8th Parliament · 1st Session
TheClerk reported the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon.J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 2.31 p.m., and read prayers.
Sympathy with Mr. Speaker.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.
– On behalf of the Ministry and of honorable members generally, I offer to Mr. Speaker the deepest sympathy in his sad bereavement. Words are a poor thing to offer on occasions like this as balm for the deep wound of such sorrow. We realize that the loss which Sir Elliot has suffered is irreparable, and one for which no earthly consolation can be found, unless it be in the knowledge that his friends and his fellow-members sincerely sympathize with him, and trust that time may blunt the edge of his sharp grief. We deeply regret his loss, though we are glad that he was at least able to be with his wife at the end.
– Even had I not risen to speak on behalf of honorable members of the Labour party in support of what you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the Prime Minister have said, it would have been realized that we feel the most sincere and deepest sympathy with Mr. Speaker. On behalf of those who sit on the left of the gangway I express sincere regret for the great sorrow that has befallen him. Only those who have gone through the experience can know how deep such sorrow as his is.
– On behalf of honorable members of the Country party, I express, too, the deepest sympathy with Mr. Speaker. Those of us who for so long a stretch of time enjoyed the acquaintance of Sir Elliot and Lady Johnson, and knew their attachment to each other, are aware how greatly the blow must be felt.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Referred to Committee of Supply.
Message received from the Senate announcing that Senators Foll, Newland, and Plain had been appointed members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works.
– Is it the intention of the Treasurer to accept war gratuity bonds for peace loan bonds of the same value?
– No. That would be an easy way of cancelling the bonds, but if we . adopted it we should have to raise a further loan, because its adoption would mean that we should get less money from the loan about to be issued.
Mr. McLachlan’s Report.
– Yesterday the Prime Minister laid on the table Mr. McLachlan’s report upon the Public Service, and the paper was ordered to be printed. Will the right honorable gentleman kindly expedite the printing of it, so that honor able members may obtain copies as soon as possible.
-I am under the impression that the report has been printed, and if sufficient copies are not already available, I shall see that enough are supplied.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs - although I have previously interrogated the Prime Minister on the subject - a question referring to the method adopted by the Customs Department in collecting exchanges in foreign countries. I wish to know whether, in view of the appalling losses that have been faced by French, Belgian, and Italian manufacturers under the existing rule, we may look for a decision by the Cabinet, such decision having been promised by the Prime Minister?
– Yes; I hope.it will be possible before very long to announce the final decision in regard to the matter.
exclusion of the public.
– I desire, Mr. Deputy. Speaker, to ask you a question, without notice, in reference ; to the procedure adopted last night in preventing the admission to the galleries of persons who had received orders. Honorable members, perhaps, are aware - at any rate, metropolitan members are -that applications from members of the public for admission to this House are sometimes sent in to honorable members a week ahead, and we obtain them from the Clerk Assistant, or the Serjeant-at-Arms. These tickets are limited to two for each member for any particular sitting. Standing order 64 provides -
Every member may each day, by written orders, admit three strangers to the gallery.
That, of course, refers to the gallery upstairs, because standing order 63 provides -
The Speaker only shall have the privilege of admitting strangers into the portion of the chamber below the Bar. Senators shall have the privilege of admission there without orders.
I understand that the front seat, on one side of the lower gallery, is reserved for senators, and the front seat, onthe other side, for members of the Victorian State Parliament. Each member has the right to issue two tickets, hut the holders of such tickets, last night, were. refused admission. It was then impossible to raise the question to which I am now referring, though I have raised the point before, when you, sir, were in the chair in Committee, and Mr. Speaker was brought in. I also” ask whether it would not have been possible to inform honorable members of the procedure it was intended to adopt. Personally, I am opposed to any such procedure. In any case, the lower, or Speaker’s gallery, is too small, and even when crowded will not hold more than fifty persons, so that if a disturbance did take place the offenders could be dealt with. On the only occasion when a disturbance happened, the whole of the top gallery was cleared, because of the conduct of two or three amongst the1 visitors. I should like to know why both of the galleries were kept clear last night, and why honorable members were not informed that it was intended to keep them clear. “Why was this done, and on whose authority?
– Is the honorable member raising a question of privilege?
– No, sir; I am merely asking a question regarding a privilege of honorable members of the House.
– The honorable member informed me of the question he intended to submit to me as Deputy Speaker, as to who was responsible for the public with members’ orders being prevented from entering the galleries last night. The honorable member has referred to standing order 64, which provides that every member may each day, by written order, admit three strangers to the gallery. This is one of the Standing Orders which is very indefinite, and can be interpreted in many ways. It sets out that admission is by written order, but the practice of this, and every other Parliament with which I have been associated, has been that these orders are issued by Mr. Speaker. Entrance to this House is entirely under the control of Mr. Speaker, and that standing order refers to not only what is known as the Speaker’s gallery, but also the gallery upstairs. I be lieve that, for some periods in the past, it was possible, for visitors to enter the upstairs gallery without any cards; but the practice of Mr. Speaker and his predecessors has been to issue tickets. I find that in the House of Commons admission to the gallery is entirely under. the control of the Speaker’s Secretary and the SerjeantatArms - that is, in regard to the gallery which corresponds to our upper gallery - the lower gallery being reserved for the special control of Mr. Speaker. Certain proceedings with which I have no desire to deal at any length made it imperative on Mr. President and Mr. Speaker, who are the custodians of this building, and all within its precincts, to take extreme measures last night, in order to prevent the conduct of the business of this House being interfered with. I regret to say that on a previous occasion, which will be within the memory of some honorable members, people gathered outside this House, and, inflamed with certain feelings, forced their way, notwithstanding the few police who were here for our protection, through the vestibule into the Queen’s Hall, and very nearly into the chamber itself. Certain indications and information given to the Government, Mr. President, and myself pointed to the probability of a very large concourse of people outside the building last night ; and, if the measures then taken had been neglected, it would have been quite possible for numbers of those people to force their way, possibly into the Chamber, and behave in an unseemly way, that would have been derogatory to the Parliament. In consultation with Mr. President, it was arranged that, in the interests of the members themselves, means of protection should be adopted. Had the friends of honorable members been admitted in the usual way, they might, in the .event of an influx of the crowd, have been maltreated, and it was therefore thought better that only ‘ honorable members themselves should be admitted. That course was followed, in view of what has taken place quite recently, and, as I say in the interests of honorable members themselves, in order to conserve the peace and dignity of the Parliament. The proper officer, the Sergeant-at-Arms, was instructed to see that the order given was carried out - to see that, while there was any probability of a disturbance outside, all strangers should be excluded. It was hoped that possibly about 9 o’clock the people might disperse, when the friends of honorable members could be admitted ; but that did not prove to be the case. I take the responsibilityfor acting in the absence of Mr. Speaker, and it was painful for me to agree to the order given, but it was absolutely imperative.
– But why were not honorable members informed that it was intended to issue the order? All we knew of it we heard from people outside, and I spoke to the Serjeant-at-Arms regarding the matter after hearing a rumour from another honorable member. You, sir, must have known before 6.30 last night that such an order was to be issued.
– So far as I knew, honorable members would be so informed, because the usual practice is for them to apply to the Serjeant-at-Arms for tickets. . Just very recently I remind the honorable member, Mr. Speaker issued to every honorable member a circular dealing with this question, . and asking honorable members to be exceedingly careful in the future as to the persons they admit to the House. The only information that could be given last night in regard to the decision to exclude all visitors was made available through the ordinary channel; that is to say, when an application was made to the SerjeantatArms for tickets to admit visitors, the applicant was informed of what had been done. In some cases honorable members came to me-. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) asked me if the instruction issued was a general order. I informed him that it was. Even my own daughters were excluded. Some honorable memhers had arranged to bring a number of school children to the House. They also had to be excluded. Altogether it was a very painful piece of business, and I am sure honorable members, if they regard it in the right light, will see that what was done by me, acting in conjunction with Mr. President, had but one object, and that was to preserve that dignity and decorum of the Chamber to which we have been accustomed in the past, and which I hope will be continued in the future.
– Are we to understand that it lies within the discretion of Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy Speaker to enforce the Standing Orders as they see fit; or are they to be enforced impartially according to the manner in which the position is viewed by Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy Speaker?
– Apart from the right of any honorable member to call attention to the presence of strangers, it has been the practice in the past, and is so set forth in the Standing Orders, that Mr. Speaker himself, when he deems it necessary, may have strangers removed. On his own initiative he may order the removal of any number of persons or all of them. He is responsible for the conduct of the House. What was done last night was done in accordance with precedent, and with only one object in view. In the absence of Mr. Speaker, I ask every honorable member in his own interests, as well as in the interest of Parliament as a whole, to observe the new instructions recently issued by Mr. Speaker for the officers of the House to carry out.
– I understand that representations have been made by the South Australian Government in regard to the serious shortage of coal which threatens to affect the industrial welfare of the State very materially. Can the PrimeMinister say whether anything can be done to relieve the position?
– At the Premiers Conference the other day complaints were made by the Premiers of Victoria, South Australia, and other States, to the effect that there was a very great shortage of coal, which was attributed to three causes, the scarcity of shipping, the growth of the export trade, and the very frequent and serious stoppages of the men at different mines. I do not propose to apportion to each of these three causes its due and proper weight, but merely repeat what has been said. It is obvious that in discussing any shortage which may be due to industrial unrest, we are considering one particular phase of a general world-wide problem; and the shortage of shipping may also be said to be a phase of a problem similar in extent, but in reference to the export of coal overseas, we are dealing with a condition of affairs which has been created by the war, a most extraordinary position which has enabled Australia to sell coal to European countries at a lower rate than that charged for British coal. Coal goes where it can get the highest return. Obviously, that is the principle which guides men in all their actions, whether they be miners or mine-owners, and the only step the Commonwealth Government could take in this regard would be to prohibit the export of coal.
– The Government cannot do that.
– That is true. We cannot do it unless we pass legislation to that effect. The existing law does hot, I understand, empower the Minister for Trade and Customs to prohibit the export of coal, and if it be the desire of the House that the Government should be clothed with that power it must express an opinion to that effect, and legislation can be brought forward which honorable members may discuss and adopt or reject as they deem fit. This is a general question that does not affect any party. Coal consumers are not members of political parties. A man does not burn coal because he happens to be a farmer, or a member of the Opposition, or a member sitting on the Governmentside. He burns it because he wants to do so.
– The trouble is that one cannot get much coal to burn.
– Quite so. I accept that correction. But if honorable members express a general desire that the export of coal should be interfered with, the Government will consider whether it is desirable to bring in the necessary legislation, throwing upon the House the responsibility for it. If, on the other hand, we are not to interfere with the export trade - and I certainly do not think we should do so - then I tell honorable members candidly that we cannot expect the coal mine-owners notto sell their coal in the market which pays them best. I think, in the best interests of Australia, it would be a very bad step to kill the foreign trade.
– Hear, hear! If we did so it would kill the mining.
– It would be a case of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. We must have an expanding, and not a diminishing, coal trade. I have answered this question at some length, because it is a matter of importance. I think I have dealt with it fairly. I repeat that if there is a general desire to interfere with the export coal trade, the House must express that desire, and if it does so, the Government will consider the matter of bringing in the necessary legislation. Otherwise it does not propose to interfere with the trade.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that at the present time efforts are being made to overtake the demand for coal by the opening up of several collieries that were idle during the war, and that there is now about three quarters of a million tons of coal lying at grass at Newcastle, which can be shipped at any time?
– I was not aware that collieries are now opening up which were closed, but I am not surprised to hear it. It is a matter for congratulation that we are able, not only to hold our own in the matter of our pre-war coal trade, but also to look forward with some degree of hope to expanding it. I am aware that coal which is the property of this Government is lying at grass. If that is the coal to which the honorable member refers, all I have to say is that it is there for the purpose of enabling this Government to have, if occasion demands, sufficient coal for its ships of war, for its mercantile marine, and for the industries of this country. We must have some reserve to fall back on if the miners carry out their threat to cease producing coal altogether. It would be mere midsummer-night’s madness to allow that coal to go, in the face of existing circumstances. We are told in’ the press this morning that there is a serious probability of trouble. Honorable members know that lately I have been meeting the coal miners and owners very frequently in an endeavour to secure a settlement; but this morning’s papers state that there is a probability of the miners ceasing work. I do not propose to allow our reserve of coal to be exported or distributed. It is there as a reserve; and if the miners, throwing aside all counsels of prudence and common sense, elect to resort to the. arbitrament of force, we shall have to use that coal.
– Is it not true that the Commonwealth Government have power to prevent the export of wheat on account of the contemplated shortage of that article in Australia? If so, cannot the same rule be applied to the export of coal until Australian requirements are met?
– I - can only answer the honorable member to the best of my knowledge and belief. The Customs Act does not enable the Government to place such an embargo, upon the export of coal as would amount to a prohibition.
Salaries, Bonuses, and Promotions
– Will the Prime Minister supply the following information to the House?
– This matter arose in a previous question put. to me by an honorable member. I, myself, asked a question of Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as a private member, in regard to the same subject. I am not at all sure as to my authority here. These officers are officers of the Parliament, and it is for Mr. Speaker and the President to supply this information. But, as I said before, when referring to this matter. I think that this House, when it comes to discuss the Estimates, should have all the facts called for by the honorable member before it. I asked for that information. I shall support the honorable member’s request for the furnishing of these particulars. Perhaps, Mr. Deputy Speaker will take official notice of the fact that I do support the request, and that I ask for the information to be supplied.
– I may say that the information is available, and can be supplied at once.
Country Mail Contractors
– Has the PostmasterGeneral completed his investigations into the position of country mail contractors, and into the matter of increasing their present contract rates, in view of drought and other unforeseen circumstances? If so, will he make an early announcement to the House upon the subject ?
– I will do so - probably next week.
United States and Australia
– Has the attention of the Government’ been called to a published statement to the effect that a charge of about £3 6s. 8d. has been made by the United States authorities to vise the passports of Australian visitors to Honolulu? If that information is correct, will the Government take steps to make a reciprocal charge against Americans visiting Australia ?
– This matter has been brought under my notice. I have had an appeal despatched to the Government of the United States of America in order to see whether something more reasonable cannot be done. The Government is still in communication with the United States authorities. In regard to the latter portion of the honorable member’s ques-tion, I do not know that two wrongs make a right.
– In reference to the question which I asked on the 8th July, regarding the position of Russians now resident ih the Commonwealth who wish to return to their own country, the Prime Minister informed me that he was in communication with the British Government. Has he received any information which he is prepared to furnish to the House?
– I have not received information from the British Government, but I have noticed in the press the report of a statement made, I understand, by the British Prime Minister. So far as I apprehend the facts, Russians in Great Britain are quite free to return to their own country. Speaking offhand, and subject, of course, to correction, I know of no reason whatever why Russians who are free in this country should not be allowed to return to Russia.
– In the agreement the British Government undertook to provide transport.
– The British Government has nothing whatever to do with the position in Australia. Of course, this Government, whenever possible, acts in conformity with the policy of the Imperial Government in regard to such matters. It is most undesirable to have a policy in one portion of the Empire differing from that of other portions of the Empire. Apart from that, we have power to make what laws we please in the matter of permitting the entrance of persons to this country, or of providing for their exclusion, or of allowing them to depart. We can bring in, keen out, bind or let loose whom we will. However, I will look into the law upon this subject and give the honorable member a considered answer by Wednesday next. To repeat my own personal opinion, I know of no reason why Russians resident in Australia should be prevented from departing to their native land.
– I have in my hand a copy of the agreement entered into between the British Government and the Russian Soviet Government, which states that the British Government will repatriate all Russian civilians in the British Empire, or in any territory where the British Government exercises direct authority. .There is a further clause to the effect that the British Government will also arrange for transport for those who desire to return home.
– The agreement referred to by the honorable member was one it was proposed to ratify between the Russian Soviet Government and the British Government. It was not consummated. On the eve of its consummation, there was a disagreement between the parties. The point referred to there differs altogether from that with which I was dealing. The British Government proposed, not that Russians might return to Russia, but that the Imperial authorities would assist them to do so. That is the point; I had not raised it. I was directing my remarks to the matter of their freedom to go to their own country when and in what manner they pleased. But if the British Government have any agreement with the Soviet Government to repatriate Russians from any part of the British Empire, provided the Soviet Government act reciprocally, the Commonwealth Government, when officially notified to that effect, will do everything that it is called upon to do to assist the British Government in carrying out their policy.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral issue instructions that uptodate directories shall be supplied to suburban post-offices that are at present using out-of-date ones ? Will he also consider the advisability of bringing before Cabinet the necessity for issuing a Commonwealth directory based upon the splendid information contained in the Commonwealth electoral rolls ?
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s quesT tions are as follow: - 1 and 2. Reports have been furnished by District Commandants for the information of the Minister, but it is not considered advisable to make such reports ‘ public. The honorable member- can be assured that all reports and recommendations have .been given full consideration in connexion with the preparation of the Estimates. .
Admission of Rejected Volunteers
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - ,
Having regard to the fact that returned soldiers are allowed to sit for examinations for positions iri the Clerical Division of thePublic Service, will persons who, in good faith, have presented themselves for military service and have been rejected, and who have been employed temporarily in the Service during war time, be allowed the same privilege?
– Persons rejected for service with the Australian Imperial Forces have not the same claim for appointment to the Public Service as have those who have served with the Forces, and for whom special provision is made in the Public Service Act in the matter of examinations.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With reference to the advertised sale of khaki cloth by the Department of Defence, will the Minister inform the House -
What did the cloth cost the Department per yard?
What do, or did, the officers and permanent staff pay for this or similar cloth per yard?
If any offer has been made .by Flinders-lane houses or woollen merchants, what was the price per yard offered?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for the Navy,’ upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– It is considered that no good purpose would be served by mating comparisons in the direction indicated by the honorable member.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Assault at Broken Hill.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– No. Inquiries will, however, be made, and whatever action is considered necessary will be taken.
asked the Minister controlling shipping, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the announcement that the Imperial Government finds it necessary to retain the requisition of the insulated space on all steamers trading with Australia till April, 1921, he will endeavour to obtain control of the said space, in order to secure a fair distribution of shipping to producers of Australia ?
– The allocation of space on vessels for overseas is carried out by the Overseas Central Committee, but inquiry will be made in regard to the question raised by the honorable member.
General Exemption - Taxation Commission - St arr -Bowkett S ocieties .
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government, in view of the high cost of living, to amend the Income Tax Act, with a view to increasing the present exemptions to an amount of not less than £2,50?
– This question willbe inquired into by the Royal Commission on Taxation.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– It is the intention of the Government that all matters affecting the incidence of taxation shall be inquired into by the Royal Commission on Taxation.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will exempt Starr-Bowkett societies from Federal taxation, as is done in the State of New South’ Wales, for the following reasons: - (a) That Starr-Bowkett societies are maintained by persons whose salary is below £200 per annum; (b) that each member has to pay an individual tax; (c) that the taxation of Starr-Bowkett societies imposes additional financial burdens upon those who have already paid their share of taxation?
– I can only repeat that the Royal Commission on Taxation will inquire into all questions covered by the incidence of Common- wealth taxation.
asked the Prime. Minister, upon notice -
– An announcement regarding this matter will be made at an early date.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Consideration has already been given to the matter, but it is regretted that the financial position of the Commonwealth will not permit of a further increase at this juncture. The question of increasing the amount permitted to be earned by pensioners is receiving consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Electors in Country Districts.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Commonwealth Constitution should be amended, to meet the convenience and necessities of electors in the country districts, by insuring that no Commonwealth general election nor any Commonwealth referendum shall take place between the middle of any November and the middle of the following March.
The intention of the motion! is to insure that the people of Australia living outside the. great cities shall not in future be put j to inconvenience by having general elections and referendums to attend’ to during those months which cover the harvesting period. The last Commonwealth general election was held on 13th December, and country electors were in consequence Put to enormous inconvenience, not only on that day, but on many preceding days and nights. To those who live in the cities and towns, and visit the country only for holidays or pleasure, it is immaterial when elections are held. They have good road’s, with asphalt footpaths, trams, and other means of conveyance, and polling booths almost at their doors. But nearly half of the population still lives in the country, although the position is becoming worse daily through the continual growth of the great cities.
– Has the honorable member compared the percentage of votes cast last December with the voting at earlier elections held in other parts of the year ?
– No, but I shall ‘ be glad if the honorable member - will give us the benefit of what he knows on that subject, though, of course, it has nothing to do with the motion before the House. Let me mention one or two instances of extreme inconvenience to country people during the last electoral campaign which came under my notice. In one district I had arranged : to speak at a hall, an(d in my innocence thought that I would’ be expected to commence the meeting at 8 o’clock; but I found from my farming friends with whom I was supping that they could not leave the fields until after 7 p.m., and could not take their evening meal until about 8 o’clock. After that we had to travel to get to the hall. Anyhow, it was 10 o’clock before the meeting commenced.
– Had it been advertised to commence at 8 o’clock?
– The fact that I was going to speak had been ad’vertised7 though the lack of adequate postal facilities is such that I do not know whether every elector was able to read the advertisement in time.
– But still they were quite satisfied with you.
– Yes, and in the district of which I am now speaking gave me a majority of about five to one. In another farming district, either because they were certain that I would be elected in any event, or because it was too inconvenient to go to the poll, I was told that only 52 per cent, of those on the roll voted. Of course,- harvesting operations do not in any one part of the Commonwealth extend over a period’ of four months, hut in Queensland and in parts of Western Australia it is extremely inconvenient to travel during what is known as the wet season, which, in the northern Dart of Australia, is usually in December and in the early months of the year. There is no reason why elections andi referendums should take place between the middle of November and’ the middle of March.
– Would the honorable member make an exception of elections following a double dissolution?
– I do not propose to make any exception. Those responsible for the government of the Commonwealth know a ‘ long time beforehand when elections and referendums are likely to take place, and it would be easy for them to arrange to hold them on dates between the middle of March and the middle of November.
– The date of’ holding a general election is determined largely by the date of the termination of the office of honorable senators.
– Surely we could provide for an amendment of the Constitution which would get over that difficulty.
– Does the honorable member propose to lengthen the life of this Parliament by six months?
– No doubt many honorable members would be glad to have the life of this Parliament lengthened.
– I am for annual Parliaments.
– Well, all I am concerned with now is the prevention of inconvenience to country electors by the holding of elections and referendums in midsummer, when in many parts of Australia harvesting operations are taking place, and in Queensland and Western Australia it is the wet season. An amendment of the Constitution is needed to do what I suggest, because otherwise a Government that thought that it would improve its position by fixing an election for the summer season would do so, and I wish to make that impossible. I shall not labour the question,’ because the motion is one which I think the House will support, and, after full discussion, carry without a dissentient.
.- The question involved in this motion is a very serious one to farmers. The holding of the last general election in the middle of the harvest was a great inconvenience; and there was a deep-rooted feeling that the Government had fixed the time to suit themselves, and were not very particular whether it suited the farmers. Any Government claiming to be democratic should do all in its power to hold elections at a time most suitable to the general community, and the farmers are surely entitled to a little consideration. For these and other quite obvious reasons I second the motion.
.- I had some experience of election campaigning in the country during the month of December last including the Grampians and a considerable portion of the Mallee; and I am quite in sympathy with the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) when he speaks of being quite unable to get his meetings together before 10 o’clock at night. Harvesting operations are in full swing in the month of December, and I know that most of the meetings I had the pleasure of addressing did not, as a rule, commence until between 9 and 10 o’clock.
However punctual one might be in arriving at the meeting place at 8 o’clock, with a view to leaving plenty of time for questions and so forth, I found that owing to the conditions it was very often after midnight before I could get to bed. In the city electorates, on the other hand, the months of November, December, and January are very much appreciated as a time for elections, for the simple reason that most of the speaking has to be done in the open air in the evenings, and for this purpose the summer is much pleasanter than the winter. The Queensland electors have often very strongly pleaded that elections should not be held in that State when it is subject to the monsoonal rains.
– We have heavy rains in February and March, and sometimes in April.
– I know that a very strong point has been made of this fact in Queensland. However, I do not see that we should take such a drastic step as to bring about an amendment in the Constitution; in my opinion, an amendment of the Electoral Act would prove sufficiently binding on any Ministry of the day. We might amend that Act so as to provide that as far as practicable elections should be held at a time of year most suitable to the great bulk of the electors. It would be impossible to have a castiron rule as to the time of year. Sometimes the temper of Parliament is such that a crisis occurs, as has happened in the past, particularly on that occasion when the Prime Minister of the day announced to a startled House that he had recommended, and had been granted, a double dissolution. “Under such circumstances as that it would not do to have a section of the Constitution that would prevent the people giving an early expression to their opinions.
– You do not anticipate anything of the kind now ?
– We live in times when we may anticipate anything, whether in the electoral, the parliamentary, the social, the industrial, or the financial sphere. I do not feel inclined to vote for the motion in its present form, because I do not think it is fair to the Parliament to go so far.
– What would be the value of the motion if carried ?
– Of course, the Government could ignore it; and I think that our Constitution and the Electoral Act should be equal to all occasions. What could be done to carry out a proposal of this kind if a political crisis occurred between the middle of November and the middle of March 1
– What do we do now? We cannot have an election under a month, and at the worst the period in the motion is only four months.
– The electors could not wait that long; and this presents one of. the difficulties of the motion. We could amend the Electoral Act now, but to amend the Constitution we must wait until there is another general election. I recommend the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) to consult with his friends with a view to drafting a motion that will meet with the unanimous approval of the House. This is a motion I should vote against with reluctance, because I desire the electors to have every opportunity to express their opinion; but in its present form I cannot support it.
– I support the motion for the reasons that the mover has advanced. It certainly is difficult for farming people to find time for political affairs in their busiest time of the year. To do this they must cease work; and in a producing community like that of Australia, that is a very serious consideration, not only for the farmer, but for all. If no general election were held between the two dates suggested, much of the present difficulty would be got over. At other times of the year the farming community are not at their busiest, nor is the work so important as it was, for instance, when the general elections were held last year. December proved a most inopportune time, and, therefore, I hope the House will support the motion with a view to the Government finding some means to give it legislative sanction.
.- I am sure the motion is submitted with the best intentions, and I have every sympathy with its object; but it must be remembered that there are parts of the Commonwealth in which other periods of the year would prove most unsuitable for elections.
– Name them.
– There is my own electorate. I am afraid the proposed close season for elections is a little too long. If the period proposed had been from the 1st December to the end of February I might have been able to accord it my support; but, in my electorate, which it must be admitted is a country one, we have a long and heavy wet season. Some of the electors there have to travel fully twenty miles to record their votes, and I do not desire any proposal that would result in further restricting their opportunities of getting to the poll. As a matter of fact, in the winter season in Tasmania it is almost impossible to travel for voting purposes. It would certainly be unreasonable to ask the women electors to travel at such a time, and we wish to see the women at the poll, because their votes are usually on the right side. It must be admitted that the climatic conditions vary very greatly from north to south in Australia. In my own electorate March is about the best possible month for an election, and 1 should not like any part of that month excluded.
– Is the honorable member aware that a large number of people on the mainland take a delight in visiting Tasmania during the months mentioned in the motion ?
– I am not saying that the months mentioned in the motion are not suitable, but if the House decides that they are unsuitable the tendency will be in fixing polling day to get as far away from those months as passible. The months of May, June, July, August, and September may cover the period when the people in some parts are the least busy, and when the climatic conditions are the best, but they would be the worst possible months for the holding of an election in Tasmania. The honorable’ member proposes to amend the Constitution, but I do not think it is necessary to go to that extent. His purpose could well be served by a simple amendment to the Electoral Act. I do not think the honorable member need fear that any Government would choose a month for an election when people are not likely to go to the polling booths. He may be quite right in claiming that the months of December, January, and February are unsuitable for the holding of an election in many parts of Australia, because the harvest operations are in full swing; but I represent the interests of people who live in a very wet climate and who could not get to the poll if the close season which the honorable member seeks to fix were extended to the month of March.
.- I shall vote against the motion, because it is quite futile even if carried. If the House agrees to it no attention will be paid to it by the present Government. They will simply regard it as a pious expression of opinion. According to the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) a simple alteration of the Electoral Act would meet the position far better than would the more difficult process of amending the Constitution, but the fact remains that those who support a certain Government can amend the Electoral law as it suits them, just as was done with a view to influencing a by-election in the Corangamite division; a matter which wa.s brought under our notice very forcibly during the last Parliament. It is all very well to talk about consulting the wishes of the public.
– I suppose they are the last that should be considered.
– They are the last that are considered by the various political parties who occupy the Treasury bench. No honorable member is so unsophisticated as not to know that the majority in possession of the Treasury bench will fix the election time to suit their own political purposes. They will choose the time which they deem .to be most favorable for securing their return with a majority.
– The honorable member does not suggest that his party would do such- a thing ?
– In this regard I do not discriminate between political parties who may happen to occupy the Treasury bench. Possibly the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), as an old hand at the political game, may believe that every honorable member who rises to speak says only what he deems to be in the interests of his political party, but I am dealing with this motion on its merits, and I say that it will have no effect on the present Administration, or on any Administration. The majority will naturally choose the most opportune time for consulting the electors.
– That is what I wish to prevent.
– Then -the honorable member might as well get out with a broom and attempt to sweep back the sea.
– Are not Governments apt to make blunders occasionally?
– Certainly ; and I hope that when they meet the electors on the next occasion the present Government will make the biggest blunder of their lives. But the fact that Administrations make blunders does not do away with the futility of the motion which the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has already admitted is of no practical use. As it would involve an amendment of the Constitution, it will be necessary to submit it to a referendum, and secure a majority of the voters of the Commonwealth, and a majority of the various States. Here again the opportune time for submitting the question to the people will be decided by the Administration, who, if they are opposed to it, will choose the most inopportune time for securing a vote on the question.
– It is my desire to take the responsibility out of the hands of any unscrupulous Government.
– The honorable member cannot achieve that object unless he puts out the present Government and takes their place, which he has not the slightest intention of doing. The motion is simply a piece of window dressing.. The mover, knowing that nothing can be done, and that the carrying of the motion will lead us nowhere, is simply helping the Government to monopolize the time of the House. He brings forward a complaint about the fanners - a very necessary portion of the community, but, nevertheless, not the only portion. The shearers, and others who follow a migratory calling, are also a very necessary portion of the community.
– Would they be placed at any disadvantage by the adoption of the motion ?
– The men who leave the cities to go shearing in the country areas would be enrolled in city electorates, and they would certainly be inconvenienced by having to work in the shearing sheds during the period in which the honorable member wishes elections to be held.
– They could vote by post or as absentees.
– The postal vote does not appeal to me. It is capable of manipulation by the party which happens to be in control of the election.
– Then let the honorable member bring forward a motion to abolish it.
– The honorable member knows very well that when it had the opportunity to do so, the Labour party voted solidly against the inclusion of the postal vote provisions in the Electoral Bill. I do not think that the honorable member, by comparing the votes polled in May, 1917, with those polled in December, 1920, can show that any great inconvenience was occasioned to the particular section of the community whose opinions he claims to be voicing by the holding of the election in December. I do not think that statistics of the voting would prove the honorable member’s case. There is a considerable apathy among the electors of Australia, but that is not due to the fact that people are engaged in farming or other occupations at election time.
– Does the honorable member deny that there is any Inconvenience to the farmers by having to vote in the middle of a harvest?
– There would be no more inconvenience to a particular section of the community, such as the farmers, by holding an election in December, than there would be to other sections if the date of the election was at any fixed period of the year. With a fixeddate, there would always be inconvenience to one section or another, but my opinion is that the people who want to vote will go to the polls at whatever inconvenience to themselves. The fixing of the date would not make the citizens of Australia vote who have not hitherto voted.
– It would help them to do so.
– I do not think we have ever had. a 70 per cent, vote of the people of Australia.
– In Queensland, at the 1910 election, there was a poll of over 80 per cent.
– 1 am speaking from memory, and I do not think we have ever had such a poll for the whole of Australia. We certainly have not had it at recent elections.
– The main contention of the honorable member for Grampians is not’ that farmers do not record their votes, but that great inconvenience is caused to them through having to do so when they have ripe crops to be harvested.
– There is a considerable number of farmers in the Riverina portion of the Barrier electorate, and I have not heard any complaints from them about the inconvenience of polling day.
– Perhaps they do not give their votes to the honorable member.
– I think I can say that the farmers in the Riverina district have supplied me with my majority .
– Then the honorable member should be careful how he votes on this motion.
– I am not susceptible to intimidation. During the period in which I have represented the Barrier I have not received any complaints either from my working farmer constituents or from any other section in the matter of the dates on which elections have been held. Honorable members will note that I refer to working farmers.
– Are you speaking as a practical farmer ?
– The honorable member had too much sense to remain on the land.
– The possession of a certain area of land is no proof that the honorable member possesses common sense. I have never held land to work it’ myself. I have worked it for the other fellow as a farm labourer. I have no quarrel with the man who takes up land and works it. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) when he remarked recently that the interests of the men who work in the workshop and the factory are identical with those of the men who work on the land. I look forward to the day when the working farmer and the man in the workshop, in the mine, and in the factory will join hands and rule this country as it should be ruled. But motions such as that at present under discussion will neither facilitate that end nor achieve any useful result. Therefore, I regard this as a pure waste of time.
.- If this motion were agreed to, and its terms were’ eventually -embraced in the Constitution, ‘ it would prove altogether too -binding. In the future there may arise such a set of circumstances as would enforce an election, quite irrespective of the desire of the Government of the day, or of the Opposition, or of any other party in this Chamber. If the Constitution. -were to be amended to provide for the holding of elections between the middle of November and the middle of the following March, it would prove too cramping upon the community and this Parliament. I draw the attention of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) to the existing situation. Some years ago the Constitution was amended, following upon a referendum, with respect to the election of senators. The alteration was made specifically to meet the convenience of country electors.
– And the then sitting senators were deliberately given six months’ additional tenure in order to achieve that, object.
– That is so. The Constitution was altered, following upon a referendum in which the people approved of the question as placed before them. This House is practically controlled, in the matter of the periods of its election, by the life of the Senate. Within the past few months we have witnessed the election of a number of senators, who, however, were npt able to occupy their seats in the Senate for quite a long period after the day of their election. I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), who expressed the view that an amendment of the Electoral Act governing this matter should be sufficient. I do not oppose the desire that this House shall keep in step, generally, with the Senate- in the matter of election “dates. ‘In fact, that would !be the proper course to follow.
– It was necessary to alter the Constitution to meet the convenience of the public in relation to Senate elections. Why can not a similar procedure be followed in. respect to the election of members of this House?
– To make the matter effective it would be necessary to seek, to amend the Constitution between the present moment and the next ordinary general election; and that would involve the taking of a special referendum, which costs between £80,000 and £100,000.
– That would not be necessary. This Parliament can continue until February, 1923, and, thus, there would be no necessity, for the next general election to be held before March in that year.
– The three-year period for which honorable members are elected operates from the day on which Parliament is first called together. This Parliament was called together on 26th February last, and, in the course of ordinary events, it will not expire until the end of February, 1923. The next ordinary general election cannot possibly be held before the middle of April, 1923 ; so the honorable member’s objective will have been obtained
– But I desire this reform to be permanent, and not to fit in merely with the next general election.
– I call the attention of the honorable member to section 13 of the Constitution Act -
As soon as may be after the Senate first meets, and after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each State into two classes, as nearly equal in number as practicable; and the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of three years, and the places of those of the second class at the expiration of six years, from the beginning of their term of service; and afterwards the places of senators shall become vacant at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service.
The election to fill vacant places shall be made within one year before the places are to become vacant.
For the purposes of this section, the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first day of July following the day o’f his election.
The Constitution originally read that the term should begin on the 1st day of January following the date of a senator’s election. Naturally, it is desirable that the elections for the House of Representatives should coincide with those in connexion with the Senate. I invite honorable members to assume that, from 1923 onwards, each ordinary general election for both Houses of the Federal Legislature will be conducted on the same day. The Constitution now provides for that, so that there is no need to further amend it.
– There was an election in the middle of last harvest. I want to make that impossible for the future.
– It is a laudable desire, but there may be dissolutions at any time.
Mr.Fenton. - Does the honorable member for Grampians wish to spend £100,000 in forcing this question?
– No; but to have it put before the people at the next ordinary election.
– I have pointed out that the expenditure involved in a referendum amounts to between £80,000 and £100,000.
– I do not suggest the taking of a special referendum, but that it should coincide with the next general election.
– Honorable members who have studied the Constitution, particularly in its references to the elec-‘ tion of members of this Parliament, must be satisfied that the Constitution, as it stands, is sufficiently clear and broad. Political exigencies should be taken into account. An extraordinary difficulty might arise if the Constitution were amended as the honorable member desires. It is quite conceivable that a crisis might arise at the end of November; but, if this proposal were agreed to, it would not be lawful to appeal to the people until the middle of the following March. In those circumstances it would be most unwise for the House to agree to the motion. Although I am in sympathy with the desire of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) that election days shall be outside the period mentioned in his motion, I think it would be futile to specify election dates in such a cast-iron document as the Constitution.
– I regret to feel compelled to oppose the motion.While the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is quite within his rights in conserving the interests of the particular section of the community he represents, we on this side of the House must safeguard the interests of the workers, who are the largest section of the community.
– Are not the farmers workers?
– Indirectly, the honorable member for Grampians inferred that they are not, but other sections of the community are entitled to as much consideration as are the people upon the land.’ The honorable member proposes that elections shall take place between the months of November and March. He stated that during that ‘ period the farmers worked strenuously, and the inference is that for the other seven months they do no work at all
– That is a scandalous imputation; they are always working.
– The honorable member has proposed that elections shall not be held during four months of spring and summer. That means that they must be held at the most inopportune time of the year for such a purpose. In winter, people cannot get about the country conveniently on account of the wet and cold weather.We must have regard to the interests of the’ majority of the people, and there are poor labourers who, if this proposal were agreed to, would be compelled to walk, perhaps, 5 miles to the poll in midwinter, or drive 15 or 20 miles in wet and cold. They are not in the same fortunate position as are the electors whom the honorable member for Grampians represents. Consequently, this proposal would act to the detriment of the labouring classes. In any case, this motion, if adopted, could have no effect, because unforeseen circumstances might arise at any time which would compel the Governmen’t to go to the country at once. For instance, there is no guarantee that the present Government will be able to continue in office for another three months, and a cast-iron rule as to when the Government should appeal to the country would not be in the best interests of the people. This scheme wouid place an obstacle in the way of any immediate and urgent referendum or election. I represent a farming constituency just as important and rich as is the Grampians electorate, and I have heard no complaints from my electors in regard to the dates on which elections are held. The farmers in my electorate are very busy and energetic, but they can always find sufficient time to go to the poll and record their votes in the right direction. I can see no need for haste in making the alteration that is suggested.
.- I have taken the trouble to look up the statistics for the last general election in order to ascertain if the holding of an election in December was an actual hardship to country electors. I find that, in Corangamite, 80.27 per cent. of the electors on the roll recorded their votes.’
– That is no proof that the farmers voted.
– Farmers are more numerous in the electorate of Corangamite than in any other constituency with which I am familiar.
– A few weeks ago all the farmers in my electorate voted.
– Yes; and the Country party candidate lost his deposit, and polled worst in the farming districts. The election for the second Federal Parliament was held in the month of December, and so was the 1906 election. Parliament then saw the necessity for altering the Constitution, and the Constitution was amended deliberately to provide that half the Senate should retire at the end of June. The result I have quoted in the Corangamite electorate was repeated in other country constituencies. In the Grampians electorate, 78.20 per cent., and in Indi, 78 per cent. of the electors on the roll recorded their votes. Compare those figures with the percentages in metropolitan electorates. In Henty the percentage was 74, and in Melbourne, 71. I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
. (By leave). - A difficulty has arisen in the House in consequence of the much-to-be-regretted absence of Mr. Speaker. Usually in the temporary absence of Mr. Speaker the Chairman of Committees takes the chair; but no provision is made for any relief to Mr. Deputy Speaker when he is required to occupy the chair for a long period, as at present. I therefore ask the House to agree to this motion, which I hope will be accepted as formal -
That during the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker, Mr. Deputy Speaker be authorized to call upon any of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees to temporarily relieve him in the chair.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from8th July (vide page 2621), 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 of 15s. per week, and for each child 7s. 6d. per week, until relieved.
That the passing of the foregoing resolution be an instruction to the Government of the Commonwealth to bring in the necessary amending Act.
.- I have little to addto my previous remarks on this subject. When speaking on the8th July I was referring to the fact that although the cost of living had increased to an extent that was very hard to estimate, the increase in the old-age pensions had been very small, whilst the invalid pensions had not been advanced at all. I argued that the old-age pension, to comply with what was in the mind of the Parliament which passed the original scheme, should be increased to-day to almost 30s. The Invalid Pensions Act provides that before a member of a family can claim benefits under the Act, he must have a weekly income of less than £1 for each adult, and 10s. for each child. I advocated that those amounts should be increased by at least 50 per cent. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), in the course of his argument, referred to a drunkard whom he had warned that he would be left without any provision for his old age. To that the man had replied, “ There is the old-age pension.” The impression that was left by the honorable member’s remarks was that, in his opinion, most of the indigent poor were brought to straitened circumstances by drink.
– Not at all.
– The impression conveyed to my mind, at all events, was that the honorable member thinks that all those who receive old-age pensions have been drunkards, or at least, improvident, in their earlier life.
– That impression is quite wrong.
– The honorable member’s words convey, at least, the suggestion that the old-age pension system prompts persons to live in a haphazard fashion, secure in the knowledge that towards the end of their days they will be able to obtain pensions.
– The proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) would allow able-bodied men of twenty to thirty years of age to sponge on the public.
– As I understand it, it would not do so. I do not wish to repeat argumentsthat have been used in the debate, but it surprises me that any one should hold the view that it is drunkenness and improvidence that compel people to accept old-age pensions. It is the social system under which we live that forces old people to take pensions to keep body and soul together. Those who are giving their best in the various industries and employments of the country are not receiving sufficient remuneration to enable them to lay by for their old age, and the Legislature, realizing this, provided old-age pensions. We should now go further, and see that the pensions are at least made adequate. I would supplement the old-age and invalid pensions system with the pensions system proposed by this motion. I should be sorry if it were thought that I like to see those who are earning money careless in the spending of it, and living in such a way tha* they are bound to require support in their old age. It is, however, an undoubted fact that persons who squander their money contribute more to the revenue than those who save it, because of the heavy duties on the commodities which they consume so largely; and thus the old-age pension gives back to them only some part of what they have contributed to the revenue in Customs taxation. The Treasurer has told us that the applications for pensions increase whenever the rates of pensions increase. But it should be patent to a schoolboy that it is the everincreasing cost of living that makes it more and more difficult for sons and daughters to maintain their parents, and thus causes an increasing number of old persons to apply for pensions. Many people do’ not like their parents to accept the old-age pension, regarding this as pauperization. That is not my view of it. Nowadays, however, the cost of living is so high, and is mounting so much higher almost every week, that they find it impossible to rear their families, and also to maintain their parents, and consequently the latter are compelled to apply for old-age pensions.
– The cost of living is constantly increasing, but there is not a similar constant increase in the number of old-age pensioners; it is only when the rates of pensions are increased that there is a jump in the applications for pensions.
– I contend that it is economic pressure that is increasing the pension applications. How does the Treasurer knowthat the applications for pensions are not increasing in a manner corresponding with the increase in the cost of living? He has no statistics showing the weekly applications for pensions. The miserable rate of the allowance that was originally provided for possibly deterred many persons from applying for pensions, because they looked on these as hardly worth applying for. But as the rate has increased, the applications have increased. I do not think that any member of the House would declare himself opposed to the old-age pension system, and, that being so, we should see that the rate of pensions is sufficient for the keeping together of body and soul.
– But what the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) proposes is the setting up of a huge benefit society under the aegis of the Federal Government.
– My view isthat, while the old-age and invalid pensions remain so small and so inadequate, some such system as this proposed is needed to supplement them. Therefore, I support the motion, and trust that it may be carried.
.- I owe it to my constituents to voice my opinions concerning this motion, so that they may know that their representative is alive to their interests, and that in the hearts and minds of members of the National Parliament there is compassion for those who suffer the misfortunes of life, and the desire to help them in difficult times. I certainly hold no brief for those who by misconductput themselves in unhappy circumstances.
– How would the honorable member discriminate between a deserving and an undeserving applicant for this pension ?
– How is discrimination exercised in the granting of old-age and invalid pensions?
– By the verification of the facts alleged by the applicants.
– There would be similar verification in this case.
– No; the certificate of a union secretary is to be sufficient.
– I have as much confidence in union secretaries as in any other men. The positions they hold show them to be men of character and trust.
– Not only is the certificate of a union secretary to be sufficient, but such a certificate from a postmaster, schoolmaster, a Customs officer, and the like is to be accepted.
– Matters of detail can be dealt with when a measure to give effect to the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is under consideration. We can then fully safeguard the interests of the people, and protect the public funds. My concern now is to support the claims of those who deserve consideration. Let us give just consideration to the wants of those in the community who are in unfortunate circumstances. Within recent months I have come into contact, in my own district, with a very sad case indeed. The misfortune of sickness and other ills had fallen on the home to such a degree that the family were left penniless through no fault of their own. The father had been in the hospital, and while there three little mites had been born into the home, although the word “home” is scarcely a proper description, for it was merely a kind of shelter, and very inadequate at that. There was a family besides the three new arrivals, and all were absolutely without food and clothing beyond that which resulted from the benevolence of their fellow citizens. There ought to be some provision to meet such cases as that.
– Certainly, but why introduce a measure of the kind proposed?
– I am asking the honorable member to give his support to the principle, leaving it to the Government to frame legislation providing the necessary safeguards against the possible imposition that has been suggested. Candidly, I would prefer a general scheme of national insurance in the case of life, sickness, or unemployment, which would, I think, carry out the wishes of the honorable member fox Melbourne (Dr. Maloney).
– The honorable member is a young man, and I warn him to be careful in discussing national insurance. When we suggested such a thing we were denounced all over the country as being against old-age pensions.
– I can allow the honorable member for Melbourne in his reply to refresh the memory of the Treasurer on that point. In every community there are people placed in unfortunate circumstances, because of sickness and unemployment; and I do not think that any man worthy of the name would desire to accept charity unless it was absolutely necessary for the support of his wife and dependants. My fellow citizens have, 1 think, a keen desire to give a quid pro qua for any assistance rendered to them : and, in my opinion, only a very small percentage of them would seek to impose on the public funds. However, the fact that there might be imposition does not justify opposition to a measure of the kind suggested; at any rate, we should not neglect those who are deserving of consideration on any such ground. I have a knowledge of the poorer classes of the community in my own district and elsewhere, and I wish to do something to help those who cannot help themselves.
– Have you ever considered ways and means ? We are spending £5,300,000 on old-age and invalid pensions, and the present proposal, if carried out, would more than double that.
– I suppose that arguments in regard to inadequacy of financial resource were used against the proposal to institute old-age and invalid pensions, and also the maternity grant. In Australia, with our vast resources, we need have no very great fear about financial difficulties such as a number of honorable members have suggested. If we had sufficient acumen to manage the affairs of the country in the way they should be managed, controlling more efficiently the wealth produced in Australia and providing employment for all who desired it, there would be returned to the Treasury more than sufficient to meet our obligations as a nation and the wants of our less fortunate citizens. It isnot only the men who have to contend with, difficulties of the kind, but the wives and children, perhaps, suffer even more acutely. The wives have to make the greater sacrifices, and it is with the idea of succouring them in times of- adversity that I support the motion.
.- If, as the honorable, member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) says, this is a young country with vast resources, there ought to be no such thing here as unemployment.
– We cannot help unemployment in cases of sickness.
– As to sickness, hundreds of thousands of people in Australia, by means of friendly societies, provide insurance for themselves, though, of course, destitution is a different matter, and is very often, caused by sickness. The danger I see in the motion is that it would bring about a sort of “ won’twork “ section in Australia. If ever there was a time in. our history when every man should take off his coat and produce something, it is to-day. I refer honorable members to a statement which appeared in the Australian Mining Standard, of 17th July, made by Samuel Gompers, the Labour leader in America, who says that the cost of living is not going to come down until everybody puts his shoulder to the wheel to produce more. That gentleman does not wish people to become wage.slave, but points out that it is the application of science to industry that will bring about the cheapening of production and a reduction in the cost of living.
– Does he mention what is the cause of the high cost of living?
– Yes, he says it is lack of production, and I commend Mr. Gompers’ statement to the honorable member.
– That hardly applies to the question before us.
– It applies to my argument that we should produce more, and that there ought to be no necessity for unemployment. I can point to scores of factories, within a very short distance of this House, which are crying out for labour and cannot get it; and yet we are asked to adopt a proposal that would make unemployment more general than before.
– You utter a libel on the working community when y.ou say that.
– I do not. Australia is no different from any other country, and we have people here who will not work if they can help it; and, further, I say this proposal is of a kind to increase that tendency. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr.. Maloney) did not give the House any idea how his proposal was to be financed, or how much he anticipated it would cost. Before he went so deeply into the question from the destitution point of view, he should, I think, have been able to give us some idea of the* financial aspect.
– Especially as honorable members opposite, in nearly every speech, howl for rigid economy.
– Yes, and at the same time propose the expenditure of millions on a scheme like that before us. The Australian people at the -present time are better off than the people of any nation in the world. Living is cheaper here than elsewhere, and during the years of the war we suffered no hardship whatever in the matter of food, though every other country did. Until the honorable member, for Melbourne informs us how he proposes his scheme can be financed, I cannot alter my opinion that, if carried into effect, it would prove a bad one for Australia.
.- I support the motion. I cannot understand the contention of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) that the granting of a destitute allowance would bring about more unemployment. We cannot imagine any healthy man choosing to remain unemployed with a view to securing a destitute allowance of 15s. per week.
– And committing perjury to do so.
– I have met numerous cases of men too old to be employed, and not old enough to receive the old-age pension, who are in need of relief.
– Honorable members opposite are inconsistent. All the while they are contending that 15s. per week is a starvation wage for the old-age pensioner, and yet they come forward with another proposition to ration a man at 15s. per week.
– There is no inconsistency in our attitude. We claim that the oldage pensioner is not receiving enough. Owing to the increase in the cost of living the pension of 12s. 6d., which was a fair payment some time ago, is a starvation rate to-day. The present proposition is merely a gift to meet cases of distress. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) raises the question of finance. We had to find the money for carrying on a great war, and if it had continued we would still have to find it, and honorable members opposing the Government would help them to do so; and if another war should break out we would find money for it, but when it becomes a matter of assisting the pioneers who have helped to develop this country, we are told that there is a shortage of money. We ought to face the matter fairly, and determine to find the necessary fund’s. During the war nearly every firm engaged in industry has piled up huge reserves. Every morning we see in the newspapers that wealthy corporations have gone into liquidation in order to subdivide their shares. Having accumulated so much money, they can afford to give their shareholders three shares for every one at present held, and when they claim that they are not paying more than 6 per cent. in the shape of dividends in reality they are distributing 24 per cent. on the original shares. They are covering their operations in this way. The vessels owned by the Sydney Ferries Limited being now three times more valuable than they were during the war, the company has been reconstructed in order to bring its capital to a higher figure, and on) this higher figure the dividends will be paid in future. The object of these companies in going into liquidation is to evade taxation.
– The honorable member and his friends are responsible for all that sort of thing. They go to the Arbitration. Court and secure an award, and up goes the price. It is a case of a dog living on its own tail, and it has been going on for years.
– The Treasurer has raised the question of finance. I have glanced through the Supply Bill presented to us to-day, and find that there is a great deal of waste in the Navy, which the right honorable gentleman so recently controlled. For example, for the maintenance of our fleet. £178,000 is required, excluding the provision forwages.
– That money is all spent on wages.
– Yes, on waste labour. Instead of spending money on cleaning buttons and the wearing of white caps, and on ‘ teaching men to salute, and so forth, it ought to be spent in some direction in which it can be made to produce wealth.
– We were glad of all that discipline when the Germans were threatening us.
– If we are in a tight position financially we ought to cut down our expenditure on the Army and Navy, on which, according to the last Budget figures, we are spending £1,500,000 per week. That expenditure ought to come down.
– It is coming down.
– I am pleased to hear it. I hope that it will come down with a thud. There is no need to retain at the Barracks so many of the officers who have come back from the Front. We turn out the private and tell him to find employment, but do not seem to be able to get a large number of the officers off the paysheet. One way in which the Treasurer could find the money for the destitute allowance would be by cutting down the expenditure on the Fleet. Instead of having vessels moving up and down the coast wasting oil they ought to be taken up Sydney harbor and laid up for a while.
– What is the use of creating wealth unless we can defend it?
– Within the next twenty years there is no likelihood of the services of our Navy being required.
– The only economy which the honorable member can suggest is to destroy the Army and Navy.
– I do not say that we should destroy it. I suggest that in the meantime it can be maintained on a peace footing. Let me remind the Treasurer that, when he returned from the Peace Conference, he painted a glowing picture of the peace and harmony and good-will that would prevail among men, and told us of how it would be possible to cut down the great economic waste brought about by war. Apparently he has now gone back on what he then said. If the community is to derive any good from the war it ought to be in the direction of reduced expenditure on naval and military establishments. . It is useless for the Treasurer to utter a hope unless he tries to act up to it.
– It is useless for us to try to act up to it unless some of our neighbours do the same.
– We ought not to wait until the other fellow does it. We ought to do the right thing first, and then get him to do it also. I ask the Treasurer to look upon this motion sympathetically.
– Sympathy is no substitute for cash.
– If the right honorable gentleman will bring forward a scheme the House will vote the money.
– If the Treasurer can find it.
– I have pointed out that the Treasurer can get the money from the institutions which have been accumulating wealth during the war. These firms made no! sacrifices during the war while building up huge fortunes. We ought to be able to get a few hundred thousand pounds from them with which to relieve distress in the community.
.- One of the objections of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) to the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is that, applications for relief may be made through union secretaries. The honorable member apparently regards union secretaries as persons to be dreaded, but it is a curious fact that this House contains more union secretaries than are perhaps to be found in any other similar institution in Australia. I had the pleasure of hearing the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) proposed as the secretary of the Miners’ Union at Lithgow a good many years ago. The honorable members for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), and Newcastle (Mr.. Watkins), and others, including myself, have been secretaries of unions, and it is time to remove the false impression that such persons are not fitted to be intrusted with the task proposed to be allotted to them by the motion. They are, indeed, in a better position than others to carry it out. The honorable member for Melbourne must be congratulated for his at-‘ tempt to deal with the numerous cases requiring urgent relief in our community. His is not a drastic proposal. .Surely no one will say that, in a community such as ours, any individual should be lacking the necessaries of life. Whether the machinery proposed in the motion will achieve the object desired is another matter. It rests with the Government to elaborate a proper scheme. The principle advocated is one that finds support among the best minds in the community.’ The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) made some reference to “ going slow.” I invite him to study the Mining
Journal. A statement was published in a recent number to the effect that in 1913 the amount which accrued to labour for every £100 of wealth created by labour was 20s. 6d.
– I did not refer to the “go-slow” policy.
– The honorable member should be prepared to meet criticism, and to remember that his hearers often know more than he does about the subject under discussion. I invite him to compare the figures for 1913 with those of 1918. In the latter year labour received only 17s. for each £100 of wealth which it created, whereas in 1913 it received £1 0s. 6d. That suggests that there cannot be much “ going slow “ about the working man in these days.
An objection has been taken to the motion, that there is no money to provide what the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) seeks. There would have been ample money available if the finances of this country had been properly handled throughout the war. I have never lost an opportunity to call attention to the callous indifference of the Government, particularly in the matter of loans and loan money. No honorable member can say that there is not enough money in this country to warrant the payment of a destitution allowance. Within the past six months various public companies have increased their capital by more than £42,000,000. In ten years more than £380,000,000 has been set aside as the capital of different companies in Australia. Why are such actions as these being taken ? It is for no other reason than to avoid taxation. Owners are disposing of their properties on all sides, and for that I cannot blame them, for it is only human. Probably I might do the same if I were similarly placed; but it is my duty as a public man to call attention to what is going on. Property owners are disposing of their large holdings because they realize that future taxation must be based upon a drastic graduated scale. The delay on the part of the Government in grappling with such important problems as those of finance and the necessity for increased taxation is only injuring the country. I did not hesitate to call the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt) a muddler.
– Has not the present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) indicated that a sum- amounting to nearly £600,000,000 to-day escapes taxation in Australia 1
– That is so; and what a fine opportunity it offers the Treasurer upon assuming office ! I wish that I had such a chance. I would soon get my brains to work, and it would not be long before the country would benefit. It should never have been necessary to inaugurate the latest loan. Unhappily, however, our finances have been conducted on a system of muddle. Before long, we shall have to stop borrowing. The rate of interest for redemption! of loans is continually rising. When the exTreasurer (Mr. Watt) left for England I was convinced that he had been sent on a fool’s errand; and, after reading a press cablegram to the effect that the Bank of England would not lend money at a lower rate of interest than 8 per cent., to prevent undue borrowing, I tabled a motion directing the Government to inform the Treasurer that he should undertake no loans and enter into no contracts. I am heartily glad that British money-lenders are so chary about lending either to the Commonwealth or to the States at the present time.
The purpose of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) is most laudable, and I strongly support it. There is nothing like sufficient provision in Australia to-day to meet hard cases. In New South Wales the State Government pays 5s. a week in a case where a child, has lost its breadwinner; and in several of the other States I understand there is a somewhat similar provision. However, this should be a Commonwealth matter. Some reference has been made to the position in which union secretaries would find themselves if thrown back upon their old avenues of employment. There are quite a lot of people, apart from union secretaries, who might have to face hardships if they were compelled to return to their former work. I can look back to the time when I used to see the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) standing thin and miserable at the pit’s mouth. I do not know whether he would like to go back to his old job with unknown possibilities. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) referred to friendly societies and the assistance they aTe able t<5 give in time of sickness. I joined a friendly society when I was sixteen years of age, and I have never missed paying my contributions. I have had no help from the society, but I continue to pay. my contributions, because by so doing I help others and because otherwise I might be accused of meanness, although I am entitled to exemption by the subvention scheme of the New South Wales Government. I think that good will be the outcome of this motion. We must not believe all the harsh things we hear about people. We do not always know the causes of individual poverty.. A man often becomes destitute through no fault of his own; but even if the man is at fault my sympathies are still with him. I prefer to take account of what is good in him, and make such provision for him that he need not go about Australia hungry.
.- I have listened with a good deal of attention to the truly characteristic speech delivered by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). But I take exception to the manner in which the honorable member, as well as the mover of the motion (Dr. Maloney), proposed, as it were, to sacrifice the whole of Australia to what might be termed “hard oases.” There is a well-known saying that hard cases make bad laws, and whilst I have as much sympathy with, those who suffer as has either of those honorable members, I cannot wholeheartedly support such a sweeping proposition as this. We cannot allow ourselves to be carried away by our sympathy with those who suffer to such an extent as to endanger the whole future of this magnificent country. Yet that is about the position at which we are arriving. I draw the attention of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) to the fact that this sort of philanthropy can be carried too far. I shall try to approach the matter from, two distinct stand-points. To-day the commercial and financial struggle throughout the world is extremely keen, and the reconstruction that is taking place after the tremendous devastation caused during the last four years of war must depend on the relative productivity of the people more than on anything else. No nation can carry such a load as some honorable members are inclined to impose upon Australia, and succeed in the struggle for existence. Because the struggle for existence of individuals and nations alike depends on striking a fair balance, and if we go to the extreme in either direction we are bound to suffer loss, and in some cases destruction. Consider what has happened in civilization during the last hundred years. We are living in an industrial civilization based upon coal and iron, and, naturally, by the aggregation of peoples which must necessarily follow on our industrialism, there is a good deal of suffering and want which could be avoided .if things were properly managed. If we follow the trend of affairs, we shall find that this industrial civilization, aggregating as it does the misery of the world in certain portions, has centred the minds of all thoughtful men on the problem of how best to relieve the sufferings and poverty that naturally congregate about big cities. In the first place we established hospitals. No person with any humanity in him would condemn or say a word against those institutions. They have relieved a great deal of suffering which could not have been otherwise dealt with. They have preserved many very valuable lives; they have been a boon and a blessing to the whole of our social system. But there is this fact which must be weighed in the balance against them, namely, that they are constantly patching up those who are unfit, and sending them out into the world again to propagate their species. One law of nature which can never be controverted is that the lower the species the greater is its reproductivity. That happens in human nature along the same lines as in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. And if we continue developing the sentimental side of the human race, or of that particular section of the race to which we belong, we shall overload ourselves to such an extent that we shall not be able to prevail in the struggle for existence against those races which adopt a system which, while none the less humane, is more logical and intellectual. That fact is evident to any man who studies the sociology of our present civilization. There is a tendency amongst ug to overload our community, our Empire, and our Western civilization in such a way that unless we are careful we shall degenerate and come under the control of those people who do not allow’ themselves to be earned away to a dangerous extent - in our opinion, they do not go far enough - by an over-sympathetic mind and heart. That seems to me to be a real and grave danger. From the hospitals we proceeded to the establishment of old-age pensions. They, too, are a very good thing, because no one can but admit that our old people who have served their country well are deserving of help from the country in their old age. And the old-age pensioners are not a real burden on the community further than by their consumption of products, because they do not reproduce and increase the number of unfit that the community has to carry. But if we carry this sort of assistance to the extent suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne - who makes these proposals from the kindness of his heart, but with too much sentimentalism - and allow every person who is prepared to make a statutory declaration that he is in need to be not only protected and preserved, but actually housed and fed by the community, how long shall we be able to maintain our virility?. What made the Australians so famous in the Old World during recent years? It was the vigour, independence, force . of character, and physical and moral strength of our boys. How are those characteristics derived? They are due to the fact that we have not yet degenerated into the lines which it is so evident we shall fall into if we adopt the proposal made by the honorable member for Melbourne. Even the honorable member, with his big heart, must realize and admit that there are in the community persons who would live upon such assistance and never attempt to do any work. Everybody knows - and what is the use of shutting our eyes to the fact and being afraid to state it - that there are in the community people who are prepared at any time to live at the expense of their neighbours.
– We could make provision to exclude them.
– How can we exclude them under this scheme, which provides that any person who makes a statutory declaration that he is in want shall be housed and fed by the community? If legislative effect were given to the scheme the Bill would require to be in accordance with the terms of this motion. No man wants less than I do to see suffering. I cannot understand how any man can stand by and see his fellowbeings, or even any being in the animal world, suffer without wishing to offer relief. But there is a point beyond which il is extremely dangerous -to go.
– Can the honorable member give an illustration of his argument from any legislation in any other part of the world?
– History provides many illustrations. We can refer back to the history of the civilization of the Pun.jaub and the civilization of the Incas and various other peoples. History shows that in many cases nations have fallen victims to excessive sentimentalism. The balance must be struck, and we shall be doing a cruel thing, which more than anything else will bring destruction to this grand young virile race of ours, if we overload it in the manner that is proposed.
Mr. Gabb and other honorable members interjecting, ‘ .
– I wish the honorable member for Germany would give me an opportunity to speak.
– I think that remark regarding the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) was most unfair and should be withdrawn.
– Before calling upon the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) to withdraw the offensive remark, I again ask honorable members to assist the Chair in preserving order. There were so many interjections at once that it was impossible for me to hear what was said. It is unfair that, following a chorus of interjections, the Chair should be called upon to decide a question of order. If the honorable member made that statement, it was offensive, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I made that reply to the interjection of the honorable member. I did not wish public notice to be taken of it, and I withdraw it, as requested. We cannot afford to allow ourselves to be swept off our feet by a rush of sentimentality. To do so would be to damage the community as a whole.
– That was said when the old-age pensions were first proposed.
– I have never objected to the old-age pensions, because I hold that the old people have earned them; but this motion leads us by the slippery path of sentimentalism to destruction.
– That is right. Starve them out!
– We are a civilized people, and no member of. this community would wish any one to starve; but if we have the real welfare of Australia at heart we shall not overload our citizens for the support of those who are able to do for themselves. Competition is the law of life. Every individual, from the highest-placed man to the humblest insect, has to struggle and fight in order to live. If the need for effort were entirely removed, the strength of the individual and the strength of the nation would depart. It is because I see in the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) the cloven hoof of sentimentalism that I object to it.
– Has not the honorable member heard of mutual aid?
– We all believe in mutual aid; it is taught to us by Christianity, and our civilization is built on it. But we have to strike the balance between the struggle for existence which is imposed by a law of nature and the mutual aid theory to which the honorable member refers. The strength and purification of nations depends upon the struggle that they make to live. Sloth leads only to disease and to individual and national decay.
– Then what is the good of social legislation?
– I raise no objection to legislation for the improvement of the conditions of the community, ‘but I am against extreme measures.
– I call attention to the state of the House. - [Quorum, formed .]
– We must require self-reliance of our citizens, and we must give them incentives to activity, and some reason to maintain their individuality. If persons are encouraged to rely absolutely on the State for support, there is taken from them all that makes for the greatness of the individual and of the nation. By way of moderating the proposal now before us, I move-
That after the word “ the,” line 1, the words “ destitute poor of the country could best be relieved by a carefully thought out scheme of State insurance “ be inserted, and that the remaining words of the motion be omitted.
Motion (by Dr. Maloney) put -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
– Under ordinary circumstances, the carrying of the motion that the question be now put would require the immediate submission of both the original question before the House and any amendment; but as the amendment of the honorable member for Robertson was not seconded, the question that will be put if the motion on which the House is now dividing be carried is the original motion proposed by the honorable , member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney).
-Was the Treasurer in order in raising the point, in view of the disposition of the Ayes and Noes?
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Fleming) proposed -
That all the words after the word “ the “, line 1, be omitted, with a view to the insertion in lieu thereof of the words “ destitute poor of the country could best be relieved by a carefully thought-out scheme of State insurance.”
– No one doubts for a moment the bona fides of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), or the largeness of heart which he invariably brings to bear on motions of this kind. I certainly think, however, that before we carry a bald motion, couched in these terms, without any adequate safeguard so far as the total amount of expenditure is concerned, it would be well to consider the amendment moved by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming).
– What does the honorable member say would be the effect of carrying the motion?
– It is exceedingly difficult to say exactly how many destitute people there are in Australia or how many are, unfortunately, “ insufficiently fed, clothed, or sheltered.” The number who would come within those terms would be great, particularly in the cities, and it would be exceedingly dangerous to accept the first part of the motion, and’ then say, in the second part, that the whole should form an instruction to the Government to introduce a measure to carry out the object of the honorable member for Melbourne. It was for that reason, when I first read the motion, that I drafted an amendment to omit the last words of the first paragraph, “ until relieved,” with a view to providing that those concerned should receive the amount mentioned., to be reduced by 2s. 6d. a week for each adult, and1s. 3d. a week for each child, until the amount allotted became exhausted. I say in all sincerity that there are, unfortunately, some people who, if they get au) opportunity - I was going to say, would’ “ sponge,” for lack of a better word; at any rate, there are those who, given a chance to secure even the small amount mentioned per week, would do so.
– The honorable member must rcognise that the number of claimants would be reduced, because there has to be a sworn declaration. It is all camouflage talking about invalid and oldage pensions.
– The honorable member must not accuse me of camouflage, because I have not as yet mentioned invalid ‘and old-age pensions. There are many directions in which I should like to see the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act amended ; but I am not dealing with that matter now.
– The Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act is specifically mentioned in the motion,
– .That is so, and J must confess that I cannot agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that in this discussion the Act is not a fair subject for criticism.. However, where sentiment is concerned one is naturally inclined to view with kindly feeling those in less fortunate circumstances than ourselves. <
– The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has told us that sympathy without cash is not .much good.
– What I said was that sympathy is not a complete substitute for cash.
– There is much in that idea, but probably the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), like other honorable members and myself, is constantly receiving applications for assistance by people in unfortunate circumstances; and I can say that, so far as I am concerned, no deserving case has been turned away. I am npt bragging in saying that, but simply describing the typical experience of honorable members generally.
– I was speaking of the honorable member’s vote on this question.
– The amendment to the motion commends itself very much to me. We hear from the honorable member for Maribyrnong ‘(Mr. Fenton)- a. great deal about science and the scientific method as applied in different directions : and it is essential, however much we are in sympathy with the motion, that we should examine it critically and ascertain exactly where it will land us. I was surprised and astounded recently when the Treasurer told us that the increase of 2s. 6d. a week in the invalid and old-age pensions means an additional expenditure of £750,000.
– We are spending more than that on military preparations.
– I am not. familiar with the actual figures referred to by the honorable member, but he must know that there is practically no military training going on now. If he is referring to commitments arising out of the war, I can understand his statement, but when he speaks of “military preparations” I take it he means military training, and I doubt whether he is correct.
– This motion would take a month to debate thoroughly.
– I am inclined to think that there is something more in the proposal than meets the eye - something more than its simple adoption would import. I have heard the complaint made that the passing of a motion by a private member carries us no further towards the object desired. That may be so; and one of the reasons probably is that honorable members are apt to accept ill-considered propositions. If honorable members would put forward workable and sound proposals, undoubtedly the Government would be prepared to give effect to them. Prior to the last election I was asked ito deal with the matter of providing pensions for widows and orphans, and on his return to Australia I was asked to introduce a deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on the subject. I mention this fact in order to show that it is not new for me to be advocating anything of this nature or assisting it to the utmost of my ability. But while I am anxious to do that, I am also anxious that the proposal should be put forward on reasonable and sound lines.
– The honorable member does not wish it to break down under its own weight?
– Certainly not. I want to give the proposition a fair chance of success, and I am surprised that honorable members who advocate State insurance should oppose the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr.Fleming).
– If the amendment bad been brought forward as a separate proposition I should certainly vote for it. I have always advocated national insurance.
– I know the honorable member’s views in regard to national insurance, and how keenly he has advocated it in the past. He could hardly do otherwise than support it now. He will find that the second part of his motion is not interfered with by the amendment. I agree withthe Treasurer that the subject needs more than five minutes’ consideration. The honorable member for Robertson and I would be very much astonished if we found that our few words were able to convince the House.
– I again call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– We have two taxing authorities in Australia, and as the power to tax the people carries with it a certain amount of responsibility, it must be borne in mind that the Commonwealth Parliament is not the only legislative body in Australia responsible for the demonstration of sentiment and the display of kindness towards the people. I use the word “sentiment” in its broadest sense. There is also a responsibility on the State Legislatures. Of course, the share of each might need to be determined at a conference such as was held the other day in regard to the one taxing authority. I could not let this phase of the subject pass without a reference to the responsibility which rests upon the various States as well as upon the Commonwealth. For the various reasons which I have outlined, I have the greatest pleasurein seconding the amendment.
– I regret that I do not at the moment see my way clear to accept this proposition without further debate.
– Will the Minister accept it with the elimination of the paragraph instructing the Government to bring in the necessary legislation?
– No; the matter requires threshing out thoroughly. It isa very big subject. Before we can deal properly and fully with the question of old-age pensions, we will need to adopt some system on the lines outlined by the motion and the amendment. It is a subject which, by its very nature and complexity, as well as magnitude, challenges the best thought in the community, and more particularly the best thought in this House. We would do well to occupy ourselves in the consideration of it, not in the hurried way that aprivate members’ afternoon permits, but by inquiring into it determinedly, thoroughly, and in an orderly way in an attempt to evolve a scheme which will help to meet the terrible problem afflicting the world to-day.
– To which problem is the right honorable gentleman referring?
-To the distressed poor of the community.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that we ought to have the poor among us?
– I wish we could do without them. I wish we could avoid poverty.
– Order ! The time for the discussion of private members’ business has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Message received from the Senate announcing that Senators W. K. Bolton, R. Buzacott, and J. D. Millen had been appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I need hardly remind honorable members that the industrial problem, which has been a very considerable one during these many years, has been intensified as a result of the great world war. The problem is world-wide. It manifests itself in every country. In essence it is the same everywhere, though in different countries it is manifested in different ways. In this Commonwealth where Labour has, owing to organization, political and industrial, been able to exercise considerable influence, it has been a problem which has engaged the attention of the Commonwealth and State Legislatures for very many years. By general consent at the present time it is recognised as a problem which imperatively demands the attention of all citizens, and, if possible, some solution.
There was a time when, with others, I thought that industrial unrest could be, I will not say swept away, but rendered comparatively innocuous by recourse to those remedies which this and other Legislatures have tried. But we have been chastened by experience, and have come to see that industrial unrest is at once the price that the world is paying for progress, and the punishment from which the world is suffering as the fruits of a system which in the past failed utterly to recognise the basic factors of production.
I am not going to trouble the House with many more generalities, but I have always held that production was not a matter which concerns the individual only. It is primarily a collective function. Society is vitally concerned in production, both in its capacity as a producer and a consumer, and. it is not proper that individuals - whether they be employers or employees is immaterial - should carry on production without regard to the welfare of the community as a whole.
Honorable members are well aware that we have had on the statute-book of the Commonwealth for many years an Act for the settlement of industrial disputes by means of a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. They know very well what our constitutional power is in regard to industrial matters. In the early days of this Commonwealth’ members of this Parliament were under the impression that our powers were much wider than the High Court has since decided them to be. It is now quite clear that the powers of the Commonwealth in relation to industrial matters are covered entirelyby the words of paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution, which reads as follows: -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
I need not remind honorable members that this power is a very restricted and unsatisfactory one. Very many attempts have been made to widen it, but unsuccessfully. Even at the present time the High Court, in considering a case, has delivered important dicta which seem likely to materially affect our powers under this section. These dicta, as far as I have been able to gather, widen our power.
– Very much.
– They widen our power so far as it has relation to State instrumentalities. We need not consider this phase of the matter further at this juncture, but it is proper, I think, that passing reference should be made to it in order that honorable members may clearly understand both the foundation on which our power rests and its limitations.
Under the power given to the Commonwealth by paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution, we have created an Arbitration Court with a President and a Deputy. This Court has done excellent work; but the present position of the Court is one of great congestion. The methods of the Court are now, and always have been, cumbrous in the extreme. Normally the procedure is, first of all, for the organization concerned to file a plaint. This, in some cases, means that hundreds of employers have to be served throughout the Commonwealth. The Builders’ Labourers case is a glaring example of how far this can go. After the plaint has been filed, and the other party or parties notified, the case is then set down for hearing. The case may not come before the Court for many months. The present position of the Court is that there are forty-two cases on the list, and that despite the fact that two Judges have been sitting almost continuously. As honorable members are aware, unions have had to wait for very many months before securing a hearing of their case. In some cases from the time the plaint is filed until the case is decided a year and more may elapse. The hearing of cases is often very protracted. There are many reasons for this. Oneis that the Judge is necessarily unfamiliar with the trade or industry whose conditions he is called upon to settle. All this delay, it is very obvious, makes for industrial unrest.
There are two ways of settling industrial disputes. One is direct action - that is the strike; the other, recourse to some form of peaceful adjustment by agreement between the parties, or by arbitration. In the Commonwealth we have hitherto had recourse to the machinery provided by the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, with which honorable members are familiar. We should be doing the Arbitration Court a grievous wrong to say that it has not done great service to this country; but no one will deny that experience has shown that for many reasons it is not the ideal instrument for the settlement of disputes. Now, -if honorable members contrast this cumbrous procedure of the Court, its ineffective and expensive methods of settling disputes, with the expeditious methods of such a body as the shipbuilding tribunal, they must admit - if they bring an impartial mind to bear on the matter - that Parliament would be wrong if it did not indicate in the plainest manner possible that it was of the opinion that industrial unrest was more likely to be allayed and disputes settled by such tribunals than by the Court. The tribunal in question has been in existence for about two and a half years, and has given about 286 decisions. That is to say, it has settled 286 disputes. And it has not only settled all disputes arising in the industry, but has maintained unbroken industrial peace in the industry. It has done this in the face of certain conditions to which a great number of unionists were very much opposed. The basic conditions of the . shipbuilding agreement were continuity of employment, piece-work, and dilution of labour. Honorable members know how strongly organized labour opposed the introduction of piece-work and the dilution of labour. Yet looking back over the two and a half years that have gone, we see that industrial peace has been maintained. For all practical purposes, there has been no break in the continuity of employment. And having had two and a half years’ experience of the tribunal the unions, now that the period is approaching when this agreement will expire, have requested that it shall be renewed. Sufficient has been said, then, to show that the tribunal has done most excellent work. Its record speaks for itself. But not only does the Arbitration .Court suffer by comparison with the tribunal ‘by its failure to deal with cases expeditiously and economically, but also for the reason that it has been unable to settle some disputes at all. We have to face the fact that, despite every effort .that may be made to preserve industrial peace, strikes may occur. It is true that, these may not be strikes within the meaning of the Act. The public, however, are not concerned with names, but with things; not with shadows, but with realities. The Arbitration ‘Court has failed to settle some very serious strikes which have paralyzed this community. This was particularly shown in the seamen’s dispute. The men made certain demands, and, as they were not conceded, they went on strike. A compulsory conference was called by the President of the Court. No agreement was arrived at. The President has laid it down that unions cannot have strikes and arbitration, and that he will not deal with a dispute until the men involved have returned to work. I am not going to criticise .that attitude; it is very logical and very -proper. But it leaves the community in a most unfortunate position, because when the President of the Arbitration Court says, “I shall not hear you until you get back to work,” and the men say, “ We will not go back to work until you hear us “ - for that is, in effect, what they do say - the strike goes on and the community suffers. As I have said, and as honorable members well know, the Arbitration Court failed to settle this dispute. A conference was called by the Government, and an agreement was arrived at after a stoppage covering some five months. Then, in the coal miners’ case, the machinery of the Arbitration Court failed to bring about industrial peace, and another tribunal had to be provided. This was, in . one of its aspects, at any rate, under the War Precautions Act ; and the coal-miners to-day are working under an agreement arrived at as the result of a round-table conference. That agreement is enforced by a regulation under the War Precautions Act which precludes the employers from increasing the price of coal without the consent of the Commonwealth Government. During the past three or four weeks I have had no fewer than three conferences with the coal-miners and the mine-owners. The miners desire an alteration of existing conditions. The agreement itself expires, I think, in October or November this year. But the conditions of some of the lower paid day wage men are such that, with the high cost of living, it is, they contend, impossible for them to live on the wage they now receive under the existing agreement. They demand redress. When referred to the Arbitration Court they decline to go. I express no opinion about their attitude. I deal with the facts. They want a tribunal, and are willing to attorn to a tribunal subject to certain conditions, and to submit all their grievances thereto, including that which relates to the lower paid wage men. This Bill will enable us to appoint a tribunal clothed with all the powers possessed by the Commonwealth.
Another instance may be cited wherein the Arbitration Court failed to settle a de facto strike; I refer to the dispute between the marine engineers and their employers. The men would not go to the Arbitration Court. There was no machinery, other than that provided. by the War Precautions Act by which a tribunal could be created. Honorable members know that for six or eight weeks the shipping of this country was dislocated, and many industries were most seriously affected, because there were no legal means by which the parties could be brought together. No decision binding on the parties could be given by any tribunal appointed under the powers of the Commonwealth under the Constitution. That dispute was settled as the outcome of conferences and by the action of the Government. During the war the Government was able to exercise powers given to it under the War Precautions Act to deal with many disputes and with many matters which, ordinarily, it could not touch. This War Precautions Act, about the genesis and exodus pf which-
– There has been no exodus.
– There will be an exodus: This Act, concerning the genesis and exodus of which diverse opinions have been expressed in this Chamber, will ultimately disappear. Many times I have said, and I say it again, that, in my opinion, any regulations relating to matters which are not clearly the aftermath of war and necessary to give effect to acts done during the war, but which could not be completed while the war continued, would be held by the Courts to be ultra vires. However, I put that aside. We are desirous of creating machinery about the legality and constitutionality of which there shall be no dispute. We are faced now with a position which demands action. ‘ It is useless denouncing direct action and urging men to seek legal redress for their industrial grievances unless the means of redress are ready to hand speedily and economically. In. .the case of the coalmining industry a tribunal has been promised to the men. Whether the men will accept the kind of tribunal that the powers of this Commonwealth, will give them is another matter; hut certainly they will not attorn to the jurisdiction of the Court. Then the agreement with the unions engaged in shipbuilding is about to come to an end. The Commonwealth is faced with the position that unless it has power to create a tribunal which will exercise the functions of the present tribunal, the shipbuilding industry cannot proceed. The men will not work unless that tribunal, or one similar to it, is continued. That is one of the vital conditions which the unionists demand. In these circumstances, if there were no other reasons for introducing the Bill at the present juncture than the position which obtains in the coal-mining and shipbuilding industries, the Government would be amply justified in bringing it forward. But, in my opinion, our experience of the shipbuilding tribunal warrants an extension of this principle to other industries. I believe that tribunals of this kind, flexible, convenient, expeditious, and economical,. are much more likely to promote industrial peace,’ and prevent industrial turmoil, than is the. Arbitration Court as it exists to-day. I shall return to these tribunals presently ; but when I ask honorable members to consider the general position of the industrial world they will recognise that something more is required than the power to appoint industrial tribunals to deal with industrial disputes if we are to bring about industrial peace. It has been said that what is really necessary is that the parties to industrial disputes should get together. I think that that is a very wise saying. At present the machinery for bringing them together is inadequate. The parties naturally view each other with suspicion, and they have a perfect right to do so. The employers sometimes think that the causes of industrial unrest He with the men. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The causes of industrial unrest are inherent in_ society. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) mentioned that fact the other, evening. If I may say soy the causes of industrial unrest are inherent - in something even more permanent than society - they are inherent in human nature.
– And human nature is the product of society.
– Human nature is a very curious and wonderful thing. The inability of men to recognise that any cause but their own is founded upon justice has been a distinguishing trait of mankind from the beginning. It may be said, therefore, with safety that one of the best methods of allaying suspicion, and of promoting harmony, is to bring the opposing parties together. For all sensible men must recognise the fact that without the hearty co-operation of labour it is impossible to secure industrial peace. Further, we must realize that labour, not only in Australia, but in other countries, has now reached a point where it will demand that recognition. But as things stand now, suitable machinery for bringing the parties together and for recognising the status of labour as a full partner in production does not exist. This Bill creates this machinery. Provision is made for the establishment of a central and of district councils, composed of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees. The functions of these councils will be of an advisory character. Their purview will cover the whole industrial sphere. They will consider the causes of industrial unrest, they will suggest remedies, and they will endeavour, either by joint or several action, to promote the peaceful settlement of existing disputes. Let me take a case which will serve to illustrate the usefulness of councils such as those of which I speak. There is connected with the Melbourne Trades Hall a body which has been in existence for some time, and which is called the Industrial Disputes Committee. That committee has done very good, indeed excellent, work. It is composed of men who, for the most part, are not directly concerned in the disputes which they attempt to settle. Their function is to endeavour to bring the parties to any dispute together. They do not preach industrial turmoil, but strive to bring about peaceful settlements. But they have no legal status. The law does not recognise them, and they are unable to approach the Legislature direct with their advice. Under this Bill it is proposed to make use of such a body as that, and by adding to it a similar number of employers’ representatives, to create a council - by whose influence and aids the warring parties shall be brought together, their differences adjusted, and the wheels of industry kept moving, or, if arrested, put in motion again. This measure, then, provides for two things quite distinct in their nature. The first is the establishment of Councils of Industry, whose business is to survey the whole industrial sphere, to consider what are the basic causes of industrial unrest, and to suggest remedies to the appropriate body. Where a tribunal is necessary to settle a dispute, this Council may suggest one. Where a round-table conference is desirable, the Council may recommend one, and the Governor-General will thereupon call it together. There will be one Grand Council for the Commonwealth and one District Council’ for each State, composed in each instance of an equal number of the representatives of organized labour and of organized capital or of employers. They will be given legal status. They will receive fees. Their business will be to advise the Government and the parties as to what ought to be dome. That is the first objective which the Bill seeks to attain. Its second aim is to create machinery by which special tribunals may be appointed to settle de facto disputes, to prevent disputes occurring, and to call compulsory or round-table conferences between the parties concerned. These special tribunals will have a chairman mutually agreed upon, or, if the parties fail to agree upon his selection, appointed by the Government. At the present moment the Broken Hill dispute is, I hope, in a fair way to be settled by a tribunal which, in essence does not differ from those proposed in this Bill, The tribunal to which I have referred is composed of an equal number of representatives of both parties, and of a chairman selected by the Premier of New South Wales and myself. The machinery provided in the Bill for the establishment of these tribunals is -very elastic, and is adaptable to all the circumstances of industrial troubles. Take an industry in which, perhaps, there are more possibilities of unrest than are to be found in any other - I refer to the coal-mining industry. It is obvious that it is vital to the community that there shall be industrial peace in the coal-mining industry. It is abundantly clear that industrial peace cannot be assured in this industry by the Arbitration Court alone. A tribunal which is composed of an equal number of representatives of both parties, with an impartial chairman, is much more likely to bring about an agreement which will be mutually acceptable than is the Arbitration Court. Honorable members, I am sure, appreciate the advantages of a tribunal upon which the parties who are charged .with the’ discussion of a dispute understand matters first hand. Such a tribunal attached to the coal-mining industry will be a step in the right direction. But, obviously, one tribunal will not be sufficient to deal with the whole industry. In this Bill, therefore, provision is made for the appointment of local tribunals, whose function it will be to attach themselves to districts, or even to mines, for the purpose of dealing with local disputes as they arise. It frequently happens that disputes occur consequent upon the action of wheelers or. of boys in a mine, with the result that the whole of the employees in it become idle, and there is no tribunal on the spot to deal with the trouble. In the .shipbuilding industry, in which there are endless possibilities of disputes owing to demarcation troubles, the tribunal is at hand and deals with the trouble right away. I commend this measure to honorable members because it is one which by reason of its “elasticity, the expeditious way in which it will permit disputes to be dealt with, the personnel of the tribunals which are to be established, and of all the attendant circumstances, is much more likely to promote industrial peace than is our present arbitration system. No doubt these tribunals will, to a certain extent, overlap the Arbitration Court, but their jurisdiction is limited by the proviso to clause 15 -
Provided that no dispute as to which a plaint is pending in the Court, and the hearing has commenced, shall be referred to a special tribunal.
All other disputes- are referable to special tribunals. But clause .17 provides -
Notwithstanding anything in this Act, if a special tribunal is satisfied that abnormal circumstances have arisen which affect the fundamental justice of any terms of an award made by the Court, the tribunal .may set aside or vary any terms so affected.
– Give the Arbitration Court that power to vary awards and we shall get along a little faster.
– We propose to give the Court that power. Honorable members may please themselves as to what they do with the Bill. I put it forward because I believe it offers an incomparably better means of settling industrial disputes than does the Arbitration Court. If honorable members choose to reject it they may do so. I have given notice of a measure to amend the Arbitration Act where the President has asked for amendment. But, in my opinion, the Arbitration Court, even when these amendments are made in the Act, will not provide effective machinery for the preservation of industrial peace and the settlement of disputes. These tribunals and councils are necessary. They will give organized labour a recognised status and influence in this country, and the advice of such councils will be most useful to the Legislature, ‘ and most necessary, because on the face of things the parties themselves must be expected to understand their industry at least as well as we understand it, to say nothing of the Court. The object of the creation of these special tribunals, however, is not to supersede, but merely to supplement, the Arbitration Court. The Court will remain.
– Will the amending Arbitration Bill make any .provision for the contingency of an employer refusing to carry on his business if an award goes against him?
– I refer the’ honorable member to the Bill. An award may be perfectly just when it is made, but changed circumstances may make a variation of it necessary. The appointment of these councils and. tribunals is a recognition of the principle of the roundtable conference, which, I think, honorable members who have had experience of industrial disputes agree is the best known method of arriving at a settlement. I have had considerable experience of industrial disputes, and I say unhesitatingly that the decision of a round-table conference is more likely to promote harmony and peace in industry than is the award of any Court. Such a conference is certainly more likely to give a decision speedily, for its members understand intimately the industry with which they are dealing, and so do not waste time in trying to understand details with which they are quite familiar. Honorable members will remember that in England the Whitley councils have been most serviceable. They, however, are not as flexible as will be the machinery proposed in this measure. There is no limitation to the power of these councils so far as the settlement of disputes is concerned, excepting those which are imposed by the Constitution. We cannot settle a dispute over which the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction, but as honorable members know very well, a very large number - in fact, I think, an overwhelming number - of disputes are brought under Federal jurisdiction. When this measure becomes law the powers of the Commonwealth will, of course, lack much of that complete control over industrial matters which it ought to have, but to the extent that it has power, these tribunals will exercise it. The award or decision of a tribunal will be binding at law and have exactly the same effect as an award of the Arbitration Court.. When it has given its award the tribunal may appoint a standing tribunal to interpret the award and give effect to it.
I shall not trespass upon the patience of honorable members any further, because this is a measure which can only be dealt with effectively in Committee, when we are able to consider details. I do not pretend that this scheme is a panacea for industrial unrest. I do not buoy myself up with the hope that when this measure is passed industrialunrest will be in articulo mortis, but I do say that the Bill is a distinct advance on existing legislation, and I believe that itwill prove of infinite service. I invite the House to consider it most carefully and to adopt the principle it embodies. I shall be ready to listen to any suggestions made by honorable members on both sides of the House. It is true that the Bill is introduced by the Government, and is part of the policy to which the Government is committed by its election pledges, but it cannot be said to be a party measure, and I trust that honorable members will not treat it as such, but rather will look at it as I do - as an honest attempt to deal with the most vital problem of the present day.. I can quite understand that the Bill is open to criticism, as is every measure introduced in this House; I myself could criticise it. It falls, for example, far short of those admirable methods of settling industrial strife that commend themselves to the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine). It makes no pretence of following those principles of which Lenin and Trotsky are the chief banner-bearers. It does not provide for compulsory labour. It is merely an effort to provide machinery for making articulate labour and capital, to bring them together, to effect a settlement of their differences, to protect society, as well as the worker and employer. It is not to be understood as a reflection in any way on the Arbitration Court. But we are not here to bolster up institutions of any kind.We are here to do justice and to serve our country to the best of our ability. In my opinion the Bill represents a distinct advance. I hope it will commend itself to the House, and I earnestly hope that honorable members will be in a position to discuss and. dispose of it with as little delay as possible.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed - That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- Although this measure has been before Parliament for nearly five years, this is the first time that it has reached the third-reading stage in this House. A
Bill with the same title has been passed by the Senate on several occasions, but the Minister tells me that this is a different Bill, and will, therefore, have to be passed by the Senate after it leaves this Chamber. The fundamental principles of this measure .are different. For one thing, it provides for one Director instead of three, and even the new clause, as proposed by the Minister, on the subject of Advisory Committees, is different from the original provision. In the first Bill, the Government proposed a definite State Advisory Committee. I have never heard it mentioned during the debate on this measure that there is in existence now, in the Trade and Customs Department, a Bureau of Commerce and Industry, of which Mr. Stirling Taylor is the head. Under what authority is that body acting?
– Will not this new Institute wipe that out?
– No. We are merely building up all the time more bureaux, more institutes, and more spending departments. . I pointed out yesterday that certain Departments of the Commonwealth were taxgatherers, the two principal being the Taxation Department and the Trade and Customs Department ; while, in my opinion, the other Departments thought that they could prove the necessity for their existence only by keeping on spending money. I eliminated the Postal Department from that classification, because it is both a gatherer and distributor of revenue, and serves a public purpose. Departments such as those of Defence and Navy are only in existence for the purpose of spending money, and apparently think that the more they spend the more completely they prove the necessity for their existence. I ,am very much afraid that that will be our experience under this Bill. Under paragraph c of clause 11 it is provided that the powers and functions of the Director shall, subject to the regulations and to the directions of the Minister, be “ the making of grants in aid of pure scientific research.” That gives power ‘to pay out practically unlimited sums of money. The organization, in order to prove that it is doing good work, may be tempted to distribute more and more money, and to encourage scientific research into many things when more important matters could well be carried out first.
– They may spend the money chasing blowflies.
– I do not know whether they will spend it in that way or in trying to eradicate the prickly pear. L was opposed to many of the provisions of the Bill, and believed that there should have been a conference before it was passed. I notice that efforts are being made, by agreement with the States, to introduce a uniform system of taxation - and I believe ours will, at least, compare favorably with that of the States - but I am afraid that, as we have passed this Bill, the States will not favour that cooperation and co-ordination of effort which some honorable members so fondly expect. At the first conference which was called in connexion with the proposal to establish a ‘Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry, the Prime Minister said he was not particular as to the amount of money spent on the scheme up to £500,000. He did not ‘ say whether he meant that that money was to be spent in one year or ten years. I believe there is necessary work to be done by the Institute, but the utmost care must be exercised in the appointment of a Director. He must be a practical man, and not a theorist, to extend, as far as possible, the work now being carried on by the Commonwealth laboratory under the Trade and Customs Department. It would have been a thousand times better to extend that branch than to set up an entirely new Institute, which may think that, in order to prove the need for its existence, it must spend money all the time.
– The expenditure will be under the direction of the Minister.
– Yes; and under the direction of the House. Honorable members who have been here for some time know what that means. In some future Parliament a Bill may be brought down to authorize expenditure on the same lines as the. measure which has just been handed to me, covering Supply over three fortnightly payments, and which the Treasurer has informed me must be passed at a very early date. I do not know whether money is allocated under it for the Institute of Science and
Industry, but I have no doubt that the Government will keep on paying the salaries and wages of those engaged there. I shall be glad to’ hear from the Minister, if he replies, what work is being carried out by the existing Bureau of Commerce and Industry, and why that body cannot be brought under this scheme. When the Director of the new Institute is appointed, will it be necessary to have a separate bureau of commerce and industry doing a great deal of the same work?
– They are not doing the same work.
– It is all commerce and no industry, so far as the organization of labour is concerned. I remember putting on record the names of its members and the classes of business they follow; They are all of one .class, and do not include one representative of labour.
– If there are no representatives of labour on the Central Advisory Council of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, it is solely the fault of the labour organizations. They were asked to appoint their representatives.
– Three representatives of labour were invited to, and were present at, the first meeting. They were at least as .good as the representatives that we expect to get under the Bill which the Prime Minister has introduced to-night. I believe that the three of them were all ex-presidents of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, so that there was no doubt about their repute and of their representative capacity, and especially their ability to represent organized labour. They said they found eighteen on one side and only themselves on the other. It was a six to one proposition, and, according to their story, they were made to feel that their presence was not wanted. It is a mistake to have in existence two bodies carrying out a great deal of the same work.
– They are not doing so.
– That fact has never been stated in this debate. I thought I would not let this Bill go through without expressing my views on that question. I hope that the expectations of the Minister and of the Ministry generally will be realized, and that the Institute will prove of groat advantage to Australia, but I am very much afraid that a great amount of money will be spent on this undertaking which could be much better spent in other directions.
.- I take this opportunity to make an explanation which I was unable owing to unfortunate circumstances to make last night.
– Why were you unable to make it last night?
– A combination of circumstances prevented me, although 1 have to thank my honorable friend for making every effort possible to allow -me to be heard.
– When I succeeded, you voted to “gag”” yourself.
– Did I? When I endeavoured last night to have inserted in clause 4 a provision that the Institute should consist, not only of a Director, but also of six local councils representative of each State, I was interrupted, although most courteously, by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who said that such a proposal was utterly impracticable, because it would conflict with the other provision in the clause that the Institute should be a “body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal and capable of suing and being sued.” Later on, when the Leader of the Opposition interjected that it was only fair to. say that provision for advisory councils had been included in previous Bills, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.’ Greene) replied - “.Yes, but the previous Bills did not propose to make the State advisory councils part of the Institute.” The Minister added that in that respect my proposal was entirely novel. I do not think the honorable member for Kooyong when he made his interjection was fully informed regarding what he was taking about, and I am satisfied that when the Minister made his interjection he did not know what was in the previous Bills brought in by this Government. Will the Minister affirm that the measure previously introduced by the Government did not propose to make the State Advisory Councils part of the Institute?
– Part of the body corporate ?
– No. The Minister’s statement was: “ Part of the Institute.” I have a distinct recollection of his interjection.
– I had a look at my proofs this morning. I said we did not propose to make the Advisory Councils part of the body corporate.
– For the information of the House, I repeat that, according to my proofs and my recollection of the interjection, the Minister said he did not propose to make the State Advisory Councils part of the Institute. Does the Minister now wish to correct his statement ? If so, I shall let the matter drop.
– Certainly not.
– It is only right, when I am charged with seeking to introduce a provision which is declared to be impracticable, that honorable members should know what were the provisions of theprevious Bill brought down by his Government. Clause 4 of that Government measure stated -
There shall be a Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry which shall consist of three Directors, and in each State an Advisory Council of Science and Industry, which shall be a body corporate, with perpetual succession and seal, and capable of suing and of being sued.
That was practically my proposal. I have no desire to pursue the subject further.
Question - That the Bill be read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Greene) -
That the intervening business be postponed until after the consideration of notice of motion No. 2. .
.- On previous occasions I have protested against any alteration, in the order of businessunless adequate reasons were given, and I have been told by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that it has been the practice of Governments from time immemorial to do as they liked in this matter.
– I wish they could.
– We have been told that the Government may alter the order of business without even doing honorable members the courtesy of submitting reasons.
– I stated that I wanted to proceed with Order of the Day No. 2.
– Why ?
– In order to get the Bill up to a certain stage, so that it may be proceeded with on another day.
– The Minister might have told honorable members that. As the representative for West Sydney I am entitled to know the reasons for any alteration of the order of business.
– I want to know also.
– Now that the Minister has given his reason I am prepared to assent to the motion ; but I shall insist on the right of every member of this House to demand the reason for any alteration in the order of business. Honorable members come here prepared to consider proposals and Bills as they appear on the notice-paper for the day, and as a matter of courtesy the Minister should supply reasons when a motion of this nature is submitted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That leavebe given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to the exportation of butter from the Commonwealth.
Bill presented and read a first time.
The Budget: Economics -Federal Capital and Seat of Government - The Tariff - Taxation of Wealth: State Securities - Income Tax Exemption - Postal Department : Returned Soldiers and Promotion by Examination - Defence Department: Wages - Wireless Telegraphy - Nauru Island Agreement - Requisitioning of Ships : Losses.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That there be granted to His Majesty for and towards defraying the services of the year 1920-21, a sum not exceeding £2,367,826.
This is a Supply Bill for one month, but the amount is a little larger than was asked for on the last occasion, when £1,83S,S47 was required, because it covers three instead of two fortnightly payments. It provides for the payment of salaries on the 3rd September. That has been done to avoid the introduction of another Supply Bill before the end of August. There are no new items; the Bill simply grants Supply for the ordinary services for one month, in anticipation of the Estimates. The amount asked for is made up of the following items : - Ordinary expenditure, £1,400,301; War Services - repatriation, and other things - payable from revenue, £367,525; Refunds of Revenue, £100,000; Advance to Treasurer, £500,000.
– Is there nothing for Canberra ?
– Not in the sense that the honorable member means. The proper time to discuss Canberra will be on the Budget; I hope honorable members will not deal with it now. I am making every effort possible to bring forward the Budget before the end of August. It is not so easy to frame and shape a Commonwealth Budget as it is to frame a State Budget, because accounts have to be got in from every part of a wide continent, which makes the work more difficult, and proportionately bigger.
– I hope that you will let us see the second report of the Economies Commission before the Budget is discussed.
– I shall be glad to let the honorable member see any of the Commission’s reports, and shall welcome help to obtain greater economy in the Public Service.I hope to discuss the matter when dealing with the Budget, when I shall endeavour to show exactly what is being done to economize, and shall explain how the public funds of the Commonwealth are being spent. When the facts have been presented, honorable members will have nothing to feel ashamed of regarding the economy exercised in the Public Service. This is the first occasion for many years on which a Treasurer at the beginning ofa financial year has asked for so modest a sum as I now ask for. It is, I believe, the first time for many years that a Supply Bill for one month has been brought in, it having been the custom of late to ask for Supply for two, and sometimes for three, months. I hope that the Committee will grant this modest request, so that the services may be kept going until our expenditure can be reviewed in connexion withthe Budget.
.- I am glad that the Budget is to be brought down early, and I hope that honorable members will have an opportunity of discussing it early, too. Budgets have been brought down in August and September, and no opportunity has been given to discuss them before practically all the money required for the year has been voted in Supply Bills. It must not be forgotten that we have the Tariff to consider, and that on some lines persons are laying out thousands of pounds without knowing what Parliament intends to do. We shall have to decide whether the Tariff is to be Protective, or merely revenue-producing.
– It is producing good revenue just now.
– And we need the money.
– The Treasurer seems to have forgotten ‘the views which he expressed in 1901, when the Kingston Tariff was under discussion.
– That is hardly fair.
– The honorable member cannot say that it is not a protectiveTariff.
– It may be in certain directions, but as regards commodities that are not produced here, it is merely a revenue-producing Tariff. Men in business in this and other States are anxious to know what this House intends doing, particularly in connexion with certain lines. I know that after the Tariff hasbeen passed by this Chamber it has to go to another place, and, although it may be amended there, it docs not become effective until finally dealt with by this House.
As we are discussing the first Supply Bill introduced by the new Treasurer, I would like to take the opportunity of congratulating him on his appointment.
– I shall need the honorable member’s sympathy.
– I think the Treasurer will need not only my sympathy, but that of every honorable member in this House.
I understand that the Treasurer has stated that at the present time an enormous amount of wealth is escaping taxation.
Mr.West.- Yes; about £600,000,000. Mr. TUDOR. - Is that statement correct?
– Not that amount.
– I can remember a gentleman who wasrespected on both sides of theHouse often saying, “What is a million?” Apparently the Government of the day are not concerned with single millions, as the policy at present seems, to be one of raising many millions.
The Treasurer has asked for Supply for only one month; but he must remember that he has already had one month, as Supply was granted in May before the arrival of the Prince of Wales. The amount for which he is now asking will take the Government up to the middle of September. I notice that there is a Treasurer’s Advance of £500,000, and no doubt the Minister will give us some information as to the manner in which: that sum is to be expended.
– Perhaps that is for Canberra.
– No, I understand that no provision has been made in the Supply Bill for any expenditure at the Federal Capital site ; and I hope that when that matter is brought forward it will be in such a way that honorable members will have the opportunity of directly voting for or against the expenditure. I would like ‘the Treasurer to say definitely when he expects the Supply Bill to be passed by the Senate:
– By next Wednesday.
– Then, if that is the case, I think it would be advantageous if the Senate sat occasionally of an evening.
.- It is refreshing to hear the statement of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), in presenting his first financial statement since his recent appointment, that he intends bringing forward the Budget by the end of August. If the Minister is able to keep his promise, he will deserve the congratulations of every honorable member. We have, however, had similar promises in the past, and, as they have not been fulfilled, one is somewhat dubious in accepting them.
– I think we can do it.
– I am glad to have the Treasurer’s assurance to that effect. It is the duty of the Treasurer, if he possibly can, to bring down the Budget at the earliest possible moment to enable honorable members to discuss the Estimates in a proper way. In the past it has been the policy of the Government to go on spending the’ money and passing Supply Bills, and when the Estimates were being dealt with we found that the financial year had practically expired. It is unreasonable to, ask a deliberative assembly such as this to adopt such a practice, and, as conditions are becoming normal, there is no justification for the Government to act in that way.
I desire to take this opportunity of placing before the Treasurer the necessity of the Government making some declaration concerning our Income Tax Act, as the time has surely arrived when it should be amended. Since the Act was passed the cost of living has increased by approximately 70 per cent., and it is time some relief was given to the poorer people of the community. ‘ If at the commencement of the war in 1914 we fixed the exemption at £156 when the cost of living was 7.0 per cent. less than it is to-day, there is every reason why Parliament should amend the Act to relieve the heavy imposition which is placed on those in the community who can ill afford to pay. In many cases men are finding great difficulty in providing for their families, and we are still continuing to collect income tax from these people, notwithstanding the fact that it has been declared that the basic wage shall be £3 17s. 2d. per week, which amounts, Toughly, to £190 per annum. If it takes £190 per annum to enable a man to live, surely it is not fair to say that for every £3 he receives in excess of £156the exemption shall be reduced by £1.We have also to consider the position of single men who, under the Act of 1916, have an exemption of £100, which is reduced by £1 for every £4 received over that amount. When the Bill was before this Chamber in 1915 I suggested that the exemption should not be less than £200, and it should not have been. At present the exemption should not be less than £250, in view of thechanged conditions . Already income tax forms have been circulated, and in the course of a few months the taxation officials will be making the necessary assessments. Unless the Government decide on an amendment this taxation will again be collected from people who, as I have said,are hardly able to pay it; and that is not a fair position in which to put them.
We are told that there is £550,000,000 or £560,000,000 representing income which is not taxable at all; and this means that there are very many rich people who escape. Of course, much of this is due to legislation we have passed here exempting the interest on some of the loans, but I contend that it is not fair to exempt people who are wealthy, and at the same time tax those who are really in destitute circumstances.
– We can only alter the position in regard to loan interest by altering the Constitution.
– I know we have given our word in that regard.
Sib Joseph Cook. - I mean that constitutionally we cannot tax State securities.
– Is the whole of this £550,000,000 represented by State securities ?
– State securities represent £400,000,000 and our own securities £150,000,000.
– I think that if the matter were closely investigated we should find that some of it is not represented by exempt income from loan - that possibly a good deal belongs to people in affluent circumstances who escape taxation.
– I have no doubt that there is a good deal of income which never pays any taxation.
– That does not detract from my argument that’ the poorer people should have some relief.
In my opinon the cost of the war should be met by means of a sinking fund created out of income taxation. I believe it was estimated that the raising of the exemption from £156 to £200 would affect the revenue by about 5 per cent. ; and if the extension of the exemption to £250 were taken to represent a difference of 10 per cent., the amount necessary to make up the deficiency should be collected on incomes over that amount on a graduated scale; in other words, I would collect the money required for the purpose of paying the interest on the money -borrowed to carry on the war, from those best able to pay it. When we were at war we all desired to do our utmost to further the interests of the Commonwealth and of the Allied cause, and we borrowed this money; and it is only fair that those who made money during the war should do the most towards liquidating the debt. It cannot be doubted that there are some people who made more money in consequence of the war than they ever made in their lives before. . Those who follow the share market reports in the newspapers must see that there are many companies throughout Australia which during the last four or five years have placed large sums to reserve, with the result that to-day they are reconstructing. These companies paid good dividends while the war was on, and now, with the money placed to reserve, they are giving further shares to their shareholders. This plainly indicates that these companies have made more money than they were entitled to make because of the war, and the Treasury ought to be able to lay its hands on some of it; otherwise we may look for disaster in the near future, or, at any rate, some trouble. We see fictitious capital being created in almost every business concern; and one result will be that, when the employees come to discuss the question of wages, it will be pointed out that on the capital shown only so much interest is being earned, though, perhaps, not a fourth of that capital is genuine, and the men on this plea will be denied a proper return for their labour. The people who are making all this money ought to be called upon to pay more than they do in taxation, until we reduce our war debt.
It is not fair that the boys who fought for us while we remained in perfect security at home should be called upon to pay income tax, with the small exemption I have mentioned, when they return to civil life. In my opinion the returned soldier ought to be altogether exempt, and I have a letter here from the Newcastle Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, putting their views on the point-
At a general meeting of this league the following resolution was carried unanimously, and I was requested to forward same to you with the request that you do your best to assist us in this matter: - “ That we, the returned, men of the Newcastle district, emphasize our strong protest against the levy of income tax being directed against returned men; and that we, as a body, consider that we should be exempt from the claims of income tax from any amount realized by personal exertion up to’ £250; and that we request that further consideration be given to this matter, the result of such consideration to be immediately forwarded to this district.”
Thanking you for your past endeavours to assist us, and trusting you will take this matter up at your earliest convenience. Evidently the members of the League think they ought not to be taxed for the debt incurred during the war, but they are prepared to pay on a basis of a £250 exemption; and I regard that as a fair suggestion. Time is fleeting, and unless the Government take some action these men will have to pay on the present basis next year. There are many people who receive assessment notices for £2 or £3, and are unable to find the money without allowing their other hills to go unpaid. That was never intended; it was always thought that the tax would be collected1 on incomes over a living wage; and I mention the matter to enable the Treasurer to give some consideration to it before this session closes.
In the Postal Service there are many men who saw service during the war, and I have had complaints’ from them to the effect that they are unable to get higher classification. A little time ago the Postmaster.General (Mr. Wise) informed me, in reply to a question, that modified examinations had been arranged for the purpose df allowing these men to improve their positions; but I have a letter from one of them, who points out that he and others find it absolutely impossible to pass this test. .The effects of the war on them are such that they are no longer able to devote themselves to the necessary study, although they can do the practical work with every satisfaction to the authorities. The letter is as follows: - <
I desire to draw attention to what I consider to be the very unfair treatment I have received as an employee of the Postal Department.
I enlisted in 1915 having then completed about six years of satisfactory service in the Postal Department. I was with the A.I.F. for about four years, and then resumed duty at the Newcastle Post-office, in October, 1919.
I am now a married man, and receive an annual salary of £150 and £12 war bonus.
It had been promised that a modified examination to enable soldier employees to enter the Clerical Branch of the Service would be held on our return from the war, but, up to the present, I understand only one has been held, and that one some years ago.
I have certainly suffered because of my loyalty to my country. Pour years of service have not improved my chances of promotion. I am receiving considerably less than the- living wage. Had I stayed at home, I would have had many opportunities of securing promotion within and without the Service.
I have wondered if you would be good enough to draw attention in the House to these facts. Perhaps you would compare our position, and the treatment we have received, with that of the State school teachers of New South Wales.
In the case of the teachers they have received, and justly so, a rise in classification, which will save them years of study, and, in most cases, give an important rise in salary.
In the case , of the Postal employee - even when his services, both in the .Postal Department and in the A.I.F. have been satisfactory - he finds there is no promotion and no prospects.
I will be pleased to provide you, either by letter or at a personal interview, with any other details.
I do not wish to occupy your time with matters of no importance; but, believing that you are a true friend of “ The Diggers,” I am appealing to you, .and I am. sure that you will do what you can to see that justice is done to those who have loyally served their country.
I think that, when one’s Postal service has been satisfactory, he should be promoted to the Clerical Division upon his return from the war without further examination, as in the case of the soldier teachers.
There is a good deal to be said for these young fellows who enlisted at about nineteen years of age, when their minds were such that they could sit down and study for the purpose of passing examinations, but who, on their return, after three or four years on the battlefield, subject to all the disabilities of war, find it impossible, generally speaking, to settle down to studies. The result is that they cannot pass their examinations. If they can do the practical work required of them, we ought to be able to make some provision for them. Otherwise they will be obliged to remain in their present positions without any chance of rising. I do not claim that they should receive preference, and be put over others -who are equally capable, but’ we should not impose upon them the necessity to pass the examination we would expect them to pass if they had not gone to the war. We ought to let these returned men know that we are desirous of doing all we can for them. They are beginning to believe that we have forgotten them. But that is a mistaken idea on their part. We have not forgotten them. Their difficulty is that their sufferings do not come prominently before us. I ask Ministers to take their cases into consideration, and endeavour to deal fairly with them.
I trust that the Budget will be brought down in reasonable time, and that honorable members will have an opportunity of dealing with the Estimates, so that once more we may be a responsible Parliament, which we have not been for the last five or six years. We have been governed by Departments and Executive acts. A return to responsible government can only be brought about by allowing no expenditure before it is approved by the House.
Mr. MARR (Parkes) ‘ [10.51.- For some time past I have been, complaining that, in the opinion of- the public the nay of men permanently employed m the Defence Department in New South Wales is not commensurate with the duties performed by them. I was pleased to receive a reply from a Minister to the effect that the scale had been altered as from the 1st May. Whether it will meet with the wishes of the men I cannot say, but cases have come under my notice in which a fair living wage has not been paid. A watchman in charge of ordnance stores worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, a permanent man with seventeen years’ service, is paid £3 2s. per week, whereas seven or eight men temporarily employed are receiving , the New South Wales standard wage of £3 17s. per week. Saddlers employed bv the Defence Department are not receiving the wages they ought to be. paid. In fact, instead of being the best paid in Australia, the Commonwealth Service is the worst paid. In New South Wales during the last two years there have been sixty-four resignations per month in the Commonwealth Service, and they ar© the best men, and not the worst, who are leaving.
In Australia we are not paying to wireless telegraphy the attention it should receive. Recently there has been a good deal of talk in the House about the application of science to industry ; but although no science lias advanced more rapidly than, has the development of wireless telegraphy and wireless telephony during the last few years, we in Australia are npt making use of it to the extent to which it is employed in other parts of the world. The results achieved during the war in handling this science and the advances made were astounding. In Australia we are years behind the times, but we cannot anticipate any progress in this direction until this branch of work is controlled’ by a separate Department. I am opposed, generally speaking, to the establishment of new Government Departments; but I make an exception in regard to wireless telegraphy. It should be the work of a distinct Department. For economy’s sake the accountancy work of such a Department might easily be done by the Post and Telegraph Department, the Navy Department, or any other already established branch of the service. At present the Defence Department, the Navy Department, and the Navigation Department deal with wireless telegraphy. The regulations under the Navigation Act, controlling the use of wireless telegraphy on ships, are rotten, and frequently conflict with the provisions of the Wireless Telegraphy Act.
Vessels cant go to sea and flout the Department, simply because the regulations do not make .provision for everything that ought to be covered. On some of the biggest liners leaving our ports the aerials spread between the masts and the feeder wires foul the funnel. There is often, a piece of rope to keep them away from the funnel, but in, some cases this rope is tied to a lifeboat. If the ship should get into difficulty this rope has to be cut in order to release the lifeboat, immediately causing the feeder wires to get foul of the funnel, and thus straightway the wireless is out of action. However, I shall ‘ deal with this matter when speaking on the Navigation Bill.
There is another matter to which’ I wish to refer, which I am sure is very dear to the hearts of many members of this House, and that is the building of the Federal Capital. When we come to consider the Estimates for the Department that has control of work at the Federal Capital, it is my intention to move that the vote for that Department be reduced by the sum of £1 as a protest against the omission from this Supply Bill of a vote sufficient to begin the erection of the necessary buildings to enable the Seat of Government to be transferred to Canberra. I have noticed that there is a vote set down in connexion with the Works and Railways Department for the erection of a. note-printing establishment in Melbourne. I shall oppose in every way that I can the expenditure of any more money upon the erection of Commonwealth buildings in Melbourne. If wo are to house our departmental officers in permanent buildings, these buildings should be erected at the Federal Capital.
– The honorable member’s announcement is tantamount to a vote of . want of confidence in the Government.
– We often hear that the electors are above Parliament. Honorable members admit that at least one day in every three years, but I should like to say that I made definite pledges to my constituents in connexion- with these matters, and I intend to adhere to those pledges. The erection of the Federal Capital is not a matter bv which New South Wales is going to benefit. It, is Australia that will benefit bv the building of the Capital. The great war through which we have passed was brought about because one nation refused to honor a treaty it had made, and treated it as a scrap of paper. If the Commonwealth Parliament is going to treat the agreement made with the people of Australia, and not merely with the people of New South Wales, to establish the Federal Capital as a scrap of paper, my voice will be raised against it. I do not say that Canberra is the best place for the Federal Capital, but that is a matter that has already been decided by the Australian Parliament.
– Will the building of the Capital reduce the cost of living ?
– It will reduce the cost of government to the people of Australia. We are now paying £80,000 a year in interest on money that has already been expended at Canberra.
– How long will it take the Federal Capital to become selfsupporting?
– It will become selfsupporting almost immediately. We are at the present time paying in the shape of rent for buildings in Melbourne to hou=e Commonwealth officials approximately £30,000 a year.
– Does the honorable member imagine that that amount would be saved by transferring the Seat of Government to Canberra 1
– No, but that amount would represent interest on a capital expenditure sufficient for the erection of buildings in the Federal Territory where, it should not be forgotten the Commonwealth owns 900 square miles of country. A most important feature of this question is that we can never expect to inculcate an Australian sentiment in the minds of our people unless the Federal Parliament is removed from the influence of the parochialism of any city. I should like honorable members to have been associated for a number of years with the men of the Australian Imperial Force. No matter from what State they came they were always Australians, and not Victorian, New South Welshmen or men of any other State. It was most galling for members of the Australian Imperial Force upon their return from the Avar to find, when they got to Melbourne, that the people of this city, were jealous of Sydney, and to find, when they got to Sydney, that the people of that city were jealous of Melbourne. I do not hold a brief for Sydney any more than for Melbourne, and I should not personally give a vote to transfer the Seat of Government to Sydney. The same influences that are at work in Melbourne to-day would be at work in Sydney if the Seat of Government were transferred to that city. I repeat that when we come to consider the Estimates of the Department concerned I shall move that they be reduced by £1 as a protest against the omission from this Supply Bill of a vote sufficient to make a start with the buildings necessary at the Federal Capital. If we are to start building the Federal Capital we must have workmen to carry out the work, and it would never do to send workmen there at the present time and expect them to put up with hovels or to be accommodated in a concentration camp. We should make provision for decently housing the necessary workmen and their families at Canberra. If we gave them an assurance of, say, five years’ work I have no doubt that many would be prepared to settle down there comfortably, and land could be leased to them. The capital value of land in the Territory would, as a consequence, go up immediately. Although we have 900 square miles of country in the Federal Territory, the income derived from that area at the present time is a very insignificant amount.
.- I was going to ask the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) how long he proposed to sit this evening after the announcement made by “the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I have some observations to make, but I do not propose to make them at this moment. I wish to indicate to’ the Treasurer that, if it depended upon me, instead of getting Supply for a month he would not get Supply for twenty-four hours. I shall take the opportunity of stating my reasons at a later stage. I think that the manner in which the government of the country is being carried on in the hands. of the present Ministers would entirely justify me in voting against giving them Supply to the extent of £1. I wish them to know, at once that if it depended on my vote they would not get ls. for Supply.
I should like to ascertain from the Treasurer, amongst other things, whether there is in this Bill any authority pro posed for the payment of money in connexion with the purchase of Nauru Island.
– Then, under what authority was the payment mentioned in the press, and referred to in this House, made?
– Under the authority of the Bill.
– There is no authority in the Bill ; there is no appropriation ; there is no authority to pay the moneys which have been paid over.
I would like to know, further, if there is any authority contained in this Bill for the payment of moneys under a War Precautions regulation gazetted on the 7th July. That regulation gives authority to charge losses made in connexion with the requisitioning of ships by the Com-: monwealth Government to Consolidated Revenue - to moneys appropriated by Parliament. In respect to this matter, I desire definite information. It has been stated that during the period’ in which the ships were held up on account of the dispute with the seamen, the losses occasioned by the holding up of the vessels were borne by the taxpayers of Australia, while, at the sam© time, the shipowners were receiving profits equal, or almost equal, to those which “they would have received had the ships Deen running. Is there any foundation for that statement 1
– I cannot say. I would prefer to answer that to-morrow. However, there is nothing in this Bill relating to that matter.
– I did not think there was, but I asked in order to make sure. Although there is no reference in this Bill, I want to know where the authority is, and it is only im debating this Bill that I can raise the question. I want to know, in the first place? what is in the Bill and what is not in the Bill.
– That should be broad enough to cover the whole business.
– I want to know what payments are not included in this Bill, and I want to know - if they are not included here - under what authority the payments have been made. I would be obliged if the Treasurer would furnish me with some ‘ information to-morrow which will enable me to discuss these matters on the basis of facte supplied.
Returned Sailors and Soldiers Im perial League : Control op Distribution of Soldiers Tweed. Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I asked a question on 8th July regarding the position of soldiers who were not members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, and who wished to participate in the distribution of Anzac tweed. I was informed, in effect, that there was no foundation for the allegation that returned men who are nob members of the League are precluded from securing cloth. I have nothing whatever against the League, but merely wish to see even-handed justice meted out to every man, irrespective of whether he is a member of the League or not. If the Government is providing cloth, every man who served abroad should have an equal and perfect right to secure a suitlength if he so desires. Since receiving the official answer to my question, a returned soldier, who was a lieutenant, and who is not a member of the League, sent me a letter pointing out that what I had suggested was absolutely correct. He says -
I saw the party in charge, and I put to him a plain, straightforward question, namely, “ Is this cloth issued for the benefit of returned soldiers in general, or is it sent up for the use of those who belong to the Returned Soldiers League only 7” He replied, “ It was sent up for the League members only,” and also that the League had placed £1,000 down for the monopoly, and, furthermore, he was acting under instructions from the League, and only members of the League could be first served, at the same time politely intimating that when the League members were served there was nothing left over. Or, in other words, you had to become a member of the League or go without.
I have also received word from an exsergeant who made application at the same place, namely, at the Newcastle office of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, and who received the same answer. I now ask that further inquiries be made in order to ascertain whether all our returned men are getting a fair deal. I bring the matter forward solely to clear it up, and honorable members will understand that I have no feeling in the position at all. I may say that in my district there is a league of returned men which is not connected with the Returned. Sailors and Soldiers Im perial League, and that it is its members who have complained to me.
– I am greatly surprised to learn the particulars brought forward by the honorable member. The information which I gave in reply to his original question was supplied throughofficial channels, and I was bound to accept it as correct. I will make further inquiry–
– And if they have sold you another “ pup “ !
– Then they will hear from me. Obviously, there must be something in; this complaint. I shall institute strict and immediate investigations to see where the trouble lies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 July 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200729_reps_8_92/>.