8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have just heard that Sir Thomas Ewing, who was long a member of this Parliament) died yesterday. He held office as Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council and also as Minister for Defence, in two of Mr. Deakin’s Administrations, and many of us knew him intimately. I had the honour of knowing him for many years as a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, and he was also a member of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. His sunny nature and amiable disposition endeared him to all. I think we might say with safety that he had no enemies in politics. Although his circumstances were such that a life of leisure would have been more compatible with his disposition, he devoted himself with assiduity to politics, but his health suffered so seriously that he was compelled at length to retire. I desire to express my deep regret, as well as that of my colleagues and the Parliament generally, and to extend to the deceased gentleman’s ‘ relations our ‘ sincere sympathy.
– I received a shock this morning when I learned that Sir Thomas Ewing had passed away. He was a member of this Parliament for something like, ten years, and we all esteemed him for his genial nature. He had absolutely no personal enemies in this Parliament. While he did not spare his political opponents, his criticisms were always bright and breezy, and devoid of that sting which, unfortunately, is associated with much of our parliamentary dissertations. With the Prime Minister, I believe that his work as a member of this Parliament tended to shorten his life. I am very sorry to hear of his death, which is another addition to the gaps that are steadily being made in the ranks of those of us who were members of the first Commonwealth Parliament. On behalf of the Opposition, which I have the honour to lead, I desire to extend to the deceased gentleman’s relatives the most sincere sympathy in their sad bereavement.
– May I add my expressions of regret to those which have fallen from. the lips of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition. I was one of those who had the pleasure of knowing Sir Thomas Ewing personally, and as a member of this House. He was a member of the House of Representatives during the stirring days of the first eight or ten years of the Parliament, and although he was a really good fighter, he invariably fought with absolute fairness. No one could say that he ever took an unfair advantage of an opponent, or that he uttered a word of hostile personal criticism of a fellow member. It is characteristics such as these that uplift the public life of Australia. I, in common with honorable members generally, mourn Sir Thomas Ewing’s death, and desire, on behalf of my party, to extend to his relatives and friends the most sincere sympathy.
– I desire to indorse what has been said by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Country party. The late Sir Thomas Ewing was an old colleague of mine. I knew him well; he was loved and respected by all. The better he was known the more he was liked. He was a loyal comrade and always “played the game.” One regret I have is that all too often we do not discover these good qualities in our fellows until after they have passed away. I hope that we shall endeavour to do so while they live, and try to recognise the good qualities of honorable members, no matter in what part of the House they may sit. “ Tom “ Ewing possessed the most amiable disposition, and I feel his death deeply. I warmly indorse the kindly remarks that have been made concerning him, and which will be conveyed to his friends.
– As a tribute of respect to the memory of our old colleague, I invite honorable members to rise in their places iand remain standing for a few moments.
Honorable members rose in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Wise), by leave, proposed and agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902-18.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a report published in the Argus of the 13 th mat., that the honorable member for Barrier had stated that the Commonwealth Government had retained the salary attaching to the office of the representative in Australia of the Soviet of Russia, and “ doubtless some of the funds of their journal.” If so, will the right honorable gentleman state whether the assertion is correct ?
– I am sorry to have to say that it is incorrect. The straitened circumstances of the Government were such that a windfall of this sort would have been welcome. I learn for the first time, and with some surprise, that the Soviet Government is in a position to pay any salary to its officers in this country.
Speaking quite seriously, the statement is grossly inaccurate. The Government has not seized the salary referred to, and it is entirely ignorant of the circumstances of the Soviet representative. It has not seized his correspondence, and is not treating him differently from any other citizen. So far as I know, the facts are that he is treated exactly the same as any other citizen of the Commonwealth.
– Since the Minister for Trade and Customs has found an opportunity to revise the Tariff Schedule introduced during the present session, I desire to ask him whether he has given any consideration to the request of a deputation representing the country newspapers of Australia, which recently waited upon him, and whether it will be possible for him to bring in an amended Schedule to give effect to that request?
– I have considered the request, and it will be dealt with when the Tariff is under consideration.I would point out to the honorable member that even if a lower duty were brought in we should still be required, under the law, to collect the higher duty until such time as Parliament had altered the Schedule. Thus, no advantage would be gained by introducing at the present time an amended Schedule fixing a lower rate of duty.
– At the request of the Australian Aero Club, the Australian Jockey Club, Sydney, and the Avro Company at Mascot, I wish to bring under the notice of the Assistant Minister for Defence the disgracefully low flying which took place over Randwick a few days ago, when machines, I understand, were dropping leaflets from so low an altitude that all the horses in the boxes were terrified, and the people on the racecourse rushed for shelter. I understand that the honorable gentleman is President of the Air Board, and I ask whether these facts have been brought under his notice. Cannot something be done, pending the passing of the Air Regulations, to stop this low flying, which, undoubtedly, before long will produce a great tragedy in one of our capital cities?
– I shall see that the practice is immediately stopped. As soon as the Air Council is definitely formed, regulations will be issued to prevent anything of. the sort.
– Has the Prime Minister come to a decision as to the action to be taken by the Government to carry out the wish expressed by the Conference held last week in regard to the export of sheep-skins? The men in the fellmongering trade are still out of employment. . I understand that the Prime Minister promised to bring in legislation dealing with the export of sheep-skins, and I desire to know ivhether that legislation will be introduced at an early date.
– I am not aware that the course proposed by the Conference necessitates legislation. I desire, however, to make a statement for the information of the House, and to invite the criticism of all who are concerned in this matter. On Friday last a Conference, consisting of representatives of every section of the wool industry - growers, brokers, tanners, wool scourers and fellmongers, exporters, wool-top manufacturers, spinners and employees - was held. The question to be considered was the position craated by the scarcity of skins, added to the fact ‘that many hundreds of men are now unemployed. The matter before the Conference was how to overcome that difculty of unemployment. It was decided, I think by thirty-two votes to eight, to recommend a scheme of this kind, namely, that all skins should pass through certain prescribed channelsbefore being exported, and that the local buyer should have an opportunity of purchasing at the world’s price before the skins were exported. Now, that is the practice already - so we were told - in the case of nine-tenths of the skins. As a matter of fact, there was some difference of opinion upon this precise point, that is, as to whether the quantity comprised ninetenths or seven-tenths. However, the local buyer does have a chance* now, and’ it was decided, in order toencourage the industry, to give him the right to secure all his requirements at the world’s price. That sounds a perfectly fair proposition. The Conference was called to advise the Government. I bring this matter before the House now. I ought to have done so before but failed, since the matter had escaped my attention. I invite honorable members to offer any criticisms and objections which they may see fit to present, either on Tuesday or Wednesday next at the latest, so that the sense of Parliament may be gathered1 in regard to the question. Honorable members will be able to gain precise accounts of the proposals from the press of Saturday last, and from the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), who were present at the Conference. All sections of the House should be able to get first-hand information from those gentlemen.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the Age of yesterday there is a report of a speech delivered ‘by myself in Geelong in which appear some statements attributed to myselfbut which I never made. And, since those particular remarks, as published, reflect most grossly upon my col- league the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise), I desire ‘to correct them. I am at a loss to know how the report could have appeared in such shape. It states -
He had been speaking to the PostmasterGeneral about telephonic communication; he did not like those people who came to him and said that things could not be done. Anyone could say that the Government did not pay a man £1,000 or £2,000 a year to say things like that. (Laughter.) What men were paid for was to say how to do the impossible. When the Postmaster-General said it was impossible to get wireless telephones and ordinary telephone wire in this country, he (‘Mr. Hughes) said, “‘Go along and get them.” The result was that the Postinaster-General told him that afternoon that he was getting them.
That report is like the curate’s egg - it is good in parts. But I continued at some length to speak about experts. I was talking about experts - people who come along and tell us that a thing cannot he done. As any one who ‘has had experience of experts must know, they can be absolutely maddening ; they can drive one to the verge of despair when telling one that a thing cannot be done. I said that I did not want people like that. My office boy could tell me that things cannot be done. I said I wanted a man who would say, “ Yes, this cannot be done, but I will tell you how to do it, and see that it is done.” This newspaper, no doubt, has been misled by some careless telegraphist in the Postmaster-General’s Department. I am quite sure that the reporter would not have made such a mistake, and the idea that the editor or his staff has made it is, of course, absurd. Somehow or other, however, the mistake has occurred, and I want to say most emphatically that it is one to which I take very serious exception, and to which my colleague, the Postmaster-General, also takes serious exception. I take this first opportunity to say that I was referring to the experts; and if those gentlemen have any ground of complaint concerning what I said I will deal with them in due course.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) follow up the courtesy which he showed to me some time ago in obtaining information concerning the wonderful variety of seed wheat known as Yeoman, which gives up to 96bushels per acre? I ask the Minister if he will endeavour to obtain a supply of this variety from the Imperial Government for the use of the wheat-growing States of Australia.
– I will have the matter inquired into. I think it probable that the agricultural experimental stations under the control of the various State Governments will have taken up . the subject.
– I desire to make a personal explanation upon the subject of Canberra. In this morning’s Age it is stated, in the course of a report, that, when the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was speaking, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) made the interjection - “ It will be another twenty years before it is finished.”
– That is quite correct.
– I am then reported as having said, also by way of interjection - a most unusual thing for me to do, as honorable members know - “ it will be fifty years before we sit there.”
– Well, what is wrong with that?
– I dare say the wish was father to the thought in the case of the Age; and I want to point out, by the way, that this is not a report appearing in the Queanbeyan Age, but in the Melbourne Age. What I said was that it would not be fifty weeks before we sat there ; and I may add that that is still my opinion. I do not know whether I will be in order in concluding by saying that, if this House does its duty, I will prove to have been a true prophet.
– By way of personal ex planation, and in justice to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), and also to the reporter for the Age, I desire to say that I was sitting immediately behind the honorable member yesterday evening, and that it was I who made the interjection to the effect that it would be fifty years before we got to Canberra.
Payment to New South Wales Farmers
– With regard to the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that he was considering the question of payment for next season’s wheat, I ask if he will specially consider the case of New SouthWales, which has just recovered from two years’ drought; and will he see if the whole of the 5s. guarantee can be given to the farmersof that State, who have had very great responsibilites thrown upon their shoulders as a result of the drought ?
– The Government are considering the whole matter, and I would not like to forestall their conclusion. Honorable members are aware that we are likely to get a bumper harvest; possibly, indeed, a record crop. There are 37½ bushels to the ton, and it is probable that there will be somewhere between 2,500,000 tons and 3,000,000 tons harvested. If honorable members care to multiply 37½ bushels by 5s., and to multiply that answer by 2,000,000 or 3,000,000- which performance is beyond me - they will realize that the amount of money involved will be quite considerable. My colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who has scarcely recovered from his endeavour to grapple with the serious financial position of the Commonwealth, will tell the House that it is no light thing to find £7,000,000 or £10,000,000 next January, for that is the least which we shall have to find during that month. However, we shall do what we can. I fully realize the position of the New South Wales farmers. The Government have considered that phase of the whole situation, and I will say that if anything can be done to give them special consideration it will be done.
– The amount involved will be more than £30,000,000.
– Honorable members will see what a thing it is to be a peripatetic ready reckoner. I could not do these things’. All the same, I think that the right honorable gentleman is wrong.
– The Treasurer is over-estimating it.
– Whatever can be done to give the New South Wales farmers special consideration will be done.
– I . desire to ask the Prime Minister for information, following up a question having to do with the salaries, bonuses, and promotions of officers and employees of Parliament. Upon the occasion of my originally putting the matter before him, the Prime Minister courteously announced his sympathy with my purpose. I may tell him, however, ‘ that I have been unable to obtain the information which I needed in reference to the Senate. Now that the Budget is before the House, I ask if honorable members should not be entitled to the information such as I have suggested, and in regard to the collection of which the Prime Minister was good enough to say that he supported me.
– This is a matter which, as I said before, is quite beyond my scope, and which rests with Mr. Speaker and the President of the Senate. I supported the request of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), and I again support his endeavour to secure the required particulars. Mr. Speaker was hot in the chair at the time, but Mr. Deputy Speaker informed the honorable member that the information he required was available and could be supplied.
– Yes, but only in reference to this House. The other gentleman “up there “ will not supply the information, for obvious reasons.
– Well, I cannot help the honorable member. I have no authority “ up there.” They will not listen to me.
– Has any report been received from the Imperial Navy which may be published in reference to the advisability of continuing in commission the vessels of the Australian Navy ?
– The British Government have made certain suggestions as to the class of vessel that, if any selection had to be made, would be most useful in all the circumstances ; but the honorable member will realize that everything; we do in connexion with our naval defence must depend to a large extent on what the British Navy propose to do. Of ourselves we avail yery little, and in turn the British naval authorities are considering the whole situation in the light of the experience gained during; the Great War, and the fact that they are pressed by very great financial difficulties, and also with the knowledge that next year it is intended to hold a Defence Conference, at which this matter will be considered.
– In view of the fact that in another place an adverse vote has been carried against the Government on two important matters, namely, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and the Northern Territory Representation Bill, would an optimist be justified in concluding that this foreshadows a change of Government at an early date?
– Having been out of the city yesterday I had not learned of these “ hostile decisions “ of another place, and the news comes to me as a positive “bolt from the blue.” I thought that the honorable gentlemen “up there” were quite content and happy, instead of which, apparently, they set about carrying resolutions against the Government. I have always been in favour of the bicameral system, but my tolerance has its limits. Ican assure the honorable member that there is no fear of a dissolution of this House, and that if the honorable gentlemen in another place continue as they are doing, I do not see why we should not submit the questions at issue direct to the people.
– In view of the fact that the forms of the House will not permit me to give notice of the question which I desire to ask, I must request Mr. Speaker to be courteous enough to furnish me with an answer to it without notice. My question is as follows: - Will Mr. Speaker have the numbering of the bound volumes of Hansard printed in Arabic numerals, which are far more simple than Latin numerals, as can be seen, for instance, when we compare 88 with LXXXVII1. ? I defy any mathematician to multiply CCCXLV. by CCCXXXIL, using Roman figures throughout. It seems to me that we should follow the example of the State Parliaments, and make use of the more up-to-date and scientific Arabic system of numbering our Hansard volumes.
– The system of numbering volumes of Hansard has been in existence from the beginning of this Parliament, but as the Hansard reports are not confined to this branch of the Legislature, the matter to which the honorable member refers would naturally have to be referred also to Mr. President. Personally, I think there is a good deal to be said in favour of the honorable member’s contention, and the method of numbering, suggested by him, is used in connexion with the House of Commons debates. At the same time I can see one advantage to honorable members in our system, because an honorable member who is anxious to make an embarrassing quotation from another honorable member’s speech, perhaps long since forgotten, and recorded in a bound volume of Hansard, may occasionally be restrained from doing so by a contemplation of the formidable numerals of which the honorable member has just given as. an example.
– No doubt I somewhat offended the Treasurer yesterday afternoon by interjecting when he was delivering his Budget. I would like to ask him what he thinks of the leading articles in this morning’s newspapers, particularly that in the Age, criticising his Budget?
– I did not pursue the task of reading the whole of that criticism. A little of it was quite enough.
Issue of Bonds - Leasehold Tenure - Vocational Training of Returned Soldiers in Building Trades.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. An opportunity for discussing these matters will be afforded in connexion with the Estimates.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the great shortage of labour, the Government will take into consideration the question of vocationally training a number of returned soldiers at Canberra, where, it is alleged, (a) that there are almost 1,000,000 bricks ready for use; (6) that there is a brick-works capable of turning out some of the best bricks in Australia; and (c) that there is a vast quantity of other building material available?
– The matter will he considered by the Minister for Repatriation.
asked the Postmaster- General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In addition to the amount of £380,460, the Treasurer has agreed to the acceptance of tenders for further material which will be paid for this financial year. He also agrees to the inviting of tenders for material to be paid for in 1921-22, up to a total of £500,000.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. In accordance with the Prime Minister’s promise, employers and some trading firms and companies have permission to cash bonds, under certain conditions, to an unlimited extent. In the case of applications by private individuals, the registrars’ of war gratuity bonds at the Sub-Treasuries in the capital cities may permit not more than ten bonds to be cashed by any one person. ‘ Where a person desires to cash more than ten bonds, the matter must be specially referred to the Secretary to the Treasury for consideration. The average amount of ten bonds would be about £800.
I may explain that many people have been endeavouring to transfer bonds in bulk, more particularly traders and others who have accumulated them.
There are always plenty of persons in the community ready to take these bond’s inbulk, for the simple reason that they get a splendid investment, free of taxation. Of course, we cannot permit that.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether any portion of the £100,000 set aside for the encouragement of civil and commercial aviation will be available in certain proportions and on certain conditions as regards defence, mails, &c, to the manufacturers and owners of aircraft applying for such assistance?
– The manner in which the money provided for the development of civil aviation will be applied is at present receiving the attention of the Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. This matter is still under the consideration of the Government.
Application to Naval Forces
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether the superannuation scheme for the Commonwealth Public Service recently referred to in the press, and reported to include the Military Forces, will also apply to the Naval Forces?
– The scope of the proposed superannuation scheme is still under consideration.
Commonwealth Representation at Geneva Conference - Commonwealth Finance and Trade - Australia House - Immigration.
– (By leave). - Some time ago it was publicly announced that the Assembly of the League of Nations intended to hold its first session at Geneva on the 17th November next, and in reply to questions put to me in the House I stated that the Commonwealth Government would be represented thereat. Since that time a number of suggestions have been made, and much advice has been given to the Government, as to how the Commonwealth should be represented. It has now been decided that Senator Millen shall attend the Conference as the representative of Australia, and take with him competent official assistance, in the person of Mr. Knowles, an officer under Sir Robert Garran, in the office of the Attorney-General. I have had the opportunity of knowing Mr. Knowles for very many years, and I can say that, excepting only Sir Robert Garran, a more competent man does not exist in the
Commonwealth Service. If I were going myself to Geneva I do not think I could select a man upon whom I could rely with more confidence. Senator Millen will also take with him M. Chevassu, formerly on the foreign editorial staff of the London Times, who has made Imperial politics his study, is familiar with all the proceedings of the Peace Conference and the League of Nations, and an accomplished linguist. I need hardly point out to honorable members the importance to Australia of the League of Nations. The whole world now is in a state of flux, and the League of Nations, by its advice and by its power, can exercise a potent influence on our destinies. As honorable members know, the mandates have not been officially issued, and many questions relating to our quota of defence, to the means by which the world’s peace shall be maintained, and disease, labour troubles, and other matters dealt with the world over, are in the hands of this, the only international body that has, as it were, the sanction of law behind it. This League, of course, has yet to prove itself competent to deal with all the great questions that are intrusted to it, but its influence already is considerable. Australia is a signatory to the Covenant, and, perhaps, has more to lose than any other nation from the deliberations of the Conference. Many of the things for which our soldiers fought have not yet, as it were, crystallized and assumed so definite a shape as to preclude the possibility of such alterations as would be fatal to our interests. I do not know any man who is more competent to represent the Commonwealth at this great world gathering than my friend and colleague, Senator Millen. He will go to this Conference with a clear understanding that he represents this Parliament and this country on those questions. On certain of the questions to which I have alluded in a general way there is no room for difference of opinion. We cannot have any difference of opinion - we cannot listen to any one who speaks about any encroachment on the principle of a White Australia. Senator Millen, who holds the Australian view, recognises that fact clearly. There are other matters on the agenda paper ‘which leave any amount of room for difference of opinion, and as to these, of course, Senator Millen will exercise his own discretion. The honorable gentleman will leave Australia towards the end of this month. How long the sittings at Geneva will continue it is impossible to say, but at their conclusion Senator Millen will proceed to London in order to deal with matters of great public importance, which, unhappily, have not been dealt with owing to the resignation of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). Senator Millen will take up the questions of finance where that honorable member dropped them. He will deal with questions of trade and trade organizations, and will also make such recommendations and effect such alterations in the organization of the High Commissioner’s office as are considered desirable. Of course, I am expressing my opinion as a private member - but other honorable members have been to England during the last two years and are able to judge for themselves - when I say that there are far too few Australians in Australia House - far too few. I think it is essential, if we are to have an Australia House which really represents Australia, to have the staff continually refreshed By new drafts of blood from Australia. These men, after serving at Australia House for a period, will return to Australia and others take their places, in this way maintaining touch with Australia.
– It would be a good thing if we adopted the same principle in the Customs Department.
– Quite so.
– Will the High Commissioner be an Australian, pursuant to that policy?
– No; there are limits. I do not think we could get a man to go to England to take up the duties of High Commissioner, and to come back just as a public servant does toresume his place in the Public Service. When a gentleman goes to Australia House as High Commissioner he has divested himself of his political opportunities in order to take up the position, and when he returns he divests himself of that office and all that the office means. There must be some continuity of policy, and, to that end, discretion must be exercised; but, subject to that, the principle I have laid down is, I think, a sound one.
I come now to another matter with which Senator Millen will also have to deal. I have spoken in this place several times on the necessity for immigration, and I referred to it when outlining the defence policy of the Commonwealth. I :said that 5,000,000 people can neither defend this country nor develop it, and that the remedy for this is more men. The Government have decided to take up the question of immigration, and put it forward with vigour on a bold and comprehensive scale, believing that in no other way can we hope for any success. The Commonwealth and States came to an understanding during the recent conferences - for there were several - in regard ‘ to immigration, an understanding that,. I think, will commend itself to honorable members. The States agree that it is well that one authority should have control at the other end, and any one who looks at the matter fairly will say that it is better that one authority should speak for Australia - that there should not be six or seven competing authorities talking about particular States. I do-not think honorable members quite realize the profundity of the ignorance of the Britisher in regard to Australia. He speaks of Australia as if it were a kind of place to be covered in a day’s walk, and he talks about “ the climate” of the country. I may say that I have been colder in this country than I ever remember to have been in England; indeed, I have been half frozen to death here. We can find any kind of climate in Australia, and in the interior I have found it colder than in any other country I know of.
– That is nonsense!
– I shall not go further into that question, merely suggesting that, in order to test the question, an honorable member has only to camp out, put his feet outside his tent at night, and see how he gets on. What we have to tell the people of Britain is the truth about Australia. I have read some of the prospectuses and highly-coloured statements about Australia, and rose from their perusal convinced that they did not present a fair and accurate picture’ of this country. We do not desire to bring people here under false pretences, and, therefore, we must tell them the truth. The truth is neither that pessimistic wail we hear on the one hand nor those glowing eulogies we hear on the other. If we cannot induce people to come out here on the merits of the country, it is better they should stay away. -We do not wish to have disappointed men who complain that they have been induced to come here under false pretences; therefore, the first thing we propose is to see that the wouldbe immigrant learns the facts. It matters nothing to the Commonwealth whether immigrants go to Tasmania or to Queensland. Now, as to the number and the kind of immigrants we desire. . Some of the States, of course, are circumstanced quite differently from others : but Queensland and Western Australia have authorized the Commonwealth to get as many immigrants as possible - they will take all we can bring. As to the kind of people we desire, when I put forward the views of the Labour party on immigration I said what I believed to be true, namely, that to throw on the labour market a huge mass of immigrants without regard to the requirements of urban industries is to create conditions that will prove most unfortunate. A community can digest only so many newcomers in a given time, and those newcomers must be of the right kind, and must be put in the right places. And the right kind of preparations must be made for them. The first essential of this country is land settlement; therefore, our efforts must be directed towards getting men to go on the land. As honorable members know, the British Government have offered to pay the fares of ex-service men to any part of the Empire up to, I think, the 31st December this year, and we are negotiating with a view to the extension of that period, so that we _ may have the advantage of the continued co-operation of the British authorities. We do not propose to stop at trying to induce British ex-service men to come to Australia, but to extend the invitation to all healthy men, young men particularly, including lads and youths, for plastic youth can adjust itself readily to the circumstances of the country. When a man is set in his course of life, it is very difficult to make anything of him in a new country. I think it will be found in practice extremely difficult to attract trained agriculturists from Britain. When I was in Scotland last year I found that the agriculturists were receiving £2 8s. per week “ and found “ during the harvest. There is plenty of work for them in England, and it is extremely difficult to offer inducements that would attract that class of workmen to Australia. Then there is the farmer himself. He has had a bad harvest in England this year, and if we listen to himwe shall hear exactly the same kind of story as we hear in Australia. We shall endeavour to attract men who have had experience on the land, and have some capital. Honorable members must not suppose thatthe farmer here is different from the farmer elsewhere. The farmer never does well. I visited my own people in Wales, and listened to the most melancholy tales. Yet they were all right; they were getting 16s. per bushel for their wheat, and, after all, that is not a bad price. Of course, they might have received more, but they were doing very well. I do not expect that we shall attract very many agriculturists, but I hope we shall inducemen with small capital to come here, and also plenty of young men on the threshold of life. They are the kind of menwe want. They can be moulded to the circumstances of Australia, and imbued with progressive ideas. This country must go ahead, and to do that successfully it must have men in abundance. It cannot have too many men, provided they are of the right type and are set down in the right place. Organization is clearly wanted at this end. The States must do their part, and we have arranged with them that each shall say how many men and what kind of men it will take. That is the best guarantee against any State being swamped with the wrong kind of labour. Then we must see that public opinion is educated as to the necessity for immigration. We cannot allow a “ doginthemanger” policy to rule this country. There are many quite well-meaning men who have a perverted idea of the fundamental facts of economics. They think that the fewer the men here, the more work there will be. That is not so. Work increases with the growth of population. If there were no other men coming - forward, employment would be reduced to the level of that on Robinson Crusoe’s Island. The more men we have, the greater the opportunities for manufacture. We are now on the threshold of a new era of manuf acture. If all goes well, we shall certainly have a magnificent season for primary production ; and we need it. But we also want abundant labour and additional men on the soil. We must have sufficient labour to develop this great country. The Government are doing what is possible in regard to the development of the woollen and iron industries, both of which are peculiarly suited to Australia. The Government recognise that unlesswe are prepared to deal with immigration in a comprehensive and systematic way we cannot achieve success. I believe that very much will depend upon those who are placed in charge of the work, and we have placed in charge, for the time being, Mr. Percy Hunter, who has had a very long experience of immigration organization. I have known him for many years, and I think he is a most competent man. I have read in the press a statement about the projected appointment of a Commission. I know nothing at all about any such Commission; the Government have no intention of appointing one. I protest against this habit of the press of first of all inventing acts by the Government and then writing leading articles condemning us for doing them. That practice is very trying. What we want is an Immigration Agent in addition to Mr. Hunter in particular - and here I appeal to honorable members of the Country party - a successful farmer, who, having made good in Australia, is prepared to go to England to put the facts about Australia before the people of Great Britain.
– A Britisher who has made good in Australia.
– Preferably he should be a man who came from some part of the United Kingdom and has made good in Australia. Such a man will be able to say, “ I know all about Australia; I have done what I say you can do.” We are sending to England Mr. Barnes, who came to Australia some fifteen or twenty years ago, I believe, and who has made a competence. He will stay in England for a year or so, and put the facts about Australia before the British people.
– If Mr. Barnes had stayed with the Labour party he would have been denounced as “a Johnnycomelately.”
– If he came lately, at any rate he has done very well. I remember Mr. Barnes when he was President of the Eight Hours Movement in Brisbane.
– And a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.
– I remember him in the Labour movement long before the Assistant Leader of the Labour (party (Mr. Ryan) was even on the outer fringe of it. He was the founder of the Butchers Union.
– He was not. Charlie Anderson did in an hour more than Mr. Barnes did in his life.
– I am not Mr. Barnes keeper; I do not know everything he did, but he did good work, and was held in sufficient esteem by the trade unions of Brisbane to be made President of the Eight Hours movement. What is the use of honorable members opposite making this fuss ? I ask them to find me a farmer with the right qualifications for this work, and I do not care two straws what his political opinions are. What I want is a man who has made good, and will be a living advertisement of Australia. We ought surely to approach these great nationalquestions from a national standpoint.
– He “ratted” when you did.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Ballarat to withdraw that reflection on the Prime Minister.
– I said that Mr. Barnes “ ratted “ when the Prime Minister did ; that is why he is getting the job. If that is wrong 1 withdraw it.
– The honorable member is beneath an honest man’s contempt.
– Order ! I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that statement, and I remind him that the honorable member for Ballarat has already withdrawn the reflection he made upon him-.
– Well, I say he is not beneath an honest man’s contempt.
– Order !
– I apologise for both those statements. It is a most lamentable thing that one cannot introduce any question in this Chamber without honorable members treating it on party lines. I was endeavoring to deal with this matter honestly and on its merits. I place the facts before the House in order that honorable members may know that the Government are going on with this scheme. They believe in immigration, and every man who loves Australia knows it to be essential for the country’s development and defence. The success of this scheme depends upon, not only obtaining the right kind of men, but transporting them to this country, and dealing with them efficiently when they arrive. That in itself will require a very effective organization on this side. To both these phases of the question the Government propose to direct their attention. Senator Millen, during the period he will be in England, will do what he can to give effect to this movement, and we hope that as a result of this policy there will be a large influx of desirable settlers to Australia. They will do very much for us in four ways - they will lighten our burden of taxation, they will produce more wealth, they will help to defend Australia, and they will help to develop it. That, broadly, is our policy. I hope that at the Geneva Conference we shall see that the interests of Australia are safeguarded, as I feel perfectly sure they will be in the hands of so competent a representative as my friend and colleague, Senator Millen.
– May I have the privilege of saying a few words in regard to the latter portion of the Prime Minister’s statem ent ?
Mr.Fowler. - I rise to a question of privilege. Twice we have listened to statements by the Prime Minister on matters of grave importance, and controversial in character, and the House has not had an opportunity of discussing either of them. It is only fair to the House to request that opportunity shall be given to discuss statements such as the Prime Minister has just made.
– There is no provision in the Standing Orders which will allow of such a discussion. It is entirely at the discretion of the House as to whether any honorable member shall be allowed to make a statement when no other business is before the House. The Prime Minister asked leave to make a statement, the nature of which was not indicated. But the granting of leave is entirely in the control of the House, . and one objection would have been sufficient to prevent the Prime Minister from speaking. A statement by leave can be made only with the unanimous consent of the House. But such a statement is not open to debate, unless upon a motion regularly moved.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) have leave to make a statement ?
– I was not aware that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was going to make a statement on this subject this morning, and was temporarily absent from the chamber when he rose. I realize that the representation of Australia at the Geneva Conference is absolutely essential. We must be represented there. The. right honorable gentleman has said that there can be no question of party so far as the policy of a White Australia is concerned, and that honorable members on all sides of the House are pledged to that policy. I sincerely hope that Senator Millen will voice the emphatic opinion of Australia as a wholeupon that question, and will’ insist that there must be no departure from that policy, which was practically laid down by this Parliament as far back as. 19.02.
– The delegation should be representative of both sides of the House.
– I do not intend to deal with that phase of the question. I should not have risen but for the statement made by the Prime Minister that Mr. J. T. Barnes is, to proceed to Great Britain as an immigration agent on behalf of the Commonwealth According to the press reports, Mr. Barnes is. one of the delegates to the Conference of the National party now sitting, and, as an Englishman who has spent ten or a dozen years in Australia, he is to proceed to the Old Country to, tell the people of the conditions prevailing here. I hope it will not be assumed that honorable members of the Labour party acquiesce in the proposal that he shall represent Australia. The responsibility rests with the Government. I certainly protest against Mr. Barnes being sent to England in this capacity. I am personally friendly with him, but he is as bitterly opposed politically to me as is any honorable member opposite. It cannot be said that he will be able to fitly represent Australia. There are Australians who know as much about Australia as do any of our citizens who come from overseas. It was my privilege as an Australian to work in both
England and the United States of America; but because I had worked in England for four years, could it be said that I was qualified to represent England in Australia, and to put forward here the ideals of the people of Great Britain? I think not. Many Australians who have been connected with the Immigration Departments of the various States might fitly represent the Commonwealth as immigration agents in the Old Country.
Having regard to the enormous shortage of houses in all our capital cities, it will behove the Government to go slow in the matter of immigration. In discussing the War Service Homes Bill yesterday, I mentioned that returned soldiers; had had their homes sold over their heads, and that they and their uniforms and belongings had been thrown into the street. In such circumstances, it is imperative that Australia should proceed slowly in the matter of immigration. I protest against the selection of Mr. Barnes for the position of Immigration Agent, since I believe that there are thousands of Australians who could better fill the position.
Debate resumed from 16th September (vide page 4708), on motion by Mr. poynton -
That this, Bill be. now read’ a second time.
. It. is not my purpose to speak at length on this measure. While I commend the action of the Government in. introducing this Bill, increasing as if does from £700 to £800 of the maximum advance for War Service Homes, I desire to make observations regarding the settlement of soldiers on the land. We have just heard from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that it is proposed to bring out from the. Old Country as many ex-service men and their families as can be attracted to our shores. I do not object to that.I do not object to a scheme of immigration that will attract to Australia the right class of people, whether they are exservice men or not ; but tobring people herewhen our returned men, in some of the States at. least, casuist secure the land that was promised them, would be an almost criminal act. It would be cruel to those who were induced to come here, and unfair to our returned soldiers. Those who have hadanything to do with the settlementofour toys onthe land in New South Walesknow that the money we have advanced for this purpose to the State Government has not resulted in anything like the adequate settlement of our men. The cost per head has been tremendous. I propose to give a few illustrations of the position in New South Wales. On one occasion I was requested by a couple of returned soldiers to inspect some soldier settlement blocks -in a certain district. I havea knowledge of the coastal country, and I do not hesitate to say that the officers who were responsible for the scheme to put returned soldiers on that piece of land ought not to remain in ‘office for another five minutes. I found that it consistedof heavyforest country. The best timber had been cutout of it by the saw-millers, and it would take a life-time todear the land of the rubbish that was left. Even if it were cleared it would not graze one bullock to the block, much ‘less abullock to2 or 3 acres. That is thesortof country which isbeing’offered to some of our boys. I learned that areturned soldier who had taken up one of these blocks was killed whileremoving one ‘of the trees, and that his wife and child, with her aged father, were living in a small bark hut on the selection, having been advised, nodoubtby the Local ‘Committed, to hang on to it until some other returnedsoldiercouldbe persuadedto take it over and pay for the improvements. This iswhat is being done with the moneywe advance to the States to assist in soldiersettlement.Our boys are being misled.
-That is notour experience in Tasmania.
– I amspeaking of what I have seenin New South Wales. In another case a returned soldier was urged to take up whatwas described as an irrigation block, but according to the report of a Local Committee the water could be brought on to only 2 acres of the wholeblock. We are constantly boasting of what weare doing with respect to the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, but in my judgment there has been no real attempt in New South Wales to settle returned soldiers on the Hand in the way intended by this Parliament “when we agreed that advances for that purpose shouldbe made to theState Governments. I could citeother cases in respect of which most peculiar decisions have been given by the Department. In onecasea returned soldier proposed, through the Department, to purchase for £3 per acre a block immediately adjoining a dairy farm for which £10 per acre was asked. His application, however, was turned down by the Department on the ground that the land, although surrounded with dairy farms, was not suitable for dairy farming purposes. One wonders at thereason for such occurrences. Our returned men are not being settled on the land.
– They are being settled on the land inevery other State.
– Their settlement on the land is not being proceeded with in New South Wales as it ought to be.
– The honorable members Statements haveno relation to this Billnor to the administration of the principal Act.
– Mystatements are relevant to ‘the general question., since a returnedsoldier who takes up ablock of land comes under this Act if he desires to build a home upon it.
Mr.Rodgers. - That is not so.The principal Actand this amending Bill have “no relation to land ‘settlement nor totheerection of homes on broad acres.. The land settlement scheme is purely an arrangement made between the Commonwealth and the States,under which the Commonwealth contributes a certain amount of money for the purpose. The whole administration of that scheme, includingthe erection of homes on broad acres, is left with the States.
– I commend the Government ‘for what theyaredoing under the principal Act, and I urge that special attentionbe given to the land settlement scheme which they are carrying out in conjunction with the States.
There is room for improvement in regard to the prices paid for homes securedu nderthe WarService Homes scheme. The returned menwould like to secure grants to enable themto build homes of any kind they desired so long, of course, as they did not seek to involve the Department to a greater extent than the amount advanced. I realize that our ‘ boys ‘ ‘ should be looked after and protected against exploitation ; but hardship is being inflicted because the Department is sticking too closely to its plans for home building, and has been refusing applications from those who desire to build according to private plans. I have in mind one case in which a man did not want a house of the type and size proposed by the Department, and had provided himself with a plan to meet his own views. However, because the Department was not prepared to accept the private specifications his application was not approved of. After all, these men have to pay for and live in these homes themselves, and they should have some say in the general scheme of building.
– What the Department is aiming at is the construction of a certain standard of home. It endeavours, wherever possible, to meet the wishes of individual soldiers, but it must take care to provide safeguards in the creation of these national assets in which the Commonwealth has invested its money.
– Generally, I agree with that; but there is no reason why a sound individual, private plan should not be accepted, or why, because a soldier does not care to build on the lines proposed by the Department, his application for an advance should be disapproved. Numbers of homes have been erected in the vicinity of Cessnock, but returned men will have nothing to do with them. These bouses do not appeal to them. It was mentioned to me some days ago by returned soldiers that in the building of homes staffs of, say, twenty carpenters are employed, among whom are four foremen.
– But those four would be working alongside the others, and would be getting only a matter of ls. or so more a day. That is the usual practice.
– I am not familiar with the usual practice, but it appears to me that four overseers among twenty men are more than is necessary.
– In utilizing returned soldier labour it must not be forgotten that it is not, perhaps, of a highly-skilled type, and that these artisans might require a little more supervision.
– That may be so. I am in agreement with those portions of the Bill which are intended to widen the scope of the original Act. I notice that benefits are to be advanced to persons who represented the Young Men’s Christian Association abroad. I do not object to that; but I want to know why this legislation should stop at the Young Men’s Christian Association? Why are not representatives of similar services also to be included? Was not equally good work done abroad by representatives oi the Salvation Army ? To give special preference to the members of one individual body will create discontent. While our fighting men may not have said anything depreciative of the Young Men’s Christian Association, in the matter of its activities on behalf of soldiers on the fighting fronts, I know that they have spoken in far more appreciative terms of services rendered by members of the Salvation Army. This measure proposes te draw an invidious distinction. The Salvation Army representatives did their work in a different way from members of the Young Men’s Christian Association.
Reference is made in the Bill to the granting of a war zone badge, or a British Mercantile Marine medal, to qualified men in the Australian mercantile marine. I suggest that the Minister make, inquiries regarding the British mercantile medal, because I believe that the Imperial authorities issued badges.
– No; a medal was issued by the Board of Trade.
– This Bill is an improvement on the original legislation; but, in the matter of administration in the various States, I think there should be more direct connexion both in regard to land settlement and the building of homes.
.- I agree that this Bill is an improvement upon the original Act. From what I have seen of the construction of War Service Homes in the neighbourhood of Melbourne I can compliment the Minister concerned, and his Commissioner, upon the very good work done and upon the reasonable cost. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) pointed out that the Commissioner insured the cottages erected by the Department. I do not object to that. In fact, it is a very good movement, and is similar to what is generally done by firms which carry their own insurance. The honorable member however, attempted to make out, following an interjection by myself,’ that I was against the action of the Department in effecting these insurances. The honorable member endeavoured to draw an analogy between what was done by the Department and the action of the Queensland Government in creating a State Insurance Department. I interjected that the. savings made by that Department were not effected merely by the fact of- its creation by the Government. There were other reasons, one of the chief of which was that the Queensland Government compelled every person who had to insure under the Workmen’s Compensation Act to do so through the State Department. Thus, a State monopoly was created. Formerly, thesugar-growers had had their own co-operative companies for the purpose of effecting insurances under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. As the risks were small, these companies made big profits, and at the end of the year were able to divide a large surplus among their shareholders. But they cannot do that at the present time, because the premiums previously paid to their company now go into the State insurance scheme. Furthermore, the State makes it imperative on householders to insure their domestic servants against accident, &c, under the Workers’ Compensation Act. There is no risk attached to this class of insurance; in fact, 1 have never heard of a claim for workers’ compensation being made by a domestic servant, or that one has ever suffered sufficiently to justify such a claim. I look upon this compulsion as representing so much money which is extracted from the public for the purpose of building up a revenue for this State enterprise, thus making it very much easier to reduce the rate of insurance on property on which there is risk. Again, the Queensland Government compel every municipality, shire council, central sugar mill, hospital, or other institution endowed by Government funds to insure through the State Insurance Department. This also gives the Government scheme a tremendous pull, enabling it to reduce the rates on certain classes of property.
– Do not forget that the Queensland fund meets the claim whether the premium has been paid or not.
– I know, as a matter . of fact, that the Rockhampton municipality, some time ago, was asked to pay to the State insurance scheme £100 a year more than it was paying previously to a private company. I understand that in the case of large companies or corporations, it was the practice of many insurance companies to make a considerable reduction in their schedule rates by commission as agents, sub-agents, or directors, so that their premiums were often lower than the flat rate which was charged under the Government schome.
– The honorable member must not forget at the same time that the amount of compensation payable was increased by 75 per cent.
– That may be so. No doubt, some persons may have benefited by the Queensland Government scheme, but in very many cases the insurance premium was paid to cover practically no risk. It was unfair for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) yesterday to quote a few isolated cases, as he did. Some insurance companies are very careful about certain risks, possibly more careful than a State Department would be. However, I am making these remarks now to justify my interjection of yesterday. I amnot opposed to the War Service Homes Commissioner carrying outhis own insurance. As a matter of fact, in the circumstances,I think it is quitethe proper course for him to take.
A great den I has been said by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) about the recent acquisition of certain saw-mills and timber areas in Queensland. It would have been fairer if the honorable member had put his cards on the table. He said, “ I make this charge “ ; but what charge did he make! He went all round the subject without making any distinct charge. He said that a letter was missing. That letter is not missing, nor is it a communication which would have had the slightest effect on the transaction. Apparently, ‘ it is a letter sent by Mr. Brett, or some other person, which did not reach either the Commissioner or the Minister.
Honorable members interjecting,
– If honorable members, instead of interrupting, would allow’ -me to continue, they would more easily appreciate the point I wish to make. I know nothing about this deal except what the Minister has stated, and what is contained in the papers laid on the table.I do not know whether the transaction is a good or bad one. The saw-mills in question are not in my electorate, and I have no more interest in the matter than has any other honorable member. However, I do regard it as the duty of this House to see that justice is done. The War Service Homes Commissioner, who had been given authority to construct so many thousands of houses, had to consider how best he could go about building them. He found that under the system of buying timber from day to day or week to week prices wore constantly jumping up against him.In one instance, where he made an arrangement with millers to receive a rebate of 5 per cent., the price of the timber had been raised by 10 per cent. within a month. As a matter of fact, the increase in the price of timber is largely due to the fact that royalty payable to the Queensland Government for timber standing in the scrub has been increased to 20s. or more per 100 foot. The Queensland Government are not to blame, but they submit the blocks for competition, with a fixed minimum royalty of, say, 5s. per 100 feet, and if the people who are competingto secure the blocks are willing to run the upset price up to 20s. per 100 feet, of course they can do so.
– What is the upset price at present?
– I do not know. It was notacase of looking at prospective orders. The War Service Homes Commissioner had instructions fromthis Parliament to build these houses as well and as cheaply- as possible, and no one who hashad experience in business would say that it was not better to buy alarge quantity of timber at a cheaper rate than would be secured by buying from hand to mouth, ‘especially when there was very frequently arise in prices. TheCommis- sioner, realizing thatsome finality must be reached, and in his attempt to carry out his instruction to build these homes as nearly as possible at a cost of £700 each, concluded that he could not do so unless he could insure an ample supply of timber at a certain price.None of the millers would make a contract with him. They would simply sell from month to month. Periodically they meet and decide upon the price they will charge for their output, and the rate goes up accordingly, the Commissioner, among others, being obliged to pay the higher prices. He acted wisely, therefore, in purchasing these saw-mills, always provided that he got them at a fair price. The only method of ascertaining whether the price paid was fair is by seeing who reported upon the value of the timber as it stood in the bush, and upon the machinery in the mills, and who checked the reports thus received, and by finding out if they were competent to present a fair report. In the first place the Commissioner approached the Queensland Forestry Department, and secured the services of their best man, who valued the timber, and madecertain recommendations. Then the Commissioner obtained a man or men to place a value on the machinery in the mills and the plant. Afterwards consideration was given to the effect of having two mills working alongside one another on adjacent blocks. It was evidently decided that more economical work could be done by two mills working huge blocks of timber country side by side and using the one management than could be achieved by establishing two widely separated mills with different controls. Furthermore, the timber would not need to be carted such a long distance as would be the case if there were two separately managed mills.
– Did Millars have the opportunity of selling any of their properties?
– I suppose so, but. I do not think they would be likely to sell. I do not think offers would be obtained from any millers except those circumstanced asMessrs. Lahey and Brett were. These men went out into the scrubyears ago, and took up blocks of 10,000 acres covered with splendid pine. They also secured the timber rights on other blocks and leases of other blocks when the royalty was probably 4s. or 5s. per 100 feet, and now that it has jumped to 20s. per 100 feet, surely they have an unearned increment of an enormous amount which they may he .prepared to vend as long as the purchaser, is willing to give them a considerable portion of the enhanced value of their timber.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 8.15 p.m.
– We must distinguish between saw-mill proprietors like Messrs. Lahey and Brett and. other lessees of timber areas. These men, in the first instance, went out into the backblocks and secured large areas of beautiful pine -and other timber, ‘ more as a speculation than as. an ordinary trading proposition; and, as the price of timber has been rising considerably, they have been in a position to command a substantial sum in the nature of the unearned increment:.. Apparently they were satisfied to sell out, instead of carrying on business permanently on their own account. In my own electorate there are to be found some of the largest and most up-to-date saw-mills in Australia, the proprietors of which -are. prepared to do legitimate business by supplying timber requirements, not only within my own State, but in other States’ as well. They are doing a very successful business, but they avoid any risk of selling at a lower price than that at which they could replace their stocks of standing timber by Belling only from month to month.
– I presume the honorable member is speaking of saw-millers generally?
– Yes. I am referring to the saw-mill owners in my own electorate. They are not prepared to sell all their stocks at once, because, if they did that, they would not’ be in a position to supply orders, which are flowing in from day to day. The difference between the two classes of timber millers is clearly illustrated. The one class is satisfied to take advantage of the rise in timber prices already ascertained; the other prefers to carry on business on a permanent basis. . The rise in timber values ia probably anything from 3s. or 4s. up to 20s. standing, and they offered to sell it at 15s. per 100 feet standing. A lot of the same class of timber in the bulk in Queensland cannot be bought at less than from 17s. to 22s. ; but Messrs. Lahey and Brett apparently were prepared to sacrifice this prospect, and to be satisfied with the difference between what they gave for it and l’5s., a very good profit. The question is how far were the Go- vernment justified in passing over other saw-millers and buying these mills. The War Service Homes Commissioner,, charged as he. is with the responsibility of building about 8,000 houses, realized no doubt that he would not be justified, if it could be avoided, in building the first lot of soldiers’ homes at £700 each if other houses built subsequently were going to cost much more. It was his duty to minimize, as far as possible, the cost over the whole transaction. This could, not be done by obtaining supplies in a hand-to-mouth fashion, because the mills would not sell for forward delivery. Their last offer, was a 5 per cent, reduction on the usual selling price, but they declined to name any quantity, and within one month, after giving a rebate of 5 per cent., they increased the price by 10 per cent. This movement may constantly go on. No one can say that the royalty on timber will not be up to 30s. per 100 feet standing within the next two or three yeaTs.
– Surely not under the present Queensland Government.
– They put up the timber for sale at a fixed price; but if, as the result of competition, an advance was offered, they could hardly be blamed for taking it; although in dealing with Wax Service Homes the Queensland Government might have been prepared to dispense with the royalty on timber altogether. This would have meant some practical help to returned soldiers. However, under any circumstances, 15s. per 100 feet is less than current rates, and there is a reserve of 10,000 acres of freehold in regard to which they have not paid one penny. It is all in reserve. I listened attentively to the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). I do not know whether he desired’ to’ convey the .impression that no proper investigation had been made in regard to the purchase, but I hope not. He omitted to mention that the first ‘step taken was to get the best expert advice obtainable in the reafforestation department in Queensland to value the machinery. The honorable member said that the Government got Mr. Brett to value Mr. Lahey’s machinery and mill.
As far as I am advised, the Government got a complete valuation outside; hut when Mr. Brett’s property had been purchased, the’ Government then asked him if he would give his opinion concerning the timber values on Mr. Lahey’s lease. It is important to remember that Mr. Brett’s property had then been purchased. Mr. Brett’s opinion verified to the fullest extent the expert opinion that had been paid for.
– You said he was casually asked to give an opinion.
– Let me say that the sale of his own property was practically made, so far as I understand, before this request was made for an opinion. In any case, I understand it did not, in the slightest degree, influence the Commissioner in accepting the offer. It was felt that a good man had been secured to report on the value of the machinery, and also on the value of the timber . The land was taken as valueless, though I know it is of considerable value. The next question is whether there is a sale for the timber; and there certainly is, for the purpose of constructing the houses that the Commissioner is authorized to provide. I fail to see how, under the circumstances, any blame is attached to the Commissioner, whom it would have been folly to compel to ask authority for each £50,000 he proposed to spend. Further, the present arrangements will enable the Commissioner to be able to fix the price he will have to charge the soldiers for their homes, which he would not have been able to do under any othercircumstances. No direct charge has been made against this deal, and if there is one that can be made, I should like to know what it is. If the deal is a good one, let us approve of it. I have never been in favour of Stateowned industries, and I should not be in favour of this were it not for the exceptional circumstances. We know that in Queensland the State saw-mills were not a success, but they had to compete with privately-owned up-to-date mills in the sale of their timber. In this they were not successful because the Government mills were not so up-to-date as those privately owned; but that objection does not apply in the present case, for the Commissioner will utilize all that can be produced and know the price he has to pay for it.
– Are these mills that have been bought up-to-date?
– They are up-to-date for the purpose for which they are acquired, and there is the advantage that all the pine, hardwood, and other varieties of timber will be supplied from the same source. I have already mentioned the saw -mills in Maryborough, but, outside that city, there are many other large saw-mills at Gympie, Bundaberg, and right through my electorate. Timber and made-up goods, such as doors and sashes, are sent all over Queensland and to New South Wales, and some to places outside Australia.
– Have the proprietors of those mills been willing to sell to the Government?
– I should say not, under the’ circumstances; at any rate, if I were owner of such well-established progressive mills, I should turn down such an idea every time. These mills are good for many years to come, and, consequently, those interested in them are perfectly satisfied to carry on their present operations, for which they havetheir steamers and everything that is necessary.
– Were they given an’ opportunity to say whether they were willing to sell?
– I cannot say, but the Minister will be able to inform the honorable member.
– I know that not long ago they were willing to sell.
– In order to show that the timber business is not so bad as has been represented, I may say that one of the largest firms in Sydney, the McKenzie Company, are erecting four mills on Frazer’s Island, together with a pier for the purpose of loading. If the timber business was such a bad one as we have been told, we should not find men of enterprise, ability, and knowledge extending their operations in this way. Altogether there is evidently a good future for the timber industry. The Prime Minister, this morning, told us of the active immigration policy contemplated by the Government; andthis means that timber in large quantities will be required in order to build houses for new settlers, workers, and so forth. Instead of regarding “this purchase by the Government as a mistake, we have every reason to congratulate ourselves on its accomplishment if the valuations are correct. It is generally admitted that the valuation of the timber, checked by the accountancy expert, is one that ought to be satisfactory to this House. The only question is whether15s. was a fair price to pay, without taking into consideration the value of the land. I have yet to be told that the other expert reports were not satisfactory.
– It has been suggested that there is a suppressed document, which warned the Government against accepting a certain valuation that was, however, accepted.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) may deny that.
– So far as I understand, what the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) says is not correct; there was no such letter sent to the Commissioner or the Minister. There may have been some correspondence with a man who was endeavouring to convince the Department that it would be better for it to do the work through him.
– But where are the documents ?
-I have been informed by the Honorary Minister (Mr. Rodgers) that the correspondence has not been through his hands, nor those of the Minister for Repatriation. I regret that the Queensland Government have not been more sympathetic towards’ our returned soldiers. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who has been Premier of Queensland, will agree with me that there is no State in the Commonwealth that has such good dairying and
Agricultural land unalienated within easy access of seaports, or with better railway facilities, than Queensland. There is no land in Australia that can be acquired at a cheaper price; but when it comes to the question of tenure the Queensland Government are opposed to freehold and offer perpetual leasehold.
– For what reason?
– Perhaps the reasons are better known to the honorable member than they are to me. Returned soldiers desire to acquire land on a freehold basis, and if it were made available in that way, tens of thousands of soldiers would have been prepared to settle there, and not only develop the country, but build up the population. There is another matter which I would like the Minister to take into consideration. Many of our returned soldiers, desirous of starting in business, have experienced considerable difficulty in opening accounts with wholesale firms. Under the present system it is impossible, with out considerable delay and risk, for the wholesale merchants to ascertain whether the applicants for . credit have any liabilities, because their encumbrances with the Department are not published in the ordinary way, and, although in many instances the merchants are desirous of helping the soldiers as much as possible, they are not prepared to do so because of the risk involved. It may be said that by paying a fee of1s. or so a necessary search could be made, but the merchants have not the time to inquire in other States to ascertain to what extent an applicant may be involved from time to time. Quite recently the following case was reported in White’s Mercantile Gazette, which is circulated amongst the commercial community -
A certain returned soldier got a loan over certain chattel assets; he left the Colony, and the Department took possession under its bill of sale and sold him up. The whole proceeds of the auction sale did not nearly cover the advance. The man was made insolvent by the trade creditors, and some outside assets realized. The Department now claims the whole proceeds of these, and leaves the creditors absolutely nothing. It should be remembered that trade gazettes can bo prosecuted criminally if they publish the security token in such cases.
The Department claimed the whole proceeds, which left the other creditors absolutely nothing. The procedure was tested in the Courts, and held to be legal.
– I suppose they were protecting the soldiers.
– It is the soldiers I am pleading for. There are many returned soldiers who may not have any liabilities, yet their requests for assistance are constantly being rejected. In many cases business men would be only too willing to help them if they were sure of the position.
– Who sold up the soldier in the case mentioned?
– The Repatriation Department. It realized on its bill of sale; but, although other creditors who had supplied the man with goods had not been paid, the Department took possession of what was not even covered by the bill of sale, and other creditors had to hand other assets over to the Department; It would be in the interests of the men if it were allowable for’ securities to be registered and published in the ordinary way. Some receive assistance from men lin a small way of business, who, of course, are not in a position, to give them such satisfactory terms and prices.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there’ should be registration in the ordinary way?
– Yes ; I have spoken to many returned soldiers, who have said that their applications have been rejected because they may have given certain securities when they have not done anything of the kind.
– On the other hand, there are a number who would not like their business affairs to be published in the ordinary way.
– It is no disgrace, because many men who are successful in business to-day have had to obtain credit to enable them to start. I believe that if the returned Soldiers’ financial arrangements were recorded in theordinary trade journals they would not object.
– If a majority of the returned soldiers were in favour of such a proposal the Department would accede to their wishes.
-N o one has done more to assist in the repatriation of our men than the Honorary Minister. I am sure he will admit that there is a very small percentage of the men who have any knowledge- of business, and some may be indignant at such a proposal, merely because they do not understand the circumstances. I should like to take this opportunity of - protesting against the collection of the entertainments tax on the proceeds of band concerts. The bands in Queensland include a large number of returned soldiers, and they give entertainments for the benefit of soldiers, churches, and charities. They make ho charge for their services; some of them have even incurred liabilities for the purchase of instruments. Occasionally an entertainment is given in older to- pro vide- funds for tho purchase of new instruments, which, however, do not ‘become the property of any individual; they remain in the possession of the band. Yet . on the - proceeds of ‘ all these entertainments bands have to pay taxation. No’ less than four bands have communicated with me recently on this subject. One of them owes £300 for its instruments. It seems a hardship that the members of these organizations, which are educational, and which do so much gratuitous work of a public and benevolent character, should be required to pay from their own pockets taxation on their concert receipts.
Mr.MAKIN (Hlndmarsh) [2.47].- I. was very much impressed with the speech made by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) last evening; and I recognise the seriousness of the statement he made concerning the recent purchase by the Commonwealth of sawmills, and timber lands in Queensland. Although I am a firm believer in State enterprise, which I consider to be more in the public interest than private enterprise, yet every care should be exercised in connexion with any transaction for the conversion of a private concern into a public utility. The interests of the taxpayers should be thoroughly conserved. If the statements made by the honorable member- for Oowper can be ‘substantiated by evidence, he has made out a serious case against the Government, and it is. their duty to justify this purchase. Although I believe in public enterprises, I shall not countenance the subordination of the public interest to private interests, and the involving of the public in a liability for a purchase that is without merit. It is rather amusing to note that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) should be to-day the champion of the action of the Government in taking over these timber enterprises. I wonder what his attitude would be if the same policy were applied to the sugar industry.
– The honorable member ought to be satisfied when the people are paying about one-sixth of the . price paid by the people in Great Britain for sugar.
– I hope the House will be afforded an opportunity in the near future of testing this purchase. The statement that a certain document is missing from the file is serious,’ and should not be allowed to pass without receiving the earnest attention of the House. We desire to know where that document has gone, and what it contains.’ I hope to have a further opportunity at an early date to express my views upon this deal, and that the House may be able to- ascertain whether the purchase is bona fide and justifiable.
I am thoroughly in accord with the remarks made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) in regard to the unfortunate soldiers who have suffered double amputations and are victims of tubercular disease.” He disclosed a scandalous state of affairs. When I received a communication from the Association for Limbless and Maimed Soldiers I was’ shocked to learn that such conditions . could prevail in a country in which we profess to take such a keen interest in tbo welfare of our soldiers. The circumstances disclosed should not be allowed to continue a moment- longer than is avoidable. I think also that greater consideration should be given to. maimed soldiers in connexion with the payments for homes. Every opportunity should be afforded to not only soldiers, biit all citizens, to become possessed of a house, that they can caill their own. Having regard to the immigration policyenun-. ciated by the Prime Minister this morning, more rapid progress should be made in providing homes for the people, because, if more population is brought . to the country, the housing problem which now confronts the people will be accentuated. In the district I have the honour to represent, some people are living in houses that should not be tolerated in a country like Australia, and many of the tenants are men . who saw active service abroad. I am hopeful that in the near future the - objectionable form of housing with which wo are familiar will be removed.
– Prohibition will remedy that evil.
-Whilst . there may be y some warrant for the honorable member’s suggestion, the . evil to which he refers is not-; the only one which has to “be taken into consideration in connexion with the housing problem. ‘ The economic conditions, of life are preventing our people from, establishing themselves in their own homes. We do not want them to be subjected to’ the gross exactions of greedy, landlords,
Mr.Rodgers. - A very effective weekend address by the honorable member in his own State would help matters considerably.
-I do my part in that connexion, and I always endeavour to give good advice to my fellow-citizens. I trust that I shall have established a’ good record before my term in this Parliament has expired. In the erection of War Service Homes, sufficient’ progress is not being made. Although the Department has- been established for a period of eighteen months, only 239 homes have been completed throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
Mr.Rodgers. -Read on.
-In addition, there are 856 homes in course of construction. But that is a mere nothing compared with the number of homes that require to be erected. The Government should ‘ set about this matter in. a business-like manner: They should bend the whole of their energies to expediting the erection of these homes, so that we may abolish the slum life that has made its appearance in our midst, and thus raise the social standard of our people. It is incumbent upon us to see that those who fought overseas are decently housed. ‘ The honorable member for Cowper . (Dr. Earlo Page) has made out a case which the Government must answer. Only last evening, reference was made to a number of youths who saw active service abroad, and who, because they were under age when they enlisted, are being deprived of the advantages that will be- conferred by out War Service Homes legislation. I have submitted a similar case to the Department. It is that of a young lad who enlisted when he was only-lsixteen years of age, and who is to-day bdmg deprived ofhis gratuity and of all tne other provisions relating to the repatriation of our soldiers. I hope that in this matter justice will be done to those to whom just-ice is due.
.- I congratulate the Minister upon, having included in this Bill provision for mariners and those persons who were membersof the Australian mercantile marine. Honorable members who know anything of tie genesis of the measure know that during the last session of Parliament the inolusion of members of the mercantile marine was fought for very strenuously. Now. that they have been included, I desire to convey to the Minister our sincere appreciation of the action of the Government. I do not’ in-, tend to speak at length upon this Bill, but there are one or two phases of it to Which I desire to direct attention. In the first place, I find that the War Service Homes Commissioner is interposing a bar against vocational trainees participating in the benefits which have been conferred by the principal Act. To discriminate to the detriment of these men simply because, for the time being, they are not in as good a financial position as are other applicants for “War Service Homes is entirely unjust.
– What reason does he give for his action?
– The only reason is that, in his opinion, these men are not in a position to bear the burden of paying the instalments that would be required of them under the Act, because they are only in receipt of a sustenance allowance from another section of the Repatriation Department instead of being in receipt of full wages. There should not exist, any bar “against vocational trainees. As these ‘men are being trained for a trade in which they will ultimately be able to. earn full wages’, the Commissioner ought not-to penalize them at the present stage. I sincerely hope that the. Minister will be able to devise some means for the removal of this disability. The representatives of the Young Men’s Christian Association are. included within the provisions of the principal Act:
– From a business stand-point, I do not knowthat anybody Can object to that. But it is unjust to deprive men -who have served in the actual fighting areas, and who have risked their lives in a way that the other associates of the Army have not, of the benefits of ‘ this, legislation.
– What men who served in the danger zone have been excluded from participating in this legislation?
– I have already said that the vocational trainees are being penalized by the War Service Homes Commissioner.
– I have taken a note’of. the honorable member’s objection, and will see what can be done in the matter. But this is a business branch of the Repatriation Department, and the War Service Homes Commissioner is charged with the duty of seeing’ that all applicants for War Service Homes have a reason- able’ prospect of paying the instalments required under the scheme.
– That is a sound, common-sense proposition. But when we are training a man to earn a full tradesman’s wage within three, six, or nine months from date, it cannot be urged that he has not a reasonable prospect of being able to keep up his payments. At the present time, the War Service Homes Commissioner is declining the applications of vocational trainees. However, as the Minister has promised to look into the matter, I will say no more about at.
– Has not the honorable member for Indi an amendment dealing with that matter?
– I have not seen it.
– The honorable member does not wish to convey the impression that men who served in the danger zone are being excluded from participation in the benefits conferred by this legislation?’
– No. . .
– Take chaplains, for instance.
– There are many chaplains who rendered remarkably good service at the Front, and I raise no objection to their inclusion in this Bill. I know something of the work which chaplains as members of the Australian Imperial Force performed. They were duly attested, but Young, Men’s Christian Association officials were not attested until towards the close of the’ campaign, when some of their number were granted permission, and were attested in England*
Another phase of this matter to which’ I’ desire to refer has relation to cases- in which the Commissioner’s estimate of the cost of building a home is exceeded. Where a returned soldier contracts with the War Service Homes Commissioner to build him, a house for, say,. £750; and that cost, owingto extras and other circumstances over which neither the Commissioner nor the soldier has control, is exceeded by £30, £40, or £50, the practice of the Department at present is not to allow the man to take possession until the additional amount has ‘been paid in cash. I- would urge the Minister to regard this as an unsound principle. The Department has the additional security for the money so expended, and the man should’ not be penalized. Instead of being called upon to pay this additional cost in cash before being allowed to enter into occupation, he should be given possession on completion of the building, and allowed to pay the additional cost by instalments spread over a number of years. The Minister may say that a returned soldier who has a war gratuity or deferred pay should be able to comply with the present requirement. Taking it by and large, how- ever, most of the men, when they returned to Australia, had to refurnish their homes, and those who have had to do that in recent times will know full well what it involves. I have had a bitter experience . during the past few months of the cost of refurnishing, and I am convinced that returned soldiers could not reasonably bp expected to have in hand the cash necessary to meet these additional costs. That being so, we ought not to shut the door in their faces. We might very well follow the practice adopted in connexion with the Western Australian workers’ home scheme, which was established some eight years ago; and allow the returned’ soldier to take possession of his home as soon as it is completed,, and to pay by instalments spread over a period the amount by which the estimated cost has been exceeded.
– What does the. honorable member suggest should be done where the maximum amount has been advanced ?
– If the Departmental estimate has been legitimately exceeded, then the fault does not rest with the returned soldier, and his case should be dealt with as I have suggested.
Theonly other matter to whichI desire to refer is the position of war workers under . this Bill. The term “ war worker “ is all-embracing. We shall find that those employed in connexion with the War Chest Fund, as well, as Salvation Army , officers who accompanied the Forces overseas, and, indeed, every form of war worker in Australia is covered by the term; - The Bill does not even provide that only war workers who went overseas shall come within its scope, and thus all auxiliary services, both here and abroad, will’, in my opinion, be included. If in the administration of the principal Act. and this amending Bill preference be given to that ty,pe as against the genuine attested member of the Australian Imperial Force, untold trouble will be laid up for the Government.
– There were munition workers actually, engaged in making shells here.
-Yes. I desire that preference shall be given to attested members of the Australian Imperial Force, and, within that category, to married men. I have no objection to these other classes coming within the scope of the Act. As one of the vice-presidents for Australia of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, I can say that the League, as an organization, has no objection to their coming in, . but it asks that if they are brought within the scope of the Act preference in administration shall be given to the genuine attested members of the Australian Imperial Force.
– What treatment would the honorable member extend to a man who, being unable to enlist here, went to the Old Country and enlisted there? That man ought to come within the soope of the principal Act.
– He does come within it.
– That is so.
– Why should Young Men’s Christian Association officials be singled out for preference over other war workers ?
– I heard the honorable member’s reference to that matter this morning. I have come to the conclusion that the definition of . “ war worker “ covers all who took any part in the auxiliary services of the Army, and that whether Young Men’s Christian Association officials are or axe not specifically brought within the terms of this measure they will’ be. covered . by that definition.’
– If this isso, why are they specially mentioned in the Bill?
– I hold no brief for the drafting of the Bill.
– If the honorable member’s contention be correct, why should the Young Men’s Christian Association officials have been selected for specific mention in the Bill?
– I do not know how any one could so construe the definition of “war workers,” as to exclude from it Salvation Army and Young Men’s Christian Association officials, as well as all other auxiliary services.
– Red Cross workers might come within the definition.
– Exactly. I have no desire to detain the House. I am. glad that the Minister is going to consider ‘the views I have put. before him in regard to vocational trainees, the giving of preference over all others to genuine attested members of the Australian Imperial Force, and the payment of any amount in excess of the estimated cost of aWar Service Home by instalments spread over a number of. years. These principles of preference might well be embodied in the Bill. It ought certainly to be made perfectly clear that first preference shall be given to attested members of the Australian Imperial Force.
– I fully appreciate the necessity for the introduction of this Bill in view of the experience which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) must have gained of difficulties arising from the operation of the principal Act. I approve of most of the amendments of the. original measure embodied in this Bill. Much has been said by speakers who have preceded me concerning proposals made to extend the scope of the original measure so as to include war workers and members of the Young Men’s Christian Associatio.n amongst those entitled to the benefits of the Act. I wish to say at once that I object to the scope of the Act being extended in. that way, and I am disposed, to vote against the provisions of this Bill which are intended to have that effect.
-Why?Are they not worthy of consideration?
– My reason for objecting to the extension of the scope of the Act as proposed is very similar te. that already given by previous speakers. I believe it will cause a great deal of discontent amongst members of the Salvation
Army and war workers of various kinds other than those specially mentioned in this Bill, who will believe that they have just as much right to be included amongst those entitled to the benefits of repatriation generally, and to the War ServiceHomes Act, as are those who are especially mentioned-.
– How would the Army, have got on without munitions?
– I am saying nothing to depreciate the work done by munition workers, members of the Young Men’s Christian Association, or any other persons who canclaim to have done war. work ; but I do say that the soldier should be given first consideration, and it has been quite obvious up to the present that we cannot provide the number ‘of houses, that are required for the soldiers.. Until such time as. we come within measurable distance of being able to meet the requirements of the soldiers, I will not agree to the extension to war workers, members of the Young Men’s Christian Association, or the Salvation’ Army, and similar bodies of the benefits of the War Service Homes Act. The soldier must be out first consideration, and in the circumstances I object to Specialize particular war workers in the way proposed in this Bill, and so I feel myself obliged to oppose that proposal .
– Before the honorable membersays definitely that he will vote against that provision of the Bill, will he not make the reservation that he will wait to hear the Ministerial statement as to the persons already included amongst those entitled to the. benefits ‘of the Act?
– If for no other Tea-son than that of courtesy to the Honorary Minister (Mr. Rodgers), I shall be prepared to do that. At the present time I am of opinion that we cannot include those specially mentioned in the Bill and exclude other persons who, aswarworkers, may claim an equal right to consideration.
A good deal has been said about the purchase of saw-mills and timber areas in Queensland. I do not wish to say very much on that matter, but I might mention, in passing, that I take quite a different view of it from that expressed by certain honorable members who spoke on the- “subject” ,on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday last, and also from that expressed by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who dealt with the matter last evening. As to the merits of the deal, I will say nothing, because I know nothing about it. I think that statement applies to the average member of the House, if not to practically every member of it. It has been claimed that the War Service Homes Commissioner should not have entered into a deal of this sort without the matter having first been brought before Parliament for its sanction, but it has been quite evident to me that this Parliament definitely gave the War Service Homes Commissioner and . the Minister for Repatriation that power when it passed the original War Service Homes Bill. , If we cannot depend on the War Service Homes Commissioner and the experts to whom he can look for advice to say whether it is good or bad business to purchase timber for War Service Homes in the way he has done, then, in my view, this House is not in a position to express a valuable opinion on such a matter. It is about the worst . possible body that could be suggested to decide whether such a proposal is a good or bad deal.
The chief objection which has been raised to the purchase is that the timber, in the long run, will not be as cheap, and consequently the cost of the homes, to the soldiers will be greater than, it would be if timber were purchased from private companies as required. Time only can tell whether this deal is a good or a bad one. On the.- subject of parliamentary control of expenditure and the contention that such proposals should receive the sanction of Parliament before we are committed to expenditure to give effect to them, I. take the view that this Parliament has the right to decide, first ©f all, whether homes shall be -built for returned soldiers, and then whether the carrying out of the work shall be left to a’ Commissioner, or body of Commissioners, or to the Minister. for Repatriation and his Department. We certainly did give the War Service Homes Commissioner under the original Act the
T>ower to spend millions of money in building waT service homes, and it is, therefore, absurd for honorable members to say now that1 we did not give him the power to purchase timber to the- value of £500,000.
– He has purchased shiploads of timber without any protest from members of this House.
– In support of my contention that Parliament is not a fit body to decide whether such a deal is a good one - or not, I may mention that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) and I, though we are representatives from the same State, hold widely different views as to the success or otherwise of such a deal. On Friday morning last, the honorable member for Franklin, in referring to this matter, said, that he knew of no case where a large company had been successful in -the saw-milling business, and that only men in business in a small way have been successful in carrying on that industry. My experience has been exactly the reverse. I have known companies carrying on the saw-milling business in a large way to be very successful, and I have known of a great many failures amongst small companies and men carrying on the business in a small way. Many men have failed very quickly for the simple reason that they have not commanded sufficient capi- tal to hold timber long enough, ot to keep stocks necessary to enable the timber to be properly seasoned. My experience has been that in the timber industry men strong financially have a better chance of success than can be expected by two or .three individuals who have little or no capital at their backs. I mention this difference of opinion between the honorable member for Franklin and myself in support of my contention that Parliament is, perhaps, the last body that should be. appealed to to decide such a question. Though the State we come from is not a very large one, and probably similar conditions apply from one end of it to . the other, yet we differ, so widely on this subject that we might debate it for . a week. Another matter which has been alluded to, and upon which I feel very strongly, has to- do with the position of limbless and blinded soldiers. The honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Tudor) last night quoted from a circular issued by the association .of these incapacitated men, in New South Wales, and I’ also have received a copy. I have every sympathy with those of our soldiers who lost, perhaps, two limbs and, in some cases, three, and I sincerely hope that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) will consider whether it is not possible to assist them, to- some permanent extent,- along the lines’ suggested in their circular.’ I have always taken the view that those men who were incapacitated during the war are entitled to be kept’ in comfort for the remainder .of their days; and, although it may not be possible to go so far as is proposed in the circular- for example, to give to those who have lost the sight of one eye, up to one-third or one-fourth the value of their house - still, something very much more favorable than so far conceded should be given them. In the case of. those who have lost an eye there are pensions to assist them in earning their living; for, despite their defect, they should be able, in most cases, to do - almost as- well as whole men. But,, as for men who have lost their arms, or their legs, it cannot be expected that they will be able to do much for themselves’; they cannot hope to . secure much comfort for the future, even though they should be able, by their own activities, to add something to their, pensions. The Government should consider whether they cannot do something more for those maimed and limbless soldiers in the way of providing them withhomes for life - although not necessarily by giving them homes straight out in which they could traffic.
– I assured the Leader of the Opposition that the specific cases to which’ he referred would be very carefully considered, and I am able to say that I think it possible that a way out will be found.
– It has been said, from time to time, that Australia has done more for her soldiers than any other country. That may be right; probably it is. But in the treatment of our crippled men we should- not be satisfied to make comparison with the treatment accorded in other countries, but should take, as our standard of comparison, what they would be able to do for themselves if fully equipped, physically, as are those men walking our streets to-day who did not go. to the war.
One. other subject which I desire to touch upon has to do with those members of the Australian Imperial Force who enlisted and served while under age, and in -respect of whom it has been stated that the benefits of our post-war legislation are not applicable in the same way as in regard to older men who served. Some honorable ‘ members have actually said that those youths have t been refused the war gratuity. I was astonished . to hear that, and still more surprised that the Minister should not have refuted such statements immediately.
– There is nothing n either the original Act or this Bill to disentitle those youths.
– Then, if there has been any revision of our laws by departmental officials, so that our fighting youths have been in any way precluded from securing the full benefits of the repatriation legislation, I .am sure this House will not countenance such a state of affairs. I, with other honorable members, . would certainly revolt against anything of the kind. To say that young fellows who enlisted and went away under the age of eighteen, and did men’s work at the Front, should suffer disabilities . compared with their older comrades is utterly absurd..
– There have been specific cases of the kind.
– I can only emphasize that there is nothing in either the original Statute or in this amending Bill to disentitle any member of , the Australian Imperial Force from securing the full benefits of our legislation. Each case, of course, must be investigated on its merits, and it must be made clear that the applicant io eligible under the tests set out in the Act. It is impossible for me to answer all the points raised ‘by honorable members as they crop up, but I will undertake to do bo before the House goes into Committee.
– I am pleased with that assurance, but I spoke as I did for the reason ‘that the Minister did not proceed forthwith to deny the assertions. I agree that there is nothing in our legislation, either past or projected, which would ex- elude these youths from the benefits of repatriation - whatever’ reasons or excuses may be advanced by officials; and, if by chance there have been such cases as honorable members have alluded to, the wrong must be righted immediately.
I have just one note of criticism to offer regarding the building of War Service Homes, and I regret to have to do so, because the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) and the Commissioner have done excellent work. That has beendemonstrated in the houses which have been built in the suburbs of Melbourne and elsewhere. On the whole, a very good type ofhouse has been erected - a type suited to the particular locality, and, no doubt, to the requirements of the individual occupants. But I have to complain that similar progress has not been made in country towns and in certain parts of other States. From my own electorate, applications had been forwarded before my return to Australia twelve months ago, but nothing has yet been done. When General Birdwood was in Tasmania, he laid the foundation stone of one house, but nothing further has been done. Many of those applicants who have been waiting have been so disgusted with the delay that they have gone elsewhere, to private sources, in order to secure homes for themselves. Absolutely no progress has been made in the smaller towns in my electorate, although applications have been in for a very long time. In reply to an inquiry which I sent to the secretary of the Returned Soldiers League at Wynyard, as to whether any progress had been made, I received a letter stating that absolutely nothing had been done. The writer added that the building of War Service Homes in his district was a farce or a tragedy, according to the point of view from which one looked at it. The country districts should be given some of the benefits arising out of the building of these homes, and the soldier who lives there should at least have a share. In many cases at present he has nothing. Numerous homes are being built in the cities, where there are far too many houses already. If houses were built outside, where there is ample work for young men to do, it would be very much better. Houses are being built every day and every week to the number of hundreds in the year in the cities, but the soldier who lives in the country district has not received the same benefits.
I trust the Minister will take some notice of any protest on this matter, because it is the one point in regard to the War Service Homes scheme with which I am distinctly dissatisfied.
– I wish to put honorable members on both sides of the House right regarding one point which has been stressed, particularly by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell). I refer to the statement that boys, under age, who went overseas are deprived of theprivileges of returned soldiers. 1 assure honorable members that no boy, no matter how young he was, who went into the firing line, and did his bit there, will be penalized for so doing.
– Is that in regard to war gratuities as well?
– That is in regard to everything. The boy who went overseas, whether he was sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, who went into the firing line, and did his bit with the others, will be recognised, and get the full rights of a returned soldier. I aim, however, definitely assured by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and by my officers in the Department, that it was conclusively shown that on several occasions - and it is presumed that there were many more instances - there was collusion between the parents and certain boys under age to enable them to go overseas. Of course, all these boys made false attestations, but that will be forgiven to those who went into the firing line.. Still there were others who, with the connivance of their parents, designedly made false attestations, knowing they were under age, and got over to the other side, and after they had had a good trip, which cost them nothing, their parents put in a protest, and claimed that the boys should be sent back.
– I do not think any honorable member here is appealing for them.
– The case I cited is that -of a young man who was away for eighteen months.
– If that young man was in the firing line he will be treated the same as other returned soldiers; but there were a great many who never went further than the base, so that the Minister has been forced to make a distinction by saying that those who actually went into the firing line, despite their ago, will be ‘accorded the full rights of returned soldiers, but that those who did not get into the firing line, although there may be some hard cases among them, will not get any of the benefits.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mackay) adjourned.
.- I move -
That the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works having furnished its report, it is expedient to carry out the following works: - Mobilization and Vehicle Store’s at Midland Junction, Western Australia, with necessary railway connexion, water supply, &c.
Some time ago I moved that these works be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. I said at the time that they were urgent. The stores are to- be erected at Midland Junction, about 10 miles from Perth. Corresponding buildings have already Ibeen put up at Liverpool (New South Wales), and we have authorized the construction of similar works at Seymour (Victoria). These are now progressing. The Public Works Committee made the following recommendations : -
The works will be constructed oa the lines recommended by the Committee, subject to the reconsiderationof the Committee’s recommendations regarding flooring and other minor details. The necessary action has been taken to acquire th’e additional land which the Committee mentions. The total cost of this service is estimated at £36,570. All the formalities of the Act have been complied with. The work is urgent, because manyof the buildings in which some of the stores are at present located have to be surrendered at once.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Yesterday I raised the question of the serious circumstances prevailing in the milling trade in South Australia, particularly at Port Adelaide. During the debate the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) said that one of the causes of the present lack of supplies of wheat for -millers was that they expected to secure their wheat for gristing for the export trade at the price of 7s. 8d. per bushel fixed for grain required for gristing for home consumption. That is quite incorrect. The millers of South Australia do not expect to purchase their wheat for gristing for the export trade at 7s. 8d. per bushel; but are prepared to pay the parity price. They have made an arrangement with the Wheat Board by which the price of the grain they require for their export trade may be fixed from month to month in accordance with the parity price.
– There is a fixed gristing rate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200917_reps_8_93/>.