8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister when honorable members and the people may expect a statement from him regarding the proposed Constitutional Convention, the manner in which the members of it will be elected, and the approximate date of the election.
– The question has been put to me about twenty times, and on each occasion I have given the answer that I propose to repeat now, which is that as soon as the state of public business will permit, a measure providing for the holding of the Convention will be introduced into this House. The Government, of course, has its own views, for which it will endeavour to obtain acceptance, but there will not be, and ought not to be, any party colour about the measure, and, therefore, we shall accept the decision of Parliament concerning it, and will act on it. It is intended to introduce the Bill before Parliament adjourns for the Christmasholidays, and, should that be humanly possible, to pass it before the adjournment. In any case, it will be introduced before we adjourn, so that honorable members and the country may know what is in it. Should the Bill not be passed before Christmas, it will be dealt with on the reassembling of Parliament after the adjournment, and then every step necessary and proper will be taken to enable the people to express their opinions.
– Last night we listened to in the Queen’s Hall a lecture on Central Australia which left on honorable members a bad impression of the country described, but I understand that the lecturer has slides showing the better side of life out there, and the possibilities of the soil. Therefore, I ask the Minister for Home and Territories if he will arrange with the lecturer for another lecture, to correct the wrong impression created last night?
– I presume that the limitation of time imposed on the lecturer was the reason why only one set of slides was shown last night. Should it be the wishof the House, I shall be pleased to try to arrange for a second lecture.
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways any statement to make regarding the test of a third-rail system, to overcome disadvantages of breaks of gauge, which I understand the Commonwealth arranged with the States to have made. Has anything been done yet?
– It was arranged between Commonwealth and State Ministers that the Victorian Government should provide for the carrying out of a test of a third-rail system on a length of track on the Victorian side of Tocumwal.
– Over what distance? There has already been one test of a third-rail system at Tocumwal.
– The test will be made over a fair length of line, and in a station yard, so as to give a full and complete trial. The last communication on the subject was from the Premier of Victoria, who stated that the matter had been referred to the Victorian Railways . Commissioners for report, advice, and estimates.
– I am not personally interested in the matter, but I should like to know the intention of the Government regarding next Tuesday. Is the House to sit then, or not?
– That is a question at once urgent and important, and, as such, to be welcomed like an oasis in the desert of Sahara. The intention of Ministers is to take such steps as may be necessary and proper to enable the government of the country to be carried on, while at the same time consulting the convenience of members, so that on Tuesday next they may pursue their individual predilections as prospects of pecuniary profit may suggest. The Government will be prepared to favorably considera suggestion for adjourning from Friday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon, but think that the House should meet on Thursday morning to make up for the loss of time on Tuesday. I shall be guided in this matter by the wishes of honorable members. I think that the adjournment over Tuesday will meet with general approval, though one or two may regard it with jaundiced eye. I am rather doubtful about the reception that will be given toa proposal to meet on Thursday morning.
– In view of the very heavy oat crop that is likely to be cut, and the possible consequent slump in the market, will the Minister in charge of shipping endeavour to ascertain whether shipping space can be secured for the transport of oats, so that many of those who are now growing oats for hay may be able to allow the crop to go to seed, to be sold as grain instead of as chaff?
– I have nothing , to do with this matter. The honorable member’s best course would be to address his inquiry to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– Will the Treasurer be good enough to answer the question which I put to him on the motion for the adjournment of the House last evening, as to the reason for the Land Ordinance of 1919, which prohibits transactions of any nature whatever in real property in German New Guinea?
– I promised the honorable member last evening that I would ascertain the facts and state them for him to-day. They are as follow : -
The Ordinance to which the honorable member refers provides that dealings in land shall not be permitted without the consent in writing of the Minister for Defence. Only one application has been received from a British subject, and that is now being dealt with. The Ordinance was passed as a temporary measure to prevent the transfer of land owned by Germannationals.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to make a statement, as promised last week, with regard to the proposed advance upon the coming season’s wheat?
– I am unable to do so, for the good. and sufficient reason that the Premiers have not yet met, nor has the Wheat Board held a meeting. . Friday next has been fixed for the meeting of the Premiers. Together with my right honorable colleague the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), I met the bankers to-day, and they are to let us have an answer on Tuesday. I shall see the Premiers on Friday, and expect, therefore, to be able on Wednesday next to make an announcement.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the Governor-General that, having regard to the decision of the Victoria Racing Club Committee in reference to the issue of tickets to members of this House, it would appear that the privilege of attending the Club’s race meetings is . extended to -him by the Club, not as a courtesy, but as a charity, on the ground that he is not able to afford to pay for admission?
– I shall do nothing of the sort. Why should I?
Tubercular Soldiers - Timber Supplies : Queensland -Soldiers’ Homes : South Australia
asked the Acting Minister forRepatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Mr. WISE (for Mr. Rodgers).- The Commissioner advises as follows: -
The suggestion will receive consideration in conjunction with any proposals submitted for the acquisition of areas to secure the necessary supplies of timber.
asked the Acting Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Mr. WISE (for Mr. Rodgers).- The Commissioner advises as follows: -
Details of the proposals put forward by the South Australian Government have been received, and are now under consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the urgency for adequate provision of electric power on an extensive scale in Australia, and in view of the reply of the Prime Minister that the preparation of a comprehensive power scheme for Australia is a matter for the State Governments, and in view of the fact that many of the waterpower developments would be Inter-State in their incidence, the Prime Minister will take into consideration the advisability of securing the co-ordination and co-operation of the State Governments and their immediate action?
– As I have previously pointed out, the matter is primarily one for consideration by the Governments of the various States. The Commonwealth Government will, however, be glad to cooperate with the States should they so desire.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Who is responsible for the overcrowding of aboriginal children in Central Australia and the unsuitable location of the buildings, as shown in Dr. Basedow’s recent address in the Queen’s Hall, Parliament House, Melbourne?
– The school was established in 1914. There is no record of complaints regarding overcrowding; but on this point and on the matter of location I shall have inquiries made at once.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report thereon, viz. - Now telephone exchange and automatic equipment at Ascot Vale, Victoria.
Owing to the increased number of subscribers at the Ascot Vale Telephone Exchange, the existing equipment, which is becoming obsolete, can no longer be made to serve the area efficiently. It is thereforeproposed to erect a new building on a site which has been acquired for the purpose at the corner of Ascot Vale-road and Gladstone-street, and to provide accommodation for an automatic equip ment which will have an immediate capacity of 2,800 subscribers’ lines, and an ultimate capacity of 8,000. The proposed accommodation is comprised in a simplebrick building of one story, which will contain a switch-room 4,032 square feet in area, battery-room with an area of 480 square feet, a room, for airconditioning plant, of the same size, and a small lunch-room, lavatory, &c. There will also be a linesmen’s-room and office detached from the main building. The floors generally will be of concrete, and that in the switch-room will have a woodblock surface. The walls and ceilings will be cement rendered, and the roof will be of tiles. Generally, the buildings will be highly fire resisting, and as nearly as practicable dust proof. The estimated cost of the work is £5,418, to which will require to be added the cost of airconditioning plant - £1,500 - making a total of £6,918. The estimated total cost of the project, including site, buildings, and mechanical and electrical equipment, is £84,186.
At present there are existing in Sydney twelve automatic exchanges, namely, Ashfield, Balmain, Burwood, Chatswood, City North, Glebe, Homebush, Lidcombe, Mosman, Newtown,. Parramatta, and Vaucluse. In Melbourne there are only three automatic exchanges - Brighton, Malvern, and Collingwood.
– There is no automatic exchange in Collingwood.
– Its erection has been authorized.
– The land has merely been acquired.
– It is proposed to establish automatic exchanges in Victoria at Ascot Vale, Box Hill, Canterbury, North Melbourne, and South Melbourne. In Sydney,five of these exchanges are to be established, namely, at WilliamPaddington, Randwick, Gordon, Waverley, and City South. In Brisbane three exchanges are to be erected, namely, at Albion, Newmarket, and South Brisbane. The plans and specifications are ready, and I am asking honorable members to deal with this matter at once, as the Government are anxious to get the proposal before the Public Works Committee, with a view to providing employment at the earliest possible moment.
– Cannot we erect all these buildings in the Federal Territory?
– Probably at some time in the distant future all the State capitals will be suburbs of the Federal Territory. I beg to lay upon the table of the House the plans and the necessary information required by the Act.
– I should like to hear from the Minister an explanation as to why the connexion of a considerable number of subscribers with the new automatic exchange in Sydney is refused, upon the ground that the Department does not possess the necessary automatic equipment, whilst simultaneously proposals to erect automatic telephone exchanges in new centres are being placed before Parliament. It is well known to the Postal Department that a great deal of inconvenience has been caused in Sydney by reason of the fact that the promise of the Government to connect subscribers within a definite area with the new exchange has not been honoured, and that the newer applications for connexions have been refused. The result is that when one subscriber desires to communicate with another, it is not sufficient that he should know the area within which that subscriber is located, but he must also know whether he is a new or an old subscriber. I gathered from figures supplied by the Department a little time ago that during the period of shortage of telephone material there has not been that fair distribution of material which one had a right to expect. In every instance, Melbourne in particular, and Victoria in general, have been given a preference over other capitals and States, in the allotment of the material which was available. Here is another instance of a big expenditure being asked for works close to Melbourne, while the requirements of the Sydney exchange, which was authorized a year ago, have not been met. “We ha.ve had upon the business-paper yesterday and to-day three proposals for expenditure upon works in Victoria,’ two of which are works of very doubtful urgency. The third proposal is one to establish new automatic exchanges in Victoria, when the Department is unable to give subscribers connexion with the new automatic exchange in Sydney.
– I agree with the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). I think ‘ that there should be no money spent in Victoria. Any money which there may be to spare should be expended in New South Wales. When we realize that New South Wales is the only part of Australia which should be considered at all - and we have had strong evidence of that in the speech of the honorable member who has ‘just resumed his seat - I wonder that the Government have the temerity to suggest that any money should be expended in Victoria. Personally, I do not care what the honorable member may say in that connexion. I have too much confidence in the good sense of the House to take any notice of his remarks. If I could do so without a breach of parliamentary procedure I would attach a prefix to the word “notice.” .It is individuals like the honorable member who lend colour to the assertion that there is a lot of .parochial feeling in Australia.
– There is not.
– Unfortunately, in Victoria we have individuals who think that any money which is expended outside of this State is absolutely wasted, and in that view they are supported by the press of Victoria. I object to representatives of New South Wales strengthening this parochial feeling by taking exception to any expenditure that may be proposed in this State. It is that sort of attitude which induces Victorians to take exception to expenditure upon Canberra. Surely it is time that we took a broader view of things. The honorable member for Illawarra is playing right into the hands of those who talk economy so far as any other State but their own is concerned. I hope that honorable members will not follow the example” set by the honorable member yesterday. His exhibition then was disgusting.
– I withdraw the remark. To me the exhibition indulged in by the honorable member yesterday was very unwelcome. I hope that no other honorable member will follow his example by viewing this question from the standpoint of . “ You scratch my back and I will scratch yours. If you vote for expenditure in my State, I will vote for expenditure in your State.”
.- Before the Postmaster-General replies to the question which has been raised by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), I desire to ask him whether it is not a fact that in metropolitan areas outside of New South Wales, people are applying to be connected with the automatic telephone exchanges, and their applications are being refused?
– The figures submitted by the Department show that the number pf connexions in New South Wales is not in the same ratio as is the number of connexions in Victoria.
– I am not anxious that preference should be given to any particular State. Representations have been made to me, not merely by my own constituents, but by > persons outside of my electorate, of the difficulties “which they are experiencing in securing connexion with the automatic exchange. Only the other day a manufacturer who resides in my electorate applied for telephone connexion, and was informed thai it would not be possible to grant his application within the next six months.
– There are applications in New South Wales which have not been granted, although they were made more than twelve months ago.
– Some applications in Victoria were made more than two years ago. If the system of establishing automatic exchanges in different centres around Melbourne will relieve the present congestion, upon the Lonsdalestreet exchange, which possesses more than 12,000 subscribers, it will have a very beneficial effect. “We undertook the task of undergrounding the whole of our telephone wires some years ago - I believe eight - but it is now said that the tunnels are too small to convey the whole of the necessary wires. I cannot credit that statement. I should have expected the authorities to look ahead at least twenty or thirty years, or even longer, when the work was begun, because telephoning is becoming far more popular, notwithstanding the increase in the charges. When Senator Thomas was Postmaster-General he put the charge up to Id. per call, and it was said then that people would disconnect their telephones, but, as a matter of fact, there has been more connecting ever since. Whether a man has a telephone in his private house or in his business place, he finds that he cannot do without it. That has been the experience of . most of us who have had telephones for any length of time. The only time we do not want it is when we are going away for a holiday, but even then we find that people can discover our whereabouts, and ring us up.’ I have no doubt the Postmaster-General will be able to answer the speech of the honorable member for Illawarra. If he can, I think it will allay any suspicion that may exist in the mind of the public that fair treatment is not being meted out to the various parts of Australia. If the Public Works Committee find that an automatic exchange is necessary at Ascot Vale, I have no doubt they will say so, but if they find that it is not necessary, as an Australian Committee, looking at things from an Australian stand-point, they should have no hesitation in turning it down.
– I object to the Department stating that they have no material to complete the Sydney exchanges, and then proposing to put up one in Melbourne.
– It takes a long time to construct an exchange, and probably well over twelve months will elapse from the starting of the work before the first conversation takes place through it. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) stated that there were three automatic exchanges in the Melbourne metropolitan area. These were Malvern and ‘ Brighton, and the proposed exchange at Collingwood.
– The Collingwood Exchange is not up yet.
– Not a brick of the building has been laid 184 and it is safe to say that no progress is being made with that work. I trust the Postmaster.General will give the House some information as to. what is being done in the whole of the States, so that we can see that fair play is being meted out everywhere - not only to the towns, but to the country districts also.
– I can only say generally at the present time that fair play is being meted out to all the States. I do not propose to go further into that matter without the actual figures. I shall take the opportunity of getting the actual figures in reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), which I know will be shown to be absolutely inaccurate. -I cannot understand him making such a speech in view of the statement of my colleague (Mr, Groom) in moving this motion, that at the present time there are twelve automatic exchanges in and around Sydney, and that in Melbourne there are only three, including one which is now about *o be built. In face of that fact, the honorable member says that everything is being done in Victoria. Five new exchanges are proposed for Melbourne, five for Sydney, and three for Brisbane, but none of these has been started yet. I cannot understand how anybody can assert, in view of the fa’ct that Melbourne has only two automatic telephone exchanges in operation and one in course of building, while Sydney and suburbs have twelve, that everything is being done in Melbourne and nothing in Sydney.
– The whole of the telephoning is not done by means of automatic exchanges.
– That was not the complaint. This is a proposal to build an automatic exchange.
– Do you propose to erect any in Tasmania?
– There is no such proposal at present. Had I known that the honorable member for Illawarra was going to bring this grievance up this afternoon - and I ought to have known it - I should have had all the figures here ; but I promise that I shall get the exact figures, which will show how very incorrect his statements are.
– The Minister has not answered the question I asked. I asked why the connexions cannot be made to the new automatic exchange in Sydney, while material is available for this work.
– I have already said that I shall obtain a complete answer for the honorable member next week. I do not wish to make any statements that are not absolutely accurate. In reply, to the remark of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) about the tunnels that were put in in Melbourne for the undergrounding of the telegraph and telephone wires, I have not heard any report about their being too small, but
I shall make inquiries into that matter also.
.- I support the proposal of tie Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) to refer the proposed work to the Public Works Committee, because I consider that the installation of the automatic telephone system throughout Australia will be a great step forward. It is a system that should not be restricted to any one State, and an endeavour should be made to have similar exchanges established everywhere. While pleased to see the Minister taking the step of referring this work to the Committee, I think he should also see that proposals are made for the extension of the automatic system to other States which do not yet possess it.
– Do you not think the Postmaster-General ought to finish the Sydney exchanges before he starts on a number of new ones ‘(
– I am not making any kick about Sydney in that particular matter. I think Sydney is progressing fairly well so far as having automatic exchanges established there is concerned. They could certainly be a great deal better; but, still, there they are. The establishment of automatic telephones will be such a! boon to the people of Australia generally that we should not cavil at, or raise any objection to, their extension to the whole of the States. I not only support the Minister’s proposal to establish this exchange in Victoria, but I strongly urge him to bring forward proposals to put in hand the erection of similar exchanges, in South Australia and Tasmania as speedily as possible.
– Hobart is a big city now.
– Certainly. Surely the commercial community of Hobart are not going to stand still and be satisfied with obsolete methods of telephonic communication. They must desire the installation of a more up-to-date system in their city. The progress of commercial activities in recent years, not only in Hobart, but in the rest of Tasmania, has been most remarkable.
– Is not the Hobart exchange the best-worked in the Commonwealth ?
– It does not matter if it is the best on the old system or not. The automatic system is more up to date, and will give more efficiency in working to the commercial community. The people of Tasmania ought to be urging very strongly the establishment of automatic exchanges in their districts. Honorable members representing South Australian electorates ought also to be putting in a claim for their cities. Even members of the Cabinet who come from South Australia make no move towards the establishment of this uptodate means of telephonic communication in that State. If they are not alive to their responsibilities, honorable members who represent divisions in the State should rise to theirs, and urge on the Government the desirability of an extension of the system. Business communities cannot stand still, but must move with the times if they are to hold their own in the commercial activities of the present day. It should not be left to the representatives of other States to agitate the claims of South Australia and Tasmania.
– “ Tatts.’’ is going to get the first wireless telephone.
– That may be so; but wireless telephony is only in its experimental stages, and the people of Tasmania will have to wait a long time if they are to be without improved communication until that system is perfected. This, I am sure, the people of Tasmania, with their spirit of progress, are not prepared to do. We should not restrict automatic exchanges to Melbourne and Sydney and suburbs, but provide them in all the capitals and suburbs of Australia.
– Even in the country.
– There is a great future for telephony in the country; where automatic exchanges would,’ indeed, be a boom to settlers. One of the greatest drawbacks to country life is the fact that the telephone system in existence now can be used only during restricted hours, owing to the fact that the physical and mental fatigue entailed on the attendants by long hours necessitates the exchanges being closed at intervals. As “a result of this, the country people are denied the conveniences and facilities that are enjoyed in the cities. All country representatives should take advantage of this opportunity to put in a plea for the establishment of automatic exchanges throughout the country districts of the Commonwealth. The advantages of such an extension must be apparent to all. With automatic exchanges, settlers, could get into communication one with the other at all hours of the day or night, with no restrictions imposed by holidays or lack of attendants or other reasons. I trust that the Minister in charge (Mr. Groom) will take note of what has been said this afternoon, and will consult with his officers with a view to immediate steps being taken to install the automatic system wherever possible. Representatives of Tasmania and South Australia, and also representatives of country districts generally, should take care this afternoon to give the Minister the benefit of their knowledge and experience of the disabilities that are suffered under present conditions.
.- I support the proposal of the Minister (Mr. Groom), because I regard it as one which will pay if carried into effect. I should like to know, however, whether the Department has considered the advisability of erecting these exchanges of concrete instead of bricks, in view of the high cost of the latter. It would be advisable, I think, to have experiments made to see whether concrete is ‘ not really the cheaper material for this purpose. In New South Wales, concrete cottages are being erected at about half the cost of brick cottages, and the Public Works Committee ought not to be hampered in any recommendations they may desire to make.
– The Committee is not in any way hampered.
– Another question is whether it is advisable to install expensive automatic machinery, in view of the demonstration we had the other week in the Queen’s Hall of the possibilities of wireless telephony. On that occasion, the audience heard quite plainly the voice of a lady singing at Brighton, although it was a night of storm and electrical disturbance. If wireless telephony is going to make the great advance that is expected, inquiries ought to be made before incurring great expense in the provision of automatic exchanges. Wireless telephony is making gigantic strides all over the world, particularly in America; and if we proceed now to erect buildings under the old system, we may not be able to take advantage of the wireless system when it is perfected. Has the Postmaster-General made any inquiries into the possibilities of wireless telephony ?
– The Postmaster-General is looking into the matter now.
– I will assist the PostmasterGeneral in every effort he makes to provide better facilities for the people in any State, and I hope that very soon the Post Office will redeem its name, and supply the public with the means of communication to which they are entitled. Many complaints have been made about the Sydney telephone system. Dozens of people in my electorate have paid deposits for telephones as far back as nine months ago, but have not yet been connected with any exchange. I think it is the better policy to complete one exchange before setting up a number of new exchanges all over the place, none of which can at present be completed.
..- While I raise no objection to the provision of telephonic facilities anywhere in the Commonwealth, I object to the partiality which has been displayed by the Post and Telegraph Department towards certain portions of Australia. There is no part of Australia which has made greater progress during the last few years than Newcastle, both in the expenditure of private capital and in increase of population. But while suburbs of Melbourne or Sydney can get all the advantages derived from the establishment of automatic telephones, it is a most difficult matter for new works or new mercantile establishments in the Newcastle district even to get connected with an exchange. ‘ A national view ought to be taken in this regard, and service should be given where it is most needed, whether in country districts or elsewhere. No doubt our future telephone exchanges will be automatic, but I must protest against further expenditure in this direction in cities until a wider view is taken of the development of the scheme. The present position of the Post and Telegraph Department is due to the fact that during the war period it was unnecessarily starved. If any saving had to be effected, it was the first to suffer. The consequence is that equipment which could have been purchased at a reasonable cost during that period of starvation can only be obtained now that it is wanted at three times its former cost. ‘I hope the Postmaster-General will recognise that there are other places to be served besides Sydney and Melbourne, and will look further abroad - to districts where the real development of Australia is taking place.
– I cannot understand the necessity for proceeding with the construction of additional telephone exchanges when we have not the material to equip them. The reply given by the Department to any person who makes an application for a telephone is that, although it is anxious to meet tlie wishes of the would-he subscriber, it, is unable to do so because certain material is not available. People in outlying country districts are pining for the want of telephonic communication between homesteads and the different townships, yet cities, which are already well provided with telephonic facilities, can be given new exchanges.
– The automatic telephone will simply replace the manual system. The fact that there is delay in getting material is surely no reason for neglecting to improve what we already have by connecting existing subscribers with an automatic system.
– The Minister’s attitude is most peculiar. I know two friends of mine iu Melbourne who have been waiting for eighteen months in order to get connected with a telephone exchange. How can these people be connected with an automatic exchange if the Department cannot provide them with telephones now?
– We are installing an automatic exchange in order to do so.
– I can give an instance where an exchange could be established in the western district of Queensland. Augathella is the centre of one of the richest pastoral districts in the Commonwealth. The people of that place want a continuous telephone exchange, but in order to get it they will be required to pay hundreds of pounds every year. As the Government install automatic exchanges in suburbs of the big cities, the instruments taken out could be well used in the country, and the money of the settlers saved. The Government will spend thousands of pounds to improve city communications, but will not spend 5s. to give country people better facilities. The residents of Augathella applied to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Brisbane for a continuous exchange, but the amount required by that official was appalling. I know it is of no use for me to appeal to the Government to give the people outback better facilities, but I intend to “ plug on.” Instead of erecting exchanges in the big centres, where the people have already ample accommodation, why should not the Government confer on country folk some few of the benefits enjoyed by city residents? We are willing to pay for them. Any charges that may be made will be met; but we want something more than promises, such as we have had to put up with in the past.
-Some of the discontinued mail services have been restored outback.
– Yes, I will say that for the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise).He has restored many of the mail deliveries which had been stopped, and he has brought joy to the hearts of lots of good people. There are constituents of mine who would be willingto pay for the installation of wireless telephony. One of these gentlemen told me he would be willing to pay “ a couple of thousand “ to secure that system of communication with the outside world ; he is isolated near the South Australian border. I recently obtained some information from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) regarding wireless sets; and I may say that some of the people in the interior of Queensland are now making use of wireless. They get into communication with the Townsville station, from which place their telegrams are sent out to various sources. But why should private enterprise have to do all this? Telephony and telegraphy are Government monopolies throughout the Commonwealth.
– But the Government cannot make a monopoly of wireless.
– They have done so.
– That is provided in the Act.
– True; but this is all irrelevant to the motion.
– Even if it is, I am surprised that the Minister, in his capacity as representative of the Darling Downs, should endeavour to block this discussion. If anybody should be interested in the subject, it is the honorable member and his constituents.
– True again; but I want to get my motion through.
– And I want to secure for my constituents some form of communication with the outside world. I hope, before many months, to see the vast western portion of Queensland brought into direct communication with the people of the eastern parts, either through wireless telephony or telegraphy.
– I have no objection to the motion whatever, because, without doubt, telephone communications, both in the cities and in the country, are lamentably deficient. I hope to see an extension of our systems at the most rapid pace possible, in all directions. During the past year or two we have been continually told of the impossibility of making various country connexions on account of lack of material, particularly of telephone instruments. With the alterations being carried out in metropolitan services, thousands of old telephone instruments should be made available for use in the country for part-time services. These ought to provide immediate relief in many places where the people have had to be content for years with nothing but promises. Even if the dismantled city instruments are obsolete they would be a great deal better than nothing in the country. Meanwhile, we can only look forward to that happy day when there will be automatic exchanges throughout the land, or wireless sets installed everywhere. Meanwhile, the people outback will be very pleased to have these old city instruments installed. With regard to wireless telephony, during the past two weeks I have been trying to get from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) some i consideration of a comprehensive power-scheme for the whole of Australia, which would enable wireless telephony to become a commonplace throughout the length and breadth of the land. Time after time definite replies from Ministers have been deferred by references to State Governments. If there is one thing more than another that affects the Federal Government, it is telegraphic and telephonic communication. I would like to urge, on this question alone, the necessity of establishing water power stations throughout the country between Cairns in the north, and Adelaide or Melbourne in the south. This motion should be considered from the point of view of installing adequate wireless telephonic communication.
– Yes, because it is the com- ing system.
– It is; and unless we have power schemes which -will enable us to make the fullest possible use of our wasted water, satisfactory progress cannot be made. The disabilities mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) could be removed if such a system were installed on the Clarence River.
– Order ! The debate on this motion is becoming irrelevant, and I must ask the honorable member to -discuss the question before the Chair.
– I regret that I have strayed somewhat from the motion, which I am quite prepared to support.. But, at the same time, I urge the Government, when increasing the facilities in the cities, to give consideration to the services in numerous country districts, which are now quite inadequate, and which need extending in a rapid manner.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work : - Erection of Note Printing Office, Victoria-parade, Fitzroy, which said work was referred to the Public Works Committee, and the Committee has duly reported to this House the result of its inquiries thereon:
With a. view to enabling Parliament to sanction the carrying out of public works, after due investigation had been made, a Public Works Committee Act was passed. Some time ago, I introduced a motion into the House referring the ‘question of erecting a Note Printing Office upon a site in Victoriaparade, Melbourne, to the Public Works Committee. At that time the House asked that the Committee might be empowered to make a general inquiry regarding sites, and the Government consented to the proposal. The object was to enable the Committee, as a judicial body, after taking evidence and weighing all the facts, to report to the House where the building should be erected, and whether the work should be proceeded with. The question was referred to the Public Works Committee, which took evidence concerning the suitability of several sites, and reported to this House that it was expedient to proceed’ with the erection of a building upon a site in Victoria-parade. The Committee further reported that it was a matter of urgency that this particular work should be proceeded with at once, quite apart from the locality. If. any honorable members are opposed to the site, I ask them to read the evidence, study ‘the report, and to give their verdict after having done so. According to the case presented to the Committee, and to the report presented to this House, a just decision has been arrived at. First of all, I ask honorable members to consider the nature of the building which it is proposed to construct. The proposal now under, consideration is to erect a fire-resisting building of modern construction to replace, the building in the Flinders-street extension. It is proposed that the building, which is designed on the lines of the British and United States note printing offices, shall be of four stories and a half sunk basement, with brick, walls, reinforced concrete floors, floor supports,, large rooms the full width of the building, with steel and wire divisions between the various printing, machines, and a flat concrete roof. The other details are set out in the report. The estimated cost of the building is £44,200, including all engineering services - lighting, heating, and lifts. To this should be added the laying, of electric mains, £1,600, and moving and installing machinery, £2,000, making a total of £47,800. The Committee have made certain suggestions by which that amount could be slightly reduced. I ask honorable members, first of all, to consider whether the building at present in use is adequate. A portion which was used for stamp-printing purposes originally comprised one-half of the old brick King’s Warehouse, which is situated some distance from all means of communication, and surrounded by gas works and railway yards. On one side, there is a Customs store, where inflammable materials are stored.
– Who was the genius who selected that site?
– It was selected in 1908, and later, when it was decided to undertake the printing of notes, the Note Printer was placed in the same building. The activities in this connexion developed considerably, when it became necessary to erect a temporary iron structure. The position now is that the Note Printer is accommodated in a building absolutely inadequate for the purpose, and of such a character that he cannot do his work efficiently. In addition, the work is being carried, on under conditions which have been reported as dangerous.
– Is it an old building?
– Yes. The building ism such an unsatisfactory position that there is a serious deterioration of plant and stock, due to fumes, dust, &c.
– What will the extensions cost?
– The old building cannot be extended, but about £47,800 was estimated for a new structure. To give an idea of the activities of this Department, I may mention that its operations include the production of Commonwealth notes, stamp’s, war gratuity bonds, war bonds, and postal notes. Yesterday I had an opportunity of inspecting the work, and I was informed by the Note Printer that about 270 people are crowded in the buildings.
– It is in a most dangerous position.
– Yes, and on that aspect of the question I would like honorable members to listen to the evidence of Mr. Lee, the Chief Officer of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, which appears on page 13 of the Committee’s report. We must recognise the necessity of having a noteprinting establishment where there is little risk of fire. Mr. Lee, in his evidence, said -
I recognise’ the necessity for the note issue being in a place where there is very little risk of fire. To my mind, the chosen site is an ideal one from that stand-point. The adjoining risk is practically nil, and there is no likelihood of that risk ever increasing, because the site is surrounded by residential properties. The fire risk in connexion with the old’ building is a very considerable one - I am speaking now of the internal risk. The departmental officials have shown me some rough plans of the proposed new building, and from these I have formed the opinion that the structure will be one of the finest specimens of fire-resisting construction to be found in Australia. … In case of an outbreak of fire in the present Commonwealth Note Printing Office, there is very grave danger to the girls who are employed there. I have already reported that this risk is such that under our State Factories Act it would not be tolerated for a single day.
I am asking the House to end this state of affairs. All the precautions that are possible are being taken by the officer in charge of the works. I ask honorable members to study the evidence of Mr. Harrison, who said -
I have the printing of all the securities of the Commonwealth, besides the Australian notes, bonds, war-saving certificates, including postage stamps, postal notes, brewers’ duty stamps, entertainment tax tickets, &c. . . I was told in London that a first class building awaited me. Instead of that I found a rat-hole of a place, with broken floors and dust some inches deep on them. This was the old King’s. Warehouse, in Flinders-street extension. . . . The present -premises are quite insufficient for the machinery necessary for our purposes. . . . The present premises are most unsuitable for our work. … I pointed out that, in the event of the destruction of the factory by fire, the disadvantage to the Commonwealth would be not so much the monetary loss involved as the dislocation of the whole of the work and the inability to replace for many years our plant and equipment. . . .
He stated that Mr. Lee had pointed out to him the danger from fire, and he further emphasized the unsuitability of the building for various reasons. In the first place, it is in a moist locality, and the dampness is detrimental to the work done there. The building is invaded by the noxious sulphur fumes from the gasworks, and those have an injurious effect upon the more delicate processes. Furthermore, dust is continually being blown into the building, and is causing rapid deterioration of some of the plant, including the working plates, to the extent of 50 per -cent. If honorable members would only visit the works and see some of the delicate mechanism installed there, they would realize the absolute unsuitability of the locality for work of this kind. There cannot be the slightest doubt as to the necessity for removing from that site, because of the grave fire risks and the unsuitable environment, which injuriously affects both the operations and the plant. Moreover, the works are most inconvenient of access. They are a long way from the railways and the trams, and Mr. Harrison informed me ‘that his girls are resigning at the rate of one per day, and that it is most difficult for him to retain the staff. As it is clear that the establishment must be shifted, the next point to consider is the most suitable position to which the works can bc transferred. The debate that took place in this House raised, in a purely impartial spirit, the question as to whether or not the note-printing works should be transferred to Canberra; incidentally, the claims of Sydney were also mentioned. The Public Works Committee took evidence upon this matter, and its report is clear and emphatic.
– What was the personnel of the Committee?
– The members who served on the Committee when this matter was being investigated were Senators Henderson, Needham, and Newland, and Messrs. Gregory, Mathews, ‘ Sampson, Laird Smith, and Sinclair. The motion in favour of the Victoria-parade site was adopted by the Committee by seven votes to one, Mr. Sinclair being the dissentient. The Committee reported against removing the factory to Canberra, and gave several reasons for that recommendation. First of all, even if it be assumed that Canberra is the ultimate site to which the note-printing works should be removed, the present position is so urgent that works must be established in Melbourne for the time being. Therefore, the ultimate situation is not relevant to the question of an immediate site. We are advised that it is absolutely essential that the works shall be transferred at once to the site in Victoria-parade. * Inquiries were made in Melbourne with a view to discovering any State Government building, Commonwealth building, or private building, in which the works could be temporarily housed; but the Committee found, as the result of investigations made by officers of the Home and Territories Department, that no suitable building could, be found. Sydney was dismissed from mind for the same reason. ‘The Committee visited that city, and could discover no building that would adequately house the note-printing works for a temporary occupation. Therefore, the erection of a new building on the site recommended is a matter of urgency. Should the proposed buildings be erected on the Victoria-parade site, there need be no fear that the Commonwealth may not get adequate value for them in the future, in the event of having to realize. Merely as a temporary arrangement it would be cheaper to carry out the proposed work than to go to Canberra forthwith. That, apparently, is the view taken by the Public Works Committee. The reasons why the Note Printing Office cannot be removed to Canberra immediately are very strong, and, in the face of them, honorable members must ask themselves whether they would take the responsibility of voting for the change to Canberra at the present time. In the first place, to make such a change would dislocate the work of the printing operations. The existing plant would have to be dismantled, and about 2,000 tons of material would have to be removed to Canberra, where, in addition to special buildings for its reception, you would have to erect homes for those employed in the Stamp Printing Office.
– Those seem arguments in favour of a transfer to Canberra.
– They are arguments against a transfer at the present time. According to an estimate contained in the Public Works Committee’s report, .it would mean an expenditure of £186,265 to transfer the works to Canberra, all of which would, of course, not be spent on the note-printing building.
– That estimate was made more than twelve months ago.
– That is the amount of money that is to be spent in Melbourne that ought to be spent in Canberra. Who made the estimate?
– It was prepared by responsible officers. I ask the House to deal with this proposal on its merits. It is estimated that it would cost much more to remove the Note Printing Office to Canberra than to remove it to the proposed site in Victoria-parade.
– ‘Can you give any reason for that difference?
– It is explained in part by the distance of Canberra from Melbourne, and its isolation.
– All the material needed for building is on the spot at Canberra.
– If the- Note Printing Office were immediately removed to Canberra, it would mean, as I have said, dislocation of the work of note printing, and would take the Note Printing Office away from immediate touch with the Treasury, which is regarded as important. At the present time a staff of some 270 persons is employed in the office; and, were the office to be removed to Canberra, arrangements would have to be made for housing those persons there. This is included in the estimate of £186,000. According to a Treasury estimate that has been given to me, the cost of administration would be increased by from £6,000 to £7,000 a- year were the office removed to Canberra, because adults would have to be employed in place of juniors, particularly among the female employees.
– And the employees would demand extra wages for living at Canberra.
– I do not stress that point.
I must not be taken to be speaking now against the ultimate transfer of the Note Printing Office to Canberra; I am dealing only with the immediate necessities of the position. It is imperative to move the Stamp Printing Office from its present site at the earliest date. If premises could be leased for the accommodation of the plant and staff, that would be considered, but no suitable buildings are available.
– What is the estimate of the cost of removing the Note Printing Office to the Victoria-parade site? The actual cost would be higher now than it ‘ would have’ been twelve months ago.
– No doubt that might le so, because of the increase of wages that has taken place during the last twelve month’s; but that increase would affect the cost whatever the site adopted. Tlie Public Works Committee say in paragraph 10 of their report -
It was patent to the Committee that, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, the establishment should be removed from its present quarters with as little delay as possible. The premises constitute a very grave fire risk by reason of the fact that several of the buildings are of a temporary character, and are not only in danger of fire on account of the nature of the. materials used in the process of note printing, but are contiguous to the Customs shed, where inflammable materials are stored, and where smoking is indulged in.. Id the event of a fire occurring, there is a possibility of serious loss of lue, especially amongst the female employees, on account of the limited, opportunities for escape from the building, added to which the destruction of certain machines which are obtainable only from abroad would seriously interfere with the output of the establishment. The damp atmosphere of the neighbourhood is said to be a disadvantage to the work earned out, while the fumes from the near-by gasworks not only have the effect of tarnishing and so shortening the life of what is claimed to be tlie finest machinery of its kind in the world, but also have a damaging effect on certain of the colours used in the printing of the note issue.
The Committee point out that economies would1 be effected by the immediate transfer of the note printing establishment to another site. The Customs- Department has notified the Treasury Department that it needs for the purposes of a bonded warehouse the building, now occupied by the Note Printing Office, and expects to make at least £2,000 a year out of it, that being a conservative estimate. There will also be a saving, according to the Committee/- of £622 in connexion with the sorting of notes, which, together with the £2,000 to be earned by the Customs capitalized at 6 per cent., would amount to £43,700, or nearly the sum proposed to be spent on the erection of buildings at Victoria-parade.
– Is it proposed to demolish the buildings now on the Victoria-parade site?
– No. About 120 young women are now being employed there in note .sorting. The Treasury officials report that “ the existing buildings on the rear of the site can be profitably used for a number of years by the Notes Branch, thus effecting a saving of about £5,000 a year in rents.”
– That is an absurd estimate, on the face of it. The new buildings to be put- up would be barely worth a rental of £5,000 a year.
– I think that tha Treasury officials know what they are talking about. Let me summarize the arguments that I have put before the House. The Public Works Committee report that the removal of the Stamp Printing Office from its present site is urgently necessary, and give grave reasons for that statement ; among others, deterioration of plant and material, and the loss of efficiency under the conditions under which the note printing is done at present. In these circumstances, we have to decide where the office should be transferred to. In neither Sydney nor Melbourne are there buildings available for temporary occupation.
– That was twelve months ago.
– The position is no better to-day.
– Is it intended that the Commonwealth Bank shall control the printing of the notes when it controls the issue of them?
– I am not prepared toanswer the question, and I do not think it material, because you must continue printing the notes, and cannot afford to have the work interrupted. I have shown that to transfer the office to Canberra at the present time would mean a considerable interruption, and would not be economical. Should the occupancy of the Victoria-parade site be only temporary, the arrangement would still be financially sound.
– That was said twelve months ago.
– It is equally true today. The Committee have since investi gated the whole matter, and have supported that statement. I do not wish to deal at greater length with the question. 1 have directed the attention of honor.able members to the leading points in the evidence, and would refer them also to the evidence given by Mr. Murdoch. I would invite them, indeed, to read the whole report together with the evidence, and feel satisfied that, on doing so, they will be forced to the conclusion that it rs in the interests of the Commonwealth that the Note Printing Office should be transferred forthwith to the site in Victoriaparade, Fitzroy.
.- It is amusing to listen to the arguments advanced by the Minister (Mr. Groom) in submitting this motion. He has declared that the work is urgent, and that it would be impossible to erect the Note Printing Office at Canberra. He tells us that this is not an opportune time for the establishment of such, an office at the Federal Capital, and that it would be impracticable to do so. I would remind the House that the very same arguments were advanced by the honorable gentleman twelve months ago. He told us then that the time was not opportune to establish this office at Canberra; that the cost of erecting the building there would be altogether too great, and that when something had been done towards establishing the Capital we might very well take action to set up Commonwealth activities there. This House must definitely make uy> its mind whether it is going to honour the compact in regard to the establishment of the Seat of Government at Canberra. There can be no escape from that position. Honorable members must be either ‘ for or against the proposal. There has been much camouflage in regard to the difficulty of housing employees at Canberra. What the Minister has said to-day, he said twelve months ago in this Hou6e, and, if the matter were deferred for ten years, he would then, no> doubt, repeat the statement. I believe that the great majority of honorable members are determined that the compact shall be honoured, and will refuse to listen to the cry as to the time not being ripe for the erection of the Note Printing Office at the Federal Capital. The Minister has referred to the report of the Public Works Committee. Let me give the House, from that report, a quotation which the honorable gentleman failed to read. It is stated on page 9 that -
The Committee has been somewhat hampered by the absence of any information as to when the Seat of Government is likely to be transferred from Melbourne to Canberra.
This report was presented on 7th October, 1919.
– Will the honorable member read the whole of the paragraph from which he has quoted ?
– Certainly. I think it would be to the advantage of the House if I read the whole report.
– As one who was a member of the Public Works Committee when it inquired into this matter, and who is aware of the conditions under which the employees in the Note Printing Office are working, would not the honorable member advise the House to make arrangements at once for the transfer of those employees to a new building ?
– We should take immediate steps . to establish the office at Canberra.
– It is cruel to compel the employees to work in the present building.
– It was cruel twelve months ago to compel them to do so. Had the House agreed to the proposal, -bich I and those who think with me then submitted, the Note Printing Office would, by this time, have been erected at Canberra, and the employees would nave been housed under proper conditions.
– They would be happier and healthier there than they are here.
– Far more so. Witness after witness gave evidence before the Committee that no difficulty would be experienced in establishing the Note Printing Office at Canberra. We were told that there was an abundant supply of building material and ample opportunities for the comfortable housing of the employees there. Arrangements could be made almost immediately to house them at Queanbeyan, which is adjacent to the site. We were also told that there was ample labour available in the Territory for employment by the Commonwealth.
I invite honorable members to analyze the estimate put before the Committee asto the cost of transferring the Note Printing Office to Canberra. It is loaded up in every conceivable way with the object of damning the proposal to erect the building there. The first item in the estimate is “ 100 brick houses, £60,009.” 0n tae face of it, that estimate is ridiculous. It is also absurd to charge against the building of the Note Printing Office at Canberra the cost of erecting those cottages. If we intend to build the Capital, work- men’s cottages must be erected, and to charge the cost of their erection against one particular Commonwealth activity is utterly unreasonable. Thus, this first item in the list is unfair.
– And must go out.
– Undoubtedly. The next item provides for an expenditure of £1,500 on fencing in the building. That also is absurd. Then we have the item, “ Two hostels, £10,000 each.” For what purpose would these hostels be used? I think the word “ hostels “ is a printers error for “ hotels.”
– The honorable member was a member of the Public Works Committee when we inquired into this matter, but he did not ask a question in regard to it. He was not even present when a vote was taken on the subject. It was a most discourteous action on his part.
– The honorable member, as chairman of the Committee, knows that I was stricken down with influenza when this matter was under its consideration, and that it was not possible for me to attend its meetings at the time. Honorable members generally .are aware that I was seriously ill - that I went close 0 passing away - on that occasion, and it is therefore grossly unfair that I should be charged with discourtesy to the Committee in failing to attend. The honorable member knows full well that I was quite unable to attend when the Committee was considering its report, and that I am never wilfully discourteous to any one. To return to this estimate, we next have an item of £2,000 for furniture and equip ment, and an item of £1,600 for the erec tion of a school. All these are to b* charged against the Note Printing Office. Then we have an item of £1,800 for a hall.
– Is that, too, charged against the establishment of the Note Printing Office at Canberra?
– Yes. No other activity which the Commonwealth establishes at Canberra is to be charged with any portion of these expenditures. There is a further item of £1,000 for the erection of a co-operative store.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
War Gratuity Bonds - Sugar Supply - Repatriation - Issue op Tools to Retubned Soldiers - Invalid Pensions: Workmen’s Compensation Act - Real Property Ordinance, German New Guinea- Pensions of Blind Workers.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I am pleased that the Treasurer is present, because I desire to ventilate a grievance in connexion with soldiers’ war gratuities. The fact is that I am fairly besieged by returned soldiers who are constantly demanding that I should use my influence to enable them to obtain cash for their bonds. In common with quite a number of other people, they appear to think that a member of Parliament has the power to make water run up bill. Not one half of the soldiers who come to me regarding this matter are my own constituents, but they are nevertheless most insistent in their demand that their gratuity bonds should be made negotiable.Seeing that the last Peace Loan was over-subscribed, and that by the middle of next year a certain amount of money will be coming into the Treasury in the form of repayments by soldiers for war service homes, and for the farms upon which they have been settled-
– There will be very little money received in that way next year.
– I understand that the Government expect to receive in 1923 some millions of pounds as the Commonwealth share of the German indemnity.
– Did not the honorable member read his newspaper this morning?
– I did, and my own opinion is that we shall never receive a cent by way of indemnity.
– We all recognised that long ago.
– We told the Government that in 1916. But, seeing that our soldiers have been promised cash for their bonds in 1923, is there not a possibility of an arrangement being made under which those bonds may be redeemed to the extent of about . £8,000,000 annually ? A good sum has already been paid in redemption of bonds.
– I am at present under an obligation to find £10,000,000 by next May to replenish the cash which we are paying for those bonds now.
– It is not fair to the great body of soldiers that some should be compelled to accept bonds when they require cash.
– I know that it is not fair.
– Some of our soldiers are quite willing to accept bonds and to deposit them in the banks until they mature. But a large number are in need of cash, and I think it ought to be possible to make an arrangement to redeem about £8,000,000 worth of these bonds annually. If the bonds were made negotiable they would have a market value.
– If we made them negotiable, people would buy them up, and thus obtain a5¼ per cent. bond free of taxation.
– Nevertheless, I believe that it would be better for the men who are in need of cash, to permit of that being done. In view of all the circumstances, is it not possible for the Treasurer to provide for the redemption of a proportion of the bonds annually? I believe that they would have a market value over the three years’ period of about £94.
– More than that.
– Of course, some of them might be worth, perhaps, £98. Furniture dealers have been roundly condemned for their action in accepting gratuity bonds as payment for furniture purchased by soldiers, but we must not forget that they have had to make arrangements with their banks. Those soldiers who effected insurances upon their lives in order to obtain a certain amount of cash for their bonds will most likely allow their insurance policies to lapse. In these circumstances, and seeing that the Treasurer has already obtained some £25,000,000 or £26,000,000 for repatriation purposes-
– All of which is hypothecated.
– But all that money will not he expended at once. I do not know whether the Treasurer can arrange for about one-third of the total of our war gratuity bonds to be made negotiable each year.
– One-third of the bonds are being cashed now, and it is that third for which I have to make provision next year.
Mr.MATHEWS. - I desire to provide for the redemption of another third.
– That would mean the flotation of another loan for £20,000,000 next year.
– In my own electorate I meet men who are quite willing to allow their bonds to remain in the banks until they mature - men who are quite confident that they will be in more need of cash then than they are now. I also meet soldiers who are Government employees, and who have received cash for their bonds. But there are all sorts of men who have been unable to obtain cash for them. Only the other day a married man with six children saidto me, “Here is my brother who has received cash for his bond. Yet I cannot obtain it.”
– It would have been better if none of our soldiers had received cash. It is that which is causing all the trouble. In the case mentioned by the honorable member, it is the brother who is the root of the trouble. Had he not been paid cash, the other man would not have been bothering half as much about his own bond.
– A man with six children is naturally glad to get a bit of cash.
– Cannot the man of whom the honorable member speaks find somebody who will cash his bond for him? Thousands are doing it to-day.
– There is a reluctance to do it.
– Is this man in very necessitous circumstances ?
– I know dozens of returned soldiers who are in necessitous circumstances.
– I know of one man who is half-starved.
– Then he can get his bond cashed.
– He has applied to do so, and has been refused.
– Let the honorable member bring me the evidence that he is starving, and his bond will be cashed at once.
– I have in my mind the case of a man who before going to the Front was employed in certain glass works here. Upon his return he was unable to resume his former avocation. He has a wife and three or four children, and his health is very bad - so bad that he has frequently to relinquish his work. This man wants cash for his bond, but he cannot obtain it. Although a number of the officials at the Victoria Barracks are returned soldiers they are not nearly so considerate to their erstwhile comrades as they might be. Whenever I approach the Defence Department in regard to any matter, I get nothing but courtesy from the officials there. But courtesy is of no use to me.
– Not as a substitute for cash.
– I try to believe that the courtesy extended to me is a mark of personal affection, although I know that it is not. At one time it was the practice of the Defence Department to appoint officers to whom members of Parliament were required to go if they desired to ventilate any grievance, instead of to the Minister. This system worked very well, but members would rather go to the Minister. There is a grievance officer for soldiers, andso on, but the trouble I find over my way is that I want a grievance officer every day for my electorate and the electorate of Fawkner, which abuts on mine, and where I really live. I cannot get for those who come to me the attention that I could wish. The things I hear are positively getting on to my nerves. I hear crying cases every day of my life. People come to me and actually cry. There are three or four cases of thatkind every morning and evening, and they all expect me to do something. As a matter of fact, I am told dozens of times, “ You promised us cash, and are not giving us cash.” Will the Treasurer say whether there is a possibility of obtaining any more money for this purpose? He states that the Treasury now pays cash in the most necessitous cases. I shall impose upon him by bringing five or six cases of my own to him. There are a number who are just on the bare line, and the cash would do them good. If it could possibly be done, I believe that two or three million pounds would meet the situation. The Treasurer knows as well as I do the demands and entreaties that are made to members. Is it not possible for him to do something to make the conditions somewhat easier, and for cases outside of those where the Treasurer says he is already paying cash, to be considered on their merits ?
I do not wish to condemn the officials who have the management of the sugar question under the Government, because I know that their duties are heavy, and that it is very hard to please the general public. I try myself and fail, so that I know it is not possible for officials to do it, although I confess that they might be a little more considerate of the general public than they are in their methods of dealing with them. I believe there is no real shortage of sugar. We are to-day landing in Australia, and growing in Australia, as much sugar per head as ever we did, but many reasons have made an apparent shortage. One is the increased demand for sugar to turn the produce of the small fruitgrower into jam. The jam factories complained, when the price of sugar was raised, that they had to compete, at a disadvantage, in the world’s markets with other countries. As a matter of fact, they were getting sugar over 100 per cent, cheaper than any other country in the world, and they had not to meet the troubles, that they said they had. Their demand for sugar for the manufacture of jam for export purposes was, however, greater than ever, and this increased the quantity used in Australia per head of the population. T was in the country last week, and was given some brown sugar. I know that those people must have had it in stock for at least seven or eight months, because brown sugar has not been issued by the company for that period. People have told me that they have obtained bags of sugar. One man on the tramway line said that he had three bags.
There is no doubt that people have gone in for hoarding sugar. I do not think the shop-keepers have done so to any great extent, although, unfortunately, some shop-keepers, through special circumstances, are obtaining more per customer than others. There is no doubt that sugar has been made scarcer by hoarding, with the result that some people are going short, and some tradesmen are not getting their fair share. It would relieve the situation considerably if the Government could assure the public that this rush for sugar and ^hoarding of sugar are unnecessary, that it will not become any scarcer than it is now, and that there will soon be a better supply. They ought to be able to give the people that assurance. We have been told that the position in the West Indies as regards sugar will make the situation very much easier, and cause a drop in price. I do not know whether that is actually so, but it will not be the first time that it has happened. I well remember three occasions, once in my very early youth, when heavy production in the West Indies caused a fall in prices and a slump generally. I trust that the Government will see their way to take the public into their confidence. If 6d. a lb. is not enough, and if plenty of sugar could be made available at 7d., why not say so? It would be better for the general public if they had to pay 7d., and could thereby get sugar, than it is to-day. I do not know if it is essential to charge 7d. per lb., but I am aware that the Government were charging the public 6d. per lb. for sugar that cost them ls. A Dutch ship arrived here from the Dutch West Indies with sugar. ‘The people on it would not use their own sugar, because they could go ashore and buy the local article at 6d. a lb., while their own was worth lOd. or Hd. a lb. We ought to know by this time exactly what the Queensland crop will be. Surely Ministers have that information, and the public ought to know what the Government are doing. We are paying Australian sugar-growers £30 6s. 8d. per ton. If there is a shortage we ought to do something. I do not say that we ought to stop the supply of sugar to the jam factories, which buy the fruit from the small growers, because that would prevent them exporting their jam. I believe that jam on the table is more essen- tial than sugar in tea. It would not hurt me to go without sugar in my tea as much as it would hurt children to go without jam. If we are going to use- a great deal of our sugar for export, and there is a shortage, there will he trouble. We cannot tell the small growers that they must not have sugar for their fruit. If it is necessary to charge* more for sugar it will be better to do so, because not only are people short of it, but the present state of things is driving many grocers into the lunatic asylum. If the shortage of sugar goes on any longer, the health of a large percentage of the men in the grocery trade will be so impaired that they will not be able to carry on business. I know -many of them well, and during the last twelve months I have been wondering what has happened to them. Their health has gone, and their nerves are completely broken up, because their money is invested and the situation offers them no security. They know that competitors not far away have plenty of (sugar, while they have to go without. I made an attempt here one day to expose the unfairness of what was going on, and was supposed to have been beaten by the Minister on the question; but I still maintain that the statement I made then, that some traders can get sugar while others cannot, is correct. I do not think it is necessary to raise the price, but it would be” better to do so if that would insure a plentiful supply to traders and the public. In any case, the Government ought to assure the public that there will be no scarcity for the next seven or eight months, and thus stop the hoarding that is going on, enabling every trader and housekeeper to obtain a fair share.
– I hope an opportunity will soon bo taken to review the repatriation regulation which prevents the issue of tools to returned men who are seeking to employ themselves if their application has not been made within six months of their return to Australia. I know of several very hard cases, and the unfortunate fact is that the rigid* enforcement of the regulation hurts some of the most deserving men in the Australian Imperial Force. Those are men who, when they returned to Australia, decided to depend on their own resources, and seek no assistance from the Repatriation Department. They made an effort to re-establish themselves in civil life, but, later on, when they found that a little assistance would be of value to them, it was refused merely because they had been back in Australia for more than six months before they put in an application. If the Minister will look into these special cases, and see the character and quality of the men, and the justice df their claim, I am sure that some way will be found to meet them. When a soldier returns to Australia, if he applies immediately, he can obtain an advance up to £10 to purchase tools of trade, or if he proposes to follow his occupation as a master he can get that assistance towards, the purchase of tools. If, however, on his return he ignores the Department and obtains a job for himself, and then finds after a year or two that he can improve himself by returning to his original business, or is unable, for other reasons, to retain his employment, and wants to make a fresh start, he is met with this regulation. He is told that he cannot successfully make an application, as more than six. months have expired since his return. In every case of that kind that has come under my notice the men are of a very good type. They have tried to do their best without assistance from the Government, and are very reluctant to ask for it even when they find it would be of great advantage to them.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) mentioned the question of sugar. A greater effort should be made to secure sugar for housewives who want to meet the high cost of living by preserving fruits and making jams, and in other ways providing cheaper food for their children. During the control of sugar by the Government, constant complaints have reached me from the cooperative societies that they are unable to get the same treatment as other businesses. If there is one section of business that might have been selected for more favorable treatment it is the cooperative societies, which really represent the homemakers and housekeepers of the country. Their claims could be met with perfect safety. They do not need to do any hoarding. All the sugar that went to them would go into households for every-day use. The controller of sugar should see that their requirements are met to the- fullest extent before he’ allows sugar to be used for purposes of export. Then, generally, the supply of the smaller shopkeepers should be secured, so that housewives in these times, when strict economy has to- be exercised in every home, may be able, when- fruit is cheap to- provide for the days when fresh fruit is not available. No better food than fruits preserved in this; way can be provided for the people. The Government, before they encourage people to make a profit by using cheap sugar in exported goods in competition with others who are paying more for their sugar, should! see that Australian families are supplied with sufficient to enable advantage to be taken of the cheap fruit that is so abundant here iri some seasons of the year.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer some matters connected with invalid and old-age pensions. According to the Act, as it stands to-day, a workman in New South Wales who happens to become permanently incapacitated, is paid so much under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, and when he applies for an invalid pension, the amount he receives as compensation is taken into account in determining what the pension shall be. Prior to- the passing of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, a permanently incapacitated man received so much from the Millers’ Accident Relief Fund, and that amount was not considered in the computation of the invalid pension. The present conditions cause a great deal of hardship amongst miners ; quite a number of them are permanently incapacitated. One case, typical of many, is disclosed in the following letter: -
I feel sorry in being compelled to lay my sad case before you. I met with an accident in the Aberdare Shaft, Cessnock, from the result of which I lost the sight of both my eyes, and, as I am only receiving £2 per week compensation, in the hope of trying to get something to try and keep my wife and three children, I applied for the invalid pension, and those people, in their wisdom, were so kind as to allow me the large sum of 5s. per week. Why they didn’t give me the full amount I don’t know, as Ave are terrible bad in need of it, but I sincerely hope that you will be so kind as to do what you can towards getting me the full amount.
The departmental reasons for the posi-tion taken up by the Pensions Office areshown in the following -
With reference to’ the communication from Mr. John C. Brand, of Carroll’s Estate, Cessnock (copy attached), forwarded to this officeby 5’ou, I have to say that a pension at the rate of £13- per annum (10s. per fortnight) is Payable in this case,, the computation being as follows: -
The equal division of income is made in accordance with section 26 (6) of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, which provides that in the case of husband and wife, the income of eachshall be deemed to be half the total income of both. The rate of pension payable, £13 per annum, represents the difference between’ thestatutory limit of income, £65 per annum, and pension is deemed income as shown above. In the circumstances it will be seen that and increased pension cannot legally be granted to. Mr. Brand.
The time has arrived to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, so that a return may be made to the conditions, which prevailed when the Miners’ Accident Relief Fund, was in existence. Nopermanently incapacitated man can support his wife and family on £2 a week. I know that what is done by the authorities is in accordance with the Act, and that the pensions officer, however sympathetic, is compelled to adjust the pension as described in the letter I read. I suggest that the Treasurer take the matter into consideration with a view to a short amending Bill to remove the anomaly.
The supply of sugar is not yet satisfactory. I admit that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Massy Greene) is doing his level best to get the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to make better arrangements for distribution. I have brought several cases under the notice of the honorable gentleman, and I am pleased to be able to say that he has adjusted them. There should, however, be no need for such adjustments. There should be ample sugar now, and it is claimed that there is ample for the needs of the Commonwealth for the year. There is no necessity for any increased price, because if there b6 a shortage, I understand that abundant supplies can be obtained from Java at a cheap rate. By this means, it ought to be possible to decrease the price, even if there is a shortage in our own production. Irrespective of price, however, the sugar supply should be put on a more satisfactory footing. Co-operative stores, and especially the wholesale stores, have the greatest difficulty in this regard; and this is strange in the ‘case of a society which represents the people directly, without the intervention of any middlemen. When supplies are refused to such an institution, the whole of the shareholders are denied their right to sugar, while in many cases private stores are given an abundance. Whether this discrimination is deliberate or not I do not know, but certainly the whole of the business requires to be put on a better basis.
.- On the motion for the adjournment last night, I asked for some information regarding an Ordinance in force in German New Guinea, prohibiting all dealings in real property, whether by sale or mortgage or anything in the nature of a rn.ortga.ge, and pointed out that the Ordinance operated against dealings in real properly between British subjects, quite apart from property owned by Germans, or transfers supposed to be made by Germans. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was to-day good enough to furnish me with some information in» .regard to the Ordinance, which he suggested had to do only with the placing of restriction on the transfer or mortgage of real property owned by Germans. Perhaps the Minister at the table (Mr. Poynton) would give an assurance that, so far as British subjects are concerned, the operation of the Ordinance should be such that British subjects will be able to deal inter se in transactions in which there can be no suspicion or suggestion of any attempt to dispose of German property. The reply of the Treasurer suggested that the Ordinance has only to do with Germans, and I cannot see what possible reason there can be for having it so operated as to prevent dealings between British subjects.
T desire to draw attention to the reduction of pensions payable to blind workers. Recently the wage of blind workers in Queensland was raised from 35s. to 40.s. for married men, the latter being the minimum wage, and thereupon the Commonwealth reduced the pension by 2s. 6d. a week, so that married men, instead of 7s. 6d., are now receiving only 5s.
– Perhaps the honorable member is not aware that a deputation waited upon the Treasurer the other day in regard to this matter, and that the honorable gentleman has it under consideration.
– Then I hope the Treasurer will give a very prompt decision. It seems to be most unreasonable that because the minimum wage of the blind workers is raised by :a certain amount the Commonwealth should immediately reduce the pension.
– The whole matter will probably be discussed (here in a few days.
– I see no time better than the present for discussing the matter.
– The Treasurer has really promised to give effect to the request .made to him.
– I hope that my bringing up the matter this afternoon will assist the Treasurer in arriving at a speedy conclusion in favour of the blind workers. The action of the .Commonwealth seems to me so utterly unreasonable as not to deserve support by this House for a moment. Of course, we here have power to see that the Commonwealth does not so administer its laws.
With regard to the matter brought up by the honorable member ‘ for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), there is no doubt that there is very general dissatisfaction amongst the returned soldiers and others, who hold gratuity bonds, in regard to their inability to cash them. I see no reason why every holder of a war gratuity bond should not be allowed to cash it, provided he finds some one who is willing to give him the face value. Under the law, the holder is not -allowed to cash a bond, even if he finds some one ready and willing to give him the full value.
– ‘Or its equivalent - buying property, for instance.
– There may be some difficulty in arriving at what is an “ equivalent.”
– I do not think there is any bar against the holder pf a bond cashing it, so. long as he gets its value; bur there is a condition that the purchaser shall hold the bond.
– Money lenders and publicans are not allowed to cash bonds.
– -The holder of the bond has to get specific approval to dispose of it.
– That is the difficulty.
– It is an endless difficulty. Why not make a general provision that all holders of bonds shall be able to cash them, provided they receive the face value? Does the Minister (Mr. Poynton) say that there is any objection to that?
– I am not administering that Department.
– I know; but I thought that probably the honorable gentleman, seeing that he is sitting at the table, would be able to supply the information. As Minister, I have often sat at the table dealing with- Departments I was not administering; but I was supplied with all necessary information.
– I have seen 200 men waiting to get the Treasurer’s sanction to deal with their bonds.
– That is a most undesirable state of aff airs - a nuisance to everybody, and more particularly to the holders of the bonds. Perhaps the Minister may be able to give an assurance that some general regulation will be made to permit bond-holders to cash their bonds, providing they receive the face value. That would go a certain way in the direction I desire.
– Would it not be better to permit them to place the bonds on the market - make them negotiable? Of course, they would lose 10 per cent.
– The honorable member means that holders should be allowed to cash them at the par value of ordinary bonds ?
– That is so.
– Would the honorable member (Mr. Ryan) allow a bond to be hung up in a public-house, and the holder allowed to drink until its value was all gone?
– The honorable member knows I would not approve of any such thing; and I think there are very few of the returned soldiers who would so deal r with their bonds.
– Surely some safeguard is needed to protect some soldiers against themselves.
– That may be so; but I think it would be better to make the bonds absolutely negotiable than to continue the present system, which causes endless trouble to those who wish to cash them. I am sure that honorable members have had brought to their notice almost daily the great dissatisfaction that exists in this respect, and the great necessity there is for making these bonds negotiable, or making it certain that the soldiers can cash them if they can get face value for them.
– The only assurance I can give the honorable member is that I shall place the matter before the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who is at the moment engaged in a conference with bankers.
– I propose to move an amendment which will give the Treasurer an opportunity of saying something upon the matter, and I shall so word it that it will not be objectionable. In fact, it will take the form I adopted when moving an amendment to the War Gratuity Bill. I am glad to note that some of my honorable friends opposite have changed their news as expressed in this ‘cb amber, or as indicated by the votes they cast when that Bill was under consideration. Perhaps the experience they have gained of the working of the Act has shown that it is desirable that some less rigid provision should be brought into operation. I propose to move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ it shall be lawful for any person to cash his war gratuity bond provided he receives the face value therefor.”
– Would not the honorable member make provision to include accrued interest?
– Why not make the consideration “ money or kind “ ?
– I am prepared to meet the views of both honorable members ; but I am endeavouring to submit an amendment to which no possible objection can be taken. I would go as far as the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) has suggested, and make the bonds negotiable.
– I think it would be better to do so.
– Yes, I agree with the honorable member, and, therefore, I move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereofthe words “ all war gratuity bonds shall be made negotiable.”
.- I hope there will be no opposition to this amendment, which I have very much pleasure in seconding. A great mistake was made when we passed the War Gratuity Bill by declaring who should get cash for their bonds. The result has been that men who have married since their return from the Front have been able to get cash, and some of them have been well-to-do, while men who left their wives and families behind them to live on their separation allowances, find themselves just now in an extremely difficult position, in which their war gratuity bonds afford them no relief.
– Provision ought not to have been made for the payment of any bonds in cash.
– Never mind that. The provision was made, and it has created many injustices. Many men who left their families behind have not been able to work except intermittently since their return, and they feel their position very keenly when they see young “chaps” getting married, and having their bonds cashed immediately. In the absence of the opportunity to amend the Act, the amendment which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has just moved will afford some relief, and although it will not be much of a concession to the soldiers it would certainly do away with a good deal of red tape. I have just received a letter from a returned soldier stating that a month ago he wrote to Mr. Mulvaney, who is in charge of this branch of the Treasury work, asking to be supplied with transfer forms which he wished to fill in and send to the Department for approval or otherwise, and has not received any reply. I have not heard of a case in which permission to transfer has been refused; but this young man, who has found some person who is ready to give him face value with accrued interest for his bond, cannot get the necessary papers from the Department to enable him to effect the transfer. If the bonds were made negotiable, as the amendment suggests, there would be no need to make application for the right to transfer. Necessity to write to the Department and fill in application forms would be avoided, and there would be no occasion for delay.
– The effect of making these bonds negotiable would seriously handicap the next loan.
– When you cried out for volunteers you did not take that into consideration ; you made all kinds of promises to the soldiers.
– No promise was made in reference to a gratuity.
– Some people were never tired of saying what they were going to do for the soldiers.
– The honorable member is not game enough to say that the Government have not stood up to all their promises.
– I am game enough to say that they have not done so in many cases, particularlyin this instance. Australia is the only country which has paid its soldiers a gratuity in bonds. The United States of America gave their soldiers a dollar a day in cash, and New Zealand paid 2s. 6d. a clay in cash. Australia, I repeat, is the only country that has handed out to the soldiers pieces of paper, which are valueless to them to-day. One case that has come under my notice is that of a soldier in receipt of a pension of £1 per week who cannot get his bond cashed. He was in hospital for weeks, but he has now been turned out, although he is unfit to do any work. He certainly drank a good deal, but for six months he has not touched intoxicating liquors. He is trying to steady himself. Every time I go to Ballarat he appeals to me to try to do something for him. I filled in his application forms, but the replies from the Board are that nothing can be done for him.
– It is a very good thing in that case, I should say.
– But how would the Treasurer care to live on £1 per week, particularly if obliged to buy medicine? This, surely, is a case in which a man ought to get cash for his bond. I admit that he is a single man, and has no responsibilities.
– He can get cash tomorrow if he can show that he is in special need of it, but, as the honorable member admits that this man is fond of drink, in all probability he would not have the money long if he received cash for his bond.
– He has not had a drink for six months, and he is in the unfortunate position that he is on the verge of starvation, although hehas in his possession a bond for £100.
– What reason was advanced for refusing his application?
– That it was not a necessitous case. Practically every day I receive complaints from soldiers who say that, owing to the red-tape in the Department, considerable delay takes place when soldiers apply- as in the case I have mentioned - for application forms to enable them to transfer their bonds to persons who are willing to cash them for them. Soldiers feel that when they write to the Department they ought to receive a reply in a day or so. As a matter of fact, I think they ought not to be obliged to write to the Department for these transfer forms. I have overcome the difficulty by keeping a supply of them at my home, and if a soldier comes along they can be filled in at once and forwarded to the Treasury. A supply of these forms ought to be available at every post-office. I agree with the amendment, which stipulates that the bonds may be placed on the open market. There is no guarantee to-day that the soldier who ispermitted to transfer his bond receives full face value for it. There is merely a verbal guarantee to that effect. I know men who have bought four or five bonds. A man will sign anything when he wants money. These returned soldiers need cash for their bonds, and they will sign a document to the effect that they are getting their £100 plus accrued interest. But I am not satisfied that in every case they are receiving their dues. In fact, I know of some instances where they have not got all they have been entitled to. The Treasury Department will sanction any application for permission to transfer. There is considerable delay in obtaining thatsanction, and that causes trouble; but it does not affect the fact that every application is granted, provided that the proposed transfer is nob to be made to a moneylender or to a publican. However, the Treasury officials are not present to watch the actual transaction, and cannot be expected to safeguard a soldier’s interests at the transfer. They simply have to take his word, and that of the purchaser, that the full amount due has been paid.
– I do not think it is possible to protect a soldier if he is a party to a transaction which he knows is not all that it should be.
– That is what I say. I have already emphasized the fact that a man will sign anything when he needs money. Why not make these bonds negotiable and thus overcome the whole difficulty and delay? Our men will be as well protected, if the bonds are placed on the Stock Exchange, as they are to-day by the Department requiring them to secure permission before a transfer can be made.
– You would have £100 bonds selling at about £80.
– The Government’s war loan bonds, due in 1923, are selling at about £96 10s. Why should gratuity bonds be worth so much less ? I do not know any valid argument against the amendment. If its terms are put into practice the work of the Treasury will be considerably reduced, because applications and negotiations for transfer involve the despatch of thousands of letters. The Treasurer should remember that the effect of the amendment will not be to permit any more bonds to be cashed than can be cashed to-day. I repeat that practically every application for transfer is sanctioned.
– Indeed, it is not.
– Provided that the purchaser is not a publican or a moneylender. I have not had one application refused.
– I have known lots to be turned down.
– Any one can purchase a soldier’s bond to-day, provided that the negotiations are conducted in the right manner, and so long as the purchaser agrees to give proper value. Any business man can cash a bond. Any man who has a house to sell to a returned soldier can secure . permission to take the bond in lieu of money.
– Not in quantities.
– In any quantity.
– Estate agents advertise that they -will accept bonds in lieu of cash.
– Certainly; and they are not prevented from doing so.
– In some cases they sell returned men blocks of land which they value at £40, but on -which they have been paying land tax at a value of £3.
– That is quite true.
– Do you want that kind of thing to continue?
– It would not go on if the soldier had the cash instead of a bond with which to negotiate. The whole position in regard to the cashing of bonds to-day is unfair, and bears the most unfairly on the man most in need of money. A returned soldier working in either the Federal or a State Service, who is in a constant job and has no fear of unemployment, can get cash for his bond. A man outside, who may be working only four days a week, and during about ten months in the year, and who is badly pressed for cash in these hard times, cannot sell his bond. He has something which is worth £100, but he cannot get ls. credit on it. A married man goes to the Front leaving a wife and a large family behind, and he can only give them a few shillings a day to support them. Upon his return he finds his family heavily pressed by debt. He gets his bond, but he cannot cash it to clear off the debt. In other cases, young, single men have been away, and have been able to accumulate their pay. I have known instances of young fellows worth £10,000, who have been married since their return, and have got cash for their bonds. The whole position is not only absurd, but terribly unfair.
.- The amendment is a good one; and I frankly acknowledge that, if by my support of. it I am changing the views which I expressed or indicated by my vote at the time of considering the “War Gratuity Bill, I then made a mistake.- I now wish, in strongly supporting the amendment, to rectify my error. This Parliament made a mistake when it placed restrictions upon the cashing of bonds, but I quite understand why those restrictions were imposed. I recall the words of the Prime
Minister, who made the outlook quite plain. No one could doubt the motive behind the imposition of restrictions. The Prime Minister emphasized that they were in the best interests of our returned men, and that their purpose was to keep them out of the hands of the Shylocks. However, having gained experience, and looking upon the whole subject in its broadest light, we should be ready to acknowledge that it would have been better had the bonds been made negotiable. Then, when a man desired to sell his bond, he would have no difficulty, and would have been assured of getting its proper market value. Seeing that the bonds are free of income tax obligations, they would be all the more readily negotiable, and one could be reasonablycertain that the market value would not fall below a fair margin. I do not see how the acceptance of the principle underlying the amendment could possibly have any bearing upon future loans, for, after all, the money involved in the. gratuity bonds is already tantamount to* a loan,, and has already become a national’, liability. It is of no use our trying to doan impossible thing by means of an Act. of Parliament. I do not know how othersoldiermembers on this side may feel, but the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has made his views quite clear. The amendment, I repeat, is a good one, and, if accepted, will prove to, have been in the best interests of our returned men.
– I hope some definite understanding will be reached in regard to this matter. The amendment asks for far less, in effect, than was involved in the promise of all three parties in this House at the time of the last elections. The final promise of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) respecting war gratuity bonds was that their recipients would receive cash for them-.
– What a monstrous thing to say !
– That statement, in its effect, was made by the Prime Minister, and was published in the press throughout the land.
– You know better, than that.
– I know that the Prime Minister made a lot of different statements on the subject, but that that was his final announcement.
– What is the use of the honorable member making statements which he knows to be incorrect ?
– The Prime Minister said he had made arrangements with the banks to pay cash over the counter.
– We know that such an undertaking was never given.
– I am not saying that it was as far as the banks are concerned; but the Treasurer seems surprised when I remind him of the promise of the Prime Minister. I am not concerned whether he went back on it or not, and I am not so much concerned with what the Prime Minister said at various times as with the fact that a promise of payment in cash was virtually made by all three parties during the election campaign. Certainly, it was definitely made by this party. If the amendment-is agreed to, therefore, it will pledge the Government to something which is not nearly so far-reaching as would have been the case had the promises of all the three political parties been adhered to.
– No such promise to pay was made by all the three parties.
– That was the promise of the Labour party; and the Prime Minister made a similar promise, I take it, on behalf of the Government and the Government’s party.
– That is incorrect.
– I will take the first opportunity to prove to the Minister that his memory is not serving him well. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) said that he voted against this proposal when the Bill was before the House.
– I may have.
– He gave as his reason, which was an excellent one for supporting the amendment, that, having had the opportunity of seeing the Government’s scheme in operation, he is now converted. That is a reasonable attitude to adopt; and any honorable member who has had anything to do with the hopeless tangle into which this work seems to have fallen will have come to the same conclusion. I know of scores of cases in my own electorate where applicants have proved that they were in necessitous circumstances, but they have merely been told that their requests cannot be acceded to. As mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), it is usually those who are in poor circumstances who are unable to receive cash, while those who are comfortably situated have not had any difficulty at all. There are many business men and others who are willing to cash bonds. Instances have been mentioned in this House where business people were prepared to give cash for bonds if the bondholder was willing to spend a certain amount on the purchase of goods. That is a state of affairs that should not be allowed.
– If the amendment were carried, the publicans would get most of the bonds.
– It is very ungrateful of the Minister to make such a suggestion when we remember that these men have rendered such a great service to Australia. It is not for us to say in which way they shall spend their money, because it is theirs as a right. If we deny it to the great bulk of the returned soldiers, because, as the Minister suggests, some will spend it in hotels, we are adopting a very unfair attitude.
– Why should we hand over tax-free bonds bearing 5¼ per cent. interest to outsiders when they have been issued as a special concession to soldiers ?
– Bonds free of income tax, and bearing interest are of little use to a man who is in distress.
– In such cases, they can get cash.
– I know of scores who have apparently proved their cases to be necessitous, but who, owing to the time taken by the Department in considering their applications, are in very serious circumstances. I know of an instance in which a female dependant of a deceased soldier - a Western Australia case - after communicating with the District Finance Officer for four months, was informed that, as she had not supplied the regimental number of the deceased soldier, the case could notbe considered. The letter was referred tome, and the woman also sent me a communication she had received from the Department some months before showing that they had full particulars, including the regimental number. The Department seems to be in a hopeless state, and after months of trouble in supplying information, applicants are informed that the circumstances do not justify a cash payment. There are numbers of men unable to carry on, to whom cash would be a god-send, and yet they seem to be unable to prove to the satisfaction of the Department that their cases are really necessitous. This amendment does not ask that the Government should pay the cash, but merely that business men and others who are willing should be allowed to give cash equal to the face value of the bonds, including interest. This is really less than the Prime Minister and the members of different parties promised during the election campaign.
– And it is less than the men are entitled to.
– Of course it is.
– Cash at the sidings for wheat, cash for gratuity bonds, and cash for everything.
– It is the duty of the Government to agree to the amendment, and I believe it is the general opinion of the House that it should be adopted.
– In the interests of the soldiers themselves, I hope this amendment will not be carried, because, if it is, it will mean that we are going to let loose without restraint those men who will strip the soldiers of all their money. It would be the means of creating an absolute scandal in this country. I am sneaking with the bock, as this is occurring very often,
– In connexion with Government securities generally ?
– If the bonds are similar to Government securities, where will the “ harpy “ come in?
– I would like to remind the honorable member that it is easy to make suggestions, but it means £30,000,000 worth of additional paper money being placed on the market.
– That is one of the main questions.
-It will avoid floating another loan.
– It will force the Government into floating another loan.
– The Government will not have to provide the cash.
– This paper money would go on the market. That is the plain English of it, and that is the very thing we should try to avoid, as the markethas plenty of it to-day. Honorable members need only to look at the price of our stocks to realize what is going on. The very last thing we should tlo is to inflate the credit of Australia any more than we can possibly help. Of course, honorable members opposite do not care two straws about it. Every day they are denouncing profiteers and high prices, but are propounding schemes for sending prices up more and more. That is what this proposal means, if it means anything at all. It means the further inflation of the national credit; and any one who knows anything about this question realizes that prices increase in the same ratio as our general credit is inflated. That is an inevitable economic law, and it cannot be avoided. In spite of that fact, honorable members opposite are every day denouncing soaring prices, and at the same time submitting proposals for sending prices still higher. It was well understood at the elections that we could notafford to inflate the credit of the Commonwealth any more than by the means of ordinary loans. The obligations to float loans are maturing the whole time. Money is required for land settlement, homes have to be built, and repatriation money generally has still to be found. All that means raising more and more money, and the Government are already committed to £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 in connexion with the soldiers alone.
– If it had not been for the soldiers you might have been committed to more.
– That is not the point. As we are doing substantial justice to the soldiers in giving them bonds carrying interest at 5¼ per cent., free of income tax, we are giving them a special concession. This would provide a fine investment for those who would not subscribe to our war loans, as many would be ready to ‘buy these bonds in any quantity, because iu doing so t’hey would be securing a gilt-edged security free of .tax. I am totally opposed to a proposition of this character, and I am amazed that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mt. Ryan) submitted it.
– I do not think the Treasurer can be serious in saying that these bonds would be rushed.
– May I inform the honorable member for Batman that every week we have to refuse numerous applications from persons who are anxious to take possession of them?
– Does the Treasurer object to them being transferred at their face value?
– Yes, in some cases.
– That is most extraordinary.
– Why should any one be allowed to take up, say, £10,000 worth of these bonds free of taxation? The honorable member for West Sydney believes in a ‘big income tax, but he is now submitting a proposition which would enable investors to secure bonds in large quantities free of taxes.
– When did I say that I would make the income tax bigger?
– The honorable member has said it often, and so has his party.
– It is possible to buy tax-free loan scrip now..
– Carrying 4£ per cent. interest, but not carrying 5£ per cent. The Commonwealth 5 per cent, scrip is taxed, but the soldiers’ gratuity bonds, bearing interest at 5J per cent., are not taxed.
– If they are not taxed, the soldier will .get good value for them.
– Will he ? Our experience is quite the reverse.
– Would it not be possible to make them taxable when in the hands of those other than soldiers?
– Hear, hear All the Treasurer’s points so far can be met
– The things that are taking place to-day, notwithstanding all the efforts of the Department to check them, are very wrong.
For instance, the other day our attention was called to the fact that a kindly gentleman was selling land to the soldiers, and offering to give them the balance of their bond in cash. He was selling Mocks at £40 per piece.
– You cannot tell me that many soldiers are taken down in that way.
– I tell the honorable member that hundreds of them are taken down in that way.
– Then, the sooner we adopt another method the better it will be for the soldier.
– This kindly gentleman to whom I referred is selling the soldiers £40 blocks of land, and giving them £60 in cash for each £100 bond. Yet he is paying land tax on an assessed value of only £3 per block.
– The soldiers cannot assign their bonds without the consent of the Department.
– Of course; and when we discover that the terms on which they are being assigned are unsatisfactory, we refuse our consent. We are policing these bonds the whole time.
– I merely wish to show how futile the present system is.
– It may be bad at present, with all our safeguards, but the” honorable member desires to make it worse. We find, also, that false declarations are made as to the transactions themselves. We are finding cases in which both parties have agreed to make false declarations as to the consideration for the transfer. Honorable members have no idea of the difficulties that confront us.
– If the restrictions were removed, all these abuses would be stopped.
Sir JOSEPH COOK. How can unrestricted traffic in the bonds prevent abuse? It must lead to worse results.
– There would be no need for fraudulent practices.
– There would still be the soldier wanting to sell his bond, and there would still be the same class of men trading on him. What effect could the removal of the restriction have other than to multiply the evils of which I am speaking?
– It would enable the soldier to get the full market value of his bond without resorting to these subterfuges.
– If he could get the full market value without the restrictions, why cannot he get that value now?
– The Government will not allow him to do so.
– We do allow him.
– The Government place an artificial value on the bonds. The face value is not the market value.
– The honorable member is now proposing to sweat down the soldier; that is another friendly act to him. Not a suggestion has been made that does not mean that the soldier will be hit in the neck. All that we are doing is to try to protect him, and see that his bond is worth to him the value that Parliament intended that it should have. There are many abuses. Money lenders take these bonds from the soldier, and actually give him receipts showing that a greater amount of cash has passed than has been actually given. That is happening now.
– The Department does not give permission to transfer a bond unless it knows the person to whom the transfer is being made?
– That is so.
– Even then fraudulent practices are indulged in?
– If the bonds could be put on the Stock Exchange those practices would not happen.
– Would they not? If that were done a great amount of the bonds would disappear, and they would not prove useful to the soldiers; quite the contrary. Later on the soldier himself would be the first to regret that he had been allowed to become the victim of practices of that kind.
– If the Government had had the money they would have paid cash in the first place.
– Yes. But it would not have been good for the soldier if we had. When honorable members talk about what is being done in other countries, I ask them to bear in mind the whole of the facts in regard to the soldiers here and elsewhere. Do they know that Canada, with double our population, and with a greater number of soldiers than was sent from Australia, is only spending £6,000,000 per annum in war pensions, whereas the Commonwealth is spending £7,250,000. Honorable members should acquaint themselves with all the facts as to what is being done in other countries, and they would find that our soldiers are being treated far better than are the soldiers of any other country.
– That is because we have far more invalid and disabled soldiers.
– If we have a greater number of invalid and disabled soldiers we have a greater obligation, and that might be regarded as a motive for cheese-paring. But our policy is the contrary of that. Notwithstanding that we have a greater burden, we are treating our soldiers individually infinitely better than soldiers elsewhere are being treated. If honorable members intend to talk about what other countries are doing in regard to the gratuities, let them state the whole of the facts in regard to the soldiers. May I remind them that New Zealand, during the war, taxed her people much more heavily than did the Commonwealth.
– That is where we made a mistake. We should have taxed the profiteer more heavily.
– The honorable member should recollect that New Zealand does not tax the rich man as heavily as the Commonwealth does, but it taxes the men with smaller incomes a great deal more than the Commonwealth taxes its lower-paid men. That is how New Zealand derives its income from taxation.
– What the Treasurer states would be impossible.
– I invite the honorable member to look at the New Zealand income tax curve, and he will see, I think, that it begins at about10d. in the £1.
– What is the New Zealand exemption ?
– It is higher than ours; but above the exemption the tax rises very sharply, whereas the Commonwealth incline of increase is nearly flat. A New Zealand man earning from £400 to £600 per annum pays twice as much income tax as does the man with a similar income in Australia.
– Do not forget that there is only one income tax in NewZealand, whereas Australia has both State and Federal taxes.
– And despite that fact New Zealand collects from income taxation more than half as much as we do, although it has only a quarter of our population. Honorable members had better leave New Zealand out of the count in regard to these matters. The result of this policy is that the Dominion accumulated surpluses during the war, and carried them forward until they aggregated £6,000,000. If the Commonwealth had had a surplus of £16,000,000 we could have paid the gratuity in cash quite easily.
Having regard to the commitments of the country it would be a calamity to place more paper money on the market. Our credit is already sufficiently inflated, and it must be inflated much more by the ordinary loans we shall require to raise in order to meet our obligations to the soldiers. Honorable members who would continue floating paper money on the market would be doing wrong to themselves and to the country. It is of no use to screech about high prices, if honorable members will persist in causing them to rise higher by the arbitrary inflation of credit.
– Nobody but the honorable member is screeching.
– Thanks very much. But the honorable member is so obliging. It does not matter whether it is the soldier or anybody else, the honorable member will exploit any interest to make a point against the Government.
– That is quite unworthy.
– But it is a fact. The honorable member proposed to pay cash at the railway sidings for the farmers’ wheat. £30,000,000 worth of paper money would have gone in that way. Now he proposes the cashing of £30,000,000 worth of gratuities. That means the issue of more paper money. The honorable member is actually proposing to put £60,000,000 more of paper money on the market - to further inflate our credit by that amount. We can finance in a much better way thian that, and in a way that will tend to moderate prices to the consumers rather than increase and inflate them, as honorable members opposite are trying to do every day.
– But “Brother Bill” promised cash.
– The promises are being fulfilled. To date about £23.000,000 worth of bonds has been issued, of which a sum approaching £6,000,000 worth has been cashed. The cashing of bonds is proceeding apace, and any soldier who wants his bonds cashed can get the money if he can show that his is a necessitous case. What was the nature of the case quoted by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) ? He said that one nian in his electorate, who has six children, claimed that ashis brother’s bond had been cashed, he, too, should get cash. His is not necessarily a necessitous case.
– He said that a man with £10,000 could get his bond cashed, but another man with six children could not.
– I simply do not believe that.
-Why does not the Treasurer believe it, when any soldier who has married since his return, no matter what his wealth may be, can get his bond cashed?
– I admit that; but it is useless to quarrel about the. things that have been promised. The proper cure for these troubles would be to make all the bonds non-negotiable ; and I believe it would be infinitely better for the soldiers in the long run, and would lead to a great deal more contentment if no bonds at all had been cashed.
– The Treasurer desires to go back on the Government’s promises?
– I am suggesting nothing of the kind. I am carrying out the promises, although they are troublesome. The honorable member would carry them out in a way that would make the cost of living soar up.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member has a system of economics of his own. He believes that a country can be made rich by the printing press. That has long been the theory of the honorable member, and those associated with him. But the printing press for the creation of money has been shown, from “time immemorial, to be a snare and a delusion, and never more so than in this war.
– The honorable member for <South Sydney (Mr. Riley) says that he has heard you advocating the same pOliCy in days gone by.
– I was never simpleton enough to believe that a people or a country can be made rich by means of the printing press. The war has shown the fallacy of many old-time notions, perhaps more quickly than anything else could have done. Why do members opposite wish to go on using the printing press to manufacture paper money when they know that the causes which are operating all over the world to increase prices must operate in the same way here? To pay in the manner proposed £30,000,000 in war gratuities and another £30,000,000 for wheat would tremendously inflate the credit of the country, and thus bring about an increase in the prices of the commodities used by the men whose cause members profess to champion.
– More platitudes!
– I admire the pompous style and impressive manner in which the honorable member himself reels off platitudes. I never knew any one who could speak with such tremendous force and say nothing at all.
– Then you do not know yourself.
– I do not think I do; but the honorable member knows himself quite well, and we know what he is after just now. Ever since he entered this Parliament he has been ready and willing to exploit every interest for his political ends. This afternoon we have had another instance of this. The motion requiring the payment for the wheat in cash at the railway sidings was another instance of it. When the amendment now before us has been disposed of, we shall have from him some new proposal for the restraint of the profiteer and the prevention of high prices. Perhaps to-night, after having voted for a. course which will inevitably inflate prices, he will again denounce the profiteer and the high cost of living.
– Is there any prospect of the war gratuity being paid to the soldiers ?
– Any soldier in necessitous circumstances can get cash for his bonds, but he must establish the fact that he is necessitous. No doubt, there have been hard cases, but they can always be reviewed and rectified when established. I ask honorable members not to vote for the amendment, because, were it carried, our credit and our financial future generally would be seriously affected. We cannot afford at this time to flood Australia with paper money. Our bonds are sufficiently low as it is, and the more our credit is inflated, the harder will it be for those whom honorable members seek to benefit.
.- The Treasurer has told us that our credit is already sufficiently inflated, and asks us not to flood the country with paper money; but at the same time he assures us that he will let lose a stream of paper money to meet the cases of necessitous soldiers, and he will do the same thing- to assist soldiers who have at their back capital amounting to £10,000 or £12,000.
– Is the cashing of the war gratuity bonds the flooding of the market with paper money? It is the calling in of paper money.
– When the second reading of the War Gratuity Bill was before the House, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) assured us that no soldier would be exploited by money-lenders or others in connexion with the gratuity bonds.
– We prevent that so far as we can do so.
– This afternoon the right honorable gentleman has told us that there is a great exploitation of soldiers, just as we on this side foretold. We begged the Government to face the situation boldly, and pay the war gratuity in cash, which is what the Prime Minister originally promised to do.
– That was never promised by the Prime Minister.
– What does the honorable member mean by cash; does he mean sovereigns?
– No. I mean cash in the ordinary acceptation of the term in connexion with the every-day commercial dealings of the community. The soldiers have been despoiled, as we said they would be. The more difficult it is to negotiate bonds, the more certain it is that the negotiations, if effected, will be to the disadvantage of the soldier, and that is what is happening.
– I say that it is happening,, and I have submitted instances to the House.
– The honorable member has also had to admit that his original statements were not correct; I refer to his statements about soldiers’ dealings with furniture houses and gramophone shops.
– What I said was absolutely correct in every important detail.
– You would not have cared if every Australian soldier had been killed on the other side of the world.
– I ask that that most insulting observation be immediately withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– You had better not repeat it. I made statements in this House in support of which I produced proofs; but in one instance I mentioned the name of a firm which was not to blame, and in justice to that firm I subsequently explained my original statement. If, as the Treasurer suggests, the war gratuity bonds, if negotiable, would be sought after as attractive securities, the. soldier would be sufficiently safeguarded, because he would get face value for them.. I do not think that they would be such attractive securities, nor that if they were made negotiable they would be negotiated as extravagantly as the Treasurer suggests. It does not follow that every soldier would negotiate his bonds if he could do so, though in a majority of the cases the bonds would perhaps be negotiated. The Treasurer said that at the present time permission is given for the transfer of these bonds in certain cases, and in reply to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), he said that permission was given only for transfers to approved transferees. I am informed by the Treasury officials, however, that business firms, or practically any persons willing to accept the bonds, may get permission to have them transferred to them provided that they undertake to pay for them at their value, whether in goods or in land. Unfortunately, the full value is not always paid, and the soldiers are exploited, and that, I think, can be prevented in the future only by making the bonds generally negotiable, or paying the gratuity in cash.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the course of my speech before the adjournment for dinner, the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) challenged a statement made by me that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) during the last election, had definitely promised to pay the war gratuity in cash.
– This is not a personal explanation.
– If I remember rightly, the statement to which the honorable member refers was made by way of interjection.
– Yes. Shall I not be in order in giving my authority for my statement?
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing so at this moment. He wouldbe in order if the honorable member addressing the House had misrepresented him during the course of his speech; but the remarks complained of were made by another honorable member who interjected. All interjections are disorderly, and the honorable, member will not be in order in making a personal explanation arising out of interjections exchanged between himself and another honorable member during the course of the Minister’s speech.
– All right, I shall take another, opportunity.
Motion (by Mr. Hector Lamond) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . ..18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 27th October (vide page 6028), on motion by Mr. Poynton -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
MrBRENNAN (Batman) [8.8].- In discussing this Bill at a somewhat late hour last night, I pointed out that one of the methods adopted by the Government, with the object of encouraging immigration, was to intimate to the white races outside our own country that if they came here and behaved themselves they might possibly qualify for the rights of citizenship after five years’ residence.. No more discouraging policy could be determined upon than that of illiberalizing the naturalization laws of the Commonwealth.
The position would not be so bad if at the end of the five years’ period the granting or withholding of letters of naturalization did not depend entirely upon the whim of the Minister for the time being, stampeded as he might be by the probability of war, or by any of those national and international prejudices which move Governments, and especially jingo Governments, to visit their wrath upon people of foreign nationality who happen to be for the time being resident on their shores. The policy of this Bill, as the Government would doubtless tell us, is to tighten up our naturalization laws ; but, as I would put it, it is to give more open expression to those feelings of international bigotry which had such a baneful effect in this country during the progress of the war. When a person comes to apply for letters of naturalization under this Bill, he is to satisfy the Minister thathe is a man of good character. Most of us would wish that our citizens were all guaranteed of good character; but it must be clear to honorable members that the expression is so elastic in its nature that here again full opportunity is given to the Minister to exercise complete and untrammelled discretion, and for any reason - although it be a purely personal reason - to refuse naturalization.
In moving the second reading of the Bill the Minister (Mr. Poynton) told us that he had been holding the scales of justice as fairly as possible between the Government on the one side and applicants for naturalization on the other. I was very much struck by a remark made by him, with the object of showing that he had discharged his duty conscientiously, that when a report reached him that some person, perhaps an applicant for naturalization, had made use of a disloyal expression in an hotel bar or some such place, he did not immediately act on that report, but called for further confirmation of the suggestion of disloyalty, since he recognised that very often these suggestions or allegations were made from unworthy motives. I ani quite prepared to accept the Minister’s assurance that upon those lines, and with these materials, he has done his best. But the statement is significant. In this matter of naturalization, as in every other affecting the rights and liberties of a person, who, whether a citizen or not, has a right to’ the protection of the laws of the country in which he is domiciled, it is an utterly odious practice to act on the hearsay unexamined evidence of secret witnesses.
– Yes. Under the original Act there is no such thing as a right to naturalization. There always has resided in the Government of the day a discretionary power. In the form in which it appeared in the Act of 1903, that discretionary power could be exercised adversely to the applicant only apparently for certain good reasons. But in the Act of 1917, which was passed when the war fever was raging, and when it was deemed to ‘ be necessary to take additional precautions because of the state of war which then existed, an absolute power was given to the Governor-General, acting through his Ministers, to refuse to grant, for any reasons which appeared to him good, letters of naturalization. This Bill, now that we are living in a time of peace, is intended or pretended to liberalize our naturalization laws, and to insure the administration of those laws upon the principles of elementary justice by providing that an applicant against whom disparaging allegations have been made shall have the right to test those allegations. But I protest against the principle which is embodied in the Bill, that the Minister may act upon the unexamined and ex parte statements of persons who may be biased, and whose motives may be tainted. These petty investigations into the private characters of individuals, if they are to be conducted at all, ought to be conducted openly, in order that the accused person may be afforded an opportunity of testing the reasons which animate his accusers and the truth of the accusation. But that course is not to be . followed under this Bill, any more than it was followed under the measure which it is now proposed to supplant.
In this Bill, as in the English Act, and, indeed, in previous measures, there is a generous provision that a foreigner who takes out letters of naturalization here shall thereby secure all the rights, powers and privileges, and incur all the obligations, of a naturalborn citizen of this country. I feel it my duty to state publicly that the undertaking which is given in the Bill, and which is similar in terms to’ that which was given by the Act of 1903, and which was confirmed by the Act of. 1917, has been from time to time grossly violated, and that letters of naturalization which have been granted to certain persons, have, to the discredit of the Government, been regarded as mere “ scraps of paper,” to be dishonoured whenever expediency prompted the adoption of that course. This fact was strikingly exemplified during the war, not only in the case of citizens of countries with which we were at war, but also in the case of citizens of one of the allied countries. I am, in particular, referring to the Italian nationals who were deported from the Commonwealth. Not only were Italians deported who were not naturalized, as I have more than once demonstrated, in breach of the best settled traditions of British jurisprudence; but nien who had certificates of naturalization were, upon the mere recommendation or suggestion of the Consul for the time being, hounded down in this country, and unquestionably would have been deported had it not been for the whole-hearted intervention of members of the Labour party, including myself, and of other persons outside of this House. In that regard, these people owe nothing to the Government of the day, and less than nothing to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). Upon that occasion we found that the names of men to whom the previous Min.ister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) had granted certificates of naturalization exempting them from deportation, appeared upon the lists of the Italian Consul and of the Minister for Defence, where they were described . as aliens, and as fit subjects for deportation. Some of these were, perhaps, deported, others we saved from that fate; but none of these people, naturalized or unnaturalized, owe anything to the present paternal Government.
It was a very common allegation during the war that Germany, as a State, had forfeited the right of her people to become naturalized in this country, by reason of the fact that she had passed a law which secured - whether they willed it or not - their allegiance to her, even though they had become naturalized here. A good deal was said at the time about that law, which was alleged to have absolved us from any duty to protect naturalized Germans in this country, because Germany still regarded them as her own. subjects. In discussing this question, it is well to remember that that is the stand which is taken up by nearly every one of the civilized nations of the world. Until 1870, it was literally true of the Englishman that, to paraphrase the opera -
In spite of all temptations, To belong to other nations, He is still an Englishman.
So jealously did Britain insist that it was impossible for one of her sons to shed his nationality, that up to 1870 she even exercised the right to send officers upon a foreign merchantman in order to take into custody one of her citizens who had taken out letters of naturalization in another country. That position was, of course, relaxed by the naturalization Act of 1870. But the truth is that an unlimited right on. the part of a citizen of any country to shed his nationality has never been admitted by his country of origin. Certainly, a Frenchman coming here, and taking out letters of naturalization would not be held to have shed his nationality so far as France is concerned until at least he had reached an age when he was no longer liable to military service. A similar law obtains in Spain, and also in Germany. Under this Bill, an alien who has taken out letters of naturalization in the Commonwealth, will still be. regarded as a citizen of his country of origin in the event of war breaking out between the Commonwealth and that country. In such circumstances, his letters of naturalization must be revoked. That is mandatory under this measure. That is a very serious matter. If war should break out with France in ten years’ time, every Frenchman who has been naturalized in this country, under the theory which I have been endeavouring to explain, must necessarily have his letters of naturalization revoked.
– To what clause is the honorable member referring ?
– To clause 12e. The Governor-General must, in the circumstances I have outlined, revoke the letters of naturalization which have been granted to citizens of the country with which we are at war.
I intend, in Committee, to submit certain amendments to the Bill, which I recognise I have not any hope of carrying. But, at the present stage, I do not propose to say anything more. I am sorry that the measure leaves untouched the burning question of the status of women. I am sorry that, under it, an Australian girl who has never been outside of this country, may find herself, by reason of her marriage, designated as a citizen of a foreign country. It is an ancient theory, but an utterly unjust one, and one against which thinking men and women have protested. Generally speaking, the operation of the Bill will tend, upon the one hand, in the direction of professing a wide and generous invitation to foreigners, while, on the other hand, on closer examination, it makes it clear that, if they do come here, they do so at their peril. I say “ at their peril “ with the knowledge that I have of what happened here to both naturalized and non-naturalized persons during the war. Up to the time when the war broke out, I never had believed, and would not ‘have believed, if I had not lived to see it, that men who came here in good faith, throwing off the worst traditions of the country from which they came, adopting the laws and customs of this country, and helping to make it a good free land, would have been persecuted and held up to obloquy, for no fault of their own, in the way I saw occur here. It is for that reason that one looks with some jealousy upon any naturalization law. One can only sav that, if this Bill were to be wisely and liberally administered by men of broad views, it could be a good working measure. But, with the knowledge that we have of the way in which the existing law has been used and misused, and the purposes for which regulations have been made under it, I have no very great faith that this Bill will be of much 6ervice to the people of this country or to people outside it.
– I went through this Bill very carefully myself, and also, with the aid of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), because I wished to be sure that there would be in it nothing that could in any way be harmful to those who have already been naturalized by us in Australia. Naturalization is not a thing that should be given too easily or too readily. The honorable member who leads the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) last night mentioned the case of the Uitlanders in Johannesburg, which, he said, and rightly said, was one of the reasons that led up to the war with the two South African Republics. I do not think those people ever had the slightest cause for complaint so> far as naturalization itself went. They were a floating mining population at that time, and the Boers, . the farmers, who were the actual owners of those- two Republics, were quite justified, I thought, and still think, in making whatever regulations they deemed right and fit as regards naturalization. That, however, was not by any means either the main or the only cause which led up to the Boer War. The right of naturalization is one of the greatest gifts that a nation can make to any one coming to live among ito own people. I am not in favour of giving it readily, or only after a short probation. The true test of the fitness of a man to receive naturalization, the true proof that he is deserving of becoming an Australian and receiving Australian citizenship, is that he himself shall be able to show that he lias acquired a genuine Australian sentiment and ideal. If he has done that, then I am willing to give him the full rights of Australian citizenship. If citizenship id made too easily acquirable, if the gift is made of too small value, then it reflects on the other side, and is perhaps not honoured to the extent that i”E should be. I am one of those who think it should not be too easily acquired, but once it is acquired, the bond should be honoured in the very fullest and highest degree. It is not my object or intention to go into the history of the last few years or to stir up ill-feeling, which I might possibly do on matters of that sort. I only want to see that those who have been naturalized get the fullest protection under this Bill, and that nothing is done, as perhaps might be done if clause 12 were left in ite present form, to endanger in any way the rights which they now hold. I, for one, so far as I am able in this House, will protect their interests in every way to the fullest extent.
Our Empire has often been compared with that of Rome. The greatest boast of a Roman was Civis Romanus sum, - “I am 1a Roman citizen.” We find, perhaps, the grandest example of the value of citizenship in the Bible itself. I need not remind you, sir, or the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), or the Minister at the table (Mr. Poynton) where the passage will be found, but in the 22nd chapter of Acts appears the story of the apostle St. Paul. He was about to be scourged, and ‘he said quietly and calmly to one of the soldiers, “Is it lawful to scourge, without trial, a man who is a Roman 1” Immediately he said that the soldier ran and called the officer in charge of the guard, saying to him, “ Be careful what you are doing. This is a Roman citizen.” The captain of the guard at once, in his turn, hurried to the prisoner and asked him, “ Is it true that you are a Roman?” St. Paul replied, that he was. The captain of the guard then expressed astonishment, saying, “With a great sum of money I purchased this,” and St. Paul replied, “ I was free born.” That is a beautiful example of the value of citizenship.. It saved this man in his hour of need, ‘ instantaneously and without question. It proved that the captain of the guard himself, although originally not a free-born Roman, yet, once he had acquired naturalization with a great sum of money,, was able, possessing the full rights of Roman citizenship, to occupy a responsible position in charge of a large number of soldiers. Eventually St. Paul, by appealing to Caesar, was sent, on what was then a long voyage, to Rome. When he appealed to Caesar, so great was the prestige of Roman citizenship that the Governor himself, although he wished to dismiss him, would no longer handle the case, but sent him straight to the Emperor. I quote that little story to show how we, too, once we give naturalization to any one who comes here, should respect and honour it in the fullest degree. This is mainly a Committee Bill. Where we can alter it fairly, I shall attempt _ to do so. I have every faith in the fairness, common sense, and sympathy of the Minister in charge of it. I’ have found him in every way sympathetic and fair in the matters I have brought before him. I hope he will still show himself so during the passage of the Bill, and especially towards any little amendments that we may think it desirable to propose.
.- I am very pleased, indeed, that the Bill has been brought down, because I think it will be the means of acting justly towards a number of men whom we ourselves asked to come here. Although we may not have had the most friendly feelings towards the people of their nation of late years, we cannot get over the fact that, at the time I was in- the Queensland Parliament, we. tried to get immigrants from all parts of the Empire, and, failing to secure sufficient to fill up some of the enormous blank spaces in that State, were then- compelled to turn to the Continent, and sent men from Queensland to Germany to go among the farmers there, and besought them to come out and become citizens of the Commonwealth. We even went further by reserving certain tracts of land for them, so that when they came out they woul’d not have to go about the country to find1 land- to settle on. It was al] ready for them to take possession of. There are many hundreds and thousands of them in Queensland, to whom no charge of disloyalty was ever traced during the whole period of the late war. It is, therefore, right that- we should not allow out prejudices to overcome our sense of justice. We should, at least;, act justly and fairly towards those whom we sought out in order to bring them here, so. that they might become’ our fellow citizens.. They took up- the land in the foll belief that they would have, the privileges of Commonwealth’ subjects. This Bill will, allow them to become naturalized,, because “ there is not one of those men or women’ who has not been in Australia, foa- at least five years.. That five years’ residence will entitle them to be naturalized, if there is nothing against them.. There were a large number of Germans in Australia who were not loyal during the war, but they did not come out here, as these men did, to make Australia their home. When they were found to be disloyal they were dealt with, but we have not found the slightest disloyalty among those to whom I and my friend the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) have referred. I hope that both the honor able member and myself are as loyal as any people in Australia, and I think we have shown it in every way possible. We hope also that we have been, and will always be, just. The administration of this Bill, when it is carried, will be in the hands, we believe, of a just Minister, because, like that of the honorable member for Moreton, my experience, in the many matters that I have brought before him, has been that he has meted out fair treatment.- We also find that there has been a wonderful change of late in the Department of the AttorneyGeneral. I have had no- difficulty of late in getting for constituents of mine naturalization papers, and also the right to purchase land within my own electorate. These are all men against whose loyalty, as in the case of those I have spoken of, nothing has ever been said. I have many proofs of their loyalty during the war.
– How does the honorable member suggest that the position of those to whom he refers will be improved by this Bill?
– The honorable member asks a very pertinent question. Persons naturalized under this BiU will be naturalized for the whole, of the- Empire, and that is certainly a great improvement on being, naturalized, for one State, and one State only, of the Commonwealth.. Then,, under this Bill, if naturalized persons move from New South Wales or Victoria into Queensland they will find themselves naturalized in the latter State without any further trouble, and they are also naturalized, as I say, in any part of the Empire. There is another improvement, in that, if aman’ has been resident ih any otherpart of the Empire for at least five years,, he may become a citizen of Australia without further’ delay. When a man settles on .the land1 he often desires to borrow in order to extend his holding, or obtain ‘his deeds, and wants to be able to do so without being harassed with- a number of objections: He has cast his lot for all time here, and’ he looks for that treatment he expected when he- first came. 1 am pleased1 to note that the Bill extends the advantages of naturalization, and I do not think that under existing circumstances Ave shall have much reason to complain of the administration of tie measure.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has expressed his pleasure at the introduction of this Bill on the ground that it is going to do a great deal more than has been done under ‘the original Act for certain reputable citizens of whom he has spoken. The honorable member, however, sat down without quoting one line of the Bill in order to show where it provides for any extended concessions.
– The Bill gives Empire naturalization.
– My trouble is that, after having carefully weighed the Bill, I find that, instead of extending privileges, it limits them.
– Inwhat way?
– I shall quote from the Bill in order to prove my assertion - a course which the honorable member himself did not take. It is interesting to hear the honorable member’s expressions of appreciation of the estimable qualities of a number of citizens who were enticed out to this country from a part of Europe. They were brought here to settle in Queensland on lands which, up to that time, had been barren wastes.
– I did not say that; there are.no barren areas in Queensland.
– Well, I shall call them unused areas. The honorable member told us that as a result of this immigration those waste places have been put to practical use. The honorable member’s professions of friendship for those people are rather belated. Some of them, who have done much for Queensland and other parts of the Commonwealth, have been treated during the last four years in a manner which reflects not credit, but the greatest discredit, on this Government. The honorable member has told us that he knew a great number of those people who were thoroughly loyal and good citizens; and he must admit that, while they were being robbed of their- citizen rights, he never, in this House, or, so far as I know, elsewhere, raised his voice in protest ; on the contrary, he supported the Government which perpetrated the iniquities. Now, when the whole thing is over, and the injury has been done, the honorable mem ber, with, I suppose, his eye on the next election and their votes, endeavours to “ make good “ with them.
– I suppose that the honorable member himself, in making this speech, has not an eye ontheir votes ?
– On this question I stand to-day exactly where I have stood from the beginning. The honorable gentleman cannot point to an act of mine during the last five years which is not in accordance with my presentattitude. The position of the honorable member for Wide Bay, however, is a very different one. . When those people required friends in their time of trouble, he never raised his voice in their defence, notwithstanding his admission that they were thoroughly loyal and good citizens.
– They were befriended in other more practical ways.
– However, I shall leave those people to speak for themselves, and I have no doubt they will do so. The injustice inflicted on them will remain in their memory for long, and they are not likely to forgive those who deserted them. My experience of the loyalty of those people is precisely the same as that of the honorable member. No one will defend those who were proved to be disloyalists, but we all know that not only those referred to by the honorable member as having been brought out in order to set an example to others who were not prepared totake up land, but a number of Australian-born citizens, even of the second generation, were deprived of their citizen rights. It is because such things were possible, and were done, that we are somewhat suspicious when dealing with a measure of this kind introduced by the present Government.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) challenged me to point out in the Bill provisions which restrict instead of extending opportunities for naturalization. In the first place, the original Act provides for a qualification of two years’ residence, while the Bill makes the period five years. Is that extending or wideningthe opportunities for naturalization? I think the Minister (Mr. Poynton) will agree with me that that is a limitation; and it is one for which I can see no justification.
– I agree that if the qualificationwere two years’ residence the honorable member would urge that it ought to be one year. Nothing can be proposed from this side of the House to suit the honorable member.
– No matter how the honorable gentleman may endeavour to twist my words, he cannot show any analogy between one year and five years. If I desired the period to be one year, I cannot see how a statement of that fact would answer my argument that the proposal in the Bill is a restriction, and not an extension. Then, again, the Act provides that an applicant shall satisfy the Minister that he is able to read and write English , but the Bill proposes that an applicant must have an “ adequate knowledge of the English language.”
– Will he be asked to parse a sentence?
– I believe that that is actually done. Honorable members know that there is a number of old people who cannot be naturalized, and, therefore, cannot receive a pension, because they have not been able to satisfy the powers that be that they are in possession of” an adequate knowledge of the English language.”
– An education test has been in operation for some time.
– But the proposal in the Bill is a limitation. Under the Act an applicant has to be able to read and write; but the Bill insists on” an adequate knowledge of the English language.” The former, I submit, is less of a restriction in the way of an education test.
– Are you against any test of the kind?
– Many of these old people have proved themselves good citizens; but a number of them - I have their cases now before the Department - are deprived of pensions because they are not able to write their names, and, therefore, cannot be naturalized. They can write in a sort of way. In any case, even amongst people born and bred in this country, we find those who do not write very legibly. Personally, I receive letters from the Departments which I have much difficulty in reading.
– Departmental letters are all typewritten.
– The signatures are not. However, when the honorable gentleman asks me whether I am in favour of doing away with the education test, I can only say that I do not attach much importance to it. A man may prove himself a desirable citizen, and do his share in the development of the country, and yet not be much of a scholar. Although he might be capable of doing useful work in this country, the fact that he is not able to write his name will deprive him of naturalization, and, consequently, of pension rights if he should strike evil days and require a pension.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) referred to clause 12, which I had marked as another illustration of the restrictions proposed in this Bill, as compared with anything contained in the principal Act. I cannot see where the greater latitude that the Minister (Mr. Poynton) said was to be given by this Bill comes in. It is provided in sub-clause 2 that the GovernorGeneral shall revoke a certificate of naturalization granted by him in any case in which he is satisfied that the person to whom the certificate was granted - has, within five years of the date of the grant of the certificate, been sentenced by any Court in His Majesty’s Dominions to imprisonment for a term of not less than twelve months, or to a term of penal servitude, or to a fine of not less than £1 00.
A fine of £100 may be imposed for a comparatively trivial offence. A few days ago we were considering a Bill which imposed a penalty of £100 upon any person convicted of attempting to leave Australia without a passport.
– The Act provides that if the Governor-General is satisfied that it is desirable for any reason that a certificate of naturalization be revoked, he may revoke it.
– That provision is only to be found in the war measure which this Bill repeals.
– I quite admit that a great deal was done during the war period, but we are told that the purpose of this Bill is to remove all these wrongs against certain people. As I was saying, we were considering the other day the case of a lad sixteen years of age who, on attempting to leave this country without a passport, would, under this Bill, be liable to a fine of £100, and to have his certificate of naturalization revoked.
– Without a trial.
– Evidently trials have ceased to he the order of the day, and we would not expect anything else from this Government. I pass on to the next sub-paragraph, which provides that the Governor-General may revoke a certificate in any case in which he is satisfied that the person - was not of good character at the date of the grant of the certificate.
Who is to be judge of the character’ of such a person?
– The Governor-General, I suppose.
– That means the Minister.
– The honorable member must not discuss the clauses in detail. On the second reading of a Bill he must confine his remarks to general principles.
– I suppose the real object of this provision is to provide some occupation for the Commonwealth police. I want to know who is to go around finding out all these things?
– But the Minister must be given power to refuse to naturalize any person.
– I am not dealing with that phase of the question, but am referring to the flimsy excuses upon which a man may be deprived of his certificate of naturalization.
– It is provided in subclause 5 of clause 12 that a man cannot be deprived of his certificate of naturalization unless a Judge of the High Court decides that it shall be done.
– That is only where an inquiry is held ; but before a case reaches that stage the GovernorGeneral, or the Minister, will be called upon to give a decision as to the character of the person concerned.
There are one or two other clauses which can be dealt with in Committee. I quite agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) that, in days gone by, before the troublous times through which we have just passed, certain people of German nationality were enticed out to Australia who have been described, particularly by the friends of the honorable member for Wide Bay, as the most useful type of settlers this country has had. Mr. Holman, the ex-Premier of New South Wales, speaking of a number of these people who had settled in a portion of his State, said that they were among the most estimable in the State, and that they had done most excellent work for Australia. He even went so far as to say that they had taught the Australian farmers how to till their land to a greater degree of perfection and profit for themselves. But, notwithstanding all this, and although these people had been naturalized for years, and had settled down in their adopted land, they and their children were deprivedof citizen rights in a most shameful manner, and, in many cases, as the result of trumpedup charges of the flimsiest character put forward by police or secret service men employed during the war, were deported without a trial.
– I do not know one in my electorate who was sent out of the country.
– Well, the honorable member’s electorate must have been an exception to the rule; and a number of them were deprived of their votes.
– When they were deprived of their votes, and had no voice in sending the honorable member to this House, he did not have very much to say for them, but now that there is a prospect of their getting their votes back again, he has a good word to say for them. Attwo referendums they and their children were deprived of their votes, but I did not hear the honorable member say a word on their behalf. One becomes suspicious that all is not as it should be. The wrong done to a loyal section of the people, who were deprived of citizen rights on trumped-up accusations,and who were interned, although no charge was ever proved against them, is all bad enough. We should not pursue the vendetta, but, to employ the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), we should let bygones be bygones. With ihose words ringing in our ears, honorable members expected something more liberal and generous than can be found in this measure. I cannot understand why it is proposed to extend the qualification period from two years to five.
– To bring our legislation into conformity with -the Imperial Act.
– I perceive that much, but it does not do away with the fact that this extension will restrict naturalization opportunities, whereas we had been told, and had expected, that there would be a widening. My first impression of the Bill was that it did appear to represent a desire to make up something to loyal people who had, suffered because they had ancestors whose nationality was decided for them before they were born. Instead of there being any adjustment of wrongs, however, the measure now seems to me to suggest that we are not going to allow these people to forget what happened to them.
We hear a great deal about the need for encouraging immigration to Australia. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) were members of a deputation which waited upon Mr. Mackinnon in relation to the question of providing land by the cutting up of big estates for the settlement of returned soldiers. The honorable member for Grampians, I understand, expressed the hope that the bigger estates would not be interfered with on the ground that it would harm the merino wool industry, and he said representations should be made to the New South Wales Government to provide for the settlement of soldiers in the Riverina.
– That is all pure imagination.
– I understand the honorable member was there.
– I was; but I never said a word.
– Then will the honorable member care to tell me who it was that uttered those sentiments, and whether he protested against them ?
– I do not think the expressions were used.
– They were. Indeed, the sentiment expressed really formed the purpose of the depu- tation. The idea was to protest against the cutting up of big estates so as not to interfere with the wool industry.
– That was not the object of the deputation.
– I am sorry the honorable member did not protest against those expressions. I know that the cause of the merino wool industry was advocated.
– What has all this to do with the Bill?
– This much, that it is said we desire to encourage immigration - which, of course, may involve the subject of naturalization of immigrants - and that we also desire to settle returned soldiers ; but when it comes to choosing between immigrants and returned soldiers and merino sheep, the sheep win every time. The Government are not only driving returned soldiers from settlement upon the land, but they propose to give no greater inducement in the way of liberalizing our naturalization laws than is contained in this measure.
.- With respect to the naturalization of aliens coming into Australia, I cannot understand that honorable members should complain of the responsible Minister having power to determine whether or not a person should be naturalized. Nobody wishes every individual, good and bad, to be free to come into Australia and be naturalized. We do not want to import bad characters. The responsible Minister always has had, and should continue to have, the power which is carried on under this measure.. There has been a suggestion that, instead of making the residential period five years, a1 shorter term would be better, but I know of no great objection; and, seeing that the fiveyear period brings us into line ‘with the Imperial legislation, it would be as well for us to incorporate it. A careful watch should be set in the matter of power to revoke certificates.
– The honorable member will not agree with me, I presume, that naturalization should not be revoked in any circumstances?
– I cannot quite go that far. There are circumstances in which the Government should have the right of revocation. If, while our boys were away fighting, a person in Australia acted disloyally, and it was proved that he had so acted-
– That is what the Government did not do, but they revoked naturalization.
– The Government have not revoked any naturalization certificate. They have not the power.
– When they took away citizens’ voting qualifications they practically took away their naturalization.
– I say that the Government had not the power to revoke naturalization certificates.
– They had, and they used it. The power is contained in the 1917 Act.
– There is no doubt that we had the power under that Act.
– I am basing my remarks upon statements made to me by the late Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), who wa’s a constitutional lawyer.
– He had in mind naturalization taken out before the Commonwealth was established.
– I am speaking of the past two years. I cannot believe that the Government to-day have the power to revoke naturalization. We should be very careful with respect to the power we may give to a Minister.
– Section 11 of the Act of 1917 specifically gives the power to revoke certificates.
– And without an inquiry. But this Bill does not.
– I am still in doubt so far as concerns people who were naturalized under a State law.
– The States could not naturalize anybody after the Commonwealth was established.
– I know that. I am speaking of persons naturalized prior to Federation.
– We cannot revoke the certificates of those persons.
– If we include this special power of revocation, it will give the Commonwealth authority to revoke naturalization granted at any time in Australia, and, therefore, care has to be taken that before naturalization can be revoked the person concerned shall be fully protected. It will be seen in clause 12 of the Bill that if a person who is to be denaturalized makes application, it shall be compulsory to hear his case before a Judge of the High Court or a Supreme Court Judge of aState. In such cases the Judge hearing the application shall have all the powers of a Royal Commission to inquire into the circumstances, and to report. In the event of the disloyalty of any person being in question, the Minister must refer this to a Judge for investigation; and I think it will be generally admitted that if any person has proved himself disloyal he should not have a single supporter in this Chamber or anywhere in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member admits that he should have a trial?
– Most decidedly; and provision has been made in the Bill for such cases to be heard before a Justice of the High Court or a Judge of a State Supreme Court.
In another portion of the Bill it is provided that a person who has been in prison for twelve months, or who has been fined £100, shall not have the right to an inquiry. Although there may be some justification for siich an exemption in connexion with a person who has been in prison for twelve months, it is quite possible that a person may have been fined £100 for an offence that was not really serious. If a person is to be denaturalized without an inquiry before a Judge simply because he was fined £100, it seems rather hard; but that is a question that can be fully discussed when the measure is in Committee. I agree with honorable members who have said that many charges were laid against citizens, particularly when our nerves were upset with the tragedies of war, and it is quite possible that many were improperly punished. It is quite likely that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) made certain mistakes in interning people, and I. know of quite a number who were interned at their own request during the war period because of the high feeling that existed and of the indignation expressed because of their nationality.
– But they were not deported.
– Certainly not; but some were interned, and because of thai a reflection was cast upon them. There may have been some who, as a result of spleen and spite, , were interned on “ faked “ charges.
– I know of cases where tilley framed up charges against Australian-born citizens occupying high positions.
– That is quite possible.
When I first perused the measure I thought that clause 12 gave the Minister absolute power to revoke naturalization without trial, and if that had been so I would have opposed - the Bill. I believe that, in framing the measure, the Minister has been, desirous of showing fair play, and, under these circumstances I am prepared to support its passage into Committee, where, however, I think some slight amendments might reasonably be made.
– But the Minister says he does not wish to amend it.
– I do not wish to amend it so that its Empire operation will be interfered with.
– I believe that certain amendments can be made in clause S without destroying the Bill. That particular provision is of great importance, as we need to be very careful before naturalization is granted, because after that is done naturalized persons should be regarded as desirable citizens of the Commonwealth. When we give them the privilege of citizenship, we should be true to our promise, and carry it out in its entirety. It should be our endeavour to treat them fairly, and it is only when they have shown that they are unworthy of the trust reposed in them that their naturalization should be revoked.
– I have listened attentively, and with interest, to the speeches delivered by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) and other honorable members, and I was sorry to hear the Minister say that he did not desire the measure to be amended. He gave as his reason that it was desirable to have reciprocal legislation with other parts of the Empire, and said that if we made this Bill dissimilar to the British Act of 1914-18 it might tend to hinder reciprocity. I am particularly glad <to notice that provision has been made so that, a person naturalized in one part of the Empire will be recognised as a British citizen in other portions of .the Empire. In this respect the Bill is a decided advance on other measures we have previously had before us.
– Canada has already adopted it.
– Yes, and doubtless the other Dominions mentioned in the schedule will adopt it, so that it will eventually become Empire-wide in its scope.
– Has it been adopted in Canada in its entirety ?
– Yes, the schedule covers the whole position.
– It has been pleasing to me to find that at last - there are some honorable members on the other side, including the honorable for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) who are coming into the open.
– At last!
– Yes, at last are coming out into the open and are now standing up for the people in Australia who have been so wrongly treated, because I do not want honorable members on this side of the House to have the special privilege in ‘that regard. On previous occasions I have stood in this Chamber, and have been treated in a hostile manner by practically every honorable member opposite because I have sup- , ported the interests of the GermanAustralian, section in our community. I believe that before long there will be other honorable members opposite who will yet be ashamed of their action and the action of the Government they are supporting.
– Does the honorable member recall the first speech I made in this House?
– Yes, on that occasion the honorable member did object to the disfranchisement of certain people; but almost -immediately he turned around and voted for the Hughes Government who disfranchised them, and was the only member of the Country party on that occasion who assisted in keeping the Government in power. I hope that in the future we are not merely to have “words’ but action, if action is necessary. I am looking forward to the day when not political advantage or the fear of being unpopular will hold sway, but when honorable members will stand for British justice, as has been done in other parts of the Empire.
I notice that many of the provisions in this measure that are beneficial are not the product of the Hughes Government, but of the British Government. In the years behind us the British Government has not been so fanatical as this Government has been, because I can recall the occasion when an attempt was made to remove from the Privy Council two men who possessed German names, and’ were of German blood. But those gentlemen are still members of the Privy Council. I am glad the honorable member for Moreton, by his mention of St. Paul and his Roman citizenship, has been the means of fanning a breeze into this Chamber that is refreshing, invigorating, and cleansing, and which is necessary to instil in the minds of men a New Testament truth which cannot be disregarded. We can still refer to the ‘ Old Book for many things, and find in it healing for the nations and a balm for this world’s ills. It is pleasing to know that we have had presented to us Roman citizenship as it is mentioned in .that Book, and when I think what Roman citizenship stood for, and what naturalization has meant to some people in Australia, I stand aghast. I look over the years that have passed, and realize that in spite of our veneer of civilization we have much to learn from that old Roman Empire. The more I reflect the more I believe that there are some people in our midst who will yet realize that their actions in the past have been very much at fault. I am glad that an illustration of Roman citizenship has been brought before the members of this House and of this Government.
It has been mentioned by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that it is necessary for us to watch the powers of revocation, and he said that in the past the Minister had no power over naturalization that may havebeen made under State laws. In the last few years we have had revocation, irrespective of all naturalization laws, and those who not only came from abroad, but those who were born in this coun- try, have been de-naturalized. Reference has been made to the revocation of the rights of a person who is born here and whose right to vote was taken away. The right to vote is the only protection a man has over his property, and that has been taken away from Australian-born citizens. I agree with the honorable member for Dampier that we shall have to watch the provisions of this measure very closely. A provision which I am glad has been copied from the Imperial Act, is that which allows a person threatened with the revocation of his certificate to appear before a Court. I think that is very necessary. If I read the clause aright, the Governor-General shall - and I hope I understand the meaning of that “ shall “ - send a notification to the last place or residence of the person concerned, and that person shall have the right of having his case heard before a Court. I wish that that power had existed in the past in regard to many things that were done.
– It would have been wiped out under the War Precautions Act.
– The Government might have found loopholes by means of the Wai1 Precautions Act, but I hope that Statute will soon pass away, and that there will be no more need for anything of the kind for many .years to come.
The Minister stated, by interjection, last night that great care was now being taken of foreigners by our party. Why should we not take care of people who come to settle in Australia? One of my names is Moses, and I make bold to prophesy that the day will come when we shall thank God for every white man in our midst, irrespective of the race to which he belongs. When the day comes when Australians arc challenged as a white people, we shall be grateful for the presence of every white man amongst US, and will not ask any questions as to the country whence his parents came. We have a duty to consider the foreigners who have come here. In reading an American newspaper last night, I saw the account of a lift accident, and the names of the twenty injured persons suggested that they or their ancestors had gone to America from many different European countries.
Proud as I am of my English blood and of the British race, I yet believe that the intermingling of the blood of other white people with our own is good for us, and must help to build up a stronger and better nation. Another reason why I support the immigration of white people, irrrespective of their country of origin, is that I believe that the class to which I belong should beware of the distinctions in respect of nationality that are made by the jingoistic sections of the community. The great need of my class is to know that the working classes of the world must stand together for their own protection, and to realize that the most powerful weapons used against them in the past have been differences in religion and nationality. I am prepared to do anything within my power to remove those weapons from the hands of the class that is opposed to us. If we make it possible for decent foreigners to become assimilated with people of our own blood, and if we remove distinctions of nationality, we shall do much for the betterment of the working classes, and much more than any League of Nations will ever do, to terminate international warfare. Therefore, I was glad to hear the Minister’s statement that this party is taking good care of foreigners, and to know that -that is the policy of the party to which I belong.
– I think the honorable member must have misunderstood me.
– Another provision that is copied from the British Act is that all persons who become naturalized shall enjoy all ‘political rights. I welcome that provision if it means anything, and I shall be even more pleased if practical effect is given to it.
There is another provision, that a person who desires to become naturalized shall advertise his intention in the press, and any person may then make a statutory declaration of reasons why, in his opinion, the application for naturalization should not be granted. That statutory declaration is not to be seen by the person most concerned, except with the consent of the person who made it. Knowing what took place in regard to the internment of Australian-born and naturalized Australian citizens during the war, I am afraid of this provision. I have heard of persons having been interned on account of mis-statements concerning them made by their personal enemies. I fear that the same thing may occur in connexion with naturalization. An alien who is in business may advertise his intention to apply for a certificate of naturalization. A business rival of British origin, actuated by business reasons, may make a statutory declaration in opposition to the application.
– No man of British origin would do that.
– What nonsense! I have no time for that sort of piffle.
– Order! The honorable member must not make offensive remarks.
– I did not mean the remark to be offensive, but I have no time for that narrow vision and excessive pride of race which leads some persons to believe that there are no virtues in any nationality except their own. I have known Britishers who were as unscrupulous as men of any other race, and I have known Britishers as good as the best of other races. It will be possible under this provision in the Bill for one of the contemptible class to which I am referring to make a statutory declaration which includes false charges against an alien who is applying for naturalization. The alien will have no chance of defending himself, or knowing what has been stated in the declaration, without the consent of the person who made it, except in a case of perjury. How is perjury to be charged against the person makins; a declaration unless the person affected by the declaration has an opportunity of reading the statements that have been made against him ? Having regard to past experience in connexion with internment, that provision seems to be unfair, and if an amendment is possible, it should be made.
When the Minister is replying, I hope that he will tell us whether it will be necessary for person? who have been naturalized under existing laws to again apply under thi: new Statute. As I read clause 3, that will not be necessary, but clause 8 provides that persons who are naturalized under existing laws may apply for naturalization under this measure.
– This Bill does not take away existing rights, but a naturalized person, may apply under clause 8 for Empire naturalization.
– I thank the Minister for that explanation. There is another point in respect of which I desire to be clear. Does the right to apply for naturalization, after a residence of five years in Australia, or another British Possession, apply to all aliens, or is the present system of differentiation to continue. Today, a person of German origin cannot become naturalized unless he has been continuously resident in Australia for twenty years, and is fifty years of age. When I have been fighting the cases of Germans, I have been told that the young men are dangerous. In my own electorate are a number of men who have been resident in Australia for from ten to forty years, and who thought that they were naturalized by virtue of the naturalization of their parents. They find that that is not so, and that they can become naturalized only if they have been resident here for twenty years, without any black marks, such as internment, in their records, and if they are at least fifty years of age. I hope the Minister will assure us that all aliens will be treated alike whether they are of German, French, Austrian, Danish, or other origin. The war is over* and we should put all nationalities on the same footing. Only by treating all alike shall we be able to remove the bitterness that must be wiped out before the Australians can become one united people. Recently I have been accused of stirring up race hatred in Queensland; but I declare to-night that until justice is done to the people of ex-enemy origin in our midst, and they are placed on the same footing as other citizens, I shall not be prepared to ask them to forget the wrongs that have been done them in the past.
– The more I study the matter ©f naturalization the more farcical it appears, because under any naturalization law a person may have a dual or treble nationality. As an instance of how foolish naturalization is, a man may become naturalized in Australia, and later become denaturalized. That has been done; in fact the German nation reserved to its citizens the right to become denaturalized. The Bill makes provision that a person becoming naturalized may, by registering the names of his children, naturalize them also. That is bad in law, because no man can sell the birthright of his children. That fact was proved in the law Courts when I was a youngster. An Englishman went to America where he became naturalized, and he claimed that his son was an American citizen.- The son returned to Britain and claimed the nationality of the land in which his father was born, and the Courts held that he was a British subject. Similarly, no man can, by his own naturalization, make his son a Britisher. The son of a naturalized person may, on reaching manhood, claim the nationality of the land in which his father was born, and what is the use of trying to naturalize him as a British subject against his will ? I know that this provision was inserted with a good intention, viz., to meet the circumstances of a lot of persons who thought that their naturalization followed automatically on the naturalization of their fathers.
– I have allowed a lot of those persons to become naturalized.
– These people are trying to claim two rights: the right to naturalization here, and the right to retain the nationality of the country in which ‘ their father was born: There is, however, a clause in the Bill which provides that an individual born on a British ship shall be given British nationality. Therefore, a Chinese woman from Hongkong might board a vessel lying off the island, and have a child on board whose nationality would be British, although his parents were Chinese, and he might go to America, and there acquire American citizenship.
– Yet he would still remain a Chinaman.
– Of course. If an egg is laid in a manger, it does not hatch out a donkey. In my opinion, the provision to which I have just alluded infringes the White Australia principle. We have had enough trouble already with Hongkong Chinamen; but, so far as I can see, there is nothing to prevent Chinese or Japanese born on” British ships from claiming British nationality. I think that if a man lives in this country, and abides by its laws, that should, entitle him. to become an Australian citizen.
– Supposing he does not abide by the laws?
– Then he should be punished.
– You say that a Chinaman born on a British ship can claim British citizenship, and so enter Australia?
– The Bill says, in clause 6, sub-clause 1, paragraph c -
Any person born on board a British ship, whether in foreign territorial waters or not, shall be deemed to be a natural-born British subject. That provision makes a farce of our naturalization.
– He must be the child of a British subject.
– The clause says “ any person.” My view is that any one who comes here, lives in the country, and abides by its laws, should become an Australian subject without the formality of naturalization provided for in theBill. There is one thing I should like to ask the Minister. When de Valera has become President of an Irish Republic,what will be the position of the children of Irish parents bom in Australia?
– Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
– I leave it at that.
Mr.RYAN (West Sydney) [10.6].- I wish to say a word or two in protest against the claim of the Minister (Mr. Poynton) and honorable members of his party who have supported the Bill, that it is a measure for enlarging the rights of foreigners in respect of naturalization. The Minister told me that the Bill is the most liberal measure ever introduced into any Parliament, and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) gave it their blessing. I have never known a measure to be introduced by an anti-Labour Government without a similar statement by the Minister in charge of it, indorsed by those who supported him. When a measure to curtail the franchise, and to deprive nomadic workers of their votes, was introduced, we were told that the object was to purify the rolls, to extend the franchise, and to facilitate the enrolment of electors, although the object was to strike off names from the rolls. When the rate of exemptions from income taxation was reduced, we were told that the object was to broaden the basis of taxation. All measures of this kind are spoken of as broad measures, although framed and intended to restrict, rather than to enlarge, the rights of the citizens.
– All Ministers do that, you say?
– I take that to be an admission, but an admission is binding only on the person who makes it. The Minister’s admission is binding on his Government, but not on me. Besides. I did not say that all Ministers do it; I said that anti-Labour Governments do it. Was there any measure passed, or anything done by the Government during the war, which was not claimed to be for the enlargement of our liberties, although intended to restrict those liberties ? When they passed the War-time Elections Act, which practically tore up the naturalization certificates of many persons in the Commonwealth, did they not claim to be enlarging the liberties of the people? This measure increases the term during which a person who wishes to apply for a certificate of naturalization must reside in Australia from two to five years. Is that a liberalization of the law? The Minister and the honorable member for Moreton say that it is.
– I did not say anything of the sort. I said that I thought it necessary.
– But it did not facilitate naturalization. I am glad of that admission.
– I said that the extension of the period of residence was to bring our law into conformity with that of Great Britain.
– And also to enlarge the facilities for becoming naturalized; that the Bill conferred advantages over and above those given under the existing law.
– So far as it provides for the conferring of Empire naturalization.
– A further limitation. As the law is now, and as it was before the war, a citizen of France could come to this country, and after a residence of two years here become naturalized. But if this measure is passed he will require to have a residence of five years before he can secure naturalization. As the Leader of our party (Mr. Tudor) said last evening, because of a law of that nature in the Transvaal Republic a war was precipitated. Did not the British
Empire go to war with the Transvaal because of a law of this character?
– That was not the sole reason.
– The ostensible reason was that foreigners were not given the franchise within a certain period after they went to the Transvaal. It was because the Boers insisted upon the right which the Minister (Mr. Poynton) is now insisting upon here in Australia that the British Empire went to war with” the Transvaal. Is that not so?
– Not altogether.
– It was practically the whole reason.
– It was partly the reason.
– Very well. What the Minister is proposing here was partly the reason why the British Empire went to war with the Transvaal. That admission is sufficient for me.
I have given an example of what will happen to a citizen of France who comes here. The position will be the same with regard to an American citizen. I agree with what the honorable member for Moreton has said with respect to the right of citizenship.- Citizenship is a great right, and it cannot be shown that under our naturalization laws up to the present time people have been improperly naturalized. What is the objection, then, to continuing as we were before? Why should not a French citizen become entitled to naturalization in Australia, at all events, by a residence of two years? Why should not an American citizen be entitled to be naturalized for Australia after two years’ residence here? If the Government desire to confer some wider naturalization by all means ‘ let them do so, but do not let us curtail the right already existing for a foreigner to become naturalized after residing here for two years. In one of the earl’ier clauses of this Bill it is proposed to repeal the existing naturalization law. I put it to the Minister that the right to become naturalized in Australia should continue as at present, and that if the Government wish to extend that right to the Empire it can be so extended, if it becomes necessary, by the further residence for which this measure provides. The fact remains that the Bill will curtail and restrict the right of foreigners, who have been our Allies, to become naturalized. After all, a Frenchman is, tech nically, a foreigner - .an American is also - and their rights to citizenship in this country will be curtailed by the passing of this Bill. Yet the honorable member for Wide Bay, and the honorable member for Moreton seriously contend that this measure proposes to confer some advantage that is not conferred by the existing law. Such a sentiment, it seems to . me, comes strangely from the honorable member for Wide Bay, because he was a member of this Parliament when the Government passed a measure which disfranchised, not only naturalized citizens of Australia, but their descendants. That was done by means of the Electoral (War-time) Act. That Act is about to be repealed. Notice was given this afternoon of a motion for leave to introduce a Bill to repeal that Act, and now, when these citizens are about to have restored to them the right to vote, we have honorable members like the honorable member for Wide Bay rising in their places, and claiming that this is going to confer some advantage upon these persons whose votes they expect to secure.
– I thought the honorable member had been asking for a long time for the repeal of that Act, but now that we propose to repeal it he complains.
– I do not think the Act should ever have been passed. I was always’ opposed to it, and consider it should be repealed at the earliest moment. The honorable gentleman, however, misunderstands me. I am pointing out that, on the eve of the repeal of the Electoral (War-time) Act- on the eve of these Australian citizens again being given the right to vote - we have honorable members who stood for the passing of that measure claiming that they are going to confer some advantage on these citizens, although they were a party to depriving them of their right of citizenship. When you take away a man’s right to citizenship you practically take away everything from him. The6e people had reserved to them the privilege of paying taxes, but nothing more.
I wish now to refer briefly to the power of revocation. When a person becomes naturalized he thus has conferred upon him certain rights, including the right to hold property. An examination of the clause in this Bill which gives the Minister power to revoke a certificate of naturalization will show that be may take that action if he thinks fit on certain . conditions, and one of those conditions is that the person concerned has been fined £100. When a person has paid a fine of £100, surely he has expiated his offence. That is the punishment provided by the law, but it is proposed in this Bill that in the case of a naturalized citizen of the Commonwealth, not only shall he have to bear that particular punishment, but, in addition, the Minister mav take from him the right to hold property. The Minister will have the right of spoliation.
– If the honorable member followed that argument to its logical conclusion, where would it lead him?
– It would lead me to considerably amend this Bill.
– The honorable member says that by the payment of such a fine the person concerned expiates his offence.
– After he hag paid that penalty he has expiated his offence.
– Or if he has served a sentence of twelve months he has done so.
– Yes; but the Government want, in addition, to take away such a monia right to citizenship, and eo deprive him of his right to hold property. This means the spoliation of his property. Why should he pass such a provision? From what Acthas it been taken? From the British Act?
– Yes, it is an exact copy of a provision in the British Act.
– Then I have but one comment to offer, and that is that in Great Britain, as the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has said, the administration of the naturalization laws during the war was far more reasonable than it was in Australia. There is no doubt as to that. The Government in Australia acted most capriciously. Persons were interned here simply because of representations made in regard to them, very often by political opponents. No one should know that better than the honorable member for Moreton.
– Does the honorable member speak of representations made by politicalopponents !
– Yes, representations made by political opponents for political reasons. I know citizens of Queensland who were interned, I have no hesitation in saying, for political reasons.
– It might have been for private reasons.
– For opposingcertain candidates who were standing for election in Queensland. A case of the kind occurred in the honorable member’s own electorate. I think the honorable member knows to whom I am referring.
– There are a good many cases.
– But I refer in particular to a professional gentleman at Gatton who was interned for some time Why. was he interned ?
– I do not know. He has not told me.
– Does the honorable member suggest thatthere was any sound reason for that gentleman’s internment?
– I do not know the reason. He never came to me or told me of his case.
– The honorable member knows to. whom I am referring. Does be think there was any sound reason for his internment. I have here a report of an inspector of police from Toowoomba who was asked through the military authorities to investigate the matter. He was directed to obtain a statutorydeclaration in regard to this gentleman’s alleged disloyalty. The minute reads -
– Order! I would call the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he is now seeking to anticipate the discussion of a motion which appears, upon the business-paper.
– What is that!
– It relates to a list of internments.
– I am now speaking upon the question of holding an inquiry.-
– That matter appears upon the business-paper.
– Then may I not refer to any inquiry?
– Not in that connexion.
– I was referring to the manner in which inquiries generally are conducted.
– I did not call the honorable member to order for making a reference to that matter, but because ho was dilating upon internments, and was referring to a particular internment.
Mr.RY AN.- I was pointing out how that inquiry was conducted, because this Bill provides for the making of certain inquiries. If those inquiries are to be conducted upon similar lines to those which were adopted under theWar Precautions Act, they will be worse than worthless. In the case to which I was referring, the Inspector of Police ascertained, upon inquiry, that the accused person was of good character, and was reputable and loyal. That was the report of the officer at Toowoomba. But what was the result? The accused person was interned. I might refer to many other instances of a similar character.
– But that is one of the most glaring.
– There were others just as bad.
– I know of several cases in New South Wales which were just asbad.
– How are we going to provide in a measure of this kind against a travesty of justice of that sort?
– By retaining me as the head of the Department.
– I hope that the Minister does not wish to reflect upon any of his predecessors. As a matter of fact,’ the Department under which this so-called inquiry was conducted was the Defence Department. It may be that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is not as fair-minded as is the Minister for Home and Territories. However, I shall suspend judgment upon that matter, and, moreover, the latter has no lease of the office which he holds. For these reasons, I submit that theBill, instead of extending the privileges enjoyed by citizens who have become naturalized in Australia will curtail those privileges. It will impose a distinct limitation upon persons who may come tothis country hereafter, and become naturalized. In Committee, some amendments will require to be made to remove these blemishes, and to enable those persons who desire to become naturalized here to do so under similar conditions to those which obtained under the old Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and2 agreed to.
The following paper was presented: -
Railways Act - By-law No. 16.
– There is a matter within your province, sir, which I should like to mention. During the last Parliament, the files which were previously supplied to honorable members, and in which they were accustomed to keep copies of Bills coming before this Chamber, were taken away from them upon the plea of economy. Personally, I find that I am now using about two dozen Bills, where formerly one was sufficient. I think you will find, sir, upon inquiry, that the socalled economy which has been imposed upon us is rather expensive. If you can restore the old practice, it will be a convenience to honorable members.
– I was notaware that the files previously supplied to honorable members had been removed. I shall make inquiries into the matter, and see what can be done.
House adjourned at 10.31p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201028_reps_8_94/>.