8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act.
Treaties of Peace (Austria and Bulgaria) Act.
– Iwish to make a personal explanation. I was absent from the House last week during a very important debate. My absence is recorded by the press, and it is stated that I did not vote on the motion for Mr. Mahon’s expulsion. I desire to explain that I was making a visit of inspection to the Murray River irrigation settlements, and that although I left authority with the Government Whip to pair me, he was unable to get a pair for me on the divisionon that motion. I have no desire to shirk responsibility for any decision of the House, and I therefore say, for the information of the general public, that I would have voted for the motion to expel Mr. Mahon.
– I was one of those who took part in the visit of inspection to the Murray irrigation settlements, to see what has been done there for the returned soldiers ; but, before going, I asked that a pair should be provided for me. I am sorry to read in the press that a pair was not obtained, and that, therefore, there is norecord of my attitude towards a very important motion. As I do not believe in sailing under false colours, I wish to say that had I been here I should, under the circumstances, have voted for the expulsion of Mr. Mahon.
– I was in Tasmania last week and knew nothing of the business then before Parliament. Had I been present I would have voted for the motion of expulsion.
– As other honorable members who were absent lastweek have felt called on to make personal explanations, I wish to say that I was absent on an official tour, but had I been here I would have voted for the motion of expulsion.
– I have received the following telegram from the Mayor of Charleville, a town in the Maranoa electorate : -
Have wired Prime Minister as follows: - At public meeting held here last evening following proposition was unanimously adopted : - “ That in view of the appalling and wide-spread distress in Central Europe that we as citizens of Australia ask the Federal Parliament to immediately make available £500,000 for the Save the Children Fund.” Kindly do your best and wire result.
I ask the Prime Minister if it is the intention of the Government to subscribe to that fund?
– I am not able to answer the question off-hand, but if the honorable member will put it on the noticepaper, I shall give him a considered reply. Our circumstances are such that it appears to me that we cannot find £500,000 for the relief of the people of Central Europe.
The following papers were presented : -
Norfolk Island - Report for the year ended 30th June, 1920.
Ordered to be printed.
Distillation Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 214.
Norfolk Island - Ordinance of 1920 - No. 2 - Pasturage and Enclosure.
Public Service Act - Appointment of J. Sykes, Attorney-General’s Department.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, at -
Goulburn, New South Wales.
Tamworth, New South Wales.
Waratah, New South Wales.
– Is it the intention of the Government to give this Parliament an opportunity to discuss the questions that will be decided at the Geneva Conference of the League of Nations?
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs anticipate that there will soon be sufficient sugar in Australia to enable the housewives - I ask on behalf of those of Western Australia in particular - to get enough for the making of jam in their homes?
– Yes. Arrangements have been made which I am sure will enable that to be done.
– Will the Prime
Minister make time available to a private member for the introduction of a Bill for the payment of a new basic wage to the Commonwealth public servants, with a proper system of increases based upon it?
– Is it a fact that Mr. Piddington’s report on the basic wage has been received by the Government and referred back for further consideration?
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Yarra that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “The Commonwealth Basic Wage.”
Five honorable members havingrisen in their places,
.- It was my privilege a little more than twelve months ago to introduce to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) what was probably the most representative deputation of trade union officials that had ever waited upon a Minister of the Crown in this country- The deputation, which was representative of organizations that were loyal to the principle of arbitration, and anxious that the Conciliation and Arbitration Court should be a success, asked that the Government should appoint a Commission to inquire into the whole question of the minimum or basic wage, in relation to the cost of living. The Prime Minister agreed to the. proposal, and in the course of his policy speech, delivered at Bendigo, on the 31st October, 1919, referred to the matter in these words -
Measures must be found which will insure that the minimum wage shall be adjusted automatically or almost automatically with the cost of living, so that within the limits of the minimum wage at least the sovereign shall always purchase the same amount of necessaries of life. The Government is, therefore, 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 been depreciated, during the war, and also bow the basic wage may be adjusted to the purchasing power of the sovereign, and the best means, 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.
In December, 1919, the Basic Wage Commission, was created, and was directed to inquire and report upon - .
Commonwealth public servants are urging that the report of the Commission should be published, and that, in accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech at Bendigo, immediate effect should be given to it.
When the Public Service Arbitration Bill was before this House some five or six weeks ago, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) submitted an amendment to the effect that the Public Service Arbitrator should not. in any case award less than the basic wage as fixed by the Commission. That, however, was
Mr. Tudor. .. (TH negatived. The Commission has sat for nearly twelve months. It held only one or twO’ meetings last year ; but it has since taken evidence, I believe, in every State in the Commonwealth. While Statisticians in many countries have prepared tables showing the purchasing power of the sovereign in relation to various commodities, I do not think there has been made in any other part of the world so complete an investigation on the subject as has been carried out by this Commission. I am asking that the basic wage, as determined by the Commission, shall be applied not only to public servants, but to the workers generally. It was the intention of the deputation which waited upon the Prime Minister that the basic wage as fixed by the Commission should rise or fall automatically according to the rise or fall of the cost of living, and should be the standard wage fixed in all arbitration awards. Mr. Cheney, who was a member of the deputation, and was subsequently appointed to the Commission, put before the Prime Minister a comprehensive review of the situation, and said that the Arbitration Court Justices had asked that steps should be taken to provide them with a fair basis upon which to proceed in determining the rates of wages to be paid. Doubtless the agitation that has recently taken place amongst public servants has brought prominently before the public the work of the Commission. I am anxious that the report should be published and effect given to it, so that those who take their cases to the Arbitration Court will know that in any event the purchasing power of the minimum wage fixed will be as great as was the purchasing power of the minimum wage of 7s. per day originally decided upon by Mr. Justice Higgins in the Harvester case a good many years ago. The workers want to know where they stand, and if this can be done the position of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court will be immeasurably strengthened.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the wage should fluctuate up and down according to tEe cost of living ?
– I was not a member of the Commission; but I have put before the House the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech, and the terms on which th© Commission was appointed.
– The Commission has not yet furnished its report.
– Not yet. I asked the Prime Minister a fortnight ago when it would be ready.
– I have nothing to do with the presentation of the report.
– I am aware that the report must be presented by the Chairman of the Commission to the GovernorGeneral, who, in turn, will forward it to the Government. It is felt by some persons that the report is being unduly delayed. The Commission concluded ite inquiries nearly two months ago. I am acquainted with some of the members of the Commission, and one or two of them told me some time ago that it had practically completed its labours. We are anxious to see the report - to ascertain how it affects industry, and to obtain from the Prime Minister a statement in accordance with the promise made by him at Bendigo in October of last year.
I do not stand for what the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is reported to have said that he stood for when speaking in Sydney last Saturday. Last week we convicted a man on a report published in the Argus, and, that being so, we must assume that the Argus report of the right honorable member’s speech in Sydney last Saturday is also correct.
– The difference between the two cases is that I shall tell the House whether or not the report is correct.
– All right. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is alleged to have said, “ It was wrong to try to ‘ crib, cabin, and confine ‘ the profits of industry within a certain specified limit.”
– I did not use the word “profits.”
– This seems to show that the Argus is not reliable.
– I said so last week.
– All this has nothing to do with the basic wage.
– It has not; but that is reported as coming from a responsible Minister. I wish to know whether the Prime Minister can give the House any idea when the report of the Basic Wage Commission will be presented; and, secondly, what action the Government intend to take in order to give effect to it, not only as it affects Federal employees, but as it affects every worker under an industrial award.
– I am utterly at a loss to know why the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) has moved the adjournment of the House ou this matter. He does not allege for a moment that the Government have received a report from the Basic Wage Commission. He has told us that this Commission was appointed in pursuance of a promise made by me when before the electors twelve months ago, and he admits that the Commission has not yet presented its report. The honorable member says nothing as to why there has been delay, but he hints that, for the last two months, the report has been delayed for some reason; he does not say so in so many words, but he infers that that delay has something to do with the Government. Let me put the facts quite plainly. When the honorable member waited on me, I told him that I had already brought the matter before the Cabinet, and that the Government were in favour of a readjustment of the basic wage to existing circumstances. I think the honorable member will say that I was entirely sympathetic - that I was, at least, as much in favour of that course as any man present on that occasion.
I appointed the Basic Wage Commission as I had promised. The Commission has not been hampered in any way, but has pursued its inquiries without let or hindrance. It is, as will be admitted, a representative Commission. I myself, in this place, complained six months ago of the delay in the presentation of the report. That complaint, however, was regarded by honorable members opposite as a censure on the Commission, and I have refrained from saying anything in reference to the matter since. The honorable member for Yarra says that the report will be a comprehensive one. I hope it will. He has asked me to say what I propose to do. What I propose to do with what? With a report I have not yet received? I know nothing .of the recommendations of the report. It has not yet been presented. I cannot answer such questions. There is only one question I can answer, and I give it on the authority of the chairman of the Commission, who saw me on the matter last evening. I was asked last week by, I think, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) when the report would be available, and I said that, in reply to earlier questions by that honorable member, or some other, I had informed the House that when I last saw the chairman of the Commission he told me ho thought the report would be presented in about three weeks. On that, I said I thought the report would be ready in about a week. As I say, the chairman of the Commission waited on me last night and said that “the report would be available about the end of this week. When I receive it I propose to read it, and then pass it on to my colleagues. When we have had an opportunity to consider it we will come down here with a policy in regard to it. That is the position. I am not going to commit myself in any way, or take on myself any responsibility for delay; that responsibility does not rest on my shoulders. When the Commission presents its report, no time will be lost in dealing with the matter, and honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss it.
May I remind honorable members opposite that when I put forward this proposal for a Commission at the election, they sneered at it. They had quite a different way of getting into the Kingdom of Heaven. But they have lost the keys of .their paradise; they now say that this Commission is the thing to save Sodom and Gomorrah. When I receive the report, and it has been considered by my colleagues, I shall state the intention of the Government; more than that I cannot say. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) said in Sydneythe other day that twenty-five honorable members were going to vote for the adoption of the report of the Commission ; they do not know whether it recommends £2 per week or not - all the same, they are going to vote for it. It has also been said that ‘the report has been presented and sent back to the Commission. There is ,.not a word of truth in that allegation. I have not seen the report, to say nothing of sending it back. I know no more than Adam what is in the report. The chairman of the Commission last night point blank declined to. indicate, even approximately, what are theintentions of the Commission.
– Did you ask him?
– No, I did not. I have nothing further to say, except that I hope the report will come to hand this week. I am very pleased to note that the stone rejected by the builder has become the corner-stone of the temple - that it is recognised that this is the best way, or one of the best ways, to deal with the position if we desire industrial peace. As I say, I do not know what is in the report; and, in all the circumstances, I shall not follow the example of the honorable member for Cook, who is prepared to vote for it no matter what is in it.
– I did not say that.
– If the report proposes to reduce wages, I shall not .vote for it; but the honorable member for Cook says that he himself will.
.- A very undesirable state of affairs prevails at present throughout the Commonwealth Public ‘Service. Discontent is rampant. At the earliest possible moment the Government should give favorable attention to the findings of the Basic Wage Commission, when its report shall have been tendered. I desire to refer to certain branches of the Defence Department, and to deal especially with the case of employees in Ordnance Stores. These men arte chiefly returned soldiers, who are married. Their pay is considerably lower than the wages of permanent employees of the Defence Department, and is a great deal less than the rates payable to men doing similar work outside of the service. I have received considerable correspondence in this matter, and have been furnished with full information concerning the men’s grievances. I direct specific attention to the situation at the Ordnance Stores, Keswick, South Australia, but I wish to mention that similar conditions prevail in other ordnance stores throughout the Commonwealth. At the South Australian stores men are engaged as temporary labourers, but they do the work of storemen and packers. They do not receive even a labourer’s pay. They are getting nearly five shillings a week less than the poorest paid labourer in the land; yet they are returned soldiers and married men. For a similar class of employment the minimum rate of pay in wharf stores is £4 14s. per week. The temporary employees at Keswick, however, are receiving only £3 10s. 6d. I should mention that after they have been engaged for six , months in the service of the Department and are deemed suitable for their work, they receive an additional 2s. 4d. per week. Even then there is, of course, a grave difference between the weekly wage of £3 12s. lOd. and of £4 14s. Altogether, the position is anomalous. Commonwealth laws, passed by the Commonwealth Government, control wages and conditions in employment generally throughout the land. The Commonwealth Government require private employers to pay certain rates of wages and to observe specific conditions of employment; yet it appears to me that the Government almost without exception endeavour to evade those same responsibilities in respect of their ;own employees. The temporary hands at Keswick forwarded a petition to the responsible Minister on the 26th September last, but they have received little or no satisfaction as an outcome of their fair and proper representations. These men, when they complain of their conditions and point out that they are not receiving the consideration which the Government force private employers to observe, are told plainly enough that if they are not satisfied they should know what to do. That is net the right attitude for the Commonwealth authorities to adopt towards their returned soldier employees. There is a regulation having to do with the civilian staff as follows : - 86a. Temporary employees shall be paid the rate of wages prescribed by law for the trade o or calling in which they are employed ; providing that where no statutory rate exists the chief officer shall record, and the Minister will prescribe., the wages to be paid; and provided that the Minister may, under special circumstances, prescribe special rates of wages, allowances, or privileges for temporary employees.
That the Government treat their employees upon a different basis from that which their laws enforce private employers to adopt is shown by the fact that storemen in naval establishments have been entitled to an additional shilling per day for nearly twelve months past, and that the Navy Department refuses to sanction the payment of the extra sum. Unless the Government are deliberately trying to create an upheaval in the Public Service, it is difficult to explain their motives and intentions. There appears to be a gross indifference on the part of responsible Ministers to seeing that those in the employ of the Commonwealth receive their dues. Every branch of our Public Service is in a state of feverish unrest. Discontent isrife in it. The question, therefore, must be regarded as one of great urgency, especially when honorable members are the recipients of such tangible evidence of that dissatisfaction as was supplied to them by the numerous communications which reached them only last week from public servants throughout the Commonwealth. Our employees are justified in demanding from Ministers an explanation of why there is continual delay in awarding them what are their rightful dues. The public servant is subject to exactly the same conditions of life as those to which other citizens are subject. He is not immune from the high cost of living any more than is the ordinary citizen, and the abnormal conditions which have resulted from the war have rendered it impossible for him to meet his obligations and to maintain himself and his family in a reasonable degree of comfort. As the employees in the Ordnance Stores of the Defence Department are returned soldiers’ and married men, they ought to become permanent officers from the date of their appointments, and to be entitled to participate in the benefits of sick and annual leave, proportionately to their length of service. But it has been the practice in Government Departments to engage men continuously for ten or eleven months, and just when they were approaching the period when they would become eligible to receive annual holidays or sick leave, to suspend them for a week, or perhaps a month, in order to break their continuity of employment, and thus deprive them of these advantages. Irrespective of what may be the recommendations of the Basic Wage Commission, there are many anomalies in our Public Service which could be remedied by sympathetic administration. I hope that the Government will see whether it is not possible to afford immediate relief in the direction which I have suggested.
There is just one minor matter to which I desire to direct attention. It is permissible for the clerks in the Keswick
Military Barracks, South Australia, to smoke during the performance of their official duties. This privilege, however, cannot be enjoyed by the employees in the Ordnance Stores, because of the inflammable character of the materials amongst which they are required to work. To compensate for this deprivation, I suggest that they should be granted reasonable “ smoke-ohs.” I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to the request which has been made in order that satisfaction may reign throughout our Public Service.
.- In my judgment the Government ought long ago to have taken action to insure the payment of a decent living wage to Commonwealth public servants. They should not have remained inactive for practically twelve months simply to enable a Commission to tell them what should be the basic wage for Australia. Every honorable member knows that our public servants to-day are receiving only a starvation wage. The least the Government can do is to see that they are paid a decent living wage. Surely there was no need for Ministers to defer action for twelve months until a Commission had investigated the articles of clothing that one wears, and the number of pieces of bread and butter that his children eat! Why these things should have been inquired into, I cannot understand. Everybody knows that the public servants of. the Commonwealth are miserably and inadequately paid. Now we have the Prime Minister excusing himself-
– Is the honorable member endeavouring to get the additional thirteen votes that he says are required to force the hands of the Government in respect of this matter?
– If the public servants of the Commonwealth have to wait for a redress of their grievances until we get those votes, they will wait a very long time. But, if a Labour Government were in power, a fair wage would be paid to our public servants. We know what is a decent living wage, and we should have seen that it was paid.
– The honorable member’s party always did see that.
– Yes. Every time we were in office we saw that our public servants got a fair deal.
– That is quite right.
– The Treasurer has occasion to know it.
– I have several times succeeded the honorable member’s party in office, and upon every occasion I have immediately had to increase the wages of our public servants.
– Then here is an opportunity for the right honorable gentleman to cover himself with glory. Why does he not put the coping stone upon his great career by granting our public servants the required increase of salary ? He controls the public purse. He needs only to say to his colleagues, “Here is the money with which to pay our public servants a decent living wage,” and the thing will be done. It is idle for him to tell us that years ago he did many good things. If one analyzed his career, it would doubtless be found that the right honorable gentleman has since attempted to undo many of the good deeds which he performed during the earlier years of his political life. The Government have endeavoured to excuse themselves for their inaction by affirming that the Basic Wage Commission has not yet presented its report. Let us accept that position. But- the report of the Commission, we are assured, will be forthcoming by the end of the week. Then .the Prime Minister tells us that he will read it and take it to the Cabinet to consider, and the Cabinet will give to it all due consideration. They will, I suppose, ponder over it, and the » various Ministers will discuss it in all its details. The Treasurer will consider whether he has sufficient funds available and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) will view it in the light of how it will affect his Department, and ascertain whether it will take money away from his Department to give to somebody else, and so we shall have the whole of the members of the Ministry fighting one against the other, some pulling one way, and some another, and thus causing delay. It is quite plain to anybody who follows political tactics closely that the reason the Government are playing for delay is that this House is likely to rise within a couple of weeks. If the Government can avoid a decision on this matter until the House has adjourned, there will be no hope of the public servants receiving the fair and decent wage which they ought to have. Will the Treasurer, or any other member of the Government, rise in his place and assure the House, the officers of the Public Service, and the community generally, that the Government will undertake to see that the basic wage is paid, and that it will be given effect to before the House r rises?
– What basic wage?
– The wage that is to be decided by the Basic Wage Commission.
– No matter what it may be?
– No matter what it may be. The Government appointed a Commission to go into the matter, and when they are about to present their report to show us what is a fair wage, we find that all the members of the Government are shy of it.
– All efforts to date to nationalize things have always resulted in an average which has been slightly lower than the best. Suppose the wage they recommend is below the New South Wales rate, would you still Say “ accept it “ ?
– What I say is that these men must get a fair and reasonable wage. Does the Treasurer think that less than £4 5s. per week is a fair wage?
– That is another question.
– No matter what the recommendation of the Commission may be, will the Treasurer guarantee, on behalf of the Government, that effect will be given to it before the House adjourns over Christmas?
– I will guarantee for the Government that they will not reduce wages.
– If the Government reduced them any lower than they are to-day, the men would die of starvation. As it is, Government employees and their wives and kiddies are only hanging on to the verge. They are just on the brink. It is all very well for the Treasurer and other honorable gentlemen to smile, but it is utterly ridiculous and absurd to expect married men to maintain families on a wage running from £3 2s. to £3 8s., £3 9s., or £3 10s. per week. We all know that children cannot obtain the ordinary necessaries of life, and cannot be given food sufficient to build them up into strong and healthy men and women. It is utterly impossible to provide the merest necessities on such a ridiculous wage as the Government are paying. I should think the Government would guarantee, through the Treasurer, not to reduce wages ! They will get very few people to take on jobs in the Public Service unless they are prepared to give a much better wage than they are paying to-day.
– Perhaps the Treasurer wants the public servants to follow our own example.
– It is a pity they do not follow our example. They surely cannot get a better example than one set them by Parliament, and Parliament, the greatest authority in “the land, has shown these men how to do things. We knew what we wanted, and we went and did it.
– We went after it with both feet.
– My word we did, and with both hands, too. It is a pity the public servants could . not show the Government exactly what they want, and demand it, and make the Government give it to them. It is a standing disgrace to any Government, National or Labour, to keep its employees working on such an inadequate wage as many of our public servants are receiving, and the Government should not hesitate a moment about taking action. There should be no waiting for the Commission’s report. The Government should give the public servants a fair and decent wage, straight off. In New South Wales, the basic wage is £4 5s. per week. If I were in power, instead of waiting for the final report of the Commission, I should say,. “ Nobody shall .be paid less than the New South Wales basic rate for the time being.” When we received the report of our own Commission, which we have very good reasons for believing will recommend a basic wage of something over £5 per week, I should simply lift the wage up to that level. But, first of all, I should undoubtedly drag it up from the present starvation level to that of an ordinary, decent living wage. I hope the Government will no longer delay taking the necessary steps to bring abou.t reform. Above all, I wish, to give the Government a word of warning. If they allow the House to adjourn before they give effect to a decent living wage for the public servants, they will create increased unrest and turmoil, and bring about things which may lead to even greater trouble and disturbance than we have yet had. I hope, therefore, the Government will take the earliest opportunity of seeing that the public servants are paid a decent and reasonable wage.
.- I support the motion as emphatically as is in my power, and shall be extremely sorry if we do not reach a vote on this question, which involves the responsibility of each member to the great bulk of the community within and outside the Public Service. The Basic “Wage Commission was appointed twelve months ago or more, and started out to discover the basic wage for the whole of the Commonwealth public servants and other people. Its members have travelled all over Australia, and taken evidence, and have gone to great pains in arriving at a conclusion. But there has been an extremely long, in fact a significantly long, time between the date on which the taking of evidence ceased, and the present day. All kinds of things are said. One is that the report has been received, perused, and discussed by the Government, and returned to Mr. Piddington, the Chairman of the Commission, with a request to him to review or reconsider it.
– Is the proposed wage too high?
– I do not know whether the Government have had the report or not, but I am inclined to think that it could very well have been published by this date. I believe the Government are afraid of it. I believe, also, that they will’ close this part of the session before the report is made available to the public, and keep Parliament closed for probably six months, in order that the public servants may not be able to draw attention to such, a report as that which we anticipate. From what one can learn, it is expected that the Commonwealth basic wage will be over £5 per week, and for that reason the Government in all probability are making sure that the report will not be made available until the House rises. If it is the intention of the Government to prevent the House from discussing the report of the Basic Wage Commission I can only say that there will be grave industrial trouble throughout th,e Public Service. When the Government went before the people at ‘ the last election they made certain definite promises, most of which, of course, have been broken. They promised that a Commission would be appointed to determine what were fair living conditions for persons in the Public Service, and that as soon as the report of this Commission was made available, it would be given effect to. The Government have not attempted to keep their promise, and apparently they do not intend to do so, but are backing and filling, and expecting to get into recess in order to avoid some of the odium that must fall upon their heads. To-day the Prime Minister informed us that the report will b« considered by him and his colleagues. There was not a word about giving effect to his pledge, made during the election. The Government must know what the report contains. Apparently they are appalled by it. Mr. Piddington and his fellow Commissioners, after travelling throughout Australia in the course of their inquiry, have arrived at certain definite conclusions based upon the evidence tendered to them. So far as one can learn, all the evidence points to the conclusion that nothing less than £5 a week is to be regarded as the living wage for the people of this country.
– We did not need a Commission to find that out.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. If the Basic Wage Commission have decided that £5 a week is a fair living wage, it means that all of those in the Commonwealth Public Service getting less than that amount are on a starvation rate. For many years the stronger and more militant unions outside the Public Service have been fighting for improved conditions. They have either approached the Arbitration Court or have struck, and they are in a much better position - although their position is bad enough, Heaven only knows - than persons in the Public Service. Whilst I deprecate strikes, and will do everything possible to avert trouble by this method, I say that unless the Government give some relief, the time must come when our public servants will have to tak© drastic action. When the report of this Basic Wage Commission is made available the Government must be asked if they intend to give effect to its recommendations. If they refuse to do that, I would say to the public servants - “ Strike, and hold up the business of this country.” I do not say this heatedly; I say it quite calmly and dispassionately - I say that unless the Government are prepared to pay a living wage to their employees, they will deserve no better treatment than to have the whole of the Commonwealth Public Service held up. The Australian Workers Union, the wharf labourers, the coal lumpers, and all the outside militant organizations would not tolerate for one moment the sweated conditions that are imposed upon the Public Service. Our public servants will be compelled, by force of economic circumstances, to display some of that militancy which has brought members of outside organizations up to something like a decent standard of living. The Government recently appointed a gentleman called Starke as a Judge of the Arbitration Court. Apparently he thinks that £3 per week is sufficient for a single man to live upon, and that £3 15s. is enough for a married man, with perhaps four or five children to keep besides providing for house rent. Do honorable members supporting the Government think that these conditions can continue much longer ? They cannot and must not. I have in my possession several letters and telegrams bearing upon this subject, but it is not my intention to read them all. Apparently. Mr. Justice Starke was appointed to his present position to give effect to the policy of the Government. If the Government desired to keep wages down they could not have secured a better servant; but I remind them that Justice Starke’s recent award will do more than anything else to precipitate an industrial crisis in Australia. The more militant unions, including my own, will probably be before Justice Starke shortly, and if he follows his present line of reasoning, and persists in making awards lower than basic wages already fixed, it will be extremely difficult to get the workers to agree to it. He will drive us out of the Arbitration Court altogether. If the public servants of this country are depending upon Justice Starke to “ award them fair and reasonable conditions they are depending upon a very rotten reed indeed. So far as we can see they are debarred, by a recent award, from gaining anything whatever from that source, so they must either get relief from the ‘recommendations of the Basic Wage Commission or go on strike. The sooner they recognise this fact the better it will be for them. It is of no use whatever thinking that the Government are in any way sympathetic towards them. Here is a letter which I shall quote - it is only one of many- from a gentleman whose name I shall not disclose -
About twelve months ago, a Commission was appointed to declare a basic wage for the Commonwealth, and, from what I hear, the Commission is still at Brisbane. Could you give any idea when the Commission should give their decision? Why I write to you is because, being a postal employee, the decision might benefit me. You are, I know, well aware of the princely salaries given to. postal officials. For instance, at the age of twenty-one years your salary becomes £132 per year - 50s. a week. Second-class board now costs 30s. per week in most places. £132 per year is for a single man. A married man, of course, would receive £150 a year - a splendid salary for a married man to live on and keep his wife and children respectable, is it not? The New South Wales basic wage is £201. Postal award,’ Federal, £150. From £132 per year a man goes on till he reaches £168 per year. He gets £6 per year rise, from £132 till he gets £168, and then anchors there. He is six years obtaining £168 per year from when he gets £132. Maximum, £168. New South Wales basic wage is £201. Of course, I am referring to assistants and postal assistants - the backbone of the Postal Department. The telephonists are even poorer paid than us. We got a bonus of £12 about sixteen- months ago (granted by the Court) before you were entitled to £12. It was necessary to be twenty- five years or over; then we got another £8. Then, last month, another £12; making £32 per year in bonus. My salary is £174, plus £32 bonus - £206 per year.
-Order !. The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join very heartily in supporting those who have spoken in favour of this motion. We cannot hide from ourselves, or from the public generally, that there is an ‘absolute maelstrom of discontent existing in our midst in consequence of the awful rise in prices of food, shelter, and clothing when .there has not been an equal rise in wages to meet the increased costs. I cannot but repeat again the words of that caustic, witty philosopher who wrote that, “ If God had placed the creation of the world in the hands of a Commission, it would never have been completed.’’ That clearly illustrates the position that, when the Government desire breathing time in dealing with any particular question, they appoint a Commission to make inquiries. That is what happened when the late Treasurer (Mr. Watt) arranged for a number of departmental officers to visé the report of the Commission upon the Federal Capital. The delay in this instance has not been occasioned by the Royal Commission, as we understand the report has been handed to the Government. Why have they not presented it to Parliament?
– The Prime Minister says that the report is not in the hands of the Government.
– Then, if that is so, I must correct my statement. Previous inquiries into the question of the minimum wage were based on the requirements of a man, his wife, and three children; but I am standing up for the rights of my fellow Australians, who have to support four, six, eight, or even ten children. To me there appears to be only one way of treating such cases fairly, and that is by settling an amount upon the man and his wife and allowing it to stop there. The wife, if a mother, should then receive, as a right, an allowance for every child she has, as each child is a future unit of the State, and has rights which no parent or no Government should deprive it of. The primal right of a child is that it should have sufficient food, shelter, and clothing to enable it to grow up in health and strength and so become a valua ble asset to the country. The present position to me is ridiculous. Are the Government directly or indirectly endeavouring to limit families? I will not think for one moment that that is their intention. In connexion with the payment of military pensions, they went as far as the fourth child; but why should there be that limitation? Every member of this Chamber, irrespective of the side of the House on which he sits, knows that it is the desire of every mother to rear her children in healthy and comfortable surroundings, so that they will not only be a credit to her, but to the country. I have received the following communication from the Commonwealth Storemen and Packers Union of Australia. It is concise, and reads -
Are you aware -
That members of the above union employed in ordnance stores under the Defence Department, the majority of whom are married men and returned soldiers, receive only £3 10s.6d. per week for the first six months of their engagement? That after six months’ service, if deemed suitable, they receive an additional 2s. 4d. per week? That in some cases ordnance officers are of opinion that ex-soldiers of whom the Prime Minister said “ are entitled to and shall receive not only the thanks of a grateful people, but the treatment which their great services deserve,” are not worth £3 13s. per week even after six months’ service? That their engagement can be, and frequently is, terminated by a week’s notice? That the. minimum rate payable to storemen doing similar work in wharf stores is £4 14s. per week? That, according to the Shipbuilding Tribunal, storemen in naval establishments have been entitled to an additional1s. per day for nearly twelve months past. That the Navy Department refuses to sanction the payment of same.
That shows that the Government, which should set an example, are not paying the rates which are being paid by private and other employers. Until recently the public servants of the Commonwealth have never been supporters of the party to which I belong, and honorable members must be keenly aware of that. I know that in my early political career I had to fight them very severely in order to win a seat in the State Parliament; but I believe they have now seen the error of their ways, and have found that their aims and ideals are similar to those of the party with which I am associated. Have honorable members forgotten what occurred in Western Australia a few months ago, when the activities of the Government were held up for weeks by a strike, which was, I think, unique in the history of any Government? Surely the Government do not want to precipitate similar action ? As a Labour man, I gladly voted for the Arbitration Bill which was brought into this House in 1904, but it must be admitted that our present legislation is not perfect. We, as the framers of such Statutes, should so amend them that every man and woman in the community may enjoy full citizen rights. and should have the right to appeal to the Arbitration Court absolutely without expense. This is not unknown in the Councils of prud’hommes in Trance, or in Denmark, where legal expense is made as little as possible. I understand that in the civil courts of Denmark a legal man is not permitted to appear except as a witness, that is, in the first court. The National “party in Victoria has adopted the referendum and initiative, and,, I believe, the recall, and this House has unanimously agreed to them. No amount of explanation can expunge from its records that resolution. This Government is wholly National, and I remind Ministers that the planks of its platform, if given effect, would relieve them in very difficult circumstances. No word of mine can be construed as captious criticism of the Government, but were the creators of Parliament to have the control over it during the whole of the three years of its existence that they possess on election day, it would relieve the Government in, its present troublesome position.
– Ministers are in a tight place now.
– Yes, and for that they have my commiseration to a certain extent. I know that the Labour Governments which I supported had sometimes to face very difficult situations. But were it realized that behind the Government is the people, who pay for everything, and that to them an appeal could be made to decide what shall be the basic wage throughout the length and breadth of Australia, how much simpler the position would be for Ministers! The Government might say to the people, “ The adoption of a certain rate will mean a large expenditure,” but the reply of the people might very well be that, as in time of war a nation whose existence is at stake will do many things which it would not otherwise do, so in this instance the welfare of the community is the paramount consideration. Speaking with the knowledge obtained through my medical studies, I say that the greatest asset of this our Australia is the Australian baby. He is our best immigrant. But we cannot expect children to grow into healthy men and women if in their tender years they do not possess the advantages which every individual in the community should have. It seems to me that .the intelligence of the ants might well be copied by us in this matter. “When we look into their nests through the eyes of science, accepting what has been told us by Sir John Lubbock, Grant Allen, and other men famous in scientific research, we see that never in the history of a nation of ants does the young or the worker suffer privation. Furthermore, when one tribe of ants fights with another, though it is death or slavery for the conquered, a logical conclusion which we do not accept in warfare, yet the curse of having to pay interest on the money expended in fighting the war is not laid on future generations as it is with us. I say, let the creators of Parliament, those who pay for everything, have the controlling voice in these questions. That will relieve the Government of great difficulties, and will make Parliament a happier body. Whatever rate may be fixed, if the people accept it, they will have to pay it. The principle of the referendum has been too long on the fighting platform of the Labour party without being given effect, and has been accepted by the Nationalists.
Mr. RYAN (West Sydney) 4.28].- I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has moved the adjournment to call attention to this matter of urgent public importance, because much feeling has been aroused through the injustice - I think that that is the proper word to use - which is being done to a very large body of Commonwealth public servants, and to others outside the Service, by the delay in proclaiming a basic wage. We have been told that the report of the Basic Wage Commission has not yet been presented, and that, therefore, no basic wage has been proclaimed. This afternoon the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that when that report is presented he will read it - he made that remark rather significantly as though reading it were a different matter from putting it into operation - and would afterwards confer with his colleagues about it. I have heard several honorable members opposite say that they believe that certain principles should be laid_ down by the Legislature: that the Legislature should declare the number of hours of a working week, and the basis upon which the living wage should be established ; whether upon the amount necessary to maintain a man and his wife, or a man and his wife and child, or a man and his wife and two children, and so on. They have said on several occasions that these matters should be laid down by Parliament; but when, some tune ago, they were offered an opportunity to lay down some of these principles, they ran away from their position. We had before us an arbitration measure affecting the Commonwealth public servants, and honorable members opposite voted against the proposal that the Arbitrator who was to be provided for should not fix a wage lower than that recommended by the Commonwealth Basic Wage Commission. An amendment wasmoved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), which will be found on page 4321 of the Hansard report of this session. He moved that the following words be added to subclause 1 of clause 12: -
Provided that he shall not determine-
– The honorable member may not quote from a Hansard report of the present session.
– I may, I suppose, quote from the V otes and Proceedings. I merely wish to give the amendment.
– The honorable member is at liberty to quote the amendment from memory if he is in a position to do so; but not to read extracts from any documents relating to the session’s debates.
– Then I shall quote it from memory, and refer those who wish to verify my quotation to the Votes and Proceedings for the 8th September. The honorable member for Ballarat then moved the addition of the following proviso to clause 12 of the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill-
Thathe (the Arbitrator) shall not determine on any rate of wage which is less than the basic wage as ascertained by the Basic Wage Commission or other body duly constituted for the purpose of fixing a basic wage.
Honorable members opposite voted againstthat amendment, although they had proclaimed their belief that Parliament should determine what number of hours should be worked in a week, and how the basic wage should be fixed. The
Government and their supporters do not stand by their professions when an opportunity is given them to do so.
At Bendigo, the Prime Minister mads a promise which was referred to this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition. He promised that there should be an investigation to discover the proper basic wage, and that the result of that investigation should be put into operation. This afternoon, however, the right honorable gentleman did not speak of putting it into operation; allhe said was that when the report of the Basic Wage Commission was presented, he would read it, and would confer with the Treasurer about it. In the meantime, a real injustice is being suffered by our public servants. As I pointed out during the discussion of the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill, there are in all the States - I spoke particularly of Queensland, of whose conditions I have the best personal knowledge - Commonwealth public servants who are getting far less than the employees of the State Governments, and much less than is being paid for similar work by outside employers. There are married men with wives and children who are not getting a living wage. Surely the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) would not suggest that £3 8s. per week is a sufficient wage for a married man to live on, if he has a wife and two or three children to support? Yet in the Commonwealth Public Service there are many such cases.
The position of Government servants is somewhat different from that of other employees, since the Government have complete power - there are no constitutional difficulties in the way - to lay down what shall be the rule governing their employees. They have complete power to set out by legislative enactment and by regulation what they, as “model employer” should do. But instead of doing that, they have removed Commonwealth public servants, without consulting them, from the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– Was there any injustice in removing them from the jurisdiction of the Court? Did not the deputation-
– I refer the Treasurer to my speech, as reported in Hansard, on the Public Service (Arbitration) Bill. If lie will read it lie will then be’ able to speak from memory as to the facts.
– I shall get in my interjection later on.
– The right honorable member may get it in later on, but not at the present moment. The Government have removed Commonwealth public servants from the benefits of the Arbitration Court. They have driven out the President of that Court, and have stood against giving a direction to the Public Service Arbitrator that he shall not award less than the basic w’age. As a matter of fact, the Treasurer,, when I was speaking on the question in the House in September last, desired to know whether I seriously contended that any Governmentshould bind themselves to give a wage at least equal to that which was laid down by the Basic “Wage Commission. I certainly do suggest that the Government should bind themselves not to pay less than the basic wage laid down by the Commission. It is a properly constituted tribunal, and has all the facilities for ascertaining what is a proper basic wage. We have to bind ourselves beforehand by the decisions of the Arbitration Court, and why should we not also be bound by the decision of the Basic Wage Commission?
The fact is that the Government find themselves under the influence of outside pressure. Some of the big employers outside do not want to see this basic wage established in connexion with the Commonwealth Service, and the Government, of course, willingly obey their behests. That, at all events, is how the matter presents itself to me. It is shocking that we have in power a Government which allow themselves to be fettered by the fact that the report of the Commission has not yet been presented. This injustice has been going on for months. Are we to tolerate the statement of the Government that they cannot remedy it? The Prime Minister has treated the matter as if it were a joke. When it was brought forward this afternoon he asked, “What is it you want me to remedy? I have not the report.” He has not the report, but this injustice is being done to women and children, and it is our duty to see that it is remedied. We have the power to remedy it. A majority of hon orable members can compel - or if the House would wish me to put it in an- other form, can “ persuade “ - the Government to grant justice to these people. If a sufficient number of honorable members from the other side would join with our party, we would have power to persuade the Government to act, not at some future time, but now. We could require them to act within twenty-four hours, otherwise they could not remain in office. Whether the Prime Minister had made a pledge or not, I think it would be our duty to be speaking and acting in this House with respect to thi? matter. It would be our duty to see that justice is done to these employees of the State.
Instead of setting an example, the Commonwealth Government are lagging behind private employers and behind State Governments. When the Leader of the Opposition moved this motion, the Prime Minister said - “ What do you want me to do 1 What am I to do about it? I have not the report.” But the fact remains that he has power to do justice to these people without waiting for the report of the Commission, since he knows that the report must be in favour of a higher wage than the men are now receiving. It is impossible to conceive of a report being brought in for a lower wage. That would be unreasonable. For these reasons I put it to the House that Parliament should do its duty in this matter. It is, after all, a question for the Parliament itself to determine.’ So far as I understand the agitation raised by Commonwealth public servants, they are looking to this Parliament, and looking to it in no party spirit. They are looking to the Parliament because they say they have been done an injustice. Surely it is our place to see that justice is done them. It is not as if some very highly-paid servants were asking for this consideration. These people are asking only for a basic wage- a living wage - which will enable them, with their wives and families, to live in comparative comfort. Are we going to sit idly by while this injustice is going on? Are we going to tolerate a Government which say that they have not the report of the Com- - mission, and that, when it is presented, they will read it, talk it over amongst themselves, and will then come down to Parliament, not this session, ‘but, per’haps, next session-
– Parliament will have adjourned before they will be prepared to act.
– That may be, but if honorable members are serious in their support of this claim, they will see to it that Parliament does not adjourn until the grievance is remedied. Instead of allowing this injustice, the Commonwealth Government should be leading the way in reform. We find them, however, lagging far behind other employers. It is sad that we should have such demonstrations as are now taking place in the Commonwealth - demonstrations, the justification for which no one can deny. I challenge any honorable member to say that the complaint of the Commonwealth public servants is not justified. I marvel that they have been patient so long. They have been content to send us a few telegrams, and those messages- are evidence to us that they feel the situation. I hope that the possibility, to which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) referred, will not eventuate. I should be very sorry, indeed, to see a strike of Commonwealth public, servants, or of any part of the Commonwealth Public Service, and the Government cannot suggest that there is any threat of a strike held out to them. They cannot suggest that the public servants of the Commonwealth have not been very patient with them. For these reasons I hope we shall see this state of affairs’ remedied at the earliest possible moment. It is in our hands to remedy it, and it is for each individual honorable member to say whether or not he stands for justice to our public servants.
– As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) says, it is for every honorable member to show where he stands, but it is for every honorable member to show where he stands in his own way and according to his own view of what is right.
– That is what I suggested.
– Nothing of the kind. The whole burden of the honorable member’s diatribe against the Government is that it does not ignore the Royal Commission on the Basic Wage. That is the gravamen of his complaint. “Why do they wait for the Royal Commission’s report?” he asks. “ Why do they not act at once? Why do they not do justice ? “
– Why do they not do justice ? That is what I ask.
– Exactly. I have heard that cry before, and never more persistently than when the honorable member was Premier of Queensland.
– And the public servants of that State obtained justice during my Premiership.
– Did they ? Then they did not know that they had it. They kept asking for something different. The honorable member will call down on his head, not the blessings, but the condemnations of those who are in this agitation. They have told him flatly, face to face, that they do not want any party capital made out of this appeal. Will any one say that the honorable member’s speech this afternoon was anything but an admisericordiam appeal to the party feelings of the House, and particularly to honorable members over here? “ Come over and help us,” he said. “ Come over and help us to put the Government out, so that these people mav get justice.”
– So that the women and children may be looked after.
– “ And so that the women and children may be looked after as they ought to be.” May I suggest to the honorable member that neither he nor his party has a monopoly of sympathy for the women and children of the continent. There is at least as much sympathy for “them over here as there is on the other side of the House. What honorable members on this side of the House are not prepared to do, however, is to make party capital out of the sufferings of these women and children. They decline to demean themselves by taking advantage of any suffering *of the kind.
The honorable member for West Sydner (Mr. Ryan) and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) received these deputations in Sydnev and elsewhere, and practically before they had uttered three words, said to them, “There are twentyfive votes for you from- our side of the House.- Go ahead ! Get thirteen more and you can force the Government.” That was what they said before they had heard anything as to the merits of the claim.
– That is quite wrong, and the Treasurer knows it to be wrong.
– I do not.
– The right honorable gentleman was not at the deputation.
– No, but while in Sydney I received a deputation which was sent to me by honorable members opposite. Honorable members opposite had practically said to them, “ Away with you ! Go downstairs and see the Treasurer. Every man of our party is with you.”
– And what did the Treasurer, who has the money, give them?
– I am going presently to tell the House what we have been giving the public servants lately, but I protest against these allegations on the part of the honorable member for West. Sydney.
– I seem to worry the Treasurer a good deal. Why does he not leave me alone, and attack some one else ?
– The honorable member does no’; worry me in the least.
– The Treasurer is bullying him.
– I am merely calling public attention to the way in which the honorable member for West Sydney is seeking to exploit these unfortunate people for mere party purposes.
– The Treasurer is not worrying me; he is causing me a good deal of amusement.
– The honorable member looks very much amused.
– The right honorable gentleman is worrying, not me, but these unfortunate women and children.
– I venture to say that if we were really worrying them, it would not give the honorable member very much concern. He challenges the House to a test of its sincerity, and the test of its sincerity is as to whether or not honorable members on this side will vo’.e with the Opposition to dispossess the Government.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– That is precisely what the honorable member has said. “ We will see,” he said, “ whether there is any sincerity on the part of honorable members opposite. There is one way of testing them. They can prove their sincerity by coming over and helping ns to make ‘he Government do this thing.”
– The Treasurer knows we cannot get a vote on this question this afternoon.
– The honorable member will be glad if we do not. He is not at all serious in this matter, nor are those of his party who are urging the thirteen to join the twenty-five. The very last thing they desire to do is to give rise to a crisis over this matter. They are simply trying to make a little party capital out of the agitation.
The honorable member for West Sydney also complained that Commonwealth public servants had been removed from the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, as though that were an injustice to them. One of the arguments addressed to me with the greatest force yesterday was that public servants had not been able to get justice at the hands of the Court. I was told that their cases were held up so long that before one matter could be settled another set of grievances was cropping up. They declared that the Court, so far as they are concerned, has been a failure; but the honorable member’s complaint is that we have removed them from the control of the Court. That is not aa injustice; indeed, they say it is not, but, rather, that it is an advantage. I remind the honorable member that, although we are removing them from this Court, we are taking them to another which we hope will deal with their grievances with greater facility, swiftness, sureness, and reasonableness than the bigger Court with its more slow moving methods.
– You are taking them “ out of the frying-pan into the fire.”
– We have one honorable member saying that they are in a “frying-pan,” and the other that they are in a “ fire.” Why should there be .any complaint that we are taking them either out of the “ frying-pan “’ or out of the “fire”? What does the honorable member mean, in any case ? What do honorable members want ?
– We want the Government to pay these employees a decent wage.
– I know that the honorable member always believes that other people should be liberal. However, I should like to let the House know how the case stands as far as we can ascertain. A little while ago I pointed out to honorable members that the awards of the Court alone were costing to-day about £1,200,000 extra as compared with the beginning of the war period; and this, I said, represented an increase of about 37 per cent. I am speaking now of the permanent officers; but, in addition, there is a small army of temporary men. As to these latter, the rule is to pay whatever is the ruling rate in the various States. For instance, our own people, engaged temporarily in New South Wales, receive the basic wage of that State; and we pay the ascertained rates in the various States. I have been informed that further awards have been made by Mr. Justice Starke, which involve another £356,000 per annum, making a total increase of close on 50 per cent.
– All these awards are below the basic wage.
– And yet one of the honorable member’s leaders has just now complained that we are taking these men away from the Court!
– We wish you to pay the basic wage as laid down by the Board of Trade in New South Wales.
– Then the honorable member does not believe in the Court when it does not do everything he desires? Apparently the honorable member desires the basic wage and also the Court.
– I never said anything about the Court.
– What does the honorable member desire?
– I wish the Government to pay the basic wage as laid down by the Board of Trade in New South Wales.
– Will that satisfy you; is that all you want?
– It would be a good start !
– Will the Government give these men £4 5s. per week tomorrow?
– It is easy for honorable members to make that suggestion, but I do not find it easy to find the money. I am merely pointing out that increases by means of awards have been made to the extent of 50 per cent. in the case of officers on the permanent salaried list, and that the temporary employees are now receiving the basic wage as paid in New South Wales.
– You are struggling hard, but making out a very poor case!
– I am not trying to make out a case just now, but merely giving the facts.
– Temporary men are not being paid the basic wage in New South Wales.
– Yes, they are. I am referring to our people at the docks.
– Those men enforce the wage through their trade unions.
– Anyhow, the basic wage is being paid.
– Not in the Postal Department.
– I am not talking of the Postal Department ; I am talking of the Federal Public Service - of the permanent and temporary employees - and pointing out that the increases granted to the permanent servants amount to 50 per cent.
– You are talking of the naval dockyards.
– I am. I have stated the position at present; and we are now waiting the declaration of the Basic Wage Commission, which was set up for the purpose of making this inquiry.
– May I ask a question in all humility?
– The honorable member has no need to ask me a question “ in all humility.”
– When this report comes in will the Government put it into operation?
– The Government will not pledge themselves to give effect to a report which they have not seen; it would not be guilty of such a piece of hypocrisy.
– That is going back on the Bendigo pledge.
– That was not a pledge to give effect to a report which the Government have not seen. This Government do not do things like that - they do not do things so contemptible in order to gain a little temporary political support. They would scorn to do a silly thing of the kind. What this Government do pledge themselves to is to consider the report very seriously.
– The pledge has been broken.
– The honorable member is a good authority on pledge breaking, and is very glib on the subject. I hope he has carried out all his pledges.
– The Government have done nothing else but break their pledges.
– The Government is a political pawnshop - full of unredeemed pledges !
– And this is a non-party question! The deputation to me insisted that it did not want any party agitation in the matter, and told me that they were doing their best to keep party politics out of it. I believe the members of the deputation; but those gentlemen opposite insist on “butting in “ where they are not welcome. They are told to keep away, and they refuse to do so. There is politics in this, and they “butt in” whether they are wanted or not.
– I desire to move an extension of time for half-an-hour.
– The honorable member can- not move such a motion in the course of a speech.
– I desire an extension of time.
– What for? To get in. some more party politics?
– Let us have a vote.
– Order !
– Have honorable members opposite got the necessary thirteen? Have they tallied up tho members ?
– All this is out of order.
– The Treasurer knows he is talking the time out.
– I believe the whole thing is a waste of time, if I am asked my candid opinion.
-I must ask the Treasurer to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker. I have only another minute, and I use it to protest against this question being dragged into the vortex of party politics - against it being brought up in this House.
– I move -
That the question be now put.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 10th November, vide page 6377) :
Clause 6 -
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.
Upon which Mr. Maxwell had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “ allowed “ the words “ the child and “ be left out.
– I cannot agree to the proposed amendment, but I am prepared to extend “the period in which notice must be given from’ one month to three. It is thought by the Government that all aliens over the age of sixteen ought to be registered.
– My objection is to making a child equally liable with the parents.
– You do not call a person over the age of sixteen a child?
– Yes, I do - a child in knowledge of these matters. A man is presumed to know the law, but ‘a child is not.
– Does the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) withdraw his amendment in order to allow the Minister (Mr. Poynton) to move an amendment in regard to the period of notice?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to-
That the words “ one month “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ three months.”
– I move -
That after the word “allowed,” line 9, the words “ the child, and “ be left out.
As I said before, every man is presumed to know the law, whereas every child is not. My object is to prevent a child of sixteen being saddled with the penalty that is imposed here for non-registration and to restrict it to the parents.
Question - That the amendmentbe agreed to - put. TheCommittee divided.
Ayes .. .. .. 21
Noes .. .. ..19
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– The amendment having been carried, it will be necessary to make a consequential amendment. I move therefore -
That, in sub-clause 3, the word “ severally “ be left out.
– What do the Government propose to do in the circumstance of the division havingbeen carried against them? Does not the Minister regard the situation as involving a principle?
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Poynton) agreed to -
That the words “One hundred”, line 12, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “Fifty”, and that the word “ six “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Penalty: One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.
.- The penalty set out in this clause is precisely similar to that in clause 6, which has justbeen reducedby half at the instance of the Minister (Mr. Poynton). Is it not proposed similarly to amend clause 8 ? If such is not the intention of the Minister, I will move in that direction.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause 5, the words “ agent for “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ owner, agent or charterer of “.
With respect to the suggestion that the penalty be reduced by half, as in clause 6, I point out to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) that the , offence in this instance is of a very much more serious character. I do not propose, therefore, to move for any reduction.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 -
An aliens registration officer or other officer acting under this Act may require an alien (if he can write) to write his usual signature on any form or other document, and to allow a print of his fingers and thumbs or any of them to be taken on any form or other document; and any alien who refuses to write his signature, or writes a signature which is not his usual signature, or who refuses to allow a complete and legible print of any of his fingers and thumbs to be taken, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.
.- I hope that honorable members who voted against the proposal to imprison children will be sympathetic with the view that persons shall not be required to undergo the ordeal of having thumb-prints taken. The securing of finger-prints is part of the process of identification of criminals. We have legislation for the purpose of preventing criminals from entering the Commonwealth. What is the need, therefore, for the proposition contained in this clause? It is a most objectionable form of registration. Photographs and other stipulated methods of identification are quite sufficient for keeping track of individuals who may wish to enter the Commonwealth from other parts of the world. Why should we humiliate any person by the institution of the fingerprint business?
– There is no humiliation about it, necessarily.
– How would the honorable member like to have his thumbprints taken?
– I have had them taken.
– And so have I.
– In different circumstances
– No doubt; but under any conditions the process is humiliating.
– Here, it is merely the matter of giving a receipt.
– If the honorable member had to submit to having his finger-prints taken every time he drew his parliamentary salary, he would find such a form of giving a receipt humiliating.
– The practice in this case will be confined to those who will not write their signatures.
– That is not so. If the Minister will read the clause again, he will perceive that the signature must be written, and the print of one’s fingers suffered to be taken. The wording is, “ To write his usual signature . . . and to allow a print of his fingers “.
– The taking of fingerprints applies only to coloured aliens, and such evidence is often the only means of identification available.
– This is not a matter of practice, but of law. It does not matter what is the practice, the law depends upon the Minister who has the enforcement of it, and the law provides for the taking of the finger prints of every alien who enters the Commonwealth. I shall be no party to imposing this humiliating procedure upon any alien, whether he be a coloured alien or not. There is no necessity for such drastic action. There are other means of identifying aliens who seek admission to the Commonwealth.
– Of what value for purposes of identification is the photograph of a Chinaman?
– Does the Minister mean to tell me that Chinamen are so much alike that itis impossible to distinguish one from another?
– I am sure that the honorable member could not do so.
– If the honorable gentleman tells me that, with the machinery at the disposal of the Government, it is impossible to distinguish between one Chinaman and another, I want to know whether it is true that there has been such a large influx of Asiatics into this country as has recently been suggested? The Minister should at least adduce some very strong reasons why the practice which is outlined in the clause should be followed. I move -
That the words “ and to allow a print of his fingers and thumbs, or any of them, to be taken on any form or other document” be left out.
I ask honorable members to support the amendment.
.- I think that the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) is hypersensitive in suggesting that there is any humiliation in asking an alien who has to be identified to furnish an imprint of his fingers. The object of the clause is to insure the identification of aliens, and one of the most deadly methods of securing identification is that of finger prints. I know that from my experience upon the criminal side of our Courts. A signature may be forged, but a finger print cannot be.
– Does the honorable member believe that?
– One cannot forge a finger print. The experience of those who are conducting this method of identification is that, amongst hundreds of thousands of finger prints which have been taken of all sorts and conditions of men, there are no two finger prints alike.
– Does the honorable member believe that?
– Yes. One must be guided by his own experience.
– But the honorable member knows how cautious we have to be.
– We have to be very cautious. But, so far as investigation has gone, it has been proved that no two finger prints are alike, and this method of identification is now accepted .in our Courts as conclusive evidence of identity.
– Evidence was recently given in a Court in Brisbane to the effect that a man can fake a finger print, and that one individual actually did so.
– If a man leaves his finger prints, another man cannot reproduce finger prints identical with them.
– It is said that he can.
– I have never seen such a statement made. I think that the honorable member for Barrier is hypersensitive in objecting to the clause merely because the taking of finger prints is used upon the criminal side of our Courts as a means of identification. It is a method which is universally re cognised as a very sure method of identification, and as such it should be retained in the clause.
.- I have no desire to treat any person coming to Australia as a criminal. Why should we not be more generous in dealing with the admission of aliens into the Commonwealth ? Every man who can mount a soap box, or a stump, or attend a prayer meeting to-day, tells us that the crying need of Australia is population. Yet we are proposing to insult aliens who desire to settle here, although they may possess all the qualifications of good citizens. I recollect that in my boyhood days great indignation was aroused in the Old Country because of the obstacles which were placed in the way of people travelling freely from one country to another. This sort of legislation is calculated to perpetuate that objectionable practice, and to still further inflame the feelings of hatred and revenge which are cherished by many people outside of our own nationality. We ought to be above imposing unduly harsh restrictions upon aliens.
– We all wish that it were unnecessary to impose any restrictions upon them-.
– In my youthful days, if a man wished to travel to France from Great Britain, he was required to possess a passport. Similarly, if he desired to enter Germany from France he had to be armed with another passport. In fact, travellers were then kept under just as much surveillance as were criminals.
– But that was before the world was made safe for Democracy.
– Oh yes. To-day we are supposed to be living in an entirely different age. As a matter of fact, we are going backward. The Government have been seized with a sort of panic. They lack the grasp of public questions which they ought to possess. If I had. my way I would consign this Bill to the wastepaper basket and would welcome to our shores people of all European races with whom we can inter-marry without sacrificing our ideals. Of course, I have a rooted objection to the free admission of Asiatics. For instance, I would not like my daughter to bring home a Chinaman and to say to one, “ Dad, this is my young man.” If the Government had the courage to stand up against the practice of requiring the finger prints of aliens to be taken, simply because it has been adopted in some other part of the world, I believe they would be setting an example which would, sooner or later, be followed by other nations. Why should we interpose nonsensical obstacles to the increase of our population ? Of ‘ course, I recognise that honorable members OPPO. site have not very much breadth of vision. Their mental horizon is practically bounded by their own backyards. Just imagine a learned professor from1 France or America being subjected to the nonsensical restrictions which axe embodied in this clause. Thirty or forty years ago there was an agitation in the Old Country in favour of the removal of all obstacles to a recognition of the brotherhood of man.
– The Minister is very silent now.
– He is merely a creature of circumstances. The Government has decided to follow blindly the legislation which has been enacted elsewhere. This Commonwealth ought to be above that sort of thing.
– Has not this legislation been operative in Australia for years?
– Then it is very peculiar that the Government have had to bring forward this Bill. I cannot follow the Government in this proposal. If- it were necessary for the protection of Australia, I would go with them, but the Bill lays it down that no matter who the individual may be he must go through this process, which I may describe as part punishment and part fad. It is put forward in pursuance of some whimsical idea from the other side of the world, and does not emanate from Australia, because it is not in keeping with Australian sentiments or ideals. It does not square with a clear understanding of what a Democracy is. It is absolutely repugnant to the Australian spirit. On a wet Sunday recently I looked out some literature, among which was a very high-class journal. In this was an article dealing with a measure similar to this one, as introduced in the British Parliament. The writer stated that such a proposal would never be tolerated in an Australian Parliament. That is a compliment for us. The writer was appealing to the intelligence of the
British people, and trying to impress upon the dullheads in .the British Parliament that the Bill was not in keeping with the march of civilization, or with the spirit of ‘brotherhood which should be created within the Empire. The amendment of the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) aims at liberalizing the Bill, and points out to the Government one way to bring about a better feeling among the different nations, and the higher form of civilization about which so much is said. I may be a little more advanced in my thoughts than the general run of members, and, therefore, I endeavour to bring them up to my way of thinking. I want them to look at these national questions with a broad and open mind, so that they may instil noble sentiments into this young nation of ours, and lay such a foundation for Australia that other portions of the Empire will look with admiration at the advanced and noble spirit actuating the Australian people. I am willing to help other members to impose any restrictions which are considered necessary to prevent persons of ill repute from entering Australia. It must, however, be proved that these persons are of obnoxious character. It is not sufficient to say that they” have made speeches that did not please the Government in power. I am prepared to vote for any amendment that will make the whole of this Bill look ridiculous, and I believe my action in opposing it will, in later years, meet with the admiration of all those who look up the records. I object to decent people who want to come into our free and enlightened Australia being submitted, like criminals, to the humiliation of having their thumb prints taken. I wish I could get a sufficient number of honorable members of the same way of thinking as myself, so that we could throw out all the Bills of this character which we have recently been asked to pass. I know how in my young days restrictions of this sort on the continent of Europe interfered with trade and commerce, and prevented that free interchange of knowledge and sentiment among the people of different nations which it should be the endeavour of all intelligent persons to promote. All legislative proposals of this sort have arisen out of the spirit of hate and ‘ revenge which is actuating men who’ should be above it. This Bill breathes the same spirit as the Peace Treaty, which will never stand, and Bills of this character will never stand, because all such things are conceived in a spirit of hate and revenge. I wish this Parliament would throw them all on one side, and allow the free and intelligent people from all other parts of the world to come into Australia, if they desire to make their homes here, without being subjected to humiliating restrictions. , After all the stuff preached to us about what was going to happen after the war, which we were told was to be the final struggle for liberty and freedom, almost the first thing that this Parliament is asked to do is to pass a measure which will compel an American lady of culture who wishes to enter Australia to register her thumb print on a document, to have her photograph taken, and to answer, all manner of insulting questions, such as whether her parents were married before she was born. ls not the proposal absolutely ridiculous when you look into it? I wish I could get my fellow members to realize what they are doing. After all, members of Parliament are supposed to bo leaders of thought, and it is our duty to’ the people whom we represent, not only to give utterance to noble sentiments, but to act on them. I have said nothing this afternoon, »I am sure, which will not meet with the admiration of the most intelligent among our citizens. I am sure the day is not far distant when the sentiments to which I have given utterance will bear fruit, and a better, nobler, and broader view will be taken of what we owe to people who come to this country. We should not nut humiliating conditions upon people just because they did not happen to be born in the same country as ourselves. We should welcome them, so long as they are good-living citizens, and we should put no impediment in their way, if they belong to the white races, and especially to those races with which we were allied in the recent war.
Question- That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put.’ The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Aliens to produce certificate of registration on demand).
.- The penalty, £100 or imprisonment for six months, appears to be too severe for the offence, which does not seem to be a very serious one. I move, therefore -
That the words “ One hundred “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “Fifty”, and that the word “six” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “three”.
This will have the effect of making the penalty £50 or imprisonment for three months.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
An officer may at any time arrest without warrant any person who he has reasonable ground to believe has committed an offence against this Act.
.- This question of giving an officer power to arrest without warrant was raised previously in the debate on another measure.
– Thisis a case in which it is not possible always to obtain a warrant.
– The Minister may have some reason for the clause as it stands, but I think it should be very easy to get a warrant.
– How would it be possible to get a warrant for an alien endeavouring to escape from a ship ?
– In that case the officer would have reasonable grounds for believing that the alien was actually committing an offence. I could understand arrest without warrant in such circumstances when they get a person in flagranti delicto - in the act of committing an offence. If, however, an officer merely suspected that an alien had, at some previous time, committed an offence, he should be required to get a warrant before making an arrest.
– Will the honorable member give an illustration of a person committing an offence in contradistinction to a person having committed an offence ?
– An alien on board a ship tied up to a wharf might wish to leave the ship for some purpose of his own, but not with the object of defeating the law. In such circumstances the power to arrest without warrant could be exercised, because the officer would have reasonable grounds to believe that the alien was committing an offence. But the clause gives an officer power to arrest without warrant if he believes that an alien has committed an offence, andI contend that in the case of any previous offence the officer should be required to obtain a warrant before arresting the suspected person. I do not recollect, at the moment, any instance in which power is given to arrest without warrant except in the case of a person actually committing an offence, or when an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that he is about to commit an offence. I move-
That the words “ is committing “ be in serted after the word “believe”.
– I cannot accept that amendment.
– The Minister, of course, has the numbers, and I shall have to be satisfied with having moved my amendment as an earnest of my desire to alter the clause.
– I cannot accept the amendment, because it would be the means of creating difficulties and hampering the officers in the performance of their duties. It would be unreasonable to expect an official to obtain a warrant when he saw a person deliberately leaving a vessel without authority. This measure has been drafted by the Crown Law officers.
– That does not mean that it is perfect.
– Perhaps not; but the best draftsman we have ever had was the late Mr. Kingston, whose advice was that a Minister should stick to his Bill, and that is what I intend’ to do in this instance.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 20, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Department of Defence (Military)
Divisions 56 to 79 (£1,550,000)
– In asking the Committee to pass this vote I desire to give a few reasons why the Government consider it necessary that this amount should be granted for military defence purposes. The amount is not excessive, and I ask honorable members who may intend to oppose the expenditure to give careful consideration to one or two factors, particularly the depreciation in the purchasing power of the sovereign. I think it has been shown by the Government Statistician that the purchasing power of money has been decreased to such an extent that it now requires 35s. lOd. to purchase what could have been obtained in 1914 for 22s. odd. In other words, if “we were asking for £4,200,000 this year it would be only equivalent to the amount granted in 1914. We are, however, only asking for £3,200,000, and .more than half of that amount has already been agreed to, leaving a balance of £1,550,000. We have “also to consider that last year, and during the period of the war, a large amount of defence expenditure came out of loan money, and, therefore, did not affect revenue. In perusing the military expenditure during pre-war years and comparing it with the vote now proposed, honorable members may say that the Government are asking for more than has been previously granted; but such is not the case, as no money is being taken from loan.
This year we are only providing for eight days’ camp training for one quota of our trainees, and a similar period of training for the militia. We have been forced to do that in an endeavour to keep the military expenditure down to an absolute minimum. I, therefore, ask honorable members to seriously consider the position before they move for a reduction in this vote, or offer any obstruction to its passage. I feel sure that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), who is at present leading the Opposition, will assist us.
– I am prepared to assist if you can justify the expenditure.
– There is an item of £36,135 for the expenses of officers, warrant and non-commissioned officers, sent abroad for instruction which honorable members may feel inclined to discuss.
– I do not think many will object to that.
– I am glad’ to have that assurance. I cannot imagine objection being taken to that item of expenditure, because we must surely advance in matters’ of military and naval defence, and if we take into consideration the depreciated value of money the sum we are asking for this year is less than was granted in prewar days. Had we gone on with our cadet training this year on the lines adopted prior to the war the amount required would have been much in excess of £1,550,000.
In this connexion reference may be made to the perturbed state of international affairs, which is a good reason why we must at all hazards maintain the efficiency of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. We are a mere handful of people, and may not be able to provide an adequate force to fully protect ourselves; but we must ‘ do something every year to maintain a certain state of military efficiency, otherwise the time may come when we shall find ourselves completely at the mercy of some foreign power. I ask honorable members, irrespective of party, whether they as business men would hold a valuable property without protecting themselves by adequately insuring it? Why does a business man insure his warehouse? Is it because he believes that it is likely to be destroyed? I do not think so.
– But you can pay too high a rate for your insurance.
– The premium we propose paying is one that Parliament must decide.. But at the same time we have to consider the consequences of uninsurance, and realize what the position would be if disaster overtook us.
– But the Government should carry some of the risk.
– Perhaps so. What is the position of a business man who leaves hip property uninsured? If we are not prepared to do something in the direction of providing an adequate military force we may rue the day. I think it* will be admitted that it is wise and business-like to provide means of protection.
– Then let us have a Red Guard.
– I believe the cure would be worse than the disease. The establishment of such a guard would not be any protection against fire or even brimstone. I trust honorable members will allow this vote to pass without very much delay. In my opinion, it is essential that we should have the amount of money that is asked for. Comparing these Estimates with pre-war expenditure, and making allowance for the decrease in the purchasing power of money, what is proposed to be spent this year is not as much as we formerly spent.
– Have you not a larger staff now?
– You cannot have an efficient military force without an efficient staff. All who’ have had experience in military matters know that nearly everything depends on the proper staffing of a force. The best and bravest men in the world are useless without a proper staff. I do not wish to go into details, or I could mention instances in the campaign in which I recently took part where we absolutely failed because those at the head of affairs did not know their job, not having be.en trained in staff duties. It is no absurd thing to say that almost a life-time is required for the training of a perfect staff officer. A good staff officer cannot be made in a f,ew years. Ho is a specialist, who needs an extraordinary amount of training. Every individual member of a force may be willing to fight like a tiger, but unless the force can be moved expeditiously to where it is needed, and unless the interior economy of the regiments and brigades is efficient - and for that a good staff ‘ is needed - the soldiers are helpless, and the force must degenerate into practically a rabble.
– The same thing is true in every walk of life.
– It may be. It is certainly true of military affairs, that without a good staff, the valour of the soldiers is wasted.
– Your opponents do not deny what you say, but they declare that our Force is overstaffed.
– Well, it is most difficult for those who understand what is needed to say that any man or men can be got ‘rid of. When it is suggested that so-and-so could be dispensed with - mentioning a D.A.Q.M.G. or some other officer - the reply at once is that there is such-and-such work to be done, and he is the man who is doing it.
– You will admit that military head-quarters are always against cutting down.
– I suppose that no one would deliberately cut his own throat; but I am not actuated by any motives of self-interest, and certainly I do not know how we could effectively reduce the proposed vote by reducing the staff.
– I do not suggest that of the honorable gentleman; but the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in framing the Estimates of the Department, would be largely influenced by the Army Council, whose interest it is to keep up a huge staff.
– The Army Council is supposed to form a body of experts, and by a Minister, a Department, a business firm, a bank, and the like, the recommendations of experts on any matter referred to them must be considered. We certainly pay a lot of attention to the’ recommendations of the Army Council.
A point I would stress is this: Honorable members on all sides have been clamouring for better pay for the Commonwealth public servants. How could they reconcile that attitude with the cut- ting down of the Defence Estimates ?
– Can the Minister point to an instance in which in these Estimates the salary of the lower paid clerks has been increased.
– These Estimates contain several amounts running into thousands of pounds for bonuses given in accordance with Arbitration awards. I do not see how honorable members can pronounce the Pub.lic Service to be underpaid, and, at the same time, say that the Defence Estimates are too big. What are you going to cut down? Honorable members may think that the sum provided for munitions, which is a very large one, is too big; but it is useless to have a Military Force Unless that Force is provided with everything it needs for fighting. We maintain a Military Force on the supposition that it may be necessary at some time or other to employ it in the defence of Australia; but out Force would be useless if, when called on to fight, it had no ammunition or big guns. We have already voted a large sum to provide big guns and big-gun ammunition, to build up a reserve, which is vital to our defences, supposing that we treat the subject of defence seriously. I look upon defence as a serious matter, and I say that to defend Australia we must have a reserve of munitions.
– Are you satisfied that your responsible officers have cut these Estimates down to the bone?
– We have cut them down to the bone.
– Then you must cut away a lot of the bone, too.
– The Minister suggested that the amount to be expended on compulsory training would be less than the pre-war expenditure.
– Yes; for ibis year I think it will. That is all that we are dealing with for the present.
– Do you propose to revert to compulsory training on the scale of pre-war days?
– The Minister for Defence made a statement in the Senate, which, no doubt, the honorable member has read, setting out the proposals for compulsory training in the future.For this year, an eight-days’ camp is provided for the 1902 quota, and. eight days’ training for the Militia.I hope that honorable members will recognise the seriousness of this matter; and I ask the Committee to deal with the Estimates in the spirit in which I think they should be approached. I shall be prepared, as occasion arises, to give any information that may be asked for, andI hope that the Estimates may be speedily passed.
– Have the Government, in these Estimates, given effect to the recommendations of the Economies Commission ?
– The Economies Commission did not deal with Defence. That Department had already been dealt with by a special Commission of business men, which was at work during the greater part of the war.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The Estimates relating to the Defence Department need more careful scrutiny than do those relating to any other branch of the Commonwealth Service. The Defence Department, above all others, is out for spending. So far as it is concerned, it is a case of “ all cop and no give.” I was hopeful that, the war being over, we would have a big drop in our Defence Estimates, and that the finances of the nation would thus be afforded an opportunity to recover from the severe strain put upon them during the five years of war. Butwe are doomed to disappointment. I am not opposed’ to the Government’s defence policy; I believe that we should have a Defence Force; but, having regard to the disturbed state of our finances, care should have been taken to cut down these Estimates to the very bone. If necessary, some of the bone should also have been removed. After a financial slump in Queensland, many years ago, Sir Thomas McIlwraith, who had just been returned with a majority, proposed to cut down, as far as possible, the spending Departments. With that object in view he sent for the State Commandant, who was an Imperial officer, and made known to him his wishes. The Commandant assured him that he and his clerical and military staffs had gone very carefully through their Estimates, and had cut them down to the bone.Sir Thomas McIlwraith, having glanced at the Estimates, said, “If this is what you call cutting them down to the bone, we shall have also to cut out the bone.” And they did.
– How was it done?
- Sir Thomas McIlwraith simply cut down the Defence Estimates by one-half. He refused to find the money asked for, and the reduction was made. I am going to ask the, Committee to adopt the same course.
– It is said that he simply sacked the office boy and brought the whole staff down one step.
– That was done, with the result that, although the noncommissioned officers and the rankers in the regiments about Brisbane were done away with, the general staff was retained. It was this incident which led me to make the comment that the Queensland Forces consisted of officers without any privates. Our Commonwealth Defence Forces are rapidly assuming the same form, and the Estimates certainly need to be carefully scrutinized.
I find it difficult to account for the alteration of the form in which the Defence Estimates have hitherto been put before the Committee. Previously, the Commandant and staff of each State “were grouped in separate divisions, so that honorable members who were familiar with the services in the respective States could tell exactly where reductions might reasonably be made. This year, however, the whole of the services are lumped together, and so the Estimates are camouflaged. It is quite impossible to pick out items relating to specific positions in the different .States, and the only course open to us, therefore, is to move for a lump sum reduction. I have spent over an hour in searching for certain items in these Estimates, and have made but little progress. I find, however, that, instead of reducing the staffs to pre-war conditions, the Defence authorities have increased the whole of them. In pre-war days we had to provide for a few colonels and majors, but to-day ‘we are called upon to make provision for field-marshals, major-generals, lieutenantgenerals, and other officers of high rank. I recognise that we must have brains in the service; but, even if it means that some of these gentlemen must go back to civil life, where they might hold more lucrative positions, we ought to cut down the staff.
I do not propose to move that the Estimates be reduced by even one penny, because, as I have said, I believe in the Government’s defence policy; but there is certainly an opportunity, particularly in relation to the reserves of munitions, to make reductions. If there is to be no war, why provide on these Estimates for big supplies of munitions?
– We do not know that there is going to be no war. The world is still in a very disturbed State.
– But no one knows better than does the Minister that in a climate like that of Australia munitions quickly deteriorate. Some twelve years ago case after case of ammunition that had been sent out to rifle clubs had to be returned as unfit for use. ‘ We had built up large reserves, only to find when the time came to use’ them that they were unserviceable. It is not merely a waste of money, but a criminal act, to serve out such ammunition to our men. Now that the war is over it will not be out of place for me to remind honorable members of what happened in regard to the ammunition supplied to the forts at Sydney Heads just before the war broke out. It was not creditable to the Government then in power nor to the Labour Government previously in office. I have no desire in any way to discredit the Defence Department, but I am prepared to join with others in cutting out unnecessary expenditure, and particularly in reducing the proposed vote for munition supplies. It is upon the latter itemthat we should concentrate our attack.
I am also at a loss to know why we require many of the officers for whom provision is made. I recognise that we must have an efficient staff - that our staff officers represent the eyes and the brains of the Army - but some of these items will need a lot of explanation. It will be admitted that we cannot touch those portions of the Defence Estimates which relate to the clerical staff who are under the Public Service Act. We should see, however, whether savings cannot be effected in connexion with the joint head-quarters staff. In Division No. 56 - Central Administration - we have provision made for an InspectorGeneral of Administration, a Director-General of Medical Services, a Chief Supervisor of Physical Training, a Director of Physical Training and Chief Instructor of Physical Training Instructional Staff, a Director of Equipment and Ordnance’ Stores, a Deputy Director of Equipment and Ordnance Stores, Ordnance Officers, Director of Supply and Transport and Chief Instructor of Army Service Corps Training,: a Director of Veterinary Services, an Inspector of Physical Training, a DirectorGeneral of Army Reserve, a Director of Military Operations, and others, the proposed vote being £7,113, as against £18,314 spent in 1919-20. From this it would appear that there is a reduction in round figures of £10,000 on the previous year’s expenditure. That, however, is mere camouflage. Most of these officers are now transferred to the Staff Corps. Their names have simply been taken out of this division and added to that relating to the Staff Corps. That is how the reduction is made.
– In future all staff officers will be under the Staff Corps.
– I agree with that. All permanent officers should be staff officers. Other officers who have been transferred from the division relating to the Central Administration are the Inspector-General, the staff officer to the Inspector-General, and the Inspector of the Inspecting Staff.
– They had to make jobs for the fellows who came back from the war.
– I do not know that that is so. Surely we are not going to retain the services of superfluous men simply because they happen to be officers in high places? The rank and file, when they returned to Australia, were immediately demobilized, so that we might not even have to feed them. Why should not the same be done- with officers in high places ?
– There should not be one officer retained who is not required.
– But the Assistant Minister says these officers are required, and it is only natural for him to say so; I should take the same stand if I were in office, and I think I would be able to make out a very good case. I feel sure, however, that honorable members on both sides desire to see the Defence Forces reduced to something like normal proportions. If we had plenty of money to burn, as we hadprior to the war, we might go in for spectacular display; but under present circumstances, we have to get right down to “ tin tacks.’’ I do not know why the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has allowed the retention of the services of these gentlemen to pass unheeded.
– I am told that the amount is less, having regard to the value of money, than we spent in pre-war days.
– Of course, it all depends on the value of the “ quid.’’
– The Assistant Minister for Defence says so, and I believe him.
– I believe a lot that the Assistant Minister says, but I do not believe all. He has put up a very good case for the Department; and while I do not blame him, I do blame the
Government, and particularly the Treasurer, who is supposed to be the watchdog of finance. Did the Treasurer accept the Estimates from the Department as they were sent up?
– I did not; I cut millions off.
– The Treasurer is convicted out of his own mouth. Ho says he believes the Assistant Minister; but I undertake to say that he did not believe Senator Pearce when he submitted the departmental Estimates.
– The Treasurer is now speaking of the Estimates after they have been cut down.
– I feel more than confident that the Treasurer cut down the original Estimates more than half.
I should like to know whether the vote for the Commonwealth Military Journal is to pay for the printing or for the editing, because in another place in the Estimates I find that the vote for the staff of the publication has been transferred to the Public Service vote.
The new Aviation Branch calls for some comment. We ought to be extremely careful that we do not get “ right over the traces,” or, as the name of this Branch of the Defence Forces suggests, “up in the clouds.” If there are two Branches to which we should devote considerable care and attention, with a view to fostering’ them in every way, they are the Aviation and the Submarine Branches.We know that the gentlemen who prepare these Estimates are irresponsible so far as the financing of them is concerned; they do not care “ twopence ‘’ so long as they know the Government is behind them to find the money. It is for us, therefore, to scrutinize very carefully the expenditure in connexion with these Branches.
We were informed by the press in the early part of this year that there were not sufficient candidates to fill the vacancies allotted to the different States in the Royal Military College. ‘What have the Government done in the matter? If the College is not filled, has the full teaching staff been retained?
– There is practically the same staff; and it would be difficult to dispense with itsservices, in view of the different classes that have to be provided for.
– What does the Government intend to do in the future in the way of obtaining students ?
– We hope to offer such inducements as to make the College more attractive.
– There is no doubt that for the training of cadets at Duntroon we must pay for the services of the best brains possible.
– What shall we do with the cadets when they are trained?
– There are the Citizen Forces. It is no use educating men in military science if we do not intend to make use of them; and if the majority of honorable members think that such education is not necessary, our best plan would be to do away with the College. I hope, however, that the College will never be done away with.
– I thought you believed in promotion from the ranks?
– So I do; but I also believe in brains, especially in the scientific branches of the Service. We cannot pick up men in Collins-street or Bourke-street to do engineering and artillery work on the scientific side; they must be educated, and if the sons of working men are to enter the military profession, they must be given a chance to attend these colleges.
– There are working men’s sons there now.
– There are; and one year the cadet who came out top at Jervis Bay was the son of a locomotive engine-driver on the VictorianRailways, and a youth who took the same position at Duntroon was the son of a carpenter. These facts satisfy me that working men’s sons get as fair a show in these institutions as anybody else.
– There is the sum of £13,000 provided as extra allowance for such boys.
– Yes, I saw that. Now, I should like to know from the Assistant Minister where the Arsenal is situated ?
– There is really no arsenal; but there is the Administration Staff, with quarters in the barracks. At Maribyrnong we are manufacturing explosives.
– Then you include the Ammunition Factory in the Arsenal ?
– We cannot say that there is one building as an arsenal ; but there is a branch for arsenal work.
– What is done by the branch?
– Explosives and ammunition of all sorts are manufactured.
– But guns are not made?
– We should be making guns.
– But guns are not being made now; it is really an ammunition factory?
– It is the best we can do at present; but we require an arsenal.
– There is plenty of time for that. So long as we are in a position to make our own ammunition, and be independent of outside sources, we should be content to crawl before we walk, particularly in view of the present state of the finances. The Government should really do something in the way of reducing the amount spent on the ammunition branch of the business; indeed, it would not do anybody an injustice to reduce the vote by half. I recommend the Minister to take this suggestion into consideration, and give us some idea of what the Government intend to do in this regard.
– The honorable member has reached his time limit.
– Then, with your permission, sir, I shall take my second half-hour now.
Under the heading of the Australian Staff Corps there is an item, “ Grants on retirement, including payments due under Regulations, £1,213.” What does that mean?
– The greater part of that was consumed by two or three officers to whom grants were made on retirement, in view of the fact that no pensions were provided for them. This was really a gratuity, given only as an act of grace.
– I call attention to another item, under the heading of “ Contingencies.” The estimate for rations totals £36,000, and there is a line, “ Expenses of Australian Survey Corps, including wages, purchase and maintenance of horses, motor cars, bicycles, instruments, books, and other requisites, £3,000.” How many men does this Survey Corps consist of? The sum of £36,000 sounds like a lot of money for “ tucker.” What does the Minister intend to do about the Survey Corps? Altogether, the total contingencies amount to more than £48,000, Cannot something be cut out?
– A great deal of the £36,000 for rations is due to their increased cost. The line has to do with rations supplied to permanent troops. Increased rates of pay granted to Permanent Forces also come under the heading, “ Contingencies.”
– I call attention now to a group of items under the heading of “ Camps “ -
Camps of training and schools of instruction, staff tours, and regimental exercises, including railway fares and freights, £72,750.
Does that expenditure include the expense of training cadets ?
– Yes, that amount would cover expenditure on all camps. This year there is only one eight-day camp, for the quota of those who pass into the militia. Then, there is also an eight-day camp for cadets.
– Under the heading, “ Maintenance of existing arms and equipment,” there are the following items : -
General stores; replacement of equipment and accoutrements (lost or rendered unserviceable), and repairs, £9,000.
Maintenance of armament and stores for technical units, £2,485.
Maintenance of small arms,’ spare parts, and rifle barrels, £1,000.
Repairs and maintenance of military steamers and boats, £2,625.
The total involved under this head is £15,110. Is the whole of that expenditure for the Commonwealth, or is it for any one particular State ?
– That covers the outlay on those items over the whole of the Commonwealth.
– -Under the head, “Ammunition,” there is the item, “Artillery ammunition, £34,125.” Is that amount really necessary?
– A total of £14,000 for artillery ammunition is a very small sum.
– If the Minister can cut any of these items down or out, there will be a good saving. What is the use of having £14,000 worth of artillery ammunition just to look at? The money is very much better in the bank.
– The trouble is that when you want the ammunition, to use, and not simply to look at, it is 14,000 miles away across the sea, and you cannot get it.
– Does the Minister infer that this artillery ammunition is part of the Department’s reserves ?
– That is so.
– Then, why not indicate it as such, and let honorable members know that this particular expenditure is for the necessary object of building up our reserves again?
I direct attention now to still another line of expenditure. Under “ General Contingencies,” a sum of £3,300 is set down as “Expenses of removal of personnel.” What is this personnel, and where are the removals to and from?
– The item has to do with any removal from any one part of the Commonwealth to another. There are always transferences of officers and staff backwards and forwards.
– Under the old system of presenting Estimates to Parliament there was no need for guessing and asking questions like these. Every honorable member, upon examining the details, could learn for himself all he desired to know. Under the present system, however, we can get no information except by means which I am now compelled to adopt.
– A good deal of the increase with respect to removals is due to the fact that the Railways Departments have withdrawn their concession in relation to fares and freights.
– Naturally, that would run away with a lot of money.
Under the heading, .”General Services ‘’ there is a line, “ Temporary assistance and extra labour, £5,000.” Last year the sum voted was £6,500, while the actual expenditure was only about £3,600. The Treasurer’s Department was very amiss. When his officials perceived that the Defence Department had applied for almost double as much as it spent they should have permitted only half of this year’s Estimates to stand, and that is all that would have been spent. With respect to the line, “ Purchase and maintenance of remounts, and all other expenditure incidental thereto, £18,000,” I look for some explanation. I was under the impression that we were breeding our own remounts.
– We are, to a certain extent.
– What are these remounts used for?
– For any light horse work, and for instructional duties.
– Are the horses being bred for the use of the instructional staff ‘!
– And do we provide horses for our artillery officers?
– Yes, to some extent.
– And do we horse our officers attached to the Permanent Forces?
– Yes, we must horse them all, and we must find horses for our field batteries. The horses for permanent officers are not their own property, of course.
– I would like some information, in conclusion, concerning rifle clubs. What are the intentions of the Government? Have they decided not to assist these bodies for the future ?
– We have decided to do so. We are giving £50,000, which the rifle associations are free to allocate; they may authorize the expenditure of that sum as they like. Besides that, the Government are giving them nearly £45,000 worth of ammunition.
– I am very glad the Government are doing something, however small it may be. Rifle clubs should certainly be encouraged. The idea of teaching Australians how to shoot is an excellent one. I am up against “ pot- hunting,” but w© know that during the war members of rifle clubs made excellent use of the knowledge which they had gained on the ranges.
It is of no use to ask the Defence Department to cut down its Estimates, for it will not do so. Its officials furnish estimates which the Treasurer knows full well involve about three times as large a 6um as the ‘ country can afford to pay. At the same time, however, there are certain branches of the Service which should not be starved. Those are the Staff and the Aircraft section of the Defence Force. The Defence Department is a spending Department; it has net got to raise the money. It is not called upon to bear the odium of applying increased taxation. We cannot do without a Defence Force of some sort, and I am satisfied that the Government are working along the right lines. I am confident that before long Australia will reinstate herself, not only in respect of financial matters, but as a nation in every way.
– The best Defence policy for Australia would be to kick the Government out.
– The wish is father to the thought. No doubt, the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) believes in, and hopes for, everything he says in regard to that matter. The sight of a soldier in uniform has the same effect upon the honorable member as has a red rag upon a bull.
– I should be sorry to think the Labour party indorsed the honorable member’s policy in regard to defence.
– I am very sorry that our military expert, the honorable, member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), has had cause to make that unkind remark. I am not such a lunatic as to imagine that Australia can afford to face the world unprotected. Whatever party may be in power, we must have a defence policy. If this country is worth living in, it is worth defending, and the time may not be far distant when every man will have to take up arms in its defence. It is idle for us to bury our heads in the sand, like the ostrich, and imagine that we are safe. If the honorable member for Ballarat has a better defence policy, from the Labour point of view, than I have, good luck to him. Let him bring it forward. I. have always been in favour of a defence policy for Australia, and I am satisfied that the defence policies of the Governments which held office during the war materially helped to win that war. None of them disgraced itself. Personally I have no regret whatever for the part which I took in assisting in the establishment of a Citizen Force in Australia:
. -One always finds himself at a great disadvantage in discussing defence expenditure, because he is confronted with Scylla upon the one hand and Charybdis upon the other. Whilst we are animated by a desire to effect savings wherever that course is possible, we know that a terrible responsibility will rest upon us if we carry our ideas of economy so far as to destroy the efficiency of our fighting force. I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page), that any country which is worth living in is worth fighting for.
– By the people who own it.
– Every man in Australia has a vote, and consequently a voice in. its government. After all, the Parliament which governs this continent is just what a majority of the people desire it to be. We have had many discussions in this Chamber upon the Defence Department. Nearly every session there is a debate thereon. But it is not always that we have the same opportunity for discussing it at length that we have at present. To me it seems strange that, whereas last year £750,000 was voted under this heading and £942,000 was actually expended, for the current year the proposed expenditure is set down at £1,392,000. I have paid some little attention to this matter, and I candidly confess that I am not in a position to say which officer can be dispensed with, and which officer must be retained.
– The increase mentioned by the honorable member is. due largely to the transfer of expenditure upon war contingencies to peace contingencies.
– I do hope that the Government will not retain a single man in this Department simply because he has been there for some time. I trust that no more men will be kept than are absolutely essential. When our soldiers returned from the war they were demobilized as rapidly as possible. I trust that the same policy will be pursued in regard to those persons who occupy very much higher positions. I do not think that a single man should be kept on the Defence staff if his services are not required. One cannot fail to be struck with the enormous number of officers for whom provision is made upon these Estimates. I cannot say which of them should be dispensed with, and I doubt whether any private member is in a position to do so.
– We cannot possibly know.
– The honorable member is not expected to know. He ia merely expected to vote the money.
– One of the best students of parliamentary practice and of political economy has laid it down that it is not the duty of a Minister to administer his Department, but that it is his duty to see that his Department is properly administered. So it is with honorable members. It is not our duty to administer the Defence Department, but it is our duty to take the Ministry to task if they fail to see that it is efficiently administered.
There are one or two directions in which we require to be particularly careful in the matter of defence expenditure. Take, for example, the manufacture of rifles. It has come as a shock to honorable members to learn that the rifles which we are manufacturing to-day are costing somewhere in the neighbourhood of £13 each. When the plant for their manufacture was brought to Australia we were assured that rifles would be turned out at from £4 7s. 6d. to £4 12s. 6d. each. .
– What is the cost of a rifle in other parts of the world to-day?
– That is not the question, because every expenditure during the past few years has been abnormal. I have no hesitation in saying that the rifles which we are now producing at a cost of £13 each will be manufactured in the older countries of the world immediately normal conditions re-assert themselves for about half that amount. I doubt the wisdom of manufacturing rifles year after year from one pattern, because long before they may be required for actual service they may have been discarded as obsolete. The rifle that we were producing at Lithgow prior to the war is certainly not one which can be classed, as modern to-day.
– Our Australian rifles which were used during the war were quite good. ‘ ‘
– Does not the Department always keep abreast with what is being done in Britain? .
– I do hope that the Minister will-as the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has suggested - obtain such advice from the British Government from time to time as will enable him to keep our rifles up to date. It would be the acme of folly for us to continue to manufacture rifles at the terrific cost of £13 each when they may never be used in actual warfare. A similar remark is applicable to the manufacture of ammunition. Our attempts during the war to manufacture shells were certainly not creditable to us. At that time we were turning out shells by the thousand, although we knew that they could never be used.
– - Colonel Bruche told an untruth that day to all of us.
– These shells were condemned as useless by experts, and yet the authorities continued to manufacture them. These are some of the directions in which the Government should exercise the closest supervision. We are exceedingly fortunate to have as the Minister in charge of this Department in this House, and for the first time, a gentleman who has had experience of active service abroad, and who therefore brings to bear upon these matters an intensely practical knowledge. I hope he will keep a close watch over the manufacture of our small arms and ammunition in order that these branches of our Defence Department may be kept quite up to date. I understand that practically the whole of the ammunition which we are manufacturing is intended for reserve purposes. That being so, I trust that we shall not continue year after year to manufacture from a stereotyped model of rifle or of ammunition, lest after the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds the reserve which we have established may be found to be useless.
There are many phases of this matter which need to be considered. I believe that the future defence of Australia will be in the air and under the water. The aeroplane and the submarine will constitute Australia’s chief defence, and, moreover, they will be our cheapest form of defence. With our enormous sea-board, the greatest of any country in the world, it will be absolutely impossible for 5,000,000 people to maintain a Navy which can adequately defend Australia in case of war.
– What kind of fight could you put up if there were no Navy ?
– Just about the same fight as we should have to put up if we had a Navy that was ‘not sufficiently strong to prevent a hostile force from landing. With the submarine and the aeroplane, however, the whole condition is entirely altered. I doubt if any nation would think of transporting millions of fighting men thousands of miles over the sea to attack Australia if they knew that there would almost certainly be a hostile force awaiting them under the water and in the air. I differ entirely from the honorable member who has spoken. If there is one branch of defence we must encourage, it is the Air Force. The only way we can ever get an Air Force in Australia is to encourage as far as possible the commercial use of aeroplanes. In the near future, I believe regular mail services will be carried by aeroplanes over the enormous tracts of Queensland and Western Australia, and in the interior of other parts of Australia at much more frequent intervals than is the case with the present methods of delivery. In this way, the outlying portions of Australia will ba brought into much closer touch with the big trading centres. Aeroplanes have travelled without any difficulty between the mainland and Tasmania, and a practical offer has been made to the Government to establish a mail service by aeroplane across Bass Strait. By this means, the mails will be taken over, under ordinary conditions, in about three and a-half hours. The only way Australia can ever afford to create an air defence force is by utilizing aeroplanes for the mail services in the interior and in its commercial operations, and linking them up with the Defence Force as far as possible. We have made a huge mistake in spending £3,500,000 on a Navy which, to put it in the very mildest way, is not up to date. Instead of spending that money on the class of boats we have, it would be very much better to use it for aeroplane and submarine services. These would constitute the real protection of Australia if ever she were attacked by a foreign force.
Parliament must in the near future deal with the question of military camps. I am not enamoured of the proposal to put boys, at just the age when it is most dangerous to take them away from their homes, into camps for the length of time which has been suggested. When Parliament has an opportunity of dealing with that matter, I sincerely hope that it will direct the Defence Department to curtail considerably the period proposed. I very much doubt the wisdom of putting boys of tender age into military camps under military discipline. They could be trained in other ways; and Parliament should be exceedingly cautious, in the best interests of the boys and of the future of Australia, about adopting any principle which will take them away from their homes at a tender age, and put them into camps under military rule.
The money spent on the rifle clubs of Australia is quite as well spent as any other amount voted for the whole of the Military or Naval Forces. The man behind the sun counts. for a lot; and I have heard over and over again, not only from Australians, but from British officers and privates, that there were no better snipers in the whole of the. armies of Europe than those who went from Australia. I find, also, from conversations with our own fellows, that men who were good shots on their local rifle ranges proved themselves exceedingly valuable in the fighting line wherever Australians had to serve. I congratulate the Government on the assistance they propose to give to the rifle clubs. We obtain excellent value for the money.
There are no items in the whole of the Estimates which I feel so incompetent to discuss or criticise as those under “ Defence.” We must, to a great extent, accept the Estimates as proposed by the Government. The only way we can ever decrease items in Departments such as this is to strike a lump sum off the total, and leave it to the Minister and his officers to make the reduction effective. As the Committee refused to take that course, I do not feel competent to move reductions on individual items. As we are giving the Government practically a free hand in establishing this new Department after the war, we can, as it were, place them on their honour that not one officer will be kept on the list whose .services are not absolutely required, and that the money spent on the arsenal and munitions will be used to provide only up-to-date materials. I trust we shall never have a repetition of what happened at the outbreak of the war, when we were spending good money, that was badly needed for other purposes, in turning out useless shells. I exceedingly regret the increase in these Estimates. The time is very near when this Par Iia- . ment will have to take stock very carefully. We shall be compelled before long, by force of circumstances, to put a stop to the riotous living that we have had in the way of public expenditure in Australia. But while I regret the increase, I candidly confess that I do not feel in a position to say which of the items can be reduced, or which of the officers- can be dispensed with. It is not fair to ask a Committee such as this to take that responsibility. We must hold the Government responsible, and they, in turn, must hold the heads of their Departments responsible. We can say to the Minister in charge, “ We are allowing these items to pass because we are not in a position to decide where reductions should be eff ected,” at the same time giving the Government to understand that we shall hold them absolutely and completely responsible for the expenditure in the Naval and Military Departments.
.- Very few members of this Committee know the real necessity or otherwise for the vast number of amounts provided in these Estimates. I take it that with a Department like Defence the duty of the Government is to put a good Minister in charge, and I think we have a good one in the present Minister. He knows that the responsibility rests on his shoulders of seeing that no unnecessary expense is incurred. We must trust him, just as the managing director of a large concern is trusted. It is folly for us to say that we regret that there is an increase or decrease in Estimates when they are framed by those who have the practical knowledge of what is essential to build up a sufficient defence for this great continent. It may be argued that the main way to defend Australia is by air and under the water, but, with a long coast line such as ours, consisting of thousands of miles, we want something more than the submarine and the aeroplane. We must have men properly trained as soldiers to defend the country should an enemy force ever land in it. We should, therefore, educate our boys in the business of defending the country that belongs to them, just as we educate them and fit them for other walks of life. We have learned by experience the value of this training. I know that 80 per cent, of those in my electorate who were trained in the use of the rifle volunteered for service during the war, and gave a very good account of themselves. It stands to reason that one man who thoroughly understands the use of the rifle is, in war time, as good as two inexperienced men. I observe that the efficiency grant of 5s. per man is now included in the total of £50,000. I hope this amount will insure adequate supplies of rifle club ammunition and for expenses. I do not know of any men who gave a better account of themselves during the war than the volunteers from the backblocks of Australia; men who were experienced in the use of the rifle and accustomed to hardships. - 1 do not agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) in his objection to continuing the training of our young Australians. I can see no hardship in requiring our young men to go into camp occasionally. When I was fourteen years of age I had to undergo a good rc;any privations in the western part of Queensland, and I am none the worse for it to-day. It is far better to accustom our lads to a little training of this nature, because it will tend to make them stronger and better fitted, if ever occasion requires, for the defence of this country. I trust that the Minister will explain in more detail than appears in the Estimates how the sum of £50,000 is to bc spent, because I am keenly interested m the question of adequate encouragement being .given to the rifle club movement. ‘ Our young men are imbued with the right spirit, and if ever they are called upon will prove thoroughly efficient in the defence of this country, of which they have reason to be proud.
.- At the outset, I should like to refer to an interjection. I made while the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) was speaking. He stated that he agreed with the defence policy of the Government in every respect, and I then hart the temerity to say that the policy i?f the Government was not the Labour policy, which is to amend the Defence Act so as to secure tho deletion of all sections relating to compulsory training and military service. That is not the policy of the Government. As one member who has signed the Labour platform I am standing by it to-day. I feel sure also that the time is not far distant when the majority of the people of Australia will be siding with the Labour party in their hostility to any form of compulsory military service.
A good deal has been said regarding expenditure and extravagance, and honorable members opposite have asked for specific cases. I have received a few letters from men employed in Victoria Barracks on this subject. One reads as follows: - .
A huge branch that has recently come into existence at Head-Quarters is the InspectorGeneral’s. . . . This wants carefully watching. Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Chauvel. K.C.M.G., CB., C.M.G., &c, &c, is at its head. This work was done before the war by one colonel, with a lieutenant and one clerk, and during the war by three warrant officers. Now we have a lieutenant-general on a huge salary, three lieutenant-colonels, three .majors, foul captains, with a staff of clerks in proportion - one of the clerks is a major.
– Is the honorable member referring to the InspectorGeneral’s Department? If so, I would, remind him that General Legge was the Inspector: General during the war.
– The Treasurer can correct the statement if it is wrong. The letter continues -
All branches at Head-Quarters have grown tremendously since the war. During the war most of the heads got away. They were somewhat alarmed on their return that there might not bo enough fat billets to go round. But with a soft Minister, the shortage of billets has been overcome, and. they are now all strutting around Head-Quarters living on the fat of ‘ the land and looking forward to the new Defence proposals to open up new avenues for generals, &e.
It is a notorious fact that they have all hung to their war rank, and have not dropped back like the warrant officers and other members of the Permanent Forces. If the warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, or private who obtained rank on service has to drop back to his pre-war rank, why in the name of all that is fair do not the officers do likewise?
I think that, if an inquiry is made, it will be found that the Military Head-Quarters
Staffs have been doubled, or trebled, since the war. When danger was over, positions were found for many. But the Government have not treated the unfortunate non-commissioned officers of the Instructional Staff in this manner. I have instances of men who at the outbreak of the war could not get permission to go abroad because they were required here for the training of officers; subsequently they got away. I know of one man who gained his commission in the Australian Imperial Force, was twice wounded in France, and, just before the armistice, was recommended for the rank of major. He did splendid work, but when he came back to Australia “he was immediately reverted to the rank of warrant officer, and was required to salute a Duntroon College cadet, who, in the new order of things, had become his superior officer. He was not permitted to wear the uniform of his rank, but by the grace of God and the authorities of the Department he was allowed to wear the two stars of an honorary lieutenant. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) knows, the sergeant-majors were the backbone of the British Army, and likewise, during the war, they were the backbone of the Australian Army; and it is disgraceful that those who were finally permitted to go to the Front, where they rendered a good account of themselves, should, upon their return, be reverted to the rank of warrant officers. I have the case of a captain in Ballarat. This man gained his commission in South Africa. When war broke out, he was retained in Australia to instruct officers, bin ultimately was .sent abroad, did splendid work, gained his captaincy in France, was wounded, and, before he had properly recovered, was in action again, and was wounded a second time. When he came back to Australia, he had. to revert to his former rank - that of sergeantmajor - and to salute a-lad who had been trained at Duntroon College and sent to Ballarat as an officer. I do not speak disparagingly of the trainee, because probably he was too young to go to the war; but it is a most insulting and degrading state of affairs that men who did good service abroad should be treated in this way. The trouble is that the Minister is controlled by a few officers at
Victoria Barracks; by men who have no sympathy with the non-commissioned officers, and who do not wish promotions to come from the ranks. I cannot understand how a Labour Government and a Labour party came to pass the Defence Act, under which the Duntroon College was established, because it has denied the ranker all opportunity of promotion. The sooner the Duntroon College is abolished, the better it will be for our defence system. The war proved conclusively that the men who enlisted, and who had never had any thought of war, were more capable than those who had been trained. Many of those who were most successful abroad had never been through Duntroon.
– Can the honorable member name one?
– Yes. Captain Jacka, the winner of the Victoria Cross and other highly-prized military distinctions, was never a Duntroon student* Can the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) name any one who went through Duntroon who has a record equal to that of Captain Jacka?
– I can.
– I do not think so. It has been proved time and again that those who performed the most meritorious feats had risen from the ranks. Great Britain, in all her great wars, has never been in a winning position until the conflict has progressed for some time. In every war in which she has engaged she has been in a losing position at the outset, largely because her military operations were directed by men belonging to an official military clique. As the conflict progressed, and the men who enlisted in the ranks became officers, her prospects improved, and her armies were ultimately victorious.
– Every man from Duntroon made good.
– Perhaps so, but it is absurd that those who attended the College should be made senior to many deserving men who did not.
– Captain ‘ Jacka was a brave man and did splendid work at the front, but he could not possibly be made. a staff officer if he had not been trained in instructing men.
– I do not agree with that. The instructors to-day are the sergeant-majors, upon whom the senior officers rely solely and wholly. The sergeantmajors are the backbone of the Army, and are largely responsible for its discipline. The sergeant-majors in the Australian Imperial Force could all be relied upon.
– I know that.
– The Government are treating these men who made a great sacrifice for their country in a shameful manner, and are not permitting them to wear the badges of their rank. Their stars have been stripped from them, and they are reduced to the rank of warrant officers.
– Could we possibly keep all these men in the Force with those ranks ? We have not billets for them.
– It is not altogether a question of pay, but the right to keep the honour which they won abroad. They are also asking that they should not be denied the opportunity ‘ of promotion. The Staff at Victoria Barracks will not permit the Instructional Staff to become officers, .as they are all being drawn from Duntroon.
– Surely that is not so.
– It is so. I will give the record of one man.
– Does the honorable member mean that no man is allowed to rise from the” ranks ?
– That is so. I shall quote the case of Warrant-Officer James Beattie, of Ballarat, one of the best soldiers who ever left the Commonwealth, and who served not only in the South African campaign, but in the recent war. This man, who has been reduced to the rank of warrant officer, states -
There is just another matter I would like to bring under your notice, and that is that members of the. Instructional Staff lose their identity in so far as rank gained on active service is concerned. In my case I was the senior captain in my brigade, and recommended for rank of major at the time of the Armistice^ and as arrangements were being made for all 1014 officers to return to Australia on six months’ leave, my prospects were exceptionally good, but with the inopportune signing of the Armistice all hope ‘of further promotion was gone. Now all permanent officers, Citizen Force officers, and Duntroon graduates, who were members of the Australian Imperial Force, wear their badges of rank gained in the field, and are noted as honorary rank, whereas I, with many others of the In1structional Staff, are not permitted to wear on our uniform the badges of rank gained in the field (captains’ stars) ; but as an act of grace we are permitted to wear the badges of a lieutenant, and are noted for rank as honorary lieutenants with the pay and status of a warrant officer. The question is: Why are vc not permitted to wear our badges of rank gained in the field, and, like all other members of tlie Australian Imperial Force, be noted for honorary rank?
Now all that was done for the Instructional Staff was to grant forty-two commissions as adjutants and quartermasters, namely, twentytwo permanent commissions and twenty temporary commissions, the latter to be dispensed with as graduates from Duntroon become available for absorption. I might state here that this is only a side issue, as the rate of pay is fixed at £300 per annum to a maximum of £400 per annum; therefore they are debarred from tlie privileges of taking rank and pay as permanent officers of tlie Defence Department. The selection was made from those who held most senior rank in the Australian Imperial Force. Colonels and majors in Australian Imperial Force were given rank as honorary majors. Captains appointed were given honorary rank as captains. All captains who did not come within the forty-two above mentioned were given what is called “ a grace ‘ of God commission,” i.e.. their substantive rank is warrant officer, but permitted to wear the badges of a lieutenant and to be known as honorary lieutenants in the Citizen Forces.
In my case, although I held a commission in two campaigns, I did not come within the forty-two most senior ranks of the Australian Imperial Force. Therefore I lose any chance of ever gaining a commission in the Permanent Forces of the Commonwealth.
That is the point I wish to make, and it will be seen that, quite apart from the right to retain their rank, they are denied promotion. They are an absolute fixture, and, in times of peace, they cannot receive any promotion whatever. I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) if that is a fair proposition, and whether it is a just way to encourage the Instructional Staff. I trust the Minister who represents the Department of Defence iri this Chamber will have a searching inquiry made to see if, in these two instances, something like justice cannot be done. I would also be glad if an investigation were made into the question of allowances. Under the present regulation, brigadiers-general have fixed their own travelling allowances at 20s. per day, although their salaries may be £1,000 or £1,500 per year; but a warrant officer, who is in receipt of a very low remuneration, receives only 10s. per day. It is time this class distinction was swept overboard.
– It is the same in every army.
– That is no reason why the practice should be followed in Australia, because warrant officers have to partake of three meals a day the same as brigadiers-general. If the Government wish to be fair in this matter, . it would be better to fix the rate at 15s. per day irrespective of rank.
I also wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the position of the boys at present imprisoned at Pentridge. I must say that I was surprised at the reply given by the Minister to a question I submitted “a few days ago. I took the opportunity of interviewing some of these lads, and I would like honorable members on both sides of the House to remember that the war is well behind us, and that we are approaching the festive season. I sincerely trust that, for once, we shall be able to sink our party feelings and endeavour to give these men a fair deal. I direct honorable members’ attention to the case of Henry Jones, of the 5th Battalion, who was thirty-nine years of age when he enlisted and who served for two years in Egypt and France. This unfortunate man was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. I was informed by an official at Pentridge that if Jones had been found guilty of a similar offence under our civil laws he would already have served a sufficient period of detention. I interviewed Jones, who seems to be a very decent fellow.
– How long has he served ?
– I do not know. He was found intoxicated in France 200 yards away from where a man was discovered shot. That was practically the only evidence that could be brought forward against him. The honorable member for Fawkner laughs.
– I am not laughing.
– The honorable member is amused because a man should be convicted on such evidence.
– That is so.
– Let me inform the “honorable member that he is not conversant with military law, and that in the Army it does not require much evidence on which to convict a man. It was proved that a number of other soldiers were shooting rabbits in the vicinity. The evidence disclosed that Jones was intoxicated and totally incapable of doing injury to any one. He was asleep when arrested, and he was court martialled, and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. Even if he was responsible for the deed, it was committed when he was intoxicated, and the AssistantMinister for Defence knows that France was not the most sober place during the war. Before I left Australia I .thought that I had seen a lot of whisky, but at the Front I saw it, not only in bottles, but in scores of cases. If Jones was responsible for the deed, he has already suffered a good deal. It is two years since the armistice was signed, and this man’s family is suffering to-day. He left Australia with the best of motives, and even if guilty, surely he has paid the penalty.
– What was his previous character ?
– I have not made inquiries, but I believe it was splendid.
There is also the case of a man named Moore, of the 5th Battalion, who enlisted at seventeen years of age. His mother is a widow, and he is one of a family of thirteen. Prior to the signing’ of the armistice, he had scarcely a black mark against him, but after that event he was found guilty of robbery in Belgium. When the cessation of hostilities was being celebrated, every one was excited and overjoyed, and I believe if every one had his dues there are others who should be imprisoned for the extraordinary and extravagant acts that were committed. The nerves of the men who had been in the fighting line were not in the best of condition, and whatever character this lad had at the signing of the armistice the horrors of war were responsible for it. The war is responsible for all the bad that may be in him. We consider ourselves Christians, and yet we allow to remain in prison a little lad, who, atseventeen years of age, when practically a baby, not knowing right from wrong, left this country to fight for it abroad. He did his duty nobly, but when the fighting was over, he committed «a crime, and now, two years after the fighting has ceased, he is still in Pentridge, and his old widowed mother is breaking her heart in consequence. Never mind what your military chiefs may say, let that lad out, so that he may rejoin his family before Christmas. Let him out immediately !
– It would break the. Assistant Minister’s heart to hear the poor mother as I have heard her. This is the last of eleven children.
-Another case is that of Alfred Lloyd, 1st Division Ammunition Column, who was seventeen years of age when he enlisted. He left on the first boat that went away. Before the Armistice he received two years for “A.W.L.” He was sent into the compound atRouen, and every Australian boy that went there was brutally treated by the British staff-sergeants. I have known boys to be kicked and beaten there, and on a cold winter day to have only a dirty sack for covering. I have known them to be wakened by having a bucket of water thrown over them. This lad escaped fromRouen, and was captured after the signing of the Armistice. He was charged with threatening, with intent to shoot, the military police that sought to arrest him. Members of this Committee who saw service know that the soldiers did not like the military police. There was no love lost between them. This lad, I am told, could easily have shot the military policeman.
– He was a dead shot.
– I understand so; yet he did not injure his arrester in any way. He is still in Pentridge. I do not know what is the term of his sentence.
– Ten years.
– Take another case - that of George McCulloch, who had three years’ service. He was charged with fighting another private on the way home in the boat, and received twelve months for it. His offence was committed after the war was over; and it must be remembered that itwas the fighting spirit that made the Australian Force such a potent factor in the war.
– What was done to the other man?
– I do not think he was to blame; this man was the aggressor. Another case is that of Hugh Smith, No. 1114. I did not know when I went to Pentridge that I would meet any one that I knew, but this boy came to me when I was at Havre. He had then done twelve months in the compound atRouen. He enlisted at the age of fifteen years, and his statement to me was that he was found drunk during a march.
I remember him telling me that at Havre. His statement the other day corresponds with that which I entered in my diary at the time. He said that, although he was drunk, he had marched 47 miles carrying a full pack, rifle, and 250 rounds of ammunition. He did his time inRouen, and then saw further service with the Australian Imperial Force. On returning to Australia he got into trouble on the boat, and received two years for assault. He is in Pentridge to-day. I trust that honorable members will unhesitatingly join with me in asking the Minister to release these boys without making further inquiries about them. Every one of them has done his bit. Every one of them has seen fighting, and has been in a “hop-over.” Most of them are now suffering for offences committed after the war ended, and three or four of them enlisted and left Australia between the ages of fifteen and seventeen years, a fact which should convince honorable members that they were good lads, and that if they, have deteriorated in character, that deterioration is due to the associations of camp life and militarism.
– How many officers have been gaoled?
– I am glad that the honorable member mentioned that. If an officer commits a crime, there is no gaol for him. He is not even degraded to the ranks, and his offence is not published broadcast, as have been the offences of these boys. Officers who did wrong were returned to Australia as first class passengers, and continued to wear their stars and their stripes on the boat. They came back under the best conditions, and were quietly and secretly dismissed from the Force. Contrast their treatment with that of the privates. Not one officer went to gaol, but thousands of our Australian boys were imprisoned.
– The honorable member’s time has expired, but under the standing order he may make a second speech.
– I shall avail myself of that right. Itrust that the Assistant Minister willgive sympathetic consideration to the position of these boys. I know how some of their families, and how the widowed mothers of some of them, are suffering. I ask him to visit them, and to study their faces. He will see that they are not criminals, but good Australians. If he will run out to Pentridge and have a talk with these boys, he will cast aside the recommendations of his officers, and say that the boys must have another chance in life, and must not be retained in Pentridge for another day.
I wish now to say a few words with regard to the proposals for the military training of our youths. I ask the Minister if the Government are going to put into force, without consulting Parliament, the proposal for seventy days’ training.
– No provision is made for that on these Estimates.
– Preparations arc being made for taking boys of eighteen years of age and putting them into camp for seventy days.
– Is it not understood that that will not be done until Parliament has approved of it?
– When a representative body of the Methodist Church passed a resolution condemning this proposal, the Minister for Defence (‘Senator Pearce) referred to the arguments advanced in support of that resolution as rubbish.
– He is not going -on with it this financial year.
– I will rest satisfied with that statement if I get the promise of the Minister at the table that no preparations will he made before next June for the carrying out of this scheme of training; that positions will not be found for officers whose duty it will be to make arrangements for putting the youths into camp. If we passed .these Estimates, there would be nothing to prevent the Department from marking preparations for doing what I object to.
– If the Minister at the table gives his word, that this will not be done, I back him against the Minister for Defence.
– I cannot do that; but I say that, “for this financial year, provision is made only for an eightday camp for the 1902 quota. The honorable member is now discussing a matter that is not affected by these Estimates.
– I think that the honorable gentleman could promise that nothing would be done until Parliament had discussed the scheme. Is it to be thought that Parliament will surrender its responsibilities to the Minister for Defence and the little clique at the Victoria Barracks? It is said that the Department is controlled by Tommy Trumble, Tommy Dodds, and Tommy Lawson; but I am not prepared to hand it over to these three Tommies, or to any one else. Major-General White was absent from Australia for such a long time that he does not know the feeling of Australians to-day. He is the originator of this training scheme, and is a good soldier, but has been out of Australia for nine years.
– He is an Australian.
– I do not deny that. My point is -that he has been away from Australia for nine years, and is out of touch with Australian opinion on- this subject.
– He has not been away for nine years. I consulted him in my office here on the day that war was declared.
– I can rely on the man who supplied me with this information. At all events, whether Major - General White has been away for nine years, or only nine days, I do not hesitate to say that the people of Australia are practically unanimous in their opposition to the creation of a military caste in this country. They are not going to allow boys of eighteen years of age to spend seventy days a year in a military camp. If those of our clergy who went to the war and saw the demoralizing effect of camp life on our boys, were to tell the people of what happened in the camps, I am satisfied that there would be no chance of any youth of eighteen being allowed by his parents to spend seventy days a year in a military camp here. Only to-night the Minister has had to send to Broadmeadows Camp officers to investigate charges of the most revolting and serious character, and as one who knows something of what occurred in military camps during the war, I tell the honorable gentleman that if I can prevent it he will never get a boy of eighteen in my constituency to go into a military camp for seventy days a year. There will be open revolt and mutiny before that is possible.
– There is no such proposal.
– Column after column has appeared in the newspapers with regard to such a scheme, and preparations have been made for it. The military authorities are constantly going about the country, and talking about the possibility of our having to defend ourselves before long, and telling the people that they ought to be ready and willing to agree that their boys shall go into camp every year for a period of seventy days, I am hostile to the proposal. What I have seen of military affairs is not very much; but I know that our boys did not have much military training before the’ war, and yet rendered magnificent service. Those who had had no military training whatever before the war were splendid soldiers within a month or two of their taking up military duties, and our men generally showed that they would compare favorably with the best fighting troops of the world. There is., however, at the Victoria Barracks, St. Kildaroad , a little clique who insist upon telling the people that it is necessary to have military camps at which boys may be drilled in military evolutions such as “ left wheel “ and “ right wheel,” “ right turn” and “left turn.” In modern warfare, however, that sort of thing does not count. When men are marching up the line, no one cares whether they are in step or out of step. They are either dodging shells or watching aeroplanes from which bombs are being thrown, and no one gives a thought to the question of whether or not they are marching in step. What they need to be taught is how to use a pick, so that they may dig themselves in. It is absurd that our boys, at the most critical period in their lives, should be asked to waste whole months every year in a military camp; and Senator Pearce, and the Government as a whole, should recognise that the people of Australia are absolutely against this proposal. They will not allow their boys to become professional soldiers.
I agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) that our principal need is to develop our submarine system and air services. We do not want any more vessels of the type of the Australia or the Sydney, nor do we require any standing army. We ought to specialize in submarines and aeroplanes, and see to it that we have heavy artillery for land defence purposes. Save in those directions, we require no defence expenditure; but Australia ought certainly to be able to manufacture everything that is required for her own defence. We do not want to be at the mercy of any country when war breaks out ; but I do not think that there is any fear of war for the next twenty years, so far as Australia is concerned.
– The war-mongers are already at work.
– They may be anxious to provoke a war, but they will not succeed. There is no power in Europe to-day that is anxious to provoke a war with the British Empire, nor do I think there is such a power in any other part of the world.
If we give the military authorities an opportunity to spend £1,000 they will spend £10,000. They have no responsibility in regard to the finding of the money, and they practise but little economy. I would be willing to vote to reduce the Defence Estimates by at least one-half. If we allowed the Defence authorities to carry on with one-half of the expenditure for which these Estimates provide we would do no injury to our defence system. The effect, on the contrary, would, I believe, be rather beneficial. I shall conclude with the hop-i that the members of our Instructional Staff, now that the Minister is seized with the facts as to their treatment, will get a fairer deal than they have hitherto received; that immediate attenion will be given to the case of the unfortunate soldiers now lying in Pentridge, and that there will be no attempt to force our own lads into military camps for a period of seventy days a year.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. McGrath), in referring to the proposed vote for the InspectorGeneral’s Department, said that there were three lieutenant-colonels - Lieutenant-Colonels Hurst, Somerville and Smith - working under the InspectorGeneral. In that, unintentionally, no doubt, he has made a mistake.
– I quoted the statement from a letter on the subject
– Quite so. It has already been mentioned that officers who gained rank in the field have been allowed to retain their honorary rank. I know Lieutenant-Colonel Somerville very well. He was in my brigade, but his permanent rank in the service here is only that of a captain, and he receives the pay of a captain. He is in the Inspector-General’s Department, and attends chiefly to matters relating to hospitals, and also to administrative details. Lieutenant-Colonel Hurst also has only the permanent rank and the pay of a captain. Although he is an honorary lieutenantcolonel he receives only the pay of a captain, and is looking after artillery matters. Smith, I think, is only a major. I am not quite sure on the point, but he is certainly not a lieutenantcolonel in the Australian Forces* He has an honorary rank.
– Did these men ever hold the rank of lieutenant-colonel ?
– Then why are they not allowed to retain their rank?
– They are, but we cannot employ them permanently as lieutenant-colonels, since there is no room for their employment in that capacity.
– If they all belonged to the Government House “push” room would be found for their employment as lieutenant-colonels.
– If the honorable member were CommanderinChief of the Australian Forces the position, of course, would be very different.
– If these men won, in the field, the rank of lieutenant-colonel why should they not be entitled to retain it?
– They dc retain it. The point is that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) referred to them as lieutenant-colonels in the Inspector-General’s Department, the suggestion being that they were receiving the pay of lieutenant-colonels, whereas they are employed as captains, and receive the salary of a captain and not that of lieutenant-colonel. It might as well be said that the Postmaster-General could se,e to the whole of the details of his Department without the aid of deputies, as that the Inspector-General could do without assistants. It is absolutely impossible for an InspectorGeneral to attend to all details in every
State; and the men set down as members of his staff are scattered all over Australia.
– How is it that the work was done with three warrant officers before the war?
– That was not so. Major-General Kirkpatrick was Inspector-General before the war, and he had a number of officers in his Department.
I now wish to say a word with regard to the boys, or men, who are in Pentridge gaol. I do not think there is any member of the House who has more sympathy with a bond fide case of a returned soldier than I have myself, but I deliberately say that some of those in gaol are really “ bad eggs.” I know what a bad man is. I do not speak as one ignorant of the subject. As a young man, when I was endeavouring to make myself proficient in the “noble art,” I had a number of very estimable friends in the boxing fraternity in Sydney. There was Jack Fuller, Gentleman George Dawson, Tut Ryan, Mick Dooley, Shadow Maher, Chiddy Ryan, and a number of others.
– Chiddy Ryan was not a bad character.
– I do not . say he was; I am merely pointing out that these were “ gents “ who followed the “profession”; and although estimable men themselves, knew all about the bad talent, and “put me wise’’ to them. As a matter of fact, Chiddy Ryan’s 3on passed through Duntroon College, and now has a commission in England - more power to him!1 My acquaintance with the sporting fraternity gave me an insight into certain phases of human nature, and I know when a man is ‘ ‘ crook ‘ ‘ and when he is not ; I know when a man deserves punishment and when he does not. I have knocked about the Golden Gate, and other resorts of the real “ push ‘’ and real “ talent,” and I know when a man ought to be in gaol a.nd when he ought not.
– Have you seen the men to whom I refer?
– I have not.
– Then how can you judge?
– I know the sort of tale a man can tell.
– But you have not seen them.
– I can speak for one man who was in my own brigade, and I know every circumstance of his case. I shall not mention his name, but, inmy opinion, he ought to have been either shot or hanged. What he did occurred in Palestine, Where we were camped. He went out to graze his horse.
– I did not mention those cases; mine are all infantry cases.
– This man deliberately shot a native. While he was grazing his horse he interfered with native women. A native came up in order to prevent him, and seized his disc with a view to identification. This soldier rode back to camp, got his rifle and cartridges, returned to the grazing ground, found the native, and shot him. These are absolute facts.
– I believe that that man has been released, while these other unfortunates are detained.
– I do not know that. Then there is an infantry man in Pentridge, who, when in France, went to a little coffee stall, bashed into insensibility the old woman who kept it, and who was alone, and took what was in the till. That man surely does not deserve any sympathy.
– He is only seventeen years of age - only a “ kid!”
– He is a pretty bad “ kid “ who would bash an old woman like that, and take the contents of her till. He ought to have been dealt with very drastically.
– He got seven years.
– He has now only about twelve months to serve.
– Do you know that that boy had only twenty-four hours’ leave from the day he left Australia?
– All the cases in Pentridge to-day have received consideration and reconsideration. Every case has been before Sir Robert Garran and the Minister, and there have been reductions of sentences for Armistice Day, along with other deductions granted by the Governor-General. I do not think the sentences that these men are called upon to serve are too heavy for the crimes committed. In fairness to the men who “ played the game,” and committed no crime, these guilty men ought to be punished. If those guilty of crime are to go unpunished, what incentive will there be for any man to go straight all the time? I have for a long time intended to visit Pentridge, and I shall go there at the first chance that offers. I shall have a look at these men, inquire into each of the cases, and see if anything possibly can be done for them. If I think there is a case deserving of any. further consideration. I shall be only too pleased to have the matter thoroughly investigated.
– When the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) visits Pentridge, I hope he will inquire into what I believe to be one of the most infamous cases of ill-treatment that has ever come under my notice. The honorable gentleman may recall that some inmates there were doing a “hunger strike,” and, while I do not approve of that sort of thing, I wish he would inquire into an allegation that the medical man stopped the prisoner’s supply of water. It is well known that if a person be deprived of food and water he cannot live longer than seven or eight days. Of course, if the medical man took that step under orders he is innocent, but I wish to know who gave the orders. The Assistant Minister for Defence, in his first speech as Minister, was man enough to say that he would teach a lesson to any one who “ sold him a pup “ in his Department; . and, therefore, I ask him with confidence to look into this case. In the Home Land the authorities allow any one to starve who is foolish enough to do so, but they never stop the supply of the life-giving fluid, water. Personally, I cannot believe that any medical man would give such an order without authority, and the case certainly requires thorough investigation.
I approve of every word the Assistant Minister has said in reference to. the man who deliberately shot an unfortunate native in Palestine.
I wish to inform the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) that if something is not done with regard to a certain case about which he has some knowledge, but which I cannot discuss in detail since the matter is sub judice, I shall be compelled to take drastic action. As earnest as I was in my duties upon the Enlistment Committee - and I may say that I was the only member who remained actively upon that committee right through - I will as earnestly go upon the platform everywhere and appeal to every mother of every son not to let her boy go into the Navy. If something is not done to a man who has been guilty of an infamous act, I will try to prevent every Australian brother of mine from entering the Navy.
. - I desire to say a few words regarding the military prisoners in Darlinghurst Gaol. They are not very desperate characters. There is only one man among the handful who has anything like a list of previous convictions. His trouble was that he was left an orphan, and, owing to the company he kept, he got into trouble subsequently as a soldier. The men in Darlinghurst, if they had been convicted under the civil law, would have been free long before now because of their good conduct. I want these men to be released from the stigma of being detained in a military prison. Theacts which placed them there were ill-advised and deserving of some punishment; but in New South Wales to-day crime is being very largely wiped out. We can afford to do without some of our gaols. One prison has already been turned into an agricultural college, and I want to see Darlinghurst Gaol made over into a technical college. We cannot advertise Australia better than to tell the world that our people are so law-abiding that we are turning our prisons into colleges. There is another reason why some people want Darlinghurst to be changed from a gaol to a college, and the old marks of its history as a prison removed. At Darlinghurst there is a wall which is about 30 feet high. The convicts who. built it used to mark their initials upon the wall and place the broad arrow beside them. At Darlinghurst today there are seventeen officers looking after eight military prisoners and some stores. Those officers do not want to remain on that job ; they would prefer to be placed in some more pleasant occupation. I do not wish to be always catechising the Government, but I want them to perform some good act. I make this appeal because I think that the Assistant Minister is rather favorable to it. I hope that he will take no notice of those persons who wish to “ sell him a pup.” I feel sure that if he complies with my request his action will bear good fruit.
.- I have no desire to repeat the arguments which have been so well put by honorable members, that the Defence Estimates have not been reduced to the extent that they should have been - in other words, to something approaching our pre-war expenditure. But there is one matter to which I wish to direct special attention, namely, the advisableness of permitting our soldiers to cash their war gratuity bonds. It cannot be said that this question has no reference to defence, because our soldiers who went to the Front rendered service to this country, to the British Empire, and to civilization generally under our Defence Department, and the war gratuity was given to them in recognition of that service. May I look for the aid of the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) in urging upon the Government the desirableness of permitting these war gratuity bonds to be cashed - at all events in oases in which their holders find persons who are willing to give them the face value for their bonds ? I do not ask the Government to cash the bonds. My purpose is rather to urge that the holders of the bonds shall be able to negotiate them with persons who are willing to pay their face value in cash.
– I do not know of anybody who has been prosecuted for doing that, and thousands of bonds have been negotiated.
– Without permission ?
– I understand so.
– If the Assistant Minister suggests that they may be cashed under the lap, and that those who purchase them will not be prosecuted, it would be much better for the Government to announce the fact openly, because the idea that persons may be prosecuted for cashing the bonds leads to the holders of them being taken down , to some extent. The Government policy in connexion with this matter should be made known.
– Our policy is known. What is the trouble about it?
– What is the Government policy?
– Our policy is that a man may cash his bond if the purchaser chooses to give him cash for it. A purchaser may do that up to the number of ten bonds.
– That is strange, because when the War Gratuity Bill was under consideration in this Chamber I moved the insertion of the following proviso : -
Provided that nothing contained herein shall prevent the holder of any bond from selling such bond at its face value. and that amendment was defeated. Now I understand that there are holders of gratuity bonds who are prevented from negotiating them even though there are persons who are willing to pay the full face value for them. Is that statement right or wrong ?
– It is right and wrong. The honorable member states two things.
– I stated that as far as I can gather–
– The honorable member says in one breath that a bondholder cannot go into the market with his bond. Of course he cannot “ higgle “ the market with it.
– I did not say “ higgle “ the market. I said that if a soldier went into the market with his bond, he should be able to go into it as an ordinary seller.
– That is precisely the same thing.
– I made no reference to “higgling “ the market.
– I take it that the soldier would go upon the market in order to get what he could for his bond. That is “ higgling “ the market.
– If he can get a person who is willing to give him the face value of his bond he ought to be allowed to negotiate it.
– So he can. All we wish to insure is that he gets the par value of the bond.
– That fact is not known to the public.
Mr.Corser. - Oh, yes !
– If that be so, it is strange that, when a motion was moved to make the war gratuity bonds negotiable, the Government opposed it.
– The honorable member wants our soldiers to have carte blanche to do what they please with their bonds. To put it quite plainly, he wants them to be taken down, and we will not allow that.
– I am not going to permit the Treasurer to use that sort of language to me. He must not put words into my mouth. He may think that he can bluff me, but he cannot. I do not wish the soldier to be “ taken down,” but I want him to be treated in exactly the same way as are the rich holders of war bonds. Why should not the soldier who fought for his country be placed in the same position as they occupy?
– Does the honorable member suggest that there is a distinction made?
– Of course there is.
– I say that that statement is wrong.
– And I say that it is right.
– The honorable member is saying what is not correct.
– One man can negotiate his bond, but the other cannot.
– That is not true.
– The right honorable gentleman may be able to sit in his easy chair in the Treasury without hearing these complaints. But soldiers come along to me and complain that, though they desire to negotiate their bonds, and though there are persons who are willing to pay them the face value for the bonds, they are prevented from doing so. But the rich holder of war bonds is able to negotiate them.
– Not at par.
– Why cannot the soldier negotiate his gratuity bond ? The Treasurer suggests that these men cannot look after themselves - men who went from this country to fight for it. Are they not possessed of ordinary intelligence? Cannot they look after themselves? Is that the sort of piffle which we are to accept in this chamber”? It will not go down with me, and it will not go down with the large body of soldiers in this country.
– The honorable member’s piffle will not go down either.
– I intend to move a reduction of the vote by £1.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is making statements which reflect upon the administration of our war gratuity bonds - statements for which there is no justification - and when he is corrected he refuses to accept the. correction, lt is a well-known rule in this chamber that, when a statement is made by one honorable member, it must be accepted by another. The honorable member is violating that elementary rule of ‘gentlemanly conduct by refusing to accept the statement which I made.
– It is an accepted rule of the House that, when an honorable member makes a statement referring to another honorable member or a Minister, and the member or Minister referred to says it is not correct, the assurance is accepted, but there is no standing order under which I feel called upon to rule the honorable member out of order.
– I have nothing whatever to correct in what I have said, and I cannot understand the Treasurer raising that objection under the guise of a point of order. I am stating what everybody knows - that the soldier holder of a war gratuity bond is in a different position from the civilian holder of an ordinary war bond. If I judge public opinion correctly, the public desire that those soldiers who wish to negotiate their bonds at the market rate should be given an opportunity of doing so.
– That is entirely different from what you said before.
– If the Treasurer wants me to repeat all I said before, I shall do so, if the Chairman will allow me; but I think I have made my point sufficiently clear, at all events, to the majority of the members of -the Committee and to the vast majority of the holders of these bonds in Australia, and of the general Australian public. When I do that, I do not trouble much about any view that the Treasurer may hold. In order that this and other matters may be fully discussed, I move -
That the vote be reduced by £1.
– I rise to deny absolutely the statement which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has just made, and repeated, that a distinction is made between the ordinary soldier and the rich soldier in connexion with the cashing of his bond.
– I never spoke about the rich soldier.
– Then what did the honorable member say?
– I said the rich holders of ordinary bonds.
– The honorable member said distinctly that a distinction was. made between the man who was not rich and the man who was.
– I said distinctly between the rich holder of an ordinary war bond and the soldier holding a war gratuity bond.
– The honorable member did not say anything of the kind. The conditions are quite plain for anybody to understand, but the trouble with the honorable member is that, when he is given a statement, he will not take it. He keeps on with his own assertion. Here he is again wanting to make another trouble about the cashing of war gratuity bonds. He is all the while exploiting the soldier for political ends. He does it every day of the week, every time he is here, on every occasion that he rises to his feet. He has done it already to-day, and is doing it again now. His troubles about the soldier and his bond; his troubles about anything but getting over here; and he is further off it than ever. That is his only trouble. He cares as much about the soldier as he does about anything else. His one aim is to make political capital out of him, and it is just as well that the soldier should know what a great champion he has in the honorable member.
– Get down to the question.
– The question is that the honorable member cannot humbug the soldier outside as he thinks he can. The soldiers are as intelligent as he is.
– Pure bluff!’ Wind, endless wind.
– I might as well retort that the honorable member is endless fat.
– It is hardly a mutual admiration society, is it?
– Perhaps not; but the honorable member has become very abusive lately. I do not mind his abuse. He can always get what he gives, if that is what he is out for; but I shall not permit him to make the absolutely incorrect statements about the soldier and his bond that he is continually repeating in this chamber. I tell the honorable member once again that we will not agree to make these bonds such that they may be manipulated by designing persons to the detriment of the soldier.
– They are being manipulated now, and the Treasurer knows it.
– If the honorable member knows they are being manipulated, he should expose the manipulation, and not attempt to legalize it.
– Those honorable members on the other side who are saying “Hear, hear.” to the Treasurer, know that the bonds are being manipulated. What is the use of humbugging about it?
– I get plenty . of cases all’ the while. There are men to-day trying to take the soldier down. We are trying to protect him from! that kind of thing. It seems to me that what the honorable member for West Sydney wants to do is to let these men loose on the soldiers to work their own sweet will.
– What is the use of talking nonsense like that?
– It is not nonsense; it is hard, tragic fact, of which we have had hundreds of examples since the bonds were issued. If the honorable member insists upon moving motions which mean, in effect, that Parliament should permit the soldiers to be taken down by those men who are ready to take him down at every possible opportunity, well, he must come and do that kind of thing himself, for we will not.
– It is easily seen that we should have adjourned at the usual time of the Tuesday night’s sitting. We are dealing with the biggest spending Department of the Commonwealth. We have been discussing these Estimates for two and threequarter hours. The Government promised a full discussion on financial issues, and, apparently, they think that two and three-quarter hours is quite sufficient to devote to the most spendthrift Department that we have. If they are of that opinion, I am not. I have quite a number of items to discuss ; but I wish to discuss them within reasonable hours. It is only fair to ask that we should be allowed to deal with these Estimates at a time when we can do so most intelligently. Quite a number of honorable members on this side, and, according to their professions, quite a number on the other side, were going to pounce upon the Defence Estimates whenever they saw the light, and attack them tooth and claw. I notice a number of headings in the introduction to the Defence Estimates. They deal with the year 1920-21, and the figures for 1919-20 are also given. There are two other columns, one showing increases and the other decreases of expenditure, as compared with 1919-20. One heading is, “ Aviation Instructional Staff.”
– The matter of aviation is dealt with later.
– It appears under, the heading of “Defence.” It, therefore, should be competent for an honorable member to refer to it for the purpose of making some comparison of defence expenditure. In connexion with this vote for the Aviation Instructional Staff it would appear that this year there will be a saving of £26,813, though honorable members have indicated clearly that development in connexion with aviation and submarine defence should be upon more vigorous lines than, perhaps, in any other branch of the Defence Department.
– You will find the items in the Air Defence Estimates.
– I find also that in connexion with Central Administration, whatever that may mean, there is an apparent increase of £33,505. Salaries and all other expenditure in connexion with Central Administration appear to be going up, while in connexion with other and more essential matters, expenditure appears to be going down. The Royal Military College shows an increase, a3 compared with the previous year, nf £4,348, and the Cordite Factory a decrease of £7,067. If the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) were here he would no doubt have something to say in connexion with the latter factory. My complaint is that if the military officials require anything, they can obtain it; but if money is needed for the development of Government enterprises on the civil side it is not available. The honorable member for Hunter made a very valuable suggestion in connexion with our Cordite Factory. It is well known that a number of chemists employed there are doing valuable work in the preparation and testing of munitions for defence purposes. I believe that with a very small additional expenditure their services could be utilized with advantage in the testing of locallymanufactured explosives for use in mines and other occupations. This is a work which the Government might very well take in hand. Of course, the Government might ask why they should undertake this work. I am satisfied that, if a fee were charged, it would be willingly paid. At present we have no testing station for locallymanufactured explosives, and as State legislation prohibits the use of any explosives that have not been tested in some recognised testing station, all explosives at present used in our mines and other occupations are imported, because they bear the hall-mark of some British testing station.
The activities of the Harness and Saddlery Factory, established primarily for the supply of equipment to our troops, might also be extended for the benefit of the general public. It was my pleasure during the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show in Melbourne a month or two ago, to visit the shop erected by the management of the Commonwealth Harness Factory. There was a magnificent display of harness, leggings, boots, &c, and the officials in charge were doing a roaring trade. I could not help thinking that, after all, the Government were making good use of the factory by supplying these articles to the returned soldier f armers, who were getting them at a price lower than that at which they could have been obtained elsewhere. I was glad to know that the Government were doing this, but I could not help thinking that they might well go further, and from this well-equipped factory supply articles to the general public. It would pay the Government to develop the Harness Factory along these lines.
– The other day a deputation of saddlers and harnessmakers waited upon me to protest against the general public being supplied with articles from our factory. They said that we were interfering with their legi timate trade, and it is a question whether we believe in State enterprise doing that.
– That is the old cry, but the Minister knows that many other countries are undertaking services which in days gone by were supposed to belong peculiarly to private individuals.
– Some are regretting the encroachments made in the industrial sphere.
– Who is regretting them ?
– Some countries are getting rid of them.
– I donot think so. At one time there were a number of people in this country who thought that we should not have State-owned railways. Is any member of this House prepared to hand over the railways owned by the Commonwealth Government to private individuals ?
– I think we would be better off if we had privately-owned railways.
-Would the honorable member be prepared to express that opinion on any public platform, or move a motion to that effect in this House?
– I would.
– Then let the honorable member do it, and he will find that he will obtain very meagre support.
– Order! This discussion is out of order.
– I am merely drawing attention to the necessity for increasing the activities of certain Government undertakings. I have already enumerated several instances, and the books of the factory will prove that what I have said is correct. The Commonwealth Saddlery and Harness Factory is supplying exsoldier farmers with harness and other materials of as good a quality as can be obtained elsewhere at a very reasonable rate, and cheaper than it is being supplied by other manufacturers.
– They may be selling at a loss.
– They are not, and the Assistant Minister for Defence would not tolerate anything of the kind.
– They are doing good work; but it is a question of whether the Government believe in conducting enterprises of that character.
– The Government have been doing it for a certain section of the population - deservedly so - and if they can supply returned soldiers surely there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent you from supplying others. A farmer named Jones may have been over age, and not able to go to the war, but he should be supplied with saddlery and leather goods from the Commonwealth Factory just the same as Robinson,, who was a younger man, and who served his country at the war. Surely there is no reason why these governmental activities should not be increased. I would rather see money spent in extending these factories to benefit the civil as well as the ex-soldier population than on items which I think mean merely catering for the whims of the war maniacs and panicky people we have in our community.
– Were’ not honorable members opposite opposed to the extension of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong?
– Certainly not; but we were anxious that similar factories should be established on the Parramatta and elsewhere. The mill at Geelong performed splendid work during the war period, and has been doing so ever since. I know that many returned soldiers have received cloth from that factory at a rate and of a quality that will compare more than favorably with anything obtained elsewhere. I trust that the extension of the Geelong Woollen Mills is an indication that the Government are prepared not only to supply soldiers with material, but every one else who desires it.
– - Are there not some factories in Maribyrnong that could be dispensed with?
– If the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) had been in the chamber a few moments earlier, he would have heard my references to the Cordite Factory, and my suggestion that a valuable service would be rendered to the community if a little additional money were expended in the erection of a testing station where Australianmade explosives could be tested. I understand that, according to a New South Wales Statute, only tested explosives can be used in the mines ; and as we have no such station in Australia, we are preventing a number of our own people being employed on this work.
On perusing the Estimates, I find that on many items where expenditure could be judiciously increased, a saving is being effected, and that where a reduction could reasonably be made, increases are shown. Here is one item that may seem a very small matter. There is an item on the Estimates to cover the expense of providing certain uniforms to members of the Railway War Council, who comprise the different Railways Commissioners, and perhaps some of the engineers engaged on railway work. Is this country going to expend a sum of money in supplying these officers with military uniform? simply because they happen to be advisers to our military authorities? These men might well go without uniforms, and the money be ex- .pended in some useful direction.
There is a number of items’ that one might discuss in connexion with these Estimates, and I fully expected that we would have had a full-dress debate on our war expenditure. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) that Australia is not likely to be at war for another thirty years. I trust it will be longer. It is time we gave close attention to our military expenditure. We know that the Minister in charge of these Estimates has a military title, and deservedly so; but I repeat what I said some time ago : that I believe Australia, by. the steps she is taking, and led by her Government, is becoming as great a military nation as any other country. We are indulging in huge military expenditure, and allowing ourselves to be controlled by a military caste. Every one knows the position in which the junker class placed Germany, and which ultimately led to her ruin. Any country controlled by a military caste needs careful watching, particularly in regard to the expenditure of money. Nations that begin speaking of war are more likely to become embroiled than those who remain silent. We have only to look at the smaller countries to realize that those which do the least to protect themselves are the safest. Consider the small countries in Europe, and the immunity they have enjoyed when war has been raging all around them.
– The honorable member is not referring to Belgium.
– No; Switzerland, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark.
– There is compulsory training in Switzerland.
– There are other small countries. If Switzerland had been a war-like nation, Germany would have invaded her territory as she did that of Belgium ; but suppose I give you Switzerland: what about Denmark? She got back two of her Provinces.
– As the result of this war.
– The countries of Europe with small and unwar-like populations did not suffer in the war; it was the other countries, which, as generally happens with those who are always looking for fight, got more than they wanted. An attempt is being made to rush through the Defence Estimates by manufacturing scares about the evil intentions of this country and that. Such attempts have been practised by the military caste in all countries from time immemorial. A Parliament such as this, however, is not so faint-hearted as to be frightened into approval of expenditure by such threats. We are supposed to have just finished the war that was undertaken to end war. Australia is far removed from the war -like countries of the world, though, I admit, not far from the coloured races; yet we are spending money on war-like preparations which would be better spent on the development of our resources. Probably the bulk of out returned fighting men would say that it is time that something was done for Australia on real developmental lines. T shall vote for the amendment, not only as a protest against the non-negotiability of the war gratuity bonds’, but also as a protest against this defence expenditure.
I was glad that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) got a statement from the Assistant Minister about the compulsory military training proposals. He was told that no steps would be taken this year to enforce the seventy days’ training scheme, about which so much has been said and written. I. tell the Government that they -are in for the most troublesome time they have ever had if, next financial year,. they insist on giving our youths seventy days of continual training. It has been the boast of Australia that our soldiers, like our workmen, are as adaptable as any men on the face of the earth. Experts have testified that with very little training the Australian soldier could do as well as, and in many cases better than, any other soldier taking part in the war. All that the proposed scheme of training would do would be to provide fat billets for officers who are well looked after, while the rank and file are allowed to scratch for a crust. Although I do not detract from what individual officers did at the Front, I say that they were well paid for it, and are being provided for now that they are back. I ask, however, whether honorable members ‘think that the next war will be like the last one. It will not be like it. We had to scrap our old methods, and to adopt the new methods of the enemy, before we could make any headway, and it will be the same in the next war, if there is to be one ; though God grant that it may not come for many years, if it comes at all. Although the last war was to be the last of all wars, Australia, in proportion to population, is making more extensive military preparations than any other country ; and we do wrong in building up a strong military caste here and allowing it to rule the roost.
– What would you do? Have you a programme to put before the country?
– I have been elected on a programme which a certain number of constituencies have indorsed. The Labour party is against compulsory training.
– That is a change. You brought in compulsion.
– Suppose that to be true, and suppose that ten years ago, or two years ago, or only six months ago, I believed in compulsory training, is that a reason why I should believe in it now? It was published broadcast to the world that the last war was to end wars. The Treasurer gasconaded about the country, asking men to go to the war because it would be the last; but do these Estimates evidence any belief in that statement? No. On the contrary, Australia is showing a more military spirit than any other country of her population. We have our military junkers, and a disaster like that which overwhelmed Germany will befall us if, like Germany, we pay heed to our junkers.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– A few weeks ago I supported a motion moved by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) which had for its object the making of the war gratuity bonds negotiable. I still think that those bonds should be negotiable, but I do not see how the reduction of the Defence Estimates by fi can bring that about. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has said that he supported the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for West Sydney as a protest against the nonnegotiability of the war gratuity bonds, and also as a protest against the whole of our Defence expenditure.
– Partly; and also because I think the war gratuity bonds should be negotiable.
– I am not going to be led into that position. Although I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney in regard to the bonds being made negotiable, I have no intention of supporting a proposal to reduce the present Defence Estimates. There are two, and, perhaps, they are the best, arguments against spending money on defence in Australia. The first is furnished by the League of Nations - though, frankly, I do not myself believe in the League. The only league I believe in consists of Great Britain herself, the Dominions, and, above all, the British Navy. To any one, however, who does believe in the League of Nations it affords, perhaps, the best argument.
– Then why waste money sending a representative to Geneva ?
– Quite so.; and I think I would be prepared to vote against money being spent on our representation at Geneva or anywhere else. However, the second argument which might be advanced against spending money on defence in Australia - and this, perhaps, is the best of all - is that this country is particularly well situated, in that she, has now, and will have for the next twenty years, a large number of veteran soldiers. That, in itself, is a great safeguard, but, of course, it will eventually die away. I wish we were able to reduce the Defence Estimates, but in the present position of the world I am not willing to take the responsibility of voting for a reduction. I have spent a good many of my years as a soldier, and I can assure the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that the more I see of soldiering the less I like it - that the more I see of military life the less it appeals to me. I can also assure the honorable member that there is no danger of the bulk of our soldiers ever becoming “junkers.” I am a great believer in the citizen soldier, and the more we study military history the more we realize how extraordinarily well he acquits himself in warfare. I think one can say without egotism that this remark is particularly applicable to the Australian, who, and especially the bushman, is naturally a good fighting man. I have great faith in the citizen soldiers of Australia, and for that reason I was pleased to hear the few words from the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) on behalf of the rifle clubs. I know that the rifle clubs have a good friend in the honorable member, and I am pleased to know that the Government are able to be a little more generous towards them. I should like to suggest to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) that the scope of the clubs might be a little enlarged. To my mind, if Australia ever has to fight a defensive warfare, the machine gun will prove to be the very queen of weapons. I am convinced there is no weapon so suitable, especially for defence purposes, in Australia; and I have often wondered, since returning to Australia from the war, whether it would not be possible for the Government to spread a knowledge of its construction and use amongst the members of rifle clubs. I fancy the study would be readily taken up by the riflemen, and there is no doubt that this would form a wise and effective addition to our defences.
.- May I suggest that the Minister might, at this hour, report progress ?
– We must have the Defence Estimates through.
– Much has been said regarding the Labour party’s attitude towards compulsory training. With very rare exceptions, the whole of the Labour pa(rty, both parliamentary re- preservatives and rank and file outside, have been in the past whole-heartedly in favour of a Citizen Force, and the compulsory training of our youth. But, like quite a number of people in the community, the Labour party has been compelled, by evidence, to alter their views, opinions, and policy on the question of compulsory training. It is only about two years ago that, in our conference, I personally advocated as strongly as possible the compulsory training of our youth; but I am of a totally different opinion to-day. I believe, in the first place, that such training is not necessary, and, in the second place, I am not prepared to perpetuate the evil of the military system and militarist class in Australia. Quite a number of honorable members on the Government benches have also changed. There is, for instance, the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who has altered his opinion with reference to the Australian Navy. He has, in fact, turned a complete somersault. Then, there are many other of the Government supporters who have completely changed their political views, policies, and programme; they have not only changed in regard to a section pf their views; they have cast the whole down and grabbed up another set. When people talk reproachfully about the Labour party having changed their minds, they should at least consider whether they also have not changed. After all, it is only fools and dead men who do not change their minds.
I am sorry, indeed, that the Minister in charge (Sir Granville Ryrie) has not given a definite pronouncement with regard to very disquieting rumours about compulsory training.
– That has nothing to do with these Estimates.
– It has very much to do with «the Estimates, and, moreover, there are amounts provided for the training of our youth. There is a rumour, supported by responsible officials, that long periods of training are to take place, and if that be so, the Committee should be given definite information on the subject. Not only will the Labour party very strongly oppose long periods of training-
– Until June no long period of training will occur.
– Are we to take it, then, that,, after June, there will be long periods of training ? I am certain that the indignation, not only of the Labour party, but of those interested in farming and pastoral pursuits, and also in the commercial business of the country, will be so great that the Government will be compelled to drop the proposal. In the farming and pastoral industries, there are periods when the young men therein employed would find it impossible to give the time required for training, and the same remark applies to business interests in the city. Australia cannot afford these long periods of compulsory training, and I hope that the Government will not persist m their idea.
I should now like to say a word in reference to gratuity bonds. Some few months ago I received certain letters, and I made certain representations to the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook). I also asked the right honorable gentleman questions iu the House with regard to the cashing of the bonds. I asked whether it was a fact that financiers - the Jews of the country - were making unduly high profits out of the unfortunate plight of some of our returned soldiers. The Treasurer stated that if I had any specific case to give he would have it investigated. On the face of it, that was a proper attitude; but the information which I have already given in this House, and which I now repeat, is that insurance companies, land-dealers, and unscrupulous furniture-dealers are taking advantage of the returned soldier. Many of these furniture-dealers have not a stick of furniture, not even a shop, but, in their dealings with the bonds, they are selling £20 worth of furniture for £60. Insurance companies are charging three years’ premium.
– Men who do that ought to be imprisoned.
– Of course they ought.
– Give the Treasurer the names of persons who are doing these things.
– I venture to say that the honorable member has had cases brought “under his notice.
– If I had such cases, I should give the names to the authorities.
– Here is a case to go on with. This is from a particular friend of mine -
I want to cash a bond for £102. The Jews a3k £50 to do it. The insurance companies ask £20 to do it.
The name is Syd. Hull, and the address is 138 Botany-road, Alexandra, New South Wales. There is an anonymous letter here, but Parliament should take no notice of anonymous letters.
– They should be burnt.
– They should be, promptly. I have been told of an insurance firm, doing business at 31 Queenstreet, Melbourne, which had five or six agents out. These parties were not paid any salary by the companies; they got sufficient from the soldiers to make handsome wages for themselves. They took the “ Diggers “ to the insurance people, and - apparently with the consent of this Government - the company was allowed to demand three years’ premiums from the soldiers. Why should a soldier who has a £100 bond be compelled to pay three years’ premiums in advance. Do the Government stand for that? It is, apparently, part of the policy of the Government. Why should there be discrimination between citizens and returned soldiers ? Had the Government accepted, the advice given them by this party, such things would not have occurred. I realize, of course, that, no matter what the Government had done, there would have been wholesale robbery of the soldiers; but while furniture dealers are allowed to sell furniture at twice its value, and while insurance companies are free to demand three years.’ premiums and to hand out only a certain proportion of cash to soldier clients, the Government are doing nothing to stop this robbery. Journeying from Sydney recently, there was a real estate agent who told me he had seen what was going on in the land business. He stated that land was being sold to returned men at about four times its value. So rotten was the whole situation that he was coming over to Melbourne to find out what was actually the position. That man refused to have anything to do with cashing soldiers’ bonds; the business was so “smellful.” If honorable members can find out these things, so can the Government.
– Has the honorable member personally investigated a single case?
– I have given the case of Syd. Hull. I accept his word.
– That is not a personal investigation. The honorable member has not investigated a single instance.
– It is impossible for me to do so. I am asked, “ Have you. investigated this and that?” Do the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and others, who doubt that this robbery is going on, deny what I have said of the insurance companies ? If they accept my word, or are aware of the facts from other sources, do they consider that the soldiers are being given a fair deal ? The sooner the Government appoint a Commission of inquiry to go into the whole matter of cashing gratuity bonds the better for our soldiers and the country. A soldier who is hard up gets into the hands of the Jews. He does not say anything about it, although he has to pay through the nose, just as any one else must do who goes to the Jews. The soldiers are being robbed right and left every day; and, if the Government will not appoint a Commission, or Select Committee, to probe the many charges which are being made, it will be all the worse for those of our returned men who are still seeking cash for their bonds.
.- I was hopeful that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) would have consented to report progress. Surely a question concerning returned soldiers and their gratuity bonds is worthy of consideration at some other hour than this.
– -There is no question that has been more discussed.
– Upon the last occasion that the matter was debated, the Treasurer cut the discussion short by application of the closure.
– Is it fair to raise this question here ? The Defence Department is not concerned with it.
– I propose to give the Treasurer a case which will serve to illustrate the difficulties that are encountered by returned soldiers who desire to cash their bonds. To-morrow he will find in his Department a letter which I have forwarded to it from a returned soldier at Brunswick, who bitterly complains of certain land which he was induced to purchase by a land agent in Melbourne.
– I rise to a point of order.
– When information is being given the Treasurer immediately rises to a point of order. It is pretty hot.
– This question of gratuity bonds is entirely within ‘the administration of the Treasury Department, and not within that of the Defence Department. I submit that the honorable member is not in order in debating it upon the Defence Estimates.
– The Gratuity Board is under the control of the Minister for Defence. That Board, which decides whether cash may be paid for these bonds, is not under the control of the Treasurer. It site at the Victoria Barracks, where it has its office.
– I say that it is under the Treasury.
– The Victoria Barracks are under the control of the Minister tor Defence, and the officers who deal with this question are all officers of the Defence Department.
– They have nothing to do with the Defence Department.
– The question is so intimately connected with that of Defence that I cannot see my way to rule the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) out of order.
– When I was interrupted by the Treasurer I was remarking that I had forwarded to his Department a letter from a returned soldier in Brunswick
– I have already told the honorable member that I will consider hig representations, but that does not prevent him from discussing the matter. He still rambles on.
– This is quite a distinct case from that to which the Treasurer refers. It is the case of a returned soldier who complains that he wanted cash for his bond. A certain land agent came along and made representations to him about the value of a piece of land and its proximity to a railway station. A? a result the soldier purchased it. He now states that he was charged for it an amount, altogether in excess of its value. A letter from the land agent was enclosed in my letter to Mr. Mulvaney to-day. The soldier complains that he- has been very badly treated.
– Such cases would multiply a thousand times if we did what the honorable member wants us to do.
– The trouble is that many of our returned soldiers have no legal means of disposing of their bonds, and consequently become an easy prey to any designing person with whom they may come into contact.
– Why load my Estimates with these bonds? I do not want them.
– I thought that the honorable gentleman would be more sympathetic towards our soldiers. In another case a returned soldier recently appeared before the City Court of Ballarat and stated that he was penniless. According to a newspaper extract -
He informed ‘the Bench that it had cost him £33 to get his gratuity bond cashed, and he had received nothing out of the transaction, except a few clothes. The amount of his gratuity was £80. . . . He did not know how to cash his gratuity bond, and was persuaded to go to a metropolitan firm, which, he was informed, would negotiate it for him. On making inquiry at the firm’s premises, he was told by one of the principals that it would be necessary for him to purchase goods to the value of £33 before they could give him the balance of the £80. As he saw no other way of getting the money he required, he consented to make purchases to the amount stated, and he. bought a quantity of clothing, some of which he was in need of, but of which the larger portion was superfluous. The price of each article appeared to him to be extortionate. The following is a list of most of the articles supplied him and the prices: -
The soldier said he was subsequently told that the value of the overcoat was about half of what he had paid for it, and the travelling rug was not worth more than a few shillings.
Many of our returned soldiers badly need £20, £30, or £40, and are prepared to make almost any sacrifice to get it. If their bonds were made negotiable, they would be sold upon the stock exchange just as war bonds are sold to-day. I have had to sell my war bonds. I lost about £9 upon the £300 worth that I held. I have also a gratuity bond, but I cannot sell that unless the Treasurer will agree to treat me as a Federal public servant. I think it is a moot point as to whether a member of Parliament is not a Federal servant-
– No. He is a representative of the people.
– I shall be a representative of the people most of the time that I am here, but if I can get cash for my bond I shall be a Federal servant. If there were no difficulty about the matter, quite a number of persons would gladly cash gratuity bonds for our soldiers. I cannot understand how such an arrangement would interfere with the finances of the Commonwealth. .We merely ask that our soldiers shall be allowed to do just what they please with their bonds. I have already cited the case of a returned man who is in receipt of a pension of 21s. per week. . I do not think that he will live for three years. He has applied to the authorities to obtain cash for ‘his bond, but his application has been refused. I appealed against that decision, but it was re-affirmed that this was not a necessitous case. Gash will not be of much use to that soldier when he is dead, but if he could get it to-day it might prolong his life by enabling him to obtain medical attention and necessaries of which he is badly in need. I admit that there is a danger that if the bonds are made negotiable some people will make money out of them.
– Are not most of those cases, isolated? The majority of the soldiers can well take care of themselves.
– They can. There are a few here and there who will lose if this proposition is carried, but the groat majority know how many shillings are in the pound., and how much interest they are entitled to receive from their bonds. Very few of them will be robbed, especially if the ‘ transaction is conducted in the open. No one has more to do with gratuity bonds than I have. Every day I go to Ballarat at least fifty soldiers ask me how they can get cash for them. Any number of the bonds arc changing hands to-day with the permission of the Treasury. The soldiers are signing a statement that they are getting full face value and interest, but they are also paying £10 or £15 back to the purchaser. That is being .done every day. The soldier is being robbed of his £10 or £15 because the avenues by which he can get cash are so limited. He is badly in want of the money, and cannot get it from the Treasury, so he enters into a secret arrangement of that sort.
– What does the Treasurer say about that?
– As a man of the world the Treasurer knows what is going on. It is fair and .reasonable to ask that instead of having one customer for his bond the soldier should be given an opportunity to have the whole of the financial community as purchasers. He would then be in an infinitely better position than he is in to-day with his restricted opportunities for selling. I trust that the Assistant Minister for Defence and the Treasurer will allow the bonds to be sold on the Stock Exchange of Australia in the open market by soldiers who need cash, and who want to be treated as the soldiers in every other part of the world have been treated. Nowhere else were soldiers paid in bonds. Here, as we have paid them in bonds, let us be fair to them by making the bonds negotiable and exchangeable on the open market.
– I hope the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) will be reasonable, and agree to the adjournment of the discussion of this important matter.
– I think you ought to let me get these Estimates through.
– It is not -fair to the people, or to the members of the Committee to expect fifty-three pages of Estimates to be put through in two hours. No one could give them in that short time the consideration to which they are entitled. The Government seem to be intent on rushing the Estimates through without allowing the opportunity for that free discussion which the amount of money involved warrants. Some members ask, “What does it matter?”
It matters a great deal to the taxpayer, who has to find the money.
– You are not discussing the Defence Estimates now, are you?
– These things are linked up with one another. If the Treasurer persists in saying that the question has no relation to the Defence Estimates, he is practically censuring you, Mr. Chanter, for allowing the discussion to go on. You have already ruled that the subject is relevant to the Estimates. If members of the Government continue to object, I take it that they are reflecting on you. I resent being told that the question is not relevant to the Defence Estimates, when you. have said distinctly that it is relevant. The reasonable request of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) is justified by the facts that are brought to the notice of honorable members every day. We continually receive requests for the cashing of war gratuity bonds, and every day we find those requests turned down by the Treasury. The Government do not speak with one voice on this matter. The Treasurer says that the policy of the Government is soandso. The Assistant Minister for Defence says, “ That is not the policy ; the policy is quite different.” The Assistant Minister for Defence said that in about 5,000 cases people have cashed war gratuity bonds without permission, and have not been prosecuted.
– I never said 5,000.
– I leave it to honorable members who were present.
– I think I said thousands.
– That might mean 20,000.
– When you say “ thousands,” it means just a large number.
– It must mean at least 2,000. We expect accurate information, and not generalities, from responsible Ministers.
– I did not say it was any policy. I said it was done; under the rose, if you like.
– The Minister admits that bonds are being cashed by unauthorized individuals, and that no action is being taken to prosecute them. The Treasurer said that was not the case. Who is right and who is wrong? What is the policy of the Government? Why should I have to write to the Treasurer for permission for one soldier to obtain cash when others are able to cash the bonds, and nothing is done to them? When we raise the question we are met with all sorts of sneers from responsible Ministers. The members of the Labour party pointed out what was likely to happen when the War -Gratuity Bill was being put through. We were assured by members on the Government side that no such state of affairs could arise, yet day after day we find that the things which could not happen are happening, with resultant loss to the men concerned. It is of no use to blink the position. We know that the men are being done out of pounds and pounds because they are not allowed to sell their bonds openly to anybody they choose. I have seen several cases where men have had to purchase Chinese-made furniture at exorbitant rates to enable them to get a few pounds of ready cash. I saw chairs honestly not worth more than 10s. sold for 25s. It is the poorest man that is the hardest hit.
– If you move this amendment at the right place - page359 - I will support you.
– There is another honorable member censuring the Chair. I take it that you, Mr. Chanter, are right. Up to date you have always been right with honorable gentlemen opposite. Why should they now turn round and make out that you are wrong ?
– Order! I should prefer the honorable member not to discuss the action of the Chair.
– I am pointing out to honorable members opposite the inconsistent position they take up. It is very hard to understand why they disagree with your ruling, and try to block discussion. As a matter of fact, they are reflecting upon you, sir, by endeavouring to prove that you were wrong. These cases come before honorable members every day. A lady, who did not know much about the procedure, called to see me to-day. She had a bond worth £84 belonging to ber son, who was away up-country, and whose wife had died. His mother had arranged for the burial, and was being threatened with eviction if she did not find the necessary money. The son, it appears, had applied for cash, but his request was refused, and he was given a bond which his mother is now endeavouring to cash, hers being a very necessitous case.
– And she can get cash.
– I am very pleased to have that assurance from the Treasurer, and will direct the lady to the Treasury to-day.
– The honorable member knows all this. He has had numbers, of bonds cashed under the same circumstances.
– I admit that in certain circumstances the Treasurer has been pleased to give permission for the cashing of bends; but large numbers of unauthorized persons are also cashing these bonds, and if action were taken against them I am satisfied that ample evidence would be obtained of the underhand work that is going on, by means of which bond-holders are being victimized. These unauthorized men who are cashing bonds are adequately remunerated. They take good care to cover themselves. Make no mistake about that. So much for that side of the question. iSo far as the Defence policy is concerned, we find that the predictions of members of the Labour party are being borne out by the Estimates now before us. We stated that It would be impossible to confine military expenditure within reasonable limits, and there is no doubt that a large amount of unnecessary expenditure is being incurred. There can be no justification for an expenditure of £10,000,000 over and above the amount required in pre-war days, nor can there be any justification for the seventy days’ continuous military training of our young men. Only a few days ago we had protests against this policy by the Methodist Conference, setting out the injurious effect which a long period of continuous training in military camps would have upon the character of the youths of Australia. We must remember, also, how this continuous training will dislocate industry at a time when the utmost production is required to enable us to carry the burden of unreproductive debt, mentioned by the Treasurer as having been laid upon the people of Australia because of our participation in the war. It is impossible to put thousands of our lads into military camps for a period of seventy days without seriously interfering with their ordinary avocations or their education, not to mention the probable effect upon their character at an age when the utmost care should be exercised for their future welfare. The protest by the Methodist Church shows that the stand taken by the Labour party is indorsed in other quarters. I take it that honorable members supporting the Government will not scoff at the considered judgment of a body of highly trained men whose particular work it . is to give consideration to the education, training, and moral welfare of the youth of Australia. I hope, therefore, that the Government will give careful consideration to their pronouncement upon this subject of continuous training. They cannot say that it is a party matter, because among the gentlemen who comprise the Methodist Conference there are, no doubt, many Government supporters. Evidently they have weighed this matter very carefully, and decided that seventy days’ military training in military camps would not be in the best interests of our young men. With that opinion, members of the Labour party agree.
There is another side to this question. We may train our young men in the particular method of warfare that prevails to-day, but if ever war threatens us again they may have to unlearn all they learned, because the best military authorities- appear to be agreed that- the next war will be fought in the air. Towards the close of the last war, which we were told was a war to end war, but which, unfortunately^ did not bring about that desired result, Great Britain and America were preparing to attack. Germany from the air on a scale hitherto unheard of. To-day we have the backwash of that movement in the fact that about 130 aeroplanes, together with perhaps £500,000 worth of war equipment, have been sent to the Commonwealth by Great Britain. If we take into consideration the fact that land forces would not play a very great part in the defence of Australia, we should extend our activities in the development of those industries which embrace metal working and the higher mechanical side of engineering. The range of aeroplanes and the amount of damage they could do, as well as their comparatively low cost as compared with other methods of warfare, must not be overlooked. In the event of an engagement the number of lives involved would also be relatively small. Bearing these facts in mind it is in the interests not only of our fighting men, but of the civil population, to pay attention to the engineering side of our industries, and to make provision for aerial warfare, instead of training our Australian youths on military lines that may be practically useless by the time the next war eventuates. The whole of our energies should be directed to paying off our burden of debt, which is seriously retarding the peaceful progress of the country.
I indorse what has been said by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) regarding the work done by the Commonwealth Saddlery and Harness Factory controlled by the Defence Department. As a farmer, I viewed with admiration the work of the Department exhibited at the Royal Agricultural Show, and it would be a great pity if anything were done to interfere with its operations. It would be preferable to have an extension of its operations so that others apart from returned soldiers could benefit. While we on this side welcome the extension of governmental activities I think it is recognised as hopeless to expect any general support in this direction from members opposite, although they have been forced tosome extent in this direction because the War Service Homes Commission has expended hundreds of thousands of pounds in the purchase of timber areas and mills to protect the people from the actions of certain Trusts and Combines. It should be our endeavour to utilize the energies of our people in the right direction, and protect them by establishing and extending Government Departments where necessary.
I direct the Minister’s attention to the unfair treatment being meted out by the
Department of Repatriation. In many cases decisions are given, that, while they may be within the four corners of the Act, have really no moral foundation. I know of a case that has been in the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Hughes) hands for four months awaiting a decision. It relates to a boy in the service of the Railway Department who is the guardian of his sisters.
– I have nothing whatever to do with the Repatriation Department. There is a Minister and a Board controlling it.
– I cannot agree with a Minister who makes his refusals at the instigation of military officers who are continually keeping their military status before any one who approaches them. They ‘are well entrenched in the Victoria Barracks, and perhaps if the Assistant Minister visited that establishment and brandished an axe we might get something reasonable out of them. They do not seem amenable to anything but force, and are well bound up with red-tape. The case I have in mind is appalling, and I have been waiting for a decision for four months. It would be better to have a refusal than no decision at all.
– With which Minister is the honorable member dealing?
-I do not know; I am tossed from pillar to post.
– The honorable member is appealing to the wrong Minister.
– If the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) considers that I am out of order he had better draw the attention of the Chairman to the fact, as he is umpire in this case. Does the PostmasterGeneral desire to make a speech when I am addressing the Chair ?
– I have no desire to “ stonewall.”
– The Minister should not interrupt when I am placing my views before the Committee. If he wishes to make a speech in my time, I shall adopt similar tactics when he is addressing honorable members. I was referring to the case of an orphan boy who is the guardian of his sisters.
– I rise to order. I would like to know, Mr. Chairman, what this discussion has to do with the Defence Department? It is purely a repatriation matter.
– Owing to the interjections, I was unable to catch the statement made by the honorable member for Gwydir. To what was the honorable member referring ?
– I was dealing with a case of a returned soldier who is the guardian of his sisters, and who desires to cash his war gratuity bond.
– That is a Treasury, and not a Defence, matter.
– 1 have already given the ruling on that point, and I wish to repeat it with some amplification. The Board which controls the war gratuity bonds is under the Defence Department, and until it has reported to the Treasury, the Treasury has nothing to do with it.
– That is not so at all. You have been misinformed, Mr. Chairman.
– Mr. Chairman, are you going to allow the Treasurer to reflect upon you in that way?
– I have no intention of being unfair to the Chairman; but I desire to inform his mind as to the facts. I am sure the Chairman will permit me.
– I understand there is a War Gratuity Board under the Defence Department, of which General Wisdom is the Chairman.
– No; under my Department.
– If General Wisdom and the other members of the Board are under the Treasurer and not under the Minister for Defence, I must rule that they are not now a proper subject for discussion. I was under the impression, knowing that the Board had its offices at the Victoria Barracks and the applications for war gratuities were dealt with there, that it was a branch of the Defence Department.
– The administration of war gratuities is entirely a matter for the Treasurer. All the appointments to the Board were made by me, as Treasurer. The Board sits in the Victoria Barracks, because there is accommodation for it there, and it obtains information from the Defence Department; but it is wholly a branch of the administration of the Treasury.
– The question is, in which Department of the Estimates are the salaries provided for?
– They are not provided for in the Defence Estimates.
– If these gentle, men are not under the control of the Defence Department-
– You know that they are not.
– Still, the Defence Department has to supply the information on which they act.
– I quite understand that. The affairs of the Board are so bound up with the administration of the Defence Department that it requires the subtle mind of the Treasurer to dissociate them.
– Then the next letter the honorable member addresses to me on the subject of war gratuities I shall refer, in view of this discussion, to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce).
– You can do as you like about that, but you must take the responsibility. I am not trying to run your Department.
– You are a big bully ! I move -
That the question be now put.
Motion agreed to, and question put accordingly.
– The question is that the proposed vote be agreed to.
– Mr. Chairman-
– I move -
That the question be now put.
– “Gag” away! That is what I expected of you.
Motion agreed to, and question put accordingly.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Navy.
Divisions 80 to 96, £2,279,238
– I understood that it was not the intention to go beyond the Defence Department - the Military Estimates?
– That was at 10.30 last night.
– I do not know when it was. I am not asking that you shall do anything, but I was told that a certain arrangement was made, and I wish to know if it is to be carried out. If there was no arrangement, we can discuss the Navy Estimates on their merits.- .
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) came to me early in the evening and asked what we were going to do. I said that we were going on with the Estimates. He asked, “Are you taking all of them?” and my reply was, “ I do not know. If we can get through the Military Estimates reasonably early, perhaps that will do for to-night.” No arrangement was made.
– Do you think that four hours is an unreasonable length of time to devote to the discussion of proposals for the expenditure of millions?
– When on the Military Estimates honorable members began to discuss the administration of another Department, it showed that they had discussed those Estimates long enough.
– On what Estimates do you suggest that the gratuity questions should be discussed?
– Those questions have already been discussed three or four times this session; if honorable members wish to discuss them further, they should adopt the ordinary procedure. It is not proper to discuss them when a Department within whose administration they do not come is under consideration.
– When can they be discussed ?
– My honorable friend, who is always underrating my abilities, should not ask me to suggest to him methods for obstructing the business of the Committee.
– Will the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) agree to report progress now ?
– No. You are sticking up work at Cockatoo.
– If the Minister objects to me, as a representative of the people, expressing my views on these Estimates, he may move the “ gag “ ; but I think he would do better by reporting progress and letting us discuss matters at a later hour in the day, when we shall be in a better physical and mental condition to do so. The Navy proposals are so important, and so far-reaching in their effect on the welfare of Australia, that they should be discussed under reasonable conditions.
– The honorable member by holding up these Estimates is preventing important work from being gone on with at Garden Island.
– The interjection shows that the Minister does not know the kind of work done at Garden Island. The Garden Island yards are used wholly for repairs; no constructional work is done there. Surely the Minister would not have us believe that if these Estimates are not rushed through at this unreasonable hour of the morning urgent repairs to the boilers or engines of warships will be held up. Such repairs are provided for on emergency out of Contingencies or the Treasurer’s Advance.
Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 1.30 a.m. (Wednesday).
– I submit that this is not a suitable hour at which to consider the Estimates of an important Department like that of the Navy, and I suggest that the Minister in charge (Mr. Laird Smith) should now move to report progress.
– I am sorry I cannot accede to the honorable member’s request. It is most desirable that men whose pay has been held up should receive what is due to them.
– I fail to follow the reason of the Minister, seeing that the weekly wages of the men employed in the dockyards are now being paid. The future welfare of Australia depends on an adequate naval defence policy. This is an island continent, removed by many thousands of miles from other centres of civilization, and our strongest protection must be found on the water. In the light of the lessons of the war we have to consider what are the best and most economic methods of defence to be adopted; and one of the greatest is that it is almost impossible for a purely naval attack to be successful against decently equipped land forces. This was clearly demonstrated in attacks made by the Allied Fleets on various enemy ports. This nonsuccess was due, first, to mine fields, and then to land fortifications; and a striking illustration was afforded at the Dardanelles. Some of the greatest naval engines of war the world had ever seen were then pitted against almost puny land defences ; but the guns on shore were able to command the range of the hostile vessels, and, with the aid of mine fields i and torpedoes, the efforts to force a passage were rendered unavailing. With all these facts before us, it is well that the Estimates for the Navy should be most carefully considered. It is not fitting that “we should rush through proposed expenditure totalling over £2,000,000, showing an increase of quite £750,000 as compared with what we were asked to vote last year. Is it not reasonable for us to endeavour to ascertain in what way this extra amount is being used? Is it being spent in a sane and economical way? The people of Australia, who have to find the money, ought to be assured that they receive an adequate return. Can the Minister tell us, for instance, what steps are being taken to provide for proper submarine defence, or what provision is being made for mining the various vulnerable points around our coast? Surely the Government, have some settled policy.
– I stated the policy of the Government to the House in September.
– Did the Minister give details as to where the mine fields are to be placed? Of course he did not. Is the Department providing for a proper system of mining on the coasts of the northern portions of Australia, from Queensland right round to the north-west of Western Australia? Are all arrangements made so that when the time comes the Government can, without hesitation, go ahead on a well-defined policy of mine defence? I am not so foolish as to ask for details as to the actual spots where it is proposed to lay mine fields; but the Minister should be prepared to give honorable members all reasonable information upon which to work. He should furnish assurances that the whole of these matters have been taken into consideration ; that the Naval authorities are ready with their plans, that their mines are ready, and that necessary provisionhas been made by which to have the mines transported without delay to the spots where they are to be employed. We hope the time will never arrive when their use for the defence of Australia will become necessary. Meanwhile, however, let us not be unprepared.
– ‘We have the plans all ready, and we also have the mines in Australian waters.
– That will be pleasing news to the public. We do not wish to see those awful words “ Too late “ written over the door of Australia.
Aerial defence is another highly important factor. The value of aeroplanes i? not merely in attacking an enemy; they are the eyes of our Defence Forces, by land, sea, and air. It would be of comparatively little use, however, if we had our aerial scouts watchfully guarding Australia, but had inadequate means of communication. What is the use of aerial eyes if there is no means of corn,municating those ‘ things which the eyes have seen? Wireless stations should be’ installed throughout Australia and all round our coast-line.
– .There is a ring of, wireless stations right round Australia now, and quite a number of them are perfectly useless.
– Why is that so? I. presume that their erection has cost a considerable sum. Why are these installations useless? Where does the fault lie? Is it a matter of bad construction, or of faulty material?
– There are too many of them for our defence needs.
– That is a serious reflection upon the advisory officers in the Navy Department. I am not concerned with the identity of the Minister who may have authorized their erection. He would necessarily be guided by expert officials. Who are they, and why did they give such expensive and useless advice?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I protest against all-night sittings. These are not the conditions in which to deal with important national matters such as the Navy Estimates. All? night sittings do not conduce to the expedition of public business. There is either an adjournment afterwards to enable honorable members to recover, or honorable members return to this chamber so sore-headed that they indulge in obstructive tactics, and a reasonable amount of business is not done.
– Well, we have a doctor present; he can prescribe.
– The prescription, which should be strictly followed, is for honorable members to retire from the chamber at about 11 o’clock each night.
With respect to the Navy Estimates, I do not ask for a detailed statement of policy, but would like to be assured that the proposals are adequate for our safety, in the opinion, not merely of the Australian Government, but of the British expert advisers who investigated the provisions for the defence of Australia. It is bad economy to try to cut down one’s insurances; and our Defence Estimates, military and naval, are Australia’s insurance. The provisions set out in the Estimates are considerably below the suggestions furnished by Viscount Jellicoe. I would like to be assured that the Government are indulging in no ill-timed parsimony.
With respect to civil aviation, an amount of £100,000 has been set aside for its encouragement. I hold that we should do still more. We have in Australia a country peculiarly fitted for, and requiring, air communications. Many of our aerial pilots who were trained during the war are now dropping out of flying activities, because no inducements are offered them to remain. Numbers are getting married, and are being dissuaded by their wives from having anything more to do with aviation. It is all-important that Australia should have a well-developed system of aerial communication. More should be done to encourage enterprising firms and individual promoters who are initiating aviation enterprises in different parts of the Commonwealth. Is the provision of landing places to become a matter of State or Federal jurisdiction? I would like an assurance that expedition will be used to obtain finality in regard to the question of landing places. If this question is to be remitted to the State Departments, and they are going to delay us in the way that they have delayed us in regard to repatriation matters, it will be a long time before we secure a satisfactory solution of the problem with which those who have already purchased aeroplanes for their own private use, are at present faced. But if steps are taken to secure landing places at the earliest possible moment, a great many more private individuals will purchase aeroplanes in the immediate future, some of which will doubtless be utilized in connexion with our mail services.
– I have pleasure in assuring the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that we have in our Navy at the present time a most effective means of defence. The very best use is being made of our ships at this juncture. We are of opinion that it would not be advisable, under present circumstances, to launch out upon any considerable expenditure, seeing that an Imperial Conference will take place next year, at which the whole question of the defence of the Empire will doubtless be discussed. It has been alleged by some honorable members that the flagship Australia has been scrapped. As a matter of fact, that is not so. We have reducedthe personnel of the flagship to a. nucleus crew consisting of 400 of the very best men. But within a very brief period that vessel could be made a most effective fighting ship for defence purposes. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) stated this evening that our ships are inadequate for the defence of Australia. His statement is not correct. The Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane all belong to the British Birmingham class of cruiser, whilst the Adelaide is an improvement upon that class. The Dublin is another vessel of the same type. She is in the Mediterranean’ in full commission to-day; while the Lowestoft and the Birmingham are upon the African station. In Victorian waters we have four effective submarines, and two others in another place. We have been fortunate enough to secure a very fair submarine base at a small cost to the Commonwealth. The Geelong people have treated us remarkably well. They have given us a big area of land fronting Corio Bay, and also a house in which to accommodate the crews of the vessels which are there at the present time. Four ships are nightly lying in CorioBay, and during the day theyengage in exercises in Port Phillip. They are there with the parent ship Platypus, and are doing most effective work. There are 13 fathoms of water in Port Phillip Bay, so that the ships are able to engage in naval exercises with, the utmost freedom. I am assured by an expert that there are only two ports in Australia where such exercises can be carried out - on© of which is Hobart, which, I regret to say, is too far from the mainland to render its selection as a submarine base advisable.
– Can the Minister say whether the experts have examined Moreton Bay?
– I know that the expert of whom I am speaking gained the Victoria Cross for work done during the war, and that he ig an officer whose services I hope we shall be able to retain here. The British Government, however, are most anxious to induce him to return to Britain, because of his very great abilities. He is. one of the most able men in the service of the Empire. In reference to aviation, I would point out that that matter does not come -under the control of my Department. But a Board is at present being formed, and the whole question of aviation is being thoroughly inquired into. Meetings have been held between representatives of the Army and the Navy, and I feel sure that the day is not far distant when we shall have a very fine aviation corps upon the coast of Australia.
– Who will be responsible for the selection of the landing grounds ?
– As soon as arrangements, have been made, for the establishment of the necessary- corps, surveys will be made throughout Australia. Already we have a survey between Melbourne and Port Darwin, which has been of great use to Lieutenants Parer and Mcintosh, and to others who have traversed the distance by aeroplane. The day is not far distant when full provision- will be made for these surveys.
– Will the Commonwealth or the States make that provision?
– The Commonwealth. The Government will afford every encouragement to private persons to enter upon aviation, knowing that during a period of war their services could be requisitioned by the Commonwealth, and that they would, in my opinion, prove of great value in its defence.
– The statement of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) has relieved me of one of the great difficulties that I have experienced in connexion with this naval vote. He has intimated that it is intended to regard our present Navy merely as something which should be continued until the Imperial Conference has been held, at which all these matters will be dealt with.’ That is a very proper course to follow, because, with a coast-line such as we possess, it is absolutely impossible for Australia, with its 5,000,000 inhabitants, and in the shattered condition of its finances, to attempt to provide an adequate Navy for our defence. With all due respect to what the Minister has stated, I think that our Navy as a fighting force- is a negligible quantity. The people of the Commonwealth should not be permitted to think that we have an adequate Navy in the ordinary sense of the term. But, if we maintain it until the Imperial Conference has been held, and if, in the meantime, we concentrate our energies upon what must be our chief defence in the future, namely, aeroplanes and submarines, we shall be acting wisely. Presumably, some arrangement will have to be made with the rest of the Empire to secure for us a fighting force such as will be needed to meet our naval requirements. How many of our vessels would it take to stop the Renown? Why, the whole of them would be blown out of the water before they could get sufficiently close to brush the paint off the sides of that vessel. Upon the other hand, the Renown would be just as inefficient if she. were required to face some of the super-dreadnoughts which have been recently built. Of all the Departments which figure, upon these Estimates,, that of the Navy will afford the least satisfaction to the people of Australia. This is not the result of administrative ineptitude, but merely because we have not the punch that would be requisite if we were called upon to defend Australia upon the seas.’ It is only the explanation of the Minister, to the effect that the whole matter of the defence of the Empire will be considered at the forthcoming Imperial Conference, which induces me to accept these Estimates. One honorable member, in dealing with the
League of Nations, said that the league upon which he built his faith was that between Great Britain and the rest of her Dominions. I think that that is the league to which the people of the Empire must look for their protection. In my judgment, it is a league which is big enough and strong enough for the defence of Australia as it is for the rest of the Empire.
– I regret that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird .Smith) did not adopt the suggestion which I made some days ago in respect to a previous Department upon the Estimates, by making a speech upon the first division of his Department, setting out exactly what increases and what decreases are shown upon his Estimates. I gather that the total expenditure upon the Navy for the current financial year is estimated, roughly, at £700,000 in excess of the expenditure of last year.
– Out of these particular votes?
– Yes. It would have been very helpful to honorable members if the Minister had made a brief opening statement in explanation of the Estimates of his Department. We should then have been able to grasp where increases or decreases have taken place. I join with the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in protesting against the discussion of important Estimates at 2 o’clock in the morning. I do not think that it is a proper thing. It is not a proper thing that the Committee should sit all night over the discussion of matters of such importance to the welfare of the general community. The Government should have been satisfied with the progress made after 11 o’clock at night. I was also given to understand that an arrangement was actually made that an adjournment should take place. The Government have not carried that out, and we find ourselves discussing this important matter at an early hour of the morning when proper attention cannot be given to it. I join with the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in protesting against it, and hope we shall have no repetition of sittings of this sort, which arise out of a desire on the part of the Government to “ shove “ business through- at times when they can do so without much discussion. Recently, the Treasurer (.Sir Joseph Cook) moved the “gag” as soon as an awkward question arose.
– What awkward question ?
– The awkward question of the cashing of the gratuity bonds, which was immediately “gagged.” We were nob allowed to continue discussing it. The Treasurer seemed to feel aggrieved that I should have underestimated his ability. I think I have formed a very fair estimate of his ability. It amounts to burking the public discussion of matters that should be discussed. When the gratuity bond question was brought up before, the debate was adjourned in order to avoid a decision. The motion for adjournment was conveniently moved by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond).
– You have discussed it three or four times.
– We have never been actually allowed to come to close quarters with it, or to have a vote taken. All that was done to-night was to “gag” the discussion. If that is the type of ability that the Treasurer prides himself on, he is welcome to the reputation. All I desire is that the public shall know that the Treasurer particularly excels in burking discussion, or in allowing it only at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, when there is not the same publicity for what goes on. So far as I am concerned, the same thing can take place on this vote. The Government have the numbers to “gag” every item. If they want to “gag” them all through, they are welcome to do so, so long as the public are made aware of the tactics adopted. I do not propose, in view of what I know the tactics of the Government to be in this matter, to move a specific reduction of the vote, although I think it might very properly be done, to enable an adequate discussion to take place upon the subjects that have been mentioned by honorable members who preceded me.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), for instance, said that the Estimates of this Department would give less satisfaction to the public than any others contained in the Budget. It may be because of the “ ability “ of the
Treasurer, who was recently in charge of the Navy Department, thatthe Navy Estimates give so little satisfaction. I do not suggest it, but that is a possible explanation. We cannot charge the present Minister (Mr. Laird Smith) with responsibility for anything that happened before he took over the Department. I should have liked to hear something about the quality of the ships that were presented to us. ‘Canada refused those that were offered to her. I presume they were refused, not through any feeling of disloyalty to the Motherland, but because Canada did not think they were a good business proposition. I suppose no one in this Committee will suggest that the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada refused them because of any disloyalty, but I have no doubt that if it had been urged here we should have been charged with disloyalty, and with trying to break up the British Empire. We could, with advantage, hear something now about the quality and character of the ships that were given to Australia. Were they of the same character and type as those refused by Canada? This would be a matter of great interest to the public of Australia.
– “ Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”
– Did Canada do so ?
– It did not accept them.
– Then, was Australia wise in accepting the gift?
– There are some horses that you would not take.
– Exactly. It would interest me very much to know if the shins we accepted were of the same type as those which were refused by Canada. Can the Treasurer tell me, without charging me with disloyalty for asking?
– I am very much surprised that an honorable member who professes to know so much about things, and who lectures other people about what they do not know, should be so unaware of what is taking place in the Empire. It is really amusing to note the things the honorable member does not know about these vital matters of State: The reason Canada turned down those boats was not as he alleges.
– I did not allege anything. I asked what the reasons were.
– The honorable member asked whether it was not a fact that” Canada had turned them down because they were not good enough for her to take.
– I did not say that. Look at Hansard afterwards, and you will see that that is not correct.
– It is the purport of what the honorable member said. The only reason why Canada did not take the ships was that she did not wish to inaugurate a new naval policy until the whole question had been discussed at the Conference to be called early next year - only that, and nothing more. Canada, therefore, merely postponed the acceptance of the gift and the institution of a navy of her own on the lines laid down by Lord Jellicoe, until the whole matter could be discussed at the Imperial Conference to be called early in the year.
As to the quality of the ships that we have accepted, that were given to us generously by the British Government, and that amount in value to about £3,500,000, they are the very latest of their type, and amongst the last to be constructed in the light of the experience of the war. The submarines are the latest thing in that class of warfare. The honorable member may, therefore, make up his mind that there is nothing wrong with the ships. Everything is right with them. They are the very latest expression of naval efficeincy and of naval warfare. I hope that assurance will calm the honorable member’sperturbation.
– Would not the reasons that induced Canada to refuse affect Australia in the same way?
– Certainly not. We had a naval policy already in being. We had warships in being, of a type that these are really replacing. They have now been put in reserve.
– Some are at the bottom of the sea.
– Yes, two of them are there as casualties of war. The very reason why we accepted the new boats from the Britsh Government was because we felt that we should be doing an excellent thing for Australia in accepting vessels which had just been built according to the very latest type of Admiralty construction, to take the place of our own, which were already getting a little old. They -were not obsolete or useless, by any means. They were still good fighting material, but they were not the latest expression of naval efficiency. The idea of accepting the latest type of boat to take the place of those others, and putting the others into reserve, struck me as being a very excellent bargain. I do not know what else the honorable member wants to know.
– I suggested that you could use the “gag “ again.
– Is the honorable member anxious for it? I believe he really wants these things to be “ gagged “ through, so that he can have a fresh grievance. I am afraid I cannot oblige the honorable member at this moment, but we shall see later on.
– I also protest against these important matters being decided at halfpast 2 o’clock in the morning, although the tone of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is different now from what it was a couple of hours ago. If he had only been in that frame of mind then, and given honorable members the information they desired, he would probably have got his Estimates through much more easily than is likely to be the case now. The objection to passing votes amounting to millions of pounds without adequate discussion applies equally to the Navy Department as to the Defence Department. No doubt, from the < Government’s point of view, the less the discussion the easier it is for them; but the great body of the people, who have to pay the money, will be quite right in wanting to know where it goes, and in asking members what they were doing when the Estimates were being passed that they did not keep their eye on them, and endeavoured to obtain the necessary information which afterwards will be demanded of every member by some of his constituents, if not in one form at least in another. Members are bound to be asked to explain the increase in the expenditure required to run the Commonwealth. Every honorable member knows /he campaign of misrepresentation that goes on regarding the Commonwealth on the part of partisan political journals, particularly one printed in this State, which has at all times misrepresented the position of the Commonwealth, and is doing a great deal to retard Australian nationalism by the cold water it throws on the amount of expenditure which the people of Australia are called on to provide to run the Commonwealth. The expenditure, of course, must go up with the growth of the Commonwealth Departments. Every power which the Commonwealth Parliament obtains from the States must mean an increase in the cost of the Commonwealth Government. With the socializing of the community, more State Departments must be created, and consequently increased expenditure incurred. The Navy Department’s expenditure this year shows an increase of about 30 per cent., notwithstanding that the Australia has a reduced complement of about 400 men. The Minister says that the vessel could be recommissioned in a few hours; but I doubt whether we could expect the same efficiency with only a nucleus crew. Danger to Australia may, I think, be expected only from the north - from Japan; and the Australia would be obsolete in any conflict with the later type of ships now being constructed in Japan. The same applies to our submarines. It is all very well for the Treasurer to say that the submarines now in Australia represent the very last word in efficiency. They are nothing of the kind. The Dreadnought type of submarine now being constructed in Great Britain - and the same policy must be carried out in every other naval nation - carries 10 and 12-in. guns; so the submarines now in Australian waters would not last twenty-four hours.
– Submarines do not fight submarines.
– But the latest type of submarine is . altogether different.
– I am aware, of course, that, as a general rule, submarines do not fight submarines.
– If your argument means anything, it means that our Naval Estimates are not high enough.
– No. It means that expenditure is being incurred on obsolete vessels. The Minister’s statement that it would not be advisable to quarter submarines at Hobart because they might possibly get bottled up there indicates, to my mind, that our submarines are not the last word in naval construction, as the Minister suggests. We have heard rumours that some of them are obsolete. I merely give this statement as it was given to me, and I feel sure that the Minister for the Navy will ascertain whether it is true or not.
– The submarines at Geelong will operate the most uptodate torpedoes.
– But are they the last word in regard to fuel and speed? The same remark may be applied to our destroyers. It is certain that, if ever the war-cloud bursts over this continent again, these vessels will be out of date, and consequently expenditure on them to-day is absolutely wasted.
– Another argument from the honorable member for the expenditure of more money.
– No. It will be far better to suspend expenditure until we get the very latest advice from British naval experts as to the more modern type of ship. It would be far better to have one ship of the very latest type - as we found when war was declared - than to have five or six obsolete vessels.
– And to have nothing in the meantime?
– For all practical purposes, we might as well have nothing. I believe that we are absolutely wasting money over these naval vessels. I remind those honorable members who have been referring continually to the protection afforded us by the British Navy, that even if we had the latest units of the British Navy, vessels like the Renown, for instance, in Australian waters, there would be no dockyard accommodation for them.
– Another argument in favour of more expenditure.
– Not at all. It is an argument for an efficient Naval policy.
– Would the honorable member advocate laying up these vessels and discharging all the men?
– We might just as well do that. Suppose, for instance, that war broke out between Great Britain and Japan. What would be the use of the obsolete scrap-iron, in the way of fighting ships, that are now in Australian waters ? Our submarines would be outranged in speed and power. Our destroyers would not be fast enough, nor would they be armed heavily enough. The Australia would be blown ‘to atoms before she could get within range of Japan’s latest ships. I say, with all due respect to honorable members opposite, that Japan is the only nation with whom we may expect trouble in the future.
– I do not think so. I would rather trust the “ Japs “ than the “Yanks.”
– With every respect for the opinion of my honorable friend from Tasmania, I differ from him. Trouble with the United States is the last thing we should contemplate. It is unthinkable that the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon race would ever go to war again.
– The crimson thread of kinship binds us strongly together.
– Even if, as the honorable member for Franklin suggests, there should be a conflict between Great Britain and America, all that I am saying would hold good, because if the American naval policy is to be carried out, within two years the United States will have the most powerful navy in the world, unless, in the meantime, Great Britain alters her naval policy so as to maintain her predominant position. It would be idle, therefore, to contend that the expenditure on our Naval policy is justified and in the best interests of Australia.
– Then what do you suggest should be done?
– When we are on the Treasury bench we will enunciate our policy. At present our duty is to point to the defects in the Government’s policy.
There is an item of £2,000 for the aerial wing of the Naval Forces, and, as the allowance for an adviser will absorb £1,000 for the ensuing twelve months, there is only £1,000 for other expenditure. This appears to be altogether inadequate. We have been informed, on very reliable authority, that recently a fleet of aeroplanes successfully launched torpedoes on a British fleet in Portsmouth Harbor, registering six hitsout of seven torpedoes fired under actual war conditions.
– Who told you ?
– I am citing the incident in order that the Minister for the Navy may make inquiries as to whether the report is correct or not. If it is correct it shows that an aeroplane costing £4,000 or £5,000, with only one man on board, could torpedo and send to the bottom of the sea a battle-ship costing £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, with a complement of 1,200 or 1,300 men, thus indicating the need for a careful review of all proposed expenditure on war-ships that are obsolete or likely to become obsolete.
– I can assure the honorable member that no Japanese ships will ever reach his district.
– The Minister seems to be in a jocular mood over a matter that is very serious to the people who have to carry a heavy burden as the result of maladministration in connexion with so many Commonwealth Departments. The maintenance of these warships that are obsolete is to cost £930,000 this year, as compared with £432,000 last year, showing an increase of 100 per cent.
– Last year it was charged to loan, and this year to revenue.
– I also wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the matter of wireless workshops, where thereis a fine field for training our young men in the higher branches of mechanical engineering, which will always be of use in time of war. The same could be said of our naval dockyards and naval workshops. Under the present policy of the Government, the dockyards which are available are quite inadequate to accommodate vessels of any size that may come to the Commonwealth to assist in protecting us. If we intend, as some honorable members suggest, to rely upon the British Navy, vessels of the Hood or Renown class could not be berthed in our docks. In time of war it is only natural to suppose that some of the fighting units would become disabled, and, if we had no docks available in which to effect repairs, they would be taken’ out of commission, merely because there has been a lack of foresight on the part of the responsible authorities.
Provision is also made for the expenditure of £500 for the mine-sweeping section; and, if we intend to rely upon mines to any extent, that amount is. absolutely inadequate. The value of mines and mine-sweepers is generally recognised as of vital importance in the defence of any country, and it was the most effective means of defence that Germany adopted for keeping the vessels of the BritishFleet from her main naval bases. The German minefields extended for many miles, and played a big part in the battle of Jutland. We understand that there was a conflict of opinion between the Commanders as to whether they should have risked the minefields or called off the chase when they did. That is sufficient to. show that British Naval authorities recognise the value of. mines in matters of naval defence; and here, as in the case of aeroplanes, the expenditure of a few hundred pounds may be the means of disabling a vessel costing many millions. In the event of a naval attack being made on Australia, mines would prove of great value, and I would like the Minister for the Navy to explain why such a small sum has been provided in this connexion.
There is also an amount of £1,700 for theRoyal Australian Naval Reserve, and when we consider the present purchasing power of money, it is easy to realize that such an expenditure would not provide anything like an adequate amount for the maintenance of a Naval Reserve that would be of any use in time of war. -
The expense of medical services is to be met by the expenditure of £16,000, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) was very critical . in his remarks concerning medical services. The honorable member fully understands this important branch, and I feel sure that his caustic remarks would not have been made unless he had good grounds for submitting them.
Defective judgment has been shown in the past in connexion with the establishment of wireless stations. The wireless scandal was fully debated in Parliament some time ago, and to-day there is a station, installed with modern appliances, idle simply because it is in close proximity to another important station. I would like to know why the Minister for the Navy does not seriously consider the transfer of this plant to some other portion of the coast where it could be profitably utilized, instead of allowing it to remain as a monument to the incompetence of a former Administration.
– Wireless telegraphy is under the control of thePostmasterGeneral.
– Yes; but in time of war it is controlled by the Department of the Navy, and the work of the different stations should always be laid before the Minister for the Navy. It would be useless to allow the PostmasterGeneral to carry on with obsolete installations, as they would be practically useless in the event of war. I believe that in the future our main lines of defence will be by submarines, aeroplanes, and wireless telegraphy. The submarines could be used for protecting the Australian coast, the aeroplanes for scouting and for launching aerial torpedoes against hostile troopships, and wireless plants for communicating quickly from one end of Australia to the other. I regret to see that no provision has been made for any expenditure in connexion with wireless telephony; and, as this has now passed the experimental stage, it is time the Government gave it their serious attention.
– The honorable member had better move to increase the Estimates by a million or two.
– I do not desire to increase the amount, but to change the avenues in which the money is being expended. Provision has been made for the expenditure of £930,000 on obsolete vessels; and if that amount were split up between submarines, aeroplanes, and wireless, some good might be achieved.
– How far would it go ?
– It would go a long way, because only £250,000 has been set aside for aeroplanes in the main Defence Estimates; and if that amount were doubled, it would still leave £600,000 for expenditure in other directions. Comparatively speaking, aeroplanes do not cost very much, and quite a number could be erected for the cost of one battleship, or even the maintenance of an obsolete vessel.
During the war Zeppelins proved a veritable godsend to the Germans for scouting purposes, and we must look to aerial vessels to do our scouting in the future.
– Then, why did not the Germans bomb London with aeroplanes instead of with Zeppelins?
– They used them for scouting.
– I think the honorable member is mistaken.
– I am not. And if the honorable member contradicts me, he is pitting his opinion against some of the most prominent naval writers, who said that, the disposition of the British Fleet was communicated to the Germans from officers in Zeppelins.
– The honorable member is confusing the ordinary dirigible with Zeppelins.
– The Zeppelin was really a super-dirigible. Aeroplanes will have to be regarded as the eyes of the Australian Navy.
– Order! The honorable member has reached his time limit.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 97 and 97a (Navy and Defence Air Services), £305,833, agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Divisions 98 to 113a, £727,251.
– Perhaps the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will be good enough to oblige the Committee by complying with the suggestion which I have now twice made, and that is to give us - if he has them - some details indicating wherein alterations are being made in these Estimates.
– It is all in the Estimates.
– The trouble is to find it.
– Every item is there.
– In every detail?
– Even to the difference in the number of officials employed?
– The different rises of each clerk, and so on?
– You will find those specified where they occur.
– If the Minister assures me that that isso, I must be satisfied.
– It is so.
– Of course, my protest against the pushing through of the Estimates applies to this Department as to the others. It is now 3 o’clock in the morning, so that we have been sitting for a complete revolution of the clock. I entered this chamber exactly twelve hours ago.
– I was at my office at 10 o’clock yesterday morning.
– If it comes to that, I entered the train at Sydney at 25 minutes past 7 on Monday night, and travelled all night. This is my second night on end. I protest, against important business being pushed through rapidly in the early hours of the morning without opportunity being given for the proper consideration of details: but I cannot do. more than protest, since the business “ the Committee is in the hands of the Government. If honorable members generally protested determinedly, no doubt the Government would yield to their wishes. If the members of the Country party desire to assert themselves, they can insist on having the Estimates discussed at a more seasonable hour; but it is not for me to tell any member what he should do, though, of course, the public will know later what attitude each man took in regard to this matter.
– I would have preferred a better opportunity to address myself to these Estimates,” because I desire to speak about the subsidy to the States for the treatment of venereal diseases, and to discuss what has been taking place during the past twelve months in connexion with this matter. Recently the British Medical Association met in Queensland, and arrived at certain conclusions. They passed resolutions of an extremely constructive character, drafting what is practically an Australian health programme. In it the way in which several diseases should be dealt with is set out clearly. I have learned from the newspapers that Dr. Cumpston, our Chief Quarantine Officer, made a report to the Government, and I have been waiting patiently to hear that the report had been received, and would be laid on the table.
– The report has been received, and is under consideration. I hope to be in a position to state before long the policy which the Government proposes to adopt in regard to its recommendations and generally in regard to the recommendations of the Medical Congress to which the honorable member has referred.
– I am glad to have that information. The public health is a subject that has interested me for years, and long before I entered this Parliament. No matter what legislation may be passed for social and industrial improvement, the community, unless the public health is good, cannot fully enjoy its benefits. Ours is far from being a healthy community, and I have on two previous occasions dealt with one phase of our ill-health, when speaking of the treatment of venereal diseases. Practically all the States have passed legislation for the compulsory notification of venereal disease and the compulsory treatment of patients suffering from it, and the sum of £16,200 is set down in these Estimates for a subsidy in aid of what is being done. I think, however, that until the Commonwealth has taken over the whole of the hospitals in Australia, and the general control of medicine, the best interests of the nation will not be properly conserved. Health is a national matter, not a State matter.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth should control preventive medicine, or is he in favour of the nationalization of medical treatment generally?
– I am in favour of the nationalization of medicine. The effect of venereal diseases on the Commonwealth purse is very marked - we having to find many hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum to provide pensions for persons suffering from it. Something like 22 per cent. of our blind owe their condition to venereal diseases, chiefly to gonorrhoea, and 25 per cent. of the inmates of lunatic asylums owe their condition to venereal diseases. Then, according to an unquestioned formula of eminent syphilologists, based on the percentages of deaths from certain diseases, every year 7,000 persons in Australia owe their death to some form of venereal disease. Such a mortality in a population of about 5,250,000 proves the need of Commonwealth attention to the treatment of these diseases. With the exception of white plague, venereal diseases have the highest mortality of any that afflicts our people. Its effects may be slow, but they are inevitable. The proposed subsidy to the States is not sufficient, and I hope that a considerably greater sum . will be provided. The legislation of the six States is, to some extent, uniform, but only to an extent laid down by the Commonwealth, and the co-ordination is only that which the respective Health Departments of the States will enter into with the Commonwealth. There has been great difficulty in getting the States to pass generally uniform legislation on this subject. We1 must go further than that. The Commonwealth has a duty to perform to the public, because of the great amount of money which the ravages of venereal diseases compel it to spend, and because of the enormous mortality which is attributable to .those diseases. The methods of treating venereal diseases and.. other diseases, which know not State boundaries, must be investigated, and for that investigation money is needed. For years I have advocated the establishment of a. central laboratory. While the research work of private scientists is great and valuable, it is essentially the duty of the States, or of the Commonwealth - I think of the Commonwealth - to support the research. The British Medical Association has definitely and without qualification stated that if the Commonwealth would follow its suggestions, and allow it to give effect to its ideas, it would rid Australia of the hook-worm within four years. The average medical man and the average medical congress are very conservative, and not likely to make statements which are. not without firm and solid foundation.
– That work is being done at the present time.
– It is not being done as the British Medical Association desire it to be done.
– Pardon me, it is.
– That is not the idea I have got from the reports which have appeared from time to time.
– In conjunction with the Queensland and the Rockfeller Institutes, the whole hook-worm business is being tackled with most encouraging results, and we anticipate that, by the time the full programme is through, we shall have eradicated the pest in Australia.
– How long do you anticipate that will take?
– I think the full period is five years, of which about eighteen months has gone. There are quite big districts already cleaned up.
– Of course, I have not seen the official reports, which will not be ready for probably five or six months, and I have had to depend on newspaper reports, which, apparently, convey a wrong impression. But the Medical Congress, it would seem, is not satisfied that the campaign is being adequately covered by the present arrangements; and, personally, I believe there should be some Committee or Commission - I am not particular what form the body takes - consisting of, say, the Chief Quarantine Officer (Dr. Cumpston), the Chief Medical Officer of each State, and, perhaps, one or two others. It is necessary there should be co-ordination of the Health Departments of the States in order that the highest possible efficiency should be reached. The Commonwealth, with its established laboratories, should be the main channel for the interchange of ideas, and for the distribution, ultimately, of all the requirements of the medical services throughout the country. That could be, and should be, done, and i3 being done so far as vaccines are concerned. The serums turned out by the Commonwealth to-day are all that can be desired from a medical point of view; so much so that their importation has practically ceased. We were forced by war conditions to take up this matter, and, as I say, the materia] turned out in the Commonwealth laboratories meets with the approbation of the medical fraternity generally. I have no doubt that the manufacture of chemicals and other hospital requirements could also be very well provided by the Commonwealth ; it is simply a question of staff and the organizing of the necessary laboratories and factories. But at present the system is to have a quarantine officer with no power, and, practically, no mission; and the co-ordination is merely of a friendly character. It seems to me extraordinary ‘ that health administration should be mixed up with Customs administration. I have no desire, however, to see a Health Ministry created at this particular stage, but I certainly think that the Commonwealth should lay down guiding principles with a view to that co-ordination which is so emphatically necessary. Such coordination would prove a groat saving to the Commonwealth in pensions and in mortality, providing the right man is put in charge of the work. So far as I can see, there are plenty of men whose services could be obtained; and I am satisfied that,’, with Dr. Cumpston as chairman of any body created, or as a member of the body, everything possible will be done to conserve the health of the people of Australia.
– I desire to ask one or two questions regarding certain resolutions carried at the recent Australian Medical Congress at Brisbane. One resolution dealt with’ the establishment of country laboratories at various large towns, to be supported and subsidized by the Commonwealth, thus enabling practically country bacteriological clinics .to be established, which would lead to the decentralization of the process of preparing autogenous vaccines and bacteriological diagnosis to be brought about. That resolution was carried by the Public Health and Pathological Sections, and’ unanimously recommended by the Congress. I should like to get from the Minister (Mr. Greene) some idea as to whether any progress has been made in .the establishment of country laboratories ; and, if so, when we may expect to see the first of them in operation. There has been great difficulty, and, I venture to say, considerable loss of life in the past, owing to the fact that the only places in which proper bacteriological tests can be made are in the capital cities. In. remote country districts of Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia, particularly,’ diagnosis of the diphtheria and various growths are frequently not possible owing to the fact that exact information may be available only at places many days distant in point of time. Under the circumstances, although cases are urgent, proper, treatment cannot be applied. That was the real reason that caused the Congress to pass the resolution; and, if immediate effect is not given to it, we may lose the opportunity of securing the services of a great number of men who have had special training during their war service in special hospitals abroad. ‘ These men may settle in various localities, and may not, in time to come, be available for service with the Commonwealth Health Department. I commend this matter to the notice of the Minister, and trust that some action will be taken shortly.
Then I should like some information regarding the Bureau of .Science and Industry. When may we expect some appointments to be made in connexion with the Institute ? I do not think that I ever travel from Sydney to Melbourne without having inquiries made of me when such appointments are likely. Many men, especially those associated with agriculture and technology, are of opinion that this Bureau represents probably the most important legislation this year; and they are anxious to see the Institute placed on a good footing.
– I hope a director will be appointed very shortly.
– I am pleased, indeed, to hear that. Distinguished visitors to Australia are appalled at the lack of co-ordination amongst the various State Governments in regard to many developments, such as power, forestry, and in the tabulation of the resources of the country; and I think that very little is likely to be done until we have a Bureau of Science and Industry in being.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) referred to the nationalization of the medical profession, but I do not know whether such a step would bring all the advantages he expects.
– I believe it is necessary to start straightway with the coordination of the State Departments and. the establishment of laboratories.
– No doubt, there should be Commonwealth action, and effective action, in regard to venereal disease. The failure to carry out an effective .venereal disease campaign is responsible for a very large tax, direct, in the way of pensions and so forth, and indirect in the disability that results from the spread of the disease throughout the community. As to preventive medicine, the Commonwealth is the proper body to deal with the whole matter; but I think it will be a good many years before we reach the stage at which nationalization of therapeutic medicine can be established.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 114 to 124 (Department of Works and Railways), £750,304, agreed to.
Divisions 125 to 135, £6,352,936.
– In May last, I asked certain questions regarding resignations from the Public Service, and was furnished with the information that, for the financial year 1917-1S there were 658 resignations; that in 1918-19, there were 936 resignations; and that for nine months of 1919-20 there were 1,037 resignations. Those figures suggest that there must be something wrong with the Service. Tt would appear, not only that the Service, itself is in such a state that its employees cannot get sufficient wages on which to live in. comfort, but that they are compelled to seek for better conditions outside. The facts are a very grave reflection upon the Public Service, and constitute a serious loss to the Commonwealth. The officials who have resigned have received, in the main, from five to twenty years’ training, and those who have left the Postal Service to gain higher remuneration privately must have left gaps which have been somewhat serious to the community. I have been waiting for some time to hear a pronouncement by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) concerning his intentions in this regard. After securing the information concerning the resignations which I have’ just given, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) what was the intention of the Government in the matter of remedying this extraordinary exodus. The right honorable gentleman answered that it was his intention to introduce an amendment of the Public Service Act. He hoped that the whole position in regard to salaries would be gone into, and that Parliament would decide what was to be done. That answer was given in May last. Nothing has yet been done. The Prime Minister said -
Since we expect, very properly, that our public servants, in seeking for redress, shall not have recourse to strikes and other methods opposed to the law, 1 am in sympathy with the object- which the honorable member has in view, and shall do everything in my power to give the Parliament an early opportunity of dealing with the whole question.
The Prime Minister continually makes promises, and fails to keep them; and in that matter, every member ‘ of the Government is equally guilty. In December last year, the Government made certain promises. They definitely promised a Basic Wage Commission. They said that immediately the report of the Commission had .been received, they would give effect to it.
– It has cot yet been received.
– It is significant that Mr. Piddington should have taken so long to draw up his report. The suggestion has been made that a draft was forwarded to the Government, and sent back to the Commissioner for review.
– The Prime Minister has denied that.
– I do not know whether it is the intention of the Government to close down tlie business of Parliament this year before making that report available. I hope that honorable members will be given some opportunity to debate the Commonwealth basic wage question before we disperse. I had some particulars before me which revealed some of the reasons why thousands of public servants are endeavouring to “ get out.” I do not propose to record thenames in Hansard, but honorable members are at liberty to inspect these documents. The first which I propose to quote is as follows : -
Very pleased to read in Friday, 14th May, issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph of you bringing before the House the miserably low salaries paid by the Commonwealth. The exodus will not stop if better salaries are not forthcoming. Our work, Post and Telegraph Department, ‘is skilled, and should be recognised. I myself am working to get out of the
Department, and hope to do so shortly if better encouragement not forthcoming. I, like scores of others, have not had a chance. If you have time, here’s my case: - Joined at Temora, New South Wales, as a junior letter-carrier, twentyseven years ago, at fi per week and 12s. forage allowance; had to find horse, &c. Besides my beat, had to do indoor work (clerical) ; tried to gain promotion; passed my “Practical Telegraphy” and “Entry from the General to. the Clerical Division” exams. During the visit to New South Wales of the present King and Queen - then the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York - circumstances arose Which compelled me to relieve at one time and do the work of the postmaster, the assistant, and telegraph operator for a fortnight (though classed as junior letter-carrier on 30s. per week). I had, in order to get through the work, to attend at the office from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily (Sundays too); carried out all without mishap or complaint from public or Department.
The letter proceeds to show how, after twenty-seven years of service in the Post and Telegraph Department - -
– I suggest that this is a convenient time to report progress.
– Why should honorable members be kept here until such an unheardof hour as this and then be asked to depart?
Question - That leave .be given to sit again - proposed.
. I hope the House will not agree to the motion. I prefer that we should carry on now with the business before the House than adjourn until a later hour of the day. Honorable members have been kept here against their wishes until close upon 4 a.m. If the Government had agreed to adjourn at about 11 o’clock last night, as was generally desired, there would have been sense in the procedure. I suggest that the business of the country be proceeded with. Where can honorable members go to at this hour of the morning? If it is unsuitable for honorable members to discuss the Estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department, cannot some other public business be dealt with? There appears to be no sense in the way in which the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is conducting business.
– I wish I could oblige the honorable member for West
Sydney (Mr. Ryan). I have been trying; to do so all night. First the honorable member wanted an adjournment at. 11 o’clock last evening–
– No ohe asked the Minister to bring about the adjournment now.
– Ob, yes. Half-a-dozen members did.
– Then it has taken the Treasurer about five hours to notice- their request.
– The important difference between the state of business at this moment and at .11 o’clock last night is that the Estimates in connexion with four Departments have been passed. Very fair progress has been made; and T. trust honorable members will attend thesitting of the House this afternoon with a determination to put through the remainder of the Estimates, so that another place may have them, and find reasonable time in which to deal with them.
– You will have another “ all-nighter “ for this, i
– I wish honorable members would not threaten me. Although the hour is late it is a common practice for the House of Commonsto adjourn at this time; indeed, most, of the Estimates there are put through at such an hour. a3 we wish to finish the business outstanding after a very longsession, I think that the course which has been taken to-night is not an unreasonable one. I hope that honorable members will come prepared to finish the consideration of the Estimate* to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-) announced that he proposed to issue a writ for the return of a member to fill the vacancy caused by the expulsion of Mr. Hugh Mahon as the representative of Kalgoorlie. The date for the issue of the writ was 17th November, nomination day had beenfixed for Thursday, 2nd December, polling day for the 18th December, and the date for the return of the writ on or before the 15th January. 1921.
House adjourned at 3.48 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201116_reps_8_94/>.