8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs any intention of dealing with those provisions of the existing navigation law which provide for the punishment of desertion and of other offences ? Has he any intention of giving relief to the seamen in these matters?
– I shall be glad if the honorable gentleman will bring the matter under notice when the Bill is before us.
– Has the Acting Treasurer made the statements attributed to him in the Age of to-day and tha Argus of Tuesday? The latter journalstates that, though the revenue has exceeded the estimate by over £6,000,000, the expenditure has exceeded it by £4,000,000 ; while the statement of the Age is that, although the revenue has exceeded the estimate by £6,500,000, the expenditure has increased by nearly £4,500,000.
– I read those figures with amazement. Neither statement is correct. I have made no announcement about our revenue and expenditure except in the loosest way, because, until we can bring the London accounts to balance, it is impossible to say exactly what has been received and spent. Last week, I gave a rough approximation of what the revenue would be in excess of the estimate, but I Have made no statement concerning our expenditure, and I do not know where the figures published in the newspapers were obtained. The statements are preposterously incorrect, and a protest should be made against these attempts to disseminate figures which have no foundation in fact. It will be found, I think, when the books are balanced, that on the expenditure side we have exceeded the estimate by, perhaps, £1,000,000 ; but I cannot say that definitely. Of that £1;000,000, the sum of £600,000 will have been spent in increasing war pensions. It is wrong of these journals to publish statements without attempting to check their accuracy in any way.
– I desire to give notice of a motion of censure, and would have liked the Prime Minister to be present, though, of course, the Minister acting for him is at liberty to take any action he may think fit in regard to the matter. To-morrow, I will move: -
That the Government is deserving of censure for its general incapacity, and more particularly -
– Under ordinary circumstances, there would be but one course to take; but there is such a smack of Ballarat about the motion of which notice has been given that it cannot be treated seriously. Is there anything new or emergent about the high cost of living, for instance?
– You have no right to make a speech at this stage.
– Quite so; nor will I make any statement at all regarding the matter at the present moment.
– Now that the Prime Minister is here, and has been informed of my notice of motion, I ask him if he intends to treat it as cavalierly as it was treated by his deputy.. What action does he propose to take in regard to it ?
– I propose to proceed with the business of the day, leaving the honorable member’s notice of motion to take its place on the business-paper in the usual way. It is about time we did some work.
Mr.BAMFORD. - I direct the attention of the Minister for Works and Railways to the report that the Director of Federal Capital Design and Construction prepared the design of the casket and mallet used by the Prince of Wales in laying the foundation stone of the capitol at Canberra recently, and desire to ask if Mr. Griffin was the person referred to, and whether there could not have been discovered some one in Australia competent to do the work without referring it to a man from another part of the world.
– The Director in charge of the particular branch of the Department concerned with the visit of the Prince was the proper person to consult in the matter. Although the work was designed by him, it was executed by Australian workmen in Australia,out of Australian timber.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the alleged unsatisfactory position of the office of High Commissioner and the urgent necessity for revising the functions and expenses of that office, the Prime Minister will afford this House an opportunity of considering the whole situation before making any further appointments in connexion with that Department?
– The question of the re-organization of the High Commissioner’s office was one of the matters into which Mr. Watt was to have inquired during his visit to London. In view, however, of recent developments, of which the House hasbeen made aware, other steps will now have to be taken, and I shall give the whole question my early attention.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the various statements which have appeared in the press regarding probable increases in the cost of phosphates to the farming community, the Prime Minister will please state -
What operations are now being carried on in the Island of Nauru?
What is the cost of phosphate rock, f.o.b. Nauru, exclusive of administrative charges - (i) now; (ii) for the year prior to the war?
What rates of wages have hitherto been paid to workmen on the island?
Is any alteration of rates intended, such as would increase the f.o.b. cost; and, if so, to what extent per ton?
What amount will be added to the cost per ton of the proposed annual output by the royalty or other payments under the mandate, plus the expenses of Commonwealth administration?
At what price per ton will the phosphate rock be sold, f.o.b., to purchasers?
– The information asked for by the honorable member is not at present available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, 2, 3. The matter is to be discussed with representatives of the South Australian Government next week.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will make available the names of the representatives of the combined councils of the wool-growers and wool-brokers of Australia with whom, on Friday, the 2nd of July, he conferred with reference to the wool position ?
– The representatives of the wool-growers and wool-brokers who conferred with me on 2nd July, and who were introduced by Mr. J. H. Prowse, M.P., are as follow : -
New South Wales. - J. Mackay, W. W.
Killen, A. S. Austin, and Hon. A. E. Hunt.
Queensland. - Jas. Clark and R. Mathieson.
Tasmania. -R. C. Field.
South Australia. -R. T. Melrose and A. E. Hamilton.
Victoria - B. Cummins, C. R. Murphy, and H. McClelland.
Western Australia. - D. McRae.
Leslie Smith, Secretary,Pastoralists Association.
Queensland. - T. McIlwraith Taylor and R. W. Cran.
New South Wales. -E. R. Graham, Frank Young, and K. DeL. Cudmore.
Victoria.-Geo. L. Aitken,R. J. Boyne, and A. F. Hooper.
South Australia. - Horsley Chapman and T. E. Yelland.
Tasmania. - Geo. Cragg.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I shall he glad if the honorable member will repeat his question on Wednesday next, and state, at the same time, whether it applies to the territory in New Guinea which was once in possession of the Germans.
Erections, Alterations, Additions
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House as to -
The number of new post-offices erected in country towns in the States of Victoria and New South Wales since 1900, and the population of each of such towns, as well as the total cost of each of the now premises?
The number of alterations and additions to post-offices in Victoria and New South Wales in the same period, and the cost of such work in each instance?
– This is a matter within the province of the Department of Works and Railways.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Payments in Stock and Bonds.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are:-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The matter has been brought under notice and is receiving consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Depth of WATER
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Phillip except at high tide, or the cause of delay in the vessel entering the harbor, on the recent visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. No report has been furnished. H.M.S. Renown is under the orders of the British Admiralty.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
If he has given consideration to the suggestion as to the fairness of altering the income tax so as to enable the farmer and grazier to be assessed and taxed on an average basis, extending over a term of three or five years, instead of the present system, which is said to work so inequitably?
– This matter will be considered by the Royal Commission which it is proposed to appoint to inquire into and report on the whole incidence of Commonwealth taxation.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the serious financial position of the Commonwealth and the urgent need of money for repatriation, is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the erection of temporary buildings at Canberra?
– As soon as the financial position of the Commonwealth permits, the Government intends to proceed with the building of the Federal Capital.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he inform the House what was the result of his inquiries, as promised, into the statements made regarding the supposed increase of payment to the members of the Military Forces, especially the ranks and noncommissioned officers?
– The representations which have been made in regard to the rates of pay of the Permanent Military Forces are receiving consideration, and a statement concerning same will he made at an early date.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will appoint without delay an additional Deputy Judge to the Arbitration Court to deal with the claims of the various associations of Government employees ?
– The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act only provides for the appointment of one Deputy Judge. The measures proposed to be taken with regard to Government employees’ claims will shortly be made known to the House, and legislation introduced to give effect thereto.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I regret the effect of high prices on the old-age and invalid pensioners, but am not able at the moment to promise further relief. The last increase of 2s. 6d. per week has absorbed in the six months period £693,000. The total for the year will probably be £1,500,000.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The statement referred to by the honorable member was laid on the table of the House on the 1st July, and a copy appears on page 2477 of Hansard.
asked the Postmaster-General, 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 : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Pay of Semi-official Officers.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
War Widows and Mothers
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– This question should have been addressed to the Minister for Repatriation, who has furnished me with the following reply: - 1 and 2. No pensions have been decreased, but certain allowances previously granted have been affected by the recent amending Repatriation Bill. The matter is now being looked into, and meanwhile a direction has been issued that the old allowances will’ be continued pending a decision upon the questions involved.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Has anything been done to give effect to the expressed intention of the Government in the direction of increasing the amount of advance under the War Service Homes Act from £700 to £800?
– A Bill to this end is now being drafted.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will make provision to allow temporary postal assistants with years of service and good record, who are to-day essentially necessary for carrying on the work of the Postal Department, to receive permanent appointment in such Department?
– This is a matter within the province of the Public Service Commissioner. There are, however, sufficient permanent officers qualified to fill vacancies for postal assistants, to whom the positions would mean promotion, and there is no justification for appointing temporary employees. In any case, if it were found necessary to make appointments from outside the Public Service, an open competitive examination would be arranged.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Messrs.O’ Grady and Litvinoff, representing the British Government and the Soviet Government respectively, at Copenhagen, in February last, on this subject.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Government has already offered a reward of £10,000 for the discovery of oil in payable quantities. It is considered, however, that the question of granting assistance to prospectors for oil is one for consideration by the Governments of the States, but at the recent Conference of Premiers I intimated that the Commonwealth Government was prepared to cooperate with the States in the matter.
Production of Papers
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the table of the House the whole of the cables leading up to the disposal of Australian wool to the British Government, including those concerning the actual sale to the Government and those relating to the distribution of profits on resales?
– These papers have already been laid on the table of the House, in response to the request of the honorable member for Echuca.
– On the 2nd instant the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked me, inter alia, the following questions: -
I promised that the infomation would be obtained. The following is the reply : -
– On the 1st instant the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked me the following questions : -
I promised that the information would be obtained. The following is the reply: -
Five postmen and eight assistants submitted medical certificates of illness through tubercular troubles; two postmen and three assistants died of complaint.
These figures are approximate. The expense of examining the records of all officers concerned in order to obtain the actual figures would not, I think, be justified.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act- Department of Trade and Customs - Appointments of -
A. Blumer,J. P. Farrell, G. A. Murray, and C. J. Middleton.
Debate resumed from 1st July (vide page 2482), on motion by Dr. Maloney -
That this House is of opinion that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be amended in order to provide for a destitute allowance to be made to all inhabitants who are destitute, so that any person making a statutory declaration (to a postmaster, Customs officer, or other appointed Commonwealth official, a schoolmaster, a union secretary, a magistrate, or other appointed individual) that he or she is insufficiently fed, clothed, or sheltered, shall be paid as soon as possible the sum of15s. per week, and for each child 7s.6d. per week, until relieved.
That the passing of the foregoing resolu tion be an instruction to the Government of the Commonwealth to bring in the necessary a mending Act.
– I forfeit my right to continue the debate on this motion. I have already said what I desire to say.
– The contention of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) that it is the duty of the people to provide an allowance for the destitute in the community is not new. I admit that in common with other suggestions for legislation of a beneficent character it is viewed by many people in a very peculiar way. Such a proposal, it would appear., is for many reasons bound to meet with opposition. It is regarded by only a few as a matter with which they are concerned, because only a small proportion of the population maybe said to be really destitute. After all, humanity is very selfish, and people are disposed to view a proposal to deal with conditions which are not brought immediately under their notice as something which should not be considered at all. Arguments of this kind were advanced against the establishment of oldage pensions, and practically every attempt to place beneficent legislation upon the statute-book has met with the same kind of opposition. Proposals of this kind are frequently ridiculed, and I know that some persons who may not go so far as to ridicule such a motion as that now before the House, because they would not desire to be considered heartless, have ridiculed the provision for oldage pensions. That legislation was continually the subject of ridicule until it was properly understood. Honorable members are aware that it was the practice of many to refer facetiously to the “baby bonus,” and the maternity allowance, which is its proper name, is in some quarters still referred to by that and similar contemptuous appellations. We know that when theFisher Government introduced their legislation for the payment of the maternity allowance meetings in opposition to it were held all over Victoria. This opposition was instigated by certain wealthy people in the community, and also, to their lasting disgrace, by many women in Australia, who were free from all fear of want at the time of their performance of the duty of maternity, and by others who used means to evade that duty. These people referred to the maternity allowance only in terms of ridicule. Those who favoured the proposal were asked why the general body of the community should pay a mother £5 to assist her in bringing her child into the world. There is not a man or woman in the country who does not know that every child horn is an asset to the community. The aged, no matter how wealthy they may be, must be aware that they cannot continue to live on their wealth unless there are others growing up in the community to produce the commodities they require to sustain life. All the laughing and gibing at the maternity allowance should have been strongly condemned. We are told to-day that the payment of the allowance has not brought about what was desired by those who supported it. We shall no doubt be told that the adoption of legislation to give effect to the motion now under consideration will not bring about what is desired by the mover of it. So far as the people I represent are concerned, the maternity allowance has been of assistance in thousands of cases. It has meant that the mothers have been given a better chance of health, and their children have been given a better chance than the chil- dien were ever given before. The argument with respect to the increase in the birth-rate makes a strong appeal in the electorate I represent, and appeals forcibly to me, because in that electorate we have the highest birth-rate in any part of Australia.
Every argument used as to the benefit of legislation of this character is met by some persons with contempt. On the subject of destitution, I have heard teetotal lecturers, for instance, assert with brazen effrontery that drink is the cause of 95 per cent, of the destitution in the world to-day. It is because of their infernal ignorance that they make such a statement. They can never have studied economics, or they would make no such assertion. As a matter of fact, under the present economic system, if the world were teetotal, destitution would bc as rampant as it is to-day–
– The honorable member .questions that statement. All I have to say is that if the workers of today did not spend money upon alcoholic liquors, they would receive so much less in wages. It is only because they require means to satisfy that desire that they have been enabled to secure ‘increases in their wages.
– Do they put all their wages into beer?
– When the honorable member asks me that question, I reply that they have as much right to drink beer or whisky as the honorable member has to drink water, so long as they do not endeavour to compel him to drink beer or whisky. The honorable member is like a few more to whom legislation of this character seldom makes any appeal. We generally find that people who take this stand on the question of the consumption of alcohol are narrow-minded, and try to make out that it is the cause of destitution. There are in our midst to-day men and women who have never been guilty of excess in the consumption of alcohol and are yet in want and destitute. Every honorable member should know, whether we like it or not, that our present economic system produces destitution. We know that under it, for every person who becomes richer, some persons become poorer. I do not intend to give honorable members an address on the economic system, but every student of economics must be aware of the truth of my statements.
I do not personally agree with many contentions advanced by some who belong to the Labour movement. I do not agree, for instance, with the contention that the worker pays all taxation. I know that if a worker gets £3 per week, and 30s. of that sum goes in taxation, the employer would take very good care that if all taxation upon his employee were removed, he would only get 30s. a week in wages. Under our existing economic system, no matter what wages a man gets, he cannot with surety make provision against destitution. We are asked why the workers are not thrifty, but “thrift” is a word that is bandied about without consideration of what it really means. If wo were to inquire into its real meaning, we might suggest that no man need waste 6d. in getting his hair cut. There is no reason why he should blacken his boots, or why he should wear decent clothes. He might live in a hovel, if he pleased. There is no reason why he should have carpets on his floor, curtains on his windows, or glass in his windows. The logical deduction from the arguments of those who commend thrift is that a man should spend nothing, and we know the effect which that would produce in the community. Many reasons except the true one are advanced for the destitution in our midst. It is a well-known fact that the wealthier countries are the greater is the destitution in them. There is just as much destitution in the great, wealthy country of America, in proportion to population, as there is in any other country in the world, because all alike are working under a faulty economic system. Whilst I do not agree that this motion represents a panacea for all the evils of our economic system, I agree with those who think that if it were put in operation it would act as a deterrent upon those who are responsible for the creation of destitution. If those who make the wealth were compelled to pay for the destitution which they cause, they would take care that all people were given employment at fair and adequate wages. Is there any honorable member who does not realize that, under a perfect system of civilization, there need be no destitution? Admittedly, even in such a state of society, there would still be men and women who would require to be treated in hospitals. Just -as the community to-day disciplines certain people in our midst, so would the’ community, under that perfect system, demand that those whose actions created undesirable effects should be placed in hospitals - not in gaols, as some people advocate. Do honorable members think that any man or woman willingly become. destitute? That many do fall into poverty is indisputable, but if we inquire as to the cause, we may find that it is a weakness which, in its essence, is a disease. Some look with contempt upon the unfortunate drunkard; they ought to praise God that they are immune from the evils of alcoholism. Many people have never been able to realize that drunkenness if a disease, and not a crime.
– Then, why sneer at me, when I try to prevent drunkenness? “Why ask me to pay for it?
– No man or woman in the community keeps anybody else. The community keeps the honorable member, as it keeps all of us. He would be walking the streets naked and foodless but for the energies of other members of the community. We all are keeping each other.
– Some people do not play their part.
– I trust that the honorable member is playing his part in civilization. May the time never arrive when civilization is controlled by the men and women who preach teetotalism to-day ; they are hard and narrow in all their views. If they but knew it, they are the real cause of destitution, because, if they were desirous of preventing drunkenness and other evils, they would join hands with us on this side. But they are generally to be found voting against us. If in an election a teetotal Labour candidate is opposing a Nationalist brewer, the heads of the teetotal organizaton vote for the brewer every time. I tell the honorable member that teetotalism is not the panacea for destitution. I admit that some people have become destitute through drink, but they represent only a small percentage of the total number of destitute in the community. There are some who believe that the single tax is the panacea for all evil - that by concentrating all taxation upon the land we shall do away with destitution. That is nonsense. Others tell us that we have only to place a high enough duty on imports to make everybody’ in the community prosperous. They say that there is always plenty where there are smoking chimneys. Do we not know that in all manufacturing countries there is destitution ? More misery and sickness are caused by fear of destitution than by anything else. The phantom of want preys on the nerves to such an extent that people are unable to continue at their employment for the modest pittance they are receiving. I believe that it is the duty of civilization to provide for every member of the community so that there shall be no destitution. Just a3 it is the duty of the State to make provision for the dependants of those who fell in the great war, and for those returned soldiers who have ‘been maimed or ruined in health to such an extent as to be unable to earn a livelihood, so it is the duty of the Government to care for and keep from want those who have fallen or been injured in the great battle of life. There are people who look at. me with horror when I voice that doctrine. But I believe that men and women who have been fighting in the industrial field, and, who, through lack of proper nourishment and inability to continue at their occupations, have fallen by the wayside, have just as great a claim upon the assistance of the State as have the soldiers and their dependants. Those who cannot see the justice of that argument are wilfully blind. We shall never even approach a proper state of civilization until we realize that every unit in the community has a right to food, clothing, and housing. Surely we are not asking too much when we urge that it is the duty pf the Government to provide relief - not in the form of charity, but as a right which a human being should be able to claim from civilization to-day. Honorable members may differ regarding the causes of destitution. Some may condemn destitution, but they are utterly wrong if they regard the cause as any other than the economic system under which we are working to-day, whereby the more some people increase their wealth the less others possess. We marvel to-day why our old-age and invalid pensions legislation was not inaugurated years earlier. In years to come we will marvel that we did not provide against destitution years earlier. Undoubtedly we do not pay enough by way of old-age and invalid pensions. .The sum of 15s. now given is only of use to those whose support is contributed to by their own kith and kin.
– But surely it is their duty to do so.
– I deny that it is the duty of their children any more than it is that of the whole community. In giving their pioneer labours to the world these old folk, whom we help to support with a dole to-day, have done as much for the general community as for their own immediate family. The responsibility of providing against . their old age, therefore, is as much that of the general community as of their own children. Suppose that the whole community went in for race suicide and there were no children. Who would keep us in our old age? In days gone by, in Victoria, the aged and invalid poor were not paid pensions, but their children were forced to contribute to their upkeep. Those in the community who are not related to aged dependants have as much right to contribute to the support of the old and infirm as the actual members of their families. In the future people will wonder that our civilization could have so long permitted destitution to continue instead of providing against it out of the Consolidated Revenue of the country.
.– While there are some portions of these proposals with which I cannot quite agree, it appears to me that this motion is somewhat on the right lines. Only this afternoon I asked certain questions concerning what might be done regarding old-age and invalid pensioners; and the answer, in plain language, was that there was no money available to provide further assistance.
– The answer wa9 that we had just given an increase involving £1,500,000 per annum.
– What would it matter if it involved £2,500,000 per annum ? Why was the original Act passed ? It was to provide relief for the aged and invalid poor. I was chairman of the Commission which inquired into the whole subject, and was a member of the Government which brought in the eventual Bill. The reason why the sum of 10s. was fixed was that it was the smallest amount upon which it was considered a person could live. So low a figure was fixed because it was thought that that was all the country could afford to pay. The very fact that the rate of pension has been increased indicates that that was obviously a mistake. The increase has been made because it has been realized that the original amount could not keep body and soul together. It is now the duty of Parliament to perceive, further, that 15s. per week is not as much to-day as was 10s. when the legislation was originally introduced. The payment of pensions is no charity. If we admit that it is a matter of right, as we should all do, then is there any honorable member who will say that we should let the poor and invalid half starve and half live? It is a matter of necessity and of urgency that our Pen:sions Act should be amended. It is only right that we should find more money to help keep our aged’ and sick folk alive.
There are several anomalies in our pensions legislation. The Act to-day provides that pensioners may not work to earn money. That is a mistake. Many men and women who receive pensions would be glad to earn a few shillings per week by way of supplementing their dole ; and there are many folk in the community who would like to employ the aged folk in order to help them out. If pensioners possess property to-day a proportional debit is made against their allowance. Of course they are permitted to own their own homes - that is quite right; but it is anomalous that while a pensioner may live in a home of his own which is worth even £1,000, and have nothing debited against his pension, yet at the same time if he owns £100 worth of land or property the amount of his pension is reduced proportionately. That should not be so. There are many other changes that might well be made in the Act. This country can afford to be decent to the aged poor, many of whom have pioneered1 Australia. We should show that in the opinion of the Federal Parliament it is no crime to be poor. I know of nothing more urgent than that reasonable and adequate aid should be afforded needy old folk. Of course the Government say that there is no money available to do more than has been done.
– It is not hard to provide money when it comes to a question of killing people rather than endeavouring to preserve life.
– Sometimes it becomes necessary to kill in order to preserve our own lives. Where would this country be but for those brave young men who offered their services on behalf of the Empire, and went out prepared to do some killing? I sent my two boys to defend the honorable member and his people, and I strongly resent his interjection.
– You were talking about the difficulty of finding money for pensions, and I merely pointed out that when it came to a question of killing people you could find the money quickly enough.
– Yes, and the honorable member was referring to the men who won Australia for us. Compare their action with his and that of many others of his age.
– You are quite right. They won Australia for you, not for themselves.
– Well, I hope they did not win Australia for the Bolshevists, anyhow.
– The Bolshevists will win for themselves.
– All I can say is that when Bolshevists appear those men who went out to fight for this country will be found as ready to take the Bolshevists by the throat and settle them as they did the Boches.
– I think you will find them under the same banner as the Bolshevists.
– After all, this question has not very much to do with the motion before the Chair, unless some of those gentlemen who would not fight to defend this country claim that they were above the age limit.
– They will defend it all right when it belongs to them, as your people found out when your fellows went to Russia.
– Our men gave a good account of themselves wherever they went.
– But I am talking about your propertied friends.
– Did not our , propertied friends, as the honorable member calls them, also fight for this country? Were nob representatives of property and the working classes fighting side by side in the war ?
– Very few.
– I say they were, and they did their duty splendidly. And now they will not give the honorable member any credit for sneering at them and calling them “killers.”I am proud of them.
– Naturally you are.
– I am proud of them because, for one reason, my boys went out with them. They fought for the honorable member and his friends, who would not fight for themselves.
– They did not fight for met.
– They foughtfor this country, and now the honorable member is sneering at them.
– I remind the honorable member that these interchanges have nothing to do with the motion before the Chair.
– No, Mr. Speaker, but such interjections stir me up. My boys went to the war very young indeed. I know that some honorable members lost their sons. Many families lost a great deal, and it rouses me to hear the honorable member for Barrier sneering at our brave men, and calling them “killers.”
– You arenot speaking the truth now.
– Yes, I am, and if I had my health and strength I would take the honorable member by the nose, and lead him out of the chamber.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Barrier not to continue his interruptions.
– It would be as well if the honorable member for Eden-Monaro kept within the terms of the motion.
– Yes, but with his experience of parliamentary life the honorable member for Yarra knows that I am entitled to reply to interjections. And surely the honorable member knows that he, too, is out of order in interjecting. All I can say now is that if ever I hear anybody refer to our boys as “killers,” they will get the length of my tongue, and if they are within reach they will feel the weight of my fist, too. But these interjections have been made merely for the purpose of throwing me off the track.
– You are on a very good track, I think.
– I doubt if the honorable member thinks so, and I may remark that I do not notice any medal on the lapel of his coat.
– Apparently it does not matter whether we agree or disagree with the honorable member; we get it all the same.
– I will say what I think until the Speaker calls me to account. However, I know it is a mistake to use a sledge-hammer for the purpose of killing a fly. I have already stated that, in my opinion, there should be some amendment of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act. Some means must be found to raise sufficient money to enable us to pay our pensioners a decent allowance. This half-starvation rate is no good to them at all. What is going to become of them if they cannot get enough to live upon? One-half of the pensioners are tightening their belts to-day, because the 15s. per week is not sufficient, and we, who are sitting on cushioned seats in this chamber, should not allow this state of affairs to continue. We must face our responsibilities. It is idle to say that the pensions bill has grown to a large amount. Even if it has, on the other hand we have largely increased revenue. Some of the big “money-bags” who did not subscribe to war loans or do very much to help this country during the war period should be made to pay. Where would they be with their wealth, their homes, their stations, their terraces of houses, but for the services of men who to-day are among our pensioners; men, grown grey in the service of the country, but who were not wise enough to amass any of the world’s goods for their old age? Lack of cash appears to be the only objection to the proposal to increase the pension. That is not a sufficient answer. The present allowance is not any better than 7s. would have been when the Act was passed, and it is logical that we should go further and pay these people at least £1 per week. I say unhesitatingly that Australia can afford this amount. I am -satisfied that, if a vote of the people were taken to-morrow, there would he an overwhelming majority in favour of the increase, and I propose, so far as I am able, to insist upon something being done. I was chairman of the Commission that inquired into this subject, and visited every State of the Commonwealth in order to get the fullest information upon it. The Commission was composed of members of all sides of the House, and its first recommendation was that the pension should not be regarded as charity but as a right; the right to live. If, now, we are not prepared to give our pensioners the means to live, then we are not acting decently by them. On the contrary, we are suggesting that it is a crime to be poor. Unfortunately, the mills grind slowly. The allowance of 10s. continued till 1916, and the increase to 15s. only came into force this year. Twenty years ago the same objections were raised. We were told that we could not afford the money, and it took us till 1916 to make up our minds to increase the amount to 12s. 6d. This is not playing the game fairly. We can afford to pay a further increase. One crank of the Customs wheel, or a special tax upon the rich people of the community - and I do not think there would be very much objection on their part - will provide the necessary cash. I hope the Government will take notice of what I have said on this subject. I know that private members’ resolutions do not count for very much in this House, but if the Government, of their own volition, are disinclined to do anything, then honorable members should insist upon something being done in the interests of our old-age and invalid pensioners.
– I was to have spoken at a previous sitting on this question, but it will be remembered that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) took up the whole of the available time. I propose to give the House a few figures which may be interesting, if not to-day, on some other occasIon,. This is a matter which, as is well known, falls within my purview just now as a matter of administration. I have had several deputations and representations made to me lately with regard to increasing the old-age and invalid pensions, and it would be the easiest and most pleasant thing to me to be able to say at once, ‘ ‘ Yes, the pensioners shall have £1 a week “ ; but it is quite another matter -when we come to consider ways and means- of providing even for so worthy an object. Only six months ago we decided to increase these pensions by 2s. 6d. a week, making a 50 per cent, increase altogether since the Act was originally passed. It was estimated that this additional 2s. 6d. a week for the number of pensioners then on the roll would mean an additional expenditure of £800,000 a year. For the six months since that decision was arrived at, and the Act was amended, that increase alone has cost us, as I said todav, nearly £700,000, and it is quite certain that before the year is over it will have cost us £1,500,000. From some figures I have here I find that for the financial year ending 30th June, 1915- when the maximum rate of pension was 10s. a week, the amount paid was £2,704,309.
– That is for both invalid and oM-age pensions?
– For both; and the amount paid must have been a great deal less in the year the Act was originally passed. In- 1916 the payments amounted to £2,859,766. In that year- and this is the point I wish to make - the limit of income and pension was raised to £58 10s. per annum, and the maximum pension to 12s. 6d. per week. Although the increased rate was in operation for only nine months of the period, the payments for the year ending June, 1917, rose to £3,518,987. The full effect of the increase was shown in the year ending June, 1918, the payments for that year being £3,753,977 - an increase of £894 211 over the expenditure of two years before, when the maximum pension was 10s. For the year ending June, 1919, the amount paid in pensions was £3,880,865. On the 1st January, 1920, the limit of income and pension was raised to £65 per annum, and the maximum pension to 15s. per week. Although the increased rate was paid for only about half the period, the payments for the year ending 30th June, 1920, were £4,574,000; and it is estimated that at least £5,300,000 will be required for the year ending; June, 1921, assuming that no further increase is made in the meantime. Tt will be pe?n therefore, that the payments for 1920-21 will be almost double those for 1914-15.
– On account of the increased number of applicants.
– That is what I was about to point out. It is now suggested by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), and other honorable members, and was also suggested to me the other day by a deputation, that the pensions should be increased by another 5s. Every one knows the great interest that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has taken in these old people; indeed, in some respects he may be said to be the father of the old-age pensions scheme, and he naturally feels strongly regarding it. I am very sorry to have to damp his ardour, and sorry that I cannot do everything that he would like to have done, even for so worthy a cause. Another 5s. a week, as suggested, would give us a pensions bill of between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 a year, and we must remember that we have to provide war pensions amounting to £7,000,000 per annum.
– The war pensions will increase for many years to come.
– I would not say that.
– Our returned soldiers are getting married, and will have children.
–But, unfortunately, soldiers die like other people, and I do not see that there can be a very much larger increase in the war pensions. I think that we are pretty well at the apex now.
– The American experience was contrary to that.
– I know; but the American experience is not ours, nor is ours American administration. However, that is as it may be, and it remains to be seen whether the war pensions will increase, decrease, or remain stationary. I rather think, as I say, that we are getting towards the apex of expenditure.
– You are a very sanguine man !
– If the war pensions increase beyond £7,000,000, it means that our pensions expenditure, taken altogether, will be a . tremendous liability on the country. At any rate, to give the old-age. and invalid pensioners another 5s. a week would mean a yearly bill of close on £8,000,000, in addition to the £7,000,000 or £8 000,000 for war pensions.
– What is the alternative?
– There is a limit to the capacity of the country to contribute even to desirable objects. The honorable member ‘ for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has told us that there are sources of wealth that could be tapped, and has spoken of “ moneybags “ from which revenue could be derived. But the “money-bags” are being tapped to-day.
– Some of them. The Government have not had a “ bob “ towards the loans from a lot of rich people who ought to be made to pay.
– I remind the honorable member that there is not only the question of loans, but the question of taxation, and some of the “ moneybags “ are being taxed up to 8s. and 9s. in the £1 for Federal purposes alone, in addition to the taxation paid to the States. The “money-bags” are “paying up “ and it is no use girding at them unnecessarily; nor must we let sentiment run away with us when dealing with these poor old pensioners. They are an obligation, and I am one who believes thoroughly in the old-age pension system. I think the State owes something to these people, though I do not pretend to agree with the statement made this afternoon that there are no obligations remaining with members of the pensioners’ families. I do not lay down that doctrine, and I do not think that an unfortunate member of a family should be altogether a direct charge upon the State when there are other members of the same family who should discharge their family obligations if they are able to do so. However, this motion is really not an old-age pensions proposition, but one to create a destitute and benevolent department, which is to be associated with the Old-age Pensions office, and statutory authority for the establishment of which is to be incorporated with the Old-age Pensions Act. So far as I read it, it simply means that any old-age pensioner who cares to make a statutory declaration that he does not possess sufficient means to enable him to make ends meet, shall be at once granted an additional 15s. per week.
– It does not say that. It provides that “ any person “ making a statutory declaration shall be granted that additional amount. . It applies, therefore, to any inhabitant of Australia.
– And, therefore, to any old-age pensioner.
– It goes much farther than the Minister suggests.
– I know that. I am merely dealing with one aspect of it. It means that an’ additional 15s. per week shall be granted to every old-age pensioner who cares to go before a schoolmaster, a postmaster, a Customs officer, ai union secretary, a magistrate, or “ other appointed individual,” and make a statutory declaration that he is insufficiently fed, clothed, or sheltered. Such a provision would double the cost of our old-age pension scheme at once. At present, our old-age pensions amount to £5,300,000 per annum, and the effect of adopting this proposal would be to immediately increase them to £10,600,000 per annum. But, as the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has very properly pointed out, this motion relates to all destitute persons in the community. Clearly, therefore, we should increase, that sum very considerably. Indeed, it is safe to say that if effect were given to this motion, our yearly bill for old-age pensions and destitute persons would aggregate, £12,000,000 ot £13,000,000.
– That would cure the position very quickly. The pensioners would go to work then.
– Would it cure the position? Would a pensioner be likely to go to work if, instead of receiving only 15s. per week, he received 30s. per week 1
– Men become destitute because of the economic situation. The Minister knows that.
– I have yet to learn that an increase of the old-age pension would cause destitute persons to go to work.
– There are many honorable members who cannot support this motion, but who are in favour of increasing the old-age pension
– I know that. The honorable member is quite diplomatic in eschewing all the other aspects of the motion, and in confining himself to the old-age pensions side of it. But nobody can agree to a proposition of this kind. It is far too sweeping.
– Although there are financial difficulties in the way, if the Minister himself will reflect for a little while he will recognise that the course proposed to be adopted is the correct one.
– I should like to point out another striking fact in connexion with these old-age pension increases. Somehow or other every increase in the amount of the pension opens the way to a tremendous increase in the number of applicants for it. The pension becomes more attractive, and people who would not apply for it when it was only 10s. per week do not scruple to apply for it when it is 15s. per week. I have here some instructive figures in this connexion. Our officer goes on to say that during the year following 1916, when the pension was increased from 10s. to 12s. 6d. per week, the number of pensioners increased by 6,488, whilst in the year previous to 1916 the increase in the number was only 2,791. The figures for the halfyear ended 30th June, 1920 - the Act had again been liberalized in the meantime! - are even moreconvincing when compared with the corresponding six months ended 30th June, 1919. The increase in the number of applicants for the six months ended 30th June last was 1,579, whilst for the six months just closed it was 4,313 - an increase of 2,634 above the normal increase.
– The point is whether the applicants were, by reason of age, qualified to receive the pension.
– The facts show that every increase in the amount ofthe pension attracts people who did not ask it previously. That is the point which these figures bring out.
– But the applicants must he qualified.
– A new set of pensioners apply for the pension immediately the terms are liberalized in this way.
– Is it not a fact that the increase in the cost of living has compelled these extra persons to apply for the pension ?
– Certainly not.
– The Minister is on a slippery wicket now.
– Indeed, I am not; why should I be? Surely the increased cost of living ought to have given us more pensioners when pensions were on the lower rate. But experience shows that the higher the pension the greater is the number of applicants for it.
– Have not the increase in the number of pensioners, and the increase in the cost of living, been concurrent ?
– Not to the same extent.
– The increase in the cost of living is 100 per cent.
– I would like the honorable member to understand that the increase in the number of new pensionershas amounted to about 150 per cent. in two years. Surely the cost of living has not risen to that extent within the same period. The simple fact is that the higher we make the pension rate the more applicants there are for the pension, because the more tempting it becomes. People who would not bother about it when it was 10s. or 12s. 6d. per week do bother about it when it is made 15s. per week. I am stating these facts in order that honorable members may ruminate upon them, and in the hope that if they can offer a better explanation of them they may favour me with it on some future occasion.
I have here another set of figures relating to the number of old-age pensioners in the Commonwealth, which will prove interesting to the House. In April last there were 98.750 old-age pensioners in the Commonwealth, and 34,000 invalid pensioners. The old-age male pensioners number, approximately, 39,000, and the female pensioners 59,000. There are thus 20.000 more female oldage pensioners than there are male. The invalid pensioners comprise 16,000 male, and 18,000 females- a total of 34,000. These figures, of course, are not absolutely correct, but they are sufficiently close for ordinary purposes. The percentage of old-age pensioners to those who are eligible by age is just less than 34 per cent. for men, and just over 34 per cent. for women. The qualifying ages are, respectively, 65 and 60 years. The numbers of pensioners, according to population at 30th June, 1919, were as under : -
About21/2 per cent. of the entire population are in receipt of pensions in one way or another.
– If a destitute allowance were made, the proportion would not be more than 3 per cent.
– Experience does not justify that assertion. Figures show that with every effort at liberalization, there is a great increase in the applicants.
– Is not the difficulty of finding the money due to commitments as the outcome of the war?
– Of course, that is one of the reasons. However, everything in the world is more or less relative ; and with all the criticism of our old-age pension scheme, it is still the most liberal in the world. I should be glad to be able to concede this extra 5s. per week if, in the circumstances, it were possible to do so; but this year, with all our towering commitments, we are paying the old-age pensioners of the community an additional £1,500,000, and I am afraid that it is more than I can promise at the moment to consent to pay them another £1,500,000 next year.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) wilfully or inadvertently misunderstood an interjection I made during the course of his speech. I said that when it became a question of killing, any amount of money could he found. I was endeavouring to demonstrate that in all countries, not only in Australia, any amount of money can be found when it is a question of warfare, but that the cry of insufficient funds is always raised when the matter is one affecting social welfare. I had not the slightest intention of reflecting on any honorable member who had sons or relatives at the Front.
– Admitting all that for the moment, the honorable member knows the old democratic sentiment that the safety of the State is the highest law and the first necessity.
– At the proper moment, I shall be quite prepared to debate that matter with the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook).
– What would the honorable member do if a burglar attacked him?
– I am now engaged in the task for which I was sent to this House, and that is to prevent burglary on my own class ; as a sort of policeman, I am trying to get a restoration of some of the property of the working man which has been taken from him by the exploiters of this country.
While I support the principle, because of the spirit behind it, that there ought to be no destitute men or women in Australia, that every individual should not only have the right to work, but should also be obliged to work, except those who, owing to physical disabilities, are unable to do so, and that those who have “ done their bit “ in helping to build up the country and make it what it is, and have reached an age when their working time is over, should he provided for, not as a matter of charity but as a right, I disagree with the wording of the motion which makes the granting of the pension an act of charity. It is incumbent upon the person who applies for assistance to seek it as an act of charity, when it is his right to get it.
Inthe course of his exchanges with me, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro made some reference to the Bolsheviks. The very sentiments to which the honorable member gave expression to-day have been put into actual practice by those Bolsheviks he so much despises.
– How many have the Bolsheviks killed?
– All that was necessary. Official statements show that there were more people executed by the Allies in Murmansk and Archangel than were executed by the Bolsheviks in the whole of Russia. For the information of honorable members, I shall quote a few passages from Bolshevik Russia, Its Code of Labour Laws, a publication edited by the People’s Commissariat of Justice, and printed in Petrograd. The first I quote is as follows : -
ON COMPULSORY LABOUR.
All citizens of the R.S.F.S.R.. with the excep tions stated in articles 2 and 3, are subject to compulsory labour.
The following are exempted from compulsory labour: -
Persons under sixteen years of age;
All persons older than fifty years;
Persons who have lost their working ability due to mutilation and illness.
From compulsory labour are temporarily exempted: -
Persons who, owing to illness or mutilation, have temporarily lost their working ability, for a period necessary for their recovery;
Women with child, for a period of eight weeks before and eight weeks after confinement.
I would like to point out to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) that the Commonwealth has a good deal further to go before its legislation can compare with provisions such as these. The honorable member said that certain persons should be allowed to work if they were able, and by that means supplement their pensions.
– Hear, hear !
– I am glad the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is being converted. The next passage I quote is -
Paragraph b of article 2 reads - “All persons older than fifty years.”
– I have just given it.
– Only one paragraph.
– I gave that relating to the exemption of compulsory labour, and sufficient to show that Bolsheviks are in. harmony with the honorable member’s plea, as submitted this afternoon, that those over fifty years of age should be allowed to apply their labour if they so desired.
– Are all persons over fifty years of age receiving an oldage pension ?
– Yes, with the provision advocated by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) that they can apply their labour if they so desire. It will be seen, therefore, that the honorable member is, to that extent, in harmony with the principles of Bolshevism which he denounces. The next passage is -
The fund of insurance of unemployed is composed of (a) payments from all enterprises, establishments, and persons exploiting labour against remuneration; (b) fines imposed for delay of payments; (c) casual payments.
In other words, the fund from which those who are temporarily unemployed are paid, is made up from contributions of employers or the State-owned works on a percentage basis of the total salaries. An unemployment fund is thereby created which provides for those compulsorily out of work. Everybody under the age exemption is compelled to work, and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) nods his head in agreement.
– As the honorable member has expressed himself in agreement, I am glad to see that the principles of Bolshevism are spreading even to the Ministerial benches. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) has already paid tribute - inadvertently, I admit - to the principles of Bolshevism, and I am sure he will not go back upon them simply because the Bolsheviks happen to have adopted them. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has expressed himself in. favour of compulsory labour, and it naturally follows that if everybody works, and the exemptions are similar to those provided by the much-maligned Bolsheviks of Russia, there will be no need to go further.
– Will the honorable member allow me to peruse the book from which he has quoted ?
– Yes, but the honorable member can purchase them in any quantity at a Bourke-street establishment. So far as the discussion on this motion has gone it would appear that there is no. need for further debate; but there is a need for investigation and careful consideration of the social legislation of other lands, particularly Russia. If we perused the legislation that has been enacted by people whom some delight to abuse, it would be found that many of its provisions would be very useful here. Notwithstanding the prejudices that existI believe that we could discover much that would be of considerable advantage to the people of Australia and which would render motions of this character unnecessary. The question is one that is worthy of attention, but I am reminded of the Biblical saying - that “ the harvest truly is plenteous but the labourers are few.”
– In Russia they killed most of the labourers.
-The honorable member will then, perhaps, be prepared to explain why the British Premier (Mr. Lloyd George) and other statesmen are so earnestly seeking reconciliation with Russia and participation in her food supplies.
– Is that why Mrs. Philip Snowden speaks so enthusiastically concerning Russia?
– The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) must remember that Mrs. Snowden was one of a party which visited Russia as a Labour mission from Great Britain; but, although we have been told her views, there is a suspicious silence regarding those of the other members of the mission, who must have reported the result of their investigations. Why have Mrs. Snowden’s opinions been given such prominence?
– Because she was an ardent advocate of Soviet Government, and her conversion is so pronounced.
– Neither she nor her husband were advocates of the Soviet system, as the honorable member knows. It is an unfortunate thing that a resolution agreed to on the motion of a private member does not carry much weight; but the honorable member for Melbourne has at least afforded us an opportunity to discuss the bedrock facts of a question of vital interest to the people of Australia.
– Do not run away from Russia.
– The honorable member wants you to stick to a question that you do not know much about.
– If the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) suggests that I know nothing of the conditions in Russia, I shall he pleased to meet him on the public platform, and there discuss the Russian situation.
– As the public would know as little about the matter as either of us, not much would be gained by such a discussion.
– I challenge the honorable member, or any other honorable member, to discuss with me, on the public platform or elsewhere, the Soviet Government of Russia. I am prepared to defend the Bolsheviks and the present Administration of Russia.
Mr.LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [4.25].- I rise to support the motion, although, like the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), I would prefer to have the idea of charity dissociated from the proposal. I should like to have destitute persons provided for by an amendment of the old-age and invalid pensions legislation. The burden of the Minister’s argument seemed to be that if those pensions were increased, the applicants for them would become more numerous. There is not much force in that argument. The country has agreed to the provision of old-age and invalid pensions, and the continuance of the system is an admission of the need for providing a decent living for those eligible for the pension. It was thought, when the pension system was introduced, that 10s. a week was the lowest sum that would be of any service, and if 10s. was the minimum then, £1 is not sufficient now, because, despite Mr. Knibbs and statistics generally, it is absurd to say that the cost of living has increased only 50 or 65 per cent. Everything that I buy has increased 100or 200 per cent.
– Perhaps that is owing to the duties.
– Has the price of meat, flour, and butter increased because of the duties ?
– I am not now concerned with the cause of the increase of prices; I am merely stating the fact that prices have increased, and that the old- age and invalid pensioners, therefore, find their allowances insufficient. In my opinion, the pension should be 30s. a week, and I would support the increase in the rate to that amount. The basis laid down in 1912 was the allotment of £1 a week for each adult, with 10s. for each child under the age of twelve years, so that a husband with a wife and three children would receive £3 10s. a week. To-day such a household should be paid at least £7 a week.
But as the time allowed by the Standing Orders for the consideration of the orders of the day has nearly expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
.- I move -
That a Select Committee be appointed, with power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to move from place to place to inquire into - >(o) the control and management of internment camps, including the expenditure in connexion therewith; (6) the treatment of internees; and (c) to investigate the circumstances in connexion with the internment of any native-born or naturalized subject who, by statutory declaration, affirms that lie has reasonable grounds for believing, and does believe, his internment to have been the result of untruthful information maliciously furnished to the authorities in his regard.
The subject of my motion was brought before the House some three months ago, when the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Tudor) moved the adjournment to discuss it. Tt is not my purpose to speak to-day at any great length, unless replying to interjections makes it necessary to do so. I admit that I have some feeling in this matter, but I wish to discuss it in a spirit of calmness, in the hope of influencing honorable members with a view to bringing a little nearer the granting of justice to certain persons, particularly persons born in Australia, and I should like a vote to be taken on the motion this afternoon. I shall not repeat now statements which I have already made in this Chamber on two previous occasions. I am afraid that were I to allow myself to speak at length, I might be tempted to bring before the House cases that would convince members of the need for fair play for certain men.
– Let us have them.
– I may mention one or two, but while some persons who have made statements to me are willing that I should mention their names, others have asked me to keep their names secret. Honorable members may ask the reason for that. I would remind them that the War Precautions Act is still in force. The persons to whom I refer have received such treatment from the present Government that they would not be surprised at anything that might be done to them even now. I do not wish them to be victimized, and I know that feeling generally is cooling down; that the War Precautions Act will presently cease to operate, and that then these persons may speak the truth without; fear of injury. I know, too, that if I cannot get what I am asking for now, I shall be able, if I am spared, to make another attempt next session, and if that is unsuccessful, a further attempt in the following session. This is a letter which waa sent to me yesterday. It shows what my opinion of the position is when I have taken care to tear off the name and the place it came from. It was not sent to me in order that I should read it in the House, but there are one or two sentences in it which I think I ought to read, because they show the feeling of fear existing in the minds of our Australian-born who have had to go through the experience of internment. This is one passage -
Have you any idea when the War Precautions Act is to be entirely abolished? This damnable instrument hangs like the executioner’s blade-
– Order! The honorable member has no right to cast any reflection upon an Act of this Parliament.
– I am not casting any reflection. I am simply quoting what is in the letter.
– The honorable member by reading the letter is making himself responsible for the statements contained in it.
– Seeing that I am not allowed to make use of such a strong expression, I will leave it out -
This instrument hangs like the executioner’s blade over our heads, and naturally prevents any of us from publicly making known many things condemnatory of the Australian Kaiser’s attitude towards Australianborn subjects.
That gives a true reflex of the state of fear and suspicion in the minds of many of these people, and for that reason I do not intend to bring under the notice of the House many of the cases which I could quote.
It will be noticed that mv motion i& divided into three parts. The two first ask for a Select Committee to inquire into the internment camps and the treatment of the internees. That is not the most important reason why a Select Committee should be appointed, and if I could obtain the last portion of the motion -I should be even willing to forego the two first parts. Still it seems to me that some good may come from an inquiry into those things, if only because I have heard, and others may also have heard, of certain things which are said to have happened in the internment camps. I, as an Australian, would like an inquiry, so that if the statements are not true we may be clean and clear in the eyes of all, and, if they are true, the people of Australia may know what militarism means, and may not be deluded, as some of them seem to be to-day, into the belief that militarism in Australia must necessarily be different from militarism anywhere else in the world.
– It is different. We have not seen a man shot in Australia, anyhow.
– Is the honorable member sure of what he is saying?
– I am not. I will mark the honora’ble member’s interjection, and when the time comes will answer it. If the honorable member will make inquiries privately I think he will find that he may not be correct. In any case there may have been circumstances where even that extreme course was justified. I believe the expenditure on the internment camps was between £1,250,000 and £1,500,000.
– The internees were treated better than the soldiers were.
– The honorable member may be right, but I have heard otherwise, and that is another reason why I should like a Select Committee that will have the confidence of the people to go into the matter.
– This Select Committee will have the defect that it will not have the confidence of the people.
– The honorable member doe3 not know who will be on the Committee. He, therefore, cannot say that it will not have the confidence of the people. It would be a good ‘thing if the whole question could be cleared up. I am here as an Australian, and am proud of the fact that I am an Australian, and it hurls me when I hear of some of the things that are said to have happened. I should like to be on sure ground in saying that they have not happened.
– Did you fight for Australia when she needed your services ?
– Let me tell the honorable member that I did not fight on fields afar for a position in the Commonwealth Legislature. I do not wish that reflection to be cast on every member who has been in the ranks. I do not think that of them; but the first man in the House who interjected on those lines was the honorable member for Parkes. His attitude to me seems to show that he is a little inclined to make overmuch of the fact that he has been on the other side of the water.
– You brought it all on yourself because you said you thought so much of Australia.
– I think so much of Australia that if ever the day comes when I believe it is in danger I shall be prepared to fight. ‘ Throughout the whole of this war I never once saw any chance of the British Empire losing the war, and never once saw any danger to Australia. After all, I do not see why, if a man is a returned soldier, he should be unjust to Australian-born citizens. If the honorable member has antipathy for me, that is no reason why he should have antipathy to Australian-born citizens who have not been fairly treated. Honorable members may “ sling “ all the mud they like at rae, but I am here battling for these people because I am convinced, from my inside knowledge of different things I have had the chance of reading about, from diaries that have been kept, and from meeting these men, who were once honoured, but who are not honoured to-day on account of the stigma which has been placed on them, that many of them have not received a fair deal. I do not want the question of war service to be drawn in, because, after all, that is only an attempt to influence the minds of some of the members of the House not to give justice to these people. Honorable members can think what they like about me, but I want them to give me a ‘chance to get justice for these others.
– Are you going to tell us tb.8 nature of the ill-treatment ?
– No; I am not going to make any comments about the camps.
– Then what is the good of the Select Committee?
– I am going to bring before the House one or two cases. I could bring u,p many, and in due time I shall quote all that honorable members want.
– We want to hear them.
– That would be dangerous to some of these people, unless the War Precautions Act is first removed out of the way.
– Because under that Act unlimited power is given to this Ministry. In the interests of these people, and at the wish of some of them, I am not prepared to give the details now. As the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) asks me, “ What is to prevent the Government, if they want to, from deporting any of these men?” Nothing whatever. It surprises me that the members of this Parliament have allowed the present position to go on so long. The war hasbeen at an end for a long time. Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Hungary have a]1 signed the Peace treaties, yet our War Precautions Act is still in force, and unless something is done to terminate it, it is bound to operate for the full length of this year, if not longer. We sit down here helpless in front of that Act. I have heard one or two members of the Country party, and some of the members on this side, complain about it, but the Act is still in operation, and if a man has been once caught under it he is afraid of the same weapon falling upon him again. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) may be asking me for particulars from the best of motives, but I am going to tell my story in my own way.
Those who were interned, so far as I have been able to go into their cases, may be divided into four classes.
– Are the people that the honorable member speaks of still interned ?
– No. I am asking for a Select Committee, not to get them out of an internment camp, but to give those who remain here a chance to clear themselves of the stigma of disloyalty that is upon them to-day.
– Are they still being interfered with in any way by the authorities?
– Not that I know of. The first class would include the recent arrivals in Australia. Amongst those who came here when the war started there would he a good many runaway sailors. So far as I have been able to gain infor mation, it seems to me that much of the trouble was created by runaway sailors and others who had only recently come to this country. I have no complaint to make about the internment of those men, nor could I have. The Government was justified in taking those who had recently come here, and whose sympathies were bound to be with their native country, and putting them where they would not do any harm. I have no complaint to make about that particular class, provided that they were treated humanely in the camps. The second class comprises unnaturalized persons who have been in Australia for a long period. Some honorable members may say it was their own fault that they were not naturalized. Some of these cases have come before me, and I find the position to be as follows : - The South Australian law in regard to naturalization did not necessarily confer naturalization on the child with the naturalization of the parent. I am informed that in some of the other States the opposite was the case, and that, consequently, when a person who came from Germany with his family became naturalized there, his naturalization automatically passed to all his children who were under twenty-one years of age. Many of the people in Australia to-day who have been here since childhood are not naturalized simply because they thought that their naturalization was necessarily consequent on the naturalization of their parents. Others have told me that they paid men to get them naturalized. They so little understood the procedure that they did not trouble, even when no certificate of naturalization was given to them, and they find now that they were simply fooled. Honorable members may be inclined to take this with a grain of salt, but I assure them that there have been on the rolls numbers of electors who were not naturalized, although they thought they were. It was only when it was pointed out to them, after the war started, that they were not naturalized, that they had to go off the rolls. This class is distinctly unfortunate. I recognise that the Government were acting within their legal rights in their case, but it seems to me that since these people had been residents of the Commonwealth for many years, and had proved themselves good citizens, the Government, in interning them, were pressing for the uttermost.
– They were not interned because they were not naturalized.
– i recognise that; but I do not know why they were interned. The fact that, although they had been resident in the Commonwealth for many years, they remained unnaturalized told against them in the opinion of many people, and it is for that reason that I have explained why they failed to take out naturalization papers. They believed that they were covered by the naturalization of their parents. i understand that under a Commonwealth Act which came into operation only a few months ago, the naturalization of al foreigner will apply to all his children under the age of twenty-one years.
– The honorable member knows that these people were interned because they were believed to be disloyal.
– That is what the honorable member and the majority of the House think ; but I can quote a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that many of these people were interned on suspicion. A South Australian Judge has said that the fact that a man has been interned is no evidence of his disaffection or disloyalty. Many persons were interned on suspicion, and the trouble is that they come out of the internment camp bearing the same brand as those who might have been absolutely disloyal.
The third class to which I desire to refer are naturalized Australians who were interned. There were 267 cases of that kind. A naturalization paper carries with it the rights of a British subject, and one of the rights of a British subject, “War Precautions Act or no such Act, is that he shall not be condemned or imprisoned without a fair trial. These 267 men had taken out naturalization papers, but under the War Precautions Act those “scraps of paper” were, so to speak, torn up by the present Ministry. i can well understand that there might have been suspicion in regard to some of these men, but since they had been naturalized, .and had thus been given the rights of British subjects, ‘the Government should have carried out their part of the bargain, and have given them a trial. The last class i propose to mention are those of Australian birth who have been interned, and it is for these that I am specially in the fight. I am bringing forward these unpopular matters-
– This is a fairly popular matter in the honorable member’s electorate.
– In order to clear the honorable member’s mind, and to induce him to be a little more charitable, let me tell him that a leading Labour worker in my division some three weeks ago said to me, “ Gabb, old man, you have done enough to show the German people” - he should have said “Australians “ - “ that you are trying to be their friend, and are endeavouring to carry out your pledges. Your attitude on this question is being used against you in your electorate for all it is worth. You have proved yourself to be the friend of these people; take my advice and do not have much more to say on the subject.” More than half of my electorate are of British origin, and I know that my opponents are stating all ever my electorate that I am a proGerman. If I had regard only to my own interests I should accept my friend’s advice. He is a stalwart Labour worker who travels over a good part of my electorate, and I have had his friendship for many years. I have already fought an unpopular fight in this connexion, and if I had regard only to my own interests, I would now allow the matter to drop. I believe, however, that these people have been wronged. They are as truly Australian as I am. There are forty-three of them who were born on Australian soil, and I am satisfied that those honorable members who are now jeering at me will, within the next three years, view this matter in its proper light, and recognise that our fellow Australians should be fairly, treated.
– The honorable member has not shown that these men have been unfairly treated.
– I shall do so. The Prime Minister recently stated in this House that the question of the injustice done to Australian-born citizens was no longer a live matter. There is in my electorate a man of German origin who, like the Prime Minister, had two boys at the Front. One of them paid the supreme sacrifice, and lies buried in France. This man, who is about the same age as the Prime Minister, was put behind the barbed -wire of the internment camp.
Would any honorable member in the same circumstances consider that his internment as a disloyal subject was not a live question?
– I know some absolutely disloyal men whose sons went to the Front - men who said that they would like to shoot their sons for enlisting.
– I question whether the son of any mau who was so disloyal would go to the Front.
– There were many such cases.
– The spring cannot rise above its source; the influence of the home is great. I cannot believe that a child reared in a disloyal home would enlist. In the light of these facts, it is absurd to say that this is no longer a live question. In another case a poor man of German origin, with a wife and eight little children, returned from work one day to find a constable waiting for him at his gate. He was arrested, taken from place to place, and ultimately interned. His wife was allowed 30s. per week for the upkeep of the family. While he was in camp he learned that she was ill, and naturally desired to go to her, but was not allowed to do so. How would any honorable member like to be treated in that way, especially when he did not know why he was interned? Would this not be a live question to him? In yet another case a wealthy man - and I admit that, in this matter, the Government did not discriminate between the rich and the poor - who was interned, has determined, as soon as the War Precautions Act ceases to operate, to take his case into the Law Courts. He knows that an Act is to be passed indemnifying the Government and its officers for any wrongful act that may have been committed by them; but he is determined to take his case to the Court, in order to clear himself. He told me that, although he had struggled hard for what he had, he had resolved to clear himself of the stigma resting upon him by an appeal to the Courts, even if he had to spend every penny he possessed to do so. How can it be said that this is not a live question to a man who feels so warmly? No honorable member has experienced what it is to be disowned by his own country.
– We are not likely to.
– I hope not. Even if we were justly disowned by our own country we should be much perturbed, but if we were unjustly disowned and dishonoured - if the sense of injustice rankled in our breasts - would it not be a very live matter to us ? This is an intensely live question to those who, in some cases, have been dishonoured on mere suspicion, and it is only reasonable that we should appoint a Select Committee to determine their guilt or innocence. If any of these people, born on Australian soil, enjoying all the advantages of this country, sharing its freedom, and participating in its blessings, are proved to’ have been disloyal, then the Government may treat them as it pleases. Such people deserve punishment, but let us give them a fair trial.. Let us give them a chance to prove their innocence.
– Does the honorable member say that no Germans in this country were disloyal during the war?
– I make no such statement.
– The honorable member’s assertions suggest that he does hold that view.
– Nob at all. The honorable member does not appear to be able to grasp the meaning of plain English. 1 am surprised at such an interjection from one who is usually most charitable in his views and dealings.
The Prime Minister on one occasion said in this House, “ I would be the last to deny justice to a citizen of this country because he happened to bear a foreign name or because his father came from Germany.” If the Prime Minister means that, I hope that the Government will not oppose, but will facilitate, the giving of an opportunity to do justice to these people. If they will afford such .an opportunity, that will be a proof that the Prime Minister meant what he said.
– He always means what he says.
– We all have our own opinions about that. I notice that a writer in Stead’s Review, in commenting . upon this matter, did not seem to think that he meant what he said. I believe that there are some members of the Government who are in accord with the statement of the Prime Minister ; but, from my experience in battling here for justice for these people, I am disposed to think that they do not number many, and that there are some Ministers who are inclined to penalize a man simply because he has a German name, or has a German father.
– Let the honorable member name them.
– I will not name them.
– The honorable member should not make such an allegation against them if he is not prepared to name them.
– I am asking no favours. I am merely asking for a Select Committee, the members of which can be appointed by this House.
– The honorable member is casting insults upon Ministers.
– They can look after themselves, and do not need a baby of the House like the honorable member to do that for them. To my sorrow, I know that they are well able to look after themselves, and so I say the honorable member need not worry. They will look after themselves at the right time. I want to come to the point.
– It is time the honorable member did so.
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is interjecting so frequently that if he is not careful I shall endeavour, as he deserves it, to have my name passed over to him.
– Order! As a reference has been made by the honorable member to the interjections that are being made,I ask that they shall not continue.
– I have no wish tobe offensive when speaking, but it is a remarkable thing that it should seem to be recognised that whenever I speak in this House any honorable member may have a shot at me, and so prevent my continuing in the even tenor of my way. If they were wise enough to refrain from interjecting, honorable members opposite would find that I should state my case without undue passion. There is no reason why, because I am fathering an unpopular cause, and on a recent occasion did the same thing, I should he subjected to so many interjections and interruptions.
Mr.West. - It is because you are an honest man.
– Order! The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has complained of interjections, and an interjection immediately follows his complaint.
– I say that some of these people were removed to the internment camps upon suspicion. I am entitled to come to that conclusion from statements which were made by the Prime Minister in this House. I wish to be as fair to him as possible, and, though I may not use his own words, I quote similes which he made use of to show that he considered that it might be necessary sometimes to have people interned on suspicion. The first simile he used was in regard to loyalty to a political party. He said, in effect, that it is very hard to prove disloyalty on the part of an honorable member to his party or his leader; that one might feel sure that a certain man was disloyal, but at the same time it might be very hard to prove it. Whilst there may be some truth in that statement, I make bold to say that there is no member of his political party who would be expelled by the Prime Minister or by any leader merely because hesuspected him of disloyalty to the party. I quote the simile used by the Prime Minister as an admission that some of these people, even if there were only two, were interned on suspicion. We know that loyalty to a political party and loyalty to the country in which one is born are not to he compared, and even if only two of these < people who were born in this country were interned on suspicion, I say that they should be given an opportunity to appear before a body in whom they would have confidence, and he given a chance to clear themselves of the stigma cast upon them.
Another simile made use of by the Prime Minister was that of a person suspected to be suffering from small-pox or leprosy. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, “If a man comes off a boat, a doctor may say to him, ‘ I do not know whether you have small-pox or not. but I cannot take any risks, and must put you into quarantine on suspicion.’ “ I intend to refer to the case of a man suspected of suffering from quite another disease. So far as my knowledge goes, a sufferer from either small-pox or leprosy is not blameworthy.
– They are dirt diseases.
– So far as, my knowledge goes, sufferers from them are not blameworthy. A man may contract either of these diseases through no fault of his own. To justify the internment of any man, he should be blameworthy; and so I say that a fairer simile to use would be the case of a man suffering from the disease of syphilis.
– Oh, no!
– I do not -want to exhibit any mock modesty in this matter. I wish to treat this question seriously; and so I say that it will be a fairer simile to take the case of a man suffering from the disease of syphilis, and assume that we had in operation a practice which, in my opinion, ought to be adopted, and that is the compulsory segregation of those suffering from this disease.
– Male and female alike?
– The compulsory segregation of any persons suffering from this disease.
– On suspicion?
– I am coming to that part. I am merely instancing a simile, and have a right, therefore, to suggest a supposititious case. I will suppose that there is a law which provides for the segregation of persons suffering from syphilis, and that a man may be placed in quarantine on suspicion that he is suffering from the disease.
– He can be in New South Wales.
– This is a serious matter, and I hope that honorable members will treat it seriously. If they had been confined in an internment tamp, and had had to put up with that indignity unjustly, it would be a serious matter for them. I suppose the case of a man who, on suspicion that he is suffering from syphilis, is placed in a quarantine camp with other persons who are there because they are known to have the disease. I then suppose the adoption of the procedure of emptying the whole camp upon the public when it is supposed the occupants have been cured of the disease. The man suspected of being a sufferer from the disease is turned out with those who have been cured of it, and no effort is made to clear him of the stigma cast upon him by his confinement in the quarantine camp. No effort is made to enable him to take up again his true position in society, and to restore to him the confidence of his wife and family. He is left to come out of the quarantine camp with a stigma upon him; and I assert that there is no difference between the case of such a man and the case of a man who, on suspicion, is placed in an internment camp, and is turned out afterwards with the stigma of disloyalty upon him.
That is a fairer simile to suggest than were those used by the Prime Minister, and, in my view, it indicates the position into which the Government have forced many Australian-born and naturalized people. Honorable members must see that they come out of the internment camp with the stigma of disloyalty upon them.
– What were they put into the internment camps for?
– That is what they want to know, and what the Government will not tell them. It is in order to find out what they were interned for that I ask for the appointment of a Select Committee. The Prime Minister in another statement made in this House clearly showed that some of these people were put into the internment camps on suspicion. He said, “I do not think that we made many mistakes.” That statement carries with it the admission that the Government did make some mistakes. Of course, we know that they made some mistakes, and I have reason to believe that they made many.
– Even the electors sometimes make mistakes.
– The honorable member thinks he can “chip in” as much as he likes. The electors made a mistake when they sent him here. The point I make is that there must be some of these people now in the community who bear the stigma of disloyalty upon them. The very fact that they feel the stigma of disloyalty shows that some of them are not disloyal. If a man were disloyal do honorable members think that it would worry him, except, perhaps, in .business, to be called disloyal. I have tested the heartstrings of many of these people, and I know that they suffer intensely at being called disloyal to this country.
– T should not mind being called disloyal. It would not trouble me in the least.
– The honorable member says he would not mind being called disloyal, but if he reflects upon the matter he will admit that if he were born of a race that is being persecuted in this country he would feel it intensely if he were called disloyal.
– If it were true, of course I should.
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection. That is just the point. If it were true he would feel it, and I am satisfied that in regard to many of these people who do feel it, the statement that they are disloyal is not true, and this applies particularly to Australianborn persons who were interned”.
– =Does the honorable member say that none of these people were disloyal?
– I ask the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) not to interject.
– I am coming to the close of my remarks. I feel my heart beginning to patter rather fast, and- 1 frankly admit that it annoys me to think that there should be some Australian-born men who can sit in this House and show no desire to give to other Australians an opportunity to clear themselves of the stigma of disloyalty. That hurts me.
There has been, so far as I know, only one civil inquiry held in regard to these matters. I do not refer to one that was held recently in regard to the deportation of Father Jerger and Dr. Hirschfield. I am not- dealing with their case at all. The inquiry to which I refer was held at Loxton. I quoted nearly the whole of the report of that inquiry in a previous speech in this House, and will not inflict it again upon honorable members. But I desire again to bring under their notice the fact that the magistrate holding that inquiry used these words -
Clearly no inference of actual disaffection or disloyalty was to be drawn from the mere fact of internment.
That is not any “gas” of mine, but the matured verdict of a man trained to receive evidence and weigh the pros and cons. That was the verdict of Mr. Hewitson, who, so far as I know, is a man of entirely British origin.
– That settles the honorable member’s argument.
– If we could get.the people of Australia to think in that way it would be all right ; but in regard to certain men
I have been told, “ Oh. but he was interned,” and that statement has been made as if it were a sufficient answer to everything. It is not a sufficient answer ; but, unfortunately, it is so regarded by some people in Australia who do not know that certain persons were put into the internment camps on mere suspicion. In regard to the evidence at the inquiry to which I have referred, I quoted the remarks of the Judge on one of the military men who gave evidence. While giving him credit for his war duties, as the man had done good service, the magistrate said -
Either his memory was at fault, or he was prepared to make out his case without regard to the truth.
That is a serious statement, and judging by the information which has reached me, the same thing has happened in other cases. The time to speak of that is not yet, but if what I have been told in that regard is true, there will not be many people who in future will condemn me for trying to obtain justice for Australian-born subjects. The only inquiry that has been held has related to the cases of two men, both of whom have been cleared of any suspicion. The acquittals to date having been 100 per cent, of the cases tried, surely that is a reason why the House should appoint a Select Committee so that others may have an equal opportunity to clear themselves. Six of the men who are interned in South Australia were justices of the peace. As a rule, men are not appointed to the commission of the peace unless they have proved to be good citizens, although, at times, political influence does enter into these appointments. To me it is remarkable that men who held such a high status in the community should be interned on on the accusation of, I know not whom, and that their own assertions should go for nought. Some of them were arrested in the middle of the night, and immediately swept into the internment camp. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), in answer to an interjection, said that he differentiated between Germans and Australian-born citizens of German origin. I think we ought to do that, and I ask honorable members, particularly those who fought against the Germans, and who know more of their conduct than I do, to distinguish between the two classes of people, and vote for the appointment of a Select Committee, so that justice may be done to those who, like themselves, were horn on Australian soil.
– I formally second the motion.
– I am sorry that this motion has been moved. Had it been proposed by anybody but the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), I should have said that it had been brought forward for the purpose of making political capital out of the cases of interned Germans. I do not make that accusation against the honorable member for Angas, because I give him credit for being as sincere as is any other honorable member in . this House. But the motion is exceedingly useless. The inquiry which is asked for could do no possible good; at the best it could be only expensive and wasteful, whilst it might be positively mischievous. It relates to a matter that is past and done with. I do not think that even the internees, whose cases have been advocated, would ‘thank the honorable member for proposing an inquiry into the reasons for which they were interned. Much of the difference between the honorable member and myself is due to the fact that he is very much more of an optimist than I am. He said that he never felt, at any time during the war, that Australia or the British Empire was in any danger. That view is held by very few honorable members. Perhaps, because the honorable member believed that the British peoples were in no danger, he takes, a different view of the need for internment. To my mind, both Australia and the British Empire were for many years in very grave peril indeed, and while that danger continued internment was a perfectly justifiable precaution. I do not say that it is very pleasant to be interned - I was a prisoner of war for six months - but I am sure that the internees in Australia enjoyed very much better conditions than did Australian soldiers who were in the hands of the enemy. When I was made a prisoner of war, I had been slightly wounded in the hip; my experience commenced with a thirty-days’ march without any halt. Only twice during that time was my wound dressed at all. Then for nearly three months it received no “attention, because there was no doctor in the camp. At night the wound adhered to the mattress because I had neither sheet nor blankets. I am not complaining about the treatment; it was all in the game of war, and my hardships were light, compared with those suffered by others. But I think it is ridiculous to endeavour to arouse sympathy for the men who were interned in Australian camps. They, at any rate, knew when and where they would get their next meal; they were reasonably certain that next day they would be sitting at the mess table as usual. That is more than was known by the soldiers serving at the Front. Internment was a necessary precaution during war time, but I admit that it should not in -itself be regarded as absolute proof of disloyalty. I have already fought that battle, and I would take strong exception to the Government saying that internment in itself is definite proof of a man’s disloyalty and sufficient reason for his deportation. In regard to that matter we ought to act carefully. One case in which I have taken a good deal of interest has brought upon me a good deal of blame; in fact, I am not sure that I have not incurred thereby, even myself, a suspicion of disloyalty. But when I went to the Prime Minister and asked that before deportation the man’s case should be reviewed he was perfectly fair. The case was reviewed in the manner we requested, and one must abide by the result. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) and I both represent electorates which include a large number of persons who were either born in . Germany and came to Australia as children or young men, or are the descendants of such. I have previously made plain my position in regard to them, and that attitude I shall never alter. But the honorable member for Angas has admitted that the feelings which were aroused during the war are cooling down, and I ask him whether it is not better, instead of stirring up and perpetuating bitter feelings which will lead to that most abominable thing in a British community - racial bitterness - which, wherever it asserts itself, weakens the Empire, that we should realize that the bad years are past, and now help all sections of the community to live together in friendliness and unity as fellow- Australians and British subjects.
– A few months ago, when this matter was raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), I availed myself of the opportunity to express my sentiments. I cannot understand why the motion should have been referred to by the mover as unpopular. I do not admit that it is. If it be unpopular to give justice where justice is due it is a bad state of affairs for the country. Any unpopularity that surrounds this endeavour on the part of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) can be duc only to misrepresentation of the subject. The mere wording of the resolution is sufficient to disarm all suspicion and illfeeling. Honorable members opposite have interjected regarding the war services of honorable members on this side who are supporting the request for this inquiry. I believe that those remarks were made in a jocular spirit. ‘ It is quite irrelevant whether those who support the motion served at the Front or not. As for the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I do not think he touched the matter at all. He said it was past and done with, and that it should be allowed to rest. That is all very well from his point of view. Perhaps the attitude of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) in regard to this subject, from the beginning, may be such that he does not want it resurrected. I will say no more with respect to that; but this matter is not done with. In the interests of justice, it is not going to be allowed to rest. In the interests of fair play to these people, who are living in Australia under a cloud, having a stigma upon them, it is not going to be dropped. I ask the honorable member for Moreton how this subject can be regarded as past and done with in the eyes of those who have been treated, not as Australian-born citizens, but as lepers, or worse? This motion asks, among other things, that any native-born or naturalized subject who, by statutory declaration, affirms that he has reasonable grounds for believing his internment to have been the result of untruthful information, maliciously furnished, shall have the circumstances investigated.
– He can secure that now. It has never been refused to one who has taken that stand.
– Tha t statement is absolutely unfounded.
– There has not been a case in regard to which such a request has been made that has not been inquired into. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) did not cite a single case in which an inquiry was demanded.
– It is useless to demand an inquiry.
– If what the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) says is true, there can be no objection to the appointment of a Select Committee.’ When this subject was originally before the House, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said he had no objection to the proposition. Today I expect to hear a favorable reply from the Government. I have received letters concerning men who were interned, who are prepared to make statutory declarations in. regard to their innocence, and who claim an inquiry. If names are wanted, I will furnish them. I have one case, particularly, in mind. It is that of an Australian-born citizen of the second generation who was a district councillor. While occupying that position, he promulgated the most comprehensive scheme for the repatriation of soldiers that has yet come under my notice. During the war, he went on the public platform and advocated enlistment. He and his family have subscribed to the war loans in generous fashion. However, there are always some people who bear enmity against their neighbours. The Prime Minister has stated that among the internees were some who found themselves there because of information supplied by the secret service. In the district to which I am referring, the secret service was represented by men who bore personal enmity against this Australian-born councillor. His accusers were animated by motives of personal spleen. They made false statements, and their victim was interned as a result. That is his firm belief to-day. The Prime Minister himself has said it is possible that mistakes were made.
– It is a good thing it was possible.
– To make mistakes?
– Possible to intern these men.
– Rightly or wrongly?
– Does the Government always do things wrongly ?
– Perhaps there are cases in which men were rightly interned, but what has that to do with the cases of those who were wrongly interned ? Surely the latter have the right of trial. It is one of our boasted ideals that every man shall be deemed innocent until he has been proved guilty. Here was onewho had been openly loyal. Upon his internment he asked for an inquiry. Through his solicitors, the matter came before the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), but the reply of the Department was that the internee would not be given an opportunity to prove that the case against him was based on false evidence; that he would not be given a chance to disprove those statements on which he was interned; but that he would be given an opportunity to furnish evidence of any acts of loyalty which he might have performed. Is that a fair thing?
– I do not think that is the whole case.
– I will give the whole case. He was not allowed to tender any evidence to refute the charges upon which he had been interned. Those charges were never made known to him. Even to-day he does not know what they are. He saw that the only thing open to him was to furnish evidence of his acts of loyalty; so he provided it. His scheme of repatriation was placed before the authorities. It was shown, on his behalf, that he had taken part in recruiting campaigns, and it was proved that he and his family had subscribed liberally to war loans. All this, however, was of no use. The one thing for which he had asked was that the charges levelled against him might be made known; but he was informed that no inquiry would be granted, and that no statement concerning charges would be made. That is the whole case.
– No; there is another chapter.
– Then the honorable member will have an op portunity to make known that other chapter. An inquiry was refused. At some later period a number of returned men from his district presented themselves to me, and asked me to introduce them as a deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in order that they might elicit the nature of the charges made against their interned neighbour. We waited upon the Prime Minister, and the returned soldiers made reference to the internee’s loyal services. At the conclusion of the deputation, I said to Mr. Hughes, “Do I understand that this man must go down to the grave without ever knowing what charge was made against him?” The Prime Minister replied. “ That is so.” Comparatively recently this man presented himself as a candidate for election to the local shire council, but he found himself the victim of the stigma which is now and always hanging over his head. Yet the honorable member for Moreton says, “ Let the stigma remain.”
– I did not say, “Let the stigma remain.”
– What the honorable member said was, “ Let the matter rest.”
– Hear, hear!
– This ex-internee is now adjudged unworthy to represent his fellow countrymen upon a shire council. He is boycotted.
– By the people on the spot, where all the facts are known.
– It is all due to the stigma, which, he asserts, is absolutely unfounded, but which, apparently, he may never remove. The honorable member forIllawarra (Mr. Lamond), I feel sure, will not say in his calm moments that if this man and others of his neighbours are innocent they should never be given an opportunity to prove it. Whether it were popular or not I shall always be found taking exactly the same stand as I do to-day. But, so far from being unpopular, it ought to be the reverse. Surely it ought tobe a privilege for every member to take his stand on the side of justice and fair play in a country that prides itself upon its liberty-loving principles. The honorable member forIllawarra has urged that no cases have been cited. I will now quote the case of another man who was interned, and therefore was interested in the deputation to the Prime Minister. This man had a son at the Front. He volunteered this information, or it was supplied on his behalf at the time of his arrest, but owing, no doubt to the underhand methods employed, and because of personal animus of members of the secret service, amongst whom the man lived, it was some considerable time before he could get this simple statement of fact through to the Defence Department. He now has in his possession a letter from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), to show that when it became known to the Defence authorities that he had a son at the Front, he was released, and admitting that if it had been known at the time he would not have been interned.
– That is the first instance I have heard of the Defence Department listening to reason.
– Unfortunately, it took a long time for that simple statement to reach the authorities; whereas, if everything had been above board ‘it should have been known next day.
– It was largely his own fault at the beginning that it was not known.
– The honorable member is wrong, because the statement was made at the time of his arrest. The honorable .member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) might be quite right in affirming that some people deserved to be interned, but I am not dealing with that aspect of the matter at all. I say that if for good reasons 1,000 were interned, surely there could be no objection to an effort being made to secure justice for a tenth of that number if they believed they had been interned wrongly. Quite a number of these people declare that ‘they know of no reason for their internment, and, naturally, they feel the stigma that at- “taches to them. They are suffering in business and public life because of it, and they believe that if they had an opportunity ofsubmi feting their oases before a proper tribunal they would be able to prove their innocence. I regret to think that even one member of this House would say that such men are not entitled to a chance to answer such a charge. I do not want to labour the question, and so I will conclude by saying that I believe many of them are suffering an injustice, and that they were intoned because of false reports furnished to the authorities by other residents animated by personal bias. I have ample evidence to prove this statement right up to the hilt, and it is the duty of this House, and particularly of every honorable member who saw active service at the Front, in what he regarded as ‘the fight for liberty and f air play, to see that fellow citizens - because many of these interned men are Australian-born citizens - get that British fair play for which they fought.
Mr. BELL (Darwin) T5.55].- Very few words will suffice to put my view of the question. The honorable member who submitted the motion made an appeal for justice on behalf of Australian-born citizens who were interned during the war period, and he made a special appeal, as did the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, to those who have served overseas. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) made some veiled accusations of ill-treatment of internees, but when I asked him, by way of interjection, to cite a case, he said he would defer doing so to a later date, giving as his reason his belief that some of these people were afraid to come forward and tell what they knew.
– You will admit that my cases are pretty genuine.
– If there were any evidence of ill-treatment of Australian-born citizens of German parentage, or even of German birth, during the war period, no appeal to honorable members for the appointment of a Select Committee would be made in vain.
– We will give you plenty of evidence.
– The mover of the motion alleged ill-treatment, but presented no evidence of it, so the whole matter simply resolves itself into a complaint that some people were interned on suspicion, and that, therefore, a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into their loyalty or disloyalty. I take the view, however, that it is very hard, at this stage, to prove any man’s loyalty. There was a time when it was easy enough to do that. There was ample opportunity during the war for every man to show where he stood. The question now is - Were the Government of the day justified in interning Australian-born citizens of German parentage on suspicion?
– Certainly not.
– I say they were justified.
– Not on suspicion.
– The British, as a race, have always been inclined to be trustful rather than suspicious; but during the recent war there was plenty of evidence to prove that the Government were perfectly justified in interning any one upon reasonable grounds for suspicion.
– You are qualifying your statement now.
– It was a reasonable precaution to take.
– Surely the honorable member can distinguish between “ reasonable “ ground for suspicion and mere suspicion.
– Exactly. And most people believe that the Government, when interning these people, had reasonable ground for suspicion.
– If one of those men came to you and said he believed he had been wrongfully interned, would you give him a chance to prove his case?
– Yes. He has a chance now. While the mover of the motion was speaking, I made an interjection that I would not have minded had I been charged with disloyalty. There was no possible chance of that. Likewise, many young men of German parentage had no fear of the charge during the war; but I know that many people of German parentage, whose sons were at the Front, were openly disloyal, and avowed that they would never recognise their sons again. In the face of all this, it is a peculiar argument that the presence of a son at the Front should have been regarded as the test of a man’s loyalty.
– Almost as peculiar as the argument that a certain gentleman in Victoria, with a D.S.O. decoration, should now be charged with disloyalty.
– Exactly. A man might have the D.S.O. and still be distinctly disloyal.
– Then, your going to the Front was no proof of your loyalty.
– I had no need to go to the Front to prove my loyalty. Some people would need to go to the Front many times, and still they would be under suspicion. It is, as I have said, difficult now for men who were interned to prove their loyalty, so there is very good reason to believe that the motion has been introduced for the purpose of getting another little stab at the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Therefore, the House would not be justified in supporting it, especially as the honorable member who submitted it intimated that, at some future date, he is going to bring forward another motion, and cite cases of gross ill-treatment.
– If this motion is not carried.
– We might very well defer the appointment of a Select Committee until such time as we get some definite charges. If, by any chance, the occupants of the Opposition benches had been in power during the war, I doubt very much if they would now appoint a Select Committee upon the evidence submitted to the House. I would have been very much surprised also if, during the war, they had not taken some action, such as they now condemn, to intern people of German parentage on suspicion of disloyalty.
– I support the motion for a Select Committee to inquire into the whole of the conditions’ of the internment camps from the commencement of the war. I do so because, in my opinion, the camps were very often used in order to get rid of people who were undesirable in the eyes of the powers that be. There has possibly been quite enough said about internees of German origin - of both the first and second generation - and I rise in order to say a word on behalf of an Australian born of Scottish parents, who, in spite of his nationality, was put into an internment camp. I refer to J. M. Scott, a gentleman who wrote a book entitled The Circulating Sovereign. He was born, as I say, of Scottish parents in New South Wales, and was detained in an internment camp for a period which may have ranged up to one year and eight months ; and to this day he does not know why. I desire the appointment of a’ Select Committee in order that this case may be inquired into. This man was resident, I understand, in a little town in South Australia, where he was grabbed by the military police, whirled away in a motor car, and put into a concentration camp, and none of his friends knew where he was. If this were the only case of the kind during the whole period of the war - the only case of a man being spirited away - it is sufficient to justify an exhaustive inquiry. Otherwise, which of us is safe, in view of the policy followed by the Nationalist and capitalistic Governments throughout the world, to whom the war was due? It is possible that we may have another war shortly, and we must look to the future, so as to know where wa stand. Honorable members may not be acquainted. with this particular case, but I had the facts from the man concerned; and, under all the circumstances, no Government dare refuse an inquiry. This man, Scott, is an intensely loyal man; but in the work I have mentioned he advocated a principle inimical to the interests of the banking and other great financial institutions of the country. He is gifted with a brain for finance excelled, perhaps, by very few men in Australia, and he put forth’ a system of financial administration by which the Commonwealth could have met the cost of warlike operations without taxing the people to the extent of Id.
– Do you suggest that that was the reason he was interned?
– I do suggest that, and I shall continue to believe it to be the fact until a Select Committee proves the contrary. Further, though I cannot prove the statement, it is my opinion he was put there in order to be silenced, as he was, for a period of something like one year and eight months. When the war was over, and the conditions altered, he was given his freedom, being considered no longer dangerous. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) says that enemy subjects, and other suspected persons, were treated much better in the camps in Australia than others in similar positions were treated in the camps in other countries. That is quite possible.
– I spoke of prison camps.
– But this man, although intensely loyal, was sent into camp.
While there, in the course of argument with some German internees, one of the latter asked him if he believed, all he read in the newspapers about the German atrocities. He replied in the affirmative, and then the Germans said to him, “There is one thing that the Germans have not done; they have never interned a German subject along with enemy subjects.” That, Scott informed me, squashed him - he was beaten. This man, at any rate, is a British subject, and if he made disloyal statements, he was entitled to a trial; but, failing a trial, an inquiry such as that now proposed would satisfy me. A large number of people in the country no doubt believe that this man had done something to justify this detention; but I say that he was deliberately put into camp in order to silence him, because the principles he was preaching were right up against the principles of financial and banking institutions in all the nations of the world during the war. These institutions have their grip on the economic arrangements and conditions in all countries, and are possessed of great power; but I repeat that this man was out on an intensely patriotic mission, trying to prove that financial arrangements could be made to meet the cost of the war without taxation - that we could, as the British have done in the past, conduct the war without adding a penny to the national debt, and thus save the £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 of taxation necessary to meet our interest bill. I am not satisfied that Mr. Scott’s is the only case of the kind, and I only know of his case because I happened to be acquainted with him, and, brushing up against him, was given the facts. For all I know, there may be hundreds of similar cases. It is, to say the least, disquieting to think that, when passions are roused, as they were during the war, some interests have to be safeguarded, even if it means sacrificing the liberty of British subjects; and if any honorable member says that this case is not one for inquiry, he is ignorant of the elementary laws of justice.
.- In supporting the motion I wish to say that very few of the details are within my own knowledge. I have noticed, however, that in Stead’s Review certain articles were allowed to appear from time to time without any representations from the Government or the authorities concerned. One statement in particular was that it was only on representations made by the Swiss Consul or the American Consul, before America entered the war, that alterations were made in the treatment of prisoners in the internment camps. I know no more than do other honorable members who have spoken of what were the conditions which prevailed in the camps; but it is within our knowledge that in the press of Australia, especially the Sydney press, statements were made concerning the use ofmachineguns at Holdsworthy Camp. In reference to that matter no report has ever been asked for in this Parliament. I have in my possession a statement signed by, I think, a captain in the German Navy who was interned at Holdsworthy. We know that according to international arrangements officers of certain rank, when prisoners of war, are not to be asked to do certain kinds of menial work ; but because this man refused to obey some orders he was ill-treated. I do not know whether his statement is true; but, according to him, he was blindfolded and taken by a firing party near to a grave which had been dug. He was told that he was to be shot, and placed with his back against the tree. Hestill refused to do what was required of him, and the rifles were clicked. Then the bandage was taken from his eyes, and the officer in charge of the squad saying, “You are a brave man,” shook hands with him.
– Is this a dream?
– That is the statement signed by this person and sent to me.
– Where was this?
– It is alleged to have taken place at Holdsworthy Camp.
– If you believe a fairy tale like that you will believe anything; but I do not believe that you believe it.
-The Minister does not believe that I believe the statement; but such allegations have been allowed to go unchallenged, thus showing that they have a substratum of fact. It is up to the Government to say whether these statements are true.
– The Assistant Minister for Defence says that they are not.
– He has not even seen the document to which I refer. The Government were quick enough to use the powers conferred upon them by the War Precautions Act to suppress Stead’s War Facts. They acted in the same way in regard to other publications. Only in to-night’s Herald I read that they are so much perturbed about the importation of German hymn-books and bibles into Australia that they have imposed a prohibition upon them.
– That has nothing to do with the management of our internment camps.
– It shows the feeling that is behind this business.
– Has the honorable member read what is published in to-night’s Herald about the Bolsheviks?
– The honorable member will getmore about the Bolsheviks than he wishes to hear. By proclamation in the Commonwealth Gazette, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has prohibited the admission to the Commonwealth of bibles, prayer-books, and hymn-books printed in the German language and intended for use in the Lutheran Church unless his consent to their importation has been previously obtained. Yet no honorable member will affirm that the safety of Australia would be in any way endangered by the importation of the “good old book” printed in German. The action of the Minister, however, would lead us to believe that if elderly people are allowed to sing Lutheran hymns, or to offer prayers in German, the foundations of the Empire will be sapped. All this only goes to show the spirit of intolerance which possesses the Government. Those who are so fond of telling us about the fights for religious freedom, and who put Luther upon apedestal as a pioneer in that connexion, are to-day preventing Luther’s countrymen from reading his sentiments in Luther’s language. The idea is absurd and preposterous. When the. Government indulge in such childish antics, instead of acting in the interests of the Australian people, they are really doing something of which the inmates of a kindergarten would be ashamed.
– Was Luther an Irishman?
– Enough has already been said to show the necessity for an inquiry into the conduct of our internment camps. I come now to the treat- ment of internees and to the need which exists for investigating the circumstances connected with the internment of certain persons. While I was in Sydney some time ago the wife of the gentleman whose case has been mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) called upon me concerning the internment of her husband. She assured me that the whole of their family were intensely loyal, and at no period had there been the slightest suspicion cast upon their loyalty. Yet her husband had been interned apparently for the heinous offence of advocating a different financial policy from that propounded by the then Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
– Was that during the regime of the present Government or of a Labour Government?
– It was during the period that Mr. Watt filled the office of Treasurer.
– I suppose the honorable member realizes that twice as many Australian-born Germans were interned by the Labour Government as were interned by the present Government ?
Mr.Tudor. - That statement is not correct.
– Forty out of fifty internees were interned by the Labour Government.
– During the whole of the time that I occupied the position of a Minister in the Labour Government, only four or five persons were interned’, and if Senator Pearce has made any statement to the effect indicated by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), he has stated what is absolutely false.
– It is immaterial to me whether these persons were interned by a Labour Government or by a Government composed of ex-Labour men and ex-Liberals, or even of members of the Country party. The question which has to be decided is, “ Are the Government prepared to have this matter inquired into with a view to righting any wrong which may have been done?” The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) cannot shirk the responsibility of the Government by saying, “ Please, sir, we did not do these thing; they were done by somebody else.” Ministers are now in a position to right the wrong which has been done to certain individuals. Not only were Germans, who were the enemies of the Empire, treated in the way that has been described, but the Government acted in just as arbitrary a fashion towards their allied Italian subjects. At the dictation of the Italian Consul, they seized men whilst they were at their work in the mines at Broken Hill, and sent them by rail to the nearest port, without even first allowing them to see their wives and families.
– That was done with the approval of the Italian Consul.
– Not with the approval of the Italian Consul, but at his dictation. I ask leave to continue my speech on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
In Committee (Resumed from 7th July, vide page2598) :
Clause 13 -
Section thirty-nine of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting sub-section 3, and in serting in its stead the following sub-sections: - “ 5. No seaman shall be rated as ‘ shipwright ‘ or ‘ ship’s carpenter ‘ who has not served an apprenticeship as shipwright, or three years at sea as ship’s carpenter, as the case may be. “ 7. Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, persons rated as greasers, firemen, shipwrights, or ship’s carpenters, before the commencement of this Division, shall continue to be entitled to be so rated.”
Section proposed to be amended -
A Superintendent before whom a seaman is engaged shall refuse to enter a seaman as A.B., O.S., greaser, or fireman, in the agreement, unlessthe seaman gives to him satisfactory proof of his title to he so rated.
– I move-
That in proposed sub-section 7 the words shipwrights or ship’s carpenters “ be left out.
Last night I asked what action the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) intended to take in regard to this proposed sub-section which provides that persons rated as greasers, firemen, shipwrights, or ship’s carpenters before the commencement of the Act shall continue to be entitled to be so rated. Provision is made in proposed sub-section 5 that no seamen shall be rated as a shipwright or ship’s carpenter who has not served an apprenticeship as shipwright, or three years at sea as ship’s carpenter, as the case may be. It is very important from the point of view of the safety of a ship that shipwrights and ship’s carpenters shall be men of experience, but under proposed sub-section 7 a man will be entitled to be rated as a shipwright or ship’s carpenter if he has served only five minutes in such a capacity before this Division of the Act comes into operation. No seaman is to be rated as a greaser, who has not served six months as fireman at sea ; no seaman can be rated as fireman who has not served six months as a trimmer or fireman at sea, and after the expiration of twelve months from the commencement of this Division of the Act no seamen is to be permitted to engage in any capacity unless he can satisfy a superintendent that he can pull an oar and handle a boat. But by proposed sub-section 7 any person rated as a greaser, fireman, shipwright, or ship’s carpenter, before the coming into operation of this Division of the Act is to be entitled to be so rated. I realize the necessity for the provision in its relation to greasers and firemen - they must make a start sometime - but the position of a shipwright or ship’s carpenter is too important to entitle those who may have been engaged in the occupation for a limited period only to be rated as shipwright or ship’s carpenters when the Act begins to operate.
– I have gone very carefully into the question raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) last night, and find that the objection raised by shipwrights to the inclusion of ships’ carpenters arose originally out of the dispute between two unions, both of which have members going to sea, and that the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition would prevent a large number of seafaring men who have followed their occupation all their lives, and are now serving on the coast of Australia, from continuing to follow the same calling. The amendment to section 39 of the principal Act, as set out in this clause, is really consequential on an amendment to schedule 2 of the Act, which was authorized by the Leader of the Opposition when he was in charge of the Navi- gation Bill introduced by the Fisher Government and was effected in the Senate. There was quite a long fight on the question of whether ships’ carpenters should be included or not. Eventually they were included. If the amendment of section 39 of the principal Act is not made as set out in this clause, these carpenters will be prevented from following their occupation. My advisers have gone into the matter carefully . Captain Davis, who has had a life-long experience, tells me thatthe amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, if agreed to, would prevent ships’ carpenters who have been engaged in their occupation for the whole of their working lives fromfollowing their calling in future.
– If there should be any delay in the proclamation of this measure when it is passed, any person who becomes a ship’s carpenter in the meantime will be entitled to be rated as a ship’s carpenter, although he may not fulfil the requirements of the proposed sub-section 5, which demands that before he may receive his certificate he must have served for three years at sea in the capacity of ship’s carpenter. In other words, the Bill provides a certain qualification, and at once proceeds to take it away. In the following clause we give powerto a superintendent before whom a seaman is engaged, to refuse to enter him as A.B., O.S., greaser, fireman, shipwright, or ship’s carpenter unless he can give satisfactory proof of his title to be so rated. The giving of such full powers to a superintendent is a further entrenchment on the rights of seamen. A superintendent might have peculiar views ; he might allow a person who has only had five minutes’ experience before the coming into operation of the Act to be rated as a shipwright or ship’s carpenter. The seamen have their rights.
– And we are endeavouring to protect them.
– It is no protection to the seamen to allow a person with five minutes’ experience in the calling before theproclamation of the Act to be rated as a ship’s carpenter.
– No person could get a job as a ship’s carpenter unless he could show that he had the necessary experience. We are dealing with the past, and not with the future.
– We are dealing with the period between the passing of the Bill and the coming into operation of this Division of the Act. A superintendent is to be placed in the position of saying whether a man is qualified or not. The Minister should not accept the ipse dixit of Captain Davis.
– The Minister is obliged to accept the best advice he can get as to what will be the effect of any portion of the Bill.
– We have the benefit of the advice of men who are deeply concerned in the matter. They say that the proposed sub-section 7 will render it possible for ship-owners, while conforming to the Act, to get out of the payment of certain wages by the employment of men who may be a danger to the lives of others. Theseamen contend that ship-owners ought to be compelled to employ only qualified men.
– I view the provision in a different light. The purpose of proposed sub-section 7 is to protect men already engaged in the particular callings mentioned. It is necessary that this should be done, otherwise hundreds would be thrown out of employment. The sub-section merely follows the practice adopted in connexion with all Federal and State legislation of this nature.
– The seamen hold a totally different view. They consider that they will be placed at a distinct disadvantage. It really resolves itself into a question of whether men working on a ship shall be considered or not, and they are emphatic on the matter.
– I am sure the carpenters are not.
– The men’s representatives are anxious that the carpenters and shipwrights shall be placed in the same position.
Question - That the words proposedto be left out stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 21
After section thirty-nine of the principal Act the following section is inserted : -
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ A shipwright or ship’s carpenter shall have a certificate of competency.”
As these men are supposed to be competent, the Minister (Mr. Greene) cannot object to an amendment providing that they shall have a certificate of competency which could be issued by the Director or Superintendent of Navigation. When the men are engaged they should prove their competency, so that men who do not know their trade may not be engaged. When they are discharged they should be given a certificate in accordance with another provision in the measure. Shipwrights and ships’ carpenters should be supplied with a certificate of competency to show that they are capable of performing the work, and surely the Government will not object to that. Shipwrights and ships’ carpenters are experts, because there are no others on board capable of performing the work they are called upon to do. It must be remembered also that seamen are supplied with a certificate of competency.
.- I trust the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will agree to the insertion of this . necessary and important amendment, as shipwrights and ships’ carpenters are very important members of a vessel’s crew, particularly in the event of an accident. Should a vessel be damaged in a collision at sea, it is very necessary that a competent shipwright or ship’s carpenter should be available, otherwise the lives of all those on board would be endangered.
– By whom would the certificates be issued ?
– By the Department. Highly-skilled shipwrights employed ashore have to possess a certificate of competency, which can only be obtained after serving a period of apprenticeship. The Minister for Trade and Customs will surely see that we are not asking too much, and I trust that he will agree to the amendment, as such a protection may be the means of not only safeguarding ship-owners’ property, but of saving valuable lives.
.- Subclause 5 of clause 13, to which the Committee has agreed, provides that no seaman shall be rated as a shipwright who has not served an apprenticeship as shipwright or as a ship’s carpenter unless he has served for three years at sea as a ship’s carpenter. The Committee has also decided that those who to-day are serving as shipwrights or ships’ carpenters shall be entitled to continue to be rated as such. The law under which men are now entitled to those ratings, though it may not be as stringent as the provisions of the Bill, requires the possession of certain qualifications, and I do not think we should put it in the power of any one to take from such men the right to continue at their present avocations, which is what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) proposes to do.
– Do you insinuate that these men are not competent?
– No ; it is the Leader of the Opposition who does that.
– If they are competent, why are you afraid of giving them cer- tificates?
– The Committee has decided that those who to-day are rated as shipwrights or ships’ carpenters shall be entitled to the ratings which they now hold, and I cannot see that anything would be gained by adopting the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and putting it in the power of a superintendent to prevent any of them from continuing to follow his occupation. To do that would be unjust.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Tudor’s amendment) -put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . .18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 15 -
Section forty of the principal Act is renumbered as section forty-one of that Act and is amended by omitting from paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) the words, “ or certificate showing his right tobe rated in the capacity in which he desires to be shipped;” and inserting in their stead the words “from his last ship;”.
Section proposed to be amended -
No seaman shall bepermitted to engage in any capacity unless he delivers to the superintendent . . . .
a discharge or certificate showing his right to be rated in the capacity in which he desires to be shipped . . .
. Ministers and their supporters have voted to allow any one to continue as a shipwright, or as a ship’s carpenter, so long as, prior to the proclamation of the Act, he has served on board a vessel, if only for five minutes.
– Men cannot serve in those ratings who have been only five minutes on a vessel.
– Sub-section 7 of section 39, as we have amended it by clause 13, says that -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, persons rated as greasers, firemen, shipwrights, or ships’ carpenters, before the commencement of this Division, shall continue to be entitled to be so rated.
In many cases that may be quite proper, but we ask that certificates of competency shall be granted to those who are capable of doing the work. We have decided that captains, officers, and engineers must pass examinations to prove their competency, but, by the vote just given, the Committee has determined that anybody may be considered good enough to fill the position of shipwright or ship’s carpenter. My concern is to secure efficiency on the part of all who serve in those ratings. But members opposite have determined that any man who is now on a ship in such a rating may continue in that rating: I am sure, however, that members would not like to risk their lives on ships on which unskilled men were employed. The provision under which a discharge or certificate showing the right to be rated in the capacity in which the man desires to be shipped is to be struck out. Of course, there are penalties for the use of a discharge by a person to whom it does not belong; but we know that many dis charges are used by men to whom they do not belong. We weaken the law by enacting that all that a seaman need produce is a discharge from his last ship. In another clause we provide that men must do certain work elsewhere before they can be rated as firemen or greasers.
– You know this is the usual practice. We must protect the men already engaged.
– That is done, but not by this clause. All the Minister is doing by this clause is to provide that if a man is discharged it need not be shown on that discharge that he is competent. If the clause is carried, there will not be one word in section 40 of the Act as to the competency or ability of the man to perform the duty. The section as it now stands is very much better. It is absolutely hopeless to propose an amendment to provide that the man shall be competent. Even if I moved to re-insert the words standing in the old Act as passed by this Parliament, I would be defeated. The Minister has only to say that he intends to pass the clause as it stands, and the majority will support him, whether it means allowing incompetent men to do the work or not. In order to test the feeling of the Committee, I move -
That the words “ or certificate showing his right to be rated in the capacity in which he desires to be shipped,” be left out.
– I am sorry the Leader of the Opposition spoke so warmly on the subject, and am certain that when he hears the explanation I have to offer he will recognise that the alteration proposed by the Bill will not have the effect he anticipates. Instead of leading to incompetent men being engaged, the object is to: insure the competency of the men. What the principal Act provided was that the man had to present a discharge or certificate. This meant that if he had the certificate he need not have a discharge. It is most desirable that in all cases where a seaman applies for engagement he should present his discharge from his last ship. The intention of the clause is to make it perfectly clear that in every case he must present his discharge from his last ship at the time he seeks engagement. The other amendments of the Act which have already been agreed to by this Committee secure everything that is required in regard to the competency of those who are shipped. All that is being done by this clause is to make perfectly clear what was really intended when the Act was passed.
– A man may present a discharge as a carpenter, shipwright, or even an A.B., when as a fact he has not actually served in the capacity mentioned. If anowner thinks fit, he may give a steward a discharge showing that he had been an able seaman. Under this clause, that steward would not need to present a certificate to show what he really was.
– In any case, the seaman who was rated in that way would not have a certificate.
– The seamen have exactly the same objection, so far as the discharge is concerned. Unless a man has to show some proof of competency, owners can take on any man they like. The Minister knows that there is trafficking in discharges and certificates, and that there is nothing to stop it.
– The superintendent has to satisfy himself that the man is entitled to be rated in the rating which he is claiming.
– It is evident that the Minister has determined that all these clauses, which run together, shall be passed as they stand. It is therefore not of much use to object to them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Wages payable for handling cargo or ballast).
.- I am heartily in accord with this clause, because it gives to seamen engaged on a ship the right to the same rate of wages as is paid to shore labour for this class of work. In times past, when trouble has occurred ashore, ship-owners have compelled the seamen to work ashore at a lower rate of wage than the shore workers were obtaining under an Arbitration Court award. This clause will, I believe, save trouble. In times of trouble, owners sometimes get so-called loyalists and others who are not fully qualified to do the work, but, if they have to pay those men the same rate as skilled workmen, they will not have very much to do with the loyalists. I am not sure that the penalty of £100 is high enough.
– Make it £100 per day.
– We may be sure that, if there is an Act safeguarding them, the seamen will take good care to get the money. Proposed new sub-section 1b provides that, if a sufficiency of shore labour cannot be obtained at such rates of wages, it shall, for the purposes of this provision, be deemed to be not available, and in that case the crew may be employed to the extent of the insufficiency. Still, the crew must have their wages made up for the time they are doing the work.
– It does not say so.
– That is provided for by sub-section 1a. Asthe clause safeguards the right of the workers to receive a fair wage, I heartily agree with the Minister in introducing it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 19, 20, and 21 agreed to.
Clause 22 -
Section 85 of the principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section 1 thereof and inserting in its stead the following sub-section : - “(1) Where the service of a seaman belonging to a ship registered in Australia terminates before the period contemplated in his agreement, by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship, he shall be entitled -
to conveyance, by or at the cost of the owner, to the port of engagement, or, at the master’s option, to the port of discharge mentioned in the agreement, or to such other port as is mutually agreed upon, with the approval of the proper authority, between the master and the seaman ; and
to wages, at the rate provided for in his agreement, until his arrival at the proper port, as provided for in this sub-section :
Provided that the total period for which the seaman shall be entitled to receive wages in pursuance of paragraph (b) of this sub-section shall not in any case exceed one month from the time of the termination of his services by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship.”
Section proposed to be amended : -
Where the service of any seaman terminates before the period contemplated in his agreement, by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship, he shall be entitled to mages up to the time of such termination of service only. ….
.- As a rule articles are signed for about twelve months, and sometimes a period is specified in addition to the trip. The clause curtails the amount which a man can receive after the ship has been wrecked. Even if the wreck occurson the other side of the world, the wages of the seaman will cease within a month. Complaints have been made that, even in the case of some of the Commonwealth line of ships, men were landedowing to illness at otherports, and their wages ceased after a certain time. The shipowner should be compelled to bring the man back to his port if he so desires. If the wreck takes place on the American coast, the man may prefer to go to some port in England, as that may be the nearest way home for him, but we should not cut his pay short at one month after the wreck. I should like to hear from the Minister why the time has been curtailed. It should be remembered that a seaman may lose everything he possesses if the ship is wrecked. We should make the period three months, or, if the man is brought back to his home port before three months have elapsed, we might provide that the pay should cease on his arrival.
– This is a new provision and a new departure. It very often happened that the wreck took place near the port where the service terminated. Thus a man engaged for a voyage to England, and his service terminated on his arrival in England, but he was wrecked somewhere in the Channel. The ship-owner was in that case compelled to pay his wages only for a, day or two. In this clause, we are doing two things: we are throwing on the ship-owner the liability to take the man either to the port to which he was shipped under his original agreement, or to bring him back home, or to some other port mutually agreed upon. We are throwing that obligation on the shipowner.We are also throwing on him the obligation to pay the seamen’s wages for one month. As far as we have been able to ascertain, there is no similar provision in any other navigation law.
– Is not the provision taken from the Merchant Seamen’s Act 1894? The marginal note suggests that it is .
– That part of the clause which provides for the payment of a month’s wages is not. My information is that an examination of the navigation laws of the world shows that, as far as can be ascertained, the general practice, with one exception, is for a seaman’s wages to terminate at the time of the wreck. The exception is in the case of the German Seamen’s Law of. 1902, which provides that where a ship is wrecked or lost the seamen shall he entitled to reconveyance to the port of departure or to receive proportionate compensation, and, in. addition, to a continuance of their wages at one-half the original rate for the time occupied in their reconveyance. Generallyspeaking, the provision for the payment of a full month’s wages will, I think, cover almost every case. At the same time, it will prevent men straying away from means of reconveyance home, and will not throw on the ship-owners a greater obligation than is necessary in the circumstances. It is a liberal provision. As it is a new departure, I suggest that the Committee agree to it, so that we may see how it works.
. - I also feel that the period should be extended from one to three months. Where a shipwrecked sailor could be returned to the port of engagement within a month, the clause; as it stands, would work very well; but I would remind the Committee that some time ago one of the Commonwealth line of steamers, while on a voyage from South or North America, was wrecked on an island in the South Pacific, where the men remained for some considerable time. Under the clause as it stands, insuch a case, the seamen would not only have to endure the privations attaching to life in an outlandish place, but would receive only one month’s wages from the date of shipwreck, even if six months elapsed before they were returned to their home port, or to the port of departure. The shipping companies would not be penalizedby the extension of this provision from one to three months. If a shipwrecked crew were conveyed home within a month, there would be an end to the matter; on the other hand, if three months elapsed before they were returned, then, since they were engaged on the work of the company at the time of the disaster and were disadvantaged by the wreck, they should receive their wages in respect of that period. I move -
That the word “ one,”line25, be left out, with a view to insert, in lieu thereof, the word “ three.”
– The Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Greene) might Very well agree to this amendment which, in effect, will not do more than what he is endeavouring to accomplish by his original proposal. His desire is that seamen who are wrecked shall be paid their wages until they are returned to the port of engagement, the port of discharge, or such other port as may be mutually agreed upon. The clause ‘ provides that the owners of the shipwrecked vessel shall convey the seamen to one of these ports, and pay them their wages for a period of one month while they are proceeding to their home port. In laying down that principle, we should endeavour to make it effective. Why not put the matter beyond doubt in the way proposed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) ? A sailor might be shipwrecked at a point from which he could not be returned to the port of engagement or discharge within less than three months. Is a sailor in such circumstances to be left without sustenance for two out of the three months?
– Would not sub-section 2 of the section to be amended, which deals with men who are engaged for the round run, cover that point?
– I think not. The proviso to this clause governs the whole matter. Under it, even if it took the owners of a shipwrecked vessel six months or eight months to return the crew to one of the ports mentioned, they would not have to pay the men more than one month’s wages. I am confident that the Committee desires to do the fair thing by these men, and the mercantile marine ask for nothing more. By agreeing to this amendment, the Minister will not give away anything. It providesfor the payment of wages for a period not exceeding three months, so that if that period were exceeded in returning a shipwrecked crew to their home port they would not receive more than three months’ pay.The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) has an intimate knowledge of seafaring matters, and is able to speak of the privations and hardships to which British seamen are subjected. When disaster overtakes a ship, the lives of the passengers depend upon the skill, bravery, and coolness of the seamen, and surely it is not asking too much to demand that this meed of justice shall be done them.
. - It is evident that this clause has been inserted in the Bill because the Minister recognises that it is unfair that shipwrecked seamen shall receive no wages from the time of the wreck until their return’ home. It is unreasonable to expect them and their families to liveon air.
– Our object in introducing this provision in the Bill was to remedy an injustice. At the same time, we are trying to safeguard the position. The amendment would probably do an injustice to the other side.
– The crew of the John Murray, when she was wrecked, were stranded for many a month. Why should shipwrecked sailors and their families be expected to live without pay? There are parts of the coast of Western Australia from which it would not be possible to return a shipwrecked crew to their home port within two months. The industry should be called upon to carry the charges necessary to keep a shipwrecked sailor until he is returned to his home port. ‘ Having recognised the principle that shipwrecked seamen should be provided for, why should we stop at the payment of one month’s wages ?
.- I support the amendment. The Minister (Mr. Greene) stated that, in introducing this provision, he was actuated by a desire to prevent injustice to the seamen, and later on he said that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) might do an injustice to the ship-owners. Surely the honorable gentleman must recognise that an injustice would be done to shipwrecked seamen if they were allowed only one month’s wages in cases where they could not be returned to their home port within that period. The amendment would do no injustice to the ship-owners. If it takes six weeks to return the seaman to his home port, then, although the Minister claims to be seeking justice for the seaman, the latter will be penalized, and the shipping company will be saved expense to the extent of a fortnight’s wages for the man. If the amendment is not agreed to, the only persons penalized will be the seamen of a wrecked vessel. I hope that the good sense of honorable members generally will secure the carrying of the amendment.
.- J feel inclined to oppose the proviso altogether. I think it is quite unnecessary. Even if the Committee agreed to the amendment, injustice might be done to seamen under this proviso. A seaman engaged for a certain voyage might be shipwrecked at some remote place, and forced to take refuge upon an island. He might have to remain for a considerable time before a passing vessel could be used to carry him to his port of discharge, or the port at which he was engaged. In such circumstances, why should the period for which the owner of the ship is held to be liable to pay wages to the seamen be confined to a month, or, for that matter, to three months, or any other period? In my opinion, the ship-owner should be called upon to provide against this risk just as he is called upon to provide against expenditure under the Employers’ Liability Act. I think there should be no limitation as to the period, in these circumstances, for which the ship-owner should be liable to pay the seamen’s wages. It should be held that a seaman engages until such time as he reaches his port of discharge, or is returned to his home port; and in the case of shipwreck, his wages should be continued until he has reached one or other of those ports.
– The honorable member should see that without some such provision a seaman marooned on an island in the way he has suggested would get nothing during the period between the wreck, of the vessel and his return to his home port, or to his port of discharge.
– My point is that there should be no limitation of the period provided for, and it would be better, in my view, to omit the proviso altogether than to deliberately do an injustice to seamen in the circumstances. A seaman may be five or six months away from his home because of some accident to his ship over which neither he nor his skipper may have had any control. Is the seaman and his family to suffer in consequence? The* family of a seaman should not be made to suffer because their breadwinner is out of employment through shipwreck. The seaman should bo guaranteed his full rate of wages until he is brought to the port at which he -engaged to be discharged, or is returned to his home port.
– In the principal Act, for which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was responsible
– And that was eight years ago.
– Never mind that; the honorable gentleman was responsible for the .passing of that Act, and this House agreed to it. There was no obligation placed upon the ship-owner by that Act to bring the shipwrecked mariner back to his home port.
– I think there was.
– No; we are inserting such a provision for the first time in this Bill.
– Was not a similar provision to this passed by the Senate in 1914?
– I think not. I think that this is an entirely new provision. Part of it, I am sure, is new. I decided to introduce this particular provision first of all throwing upon the ship-owners the obligation to land the seaman at the port to which, under his agreement, he was going, or at such other port as might be mutually agreed upon between him and the master of the vessel, or to return him to his home port. In the next place, I decided that the ship-owners should be called upon, in such circumstances as are set out in the clause, to pay the seamen full wages for a period not exceeding on6 month. The reason why that period was decided’ upon is that it is conceivable that a shipwrecked seaman might be landed at a port within a week’s sail from Australia, and a vessel by which he could return to Australia might call at that port next day. The representatives of the ship-owners might tell the seaman that he could go back to Australia by that boat, and his passage would be paid. The man might say that that did not suit him, and if he knew that he would receive full wages for three months he might wait for three months before he found a vessel that would suit him.
– If the Minister will look at paragraph a he will find that that could not be done. It is at the option of the master, and the seaman has no option at all.
– The conveyance of the seaman to the port of engagement or the port of discharge is what the master of the vessel has to decide, but the clause does not provide that the master shall decide by what ship the seaman shall go to either port. In view of the length of the average voyage of vessels between Australia and other parts of the world, it seemed to me that to throw upon the ship-owners the obligation to pay the seamen full wages for a month was, in the circumstances, a fair compromise. I do not say that in every case under this provision the seaman would secure all that he was entitled to, but in some cases he might secure more, and I consider that a faircompromise is proposed by the proviso as it stands.
– I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that it would be better if no limitation were proposed of the period for which the ship-owner should be responsible for the seamen’s wages; but if a proposal to leave out the proviso were defeated it would probably be held by the Chairman that it would then be too late to carry such an amendment as that proposed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). I suggest to the honorable member for Hunter that he might move the omission of the first part of the proviso, and if that amendment were defeated it would still be possible to make the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Angas. I do not mind the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) saying that I was responsible for piloting the original measure through this House. That happened eight years ago, and if the Minister or any one else submits an amendment which I regard as an improvement upon any measure I was responsible for passing, I am prepared to welcome it. The Bill now before the Committee is an improvement upon the original Act in some respects, but it also contains some clauses which I do not regard as improvements. Where I consider this Bill better than the original Act I am prepared to support it, but that does not prevent me from trying to improve even this measure.
– I ask leave to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- In proposing an amendment to leave out the proviso, I want to say, in reply to the statement made by the Minister, that in the presentNavigation Act, there is no provision made for the payment of seamen in these circumstances, but I find that in subsection 2 of section 85 of the Act it is provided that -
Where a seaman whose service terminates by reason of the wreck or loss of a ship has been engaged by the run he shall be entitled to the wages to which he would have been entitled on the termination of the run, subject to just deductions.
That shows that under the Act as it at present stands a seaman is entitled under his agreement, notwithstanding what may happen to the ship, to full pay until he reaches the place at which he is to be discharged .
– That applies only to men engaged for the run. There is no such provision applying to men employed under agreement. The provision with respect to men engaged by the run still stands.
– That is to say that if a seaman engaged by the run is shipwrecked and held up for a considerable time, it may be for a couple of months, he is entitled to full pay under the section I have quoted; but if a seaman is working under an agreement, and is shipwrecked, it is proposed, under the clause now under consideration, that he shall not be entitled to more than one month’s wages, though he may have been six months earning them. The seaman who is under agreement and is shipwrecked may be detained in some foreign place for two or three months, but he will receive only one month’s pay. Even the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Angas would allow him only a maximum of three months’ pay. That is an injustice to seamen, who are just as much entitled to protection as is any man working ashore. In order to test the question, I move -
That all the words in the proviso up to and inclusive of the word “exceed” be left out.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the word “ one,” line 25, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three.”
The Minister (Mr. Greene) stated that it would be possible for seamen to refuse to travel by a particular boat offered for their conveyance. Whilst the Bill provides that shipwrecked seamen shall be entitled to conveyance, it does not provide that they shall be allowed to claim any particular kind of conveyance. The seamen cannot “ sponge,” as the Minister suggests, and I resent his insinuation that theywould attempt to do so. If the seamen refused the conveyance offered by the ship-owners, they would do so at the risk of their wages. The Minister has cast a slur upon the seamen by suggesting that, in order to draw pay for a couple of months, they would refuse the chance of a prompt return to their homes and loved ones. He apparently fears that an injustice might be done to the shipowners. Even if the men did “ sponge “ in the way he suggests, the extent of the loss to the companieswould be only a couple of months’ wages for a few men. Such a loss would not be comparable with the injustice that would be inflicted upon men who were left for some weeks in a foreign country without pay. There is some truth in the statement sometimes made by honorable members on this side that the Government seem determined to uphold primarily the interests of property. Theyare now protecting the interests of the companies in opposition to the interests of the seamen.
.- The navigation laws are not a party question. When the original Bill wasbefore this House all parties agreed to try to make the measure perfect. This Bill provides that men who are under agreement, and are shipwrecked, shall be entitled to one month’s pay, and we are now asking that they be entitled to not more than three months’pay. Shipwrecked seamen might be detained on some island for much longer than three months. They might have wives and families dependent upon them, and they should not be deprived of their pay for all that time.
– Three months is rather long. Why not split the difference?
– If a man is shipwrecked on an island for three months, he should not be at a loss.
– We desire to do the fair thing, and, in all the circumstances, this provision appears to us to be fair.
– The feeling of the Committee is that the clause, as drafted, may inflict a grave injustice upon the seamen. The Minister must see that it is the desire of the Committee - and it should be the desire of the Government also - to do the right thing by the seamen. I, therefore, press for the acceptance of the amendment.
.- This provision greatly liberalizes the Act, and, indeed, to an extent which no other Navigation Act in the world has gone. Personally, I am inclined to think that if honorable members carefully consider what is proposed, they will agree to the measure as it stands. However, the Committee seems to have made up its mind that some extension at this point is necessary. I desire to look into the question in order to see how far it may be possible to safeguard the position. If an extension to a period of three months is made, it will be necessary to see whether or not it opens the way to fraud.
– That is rather a nasty imputation.
– I do not say that every man will behave fraudulently, but there are a few black sheep in most families. I suggest that consideration of this clause be postponed. Meanwhile I will examine the position.
Clause 23 agreed to.
Section’ 106 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ superintendent shall “, and inserting in their stead the words “ owner or agent of the ship may “.
Section proposed to be amended -
When proceedings have been instituted against a seaman who has deserted from his ship . . . and a warrant has been issued for his apprehension. the superintendent shall continue the proceedings…..
.- Why are we replacing the superintendent by the owner or agent ? The Department should stand, as was originally provided, between the seaman and the owner. Here we are taking away that protection, and placing the deserter at the mercy of the owner or his agent. I do not know why the procedurehasbeen altered, particularly in view of the fact that the penalties are to be made more drastic. I want to know why proceedings should be taken out of the hands of the Department, and placed in those of people who may quite likely be disposed to prosecute vindictively.
– The clause as it stands is copied from the New South Wales Act of 1898, but the provision in that Statute has long since been repealed. Other Navigation Acts are so phrased as to throw responsibility upon the owner or his agent. What is more, in our measure, as it formerly stood, it was obligatory on the superintendent to take action. It is not now considered desirable that the superintendent should be compelled to follow up a seaman, no matter to what part of the world he might go. Therefore the owner or agent is to be placed in a position to carry on proceedings if that party considers it worth while.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 25 -
After section one hundred and six of the principal Act the following section is inserted : - “106a. - (1) Where any seaman lawfully engaged in Australia wilfully or through misconduct fails to join his ship, or having joined his ship deserts her before her departure, and no proceedings under this Act have been instituted against the seaman in respect of the offence, the Minister, on a report by the superintendent, may direct that the seaman’s certificates of discharge shall be withheld from him for such period, not exceeding one month, as the Minister thinks fit. “ (2.) While a seaman’s certificates of discharge are so withheld then, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Act -
no superintendent shall grant to the seaman a permit to sign articles; and
no officer having the custody of documents shall furnish, to any person, copies of that seaman’s certificates of discharge, or any of them, or certified extracts of any particulars of his service or character.”
.- The withholding of a seaman’s certificates of discharge for a period not exceeding a month, would mean that the sailor could not follow his ordinary avocation. It amounts to a severe penalty, and, seeing that there is provision in the penalties section of the Act for the infliction of a fine of £20 for desertion, it appears that if the two forms of punishment are permitted to take effect together, it will be too drastic. It is not right that a man should be punished twice.
– I can assure the honorable member that in such circumstances the offender would not be punished twice.
– The Government is unwarrantably tightening up the Navigation Act. If an owner decides to take no action, is it to be understood that the Government, on the advice of the superintendent, shall take action ? Why should the Government come in here at all? A man may refuse to go on board his ship, and the owner may not consider it worth while to proceed against him. Yet proceedings may be taken at the instigation of the
Government. The clause provides power to heavily punish a man, for example, who may go out on strike. I cannot see any other reason why the Government should take steps to interfere.
– I strongly support the contention . of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Surely it cannot be the intention of the Minister to take action if the shipping company does not see fit to do so and does not want action taken. It seems to me to be a proposition to substitute political power for the power of the Courts. If a company were to consider that there might be a doubt regarding the establishment of a prosecution before a Court, all that need be done then would be to move the Minister.
– Here again we are following the New Zealand Act, where it has been found that this provision works very well. The idea of placing power in the hands of the Minister upon the report of the superintendent is really intended as a safeguard upon the individual rights of the seaman himself.
– Does it not put the Minister in the place of the Court?
– Possibly it does in some respects. But at the same time I. think it will probably be found to work better in this manner, for that has certainly been the experience in New Zealand. The report of the superintendent for the year 1912-13 states: -
The Shipping and Seamen Amendment Act 1900 empowers the Minister to withhold the certificates of discharge of seamen who desert from or fail to join their ships at the time of sailing, for such time as he thinksfit, and during the time they are withheld the men cannot ship in other vessels. This power is exercised with salutary effect and few men are absent at the time fixed for vessels to sail.
That provision has been found to work beneficially all round.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 26 to 29 agreed to.
Clause 30 (Expenses of illness of seamen) .
– I presume that under this provision the owners or agents will be responsible for the maintenance of seamen while ill on shore. A case was brought under my notice of a seaman on one of the Commonwealth vessels becoming ill in Western Australia, and his people being unable to obtain redress. The position should be safeguarded by Statute, and the owners or agents compelled to meet their obligations. If the clause does that I shall be satisfied.
– That is the position.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 31 to 33 agreedto.
Clause 34 -
Section one hundred and thirty-six of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (f) of sub-section (1 ) the words “ three thousand cubic feet”, and inserting in their stead the words “ the prescribed quantity”;
by inserting in sub-section (4), after the words “ shall not apply to “, the words “ limited coast-trade ships of less than three hundred tons gross registered tonnage or”;
Section proposed to be amended -
Australia or engaged in the coastal trade, which is appropriated to the berthing accommodation of seamen or apprentices, shall -
be ventilated in such manner as to insure a flow of not less than 3,000 cubic feet of fresh air per hour for each seaman or apprentice.
– There is a general belief that the cubic feet space ought to be increased. Some of the American ships have twice the amount of air space provided in our Act, and I should like to know why its provisions are being altered.
– Experience has shown that it is practically impossible to supply such a volume of air as isprovided for in the principal Act without creating such a strong draught as to cause serious discomfort, and even endanger the health of the crew. Experiments are being carried out to ascertain the proper volume of air flow, and when these have been completed the prescribed quantity will be provided for by regulation. The Act as it stands is found to be unworkable, and it is necessary to make the alteration for the greater comfort of the men.
– What the Minister has said demonstrates the need for a greater air flow by increasing the amount of cubic feet space provided for the seamen. I have not had an opportunity of ascertaining whether the ships built in Australia conform with the provisions of the Act, but if they do not, action should be taken without delay, otherwise we shall be met with the objection that structural features will prevent the necessary alterations being made at a later date.
.- I am not quite sure that the Minister has provided for the “ prescribed quantity “ of air in the definition clause, and whether he can do this by a regulation.
– There is another point. Sub-section 4 of section 136 of the principal Act calls upon the owners of ships engaged in the coastal trade to make provision as prescribed for accommodation for the taking of meals by the seamen and apprentices and for the sanitary and lavatory accommodation, including bathrooms. Paragraph b of the Bill states that this provision shall not apply to “limited coast-trade ships of less than 300 tons gross registered tonnage.” Even Inter-State .vessels have not this accommodation
– They will be obliged to provide it under the Act.
– Yes, when the Act is brought into operation; but I know that on certain vessels, when a man comes up from the stoke-hold, he has no means of cleansing himself properly. On some ships trading in and out of Melbourne, I have seen a man go to the galley for a bucket of hot water, and as there was no separate room for him to bath in, he was obliged to go into the forecastle, which is common to all seamen. Vessels engaged in the coastal trade sometimes have a run of 800 miles, or, counting the return journey, 1,600 miles. This would take well over a week, and I say it is not right that men engaged on such vessels should be denied the necessary conveniences and decencies of life. I trust the Minister will look into this matter.
.- I shall do so. It is perfectly clear, however, that limited coast-trade vessels of less than 300 tons could not very well have hospital accommodation.
– I do not want that.
– No; but sub-section 2 of section 136 of the principal Act provides for mess-room accommodation. It is almost impossible to provide a separate mess-room on small coasting vessels. As the honorable member knows, they are generally run by the owner, who himself, is a seaman.
– They do not carry passengers.
– Yes, they do.
– Very rarely. I shall look into the point raised, and see if it is possible to make any further provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 35 to 49 agreed to.
Clause 50 (Investigation of accidents).
.- This clause amends section 176 of the principal Act, which provides that where a case of death, or accident incapacitating from work, happens on board any foreign-going ship, the master shall report it to the shipping superintendent at the port in Australia where the ship first arrives, and the superintendent shall inquire into the cause of death or accident, and shall make in the official log an entry of the result of the inquiry. The clause adds the proviso that in any case where the first call of the shin is at a port other than one of the principal ports, as defined by the reg nations, and it is intended that the sulu shall proceed thence to one of the principal ports, the Deputy Director may direct that the inquiry may be deferred until the arrival of the ship at the principal port. Does this mean that in the event of an accident happening on a boat coming from Singapore to Australia, whose first port of call is, say, Broome, the master of the vessel will be compelled to go to Fremantle for the purpose of the inquiry? What are the powers of the Deputy Director in connexion with the matter ?
– As the Act stands at present the master has to report an accident to the superintendent, at the port in Australia where the ship first arrives. It may happen that this first port is one, say, on the north-west coast of Australia, where there is no superintendent, and where, consequently, it would be impossible to hold an inquiry. The clause simply provides that in such case the inquiry shall be held on the arrival of the ship at the principal port. If the first port of call is Broome, and the next oneFremantle, thenthe Deputy Director may order that the inquiry be held at the latter place. The clause by another amendment also transfers from the superintendent, who is a minor official, to the Deputy Director, who is the responsible officer, the duty of giving effect to this provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 51 to 55 agreed to.
Clause 56 (Uncertificated steam-ships not to proceed to sea).
.- This part of the Navigation Act has not yet been proclaimed, and, therefore, there has been no difficulty in regard to uncertificated steam-ships up to the present, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. Under the State law of Victoria, however, there has been difficulty, and I have in mind one case of a vessel which, I understand, cleared out for China. This vessel had not been condemned, but had been refused a clearance on account of unseaworthiness; and, thereupon, she was allegedly sold to a person said to be a resident of Chili, and she left this port flying the Chilian flag. This enabled the owner to defy the port authorities. Howfar will this clause protect us in a case of the kind ? We are all anxious that no unseaworthy ship should put to sea; and I should like to know what power we will have in regard to the master or owner who takes such a vessel to sea, and who may not return.
– I believe the clause is all right.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 57 to 60 agreed to.
Clause 61 -
Section 202 of the principal Act is amended by adding after the word “certificate” (where ever occurring) the words “ of survey of the ship”.
Section proposed to be amended - “ (1) The owner or master of a steamship shall not receive or have on board thereof any number of passengers greater than that allowed by the certificate.’’ . .
.- I have travelled on vessels on the coast of Australia which carried a greater number of passengers than the certificate warranted. I believe that at holiday times the Tasmanian boats, which undoubtedlyhave to face an exceedingly rough trip, during which accidents are quite possible - though there have not been any very serious accidents up to now - havebeen allowed to carry extra passengers; but I hope that such exemptions will not be permitted in the future.
– All these amendments simply bring our Act into line with the articles of the Convention.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 62 and 63 agreed to.
Clause 64 (Watertight partitions, fireproof bulkheads, and double bottoms).
.- Although this clause is in accord with the requirements of the Convention, there is necessity in the construction of new vessels, as proved by the Titanic disaster, for, not only cross bulkheads, but longitudinal bulkheads. The Titanic struck an iceberg, and had one side ripped out; but had there been, as there should have been in a vessel of her size, say, three or more longitudinal bulkheads, she would have been saved. The rake-out by the iceberg was practically on the outer skin, and every bulkhead filled one after the other. Anybody who has had experience of shipping realizes the necessity of fitting ships with bulkheads, which will prevent water flowing from one bulkhead to another.
– There is power under the regulations to deal with that matter.
– I quite agree with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor).
– I hope that the vessels built here will be thus equipped. In Australia we are thinking of providing for the bulk handling of wheat, and longitudinal bulkheads are imperatively necessary for the sea-carriage of that commodity, which otherwise will shift just as readily as will water.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 65 to 72 agreed to.
Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League : Control of the Distribution of Soldiers’ Tweed - Nauru Island Agreement.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) to a question relating to the distribution of Anzac tweed. I understand that this material is being distributed through the medium of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. To-day I received a communication from a Returned Soldiers League in my own district complaining that this is unfair. The letter points out that of 400,000 men who enlisted in Australia not one-half are members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. Consequently objection is taken to the latter body having control of the distribution of this tweed.
– There are 170,000 members of the League out of the 260,000 soldiers who have returned to Australia.
– The League in my district alleges that 2s. 6d. per yard is being made out of the sale of this tweed by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League.
– More allegations of profiteering.
– That is exactly what is stated in the letter which I have received. It charges the League with profiteering in the distribution of this tweed, and it suggests that its distribution should take place through the Repatriation Department, in order that every soldier may have the right to apply to the sub-branch in his own particular district for a supply of it.
– I have not previously heard of this rather serious allegation against the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. I have not heard that it is charging returned men who do not belong to the organization 2s. 6d. per yard more for this particular tweed.
– As a matter of fact, the Sydney section of the League carried a resolution some six weeks ago that it would not supply tweed to non-members of the organization.
– It had no right to do that, because the intention of the Government is that the tweed shall be. distributed impartially. It is not right to call it “Anzac” tweed, because that particular tweed is handwoven and can be sold to anybody. The tweed of which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) speaks is that which is manufactured at the Commonwealth Woollen Mills. It is the intention of the Government that every returned soldier shall be able to apply for a suit length of this material, irrespective of whether he belongs to any soldiers’ organization or not. I will see that effect is given to that intention, otherwise the privilege which the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League now enjoys of dealing with the distribution of the tweed will be taken away from it. I will certainly look into the allegation that the League is charging 2s. 6d. per yard more for the tweed sold to non-members of that body.
– It is a more serious charge that the League refuses to supply non-members with it.
– I will look into the matter.
.- Under the terms of the Nauru Island Agreement Act, the amount of compensation to be paid by the Commonwealth was either to be agreed upon or fixed by arbitration. I would like to know from the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) whether the amount which, according to present reports, has just been paid over has been fixed by agreement or arbitration?
– It has been fixed by agreement.
– I would like further to know whether the authority of Parliament has been obtained for the actual payment of the money, and when that authority was secured. There is no appropriation in the agreement itself, and the item does not appear on any Estimates.
– I am not clear on the matter, but I shall furnish the honorable member with an answer to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 July 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200708_reps_8_92/>.