weight as one by the Auditor-General. Mr. Allard is a man of the highest possible standing in Sydney, a man of great public spirit, who has done an immense amount of work for the State Governments.
– It must be admitted that it looks suspicious when Sir John Higgins would not have the AuditorGeneral.
– I see nothing suspicious about the matter. When Sir John Higgins agreed to accept Mr. Allard as auditor he accepted a man of the highest reputation in the public mind of the country, than whom we could get none more disinterested or with greater weight. Could there be the slightest suggestion that Mr. Allard would do anything not strictly correct I could understand the anxiety for the services of the Auditor-General. If we were beginning the business the attitude of honorable members opposite would have some point; but since Mr. Allard has been appointed a proposal of the kind before us is, under the circumstances, a reflection upon him - a slur that he really does not deserve. Is it worth while persisting in an amendment of the kind ?
My colleague, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who is more familiar with the matter that I am, reminds me that not only was Mr. Allard appointed auditor, but that the AuditorGeneral approved of the appointment. What more could there be in the way of a guarantee? May I read a letter which sets out the whole case, and which appears in Hansard of the 25th July, 1919, page 11005? The letter is from the Treasury, and is signed by Mr. Cerutty, the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury -
On -the 6th November last, the late Treasurer addressed to the Prime Minister a letter dealing with the audit of accounts of the firms who are manufacturing wool tops. A letter has now been received from the AuditorGeneral in which he stated he is prepared to formally appoint Mr. George Mason Allard to act on his behalf in making audits.
Mr. Allard would also be required to certify to statements and prepare reports for the Auditor-General.
The Auditor-General considers that the alternative course, namely, for one of the Audit Office staff to make inspections from time to time, would be inadvisable.
The Treasurer concurs in the appointment of Mr. Allard as suggested, if no objection is raised by the Central Wool Committee or by your Department.
That letter seems to complete the. case. Here we have a gentleman of the highest character appointed with the concurrence of the Auditor-General.
– The private company did not suggest the name?
– No, the Central Wool Committee suggested the name ; and what possible objection there can be I fail to see.
– Did Mr. Allard make the audit?
– I understand so. He did it, not only with the consent of the Central Wool Committee, but with the complete concurrence of the AuditorGeneral himself.
– Who are the Central Wool Committee? They are not above the Government, surely!
– They are a body of men entitled to the greatest possible respect with regard to their views and standards of conduct, and the fact that eventually it was arranged that Mr. Allard should make this audit shows that the Committee had only one desire, namely, to secure an independent audit which would carry conviction with it to the mind of any reasonable man. Mr. Allard’s name is too well known to be associated with anything but matters of highest honour and greatest respect.
– If there is any doubt about any of these matters, I .dare say that Mr. Allard, if questioned, would readily assent to an overhaul being instituted. I understand that F. W. Hughes and Company Limited operates under the Companies Act of New South Wales. I do not wish to cast any reflections upon Mr. Allard, but from what I have heard, and from my own experience, there is reason to cast reflection upon the New South Wales Statute. I understand that things can be done under the cover of the Companies Act in that State which would not for one moment be tolerated in Victoria. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has upon various occasions sought to secure an investigation of this company and its affairs, and although it may involve retrospective legislation, if his amendment be agreed to, I intend to support it. If audits are allowed to be made in a loose fashion under. the New South Wales Act it is all the more necessary that the AuditorGeneral should conduct an investigation for himself, either personally or by medium of his own officers.
.- I propose to call attention to remarks of the Auditor-General in his report for 1917-1S. First, however, I would remind honorable members that Sir John M. Higgins, when referring to the same, subject stated, in his report on the Austraiian wool clip for 1916-17, presented to Parliament on the 25th July, 1917 -
Continuous audits are conducted under the direction of -the Auditor-General’s Department of all business transacted through the Central Wool Committee and all State Committees.
I will now relate what the AuditorGeneral himself said in his report for 1917-1918 (vide Hansard, 24th July, 1919, page 10984)-
On the 1st March, 1917, agreements were entered into between the Commonwealth Government and Whiddon Bros. Limited, of Sydney, and the Colonial Combing, Spinning and Weaving Company Limited, of Sydney, respectively, under which these companies were authorized to purchase wool for the purpose of manufacturing wool tops. It was provided that all the books, vouchers, and documents in the possession, or under the control of, the respective companies, relating to the purchase, manufacture, or sale of the sheepskins, wool, and wool tops, referred to in the agreements, should be produced to an auditor nominated by the Commonwealth Government for that purpose, and it was also provided that any nomination or other communication by the Commonwealth Government to the Committee should be deemed to be duly given if signed on behalf of the Commonwealth Government by the Chairman of the Central Wool Committee.
Sir John Higgins was the Chairman of that Committee, and he appointed Mr. Allard,of Sydney, as Auditor. I do not wish to cast any reflection upon that gentleman. The Auditor-General proceeds -
In pursuance of this provision, the Central Wool Committee appointed a Fellow of the Australasian Corporation of Public Accountants to conduct the audits. Subsequently the right honorable the Treasurer (Lord, then Sir John, Forrest) submitted his opinion that these audits should be conducted under the control of the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, and suggested that the auditor appointed by the Central Wool Committee should act under an appointment made by the AuditorGeneral, under the provisions of section II. of the Audit Act - should the Auditor-General be willing to make such appointment.
Mr. Israel states further ;
I was quite prepared to do this, but, upon the matter coining under the notice of the Chairman of the Committee (Sir John M. Higgins), he declared that such an agreement would not be as satisfactory as the then procedure.
The Auditor-General further proceeds-
Upon receiving the balance-sheets of the auditor appointed, the Treasurer (Lord Forrest) asked for further information with respect thereto, but it was pointed out by the auditor that his reports were final, and that if further information with respect to accounts was required, this should be obtained from the companies direct. It is evidently desirable that in any future similar agreements, or in any regulations governing the agreements under review, provision should be made for such control by the Auditor-General as would enable the Treasurer and the Auditor-General to obtain all’ the information that may be desired. The position with respect to these audits has been fairly set forth in a memorandum prepared by the Assistant Secretary to the Treasurer, and, as it agrees with my own views, it is published under Appendix D.
That memorandum, referred to as coming from the Assistant Secretary to the Treasurer, states -
From many points of view this business was in a most indefinite and unsatisfactory position.
It is quite true that the Assistant Secretary said further that he doubted whether much good could accrue from going back over this matter. It may be superfluous to go over Mr. Allard’s work, but I urge the Committee to pay some attention to the request of the Auditor-General in respect to future agreements - namely, that he should be in a position to audit them himself and ask for any information.
– The fact remains that the Treasurer was not able to get information when he asked for it.
– No . When Lord Forrest was Treasurer he did not feel satisfied. He asked for information which he could not get. I believe that the attitude taken up by the Central Wool Committee was that if the further information which he sought were obtained, it would not be fair to the company, because it would disclose its business to the general public, but of course a company which enters into a business arrangement with the Commonwealth must always be prepared to have all its actions made public. However, provided the AuditorGeneral is authorized to audit the books, accounts, and vouchers of any company in which the Government has a pecuniary interest at the present time, I do not insist upon the date being put back to 1st January, 1916, but I would ask the Committee to amend clause 8, and provide that the Auditor-General shall have power to audit the accounts of any existing firm or company in which the Government are pecuniarily interested. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I have been unable to lay my hands on a copy of the agreement of 1917, to which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has referred, but I have with me a copy of the agreement laid on the table the other day, and I desire to draw the attention of honorable members to one or two of its paragraphs. It is a contract entered into between the Government and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, and provides for the auditing of the accounts in a certain way by a certain person. For instance, one paragraph reads -
The moneys so paid to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia under clauses a andb hereof shall forthwithbe divided in accordance with the tentative estimate of the amount that will be available to the Commonwealth and the company respectively in the terms of this agreement. For the purpose of this clause such estimates shall be made by G. Mason Allard, and the final adjustment of the respective amounts payable shall be duly made at the termination of this agreement.
Another clause provides that the certificate of the said G. Mason Allard shall be taken into account and embodied in any judgment, decree or certificate. Another provision reads -
The company shall prepare and deliver to the Commonwealth all proper accounts in connexion with all transactions carried out by the company under this agreement, and shall give every facility to the auditor appointed hereunder to verify the correctness of all amounts debited and credited in such accounts. The said auditor shall furnish to the Commonwealth a report on such transactions and accounts. G. Mason Allard, public accountant, of Sydney, is hereby appointed to be auditor hereunder.
Under the contract made between the company and the Government certain and definite arrangements are made by the two parties with respect to the auditing of accounts, and an auditor is appointed, namely, Mr. G. Mason Allard, apparently the same gentleman who was appointed under the first agreement. I submit that, no matter what amendment is moved here no Court will read into the terms of the agreement anything but that G. Mason Allard was the only auditor that could audit these accounts unless the amendment moved be couched in such terms as would set aside the contract. I am not arguing whether there should be a Government auditor or not. When the Government had. ample opportunity of insisting upon the audit of the accounts by the Auditor-General, it followed the example of the Central Wool Committee, and appointed Mr. Allard, upon whom the parties had previously agreed.
– We do not propose to interfere with existing agreements.
– It is a different thing if the honorable member’s proposal isto apply, toother agreements than those already entered into. I am merely pointing out that it can have no effect upon existing agreements.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Commonwealth Public Account).
– The clause proposes to amend section 21 of the principal Act by inserting in sub section 1 after the word “ accounts “ the words “(except in so far as it consists of moneys held by the Treasurer in gold coin for the purposes of the reserve provided for in section 9 of the Australian Notes Act 1910-1914)”. I would like an explanation of this amendment.
– According to the strict reading of the original Audit Act we are required to pay all public moneys into a bank, which means that we ought to transfer all the gold now held in the Treasury to some bank. But such action was never contemplated. The gold reserve is held in the Treasury, and the amendment embodied in this clause is necessary to provide that it may remain there legally.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Section 45 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead: - 45. (1) The Auditor-General shall, at such intervals as he thinks fit, and whenever required so to do by the Treasurer, inspect, examine, and audit the books and accounts of any accounting officer, and of any person charged with the custody or control of stores belonging to the Commonwealth.
.- I move -
That the following wordsbe inserted at the end of sub-clause (1) : - “and of any person, firm, or company carrying on business in which the Government of the Commonwealth is pecuniarily interested, or from which the Government expect to derive a share of the profits arising out of the said business “.
I have heard what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said concerning the new agreement between the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, but the clause referring to audits of these accounts has been amended, and Mr. Allard’s name has been distinctly mentioned as the person who is to conduct the audit. It may be, as the Prime Minister states, that the Auditor-General cannot audit these accounts without some enactment declaring that agreement null and void, or without some amendment of the agreement. In any future agreement entered into by the Commonwealth Government with any company the AuditorGeneral should have power to inspect the books, accounts, vouchers, and all documents concerning that company and its business. I think that is only reasonable, and the Auditor-General in his report has asked for that power.
– It is very difficult to define it.
– It is not difficult, and there should be no objection to the addition of the words embodied in my amendment. I am not making any reflection upon the ability of Mr. Allard–
– It is perfectly clear that he cannot do it, and we cannot allow him to under this agreement.
– I think it can be done, and I am prepared to leave it to the Prime Minister and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who says it can be done, to thresh it out.
– It is perfectly obvious that it cannot be done.
– The honorable member for West Sydney says that there is nothing in the agreement to prevent it.
– For every public purpose the Auditor-General should have the right to audit.
– There is a new agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company under which the Government are to receive 80 per cent, of the profits,which nominally means a large percentage. What objection can there be to the Auditor-General inspecting the books and accounts?
– I see no objection; but the time for that to be done has passed, as it should have been provided for when the agreement was drawn up. The Crown had an opportunity of saying who was to be the auditor.
– If the Crown had ample opportunity that means, in this case, that the Government had the opportunity. The late Lord Forrest in 1917 was in favour of the Auditor-General inspecting the books, but Sir John Higgins said that it could not be done.
– The agreement was drawn up by the Solicitor-General and on his advice. He took all steps to safeguard the interests of the Crown, and recommended me to accept it, whichI did. I am perfectly clear that he took all the necessary steps to safeguard our interests.
– Perhaps the SolicitorGeneral was not aware that when, as Trea surer, the late Lord Forrest received the balance-sheets of the Colonial Combing. Spinning, and Weaving Company, he expressed the opinion that the Government should have further information, and asked the Auditor-General to obtain it. Sir John Higgins said that the information the Government desired must be obtained from the company. The company, however, refused to supply it, because it said it would be disclosing their business to the general public. If a company enters into a business arrangement with the Government, it must necessarily incur the risk of having its business disclosed, although there is no reason why its private business or secret processes should be made public.
– We should not pass laws affecting an agreement that has alreadybeen adopted by both parties. I do not think a Court of law would allow us to do so.
– Does the Prime Minister say that is a reason why the AuditorGeneral should not inspect books?
– Not on the part of the Crown.
– What is the reason on the part of the company?
– An agreement has already been arrived at, and we cannot depart from it unless there is a mutual arrangement.
– Are we to believe that there is a difference between the audit of Mr. Allard and that of the AuditorGeneral? Honorable members will see that the auditing of accounts must be either full and complete or only partial.
– An audit by Mr. Allard would not disclose information to the same extent as one by the AuditorGeneral.
– There may be something in the contention that the audit of Mr. Allard would be of a more secret nature, or that he would not disclose to the public the business of the company in such a way that it might act detrimentally to their business in competing with other companies. We cannot imagine for a moment that the AuditorGeneral would be so unfair to the company as to disclose the operations of their business in a way that would be disadvantageous to them.
– Does the honorable member suggest that under this agreement the Crown is not protected, and that under Mr. Allard’s auditing we would be deprived of something we should receive?
– Perhaps not under the agreement, but an audit by the AuditorGeneral might disclose that the agreement is bad, and that the system of arriving at the 80 per cent, of the profits is such that the bargain is not a very good one for the Commonwealth.
– I should be glad to make arrangements with other people throughout the country for 80 per cent, of their profits. We should dovery well by such arrangements.
– I understand that the function of the Auditor-General is not to pronounce on the quality of an agreement, but on the correctness of the accounts connected with it.
– The payment of 80 per cent, of the profits to the Government may be in the nature of an act of restitution by the company. Having found that it made such enormous profits out of the first agreement, the company might, in the goodness of its heart, have decided to give 80 per cent, of the profits to the Government because the agreement had only a few months to run.
– Another fairy godmother !
– I imagine that the 80 per cent, will not represent anything like the amount which the Commonwealth expects to receive from the original agreement. In reply to the interjection by the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), I do not suggest that the Commonwealth will not get from the agreement all that it is entitled to, but the public ought to know the value of the concession that was given to the Colonial Combing, Spinning, andWeaving Company. I understand that the Commonwealth proposes to pay the whole of its share of the profits into the Wool Pool.
– No; only half.
-What is the value of the agreement if the Prime Minister gives the profits away in this fashion?
– The grower gets 40 per cent of the profits, the Commonwealth gets 40 per cent., and the manufacturer receives only 20 per cent.
– And the unfortunate fellmongers and scourers, who do all the dirty and disagreeable work in connexionwith the manufacture, will get nothing. The Prime Minister was absent from Australia when we sought in vain to get 20 per cent, of the profits for the employees in the fellmongering industry. They ought to receive a share of the profits. Some members are setting up an extreme claim when they ask that the profits made out of the manufacture of the wool shall go to the Wool Pool.
– I did not agree to that, but I agreed that they should receive half of the profits on the raw material.
– If the contention of the Prime Minister be correct, that we cannot interfere with the agreement by appointing the Auditor-General over the head of Mr. Allard, no harm will be done by this amendment; it can only apply to future agreements. I hope that it will be accepted.
– I have never lost an opportunity of urging that the Auditor-General should audit all Government accounts. In connexion with agreements between the Commonwealth and private companies, or bonuses paid to individuals or companies, or any other financial transaction to which the Commonwealth is a party, the AuditorGeneral should conduct the audit. I do not worry about the agreement made with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, or about Mr. Allard. I know that he is a good Liberal, and that the members of the Wool Committee also are supporters of the Liberal party, and I know that business men are not loath to place opportunities in the way of their commercial friends. That is the practice throughout the commercial world. My point is that the Auditor-General ought to conduct an audit of every account in which the Commonwealth is interested. There is nothing to prevent him from appointing a. private auditor to do certain work in remote parts, but for the work so done he is answerable to Parliament. Ministers and members have no opportunityof verifying the correctness of public expenditure. When we authorize expenditure on certain projects, the only guarantee we have that it will be properly applied is the knowledge that it will be checked by the Auditor-General. I cannot understand why the Government oppose this amendment. The Audit Act should be made as stringent as possible, so that no expenditure in any direction can be incurred without being subject to the supervision of the Auditor-General. That is the policy in connexion with all Government expenditure in Great Britain. There Ministers have no control over the Auditor-General, nor should they have any here; he should be answerable to Parliament only. The amendment represents a step in the right direction. Commonwealth expenditure has increased enormously; whereas a few years ago we grumbled about spending hundreds of’ thousands of pounds, to-day we expend tens of millions of pounds. If there had been a proper system of audit there would have been no opportunities for the defalcations that took place in connexion with military expenditure in New South Wales, where it will be remembered’ that one officer served three years in gaol for his part in them. Opportunities create fraud and theft, and it is our duty to prevent them. There is no greater preventive than a. proper audit by. the Government auditor. The audit of accounts of Government Departments should not take place only at the end of the financial year. The accounts should bo subject to the indorsement of the Auditor-General during the whole year, even before they are paid. The public outside say that there is no business system in the Government Departments, and this amendment is a step in the right direction to assist to place the accounts on a true business footing. The only protection which the shareholders in some of our public companies have is the knowledge that all the accounts passed by the directors are subject to the scrutiny of an auditor of repute. The Government have not acted very wisely in the last agreement in including Mr. Allard’s name. If I had known that the agreement was going to be made, I would have objected to the inclusion of that gentleman’s name in it. There is nothing to prevent the parties to an agreement, other than the Government, having their own auditors, but to allow an outside auditor to control the accounts of the Government is not a position we ought to be placed in. Will the Government accept the amendment?
– I am sorry I cannot just now. I will consider it.
– What does the Minister mean by “just now”?
– I mean in connexion with this Bill.
– I do not understand the attitude of the Government. Have they done something which they are afraid will be discovered ? There must be some reason for their refusal to accept an amendment which is at least within the realm of reason. I merely ask that accounts in which the Commonwealth is financially interested shall be audited in a manner that will give confidence to the Government and the House. Why do not the Government tell us their reasons for opposing so sound a proposition? I have nothing to do with the wool tops agreement, arid I did not support the previous proposal of the .honorable member to substitute 1916 for 1919, thus making the clause retrospective. However, I shall support him in this amendment. Surely the Government could not have read it. I do not know what outside people will think of this Parliament or of the Government when they learn that it was not accepted.
– Does not the honorable member see that these are very wide, vague words, and carry us no one knows quite where? For instance, if we had an advertising contract with a lot of newspapers, we should be pecuniarily interested in all those newspapers. Would the honorable member audit all their accounts?
– The honorable member is a’ much simpler creature than I took him to be. I do not care if it is only a matter of a contract for envelopes for the High Court. That money comes out of the general revenue, and the accounts ought to be audited just as my pay and the Minister’s pay are audited.
– I merely suggest that we might have a lot of advertising contracts with newspapers, and this amendment would require the AuditorGeneral to investigate the affairs of every one of those papers.
– What if he did?
– It is only impossible, that is all. He could not do it.
– It would be very beneficial if some contracts were inquired into. If the Minister knew a little more of what went on in connexion with military accounts he would be surprised at the loose way in which Government cheques were passed and the hands that they got into. If the Auditor-General had known of it those officers would not have been allowed to continue in their positions, and the great frauds and deceptions that were perpetrated would never have occurred. One officer was of such high standing that no junior officer in the Military Department would say a word to him. Commonwealth cheques were passed into his own account, and the persons to whom they were made payable received cheques from his private account.
– The honorable member is overlooking the fact that the greater part of this Bill is intended to give the Auditor-General infinitely greater powers and discretion than he has now.
– I quite admit that, but we can give him even fuller powers in all transactions in which the Commonwealth is interested. I do not know the AuditorGeneral from the carpet on this floor, but I am supporting the amendment as a matter of principle in order to safeguard the public revenue. In some business companies with which I have been connected the auditor has been able to find out things which we were not able to discover, and I believe the Auditor-General would be in the same position as regards accounts in which the Government are pecuniarily interested. I am strongly in favour of the amendment. The Auditor-General should have power to see that every agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and any firm or company carrying on business in which the Government is pecuniarily interested is properly carried out. I hope to convince the Acting Treasurer that this amendment is in the best interest of the Public Service.
– I appreciate all that the honorable member has said, but I cannot provide in this Bill for what is proposed. I hope the honorable member will not press it.
– I have done my best to urge upon the Government the desirableness of having a strict audit of all accounts. If the Government are not prepared to do what I ask, I shall at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I have done my duty in pointing out that no opportunity should be given to public servants or any one else to defraud the Government. Fraud and deception are possible only where business is carried on in a loose way. When some of our public servants have “ fallen from grace “ I have been inclined to think that they should not be punished, because the loose way in which the Departments concerned were carried on made dishonesty possible. The temper of the Committee appears to be against me, but I honestly believe that a thoroughly up-to-date Audit Act would be in the best interests of the Public Service as well as of the Commonwealth as a whole.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to .
.- I have given notice of my intention to move the insertion of a series of new clauses, to which I understand the Government offersno objection, and with the permission of the Committee I shall do so in one amendment. Honorable members agree that the Auditor-General, If not the most important officer in the Commonwealth Service, is one of the most important, and should be quite independent of political control, and beyond the suspicion of it. At present he is free only in name. I am glad that the Government is of opinion that he should have a Department of his own, that he should be at the head of that Department, and that he should have power to appoint his officers, providing only that they shall for members of the Public Service or entitled to appointment to the Public Service. We ought not, I think, to permit the Auditor-General to make appointments in the manner that appointments were made in the old days, those appointed not being required to prove their capacity by undergoing an examination; but where it is deemed to be expedient or necessary in the public welfare to appoint some person who is not in the Public Service, the Auditor-General is to be given the right to nominate or recommend to the Governor-General the appointment of that person. I move -
That the following new clauses be inserted - 2a. The Audit Department of the Commonwealth shall be a separate Department and the Auditor-General shall be the permanent head of the Department. 2b. Notwithstanding anything contained in any Act to the contrary, all appointments to the Audit Department shall be made by the Governor-General on the nomination or recommendation of the Auditor-General, provided that the Auditor - General shall nominate or recommend officers in the employ of or entitled to employment in the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
Provided further, that if at any time, in any special case, it appears expedient or desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth to appoint to the Audit Department some person who is not in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, the Auditor-General may nominate or recommend such person to the Governor-General for appointment. 2c. In all matters affecting the officers of the Audit Department not provided for under this Act, the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1918 shall prevail.
Sir JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta- Min- the honorable member for Capricornia that the Auditor-General should, so far as possible, be allowed to select his own officers, and that he should not be subject to the control of the Public Service Commissioner in his very important functions. He should be independent not only in his audit, but also in the selection of his instruments. Therefore, I accept the amendment with great pleasure. The Bill does away with many of the limitations of the old Audit Act. For many years past we have prescribed how the Auditor-General shall conduct his audit, a thing that is absurd on the face of it. Now we propose to allow him to conduct his audit in his own way. The proposed new clauses are complementary to the provisions of the Bill.
– The word “ apply “ should be substituted for the word “ prevail “ in proposed new clause 2c.
– I am willing to make that amendment.
Amendment amended accordingly, and proposed new clauses agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ Section 4 of the principal Act is amended by inserting after the word ‘ thousand ‘ the words five hundred.’ “
– I would point out to the honorable member that his amendment would increase the expenditure under the Bill, and, consequently, I rule that it is not in order.
– Then I desire to strike out the word ‘ ‘ thousand ‘ ‘ and to leave a blank. May I refer, even at this late hour, to the scope of the AuditorGeneral’s work ? It covers the Commonwealth Treasury, the Military and Naval Defence Departments, including the Woollen Mills, Clothing Factory, Small Arms Factory, Cordite Factory, Harness and Equipment Factory, the Commonwealth Bank, Customs Department, land tax, entertainments tax, public passports, Australian Wheat Board, soldiers’ repatriation, Commonwealth line of steamers, Prime Minister’s Department, Department of Home and Territories, and the Department of Works and Railways. I am aware that I cannot move for an increase in the salary of the Auditor-General, but I sub- mit that his salary should be at least £1,500 per annum, whereas he receives only £1,000. He has had no increase since the day he was appointed in 1901, notwithstanding that nearly every other officer of such high degree has had increases. I would like the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to bring under the notice of the Cabinet the salaries of other highly placed officers. The High Commissioner receives £3,000 per annum, and an additional £2,000 for the tnanitenance of his official residence; the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America gets £3,000, and an allowance of £2,000 the First Naval Member receives £2,500 per annum; the general manager of the Commonwealth Shipping Line in London is paid a similar sum, whilst his assistant receives £1,080 per annum; the Chief Inter-State Commissioner gets £2,500 per annum, and his two colleagues each receive £2,000 per annum ; the Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Shipping Line gets £2,000; the Commissioner of the Commonwealth railways, £2,000; the Chief of the General Staff of the Military Forces, £1,500 ; the Director of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, £1,500; the Public Service Commissioner, £1,500 ; the Acting Public Service Commissioner, £1,200 ; the general manager of the Arsenal, £1,350; the Commissioner of Land Tax, £1,250; the Prices Commissioner, £1,200; the ControllerGeneral of Trade and Customs, £1,200; the Director of Quarantine, £1,200; the Secretary to the Treasury, . £1,200; and the Solicitor-General, £1,200. I would point out that the Auditor-General in South Africa receives a salary of £1,800 per annum. I believe in paying high salaries for the best brains; and the sooner ‘that principle is recognised by the Commonwealth, the better it will be for all of us.
– The members of this Parliament ought to be paid more
– I agree with that proposition too. Seeing that the members of the House of Representativesin America are paid £1,500 per annum, it is absurd that the members of this Chamber should receive only £600 per annum. I hope that the Acting Treasurer will bring this matter sympathetically before the Cabinet, with a view to placing the Auditor-General in a proper position..
– I am in cordial sympathy with the object of thehonorablemember. I agree that the salary paid to the Auditor General is somewhat of an anachronism at this time of day. Having regard to the tremendous responsibilities of that officer and the character of his work, it cannot be said that he is adequately paid. I promise the honorable member that the matter will not be overlooked when the time arrives for a reconsideration of salaries. I have a new clause which I desire to insert after clause 3. It relates to the receipt of Customs moneys. At present these deposit payments may be retained only for three months in a suspense account, and the Act requires that they must then be paid into the public account. Consequently when refunds havetobe made, they have to be taken out of that account and re-transferred to the Treasury. The new clause provides that the Customs Department may keep this money for six months instead of three months, thus doing away with endless confusion, worry, and trouble. I therefore move -
That the following newclause be inserted after clause 3 - “ 3a. Section twenty-nineof the Principal Act is repealled and the following sectioninsertedin its stead: -
When any such money as last aforesaid shall have remained in such bank for three months, and thereafter for such period ( if any) not exceeding three months as the Treasurer directs, such person shall pay the same and act in respect thereof and in regard thereto in like manner as accounting officers are required to pay and act with reference to moneys which shall come to their possession or control for or on account of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or as near thereto as the circumstances of the case will permit; and such money shallbe placed to the credit of the said Trust Fund under such separate heads as may be directed by the Treasurer.’ “
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments. Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200512_reps_8_92/>.