8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chairat 7.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-It seems to me that it is an appropriate time, on the night of the great fast day of the Jewish people, that I should be requested by the Jewish fraternity of Melbourne, who look upon me as their representative, to address a question to the Treasurer in regard to the maternity allowance. The following resolution was passed at a meeting of Jewish people in Melbourne, and a similar resolution was also passed by Jewish residents of Perth: -
That this meeting strongly protests against theaction of the Federal authorities in refusing the maternity allowance to women born in Palestine and resident in Australia on the ground that they are Asiatics, thus classing them with Aborigines, Papuans, and Chinese.
I understand that some of these ladies have married Australian natives, but that does not remove the ban. I desire to ask the Treasurer whether in the first amending Bill, relating to naturalization or the rights of citizenship, he will insert a clause to eliminate this slur upon a very valuable section of the community?
– This is not a new topic. Honorable members will recollect that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) has brought it before the House on more than one occasion.
– I consulted him before asking this question.
– He has had this matter in hand, and has been agitating it for some time. I can only say that at the moment the law is against the payment of the maternity allowance in such cases ; but, whenever the law is amended, I shall be inclined to look on this matter with a view to same amelioration of the existing position.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to state that I have received the following telegram from the State Bank of South Australia : -
In report of your speech it is stated the bank offered to administer War Service Homes at1½ per cent. You should have stated at ½ per cent.
I am glad to avail myself of this, the first, opportunity to make the correction.
Holiday for Commonwealth Servants - Vocational Trainees
– Show Day is generally observed in this city as a public holiday, and to-morrow all State Departments will be closed. I understand that it is one of the four permissive holidays which Ministers may grant in addition to the statutory holidays, and that hitherto Commonwealth public servants have been allowed to have the day free. I am informed, however, that the Service has been notified that since a public holiday was granted them on the day of the arrival of the Prince of Wales in Melbourne, they will not be allowed a holiday tomorrow. I desire to ask thePrime Minister whether it is too late for him to take action, so that Commonwealth employees may have meted out to them to-morrow the treatment accorded State employees ?
– The Government has considered this matter, and in view of the whole of the circumstances, it cannot see its way clear to grant a holiday to-morrow.
– The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria has sent to me, as member for Melbourne, a request to make a strong appeal to the Prime Minister to consent to the adjournment of the House of Representatives until 7.30 p.m. to-morrow evening. If the right honorable gentleman can see his way to do so I promise him that, as member for Melbourne. I will not say a single word either to-night of to-morrow. Otherwise I shall have to fight the right honorable gentleman with my only weapon, the referendum, initiative, and recall.
– I have not tried the recall, but I am bound to say that I am full up of the referendum. If the honorable member is serious in his threat to tackle me with another referendum I may have to reconsider the previous decision of the Government to ask the House of Representatives to sit tomorrow afternoon at 2.30 p.m. The honorable member quite understandsthe circumstances which induced us to adjourn over this afternoon. That adjournmen in those circumstances was entirely proper, as it enabled us to bid an official farewell to their Excellencies the Governor-General and Lady Helen Ferguson, who have played a most distinguished part during the most critical time in our history, and who have been six and a half years amongst us, during which they have earned the respect and esteem of, and endeared themselves’ to, the people of the Commonwealth. The honorable member says that to-morrow he desires to see the sheep and the cows.
– Not me! I do not desire to do so.
– What is the honorable member going to doto-morrow afternoon ?
– I shall study tomorrow afternoon.
– The honorable member’s petition is respectfully worded and ends with a prayer, but the petitioner’s soul is not in this business. He does not want to go to the show at all. I should be glad to hear from an honorable member who does want to go to the show, and who represents constituents who would like him to go to it. I should be prepared to listen to him with a very favorable ear, but I am bound to express some surprise that the honorable member for Melbourne-
– I shall alter my mind. I shall go to the show.
– Then we shall adjourn until 7.30 p.m. to-morrow.
– In view of the statement made by the Prime Minister that he proposes that this House shall adjourn until 7.30p.m. to-morrow, surely the Government will reconsider their decision, so far as the public servants are concerned.
– We do not want to adjourn.
– The question was asked of the Prime Minister, and he has answered it. I assume that he intends, in accordance with his statement, tomove the adjournment of this House until 7.30 p.m. I have asked my question now with respect to the Public Service on the assumption that that is his intention.
– The making of tomorrow a public holiday would involve the public servants being paid holiday rates for their work on that day.
– All over Australia.
– That cannot be done. It is not suggested that if we pay them holiday rates they will go to the Show, because we know they will not. I was asked by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) to consent to the adjournment of this House until 7.30 p.m. to-morrow. I think it is not altogether “cricket” now to use my consent to that request as a reason for asking for a holiday for the public servants. If this later request is pressed, I shall have to withdraw my statement to the honorable member for Melbourne, and we must meet as usual at 2.30 p.m.
Ministerial Members. - Hear, hear !
– I have been informed that the vocational trainees at Wirth’s Park will be given a holiday to-morrow, whereas those at Jolimont, and, I think, at the Working Men’s College, will be compelled to go on with their training as usual, Is the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation aware of the proposal to make this invidious distinction?
– If any of the vocational trainees are released to view the great annual National Exhibition of rural industries to-morrow, the whole of them will be given a holiday.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the Prime Minister of New Zealand was justified in stating, as reported the other day when speaking with reference to the Nauru Island Agreement, that whereas the Dominion of New Zealand had paid a much smaller sum than either Great Britain or Australia it would not receive one ton less of phosphate than was secured by the other two parties to the contract ?
– The Prime Minister of New Zealand must have been misreported. This is a tripartite Agreement, and the parties share the profits on the operations of the phosphatic islands on the basis of their financial contributions, which is: - Britain, 42 per cent.; Australia, 42 per cent. ; New Zealand, 16 per cent.
– Unless there is more than enough for them all.
– In that event, the residuum is sold, and the profits distributed on that basis. We shall get 42 per cent., Britain 42 per cent., and New Zealand 16 per cent.
Commonwealth Representation at Geneva Conference - White Australia Policy.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will have regard to what I might describe as the special pleadings of a very large section of the press, and the regrets and disappointment expressed by a very considerable section of the community, at his decision not to proceed to Geneva to take part in the deliberations of the League of Nations. Will the right honorable gentleman reconsider his determination, and proceed to the Conference in order to defend the principles which so vitally affect Australia, and for which he so ably fought at the signing of the Peace Treaty at Versailles ?
Mr.HUGHES. - In coming to a decision in this matter, the Government, having all the facts at its disposal, considered, on my recommendation, that the Commonwealth would be adequately represented by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), in whom we have absolute confidence. If I thought for one moment that the interests of this country would be jeopardized by my absence from the Geneva Conference, I should not hesitate to proceed there.
I have noticed in the press a statement to the effect that the reason I gave for not going was that the Imperial Conference would not be held next year. That statement is in conflict with the information in my possession. The press, perhaps, is confusing two quite different things. It may be true that the Imperial Conference may not be held next year, but we are assured by the British Prime Minister that the Prime Ministers of the various self-governing Dominions will be asked to meet in London next year, in order to consider the very many and complex problems that call for their adjustment. The urgent need for the careful consideration and settlement of the principles upon which the new constitutional relations between Britain and the Dominions are based is obvious. It would be dangerous to delay the attempt at settlement. As it would be obviously most undesirable that Australia should not be represented by the Prime Minister at such a Conference, and since there is no reason to believe that those vital interests of which the honorable member has spoken are likely to be jeopardized by my absence from Geneva, I have decided not to proceed there; but if I have the honour then to represent this country in my present capacity, I intend to take part in the deliberations of the Conference of Prime Ministers to be held in England next year.
– Does the Prime Minister consider that any question likely to arise at the Conference of Prime Ministers of the self-governing Dominions to be held in England next year is of as much importance to Australia as is the question of a White Australia, which will practically be determined at the Geneva Conference?
– If I thought the principle of a White Australia was likely to or could be decided by the Assembly of the League of Nations, my answer to the honorable member’s question would be in the negative. But the Assembly of the League of Nations cannot override the decision of the Council of the League of Nations, nor abrogate the terms of a treaty to which practically all the delegations to the League are parties, and, therefore, the answer to my honorable friend’s question is in the affirmative. The honorable member, perhaps, is not aware of the actual position. The Council of the League of Nations is, in effect, at least, until America decides to adhere to the League, the Council of the’ Four - Britain, France, Italy, and Japan. There are other minor nations, but for all effective purposes those I have mentioned are the deciding factors. The Council of the Four, as I stated in outlining the Defence policy last week, decided that Australia was to have the mandate, and the whole of the nations that form part of the Assembly, and part of the Council, are signatories to the Covenant which lays down the conditions under which we should have the mandate. Therefore, unless the Assembly of the League of Nations begins its work by tearingup the Treaty, it cannot disturb the status quo. The honorable gentleman need have no fear of the position. If I thought there was any danger of such a catastrophe as his question suggests, I should leave no stone unturned to see that the foundations of Australia’s existence were not shaken.
– Has the Prime Minister any other information than that which has been published to the effect that a certain country is going to make a determined effort at the Geneva Conference to upset the decision arrived at in regard to the policy of a White Australia, and that accommodation is being sought for sixty agents of that country in order that they may be in a position to successfully contest the White Australia policy at the Conference?
– I have only to say that, if honorable members in this Chamber wish by their speeches to invite a catastrophe which, as they say, would be disastrous to this country, I know of no better way in which they can do so than by pursuing these questions. In the circumstances, therefore, I ask that these questions should be discontinued.
Repatriation of Men Stranded in London.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence if his attention has been directed to the cabled information from the Young Men’s Christian Association in London, which discloses the fact that there are many thousands of Australians, former members of the Australian Imperial Force, who, at the present time, are stranded in London, and the only crime which it is reported they have committed is that they did not report themselves for repatriation on the prescribed date.
– In answer to the honorable member I may say that the Defence Department has already taken steps in connexion with those men who have been stranded in England. As a matter of fact, the Department has arranged with the Imperial authorities and with the members of the Australian Imperial Force still remaining in England to extend the time allowed them within which to make application to be repatriated. . Every consideration will be given to these men. Everythingwill be done to repatriate all those who are deserving of such consideration. There are some, unfortunately, who, I understand, are not deserving of it; but everything possible will be done to repatriate deserving men.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Expert advice is being obtained with respect to the whole of the resources of New Guinea. I explained the other night that an expedition of experts is setting out now for Papua.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
After these amounts have been paid, the indebtedness to the British Government, viz., £42,696,500, will be the only outstanding liability of the Commonwealth in respect of the active conduct of the war. In addition, however, there are liabilities for interest, sinking fund, pensions, homes, repatriation, land settlement, war gratuity, and miscellaneous items arising out of the war.
Treatment of Natives
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers are-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commissioner advises as follows: -
Ships under Construction.
asked the Minis ter controlling Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers are-
The cost per ton of vessels building in Great Britain cannot be stated until the vessels are completed.
Advances to States
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Freight for Insulated Space
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If any reply has yet been received from the British Board of Trade in relation to the proposed increase in freight on Australian goods to be carried in insulated space to Great Britain during the coming season?
-The result of my inquiries in this matter indicates that outward freights on full cargoes of coal from Great Britain to Mediterranean ports and the Argentine or River Plate have recently fallen materially; but that there is no prospect of a reduction in the liner general cargo rates. On the contrary, the liner general cargo rates have increased this year to all countries excepting Australia. The rates to Australia would have been increased had not the action of the Commonwealth Government
Line prevented such a step. Some time ago I urged upon the British Government that the request of the Conference lines for an increase in the rates for refrigerated space should be refused, and a despatch has now been received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, intimating that the question had been exhaustively examined; but that, in view of the heavy increases in running expenses that had taken place since the rates were agreed to in April, 1919, it had not been found possible to resist a claim for some increase of charter rates. The British authorities have, therefore, agreed to the rate being increased from 132s. 6d. to 144s. per 40 cubic feet, the increase to take effect from the 1st March, 1920, at which date, the British. Government state, the Conference lines were entitled to, and claimed, a revision. I am advised that there is no prospect of a reduction in the rate for insulated space, particularly in view of the recent attempt of the shipping companies trading from Australia to increase the rate on scoured wool to the United Kingdom, which was also only prevented by the attitude of the Commonwealth Government Line. As regards the reference to scoured wool, I desire to point out that the action of the Commonwealth Government Line, in refusing to agree to an increase above1d. per lb., is directly responsible for a saving of id. per lb.in freight to the shippers of scoured wool from this country.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Italian Governments. This action was taken conjointly with the Consul-General for Italy.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What amount has been paid by the Commonwealth to date as bonuses on the production of iron and steel?
-The amount is £229,409.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Agents in States.
asked the Minister controlling shipping, upon notice -
– Theanswers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Progress -Preference to Returned Soldiers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House as to the number of War Service Homes erected by the Commissioner under section 47 (1) of the Act?
– The Commissioner advises as follows : -
The total number of dwellings acquired for theRepatriation Department, and on its authority, is eleven. These were allotted by that Department to blinded soldiers in lieu of a rental allowance of £1 per week, when the pension rate of this class, excluding the pensions payable to dependants, and other allowances, was £1 10s. per week. This rate was increased to £4 per week on the 1st July, 1920. The weekly income of a blinded soldier prior to this date, exclusive oi pensions payable to dependants, and other allowance, was, therefore, £2 10s., or £1 10s. and a rent-free dwelling, as against £4 from the 1st July.
asked tlie Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether the Minister will state what the practice of the Department is with regard to preference to returned soldiers in the building of War Service Homes?
– The Commissioner advises as follows : -
The practice followed to give effect to the policy of preference to returned soldiers is as follows: - When workmen are required, those returned soldiers who have registered with the Commission are communicated, with, and close touch is kept with the Repatriation Department, and, where established, the employment bureaux attached to soldiers’ organizations. These sources cannot provide more than a small quota of the total workmen required, and recourse must then be had to the industrial organizations to supply the balance, which have undertaken to give preference to the returned soldier members of their respective organizations. The labour obtained through the latter avenue comprises a certain percentage of returned soldiers who, for reasons of their own, prefer to register in this way rather than with the Commission. In all contracts let by the Commission, a clause is inserted providing for preference of employment to returned soldiers, and if a contractor does not observe all or any of the terms of the contract, prompt and proper action is taken.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Treasurer, in delivering his Budget speech, having announced that as part of their financial proposals the Government intended to raise revenue by increasing postage, telegraph, and telephone rates, this Bill is introduced for the purpose of making the necessary increases in postal and telegraph rates. Telephone rates are increased by regulation. It is unnecessary for me to say anything to justify these increases from the general revenue point of view, the Treasurer having done that ; but I propose to show that they are perfectly justified from a departmental point of view.
It is hardly necessary for me to point out to the House that the working costs of the Postal Department have inevitably increased during recent1 years, but it will be of interest to indicate some ofthe main items in which this increase is most apparent. Since 1914 the expenditure on salaries of permanent officers of’ the Postmaster-General’s Department has’ increased by leaps and bounds. In common with other countries throughout the world, it has been necessary in the Commonwealth to increase rates of pay to meet the increased cost of living resulting from war conditions, and in addition to this many grades of officers have had their work re-appraised by the Arbitration Court at rates higher than those prescribed by the Public Service Commissioner prior to 1914.
During the years of the war the actual expenditure “ on ‘salaries “ as shown in the Treasurer’s statement did not reveal the full effect of this increase, owing to the ‘ ‘ savings ‘ ‘ arising from the absence of some thousands of officers on- active service, and whose places in the Service were filled either by the employment of temporary hands or by a re-apportionment of their duties among the remaining permanent staff. Even during the financial year just closed there was still a large number of officers who had not resumed duty in the Public Service, and the record of salaries during that year does not, therefore, make the position clear.
A fair basis of comparison would be to take the year ended 30th June, 1914, as compared with the year 1920-21. The following table shows the position : -
These are remarkable figures - the number, of permanent officers has actually decreased by 116, but the annual rate of salaries has increased approximately by £1,200,000. The figures for the Central Office and the Radio Service are not included. This comparison indicates very, graphically the increased cost which has to be met, and with the still rising cost of living it appears inevitable that further increases will have to be provided- by Parliament to meet Arbitrationawards in this matter. These awards have increased the annual cost of Com-‘ monwealth salaries by £913,347, four- fifths of which are paid by the Postal Department.
At the present time a large number of Public Service Associations have claims pending before the Arbitration Court, and the great bulk of the increased expenditure which may be involved will have to bemet by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In this connexion it is well to bear in mind that out of a grand total of approximately 25,000 permanent officers in the Commonwealth Public Service about 20,000 are employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Another heading of expenditure, in which honorable members have evinced an active interest, is that of the cost of conveyance of mails on inland road services. Quite recently the Government approved of a special concession to mail contractors on account of drought conditions, and, apart from the heavy increases arising from that cause, there has been, for a series of years, a noticeable increase in the expenditure under this heading. The following comparison of the actual expenditure for the year 1913-14 under pre-war conditions with the estimated expenditure for the year 1920-21 shows the position: -
The policy of the Government, as already announced, is that wherever practicable postal facilities, in the form of mail services, shall be given to outback and isolated districts, and the pursuance of this commendablepolicymay lead to expenditure in excess , of the figures I have quoted for 1920-21. In estimating the cost of new services which will be established under the liberal policy adopted by this Government it is difficult to forecast, even approximately, the amount involved. Many of these inland postal services do not nay, and many will never pay
– And they should not be expected to pay.
– That is so; but, nevertheless, they must be maintained. Every one knows how essential these mail services are in outback districts, and what they mean to the settlers. A mail service is their one connexion with civilization. Those who have read Mrs. Gunn’s We of the Never Never will remember the passage in which she describes the arrival of the “ fizzer,” that is to say, the overland mailman, once every six months. Any Government having regard for the requirements of the outback districts of Australia cannot view outlying mail services only from the point of whether they will or will not pay.
During the war the curtailment of oversea services between Australia and the United Kingdom, particularly the subsidized services of the Orient Company, enabled a considerable reduction to be made in our expenditure for the carriage of oversea mails. The resumption of the normal Orient service during 1920-21 will cast upon the Commonwealth an increasing rate of expenditure until the full subsidy of at least £170,000 under the terms of the present contract is reached. Of this amount, £130,770 is provided for 1920-21.
The Treasurer intimated in his Budget speech that the necessity for raising extra revenue suggested a review of the charges made for services rendered to the public, particularly by the Post Office Department, and that it was proposed to introduce new rates which would have a better relation to the increased cost of supplying those services.
The war postage rate will be abolished by this Bill, but will in future be merged in the general postal rate. Hitherto the Postal Department has merely been used as the means of collecting a tax, receiving no credit whatever for the additional half-penny charged for postage. Now that the postage rate on letters is to be increased, the whole of the increase over the original penny stamp will be credited to the Department.
– Does the Minister contend that it is necessary to double the charges ?
– I do. Our increase is not greater than thatimposed in other countries.
The outstanding increase proposed is in the basic letter rate, which is being raised from1½d. to 2d. per letter, an increase at the rate of 33 per cent. In the United Kingdom and New Zealand the rate has been similarly increased, and in South Africa an increase of 50 per cent. has beenimposed.
With regard to the rates proposed for newspapers, the only alteration in this connexion is the incorporation as postage of the amount now charged as war tax, and which has been charged since October, 1918. In this connexion I might point out that in the United Kingdom the rate of postage on newspapers has been increased by 50 per cent., in New Zealand by 100 per cent., and in Canada during the past two years by 300 per cent. Other Administrations outside the British Empire have also increased the rate of postage on newspapers. A slight alteration is, however, being made in the definition in regard to bulk postage of newspapers. I shall go farther into this particular phase of the matter when the Bill is receiving the consideration of honorable members in Committee.
The Treasurer intimated during his Budget speech that it was proposed to increase the charges for telegrams in the Commonwealth by adding 3d. to each of the present rates. The Bill which is now before the House provides for an increase on these lines, and also for a proportionate increase in the telegraphic rates for press messages. With regard to ordinary telegrams, the objection may be raised that the increase proposed is, on a percentage basis, heavier on suburban and city telegrams than upon Intra-State and InterState messages. In reply to this, I desire to say that the main purpose of imposing the extra charge is to get additional revenue, and it was considered that this end would most readily be attained by making an extra charge of 3d. on each telegram, irrespective of the length of the message or the distance over which it was to be transmitted. In comparison with other countries, there should be little ground for complaint in respect to the charges for telegrams. In the United Kingdom the rates have recently been increased from 9d. for twelve words and ½d. for each additional word, to1s. for twelve words and1d. for each additional word, which represents an increase of 33 per cent. on the initial rate, and 100 per cent. on the rate for extra words.
When the immense length of lines which have to be maintained and operated in the Commonwealth is compared with the comparatively short circuits in the United Kingdom, it will be seen that even the new rates proposed are exceedingly liberal. In South Africa the rates were recently increased by approximately 33 per cent., the maximum number of words for the initial charge being twelve, as compared with sixteen words in the Commonwealth. In New Zealand the rates have been increased from . 8d. for twelve words and½d. for each additional word to1s. for twelve words and1d. for each additional word, an increase of 50 per cent. on the initial charge, and 100 per cent. on the secondary rate.
In connexion with these matters it is well to remember, in addition to the great increases in salaries, the great increase that has taken place in the cost of material. This also has to be borne in mind in connexion with the telephone rates. I may say that the cost of galvanized iron has increased by 600 per cent., that of cable by 100 per cent., and of telegraph equipment by from 50 to 250 per cent.
The proposed increase of 3d. per telegram on ordinary telegrams is estimated to bring in annual additional revenue of £200,000. The total present revenue from such telegrams is approximately £753,000 per annum. Therefore the increase is approximately at the rate of 27 per cent. The increased rates for press telegrams are designed to bring in approximately 27 per cent. extra revenue on this class of business. Taking each rate individually, the 27 per cent. increase is not apparent, but, in designing the new rates, the press message business had to be taken as a whole; the bulk of press messages fall within the category “exceeding 100 words.” For instance, on a message containing 150 words, the present and proposed rates would be as under: -
It might be added that the percentage increase would vary in each instance according to the number of words contained in the message transmitted. Further, the incidence of the previous rates has been observed, as far as practicable in framing the increased charges.
Telephone rates are not dealt with in the Bill, but, as I said before, by regulation, and it is proposed to increase the chargesby 25 per cent. on all exchanges of 601 subscribers and over. On exchanges where there are only 600 subscribers there will be no increase. The increased rate will also apply to the charge for calls, which will go up by ¼d. each, but there is no increase in regard to calls where the subscribers number only 600 or under. Where there is a fraction of a penny in the accounts rendered the fraction will be struck off. There will be no increase in the charge for the use of public telephones, which will remain at 2d. In connexion with the telephone services, we are doing our very utmost to overtake arrears, but it will be a matter of time. There was the difficulty of getting material at almost any price during the war, and there was also the difficulty of raising the necessary funds; but since February last the Treasurer, as I stated, has given me authority to call for tenders, and there are at present orders out amounting in value to £544,052, made up as follows: -
The Treasurer has also given me authority to invite additional tenders amounting to a much larger sum, but those contracts cannot be carried out until the beginning of the next financial year. I mention these facts to show honorable members that we are doing our very utmost to overtake arrears as quickly as possible.
– What increased revenue do you expect from the increased rates?
– We expect to receiveas a total £325,000 in a full year, and during what remains of the present year we anticipate to receive a total revenue of £257,000. A little while ago I referred to the postal rates charged here and else where, and I think it well to lay the following figures before honorable members: -
I do not think it can be said that the Government have gone out of their way in proposing these increases, when we have regard to the fact that they may be justified on the demands and requirements of the Department itself. These increases, however, are not nearly so great as the increases in Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand, and Canada. It must always be remembered that, compared with, at any rate, Great Britain and New Zealand, we have immense dis tances to cover.
– Why is there a differentiation between press messages relating to parliamentary and other Commonwealth proceedings and other press messages ? It seems to me a new provision altogether.
– No,I think there is the same provision in the original Act, and I refer the honorable member to the second schedule.
– What is the exact meaning of the difference in the charges between ordinary telegrams in towns and suburbs and ordinary telegrams in “ other places “ within the State.
– The difference is 3d. in the charge, and the charge for towns and suburbs is within prescribed limits, or within15 miles from the sending station. Between otherplaces within the State, except town and. suburban, the rate was 9d., and will now be a shilling, while the interstate rate, which was formerly 1s., will become1s. 3d.
– Does that mean that in the country the charges will be 9d. for a wire sent between two places that are fifteen miles apart?
– Within fifteen miles apart the rate will be 9d., and over that it will be1s.
– The rate from Melbourne to Richmond will be 9d., and from Ballarat toCreswick will be the same?
– It will be 9d. and not 1s?
– Yes. For instance, the rate from Sale to Maffra, or to Stratford, in my own electorate, was 6d. and will now be 9d. I have stated shortly the effects of the Bill and the reasons for its introduction, including the special reasons, such as increase in salaries, the great increase in the expenditure on material, the extra facilities that we have given to the country districts, and the cost of the material that we are getting from overseas.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply :
– (By leave) - I move -
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
This is a proposal to revert to what was a general custom in pre-war days.
– I think it has always been followed.
– I thought it was departed from during the war. At any rate, it is a wholesome custom. However much delay there stay be over the consideration of the Budget, there should be no unnecessary delay over the public works. Australia is a very large place, and until money is voted the Works Department is more or less paralyzed. The sooner these estimates are put through the better. I do not mean that there should not be reasonable discussion on any items honorable members may select, but I hope that these will be few.
– I suppose there are no controversial items?
– There are none in the schedule. I hope, therefore, that we shall reach a conclusion regarding these Estimates at a very early date. The sooner we can get to work the better for the allocation and spending of the money, and the better for all concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the abstract printed on page 338 be taken as a whole?
.- Do you mean by that abstract the whole of the annual votes for the Parliament, Treasury, Home and Territory, Military, Navy, Air Services, Trade and Customs, Works and Railways, and PostmasterGeneral, to a total of £3,070,000?
– Yes, but it does not touch the loan estimates. They will come on later.
– There is an item of £2,000 for additional accommodation at Federal Parliament House, which I presume means this building. What is proposed to be done with that money ? The next item, under the Department of the
Treasury, is for alterations at the Stamp Printing Office. There has been on the notice-paper for months a notice of motion by the Minister for “Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to approve of the erection of a Note Printing Office at Fitzroy in accordance with the recommendation of the Public Works Committee.
– This item does not touch that work.
– Is not this revote of £321 for that purpose?
– This item does not anticipate the vote on the motion to which the honorable member refers.
– Is this expenditure to be incurred at Fitzroy?
– I am not sure, but it does not touch the big question, which will be submitted separately.
– I should like some information, at any rate, about the proposed work in this building.
– A sum of £2,0*>0 is asked for work in connexion with this building. The honorable member knows what a lack of accommodation there is here in the way of small rooms, especially for the use of Ministers. There is no place where they can see members or others. It is proposed to erect a set of rooms at the back of the Ministers’ room, including four rooms for Ministers and certain accommodation for members in the way ‘ of ante-rooms. There will be five or six additional rooms altogether.
– Ministers have done without them for twenty years. They might continue to do without them for a couple of years more, until we get to Canberra.
– The fact that we have done without them for twenty years does not justify us in not providing this accommodation for the next two or three years that we shall be here. There is also a great deal of pressure on the accommodation in the building for the members of the staff. Extra room is badly needed for the officials. We have occupied this building for twenty years without a penny charge being made to us by the State Government for the . privilege. The proposed expenditure is comparatively small, and the accommodation is most urgently needed.
– Have you given the State the ordinary six months’ notice?
– I have never known of a man who gets anything for nothing giving notice of discontinuance to the person who confers the favour on him.
– You have received no notice to quit yet?
– No. We are responsible for the upkeep and repair of the building, and are expected to keep it in proper condition. As extra accommodation is urgently needed, this proposal has been put forward by the House authorities. Plans have been submitted and approved.
– I understand it is the pleasure of the Committee that the abstract be taken as a whole?
– Since there is an objection, I shall put the items separately.
Proposed vote, £2,000.
.- The sum proposed is entirely inadequate. While we are about it, we should make extra provision for members as well as for Ministers and the staff. We might just as well make the proposed vote a couple of million pounds. We should not be too parsimonious in these matters, but should provide ample accommodation for all of us. We should remember that we may not be here for ever, and while we are here we ought to be comfortable. Would it not be advisable to increase the number of rooms in the building so as to allow one for each of the 111 members of this Parliament, and let each member have a typist and an assistant ? The privileges and advantages which are to be accorded to Ministers and the staff ought not to stop there. At Washington every member of Congress has a room. Every member of this Parliament ought to have a room here and a bedroom, and, perhaps, a private dining-room of his own. I merely throw these out as suggestions, to which I feel sure the Ministry will accede. The amount of accommodation which will be provided for the £2,000 now asked for will not fit in properly with this building and its surroundings. While they are about it, the Government might well put up another building similar to this, which would harmonize with it and add to its beauty.
– Are the new rooms to be built of wood?
– They are to be of brick.
– No part of this building is built of brick.
– Yes, part of it is of brick, with stone facings.
– If the Government want to add to the beauty of the place, they ought to make it of marble, and they should not stop at a mere £2,000.
– I am not in favour of the expenditure in the first place, but I am aston,ished to hear that the Government are going to put brickwork in this building. I presume that the approval of the State Government has been given to the proposition.
– Yes; the State officials have designed the extensions.
.- I understand that the proposal is to erect four rooms.
– There will be more than four.
– Then the estimate cannot be correct. No one can build more than four rooms, in these days, and, particularly on a design to follow the general scheme of this building, at an outlay of £2,000. The Committee should have a little more information. While the matter of extended accommodation is under consideration, why cannot honorable members be provided with rooms in which to interview visitors ? This is the most uncongenial place possible in which to expect, members of Parliament to attend and do their business, and meet members of the public who may desire to see them officially.
– People are turned away, and we never see them again. We never know that they have called here.
– That is a just complaint. I cannot understand the action of the Government in proposing to erect additional accommodation for officials when there are not sufficient rooms in which honorable members may conduct their business. If the additions are to be suitably built, upon the lines of the permanent structure, the advance, instead of being £2,000, should be more like £200,000. That sum, at any rate, would need to be laid out if this building were to be made at all suitable for conducting the business of the Federal Legislature. According to the original design, this building is only half completed. Instead of putting any amount at all upon the Estimates for additions we should be considering necessary expenditure for the housing of the Federal Parliament at Canberra.
– The question of accommodation in this building is one which has constantly recurred. It had been my intention to make a statement to the House at the first convenient opportunity; and, perhaps, since the matter has now arisen, the present may be an opportune moment. The question of accommodation at Parliament House for members and others concerned in the various activities of Parliament is one which has caused me considerable difficulty for some time past. The whole matter is one of supply _and demand. Even in the earlier period of our existence as a Parliament the available accommodation provided was in several respects inadequate, and makeshift arrangements had to be resorted to in order to overcome some of the difficulties that presented themselves. For example, some of the rooms in the basement had to be partitioned off into small cubicles to accommodate officers of the Hansard staff, while I had recently to convert a lavatory into an additional room for their needs, and there are still insufficient rooms for the Hansard staff. The appointment of Committees of Public Works and Public Accounts, with the necessary officers attached to them, presented fresh accommodation problems, These I partially solved by prevailing upon the State Government of Victoria to forgo their exclusive reservation rights to the use of another room in the basement, which I converted into two rooms by means of a temporary partition. The appointment of female typistes to assist honorable members with their correspondence, and the absence of a place where members could interview callers, created further difficulties which had to he met by partitioning off odd corners of lobbies and encroaching on rooms provided for other purposes. The accommodation provided for the Standing Committees was found to be insufficient, and rooms had to be found elsewhere in the city to enable the work of those Committees to be efficiently carried on. The advent of a third party led naturally to a request for special accommodation for that party, and for an additional room for its Leader and his secretary. That additional room I hope to provide by allotting the one now in use by the Accounts Committee when that body shall have removed to new quarters in the city. The need for more rooms for the Hansard staff, and for Library storage and other purposes, is one of some urgency. For lack of necessary Library storage and other accommodation, cases and cupboards of Library matter have to be dumped in the outside passages, and cellars ‘have had to be utilized for the housing of the valuable Petherick Collections and other almost priceless Australiana.
The only accommodation available at present for Ministers, other than the Prime Minister, is one room - which should properly be Mr. Speaker’s room - and which is common to all Ministers, who have no place where they can interview officials or callers in privacy. Mr. Speaker’s room is an improvised temporary enclosure of portion of the Library corridor, and is in every way unsuited for the purpose of a room; but no better accommodation is at present available. Heads of Departments, secretaries, and other departmental officials in attendance on Ministers while the House is sitting, are obliged to stand or sit about the corridors and passages, to their own discomfort and the inconvenience of others, because no accommodation is available.
Doubtless, when the House meets in its permanenthome in the Federal Capital, all these disabilities will be overcome; but, as present indications do not seem to warrant the assumption that removal from the present domicile of Parliament is imminent, or even a realizable possibility of the immediate future - however desirable such a change may be - in view of the pressing urgency of the matter, the Prime Minister has approved of plans for temporary additions to the north wing of the building. These were submitted by Mr. Brittingham, the State Architect, after consultation with myself. The additions will partially meet the more pressing requirements for additional accommodation. I may add that the additions will be reared upon the existing foundations, but that they will be practically of a temporary character; that is to say, they will not be completed in their ultimate form, but will be carried out in conformity with the general plan of the building as approved by the State Architects, so that they can later be completed as part of the permanent additions to the building. The plans have been submitted - as I just mentioned - from that official to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and they have been approved; and the estimate quoted is the estimate of the State Architect. Of course, it will only be a very plain type of structure; there will be no attempt at ornamentation. The additions will only provide a room for the Prime Minister, and for his secretary, a lavatory, and a couple of small rooms for clerks, attendants, and typist. The extensions will render available for other use one or two rooms which are at present engaged.
I am not prepared to say whether the proposed work can be carried out within the amount of the estimate. I must leave that phase of the matter to the experts, who are expected to know ruling prices of labour and material, and who have estimated that the extensions can be completed for the sum mentioned.
.- The information just furnished is quite in accord with facte concerning the inadequate accommodation in this building. When one compares the accommodation provided here with that in many of the State Houses, one must admit that this place falls considerably short of what it should be, as the home of the Federal Legislature.
– The housing of the Federal Legislature in this building is only a temporary arrangement. The housing of the State Parliaments in their own buildings is a permanent matter.
– The accommodation of the Federal Parliament here is temporary, but it has existed for the past twenty years. Whether the temporary accommodation will be availed of for another twenty years will depend largely on the view-point and actions of members of this Parliament, and on the opinions held by the people generally, as well as on the matter of finance. During latter days a rather ungrateful spirit appears to have taken possession of members of the Federal Legislature. They little think of the wonderful concession granted to Federation by the people and Government of Victoria in providing this House of Parliament. Although it lacks many of the conveniences of an up-to-date legislative building, and despite that some little expenditure has been incurred now and again, if honorable members will calmly consider the way in which the Federal Legislature has been housed and cared for by the Victorian people and authorities there should be expressions of thanks rather than querulous criticism.
– The honorable member does not expect advocates of Canberra to take a calm view of the present position?
– With respect to our removal to Canberra, I may say at once that I am not averse to the proposition. The difficulty which confronts me, however, has to do with finance. As for the item actually under discussion, I consider the proposed expenditure upon the additions indicated by the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) eminently reasonable. Honorable members may content themselves with this, namely, that for quite a number of years to come the Federal Parliament will continue to be housed in this building; and it is as well, since there are certain inconveniences occasioned by our being here, that those disabilities should be remedied. In this respect, Mr. Speaker and the officials of Parliament are doing a little - and only a little - to endeavour to remedy the somewhat unsatisfactory state of affairs. The proposal to spend £2,000 in making what may be regarded as a temporary improvement of this building in order to provide greater convenience for members should meet with the ready and unanimous approval of the Committee. When the financial clouds have rolled by, I, if still a member of this Parliament, shall do my best to expedite the removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra, and will vote for the necessary expenditure. But with the present weight of debt upon the shoulders of the people, I am not favorable to the expenditure of a large sumfor that purpose at the present time.
– But the honorable member has announced that he will vote for the expenditure of £2,000 on this building.
– That is necessary. Honorable members have been complaining that thereis no accommodation for interviewing their constituents. Standing Committees of this Parliament have had to seek accommodation elsewhere in the city. This Parliament should give early consideration to the very big rent roll which the Commonwealth is paying. Although in time to come this Parliament must be removed to its permanent home in Canberra, accommodation will still be required for Federal staffs in the various capital cities. In Sydney, particularly, there is an absolute necessity for a considerable expenditure in providing office accommodation for Federal Departments. Some of the places in which Commonwealth officials in that city are housed are nothing more or less than rabbit warrens, and the Government ought to be arraigned before the Courts for breaches of the Factories Act for requiring their officers to work in such places.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Commonwealth Bank ?
– That is one exceptional building, which was erected only within recent years. The Public Accounts Committee recommended that the big rent roll should be reduced by the expenditure of money in providing permanent accommodation for the various Departments. The Navy Department and the Defence Department are paying considerable amounts in rents each year in Melbourne and Sydney, and many other Departments are doing the same. The Public Accounts Committee calculated that an immediate expenditure in the erection of buildings on property owned by the Commonwealth would be a payable proposition. In the Victoria Barracks area, on St. Kilda-road, the Commonwealth owns acres of land where Government offices could be built, thus saving rents and providing for our officers proper accommodation. This is a matter to which the Committee should give consideration. As private individuals we remain rentpayers no longer than we can avoid. We believe in owning the building in which we reside, instead of paying rent to a landlord. The Government should proceed on the same principle. If we are desirous of saving money let us erect our own offices, knowing full well that even after this Parliament removes to Canberra a great deal of office accommodation will still be required in each city by Commonwealth Departments. In the Perth General Post Office, owing to a wise purchase made by a Labour Government, the Commonwealth will be able to provide accommodation for all its Departments. The improvements which are being made to the Adelaide General Post Office will permit of a similar desirable state of affairs there, but the position in Sydney is disgraceful and that in Melbourne is little better.
– No better.
– On account of Melbourne being the temporary Seat of Government, the rent roll in that city is larger than in some of the other capitals. But I repeat that even after Parliament removes toCanberra there will still be need for office accommodation for Commonwealth servants. I readily accord my support to the proposition which Mr. Speaker has placed before the Committee to spend £2,000 in improving the accommodation in this building. My only regret is that owing to the financial stress he is obliged to limit his proposal to such a small amount.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes (Treasury), £321, (Home and Territories), £41,327, agreed to.
Department of Defence - Military
Proposed vote, £1,302,153.
.- The Committee has just agreed to an item of £2,000; but in regard to it there was some discussion. Apparently, every honorable member was staggered by the enormous size of the amount. Personally, I shall not disagree to a vote of £2,000, or even £2,000,000, provided it is to be expended in Melbourne. One’s attitude in regard to any vote depends on the place in which itis to be expended, and the purpose of such expenditure. I am not going to make any further protest against the expenditure of enormous sums of money; nothing matters, and nobody objects. We are called upon to-night to agree to the expenditure of £3,000,000, of which nearly £2,000,000 is to be expended for various purposes of defence. It is useless toget panicky over other items of expenditure. It is a matter of indifference as to whether the amount is £10,000, or £50,000, or £100,000,000- we are increasing the bill all the time, and we must continue as we are going. I call attention, however, to the utter hypocrisy of men who in this House were talking some time ago about the green fields of perpetual peace - who said that peace was to to be brought to this country, and that the war had ended by giving the world a peace that would endure. Now we are about to incur enormous items of expenditure for arsenals, dockyards, and other things of that character. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated this afternoon that no one dared to question the principle of a White Australia. Then, against what prospective enemy are we making all these preparations and spending all this money? Neither in regard to this vote nor any other vote, whether it be for £50,000,000 or £100,000,000, shall I take part in the hypocrisy of protesting against extravagant expenditure in this country. But here is an item that no Government dares to justify in the light of all its protestations and affirmations. Here is £2,000,000 for defence; after it may come as many more millions as you like ; let it go !
.- It is a very curious thing’ that the Government should apparently hope that a vote of this kind for defence purposes will be accepted by the Committee without even a meagre explanation, not to say an apology for, the proposals here submitted. Of course, having regard to the way in which the Government change their programme from hour to hour and from day to day we were somewhat surprised when they asked us to agree to a vote of £1,302,000 in respect of defence, of which no explanation has been given by the Government, unless it was the speech of a Minister in another place, and the address which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) delivered by leave of the House - a statement that then and there was not open for discussion at all. The very first item in this division, and, indeed, the first words of the first item, are, I hope, an offence to the standard-bearers of Democracy in this country generally, and are a repudiation of the accepted terms of the Treaty of Peace which ended the disastrous and tragic war which, for over five years, disgraced the so-called civilized world. “ Warlike stores, including machine guns “ - for what purpose, and against whom? “Vehicles, harness, and saddlery, accoutrements, and other regimental and personal equipment” - for whom, and for what purpose? Not one word is vouchsafed by the Minister in respect of these items to justify the extent of the expenditure or to indicate what special purposes are to be served by the vote. It was at least due to the Committee that something in the nature of an explanation should be given. None has been given. One of the outstanding features of that Treaty of repudiation into which we entered was the reduction of armaments. This vote spells at least one thing which we can understand, and that is an increase of armament - an increase of the weapons of destruction, an increase of useless waste, an increase of what a Minister in another place described as the money spent upon “our policy of insurance.” It is a further instalment of money wasted upon that policy of so-called insurance, upon which so many millions of pounds have been already wasted, and an addition to the debt saddled upon the people of this and every other country. I rise only to protest against the vote. I have no hope of defeating it, but I shall not allow a proposal of this kind to go without protest and challenge. I shall, at any rate, record my vote against it.
– I also raise my voice in protest against the expenditure of £1,302,000 in connexion with Defence. The statements made by the leaders of the Government during the years of war are still green in my memory. We were told that we were engaged in a war to end war, to make the world safe for Democracy, and to bring about a reduction of armaments. Almost every Australian who volunteered to fight in the great war honestly .believed that he was offering his services, and his life, if necessary, in order that the world might never again be deluged with blood, as it has been during the last six years. Those whom they left behind held the same belief, and the men who fell on foreign fields were comforted in the thought that they were giving their lives in order to prevent a repetition of disastrous war. We find now, what, indeed, was apparent to some on this side of the House before, that we were not fight ing a war to end war, but that the great struggle would merely mean the building up of vaster armaments and navies. The statement that the great war would end war for all time was nothing but cant, hypocrisy, and humbug. In spite of the sacrifices Australia has made, in spite of the load of debt our people have shouldered, in spite of our huge pensions bill, and in- spite of all the pain, suffering, and tears which have been part of the sacrifice of our people, expenditure on armaments and preparations for war is still ‘ to continue. Instead of relief being afforded us as the result of the sacrifices which Australia made during the recent war, a greater burden than ever is being piled upon the taxpayers. I shall vote against this item.
– Does the honorable member say that the expenditure is unnecessary 1
– I do. It was cant, hypocrisy and humbug to say that the recent war was a war to end wars.
– Does the honorable member say that it is unnecessary to defend Australia?
– It is unnecessary to spend the amount that it is proposed to expend upon defence works. Honorable members who said that the last war was a war to end wars knew that they were speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. They did not believe what they were saying, and the proposed expenditure which we are now considering serves only to prove that.
– Will the honorable member be good enough to address the Chair?
– Yes. and I hone that the Chair will see that honorable members opposite are not allowed to persist in a fire of interjections.
– Let them get up and justify this expenditure.
– Exactly . We. should stand condemned before the people of this country if we supported the Government in a proposal to incur this huge war expenditure. I have always been opposed to war. I believe that wars cannot do any good. They have never done any good. They have always brought poverty, tears and suffering to the people, and it is the workers who suffer most from them. It is they who will suffer if the present proposals of the Government be carried.
I shall, therefore, do everything in my power to prevent effect being given to them.
– I confess that I am somewhat disappointed at the proposed expenditure upon new defence works. As one who justified the recent war I was under the impression whilst the struggle was in progress that it was a war to end wars. But it appears to me that Australia, and, indeed, every other country is now engaged in preparing for future wars. It is the duty of public men in every land to bend their best ‘ energies to the task of preventing wars, and that cannot be done by making preparations for war.
– But we shall be in a peculiar position if we are not ready when the other fellow strikes.
– That is the cry 1 have heard all my life. We are told that we must be ready because the other fellow is likely to attack us. As a result the minds of public men run only in the direction of making preparations for war. irrespective of their cost. I was hopeful that upon the termination of the recent struggle when the representatives of the various nations met in Conference, and drew up the Covenant of the League of Nations, we should be able to devise some means of preventing war, so that we could bring about disarmament to a very large extent. I anticipated that an earnest endeavour would be made to reduce our military expenditure. I am not one of those who anticipate that we shall be plunged in another war in the near future. I know that there are some honorable members who hold that belief. They are constantly telling us that a certain nation is a menace to Australia. But I see nothing to cause me to apprehend that the Commonwealth is in danger.
– Very many people said the same thing about England only a short time before the war with Germany.
– The honorable member forgets that the League of Nations is already doing good work in regard to the settlement of international disputes. He has also overlooked the fact that it would not be to the interests of any nation to interfere with the Pacific Islands, seeing that the British Empire and at least one other nation which has not yet entered the League, are vitally interested in the control of those islands.
But I do recognise the necessity for reducing our defence expenditure as much as possible. We are now invited to authorize the expenditure of a larger amount for defence than we voted last year. I was positively amazed last year to find that the sum of £78,000,000 had been placed upon the Estimates for defence purposes. I was not present when the Treasurer delivered his Budget speech the other day, and, consequently, I do not know the amount which was actually expended under that heading. Certainly, it must have been a very large one. Still, another huge sum is to be expended this year. How long can we continue to travel along this road? We constantly hear rumblings from the other side of the world - rumblings which are ominous. We know that in Great Britain there are thousands of unemployed, and that a very severe winter is expected there. Similar conditions obtain throughout the rest of Europe, and ere long those conditions must be reproduced in Australia. What position shall we then occupy ? We cannot continue to pile up expenditure for an indefinite period. Last year we expended upon new works and buildings for defence purposes £86,579, and this year it is proposed to expend £1,302,153.
– That does not include an item for air services which, last year, was included in the vote for defence works.
– Exactly ; there is an item of £294,200 in connexion with air services. That means that this year we are practically doubling our expenditure upon new defence works. To-day our revenue is rising bv leaps and bounds. Why ? Because we are heaping additional taxation upon the people. There ought to be as little expenditure as possible in connexion with defence, and I believe that our compulsory military training system should come to an end. If we are going to continue it, and to provide boots for the trainees, we ought not to pass by our own Commonwealth Factory, which is quite capable of manufacturing all the boots that are required in this connexion - boots of first class quality.
– The honorable member was wrong in saying that the Government are proposing to double the expenditure upon defence works this year. They are proposing to spend just twenty times as much this year.
– That only goes to show the great amount of additional expenditure to which we shall be committed. We talk about the necessity for increased production. But we shall not increase production by expenditure upon defence works. These works will produce nothing. We ought, rather, to do our best through the Prime Minister to bring into actual being the League of Nations. To-day the League is merely a skeleton, and we ought to endeavour to infuse life into it. These are matters which require serious consideration, and I could not, therefore, permit this vote to pass unchallenged.
– I agree with those honorable members who have said that we are entitled to some explanation from the Treasurer of the proposed vote for new defence works. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has stated that the figures with which I supplied the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) are misleading, and that I should have had regard to the fact that the money which we propose to expend upon these works this year will come out of revenue, whereas the amount expended last year came out of loan moneys. Three items alone of these Defence Works Estimates, namely - General Arsenal, machinery and plant, £248,651; Cordite Factory, machinery and plant, £10,773, and an amount to be paid to the credit of Trust Fund Small Arms Ammunition Accounts for reserve of small arms ammunition, £287,048, involve an expediture, roughly, of £560,000. Yet upon those three items last year we spent only about £30,000. The total amount actually expended upon new defence works last year was £86,579. The proposed expenditure this year upon the military side alone is set down at £1,302,153, to which must be added £294,200 for air services, a total of £1,596,000, as against an actual expenditure last year of £86,579. It will thus be seen that for every shilling we expended last year, it is proposed to exspend a pound this year. Yet not a single word of explanation has been vouchsafed by the Minister representing the Minister for Defence in this House. We were told, as has been pointed out tonight, that the last war was a war to end war; but we have also heard that we should be prepared to defend ourselves against the other fellow. Do honorable members think that a penny of this expenditure is justified? Are they satisfied? Does every honorable member know that the money will be wisely spent ? I do not think so, at all events. For every shilling we spent last year we propose to spend £1 this year. That is the position. I have gone through the figures very carefully on the various pages of the Estimates, and I challenge the Minister to deny the accuracy of my statements. Are we going to vote the whole of this money blindly? We have been told that we are to have another vote before us this evening, namely, a vote in connexion with the Federal Capital site. I am in favour of honouring undertakings, but I am not in favour of this huge expenditure without one word of explanation from the Minister. When we were discussing the Peace Treaty we were told there was to be a general disarmament. Where is the evidence of it in the Estimates? Instead of disarming, we are all the time building up. I have no objection to some of the small items; no objection, for instance, to the proposed expenditure of £38,000 for additional machinery for the Cloth Factory, as that could be used for civilian purposes.
– Does the honorable member say that any scheme for general disarmament has yet been formulated under the Peace Treaty?
– The Minister asks me if any scheme for general disarmament has yet been formulated. In reply I tell him that, under the Peace Treaty, Germany isplaced in a much better position than any other country, for the Allies have said, in effect, to Germany, “We shall disarm you. We shall free you of this load of taxation in connexion with armaments, but we shall pile up the expenditure upon every other nation.” I hope that we shall get a vote upon this item, so as to show that we are in favour of a reduction of these Estimates.
– I am rather surprised at speeches made by honorable members on the other side.
– Thearguments they have used against the proposed expenditure for defence purposes furnishes a very good reason why we should provide adequate defence for this land of ours.
– Against whom?
– They say that every nation at the present time is busy arming and equipping itself for war. One honorable member - I think it was the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Lavelle) - said that those who declared that the last war was to be a war to end all wars, spoke with their tongues in their cheeks. I have never heard such ridiculous statements. I am quite sure the honorable member-
– I think that, in their folly, they really thought it would end all wars.
– Perhaps we did. But suppose we did. Have we not found out since then that we were wrong, and that the last war has not removed the possibility of other wars? In my opinion, it has not. A great many people pin their faith to the League of Nations as the instrument to prevent future wars. I do not share that belief, but I think we should give the League of Nations a trial. If a tribunal such as the League of Nations will prevent war in the future, I shall support it heart and soul, for it is most desirable that we should do everything in our power to prevent wars with all its attendant horrors. I do not believe that the League of Nations will prevent future wars, and in support of my opinion I may repeat an argument which I have used on other occasions. For years we have been passing legislation in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments for the settlement of industrial disputes. We have laid it down that parties to a dispute must come before certain Tribunals. At first it was fondly believed that, as we had set up Arbitration Courts, there would be no further strikes; but, so far from that being the case, I think honorable members will agree with me that since the introduction of this class of legislation strikes in Australia have increased by 100 per cent. A similar result, I think, may be anticipated with regardto international disputes, for the settlement of which the
League of Nations has been brought into being. The League of Nations may be likened to a. huge Arbitration Court, and, just as in industrial affairs we have experienced repeated strikes in recent years, so, under the League of Nations scheme, we should be prepared for the resort to force by some of the nations included in the League.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) have referred to the great increases in the cost of certain works. I think they have not realized that last year there was an enormous expenditure of money in connexion with the war.
– But you are now trying to build up a Permanent Defence Force as against the voluntary system.
– I hope we shall be able to build up a Defence Force. I am surprised at the honorable member’s interjection.
– But I mean a Permanent, as against a. Citizen, Force.
– I think the honorable member has had that matter explained to him already. The Leader of the Opposition said just now that absolutely no information had been given to honorable members in connexion with this matter. Does he not remember that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) quite recently made a comprehensive statement in this House in regard to defence? The Prime Minister then explained everything, and told honorable members that the sum of £3,200,000 would be placed on the Estimates for defence (military), £3,200,000 for defence (naval), and £500,000 for the Air Force. Honorable members apparently were quite satisfied with the statement then made, though now they say that no information has been given them.
– And the point raised now is that this is new expenditure, whereas it is expenditure transferred from loan to revenue.
– But last year we spent only £86,000 out of loan and this year it is proposed to spend £1,590,000 out of revenue.
– These services were chargeable to loan last year.
– There was enormous loan expenditure last year, and it included matters which are now brought over to revenue. I cannot see what honorable members can object to. Do they object to training? Do they object to machine-gun expenditure?
– Yes. That is one item.
– Well, if we are to have a Defence Force, is it not necessary to have machine guns with which to equip our soldiers ?
– For your policy, yes; but for mine, no.
– I realize that for the honorable member’s policy it is not necessary to have either soldiers or machine guns.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member would be just as well satisfied to have this Continent of Australia under the control of the Germans, the Japanese, or any other nation, so long as it was not the British Nation. The honorable member does not want any defence of Australia. He is quite prepared to allow some foreign power to take it. But I say this to the honorable member: After the great sacrifices that Australia has made, after the sacrifice of 60,000 of ourbravest men-
– Mr. Chairman, I require that the statement made by the Minister be withdrawn. He said that I would be just as well pleased if this country were under German or any other rule.
– Soyou would.
– I require the withdrawal of both statements - the statement made before I rose, and the statement made since I have risen to address you, sir.
– I withdraw the statement, but I would like to say-
– You are not on the battlefield now. That bluff will not work with me.
– The honorable member tried to work his bluff with me in connexion with the Father Jerger case, but it did not come off.
– If honorable members will cease interjections, these personal exchanges will not be made.
– All I want to say is that after the great sacrifices Australia has made, it is our duty now to see that they were not made in vain.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to have the approval of the honorable member. I believe he meant it.
– We were told before that this sacrifice was not made in vain.
– And it will not have been made in vain if we place ourselves in a position to keep our country for ourselves. The honorable member will admit that the part played by the Australian soldiers during the great war materially assisted in the success of the Allies and rendered our position secure.
– It was much too good for their bosses, too.
– I know that nothing I may say will satisfy the honorable member, but I do not care. He can say what he likes, because I take no notice of what he says at all.
– Stick a bayonet into him !
– With regard to the expenditure for this year, if honorable members have regard to the reduced purchasing power of a sovereign, which is only one-half of that of pre-war years, they will realize that our expenditure this year will really be no more than in 1914. There is, for instance, the item in connexion with the Cordite Factory. If we are to have a Defence Force we must have ammunition, and, therefore, we must have cordite for its manufacture. And then there is the Arsenal. It is not to be a one-building affair. The Arsenal is to be a huge supply depot, which is essential in any defence scheme, for it is of no use training men unless we have the wherewithal and equipment for them to fight with; and it costs a lot of money now to make ammunition. At present we cannot manufacture our own big gun ammunition, and we must have these weapons for the adequate defence of this country. I contend that the expenditure for this year has been cut down to the absolute minimum. As a matter of fact, it is not enough, but we must cut our cloth according to our measure. A great deal of the amount set aside for military defence is for the provision of war material. Then there is the training of our men. Adequate provision is not made for this financial year, but it is all we can do with the money at our disposal. The Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members of his party have on other occasions made quite a point of the fact that they introduced the system laid down in the Kitchener scheme for the compulsory training of the youth of Australia. Very well, if the system is good, if it is necessary to train the youth of Australia, we must also provide the wherewithal to fight.
– But you are trying to replace that system with a permanent Force.
– Does, the honorable member know .that at present there are only 2,200 members of the Permanent Forces in Australia? Who says that we are supplanting the militia ? Does the honorable member suggest that in this great continent 2,200 men are too many to man the various forts and carry on necessary instructional work?
– Did I understand the Assistant Minister to say that there were 2,200 privates?
– The number I have mentioned includes officers, non-commissioned officers, and men, and I think that is a very small number for carrying out defence work of the character I have mentioned. Honorable members opposite are criticising the defence vote in a ridiculous manner; but they must remember that we have reduced the amount to the absolute minimum.
.- I wish to voice my protest against this huge expenditure for defence purposes, particularly in view of the state of our finances and the military conditions of the world generally. Notwithstanding the statement of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) that other nations of the world are amassing war equipment, I consider the amount we are being asked to pass is much too heavy for a young country such as Australia. I do not like repeating a phrase that has been used very frequently this evening, but I must reiterate that during the whole war period we were told, not only in this House, but from every public platform, .that the recent war was to end all wars, and to crush militarism. We were told that Prussianism had to be destroyed, because it was detrimental to the interests of Democracy and the peace of the world. In destroying Prussianism as it existed in Germany, 60,000 brave Australians laid down their lives, but notwithstanding this, the Government have now the audacity to ask the Committee to sanction a huge expenditure for building up a great military machine. The military system which we were supposed to have been fighting is now being created in our own country, and to maintain that system Australia is now being asked to carry an unreasonable and almost impossible burden. We were told that the military machine had to be destroyed at any cost, but it seems that all we have derived from the recentconflict is victory and the very Prussianism that we were fighting. The nations that we have beaten have been compulsorily freed from the curse of militarism, and we are now being asked to shoulder the burden they once bore.
– That “ we “ have beaten? The honorable member has a “hide.”
– The honorable member for Illawarra fought them as a Labour “rat” from the Treasury benches; and thousands of miles behind the lines.
– I would rather be a Labour “rat’’ fighting for my country than I would be the honorable member. The statement is a lie, and the honorable member knows it to be a lie.
– I ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– I rise to order. I ask that the statement made ‘by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) was a Labour “rat” ba withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable member for Batman to withdraw the statement.
– In deference to theChair, I withdraw it.
– We were told that the aim of the Allied nations fighting in the recent war was to kill the accursed militarism which we are now perpetuating. The Assistant Minister for Defence disclosed the true position when he said that the expenditure was not sufficiently heavy, and that the Government had been compelled to cut their coat according to their cloth. The inference to be drawn from his statement is that the expenditure would have been heavier had more money been available. It is evidently the intention of the Government to spend even more in extending the system and in compelling the people to live under the iron heel of military rule.
– Is the honorable member in favour of any military expenditure at all?
– Very little, because there is hardly any need for it. If the victorious nations had used victory to destroy militarism there would not have been any need for unnecessary expenditure such as this. The nations that we were opposed to in the recent conflict -Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey - are “ down and out,” and the Allied Powers have been victorious. If the victors had played the game militarism would not be receiving the attention of the world Powers at the present time. The principal nations of any strength at present are America, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, which is our Ally. Who are we preparing to fight.? If it is America, let us say so.
– What of Russia ?
– If we are preparing to fight Russia I am glad to have the admission. If the Russian people are prepared to eat one another, that is no concern of ours.
– Is this the brotherhood of man?
– When I desire an expression of opinion on the brotherhood of man I shall not appeal to the honorable member for Illawarra. At the termination of the recent conflict America was anxious to disarm, and if the other nations had adopted a similar attitude, disarmament would have been general, and military and naval expenditure all over the world would have been, reduced to a minimum. But it cannot be said that leading nations are adopting a policy of disarmament, and the inevitable consequence must be another clash of arms. We are being asked to pass a vote of £1,302,000 for defence works for this year.
– Plus £294,000 for air services.
– Yes, that is an additional amount. Great Britain is increasing her military expenditure, and we must therefore expect our outlay in this direction to increase if we are to keep pace with other nations. The burden is becoming so great that the inevitable crash must come, and by deliberately voting for the expenditure of this amount we shall be assisting in perpetuating a system which must eventually lead to other wars. It has been said that the attitude adopted by other nations must control the situation in Australia, but it must be remembered that we are part of the British Empire, and our expenditure should be coupled to some extent with that of Great Britain. We were informed during the recent war that German militarism had to be destroyed because of the atrocities perpetrated. One hundred years ago France had to be crushed to secure international peace, and it was because of the position in which France was then placed that Germany became such a formidable military Power. The result of the great war appears to be that, although we have defeated two or three nations, the other Powers are still arming, and an Ally of to-day may be an enemy to-morrow.
– Did I understand the honorable member to say “we have defeated”?
– I suppose the honorable gentleman would like me to give the credit to the Win-the-War Government. Such cheap and paltry interjections have no effect upon me, and they are such as one would expect from one with a small mind and weak intellect. I understood the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) to say, by interjection, that no scheme of disarmament had been formulated. If such is the case, who is to blame? The Allied Powers compelled the defeated nations to disarm, but is there any reason why they should not have formulated a scheme to compel the victors to disarm? Surely they were powerful enough to do that?
– All of Europe is still squabbling.
– I know that. I am speaking of the nations who were opposed to us. Their military power is now non-existent. This talk about the safety of Australia necessitating heavy Defence expenditure is all moonshine. We are told that it is necessary to pile up Defence expenditure because of the possibility of war; but the only nation with which we could possibly go to war is one of those with whom we have been fighting side by side. The military power of the other nations has disappeared.
– No such thing.
– Tell me of one other nation.
– Germany, for instance.
– The right honorable gentleman admits that Germany is still strong?
– I admit that she has still some force.
– She has comparatively no force, and the Allies could impose upon her practically any conditions they pleased in regard to disarmament.
– Does the honorable member read his papers ?
– I do not go to the papers for all my information. I exercise a little common sense. Does the honorable member go to the newspapers for information as to his Budget statement? I again enter my strong protest-
– Against the defence of Australia.
– Heaven help Australia if it has to depend upon men like the honorable member for the formulation of its Defence policy or for its general government.
– Does not the honorable member think we might have a vote on this question?
– I have practically concluded my speech ; but there are others who wish to address themselves to the question. As long as I am a member of this House I shall strongly protest and vote solidly against the heaping up of armaments, and the growth of military power in this country. Such things are detrimental to the national progress. Every nation is to some extent to blame for the danger of war, because of the way in which they go on increasing their armaments, the one vieing with the other to secure the most efficient killing machines for use when the time comes.
.- I would point out to honorable members that practically one-half of the proposed vote for the Department of Defence relates to reserve stores. Under that heading provision is made for the expenditure of something like £625,000. I have been informed that there are but few serviceable rifles in Australia, and it, therefore, seems to me that the proposed expenditure of £266,000 on reserves of rifles is justifiable.
– We were told that for every man who returned to Australia one rifle would be returned.
– I should like to know whether that has been done. If it be true that there are not more than 2,000 or 3,000 effective rifles in Australia-
– Nonsense ! Who has made such a statement?
– I understand that a rifle has not been returned for every Australian soldier who came back from the Front, and that thousands of rifles that have been returned are not effective. That is a most alarming and mischievous statement to make if untrue; but if it is correct the Department should at once take action to secure an ample supply. I regret very much that, so far as I can see, no provision is made on these Estimates for expenditure in respect of Rifle Clubs.
– There is a sum of £50,000 on the Estimates for them.
– I am glad that I have made a mistake in that regard. I should like to have from the Minister an assurance that the Rifle Clubs are being adequately provided for.
– They are not being adequately provided for, but the Government are giving them as much as they can.
– We should have from the Assistant Minister tor Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) a statement with regard to the position of rifle clubs. The clubs have done excellent work in training our men to shoot, and we should see that their work is continued.
As I pointed out in my opening remarks, one-half of this proposed expenditure is in respect of reserve stores. There is an item of £266,000 for rifles, there is also an item of £70,000 for reserve stores for the Small Arms Factory and Cordite Factory, and an item of £287,000 for reserves of small arms ammunition. These items will not be a recurring expenditure. It is not to be supposed that the ammunition will become obsolete within a short period.- I am sorry that all this expenditure is necessary, but we have to consider, not what we should like in this world, but what we ought to do in view of the facts, and all the facts point to the inevitable conclusion that we must be prepared for the adequate defence of Australia.
.- I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
– Move that it be reduced by £1,000,000.
– No. I desire to test the feeling of the Committee in regard to the compulsory training of boys, and it is sufficient for my purpose to move that the vote be reduced by £1. I do not object to adequate preparations for the defence of Australia, and I am convinced that, if the United States of America had stood by its compact, and had remained in the League of Nations, all this expenditure would not have been necessary. In what respect shall we improve the defence of Australia by training our boys? We have, at the present time, something like 300,000 returned men - all highly-trained soldiers - and they are our best asset.
– How many of them are fit?
– I cannot say, but even if only one-half of them were fit they would represent a very considerable Force. Men who have been engaged in training soldiers tell me that they prefer the raw material rather than a half-trained boy. They assure me that a man who enters the ranks quite “ green,” so to speak, can be more readily made a highlytrained soldier than a youth who has been half trained.
– I should like to know who are responsible for that statement.
– The statement has been made to me by men who have been “ at the game.” I do not know whether the honorable member was ever a drill instructor.
– No; but I have “ been at the game.”
– To what extent shall we add to the effective defence of Australia by the compulsory training of our boys ?
– Do not our boys grow up?
– Put when they do I hope that, as the outcome of the League of Nations, their military services will not be required. When the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) returned from the Peace Conference he told us that, with the thorough establishment of the League of Nations, the need for large expenditure on defence would have disappeared, since the League would defend small nations. Surely if the League of Nations is to be a success we do not need to make permanent soldiers of the men of this country.
– Would the honorable member be in favour of a system of physical training for our boys?
– Yes. The boys of New South Wales already undergo physical training in the public schools. There are also various school sports which materially assist in their development. I fear that a lot of money is being wasted at the present time on the compulsory training of boys, merely, it seems to me, to find work for some of the men who have returned from the Front. I do not object to find jobs for the men who came back from the Front so long as they are usefully employed.
– The greater part of the training given to the cadets now is physical training.
– Is that going to defend the country? If the Government suspended for three or four years the training of these boys, we might save some hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– If we did that, we should have no one to replace the men as they became too old for service.
– If the League of Nations is going to be the factor in preserving the peace of the world that we were led to believe it would be, there can be no need for training these boys.
– But suppose it is not going to be such a factor?
– If it is not, then we shall only be where we were when the great war broke out.
– No; we had a lot of trained men then.
– We had very few trained men ; but when the war broke out, though Australia is an island continent, we put over 300,000 men into the field at once.
– We did not put them into the field at once.
– If there were an invasion of this country, our people would not have to be compelled to fight the invader. One lesson which we have learned from the war is that the manhood of Australia is prepared to defend this country; and when the time for its defence arrives, we shall not have to look far for volunteers. I do not object to providing arms and military supplies.
– Then that does away with the honorable member’s objection to the expenditure proposed.
– I object to the continuous training of boys, because I think it is useless.
– To which item does the honorable member, object?
– I am generally against the Defence expenditure proposed. I consider that it is only a fair thing to ask that the Defence Department shall suspend for a number of years the training of young men. At the present time, we have a large army of trained men who are now in civil life, and if this country were invaded, those men would flock to the Standard. I submit my amendment with a view of testing the opinion of the Committee on the Defence expenditure proposed by the Government.
– I agree with all that has been said by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) ; but I should prefer to see the vote reduced by £1,000,000 rather than by £1; although I know the Government must accept the amendment as a direct challenge.
– Why not wipe it out altogether ?
– I do not know that I would not be in favour of wiping it out altogether.
– We expected that from the honorable member.
– The good General is not going to bluff me. He has had four or five years of that kind of thing ; but he is not going to be allowed to perpetuate it in this country. It is my firm belief that the Government are proposing this Defence expenditure at the instigation of those military heads who do not want to lose their jobs. They have had four or five years of a good time, and they do not wish it to come to an end.
– A good time? The honorable member had a good time.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) lost any weight during that time, either.
– The honorable member took good care that he didn’t lose any weight.
– I do not think that the General lost very much weight either. It was not only those who got the name df going to the firing line who did all the work in the Avar. The men who went into the trenches and fought and died there, and those who returned maimed, are the only men I recognise in connexion with the work of the war. I do not recognise those who went to the Front in fat billets and lived on the sacrifices of others. No one desires more than I do> to recognise the splendid sacrifices made by the 60,000 men who lost their lives in the war. We have heard the honorable gr,em Der for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) prating this evening, but it was a very cheap kind of prating that he has given us. We have had enough of it for the last four or five years in this country. We have been told what we should do when we have spoken of the spendid sacrifices of our men. I do not wish to refer to this matter in any personal way at all, but the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) has told us that we must not let it go forth that our men died in vain. If they had not died in vain, why should we be asked to spend this year another £1,500,000 on Defence? I say that our men will have died in vain if we are going to heap up Defence expenditure in the way proposed.
– If Australia is left unprotected, and as a consequence we lose this country our men will have died in vain.
– We were told that the Great War was going to end war.
– This sounds very funny coming from the honorable member, considering that he went about his electorate at the last election claiming that the party to which he ‘belonged brought the Australian Navy into existence.
– We shall hear the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) afterwards. He is ready to come along with his pruning knife when proposals are made to provide postal facilities for people in the back country. Although he promised that he would not cut down the expenditure necessary for that purpose, he has done so, and we shall have more to say on that subject later on. But when there is a proposal to find jobs for people who have waxed fat upon militarism during the last four or five years, the right honorable gentleman apparently can see no reason for cutting down the expenditure proposed. The Defence expenditure is merely a sop to those people to continue them in theirbillets. I say, as one who has been against war all my life, that I am not prepared to take this kind of thing sitting down. We have only to look at some of the items of the Estimates to note the increases which axe proposed. The item for the “ Reserve of rifles,” referred to by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), shows a vote of £266,000 for this year as against £32,352 for last year. £262,000 is set ‘ towards heavy guns, and reserve of gun ammunition,” whilst no amount was voted on this account last year. The vote for Barracks is £4,248 this year as against only £288 last year. I could quote these increases almost without end. It is quite apparent that the war was not going to end war in spite of what honorable members have said. We were told by the Prime Minister of the excellent work which he did at the Peace Conference in connexion with the establishment of the League of Nations. We were told also that we were to have £20,000,000 of the German indemnity. What has become of that indemnity? It has vanished into thin air. We hoar nothing now of the splendid work done by the Prime Minister in this regard at the Peace Conference. It is useless to tell a mother who has lost sons at the war, and has othersons growing up, that her elder sons have not died in vain when she is faced with the fact that the very same conditions will await her younger sons when they grow up. Those who sent their sons to the war were told that they wouldnever again be faced with the same conditions; but, as a matter of fact, here we are, perpetuating the system of compulsory training, and heaping up defence expenditure. What a beautiful prospect is ahead of the parents of this country? The Minister tells us that we must continue compulsory training because of other wars that are looming ahead. The honorable gentleman boasts that the Australian soldier during the recent war played his part equally with the soldier from any other part of the world ; but as the great bulk of the Australian soldiers over twenty-five years of age could not have received any compulsory military training - the system had not been long enough in force to embrace them in its scope - they were mostly men whose only military training was that which they gained when they went into camp. The Minister claims that one volunteer is worth so many conscripts: in other words, he means that the Australians who had received less compulsory training than was undergone by soldiers of other countries, played their part equally with those other soldiers. The experience of our own soldiers is a complete answer to the statement that compulsory military training is necessary. The Australian soldier is equal to a soldier of any country in the world, yet has had less compulsory military training.
– Has not the honorable member “ ratted “ on the principle he enunciated years ago in regard to compulsory training?
– I would not “rat” on any principle. The honorable member is an authority on “ratting.”
– I maintain that the honorable member has changed his principles entirely.
– I have not “ratted” on my principles like the honorable member.
– Did not the honorable member favour compulsory training at one time?
– I do not know that I was ever very strongly in favour of it. I have always been opposed to war. But it is useless for the Minister to attempt to saddle me or even the Labour party with something for which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was responsible when he was associated with us. The Assistant Minister for Defence has not told us that there is any great menace threatening Australia.
– There is always a menace to every country unprepared.
– Then, apparently, the Minister does not agree with the statement made at Bendigo a few weeks ago by the Prime Minister, that Australia’s menace to-day is the Bolshevik movement in Russia. He told us that it was Bolshevism that was threatening the liberties of the people of Australia, and he said that the people ought to arm to the teeth because of this menace. No school child could pay regard tosuch drivel, and there is hardly a reputable newspaper in the country that has not commented adversely on that speech. But the fact that the right honorable gentleman mingles Bolshevism with every other “ ism “ as he has been doing for the last five years, is not sufficient justification for all this expenditure. The Assistant Minister for Defencedoes not resort to the trash we got from the Prime Minister at Bendigo, but at the same time he has not given us any reason for departing from our pledged word given to the manhood of this country in order to get them to take up their responsibilities in regard to the war; that if they went away to fight, it would be the last war, andthat it was to be a war to end war.
– Who said that?
– The Prime Minister and every one who stood by him. Every man who came back to this House at the last election was pledged to a greater degree of economy than had been exercised by this Parliament during the preceding four or five years.
– Not economy in regard to the defence of Australia.
– I take it that honorable members came here pledged to economize on every item of expenditure which was not justified, and we have heard nothing from the Minister to-night to justify our voting for an increased expenditure of £1,500,000 on defence, particularly when we are told that the war just concluded was to be the last war. Honorable members opposite, speaking of the Labour Party, say, “ You were all pledged to compulsory training ; it was your policy.” We have not waited until this late hour of the day to get that information. When we were in power compulsory training was part of our programme.
– But just now the honorable member said that it was merely the policy of the Prime Minister.
– I suppose the Prime Minister claimed to speak for our party then as he speaks for the honorable member’s party to-day; but the simple form of training when we were in power was very different from the drastic form of militarism proposed today. My attitude has not changed on the question of war generally. I have always been opposed to war.
– I suppose that is why the honorable member signed the platform which included compulsory training.
– The Minister for Works and Railways may make all the points he can out of that interjection, but the experience gained during the last war as to the manner in which our soldiers acquitted themselves has shattered the beliefs of even the most ardent supporter of compulsory training. I was never enamoured of war in any shape or form, and any belief I had in compulsory training was shattered by our experience in the late conflict. I agree that our men were equal to any others at the Front ; yet they had had the least amount of pre-war compulsory training; and the fact that our soldiers so proved themselves is the best argument why we should put an end to compulsory training.
Mr.McWilliams. - A great many of our men had been through compulsory training.
– Not a very great many.
– I should say 40 per cent.
– I should say there was not anything like that percentage,because all our enlisted men over twenty-five years of age would not have come within the compulsory training provisions. There must have been much more than 40 per cent. of them over that age.
– I said that 40 per cent. of our soldiers were trainees.
– However that may be, I regret that it is now proposed to expend a million and a half in this way, without any justification being offered on the part of the Government. All honour to those parents who sacrificed their sons, and they deserve something better than the future now proposed for them and their families. Instead of our returned men being able to look forward to a rosy time, they are asked to live under the old ‘Conditions; and their little ones, as they come along, are to be trained to be killed later on. If that is to be their . future, the great war was fought in vain. What has become of all the grand promises that were made? Where is the nation that is menacing or threatening us to-day? The great nations of the earth who were our enemies are all “down and out.” What chance have they of an early recovery, to be a menace to this country? As I have said before, I firmly believe there is a number of heads in the Defence Department who have had a good time for the last four or five years, with no necessity to fight in the trenches, and they wish to keep their present positions. I do not say that that is the motive of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) ; hut there is no doubt a move has been made by the militarists in the Department to keep their rosy billets. The Treasurer, in the course of his Budget speech, said -
In considering the large expenditure which the people of Australia are being asked to hear as the result of the war, it should be borne in mind that Australia’s burden is much heavier than that of some of the other Dominions owing, principally, to the great difference in the distances over which troops had to bc transported to the various battle fronts. Further, certain published figures show that the casualties among Australian soldiers, as compared with enlistments, were higher than among those of any other .portion of the Empire.
When we on this side said the same kind of thing we were told we were disloyalists. When we said that Australia had done her part-
– You desired Australia to do less - to slacken off.
– That is not .so. Some of us said that Australia, as compared with ‘the other Dominions, had done more than her share; and for that we were told we were disloyal, and had many uncomplimentary terms applied to us.
– ‘Because you did not want Australia to do any more.
– The honorable gentleman can now address the Treasurer on that point; because the Treasurer now agrees that we were right.
– Different times, different circumstances.
– The new Minister is coming on - he is able to put the Ministerial interpretation on things. As I have already said, we on this -side were called disloyal when we contended that’ Australia had done more than her part as compared with other parts of the Empire.
– Why did you say it at that time?
– Because we had certain facts and figures before us. We said it when the war was on; and now that the war is over, the Treasurer practically admits that what we then said was true. If, as I believe, Australia played an unequalled part in the war, it is poor satisfaction to the people of this country to know that, instead’ of this money being spent for the benefit of returned soldiers, maimed in the war which was to end war, it is to be devoted to training our youth for future wars. Why otherwise is this expenditure proposed?
– The expenditure is not only about a million and a half, but really three millions for the year.
– That is so. If we are going to incur that expenditure, there are many other avenues where the money could be used; for example, to provide extra facilities for people living in the back country, but where, instead, the pruning knife has been used. If the money were used in that direction, and for the benefit of returned men, there would be some justification for the expenditure. I regret that the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) did not move to reduce the vote by £1,000,000.
– A reduction by £1 is as effective as a reduction by £1,000,000, if the Government is defeated on the motion.
– The motion does not go far enough for my liking, but if the honorable member says that it will be just as effective as another, and if the Government propose to take it as a direction, I shall have much pleasure in seconding it.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), just before resuming his seat, said that the Minister had told the Committee nothing about the danger that menaced Australia. Honorable members on bor sides will recognise that it is not wise to go into explanations as to what the menace to Australia is, but there is one thing upon which the honorable member is, I suppose, very strong, and rightly so, and that is the White Australia policy. It might perhaps enter his mind that there could be a danger of some one interfering with it. It is not my intention to go further into an explanation as to any menace to Australia.
– Would not the alliance we have obviate any danger in that direction?
– We cannot altogether depend on alliances o>r anything else. We do not know what is before us. and it is as well, in my opinion, that we in Australia should be prepared. The honorable member also made a very strong point of the fact that there were a number of military men - I presume he referred to the officers on the permanent staff of the Military Forces of Australia - who have too long enjoyed soft billets. I do not think the honorable member can know anything about the work which the officers on the permanent staff have to do, nor do I think he knows anything as to their usefulness, if we are to have a Defence Force or an Army at all. Nor does the honorable member know what the value of these men would be, should we have to fight in Australia for our very existence.
– That is a very different thing - if we were fighting.
– But we cannot train these officers in five minutes, or in a year, or in two years, or even ten years. They have grown up in the Defence Department.
– The trouble is that when you train them, they won’t go to war.
– There are very few of the permanent men in Australia who had the chance of going to the war and did not go. It is of no use to have a Defence Force unless we have a good Staff. I undertake to say that every returned soldier in the House realizes the absolute importance of a trained Staff, and that is what these men at the Victoria Barracks are. Certainly we are in peace time,, and some honorable members say that those men are living in soft billets, but forget that they have had a life’s-time training for the work, and a life- time of drudgery, and have had hard examinations to pass.
– And all it taught them was to stay at home.
– I do not think the honorable member is quite fair. There is not a permanent officer in the Department of military age that did not endeavour to go to the war. If he did not go, it was not his fault. A trained Staff is an absolute necessity in any country which professes to have a Military Force. I might point to instances in the campaign where, through a Staff not being efficient, disaster instead of success attended the efforts of Australians. I do not want to go into details, but we had instances where we met with disaster instead of success simply because mistakes were made by the Staff, and those mistakes would probably not have been made had that Staff been efficiently trained.
– And some of them have been promoted since!
– That may be so. Promotions go on in peace as well as in war time.
I should like to draw attention to the difference between the first part of the speech of the honorable member for Hume and the second part. It was amusing to notice the change that took place when the honorable member saw another Minister bring me this volume of Hansard. This is a book which ought to be burned, and there is no man in the House who would sooner see it burned than the honorable member. Some very awkward things are dug up and brought to light from Hansard. The honorable member saw this book brought to me, and immediately turned as many somersaults as the greatest acrobat that has ever been seen. He wriggled and twisted, and one would have thought that he would almost get out of his skin in his endeavour to show that he ‘had not said anything against compulsory training. First of ail, he had said that there should be no compulsory training. He asked, “Why should we train men?” Those who went away to the war, he said, went without training and turned out to he the best men in the world. There was no necessity, he argued, for this expenditure on training. We should have no training at all. But when he saw this book, he thought to himself, “ Hello !> what did I say a few years ago?” He does not know now what he said; but I shall read to the Committee what the honorable member said, not twenty years ago, but comparatively recently, on 19th June, 1912.
– Surely the honorable member is not just now learning that compulsory training was on the Labour party’s platform?
– The honorable member need not be excited, because some of his speeches on this question will be dug up before this debate ends.
– Why not get down to the real thing?
– I shall do so. On the date mentioned, the honorable member (Mr. Parker Moloney), speaking on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech - I wonder if it was the same honorable member - said -
Yes; I notice that honorable members opposite generally like to share the credit of anything that has been . attended with success. I should like to contrast the bold and effective policy undertaken by this Government to provide a suitable Defence for Australia with the policy of the ex-Minister for Defence, who, according to a published report, stated in the Sydney Town Hall that he pinned his faith to an increase in the Naval subsidy. It is satisfactory to note that the re-organization of our land Forces under our system of compulsory military training appears to have the entire approval of the great majority of the people of Australia.
Note the honorable member’s words, “ our system.”
-. - Hear, hear! I never denied that.
– What has this to do with the matter under discussion?
– Nothing whatever, of course; but I intend to read the remainder of the extract, no matter how honorable members opposite may object.
– The Minister will give no reasons for the expediture.
– He has not the slightest intention of so doing.
– Order! Will the Minister please resume his seat. I do not propose to continually call for order. If honorable members are determined to disobey the Chair, the Chair will be forced to protect itself in the usual way.
– Now will the Minister give us some reasons?
– Order ! If the honorable member for Darling again defies the Chair, I shall take firm steps.
-I shall just finish, my extract.
– - Without giving any reasons.
– Order ! The honorable member is again out of order.
– The quotation concludes -
I find wherever I go that at least 95 per cent, of the people approve of the compulsory military training, which to-day is doing so much to discipline the young fella ,vs of the country, keeping them off the streets, providing and insuring for them a better manhood than otherwise would be the case.
– I am in entire agreement with a remark of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) to the effect that the fact of what an honorable member may have said, as recorded in Ilansard eight or nine years ago, should not be taken into account without consideration, at the same time, of the changes which may have occurred during the period in question. Why, because an honorable member may have had reason to change his views, owing to drastically altered circumstances, should he thereafter be quoted and charged with inconsistency? I think that such conduct is only going to the extreme to which the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) might be expected to go. Where was the honorable member himself eight years ago? I do not intend to follow that up, but I propose, for the special edification of the Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie), to quote something of what British statesmen have been saying concerning reduced expenditure upon the Imperial Army and Navy. I shall take my facts from the House of Commons Hansard and from official documents. It is rather amusing, by the way, to hear honorable members opposite speaking in regard to the White Australia policy. They were very little concerned about it a few years ago. I am of opinion that, in the minds of the members of the Government, the White Australia policy is considered to be safer to-day than ever before ; if such were not the case, the Prime Minister would now be about to depart for the other side of the world. His statements to-night were different from those expressed and indicated by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). However, I would point out that, according to a Budget-paper laid before the House of Commons, the estimated total expenditure on the Army for 1919-20 was £405,000,000, and the amount issued from the exchequer to meet the expenditure was £395,000,000- a reduction of £10,000,000; and, whereas the estimated expenditure on the Navy was £157,000,000, the actual expenditure was £156,000,000. The estimated expenditure on the Army for 1920-21 was £125,000,000- showing a reduction of £162,000,000 on the Budget provision for 1919-20. The estimated expenditure on the Navy for 1920-21 was £84,000,000 -a reduction of £64,000,000 on the Budget provisions for 1919-20. The Air Force estimates similarly showed a reduction of £45,000,000. Against those great decreases, as foreshadowed and carried out by the Imperial Government, expenditure on public education increased from £38,000,000 to £56,000,000, and on old-age pensions from £17,000,000 to £25,000,000. On the Ministry of Pensions there was an advance of from £72,000,000 to £123,000,000; and, on the Ministry of Health, an increase from £12,000,000 to £34,000,000. Enormous increases were revealed also in regard to other similar branches of public interest in Great Britain, while, at the same time, these tremendous reductions were being made in Naval and Military expenditure. In the course of his Budget speech, Mr. Austen Chamberlain, having enumerated the considerable reductions in Army and Navy expenditure, continued -
The House will see from what I have said that we are leading the way in disarmament among the nations of the world.
– What are the Imperial Government spending on the Navy this year ?
– I have quoted the latest figures available.
– Speaking from memory, I believe they are spending £88,000,000 on the Navy this year.
– The British Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George), speaking in regard to reductions in the Army, said -
We are asked : . . . “ What are the Government doing ?” when we are reducing the men in the Army from 3,700,000 at the date of the Armistice, to 300,000.
– Itis not quite fair for the. honorable member to discuss the general question of defence upon these Works Estimates.
– It is.
– No; the general Estimates are still to come.
– There are enumerated in this vote items of expenditure which amount to over £1,300,000, and this is only an instalment of the expenditure to be incurred during the current financial year. The expenditure on the military side alone will be over £3,000,000 during this financial year.
– But the proper time for a general discussion is when we are on the general Estimates.
– I am not concerned as to when is the proper time for the discussion. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is complaining about our load of debt, and I think honorable members are doing their duty when they point out directions in which the expenditure may be reduced. The British Parliament is cutting down similar expenditure, and, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, Great Britain is leading the world towards disarmament.
– What is theper capita expenditure in Great Britain on the Army and Navy, in comparison with similar expenditure in Australia?
– I have not had time to look up all the details of the expenditure.
– The honorable member will find that the per capita expenditure in Great Britain is more than double that in Australia.
– What does the British Prime Minister mean by his statement that the Government were reducing the men in the Army from 3,700,000 at the date of the Armistice to 300,000 in March last? Great Britain has a population of 47,000,000, who are contiguous to the other big populations of Europe, and yet her statesmen say that, although great reductions have taken place in the Army and Navy expenditure since the Armistice, further reductions will follow. Mr. Lloyd George stated also -
There is another advantage. The greatest military power in the world is without an army. The navy that menaced us is at the bottom of the sea. I am only putting that in order to show that we have grounds for confidence in the financial stability of the future. The great disturbing element in Europe has been demolished and swept away. Conscription has gone in the country that really drove other countries into conscription. The initiative in that movement was taken by Great Britain.
Surely British statesmen know what they are saying when they express opinions such as I have quoted. Yet, in Australia, the Government are increasing the defence Estimates in comparison with the expenditure actually incurred last year.
– We are not.
– So far as the organization of the Army and Navy is concerned, we are increasing our expenditure in comparison with that of last year.
– I say we are not.
– The Treasurer is referring to war expenditure, but I am referring to the permanent organization of the Army and Navy in Australia; and I repeat that the Government are proposing an increase on the expenditure of last year.
– Again I say we are not.
– It is time that Ministers rose and explained if the position is otherwise. They would have us believe that other countries are arming themselves to the very teeth, but I have disproved that statement by quotations from the speeches of Imperial statesmen. The British people are backing up the Government, and all parties in the Old Country are united in regard to the reduction of naval and military expenditure.
– The honorable member is keeping back the truth, and he knows it.
– Order !
– That is a very disorderly statement, and should be withdrawn. The quotations I have made from the House of Commons Hansard and from the financial statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are absolutely true.
– The honorable member takes good care not to give us the truth.
– He gives us a half truth.
– The honorable member is used to half truths, which are the biggest lies of all. He is a champion in that respect.
– Order !
– Tell us what the figures of British expenditure are to-day?
– I have already read to the Committee what Imperial Ministers have said.
– To what amount has the British expenditure been reduced? That is the test.
– I have quoted the figures.
– The honorable member has not, and will not.
– If the Treasurer has figures which will controvert what I have quoted from the Chancellor of the Exchequer I hope he will give them to the Committee. The Chancellor said that Great Britain was leading in disarmament among the nations of the world.
– To what expendi ture was he leading?
– I have already quoted a statement of Mr. Lloyd George that the Army had been reduced from 3,700,000 at the date of the signing of the Armistice to 300,000 at the 31st March of this year.
– And we have reduced our Army from 300,000 to 2,000.
– But the Government are proposing a bigger expenditure this year than they incurred last year.
– We are not.
– The British Government are incurring many millions of pounds less expenditure on the Army and Navy than was incurred during the last financial year.
– And so are we.
– The Treasurer tried to make it appear that he knows a great deal better than Mr. Lloyd George the state of affairs in Germany. I have quoted what Mr. Lloyd George said in the House of Commons in October last.
– Now quote what he said at the Spa Conference.
– In October last he said that the greatest military nation in the world had been crippled, and its Navy had been sent to the bottom of the sea.
– Conditions may have changed in the interim.
– But have they changed? No honorable member will say that Germany is stronger to-day than when Mr. Lloyd George made that statement in the House of Commons. If anything, she is weaker, she has signed additional terms of disarmament, and has shown her bona fides to a greater extent than before - to a greater extent, I believe, than British statesmen expected. Germany is more helpless than she was on 30th October last.
– I say again that she is not.
– We must admit that responsible Ministers in the House of Commons know more about the world’s military and naval affairs than we in Australia canknow. When I compare the statements and doings in the British House of Commons with the statements and doings in this House, I say that wo are incurring expenditure that we cannot justify to the people who are crying out for relief from the immense burden of taxation they have been called upon to bear.
– I will not permit the honorable member’s statements to pass without the facts accompanying them. Since the date of the statement which the honorable member has quoted, Mr. Lloyd George, at the Spa Conference, insisted that Germany had 1,200,000 rifles in the hands of German soldiers. That was in May of this year - not in October last.
He told the Germans then that they were not doing what they said they would do - that they had 400,000 men still under arms in Germany. Will the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) try to get those facts into his head, instead of indulging in ancient history ?
.- I shall be very brief, indeed, in putting the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) right in regard to the statements which he has made. From the British Hansard for 1920-21 I gather that the proposed expenditure on the British Navy for this year is £84,372,300, as against an actual expenditure last year of £157,528,000. It will be remembered by the honorable member that Great Britain was at war last year. Now she is not at war. The proposed expenditure upon the British Navy this year is, therefore, a Peace expenditure. I have given the estimate which was made by the First Lord of the Admiralty. If we compare the amount per capita charged in Great Britain under this heading with that charged in Australia, what do we find? Under our Estimates for the current year we shall pay 12s. 5d. per head, whereas Great Britain will pay 34s. 4d. per head. I come now to the British Army estimates. The Estimates for the current financial year make provision for a net expenditure of £125,000,000. The total establishment provided for is 525,000 officers and men, and this number is in process of reduction to 280,000. In addition, Great Britain is spending upon air services a sum of £15,173,430.
– I hope that the Minister will quote from the British Hansard next time.
– The figures I have given are taken from an official document which has been forwarded to me.
– I am very sorry that any action taken by me this evening should have resulted in unpleasantness; but I thought that I might express an opinion upon this matter without hurting anybody’s feelings. I merely desired to know why the Defence Estimates had been increased so enormously. The moment anybody raises that question he is told that he is either a pro-German, a disloyalist, or ‘a pacifist. I am not nearly so much a pro-German as those who have been “ lick-spittling “ about the descendants of Germans. I am not prepared to worship at the shrine of those who changed their names during the war in order to hide their German origin. I notice that those who have been interjecting most frequently this evening are not the honorable members who have taken an active part in the war, but men, like, myself, who were careful to keep thousands of miles behind the firing line. I can only say with the gentlemen who did as much to win the war as I did - that is nothing - that I am not imbued with less patriotic zeal than they are. I sacrificed my relations for the cause of my country.
The Assistant Minister for Defence has said ‘ that anybody who urged during the progress of the war that there was not to be another war was talking nonsense. That is what I have said for years past. But only a few months ago anybody who dared to make that statement would have been regarded as an enemy of this country. Yet we are now told that the recent war was not a war to end war.- The Leader of the Government and those who sit behind him frequently affirmed that the recent war was specially conducted for the purpose of finishing war. Did not the Prime Minister return from the Peace Conference with declarations to the effect that we were at last coming out of the pit of war into the green fields of perpetual peace? This is an excellent opportunity to point out the lies and shams which were then indulged in. It was urged from practically every platform that the sacrifices that had been made would not be made in vain. We were assured that we were about to enter upon the paths of perpetual peace. These statements were made by representative men in this country. Are they true or false? A heavy responsibility rests upon those who say one thing to the people during one hour and deny it the very next. What has the Treasurer said to-night? Somebody hp? stated that Germany is down and out. Personally, I have not so much interest in Germany as have some honorable members who, whilst wrapping the British flag around them, crawled upon their hands and knees to those of German blood and origin. But what was the war fought for? To destroy German militarism. We have been told that it was successful. The Peace declaration stipulated for the sweeping away of the German Navy. It stipulated for the acquisition of certain coal-fields, railroads, and territory, but as for the militarism which might have been stripped of its arms, well, the Treasurer says that the Germans still possess 1,250,000 rifles” and 400,000 armed men. For what? For defence purposes? They would be inadequate. To make war upon the Allies? That would be impossible. For what, then? Merely that she may defend her Imperial junker class against the efforts of the workers of Germany to establish a pure Democracy. The junker class was to be destroyed, but when was that class more powerful in Germany than it is to-day? Talk about the destruction of junkerism. It still lives. Talk about the destruction of militarism ! lt is still very much alive ! Was the war to destroy the Kaiser? No. He still lives. He was to be hanged. He was to be brought before a Court of International Justice, but was not. The liars ! This man, who was described as a baby murderer, who ordered the German soldiers to spare neither woman nor child ; this man who was a monstrosity in the eyes of the world, was to be brought to the bar of human justice. He still lives in his palace across the border in idleness and opulence. These are the things for which the men of our country were called, upon to shed their blood. None of them. - the abolition of militarism, the hanging of the Kaiser, the destruction of Junkerism and the fulfilment of Democracy - has been realized. All that has been done has been to introduce black troops into the conquered Territory for the violation of their women and the destruction of those forces for which we were prepared to stand. This is the out-, come.
– It is not the outcome.
– It is true; it is the outcome.
– It is not the outcome.
– It is the truth. Everyone knows it.
– Is the honorable member in favour of going to war with Holland to get the Kaiser? That is a plain question.
– The honorable the Treasurer is asking a plain question, and he wants a plain answer. My answer is Yes.
– Would you fight
Holland on that issue?
– Yes. The Minister does not like ft. I say that if the Allies were prepared to make war on Holland in order to take her ships during the period of the war they could do it to obtain the Kaiser.
– But we did not fight Holland.
– You took her ships.
– We did not.
– You seized her ships during the war.
– I saywe did not.
– My” yes “ is as good as the Treasurer’s “ no,” and I say the Allies seized Holland’s ships for Allied purposes.
– This fairy statement has no foundation in fact at all.
– It is true that the Allies took Holland’s ships, but neither Tinder the conditions of peace nor in the conditions of the Armistice has the exKaiser been brought to a Court of Justice.
– We did not take Holland’s ships.
– Very well. You set out to destroy militarism, and you did not do it.
I come now to the question raised by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) by way of interjection. Of course, there is no harm in making an interjection, although it is disorderly for me to make one. The honorable member for Wilmot said something about honorable members on this side being pacifists. I am not a pacifist.
-I did not say that you were.
– The honorable member denies it, but some honorable member said that we werepacifists because we wanted to leave this country defenceless.
– I did not.
– Very well, the honorable member is not guilty. Some other honorable member said it.
– And so you are.
– Good enough, there is the honorable member.
– I think we had better finish this in the morning, otherwise we shall miss our trains.
– After I have answered the interjection raised by the Honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) I shall come back to my main point, which has nothing to do with Germany or pacifism or anything else. I merely want to point out to those who represent the policy of economy in this country, the honorable gentlemen in the Corner, a few of their inconsistencies. They want to save £100 here, £400 there, and, perhaps, £4,000 somewhere else. Well, here is an opportunity for them, because we are dealing with a question involving the expenditure of millions of pounds. This is not a question of pacifism at all. I have always believed that war is a necessary and an inevitable condition of the system under which we are living; but, apparently, there is to be an expenditure of £100,000,000 this year, and in connexion with war preparations the sum is something like three times the amount set aside before the war. We talk about economy ! Where is economy to be effected? If we cut down all civil expenditure there will still be £70,000,000 as the result of our defence policy.
– Quite true.
– This practically is three times the total expenditure, and three times the total revenue of this country prior to the war. The Treasurer went to Sydney last week, and in a speech there he said that there could be no salvation for this country - I may not be quoting his exact words - until we can rid it of its load of unproductive debts.
– Hear, hear !
– This only shows that sometimes extremes meet. They meet on this occasion. I agree with the Treasurer. But I say that whoever makes that affirmation, and then loads up this country with an enormous increase in expenditure for war, is pursuing a policy contrary to his convictions; convictions,too, that are forced upon him by the actual circumstances. The sum required for interest and sinking fund now amounts to more than our total expenditure before the war. What are we going to do about it?
– We are going to pay our debts.
– Just so.
– And we can pay them. We really can.
– It is quite easy to say these things.
– And we are doing it.
– We are. I have done the same myself. I have paid£1off one debt and borrowed another £4. And that is the policy of the Government. I am not blaming the Treasurer. I do not condemn him because of the state of public opinion, and the absolute incapacity of the newspapers to provide a compass for public guidance, wherever they may be. The mere condamnation of somebody else is not guidance, but useless criticism. I do not condemn the Treasurer, because he realizes the situation clearly and definitely. He sees the enormous load of unproductive debt that weighs upon the resources of this country. Our chief means at this juncture is derived from the flowing revenue that comes to us through the customs, in consequence of the enormous price of imported goods. There is no need to increase the Tariff, as the price of commodities that come into the Commonwealth are double and treble what they usually are. But the slump must come, and when prices are reduced the revenue must also fall. The Treasurer has said that he has a remedy, and that we can pay off our debts by having a Sinking Fund. Is it suggested that our enormous debt can be liquidated from a Sinking Fund? Some day it will be paid off, but not in our time, even at the rate the honorable gentleman proposes. Before that day and before that hour, other more pressing and vital problems will be upon us. They are coming rapidly. The Treasurer thinks there is a virtue in a Sinking Fund.
– I do.
– There was never a Government - I defy the Treasurer to mention one - or any State or any country that did not dip itsfingers into a Sinking Fund whenever it was short of money.
House adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200922_reps_8_93/>.