8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that Syria is now under the control of one of our Allies,France havingbeen given a mandate over it, I desire to ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether it is intended to liberalize the provisions in relation to entry of Assyrians into this country ?
– I have had quite a number of applications from Assyrians. Each case is dealt with on its merits. I do not know of any serious case of hardship having occurred.
– Now that the flat rate for telephones has been increased, and the charge per call has also been raised, I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether he will haveregard to the insistent demand of users of the old type of machines that counters to register calls should be affixed to such instruments?
– I will consider the matter.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister what course the Government intend to take in regard to the action of another place in negativing yesterday the second reading of the Entertainments Tax Bill, and thus imposing taxation, although the Constitution specifically provides that the Senate has no power to impose taxation.
– It would be premature for me to say what action the Government proposes to take since it has not yet considered the matter. The Government, however, will act in such a way as is consistent and compatible with the spirit of the Constitution which vests in this Chamber alone the right to impose taxation. It will jealously uphold that right. I had the other evening to invite this House, very reluctantly, I admit, to agree to an amendment made by another place in a money Bill. During the last eight or ten days the Senate has made three such amendments in money Bills. I do not know the reason for those amendments, but I am a member of this House, and I should say exactly the same if I were sitting in Opposition. I am not going into the merits of this particular tax, but as a memberof this House I should take up the same attitude, whether I believed in the tax or not. The right of taxation is vested in this Chamber, and I hope that honorable members will uphold its dignity and rights.
amendment of the Customs Act.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether a decision has yet been arrived at as to when the consideration of the Tariff will be resumed, and will he also introduce at once the amending Customs Bill, so that honorable members may know what is the desire of his Department in regard to the amendment of theprincipal Act?
– I presume that the date on which the consideration of the Tariff will be resumed will depend upon the course of public business. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question I am unable to do what he suggests. In introducing the Tariff, I set out fully the proposed provisions of the amending Bill, but I shall be unable to introduce that Bill until the schedule has been dealt with in the Committee of Ways and Means.
– Will the Acting Minister for Repatriation state under what method the newly purchased saw-mills at Beech Forest are being operated?
– The mills purchased from Mr. Nott are being worked under a direct contract with Mr. Driver, one of the most experienced timber men in the Commonwealth, who is operating the mills and has undertaken to supply specified quantities at specified rates.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs now furnish me with any particulars as to when linseed or flax seed for sowing purposes will be available, and under what conditions ?
– The honorable member informed me that he intended to ask this question, and I am able to furnish him with the following information: -
Linseed for sowing purposes can be procured from the Commonwealth Flax Committee, 314 Albert-street, East Melbourne, so soon as it is available after threshing, which commences in January, and a supply is kept on hand practically until the end of the year. The price is fixed at the beginning of each year, and is dependent upon the market value of commercial linseed. The price fixed for this year was £1 per bushel, as linseed was at the time being sold for commercial purposes at £1 3s. 6d. per bushel.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories received from the Premier of New South Wales a request that the construction of the Federal Capital should be at once proceeded with?
– There is already on the notice-paper a question as to that matter.
-Will the Treasurer inform the House of the approximate date of the resumption of the debate on his Financial Statement?
– This is grievance day, and, as I need Supply, I propose to ask for it to-day.
– You wish to kill two birds with one stone?
– We might as well grieve and pass Supply on the one day. The honorable member for Illawarra will therefore have an opportunity of discussing the finances this afternoon.
– I am referring to the general debate on the Budget Statement.
– I hope that we shall be able to continue that debate in the course of a few days. There are just two or three items which we wish to clear off the business-paperbefore dealing with the Estimates.
-Will the Acting Minister for Repatriation lay on the table a copy of the contract entered into between the War Service Homes Department and Mr. Driver?
– I have no objection to tabling the contract.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Carriage of Mails - Appointment of Controller
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
SirGRANVILLE RYRIE.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers , to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will make further representations to the Imperial Government with a view to the removal of a fixed price on fruit exported from Australia to the United Kingdom during the ensuing season?
– Further representations in regard to this matter were made to the British Government yesterday, when a cablegram was despatched to the Secretary of State for the Colonies pressing for an early decision.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 34th September the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) asked whether any decision had been arrived at with regard to the marking of Australian soldiers’ graves in Australia?
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Circulars wore sent to the next of kin of members of the Australian Imperial Force buried in Australia, asking whether the graves had been completed with headstones, &c. Some 600 replies are still outstanding, and it is contemplated making an offer to the next of kin in the cases of incomplete graves to erect a headstone of the same character as those placed over graves in the various theatres of war.
Budget 1920-21 - Case of the Rev. j. B. Ronald - Maternity Bonus - Deportation of Italian Reservists - War Service Homes: Land Purchase - Allowance to Vocational Trainees - Old-age, Invalid, and Blind Pensioners - Inter-State Commission - Postal and Telephone Facilities: Inspectors - Answers to Questions - Case of Mr. Gillam - Production and Sale of Wheat : World’s Parity - Release of Military Prisoners - Pensions of Blind Miners and Annuitants - Wireless Operators on Transports - Naval Defence and Training : Aviation - League of Nations - Sydney Quarantine Station - National Insurance - Financial Situation - Unification of Railway Gauges - Flinders Naval Base - Immigration: River Murray Lands: Immigrant Hostels - Repatriation : Enlistments under Age: War Pensions : Dependants of Deserters - Returned Soldiers: Preferenceof Employment: Public Service Appointments - Pay of Ordnance Storeman - New South Wales Superannuation Fund: Widows - Senate and Taxation Bills.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair- proposed.
– Before the Prime Minister leaves the chamber I desire to refer to the case of the Reverend J. B. Ronald. That gentleman has been suffering certain disadvantages for a number of years, but not long ago he was able to get a passage to England, and. with the assistance of Mr. Andrew Fisher, to present a petition to the King, supported by affidavits. He saw Lord Milner, Secretary ofState for the Colonies, both before and after the presentation of the petition. The King referred the petition back to Australia through the Governor-General, who forwarded it to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s Department decided that the case was a State matter, and referred it to the Victorian Government. The State Premier declares that the matter is Federal, and, I understand, has returned the papers to the Commonwealth Government. So far, the reverend gentleman has not been able to get any redress. Did the Prime Minister return any answer to His Majesty in refutation of the affidavits presented by the Reverend Mr. Ronald? If he has not done so, does he not think that he ought, at any rate, to have some concern as to the destination of a letter sent from His Majesty? It is well known that the Reverend J. B. Ronald has suffered under some peculiar circumstances. Some think his case has merits, and others that it has demerits; but he himself has asked, through the King, for an investigation of it. While many may differ from him very considerably, I think something should be done to give him an opportunity to be heard, or at least to settle whether the matter is a State or Federal one. The case was originally tried in the State Court. I do not want to go through the whole of the circumstances, except to say that perjury was committed there in a wholesale manner. The case then reached the High Court, where Mr. Ronald was non-suited. He afterwards appealed to the King. Not being an Australian, and being a man of strong Imperial feeling, he thinks that a message from the King should call for some consideration by the Federal Parliament, and cannot be got rid of merely by saying that it is a State matter. I want to see him given an opportunity of proving his case.He has beenrefused all access to Courts, and he finally had resort to what he considered the highest Court of the land, by appealing to His Majesty. Has the Prime Minister done anything in the matter? If not, will he make a definite statement as to what heintends to do, especially as the State Government say that the question is a Federal, and not a State, one?
.- A number of us now present were members of the House when both Mr. Ronald and the late Mr. Harper were in it. All 1 ask is that justice be done in Mr. Ronald’s case. If he has no case, the Government should tell him so. He has been to England to see His Majesty the King. It is a serious matter for him, because his whole livelihood has been taken away. We have no right to treat the matter on personal grounds at all, nor do I do so. All I ask is that the Government shall cause an investigation to be made into the case, and see that justice is done, even at this belated hour.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) did not tell me beforehand that he intended to bring up this subject, because I could have refreshed my mind by a glance at the files. Still, I know sufficient of the facts to enable me to say something by way of reply. I recall some of the circumstances which, I assume, led up to the position in which Mr. Ronald now finds himself.
– The original case?
– Tes. Of course, I express no opinion whatever on that. I was a member of the House when both Mr. Ronald and the late Mr. Harper were in it. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) were also members of the House when the case to which I have alluded was being heard. I know nothing of the circumstances other than by press reports, and am not at all familiar with the action taken by the Presbyterian Assembly. I recall, too, the circumstances - so far as they have been given to me, either through the press or by the official files - that Mr. Ronald went to England ; that he presented a petition to His Majesty; that His Majesty referred the matter back to Australia, through His Excellency the GovernorGeneral; and that the petition, in due course - as is usual and proper - was referred to me as the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. I agree with the honorable member for Yarra that we must do justice to all men, and not allow ourselves to be biased or swayed by personal considerations. Justice is due to all men, and I certainly know of no reason why justice should not be done to Mr. Ronald.
The question is : What is the wrong under which he alleges he is suffering, and by what means can that wrong be righted? So far as I understand, the wrong arose as the result of proceedings taken in a Court of the State of Victoria. The Commonwealth has no jurisdiction in that matter. It was not a party to it, and it did not aid or abet either of the parties.. When I received the petition, the subject was considered by the Solicitor-General and myself, and we came, as all men must come on a review of the facts, to the conclusion that it was wholly a State- matter, and referred it to the Premier of the State of Victoria. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that it had been returned by the State of Victoria to us. The information which I have received from my colleague behind me is that it has not been returned to us. But whether it be returned to us or not, one thing is clear, that the wrong, if any wrong has been done to Mr. Ronald, was done as the result of proceedings taken in a Court of the State of Victoria. In those proceedings we had no part whatever. We cannot challenge the jurisdiction of that Court, except for proper cause, and in special circumstances, and in a certain way. Therefore, I say, I know of no way by which the Commonwealth, qua Commonwealth, can right the wrong, if wrong there be, from which Mr. Ronald is suffering. Having given my own opinion for what it is worth on the spur of the moment, let me say that I lean always in these matters to the man who is down; and, broadly speaking, I think nine out of every ten people do the same. I do not say the case is closed, dr that all the avenues are stopped up ‘by the mere expression of my own opinion, which is given on the spur of the moment, but certainly after a fairly careful review of the facts. If, however, it can be shown that we can right a wrong, I shall be very glad and ready to do anything that is required. May I say one word more before I sit down? I think there ought to be, for all wrongs done by a man, a time limit. This idea of pursuing people through their lives does not appeal to me. We all do wrong at some time or other ; but, even if a man has done wrong, is he to be pursued vindictively all his life? Is there to be no time limit whatever to” punishment? I do not take that view.
Therefore, assuming for the sake of argument - and I am only assuming it for that sake - that Mr. Ronald did wrong, as well as those who did him wrong, if they did him wrong, he has suffered, and it is possible that those who have it in their power to set him on his feet again may think it time to take steps to do so. I neither extenuate, nor excuse, nor justify anything that either of the parties did, if they did anything - one of them is dead, the other has, admittedly, suffered a great deal - and it seems to me that we might very well pass a wet sponge over the past, and, as far as human effort can do so, place Mr. Ronald back where he was, and enable him to earn his livelihood. That, of course, does not necessarily complete all that is required to rehabilitate him; but,, at any Tate, it is a course of action that commends itself to me, and I hope, also, to my fellow members. Therefore, with all due submission, I make the suggestion to those with whose business I have nothing to do, and in whose counsels I take no part, that they might, perhaps, consider the circumstances as worthy of their attention. If it can be shown that the Commonwealth can help, although we were not parties to the original offence, and had no hand in it, it will be glad to do what it can.
.- I . thank the Prime Minister (Mt. Hughes) for many of his words, but it is due to the House and to myself that I should make a statement upon this matter. Honorable members who were in the last Parliament will remember with what delight a letter written by the late Mr. Harper to the press, intimating that he would settle £1,000 upon Mrs. Ronald during her life, was received. It was a long letter, in which Mr. Harper pointed out that I had always displayed animus towards him. I passed all that by, because, as I thought, he at last was about to do justice to Mr. Ronald; but the House will learn with sincere regret that the promise contained in that letter has been absolutely broken. The instruction was conveyed to me to call upon Mr. Harper’s solicitors to make the necessary arrangements, but the promise has not been honoured by his heirs. A gentleman who with me was equally disappointed was the ex-member for .Wimmera (Mr. Sampson). The information which I am now giving is not generally known. I cannot understand why the promise made in the letter was not fulfilled. Mr. Harper’s long letter of self-justification, in which he expressed the feeling that something ought to be done for the noble mother of four brave sons who had gone to the Front, I could have answered very simply by pointing out that nine of Mr.’ Harper’s witnesses, paid by his money, subsequently suffered imprisonment for perjury and conspiracy, and one or two others, particularly Paddy Hill, were punished for conspiracy. It was my sense of injustice which made me say, at a public meeting in Melbourne, that, if I had been injured as Mr. Ronald was, and refused justice from the Commonwealth, I would have taken the matter into my own hands, and shot Mr. Harper as I would a dog that had bitten me. My reason for saying that was that Mr. Bryant, one of “the ablest advocates at the Victorian criminal bar, tried his best to secure justice, but was unsuccessful ‘because of the state of the law, which two Judges of the Supreme Court declared needed amending, an opinion which has since been confirmed by a third Judge. Nine, if not ten, of the witnesses in the case were imprisoned for perjury or conspiracy, and they drew their money through the office of the legal firm of Davies and Campbell. Mr. Ronald is now crying out for justice, and I hope that the Prime Minister will see that the fundamental principle of English law - that no one shall cry out for justice without being given a fair trial - is made the law here, and that, if the States cannot, or will not, amend their Statutes in this direction, this House will pass the necessary legislation. The late Mr. John Murray, who was Premier of Victoria, promised that he would take steps to amend the law of this State, but failed to do so. There is ample evidence to show that a crying shame was done. Perjury was committed such as has never been proved in any other case in Australia, yet the victim is walking about penniless. To the honour of that1 queen of women whom he calls wife, let me make it known that she, an. educated lady, had at one time to take in washing in order to keep a roof over the home. I understand that one of her sons is one of the youngest officers in the British Army to-day. In his letter, Mr. Harper referred- to me as his lifelong opponent, but it was not a personal matter with me. I opposed him because of the actions of his firm. I would call any one a political enemy who would make improper profits by selling adulterated food. I had nothing against Mr. Harper as a man, and here I wish to give credit to the noble woman who called him husband. To her eternal honour, she has decided to pay during her lifetime what should have been paid during the life of Mrs. Ronald. It will be realized that a lady over seventy years of age has but a frail tenure of life, and, when she goes, I do not know ‘how the heirs of this extremely wealthy man can ever pray, or imagine they can face their Maker, if they do not honour the promise. I saw Mr. Har-per the last time he waa in thi3 chamber, as he sat opposite to me, looking strong, and I resented his being photographed on that occasion along with the members of the House. Later, when I met him outside, weak and failing, my hear.t told me I had been wrong to insult him as I did across rh” chamber, and I told him of a dream J l .-.d had. In that dream I thought that )’<. Harper and myself -met on the other side of the shadows, and that each of us had a regret. My regret was that I had not made friends with a relation of mine, while his was that lie had not rendered justice to Mr. Ronald. That was all; and then there came the offer of £1,000. Not only myself, but every member of the then Parliament, welcomed the offer, for we all knew of the great wrong that had been done. I did not know this matter was to be raised ‘this afternoon, and I am speaking quite impromptu; but honorable members will understand my regret that this .promise, made not only by word, but in writing, has not been kept. Perhaps Mr. Harper Avas not to blame ; but he ought to have left the matter arranged in no uncertain way. That the promise has not been redeemed is no fault of the legal gentleman to whom I sent Mr. Harper’s letter. . As God is my judge - and I am sure the Prime Minister will agree with me - those who are receiving the wealth of Mr. Har-per must feel mighty mean if they do not intend to keep the pledge given. The Prime Minister and. I have differed and fought on many occasions; but, if I have read him aright, he does not believe that any man should for ever suffer under a wrong. During all these weary years Mr. Ronald has been asking for justice. A gentleman to whom Mr. Ronald was introduced asked him why he did not go to England and prosecute his claim, and the reply of the poor man was that he had no money. This gentleman then asked if no one was making a collection to assist him, and the reply was that myself and some other friends were doing so; but that not enough had been raised to pay his passage. Then the stranger asked how much was required, and was told; whereupon he invited Mr. Ronald .to visit him at his office. I am not privileged to give that gentleman’s name; but he belongs to a race which i3 not always credited with” a generous nature - he came from the great land of Scotland. He provided Mr. Ronald with an outfit and a passage, and offered to back him with so much money. Mr. Ronald has made the journey, and ‘ returned; and I understand that a message, with the imprimatur of His Majesty, has come, asking that justice shall be done. That message, I believe, has come to the Prime Minister, who, perhaps legally, has taken up the position that it is a matter for the State authorities to deal with. The State authorities, however, in view of the fact that the case wa3 before the High Court, claim that it is a Commonwealth affair.
– I do not think .that they have said anything about that. I am informed they have not.
– Then my mistake is> due to my non-knowledge of the facts.
– I may be wrong, but I am so informed.
- -I suggest that the Prime Minister and the Premier of the State of Victoria have a little talk, in order to see whether the law cannot be so framed as to permit no injustice of this kind. Speaking, as I believe, as a friend of Mr. Ronald, I feel sure that he will not ‘ ask any great damages; hut certainly something should be done. I do not know any case except, perhaps, that of
Jean Galas, which Voltaire righted after many years, when the body of the victim had long returned to the elements of mother earth, which has dragged out to such a length.
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
In Committee of Supply:
. -I move -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1920-21 a sum not exceeding £3,128,645.
This is a Supply Bill for two months, and, as a mere “ carry on “ proposal, it contains no new items of expenditure. Under the circumstances, I do not see that we need spend any time in debating the measure, which contains only the ordinary modicum of the total Supply for each of the Departments involved.
– It is only for salaries?
– For salaries and” carry on “ services generally. We have already had three Supply Bills, and, now that the Budget has been introduced, I am asking for two months’ Supply, which will take us over four pay days. The £3,128,645 is required for the following purposes: - Ordinary expenditure, £2,124,595; war services payable from revenue, £854,050; and refunds of revenue, £150,000. The refunds of revenue item is, of course, for refunds of income tax, land tax, postal revenue, and such like. There are no items, as I say, which call for special attention, and, therefore, I do not propose to take up any further time on the Bill itself. I think, however, it would be well to give some particulars as to the general scheme of expenditure for the year.
We hear a great deal in these days as to the uneconomical expenditures of the Government. In other words the people are told that there is no sign of economy, that there is on the contrary a big staggering “ knock out “ Budget, and the figures are manipulated and shaped in every way so as to give evidence in support of that astounding fact. It occurred to me that it might be useful if, between now and the consideration of the Budget, I directed the attention of the critics outside, and also the critics in the House, if they be here, to the main facts on which the Budget is founded.
All my life I have stood for reasonable economy in public expendi tures. In season and out of season I have urged this upon whatever Go vernment has happened to be in power. I still belong, I hope, to that school, and if any one, by a perfectly fair and legitimate analysis of the Budget figures, can show mewhere savings can be made, I shall welcome that effort and be very grateful for it. That has been declared already to be the attitude of a weak man. I care nothing as to what may be said as to my action or attitude. Critics may call me weak or strong, whichever they please, if it is in the line of their criticism to do so. But I am anxiousto have come constructive criticism of the Budget. Volumes of destructive criticism are being indulged in. Never once do we get an inkling of any constructive proposal showing where economy is possible. As an instance, we read in one of the newspapers this morning the statement that a pure waste of money is taking place in the Northern Territory. The reason why this newspaper characterizes the expenditure there as pure waste is that, in respect of the Territory, there has to be paid this year, on account of a dead debt,£401,512. No one now in this Parliament can modify that item in the slightest degree. It must be either paid or repudiated. But it is held up to an admiring public as an evidence of the way in which this paper is urging economy on the Government, and as an evidence of the great, and utter; and absolute, dead waste which is taking place in connexion with these expenditures.
I admit that the Budget is large; but may I say that largeness, even in the case of a Budget, does not necessarily connote extravagance? I propose to show in a few minutes just why and how the Budget is so large. It is as large, for instance, as it was last year - it is, indeed, a little larger - but there is a great deal more being said about it than was said of last year’s Budget. Last year expenditure out of loan dominated the Budget. This year there is £20,000,000 less of war loan expenditure. Why is that so ? It is not because there are £20,000,000 less of war obligations, but because we have made a different construction of the Budget. We have taken over a large number of items representing a large number of millions that were chargeable to loan last year, and arepaying them this year out of the revenues of the country. That, I apprehend, is a reason for the criticism. The criticism is coming really, and in the last resource, from a lot of men in the community who, for some reason or other, seem to jib at the responsibility which they themselves have incurred. I know of no other just reason for the bitter denunciation of the Budget, such as is now presented to the country and the House, and I am going to show how this Budget has become large, and what makes the expenditures from revenue large to-day.
– Have a good “ go “ at the newspaper critics.
– I intend to give them a few facts. I invite their attention to them, and I hope they will discuss them in the same spirit that I propose to exercise. In the first place, in the total Budget of £98,864,836 we begin with a deadweight war obligation of £62,241,931, made up of various war items which honorable members will see on referring to the Budget. There is,, for instance, the item of £22,470,000 in respect of soldier land settlement and War Service Homes. Does any one in the country want to retrench that item?
– Only the Age.
– I do not think the Age would have the temerity to tell the returned soldiers of Australia that it would retrench that item of the Budget. And, after all, that total of £22,470,000 is not being given to our returned soldiers; we are only lending it to them. There is also an item of £4,500,000 for vocational training, and all the other schemes we are undertaking to rehabilitate our soldiers, and to put them back in some useful occupation. Then there is the item of war pensions, £7,250,000. Do the economizers outside propose to’ retrench that item? There is a further item of £20,712,000, interest and sinking fund on war loans.
– Can the newspaper critics get away from that item?
– If they can retrench on that item, I shall be very curious and anxious to hear just how they propose to do so. Another item is that relating to the Australian Expeditionary Force, £2,400,000.
– Where is that Force to-day ?
– That is a belated obligation that is now being discharged. Here is another item of £700,000 for transport of troops, due, again, for moneys paid in respect of vessels that brought our soldiers home. Then there is the payment under the Nauru agreement. That is a levy upon the Treasury made by this House amounting to £1,470,000. We have a further item, “ Deficiency in war loan account to the 30th June, 1920,” £902,629. The war loan account was overdrawn to that amount at the end of the year, and T am discharging that obligation out of revenue. There are other miscellaneous items, making a total of £62,241,931. Of that total, £25,400,000 is chargeable to loan account, and £36,841,931 is chargeable to revenue. There we have the dead weight with which we begin the Budget. This total of £62,241,931 is what Mr. Knibbs would describe as the “ weighted average “ of the Budget.
– It is what the Treasurer owes, and what he will have to pay.
– It is something that I cannot touch in the way of retrenching.
– Hear, hear!
– Neither I nor the House can retrench that total. We must either pay or repudiate. It represents liabilities all incurred because of the soldier and the Avar, from which Ave have emerged victoriously.
In addition to these items, may I recall to mind the fact that we have just submitted estimates of Defence which the Melbourne morning newspapers, as well as the press throughout the Common- wealth. backed by the public opinion of Australia, have declared to be very moderate in character?
– We have not so declared them.
– I know that the honorable member has not declared them to bc moderate. I did not expect him to do so. I was speaking of the public opinion of Australia. Our estimates of Defence have been declared to represent a very moderate and irreducible item.
– We took the public opinion on Defence at one time, and it agreed with my own opinion, the Treasurer will remember.
– I remember. At any rate, this Defence expenditurehas been adjudged to be fair, and therefore not within the category of retrenchment, and it brings up the total to over £70,000,000. There are other expenditures arising out of the war to which I shall call attention. There is an item of £17,570 in respect of a contribution of £15,000 to the League of Nations, an international bibliography of the war, and the purchase of pictures of Gallipoli scenes for our War Museum. There are other items, totalling £3,885,055, including £37,700 for the visit of the Prince of Wales, £7,000 for. the cost-of-living bonus to Commonwealth officers in London, and £439,000 in respect of the costofliving bonuses in Australia, as well as £365,000 for the administration of new taxation laws.
– Could that be saved ?
– I shall tell the House later what it is costing to collect these revenues from time to time. There is an item of £17,287 for repairs to the Williamstown Shipbuilding Yard, and an item of £3,000,000 for the construction of ships. That also is a commitment which must be paid, since the liability has been incurred. These several items give us a total of £66,144,556, which, with the £7,101,311 for Defence and Air Services make a total of £73,245,867, all arising out of the war or occasioned by the war, with which we began to prepare the Budget.
There are other statutory increases of expenditure to which I shall call the attention of the critics. There is, for instance, an expenditure of £5,215,000 on. invalid and old-age pensions.
– Not enough.
– Exactly. Many honorable members of both Houses declare that it is not nearly sufficient. I have been pressed time and again for an increase in these pensions and for an increase in the pensions for blind pensioners. I have already agreed to an extension of the amount which blind pensioners are permitted to earn. That will mean an additional obligation of from £12,000 to £15,000 a year. I also looked into the question as to whether we could extend the earning power of the ordinary old-age and invalid pensioners, but I found that, to allow them to earn another 10s. per week, would involve this country in a further obligation of three-quarters of a million, and I had very regretfully to turn it down. There are other proposals in connexion with the pension list which, had I not resisted, would have made the expenditure in respect of invalid and oldage pensions very much larger than it is. As it is, our expenditure under that heading is £5,215,000. Can my critics suggest any retrenchment there? Then we have a contemplated expenditure of £630,000 in respect of the maternity allowance.
– There might be a saving there.
– As to that, I am the servant of the House, and the House has declared that these payments must stand. There are also payments to the State Treasurers. And here I desire to direct attention to the outburst that occurred in the State Parliament a week ago, when it was declared that this was an appalling Budget.
– In which State House?
– In the Victorian Parliament Mr. Solly and Mr. Hogan both declared that this was an appalling Budget, and said that something would have to be done to stop the taxation that was being imposed by the Federal Government. I had it in my mind to say, but my Christian charity triumphed in the end, that £8,000,000 out of this Budget goes to the State of Victoria this year.
– Surely there is more than £8,000,000 out of £92,000,000?
– Yes. I am speaking of direct per capita payments and payments for land settlement. These two items come to more than £8,000,000 this year ; but the per capita payments to the States amount to £6,865,000. Again, I am powerless over my severe critics, who say that we must leave the States alone, and that we must not take even 6d. from them. While they refer to economy they insist that these payments must be made year by year in order to prevent irregularities and make the States secure. Here is an amount of nearly £7,000,000 for per capita payments - again a statutory obligation.
Then there is an amount of £150,000 for compiling the census - again a statutory obligation.
There is also £100,000 for immigration, which, I think, will be recognised asa necessary commitment and a good investment.
– It depends on how it is spent.
– Of course. There is also an item of £342,915 for the Northern Territory, to which the Age newspaper directs attention, and calls it pure waste of money. Of course, it is a loss and a waste in one sense; but it is not a deliberate waste. It is useless to say we are wasting money merely because we are paying our just debts.
– No State could administer the Northern Territory; it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth.
– It is a responsibility which has been undertaken, and it cannot be eliminated. At any rate, this item alone for interest on sinking fund, and redemption of loans falling due this year, amounts altogether to £342,915.
There is also an amount of £911,250 under the heading of interest on State loans, and recoverable from the States. This item arises each year, and appears on both sides of the ledger. There are other similar items, and this one of £911,250, as well as others, all help to swell the expenditure. It is not really expenditure, but income ; but it is charged on the debit side of the ledger, and so makes a balance.
There is another item of that kind which is new this year. In the past the Postal Department has been conducting meteorological work by publishing meteorological news and telegrams ; but this year the Home and Territories Department is taking over the responsibility, and has to pay the Postal Department £52,000. That also increases the Budget; but it means absolutely nothing in the way of either economy or extravagance. The same can be said of the item relating to the redemption of the Northern Territory loan, as that again swells the Budget, although it is merely a conversion. The obligation is there and must remain. We pay the redemption money by simply raising another loan for the purpose. It increases the Budget all the same, and if one searched that interesting document, and analyzed it, one would find that, £2,000,000 at least which inflates the Budget does not represent any new or extravagant expenditure. There is also another £100,000 in connexion with the
Oil Agreement which was agreed to by both Houses the other day. These items alone amount to £14,366,165, which, added to the £73,245,867 before mentioned, represents a total of £87,612,032. That is to say, our expenditure arising out of the war and statutory obligations amounts to £87,612,032. Is there an item in those I have mentioned which our critics would dare to touch, or on which they could suggest that a reduction should be made?
– The contention of the Treasurer is that economy is impossible.
– It is on these items, except in administration. In this connexionI desire to call attention to the “ extravagant “ manner in which some of these Departments have been administered. In the Land and Income Tax Department we are collecting £20,000,000 of taxation this year at a cost of £1 18s.10d. per cent.
– How does that compare with the States’ expenditure?
– I have not figures before me; but I venture to say that there are few people in this country who are collecting money as cheaply. In the Customs Department I find that we are collecting from £26,000,000 to £27,000,000 for £1 15s. 9d. per cent. Is that an indication of extravagance? If it is, I would like to be shown how the expenditure could legitimately be reduced.
– What is the total cost of collecting ?
– The honorable member will find the figures in the Budget.Then there is the Postal Department, another huge spending branch, which does not cost the taxpayers anything. As regards three of these huge business Departments the costs stand as I have shown, and these are figure to which I direct the attention of our critics.
– What is the cost of the Prime Minister’s Department and the Attorney-General’s Department in comparison with pre-war days ?
– I shall come to that. As long as this House agrees to add to the activities of the Government, our costs must increase. That goes without saying. There are certain costsin carrying out all these activities and organizations on which the House and the country insist. We have had Wheat and Wool Pools, which have involved expenditure.
– But we want to get back to pre-war conditions.
– Yes, and the sooner we cease governmental activities in these directions the better I shall be pleased. In the meantime, however, we have to finance them, and it all requires money.
Apart from the figures I have given to the House, there remains £11,252,804 to be accounted for, and on which we have to conduct the whole of our Departments apart from those I have mentioned. I would like to call attention to a comparison between the expenses of this year and last in the remaining Departments. The Governor-General’s establishment this year will cost £22,620, as against £27,215 last year, or a decrease of £4,595. Parliament this year will cost about £311,924, as against £348,443 last year, a decrease of £36,519. The Prime Minister’s Department this year is to cost £242,635, as against £231,836 last year, or an increase of £10,799. It must be remembered that that Department has to administer the activities in our Pacific Possessions, and this expenditure has to be met. In the Treasurer’s Department, there is an increase as compared withlast year of £14,263. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked, by interjection for a comparison of the figures between pre-war years and the present time. In the Taxation Department there is an increase of £366,000; but it must be remembered that taxation has increased from £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to over £20,000,000.
– Increasing the taxation does not necessarily mean increasing the cost of administration. We have had a war-time profits tax as well.
– There are four or five taxation measures to be administered, and all except land and income tax are new.
– I have to remind the Treasurer that he has exhausted his time.
Extension of time granted.
– I am not using these figures with the idea of debating them;butI am particularly anxious that they should be published, so that those outside who are crying from the housetops for economy may set to work and give us their ideas - we have not received any yet - as to where economy can be exercised.
– Can the Treasurer say what amount will be required during the next twelve months for redemption of loans in Great Britain, and what amounts will have to be paid to the States in the matter of repatriation, and other big works that are being undertaken?
– Does the honorable member mean for this year?
– This year,our loan obligation is £25,400,000, and we contemplate raising no further loans this year for that purpose. At the same time, I would like it to be understood that we have promised to find cash for the redemption of £10,000,000 worth of gratuity bonds before next May. That, again, is an obligation that we cannot avoid. There are further commitments along these lines, and that is why I think it is honest and fair to bring the sums I have from loan obligations this year and charge them to the revenue of the country. It would be the easiest thing in the world to have prepared a Budget without any increased charges or taxation. It would have been an easy matter to have shown a large surplus; but that would not have been an honest thing to do. I did not take that easy course. I preferred to look at all our obligations - they are heavy enough, God knows! - andto try and face them as honestly as I could, with the large revenues which are coming in at the moment. In the AttorneyGeneral’s Department there is an increase of £3,891; in the Department of Home and Territories an increase of £29,948, in the Department of Trade and Customs an increase of £17,634, and in the Department of Works and Railways an increase of £23,164.
– Can the right honorable gentleman broadly indicate the nature of the increases?
– They are largely the resultof increased wages under awards of the Arbitration Court.
In the Postmaster-General’s Department there is an increase this year of £1,326,948.
– I wish the Treasurer could justify all increases of expenditure as well as he can justify that in- crease.
– Nearly £600,000 of this expenditure is representedby increased wages awarded by the Arbitration Court, the payment of which is in the nature of a statutory commitment. We must either pay these award rates or repudiate the Court. The balance of the increased expenditure in the Postal Department represents expenditure upon telegraphs and telephones. In connexion with new works thereis an increase of £337,598. These items account for the remaining expenditure of £11,745,322, which is disclosed inthe Budget. Of the total expenditure for this year, £87,612,032 is required to meet our commitments. Out of the other £11,252,804 we have to run our Departments.
– Is this speech to be known as “ Joseph in defence “ ?
– No. It is merely “ Joseph in explanation.”I am endeavouring to bring out a few little facts, and I invite my critics to come along and look at them. The Budget is large because the statutory obligationsof the Commonwealth are large, because our obligations arising out of the war are large, and because of the constantly increasingcost of the Departments, which, however, account for a very small sum indeed of this huge total expenditure, which is inescapable if we are to pay our way as honest men..
.- I do not intend to traverse the statement made by “ Joseph in explanation,” but merely to deal with one or two matters in particular. I again enter my protest against the granting of Supply before honorable members have been afforded an opportunity of discussing the Estimates. I admit that in the early portion of a new financial year there may be some justification for bringing forward Supply Bills. But after two or three months of a new financial year have expired the position is entirely changed. We ought to be able to deal with the Estimates within a reasonable time. To-day we are asked to vote two months’ further Supply, which will suffice to carry us up to about the 14th December. By that time honorable members will be thinking of the Christmas vacation, with the result that in all probability the consideration of the Estimates will again have to stand over till next year.
– The consideration of the Estimates will not’ stand over again. I have already promised that honorable members will be afforded an opportunity of discussing them - probably next week.
– I am very glad to hear that. If the Treasurer permits them to be discussed next week he will have commenced to restore responsible government.
– My only object in presenting these figures to-day was to prepare the way for the Budget debate. I invite criticism of them.
– I am very pleased to hear that statement. I shall not now traverse the figures submitted by the Treasurer, because we shall have an opportunity of doing that when the Budget comes up for discussion. I desire, however, to say a few words in regard to the land which is being acquired for War Service Homes purposes. The time has arrived when this Department should be extremely careful in the matter of the land which it purchases. There appears to be a disposition on the part of those who are in charge of it to establish what are known as soldier settlements. With that object in view large areas are being acquired, and these areas are usually purchased from speculators. The result is that in some cases the purchase price of the land, even though it is remote from the conveniences which are necessary to the settlement of an industrial population, is fairly high. The Department does not select land with an eye to what is most suitable for our soldiers. Our first aim should be. to obtain the required land as cheaply as possible. The Treasurer has stated that the £22,000,000 which is to be expended upon War Service Homes will have to be refunded by our soldiers. That is a fact. The soldiers will have to repay it, and, therefore, every additional pound which this Parlia- ment permits to be expended upon the land that is acquired for these homes, means . an extra burden for them to carry. It ought to- be the special duty of some person to investigate the. localities in which suitable land for soldiers’ homes can be purchased. In that way we should be able to assist our returned soldiers.
Reference has been made by the Treasurer to vocational training, and to the fact that trainees are granted a sustenance allowance of £2 2s. per week. Some of these men have complained that this amount is altogether insufficient in view of the high cost of living. One of them informed me the other day that he is obliged to pay 32s. 6d. per week for his board, whilst another has to-pay 27s. 6d. per week, so that it will be seen that by the time they pay for their clothing the allowance is quite insufficient. We ought to do a fair thing by these men wlm have been rendered incapable of following their ordinary occupations, and we can only do that by increasing their sustenance allowance. Of course, it may be urged that if we make the conditions - too attractive, vocational trainees will not desire to obtain employment, even when they have become efficient workmen. I do not think that there is very much ground for that apprehension.
– Especially as the Department is required to ,pay them the difference between what they earn and the ordinary wage in any particular trade.
– Exactly. The Treasurer also mentioned the matter of pensions. I think that we ought to increase the rates which are being paid at present. They are altogether too low. We cannot expect the aged people of the community to make ends meet upon a paltry 15s. per week. If the cost of living has doubled, surely the old-age pensions should be increased from 10s. to more than 15s. per week. If the amount of the pension is not sufficient to enable its recipients to obtain the necessaries of life, it is our duty to raise the requisite revenue to maKe it sufficient. Every honorable member is naturally anxious to keep down the expenditure of the country. But these aged people are justly entitled to more than they are at present receiving. If we cannot give them an additional 10s. (per week we ought, at least, to grant them an increase of half that amount.
The Treasurer also referred to blind pensioners, and I am, indeed, pleased to learn that he is making an arrangement under which these people will -be allowed to earn a little more than they have been permitted to earn hitherto, without being penalized. I understand that the additional cost to be incurred under this heading will be in the region of £12,000. Recently the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Max-well) was good enough to introduce me to certain representatives of the blind, to whom I made a promise that I would support any measure which will permit blind pensioners to earn up to the ordinary wage in any occupation in which they may engage, without suffering a diminution in their pensions. To be blind is a great affliction. It is a terrible handicap, and we ought to do the best that we can for persons who are suffering from this infirmity. The reforms upon which I have touched may involve an additional expenditure, but that expenditure is quite justified. When, the Estimates are under consideration it will be our duty to reduce them wherever that can be legitimately accomplished, but we ought certainly to see that justice is done to our returned soldiers, to our blind people, and to our old-age pensioners.
.- I desire to say a few words upon the matter which was touched upon by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). If any man in this Commonwealth has been unjustly treated that man is the Reverend J. B. Ronald. He has not merely been treated badly; he has been persecuted, and persecuted by a class of people who are continually preaching Christianity, and who might reasonably have been expected to exhibit a little Christian feeling towards a. brother. As a result of that persecution he was hounded out of his Church. I appealed to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) upon his behalf, and urged that gentleman to give Mr. Ronald the position of chaplain upon one of the ships which were then engaged in carrying troops to the other side of the world. It is worthy of mention that Mr. Ronald was the first man in Australia to apply for the position of chaplain on board a troopship.
– And he also sent his two boys to the Front.
– Yes, but we claim nothing upon that ground. Although I pleaded with the Minister for Defence upon several occasions for Mr. Ronald, all I could get from him was a statement that as soon as the Council of the Presbyterian Church gave Mr. Ronald an indorsement he would probably appoint him to the position of chaplain. The head of the Presbyterian Church at the time was, I believe, Professor Rentoul, and he declined to give Mr. Ronald the necessary indorsement. Indeed, he used all his influence to prevent him getting permission from the Council of the Church to obtain the position which he sought. One is continually reading in the newspapers, articles headed “ Why the People do not go to Church.” It is that sort of conduct which prevents them from going there. It is calculated to make sceptics of us all when we find persons who are constantly preaching brotherly love deliberately persecuting as they have persecuted Mr. Ronald. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) said this afternoon, that had ‘ he been treated in the way that Mr. Ronald has been treated he would use very forcible means to obtain his revenge. I would not go so far as that; but I do say that treatment such as was meted out to Mr. Ronald would make any man’s blood boil. From the inception of the case there was nothing against him. I was as intimately associated with’ him in this Parliament as was any man, but, although he was accused of telling “ blue” stories such as were not proper to a man of his cloth, I never heard him tell any. That, of course, is merely negative evidence; but if he had been in the habit of telling such stories I feel certain that I, who was so closely associated with him, would have heard some of them. The only evidence given against him was that of a man who said that he had heard him tell a story, but he could not remember in Court what the story was.
– Hear, hear ! He was Fuller, of New South Wales.
– He is a very fine man, and I was sorry to see him dragged into that case. The Prime Minister, when passing out of the chamber this afternoon, intimated that he would do what was possible to give relief to Mr. Ronald. The persecution of him went to such lengths that he had to go to
England at the expense of some generous sympathizer in order to put his case before the highest authority in the realm. He returned with a -document which we all hoped would be of some benefit to him. So far. it has resulted in nothing. I compliment the honorable member forMelbourne (Dr. Maloney) upon the temperate way in which he stated this matter to-day, and the pleading speech he made to the Prime Minister. I hope his efforts will have some result.
The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has asked any member of the Committee to put his finger on any one item of expenditure that might be cut down. I repeat what I have said on other occasions, that if there is one useless creation in the Commonwealth it is the Inter-State Commission. That body should be abolished. No one can point to anything that the Commission has done which has been of any benefit to the Commonwealth. The first work of the Commission was the consideration of the Tariff. It made a report and recommendation, and I think I am correct in saying that not one recommendation was adopted by this Parliament. What has it done since? The Chairman of the Commission said that it had no power, and that it should be “either mended or ended.” I should certainly end it, and by that means save £10,000 or £12,000 per annum. There are other Commissions roving the country, from which no good has resulted. The Basic Wage Commission and the Food Prices. Commission are wasting their time.
Speaking on another occasion, I stated that at times I voted with my party, although I differed from the opinion held by the majority of the party upon a particular subject. A question in point is the maternity allowance, of which I was never in favour. Some time before he introduced it to Parliament, Mr. Fisher discussed it with me, and I asked him why he was introducing it. He said that it might have a tendency to increase the birth rate. I replied that in those homes which were best able to afford the cost of parentage we found the smallest families. In the homes of people occupying very high social positions the families numbered not more than two or three. The causes might be physical, or they might be deliberate. Another objection I raised was that neither the Democracy nor any other section of the community had been asking for the allowance, which was being thrust upon the people. I pointed out to Mr. Fisherthat he was offering the people something for which they had not asked, but which, once given, would be difficult to withdraw. I added that people do not value any benefit for which they have not fought. Although I was Temporary Chairman when the resolution in favour of the allowance was passed through Committee, I was not a supporter of it. That fact should not identify me with the policy.
.- It will probably not come as a surprise to the Government, and will not disconcert them in the least, when I assure them that if I had my way I should not grant them ten minutes’ Supply. They know my attitude towards them, but unfortunately I have to wait patiently for the time to come when my aspirations in that regard may be realized. I have risen, not to discuss Supply, but for quite another purpose. In the ordinary course of events, we shall shortly have to consider a Naturalization Bill and an Immigration Bill. The matter to which I wish to refer is really germane, more or less, to both of those measures; but, as it will take me some little time to trace its history, I take advantage of the fuller opportunities afforded by a Supply debate to place the facts before honorable members. It will be remembered that during the currency of the war a great deal of indignation was enkindled in the. country by reason of the declared policy of the Government to repatriate - to use a word of tender significance - or deport - to use a word of more sinister significance - the Italian residents in this country known as Italian reservists. It will be remembered also by those who took a lively interest in this matter that most honorable members on this side of the House, including tie Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and myself, were active in our opposition to that policy of deportation. The persons to whom this policy applied were set out in statutory regulations, notably Statutory Rule 61 of 1918, which was amended by Rule 66 of the same year. In Rule 61 it was stated that a reservist meant “ a subject of the King of Italy who, if he were within Italian territory, would be liable to render service in connexion with the war,” and the amended regulation altered the definition to “a subject of any Allied State or Sovereign who, if he were within the territory of such State or Sovereign, would be liable to render service in connexion with the war.” The Statutory Rule continued -
Any reservist -
It will be seen, therefore, that the proof of who was or was not a reservist was left to the unfettered discretion of the Italian Consul. In other words, upon his lightest dictum the Government of this country could apply to the Italian residents of this country that odious policy of conscription, which was on two separate occasions negatived by the Australian people so far as the citizens of Australia were concerned. “When we consider what kind of man that Consul for Italy was and is, we can appreciate better the consequences of the conduct of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) and the Government in charging him with this grave responsibility in respect of persons whom we had promised to protect and whom we had invited to come to Australia to enjoy, under the British flag, all the advantages which that banner of freedom can possibly cover. It was a very natural consequence of the passing of this regulation that the censorship should be immediately invoked for the purpose of preventing any public reference to the matter. Reference to it was, of course, made inthis House, but the press was absolutely prohibited from referring to it, and public meetings, although held in great number, were not reported, for the reason that the censorship, under the administration of the Defence Department, made such a course illegal. According to an answer given by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) -
War PrecautionsRegulation 17e (a) provides that any person who, by any means, advocated or encouraged reservists not to comply with notices calling them up for examination or service, committed an offence.
It was contended by representatives of the Government that this extraordinary action in regard to Italian reservists was taken at the request of the Italian Government. In moving the adjournment of the House on the 2nd May, 1918, to protest in this matter, I ventured to say, amongst other things, that, in my opinion, no request ever came to the Commonwealth Government, either directly or through the Imperial Government, from Italy that we should deport these men. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) then said,”The honorable member is wrong.” I had, of course, to accept that declaration from a man in his responsible position. I am satisfied that I was not wrong, but right, and the proof of it, in due season, has come to light. I proceeded to argue that, even if it were true that the Italian Government had made and addressed such a request to the Commonwealth Government, it was not a sufficient reason why the Commonwealth Government, as the head of a no-conscription people, should consent to conscript those who were domiciled and resident within its borders, and who were citizens of another country. I still say that that is an absolutely correct position from the international point of view, and from the point of view of those who desire to uphold the best traditions of the British treatment of aliens within British territory. Later, when the Acting Prime Minister was pressed more strongly, he said that the request came fromthe Consul. “ There came to us,” he said, “ a definite and explicit request from the Royal ItalianConsul-General.” Those remarks are reported at page 4335 of
Hansard, as being made on the 2nd May, 1918. In the same speech the Acting Prime Minister said, “ No one would accuse him - meaning the Consul - of the stupidity of actingwithout instructions.’’ I do not accuse the Royal Italian Consul of the stupidity of acting without instructions. I accuse him of the wickedness of acting without instructions, but not of stupidity, because he knew he had the support and sanction of the Commonwealth Government, which, although defeated on conscription, and pledged to voluntarism, was secretly applying conscription to the limited extent that rested still within its power. “ I take the responsibility,” said the Acting Prime Minister, in the same speech, of having listened to the call of an Ally.” No such call, in the light of the evidence which I have at my disposal, was ever made. The Acting Prime Minister was wrong. I acquit him of a deliberate misstatement. I do not acquit the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) of a deliberate misstatement, I accuse him of it. There is that important distinction between the two. The ActingPrime Minister further said, The Italian Consul, in communication with his Government, tried to get married men exempted; butthe Italian Government was in such need of men that it had to ask that the request be not persisted in.” I say, with some confidence, that that statement, not on the Acting Prime Minister’s part, but on the part of the Royal Italian Consul was a falsehood within his knowledge. As reported at page 4757 of Hansard of 16th May, 1918, Senator Pearce said, “ There is an endeavour being made to defeat and thwart the Italian Government. Therefore, I do not propose to give any information.” I have already shown that this matter might not be discussed outside, and that the censorship was invoked for that purpose; and yet the Minister said that, as there was an attempt to defeat and thwart the Italian Government, he refused to give information within the chamber where he was a Minister. In answer to his statement that an endeavour was being made to defeat and thwart the Italian Government, I say the Italian Governmenthad made no such request, and no such statement, and there was no attempt to defeat or. thwart it. The Minister for Defence either knew that that was so, or else he culpably ‘and recklessly disregarded his duty in closing up those avenues of information which were open to him if he had liked to make use of them. At page 4652 of the same volume of Hansard, .Senator Pearce referred to these nien as “called to the colours by their Government, and at the request of the Italian Government.” They were not ‘.called to the colours by their Government, and there was no request by the Italian Government. Senator Guy asked the number of Italian reservists in this country, and the Minister for Defence said, consistently with the policy of hushing this business up, that it was not proposed to give the information. The Italian residents in this country knew perfectly well that if they could get the ear of their own Government in their own country this matter could be put right. For that purpose they prepared a memorial which it was intended to wire to the Italian Go’vernment, protesting against the action of the Consul in this country, and asking whether or not it was a fact that any such decree as alleged had been promulgated from Rome. The sum of £16 was lodged) with the Postmaster-General’s Department for the purpose of cabling this message. The message was confiscated, and for a considerable time at least the money was not returned. I am not sure whether it was ever returned, but I know that for a considerable period there was an agitation to obtain a refund of it. At all events, the message was not sent. As recorded at page 4602 of Hansard, I asked the Acting Prime Minister if he was prepared to allow direct representations to be made to the Italian Government. He replied, I propose in all matters in relation to our Italian Allies to do our business through the properly constituted authority resident in Australia.” In that statement, the Acting Prime Minister showed, I think, nothing worse than, perhaps, pardonable ignorance of the correct channels of intercourse between nationals resident in one country and the Government of their country of origin. I think the Acting Prime Minister innocently thought, and was probably misled into thinking, that it was the correct thing to insist upon communications to the Italian Government passing through the Italian Consul. As I have already proved in this House by a fairly great wealth of authorities, that is totally incorrect. The Consul is not a diplomat. He does not occupy the position of an ambassador. He is scarcely anything more, except in isolated cases where he is specially invested with other powers, than a trade agent, whose duty it is to vise and attest certain documents, and interview his fellow-countrymen in trouble or difficulties in the land in which he is placed.
– And attend all social functions!
– No doubt, as the honorable member rightly interjects, he may also attend social functions, but he has no diplomatic standing whatever as between the two Governments. Seeing that he has no diplomatic standing equivalent or analogous to that of an ambassador, it was an absolutely monstrous act on the part of this Government to stand between the Italian Nationals resident in this country and their home Government. I suppose that in the whole history of the civilized world no greater wrong has been perpetrated upon a friendly people. I can scarcely imagine a greater wrong. These men knew they were being unfairly treated; they knew the kind of man who was doing it; they knew his standing and his motives, and they were forbidden by the Commonwealth Government to communicate with their own Government on the subject. In addition to sending a cable message at some length, they met and proceeded to draw up a petition for presentation to this Parliament. One would have thought that that was a peculiarly orderly and regular course for them to follow. A number of them, being representative Italians resident in Australia, met at their club, and a document was in course of preparation for presentation to this Parliament. The military entered the club where the documents were being prepared, and seized a number of blank copies of the petition, and also the peti- tion itself. It will be seen, therefore, that in addition to preventing these men from communicating with their home Government, the Commonwealth Government expressly excluded them from the right of petitioning the Australian National Parliament. Questions were raised upon that point in the House of Representatives, and the inquiry was naturally made as to whether these nationals were bo be deprived of the right of petitioning Parliament. Pursuant to their policy throughout, the Ministry .evaded the question, but they said that search had been made by the military in the office of the Italian Club, and that there had been seized certain incriminating documents, including blank forms of a petition. That statement, of course, conveyed what it was intended to convey, that documents had been found in the office of the Italian Club which incriminated in some way the Italians using the club and engaged in ‘their preparation. It would naturally be assumed that these incriminating documents incriminated the Italians, but, as a matter of fact, they did not; but, on the contrary, incriminated certain military officials, who had made a raid in a house and unlawfully arrested a naturalized person and had left the house in suspicious circumstances, which left them open to a charge of having stolen money out of the house which in that improper way they had invaded. In that case, the Ministry were guilty of the half truth, which is worse than a whole lie, because they conveyed the impression that these documents incriminated men whom they did not in the slightest degree inculpate. The Ministry also made this disingenuous observation in reply to a question -
It will not be lawful to publish in a petition being circulated in the country statements which are prohibited.
That is to say, one may not put into a petition facts for presentation to this Parliament, which, owing to a censorship order made by the military, would amount to a prohibited document outside this Parliament. To pursue this Gilbertian episode a little further, the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) raised the question in this House. He attempted to read the contents ‘ of the petition, and he was ruled out of order on the ground that he was going to read the contents of a petition in this House which could only be brought before the House in a particular way. As the petition could not be prepared, it could not be presented to this House, and. its contents could not be read because it should first have been presented to this House - and that was the end of the petition, and that phase of Government chicanery.
Incidentally, it came out that a man who was serving a life sentence here for murder had been released by arrangement between the Defence Department, the State Government, and the Italian Consul, and he was being repatriated with honest citizens of Italy to the other side of the world. These men were shipped away. They were taken, from their homes, women were deprived pf their bread-winners, and children of their parents, and I regret to have to record the unhappy fact that at least eight of these men died on one ship alone. 1 never heard that that disgraceful result of this discreditable proceeding was ever published anywhere, but I happen to know it to be a fact.
– What did they die of?
– I believe that as a matter of fact they died of pneumonic influenza. I know they did not fight, because the fighting was all over before the right honorable gentleman’s Government succeeded in improperly taking these men away from Australia and landing them in Italy.
– They might have died of the same disease here.
– No doubt’ they might have lost their lives if they had remained here, as they might have been the victims of accidents; but- the fact that they might have died is no reason why they should be exposed to death.
This question was recently raised by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister). Evidently he was approached by certain friends of the late Consul for Italy, who thought that if he raised the question in this House he would get a statement from the Ministry which would completely exculpate the Consul-General, and put this matter in a light favorable to him. The honorable member, therefore, asked for a full statement from the Government of the circumstances of these deportations. The Prime Minister furnished a statement, apparently complete, in which he gave a history of this matter from beginning to end, or, at- all events, so much of it as was fit for publication, and from his point of view. This is the statement given in reply to the question put by the honorable member for Corio -
The history of the repatriation of Italian reservists and conscripts to Italy, briefly outlined, is as follows: -
In the latter half of 1915 inquiries were made of the Defence Department by Italian subjects and others as to the position of I tail ian nationals residing in the Commonwealth in regard to enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force. The Royal Italian Consul was asked to endeavour to obtain the consent of the Government to the voluntary enlistment of his compatriots in the Australian Imperial Force, as it was also represented to the Defence Department that the presence in Australia of so many persons of Italian nationality who had not enlisted was having a prejudicial effect on recruiting. Consent to the enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force of Italians was, however, refused.
In May, 1016, it was decided to make representations to the British authorities requesting that the Italian, Government be approached and advised of the detrimental effect on recruiting of the non-enlistment of Italian subjects, ‘with a view to permission being granted for their enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force. The Italian Government replied, on the 24th July, 1916, regretting that they could not modify the decision already conveyed through the Royal Italian Consul.
On the 10th September, 1016, and again on the 28th February, 1017, as the position had in no way been relieved, renewed representations - which, however, proved unsuccessful - were made to the Italian Government, through the Imperial authorities, asking whether, in view of the fact that since last communicated with on the subject, Italy had declared war on Germany, the necessary permission might be given.
On the 13th June, 1017, the Secretary of State for the Colonies advised by cable that the Italian Government had inquired whether Italians in Australia recalled- to the colours, who found difficulty in returning home iri Italian or neutral vessels, ‘ would be allowed to travel to Europe on Australian vessels carrying troops or merchandise. Later cables from the Secretary of State advised that, if the Commonwealth Government could arrange for Italian reservists to be conveyed to the United Kingdom in batches not exceeding 700, their onward conveyance to Italy, through France, would be arranged by the War Office.
My time having expired, I will resume this matter a little later.
– I do not intend to delay the Committee very long, but there are one or two matters which I wish to bring under the notice of honorable members and the Government. The present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) has undoubtedly done a great deal to improve the conditions of mail service and telephonic communica tion in outlying districts; but I wish to voice a very definite complaint against the attitude adopted in many cases by inspectors in his Department. I do not know how long these inspectors have been in their present position, but I do know that many of them are too conservative to be of any use to this country. There are many improvements of postal and telephonic facilities which every reasonable and practical man would sup-port, but which time after time have been turned down by these inspectors, often with little, if any, investigation. I have in mind a particular case of a mail service through a scattered but somewhat important part of my electorate, the Upper Hunter. This mail service extends from Scone away into the rough country at the head of the Hunter, where the people are still to a certain extent pioneering. They are comparatively isolated, and are subjected to all the inconveniences of people battling with the bush in its primeval condition. Owing to the rough nature of the country, and the fact that the river intersects the route in many places, the residents of this district suffer many inconveniences that people in other districts know little of. They are put to this greater inconvenience, and their lives are made more burdensome, because the particular inspector who deals with mail services in their district has on every occasion reported against the improvement of the service to which I refer. I am not speaking without knowledge of the case, because I have travelled over the district; I know its requirements, and the conditions under which the people there have to live. I say, without a moment’s hesitation, that these people are deserving of a very much improved mail service, and the quantity of mail matter for which they are responsible is such as to give them a very strong claim to consideration. The- President of the shire, the Mayor of the town, from which the mail starts, the people along the mail route, and all who have to come in contact with them, are in favour of and strongly support their claim to an improved service. This is only one case of the kind, but I could mention others. I voice my complaint in connexion with this particular case as a protest against these crusted conservatives, because they are nothing else, who are in the employ of the Post and Telegraph Department, and are trying to keep down expenditure by the Department at the expense of people who are doing so much to increase the production of Australia. We know that to-day it is essential that we should increase production, and nothing will give us greater production or stability or put us in a better position to meet our overwhelming financial obligations than will the extention of postal and telephonic communications, which does so much to enable people to open up new districts and bring them under profitable occupation.
There is one other matter relating to the Public Service of which I should like to speak. For some time it has appeared to me that this country is being run, not by this Parliament or by the Government, but by the Public Service. I have felt this the more in that I have been putting at various times questions on the business paper, and have in very few cases received anything like reasonable answers to those questions. On the 16th July last I asked a question relative to the quantity of sugar supplier! to a certain society in New South Wales. We all know that the sugar question has been a burning one in almost every household. I had received reliable information concerning what had actually taken place, and I happened to see the official figures in relation to the supply of sugar to this particular company, but in the reply I received to my question on the subject the information given was utterly different. I know for a fact that the reply given to me in this Chamber was entirely and absolutely misleading. Possibly, it was meant to be so. I do not say that the Minister who made the reply meant it to be so, but I do say that some official was responsible for giving me, a representative of the people, an untrue answer to a question I submitted in this House. On the same date I asked another question relating to the income tax as it bears on the natural increase of flocks and herds. I have always maintained, and will continue to do so while I have the power, that natural increase should be exempt from taxation until it is realized upon. I have maintained that for many years, and I hope that before long that practice will be adopted. On the 21st July I asked -
The reply I received to the first question was that considerable losses of stock had occurred, but that the precise extent had not been ascertained, although, as a matter of fact, I know it to be true that in many cases settlers lost considerably more than 50 per cent. The answer to my second question was “No,” although every farmer, large or small, who raises sheep, cattle, horses, pigs, or anything else in the live stock line, knows that he has to pay income tax on his natural increase. Yet when the question is asked in this House plainly as to whether this is a fact a deliberate denial is given. What is the use of our putting questions on the businesspaper unless we get straightforward answers? Of course, I know that Ministers are not to blame, except that they ought to see that honorable members get honest answers; and I think the time has arrived when honorable members ought to claim from Ministers that where the representatives of the people submit questions on behalf- of their constituents, the replies given shall not be misleading.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the House a very hard case, which I have brought under the attention of the Postal Department and the Prime Minister without success, but which I think I can show is entitled to some consideration. As the ‘honorable- member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) has pointed out, when honorable members bring such cases under the notice of a Department a very conservative view is taken of them, and once a red-tape decision is given an earthquake is required to shift it. The case is one for which I have repeatedly urged consideration, and I wish to bring it under the notice of honorable members, and it is that of Mr. Gillam, an esteemed resident of Berry, New South Wales. Mr. Gillam’s son entered the postal service on the 16th July, 1913, as a telegraph messenger. In that position he was not asked to insure his life, but on his promotion to be a telephonist, on the 14th February, 1916, he was called upon to do so. He reported that .he already had a policy for £100, payable at the age of forty-five, but as the Public Service Regulations- require public servants to take out policies payable at sixty years, it could not be accepted, and be was asked to comply with, the regulations. Accordingly, he made a proposal to the Australian Mutual Provident Society to be insured for the sum of £150, payable at sixty years of age; but the insurance society deferred decision on his application for twelve months. In the circumstances, the Department states that the Public Service Commissioner approved of the application to young Gillam’s case of Public Service Regulation 184, under which, in lieu of insurance, a deduction was to be made from his salary as from the 1st July, 1916. He was also instructed to renew his application to the Australian Mutual Provident Society at the end of the twelve months. But before the expiry of that twelve months young Gillam, who had been anxious to go to the war, had enlisted for active service, although he was at that time under age. He subsequently lost his life at the Front. Prior to his enlistment the sum of 13s. Id. had been deducted from his salary, as he understood, to pay for his insurance, and it is a fact that during his absence on active service the Commonwealth Treasury paid into a trust fund amounts totalling £5 5s., equivalent to the deductions which would have been made from his salary if he had continued on duty in the Postal Department. It is provided, by Regulation 185 that the sums deducted under Regulation 184 must be paid into a trust fund for investment and accumulation in the interest of the persons from whose salary they had been deducted, and must be repaid with interest to the officer should he subsequently effect the prescribed insurance or on his leaving the Service, or to his representative should he die while in the employ of the Commonwealth Government. The Department states that when Mr. Gillam, senior, called at the Department, and had the matter explained to him, he was informed that this was the usual procedure; but on the 1st November, 1918, he was advised bv letter that as his son had not left a will he would be required to make a statutory declaration in order that some action might be taken to make some payment to “him. Mr. Gillam thereupon called at the office and strongly protested that his son hd informed him - he produced his son’s letter in proof of it - that before leaving for active service he had inquired about his insurance and had been assured by an officer of the Department that his life would be covered. Honorable members are “fully aware of the fact that even without deducting sums of money from any salaries that might be due to their employees who were on active service, many private employers paid the premiums on the insurance policies of their employees who had enlisted, in order that their dependants might be protected during their absence. As Mr. Gillam was fully under the impression that his son’s, life was insured by the Department, he did not consider it necessary to take any steps to see that his premiums were maintained. He finds now that the Department’s offer is merely to refund the £5 5s. which had been deducted from his son’s salary. They absolutely deny any further responsibility in the matter, and refuse to pay the amount for which he ought to have been insured. The papers - which ought to be here, because I gave the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) notice that it was my intention, to bring this matter forward to-day - show that young Gillam was fully under the impression that ho was insured by the deductions which were being made from, his salary. At any rate, I consider the Department ought to have done what any private employer would have done, and paid the father and mother of this young soldier the full amount for which ho ought to have been insured. If he was not. insured, I hold it was the Department’s neglect. Mr. Gillam interviewed the Prime Minister at “Wollongong, and the right honorable gentleman promised to look into the matter; but as .we all know how busy Ministers are, especially the Prime Minister, I presume he has not had an opportunity of investigating this rather complicated question, an examination of the details of which would occupy some little time and attention. I have already reminded the Prime Minister of his promise on several occasions, but, without an independent inquiry, such as I have pressed for, he has taken the course open to him, and that is to back up the Department’s ex parte statements. On the other hand, I contend that it is a legitimate request t* ask for the appointment of a Select Committee of this House to inquire into the bona fides of Mr. Gillam’s claim, and decide between his statements and those of the departmental officers. Mr. Gillam, who is a highly respected man and a wellknown and reputable citizen of the South Coast of New SouthWales, and who did a great deal during the war to keep the fight going, asks for nothing but fair play. He says, “ My boy went into the Department; he had his life insured, but not in the way you wanted; you told him to do it in some other way; he tried to do so; his application was deferred; you commenced to deduct sums of money from his salary, as I understood, in order to cover an insurance upon him. When my son went away to the war, he told me about this, and he also wrote to me about it. He told mo not to worry, as his life was insured.” Naturally, Mr. Gillam understood that these deductions from’ his son’s salary were intended for the purpose of insurance. Was it not fair to think that the Government of this great Commonwealth should treat a youngster who went to the war, and made the supreme sacrifice, as well, at any rate, as private employers were treating their employees? If he was not insured, Mr. Gillam is under the impression it was owing to the Department’s neglect. I have other details that I could put for- ward, but I shall not say another word if I can get an assurance from the Treasurer that a Select Committee of this House will be appointed to inquire into the bona fides of this case.
– An informal Committee would do.
– Yes, it would not occupy more than two days, and no expense would be involved. I would do my best to bring out, without any cost, the evidence. When a citizen has a legitimate claim against a Government Department, it is in the interest of all who want to maintain some prestige for the Commonwealth Parliament that he should be granted an inquiry. That is all I ask for. It is all very well for the Department to take what the honorable member for Robertson has described as a conservative view, but there is such a thing as fair play, and surely the Commonwealth can afford to play the game, as private employers played it during the war in the matter of insuring their employees’ lives. This may appear a small matter to the House, but it is a big matter to a man who has had his son killedand considers that the country has treated him unfairly. One of the papers on the file claims that Mr. Gillam called at the Department and appeared to be satisfied. Under the circumstances that would be unlikely. I know Mr. Gillam well, and I. would take his word as readily as I would take another man’s oath. He assures me that he went to the Department and protested strongly, and indeed, it is not likely that he would be satisfied when he was smarting under a sense of great injustice. There are two sides to all cases, and I hope the Minister will promise a Select Committee to inquire into this matter. It is a hard case, otherwise I would not have troubled Parliament with it. Even if the regulations of the Department precluded this youngster from being insured after he had made an effort to do so, we do not want a hard and stiff regulation applied to the case of a man whose son has been lost in the service of the country. I am not asking for any favour. All I want is an inquiry, to see whether this lad’s father has been fairly treated. If it is found that he has not been so treated, the Committee could make a recommendation to the Minister. I appeal to the Minister to do something in the matter.
– This matter is not new. It has been before the Department since 1918. The Prime Minister, as well as the Postmaster-General, has been approached. These are the facts: -
The late William Robert Gillam entered the Service on 16th July, 1913, as a telegraph messenger, in which position he was not required to assure his life under the regulations. He was promoted as telephonist on 14th February, 1916, and then was called upon to assure his life. He reported that he had a policy for £100 payable at forty-five years of age (the regulations require assurance up to sixty years), so that his original policy was not acceptable as compliance with regulations’ requirements. He then made a proposal to the Australian Mutual Provident Society for assurance of £150, but the society deferred decision on it for twelve months. The Public Service Commissioner then approved of the application of the provision of regulation 184 from 1st July, 1916, viz., that a deduction be made from Gillam’s salary in lieu of assurance. He was instructed to renew his application for assurance at the expiration of the period of deferment, but when this date arrived (16th June, 1917) Gillam was absent on active service. Prior to his enlistment, the sum of 13s.1d. had been deducted from Gillam’s salary, and during his absence on active service the Treasury Department paid into a Trust Fund amounts equivalent to what would have been deducted from his salary if he had been on duty in theDepartment. These amounted to £5 5s.
Regulation 185 provides that - “ The sums deducted under the foregoing regulation shall be paid into a Trust Fund in the Commonwealth Treasury, to be invested and accumulated in the interest of the person from whose salary the amounts have been deducted, and shall be repaid with interest to the officer should he subsequently effect the prescribed assurance, or on his leaving the Service, or to his representatives should he die while in the employ of the Government.” Mr. George Gillam, who called at this office, had the matter fully explained to him, and appeared to be satisfied. He was subsequently informed by letter, on 1st November, 1918, and requested, if his son did not leave a will, to complete and return a statutory declaration, in order that action might be taken to obtain a refund of the amount due - £5 18s.1d. No reply to this has been received. It may be added that premiums on W.R. Gillam’s private policy for £100 were paid by the Commonwealth Government during his absence on active service.
That is the position, as far as the Department is concerned. But Mr. Gillam makes this statement under date 17th March, 1920: -
Your letter relative to making a claim in regard to the life assurance of my son - W. R. Gillam, M.M. I am making a claim for £150 life assurance, the amount which my son was told he must assure for, and the amount which an officer of your Department promised to see fixed up on his behalf.
As far as I can understand, the name of the officer who made the promise has not been supplied. We do not know of any officer who would give any undertaking like that, and, indeed, he would not have any authority to do so.
I am quite willing to admit that I have not got a scrap of paper to substantiate the claim, but I have my son’s word, and a letter from him, which is quite good enough for me.
I do not find on the file any copy of the son’s letter referred to by Mr. Gillam. That is the position. The lad, W. R. Gillam, was asked to take out an assurance policy of £150, and made application, which was deferred by the Australian Mutual Provident Society for twelve months. In the meantime he enlisted. He was taken on in the Department under the provisions of regulation 184, which permitted the Department to deduct from his salary the amount that would have been paid by way of a life assurance premium had his application been accepted.
– That is to say, if he had not gone to the war.
– No; that would have depended upon the Australian Mutual Provident Society. They might not have accepted his application. We do not know why they deferred the application for twelve months. Mr. Gillam seems to base his claim on a statement that some officer of the Department told his boy that this matter would be fixed up for him.
– Did his representatives get the £100 ?
– Yes, but this is a claim for £150, the sum for which the lad was requested to take out a policy. His other policy matured at 45 years, and the regulation to which I have referred requires a policy to bepayable at 60 years.
– Why not ascertain why the Australian Mutual Provident Society deferred the application?
– We can do that, of course. At present we have no information on that point.
– Is it known if the Australian Mutual Provident Society deferred any other applications for a similar period ? It seems strange in this case, because Mr. Gillam’s boy passed all the physical tests to enable him to go to the war.
– Yes, but that has happened in many other cases. The Defence authorities have accepted lads who have been rejected for life assurance.
– But why was the amount deducted from his salary ?
– Because that was the alternative as he had not assured his life.
– An officer of the Department told him that he was covered, and then the amount was deducted from his salary. Therefore, it was natural to conclude that something had been done.
– The deduction was made under regulation 184. I am sorry I have not a copy of the regulation; but the report submitted by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, states that the Public
Service Commissioner approved of regulation 184 being applied to his case, a deduction being made from his salary in lieu of assurance.
– At that time did the Department undertake to complete assurance policies for any other lads who went to the war ?
– No. Had this lad remained in the Service under the provisions of regulation 184, the accumulated sum would probably have reached a very large amount at his retirement from the Service.
– But he made application for assurance, and was told by an officer that he was covered.
– It is a pity that Mr. Gillam has not furnished the Department with a copy of his son’s letter in which this statement is made.
– Will you be satisfied if he does ?
– No, because I would like to know what officer made this promise; and it is easy for a misunderstanding to have arisen. This is what Mr. Gillam says -
I am making a claim for £150 life assurance, the amount which my son was told he was to assure for -
There is no doubt about that. and the amount which an officer of your Department promised to see fixed up on his behalf.
Mr. Gillam then goes on to state that he has not got a scrap of paper to substantiate the claim, but he has his son’s word and a letter.
– And your officer states that he appeared to be satisfied.
– No; the report states that when Mr. Gillam called at the office and had the matter explained to him, he apeared to be satisfied. This matter has been going on for quite a long time. The first letter on the file is, I think, dated November, 1918.
– And there are half-a-dozen letters of mine on that file, too.
– Yes, and the reply given to the honorable member has been practically the same on every occasion.
– It is a pity the son’s letter has not been produced.
– That is why we ought to have an inquiry, I think.
– The Public Service Commissioner had power to decline to admit him to the Service, but he exercised the privileges of regulation 184, and deducted payment from his salary.
– What is the meaning of an officer saying that he was seeing to this lad’s assurance.
– I do not know. That may have been a personal matter between two officers.
– Exactly. That is why an inquiry should be made of the Australian Mutual Provident Society.
- Mr. Gillam, in a letter to Mr. Chapman in March, 1919, says -
My son, prior to going to the Front, was told that according to regulations he must assure his life for £150. For some reason the Australian Mutual Provident Society deferred consideration of the case. The Department by its officers -
In this case the reference is in the plural - promised my lad that they would attend to his interests during his absence. When the date arrived for further consideration the lad was away fighting for his country, and the Department took no further action. The laid was killed on active service.
I do not know what further action this Department could have taken.
– Had the lad remained here instead of going to the war are the probabilities in favour of his assurance having been effected?
– He was healthy enough, at all events, to fight and die forhis country.
– But very many young men who could not pass a medical examination for life assurance were accepted for the war.
– But this lad’s case was in 1916, when we were not pressed for men so much.
– Will the Minister, in any case, grant an independent inquiry? I know a good deal about this case, and I think there ought to be an inquiry.
– I do not think that anything is to be gained by an inquiry; but I shall make further inquiries myself.
– If Mr. Gillam produces proof will an inquiry be made?
– I will not undertake to do that, but I will undertake to give further consideration to the matter.
– What is the good of giving consideration? This case has had consideration for the last two or three years.
– I do not think the case has reached a stage which renders an independent inquiry necessary; hut I shall take action to ascertain why the Australian Mutual Provident Society deferred his application, and try to geta copy of the boy’s letter.
SirJoseph Cook. - If the facts are as stated, I would not stand on technicalities in this case.
– No; I do net propose to do that.
– If there is strong presumptive evidence that the case is as stated, the Government might give favorable consideration to the claim.
– Yes. The claim, apparently, is based on the statement that the lad was told by an officer of the Department that his assurance policy would be fixed up.
– Yes; and certain amounts were deducted from his salary.
– Otherwise he could not have remained in the Service and gained promotion. In one case there was a deduction of 13s.1d. before the lad went to the war. He could not have been taken on in the Service unless the Public Service Commissioner had applied the provisions of regulation 184 to his case. I will make further inquiries, and let the honorable member for Eden-Monaro know the result.
.- I desire to refer to a matter that is of very great importance, in my opinion, to the Commonwealth, and particularly to the producers of this country. Since the Federal Government has shed the responsibility of the Australian Wheat Pool, and the States have been considering the advisability of continuing it under individual Government control, a very pernicious notion has grown up, clue to agitation by consumers. I am referring to the question of the world’s parity. Some of our leading newspapers have a heading to-day, “The fallacy of the world’s parity” - the first time in my knowledge that such an idea has arisen. When wheat was down to 2s. 6d. here, and at the same time 3s. 6d. in England, and its production was unprofitable, no consumer or newspaper described the world’s parity as a fallacy nor suggested that the producer should receive a living wage. To-day the world’s parity is distinctly in favour of the Australian consumer by very many shillings per bushel. There are those who feel that because the farmer’s sunshiny day has come, and he is getting a payable price for his wheat, he, alone, ought to give the consumers his product at a low figure. I wish to show the hypocrisy of the attitude taken up by those who make such a suggestion. There is an item, I believe, inthe Tariff against the importation of wheat into Australia, and, notwithstanding this, there is a suggestionthat wheat shall be sold to the Australian consumer at a price less than it can be bought from a blackfellow. For instance, in my State it is said that the local consumption is about 3,000,000 bushels. Would it not be fair to call for tenders for that wheat? The Western Australian growers could put in a tender, and, if they did, I undertake to say that it would be 4s. per bushel less than from any other nation in the world.
– It is got from India.
– If it is got from India, or from the Argentine, we have to pay 4s. more. If my suggestion were acted upon, and it was found that the tender was 3s. or 4s. less for the finest wheat in the world, and the people were asked which tender they would accept, would they refuse to accept that of their own State? There is a great cry, “Made in Australia,” in connexion with our manufactures, particularly the machinery for which the producers have to pay. Some people would make those who grow wheat here sell it, as I say, at less than it can be bought from foreigners, and I take this opportunity to disabuse the minds of those who think that should be done. Such a policy is detrimental to the progress and development of our primary industries. We have had the statement made by consumers in Western Australia that they will call the local wheat “ black “ if we do not sell it to them at a tremendously reduced price. That is extremely unfair; and the attitude any Government should adopt is to call for tenders for the local supply, accepting the lowest tender, quality for quality. The wheat would then belong to the Government, and if the Government thought it too dear to make bread of, they should follow the example of the statesmen of England, and take a less price from those who require it. But there are those who desire to place the whole responsibility of feeding the community on the primary producer. Why should I be called upon to give cheap bread to big merchants and medical practitioners who regularly earn £3,000 or £4,000 a year? It would encourage and give heart to the primary producer if he were given a fair deal. If the wheat bought by the Government at 13s. a bushel were sold to the community at 8s., the loss of 5s. would be made up by thecommunity, and the farmers, astaxpayers, would assist in bearing the burden. That is statesmanship ; but there are those who say that the whole burdenshould rest on the producer. In former days people laughed when told that 2 s. 6d. a bushel did not pay, and pointed out that that was the price in London, or, in other words, London parity. Now their attitude has changed. We ought to reason together and see if we cannot arrive at a proper understanding. For instance, the people of Australia might undertake to give the farmers 7s. a bushel for the next ten years regardless of the parity price. If they will not do that, why should they complain of the world’s parity to-day? It would be sporty on the part of the farmers if today when the parity is 12s. or 12s. 6d., they were prepared, under such an agreement, to bring the price down to 7s. ; but there are those who would say, “ Oh, but it might fall to 5s. before the ten years are up.” So it might; but, even then, there would only be a difference of 2s. The producers would be prepared to drop 4s. or 5s. now; but with the shortage of commodities always experienced after great wars - and this war was the greatest we ever saw - there will be a shortage for many years to come, and the price is not likely to get below 5s. This is Australia’s opportunity. Every consumer, whether a producer or not, should rejoice at the fact that the price of wheat and other commodities is high - rejoice for the simple reason that we are a producing country. The high price offers a chance to redeem some of our huge debt. After all is said and done, the bread account in the home, though an important one, is not nearly so serious as other items of household expenditure. In my own household of nine persons the monthly account for bread, when I was last there - and there was no restraint - rarely exceeded 17s. 6d. a month. Yet it is desired that the price of wheat shall fall in order that a few pence shall be saved.
– How much was your boot account at the same time ?
– Exactly; the boot account has gone up by leaps and bounds, andis a big item. There are other domestic accounts very much larger than the bread account.It shows a great lack of statesmanship to place on one class the whole responsibility of feeding the community. Let the Government buy the wheat in open competition with the world, and if they desire to make any concession, let any resultant loss be a national burden.
– Would you take money out of the revenue to pay the farmers for the reduced price?
– The farmer would take his share with the rest of the people in bearing the burden. The British Government lost, roughly, £50,000,000 a year in doing as I have suggested. It is, as I say, hypocrisy to provide in our Tariff for protection against the importation of wheat. We desire no protection of that kind in competition with other parts of the world. What we producers feel is that the people of Australia should in some degree lessen the burdens of the Tariff as it bears on us. I was in Western Australia last week, and during a train journey I met a storekeeper who sold a binder to my partnership. He reminded me that he had just given delivery, and when I asked him what he had charged, he told me that the price was £76. “ Good heavens,” I said, “ I paid only £40 a few years ago for the same binder.” “ That’s nothing,” he replied, “ The instructions from the firm are that, on and after the 1st January next, the price will be £120, on account of the new Tariff.” Yet, at the same time, we are told that our wheat is to be called “ black “ if we do not sell it below the price we can get for it in open competition. These high prices are to enable two firms in Australia to make binders, and, incidentally, to make fortunes - to keep in employment in the cities the men who make the binders for farmers. After the farmer has paid all these high prices, in order to enable men to work for forty-four hours a week, he himself has to work twelve and sixteen hours a day to give cheaper bread to the people of Australia.
– Where do we get wheat from blackf ellows ?
– I re-affirm that the producers are prepared to submit their wheat to open tender. If they, in turn, are allowed to obtain their machinery in the open market, without Tariff restrictions, they will be on a par with the rest of the community.
– A certain importation which took place the other day was rather unfortunate for the honorable member’s argument.
– I am not speaking wholly against a Tariff, but I am anxious to point to the disparity between the assistance given the secondary producers and that which the primary producers of Australia receive. If I, as a farmer, desire to purchase agricultural machinery, I am practically compelled to obtain an Australian machine, no matter what the price may be; the Tariff is so high that one is practically compelled to buy the local production. On the other hand, those engaged in the manufacture of agricultural machinery here can make a living so easily that it is unnecessary for them to work more than forty-four hours a week. Why should I, as a farmer, provide bread at specially reduced rates for these people, seeing that they are making more money than I can in my industry? There is a big principle involved in this question, and I am glad of this opportunity to point out to the consumers that they are adopting a pennywiseandpoundfoolish policy. I urge them not to be afraid because the price of wheat is high in Australia; 76 per cent. of the whole of the wealth of the Commonwealth comes from primary production. In Western Australia 86 per cent. of the total wealth produced there is from primary production. It is possible for us, if reasonable encouragement be offered, to double, if not to treble, that production, and when that is done the national debt will be correspondingly reduced. Such an increase in primary production would not reduce, but rather add to, the prosperity of the secondary industries. There are people who would force on prematurely and in a kind of hot-house fashion secondary industries in Australia. They seem to be oblivious of the fact that these secondary industries will increase as surely as night follows day if we advance Australia as one of the greatest primary producing countries in the world. Australia is a great country, with the greatest potentialities. Let us, therefore, not be niggardly or short-sighted in this matter. Let us not listen to the agitator or any other person equally short-sighted who urges that the people should grab their bread at a specially low rate. It would be unfortunate if it were said to the primary producer, “Your stock-in-trade consists of foodstuffs and, therefore, we must have it.” Why should this demand be made upon a man whose stock-in-trade consists of primary products any more than upon a man whose stock-in-trade consists of something that cannot be eaten? There is no difference between the position of the two classes if we view the matter impartially. I hope, therefore, that we shall have a broader view taken of those national interests, and that no scare will be raised as to the price of wheat in this country. The State Governments have been advertising Australia as a land of promise for the immigrant, and we are now looking for a large influx of immigrants to settle on the land. Are the people on the land to be told that they are not to get the world’s parity, in competition with blackfellows, if they grow wheat here? That would be a very bad advertisement forAustralia. In Western Australia people have been implored to go on the land. Are those who respond to that call to be told that their wheat will be treated as “black” unless the local price is brought down to half the price prevailing outside? Neither the press nor any public body has uttered a word of appreciation of the fact that during the whole of the war period the primary producers of Australia supplied its citizens with wheat at one-third the price ruling for that commodity in other parts of the world. It may be said that that was because of lack of shipping to carry our produce overseas, but no matter what excuse may be urged, the fact remains that, because of the wheat production in Australia, our citizens were able to satisfy their requirements in that regard at one- third the cost prevailing in other lands. To-day we are selling wheat for consumption in Australia at 7s. 8d. per bushel, or at one-half of the world’s parity. The primary producers of Australia have made this possible for the rest of the people. The primary producers do not obtain their machinery for leas than it can be obtained elsewhere merely because they happen to live in Australia, but the people of Australia generally are getting cheaper bread because they live here, and there has been no expression of appreciation of that fact. I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has intimated that he stands for world’s parity, and world’s parity is a concession to the people of Australia. In normal times, when wheat is 5s. a bushel in London, it is 4s. a bushel here. If, owing to a shortage in local production at such a time, wheat had to be imported, we should have to pay the London, price of 5s. a bushel, and another ls. per bushel by way of freight, to bring it here, so that the total cost would be 6s. per bushel: Parity price, therefore, is distinctly in favour of the consumer, and not of the producer’ here. That being so, we should maintain the principle of parity prices for everything grown in Australia.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) is evidently a man with but- one idea, and with a desire to serve only one section of the community. He would have us believe that if his views were put into practice, Australia would prosper by leaps and bounds, and that we should have a panacea for every ill. The honorable member suggests that no one in this House has at any time shown a desire to assist the primary producer, and has also declared that even in some of the State Parliaments the primary producer is without a friend. As a matter of fact, no section of the community has reaped the benefits of socialistic legislation to a greater extent than has the section whose cause the honorable member is championing. He has told us that we shall have an abundant harvest, but that the masses of the people are to derive no benefit from it. The price of wheat in Australia is to be governed by the necessities of the people in other parts of the world, where famine prices prevail’. In other words, the shortage in other countries is to determine the price which the people of ^Australia shall have to pay for their bread. Such logic is not likely to appeal to any , broadminded statesman. I hold that our .primary producers should receive a fair reward for their industry, and should not be denied any of- the comforts which other sections of the community enjoy. But I cannot agree with the honorable member that the abundant harvest which we anticipate should be used to penalize the bulk of the people of Australia. The honorable member for Swan, is a new chum in regard to matters of finance and political economy,, and I therefore allow him great latitude. I shall not castigate him, but I shall endeavour to make him understand that there are in the community people other than those for whom he seeks special concessions. Instead of exporting so much wheat, we should do well to export larger quantities of flour. By gristing our own wheat, we not only find employment for our own people, but secure big supplies of by-products, some of which are quite as necessary for food purposes as is flour for making bread. If the honorable member for Swan, who champions the cause of the wheatgrowers, could only instil in the minds of his friends the desirableness of encouraging the export of flour rather than wheat, he would do useful work. As it is, he takes up very much the same attitude that the trusts and combines adopt. His one desire is to send as much wheat as possible out of Australia, in order that the world’s parity may be obtained for it, and he would thus force our own people to pay extraordinarily high prices for what they want. He would force them to pay high prices, not only for flour for breadmaking, but for various by-products that are required by the dairy-farmer and others. After all, Providence is the farmers’ greatest friend, and in giving us a boundiful harvest I am sure He did not intend that the farmer alone should reap the benefit. I hope that we shall hear no more of these greedy and selfish, utterances, hut that a broader conception of the whole wheat question will be taken by the farmers’ representatives. For the wheat that we export, let us get the highest price possible; but surely our own people are entitled, to some consideration. I hope the honorable member will digest these facts; I do not want to be hard on him, because I know that he is not used to a debating chamber of this character. The honorable member has spent most of his time in country districts, and has not had the opportunity of considering important public questions from both sides. If he had travelled all over Australia, as some honorable members have, and studied the great economic questions that affect the welfare of the nation, he would not have spoken as he has this afternoon. I may inform the honorable member that the price of wheat, which, of course, affects the price of bread, is agitating the minds of a very large number of people throughout the Commonwealth. It is impossible for some housewives to understand why the price of bread has been increased from 7d. to lOd. per loaf. I would like to take the honorable member to, say, Darlinghurst to explain to the people in that locality why, when we have such an abundance of wheat, bread is increased in price by 3d. per loaf. I have already stated that it would be in the interests of the whole community “if wheat were gristed in Australia, and the flour exported, because the use of the byproducts would be the means of reducing the price of such commodities as butter, cheese, milk, and bacon, which are absolute necessities.’ It must be apparent to any observer that under the present conditions the number of pigs, fowls, and cows kept by dairy farmers and householders has been reduced by more than one-half in consequence of the scarcity of food wheat and bran. This is an aspect of the question which the honorable member for Swan, and other honorable members who support him in his contention, should seriously tackle. It is their duty to point out to the Australian people that butter and other commodities which I have mentioned would be considerably cheaper if wheat were gristed in the Commonwealth
The honorable member for Swan referred to the position in Great Britain.
I admit that during the war period wheat in the United Kingdom was exceptionally scarce; but it must be remembered that an expenditure of £40,000,000 per year at one time of public money wai incurred to- enable the people to be supplied with bread at 9d. per loaf when it was lOd. in Australia.
– It was ls. 2d. per loaf.
– That was the price that was charged later. According to the statements made in the British Parliament, the price at one period was as I have stated. The honorable member for Swan suggests that wheat should be purchased by tender at, say, 4s. per bushel, and that in the event of a rise occurring the Treasurer should make up the deficiency.
– The honorable mem- > ber for Swan. is an excitable young man.
– He is, and it is my duty to put him in his proper place. Statements such as he has made should not go out to the public unchallenged. It is my duty as a representative of the people to use the privileges which are mine. I am not a “ chair warmer “in a vaudeville show, and it is my responsibility to exercise those opportunities which are afforded me.
– Would it not be better if the honorable member submitted some constructive arguments?
– The honorable member was very persistent, and he did not forget to mention our secondary industries. But he belongs to the Country party, the members of which .move in a very narrow groove; their vision is in keeping with the size of their party. He believes that secondary industries should not exist, but he must remember that they provide employment for the people ‘ of Australia who purchase the commodity which he assists in producing. The progress of Australia depends upon production, and even a Free Trader, in his stupidity, has to admit that, if Australia is to be self-contained and a nation of any consequence, opportunities must be given to our industrialists to become more than hewers of wood and drawers of water. He must not be selfish, but must remember that not only those who are engaged in wheat-growing have to be considered. We are members of a national Legislature, and although we represent different constituencies in various States, we should endeavour to encourage a strong national sentiment.
I regret the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) is not present, as I desired to bring under his notice a matter to which I have previously referred. I am anxious to learn whether those unfortunate men who have been sentenced, rightly or wrongly, to imprisonment by court martial cannot be released. I understand that in the Darlinghurst Gaol there are seventeen officers in charge of nine prisoners, and that there is also a quantity of stores in that building that could be profitably disposed of. If the men were released and the stores sold, the building could be handed back to the State authorities, and, what is now an eyesore, would, in all probability, be demolished. I trust that a representative of the Government will bring this matter under the notice of the Assistant Minister for Defence.
In New South Wales there are some miners who have lost their sight, and who have been allowed a weekly payment from a miners’ accident fund. When they received the invalid pension: the New South Wales Government dispensed with the relief received under the Miners’ ReliefFund and created a Workmen’s Compensation Fund. The position now is that the blind miners receive only 5s. per week instead of the full pension rate of 15s. The officers are not to blame, and the Act will have to be amended before the present position can be altered.
The case of a man who purchased an annuity of £28 or £30 a year when he became seventy years of age has also been brought under my notice. The authorities, in considering the pension to be paid, have taken the capitalized value of his annuity into consideration, and have deducted its value from his pension. It is really punishing a man who, in his younger days, had sufficient foresight to purchase an annuity to assist him in old age. He has no opportunity of disposing of his annuity, yet his pension has been reduced. I am sure it was never intended that that should be done.
There is also the case of a man eightyfour years of age who has been a resident in Australia for forty-eight years, and who has been in receipt of a pension. He received the old-age pension, tut, owing to the fact that he was not naturalized until after the outbreak of war, he has sincebeen deprived of it. He was brought to Australia by the Government in the capacity of an expert, and would never have required the pension but for the fact that the whole of his savings over a period of twenty years have been absorbed in medical expenses. I have been asked to bringthis matter under the notice of the Treasurer, and I would like the right honorable gentleman to give it, and similar cases, his earnest attention, with a view to removing existing anomalies.
.- I am gladthat the ex-Minister for the Navy and the present Minister for the Navy are present, because I wish to bring forward a matter which I intend to put again before the Naval Board, which has already dealt somewhat fully with it. It has also been brought under the notice of the Prime Minister. I refer to the Naval wireless men who during the war period were engaged upon transports. I would have preferred that this question should have been dealt with by our expert wireless representative in this Chamber, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), but the facts have been placed before me, and I have been requested to present them to the House. When the war broke out, the Naval Board called for applicants to man transports in the capacity of wireless operators. Upon almost every ground these men had to work under orders from the Naval Board. Their agreement, which I propose to quote, is headed, “Radio Branch, Royal Australian Navy, Navy Office, Melbourne,” and reads -
With reference to your application for appointmentas wireless telegraphy operator in H.M.A. Transport Service, Ihave to inform you that your application has been accepted.
Then follow various clauses. Clause 8 reads -
Your engagement will be for the voyage from Australia and return, and for any further voyage which you may be required to make by direction of the Australian Naval Board, or for any further services which the Naval Board might require you to undertake during the existence of a state of war.
Clause 12 reads -
If your services are required by the Naval Department after your return to port of en- gagement, you will be paid by this Department for any period detained, pending your again signing on ship’s articles for further voyage, or pending your discharge.
When these nien .were paid off, the form upon which they were paid off was headed “ Com,mon wealth of Australia, Department of the Navy, R.A.N. Radio Service, Collins House, Collins-street.” That discharge is signed by Geo. J. Weston, Radio Lieut., R.A.N., for the Director of Wireless Telegraphy. These men are claiming full rights as active service men. I understand that they have put their case very fully before the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook).
– I would direct the Treasurer’s attention to the remarks that were made by Captain Dyett, of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, ‘and the president of the Fathers Association, who brought this matter most fully before the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and Admiral Grant, and who received in each case a courteous and sympathetic hearing. I am informed that the matter was left in the hands of the then Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), with a promise to Senator Plain that it would be gone into.
– It was gone into and an agreement was reached.
– Yet they received a reply from the Navy Board which absolutely staggered them. That reply I have left, for the time being, with the Minister for Repatriation. It states that the Minister for the Navy had seen the Minister for Repatriation, and had obtained an assurance from him that these men, subject to certain parliamentary sanction, would be specifically included in the War Service Homes Act. Yet they have not been -so included. There is only one way in which they can be brought within the purview of that Act. The measure specifies that any man who is entitled to the War Zone Badge or the Mercantile Marine Decoration is eligible to participate in the benefits which will be conferred by it. All these men served in the war zone, but I asn: informed by their president that only some ten or fifteen of their number are entitled to either of these decorations. In the meantime I have wired Sydney to ascertain to whom they applied for these decora tions, when they applied, and for the reasons underlying the refusal of their applications. If they can obtain either of these decorations they will come within the scope of the War Service Homes Bill. That aspect I have already placed before the Minister who is now dealing with it. The reply to their application, which was received from the Navy Board, is not altogether correct. The whole contention of the Navy Department is that these men were civilians. It is lucky for us and for the Australian transports that these men did not know they were civilians at the time, because had they known it not one of these ships would have been manned by a wireless operator.
– Oh, yes, they would.
– We all know the magnificent .work which our wireless operators did during the war. It is generally admitted that it would have been impossible to send a transport anywhere without having a lad seated in the wireless cabin all night long in readiness to send out the “ S.O.S.” signal, should his vessel be attacked either by a submarine or by aircraft. ‘ The following is an extract from a letter which has been received by the Federal executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League from the Prime Minister’s Department : -
I am directed .to inform you that the wireless operators referred to were civilians. They were not enlisted in the Naval Forces, and were not liable to naval discipline.
It is upon those words, “Not liable to naval discipline” that I am taking up their case, because the statement is not true. The extract continues -
It will, therefore, be seen that they are not entitled to be regarded as returned sailors, which term is applicable solely to returned naval men who have served under the Naval Defence Act. It should be noted that most of the transports carried at least one wireless operator engaged by the ship-owners in the ordinary course of business, and neither these men nor members of the mercantile marine generally are entitled to be regarded as returned sailors.
That letter, as may well be imagined, came as a bomb-shell, after the interviews with Ministers to which I have already alluded. One of the observations upon that letter which I have received reads -
They were compelled to sign an agreement with the Australian Naval Board, clause 8 of which is as follows: -
Your engagement will be for the voyage from Australia and return, and for any further voyage which you may be required to make by direction of the Australian Naval Board, or for any further services which the Naval Board might require you to undertake during the existence of a state of war.
Those are the very words which are contained in our Defence Act. Under that clause of their agreement these men could be sent anywhere.
– They were not compelled to sign the agreement.
– They could not be engaged unless they did. The Government had to get wireless operators to man these ships. Had the men not signed the agreement the vessels could not have sailed.
– In that case they would have had to sail with only one wireless operator upon each of them. Upon nearly every vessel there was already a wireless operator, who does not participate in any of the benefits that are conferred by our War Service legislation.
– There are usually two wireless operators on board a vessel.
– And these men were to form the second relief. Why should they get the privilegesfor which the honorable member asks, whilst other men who were engaged in the same work get nothing?
– The other men were receiving a higher wage.
– No. They afterwards went to the Court and obtained an award.
– The civilian wireless operator was in receipt of higher wages, and was not subject to naval discipline.
– And the men of whom the honorable member is speaking were not subject to naval discipline.
– I can point to a case in which one of these men, for returning late to his ship, was arrested by a naval escort, taken before a sort of court martial, and fined by a naval officer the sum of £6.
– He was not court martialled. Nothing more was done to these men than could be done to the crew of an ordinary vessel by its captain.
– This statement should disabuse the Treasurer’s mind on that point -
One operator, desirous of enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in Sydney, was absent without leave from his ship on a trip, Sydney to Hobart, and was arrested and tried by the naval authorities, and fined £6.
– And any ordinary seaman on an ordinary ship could be arrested in precisely the same way by the captain.
-But the captain is not a naval authority. These men were arrested under naval orders.
– Of course they were, in just the same way as the captain of an ordinary ship could have his men arrested if they deserted.
– But he could not have them arrested by naval order. There is a very big difference between an ordinary arrest and an arrest by a naval guard. I have seen men walking down the street with a naval guard, and have had to turn my head away with tears in my eyes. Throughout the war these men were under orders from the Navy Office.
– I rememberthis matter quite well. A statement was made which was never cleared up. Those men cannot tell the honorable member what naval authority arrested them. I went into that case with the men, and we reached a compromise to whichthey agreed. Having obtained that, they now ask for something else.
– Here is a statutory declaration made before Mr. G. J. Sweeney, J.P., on 25th March last-
I, Ellis D. Smith, do hereby make the following statement: -That about- I was arrested by Commander Ross in Sydney through having overstayed my leave. I was escorted aboard H.M.T. Port Melbourne by said naval officer, and either he or Captain Dunn directed Captain Beck, of H.M.T. Port Melbourne, to fine me a sum of money in pounds ( cannot remember exact amount ) , which was deducted from my pay. The whole trouble arose through a mistaken sailing date made by Captain Dunn, who granted me one day too many. Mine was an absolute naval arrest and fine”. Captain Beck, of H.M.T. Port Melbourne, also Mr. Coates, of same vessel, could prove same. I cannot remember date, being so long ago.
I declare the contents of this statement to be true in every particular.
Under naval orders that man was arrested and fined.
– In that case the naval officer had no right to arrest him. He should have had him arrested by the police, as the captain of a mercantile ship would have done.
– Why does the Treasurer say that the naval officer had no right to arrest that man?
– Because he had not enlisted, and was, therefore, not subject to naval discipline.
– A man has no right to hit you on the jaw; but that is no satisfaction to you if he does it.
– Quite so; it is rather late to raise the question of right now.
– I saw the men for whomthe honorable member is speaking, and threshed the whole case out with them. I devoted days to this matter, and ultimately we arrived at a compromise, which they accepted.
– What was the compromise ?
– That all those who were in the war zone should have an equal preferential right of employment with the returned soldier.
– I understand that today those men have not any preferential rights.
– They ought to have them. Another condition was that they should have equal rights with the returned soldiers in regard to War Service Homes. They did not ask for anything more.
– In view of the Treasurer’s statement, I shall make inquiries as to whether the promise of preference in employment is being observed. One of the disabilities of which they complain is that they have no returned soldier’s badge, and they are everywhere turned down for that reason.
– That point was conceded.
– I am glad to hear that.
– That makes their treatment all the worse, because it is not in accordance with the agreement which was arrived at.
– Unfortunately the letter from the Navy Board, in May last, is locked up for the time being, but I remember a distinct statement in it that the Minister for the Navy had seen the Minister for Repatriation and obtained his assurance that these men would be specifically included in the War Service Homes benefits. Apparently none but those who have the war service badge are being included.
– They can all get that badge if they have served in the war zone.
– The president of the association tells me that between fifteen and twenty of the men have the badge, but others cannot get -it. I have telegraphed to Sydney to ascertain the reason for the refusal.
– That point requires investigation.
– In view of the Treasurer’s assurance that a compromise was arrived at, it is useless for me to further argue the question.
– And the compromise was distinctly agreed to.
– In those circumstances it is difficult for. me to say anything further. The claim that they have sent to me is for full active rights. In regard to the war gratuity, Admiral Grant, who received the men with every courtesy and attention, said that he thought they were entitled to the gratuity, but that the matter was one to be determined by the War Gratuity Board. There is no question but that these men did magnificent work, and it is hard for them to be put aside now that the war is over.
– We have to draw the line somewhere. Magnificent though their work was, it was not more so than that of othermen employed on the ships, who get nothing.
– Nothing is too good for the deck hands and the firemen. In my opinion the greatest heroes of the war were the stokers in the destroyers which were working on German mine-fields at night. No decorations reached them, although they did magnificent work. I often wonder how men are induced to become stokers. I have been in the stokehold of a battleship, and I have desired to get on deck as quickly as possible.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I take this opportunity of discussing from a general stand-point the naval aspect of the situation to-day, not only in Australia, but throughout the world. Certain fears have been expressed in Australia, owing to what has been wrongly called the scrapping of the Australian Fleet. I do not agree with that phrase at all. In view of the financial stringency that exists, not only in Australia, ‘ but throughout the whole world, I think the Government have done the right thing in putting aside for the time being certain ships, which cost an enormous amount of money to run, and require a large number of men to man, and in keeping our
Fleet alive for the time being, until the Imperial Conference takes place next year. We cannot do anything in any of the Dominions until that Conference has given its decisions, because, not only Admiral Beatty, but Lord Jellicoe and other high authorities, have clearly expressed the view that the whole Navy, so far as the British Empire is concerned, must be one complete and concrete Force wherever the Empire has to act. The Government have done very wisely in retaining certain ships, as set forth in detail by the* ^Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith). They propose to keep on in the sea-going Fleet, with full crews, the light cruiser Brisbane, the flotilla leader Anzac, the five destroyers, Tattoo, Tas’mania., Swordsman, Success, and Stalwart - because these ships are considered very, modern and are of great use - the Marguerite, sloop, a depot ship for destroyers, which we must have, and the submarines J1, J2, J3, JJ., J5, and /7. These may be considered very uptodate. I remember when I first saw one of the J ships, away out in the North Sea, one morning at daybreak. I was not advised that she was coming along, and just as the sun rose I saw something coming at me at about 18. or 19 knots, with two masts up, a funnel with smoke coming out of it, and sails on the masts. I took her for a trawler, and cleared for action to give her all I could. Before giving the order to fire I sent out the pre-arranged signal, which she replied to very quickly. That is the first experience I had with the J class. Subsequently I went over these submarines, and can assure honorable members that to-day they are very modern, and can perform very good work in Australia. The Platypus, the depot ship for submarines, we must also have. The Geranium, sloop, is a patrol and surveying ship, and the Sydney, light cruiser, is also a very good vessel. Every one of the ships on the list which the Minister placed on the table are necessary. The Fleet I have named may be small, but the main point is that it keeps alive that sea spirit and sea-sense which all people who live in an island must possess for their own safety. The Australia and Melbourne are to have nucleus crews. The Australia is not out of date. Her life, according to Lord Jellicoe, is about fifteen years; and she has a few years to go yet; but she costs in round figures about £380,000 a year to maintain, whereas where she is, as a gunnery ship, she may be maintained for from £150,000 to £170,000, and kept at the same time in such a state of efficiency that she can put her crew aboard and be ready for active service at very short notice. The ships which are to have care and maintenance crews are the Encounter, light cruiser, and the balance of the destroyers, with the Mallow, sloop ship, and the Una, armed yacht. In a speech made quite recently in London, Admiral Beatty made some important observations as to what the sea-sense means to our nation. In a very fine speech, dealing with the ‘Navy, he said that prior to his speaking they had been a silent service - which is quite true - but that now many truths could be told which before could not. In concluding, he said -
The British Empire came into .being by the sea. ‘We existed by the sea, and the day that we forgot it, and forgot sea power and all that it meant, the British Empire would crumble to the ground.
Truer words were never spoken. We have to keep alive that sea-sense in Australia, and by having that small Fleet of ours in existence as fully set out in the Minister’s speech, some partly manned in reserve, and others for sea-going service, we shall achieve that end.
I notice in the Minister’s statement a passage that particularly appeals to me as a yachting man.. He asked for the co-operation of the yachtsmen of Australia in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve. I wish to offer him and this House my full assistance in achieving that object. I had experience in that particular branch in England. When war broke out, the Admiralty could not get within 50 or 60 per cent, of the number of officers immediately required to man the anti-submarine vessels; and, on a call being made by the Admiralty, the whole of the yachtsmen of the United Kingdom rushed to the flag. They were all experienced yachtsmen, but .they were put through a month’s preliminary course in all the branches of navigation at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, and a month at Southampton on other courses. After serving two years at sea, I was even put through that course at the Naval College at Greenwich. It has many good points and many bad ones. If the yacht- ing clubs in Australia were appealed to in a proper manner, they would be only too glad to place the services of their very expert yachtsmen at the disposal of the Naval Board. They would do so, of course, without any fee. It would cost the Government nothing. They might be trained for perhaps so many days a year in Morse semaphore, Fleet signalling, Fleet manoeuvring, and general Fleet operations and so forth. Others could go through a class in motor engineering - combustion engines - and men from the open boat clubs could be trained to make leading hands and deck hands for the auxiliary craft which this country must posses.
– Order! The honorable member has reached his time limit.
– I shall be glad to be permitted to take my second half-hour now. (Leave granted.) These men could be trained so that if we actually got into war, or rumours of war were current, that great force would be at the command of the Naval Board for any purpose for which the Board saw fit to use them. I suggest to the Minister that, in order to train these men efficiently on types of ships that they would use, the Government should make application to the Admiralty, who, no doubt, would be only too willing to send out to Australia some of those £10,000,000 worth of motor chasers which are lying idle in Portsmouth and other dockyards. I notice that many thousands are for sale, and are not being bought, because the cost of running them is somewhat prohibitive in these days of shortage of petrol. At their full speed of 19.5 knots they burn 45 gallons an hour, but there is no need to drive them at 19.5 knots. You can drive them at seven or eight knots with both engines running slowly, and they would do magnificently for training theyachtsmen of this country.
I was very pleased to see in the press, and also in Hansard last week, that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) asked the Minister for the Navy whether some arrangement might not be made to train men for themercantile marine at the Naval College at Jervis Bay. I should like to go further and suggest that, as regards the Air Force, which is really a rival to the Navy as the first line of defence in an island Power, all naval pilots should be fully qualified in naval manoeuvres, because intime of war, when they go far out to sea and drop aerial torpedoes orbombs on ships, they need that seasense which I have already mentioned in order to counteract and anticipate the different helm movements of a ship, so that they can get right over the mark, and be able to estimate speed on the scale or chart, in order to drop a bomb or depth charge accurately. All airmen in Australia should go through a naval course at Jervis Bay Naval College, whether they are going to belong to the Army or Navy. That would also justify the existence of the College at a time when many newspaper reports are appearing about scrapping it. Another use to which the College might be put is this : Without expert convoy work during the war, we could not have got through because of the shortage of food. We have to thank the officers and men of the mercantile marine of the British Empire, if not for winning the war, at any rate for going very close to doing so. They could not have done what they did without taking up, which they did with a certain amount of doubt at the start, a course of training in convoy work. It may appear to honorable members that there is not much in convoy work, but I have seen what it means. I was submarine officer on the Carmania, the 23,000-tonner from Liverpool to New York in midwinter, and we had coming back from America eighteen transports averaging 3,500 men on each, in four lines abreast right down theline. It was really wonderful at night to see those ships manoeuvring to avoid a torpedo attack, without any lights of any description to help them. They could not have done this unless the skippers or masters of those vessels had been fully tutored in the way to manoeuvre them when in convoy formation. I suggest that officers of the mercantile marine of Australia should go through a course of convoy work in all its stages at the Royal Naval College at Jervis Bay. It nas struck me that great hardship is inflicted on many lads who have gone up for examination for cadetships at the College. I know several cases of this sort, one in particular of a lad who has been on my yacht a good deal. He passed all examinations, including the medical, splendidly, yet he did not gain admission to the College because he was not one of those finally chosen out of a number to fill the few vacancies that existed. That lad represents a very large class in Australia who already possess the sea-sense, and are trying to get to sea, and breaking their hearts because they cannot. They want to join the Navy, but are now out of it, and cannot go up for admission to the College again. We must do something to keep them for the mercantile marine. Cadetships could be thrown open at the Naval College for lads, who might, perhaps, be offered positions on the Commonwealth Line of steamers for a start, and if they go through the College for their training, they will possess the naval sense, and be able to take up more important duties later on.
I have no desire to stand up here as an expert in naval matters. I am not an expert, but I have had an extraordinary experience during the last five years. I have learned something, and have seen, something. I love the subject, and am constantly in touch with great naval minds in America and in England, and so obtain a great deal of information which may be of use to this country. I have often been asked my opinion as to the proper defence of Australia, having in mind our financial stringency; and it is pretty easy to answer the question. In my opinion, we should be guided by the advice of Lord Jellicoe in his very finereport. Great ships, that is to say, battle-ships, might well be left to the Motherland to bring forth and to maintain. Let the Motherland look after the great ships, and let us look after whatever quota of naval defence the Conference of next year will decide that we should look after, and let that consist of submarines and air-craft. I do not say that any foreign Power is going to attackus, but if we have around Australia certain units of modern submarines, with their attendant observing and fighting and bombing air-planes, which at 10,000 feet on a clear day can see for nearly 100 miles, we shall have a very effective Force.. It is possible barely to cram3,500 men on a large troopship of 20,000 tons, and honorable members will see that it would require a great number of such troopships to bring a substantial Force to conquer Australia. If a possible invader is aware that we have submarines and air-craft as I have described around Australia, I do not think it is likely that we shall be attacked whilst we may be waiting for the great ships to come down from Singapore or Colombo, the two Bases which Lord Jellicoe has advised, for our great ships, or until American battleships can come across from the other side of the Pacific to our rescue. The cost of air-craft and submarines is very small as compared with the cost of light cruisers or battleships, but they would give us a very effective Force for defence or attack, if any attempt were made to invade Australia.
Some persons, I know, are looking to the League of Nations to help us out of all trouble. I am a great believer in the League of Nations, if America will “ play the game.”
– I think that she will, after the Presidential election is over.
– I think so. I know from letters I receive from many betterclass Americans, that they are strongly in favour of America”playing the game.” I believe that the preponderance of opinion in. America is thatshe should do so. The fact that she has not done so up to the present has landed us in a very nasty position.
When we look at press reports, what do we observe in regard to what other countries are doing? I make the following quotation in this connexion: -
Huge Vesselsbeing Built. battleships with 16-inch guns.
The Washington correspondent of the New York Times saysthat it is understood that Japan is putting out of commission all line of battle war vessels more than ten years old.
Japan is building super -dreadnoughts with a displacement of 40,000 tons, a speed of 30 knots, and a main battery of eight16-inch guns. The Japanese are not building electricallydriven ships. Her battle fleet in 1923 is expected to include eight battleships, mounting forty-eight 14-inch guns and thirtytwo l6-inch guns, with an aggregate displacement of 258,860 tons, and six battle cruisers mounting thirty-two 14-inch guns and sixteen 16-inch guns, with a total broadside Are weight of 76,704 lbs.
By 1927 it is expected that Japan’s building programme will have been completed with twelve battleships and twelve battle cruisers added to the Fleet. There have been some reports about the programme being delayed owing to lack of steel, but it is understood that there is sufficient steel.
A later cablegram, dated New York, 2nd April, is as follows : -
A report from Tokio states that the keel of the Toso, the largest Japanese battleship, has been laid at Nagasaki, ‘.flic vessel will have 40,000 tons displacement, and he 700 feet long, having an armament of ten 10-inch guns. She will be launched in 1922, -and will embody the newest Navy developments.
In America they have just projected a Bill for £85,000,000 for the Navy.
– I am not much concerned about grumbling at the present time, because I entirely agree that we ought to “ tread water “ until we know the results of the Conference to be held next year. The Americans have made a start with their naval programme, and have already launched a new battleship. I find, according to a press report, that -
The dreadnought Tennessee was launched- today at Brooklyn Navy Yard. The battleship is 624 feet long, and 97 feet wide. She carries twelve 14-inch guns, fourteen 5-inch guns, and four anti-aircraft guns. The vessel cost £4,000,000, and is expected to join the Pacific Fleet on 1st August.
So the tale goes on, and it looks to me as if these people are not going to trust to the League of Nations. Whether America comes into the League or not, it appears certain that Japan is not going to trust to the League. From what I know of the happenings at Home, I should say that England is going along at a nice steady rate, and is “well looking after herself. No doubt the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) or the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) could tell honorable members a few secrets, and so could I, but I do not intend to mention such matters in this House. There are portions of Lord Jellicoe’s report which have not been published, so that outside countries may not obtain information which we think they ought not to have, but there have been statements published in the press which I can repeat here- We are revising our ideas of the construction of great ships. They are not now being made of such great speed. We are reducing the speed to, say, about 23 knots; are heavily armouring the ships, and are giving them great guns. When I was in the North Sea I found that the great Scapa Flow Fleet steamed at about 23 knots in all weathers. It was truly a wonderful sight to see these vessels coming out to protect our dear ones. I was privileged to witness the sight on many occasions, and I can assure honorable members that one never became accustomed to it. But one always experienced a quickening of the blood pressure, and a tightening of the muscles, with pride at the might of the British Empire, not for attack, but for defence;
This is a very large and important question, and I should like to have been able to deal with it at greater length. For weeks I have made up my mind to talk on the subject, but I could never find a convenient opportunity, so I decided that ‘good old “grievance” day was good enough to enable me to get off what I had to say. “Grievance” day is a wonderful institution, though I hesitate to apply such a term to anything for which the Treasurer may be responsible.
– The honorable member is making a very good speech.
– I wish I could do so. I have said that Lord Jellicoe’s advice is to let the Motherland look after the building, equipment, and maintenance of the big ships. But there is a serious responsibility resting on our shoulders in that connexion, because at the present time there is not a dock in Australia that could accommodate one of these great ships. What would be the use of one of these ships coming here when she could not be cleaned or repaired in any of our docks? It is absolutely incumbent upon Australia to in a very short time face the enormous expenditure involved in providing one or more docks in Australia in. which the great ships of the British Navy can be accommodated.
– Where will that dock be?
– I do not know what is behind the suggestion, and I have no wish to rob the honorable member of his portfolio, but it was suggested to me that Canberra Lake might be selected.
– Could these big ships get into Sydney or Melbourne except at high tide?
– I cannot give that, information. I am advised that the Renown, could come here at full tide. They could get into Sydney Harbor up to Farm Cove, but could not get past that part of the harbor. The Australia, when she goes to Cockatoo Island, has to be manoeuvred with the greatest care, so what chance would a ship like the Renown have of going there?
– The honorable member should not run down “ Our Harbor.”
– I am not running it down, and I have to acknowledge the assistance I received from the ex-Minister for the Navy in getting the destroyers to have their bilges cleared outside the Harbor,
Talking about- the Harbor, I am reminded of some remarks by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) about the transfer of the Quarantine Station from Manly. I think that the establishment of the Quarantine Station there is a scandal.
– The honorable member is making a good speech, and he ought not to spoil it.
– I shall look for the assistance of the Minister for the Navy to have the Quarantine Station shifted from Manly.’
– Where to?
– Perhaps to- Botany Bay - anywhere, rather than Canberra or Sydney Harbor.
In order to induce men and boys to enlist in the Australian Navy, I am satisfied that the Naval Board! will do everything they can to make the Service attractive. The deferred pay question is a serious one, and is responsible for preventing a number of men joining up again. The ordinary able seaman, with seven years’ service, has £150 coming to him. It is not unnatural that he should wish to get away, and he will not joi*1 up again. A leading seaman will have, about £300 or £350 coming .to him, and he wants to get out and spend it. The only way to deal with the question, in my opinion, is to establish some superannuation or pension scheme, which will give the men something to look forward to. A big ship is a regular floating village, and men take years to qualify as efficient. We do not want them to be getting out of the Navy directly they have become efficient. We want to keep them, and in order to do so we should make the Service attractive by establishing a superannuation or pension scheme, and giving them the right, which every man should have, to climb from the bottom rung of the ladder to the top. If the men have something to look forward to I do not think that we need fear the future of the Royal Australian Navy.
I know that other honorable members desire to speak, and I will conclude by saying that whoever goes Home in January or February next, I hope that on their return Australia will stand behind this Parliament in carrying out from A to Z whatever the Admiralty authorities shall decide should be Australia’s quota to the naval defence of the Empire. We must do it. In the words of Admiral Beatty, we came into existence by the sea ; we live by the sea. We need not worry about the price of wool, wheat, bread, or anything else unless we have something to protect our coast lines from being interfered with.
I hope at some time to be able to go fully into the question of Air Defence. I have been provided, at my request, with the opinions of all flying men of any importance who have come back from the Front as to what they think should be the flying units of Australia, and I am afraid to mention the cost of what they propose. They consider that over £2,000,000 will be required to provide an effective Air Force for Australia.
– Two million pounds ?
– Yes. I have the figures with me. A huge expenditure will be involved in providing aerodromes, and the different units of bombers and fighting machines, and in paying the personnel. But I think we must proceed along the lines of encouraging civil aviation, while maintaining the right to make use of the services of the civil flying force in times of war. Of course, we know that they would come in at such times with their machines and men, but we must adopt means to encourage them to do so. On those lines we ought to be able to maintain a big flying force.
I quite agree -with the present programme of the Naval Board in respect to laying aside all ships that really are of no use and can only be kept up at a huge cost, until we have the Imperial Conference’s decision forwarded to us for our consideration.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) “S. 33]. - I have listened with a great deal of interest to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) advocating expenditure for war and the prevention of war, but I would like to speak for a moment or two upon the question of spending money in order to prevent the dependants of certain men who went to the Prout from starving.
– Hear, hear! That is a practical question.
– I do not charge the Government with remissness.
– I do.
– When I set out to obtain a certain object I do not abuse any one. I want to gain a certain object tonight. The Commonwealth are paying nothing to the dependants of men who went to the Front and deserted or became lost. In my constituency the husband of a woman who has three children to maintain enlisted in 1915. He was a good husband, .a kind father, and a good citizen, well liked by everybody ; but although he knew nothing about war or military training, he became imbued with the war fever and enlisted. For two years the reports received concerning him were good, until one- day the wife received notice from the Defence Department that her allowance would be discontinued until her husband again reported. As a result of an appeal on her part she was able to get some assistance, but to-day, because the Government decline to supply them with any money, she and her three children are dependent on public charity. If the soldier was the greatest criminal on earth we have no right to punish his wife and children. But from the fact that he was, as I have already said, a good husband, a kind father, and a good citizen, it is quite evident that it was the effect of the war conditions upon him that caused him to become a- deserter. There are many people in Australia suffering in the same way, and I. want the Government, if they will not deal with this question on broad and general lines, to appoint some sort of Committee to investigate each case on its merits. Of course, I have taken this particular case to the
Defence Department, and received the? usual stereotyped reply. The wife and her children are not even sure that they will get the war gratuity. We all know the talk there was when these men went away and when there was so much waving; of flags. Do not the dependants of these men deserve some consideration, particularly when the. misbehaviour for which they are being punished may have been entirely due to war conditions? Those honorable members who were at the Front know perfectly well, and no one better than the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), that the conditions of fighting changed the natures of even the bravest of men and often caused them to desert. Why should their wives and children and others dependent on them suffer punishment by being deprived of the allowance which otherwise they would have drawn? The son of a constituent of mine, who was specially mentioned in despatches and was awarded the Military Medal, afterwards deserted, and his mother has not heard from him since. The Government are punishing her. I do not say that there are hundreds of similar cases, but thousands of men who went away from here are not accounted for today. Some men have turned up in London recently, and because they are starving it is proposed to bring them out to Australia. . Surely their dependants in Australia are also worthy of consideration.
– Hear, hear ! That is a fair proposition.
– I appeal to the Government to take these cases into consideration and do justice to the dependants of these men.
– To-day I have been asked about six times to break the law to help people.
– If the Treasurer would bring in a Bill to assist him to carry into effect that which- is desirable, he would find this House very complacent, and, at any rate, he would then not need to break the law. “T want to bring under the Treasurer’s notice a system applied in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department, which may have been all right four or five years ago, but is all wrong to-day. Let me quote a case to illustrate my point. A man has three children, two under sixteen years of age, and one over sixteen years of age who is suffering from tubercular disease. The invalid has been to an institution for treatment, and has returned to her parents’ borne. When the parents applied for the invalid pension for her because she is .unable to work, they found that because the father is earning £3 10s. a week, and has only himself and four other persons to maintain - the basis of calculation is evidently about 10s. per week - on the assumption that he has at least a margin of £1 per week out of his wages, no pension could be granted for the invalid. That basis may have been ample before the war, and before the great increase took place in the cost of living, but it is not to-day, and if the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act prevent the Commissioner of Pensions from giving a pension in the circumstances I have outlined, I think the Treasurer ought to bring in a short Bill to enable him to do so. A sufferer from tuberculosis requires a great deal of attention in a home, and must be isolated, so that in these days of high costs it is a hardship on a father who is not earning more than £3 10s. per week to deprive him of the assistance of the invalid pension in providing comforts for the invalid. I have brought this case under the attention of the Treasurer on several occasions. Several similar cases have come under my notice. In one the sufferer is a girl eighteen years of age ; in. another the sufferer is about seventeen years of age, and in another the patient is a woman thirtytwo years old, but because her father, with whom she is living, earns £3 lis. per week, she cannot draw a pension. This case is particularly hard, because the mother is hardly able to do anything in the home. It is also ridiculous, because if the father put the invalid out on the streets, or refused to assist her in any way, she could state on her application form that she was not being maintained by any one, ‘and, consequently, would receive the pension. If humane feelings predominate in the home, the parents must deprive themselves of the assistance the pension would furnish. We ought to do something for these people. I know the Treasurer has heard of these cases before. There are hundreds of them ; but those to which I refer would not cost a great” deal of money.
– The trouble is that we must have economy. All you Victorians say so.
– The Minister cannot charge me with having said that.
Sir Joseph Cook. Why, every frog in every marsh in Victoria is calling out for economy.
– I admit .what the Minister says is true, and I think the press of Victoria ought to be (amned well ashamed of themselves.
– Order! The honorable gentleman must withdraw that expression.
– I will withdraw it, Mr. Chairman.
– If you repeat that, I think the Treasurer will do what you want.
– I admit that, while I would be one to put this ‘Government out to-morrow if I could, I do not charge them with unseemly expenditure; out the Age and the Argus are continually talking about the enormous expenditure of the Commonwealth without explaining in what direction this expenditure is being incurred. Unfortunately, they hold most of the Victorian members of this House in the palms of their hands, and when they howl “ economy,” the members do likewise. I
– Now, you are spoiling the effect of your speech.
– I want to get back to the question of this unfortunate individual who ought to get a pension, but does not. I am looking forward to the time when pensions will come to people as a right, and when it will not be necessary to appeal for them. We must seriously consider, also, the question of increasing the amount allocated. This has been brought before the Minister “on other occasions, and we shall have to continue agitating. For an elderly pensioner, who may have lost his wife, or, if a woman, her husband, there is an allowance of 15s. per week, which, I contend, is not enough for their boots or clothing.
– And yet it means a charge of £5 per family per annum, or £1 per head of the population.
– I cannot help it if it means an expenditure of £50 per head. We must meet the obligation, because, I repeat, an old-age pensioner who is not able to supplement the present pension by working, is not getting enough to buy clothes or boots. Many of them, of course, are able to supplement their pension allowance, and they get on fairly well. In the case of an elderly couple, i’f the husband is able to earn another 15s. a week, their total income is £2 5s. per week. They can subsist on that. We talk of an expense of millions of pounds for the glorification of somebody and the glory of the Empire, and yet we are met with an objection about the cost when a demand is made for an increased pension allowance for those aged people who are unable to work.
W,e have been hearing a great deal lately about Bolshevism and the militant section of the Labour movement. I can only say that the sooner this question of adequately providing for our -aged people is tackled, the better it will be for civilization. I again appeal to the people of Australia, per medium of this Parliament, to increase the pension allowances to the old people, so that they, can live decently. If we do not do something in this direction it will be a disgrace. And I say it can be done easily, because, during .the past few years, enormous fortunes have been made in Australia; and the Treasurer should have no difficulty iu securing some of this money, which is easily accessible if only the Government will take their courage in their hands. I know, of course, that if they do this they will lose their chief supporters; but, on the other hand, they will gain many others. This is a serious question in thickly-populated districts, and I have no doubt it is serious in many country districts also. In the division I represent there are hundreds of people in receipt of pension allowances, which is all they have to live upon, and it is not enough. In spite of the fact that money is hard to get, I hope the Government will find some means this year to get it, so that we may enter the new year with the knowledge that our old-age and invalid pensioners will be receiving a larger allowance.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has been pointing out how urgent it is that we should do something to increase the pension allow ances, but I hope the time is’ not far distant when the Government will come forward with a scheme for national insurance, modelled somewhat on the German system. We have been promised a measure of this sort for many years, and I am hopeful that it will not be long before we shall have some concrete scheme before this Parliament. This evening I heard some jocular references to the fact that this is grievance day with honorable members. I am sure that those honorable members who were in. the chamber a little while ago appreciated the excellent speech delivered by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks). I only wish I could make what I have tosay in this House as interesting as were , the honorable member’s remarks to-night. His was one of the best speeches I have listened to for some time, and I trust we shall have many more from him, dealing with naval matters, aviation, and kindred subjects.
I rose on account of the statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) today, and I am hoping that before we deal with the Budget generally the Treasurer will give us something definite in regard to our commitments . within the next two years, and how it is proposed to meet them. It is no good going on blinking the facts from day to day. We must insist on looking a little bit ahead of the figures given to us in the Budget. So far as soldier settlement is concerned, we know that the Treasurer estimates that he will have to find another £33,552,000, although there is already a sum of £17,000,000 provided. Probably the whole of this money will not be wanted this year, or even next year, but I anticipate that the greater portion will be required before the end of- the next financial year. The expenditure in connexion with the soldiers’ homes, as other honorable members’ have pointed out, will come back eventually; but we can anticipate an expenditure of at least £30,000,000 in this direction within the next two years. Then there is the war debt to the Imperial Government of £42,696,000. I hope we are not going to appeal to the Old Country for money again in the near future. In view of her huge commitments and her difficulty in financing her own affairs, we ought to try to live within our means, and, indeed, find this money which is owing to Great Britain very shortly. The war gratuity bonds have a short life, and, according to the Budget, it is estimated that £25,000,000 will be required in this direction. The war savings certificates, all short dated, account for another £5,000,000, and there are also Treasury bills, soon to be provided for by loan, approximating £9,000,000 there. Other charges in connexion with the war, including deferred pay and similar matters, total about £3 , 456,000; so that, roughly speaking, in. these few items alone we have a total of £150,000,000. And, in addition, money will have to be provided for the public works of the Commonwealth.
– And yet we cannot find £2,000,000 more for old-age pensions.
– I wish the honorable member and others on his side would help us to build up this great country and make it more prosperous, by inducing a greater number of people to go out into the back country and produce more of that wealth which has given us the prosperity that we are enjoying today. That is what is wanted.
– And give the old-age pension to those who produce. They are starving to-day.
– The States also are committed to heavy expenditure in connexion with their schemes, and money will have to be provided for them. The Prime Minister(Mr. Hughes) has told us that we must have a uniform railway gauge throughout Australia, and it is believed that this will cost not less than £60,000,000.
– £26,000,000 for the main lines.
– Figures which I have suggest that it will be more than that. I do not anticipate that any money for this work will be needed for the next two years at least.
– Oh, won’t it?
– It is not likely that the Government will enter into a scheme of this sort without investigation. The wisest course, I think, would be to get a couple of the best engineers obtainable in any part of the world to report upon it.
– That is being done now.
– I know, but it will take some time, and I do not anticipate that the money will be needed for that work this year, and even when work is started the expenditure will be spread over a number of years. Prior to the war, I would have said that Australia could very well afford expenditure for the unification of the railway gauges of the Commonwealth, but I question very much whether we can afford it at the present time. In view of our huge commitments, and the enormous sums needed for public works, I strongly recommend that until we get over some of the difficulties caused by the war we ought to “go slow.” The Treasurer ought to give us some information as to how he proposes to deal with the finances, particularly in regard to the debts and the sums of money that will be needed. The more we keep borrowing from the people of Australia for governmental purposes the more we are reducing the sums available in our big financial institutions for the purpose of promoting the progress and prosperity of the country. Some honorable members seem to think that it does not matter how much we borrow and spend in order to keep people employed; but such a policy can only mean impoverishment. It is essential that the resources of the financial institutions should not be absorbed in this way; and if we make too many claims upon them we shall have very bad results in both primary and secondary industries.
– Are we making undue demands on these institutions?
– The Treasurer must admit that the sums that have been borrowed in Australia are absolutely abnormal.
– I admit that.
– The public came forward with ready response, because the loans, particularly those raised since the war, are for the purpose of enabling the Government to carry out their promises to the soldiers.
– The money is all profit made out of the war.
– We ought to “get at “ the people who have made profits out of the war. While one section have given their all, other sections have done nothing. I have known instancesof people giving up their businesses in order to do Red Cross and other war work, while others, and particularly those who wave the flag most, were robbing the public for all they were worth.
– And would have robbed some of our youths of their lives if the honorable member had had his way.
– The honorable member who interjects was content to let ethers go away and risk their lives for the liberties of those he loves and cherishes.
There is a majority, both inside and outside this Parliament who are prepared to see that the promises made to the soldiers arekept to the full; but I am satisfied that if we have another £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 loan this year, grievous injury will be done to the industries of the country.
-I have already said there will be no further loans this year, unless there is difficulty in dealing with the gratuities next year.
– There are continual demands in regard to the £33,000,000 which the States expect to have advanced to them in connexion with repatriation.
– That is provided for - the £25,400,000 we have just raised will take us through this year.
– That, of course, does not get rid of the obligation of £42,000,000 we owe to the Old Country, and the £10,000,000 of Treasury notes, both of which have to be provided for. Then, there are new works proposed.
– You are making the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) tremble!
– And that without even mentioning Canberra.
– You have Canberra on the brain.
– When we are dealing with the Budget, and we come to certain salaries, I intend to submit an amendment in order to see whether the previous decision of the House in regard to Canberra cannot be altered - whether the Parliament of Australia cannot be brought to realize its responsibility a little more than it did when that vote was given.
– And this is the impartial Chairman of the Public Works Committee, to whom it is proposed to refer some of the works at Canberra.
– I have told the honorable member on previous occasions that a statement like that only shows how biased and unfair he is.
– The honorable member is a specialist on bias, as shown by his action in connexion with his own Committee.
– If I could do so without breaking the rules of the House, I would say that that statement is deliberately untrue.
– I must askhonorable members to cease these personal observations.
– I know that the rules of the House will not permit me to so describe the honorable member’s statement.
– This is the impartial Chairman !
– I bitterly opposed the construction of the Arsenal at Canberra; but, as honorable members know, when the matter of railway communication was referred to the Public Works Committee, and evidence taken, the Committee unanimously recommended that that work should be undertaken. We did not make our recommendation on our “biased” opinions, but on the evidence given.
– Then why does theChairman of the Public Works Committee express his opinion before he hears the evidence?
– Am I to be prevented from expressing my opinion on public matters?
– Please avoid these personalities.
– I should like to refer to the question raised by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), and the remarks made thereon by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West).
There has been some talk in the press in regard to the price of wheat, and the suggestion comes from many quarters that the State Government, or the Commonwealth Government, should commandeer wheat at such price as they think fair and equitable. Honorable members must not forget that the cost of production has increased enormously during the past few years. In the United States of America recently it was stated that investigation had shown that the cost of wheat production, on the average, is as much as 8s.11d. perbushel. In Western Australia, in 1914, wheat was compulsorily commandeered by the Government at 6s.8d., when, owing to drought conditions, the product was dear. Wheat, which was awful rubbish, was brought from the Argentine at a cost of 12s. 4d. ; but, in the following year, all that Australian farmers got, according to the Government returns, was 4s.10d. in New South Wales, 4s. 9d. in Victoria, 4s. 7½d. in South Australia, and 4s. 7¼d. in Western Australia. The next year, 1916-17, was bad for the farmers, and for that year all they have received, up to the present, is 3s. 3d. in New South Wales, 4s. in Victoria, 3s. 3d. in South Australia, and 4s. in Western Australia. I shall not quote the figures for the whole four years, and I cannot give the average each year, because it would necessitate my taking into account the number of bushels for each, but on the figures over the four years I find the average is 4s. 2d. in New South Wales, 4s. 9d. in Victoria, 4s. 6d. in South Australia, and 4s. 6d. in Western Australia. There is a high price for wheat this year, but in New South Wales, for instance, for two years past, the farmers have not got their seed back. In that State there has been a bad harvest this year, so that the producers there reaped very little benefit from the prevailing prices. Is it not unfair in all thecircumstances to demand that wheat shall be supplied at less than the world’s parity ?
– Areyou not meeting trouble half way ?
– That suggestion has been made in the House on several occasions. During the last four years it cannot be said that the farmers, in South Australia and New South Wales particularly, have enjoyed reasonable conditions. If cheap wheat is wanted I have no grave objection to the adoption of the principle acted upon in the Old Country, where the whole community share any loss that follows. It is not fair that one section should be called upon to bear the whole burden.
I shall not go into Tariff matters tonight; but the publication which I have in my hand contains a paragraph which, in dealing with these matters in a general way, points out the advantages which the people of the cities enjoy in the way of higher rates of wages, better provision for education, and more comfort generally.
Mr.McWilliams.- And less work.
– Usually less work, or, at any rate, shorter hours. We must all admit the great drift there has been to the cities during the past decade. I am keenly desirous that the Government should adopt a big immigration scheme, for we must not shut our eyes to the fact that, unless we people and develop the country, we cannot hope to retain it. We cannot permit the enormous areas in the north to remain unpeopled.
– But if we economize how can we carry out your suggestion ?
– Economy does not mean that no public money must be spent, though we may have to “ go slow.” I have never urged yet that we should stop our public works; but I think the proposed expenditure on a uniform railway gauge might well be spent in more pressing and profitable directions. All depends on how public money is spent.
I have recently asked some questions about the Flinders Naval Base, in regard to which the Navy Department demanded huge works to cost tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Navy Department did not obtain authority to carry out all those works, and now I think I am right in saying that, after having made provision there for a base for submarines and destroyers, a submarine base is to be provided in another part of Victoria, leaving Flinders merely a training school. I think that about £570,000 has been spent at Flinders.
– More than that - more like £670,000.
– Has the honorable member for Dampier been at Flinders? Has he seen the wharf which was built on dry land, where there was not enough water to float a rowing boat to it?
– That was done by your Government.
-And by your Government, too.
– It is the most wicked expenditure I have ever known. I have often heard of “ dry docks,” but for the first time in my life I saw at Flinders a “ dry “ wharf.” I saw there a huge excavation from 15 to 20 feet deep, 50 feet wide, and 1,000 feet long, and in this excavation a number of piles were placed. I asked the engineer why it had been made, and his reply was that it had to be done because he could not drive the piles through the sand. It is an L-shaped wharf, and those who care to inspect it will see that the work was carried out in the way I have described. Not one yard of that dirt should have been removed, and it should not have cost more than from1s. 3d. to1s. 6d. per yard to take out that which was removed. I asked one of the navvies what it was costing to make this excavation. His reply was, “ I cannot tell you how much a yard it is costing, but I can give you a fair idea of what it is costing per shovelful.” The Department admits that it cost 9s. 4½d. per yard.
– Has the Minister stopped that sort of thing?
– The work has been completed.
I amhoping for a big immigration scheme. I trust that we shall succeed in inducing many ex-service men with some small capital to come here from the United Kingdom, and that we shall be able to settle a large number of them on the land.We have plenty of room for them. In the early stages of the war, although as a representative of a Western Australian constituency the matter was of no immediate concern to me, I strongly urged upon the Government the desirability of proceeding with the locking of the Murray, and of making large areas there available for irrigation purposes. I pointed out that we could not do better with our money. We ought to be able to build up many places like Mildura, and so to increase our annual production by hundreds of thousands of pounds.
– And the best soldier settlements of the lot.
– Yes. What a glorious thing it is to know that you can put men on land where there is an abundant supply of water available, so that their prosperity is assured. We want to attract these people to Australia, and we must see that they are offered fair conditions. We certainly do not want to encourage the idea that their wheat is to be commandeered, or that the primary producers are not to get the world’s parity for their produce.
To the extent that we can increase production we shall decrease the cost of living. As soon as the war started the Government of the United States of America made a grant of £7,000,000 per annum for four years to the States for the construction of main roads. It was felt that the construction of these roads woul d tend to increase settlement, and so decrease the cost of living. I am not going to ask the Government to enter upon in- terprises of that kind at the present time. Our financial resources have been somewhat crippled, but the policy of the country generally should be to encourage settlement. When we induce people to go on the land we shall do all we can to enable them to get their produce into the markets of the world with the utmost facility, recognising that the community will share in the wealth they produce.
I rose chiefly to express the hope that we might have from the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), before the Budget debate is resumed, a further statement as to the way in which he proposes to deal with the large sums that have been promised and are overdue. I should like also to have from the Government a clear statement as to their immigration policy. I am sure that our soldiers have given Australia so good an advertisement in the Old Land that, as the result of a wellorganized immigration policy, we shall have a large influx of population. One of the first steps to be taken either by the States or the Commonwealth in connexion with our immigration policy is the erection of a large hostel in each of the State capitals to which an immigrant with his wife and family could be taken on his arrival here, and where he could be properly looked after. If necessary a small charge might be made for maintenance purposes. Instead of every immigrant having, on arrival, to look for quarters for himself and his family, he could be taken to one of these hostels, properly looked after, and supplied there with the fullest information in regard to land settlement, and theprospects, generally, of obtaining employment. In such a building he would be amongst friends from the moment of his arrival.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have conferred with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) in regard to the position of wireless men, who served in the war, and to whose case I have referred on various occasions in this House. These men have not yet received the consideration to which they are entitled. I know from my own experience of the Department that wireless men who desired to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force were refused permission to do so unless they were prepared to join up with one of the wireless units of the Australian Imperial Force or serve on board a transport. The Navy Department took some of these men out of the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force, placed them on board transports, and sent them away. They served throughout the war in various spheres, but they are now refused the benefits of our Repatriation scheme, and those of the War Service Homes Act. In view of the assurance that hai been given by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) I hope that further consideration will be given to the position of these men, and that they will receive the benefits to which they are justly entitled.
There are other matters affecting our returned soldiers with which we have recently been dealing. When our men went away all sorts of promises were made, but I regret to find that they cannot secure the fulfilment of even one of those promises without putting up a fight for it. The Prime Minister, in 1914, stated that members of the .Commonwealth Public Service, who enlisted for service abroad, would not only have their positions kept open for them, but that no office becoming vacant during their, absence would be permanently filled. I have here a statement showing that, notwithstanding this promise, during the war no fewer than 238 permanent appointments were made. I could give glaring instances where public servants, who went away on active service, have been passed over in some cases in favour of officers who were eligible - who had no responsibilities - but elected to stay at home. As the result of their remaining at home they have been” given positions senior to those men who went away to serve their country at a time when their country urgently needed their services. The only reply that one gets from the Acting Public Service Commissioner, when cases of this kind are brought under his notice, is that even had these men remained behind they would not have been appointed to the vacant positions, since there were more competent men available to fill them. One is tired of receiving time after time such replies to one’s representations on the subject. We know that those who remained at home had an opportunity to gain knowledge of the work of various Departments which those who went to the Front could not secure. By obtaining that knowledge they made themselves eligible for positions senior to the men who went away on active service.
Under the recent amendment of the Repatriation Act we transferred the control of War Pensions from the Treasury to the Repatriation Department. I do not think the Repatriation Commission is giving a fair deal to the soldiers in many cases. I refer more particularly to th« treatment of limbless, maimed, and tubercular soldiers. The tubercular soldiers, to my mind, are among ‘ the most unfortunate individuals in Australia. They are utterly helpless. We brought these men back’ to Australia, and placed them in a home, where they were taught the value of a certain diet. We knew that this diet would not cure them, but that it might prolong their lives. After six months’ treatment in these homes they were allowed to leave, but, although it costs them at least £2 7s. per week to adhere to the diet set out for them, we give them the “handsome” pension of £2 2s. per week. In regard to limbless and maimed soldiers, the Commission holds that a man who has lost two legs is not totally incapacitated. That interpretation of the Act shows to my mind that the Commission is not administering it in a sympathetic spirit. The Commission says that if a man has lost an arm he is untrainable, yet it refuses to give him a reasonable pension. If a man has lost two legs below the knee, it is quite possible that he may be trained, but a man who has lost two legs above the knee cannot be trained, and should be entitled to the full pension. I have two limbless men in my electorate, whose pensions I have been seeking to have increased. They are now living together, endeavouring to help each other; but I can get no satisfaction from the Department. I am afraid that we made a mistake when we transferred the administration of the war pensions from the Minister to the Repatriation Commission. The Commission, no doubt, is doing its best to cut down expenses, but from what I have seen * when visiting the Department I think that some of the staffs there might very well be reduced.
– They are all controlled by outside business men on uptodate economy lines.
– The Commission is endeavouring to cut down the expenditure in some cases, but it is treating the returned men very harshly.
– For that the Government are responsible.
– The Parliament is responsible.
– This House is responsible for that, since, if the Government does not suit us, we should shift it.
– I have also mentioned on previous occasions the case of war widows. It is a crying shame that we refuse to give a war widow a War Service Home unless she puts down a deposit equal to 10 per cent, of the cost of the building.
– We were told by the Minister that a deposit was no longer necessary in such cases.
– I brought a case of this kind under the notice of the Department in Sydney, but it turned it down. I then brought it before the Commission, and was promised that the matter would be investigated. The result of this was that a lonely war widow, .with a young baby, was sent out by the Commission to look for a home. She found one, reported the fact to the Department, and was called upon to lodge £1 ls. in respect of the valuation fee. She did so, and was then told that unless she put down a deposit of £75 she could not have the home. The concluding portion of the woman’s letter is to the effect that she will continue to live in rooms, as she has been compelled to do since the father left Australia to fight for his country.’ If we are to allow widowed mothers who gave of their men in the country’s interests to live in rooms, it is not to the credit of this Parliament. Notwithstanding that it is my desire to see that all our returned soldiers are properly treated, I think our first duty is to’ the women of Australia, many of whom made a greater sacrifice than the men. It is our responsibility to see that the women who have little children dependent on them are comfortably housed and properly treated.
I desire to deal briefly with the War Service Homes Department in Sydney, with which I come in close contact. I invite honorable members who are interested at all in this matter to visit the Department in Sydney to see the conditions as they actually exist. There is one clerk to deal with a minimum attendance of at least forty returned soldiers; and if one happens to open his mouth in complaint, he is sharply reprimanded and placed at the bottom of the line. Men are compelled to stand in a queue for hour after hour, and it is sometimes four days before they receive’ attention. The attendant at the counter is a returned soldier, ,who,’ unfortunately, seems to have very little sympathy for the men. The Deputy Commissioner in Sydney informed me that since the proposal first came before Parliament to increase the amount for erecting soldiers’ homes from £700 to £800, owing to increased costs, that he had had applications from 700 men waiting for the increased amount to become law in order to get into a home of their own. Surely some provision can be made for dealing with applications more expeditiously.
I have already brought under notice the position of a permanent officer in the Ordnance Branch of the Department of Defence, who has had seventeen and a half years’ service, and who was receiving £3 2s. per week. He has received a bonus of £12, which was later increased to £32, which brought his salary up to £3 10s. per week. The seven temporary men he has assisting him were receiving £3 17s. per week, which was the basic wage in New South Wales. When I brought the matter forward, the permanent officer received an increase in salary; but the other seven men have had their salaries reduced. On the 1st September, the temporary men who were receiving the basic wage were informed that their services were no longer required; but after they had received that intimation they were informed that they could start work again at £3 10s. a week. The Commonwealth Government have said that they do not recognise the New South Wales basic wage. and have reduced the wages of the temporary men by 7s. per week, merely hecause they increased the salary of a permanent officer who has been in the Service for seventeen and a-half years. It is a crying shame for a Department to do such a thing. In the Public .Service Bill which has recently been under discussion, provision is made for the appointment of a Board of Management, and if Boards of Management, are necessary, they should be established in connexion with the Naval and Defence Departments.
On the last grievance-day, I mentioned the case of a youth under age who went on active service. I was not then in possession of the full particulars, but I have since been informed that this young man left Australia on the 24th January, 1917, and after arriving in England underwent four months’ training., He was then transferred to the 6th Division, and placed with a draft for France, when they discovered that he was under age. He was then transferred to the Army Medical Corps in England, where he served a period of twelve months in relieving a man to go on active service in Prance. After being away from Australia for approximately eighteen months, ho was compulsorily returned to the Commonwealth. He has made a sworn affidavit that his parents did not object to his leaving, and did not ask that he should be returned. He arrived in Australia on the 24th March, 1918, and was discharged. The £9 due to him was retained by the authorities, and he was informed that he was not entitled to leave or to any benefits under the Acts which have been passed for the benefit of soldiers. He is also prevented from receiving a war gratuity. Notwithstanding what the Minister has said in this connexion, I have been informed by the Department that he has been refused the gratuity.
– The Department is overriding the Minister.
– I quoted the Minister’s reply in Hansard, and the Department has said, “ There are our regulations, and we have to abide by them.” If we allow the Department to override the authority of Parliament, it is time we awakened.
I also wish to direct attention to the case of the late postmaster at Drummoyne, who had been contributing to a Public Service superannuation fund for thirty-seven and a half years. During the influenza epidemic this officer became a victim, owing to the fact that the office was understaffed, and died from the effects of that disease. Although he had been contributing to the superannuation fund for thirty-seven and a half years, the Department refused to award any compensation or to .refund any of the contributions. It is the duty of the Government to see that the widow and family of this officer are in some way compensated, or that some of the contributions made over the period I have mentioned are refunded. I hope that when the amending Public Service Bill is under discussion, wherein it is proposed to make provision for granting extended furlough to men who have served over twenty years, that provision will be made to cover such cases of hardship as that I have just mentioned. Without taking up any further time of the House, I trust that the matters I have submitted will receive the immediate attention of the Government, and if they do not, I shall continue to bring them forward until they are properly dealt with.
.- There is a good deal in what the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) has just said in regard to the pleasing manner in which those who make regulations for Ministerial acceptance ignore the promises made by Ministers on the floor of the House. It is very easily done. The Minister gets up and says what he will do, but what is actually done is another matter. The officers in the Departments place regulations before the Minister, which are accepted, and which merely give effect to the departmental view.
This afternoon I commenced to relate a sad story on the question of the deportation of Italian reservists, and I rise now merely for the purpose of continuing and completing the publication of that interesting history. I think it is important later on, when sound counsels prevail - if they ever do - and we are seriously discussing the question of immigration and other matters, to show what this Government and its followers have done in support of any just policy of immigration, mid how far they have discouraged members of the white races of the world from making their homes in our midst. In the course of that histoid I had come to that stage where the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), evidently inspired by certain friends of the late Consul, sometimes grandiloquently designated the Royal Italian Consul-General, put a question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), designed to draw a reply which would show that the Government had acted in a regular manner, and entirely in accordance with the traditions and practices of international law. Unfortunately for him, while the reply of the Prime Minister undoubtedly made out for the Government the best case that could be made, it disclosed beyond all doubt that what members of the Government had said in regard to these Italian reservists was incorrect, and that, in. truth and in fact, it was merely a conscriptionist move on the part of the Government, entered into in a spirit of vindictiveness in the light of the recent defeat of the Government on the question of conscription. It was supported and promoted by the man Eles, enjoying the grandiloquent title of the Royal Italian Consul-General. In the statement made by the Prime Minister, I had reached the stage where the’ reply went on to read -
The Commonwealth Government cabled’ to ‘the Secretary of State on 25th July, 1917, notifying their concurrence in. and acceptance of, the arrangements made, and added that it was presumed that the Royal Italian ‘Consul would bc instructed to approach the Defence Department in order to arrange details. Information was also received at this time that the Italian Government had been informed that the transport of these reservists from Australia was subject to the condition that the Italian Consular authorities vouched the bona fides of the reservists.
On the 5th November, 1917, the Royal Italian Consul called on the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and stated he had received authorization from his Government to arrange with the Commonwealth Government for the repatriation of Italian reservists and conscripts residing in Australia, and after having ascertained the legal position of the Commonwealth Government, the Minister placed the machinery of the Defence Department at the disposal of the Royal Italian Consul for this purpose.
The reply of the Prime Minister concludes with this remarkable postcript-
In effect, the Commonwealth Government merely acted as agent for the Italian Govern ment, at the request of that Government, aud in full accordance with international law.
The statements contained in that postscript are absolutely inconsistent with the whole tenor of the explanation which the right honorable gentleman was bound to make, and, as a matter of fact, did make. It is therefore perfectly evident that the first movement in regard to the deportation of Italians was made by the Commonwealth Government. The Royal Italian Consul ,was asked to obtain the consent of his Government to the voluntary enlistment of his compatriots. According to the statement which I have read, the consent of the Italian Government to that request was refused. Upon a second, occasion, in May, 1916, it was decided to make representations to the British Government that the Italian authorities should again be consulted with the same object in view. The British Government made those representations, and the Italian Government again refused the request. Upon a third occasion, namely, on the 13th November, 1916, and finally upon the 29th February, 1917, “as the position had not been relieved,” as the
Prime Minister ingenuously put it, renewed representations were made, but with no better result. The consent of the Italian Government could not be obtained to the enlistment of Italians in Australia. It will be seen, therefore, that throughout the whole of his reply, now that the censorship has been lifted and many of these Italian reservists who have returned to their homes in Australia are prepared to depose to the facts, the Prime Minister does not dare to re-affirm what he and. his various Ministers upon a dozen occasions in this House declared to be the position. It may be asked why these steps were taken by the Government, and why the Royal Italian Consul-General made himself active in securing the deportation of his fellow countrymen, instead of standing by them as friend and adviser. Why did he harass them in every way that his fertile mind could suggest? Why did he make representations to them and break faith with them, and generally make himself a nuisance to them? He acted in this fashion because that is the kind of man he is. He is a man of Austrian extraction, a militarist of militarists, who is married to a German - an excellent lady, I .am told, none the worse, in my judgment, for ner native place - and who when he came here wa3 known as Count . von Eles. ‘He gloried in his aristocratic lineage; he was, of course, a conscriptionist at heart, and he had still other reasons for conscripting his fellow countrymen. One of these reasons was that there were men in Australia in fairly high positions, including his own countrymen, who knew that this Italian Consul was a man of German sympathies, and who were aware that before Italy entered the war he had prophesied that she would never join the Allies, and was preparing accordingly. They knew precisely the kind of man that he was. They knew that he was a vain person - something of a coxcomb - and that in private life his record was not too sweet. They were aware that in public life he claimed to be a Royal Consul-General, when, as a matter of fact, he was Consul - quite an honorable position - and nothing more.. And because he knew that they were familiar with all these facts, and were dangerous to him, it became necessary for him, the moment Italy entered the war, to show his loyalty, new born, in the most pronounced way that he could devise. The best way in which he. could do that was by approaching the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who was also a conscriptionist, and suggesting to him that he might salve his wounds in regard to the defeat of conscription in this country bv conscripting a handful of Italian nationals whom the Consul could easily persuade him were not deserving of the protection of the Commonwealth Government, and might, therefore, be mishandled with impunity. Incidentally he would get rid of some personal enemies. I do not know whether the ‘Consul was bribed or not. If he were, I cannot say who bribed him. It is very likely that there were other influences at work besides those I have mentioned. But there are sufficient reasons on the surface to explain the fact of ‘the Italian Consul making use of the Minister for Defence, and of the Minister for Defence making use of the Italian Consul, for this ignoble purpose. Upon this matter they were well met. They thought alike, and, therefore, acted together. Consequently, the Minister for Defence misused his posi- tion to deceive the people of this country and the Senate, which he addressed upon this subject more than once.
I sum up this unpleasant history by saying that the Government, and. particularly the Minister for Defence, dishonoured the best traditions of Britain by their treatment of these Italian nationals. They acted contrary to the recognised principles of international law; they gave to the Italian Consul a standing to which he had no title; and they used him just as he used them, for a purpose which should not have been achieved. I charge them with having imposed a censorship, not for defence purposes, but to cloak the wrong which they were doing. I accuse them, and particularly .the Minister for Defence, with having made statements, which they knew to be false, or alternatively with wantonly closing their minds to those sources of information which were readily available to them. I charge them with being instrumental in inflicting a grievous wrong upon persons who had a right to look to them for .protection and support. More than once I have wondered whether there is any procedure laid down in this country for impeaching a Minister of the Crown who is guilty of conduct of this kind. Apparently there is none. But, unquestionably, these Italian nationals, who have been wronged, and ‘who have now returned to the homes which .were violated by the action of the Government, have a strong moral and probably legal right to institute proceedings against the Minister for Defence, provided that the Indemnity Bill, which is already on the stocks, and which is designed to protect Ministers from the results of their actions in cases of this kind, be not passed.
– Is there no power underour Constitution to impeach a Minister?
– There does not appear to be amy procedure which is analogous to that under which a member may be impeached before the House of Lords. But in the facts which have now been disclosed there is undoubtedly a great deal of evidence which, to my mind, would go far to support a charge of conspiracy against the Minister for Defence.
I am well aware that in bringing this matter forward I shall be told that I am reviving ancient history and resurrecting dull dead matters which have lost their interest now. that the war i3 over. It is, unfortunately, only too true that people’s memories are very short. This afternoon, the Prime Minister himself suggested an application of the law of prescription and a kind of Statute of Limitations to wrong-doing of all kinds. Certainly I am not one of those who cherish undue feelings of ill-will against those who have done me wrong, or who have done wron? to others, if a revival of the facts is likely to serve no useful purpose. But it seems to me that a revival of the facts relating to this matter may serve a useful purpose in the future, and it would .be highly improper, now that those facts are available for publication, if they were not placed upon record, so that those who are interested in them may understand precisely where the truth lies. I have abundant evidence of the truth of my case; but the Government’s admissions convict them. We are all concerned in the question of immigration. I do not suppose that any policy of immigration will be designed to exclude the white races of the world who are not of the British Isles. I presume that it is our intention that this vast continent shall be thrown open, not merely to immigrants of the British race, but to all law-abiding members of the white races of the world. Therefore, it is of the highest importance that we should discourage those persons who would drag this country into odious disrepute, and who, in many instances, have done so, by making it evident to the world that it is unsafe for any foreigner to come here, lest, under the exigencies of war, or, worse still, personal malice, his life may be Tendered very uncomfortable. That is all I need say upon this question at present. I do not suppose that the Minister for Defence will take any notice of my remarks. Upon the whole, he will probably deem it safer and more satisfactory to allow the matter to drop, depending entirely on the soothing balm of time to make the people of this country forget that in the time of crisis the Minister used his position apparently for unworthy and even vindictive purposes to the great harm and injury of the citizens of an allied race.
– I desire to say a few words in reply to the statement of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) with regard to a returned soldier who was under age when he enlisted. The honorable member said that in spite of the statement I had made in this House that those boys who had enlisted under age, but had gone overseas and done their job, would not be penalized in any way, but would get the full benefits accorded to other returned soldiers, this particular lad had been refused his deferred pay, the war gratuity, and repatriation benefits. The honorable member must have been in the House when I made that statement, and he must remember the qualifications attached to it. I said, amongst other things -
I assure honorable members that no boy, no matter how young he was, who went into the firing line, and did his bit there, will be penalized for so doing.
– Is that in regard to war gratuities as well?
– That is in regard to everything. The boy who went overseas, whether he was sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, who went into the firing line, and did his bit with the others, will be recognised, and get the full rights of a returned soldier. I am, however, definitely assured by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and by my officers in the Department, that it was conclusively shown that on several occasions - and it is presumed that there were many more instances - there was collusion between the parents and certain boys under age to enable them to go overseas.
I do not say this is applicable to the case which the honorable member has quoted. I continued -
Still there were others who, with the connivance of their parents, designedly made false attestations, knowing they were under age, and got over to the other side, and after they had had a good trip, which cost them nothing, their parents put in a protest, and claimed that the hoys should be sent back.
– I do not think any honorable member here is appealing for them.
– The case I cited is that of a young man who was away for eighteen months.
– If that young man was in the firing line he will be treated the same as other returned soldiers; but there were a great many who never went further than the base, so that the Minister has been forced to make a distinction.
A line of demarcation must be drawn in connexion with cases of this character, and no matter where it is drawn there will be many who are on the border, and- who will suffer some hardship. There must, however, be a distinction between those who are to enjoy the full rights of returned soldiers and those who are not. I said further -
Those who actually went into the firing line, despite their age, “will be accorded the full rights of returned soldiers; but those who did not get into the firing line, although there may be some hard cases among them, will not get any of the benefits.
The boy whose case the honorable member has quoted was not in the firing line. The honorable member should have been fair to me, because we discussed this matter, and I told him that I was sorry for the boy, but a distinction had to be made; he had not been in the firing line - for what reason I do not know ; but he stated that he was kept employed in London.
– In the Army Medical Corps.
– The members of the Army Medical Corps went into the firing line, and many of them were killed and wounded. Those who were with that corps in London were in the same position as any other men at the base. I do not say that the fault lay with the boy, but the honorable member, if he wished to be fair to me, should, not have said that in spite of the statement I made that the boys who enlisted when under age would not be penalized, this particular boy had been.
– I said the departmental . reply was not in conformity with the Minister’s answer.
– It was.
– This boy has been refused repatriation rights, which, however, have been granted to others who were never in the firing line. I say the Department condoned the offence of enlisting under age by employing him for. sixteen months in the Army Medical Corps.
– Has the fact of his being under age anything to do with his treatment ?
– Nothing at all.
– It has everything to do with it. I said that boys under age who went into the firing line would be treated in the same way as other returned soldiers, whilst those who had not been in the firing line, although there were hard cases amongst them, must be debarred from repatriation privileges. We must draw a line somewhere, because, undoubtedly, a number of boys who were under age went overseas designedly and with collusion on the part of their parents, guardians, or relatives, with ho intention of serving in the war zone. They had a “joy ride” to London, and on arrival, either they disclosed that they were under age, or their parents sent for them, and they were returned to Australia.
.-After listening to the remarks of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), I am compelled to voice my protest against the attitude of the Government in withholding from soldiers who enlisted when under military age their deferred pay, repatriation benefits, and war gratuity. The Assistant Minister, when speaking on this question last week, mentioned cases in which parents and boys were in collusion to deceive the authorities and others, in which false attestations had been made, and stated that for these reasons the gratuity and other benefits had been withheld. I join with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) in protesting against this treatment of boys who went to the Front with the undoubted intention of serving in the firing line, but. were forbidden to go from England to France because it was discovered that they were under military age. Nevertheless, their services were availed of in England for many months before they were ultimately returned to Australia. Now they are refused the deferred pay which they had earned as justly as had any soldier who went to the Front: The Department or the Government, or whoever is responsible, has made a grievous mistake. The Department is treating these boys unjustly. They were gallant lads, who wanted to do their duty, and it was not their fault in any way that they did not get into the firing line. Just because it happened to be decided in England or France that their services would not be availed of in the front line, it is not fair to debar them from privileges. We can very well afford to give them the same benefits as any other soldier. Many of them served in France, and a number of them in the theatre of war in which I was engaged. They were as good as the best. If any soldier, through no fault of his own, did not serve in the firing line, but did good and useful work in England and elsewhere by the orders of the Command, he is justly entitled to all the benefits. I must again enter my protest against the attitude taken up by the Defence Department in this matter. L hope they will reconsider it, for I can see no reason why the distinction referred to by the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) should be drawn.
.- Before the debate closes, I wish to discuss what I consider to be one of the most important questions that can possibly arise in this Parliament. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to-day what the Government intended to do with regard to the decision arrived at by the Senate yesterday to throw out a taxation proposal sent up to it by this House, and the Prime Minister replied that the House and myself could rest assured that he would stand for the paramount powers of this House in relation, to taxation proposals.
– It is the first time, I think, that any Chamber has slapped the other in the face by increasing taxation.
– By refusing to pass a taxation Bill which was sent up by this Chamber, the Senate has - really imposed taxation, which it has no right to do. Section 53 of the Constitution is perfectly clear.
– They have only succeeded in stopping us from reducing taxation.
– They have no right to do so. Under the proposal, as passed by this House, if I went to a picture show, and paid anything under 3s. .for admission, I would not be compelled to pay a tax, but as the result of the action of the Senate yesterday I shall now be compelled to pay an extra amount in the shape of taxation. The Senate is imposing upon the people an annual tax of at least £250,000, according to the figures given by the Treasurer.
– Are they not simply maintaining the tax!
– No; the Constitution is very clear on the point. I stand with the Prime Minister for the powers of this House. I have been refreshing my memory during the last half-hour by reading the debate that took place in this Chamber in 1902. You, Mr. Chanter, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), and the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) will remember it. The Senate sent back to this House requests for the alteration of Tariff proposals. There was a debate here as to whether the Senate had power to do that. On the 3rd September, 1902, the Customs Tariff Bill was returned from the Senate with a message again requesting certain amendments and modifying other requests. I am quoting from Hansard, page 15676, of that date. The then member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mauger) immediately asked the ruling of the Speaker as to whether this message complied with the provisions of the Constitution and our own Standing Orders. It seemed to him, he said, that former requests were being repeated instead of new requests being made. The Speaker (Sir Frederick Holder) said -
I have realized the importance of the matter which is now before the House and have conceived it possible that an appeal might be made to me for a ruling upon the point mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
He went on to say that the question was whether the message was one which the House ought to receive. He quoted certain sections of the Constitution, and ruled that it was within the power of the House to decide whether it should receive the message or not. Mr. Deakin, on behalf of the Government, moved the following motion: -
That, having regard to the fact that tho public welfare demands the early enactment of a Federal Tariff, and pending the adoption of joint Standing Orders, this House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect to this message, and resolves to receive and consider it forthwith.
A large number of members spoke, including Mr. (now Mr. Justice) Isaacs, and Mr. (now Mr. Justice) Higgins. At page 1570S, Mr. Higgins is reported as saying -
After all, Government is finance, and finance is Government, in some respects. We have this state of affairs: That one-third of the taxes goes with two-thirds of the power to spend taxes. What I mean is, that in that House, if honorable members will take it that taxes are pretty evenly contributed according to population, we shall find that those people who contribute only one-third of the taxation have a House in which they control two-thirds of the members.
The debate lasted for practically the whole of the day and night, and the division was taken late. Mr. Deakin’s motion was carried. I voted against it,on the same side as Messrs. Isaacs, J. W. McCay, J. B. Ronald,C. C.Salmon, D. Watkins, J. Wilkinson, R. A. Crouch, and J. C. Watson. Paired on the same side were Messrs. A. McLean, T. Kennedy, S. Mauger, F. W. Bamford, J. H. Cook, and H. B. Higgins.
– Where was the present Treasurer?
– He voted with the Government. The division on that occasion was on the question that the House had the right to determine whether it should consider the message. It was not determined whether the Senate had a right to senddown the requests again. The House refrained from determining that question, as we had to complete the Tariff within a certain time. That was the main argument. I askhonorable members to consider the position that has now arisen, not in the light of whether we shall raise a couple of hundred thousand pounds a year, but of whether another place has the right to impose taxation at all, because undoubtedly it is imposing taxation by the action it took yesterday.
– It looks as if a double dissolution is the only thing that will fit this case.
– I say distinctly that we should not allow the Senate the right to impose taxation. That right may suit some honorable members to-day, but even during the discussion that took place in 1902 the members of this House were practically unanimous in objecting to the Senate repeating its requests. You, Mr. Chanter, were present during practically the whole of the debate, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. was also present
I take it that some message must be returned by the Senate to this House notifying us of what was done with the Bill relating to the entertainments tax which we sent up recently, even though the Bill was defeated on the second reading. This House must control the public purse, but it does not control it if honorable members concede to the Senate complete power to prevent or remit taxation. If it has that right it has just as much power as we have, and we might as well admit straightway. I, for one, will not admit it. Sub-section 3 of section 53 of the Constitution provides -
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
Every honorable member will admit that, by rejecting the Entertainments Tax Bill, the Senate increases taxation and imposes a burden on the people.
– From this on, how much more willthe people be paying for their amusements than they have been paying hitherto?
– The present Government, of which the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) is a member, decided thatthey would remit this taxation. I am not sure that there was even a division on the question in this House.
– Yes, there was.
– Then, if there was, the opposition to the Government proposals was defeated very easily.
– I have my doubts as to whether it will be defeated next time.
– This House has a right to come to whatever decision it pleases in such a matter; but, in accordance with the terms of theConstitution, the Senate has no such right. I maintain that position distinctly. It may suit some honorable members to say that the Senate has done what they desired should be done, but that is. not carrying out the terms of the Constitution.
– Did the honorable member not read that the Senate has not the right to amend such a measure?
-Sub-section 3 of section 53 of the Constitution provides that-
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
– They did not amend the Bill. They threw it out.
– They threw it out, and thereby imposed taxation on the people.
– They had a right to do it.
– They had no right to do it. It may suit the honorable member, coming from a small State, to’ say that ; but I have referred honorable members to the statement made by Mr. Higgins in the debate from which I have quoted that two-thirds of the Senate represent less than one-third of the population, and people who contribute only one-third of the taxation control twothirds of the members of the Senate.
-What about the division ?
– There was no division on State lines in the Senate, and no division on the question at all, in fact.
– The division in this House was not on State lines either.
– Perhaps not; but the honorable member should not forget that some of the representatives in another place do not poll one-fourth of the votes that are polled by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and by myself as member for Yarra.
– To what State does the honorable member refer ?
– To the ‘‘Cabbage Garden.”
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) is sneering, as usual, because the State which I represent was at one time described by a Premier of New South Wales as the Cabbage Garden.” I did not choose where I was born, and, clever as the honorable member thinks he is, he could not choose where he was born.
I have read what Mr. Higgins said on this question. Personally, I believe that the whole of the entertainments tax should be wiped out. I have never varied in my attitude on that question since 1916. But, whether in favour of the entertainments tax or not, I stand for the supremacy of this Chamber, so far as money Bills are concerned, and exactly where I did in 1902.
– Was the honorable member not a member of the Government that introduced the tax?
– No; I had resigned two days before that proposal was made. The honorable gentleman will not blame me for any proposal made by a Government of which I was not a member. He and I were members of the same party at the time, and I am breaking no confidence when I say, as the letter which I afterwards wrote, and which was seen by a number of members of this House will prove, that I took no part in the discussion of the Budget proposals, because I had left the Ministry. Had I remained a member of the Ministry I should have had to support those proposals or resign because of them. I got out on another matter, and I cannot be blamed for what happened afterwards.
I may be told by some honorable members that I should have made this (protest in connexion with a message, which was received from the Senate last week, relating to the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, but it should be borne in mind that there is a difference between the imposition of a charge for postage or for telegrams, which is a charge for a service rendered, and the taxation imposed by the Entertainments Tax Act. The imposition of a charge for services rendered is not taxation in the ordinary acceptance of the term.
– That is a very fine line to draw.
– It is payment for service rendered, but I am dealing now with a matter which involves taxation pure and simple. In connexion with every Bill sent from this House to another place we should receive a message from the Senate to show what has happened to it. I urge the Government to consider the position of this House, and determine upon what should be done in view of the terms of section 53 of the Constitution.
I had proposed to deal with a number of other matters, but I shall have another opportunity on the Budget, or in connexion with some other debate to refer to them. I urge the Government now to carefully consider the present position, and to guard jealously the rights of this Chamber. Although the Senate is elected by the people, as we are, it is elected by the people divided into
States, and. not on a population basis, as are the members of this House, which the Constitution lays down shall have the sole power, so far as taxation and the origination of money Bills is concerned.
– I can only repeat what was said by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) this afternoon on this very important question. The whole matter will be fully, fairly, and fearlessly considered.
– Hear, hear.
– May I remind the honorablemember that the Senate is not sitting, and we to-day gave them an opportunity to avail themselves of second thoughts and calmer consideration.
– No hope in the world.
– I should expect to hear a remark like that. I have listened to such remarks for twenty years from the honorable member.
– And the Senate keep on doing it.
– He is the great champion of the Senate, and, of course, quite incidentally, he hails from the smallest State in, the Commonwealth. We cannot blame him for always standing sturdily for State rights. I, too, believe in the exercise of State rights. There is one thing quite clear, and it is that in all matters relatingto the control of public expenditure this House must be supreme. That is the scheme of the Constitution. All I can say is that if the Senate exercise all its technical rights under the Constitution without regard to the effect of the exercise of those rights upon that equally fundamental principle of responsible government, a conflict is bound to ensue between these two principles, both of which are necessary to be kept in mind in maintaining the equipoise between the Houses and the balance of the Constitution. I remember that at the outset of Federation this matter was discussed at the Federal Convention. It was said by one prominent member of the Convention that either the Senate would kill responsible government or responsible government would kill the Senate. But for twenty years neither of these things has occurred, because of the good sense of the two Houses, and I am hoping that in the future, as in the past, the moderate and sane opinion of both Chambers will continue to maintain the balance as between the exercise of these powers and the vital principle of responsible government.
– But the action of the Senate in throwing out the Bill completely destroys for the moment any prospect of that compromise.
– Their action has certainly had the effect, among other things, of loading me with £250,000 increased financial responsibility. I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), who quoted theConstitution in order to show that theSenate could not amend money Bills, that on this occasion they have not amended any money Bill.
– By throwing out this Bill they have imposed taxation on the people.
– They have rejected a Bill, but I have not heard that they have imposed taxation. The effect of their action is to maintain a tax already in existence. They have certainly amended the Government’s proposals, but not a money Bill. However, these are all matters requiring most careful consideration, and the honorable member may rest assured that the Government will see that no violence is done to the constitutional power of this House.
– Did not the Government condone the action of the Senate the other night by accepting the amendment they made in the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill?
– I remind the honorable member thatthere is a sharp distinction between a charge and a tax.
– That is too thin.
– It may be too thin for my friend, but it happens to be quite thick enough for the responsible law officers of the Crown. They point out this distinction clearly. I would like the honorable member to tell me what is the difference between purchasing a stamp and putting it on a letter representing a service rendered and a contract made, and the purchase of a railway ticket as evidence of a contract that a certain service shall he renderedby a Railway Department.
– Does the right honorable gentleman contend thatthe Senate are not entitled to reject any money Bill?
– No. On the contrary, I say that theSenate had the right - if it choseto stretch that right - to do what theydid in regard to the postal charges.
– And also in regard to their rejection of the Entertainments Tax Bill?
– The honorable member asks me a question which I prefer not to answer off-hand. There are some novel features in connexion with that particular measure.
– I was wondering whether the Treasurer and the Leader of the Opposition were in agreement on that point.
– We are in agreementon one point, and that is the supremacy of this House in connexion with the imposition of taxation, which is beyond all dispute, and is the scheme of the Constitution. How far it has been violated in this case, or whether it has been violated at all, is a matter for cool reflection.
– It was not my intention to speak on thisBill, because the Treasurer (Sir Joseph’ Cook) has promised that honorable members will have an early opportunity of dealing with the Budget; but, having given considerable attention to the subject of the constitutional powers of the two Houses in respect to money Bills, I do not think I would be doing justice to myself or those who hold views similar to mine if I did not straightway enter a protest against the constitutional law as laid down by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) andby the Treasurer.
– I have laid down no constitutional law.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) was correct when he said that if this House intended to challenge the right of the Senate the time to do so was in connexion with its amendment to the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. With all due deference to the Crown Law officers, I hold that it cannot be contended that a tax imposed in the form of a stamp is not a tax.
– The honorable member is not stating the position correctly. It is not a tax in the form of a stamp ; it is a stamp in the form of payment for service rendered.
– Let us be fair to ourselves. The increased postage rates were put on for the purpose of raising additional revenue. Why, then, attempt to draw silly red herrings across the trail ?
– Revenue is not necessarily taxation. Railway receipts go into revenue, but they are not taxation.
– That is so, but the increased postage rates were deliberately imposed as taxation, and Great Britain lost what are now the United States of America over a stamp tax.
– But not a stamp charge. If the honorable member gives me sixpence and I give him sixpenny worth of service in return, where is the tax?
– I repeat that the increase in the postage rates were imposed as a tax. This House recognised it as such, discussed it as such, and passed it as such. But I want to say a few words on the powers of theSenate. The Leader of the Opposition quoted only a portion of the section of the Constitution.
– What, has he held something back?
– No; but the point is that in all powers, excepting the right to initiate taxation, the Senate stands on a perfect equality with this House, and Sir Samuel Griffith - probably the greatest mind at the Federal Convention - laid down this historic text: that the difference between the power to amend and the power to suggest was nothing, because a strong Senate would insist on itssuggestion, and a weak Senate Would not insist on its amendment. We sent up a Bill, and the Senate refused to pass it. He would be a bold man to say that the Senate has no right to reject any measure that we send them.. It is not a question of the States at all, but a question of the Constitution as it stands to-day, and I venture the opinion that the Government will find it exceedingly difficult to find one authority to say that the Senate has no power to reject any measure sent up from the House of Representatives.
– They have no power to reject a measure to remit taxation.
– That would mean, then, that no matter what taxation we impose, the Senate would never have any power, because it would have no power to increase taxation. But I contend that the Senate has a perfect right to reject a Bill, and I advise the Ministry to be. exceedingly cautious before repeating a very unpleasant experience. There is one way to challenge the Senate. We did so on one occasion, and our experience was such that not very many of us are anxious to repeat it.
– And I tell the honorable member that if I were in the same position as I was then, I would deliberately repeat out action. There is no doubt about that.
– Then, all I can say is that the Treasurer’s attitude reminds me of a story told by Mr. King O’Malley, of a farmer’s bull that ran full tilt at a railway engine. When it was all over, and the farmer had dragged the mangled remains of the animal from the railway line, he remarked that he admired the bull’s courage but very much questioned its discretion. It is idle, and honorable members know it is idle, to talk of challenging the Senate by a double dissolution over the Entertainments Tax Bill. After the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) had expressed their opinions as to the power of the Senate to do certain things I felt it my duty, holding the view I did, to state the other side of the question.
– I do not think there was any conflict of opinion between us.
– Yes, there was; because I contended the Senate had a perfect right to reject that Bill.
– I never questioned that right.
Motion (by Mr. Jowett) negatived -
That the questionbe now put.
.- I do not intend to delay the Committee, but I want to take exception to the distinction which the Treasurer (Sir Joseph
Cook) has drawn between a tax and payment for services rendered. Constitutional history surely shows us that taxation is purely for the purpose of paying for services rendered. . What was the system of government created for except to protect the lives and property and the privileges of its people? The whole foundation of government is that the people shall pay taxes to keep a Ministry in office to protect their rights, their lives, and property. I cannot see any difference between taxation in the ordinary sense of the word and payment for services rendered.
– Then is all railway revenue to be classed as taxation?
– Railway services are not included in the ordinary functions of government. They are outside the ordinary services. The whole basis of government is the raising of revenue by taxation for the maintenance of the rights and privileges and the protection of the lives and property ofits people, and everything that a Ministry does in this way is paid for as for services rendered. I quite fail to see the distinction drawn by the Treasurer, and I am convinced that if this question were referred to constitutional authorities they would not maintain the attitude taken up by the right honorable gentleman.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) reported the receipt of a message from the Senate intimating that it did not insist on the amendments to which the House of Representatives had disagreed.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201007_reps_8_93/>.