8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took. the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.HUGHES. -(By leave.)- This morning I sent to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Hugh Mahon)a letter notifying him of my intention to move a motion for his expulsion. It was delivered to him by the Secretary to the Department, to whom the honorable gentleman said that he was unable to come into town to-day, because he had sprained his ankle. The Secretary, who noticed that he was fully dressed, and had his boots on, offered to bring him in in the car, but he declined to come. I wish now to notify the public, honorable members, and, incidentally, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie himself, to. whom personally I shall again communicate my intention, that to-morrow, on the meeting of the House, I shall move the motion to which I have referred.
– I trust that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will be well enough to attend to-morrow. The other day he treated us to some observations about the courage of the late Lord Mayor of Cork, who had the courage to die. I hope that the honorable member will have courage enough to come here.
– I ask leave to make a statement in reference to the matter mentioned by the Prime Minister.
– This is the last time that the Prime Minister will get leave from me to make a statement.
– In that case, I do not know that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) will get leave from . me now.
– About 2.15 this afternoon I heard that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was telephoning to this building, and I had an opportunity of saying a few words to him. He then informed me that he had hurt his foot.I ask the Prime Minister whether ho is to be taken to have given notice of his proposed motion ?
– I give notice of it now. To-morrow I shall move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, the Honorable Hugh Mahon, having, by seditious and disloyal utterances at a public meeting on Sunday last, been guilty of conduct unfitting him to remain a member of this House and inconsistent with the oath of allegiance which he has taken as a member of this House, be expelled this House.
– A few weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister when the basic wage is likely to be brought into operation. He promised toinquire, and to make a statement on the subject as early as possible. Has he any information to communicate to the House?
-No. I saw the chairman of the Basic Wage Commission - I think on the day on which the honor-‘ able member asked his question, or, at any rate, soon after - and he told mc that he hoped to present a report within about three weeks. I should think that it is about two weeks since the honorable member asked his question, and I hope, therefore, that the report will be received without much longer delay.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Repatriation whether the further consideration, that was promised some weeks ago, has yet been given to tubercular soldiers?
– Recently the honorable member, together with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron), the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond), and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), waited on me in connexion with these tubercular cases, and made certain claims on their behalf. As the honorable member informed me of his intention to ask this question, I have had prepared for me by the chairman of the Repatriation Commission the following statement : -
Repatriation benefits available for tubercular soldiers -. -
Medical treatment -
Sanatoria for cases requiring active treatment.
Anzac farms for arrested cases.
This includes quarters for married soldiers with families,
Special departmental institutions for advanced cases.
Free to and from sanatoria, Anzac farms, and institutions, and when on leave, from sanatoria and farms.
The Commission proposes to adopt a grading as follows, that is in addition to arrested tubercular cases capable of continuous work where the pension will bv assessed by the Medical Referee Board as per the ordinary scale: -
The pensions mentioned will be, of course, subject to the conditions set out in the second schedule to the Act.
These pensions shall not bo granted to those ex-soldiers who were returned from abroad for alleged pulmonary tuberculosis who, after a period of hospital and sanatoria treatment and investigation, were found to be nontubercular.
It should be pointed out that tubercular, patients who are in departmental institutions, including farms, receive the full pension allowed under the first schedule to the Act, i.e., £2 2s. per week as a minimum.
Of course, in the case of tubercular pensioners who have wivesand children or other dependants entitled under the Act, these wives, children, and dependants also receive pensions.
– In a paragraph which appeared in Monday’s Age it is stated that the divisible profit of Dalgety and Company Limitedfor the twelve months ended on the 30.th June last was given, in cable advice, , at £338,505, and that the directors proposed a dividend which would make the dividend for the year 10 per cent., witha bonus of 5s. per share, both free of income tax. Does that statement refer to the Australian income tax? I wish to know from the Treasurer whether it is possible for any company to pay from its funds the income tax on its dividends. This company’s income tax rate might be very much less than the rate charged” on the incomes of some of its big shareholders.
– I have not considered that aspect of the case. Obviously, the case to which the honorable gentleman refers is one in which the company is paying the income tax, whatever it may be. It is quite a customary thing for companies to make such an announcement. There is nothing new in that.
– Where the income tax would be Ss. 4d. for one individual and only5d. for another on a lower grade, is it possible for a company such as I have referred to to pay at a flat rate the income tax for all its shareholders?
– I do not think so.
– Will the honorable gentleman look into that matter?
– I certainly shall. I do not think that any individual is relieved of his personal obligation under the law by any announcement or action of the kind on the part of a company of which he is a shareholder.
– That is what I wanted to know.
– A week or so ago the Prime Minister made a statement in reference to payments for wheat, and I then asked him whether he would make arrangements for the printing of 5,000 or 6,000 copies of that statement in order that they might be distributed to honorable members and by them to various farmers’ associations? Can the right honorable gentleman now say when copiesof his statement will be made available to honorable members?
– I recollect the incident perfectly. I amunder the impression that I mentioned the matter to the Chief of the Hansard staff, and told him that I desiredto besupplied with 10,000 copies of the statement. I am notquite sure on that point, but I certainly did menition the matter, and copies of the Statement will be made available at the earliest possible moment. I shall attend to the matter directly I leave the chamber.
Appointment of Officials. Mr. MAKIN. - Has the Minister for Home and Territories any statement to make to the House with respect to the appointment of officials in the Northern Territory ?
– No appointments have yet been made.
– I find that when holidays are granted to permanent employees of the Public Service they receive full pay, but temporary employees, if they leave off work on those holidays, receive no pay. To-morrow will be Show Day at Ballarat. A number of returned soldiers are at work there on undergrounding cables for the Post and Telegraph Department, and whilst two or three permanent men will receive pay for the holiday, returned soldiers who are temporarily employed may work or leave off work as they please, but if they do not work on the holiday they will receive no pay. I should be glad if the PostmasterGeneral will make inquiries to see whether these men cannot be given the holiday off with pay, as are the permanent employees.
– The honorable member spoke to me of this matter yesterday, and I had inquiries made on tie subject. I have been informed that permanent men are getting the holiday and also temporary men, and the latter are to be paid for the day with the exception of those who are casual navvies. Further inquiries made have confirmed that information. I got into touch with the Acting Public Service Commissioner, and he tas informed me that the casual hands cannot be paid if they do not work.
– In view of the serious decline in prices of crossbred and inferior wool, will the Prime Minister sympathetically consider the re-opening of trade with late enemy countries for these products?
– I have never, since Peace has been declared, expressed myself as opposed to the sale by Australia to other countries of Australian products. My opposition has been, and is, to the purchase by Australia of the products of enemy or late enemy countries. I think that some Australian wool which was purchased by the British Government was recently sold to Austria, but whether directly by the British Government or not I do not know. If Germany is prepared to buy our wool at a satisfactory price, I am bound to say that I see no reason why we should not sell it to her.
– Will the Treasurer make available to honorable members the banking scheme prepared by Mr. King O’Malley, and printed by command on 15th April, 1908, providing for a national bank of issue, deposits, exchange, and reserve, with a Board of Management re presentative of the Commonwealth and the States?
– I understand that the scheme referred to is quietly reposing somewhere in the records of the House, and I advise the honorable member to look it up if he wants to see it.
Supplies to the Public.
– In view of the fact that a number of families in Victoria have been without sugar for several days, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs what arrangements he has made to enable the people of Victoria and of other parts of the Commonwealth to be supplied wilh sugar; and, as the fruit season is comin’g on, to enable housewives to secure a sufficient supply for the making of jam to assist them in meeting the high cost of living
– As Iexplained to the House on several occasions recently, we are making available to the trade the whole of the output of refined sugar, and, in addition, we have purchased a large quantity that will be arriving very shortly. As soon as it arrives we shall be in a position to make available to the community as much as they require.
Discontentof Naval Ratings.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to-day to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The discontent existing amongst the lower deck ratings of the Australian Navy.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
. - I regret exceedingly the necessity for having to submit this motion this afternoon, but it is one which affects not only the welfare of the various ratings of the Australian Navy, but it may be the safety of the people of Australia. For this reason I have felt compelled to adopt this course to direct public attention to the very serious condition of discontent existing to-day amongst the lower deck ratings of the Australian Navy. We know that as a result of the efforts of the British and Australian Navies during the late great war, the British people have been able to maintain their supremacy of the seas. There were many complaints made prior to the war and since its close by members of the British Naval Forces and also of the Australian Naval Forces. I find that in Great Britain the Admiralty took immediate steps to remedy the state of affairs existing amongst the lower deck ratings of the British Navy. They brought into being what was known as a Welfare Committee. It was composed of officers of the British Navy. In addition, there was appointed what was known as an Advisory Committee. This Committee is composed of men representing the lower deck ratings. The idea is that the Advisory Committee shall make any representations as to grievances to the Welfare Committee, and then the officers comprising the Welfare Committee either deal with the complaints themselves or pass them on to the Admiralty. In Australia the Government of the day adopted a similar system, and ‘ created Welfare Committees and Advisory Committees. .But the men complain that, owing to the fact that th’ey have to submit the whole of their grievances to the Welfare Committee, which is composed of officers, they are deprived of the opportunity of getting them remedied, because, if it suits them to do so, the officers refuse to pass the complaints on to the Naval Board and the Minister. Consequently, they have decided- unanimously to ask the Naval Board and the Minister to receive them direct, without any intervention on the part of Welfare Committee; but it is surprising to learn that the Board and the Minister have refused to receive any one representing the lower deck ratings for the purpose of hearing their grievances. The men, on being informed, in reply to their request, that they could place their grievances before Welfare Committee, which would thereupon forward them to the Naval Board for consideration, said that they did not propose to do so, because they did not believe they could get a fair deal from the officers, and that they preferred to go straight to the Minister or the Naval Board. The Board then stated that they were prepared to receive one or two representatives of the Advisory Committee to show reasons why it. should receive them. I want honorable members to note the absurdity of the position. These men were to be allowed to meet the Board merely to advance reasons why they should be received by it, but they were not to be allowed to put their grievances before it. In this matter the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) had an opportunity of making a name for himself by getting away from the old red-tape system, which has been in vogue in British naval affairs for centuries; but with a great deal of regret I have to say that he is merely allowing himself to be a creature in the hands of his officers and the members of the Naval Board, who have utterly failed to realize that as a result of the great world war new ideas prevail to-day. They do not see that they must get away from the old system, which prevented the man on the lower deck from approaching any one except his immediate superior, and would only allow his representations to eventually reach the head of the Department after they had passed through all the various steps of the ladder from that immediate superior officer upwards. The old ideas have been exploded by the war, and it is surprising to me that an Australian Minister for the Navy should still be prepared to allow them to continue in force in Australia, especially when we know that the British Admiralty have broken away from them.
– In what way?
– They have decided to cut away all the old red-tape which bound down the Service hand and foot. I have with me a reprint from Ashore and Afloat, a journal dealing with nautical and naval matters in Great Britain, which has on it a photograph bearing the following inscription: -
Lower deck deputation arriving at Whitehall to see the Lords of the Admiralty. Such a deputation is unprecedented in the history of the Navy.
The letterpress contains the following: -
The Admiralty, for the first time in history, received a deputation representing all lower deck ratings. The deputation attended at Whitehall at the invitation of the Board, and consisted of twenty-one advisory members of the Lower Deck “ Inter-Port Welfare Committee.
Mr. Laird (Smith. - Whom did they see?
– Earl Beatty, the First Sea Lord, received the deputation, and the interview, we are told, lasted two and three-quarter hours. The hero of Jutland, the idol of the British Navy, the man who had done his part nobly and well, and but for whose efforts the German Navy might be riding triumphant in the North Sea to-day, received these men without any intermediary. The man who did the fighting raised no question of red-tape or dignity. With him it was simply a matter endeavouring to rectify grievances.
– What grievances were dealt with at the deputation?
– It is quite immaterial what grievances were considered,, although, according to this journal, over one hundred of the requests made were granted in whole or in part, and some were still under’ consideration. But the main point is that the First Sea Lord received a deputation representative of the lower deck ratings without any intermediary. I have no desire to make a long speech, or to go into details of the matters, about which the men complain. It is sufficient for me to say that there is discontent among the lower deck ratings in the Australian Navy, and to point out that when similar discontent arose in the British- Navy the British Admiralty took the sensible course of allowing the men to go immediately to the First Sea Lord and place their grievances before him. In Australia they are not permitted to take similar action. Surely what is good ‘ enough for the British Admiralty should be good enough for Australian Admiral’s. If the practice is good enough for Admiral Beatty, surety it should be good enough for our Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith). The men who did the fighting in the last great war realize how important it is that the grievances of the lower naval ratings should be redressed.
-in this case, the honorable member desires to follow precedent; but in other cases he wishes to make precedent.
– I am very cosmopolitan in my views. I do not believe in tying myself down to precedent. If there be any good precedent in Great Britain, I am prepared to follow it. But I am not so silly as to suggest that I am possessed of all the ability in the world, or of all the truth in the world. Whereever I see anything which is good I am prepared to accept it. It is all very well for the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to laugh, but he would laugh upon the other side of his face should it be found in the not distant future that our Australian Navy is undermanned and understaffed owing to discontent in the service. It is a fact that men will not join that service to-day, and’ that those who have joined it are deserting it by dozens. One of the reasons why I have brought this matter forward is because of the enormous number of desertions that have taken place from the Australian Navy since the return of the Fleet to home waters.
– Hundreds of men in the service wish to retire-.
– Precisely. They desire to get out of it because their grievances are not being remedied. Here is an opportunity for the Minister for the Navy . to break away from the old red-tape system. Let him receive a deputation of these men, listen to their grievances, and see if he cannot remedy them.
– What did Earl Beatty give the deputationists which waited upon him?
– He acceded to more than 100 of their requests. If the course which I have outlined was good enough for Earl Beatty to. follow, surely it is good enough for the Minister for the Navy and the Naval Board of the Commonwealth. The future of Australia assuredly depends upon the strength of its defence upon the water, and the necessity for that defence, may arise mud. sooner than quite a number of us anticipate. At such a time, to whom shall we look?: Shall we not look to the men of the Australian Navy ? If that be so, surely we are not asking too much in a democratic country like this when we ask that the Minister shall cut himself free from the old system of red-tape, and listen to the grievances of these men I We all know that the Australian temperament is vastly different from the temperaments of other nations. As a rule, the Australian is an individual who cannot be bullied or bounced; but if he be handled with a little tact, a great deal may be accomplished. Knowing the Minister as I do, I feel sure that had he allowed himself to get away from the antiquated system of red-tape by receiving the lower naval ratings of whom I. a- speaking, nothing but good would have resulted from his action. I would urge upon the honorable gentleman the need for making a final effort to burst these red-tape bonds, with a view to doing justice to the lower-deck ratings of the Australian Navy
– I am very pleased that my honorable friend lias brought under the . notice of the House the action of the Naval Board. I have received a great deal of correspondence on behalf of the lowerdeck ratings of the Australian Navy, and I believe that you, sir - like a good many other honorable members - at one time in your career, had a considerable experience of seafaring life. Those honorable members who are acquainted with that life realize the domineering and unChristianlike methods which are adopted in dealing with our seamen; and, as a result, desire, whenever the opportunity occurs, to do something for them. Like my honorable friend, I contend that the Naval defence of Australia must be our first line of defence. The action of the Naval Board is entirely out of sympathy with tie aspirations of the Australian people. The members of no other service in Australia are subject to the disabilities to which our naval men aTe subjected. They are not allowed to approach members of Parliament with their grievances, or to express themselves in the same way as are ordinary citizens. If they have any complaints to make against the Board or their officers-
– Do their friends object?
– Fancy a Democrat like the Minister for the Navy asking a question of that sort. Can a sailor come into my presence and lay his grievances before me? Surely the Minister is unfit for his position if he holds such views as his interjection suggests. If the honorable gentleman really entertains such opinions, he is unfit to be in charge of the fine men of whom the Australian Navy is composed. I hold that the Australian sailor should -possess equal privileges with every other citizen of the community. Some time ago, the Naval Board issued regulations under which married men were not required to belong to the sailors’ mess on the ship. They were allowed ls. 8d. a day, because they could go home and have, their meals with their families ; but that allowance has been taken away, and they have now to take their meals in the-mess. This alteration did not include the officers. Week3 ago I wrote to the Naval Board in reference to the matter, but have received no reply, and that is not treatment to be meted out to any parliamentary representative. This autocratic crowd has not the courtesy to reply ito letters, and, although I spoke to the Minister about the matter, I got no satisfaction. The members of the Naval Board seem to forget that they are nothing more than members of the Public Service, as is shown by the fact that when they are in harbor they are given a salute of fifteen guns, with a view, no doubt, to waking up the officers on the ship, and intimating to the men that they must keep their mouths shut when the members are on board. Day after day desertions are taking place, and, in view of tthe conditions that prevail, men deserting will certainly have my assistance. I should not have the spirit of manhood if I did not assist men suffering under such cruel and unjust treatment. Why cannot the sailors be allowed to interview me in tha same way as soldiers do? So far as I know, there is no regulation preventing soldiers from interviewing me; if there is the soldiers take no notice of it. The sailor, however, is an obedient, disciplined creature; but, obedient as he may be, he cannot be expected to follow tyrannical commands which seem to be actuated by stupidity. I suppose there can be no chance until there fe a change of Government. If I were on the Ministerial side of the House I should want to see the Minister for the Navy, whoever he might be, ready to treat sailors as men ought to be treated. In my opinion, there ought to be no’ Naval Board, but a strong Minister, who would decline to be a mere creature of the permanent service, content to “ polish up the handle of the big front door.” . Up to the present we have never had a Minister for the Navy who has had the courage to ‘ ‘ stand up “ to the Board. Even in Great Britain changes are being made in the Naval regulations every day, and the conditions are such as make it a pleasure to the men to obey and salute their officers, whom they feel to be worthy of the respect shown them. I feel quite sure that the Minister for the Navy himself (Mr. Laird Smith), if he were one of them, would refuse to salute an officer who, in his opinion, was not watching over the interests of the Service. If the honorable gentleman were with the Labour party still, he would be one of the first to take the course that I am taking to-day. In this I am a follower of “ Admiral Mahony,” “the honorable member for Dalley.
– And what rank do you hold?
Mr.WEST. - I do not know, but the Minister may address me as the “ Liberator of Oppressed Men.” Honorable members are laughing, but this is a matter too serious for ridicule. I quite admit that we cannot have a Navy without discipline; at the same time, we cannot expect men to be obedient unless their officers are worthy of their respect. The members of the Naval Board have an idea that they are the autocrats of the Navy, and that to their sole control the Navy should be left; they, evidently think that, beyond paying the necessary taxation, the people should have no voice in the management of naval matters. The Ministerought to be strong enough to call the members of the Board together to-morrow, and say to them, “ Gentlemen, you have to carry out the will of the people of Australia, who find the money to pay your salaries; you are public servants just as are the employees in any other Department of the Commonwealth.” If that were done, I believe the members of the Board would give loyal obedience, just as they would to any regulation issued by the Government. Until we have on the Ministerial benches determined men, strong in the principles of Democracy we can never have a good Navy. A number of my friends are naval men, and, wit,h my love for the Service, it pains me that the sailors are not allowed to see me when they wish. If one of the men wishes to see me he sends a boy to ring my bell, and I have to go down the street to talk to him. This is done in order that the man may not be accused of having been seen with “ that fellow West,” as an officer described me one day. The boys of the training ship Tingira - it will be remembered, I think, that I took a deep interest in the flogging of these boys some time ago - have a recreation ground, often visited by an old naval friend of mine, who, in the kindness of his heart, takes fruit and other little luxuries to them at their play. One day, when he was at the fence speaking to some of the boys, an officer . came up and asked him-, “ Why are you talking to those boys? “ My friend replied, “Mind your own business; I am on the King’s highway. If the boys speak to me I ‘shall reply to them.” With that the officer walked away, saying, “I suppose you are that fellow West.” That illustrates the view held by these petty officers, . because I have had the courage to stand up against Ministers and others in defence of proper treatment of the men, whether they are on ships or in anv other service of the State.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I hope what I have said this afternoon will be the means of remedying evils that actually exist, and badly need remedying. I believe it is in the power of the Minister, if he has the courage, to remove these evils, and make the Navy of Australia one of which we can be proud.
.- Personally, I should have liked longer notice that this motion was to be moved, so that I could make inquiries in order to fmd out exactly the case from the men’s stand-point. I must admit that there is a slight discontent, so far as I know it, in the lower deck, but not the rampant discontent described by. the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). The point seems to be that the men wish to get to the very head of the Department in order to place their grievances before him. In looking at a matter such as this, I always endeavour to place myself in the position of the head of the Department, the Minister. If one does that, it is brought home to him at once that it would be absolutely impossible for the Minister to administer his portfolio if he interviewed every man and officer of the Royal Australian Navy having a grievance. It could not be done; but I cannot see why representatives of the men could not, for instance, interview the First Naval Member, Admiral Grant, a very fine officer, who, like Earl Beatty, fought in the Battle of Jutland. I should like to hear what the Minister has to say to that suggestion. I do not say that they should be able to interview Admiral Grant every day in the week, but they should be able to see him at stated times if they came to him as representatives of the whole of the. lower deck. I know- the Welfare Committee was not a success. Soon after they gave out their report, it was known throughout the Fleet, not as the “ welfare,” but as the “ farewell “ report, and I endeavoured to find out why it had been given that name. The first ground of complaint seemed to be that too many matters were being sent home to England for decision. That seemed to “ rile “ the men a bit. They looked to the Naval Board to settle these difficulties. There has been a good deal of talk on this motion, but no very concrete case has been made out. I join with honorable members on the other side of the House in asking the Minister to do everything possible to alleviate and wipe out any discontent that exists in the Fleet, by seeing whether some modus operandi cannot be found to enable the men to see the First Naval Member, Admiral Grant, or the Second Naval Member, Captain Hardy. I have great respect for those two gentlemen, because they know their jobs, and are out to make the Australian Fleet as successful as possible. If they could see the men, I think all our troubles would be ended ; but something like that will have to be done, because I do- not want to see even a simmer of discontent. I want to see the men happy, because we all realize that we must keep up our Fleet, no matter how small it may be for the time being, and we want to see every officer and man on those ships happy. From the absolutely square deals which I have had from the Minister for the Navy in the many cases I have brought before him, I feel sure that he is out to make our Fleet a happy one, and that Admiral Grant and Captain Hardy are out to assist him. Surely the three of them can hit on some avenue through which this difficulty can be got over. Personally, I am dead against the Minister, the political head of the Naval Board, interviewing every man and every officer in the Fleet, because in ninety-nine cases out of 100 the Minister is not a practical seafaring man. The men might get at him and talk him round, but they cannot talk round the First Naval Member or the Second Naval Member. It may be said that the men would be got at by the First or Second Naval Member, but the Minister is there, and he knows what is going on. I am not speaking personallv about the present Minister (“Mr. Laird Smith) ; but if the Minister for the Navy does not know what is going on he has no right to hold the job. From what I know of the many cases I have brought before him, he does know what is going on. In one particular case, he reversed the decision of the Naval Board on a very important matter which I brought before him. It was the first matter I put before him, and my experience gave me. every confidence that he was watching affairs very closely. I know he has a long statement to make this afternoon, and in conjunction with the honorable members who have already spoken on the other side of the House, I urge him now to try to get over the present position, and settle it once and for all by giving an assurance that some means will be found bv which the men’s grievances, whatever thev may be, will be immediately attended to.
.- If I have judged it rightly, the position is that the men on the lower deck have appointed an Advisory Committee to represent them and ventilate their grievances; that Committee has requested an interview with the members of the Naval Board, and the Naval Board have refused to be interviewed, telling the men that their representations must be made through the officers, and that some officer must plead their case. We all know that no officer is competent to plead the . case for the lower deck. He does not understand their grievances, or the situation generally, and the men have not sufficient confidence in any officer’s ability to plead their case for them. Admiral Grant, or other members of the Board, probably imported men, with old ideas of subserviency and so-called discipline, and a fixed belief instilled into their minds that the lower deck man is only there to fight, and is not supposed to have any grievances, have most likely considered it beneath their dignity that the men should be permitted to enter their presence. It is time we had a Minister who would say to the Naval Board, “It is your business to meet and interview the Advisory Committee of the lower deck, and to see that there is no discontent among the men.” I am flooded with letters from lads who want to get out of the Navy.
– Hear, hear ! They are deserting wholesale.
– Yes, they are all complaining about their treatment. It is absurd that in Australia, in the twentieth century, the men should be denied the opportunity of approaching either the Minister or the Naval Board. They do not want to approach them as individuals.
– They do.
– Here is their resolution.
– You have asked for it, and I will give it to you-.
– I am simply asking the Minister to exercise common sense, and show a little consideration, for the men. I do not want him to sit in his chair and simply be governed by a few officials in the Navy. I have here a copy of. the minutes of the men’s meeting, in which the following, appears-: -
The Advisory Committee consisted of twentytbree members, who were elected by the lowerdeck ratings to advise and’ make suggestions for the welfare of the rank and file of the Australian Navy.
The Committee consist of representatives of the lower deck. They communicated with the Naval Board asking for an. interview, so that they could place their grievances before the members of the Board, who refused to grant them an interview.
– On what ground’s?
– On no grounds, whatever, so far as I know.
– They have to go to the WelfareCommittee which consists of offi- cers.
-I understand that the Welfare Committee is composed of officers: I assure the Minister that the men in the Navy will not be contented if their grievances can be put before the Board only through their officers. I have seen enough as a member of the Australian Imperial Force to satisfy me on that point. During the war the Australian Imperial Force was governed by the King’s Regulations, which were obsolete, having been framed’ at least 100 years before.There is a spirit of subserviency running right through the King’s Regulations, and underthem the man in the ranks has no rights whatever. We desire that the Australian Navy shall be efficient, but we shall never get efficiency unless we have contentment. It is impossible to-day to induce boys to join the Australian Navy. One of the causes, of this is that the Navy is seething: with discontent. These mem. acting in; a. proper manner, appointed a committee from the lower deck, and they asked, the Naval Board to receive them, and to listen to their grievances. No fairer request could have been made; and I hope that the Minister; who- is new to his position, will be firm enough to insist that the
Naval Board, shall meet the representatives of the men, listen to their grievances, and take every reasonable step to insure that we shall have’ in the service a contented body of men.
– It is, to say the least, most peculiar that the men on the lower deck of the Australian Navy are not permitted to place their grievances directly before the Naval. Board. I have before me a copy of Ashore and Afloat, in which there appears a picture of a body of men of the lower deck ratings marching to Whitehall to place their views before the Admiralty. In the- letterpress it is stated that -
The Admiralty, for the first- time in history, received a deputation representing all. lower deck, ratings. The deputation, attended at Whitehall at the invitation of the Board, and consisted of twenty-one advisory members of the Lower Deck Inter-port Welfare Committee. Chief Writer C. S. King (chairman), Chief Writer J.E. Lane (vice-chairman) ,. and Sergeant Malcolm Henderson- led- the deputation. Assembling at the Nelson Monument, they attracted a good’ deal of attention.
Earl Beatty, First Sea Lord, received the deputation, and the interview lasted two and three-quarter hours.
Chief Writer King, describing the interview, says, “ The Admiralty decisions were very carefully explained to us, and. we stated, the case very clearly. The deputation returned to their respective posts.”
To those who, like myself, are familiar, with the workings of the British Army and Navy, this is not merely a revelation., but a revolution. As an old. service man,. I. say that discipline must be maintained at all costs.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member make that statement.
– Every sensible man knows that discipline must be maintained. , But here we have the statement that this deputation, representing the lower deck ratings of the British- Navy,, was received by Earl Beatty, whose name
Only a year or two- ago was on the lips of every man and woman not only in the British Empire, but throughout the world.. He was regarded as being head and shoulders over every one else in naval warfare, and this great, man comes down from his- pedestal’ as First Sea Lord, of the Admiralty,, meets these men, and expresses a desire to- hear their grievances- How different from the position taken up- by the Australian Naval Board. I do not know what official title the Minister holds in the Navy - whether he is Lord High Admiral of the Apple Fleet-
– Do not seek to discredit our Navy.
– The honorable gentleman himself is discrediting it. If. there is one thing more than another that I desire it is that our Army and Navy shall be popular. If the Minister desires to have a contented service he will see to. it that these’ men of the lower deck are permitted to place their grievances personally before those in authority. It is impossible for a man’s case to be put better than he can put it himself. If these men have a grievance-
– Wait till I tell the House the facts.
– The honorable gentleman may have a good case, but if these men are not able to see their superior officers in order to ventilate their grievances-, he will not have a contented service.
– They can always see their superior officers.
– And God help some of them when they do “ see their superior officers.’’ I know the meaning of the term.Here is the position in a nutshell. If these men are labouring under grievances let the Minister set them rignt. Let him afford them an opportunity to go before the Naval Board, or some one in authority, and ventilate them. Their complaints ought not to be pigeon-holed. I do not believe in political interferencein these matters, but if the men of the lower -deck have grievance’s there surely ought to be some one in authority to whom they can appeal. The road has been made easy for the Minister and the Australian Naval Board by Earl Beatty. If the Minister desires the Australian Navy to be successful he must make it far more popular than it is to-day. Several young fellows, who recently interviewed me in Queensland, expressed a desire to join the Navy. They were really anxious to join up, but after they had made inquiries, they said to me, “ No Navy for usl”
– I am putting my own little nephew in the ratings, and he is glad to go in. That shows whatI think of the Australian Navy.
– That is only one case. One man cannot manage every ship. The captain of the ship on which, the Minister’s nephew is to serve may be all right; but different men have different temperaments. We ought never to forget that, although the men on the lower deck may be drawn from the ranks of thepoorer classes, they are human beings, and as such are just as much entitled to consideration as is any one else. Only this afternoon I heard the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise), when replying to a question put by the honorablemember f or Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), refer to those engaged on pick and shovel work in his Department as “ navvies.” He said that the permanent and temporary men at Ballarat were to enjoy a holiday on a certain date, but the “ navvies “ were not to do so. The “ navvies “ are of the same clay as we are. And so with the men in the Army and Navy. The position in both branches of the Imperial Forces today is very different from what it was a few years ago. When I was a youth the First Lord of the Admiralty would not have dreamt of receiving a deputation representing the men on the lower deck, in order to discuss their grievances. They never saw the First Lord of the Admiralty. In their view, the heavens would have fallen if such a thing had happened. I tell the Minister that if he wants a contented Australian Navy he must treat the men in the lower ratings in the same democratic fashion that the people of Australia have treated us in this Parliament.
– There is one thing that I will not admit, and that is that there is any great discontent in the Australian Navy. They are as fine a body of men as it is possible to find in the British Empire. The Navy is manned by men who, if there were the great discontent which is represented, would, not carry on the excellent work they are doing : and I say it is an injustice to them to allow the impression; to no forth to the world that they are discontented. Owing to the statements made this afternoon, it will be necessary for me to go very deeply into the constitutionof the Advisory Committee, to point out its duties, and so on; hut before doing that, I should like to say that I am proud to be associated with Admiral Sir Percy Grant., because know he has at heart the welfare of every man in the service. He is a big man in every sense of the word. He was present at the Battle of Jutland, fighting side by side with Lord Beatty. Let me tell honorable members what was put up to me, and what we had to do. This was the Naval Board’s reply to the request by the men for an interview -
The Naval Board, after dne consideration, decided that the Board could not meet the Advisory Committee, as a Board, but were prepared to agree that one or two members of the Naval Board should meet the representatives of the Advisory Committee.
Who are the members of the Naval Board? Admiral Sir Percy Grant is one.
-Read on, please.
– I have the whole of the letter here, and 1 shall give it to honorable members. Admiral Sir Percy Grant, I Temind the House, occupies precisely the same position as the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty. The men of the British Navy, to whom the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) has referred, did not see the political heads of the Department at all. They made no attempt to do that. They saw the First Sea Lord. Admiral Grant, as one member of the Naval Board, is prepared to do that. For the information of honorable members I shall read the whole of the letter to which I have already referred -
The Naval Board, after due consideration, decided that the. Board could not meet the Advisory Committee, as a Board, but were prepared to agree that one or two members of the Naval Board should meet members of the Advisory Committee. It was intended, if this meeting took place, to reassure the Advisory Committee on the points they raised, and to inform them of the action the Board proposed to take to insure that all the papers, presented at this year’s Welfare Committee, Bhould reach the Naval Board and be duly considered by that Board.
Now what was the arrangement made? I went so far as tosay that when the Advisory Committee and the Welfare Committee met we would provide the services’ of a shorthand writer to take a record of the proceedings, transcribe it, and submit it to me as a member of the Naval Board, over which I preside. If the men interviewed the Board I would be obliged, if necessary, to see every officer and every man in the Australian Navy. Even now I am working day and night. Very few honorable members realize what it means to supervise the expenditure of £3,250,000 provided on this year’s Estimates for the Navy. ‘ The other day I had submitted to me a statement from a company in which I have been interested for the last twenty-five years, intimating that they propose to increase their capital by £3,000,000. The affairs of the company are controlled by a Board of twelve directors, whereas I have to administer the whole of the Department and supervise its expenditure. In view of these facts I ask any reasonable person how could I possibly, in addition to my ordinary duties, interview ‘ all the officers and men of the Australian Navy. At times I have to turn away my personal friends, among them my constituents, because, owing to the pressure of my official duties, I cannot possibly see them. Since I have been the administrative head of ‘ the Department I have not been one day absent -from the Navy Office, except on one holiday and even then I took matter to my private residence for perusal. Under these conditions I could not possibly give personal attention to the grievances of the lower ratings.
What are the men asking for? Let us see what is behind this request. I was delighted to hear the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) say he did not believe in political influence in Naval administration. Why should any men on the lower deck, because thev happen to know the Minister, or a member of Parliament, be able to see him, and perhaps go over the heads of superior officers who have not any political influence? While I am Minister, no man in the lower ratings, or officer either for that matter, is going to do that. I desire that every man shall get a fair. deal. Let me tell honorable members what was done by the Naval Board -
The Naval Board considered the situation, and decided that the Commodore Superintendent should interview the chairman of the Advisory Committee and ascertain and report personally to the Board the reasons for the attitude taken up by that Commit- tee. This was done, and the Commodore reported the reasons put forward bythe Committee, which were as follows: -
They desired to see the Minister for the Navy -
I ask any honorable member who has had Ministerial experience how it would be possible for me to consent to that?
– I say you could.
– If I did it would be impossible for me to carry out my duties. The statement continues -
A Navy Order was published on 5th August, directing that the election of representatives should take place forthwith, and outlining the manner in which representatives of the various branches were to be selected.
In pursuance of this Navy Order, the men’s representatives were assembled in August for preliminary discussion. They then returned to their respective ships and establishments, in order to get in touch with the men they represented. After being given’ sufficient time for discussion to take place, they were called together again in October in order to prepare a list of their requests in writing. Meanwhile the Welfare Committee of five officers was selected, and the first sitting of the Committee, when the welfare and Advisory Committee should meet, was arranged to take place on 14th October.
Before this date arrived, however, the Advisory Committee informed the Commodore Superintendent that they did not propose to meet the Welfare Committee, but requested permission to meet direct the Naval Board and the Minister for the Navy. They also asked that the press should be present at all the meetings, quoting the “ Jerram “ Committee.
That was a Committee which dealt solely with finance. There was not a Minister present at its deliberations. The statement ‘has been made in this House that, when the Board met last year, and the men’s case came before it for consideration, that was the end of it. I hold in my hand a printed document which was circulated throughout the Navy. It sets forth particulars of how each case was dealt with by the Board ; it indicates the reception which every claim received, and how each matter was finalized. No less than fifty items were approved of, all of which were of great importance. In the time at my disposal I have been unable to secure information concerning the exactamount involved; but the Third Naval Member, who is responsible for the matter of expenditure, has stated that I would be justified in saying that thousands of pounds have been spent, since the Welfare Committee first met, in improving accommodation for the men, and in making their conditions generally better. Again, here are facts which speak for themselves; and I wish to say that in relation to the document which I shall now read the present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) must take a share of the credit for the increases granted during the period of his control of the Navy Department.
The amounts involved per annum in general increases to ranks and ratings of the Royal Australian Navy from the dates shown are as follow: -
From 1st January, 1918, £ 105,000; from 1st April, 1919, £103,000 and£ 18,000 (additional), total, £121,000; grand total, £226,000.
The above figures are based on numbers borne at the time the increase was granted. The increases include increases in pay to ranks and ratings generally, increase in various allowances for extra duty and qualifications, and increase in married allowance.
In following the present Treasurer in control of the Navy Department I have worked at all times with, the best interests of the men ‘at heart. I have always been a worker; I am still one, and I always hope to remain one. It is cruel, therefore, for any honorable member to make statements such as have been made this afternoon; and it is unfair for any honorable member to suggest that I have been discourteous when I have been approached in relation to the well-being of the men of the Navy. I will proceed to give further official particulars of increases, as follow: -
These are the minimum sums paid. If a man qualifies in any particular direction to receive more, he is paid accordingly. There is a Committee now sitting for the purpose of considering the question of pay. All applications in this respect are carefully examined, and if it is shown that any man is getting less than that to which he is entitled - less than the Committee considers fair and reasonable - his grievance will be remedied.
Extension of time granted.
The Advisory Committee iscomposed of twenty-four, and not of twenty-three, persons. There is also a committee of officers. This body first meets to consider a specific matter. Then the Advisory Committee sits and sets forth in writing its views on the matter under consideration. The two bodies subsequently sit jointly; and so the question at issue is discussed between the members of the Advisory Committee and of the Welfare Committee. The business is finally embodied in a report, and thus comes before the Naval Board. Owing to my various duties I am unable to preside at every meeting of the Board. I may mention that I did not attend one meeting at which the matter of the Amelia J. was under discussion. My reason for absenting myself was that that vessel was owned by a gentleman in my constituency. The Board had a free hand to act, and it did so. The Board very much regrets that it became necessary to dissolve the Advisory Committee. This necessity arose for the season that the Committee was holding everything up. I quote the following circular : -
The Board, in dissolving the Advisory Committee, directed that the ships companies of all ships and establishments should be informed that the work of the Welfare Committee this year would be seriously handicapped because of the attitude taken up by the men’s accredited representatives in declining to meet the Welfare Committe and discuss the requests put forward. The Board further gave instructions that the Welfare Committee were to proceed at once to consider the requests relating to general questions; and, with the object of specially expediting consideration of questions relating to pay and allowances, it was arranged that the Advisory Committee’s recommendations of this nature should be referred direct to a separate Fay Committee sitting in Melbourne. The two Committees were authorized to obtain evidence from petty officers and men who might be willing and able to assist them with detailed evidence explanatory of, or relating to, the proposals of the Advisory Committee. The Welfare Committee was instructed to commence sitting on 27th October, 1020. The Fay Committee held its first meeting inH.M.A. Naval Depot, Williamstown, on 29th October.
I am pleased to see that evidence has been given, andit will be considered by the Board just the same as if it were submitted by the Advisory Committee. Admiral Grant and Captain Hardy have never refused to meet the men to find out why they will hot meet the Welfare Comimittee, and they are always prepared to consider grievances submitted through the right channel.
– Will they meet the Advisory Committee?
– Not as Minister, because I, as Chairman of the Board, cannot agree to meetthem. It would appear that these men do not want to see Admiral Grant, Admiral Clarkson, Captain Hardy, or the Finance Member, but the Minister.
– So they ought to.
– If the honorable member who makes the suggestion were to meet them, he would probably say, “ I will look into this matter,” and that would be the end of it.
– Not if I were Minister for the Navy.
– I have just said what the honorable member would’ do if he were in that position. I am not going to deceive the men, and I have informed them that if the Advisory Committee will meet the Welfare Committee, a disinterested shorthand writer will be in attendance at the meeting to record the proceedings, and thus place me in possession of the facts. If that course is adopted I have agreed to carefully peruse the notes, and I feel sure that when this proposal is submitted to the members of the rank and file they will readily see that I am desirous of giving them a fair deal.
– Why do you not meet them as you would a deputation of employees from the Naval Dockyard?
– The honorable member knows that the vessels of the Australian Fleet are scattered over a vast expanse of water. What advantage would be gained by Admiral Grant if he penalized the ratings ? He was beloved by the men with whom he was associated on the North Sea, and he is a man highly respected,, not only in Australia, but throughout the British Empire. The honorable member for East Sydney, at any request, had a long conversation with Admiral Grant.
– I went to him.
– What did the honorable member do ?
– I treated him as a man.
– The honorable member was apparently well satisfied with tha interview. I want honorably members to realize that I have the welfare of the men of the Australian Navy at heart, and I fully realize that we can create efficiency only by having a satisfied body of men. I am endeavouring to make the men satisfied, but I cannot have political influence introduced into this matter.
– Does the Minister insinuate that I have introduced this matter for political purposes
– Not at all, but the honorable member would like me to say that he did. I trust that no one will attempt to use the Australian Navy for political purposes. The need for economy is, of course, very pressing. I was present in the House the other day when a division was taken on certain expenditure for Naval and Defence purposes. Who was it who voted against the expenditure for carrying on the Navy? The honorable member who moved the adjournment of the House.
– When did I ?
– When the Works and Buildings Estimates were under consideration.
– The Minister has made a blunder, because I was not present.
– Then what would the honorable member have done if he had been here? The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has ren dered good service, because I feel sure, in view of the discussion that has taken place to-day, that there will not be the slightest opposition to the amount that has been placed on the Naval Estimates for the current year, and if the estimate is passed, I can assure the House that it will be judiciously expended. It must be remembered that there is a periodical inspection of the various ships, and when an inspection is being made, lower-deck ratings have the opportunity of making statements and forwarding grievances for consideration by the Board. I regret- that I have not sufficient time to quote in detail the particulars I have before me concerning the complaints dealt with by the Welfare Committee - fifty in number - in the interests of the rank and file. The accommodation and conditions generally have been unproved, and seeing that every effort is being made to meet the reasonable requests of the men, I regret that some honorable members have seen fit to discredit the Australian Navy.
– Who did ?
– I do not think the honorable member did intentionally. I trust that I have cleared up the misunderstanding by placing the facts before honorable members as clearly as possible in the limited time at my disposal, and I feel sure that every honorable member who is desirous of doing me justice will say, at any rate, that the men have not been badly treated by me.
, I believe inadvertently, misquoted to the effect that one or two members of the Naval Board were prepared to meet representatives of the Advisory Committee. I have in my possession a copy of the communication received by the men from Mr. Treacy, Secretary for the Department of the Navy, in which he says -
I will arrange for one or two members of the Naval Board to meet representatives of the Advisory Committee in Melbourne to hear personally their reasons for not giving evidence before the Welfare Committee.
Honorable members will note that that is totally different from what the Minister for the Navy stated. The statement in the letter sent by the Secretary of the Department to the men is a totally different one from that made by the Minister this afternoon. The communication received by the men informed them, not that the Naval Board was prepared to receive their representatives in regard to their grievances, but that the Board was prepared to see one or two representatives of the Advisory Committee - that ds, men of the lower deck ratings - to hear reasons why the Board should see them direct instead of hearing them through the Welfare Committee - a Gilbertian arrangement. The Board were prepared to receive representatives to hear reasons why they should receive representatives.
– Do you say that the Minister has been furnished with certain information and different information sent to the men?
– I have read the letter sent to the men by the Secretary of the Department, and its statements are different from those made by the Minister this afternoon. However, I shall not labour the matter further. I brought it forward this afternoon with a view to improving the conditions of the Australian Navy, and making it a more effective force for the protection of the people of this country. I have no wish to make political capital out of it, as the Minister insinuated rather subtly. I saw him about it two or three weeks ago, and told him that he could take his own time to consider what course he should follow, because I did not wish him to come to a hasty decision. I have brought the matter before the House because the Minister has definitely turned down the men’s proposal.
– I ask you to read the definite instruction given to the Commodore.
– This is the passage which the Minister asks me to read -
The Commodore Superintendent returned to Sydney with directions to inform the Advisory Committee that, although the Naval Board could not consent to meet them direct, one or two- members of the Board would meet the representatives of the Advisory Committee in Melbourne, and hear their reasons for not giving evidence before the Welfare Committee personally.
The Minister refrained -from drawing attention to that passage until I showed that he was putting before the House a different statement from that contained in the communication sent to the men.
– That is unfair; I had not the time to read more.
– Probably the Minister is doing the best he can, but he is too much tied up with red-tape. He holds that the men must go before the Welfare Committee, which is a Committee of officers, whereas they wish to go direct to the Naval Board. If Admiral Grant and other members of the Naval Board were allowed to receive the men direct, that would go a long way to securing contentment in the lower ratings of the Navy, and would be of benefit to Australia.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Acting Public .Service Commissioner has furnished the following information: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follow: -
Mr. PENTON (for Mr. Brennan) nsked. the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act -
Proclamation prohibiting Exportation (except under certain conditions) of Arms and Ammunition (dated 21st October, 1920).
Defence Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory ‘Rules 1920, No. 208.
Debate resumed from 9th November (vide page 6326), on motion by Sir Joseph Cook. -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
On which Mr. Lazzarini had moved -
That all the words after the word “ now “ be omitted, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “withdrawn for the purpose of its recasting and immediate re-introduction with more comprehensive clauses to provide for the nationalization of banking, in order -
to relieve the taxpayer of the heavy burden which will accrue from paying interest on future loans;
to provide credits to carry on Commonwealth and State undertakings:
to provide cash credits for rural industries, in order to release primary producers from the grip of financial institutions;
to consolidate the national debt, and put it on a sound footing;
to make proper financial provision for the nation to honour its obligations in full to returned soldiers.
.- I wish to draw the attention of honorable members to a summary of the operations of the Australian banks for the year which ended with June last. The eighteen associated private banks of Australia, namely, the Australian Bank of Commerce the Bank of Adelaide; the Bank of Australasia; the Bank of New South Wales ;. the Bank of New Zealand ; the Bank of Queensland; the Bank of Victoria; the Commercial Bank of Australia; the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney; the Commercial Bank of Tasmania; the English, Scottish, and Australian Bank; the London Bank of Australia; the National Bank of Australasia ; the National’ Bank of New Zealand; the Queensland National Bank; the Royal Bank of. Australia; the Union Bank of Australia; and the Western Australian Bank, have a total paid-up capital of £25,442,390,. on which, in the last financial year, they paid dividends totalling £2,617,826, and earned also undivided profits totalling £941,985, their aggregate profits for the year being £3,559,811, or 13.9 per cent, on their paid-up capital. Had the shareholders in those banks received only the same interest on their capital as ordinary depositors receive, namely, 3½ per cent., the total profits of the banks would have been only £890,484. Therefore, had the Commonwealth Bank been in supreme control of our finances, and had it possessed a banking monopoly, the community would have made a saving of £2,669,327.
That is what could have been saved if the financial magnates and banking institutions of this country had been given only the consideration of ordinary citizens; instead of being allowed the special privilege of operating in public finance, and making huge profits. Leaving that phase of the question, I come now to deal with loans. I find that a very considerable saving might also have been made if the Commonwealth Bank had been intrustedwith the flotation of the whole of our loans. According to. the Budget, the total loans floated by the Commonwealth amount to £219,800,000. I asked the Treasurer recently for a statement of the average percentage of cost for the flotation of loans, and after making all calculations necessary, I find that by the flotation of loans through the medium of the Commonwealth Bank, the average cost has been 5s. 9d. per cent, of the loans floated. In order that honorable members may have some idea of the way we are imposed upon by Imperial financiers when floating loans on behalf of the Commonwealth, I refer them, to the Commonwealth YearBook for 1918. In trying to discover a basis for a calculation as to the charge made for the flotation of loans for Australia on the London money market, I found that I could only institute a comparison by a reference to the cost of floating two loans, amounting to £12,000,000, on behalf of certain States of the Commonwealth. The flotation expenses of these loans amounted altogether to £466,429,. which represents £3 16s. per cent., as against 5s. 9d.. per cent, in the case of loans floated by the Commonwealth Bank. It is clear from the figures that if the total loans floated for Australia, amounting to £219,800,000,. had been floated by private institutions,, at the same cost for flotation, as that charged for the State loans to which I have just referred, the Commonwealth would have been involved in an extra expense of £7,720,475. Earlier in the debate, the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) appeared to desire to know in what way the Commonwealth Bank had been, of special advantage to the people, and I direct bis attention to- this particular instance.
– Not at. all. I know that it has been of inestimable advantage to the people.
– I am glad to learn that the right honorable gentleman’s opinion of the Commonwealth Bank is decidedly different to-day from that which he held at the time it was established.
– Not at all.
– I remember that the Treasurer found it very difficult to say a good word for the Commonwealth Bank in 1912, when it was established.
– May I tell the honorable member that if we were beginning; the matter again to-day, I should’ make the same criticism.
– That is hardly consistent with the admission which the right honorable gentleman has just made.
– I think that theCommonwealth Bank has succeeded despite its faulty construction.
– In spite of the opinion of it which the right honorable gentleman previously held.
– No, in spite of its faulty construction. It has had excellent management.
– The Commonwealth Bank is not the complete banking institution that I should wish it to be.
– I tried to make it so at a Premiers’ Conference, ‘but the honorable member’s party blocked me.
– If that is so, the right honorable gentleman can realize his desire by withdrawing the Bill, and redrafting it in the manner suggested by the amendment.
– No, not that crazy stuff. It may be of interest to the honorable member to know that I had arranged with the whole of the States to take over all their Savings Bank business, and their other- business, and to- concentrate it all in this Bank, and the honorable member’s party blocked me.
– Mr. Holman?
– I do not think that the right honorable gentleman can hold the party on this side of the House responsible for that.
– Yes, 1 can.. I blame the public, of course, originally, for bumping me out of office and bumping in the honorable member’s party, who did nothing but shelve that scheme.
– I think that this speech of the Treasurer’s might be reserved until a little later, when he can give us the full, advantage of his knowledge on these matters.
– When the honorable member criticises me I want to show that there is something to be said on the other side.
– I am always prepared to admit that. I am not one of those who believe that they possess a monopoly of all knowledge. I have no doubt -that the Treasurer has his share, and I shall be very pleased to have- him demonstrate that a little later.
– I certainly will. I thank; the honorable member- for the hint. I shall look up the record.
– It may be well for thepeople to understand the- impositions placed upon them, which are directly due to payments necessary for accommodation, and the interest that arises from that. I find that for the accommodation of the loan of £25,000,000 at 6 per- cent., the rate at which the last loan was floated, the people have to pay to the extent of £1,500,000 per annum in interest.. This means that the burden becomes each year more difficult to shoulder, and the circumstances of the people become more difficult because of the ever increasing burden of interest for which the- community receives no return.
I recall the remark that ‘ ‘ The interest the financier takes in us is only equalled by the interest he takes out- of us.” The claims of interest have no finality. I have noticed a table that was compiled by an estimable gentleman in Great Britain, Mr. Walter Jones, J. P., of Stourbridge, in a recent address he gave to a Birmingham business club.. In the course of the address he stated, that £1 invested at 1 per cent., would, in 100 years, become £2 7s., whilst the same amount invested at 24 per cent, would become £2,198,720,200. That will give honorable members some idea of the way in which interest accumulates and adds to the burden of debt.
– The honorable member should rather say that the servicewhich that capital renders the community during that time enables that’, and ten times, more, to be paid to the community.
– The interest on that, capital returns nothing to the community. The people of this country are getting each year into a more difficult position as the public debt increases-. Instead of relieving the situation and assisting the creation of wealth to meet our indebtedness, the money that is expended in interest is assisting to overwhelm the people.
– It is strange that the people who pay most interest in the world to-day should be the people who are best off.
-I find that in 1901 every family in the Commonwealth had to pay, in interest, approximately 5s., whilst to-day the levy is about 13s. 6d. The Treasurer will scarcely contend that the investment of this capital is assisting the country to progress. As a matter of fact, because of it we are becoming more deeply involved, financially, and the people, should the system continue, will be overwhelmed with the difficulty imposed upon them by the payment of interest. In view of the burdens which loans impose upon the people in the way of interest, the Government should recognise how essential it is to evolve some means whereby the country may be relieved of those burdens which give no direct return to the community.
– I suppose that the honorable member has written all this to Mr. Theodore and to Mr. John Storey.
– The gentlemen referred to do not require information on this subject. They are well informed as to tha. necessity for the institution of a National Bank of exchange and reserve, so that we may have a complete monopoly of that which to-day is controlling the people.
– They are doing nothing of the kind, and they are borrowing for their lives.
– I do not approve of the terms upon which some State loans have been, and are being, floated. I think that there is a great wrong done to the people when there is any exemption from taxation in respect to the charge for the flotation of loans. In this regard I might point out that when people of financial resources had the opportunity of investing in a loan bearing 5 per cent, interest subject to taxation, or 4$ per cent, interest free of taxation, they rushed the 4£ per cent, stock, recognising that it would relieve them of sharing in the burden of taxation that must be imposed to meet the accruing interest on these loans, which is mounting higher from year to year. I find that, in regard to our sixth war loan, subscribers to the 4^ per cent, bonds free of income tax applied for £36,325,130, while those who preferred 5 per cent, bonds subject to the payment of income tax applied for £6,526,830. I understand that the amount of taxation represented by the exemption of the 4i per cent, interest payable on bonds is .75 per cent., and as the amount subscribed to our loan issues at 4-J per cent, is £143,269,337, the total loss of revenue sustained by making this exemption is no less than £1,074,520 per annum. Thus it can clearly be seen that the flotation of loans at a lower rate of interest free from taxation is not h sound principle to adopt, irrespective of the party that may have instituted it.
– The last loan’ floated in New South Wales was made free of taxation.
– The fact that the State Government of New South Wales is pre-, pared to exempt the interest earned on its latest loan does not alter the merits of the principle, which, on the figures I have just given, must stand condemned. The large financial corporation and insurance societies who have invested in our 4£ per cent, loans are able to evade their obligation to subscribe to the revenue of this country by making use of this side door, which enables those who accept a lower rate of interest on their war bonds to escape the liability to pay income taxation.
When the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was speaking, the Treasurer interjected that the Commonwealth Bank had, during the war, made greater profits than other banks had made, possibly seeking in some way to condone the offence of the private banks in having made such profits during the currency of the war.
– Honorable members had been attacking the private banks for making profits, and I merely desired to show that all banks, Government and private, made profits during the war.
– I do not know why the right honorable gentleman interjected in that way, unless his purpose was to condone the action of the private banks in making profits during the war.
– All through the debate honorable members have been trying to set the Commonwealth Bank against private banks. It is a very reprehensible practice.
– I am endeavouring to put the Commonwealth Bank in the position it should occupy, and secure the people against financial ruin, headlong into which the accruing interest on loans, which is mounting up as the result of the application of injudicious methods of raising money for the purpose of carrying on the affairs of this country, is plunging them. Although the Commonwealth Bank has reserved profits amounting to £2,363,500, representing the advance made from 1912, there is a decided difference between the profits made by it and those made by private banks. Its profits belong to the people; they are a financial resource from which the nation will receive an advantage, whereas profits made by private banking institutions go into the hands of a privileged few.
– Nonsense! The honorable member ought to look up the share lists of the banks, and see who these privileged few are.
– I know that the people who are responsible for the conduct of private banking institutions in Australia are in a far better position financially today than they have been previously.
– I believe that there are as many as 8,000 shareholders in the Bank of New South Wales.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that these banking institutions are run as a sort of benevolent institution for the people of the Commonwealth? As a matter of fact they only do what they are well paid for doing.
– Does the honorable member contend that the people of Australia would be better off if the private banks were not making profits?
– Yes. If the Commonwealth Bank or the nation had complete control of the financial situation we could bring ourselves back to solvency and have at our command for the future development of the country money which, under the present method of regulating financial matters in this and other countries, is not so available. Reform in this direction can be brought about without any injustice being done. The party to which I belong do not stand for repudiation of any rightful or moral obligations to which the country has committed itself, and, personally, I would not repudiate any obligation which it is rightly our due to recognise and acknowledge. At all times I shall endeavour to pay 20s: in the £1 to those persons who are justly entitled to make a claim either upon myself or upon any organization in which I have a controlling influence at the time it is made. Nevertheless I hold that, instead of the persons who are interested in private banks and financial institutions being able to make 13.9 per cent, on their investments, as the result of advantages bestowed by the nation at large, they should be placed on the same footing as other persons in the community who desire to deposit money in a bank, by being paid the same rate of interest, viz., 3^ per cent. This would mean a direct saving to the nation, and instead of finance controlling the people, the people would control finance. To the position as I find it to-day, the words of Holy Writ are indeed applicable -
Then an herald cried aloud, “ To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall clown and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the King hath set up.”
The Commonwealth and other Governments to-day are commanding the people to fall down and worship the golden idol of wealth by placing at its disposal undue advantages from those things which the people produce. It is about time we swept from the temple of the nation the money-changers who have brought such corrupt influences into the affairs of the nation, and instituted an economic system which has brought the people to a lower social standard than they have previously reached. We have now the opportunity to relieve the country of the great- debt which is continually accumulating, becoming a great burden on the people, by giving the Commonwealth Bank full power over all the banking business of the Commonwealth, and bringing within its realm all the advantages that accrue from the operations of finance within this country. Those advantages which are rightfully the due of the nation and which are the product of the people’s efforts, should certainly revert to the people.
I propose to address a few words to the Country party in respect to wheat scrip. The holder of wheat scrip who goes to the bank with his scrip will possibly find that the bank is willing to discount it at 5 per cent. But is there any reason why he should not get it discounted at the very minimum of cost;? There is a very low margin, indeed, quite applicable to the operations of private credit, and it certainly is not 5 per cent. Why should not the primary producer receive the full advantage of that which he produces, instead of being required to pay an exorbitant rate of interest to private money lenders?
– I get my bills discounted for less than 5 per cent.
– The other day, when I asked the Treasurer a question in regard to this matter, I was assured by him that most of the money advanced by the banks for the financing of the wheat pools was advanced at an interest rate of 5 per cent.
– Is the honorable member speaking of bills which are discounted, or of advances made to the Wheat Board ?
am referring to the advances made by the banks for the financing of the wheat scheme, for which the farmer has to pay either directly or indirectly. I believethe amendment of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) if adopted, will afford a satisfactory solution of the problem with which we are confronted, and that it will assist us to progress in that direction which is in keeping with our national motto, “Advance Australia.”
.- When I walked into the Chamber just now, honorable members upon the Ministerial side of the House were murmuring that the statements made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) were “ rubbish “ and “ rot.” I then remembered that some of the daily newspapers in commenting upon the statements of the Treasurer the other day affirmed that they were , marked by childish ignorance. Indeed, one journal went so far as to say that he ought to take a course of study in the rudiments of finance.
– One of them told me the other day that I was doing very well, if I only pursued my studies further.
– I do not mention this matter in order to indorse the disparagement of the Treasurer, but merely to show that so far as interjections from the other side of the Chamber are concerned, honours are equal. In these circumstances I may well be pardoned for making a slight contribution to the mass of ignorance. This Bill has been introduced by the Treasurer, and it purports to achieve a very simple object, namely, the transfer of the control of our noteissue to the Commonwealth Bank. I have read the measure carefully - it is not often that I read the Bills which are submitted for our consideration - but I have read this Bill. To my mind it contains two or three distinct propositions. The first of these concerns the functions of the various State Governments. The Treasurer, in the course of his speech upon: the motion for the second reading of the Bill, scarcely made any reference to the measure at all. Certainly he made no reference whatever to a very important portion of it - the portion which lays it down that no private banking institution shall give circulation to any currency issued by any State Government. Amongst other things it sets out that -
I submit that the States have no power to issue any currency which can be regarded as legal tender. That function is exclusively reserved to the Commonwealth under our Constitution. Nothing that the States can do can empower them to issue legal tender, and no provision in this Bill can deprive them of any of the rights which they enjoy under our constitution. Paragraph a of proposed new section 60b, which I have just quoted, provides that a bank shall not issue or circulate any note for the payment of money issued by a State, and payable to bearer on demand. That is a roundabout way of imposing restrictions upon the activities of the States. I refer to it specially because it is a demonstration of what a Government can do when it has made up its mind to carry out any particular measure. It is a demonstration that what the Commonwealth Government cannot do directly, or by the processes of the Court - in other words, what it cannot do by the direct use of its instrumentalities, it may do by roundabout methods, or by imposing its authority upon subsidiary institutions in this country. Under this Bill, it seeks to compel the private financial institutions of the Commonwealth to act upon its behalf, and to do what the Government itself has no power to do. The Commonwealth Government cannot prevent a State Government, from issuing currency upon its own behalf. The Common wealth hasso power directly to prevent the States from doing what they wish to do in regard to the issue of currency of their own, either from the State Treasuries or through the medium of the State Banks. But what it cannot do directly it is now going to compel the banks to do upon its behalf . Under this Bill the Government tells the banks that they must not give circulation to any issue of currency by the States. I wish to point out that what the Commonwealth Government is now doing against the State Governments it could have done aganist. every monopoly in this country. It could have compelled the private banking institutions of Australia, when Mr. Knox, the chairman <of directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, refused to answer the questions put to him by the Sugar Commission, to- refuse credit to that monopoly.
The next point to which I desire to refer is that under this Bill the Government propose to hand over certain functions to the Commonwealth Bank. But, no matter what the measure may say in words, it will not accomplish anything of the kind. The Treasurer has said that the Bill means the creation of a new Department. It means nothing of the sort. It merely means the ‘creation of a new Board - a new authority, a new body of men who have no power of administration as regards the Commonwealth Bank. They will not be subordinate to the Bank, and, therefore, they cannot be a department of it. The Government propose to hand over to the Board I have mentioned absolute control of the note issue of this country. The Administrator of the Commonwealth Bank will have no more to do with the Board than he would have if he were- president of a bowling club. Apart from him and another officer there are to be two private individuals, who are apparently to be connected with the financial world, and who are to have entire control of the note issue. They are to be permitted to issue notes to whom they like, and under what conditions they like. They will not only administer the issue of notes in accordance with the Act of 1911-14, but’ they may issue notes upon any security that they may choose to accept. Under the Bill, therefore; we- shall create no public utility, make no advance, but merely change the control of the note issue of this country to a Board, two of whose members will be the administrators of it.
The third point to which I desire to> direct attention is that proposed new section 60o was embodied in the measurewhen it was first submitted for our consideration. I give the Treasurer credit to the extent of saying that that provision ‘ must have been inserted for some public purpose. It was not included for nothing, but was embodied in the Bill after mature consideration.
– I will tell the honorable member why it was included. The banks advanced us ‘ £10,000,000 at the beginning of the war. The provision in question was inserted in order that vemight not have the banks demanding 10,000,000 sovereigns.
– The provision was inserted for some consideration. It was clearly understood by the Treasurer that there was some public purpose to be served by its inclusion in the Bill. Sn far, however,, there has been, no explanation as to why it was included, or why it has now been withdrawn.
– I assure the honorable member that it has not been withdrawn for nothing.
– That may be so; bat the reasons which induced the Treasurer to include it in the Bill, and subsequently to pull- it out of the measure,, should be explained to the House.
– The proper time to explain that matter is in Committee, when we are dealing with, that proposed new sub-section.
– Then, some day. therewill be an explanation of the reason why it has been withdrawn, but not now. Why was the provision inserted in the Bill? We have just been given an explanation by the Treasurer. But a further exlanation must be forthcoming, and I look to myself for it. The Bill provides that these notes shall be redeemable at the head office of the Commonwealth Bank. Whatever prohibition may have been imposed upon the- redemption of Commonwealth notes during the war, this measure leads the public to- believe that these notes will be redeemable -in gold at the head office of the Commonwealth Bank. But from beginning to end, the Bill proposes to vest the entire control of the note issue in, a Board which is to- be constituted, and a majority of whose members have- noassociation with, the Commonwealth Bank. They are to have absolute control over the issue- and re-issue of. these notes-
They will have power to issue notes upon whatever terms and conditions they may choose to lay down. From the Treasurer’s own statement, and from the language of - the Bill itself, one would imagine that the Board will be a body quite clear and distinct from the Commonwealth Bank. Yet when it comes to a question of redemption, Ave are informed that these notes are not to be redeemed at the head-quarters of the Board, but at the head office of the Commonwealth Bank. I wish to know whether that is a misstatement in the Bill. Secondly, the redemption of those notes will !be absolutely impossible for the great mass of the people of this country. Notwithstanding any declaration to the contrary, it is very evident, even if the redemption of these notes were not hedged round with limitations and restrictions, that such redemption is in reality impossible. It is evident that in places, thousands of miles from headquarters, in New South Wales and other States, redemption is absolutely impossible. Only the banking corporations of the country, which have special facilities for transferring notes from city to city, can liquidate their notes in gold reserves if they wish. I take it that the reason the Treasury officials inserted the clause was that it would be an absurdity to provide that the currency was redeemable in gold at a- particular place, and then leave the private corporations, who wished gold, at liberty to flood the Treasury with their particular storage of notes. So it was provided that the banks should hold at least quantities of notes equal to something like 15 per cent, of the total deposits of the country, 10 per cent., of course, on one portion, and 20 per cent, or. another, making an average of 15 per cent. That means they would have to hold a few million more than before. It was desired to make conditions so as to enable the Government to defend its own gold reserves; but it would lie absurd to impose restrictions with which banking institutions, with branches spread all over the country, would find it absolutely impossible to comply. It would be an absurdity to ask the private corporations to do what the Treasury officials are notcapable of doing themselves. Their budgets are delivered months after the end of the financial year, because it takes months to get the returns in from the remote parts of the country. The object was the plain one of protecting the gold reserves by taking away from the private banks the power to invade those reserves in cases of emergency. But that clause was withdrawn, and I take it that the banking institutions at their interview’ with the Treasurer presented very sound reasons, which must have appealed to the right honorable gentleman or he would not have withdrawn it. I presume he was told that not only were the returns impossible, but that it would be impossible to hold such a reserve. I do not know whether that was so or not, but the banks are holding £300,000,000 of deposits, one half on call and one half on deposit. Against those deposits they have something like £36,000,000 in notes, or about 14 per cent., while under the conditions laid down they would be called on to hold 15 per cent. The total deposits of the banks, according to their own returns, in different parts of the world, total over £456,000,000, and their total liabilities £404,000,000; excluding the Bank of New Zealand and the National Bank of New Zealand, we find that the banks have overseas something like £390,000,000 of deposits and £345,000,000 of liabilities. In England, and outside Australia, apart from New Zealand, they have £120,000,000 of assets, and it is most remarkable that at the present moment they are piling up their assets in the oversea market. Their total liabilities overseas last June were £72,000,000. They had a surplus of assets in the London market of apparently £50,000,000. They have in the Old Country £16,000,000 in gold and £28,000,000 in Government Treasury notes. Their total deposits, according to their own returns, are £72,000,000, and they hold in -London, in English Government notes, £28,000.000 against £72,000,000 as liabilities, so they were holding a note currency equal to 40 per cent, of their liabilities to depositors. These corporations are saying that in this country they cannot hold 15 per cent.
– Is tha honorable member referring to our banks in London ?
– Yes, but- excluding the Bank of New Zealand and the National Bank of New Zealand.
– And the Union, Australasia, and the English, Scottish, and Australian Banks?
– I include the three English banks ‘ which carry on the bulk of their operations in Australia. There is no sound reason why the proposal should have been withdrawn. It means leaving the reserves of the country absolutely at the mercy of the private corporations, except so far as they are prepared to use their judgment and exercise a little reason. I repeat that with the clause omitted the Treasury will be left absolutely at the mercy of the banking corporations of Australia.
– I did give one reason why the clause was omitted ; it was that such a clause does not find its appropriate place in a transfer measure such as this.
– Probably that is true, but that reason was found out late in the day. When the Bill was introduced it was thought an appropriate one, and only subsequent facts awakened the Treasurer to the contrary.I have said all I have to say about the Bill.
– It is only a little one after all !
– It is a very important one in its way. The three points are that the Bill takes power to restrict the States in their operations, it demonstrates what the Commonwealth has power to do when it likes, and, at the bidding of the private corporations of the country, the note issue is handed over to a Board of private individuals to administer.
The Treasurer had very little to say on the Bill, presenting it as merely a machinery proposition and then going on to wider questions. He first of all referred to the American reserve system, and told us that the reserve banks have to hold 40 per cent, of gold. That is true, but not all the truth. The National Reserve Act of America lays it down not only that there shall be a reserve of 40 per cent of gold, but that “ lawful moneys “ shall be regarded as gold in reserve. What is “lawful moneys” in America? There is silver, or the silver certificate only redeemable in silver; there is the 20-dollar gold piece, represented by a gold certificate, and then, there comes the greenback, which is still not redeemable in gold. If any one wishes to redeem notes he has to go to the bank, and take a car-load of silver or certificates, a 20-dollar gold certificate, or a greenback note. The only institution where redemption is possible is the United States of America Treasury, and there you can get gold only if it is available. The private banking corporations in America have established a system under which they do not merely issue notes at the national reserve institution, but issue credits, and their main instruments are the cheque issues themselves. The Treasurer quoted Sir Edward Holden, an English banker connected with Parr’s Bank. That gentleman, some ten years ago, lectured before bankers at Liverpool on what banking is, and said that it mainly consists of figures in a book ; that loans are given on the books, and credit is issued by the instrumentality of cheques. Transfer credit is currency, and currency is money, and notes are merely a fractional item of the total currency of the country.
At the commencement of the war the Australian hanks held £36,000,000 in gold, and £5,000,000 in Government notes. Last June their gold reserve was only £21,000,000, and the Government notes amounted to £34,000,000. There was £24,000,000 held in the Treasurv, of which something like £15,000,000 came out of circulation. The banks themselves have space for an additional £16,000,000, and on that they have £90,000,000 additional credit. Before the war £800,000,000 worth of cheques passed through the great clearing houses apart from cheques elsewhere, and probably at the end of this year £2,000,000,000 worth of cheques will pass. The private corporations are deriving their interest and their profits, not from gold - not from anything they have themselves to lend - but because they have had the monopoly privilege of issuing the circulating medium of the country. It has been said, not only by Sir Edward Holden and other high banking authorities, but also by Paul Warburg, the American banker, that the day has long passed when note issues were anything more than a fractional item of the currency of the country. The Treasurer himself when replying to somebody who spoke in New South Wales, said, “ This gentleman forgets that the inflation of the note issue, so called, is infinitesimal compared with the inflation of credit itself.” If that is so, what are we paying interest for ? Why are we paying an enormous subsidy to the private banking corporations of this country, whose directors simply meet in a room and write up credits? The Insurance and Banking Record stated in an article a few months ago that the £90,000,000 worth of increased deposits in this country were produced by the paper money of the banking corporations, which they advanced upon wheat and other primary products.
– If all this can be done by anybody with a pen, why does not the honorable member get a pen and go to work ?
– Give me the power to start and I can do it. There is nothing to prevent it. Let the Treasurer advance me, first of all, the £10,000 which it is necessary to put uo as a security before any one can establish a banking corporation or an insurance company in Australia. Once they get a start, that is what it amounts to. Not theorists,, but practical bankers admit it. Sir Felix. Schuster, the leading7 man in the Smith and Union Bank, says “ the theory of banking is one thing, the practice is quite another. Modern currency is largely a cheque issue.” That only shows what we have to pay for the immense inflation of credit in Australia. If it. does not mean that, what did the Treasurer mean when he spoke of the inflation of credit, first the note issue, and secondly, the inflation of advances which are based upon - what? What are the deposits based on .? Did not the Treasurer say the other day that the security for our issues of credit was the actual production of the country? When a farmer raises his crop, or a manufacturer turns out the products of his factory, or when a man seeks an advance, for which he offers his own property to the bank as security, an advance is made upon the crop, or the manufactured products, or the property, or the deeds that represent the property, as the case may be, or an advance is made upon bills which represent commodities in transit. The banking institutions themselves write np the deposits. Only the other day the. Argus’ said “ deposits are created every time’ an advance is made, bv the simple process of writing them up in a book.” That is the fundamental of modern banking. That is the point we have reached tinder the modern system.
– What the honorable member says is all right as far as it goes; but he omits the fact that all the credits written up are based upon gold.
– Are they ? They have absolutely no relation to a gold basis today. It is quite true that everything has a relation to something else. If you put a pinch of tea into a pail of water, the water has some relation to the pinch of tea, however little you put in, but the basis is constantly melting away and dwindling. Present conditions are like an inverted pyramid : the inversion is growing greater, and. the point of support is growing smaller. Before the war the banks’ reserves of gold were much larger. To-day there is an immense superstructure of additional credit upon a smaller volume of gold.
– Not on a smaller volume.
– Count it up. Before the war the banks had £36,000,000 of gold reserves apart from the gold in circulation. To-day the note issues constitute their reserves.
– The gold to-day in Australia is practically what it was before the war. ‘:
– Just so- £24,000,000 in the Treasury, and £21,000,000 in the banks, but it has no relation to the credit of the country.
– Paul Warburg, whom you have been quoting, says it has, and insists on it.
– I thought I knew him as well as the right honorable member did. So far as ordinary, capitalized banking is concerned, gold to-day has disappeared out of circulation. It disappeared out of circulation in America long before the war.
– It is none the less the basis.
– Gold to-day is a commodity held in reserve for international capitalistic trading purposes. It has nothing whatever to do with the internal currency of modern States. The evolution of banking has been such that gold has nothing whatever to do with the internal currency. The currency of a country is not issued upon the basis of gold. It does not represent anything which the bank itself has to lend. It does not represent any capital which the bank has to advance. It does not represent any property belonging to the bank. The proof of this is to be found in any banking balance-sheet,, and in the banking returns. These show that the great bulk of the security, upon which the advances of the private banking corporations rest, consists of nothing else than the security which the borrower himself puts in. That is the only security which the banking corporations of this country have for the advances they make.
– I propose to quote Paul Warburg to you, if I can get hold of him.
– It is too late, as I am nearly finished. As a matter of fact, this is probably not the time for any of us to speak on the currency question. We have no right to ask the present Treasurer to do what we did not do when we were in power ourselves. The Treasurer, however, offered a few comments apart from the Bill, and I thought I would like, in a spasmodic kind ‘of way, to make a contribution to the debate on those points.
– And no man can make a more interesting contribution on this subject.
– I thank the right honorable, gentleman. I did not come armed with a mass of material, because this is neither the day nor the hour to deal with the subject at length. The test of how far wc believe in a thing is our deeds when we were in power, and did not do it. Hereafter, the only test will be whether, if we come into power again, we have the courage to do the things in which we profess to believe.
– I said, before the honorable member came in, that John Storey and Theodore arc in power, and are not doing it.
– They have not the power.
– They know they cannot do it.
– I believe they can, but that is not the argument. Our day has gone by. We should have proved our faith by our past. Now we can only prove it by our future. My opinion is well known, for I expressed it in the early days of the war. I said then that we could so construct the government of this country and make such arrangements so far as the private banking corporations were concerned that, whilst we could not have freed Australia from its large indebtedness, we could so have constructed our banking system as to free the country at least from the immense bondage of the annual interest which she now has to pay.
– You gave us an illustration of how you were going to begin, and it did good service on the platform.
– No doubt it did good service for the honorable member and his party, and probably it will continue to do them good service for some years to come, but they should not be too sure that it will always serve their purpose.
– I refer to the raid that you were going to make on Burns, Philp. You were going to take their capital away and give them an IOU and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) was going to help you.
– The honorable member refers to the conscription of wealth. That was one of the few occasions on which the honorable member for Hunter would have helped me, but I shall always be glad of his help in any raiding proposition that I put forward. My case was proved by statements then appearing in papers like the Banking Record, apart altogether from any statements by mere theorists. The Banking Record said that by the issue of a paper currency the banks had enabled the people to contribute to the war loans. It claimed that the banks had financed the war by that means. This was not by the note-issue. That was only the basis. It was by the mere manufacture of a cheque currency, because modern currency is not notes. The Treasurer himself, in his reply to that man in New South Wales, said that the note-issue was only a modicum of the currency. The trouble with the Treasurer is that he starts a line of argument, but will not follow it to its logical conclusion, and gets back to the old Tory basis. Sometimes he breaks away from the old Tory anchorage, and then he wonders what is the matter with him.
– Logic does not always fit politics, does it?
– That is quite true. Logic is sometimes most inconvenient. Sometimes you can only exist in politics by making sure that you do not do anything logical. An examination of the banking returns furnishes the proof of the argument I have been putting forward, and the day must come when we shall adopt the only method by which we ca-n get out of our present position; that is, by doing exactly what the private banks have done to build up the enormous indebtedness of this country, and following the methods by which they have financed the various primary products of this country, manufacturing a currency of their own. We must adopt the methods by which the private banks enabled people to contribute to the war loans. When the ‘£40,000,000 loan was being raised in 1918, a man could go to any of the banks, and, by means of his own security, offering his house of the value of, say, £500, or £500 worth of bonds, which he took up in the previous” loan, obtain from the bank credit for 90 per cent, of his proposed contribution to the new loan, although no more money was put into the bank, and the bank obtained no more supplies of notes. A credit of 90 per cent, of his new contribution was written up by the banks to the taxpayer, and was handed over to the Commonwealth Government, to be paid for at 5 or 6 per cent, for all eternity. The Herald recently published an article, giving a description by Mr. Burford, a visitor from America, of the modern system in that country, by which the American banks simply wrote up their loans in their books and issued cheques upon them; that is, issued cheques upon things which represented nothing of their own. They issued these credits on the security of the borrower only. Under the conditions of modern society, this system of advance is entirely distinct from the old method, whereby the Jew or other primitive banker had his gold supplies, or his own primitive notes which represented his gold, and lent out his own actual commodity, for the use of which he charged 5 or 10 per cent. That era has disappeared. Under the modern system, the worker on the soil, the farmer, the manufacturer, whosoever has a home - all these are the actual suppliers of capital - has to go to the private banking corporation and pay annual interest for a circulated currency that represents in essence nothing but the property and security which he himself puts in. That security is the actual production of the country. Why should the particular individuals who compose the private banking corporationshave the power to exploit the people of the country, by means of this monopolisticprivilege? Those men can finance every institution to which they like to put their hands. What did they do in 1893 in Victoria, when they closed their banks and appropriated the deposits, while at the same time some of them could hold £200,000, £300,000, and even £400,000 in the corporations which they controlled ? They closed their doors, and ruined, and drove to destitution, misery, dejection, and suicide the people whose property they had appropriated. Yet they could meet in their parlours and write off their own liabilities a’t £d. and 3d. in the £1. Some of these men, who wrote off their indebtedness to the community in general, and the indebtedness of the institutions which they controlled - some of them, or their progeny, are amongst the most wealthy in the community to-day. They tell the people that they obtained their money by their own energy and talents, whereas in truth they got it only by the maladministration ,and misappropriation of the money of other people.
– I know of no banks that did that.
– The right honorable member surely remembers Mcllwraith and Drury in Queensland ? Drury fled. They brought him ‘back, and he was supposed to commit suicide. They had a bogus inquiry, and a bogus coroner’s inquest, and years afterwards be could turn up in the principal cities of the world, -living in opulence on the money of the institutions which he had exploited. So did Mcllwraith disappear out of the country, and never came into it again. In this State, what did the Commercial Bank do when it appropriated the property of the depositors ? It offered to advance £80,000 to the city of Footscray, and then made the city pay interest on £80,000, when it got only £30,000. This institution appropriated one-third, and gave deposit receipts for the other- two-thirds, and the people who held receipts were driven on to the streets of this city to sell them for a few shillings in the £1, while the very men who had closed on the deposits were controlling institutions by means of which they could get fresh advances from the banks, with which they were able to buy up their own depreciated securities and deposit receipts. That is known to be an absolute fact, and the power to do that is a power which no few men should have over the savings of the people. This vast capitalistic structure, these immense private banking corporations, are controlled by a comparatively few men, not anare than 100 in number. Who are these men? They are the men who, on the one hand, control all the metalliferous resources of the country. Turning to the English banks, we find that the men associated with one group control the entire outgoings and incomings of commodities. They control the wool, the wheat - the entire exports and imports of the country. Turn to another group of banks, and you find the men associated with them control the tobacco and sugar monopolies of the country. Nearly all the products of the country are in their hands, and whatsoever is not in their hands is subject to their will. These are the real tyrants of the country. These are the dominant forces - more powerful even than Governments - and we are but mere figures strutting on the political stage. There is always some one to look after their interests. When we examine the new industries that are being developed, we find that, whether they relate to metals on the one hand, or to wool on the other, the same little group of men controls them. Thus, while we have the outward and visible semblance of a Democracy, Australia is more and more tending to a vast economic despotism.
The position of Australia was never more parlous than it is to-day. Our responsibilities are increasing. A vast tide of indebtedness sweeps upon us, growing larger and larger, and the weight of interest is becoming heavier. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) spoke of those who desire to contract the currency. It is true that there are men who would like credits to be contracted. Where do we raise our revenue? Largely through the Customs Department. By means of duties imposed on the inflowing goods we raise enormous revenues, with which we have to meet a large proportion of our obligations at home and abroad. If, as the result of restricted credits the market drops, and our imports are enormously reduced, there must be a corresponding decrease in our Customs revenue. Yet these financial institutions can, and do, restrict credit. What, after all, do we mean by the restriction of credit? Take the case of a man with ample security. He has an enterprise worth thousands of pounds. His business is excellent, and the value of his properties unquestionable. In a free community one would expect such a man to be able to get credit from the fiduciary institutions. But’ the banks control all such persons. They can advance credit to men of straw - to men with little security - while, on the other hand, they can drive a man with unquestionable securities out of the market and ruin him by refusing him the credit necessary to carry on his operations.
We read to-day that the banking corporations are taking it upon themselves to refuse the applications of those who wantcredit abroad. They refuse foreign credit for local money. A man with ample security desires a £10,000 credit in New York or London in order to pay for commodities which he has purchased there, but the banks, whatever their excuse may be, refuse to give him that advance.
– Because they cannot.
– That is their statement.
– That is the actual position ; there is no doubt about it.
– Very good. The man who makes the application has ample security. He is willing to hand it over-
– It is not a matter of security at all.
– Very well; this man says to the manager of one of our banking corporations, “ I want £10,000 credit in New York, where I have entered into a contract for the purchase of certain machinery or goods.” His request is refused, with the result that he has to cancel his contract. He suffers loss merely because the banking institutions of the country refuse to allow him to carry out his contract.
– That is not right; it is bcause the institutions of the country cannot give him the credit he wants.
– Why? Because they have no credit overseas?
– That is their statement.
– .Then their published balance-sheets must be absolutely false.
– Not at all.
– The Treasurer would say anything. I do hot accept such an explanation. If I were Treasurer of the Commonwealth I should say, when such a statement was made to me on behalf of the banks, “ I have heard your statement, but as Treasurer of the Commonwealth I am responsible for its welfare and- “
– The honorable member will perhaps believe me when I say that the Commonwealth Bank to-day, like all the other banks, has very great difficulty in getting credits in London.
– If that is so, I can only say that the. banks in their published balance-sheets do not make a correct statement of their position. Let us get at the whole of the facts.
– It is useless for the honorable member to butt his head against the facts.
– And it is useless to pit mere statements against facts. I do not say that the figures which I am about to give are facts, but they are the bank returns. In the first place I repeat that the banks are refusing credit, and so affecting the importations of the country. That means that they are affecting the revenues of the country with which we have- to meet our obligations. It may be a sound policy to restrict importations, but the function of restricting them should devolve upon the Government of theCommon wealth, and not upon private banking companies. The banks, by reason of the action they are taking, are determining what shall and what shall not come into this country.
– The honorable member is quite wrong; the banks are anxious to finance these enterprises, but they cannot.
– That was what they said when they got away with the money of a lot of poor devils in1893.
– We have had many anxious discussions with the representatives of the banks as to the best way of obtaining some credit in London.
– Then I invite the attention of the Treasurer to the banking returns as published at the end of September last. They deal with the total issues at home and abroad, and the figures I am about to give exclude the operations of the two New Zealand banks. According to this return, the assets of the banks in Australia at the end of June lastconsisted of - Debts due to the banks, £168,514,000; gold, £21,330,000;
Government notes, £34,610,000; Government securities, £37,136,000;. bank premises, £5,375,000; and notes and bills of other banks, £2,909,000. That givesus a total of £269,874,000 in respect of their Australian assets. Their assets overseas were as follows: - Debts due to banks £52,682,000; gold, £16,223,000; Government notes, £28,520,000; Government securities, £20,249,000; bank premises, £538,000; and notes and bills of other banks, £1,926,000. In gold and Government notes they had in London £44,742,000.
– What has that to do with the matter?
– I shall tell the Treasurer. Their assets overseas, comprising, for the most part, money at short call, gold, and Government notes, and securities, at the end of June last, totalled £120,138,000, while their liabilities overseas amounted to £72,090,000. They had thus a surplus of assets over liabilities amounting to £48,048,000. Let us now see what were the importations between the end of June and the end of September,’ in order that we may ascertain whether it is correct, as stated, that they are absolutely incapable of furnishing any more credit in London and must restrict credit.
– Until the wheat goes Home.
– Yes; I am quite prepared to believe that.
– It is really the fact, however much we may argue about it.
– I do not desire to argue about the facts. These figures are taken from the banking returns. I am not responsible for them. They show that the banks had on the other side in money at short call at the end of June, 1920, a surplus credit of nearly £50,000,000.
– Five months ago.
– Quite so. I shall get in presently what I want to say. At the end of June, 1920, their liabilities overseas amounted to £72,090,000, while their assets there totalled £120,138,000, so. that they had a surplus of practically £50,000,000 overseas. They now tell us that they cannot provide credit. If I were Treasurer of the Commonwealth and they made such, a statement to me I should ask to be furnished with the facts. They would then have to furnish me with their balance-sheet, showing that they had overseas a surplus of practically £50,000,000 at the end of June last. Between June and September our importations were relatively small. In July, they amounted in value to about £12,000,000, and that may be taken as the monthly average for the quarter ending September last.
– Our exports had been paid for nearly two years before, and delivery was merely being taken of them at the time.
– I am speaking of imports. Is the Treasurer referring to exports from Australia, or to exports from the Old Country ? The banks assert that the importations into. Australia have been enormous, and that the exports for the most part now taking place were paid for long age; but the fact remains that the imports for the three months ending September last averaged only something like £12,000,000 per month, or a total of £36,000,000, so that they must still have a very considerable credit in London.. I do not say that the banks are not justified in the attitude they are taking up, but they ought to give us the actual facts.
– Then, what the honorable member is trying to establish is that the banks have, lying idle in Loadon, somethinglike £30,000,000, and are not prepared to use it in order to make more money.
– I do not say that. It is for me to make my own statement, in my own way. I’ know very well that the banks take care to use whatever money they have, no matter, where it may be. I am not even saying that the banks, in refusing credits, are not doing what is right for the protection of Australian interests,, as well as their own; but I do say that when they are asked for an explanation they should state the actual facts. The actual fact is that they are feeling the pressure of the obligations which they have to meet on behalf of the Commonwealth and State Governments. They do not know how to meet them. It is these obligations that are mopping up their surplus of credits in London. It is not the immensity of our imports, or the fact that a large proportion of the produce we are now exporting was paid for long ago, that is responsible for the attitude of the banks. The fact is that the expenditure of the States and the Commonwealth ob- ligations which the banks, have to meetin London are so immense that they are anxious to grasp all they can, and to get into London all the surplus creditsin order to fulfil what is. undoubtedly a very proper function. My complaint is, however, that the real facts are not given to the people of Australia.
The honorable member for Grampians (Mr; Jowett) has referred to the expansion and contraction of currency.. It is quite true that, at the present moment, many financial institutions are trying to contract the currency. It was stated the other day in a New York newspaper that the contraction of credit there had immensely reduced prices, since it had compelled many persons to flood the markets with their goods. The particular industrial enterprises concerned were unable to getany credit, no matter what security they had to offer. They could not secure the circulating mediumfrom the banks, and were compelled, therefore, to throw their commodities on the market. Such a situation is disastrous to any country, and a sudden and immense drop in prices would be disastrous to Australia. Reference has been made to the inflation of the currency. I agree with the Treasurer. Private institutions, not the Government of the country, control the expansion or contraction of credit and the note issue. And then we are told that, because of the effect of this enormous increase in currency and this inflation of credit, the only way to save the country and to get things cheaply is to have no money at all ! I am not going to argue that. I am not going to discuss the effects of contraction or inflation of currency. But is it not a fact that if a country is flooded with a particular commodity, it is supposed to become cheap to the people? Is it not a fact that prices fall in an inverse ratio to the inflation of currency, so that by enormously increasing the output of the particular commodity it becomes cheaper? If this be true, why is it that at this particular hour, with this enormous inflation of our currency, money has never been so dear in our lifetime? If these theories be correct, and if there is so much money about that people do not know what to do with it, why is it that the rate of interest is so high?
– Because it measures the depreciation of our currency.
– So if potatoes become worse, they become dearer ! This is a new economic doctrine. As a matter of fact, it has nothing whatever to do with the case.
– You are hopeless if you compare notes with potatoes.
– But what about gold? Does not the same argument apply ? It is not a question of commodity. The argument now appears to be that when a thing depreciates, it gets dearer. That is the first time I have heard that. The Treasuirer should reconcile his arguments.
– They do not need any reconciliation.
– This is my last point. You cannot circulate more gold or notes than the people of a country want. This is one of the reasons why I have always objected to such an enormous increase in our note issue. I have always held that there was no need to over-issue our currency by £30,000,000, because a note issue is only justified by the country’s need for counter change and wage payments.
– The real reason, as I have already explained, was to enable the Government to carry on the public works of the States.
– Just so. But the notes have simply circulated through the ordinary trade channels and gone back into the reservoirs of the private banks. There they have remained, and it is upon this security, which is as good as gold in reserve, that these private institutions have built up an immense volume of trade, and have drawn millions of profits. It is mere waste of printing paper to issue notes beyond the pocket requirements of the people. We have been issuing too many notes in much the same way that we might issue too many postage stamps. We cannot force them to circulate. This country, to return to financial stability, must redeem its internal obligations in the same way that private institutions manufactured them, by financing people in the purchase of loans.
– We have done that to the extent of £25,000,000.
– When was that?
– In connexion with the last loan.
– What did you do?
– Issued our I O U’s.
– Yes, but who is going to make a profit out of that transaction? As a matter of fact, if we had utilized the resources of the Commonwealth Bank as an issuing institution, had we used the note issue for redemption purposes, we could have obtained all the credit we wanted without loading the primary producers, or anybody else, with interest and taxation.
– But this Commonwealth Bank of yours, which you are always lauding, insists strongly that the note issue shall be on a gold basis.
– I am not saying that. I am saying that what you want behind the note issue is value - it does not matter whether it is wheat or bonds, so long as it is good value. I am finished, but before I sit down I should like to congratulate the Treasurer upon the interesting dialogue which he has carried on with me. I am pleased to know that in this case no Speaker has called me to order, and upon some future occasion I may be able to follow the Treasurer’s excellent example by interrupting him with what, I hope, will prove to be an equally interesting dialogue.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the motion . - (Mr. Lazzareni’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
After Part VI. of the principal Act the following Part is inserted:’ - “Part VIa. - Issue: of Australian Notes.
Division 1. - Preliminary. 60a. In this Part, unless the contrary inten tion appears - “ Constable “ includes any member of the police force of the Commonwealth or of a State or of part of the Commonwealth:
Division 2. - Establishment of Note Issue Department. 60d. (1) The Note Issue Department shall be managed by a Board of Directors composed of the Governor of the Bank and three other directors appointed by the Governor-General in accordance with this Part.
Division 4. - Issue of Australian Votes. 60h. (1) Australian Notes may be issued in any of the following denominations, namely, Five shillings, Ten shillings, One pound, Five pounds, Ten pounds or any multiple of Ten pounds, and shall -
be issued from the Commonwealth Bank ;
Australian notes shall bear thereon the signatures of such officers of the Commonwealth Treasury as the Treasurer directs. The signatures may be made in the handwriting of the officers or persons or may be made by engraving, lithography, or any mechanical process approved by the Treasurer. 60i. (1) Part of the moneys derived from the issue of Australian notes or acquired on the transfer of the Australian Note Issue from the Treasury, shall be held by the Board in gold coin for the purposes of the reserve provided for in section sixty k of this Act, and the Board may invest the remainder or any part thereof -
on deposit with any other bank, or
in securities of the United Kingdom, or of the Commonwealth, or of a State; or
in the ordinary business of the Bank. 60l. The Board shall not pledge any Australian notes or deposit them with any bank or person as security for money. 60o. (1) Every bank, other than the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, shall hold in the form of Australian notes an amount not less than twenty per centum of the deposits which it holds repayable at call or less than six months’ notice, and ten per centum of deposits it holds repayable at six months’ or longer notice.
Every such bank shall, as at the close of business on each Monday, render to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia at Sydney a return in accordance with the prescribed form showings -
The amount of deposit liabilities of every description of the bank at that date and specifying -
the deposits at call or less than six months’ notice; and
the deposits repayable at six months’ or longer notice; and
the value of the notes, issued under this Act or the Australian Notes Act, held by the bank.
Returns furnished under this section shall be supplied as soon as practicable after the date to which they refer.
Penalty: One hundred pounds. “ 60p. For any Australian notes required by the Bank for the purposes of its ordinary business the Bank shall make to the Note Issue Department payment, or shall give credit to the Board, upon the same terms and conditions as those applicable to any other bank.”
– I move -
That -the following words be added at the end of sub-section (1) of proposed new section 60d : - “ of whom one shall be an officer of the Commonwealth Treasury.”
My object in so moving is that I desire to keep the liaison between the Treasury and the Bank to the extent indicated in the amendment.
.- I do not like the proposal of the Government to hand over the Commonwealth note issue to a board of directors. I would prefer to see control in the hands of a public servant - an official in a position similar to that of the manager of a bank. I question the wisdom of placing our note issue under other than individual control. When the Commonwealth Bank was established, numbers of honorable members opposite expressed the view that its management should be undertaken by a board of directors. The Labour party strongly objected. Its members held that individuals upon a board were more prone to look after the interests of themselves and their friends than to regard national interests. Boards of directors are merely ornamental. They have no real control over the welfare of the great institutions of thiB country. By way of example, I mention four leading concerns, namely, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Bank of New South Wales, the Australian Mutual Provident Society, and Burns, Philp, and Company. The Australian Mutual Provident Society has .a board of directors, but the board does not control the society. The man at the helm, -and solely responsible, has been Mr. Teece. I have had occasion to consult the manager of the Bank of New South Wales, and I am sure that the actual guidance and control of that institution has resided in the person of Mr. Russell French. No honorable member will deny that the moving spirit iti the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the man who rules, is Mr. Knox. In the firm of Burns, Philp, and Company the controlling factor for years wa3 Mr. Forsyth. ‘He was the strong man, who would allow nobody else to interfere in the management. I recall that there was a former senator who occupied a seat on the board of management of all four of those institutions which I have quoted; but such a small part did he take in their control and management that he was able to absent himself in England for -twelve months, and no one of those concerns was the worse off. What effect could he have had upon their management and control even when he was attending the board meetings? Boards of directors are really a source of danger, because they are apt to bring to bear upon the affairs of their institution purely personal interests and influence. Strong individual management is required to resist and counteract their sometimes sinister intent. I hope the Government will accept the principle of one person being given control of our note issue. ‘Two outside persons are proposed to be appointed to the board. Their natural inclination, I fear, will be to regard the interests of their friends rather than the national welfare. Moreover, there will be no real work for them to do. I cannot understand the acquiescence of the Prime Minister (Mr..- Hughes) in the creation of this proposed board, in view of the following remarks which he made when speaking upon the Commonwealth Bank Bill in this chamber, in November, 1011 :-
No institution has been more admirably managed than the Bank of New South Wales. But it is the policy of the general manager to which effect is given there. Is it not notorious that boards of directors fill no more useful purpose than to indorse the proposals of the general manager? Would it be possible for a dozen men to run a bank? No. There never was a successful business institution run by more than one man.
Surely the Commonwealth Bank is of more importance than the Note Issue Department is likely to be. There must be some motive underlying this proposal, and probably the Government are anxious to establish a Note Issue Department and carry out their own ideas before there is a change of Government. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) referred to a provision which has been deleted, and I believe the Government had some reason for including it in the Bill which at present is not apparent. Although honorable members do not appear to be taking very great interest in this measure, it must be admitted that there is no more important question to the Commonwealth than that of finance. It is gratifying to learn that some of our younger members are directly interesting themselves in financial questions, and that I am not the only honorable member in this Chamber prepared to deal with such important problems in a business-like way. I was not present when the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) delivered, his secondreading speech, and since my return from
Queensland I have not had an opportunity of giving close attention to the measure. I notice, however, that the Treasurer said that no new principle was involved.
-Order! I direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the whole Bill is not now under consideration.
– I thought not. It is my intention to move an amendment relating to the proposed appointment of a Board of Directors ; but I shall not do so on this clause.
– When the Estimates were under consideration, a few days ago, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) informed me that there were no Commonwealth police constables. But this clause provides that “ Constable, includes any member of the police force of the Commonwealth or of a State or of part of the Commonwealth.” Where are those police now?
– We may have them at some time.
– It appears that you still have them.
-i know nothing about it.
– It is my intention to move for the deletion of those words.
– There is already an amendment before the Chair.
– But mine is a prior amendment.
– That definition does not mean anything.
-It means something to me; and I am determined to raise my objection to the continuance of the Commonwealth Police Force whenever I have the opportunity. I would like to know, Mr. Chairman, who has moved an amendment.
– The Treasurer.
– I am prepared to temporarilywithdraw my amendment if the honorable member wishes to move a prior amendment.
– If the Treasurer is prepared to delete the words to which I object, I shall be satisfied.
– The honorable member must realize that it may be necessary to have a Commonwealth Police Force at any time.
– The Treasurer and the Minister for Works and Railways have already informed us that there were no Commonwealth police.
– I have not said anything of the kind.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That the words “ the Commonwealth or of “ be omitted from the definition of” constable “ in proposed section 60a.
– The honorable member may delete those words if he desires, but we must have constables.
– What for?
– The services of such officers are necessary in the Northern Territory and in Government dockyards, where property must be protected.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
– Last Thursday, when the Estimates of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department were under discussion, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) was pointing out that it did not appear, from the figures in the Estimates, that the Commonwealth Police Force had been disbanded, and the following interchange occurred between him and members of the Ministry : -
– The Minister has already fully explained the position. We have always had investigating officers in the Postal Department.
– I am not offering any objection to the employment of officers in the Postal Branch, where investigation is necessary.
– The intention of the Government is to bring all such officers into one Department instead of following the more costly method of having them operating under separate Departments.
– Does the Minister’ definitely state that a Commonwealth Police Force does not now exist ?
– The force to which the honorable member refers was created under a War Precautions Regulation, which is not now in force; and those officers have gone.
– That certainly removes my objection, to some extent.
– Officers have to be employed to make investigations in connexion with the Post Office, and the Customs, Taxation, and Immigration Departments.
– That may be so; but I had in my mind a measure that we were discussing this afternoon, in which provision was made for the State police to operate on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– We always co-operate where we can; but the responsibility of seeing that our own laws are observed rests upon the Commonwealth, and we should have officers to make investigations when the occasion arises.
-I was under the impression that if the Commonwealth Police Force was still in existence, and the State police were being utilized in connexion with the enforcement of certain Commonwealth Statutes, there was a grave inconsistency somewhere. I rose particularly to record my protest against the expenditure on a Commonwealth Police Force, as I cannot see any useful service that could be rendered by such to the Commonwealth.
The Minister for Works and Railways then stated that there is no Commonwealth Police Force.
– That is quite correct.
– I accept the Minister’s word. Why, then, does the Treasurer embody in the Bill a definition of “ constable,” which includes a member of the Commonwealth Police Force? What is the need for such a definition if there is no Commonwealth Police Force? I am against a Commonwealth Police Force which, in its nature, may resemble that created under the War Precautions Act.
– I hope that the honorable member will not persist inhis amendment. If there is no Commonwealth Police Force in existence, nothing can come of the definition to which he objects.
– The Government could create a Commonwealth Police Force.
– Not under the authority of this Bill. All that the Bill says is that if there be a Commonwealth Police Force we may use it for the protection of our notes. Does the honorable member object to that?
– Why refer to the Commonwealth Police Force if there is none in existence?
– We say, in effect, that, should there at any time be a Commonwealth Police Force, we may use it, as well as the State police, for the protection of our notes.
– We do not want a Commonwealth Police Force.
– We must have a police force at some time, and, despite what has been said, there is already a Commonwealth Police Force. How, otherwise, could order be kept in the Northern Territory?
.- The Treasurer tells us that a Commonwealth Police Force may be created, which we may want to use in connexion with this measure.
– Suppose there were a branch of the Commonwealth Bank at Darwin, ought we not to be able to make use of the Commonwealth Police Force there?
– Has the police force which was created because of the Warwick incident been abolished?
– Yes. You have been told that over and over again.
– Members on this side cannot be blamed for a certain suspiciousness, because a kind of secret service was established which seemed to have some of us under surveillance.
– A political organization.
– Even some of the members opposite objected strongly to that police force.
– A man who is not doing wrong need not fear the police.
– A case may be framed up against an. innocent man.
– Yes. We are opposed to anything in the nature of a perpetuation of the Commonwealth Police Force established under the War Precautions Act.
– That is not provided for.
– Every sane man knows that there must be a police force to keep order in a place like Darwin. I do not object to the existence of such a force. My objection is to the political police force that has been called a Secret Investigation Branch. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) is “ child-like and bland “ when he says that a man who is not doing wrong need not fear the police. I am afraid of the police because I know some of the things that they have done in Queensland, where charges have been framed up against innocent men, who have been interned, although much more loyal than I am. No man’s life or liberty was safe in Queensland while there were these Commonwealth pimps, and so long as I have a voice in this chamber, I shall protest against the employment of such a force. But how can the Darwin police be needed to protect the note issue? There is no branch of the Commonwealth Bank at Darwin.
– There may be.
– We may all go to heaven ! I have been to Canberra several times, but the only police I have seen there have been New South Wales police.
– Offences are not committed only where a branch of the Commonwealth Bank may happen to be. The disfiguring of Australian notes’, for example, may be done anywhere in the Commonwealth.
– There are already means for apprehending offenders.
– You cannot convince the honorable member. He has made up his mind.
– I have made my mind to put an end to the police force that was hatched from the rotten egg thrown at Warwick.
– The honorable member has been told that that police force has gone.
– Yet the Treasurer just said that, nevertheless, there is a Commonwealth PoliceForce.
– He was referring to the police force in the Northern Territory.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That the words “ ofwhom one shall be an officer of the Commonwealth Treasury” be inserted after the word “Part,” in sub-section 1 of proposed new section 60d.
– I move -
That the words “be issued from the Commonwealth Bank,” in paragraph a of proposed new section 60h, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ be printed and issued by the Board from the Commonwealth Bank.”
This will provide, not only for the issuing of the notes from the Commonwealth Bank, but for the printing of them by the Bank.
Mr.Fenton. - They will not be printed at the Bank?
– No, not necessarily. But the amendment will provide that they shall be printed and issued from the Commonwealth Bank by the Board.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That the words “signatures of such officers of the Commonwealth Treasury as the Treasurer directs,” in sub-section 3 of proposed new section 60h, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ signature of the Secretary of the Treasury or such other officer of the Commonwealth Treasury as the Treasurer directs, and the signature of the chairman of directors or such officer of the note issue department as the Board directs.”
That the word “other,” in paragraph a of proposed new section 60i, be left out.
Sir JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta-
Treasurer) [8.22]. - I move-
That paragraph (c) of proposed new section 60i be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ In trade bills with a cur rency of not more than one hundred and twenty days.”
The proposed new section provides that the proceeds of the note issue may be in vested at discretion in the ordinary business of the Bank. I am proposing to omit that provision, the purpose being to keep the Note-Issue Department and the ordinary business of the Bank quite distinct from each other. I propose further to insert as an alternative that the Bank may invest these proceeds in trade bills with a currency of not more than 120 days. We cannot have a better backing for our notes than a bill which is selfcancelling.
Amendment agreed to.
Sir JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta-
Treasurer) [8.25]. - I move -
That the proposed new section 60l be left out.
I do not know just how these words came to be included in the Bill. I can find no reason for them, and Itherefore propose that they should be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
Sir JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta-
Treasurer) [8.26]. - I move -
That the words- “(1) Every bank, other than the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, shall hold in the form of Australian notes an amount not less than twenty per centum of the deposits which it holds repayable at call or less than six months’ notice, and ten per centum of deposits it holds repayable at six months’ or longer notice.
Every such bank shall, as at the close of business on each Monday, render to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia at Sydney a return in accordance with the prescribed form showing -
My reason for this amendment has already been explained to honorable members. This is a matter which affects fundamental questions connected with banking, and as we are dealing with merely a machinery Bill, I think that the principles of banking should be left over to be dealt with in a general banking measure. When such a measure will be introduced I do not know, but I am of opinion that it should be dealt with very soon, as there are many things connected with our banking system requiring rectification to bring it up to date. That is one reason, but there is another. This provision was originally inserted in the Bill in order to protect the Treasury from the demands which might . otherwise be made by the banks for the return of the £10,000,000 in gold which they handed over to us at the beginning of the war. We do not want to deplete our present stock of gold standing against our notes. As the banks have come forward, and have said that they will not make that demand, it is unnecessary for us to protect ourselves in the way proposed by this clause. We are already protected by the agreement with the banks, and that will do quite as well as the clause inserted in the Bill.
– Will that agreement be as effective as this clause?
– Yes. I have no fear whatever about it. As, therefore, the only reason for inserting this clause in the Bill has been met, I propose to omit this question of banking principle, leaving it over for consideration when a general banking Bill is introduced.
Amendment agreed to.
– Why should the banks be asked to send in a return every Monday ?
– I am proposing to omit the words requiring the banks to send weekly returns of deposits. All we require is that they shall continue to forward the weekly returns of Australian notes held. The idea is that we may ourselves get the quarterly averages of deposits which are now furnished to each State, and from them make up our own average at the beginning of each quarter. There is no reason whateverwhy we should put the banks to the unnecessary trouble of sending in returns every Monday.
– I direct the right honorable gentleman’s attention to the fact that the
Committee has already given its decision with respect to sub-clause 2.
Amendment (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That in the proposed new section 60p, after the word “ Bank “ first occurring, the words “ on deposit or “ be inserted.
.- This Bill has introduced a new principle in legislation by embracing in one clause no less than twenty-nine proposed new sections. It is impossible for honorable members to follow the whole of the alterations to be made by this one clause. Already the Treasurer has moved a dozen amendments to it, and he has another to follow. The proper procedure was to deal with the proposed new sections one at a time instead of in globo.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That the following new clause be added; - “ 5a. After section . 16 of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - 16a.(1) Where an officer of the Com monwealth Public Service becomes an officer of the Bank he shall retain all his existing and accruing rights.”
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4th November (vide page 6193), on motion by Mr. Poynton -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- This is another sample of the legislation we have had introduced into this House within the past few weeks. The Passports Bill and the Nationality Bill are others of the same character.
– Simply perpetuating the Was Precautions Act.
– Yes. This Bill was introduced in the Senate in September, 1919, and reintroduced in April of this year. According to the definition clause, War Precautions (Aliens Registration) Regulations “ means the regulations made by Statutory Rules 1916, No. 165, as amended by the following Statutory Rules, viz’. -
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 176, 216, 232, and 281; Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 7, 97, 107, 125, 156, and 260; and Statutory Eules 1918, Nos. 5.5 and 270.
Honorable members have to make themselves conversant with not only the provisions of this Bill, but also thirteen sets of Statutory Rules. Any honorable member who has taken the trouble to look up the various Statutory Rules referred to will find fifteen of them and a schedule covering four pages of closely printed matter in the Statutory Rules 1916. Honorable members are not cognisant with these Rules, and do not know their effect beyond the fact that they were brought into operation for the purpose of compelling aliens belonging to nations at war with the United Kingdom to register. But now it is proposed to compel all aliens to register, not only the subjects of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey, but those who come’ here from America, France, Italy, or any other country allied with us in the recent war.
– Quite right!
– I am not saying that they should or should not register, but I object to the whole of this legislation. I do not think my honorable friend is in! favour of thisclass of legislation. Under the Act an alien is defined as “ any person, over the age of sixteen years, who is not of British nationality, and includesthe wife of an alien.” But in Statutory Regulation 165 the term “ alien “ is defined as “ any alien friend or alien enemy over the age of fifteen years, and includes the wife of an alien.” Thus there is a conflict between the age prescribed in the . Act itself and that which is prescribed in the statutory regulation. I have no doubt that there are many other contradictions of an equally glaring character. To the Nationality Bill there was attached, in the form of a schedule, the Act which was passed by the Imperial Parliament, and it would have been only fair df the Minister (Mr. Poynton) had compiled for us the whole of the statutory rules mentioned in this Bill in the form in which it it proposed to amend them. We should not then have been called upon to vote blindly upon the subject.If -we are to legislate intelligently, it is imperative that we should know precisely the legislation which we are asked to amend. These statutory rules might well have been attached to the Bill in the form of a schedule. At the present time it is absolutely impossible for any honorable member who has not had a legal training to understand the alterations which it is proposed to make in the existing law.
– I will guarantee that the Minister himself does not understand them1.
– Would it not be possible for honorable members to have in the form of a schedule to the Bill the amendments which have been made in the principal Act?
– It would be very useful to those who will be affected by the Bill.
– Undoubtedly. The last clause of the measure provides that tho Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this Act. I defy any honorable member, with the exception, perhaps, of the Minister, who hag studied the effect of these regulations, to understand the position. For instance, .Statutory Rule No. 165 covers four pages of closely-printed matter, and contains definitions which may or may not be inconsistent with those which are set forth in this Bill. It deals, amongst other things, with aliens registration officers, obligation on aliens to register, obligation on alien master or member of crew of vessel to register, manner of effecting registration, issue of certificate of registration, obligation on aliens to notify change of abode, register of aliens to be kept by hotelkeepers, aliens exempt from1 regulations, aliens to produce certificates of registration on demand, aliens or persons believed to be aliens to answer questions, arrest, and onus of proof. Statutory Rule 176 covers two pages, and deals with the obligation on aliens to notify change of abode. It cancels regulation 9, and substitutes a new regulation in lieu thereof. It also amends regulation 10 by substituting for subparagraph 1 a new sub-paragraph.
– The honorable member wants all these alterations embodied in a schedule to the Bill?
– Yes. The Minister laughs, and thinks that it would be a difficult thing to do.
– I was just thinking of how honorable members complained of the schedule which was attached to the Nationality Bill.
– But by the inclusion of the Imperial Act in the form of a schedule to that Bill, we were merely repeating what had already been embodied in the Bill itself. Statutory Rule 216a of 1916 has been amended by the addition of a new sub-paragraph to paragraph 10, by an amendment of paragraph 11, and by an addition to paragraph 4. In Statutory Rule 281b, forms A and B have been cancelled, and new forms have been inserted in lieu thereof. These alterations cover four pages of printed matter. In the Statutory Rules of 1917 the regulations were again altered, and on page 29?> of those rules I find the following : -
WAR PRECAUTIONS (ALIENS REGISTRATION) REGULATIONS (a).
The following table indicates the regulations under the above heading which have been made or affected during the year 1917, and the number of the respective Statutory Rules making or affecting these regulations. The Statutory Rules in question are set out in numerical order in the following table :-
– This Bill is very much more simple, because it provides that those regulations shall be repealed.
– It does not. If the Minister will move in Committee for their repeal I shall be found supporting him. But the definition clause of the Bill states -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears. . . “ War Precautions (Aliens Registration) Regulations,” means the regulations made by Statutory Rules 1916, No. 165, as amended by the following Statutory Rules, namely : -
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 176, 216, 232, and 281; Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 1, 97, 107, 125, 156, and 260; and Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 55 and 270.
These rules will stand and will not be repealed.
– That is right.
– How many regulations did the honorable member amend when he was Minister for Trade and Customs ?
– A whole lot. But in this Bill it is proposed to make a new departure, and as we are about to compel aliens to register they have a right to know under what legislation they are to be registered, and the disabilities under which they will suffer.
– Especially as there are heavy penalties provided.
– I have not yet come to the penalties. Upon page 294 of Statutory Rules 1917 appears Rule No. 97a, the amendments to which cover no less than four pages of printed matter. Then Statutory Rule No. 156c of 1917 effects further amendments in the regulations, as does Statutory Rule No. 260a of the same year. Then on page 237 of Statutory Rules for 1918 further alterations are made. There sub-regulation 1 of regulation 7 of the War Precautions (Aliens Registration) Regulations is amended by the addition of a proviso at the end of it. Upon the following page regulation 9a of Statutory Rule No. 7 of 1917 is amended by cancelling sub-regulation 3. As we are circumstanced now, honorable members do not know what they are voting for or against. I think it is a very reasonable request that the Minister should have prepared by the officers of his Department, or by the Attorney-General’s Department, a list of all the regulations in force at the present time, and incorporate it in the schedule of the Bill. The Department must have these regulations consolidated in some way, showing all the alterations and additions. We must not run away with the idea that we are legislating only against Germans, Turks or Bulgarians; we are legislating against persons who may have been very valuable citizens, and have fought side by side with our men overseas.
– We are legislating against everybody outside Great Britain.
– That is quite true.
– Those people ought to have chosen their birth-place properly.
– That may be, but that is a matter on which we are not consulted.
– Any alien within Australia is registered under this Bill.
– Americans and Frenchmen?
– Every one. There are 72,000 who are not affected.
– I see that clause 14 provides that every alien shall, upon the demand being made by an officer, produce his certificate of registration under penalty of a fine of £ 100 or six months’ imprisonment. It cannot be said that suggestion to incorporate the regulations in the schedule would, if carried, take away the power of the Government to amend them, because clause 20 provides that the Governor-General may make regulations which are necessary and. convenient for carrying out or giving effect to the Bill.
– Has the honorable member expressed his ‘ approval of the thumb-print provision?
– Tourists and students who come to this country object to their thumb-prints being taken, as an indignity to themselves. As I have admitted to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), I do not know how many regulations were passed in connexion with that Act when I was there; but I do not think there are as many in that Department as in others, the Defence Department being the most prolific of all. The Immigration Restriction Act was within the jurisdiction of the Department of Home and Territories, but was administered by the officers of the Customs Department.
– Did you abolish the taking of the thumb-print?
– And yet you were a long time Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I did not abolish the taking of thumb-prints because I had not the power to do so.
– Did you ask the then Minister for Home and Territories to abolish it?
– I do not think I did.
– Is not this provision applicable to owners of passports also?
– I do not think so. Perhaps the Minister can tell us.
– I do not know.
– Under the Immigration Bill, tourists and students are exempt; and I should like to know whether the measure before us will apply to people who may come here only for a few months. “Will it be necessary for such persons to report at each capital city,, or will registration at the first port of call cover the period of their visit to Australia? Of course, the position was different when we were at war ; but tomorrow we celebrate the third anniversary of the Armistice. I should further like to know whether it will be necessary to have a special staff of alien registration officers at various towns and cities of the Commonwealth, and, if so, what is the estimated cost of putting the measure into operation. In the case of the Nationality Bill, we slavishly followed the legislation of Great Britain, and I should like to know whether a similar measure to that before us, with provisions as stringent, has been passed by the British Parliament. Are the German commercial travellers, who are now entering Great Britain, compelled to register? We all know that we are perpetrating a farce in passing this Bill. Certain honorable members declare that we ought not to trade with our late enemy countries, but the newspapers tell us every day that Australian wool is going into these countries, handled by middlemen on the other side of the world. German commercial travellers are going into” England, and we are legislating to register people from the Allied countries.
– Is there anything in the Bill about trading with Germany?
– I wish to know whether the British legislation is as harsh as this Bill? Are the penalties as great ?
– How long are we to have this canting hypocritical farce?
– The honorable member is not entitled to use such an expression.
– I thought the expression was perfectly in order, seeing the pretence of ‘ not trading with Germany, when goods from Australia are going into that country at the present time.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw the words “hypocritical farce.”
– All right, I withdraw. May I say that it is canting humbug ?
– I hope the Minister will make available for honorable members a copy of the British Act. I see that a clause of the Bill makes the master of a ship responsible, though I have no doubt a captain would protest that the war is now over. Then, if the master of a ship is misled by passengers or crew, is he still to be held responsible % We cannot expect that persons who endeavour to enter this country against the law will be very truthful in the information they give regarding themselves. In my opinion, the Bill will not keep out of the country any one who desires to come in. It will be remembered that, by a self-denying ordinance, the importation of opium was prohibited; but we cannot deceive ourselves into believing that no opium has entered the country since that law was passed. The law made opium more expensive, and the present Bill may only have the effect of making it more expensive for aliens to come to Australia. It is sometimes impossible for captains to know what is the real nationality of the members of a crew. Many of us who fought, not only during the consideration of the Navigation Bill, but prior to that, against black labour on the mail boats, said that we should have white men, preferably Britishers, in the crews; but many of those who are opposed to us to-day were anxious to have cheap labour, irrespective of where it came from. It was purely an economic question. We are legislating now entirely in the dark, until we know the effect of the regulations I have quoted, how farreaching they are, and what portions of them are operative to-day. The Bill, which is practically a skeleton, provides drastic penalties, but we do not know upon whom they will be enforced. I urge the Minister to have prepared for the guidance of honorable members a Schedule, setting forth the regulations for which we are voting under the definition clause.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement) .
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question .so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Definitions).
– I hope that this clause will not be passed. Ib seems to me that the Government in introducing the Bill have followed the lines of least resistance, and have not made any attempt to put it before honorable members in such a way as to make its purpose perfectly clear. It is stated in this clause that - “ War Precautions (Aliens Registration) Regulations “ means the regulations made by Statutory Rules 1916, No. 165, as amended by the following statutory rules : -
A number of Statutory Rules are then set out. I have endeavoured to follow these regulations and Statutory Rules, and I honestly admit that in trying to go through them I have found myself in wandering mazes lost. If I, a Britishborn subject, educated in the English language, have experienced such difficulties, what must be the position of an alien who endeavours to ascertain the meaning of these rules? It seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was perfectly fair and reasonable in suggesting that the essence of these regulations should have been put forward in Bill form before the Committee.
Some people think that an alien is almost less than a human being. I would remind honorable members that the word “ alien “ covers not merely Germans and Austrians, but even people coming from countries who have fought side by side with us in the war. They are to be subject to the same disabilities as are imposed upon Germans and Austrians.
– And they ought to be. If the ban is to be on one it should be on the lot.
– I am merely reminding some honorable members opposite, who would not give Germans and Austrians the same deal that they would give, say, the French, that many of their pets under this Bill will be subject to the same bah as are Germans and Austrians. This measure should have been drafted in a more business-like way. I have heard honorable members complain that under the old .system they had no voice in the determination of what should be the regulations made under the War Precautions Act. If this Bill be passed the old system will be continued, with the one difference, that honorable members who vote for it will no longer be able to say that they had no voice m determining the regulations, since the Bill expressly deals with certain regulations made under the War Precautions Act. If it is desirable that some of those regulations should be continued by way of legislation, let us achieve our object without any reference to an Act which in the past has caused a good deal of shame on the part of many Australians because of the actions that have been taken under it. I am not going to vote for something which I have ‘ not fully grasped. The Bill has not been put before us as it should have been, and on every clause I shall call for a division.
.- There is another aspect of this matter as to which I desire some enlightenment. In this clause it is stated that- “Alien” means any person over the age of sixteen years who is not of British nationality, and includes the wife of an alien.
I desire to know what constitutes “British nationality.” Is a subject of the King born in Canada a man of “British nationality “ within the meaning of this Bill ? Is a native of South Africa, or of Egypt - in respect of which latter country I understand negotiations are proceeding with the Imperial Government for the creation of a British Protectorate - a’ person of British nationality?
– Any one born within the Empire is” of British nationality.
– A native of India is a person born within the Empire, but under the Immigration Restriction Act he would be excluded from Australia. That being so, “ British nationality,” within the meaning of this Bill, does not cover any one born within the confines of the British Empire.
– Does the honorable member want to have Hindoos and Chinese coming in without any restriction?
– I want an answer to my question, and refuse to be sidetracked. I have said that for the purpose of this Bill “ British nationality “ does not include any person born within the British Empire.
– It does.
– When we were discussing the Nationality Bill we were told that there were different degrees of citizenship within the Empire.
– We were then dealing with people who had been naturalized in different parts of the Empire, but the honorable member Sst now speaking of people born within the Empire.
– Does not a person who has been naturalized in Canada, or in any part of the British Empire, enjoy the same rights of citizenship as any person born within the British Empire? When the Nationality Bill was before us we were told that that was so.
– That is correct.
– The reason why I seek this information is that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the other day, gave honorable members a rather unpleasant hint when he said that if we were not naturalized we had no right to be here. I am. particularly anxious to know whether or not I am a British citizen .
– The Nationality Bill which we passed last week is a copy of the Canadian Act. and we would admit as a British, subject a person who had been naturalized under the Canadian Act.
– Is a man who has been naturalized under the Canadian law recognized throughout the Empire as a British citizen?
– That does not include other portions of the British Empire, so the Minister’s first answer is not correct.
– It is quite correct. The Minister pointed to two things. A man is a British subject if born within the Empire or if he gets a certificate in those Dominions that have adopted the Imperial Act as we have. This certificate will give him nationality within the Empire.
– That only applies to people who have become naturalized within some portion of the British Empire that has adopted the Nationality Act; not to those portions of the Empire that have not adopted the British Act. Egypt, we are informed, is in negotiation for separation from the British Empire. The Milner Commission has recommended that Egypt be granted independence, so the chances are that an Egyptian would not be in possession of Empire citizenship rights. The clause is very indefinite. It may mean anything or nothing. The Minister’s explanation has not satisfied me. Then there is the definition of “ officer.” We are told that officer means a member of the police force, or an officer of the Customs, or an officer of the Department that will administer the Act. Does “officer” mean a Commonwealth Police officer ?
– Will the Minister alter the definition to provide that “ officer” means a member of the State Police Force ?
– Does “ officer “ mean a member of the Commonwealth Police Force?
– It would mean that in Port Darwin, for instance.
– Have the Government a police force in Darwin?
– Of course we have. Did you not know that?
– I did not. But we were trying to find out to-day.
– You were told this afternoon.
– Like the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), I am opposed to the perpetuation of this branch of the Commonwealth Government activity, and the best we can do is to vote against the clause as a whole.
.- I desire some information with reference to the clause. I should like to know, for instance, what is the meaning of Statutory Rules 1916, No. 165, as amended by the Statutory Rules 1916,
Nos. 176, 216, 232, and 281; Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 7, 97, 107, 125, 156, and 250; and Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 55 and 270. This Parliament has reached the dizzy limit by the inclusion of this particular clause, and I .suggest that the ‘Government would facilitate business if they used a code, say, Bentley’s Code, ABC, 5th Edition, and put all their Bills in code. This would simplify matters considerably, because each member could then be supplied with a code book. It would be just as ridiculous to do that as it is to bring down Bills in this manner.
– It would be an advantage to have the Bills in code, because we could decipher the code.
– Provided, of course, that somebody did not steal an honorable member’s decoding book. It is the height of folly to refer to a number of Statutory Rules in -this way, for, after all, they are the essence of the Bill, and we should know something about them. I was interested to learn from the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), assisting the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Poynton), that this measure is based on Imperial legislation, and that it is one of a set of Bills that has to be passed throughout the British Empire in order that this particular class of legislation shall be uniform in character.
– No one said that.
– I advise the Ministers to adjourn for half-an-hour to decide whether this is Imperial legislation or not, because his colleague said that it was Imperial in its nature.
– No, he did not.
– I must leave the Ministers to fight this matter between themselves, and come to some agreement.
– I think the honorable member is ‘ referring to the Nationality Bill.
– I advise the Ministers for the future to arrive at some definite’ conclusion before they come into the House. As a matter of fact, the Minister in charge of the Bill knows that quite a number of the regulations that are incorporated in it are Imperial in their origin. He knows, also, that Canada is adopting practically the same legislation.
Dated on the British Act.
– It is much more drastic than this Bill.
– Probably, because some of the teeth have ‘been pulled out of this measure. The Bill is most unsatisfactory in every respect, and I am going to vote against the clause.
.- I would not like the clause to be passed without protesting against the action of the Government in incorporating in it some remnants of regulations passed under the War Precautions Act. We have been told repeatedly that the War Precautions Act will soon expire; but it’ appears that the Government are trying to incorporate in the present measure regulations promulgated under that Act. I confess that, with a considerable amount of other work on hand, I have not had an opportunity of studying the Bill until tonight. Some of the Statutory Rules that are incorporated in it were passed before I became a member of this House, and have, therefore, not been brought under my notice; but I object to these regulations being referred to by their numbers in the definition clause, because honorable members can have no idea of their immediate or ultimate effect on the Bill we are asked to pass. If it is necessary for the purpose of this measure to include these regulations, they could have been adopted as clauses, each one being dealt with on its merits. Personally, I object to the whole of them, because they have been surrounded with an atmosphere of distrust, created by the tyrannical WarPrecautions Act. We were told this afternoon that we might want a Police Force here soon. If we pass much more legislation of this character, the peoplewill hardly know whether they are obeying the law ot not, and consequently we may require a substantial Police Force to insure obedience to our laws. It is set forth also that “ officer “ means a member of the police force, or an officer of Customs, or of the Department administering the Act. That infers that any officer in the Home and Territories Department may be appointed to act as a policeman for the purpose of this Statute. It is also provided that a prescribed officer, or “ any person,” may be authorized by the Minister to exercise the powers conferred on officers. The Minister himself, therefore, may create a little police force of his own; he may appoint anybody. Altogether., this portion of the definition clause is too wide. I will not now, or at any time, support any effort to perpetuate any part or feature of the War Precautions Act and its regulations.
.- Ever since this Parliament met, honorable members have been told that now we shall be getting back more and more to responsible Government, I remember that when the Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) read his carefully -prepared speech., shortly after the opening of Parliament, he talked about a lamp being lighted whose rays would spread over the continent from gulf to gulf and from sea to sea. He spoke of his party being determined upon the restoration of responsible government. He andhis fellowmembers of the Countrv party have raved against the War Precautions Act and regulations at every opportunity. They have spoken of the time when the War Precautions Act would no longer disgrace our statute-book. Are they ‘going to do the same now as on previous occasions, when they have here another opportunity to prevent the perpetuation of some portion, of the War PrecautionsAct? We shall very soon ‘have another test of the sincerity of these gentlemen in the Corner. I hope, but I do not expect, that on this occasion they wall live up to their protestations, and will refuse to support the proposalsof theGovernment.
– We believe in law and order, anyhow.
– I do not think the honorable member knows what he believes in, and certainly no one else knows. During the years of the war we were always being told that we were fighting to confer freedomupon everybody. Not only were we Sighting for our own liberty, and for that of our Allies, but for the liberty of our enemies as well. Here we havea sample of that liberty. By weight of numbers, andwith the assistance of their loyal allies in the Corner, the ‘Government now intend to carry this Bill, and so perpetuatecertain featuresofthe condemned War Precautions Act. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said the other day that he could not ratify peace with Austria because hecould not ‘findthe ‘King of Hungary. The right honorable gentleman must now be afraid that . he is on the brink of finding the . King of . Hungary, forthen his last excuse will have vanished for continuing in operation the War Precautions Act. That being so, the Government - with the support of honorable gentlemen of the Country party, who have said so much against the War Precautions Act, and so much in support of the restoration of responsible government - are now about to insure that some part, at any rate, of the War Precautions Act shall be made permanent. I shall vote against this clause, and against every other clause in the Bill.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority .. ..15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 4 (Effectof registration under War Precautions (AliensRegistration) Regulations).
– I object to this provision, because I do not believe in any person being compelled to register under this or any other Act. By adopting this clause we are placing human beings in the same category as dogs.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee . divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 28
Noes . . .. . . 13
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Aliens registration officers) .
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) explain whether the officers to be appointed under this clause are to act in an honorary capacity, or whether they are to be paid officials specially appointed to perform this particular work? I would also like to know who are going to be appointed as registration officers, because I believe that, in the near future, there is likely to be an array of alien registration officers scouring the country looking for aliens, and possibly honorable members on this side of the Chamber may be attacked? I oppose the clause.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 15
Question soresolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Every alien resident in the Commonwealth at the commencement of this Act shall, unless he is exempted or deemed to be exempted by or under this Act, register himself as an alien in accordance with this Act, and every alien who refuses or fails to do so within three months after the commencement of this Act shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty : One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.
Everv alien who enters the Commonwealth as a passenger in, or as the master or a member of the crew of, an oversea vessel shall, immediately after the arrival of the vessel at the first port of call in the Commonwealth, unless he is exempted or deemed to be exempted by or under this Act, register himself as an alien in accordance with this Act, and every alien who refuses or fails to do so, or who lands before he has registered, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty : One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.
Every child of an alien resident in the Commonwealth, not being a child who is by birth a natural-born British subject, shall, within one month after he attains the age of sixteen years, be registered as an alien in accordance with this Act, unless he is exempted or deemed to be exempted by or under this Act, and if any such child is not so registered within the time allowed, the child, and the parent or person standing to” him in loco parentis, shall severally be guilty of an offence.
Penalty : One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.
.- I move-
That sub-clause (1), line 1 to line 8, be omitted.
I am opposed to the Bill and to every clause and line of it. I object to anybody being compelled to register, and I see no justification for making the time within which the Act must be complied with the short space of three months. Half the natural-born Australian population will not know within three months of the passing of the Bill that it has become law; and is it fair to expect the alien population of the country to know of the existence of the Act, and to register under it, in that time?
– I object to the penalties proposed for non-registration. I see no reason for requiring the registration of aliens.
– There are 72,000 aliens already registered. They will not have to register under the Act.
– There are many persons who claim to be British subjects, and not aliens. Possibly they have made a mistake, but they will have to suffer the indignity that will be cast upon them by the passing of this clause. I venture to say that Ned Kelly would not be asked to suffer one-half the indignities that some of these aliens are to be subjected to.
– He was hanged.
– Some of the greatest commercial thieves in Australia have not been asked to undergo a term of imprisonment of six months, or to pay a penalty of £ 100, for deliberate robbery.
– The matter of the penalty is not now before the Committee.
– I shall not occupy any more of your valuable time. I hope that the clause will be wiped out.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I consider the penalties provided for under this clause far too great, and I propose to move that in each case the penalty shall be £5, instead of £100, and the term of imprisonment six weeks, instead of six months, as provided in the clause.
– Under the clause, the penalty in each case may be any amount not exceeding £100, and the term of imprisonment any term not exceeding six months. I am prepared to meet the honorable member by making the maximum penalty £50, and the maximum term of imprisonment in each case three months, instead of six months. Beyond that, I am not prepared to go.
– Then I will accept the Minister’s compromise.
Amendments (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to-
That the words “ One hundred,” line 9, be left out, with a view to inserting in. lieu thereof the word “ Fifty.”
That the word “six,” line 10, be left out, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the word “ three.”
.- I wish to direct attention to the fact that under clause 5, which has been, agreed bo, it has been provided that -
For the purposes of this Act there shall be Aliens Registration Offices in such places in the ‘Commonwealth as the Governor-General determines.
And yet in clause 6 it is provided thai; -
Every alien who enters the Commonwealth as a passenger in, or as the master or a member of the crew of an. oversea vessel, shall immediately after the- arrival of the vessel at the first port of call in the Commonwealth, unless he is exempted or deemed to be exempted by or under this Act, register himself as an alien in accordance with this Act, and every alien who refuses or fails to do so. or who lands before he registers, shall be guilty of an offence.
If the registration officers are on shore, how can the passengers or crew of a vessel register. until they land?
– Provision is made for the registration officers to go on board ships and do the work of registration.
Consequential amendment (by Mr. Poynton) in sub-clause 2 agreed to.
.- Sub-clause 3 provides that every child of an alien who reaches the age of sixteen years must be registered within one month of attaining that age, and in the event of registration not taking place, the child is equally liable with the parent or person standing to him in loco parentis to the penalty provided. As I think that the child should be exempt from this liability, and that the sole duty qf registration should be placed on the parent or person standing to him in loco parentis, I move -
That in sub-clause (3), after the word “ allowed,” the words “ the child and “ be left out.
– I cannot agree to the amendment. The deletion of any reference to the age of sixteen years would mean that no period would be provided for the registration of the children of aliens coming to this country.
– I simply propose to throw the responsibility of registering the child on the parents.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) is rather inconsistent. I fail to see where his humanity is applied when it embraces the child only, and overlooks the mother. I see no reason why the parents of the child should be gaoled any more than the child itself. The honorable member would not propose to extend clemency to native-born children of sixteen years of age who come into conflict with the laws of the land. If there is any principle in the Bill at all, apparently it is to gaol aliens, particularly those of the working class who come here. It has already been pointed out how utterly impossible it will be for persons arriving here from foreign countries to wade through the mass of regulations applying to them. No honorable member of . this Parliament has waded through them or understands them; and yet we expect the poor individual who come3 here with a smattering of English to be able to submit to a crossexamination by any stray policeman who is given authority under this measure to stop him in the street and cross-question him, and even arrest him on suspicion without a warrant.
.- I wish to voice my protest against this provision. Australia desires immigrants, and as in the furore, if a sufficient number of British origin cannot be obtained, we shall be obliged to go to other countries for them, I hope that the people in those countries will be made fully acquainted with the provisions of this Bill. -They will then know that they will be called upon to register each child they bring here within a month of its reaching the age of sixteen years, or be subject to a penalty of £50 or imprisonment for three months. I have moved among a number of people of alien birth, who are living in the outlying parts of Australia, and they are not too conversant with the re:gulations which now apply to them. It would be quite easy for many of them to lose sight of a provision of an Act which calls upon them to register each child within one month after it has reached the age of sixteen. I wish that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) had proposed an extension of the period within which aliens may register, from one month to three months. They certainly should have a longer period than one month. Under the Bill as it stands “many of these people will drift into trouble through ignorance.
– I hope that the Minister will agree to wipe out the sub-clause altogether. There is no other country in the world save one which would attempt to- introduce such a drastic piece of legislation.
– It is not nearly as drastic as is the legislation which is operative in England and in the United States of America.
– This is the first time that an attempt has been made in Australia to impose a double penalty upon 2nv section of the community. Never before have the parents of a child who has committed an offence, been called upon to suffer punishment and nice- versa. “Yet the Minister asks us to sanction a provision under which, if an alien brings his family into the Commonwealth, and its members fail to register within the prescribed period, both he and his children shall be liable to a fine of £100 or imprisonment for six months. There does not seem to be very much sense in the proposal, and there is certainly no justice in it. -If the Minister had had time to study the provision I do not think it would have been included in the Bill.
– I am inclined to agree with the mover of the amendment. It seems to me that the Government are not entitled to inflict penalties for the one offence both upon the children of aliens and upon their parents.
– It has never previously been done in any British community.
– That is altogether beside the question.
Sir JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta- Treasurer [10.55]. - I ask the leave of the H ouse to introduce a Bill for the imposition of the land tax rates for the year.
– This is quite a formal matter. It is the little Bill which it is necessary to pass each year for the imposition of the land tax rates.
– Very well.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That in addition to the Land Tax, payable under the provisions of the Land Tax Act 1910-1914 there be imposed for the financial year 1920-21, and each financial yea-r thereafter, an additional tax equal to 20 per centum of the Land’ Tax payable under those provisions.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Although the hour is late, I feel it my duty to raise a matter of urgent public importance in regard to the basic wag© payable to the public servants of the Commonwealth.
In October, 1919, the New South Wales Government adopted a basic wage of £3 17s. per week. The Government, at the time of the then new basic wage in New South Wales, was called on by Labour members particularly, and by a deputation introduced to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) by the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Tudor), to at least adopt that basic wage as the minimum adult rate for the Commonwealth.
The reply of the Prime Minister was that he would appoint a Royal Commission, and that the matter would be dealt with in the policy speech.
On the 31st October last year we had that policy speech at Bendigo, in which Mr. Hughes said -
The Government is appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into the cost of living in relation to the minimum or basic wage. The Commission will be fully clothed with . power to ascertain what is a fair basic wage, and how much the purchasing power of the sovereign has depreciated during the war, and the best moans, when once so adjusted, of automatically adjusting itself to the rise and fall of the sovereign.
The Government will, at the earliest date possible, create effective machinery to give effect to these principles, and the recommendations of the Commission.
Mr. Hughes said he had announced in this policy speech that he intended to appoint a Commission to inquire into the minimum basic wage. On Monday last he received names from the labour industrial unions, and as soon as employers appointed representatives this Commission would commence its inquiries. The wage fixed would apply to public servants as well as to other persons.
asked if it would be possible to give a measure of relief immediately, and Mr. Hughes replied that he was afraid it would not. He did not think the Commission would take long. The Government would have power to enforce the decision as far as its own servants were concerned. “ My answer is,” concluded Mr. Hughes, “ I am offering you, in common with every other worker in Australia, a promise of speedy and effective relief.”
There has since then been a doubt created by the Prime Minister himself as to the value and effectiveness of that Commission, and this brought a reply from Mr. Piddington, the chairman of the Commission, in which he sought to reestablish some kind of public confidence in that body.
Twelve months have elapsed, and now the basic wage in New South Wales, laid down by the Board of Trade, is £4 5s. per week; yet the Commonwealth is not even paying the previous basie wage of £3 17s.
In every Department there are sweated employees; in the Defence Department, in the Postal Department in its various branches, and wherever the Commonwealth employ men, there is a hue and cry that sweating is rampant. The scandalously low wages of £3 7s. 6d. and £3 10s. are being paid to married men of competence, and with long years of service. One case known to me is typical of a large number. It is that of a Mr. R. A. Hunter, who resides in Newtown. He is a competent man, whom I have known for many years, and he has had ten years’ service. He has a family of seven children, and were it not that he happened to have a house of his own before he entered the Commonwealth employ, it would be absolutely impossible for him to maintain his family in the most frugal manner on what he has been receiving, namely, £3 10s. per week.
– What is his position?
– I forget his exact position; but he is in one of the Postal branches. He has qualified himself by examination for positions in the Customs Service, and has diplomas as meat inspector and veterinary inspector. Although I have done my level best to help him. my efforts have not been attended with success, and I understand that this week, after his long service, he has abandoned his position to make an effort outside to maintain his family. That is a case typical of many.
The Government also promised to deal with profiteering, which is another branch of the subject, and the Prime Minister went so far as to say that he would shoot profiteers. Yet profiteering is increasing, and the latest effort of the Commonwealth is to raise the price of wheat for home consumption to 9s., which is double the price at which we were supplying foreigners during the war; and it must increase the price of bread throughout the Commonwealth .
– We must be following the example of John Storey, who put up the price of gas !
– He has not done so. I hope that John Storey is not going to agree to put up the price of gas, but will “boot out” the recommendation by Mr. Justice Wade as absolutely ridiculous. The gas companies have doubled their nominal capital, and are paying a camouflaged 6 per cent, instead of the usual 12 per cent, they paid before the New South Wales Gas Act became law. They are paying as maintenance for the upkeep of the mains in an uptodate condition, yet they are putting aside £SO,000 for depreciation. There is no depreciation in the gas services. Every foot of pipe is replaced, and the service” is kept up ; yet they go before Mr. Justice “Wade, and get from him a recommendation that the price be increased by 8d. per 1,000. I sincerely hope the Labour Government will not be misled by the recommendation like that. If Mr. Justice Wade can be humbugged by the gas companies, 1 hope that the Labour Government, which particularly represents the consumer, will not swallow the same kind of specially concocted legal fiction.
The neglect of the Commonwealth Government to honour their pledges to the people is causing great distress, particularly throughout the Federal Service, which is a seething mass of discontent, and properly so.
The basic wage should not only cover present requirements, but should anticipate a further increase, because it is always below the amount necessary to maintain a family.
I have to-day received a large number of telegrams, representing hundreds of my constituents and members of the Federal Service known to me throughout New South Wales, and I wish to take this early opportunity to put on record my greatest sympathy and anxiety to help them.
When we are dealing with public servants particularly we should include the old-age and invalid pensioners, who are . themselves Federal dependants, and ought to appeal to our sympathies. How is it possible for old-age pensioners and indigent invalids to maintain any kind of an existence on a maximum allowance of’ 15s. per week? An increase should be granted, and a speedy and ample increase. lt will be said that money is scarce; but I regard that as absolute nonsense. There is ample wealth in the country to do justice to the people of Australia; and if the Government say there is no money, they simply exhibit their incompetence. There is greater prosperity in the commercial and money-making circles of Australia than ever before.
The new basic wage and the pension allowance should be raised and paid before Christmas. As the public servants and others to whom I have referred have been held up for over twelve months, in consequence of the Government not redeeming its pledge, there is the amplest claim that this new basic wage should date from the 1st January last in order to enable the public servants to meet the debts they have incurred during the last twelve months, in particular with their miserably short allowances. The public servants of Australia should understand that there are only twenty-six Labour men in this House of seventy-five members, that there is only one Labour man out of thirty-six members in the Senate, and that no matter how much we may desire to help them, however great our anxiety to do so, the public have placed us in a position of impotence to do anything effective to help them in this matter. The numbers are against us, but we can say that if there should” be found sufficient numbers on the other side of the House, then the Labour members will join with them most enthusiastically and heartily in seeing that justice is done to the employees of our Public Service.
We invited theublic seservants, as well as the workers of all industries at the last election, to return a Labour Government, butnumbers of them wereheedless of that appeal. There were two reasons which operated against this much-desired result - (1) a new manipulated electoral system, and manipulated regulations; (2.) a public misled with (a) war hysteria and misrepresentation; (b) lavish promises to all sections, especially to returned soldiers. Already these various sections have lived to see that those promises were made merely for the purpose of getting their votes, with apparently no real intention of giving effect to them.
The members of this House should demand, without delay, and secure, without delay, proper and adequate remuneration for the public servants to enable them to maintain a reasonable standard of living, conforming to Aus- tralia’s humanitarian ideals forall who come under the jurisdiction of the ‘Commonwealth Government.
Not only are pledges of the Government ignored, but a competent and humanitarian Judge has been driven from the industrial Bench. The first fruits of this are seen in the minutes of an award fey Mr. Justice Starke with regard to Federal public servants, which is being discussed in the Court today. Mr. Justice Starke says he will not adopt Mr. Justice Higgins’ standard of living for the Public Service. He refused to adopt Knibbs’ reported increase in the cost of living, as published in his bulletin issued in September last, which comes out at £2115s. 6d. per annum, £4 ls. per week, or 13s. 6d. per day, as the average necessary for thirty towns scattered throughout Australia to maintain an ordinary-sized family on the basis of comfort laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins in the Harvester judgment of 7s. a day in 1908.
Mr. Justice Starke now proposes for single men £162 per annum, or £3 2s. 3d. per week, and in the case of married men £196 per annum, or £3 15s. per week. This isagainst £45s. per week found by the New South Wales Board of Trade to he the minimum amount necessary to maintain am averagesized family in the most frugalcomfort.
Isay, without, fear of contradiction, that every member of this House knows perfectly well . that £3 15s. a week is not a sufficient wage to maintain, even a smallsized faaniliy in the most frugal comfort.
This judgment of Mr. Justice Starke, of £3 15s. for married men, particularly in New South Wales, as against the basic wage of the Board of Trade of. £4 5s., is bound to create industrial unrest. Itis impossible forit todo otherwise, for how can there be employees in other industries, and in the State Service, receiving awage based on a minimumof £4 5s., with Federal men at 10s. less, withoutthiscreating intensedissatisfaction throughout the length and breadth of New South Wales? It will upset theefficiencyof the Service, drive the best workers the Commonwealth to other avenuesofemployment, and perpetratewhat every member ofthis House must know from his own experience to be a gross injustice.
I hope the Government will immediately,or at any rate, before the House adjourns forChristmas, see that this injustice is putright. I trust that every member whounderstands his responsibilities, and knows what the present cost of living is, will demand, and see to it, that the Federal public servants, together with the old-age and ‘invalid pensioners of the Commomwealth, receive that justice to which they are entitled as Australian citizens.
.- I represent a very large number of Federal publicservants, and would ibe f ailing in my duty to my constituency if . I did not voice their opinions.
– Do you think it is a fair thing to begin to do this at midnight, when, as you are aware, you can do nothing at all ? This is a mere pretence, and you know it. You know you can do the public servants no good by -this manoeuvre of yours.
– We are not allowed to impute motives - why should you’?
– Then I think we must have a quorum.
– You should have been pulled up for imputing motives.
– Order! The honorable member has no right to reflect on ‘theChair.
A quorum not being present,
Mr. Speakeradjourned the House at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201110_reps_8_94/>.