8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that such large quantities of cheap hops are being imported into Australia that our own growers have been unable to dispose of last year’s crop, and there appears to be no market for the forthcoming crop?
Will the honorable gentleman take immediate steps, by the exercise of his authority under the Customs Tariff Act, or the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, to save the hop-growing industry from extinction?
– The Government have given a great deal of consideration to the position of the hop industry. I have seen representatives of the industry from Tasmania, and have gone fully into their case, and the Tariff Board also saw them, and saw, too, the brewers in some of the States, and arranged for representatives of the hop industry to get into touch with the brewing industry. I am very disappointed that the negotiations between the parties have not resulted in definite contracts being made for the use of Australian hops. The secondary industry of which hops is the raw material is well protected, and at present the hop industry is exposed to unusual competition from America. Thatcountry having “ gone dry “ is seeking to dispose of its hop supplies abroad, and is sending hops here at prices against which the hop-growers of Tasmania cannot compete. The Government, however, will not allow the Australian hop, industry to perish.
Arrangement with the States.
– The Premier of Queensland has complained that the Prime Minister has not acquainted him with the immigration and land settlement arrangements entered intobetween the Commonwealth and British Governments, and I, therefore, ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is prepared to make, on behalf of the Commonwealth, an agreement with Queensland similar to that which has been made with Western Australia and Victoria?
– Yes. We are, and have announced that we are, prepared to make arrangements with every State on the lines of the agreement entered into with Western Australia and with Victoria, or on the lines of a modified agreement, subject only to the reservations which have been set out, and which are shortly as follows: The scheme has relation to land settlement. The liability of the Commonwealthinrespectof eachsettler is to be £1,000, and we are to be responsible for one-third of the interest on that sum for a period of five years. A State Government, entering into the agreement, must guarantee the intending immigrant employment in the neighbourhood in which the settlement is to be made, on some public work for the development of the country. Subject to the production of satisfactory evidence of knowledge and experience, the immigrant will be granted a certain area of land. We are prepared to make an arrangement with Queensland to-morrow.
– This morning I received from the Assistant Director of the Immigration Department, Melbourne, the following letter: -
British Cotton Delegation.
As you are probably aware, the above dele gation is due to reach Sydney on Tuesday, 10th October, and I have pleasure in attaching herewith a copy of the itinerary within your State.
As the cotton delegation would otherwise have to spend three days in the train in order to reach Western Australia, will the Prime Minister provide its members with an aeroplane, so that they may get over the country quickly after they have seen Victoria and New South Wales?
– These gentlemen have done me no harm, but Ishall be glad to provide them with an aeroplane on condition that, by doing so, I do not become particeps criminis.
– Would you send the Country party up in an aeroplane?
– I am trying to arrange a modus vivendi with the Country party, whose members I wish to bring down to solid earth. They have been too long in the air.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a rather startling statement in to-day’s Argua? It is said that, in certain circumstances, a public servant’s contribution to the pensions fund provided for in the Public Service Superannuation Bill is £21, and that of the Government £37, and that when the public servant reaches fifty years of age the Government’s contribution will amount to £109, although he will still contribute only £21. We implicitly relied on the report of the Board of actuarial experts that the measure provided for a Government contribution of £1 for every £1 contributed by the public servants, with the modification that at the beginning of the scheme the Government’s contribution would be slightly in excess of that of the Public Service. Will the Prime Minister refer the criticism of the scheme to which I have directed attention, and which emanates from financial and banking circles, to the actuarial Board for verification or explanation ? The matter is of the greatest importance.
– I have not seen the newspaper statement to which my attention has been drawn, and I am not in a position to express an opinion on the subject to which it relates, but I shall refer the matter to the Board of actuarial experts upon whose recommendations the Superannuation Bill was framed and presented to the House.
– I listened with attention to what the Prime Minister has told us about his arrangements for immigration, and I should like to know if the right honorable gentleman, before finding employment for immigrants, has taken steps to reduce the unemployment in this country?
– I am endeavouring to give relief to some of the unemployed - at least so it is said - by providing the people with an early opportunity to elect some of the talent that is now seeking, and has long sought, to be heard in this Chamber. That may do something towards easing the situation, and it may, or may not, command itself to the honorable member.
– Have representations been made to the Minister for Trade and Customs from the Fruit and Vegetable By-products Limited in regard to the production of essential oils? It is alleged that the industry gave promise of great success, but the Tariff item passed to protect its operations has proved defective because of the Gilbertian regulations drafted to carry it out. Will the Minister see that the regulations are altered in order to prevent the extinction of this industry J
– I am afraid that the honorable member -when framing the question has not been in close consultation with the By-products Company. Recently the Federal Analyst, a man of the highest reputation and standing, was in close consultation with the company. I understand that he has reported, since his return from Sydney, that arrangements satisfactory to the Analyst’s Department and to the industry have been come to for the production of Australian essential oils.
Cost of Bay Liners
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to answer the question I asked about a week ago about 4he cost of building the . Bay liners in Great Britain ?
– I will procure the information for the honorable member- as
Boon as possible.
– It has been usual to issue from time to time a compendium of statistics, a little brochure that one could carry in his vest pocket. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories if he will see whether a new edition of the compendium can be brought out before the next election. The information that it would contain would be very valuable to candidates.
– I will see what can be done to please the honorable member.
– I move-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
My honorable colleague has mentioned this matter to the Leader of the Opposition, and as I had the honour of indicating to the House when I moved a similar motion last week, it is considered desirable by the Government to deal with a large number of most important measures as speedily as possible. I shall not affect to ignore what is common rumour, that an appeal to the people is within the bounds of practical possibility. That this motion has relation to such an appeal, I shall not attempt to deny for a moment. Beyond that I do not think I am called upon’ to go. I have been charged with being impetuous, and I must restrain myself. I am endeavouring to break myself, of faults, one by one, as they are pointed out to me; I cannot do more. The Leader of the Opposition expressed a desire to be told what business is to be brought before the House during this session, and I shall endeavour to inform him of the work the Government will ask Parliament to do. The measures to be dealt with .are the Limbless Soldiers’ Pensions Bill, the War Service Homes Bill, the Public Service Bill, the Income Tax Assessment Bill, the Income Tax Bill, the Railway Gauge Bill, the Public Service (Arbitration) Bill, of which I gave notice this morning, a Bill relating to the Commonwealth Shipping Line, the Senate Elections Bill, the Estimates, a measure relating to a Sinking Fund, a Loan Bill, and a Bill relating to a reduction of members’ salaries, of which, I think, some mention has been made previously. That completes the list.
– There are two or - three no-confidence motions which the Prime Minister has not included.
– I do not see them set down on this paper which I have in my hand; their omission is’ an oversight for which the Leader of the Opposition is deserving of censure. I am not now attempting- to defend the Government’s policy in bringing forward these measures; that I shall do in due time. I am merely setting out the fact that it is the policy of the Government to submit these measures to the House during this session, and to dispose of them if that be humanly possible. If honorable members will recollect what was done during the earlier months of the session, they will realize that the programme I have indicated is equal to four months’ work at the rate of progress made during the earlier part of this session; until, indeed, I took the opportunity of making a few observations which I think were quite salutary and have, proved useful. Since that time some ‘work has been done, and the reason why we are asking honorable members to make the sacrifice - for such itis - of sitting on Monday, is that we desire to complete our programme of work.
Mr.Fenton. - How long does the Prime Minister propose to occupy with that programme?
– Everything springs from the spirit and is coloured by it. Our rate of progress will depend upon the spiritin which honorable members approach this task. If they have an earnest and sincere desire to show themselves worthy of the position in which God and the people have placed them, they can get through the programme I have outlined within twenty-four hours. If, on the contrary, they harden their hearts and brotherly love is not made manifest, this work may take quite a long time. Although honorable members do not always show their better nature, I know it is there, and to it I now appeal. I hope this work will be done.
– That programme will occupy months.
– As the honorable member challenges me in that menacing way, I ask him to go through the list in detail with me. How long will the Bill to provide extra pensions for limbless soldiers occupy?
– That will go through immediately.
– Very good. The War Service Homes Bill is even now being attacked in a proper spirit, and will, I hope be disposed of before the cock crows. Is not the need for the Public Service Bill pressing? Of course it is! Are we not all resolved to pass it without delay? Of course we are! It will pass, then, almost without debate. Then in regard to the Income Tax Assessment Bill, the country is crying out for an amendment of the law, and I have no doubt that the Bill we shall introduce will have the support of every right-thinking man in this Parliament - which, of course, means everybody. The next is the Income Tax Rates Bill - we are all in favour of a reduction in the rates of taxation. I do not know what honorable members think about the unification of railway gauges, but we shall learn in time. They may be for or against the Public Service (Arbitration) Bill, but it is part of the policy of the Government, and I hope we shall be able to convert honorable members to our way of thinking. The Bill to place the Shipping Line under non-political control should receive the support of the majority of honorable members - at anyrate, ‘ I hope it will. Then there are the Estimates. What an entrancing and almost illimitable field for discussion they present! How many people have sighed for this opportunity, and sighed ‘in rain? Now the opportunity is thrust upon honorable members, and they are callous, petulant, and bad-tempered merely because they are to get something for which they have long been asking. Then a measure relating to a Sinking Fund has long been called for, and its inclusion on this list probably will serve to remind some honorable members of what is before them in the near future. And as they; arc sinking, for the third and last time, they will have the opportunity of thinking of all those things that the Treasurer told them about in his own inimitable way. The Loan. Bill should appeal to honorable members because, shortly, they will need as muchmoney as they can get. There is only one other measure on the list, that relating to honorable members’ salaries; and I do not pretend that that will appeal to them. I am keeping it for the last, and I hope that, with the liberal coating of jam I am spreading overthis Gregory’s powder, they will take the dose in their stride. I know that it will bo unpalatable; but I come to bury Ceasar, not to praise him, and I shall say nothing more about the measure at this stage. That is the whole programmeso far as we know. Of course, Ministers are always thinking ofnew things; but the list I have read exhausts my repertoire. I am quite sure that nearly all these measures are long overdue, and commend themselves to the great body of public opinion. I hope they will be supported by the House.
.- We have been getting surpriseafter surprise this session. The Prime Minister has just read to us a list of work sufficient to keep this Parliament engaged for the next twelve months. It will be generally admitted that if we have to pass and properly digest, in the best interests of the country, all the measures he has enumerated, we should have at least twelve months in which to deal with them If they are to be rushed through, however, they will be ill-digested and unsatisfactory, and probably the time of the next Parliament will be occupied in remedying the mistakes made by us in our haste. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) this morning called attention to a Bill which passed through the Chamber this week, and it is now stated that the actuarial calculations upon which it ie based are wrong, and that the Commonwealth will have to pay considerable sums of money in excess of what was estimated. The House did not have a proper opportunity of testing the measure.
– Some of us tried to point that out.
– I give those honorable members credit for tho warning they gave ; but the result of rushing business through is that honorable members do not have adequate time to thoroughly understand the proposals with which they are called upon to deal.
– I do not think any one of is pretends to be an actuary; and if we had unlimited time, it would not make the slightest difference.
– But it is possible that if we had greater time we could seek the opinions of others who aro actuaries.
– I suggested that the Bill should be referred to a Committee.
– And a very good suggestion, too. We are asked to pass not only the measures on the notice-paper, but quite a number of others which the Prime Minister has indicated, and which have not yet seen the light of day. These measures will be rushed in, taken to the second-reading stage, and then, possibly, adjourned to a later hour or the next day. No man can keep in touch with the legislation, which is being turned out as if from a sausage machine. I give all the time I possibly can to my parliamentary duties. Latterly, I have been working from getting out of bed until 11 or 12 at night, in my efforts to keep pace with the business.
– It is not fair !
– It is most unfair. We cannot give any satisfaction to ourselves, and we certainly cannot do justice to the people we represent. The result of rushing the business in this way is that mistakes are made, and the House is put into a most unfair position. If the Prime Minister intended to pass all this legislation he should have called the House together last February. What justification was there for keeping Parliament closed so long as the Government had the necessary money to pay the public servants?
– You have not said one word about the fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen motions of censure !
– Every vote of censure moved here was amply warranted, and I am convinced that the country, when appealed to, will indorse our action.
– They were debated at ample length, I admit that.
– That is not so; there was no “ stone-walling.” I appeal to honorable members opposite as to whether there has been any “ stone-walling” by honorable members on this side since we met. In sonic cases, on a motion of censure, I was the only member who spoke; and, so far as I remember, never more than two or three honorable members on this side occupied the time of the House. If I had been putting up a “ stone-wall,” I should have asked every honorable member on this side to speak; but I was ventilating the misdeeds of tho Government, which could not be covered by one comprehensive motion. Each had to be taken separately, and public attention thus directed to it. We carefully abstained from wasting the time of the Chamber; but I can remember that when the Prime Minister was in Opposition, he, on more than one occasion, launched censure motions, and then urged every man on his side to speak as long as possible in order to harass tho Government then in power. Now, however, wo have departed from such tactics and adopted different methods. The Prime Minister says that his recent statement had a salutary effect, because we desisted from motions of censure; but I may till him that if any matter arises which requires ventilating, it will be ventilated in spite of the fact that he desires to close Parliament as quickly as possible.
The Prime Minister was careful not to allude to all the measures on the ‘businesspaper. He said nothing about the Nationality Bill, the Trades Mark Bill, the Jury Exemption Bill, the Service and
Execution of Process Bill, or the New Guinea Bill; and whether those measures are to be jettisoned I know not. Further, nothing was said about air defence, or about the sugar question, which is of such importance, but which, apparently, is to he shelved. The only measures that the Prime Minister insists on bringing forward are those that he thinks will prove of some advantage in the election. While the right honorable gentleman is so desirous to have an election to clear things up, he has not yet taken the House into his confidence as to when that election will be held. He simply tells us to-day that there may be an election within a reasonable time, and, in case there may be, he wishes this legislation to be disposed of. That leaves the House and the country in a state of uncertainty, and I do not know how it is that his followers permit it I do not ask for the exact date of the election, but it is only fair that we should know whether or not there is to be one this year. If there is to be an election this year, then we should deal with only absolutely necessary business, for time will not permit of any other being undertaken. The question of the amendmentofthe Constitution is most important as affecting the affairs of the Commonwealth, but not one word in regard to that have we heard from the Prime Minister, although, in his Bendigo speech, he promised the question would be dealt with at the first opportunity. Apparently, the incidental measures also have to go by the board. Parliament has been sitting only since June, and if we look at the records we see that there has been as much legislation passed in that time asin any preceding session, notwithstanding the number of motions of censure. All this hurry only results in ill-digested measures, and leaves us open to the gibes that are hurled at us outside. It is said that we do not give proper consideration to the business of the House, and there is no disguising the fact that there is this feeling outside, for the press tell us so every day. It is said that because an election is anticipated, honorable members are not taking that interest they should in the business. Many are now away in their constituencies when they should be here attending to the business of the country. So far as the date of the electionisconcerned, we are in exactly the same position we were last week; the Prime Minister refuses to take the country and the House into his confidence.
– The whole question of parliamentary procedure requires radical alteration.
– Recent events show that it does. It would appear that the Prime Minister has to be judge and jury on everything in connexion with the country’s business; honorable members count for nothing. We are cyphers in the game, although we are supposed to be representatives of the people. The Prime Minister can come into this Chamber for half-an-hour, lay down a decree which has to be followed, and nothing is to be done unless it suits himself.
– He has obedient followers.!
– He has; and it is time they asserted themselves and showed that they have some backbone. I am sure that there arc quite a number of honorable members opposite who are not satisfied with the present methods of conducting the business, and I think they, too, know very little about what the Prime Minister intends. We can only draw our own conclusions by observing the Prime Minister in his flitting from State to. State, and in his consultations with Premiers, all, apparently, in preparation for an election. All the special measures, on which the Prime Minister keeps his attention, are those which will affect an election and drag in votes - votes are of more consideration to this Government than proper legislation. That is clearly the position into which we have drifted; and we, as representatives of the people, should assert ourselves and demand that whatever legislation is passed shall be properly considered.
It is. proposed that we shall sit from Monday till Friday; but I do not care how strong a constitution a man may have, he cannot sit here day after day, from morning until eleven at night, without breaking down his health; in any case, he cannot do his work properly or in the best interests of thecountry. Yet we are asked to do this, merely for the purpose of passing ill-digested legislation. I have made my protest as forcible as possible. The House shouldsay, once and for all, that it will not sit on Monday next unless the Prime Minister makes a declaration as to when there is to be an election, and what measures are regarded as absolutely necessary. All that honorable members should be asked to do is to give reasonable attendance in the House. If the Prime Minister determines to force measures through, honorable members who remain will have to be here night after night. What condition will a man be in at the end of the session to conduct an election campaign - what condition can we expect him to be in after long confinement in this Chamber where, after hours of sitting, the atmosphere becomes very often almost putrid. It is a sheer waste of energy and arisk to health; and the results are unsatisfactory all round. I hope the House will rise to the occasion, and that honorable members will demand to be treated as representatives of the people, who are not at the beck and call’ of the Prime Minister, to do whatever he may think fit.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has this morning put before us a very formidable list of business, and he has left us in a state of doubt as to whether we shall have an opportunity to properly deal with it. The measures already on the business-paper, and those of which the Prime Minister has just given notice, number twenty-three in all. We are told with what appears to be a semblance of authority that the House will probably rise at the end of next week; and it will be quite impossible for us to give reasonable consideration to all the measures in the meantime. The Income Tax Assessment Bill, the Railway Gauge Bill, the New Guinea Bill, and the Defence Bill provide, in themselves, sufficient work to keep us here for at least a week or two. The members of the Country party have no objection to work here, for we came here to work;but we do object to have this work hurled at us in a way which renders it impossible for us to give it proper consideration. We were sent here to guard the interests of the people, and under the procedure which has been adopted, we have no possible chance of doing our duty. The Prime Minister, by way of interjection, complained about the number of censure motions which have been launched during this session.
– The censure should not have been deserved.
– The reply to the complaint of the Prime Minister is that most of the censure motions were thoroughly well deserved, and that,” in addition, very little time was spent over them. I challenge the Prime Minister to go through the records of any Parliament, Federal or State, and find censure motions that have been disposed of in quicker time. In the case of nearly every censure motion the criticism was not of a destructive, but rather of a helpful nature. There has been a definite attempt on this side of the House to bring parliamentary life back to a proper basis. Our chief complaint has been, and this morning the cause of complaint is, that we are not afforded proper opportunities to conduct the business of the House. The Prime Minister should revert to the ordinary procedure of parliamentary government, and allow the House to have some will of its own - allow expression of individual opinion - instead of driving things through by means of the “ gag,” attempting to domineer everything throughout Australia. There would then not be so much cause for complaint. But the Prime Minister’s methods are extremely dangerous at the present time. All over the world to-day representative institutions are on their trial, and when representatives are dragooned in the manner we see adopted in Australia,such institutions are rendered practically useless. When we are denied those proper opportunities for discussion that are the right of the people’s representatives, the Prime Minister’s methodsbecome extremely dangerous to civilization. It is because this matter goes beyond the mere question of how and when we shall sit that I feel it necessary to protest against the present proposal. Honorable members of the Country party, are prepared to sit on Monday, and do all) the work that can be done, if the Prime Minister will intimate how long honorable members are to be allowed for doing that work.
.- When, earlier this week, we were discussing the question of extending the hours of sitting, the Deputy Leader of the House (Mr. Greene) made a promise, of which probably the Prime Minister (Mr.
Hughes) is not aware, not only that the list of measures which the Government proposed the House should pass before it rose would be supplied to honorable members, but also that the length of time the House was expected, to sit would be intimated.
– I do not think I said anything about the length of time.
– I think that the Minister made portion of his reply as the result of suggestions I had submitted, and the two points upon which I had laid stress, and upon which I expected an explanation, were those to which I have just alluded.
– The definite promise I made was that the Prime Minister would intimate to the House the exact list of business which the Government would desire honorable members to complete before we rose.
– Supposing that that was all the Minister said - and a reference to Hansard would probably confirm my memory of what occurred-
– It should confirm what I say I said.
– We can leave it to the test of memory; but, even supposing that the Minister is right, there are three things for which, in the circumstances, the House might be expected to ask - First, a list of the measures to be considered; second, the time we will be expected to sit ; and, third, an indication, to which possibly we are not entitled, of when the election is likely to take place.
– Why does the honorable member say that we are not entitled to that information ?
– Because the Ministry are entitled to give whatever advice they de- m re to His Majesty’s representative on that question, and it is not the habit or tradition of any Government in a British community to give to Parliament, and, least of all, to the Opposition, any indication as to the time when an election is to take place. Therefore, I do not think we are entitled to ask for that information; but we are justified - and I put it very plainly to the Prime Minister - in asking the right honorable gentleman, not <only for what he has told the House to-day, but also for the further information as to when he expects the House to rise. This should be made known in fairness to honorable members, partcularly those who come from distant States, and in whose constituencies, opponents are doubtless already at work. If the Prime Minister were in the position of a private member, either in the corner or on the other side, I am sure he would see the reasonableness of that request.
– I will answer it in this way : As soon as this work is done, we rise immediately. I can say nothing fur ther than that.
– The explanation the right honorable gentleman has afforded is, as he well knows, of no value whatever. I illustrate, for example, the argument used by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). If we are expected to pass the measures mentioned by the Prime Minister before we rise, either of two things must happen. If we do the work quickly, it will be done badly; if we do it properly it will take a long while. If the indications in the press and in the party meetings arc of any value, the Prime Minister knows that honorable members believe we are to do the work quickly; and that being the case, after an analysis of the measures to which the Prime Minister has made reference, I take leave to say that this Parliament will do itself a grave injustice if it endeavours to pass in a week, or a fortnight, or even in a month, the important measures which the Prime Minister says we must pass before we rise. Let us look at them for a moment. Significantly, the number is thirteen.
– An unlucky number for the Government.
– It is an unlucky number, and it is also a significant fact that eight out of the thirteen are not yet on the notice-paper, although some of them have been foreshadowed, notably in the Budget. It is also notable’ that eight measures already on the notice-paper are not included in the list given by the Prime Minister that we must pass. I admit that they are comparatively of minor importance, but some of the new Bills must, if we are to do justice to them, occupy considerable time.
– What are they?
– Let us take seven from the new and the old of the thirteen measures the Prime Minister has mentioned. First, there is the Budget. I doubt whether there has been introduced into this Parliament for many years past a mea- sure as important as the present Budget. Wo have had a very long, interesting, and, as I have endeavoured’ to say, clear statement from the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) on it, and two speeches from hon.orable members; but the Committee of Supply has not been afforded another opportunity of tackling the main feature of this session’s work, namely, the consideration of the financial statement. Are we to ask honorable members to abbreviate their remarks upon the Budget, or postpone or abandon them, when they know that they will be obliged to give an account to their electors of its incidence, and of its effects on the present and future policy of this country? For if they go out without having given expression to their thoughts in Parliament, and express them to the electors, they will have to bear the charge of negligence. Therefore, I say it is inconceivable that the Budget should be dismissed, in a perfunctory way. I assume that it will pass; but I believe whether it passes or not it will demand the most scrutinizing attention and careful analysis in all its features. In normal circumstances, such scrutiny and analysis might easily take, without undue pressure on the patience of honorable members, a fortnight or three weeks.
Arising out of the Budget are the Estimates, which I assume the right honorable gentleman proposes to pass before we rise; and it will be an injustice, not only to honorable members, but also to the country, if the vast ‘ millions in the schedule to the Appropriation Bill are passed, either by neglect or by the application of pressure, by the Government.’ The consideration of the Estimates would be achieved with wonderful celerity if a fortnight were spent upon them after the Budget is finished. These two items from the list given by the Prime Minister should occupy at least a month.
Next comes the Income Tax Assessment Bill. The Treasurer has given us some indication in his Budget as to what this measure will contain; and in the press’ this morning occur some new announcements in respect of proposals of a very arguable kind, and upon which honorable members who have studied income tax assessment measures may possibly desire to make stringent criticism or elaborate arguments- in support according to their views. It is, however,- unthinkable that the Treasurer will ask the House to accept these proposals item, eon., and pass them at a single sitting:
Then take the question of railway gauge. The Prime Minister knows that, however strong his desire may be to pass the Bill dealing with this matter, there is a very wide divergence of opinion, as to whether it should pass this session’ or not. I go no further than that, but ,1 say that I for one, as a private member, desire to argue the matter in all its bearings. I feel that I would not be doing justice to the State of Victoria, one . of whoso representatives I am, if I did -not take every opportunity permitted by the Standing Orders and the convenience and patience of tho House to oppose a measure which I think so dangerous at this particular period.
Then we have the sinking fund question. .For the first time in a score of years in which tho Commonwealth has had financial statements we have a proposal to work back, if the measure takes the shape I imagine it will, to an anachronistic form of amortization of our debts. It is, as I endeavoured to show in the remarks I made upon the Budget, a proposal upon which authorities are about equally divided, and if honorable members are to do their duty, it is a matter which ought to be’ keenly con-: tested. Therefore, the discussion on .it should occupy many days, because it proposes to fasten on to the back of posterity an enormous weight. If we regard ourselves as trustees for even immediate posterity, wo must analyze the proposal and see its probable effect on the finances of the nation.
Then we have the Public Service Bill. I took that measure home last night after ite explanation by the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), and I saw quite plainly from a perusal of it that, although it might be regarded as dangerous to oppose Public Service remedies before an election, there must be honorable members in this House with sufficient foresight and courage to do so ; and those who desire to discuss the measure, whether for the purpose of supporting or opposing it, ought, in fairness, to get the opportunity.
The seventh measure - and I pause on this is the salary question. I cannot imagine, whatever the views and intentions of honorable members may be, that the country expects us to decide the Bill on the voices.
– I know how I shall vote upon it.
– I can guess how the honorable member will vote, but whatever side honorable members may take upon the matter, it is an arguable question, as the Prime Minister probably knows better than any other honorable member does. There are those of us who possess strong views on both sides of the question. Are we prepared to surrender the opportunity of expressing those views?
Then there are certain measureswhich the Prime Minister has obviously and deliberately omitted from theprogramme.
– Yes, deliberately, because his own. attention and that of his Deputy Leader have been frequently directed to the question of amendments to the Constitution. The right honorable gentleman is the father of the form in which they have appeared before the people of Australia for many years past.
– He has deserted his children.
– Not necessarily. He may have put them in a creche.
– The people left my bantlings on the door-step and treated them as foundlings, saying “ Take them away.”
– They did not. “They acknowledged the proclaimed paternity of these measures.
– Butthey put a bar sinister between themselves andthe acceptance of them.
– Quite so; they said, “ We do not like the look of them,” either because of the paternity or because of the disposition they showed. There was, however, a gradual increase of view in favour of the proposed amendments. I. speak now as an opponent of the form in which they originally appeared, and the right honorable gentleman on. former occasions was not deterred by refusals to accept them. He cannot pretend at this stage that he is afraid to put them again, because they might be turned down for the fourtlh time. If he feels as he doubtless does, that these amendments should be made) the people should have an opportunity of saying yea or nay to them on this occasion. Now that the war is over, and the circumstances of Australian development are clearer to the people,. I do not urge that the right honorable gentleman should putthem to the people, but I point out that he promised to do so, and I expect him to carry out his promise. If he does that, Parliament shouldhave the opportunity of dealing with the proposed amendments.
Thereare other measures, but I will not dwell onthem in case I offend the susceptibilities of the House. Apart from all these things, it is questionable whether in the present international situation, it is proper that the- Government should hurry to an election. The Prime Minister is doubtless in receipt of more recent and important information than is available to any other person in this country. Parliament has not been favoured with verymuch information about the international situation in the Near East, and had the right honorable gentleman been here daring this week, instead of in another part of Australia, honorable members would have felt inclined to ask him what the position was. The Deputy Leader of the House in his absencehas given us no information. Are we doing our duty in going to the country knowing nothing about the situation except what appears in the press? One of the most calamitous things that could occur would be for theParliament to scurry through its work, slum its legislation, put it loosely on the statute-book, and then hurry to the constituencies with the idea of self-preservation in the minds of honorable members, only to find that a great international conflict had broken out, about which it knew little, and with regard to which it was powerless. I ask the Prime Minister to consider whether, during this sitting, the House should not he told exactly what the situation means to this country, and what probability there is to-day of another outbreak of war.
– Very well! That is perfectly fair. I shall’ make a statement, conveying to the House allthe information which it would be proper for me to communicate. I undertake to do so before the House rises this afternoon.
-I am glad to have that assurance; I am only sorry that itwas not volunteered. I appreciate the difficulty in which the head of a Government is placed when he has received! con- fidential and secret cablegrams from the Imperial authorities. He cannot be expected to come here and casually toss such communications upon the table. But there is another way; two other ways, in fact, with which the Prime Minister, no doubt, is familiar. One procedure is to get the consent of the British authorities to make known as much of the information as they may consider it necessary or advisable to announce to the Dominion Parliaments. The other way, in the event of the Prime Minister being unable to secure that consent, is for him to proceed as he did with respect to the first secret message which came to hand from the British Prime Minister. That is to say, while not giving the exact phraseology of the communication, he might reasonably make known its purport without any question of endangering international relations.
– I shall be prepared to follow that line of procedure to-day. But I do not know that my action in respect of that first cablegram ought to be regarded as a precedent, or taken as a principle to which the Government should adhere in all circumstances. After all, wc must exercise our own discretion and conserve our own rights. There might bo circumstances in which we would be compelled to act for ourselves, and to disclose to the country the precise reasons for our action, whether other people liked that procedure or not.
– I quite agree. The Dominions have achieved a status which warrants, on occasions, independent judgment and discreet and - if necessary - independent action. I do not recommend a specific course, however, in the light that it may be regarded as a general or universal procedure. Exceptional circumstances confront us to-day. We know little, or nothing, of the Kemalist situation. We are informed in the press that, notwithstanding the plain intimation of the Allies - notably, of France and Great Britain - there are still Kemalist troops within the neutral zone of the Dardanelles.
– Order! I am afraid the subjectmatter of the right honorable gentleman’s remarks is not now relevant.
– I shall touch upon it no further than to add that the matter is one which presses with grave concern on the minds of many members who are endeavouring to understand and appreciate the situation. If what is announced in the press is true, the position may be much more perilous than the carefully censored communiques would lead us to. believe. I put this point generally, because I remember the time when> the Prime Minister - then, Deputy Leader of the Labour party - first heard the news of the outbreak of the World War. It was in August, 1914, after the Cook Government had announced the double dissolution. The right honorable gentleman made an appeal that the Parliament should be rehabilitated, that its life should be extended.
– He did so, “ off his own bat.”
– I do not know that.. But I do know that an appeal went out to the country, signed by the responsible leaders of the Labour party, of which the right honorable gentleman was one, saying,. “Do not let us have a general election if there is to be a great war.” The present situation may not develop into a great war; but it certainly appears to contain all the possibilities. And, if the appeal which was made by the Labour party in 1914 was right at that stage, a similar course may be- right again. I urge the Prime Minister, therefore, to give the whole matter very earnest attention, for, in the present situation, there are higher considerations than the objective of getting one’s party back into power. I am prepared to vote in support of the motion, but I hope the: Government will not abuse their position, and will give those of us who desire to discuss the important measures to which I have referred reasonable opportunities for doing so. And that, I think, is all that honorable members ask.
.- When the Government first moved, during this session, that the sitting days should be extended to take in one additional day each week, I pleaded that there should bo no curtailment of the time available to honorable members for the consideration and discussion of the Government’s programme of work. I am in sympathy with those members who have already suggested that it is unseemly for the Government to introduce a mass of important work while providing very little time for the House to perform that work. The Prime Minister has said that the session will end when a certain amount of work has been done. That announcement may mean that sufficient time will not be given for the true and proper consideration of the measures still waiting to be debated. The Government should plainly intimate the date on which they intend that the session shall end; and they should then say, “ This is the programme which we still require to be carried out. We are determined that as much of that programme shall be completed as can be reasonably expected, but we will agree to -abandon that which cannot possibly be compassed within the period stated.” There hae been a good deal of humbug in the discussion of the measures remaining to be dealt with. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has drawn attention to the fact that the Prime Minister, after making a statement, or introducing a Bill, invariably disappears. It is a notorious fact that many of those members who, to-day, are pleading to be given more time for the consideration of the work still in hand are conspicuous by their absence immediately after the work has been placed before them. Within the past week or two. during which period numbers of very important measures have been under discussion, some members have given their best talents and every possible minute to the .business of the country, while many others have been away, so that the House has been practically empty.
– Is the honorable member spea’king of Victorian members?
– No; but of the House generally. My comments are not confined to cither side.
– The honorable member knows that the absence of numbers of members is due to the fact that an early election has been threatened.
– I do not know what may bc the cause of the absence of many members from this Chamber. But, since the Leader of the Opposition has claimed that insufficient time is given for the consideration of important business, I feel bound to call attention to the fact that, so soon as those measures come up for debate, numbers of his followers may be found outside of this chamber, giv ing their attention to anything but the subject-matter before the House.
– I said that their absence has been due largely to the fact that they expect an early election, and are away in their constituencies.
– I am not talking of members who are absent from Melbourne, but of those who are in this House up to that moment when the business of the day is called on, and who immediately thereafter disappear from the chamber.
– Does the honorable member apply that criticism generally?
– I do. I have already remarked that my comments are not directed to one side, but to all members.
Mr. Gabb interjecting,
– The honorable member talks about asking for a quorum. Only the other day he was outside the chamber for ai considerable time, and when he returned to his seat he called for a quorum - as much as to say, “ I ‘ may be out of the chamber for as long as I like; but I am determined that when I am present there shall be a quorum.”
– That statement is not correct.
– What I said about the honorable member calling for a quorum, upon his return after a lengthy absence from this chamber, is correct.
– How does the honorable member know ? He cannot see.
– Other members saw, though.
– I must confess that some times in regard to certain matters I am dependent upon information given me. For instance, while the War Service Homes Bill was being debated, my attention was drawn to the number of members present, and I was told that there were only two in attendance on the Opposition side, in addition to the Leader of the Opposition, who is almost always in his place.
– If the honorable member is referring to yesterday’s debate, I can tell him, since he could not see me, that [ was here all day.
– I am speaking now of members generally, and not individually. I claim that reasonable time and opportunity should be afforded for the House to deal with all these matters. A conscientious member knows that, even if he could give every minute of the hours . of sitting to the consideration of Bill) and motions, he would be unable to cope with anything like the whole of the work to be done. The Government should be reasonable, and frankly announce when they desire that the session shall end. They should say, “ We intend to finish up on a specific date. Here is the listof business which we wish to complete before that time. We propose to get through all of it if possible; but whatever cannot be dealt with by the due date mustbe left over.”
– The speech just concluded has surprised me because of the source from which it has emanated. If there is one member who is more guilty than any other of the very offence in regard to. which he has levelled general accusations, it is the honorable member for Fawkner himself.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I am not practically at all times in my place in this House ? .
– The honorable member cannot be in Court and in Parliament at the same time.
– I only wish to say that the accusation does not apply to myself. I invito the honorable member to examine the attendance records. He will discover that what he has said is not applicable to the great bulk of members of the Opposition. I appeal to him for fair play. His criticism applies most aptly to members of his own side. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has deemed it his duty, constantly, to call attention to the state of the House.
– Taking care that you and others of your colleagues have first retired from the chamber.
– The call for the quorum always comes from this side, and one hears nothing from supporters of the Government but abuse of the honorable member for Angas, both in the chamber and in the precincts.
Mr. Richard Foster interjecting,
– I did not raise this matter. The honorable member for Fawkner did so. I merely desire to point to thequarter in which the fault lies.
– Then, lay the fault at your own door!
– I know, of course, that it is the bounden duty of supporters of the Government to keep a House; but it is a remarkable fact that the attention of the Speaker is never called to the state of the House by honorable members behind the Government. I recall the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner when the question of increasing members’ salaries was first debates, last session. He said that but for the fact that the Federal Parliament sat in Melbourne, he could not be a member. That is to say, if he were not given sufficient time and opportunity to attend to his own business, he could not remain in Parliament. Several members then called attention to the fact that the honorable member for Fawkner only entered the chamber after the dinner adjournment each evening ; that he gave only the fag-end of his time to his public duties.
– That is not correct
– I admit that, since attention was called to the honorable member’s methods of carrying out hispublic duties, he has been asomewhat more regular attendant; nevertheless, it ill-becomes him, to assume the role of critic.
– I told the House, at the time, that I had informed my constituents that I would not be able to give my full time to attendance in Parliament.
– Why should the honorable member expect others to do what ho says he cannot do?
– What I have called attention to is the fact that some members, although within the precincts, spend very little time in the Chamber itself.
– Surely it is better to be within the precincts of the Chamber than away down town in one’s private office. The honorablemember, however) knows that constituents come here in great numbers to interview their representatives, and members have to spend much of their time in the lobbies in conversations with them on public matters. Throughout the day card after card is brought to members from persona who arc asking to see them.
– The honorable member for Fawkner has himself to interview constituents at times.
– That is so. The public misunderstand our situation, but the honorable member knows the facts.
– In addition to interviewing constituents, members have a great deal of correspondence to get through.
-Yes, and they have also to visit the public Departments in the interests of those whom they represent. The abuse to which attention should be called is that of having private business to which attention has to be given during time that ought to bo devoted to the affairs of the public.
– That does not happen among members on this side.
– There is no honorable member on this Bide whose private business interferes with the performance of his public duty. If blame attaches to some members for irregular attendance, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) should deliver his lecture at the pleasant, or unpleasant, party meetings upstairs which he attends. His remarks do not apply to any member of the Labour party. As to the motion’ itself, the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) performed a public duty in joining with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) to call attention to the unreasonableness of the Prime Minister’s proposal, and I was therefore surprised to hear him say that he would vote for the motion. Every word of his speech was in condemnation of the Government.
– The honorable member said that the bill of fare submitted to us this morning is more than could be gone through properly and effectively within three months.
– I said “ within two or three months,” but I also said that if we by this motion give more time for the business of Parliament, we shall have a better chance of getting through what is set before us than if we are content with the present hours of meeting.
– All that will bc gained by the passing of this motion is the extra afternoon and evening that is to be devoted on Monday next to the business of the country.
– It all depends upon the number of weeks for which the session is to continue.
– That is the point.
– Many of the Ministerialists are away electioneer ing, it having gone forth from a party meeting that it has been decided to hold an election not later than 9 th December next. If an election is to be held on that date, we shall have to rise next week or the week after. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that in that time we could not get through the whole of the programme put before us by the Prime Minister, oven by slumming it. If we give to it the attention which it is our bounden duty to give, there’ is no chance of passing it in the time at our disposal.
– Some of the Bills are not even printed yet.
– It will hardly be possible to get some of them printed in time, if we are going to rise at the end of next week. It is throwing dust in the eyes of the people to suggest that it is possible to get through this programme in the time at our disposal. I’ cannot see how the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) can vote for it.
– I intend, to vote for the motion merely to give more time for the consideration of public business.
– The right honorable member asked when is the House going to rise, but the Prime Minister ignored the question, and the only wayto get an answer from him is to oppose the motion.
– Does the honorable member know whether the discussion of the Budget will occupy three weeks or three days?
– The discussion of the Budget should occupy at least two or three weeks. Does the Minister say that that is unreasonable?
– The honorable member asked the Prime Minister to say how long the discussion of the Budget and other business will take, but he cannot say himself how long the Budget debate will last.
– If the Government has fixed the date of the election for the 9th December, it is impossible for us to do the work outlined by the Prime Minister, because if it is to be done properly, it will take at least three months. The right honorable gentleman, as is his habit, is acting autocratically again. He regards his followers merely as so many marionettes. In these circumstances, the only thing to be done is to hold up this motion to prevent him from travelling further on his present lines.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– They are. all anxious to get to the Budget !
– We are used to sneers from the honorable gentleman. The discussion of the motion may seem a matter of comparative unimportance to him, but it raises a very serious question in that it concerns the attitude of Parliament towards the programme of measures which the Government has indicated it desires to pass before the session closes. I would willingly support the motion taken by itself. I and most of my friends would be ready to sit here early and late, from Monday morning until Saturday at midday, were that required of us by the exigencies of the situation. But support to this motion will apparently be taken to include acquiescence in the policy of the Government, and indorsement of its proposal to pass within about a week the thirteen measures that have been mentioned by the Prime Minister, and a number of others on the business-paper which are not included inthe urgent list, and I cannot support that.
– It has not been suggested that in voting for an extra sitting day any one will be taken as supporting the whole programme of the Government.
– 1 have noticed that whenever extra time is given by honorable members for the consideration of public business, we find later that the opportunities for discussing that business are being curtailed.
– That is a matter for the House itself.
– I am not clear as to what course we should take. If we agree to every proposal of the Government for lengthening the hours of sitting, we may discover that it is intended to shorten the session in order to meet the convenience of some persons by having an early election. If opposition to the motion will put a check on the Government, I shall oppose it, or I will support any other method that my right honorable friend may suggest for putting a check on Ministers. I am prepared to come here every day, if the interests of the public require that. Butwhile we increase the number of sitting days in each week, we find Ministers constantly endeavouring to diminish the opportunities of honorable members to discuss matters of the utmost importance. If the thirteen measures in the Prime Minister’s list, to say nothing of the other business on the notice-paper, are to be adequately discussed, three weeks or a month will be needed to do justice to them, even if we meet every day in the week, commencing at 3 p.m. on Monday and finishing at1 p.m. on Saturday. Much has been said about “ stonewalling “ and of the multitude of motions of want of confidence. I was not here when most of the motions of want of confidence were moved.
– The honorable member was doing good work elsewhere.
– I thank the honorable member for that interjection. During my absence in England I had an opportunity to attend the debates of theHouse of Commons, the mother of Parliaments, and the mother of this Parliament, to whose procedure we look for guidance.
Mr.Considine. - Has the honorable member brought backthe mannerisms of its members?
– We are discussing a question of principle, not of mannerisms. I arrived in London two days before the Imperial Parliament opened, and did not leave until the middle of June, and I was in the House of Commons practically every day when it was sitting during that period. I had many opportunities of hearing the debates there, and of discussing questions of procedurewith the highest authorities.
-What has this to do with the question before the Chair ?
-What I am about to say has a great dealto do with it. We are discussing a motion to alter the hours of sitting.Surely the (procedure of this House is involved in that motion.
-The House of Commons is our parliamentary mother, and from it we have drawn our laws and traditions.
– The discussion is an interesting one, but it is not relevant to the question before the Chair.
– During this debate reference has been made to the multitude of motions of want of confidence that have been moved since the session opened in June last. I have been a member of this House for five years, representing hero the electoral division of Grampians. Whatever may hereafter be said for or against me, I shall at least go down in history as the last member for that constituency. It will not be my fault that I shall be the last member for Grampians. I should have liked to know that there would be an electorate of Grampians represented in this Parliament long after I was dead and gone.
– Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the question?
– If I had had my way, there would still be an electorate of Grampians.
-Thai has nothing to do with the question.
– Victoria has been improperly robbed of a member.
– I ask the honorable member not to continue in this strain.
– For five years I have had the honour of representing the electorate of Grampians. When I go before my electors - and I shall be able to appeal to 11,000 of them who have been removed from the electorate of Grampians to another electoral division - when I go before my electors, I shall have to say that I see no way in which honorable members, can give adequate expression to their opinions, or impose any check upon the recklessness or carelessness of the Government of the day, or obtain adequate information regarding measures’ brought before the House, except by moving motions of want of confidence.
– Order I Will the honorable member come to the motion before the Chair?
– I might give many excellent reasons why we should sit or should not sit on Monday, but the strongest reasons I can advance for some change in the hours and days of sitting is that, under present conditions, honorable members, except Government supporters, have no means of obtaining information regarding matters of the utmost importance to the community except by moving, motions of want of confidence. I once moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the shipping freights, and, simply because the Government were so careless as not to talk out the motion, it went to a vote, and tho decision of the House, and of the whole people pf Australia, was in my favour. I should like to say a few words about the way in which honorable members are dragooned, not necessarily by the Government of the day, but by the rules of procedure and precedents which have been adopted by the House. I do not claim to be a student of constitutional or parliamentary history, but during the last few months I have come in contact with many men who are, and I have come to the conclusion that there is no Legislature in the world in which honorable members are so dragooned and fettered in their discussion of matters of public importance as they are in this House. They are certainly not under the same restrictions in the House of Commons. Members of that august - Chamber receive infinitely greater consideration from their Government than honorable members of this House have - had since I have had a seat in it. According to our Standing Orders, interjections are disorderly, and what is the result! Interjections or questions addressed to the honorable member who is speaking are forbidden, and if any other honorable member wishes to put in a good word, he has to rise and shout in the loudest voice what he has to say. If he continues to do that, he is chided by the Speaker or Chairman of Committees - very properly, according to precedents and rules which, however, I say are very wrong. I should like to have an opportunity of debating them with you, Mr. Speaker. If an honorable member continues to interject, he is told from the Chair that he iB disorderly, and that if he repeats the offence he will be named and ordered out of the Chamber. The practice of the House of Commons is totally different.
– T again ask the honorable member to address himself to the motion that the House shall meet on Monday next.
– Quite so; and now is the time to consider what we shall be called upon to do on Monday next. My experience in this House has shown that, whilst there may be one Minister in charge of the business being transacted, he is generally writing letters at the table, or is beguiled by some honorable member who is talking to him. It is very unusual for a Minister to listen to what an honorable member is saying regarding the business of which the Minister is in charge.
– I do not think that criticism is fair. Ministers have to make notes, and they have work to do while they are sitting at the table.
– The honorable member is entitled to his opinion, and I am entitled to mine. He speaks, possibly, from experience; I speak from observation. If I thought that Ministers in charge of Bills were taking notes of what honorable members said, I would admit that my criticism was totally unjustified, but that has not been the result of my observation. In the House of Commons no member of the Ministry sits at the table and writes when another honorable member is speaking.
– The honorable member must address himself to the motion.
– I am awarethat the motion is that the House do meet on Monday. And what is the object?
Mr. Fenton interjecting,
– Order !
– I know that some honorable members opposite become sot enthusiastic when I am on , my feetthat they cannot control themselves. They mean well, however, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to pardon them, as I do. The ostensible purpose of the motion before the House is that we shall be able to pass within one week - we have that assurance on the very highest authority-
– What ?
Opposition Members. - Watt!
Full many a shot at random sent,
Finds marks the archer little meant.
Although I did not mean to refer to the honorable member for Balaclava, I admit that he is one of the ‘highest authorities. I am not sure that he is not the very highest. It is clear that the object of the motion is that for somebody’s convenience all the measures which have been mentioned are to berushed through Parliament in the hope of the session terminating next Friday or Saturday.
– We have spent almost as much timein discussing the motion as we shall gain by meeting on Monday.
– I do not thinkthat much is to be gained by meeting on Monday. The object of this rush of business is to fix a date for the elections which will be suitable for one party. We have had one experience of a general election in December. The last election took place on the 13th December. I represent a country district, as I hope to do in the next Parliament. Travelling about amongst the farmers I found them at the very maximum of their activity. I refer to those working farmers who are responsible for harvesting those bounteous crops from which the whole of the Australian people derive a great measure of prosperity. The time most unsuitable to the farmer foran election is the month of December, when he is engaged in harvesting, and I took the opportunity soon after this Parliament met of moving a motion that in any Constitutional alterations that might be made, provision should be inserted making it impossible to hold a general election during the harvesting period.
– The period of harvesting varies with different crops.
– The honorable member is no doubt referring to some Queensland crops. I, too, know a good deal about Queensland, and I declare that there could not be a worse election time than the month of December for the great majority of the primary producers of Australia. There might be a month more inconvenient to the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), and it may be that he has been consulted and a December election has been suggested to suit him. It is hopeless for any private member, or even the Leader of a party, to do anything in this House unless he is supported by the Government. The Government are absolute dictators. I was very much interested in a discussion we had a little time ago on the subject of parties. It was stated that for all practical purposes it did not matter how many men were in Opposition-
– I have listened very carefully to the honorable member. He if covering a wide range of very interesting subjects, but many of them are not even remotely related to the motion. I ask honorable members not to further indulge in interjections, because the honorable member for Grampiaus is apt to follow them rather than to debate the motion before the Chair.
– I thank you, sir, for your warm appreciation, not only of this speech, but of all my other speeches. I shall endeavour to follow more closely your wise advice. I understand that the object of meeting on Monday is to allow us to get through our business so that the general election may be held on the 9th December. To that end we must rush through all the proposed legislation without consideration.
– We have yet to deal with the Budget, upon which the honorable member’s Leader desires to speak.
– We alldesire to deal with the Budget. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will deal with it in a most adequate and illuminating fashion. We all look forward to hearing the honorable member. I protest, in the name of public necessity, against the Government’s intention to rush on this legislation without allowing opportunity for it to be adequately discussed. There is no real necessity for the House to rise at the end of next week, or even the week after that. We need not rise before the middle of December, as in former years. Of course the session ought to finish about that time, because all honorable members desire to return to their homes and foregather with their wives and families at Christmas. It is a piece of brutality and folly to introduce into this House any measures dealing with the lives, liberties, and fortunes of the people without allowing them to be adequately discussed. It will be impossible to adequately discuss and pass these measures before the middle of December ; and I should like to know whether any reason has been given or suggested why the House should not continue to sit, and the election be held next year?
– The Government are afraid of the axe of Sir George Fuller, in New South Wales.
– My knowledge of the mind of the Government may not be so deep as that of the honorable member, but I do not think he is quite justified in taking that view. Representatives of the Government are silent because. I take it, they know of no reason why the election should not take place next year. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has advanced one powerful reason why the House should not rise in this indecent haste and the election be rushed on in this unjustifiable fashion, and that is the difficult international position. I regret to find myself at variance inthe remotestdegree with that honorable member, but I do not join with him in asking that the Prime Minister shall make a statement to the House regarding his communications from the Imperial Government.
– The Prime Minister has promised to do so.
– I regret that the Prime Minister did promise to do so, unless, of course, he himself is quite satisfied as to the wisdom: of that course. I have been a close observer of foreign affairs for years, and I have become profoundly impressed, especially during the last nine months, with the fact that everything that is said in this Parliament, no matter how hasty, ill-considered, or indiscreet, is cabled to the other end of the world, and, within forty-eight hours, is made use of by our enemies to the disadvantage of Australia.
– South Africa has all the information.
– I agree that honorable members are entitled to information, but statements made on the floor of the House are apt to be cabled and circulated throughout Europe, and a great deal of harm may thereby be done. I realize that when the outlook is so grave, it is of importance that there should be a strong Government in power, and that, if possible, Parliament should be sitting.
– I have again to remind the honorable member that the question is whether the House shall meet on Monday.
– Personally, I am prepared to meet on Monday and every other day, from “dewy morn to starry eve.” It is quite clear that if members exercise their rights of discussion, we are likely to be asked to meet every day, and all day, and all night.
– How long do you think that could go on ?
– Until members dropped down dead, or half dead, from exhaustion; and, apparently, there are some honorable members who are prepared to risk the consequences to other honorable members.
– It will be a nocturnal saturnalia !
– It will be a” knockout “ saturnalia. I shall vote against the motion as the only means of protesting against the ill-considered, unjust, and almost savage determination of the Government to thrust a lot of useless legislation down the throats of honorable members.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I desire to make a brief personal explanation. When discussing the motion before the House this morning, I alluded to a debate of Tuesday last, when the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) was acting as Leader of the Government. I said that he had been asked by myself, and, I thought, by some other honorable members, to announce the programme for the remainder of the session, and the length of time over which the House would be asked to sit. I stated, further, that I thought the Minister had given a promise in respect of both requests. I find, on reference to Hansard, however, that the Minister for Defence did not undertake to do more than to request the Prime Minister to announce the business of the session. I desire, therefore, to correct my statement, in justice to the Minister.
Representation at Geneva.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. The Commissioner is inviting tenders for the purchase of approximately 4,000.000 super feet of hardwood in Victoria.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the declaration of Sir Henry Newman Barwell, Premier of South Australia, that his Government, in association with other
State Governments, were approaching the Privy Council to test the judgment of the High Court,” that State instrumentalities were subject to the awards and decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court,” will the Government arrange for the powers of the Commonwealth to be defended if this action of the State Governments is proceeded with?
– The Commonwealth Government have already made arrangements to be represented before the Privy Council.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as early as possible.
Land and Income Tax
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he furnish a return showing, separately, the amounts collected under the land and income tax provisions in the Northern Territory during the years 1920-21?
– Steps have been taken to obtain the information.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Entertainments Tax Bill.
Customs Tariff Bill.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to the Commonwealth Shipping Line.
– The intention is to place the Lino tinder non-political control. Honorable members will be given ample opportunities to examine the Bill before it comes up for debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 28th September, vide page 2883) :
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section sixteen of the principal Act is amended -
by omittingfrom sub-section(4) thereof the words “cost of each lot, having regardto its size and toits position in the subdivision, but the aggregate cost of all the lots as so determined shall be equal to the total cost of all the land, including that which is reserved for streets and other purposes,” and inserting in their stead the words “ fair value of each lot”; and
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - “ (5) In determining under the last preceding sub-section the fair value of each lot the Commissioner shall have regard to the size of the lot and its position in the subdivision and shall apportion to the lot its share in the cost of draining, and making streets in, the land subdivided’”.
Section proposed to be amended - 16. (1) Subject to this Act, any private land, or with the consent of the Minister, any land being Crown land of a State, road or land which has been dedicated, reserved, or set apart for any public or other purpose, whether by any State or by any private person, and whether or not such land is vacant or hat dwelling-houses or other buildings already erected thereon, may be acquired by the Commissioner for the purposes of this Act.
Amendment (by Mr. Hector Lamond) agreed to -
That after the word “amended-“ the following words be inserted: - “(aa) by omitting sub-section (1) thereof and inserting in its stead the following subsections: -
Subject to this Act the Commissioner may acquire land for the purposes of this Act. (1a) Before acquiring - (a) any land upon which dwellinghouses or other buildings are already erected;
any Crown land of a State; or
any rood or land which has been dedicated, reserved or set apart for any public or other purpose whether by a State or by any private person, the Commission shall obtain the consent of the Minister to the acquisition of that land.’.”
Clause further verbally amended, and agreed to.
Clause 6 (Power to erect houses or enter into contracts for erection).
.- I intimated yesterday that I proposed to test the Committee upon the question whether those in possession of homes, and future applicants also, should be called upon to pay anything over and above the statutory sum. I pointed out that theirs was not the fault that costs had increased, hut that the blame was due chiefly to departmental maladministration. No doubt, the argument willbe raised that these men entered into specific agreements. They were anxious to get homes of their own, and, naturally, they signed the agreement, because to refuse to do so would remove their only opportunity to secure a home. When they attached their signatures they appreciated the fact- that they were dealing with the Government, and they did not reckon upon a breach of faith. They took it for granted that the price stated in the Act would representthewhole of their liability. I am aware that the wording of the agreement requires that an applicant shall pay the cost of the building. But many applicants have been unable to learn the extent of their liabilities. Even the Department has been unable to say, accurately, what has been the cost of many of the homes; there has been no method of costing. Many of the homos have been built in groups; and, in these instances, the aggregate expenditure has been divided by the number of dwellings in the group. That, however, has been an unsatisfactory and inaccurate system of costing. The Honorary Minister has mentioned that, in many instances, settlements have been made upon the basis of revaluation. There is no justification for charging a soldier more than the amount provided in the Act.
– The honorable member’s remarks would be more appropriate to clause 8.
– I desire my amendment to be made retrospective. It seems to me that it will be difficult to move my amendment on clause 8, but if the Chairman thinks that it can be done, I will reserve it until we reach that clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Total cost of land and dwellinghouse).
.- I wish to add a proviso to the effect that in the case of a person acquiring a home
Already erected, and in the case of future applicants, the cost to the soldier shall not exceed the amount provided by Statute, unless the extra cost was incurred at his request.
– That is what we are doing now.
– The Minister said definitely yesterday that he was not doing what I am endeavouring to provide for.
– What the honorable member suggests was the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee.
– Yesterday the Minister told us that he had had these properties re-valued, and that in. some cases he had reduced the cost to the soldier accordingly, and in other cases he had not accepted the valuation, but proposed to reduce the cost by an agreed amount. He admitted, however, that it was possible that a soldier might have to pay £100 or £150 more than the statutory cost. Properties have increased in value of late because of the shortage of houses. It is not the practice of valuers to undervalue. They take into consideration the nature of the surroundings of the property and the cost per foot of land in the neighbourhood, and make their valuations accordingly.
– The Minister has not told us whether these properties are valued at their present value, at their value when the soldier took possession, or at their cost.
– If a man has been living for two years in his house, is the property re-valued?
– I understand so. Theseproperties are being valued at their present-day value, and a house built a couple of years ago for £800 would often sell for £1,000 to-day. If my proposal were agreed to, the departmental officers would have a direction from Parliament not to charge the soldiers for costs incurred over and above the statutory price, unless the extra expenditure was incurred at the desire of the soldier himself.
– That would save a lot of trouble.
– Yes. Last week a deputation, representing, I think, three groups, waited upon the honorable member forBatman (Mr. Brennan) and myself.
– I had one, too.
– The complaint made to us was that the values put on the houses are in excess ofwhat the men expected to pay. They bargained to get homes for £800, and we should give them homes at that price. In any case many of them will find it almost impossible to meet their instalments throughout the years that are coming, and we should lighten their burden so far as we can do that legitimately.
– To some of the buildings a. limitation of £700 should apply.
– The limitation is £700 or £800, according as the building was put up under the original Act or under the Act as amended. Itseems to be the unanimous desire of honorable members that what I suggest should be done, and if the Minister will submit an amendment on the lines I have indicated, I will accept it.
– What about men who bargained for a house at £500 which cost £5501 Why should they pay the extra cost?
-The honorable member, as a legal man, can see the difficulty of drafting an amendment dealing with every case. I think that the cases which he has in mind must remain sub ject to Ministerial decision. My suggested amendment has application only to properties which were to be built at the statutorycost.
– I do not see why those whom I have in mind should be required to pay more than they contracted topay.
– Therewere very few definite contracts. An agreement was drawn up in general terms, and signed by most of the soldiers, who naturally thought that the cost of their homes would not exceed the statutory limit.
– But there were cases in which men were satisfied to take a home costing only £500.
– Those cases would be the subject of special agreements. I think that my proposalwould cover ninetenths of the cases in which there is a dispute as to the amount which should be charged. There were cases in which the statutory cost was not exceeded, but most of the soldiers have been asked to pay something more than they expected to have to pay. I hope that the Minister will consider the matter, and I am willing to give him time to do so. We promised to provide our soldiers’ with homes on certain terms, and we should keep faith with them. If bad administration has increased costs . beyond the statutory limit, the public should take the responsibility ; the extra liability should not be placed on the shoulders of men who, in any case, will be a life-time in paying for their homes. Where a working man, has a wife and a growing family, he and his wife will have to practise much selfdenial over a long series of years if they are tomeet their instalments, and we should make their burden as light as we can.
– The proposal of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) appears to me to be based on a misunderstanding of the position, and if effect were given to it the Commonwealth would be involved in a quite unnecessary loss of about £100,000.
Mr.Francis. - That is, we are now taking that amount from the soldiers.
– I suggest that members should hear what I have to say before coming to a conclusion on this matter. The Commissioner, in every case in which excess cost has been due to maladministration, such as defective accountancy, the wrong charging of materials, or any other similar cause making the actual cost greater than the value of the house, sells the house at its assessed value.
– That does not meet the trouble
– Is it not possible that the value of these houses as ascertained now is greater than the value of two years ago?
– No; just the reverse. In every case where there is reasonable doubt that the prices are in excess of the real values the excess is written off, and the loss borne by the War Service Homes Commission.
– In whose minds must the reasonable doubt exist?
– It arises in the mind of the soldier, but must eventually be conveyed to the mind of the Minister. Thereare several ways in which an estimate of value may be made. We are still building houses like those we have to value, of the same type and of similar materials, and know what’ they are costing. We also know what the land costs. We can check the estimates by means of valuations from different firms of auctioneers and valuators, That is a very unsatisfactory method, but by getting two or three check valuations we are able to arrive at what is the fair value of the house. And I am bound to say that although I have met many groups of soldiers since I became the Minister administering this scheme, I have heard from them none of the complaints which have been voiced by honorable, members in regard to unfair valuations of homes: The soldiers axe not presenting themselves as suppliants for charity; they are merely asking for a fair deal, and the Government are giving it to them. The position to-day is that somehouses that are worth £1,000 and many houses that are worth £900and could.be sold in the market at higher prices, have been built for the soldiers under an arrangement that they would pay whatever the houses cost the Commissioner. But we are not asking them to do that. . In some cases as much as £300 has been written off the amount standing in our books’, in an effort to arrive at a fair valuation.
– Has that practice been general !
– Solarge a sum has been written off in only a few cases. Sometimes the valuation in our. books is below the actual cost. One cannot conceive of an imperfect system of accountancy that always resulted in excess costs and never under costs. Inevitably some of the valuations shown in the books are below the amounts which the soldiers ought to pay.
– Can the Minister say whether in any case the present valuation is above the original cost!
– I do not think that in any instance we have attempted to lift the costs against the soldier.
– I understand that the system now is to sell the soldier a home at the present day valuation. Is that valuation in any case more thanthe original cost?
– I do not think it would be, because only houses in respect of which there has been an excess cost are referred to the valuator.
– Suppose that an excess cost is referred to the valuators, do they bring the houses down to £700 or £800, or do they fix a fair valuation which the soldier has to pay?
– The houses are sold at an absolute valuation. The question put to the valuers is, “How much is that house worth?” The reference has nothing to do with the provisions of. the Act or things other than the fair value of the house.
The question now before the Committee is whether the Commissioner should sell houses tosoldiers, who have undertaken to pay whatever they might cost, at a lower price than their actual value, simply because of some provision in the Act which has no relation to the price at which the Commissioner sells, but which places a restriction upon him in regard to the amount of money that he may advance for any one house.
– The Minister speaks of the present date ; will that date be moved, or is it a fixture?
– These troubles will not arise again. In regard to some of the criticisms offered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) at the second-reading stage, the Bill does not provide for the adjustment of excess costs. We ‘have complete power to do that under the present Act, except in the directions indicated in a few of the clauses of the Bill. We have been doingthat work for months post.
– But not whatI have suggested.
– No; and I submit that it is not reasonable torequest that we should present £100 or £200 worth ofproperty to a soldier, who had undertaken to pay a reasonable price, merely because the Commissioner has exceeded the authority given by Parliament for the expenditure of money on individual houses.
– There is a difference between cost and valuation.
– Again I say that in selling the houses the Commissioner does not look at the cost at all.
– The soldier agreed to pay the cost price, not the valuation price.
– They ere not asked to pay the higher price. Does the Committee wish to make a present of £100 or more to a soldier? Under this Bill we are giving power to the soldier to sell his home. If the amendment is carried we shall sell ahouse worth £1,000 for £800, and to-morrow the soldier will go upon the market, re-sell the house, and put £200 in cash into his pocket. For what reason? The soldier is not asking for this money. He is asking that his house be fairly valued and sold to him at a reasonable price. And I do not think we are justified in going beyond that, having regard to all the circumstances. We have already offered relief to soldiers whose houses are too expensive for them. We say to a soldier, “ This has cost us £1,100; we say it is worth £900. You may buy it for £900 if you wish, but if that is more than the cost you anticipated, and more than yon feel you can reasonably afford to pay, we shall build you a cheaper house, and take over and realize upon the first.” Ithink that meets the fair requirements of every such case.’ It is fair to give the soldier this opportunity, and having taken some pains, in Victoria particularly, to ascertain the values of these houses, ‘ I am quite sure that the majority of soldiers in occupation would have no difficulty in selling their homes at a considerable advance on the prices they will be asked to pay. Unfortunately, the opinions of honorable members are too much influenced by two or three defective groups of houses that present the greatest difficulty to me. It is not fair that the Commonwealth should sell to a soldier a house that is not properly built, or that is not hygienic, but where the soldier has acquired an asset of real value it is reasonable to keep him to his contract, particularly when we give him the option of having another house built if he feels that the cost of the first one imposes too heavy a burden upon him
– If a soldier elects to have another house built, will he continue in occupation of the first until the cheaper house is ready?
– Oh, yes. We could not ask a soldier to go out into the street simply because of some mistake which the Department (has made.
– One never knows what . the Department will do.
– That is a most unfair reflection upon the Department. I have had access to the files as freely as anybody, and there is very little evidence in the Department of any officers - and we have had some very poor ones - trying to take advantage of the soldier. Our real misfortune is that the problem is exceedingly difficult. We have to revalue thousands of houses. I have had experience with some of the most qualified valuators in Australia. I ‘had one house valued by three of the most prominent valuers in Sydney, and their opinions varied to a maximum of 50 per cent. Many of the valuations are held up because I desire to be perfectly satisfied that the soldiers are getting their houses at the present-day value. We have abandoned the idea of trying to arrive at the accurate value two years ago. Inevitably all the valuations are against the Department. The houses were built when labour and material were dearer than they are to-day, and the valuator does not attempt to arrive at what would have been a fair valuation two years ago; he declares the house to be worth so much to-day. All the valuations we get show present-day values.
– Will the Department hold to them, or will they be altered?
– Once this matter is cleaned up, and that will not be for some months, the prices fixed must be final. It is inconceivable that the Commonwealth, because it has undertaken to build a home for a soldier, should also accept responsibility for any depreciation of the property market in years to come; that is not a fair request to make.
– What is the total amount that has been written off the capital cost of these houses to date?
– I cannot give an accurate estimate, and probably one should not attempt to do so, because these estimates are used for all sorts of purposes. I am quite certain from what I have seen that the total amount to be written off as a result of selling the houses to soldiers at fair present-day values will bc under 5 per cent, of tho total expenditure on their construction. The trouble over War Service Homes has been grossly exaggerated, as is the way of the modern newspaper. I do not sup- pose there is anybody in Australia who as not heard of the Goulburn group. But for one badly constructed house in that group we can show 100 houses that challenge comparison with any other buildings of the same date. One honorable member stated yesterday that the contractors were averse from taking contracts under the Commission because they would be held to the conditions.
– I referred to contracts controlled by departmental officers, not by the War Service Homes Commission.
– The only big building authority the Commission employs to-day is directed by a State officer, so there is no point in the honorable member’s interjection. There is no need for the apprehension that some honorable members seem to have that hyasking the soldier to pay more than £700 or £800 for his house, as the ca«e may be, we are placing any part of the losses of the Department upon his shoulders. Not one penny of the ascertainable losses due to maladministration, faulty supervision, or loafing on the job, as shown in the books of the Commission, will be charged to the soldier. On the contrary, I am satisfied that in making these adjustments, the benefit given to the soldiers amounts to a very considerable sum of money, and that 95 per cent, of the purchasers could sell their homes at a profit. Of the soldiers I have met - and I have talked to them in their homes in the groups - only a very negligible number would contemplate for a moment selling their houses at the prices which the Commission is charging them.
– Does the Minister say that the estimated value is not likely to be exceeded in the future?
– If I have succeeded in satisfying the Committee upon the point immediately under notice, I ‘have no objection to deal with other phases of the question. One of the strongest reasons for the adoption by the Government of the contract system is thai the soldier is able to see a definite contract in writing before anything is done. The Commission is able to say to the soldier, “The contract for this house is £790, and that is all you will be called upon to pay, unless you interfere with the contract, and then, of course, according to whatever demand you make, it will cost you an additional amount.” With a definite contract from the beginning none of the troubles which have occurred in the past can arise in the future. The soldier will know before his home is built how much it will cost, and the only objection he can raise is that it has not been well constructed. Before he goes in we shall require him to examine it, but as during the progress of the contract we have examinations by our own officers, we can tell him before he goes in that the job has been well done. I strongly object to the soldiers going into their homes before they are finished. Most of the troubles we have had have arisen from that fact, but in order to convenience the soldiers themselves we allowed them to enter into possession of the houses before the values were ascertained. Of course, we are all exceedingly wise after the event, but I ask honorable members to turn their minds back to the time when we had thousands of soldiers coming back to Australia. Many of them married on their return, others had married abroad, and brought their wives and often young children with them. I ask honorable members to realize the shortage of houses existing. Even when I undertook the control of the Department, as late as six months ago, young soldiers came to me pleading for a home in Victoria, and I was amazed at the conditions under which I found some of these men living in Melbourne, with families, occupying two rooms and paying extortionate rents for such poor accommodation. If the Commissioner, seeing the needs of these men, allowed them to go into unvalued homes, thereby leading to many of these troubles, I do not think that our judgment on him should be too harsh. He tried to meet the need that was urgent at that time, and, of course, in doing so, led to some of these troubles. However, I can assure honorable members that the methods adopted by the
Commission to-day to undo the evil that was done and give the soldiers their homes at a fair and reasonable price are completely efficient. I can also assure honorable members that if whenthese values have gone out there still remain individual cases that appear to be unjust and in need of review they will, have most careful individual attention.
.- Had the Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond) made in introducing the measure the explanation he has just given, a good deal of misapprehension would have been cleared away, because hitherto honorable members have been rather in the dark as to the proposals of the Government. However, his explanation does not entirely meet the case. For instance, he concluded his remarks by saying that it was a mistake to allow the soldiers to enter houses before they knew the cost of them. As a matter of fact, it was a mistake on the part of the Commission not to know the cost of the houses. It was certainly not a mistake on their part to allow the men to get into the homes, seeing that it was nearly two or three years in some cases before the Department knew the cost of them. What would have happened to the dwellings if they had remained unoccupied for that period, and what would have happened to the men who needed homes ? It was a wise thing for the Commissioner to allow the men into the houses, although his action in that respect may have led to trouble in other directions.
– The honorable member is right as to that point, but the value of the homes would have been ascertained much earlier if the men had not been in occupation of them.
– Why could not the values have been ascertained earlier, even if the men were permitted to ‘get into their homes ? Surely the fact that people were living in the houses had nothing to do with the question of arriving at their cost?
– The fact that the soldiers were in occupation of the homes rendered the matter of ascertaining the values much less urgent.
– The fact that the Commissioner acted as he did served not only to accommodate many soldiers and their families who would otherwise have been homeless, but also to save quite a number of houses from depreciating in value. The Minister has told us that he is having a valuation made of’ those dwellings which have cost more than the estimated price, and that the soldiers in occupation are to be allowed to ‘ retain their homes at the valuation which is now placed upon them. The proposition on the faceof it seems reasonable but. there is another side to the question. These men entered into an agreement to purchase Houses at prices they could aff ord to pay, and the Department undertook to give them houses at those prices, and handed over houses ostensibly at the prices agreed upon ; but the men found out afterwards that the costs fixed by the Department were more than they originally expected them to be. The result is that many men have been called upon to pay prices which are more than they can afford. The Minister has told us that this difficulty will be overcome by the Commission, taking the house from the soldier and giving him another.
– And also by extending the term of repayments, if necessary.
– In either case hardship” will be inflicted upon the men through no fault of their own. Many of these men went into their houses two or three years ago, and they have improved them and the surroundings. Some of them have secured employment in the immediate neighbourhood of their homes. Quite a number of them have not been satisfied with houses merely; they have made their dwellings their homes, and now that they have become familiar with their surroundings it is a cruel proposal to tear them away, particularly in the case of those men whose employment is in the locality in which they have chosen to reside. In these circumstances 1 feel that even if the cost to the Government be £100,000, these men should be established in their own homes.
– And the other soldier who has no home should also be given an amount equivalent to the reduction inprice value which the honorable member proposes should be made to those who have homes.
– I am quite prepared to admit that the system may work out a little unevenly in some cases and that some men may get more than others ; but, in my opinion, it is better that that should be the case than that some men should be penalized. If there is to be any differentiation it should be at the expense of the Commonwealth and not at the expense of the soldier. The Public Accounts Committee, having gone into this matter thoroughly and studied it in all. its ramifications in every State, has recommended that these men should not be charged the extra cost of their homes, but should get them at the price which they rightly understood they would have to pay according to the agreements they made with the Commission.
– Quite a number of the men knew that their houses would cost more than £700 or £800.
– Their numbermust be very few. Thosewho were aware that the cost would exceed £700 or £800 must have been prepared to provide the extra money themselves.
– The men who would lay their cases before the Public Accounts Committee or honorable members werethose who had complaints to make.
– The soldiers’ organizations sent their representatives to give evidence before- the Committee, and the members of the Committee inspected a great number of these homes. The work of the Committee was not performed in a perfunctory way, but was done thoroughly and conscientiously with a desire to meet the wants of the returned soldiers. The fullest inquiry was- made, and, as a result, the Committee recommended that these men should be allowed to take their homes over at the original amounts which they believed would be their cost. Realizing that there must be a loss somewhere, the Committee thought it better that it should be borne by the Commonwealth and not by the soldiers.
– Does not the honorable member realize that there may be speculators among the soldiers as well as among private citizens?
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports- seems, to have very little sympathy for the returned soldiers if he is prepared to allow a few speculators to damage the whole body of soldiers. It would not be right to make the whole body suffer hardship because of the actions of a few, nor would it be right to make the Government suffer because of a few cases of hardship. The unanimous opinion of the Public Accounts Committee was, as I have indicated, that these men should be allowed to take their homes at what they believed would be the cost. Some of the men who entered into written agreements to get their- houses at a ‘ certain cost are quite safe because they have a legally binding agreement; but, others., who went in on exactly the same footing, but without signed contracts, may be called upon to pay extra for their homes. It is not fair treatment to those who trusted to the Government that they should be let down.
– I resent the statement that the soldiers are being “ let down.”
– I was about to elucidate . that remark. The soldier is being let down in regard to the intrinsic or actual value of the house he occupies. Having made it his home, and improved its surroundings, he is to be asked to tear himself -away, and probably- lose the employment he now has.
– Not one man in a thousand will leave his home at the price at which we shall give it to him.
– I urge the Minister to agree to the unanimous recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee that the soldier should have his house at the price at which he thought he was going to get it. Even if it costs the Commonwealth £100,000 to do this it will be a small price to pay for bringing contentment to a great body of returned soldiers-.
.- I am disappointed at the attitude adopted by the Minister, and I desire to make my position clear so that if there are further complications at a later stage I shall be able to point to my record. We ought to have sufficient manliness to decide this matter, in view of what has happened. We are responsible, as a Parliament and a Government, to the returned men, and ought to take care that they do not suffer because of blunders in administration.
– They will not.
– But I say they will. The Minister was very careful not to be too definite on the point.
– In what was I indefinite ?
– The Minister said it was a question of values, and that whatever valuation may be given he will decide accordingly; I desire to go further and admit the wrong that has been done to these men through maladministration. I propose to submit the amendment, and every honorable member here will be responsible to his constituents and ‘ the returned soldiers for the vote he gives. The amendment will provide, beyond doubt, that the men shall have houses worth the £700 or £800 as provided by the Act. This proposal as to values is the most misleading ever placed before a Parliament. We all know that in oases of land resumption for railways and so forth, great-difference of opinion is shown in the evidence of valuers ; it all depends on the persons by whom the valuers are engaged, and the exact evidence that any person requires can be obtained. I know that to be a fact . from personal experience in a case concerning the Railway Commissioners iu New South Wales and in other cases. But it is not a question of values now; it is a question of what Parliament intended should be the cost of these homes to the returned men. Why should we say that a house which has cost £1,100 shall be valued, and that if the valuation be £950, the soldier shall pay the difference between £800 and the latter amount.
– That is giving the soldier more than the war gratuity.
– The Minister really does not desire to concede the- soldier anything, but to rely solely on the valuation. Parliament ought to rectify as far as possible any mistakes made by the Government, and even if to do. so means a cost of £100,000 the Government ought to pay it. Why should a soldier be called upon to pay £150 because of. a mistake by the Government !
– What about a - house which was estimated to coat £800, but actually, cost £1,0001 If in such a case the Government presented the £200 to tho soldier, the ‘ latter might immediately sell the house for £1,100. How can that be defended ?
– I have nothing to do with what a soldier may do after he pays for his home, for that is his business. We entered into a contract to let him have a home for so much, and if at a later date he sells it with advantage to himself, good luck to him. Tho case cited is an extreme one, and affords no reason why we should not amend’ this Bill. There is no doubt that we made a miserable failure of the War Service Homes scheme, but it appears that we are now asked to go along the same lines without anything in black and white to show what Parliament intends.
– We have the Minister’s assurance.
-I have nothing to say against any Minister, but we know that Ministerial assurances are not always adhered to. Ministers have to depend on the advice of their officers, and to come to decisions without that full knowledge they might have after investigation or a debate in the House. I desire to provide in black and white that nobody, whether a Minister or the head of a Department, can charge the soldier beyond the £800 unless the soldier desires certain additions to the original plan. The section in the original Act provides that the cost shall not exceed £700, and while I am not too sure as to what that now means, I take the Minister’s assurance that it still means £800.
– The other tion is still in the Act.
– Thequestion has been thoroughly discussed, and I shall therefore move -
That the following proviso be added tosubclause (2.) : - “ Provided that inthe case of the person acquiring a home already erected and in the case of future applicants, the cost to the soldier shall not exceed the amount provided by Statute unless such additional cost was incurredathis request.”
That is, I think, a fair amendment, which meets with the views of most honorable members. I may say that I submitted it to the Minister, but he cannot see his way to accept it.
– The honorable member for Nepean. (Mr. Bowden) cited the case of a soldier who agrees to pay £500 for a house which costs £550. I wish to say with regard to that and all similar cases that wherever a soldier agreed to pay a price for a definite house, no more than that amount is charged.
– He could not be charged any more if he signed an agreement.
-But honorable members keep repeating that where definite arrangements have been made the Commissioner is trying to charge more, and I wish to say that that is not so. Then the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) mentioned the case of an estimate of £800 being exceeded. Wherever there is evidence on the files that a definite estimate was given before the house was started, the house will be sold to the soldier at that price, even if it involves a loss of £200 or £300 to the Commission. My attention has been directed to the report of the Committee of Public Accounts with regard to this matter, from which the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) professed to quote -
It is undoubtedly a fact that some of the houses erected under the day-labour system have been charged to the occupants at considerably more than their worth. As in the main, the extra cost in these instances is admittedly duo to bad administration and defective supervision, it is not right that the soldier should have to pay for these. Where a complaint of this kind has been made, a valuation, as at the time of the erection of the house, should be obtained from on impartial source, and the amount thus arrived at should be the price charged to the soldier.
That is the principle on which the Commission has acted, and it seems to me to be a perfectly just and equitable system, and the only one that is suitable.
– You are hardly acting up to that, for it says, “ at the time of erection.”
– We are really giving the soldier the benefit of the falling prices since the house was erected.
– There may have been no fall.
– But there has been, and no one will dispute the fact. We have been building houses all along, and I know exactly what the variations of cost are. In Queensland the fall in the value of a house is over £100.
– Queensland is the only exception.
– That is not so, for there has been a fall in Victoria. No soldier is suffering injustice because of the system recommended by the Committee and adopted by the Commission. There is no reason whatever why the Commonwealth should present another £100,000 to the soldiers when the soldier himself is not asking for a gift, but only for what we are now giving him - a fair deal.
.- I should like to know the exact position. Yesterday I asked the Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond) whether, where the cost of War Service Homes had been increased because of departmental errors, the soldier would be called upon to pay that increased cost, and the reply was “ No.” If that is the position, I do not see any reason for the amendment by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). I am particularly anxious that the soldiers shall get their homes at reasonable prices, because they have sufficient to do when they meet their obligations under present conditions. A man who has to pay interest and redemption over a term of thirty-five years has taken on a life-long job, and I am not anxious to see the term extended. On the understanding that the soldier will not be charged any increased cost which may be the result of departmental errors, I am prepared to support the Minister.
.- I can hardly see my way to support the amendment ; but I should like to know from the Minister what his real intention is. Tho system of valuation may easily lead to much more trouble than now exists. Take the case of a man who understood he was to pay £800 for a house, of which he is the tenant, and complains about it costing £850. The valuators say that the house is worth £850, or, if it has been built in Queensland, they are likely to say that, owing to a fall in the market and the fact that homes can now be built more cheaply, the soldier’s dwelling is worth only £750. If the valuation enhances the value, it is the soldier who is in the unfortunate position. But, if there has been a reduction, it is the Government who have been “let in.”
– If the amendment is agreed to, the soldier who entered into his arrangements on a high market and now finds that his home is worth less than the price which he undertook to pay will have a just grievance.
– If the Minister, instead of making the basis the present-day value, would accept the suggestion of the Public Accounts Committee and have the valuation made as at the time of erection, there would be fair play for all parties.
– In the majority of cases, the soldiers with whom the Government are dealing are at liberty to walk out. If they are asked to pay £100 more than their home is worth to-day they will naturally walk out.
– Nobody wants to bring that about. But there is a vital difference - in many parts of Australia, at any rate - between present-day* values and the values of two and three years ago. In Queensland, a house can now be built for £100 less than in 1920. The fact involves a considerable loss to the Government, for which they cannot be held blameworthy. But I am anxious that losses incurred through faults of the Government should not be inflicted on the soldiers. A man for whom a home has been built on a falling market gets better treatment than another who bought on a rising market. The Government should accept the suggestion of the Accounts Committee. Then, in every instance, the soldier would get fair play. We should be just. We would be acting too kindly if we were to give a man a house worth- £1,100 for £800.
– If the Government are responsible for building a house at the statutory price of £800 which, to-day, is worth £1,100, and costs the soldier so much more, they should be prepared to make up the loss.
– We should deal with these men justly in every instance. We would not be acting justly if we were to give to one soldier a home worth £1,000 for £800, and, to another, an £800 house for the same price. Where dwellings to-day are not worth nearly their cost price, a reasonable allowance should be made. The man who deserves most sympathetic treatment is he who has not got the value for his undertaking. The Honorary Minister will make a great mistake if he permits valuations to be made on the present day basis.
– My amendment is,, in effect, the same as the recommendation of the Accounts Committee.
– Will the Minister take into consideration the aspects placed before the Government by the Accounts Committee ?
– We have found it almost impossible to have valuations made as on the basis of two and three years ago. We have done the best we could in the matter. Hundreds of intimations concerning revaluations have been sent out to returned men, and I know of only one complaint so far.
– The only sound principle is to make the valuation as at the time when the agreement was signed.
.- The Honorary Minister has made an important admission. He states that if the amendment is agreed to it will cost the Commonwealth £100,000. Numbers of soldiers specially undertook to pay the extra costs involved in the alterations and additions which they desired to have made. Those cases, however, will not be covered by the amendment.
– On the contrary, they will be the only cases affected by it.
– That is not so. The amendment is phrased to the effect that, “unless the applicant has agreed to pay a sum over and above the statutory price.” That provides the exception. I know of cases where the extra amount was paid first, in making the deposit, the remaining £700 or £800 being left to be paid under the terms of the agreement.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to consolidate and amend the law regulating the Public Service, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Situation in the Near East - Supply of Electricity at Darwin.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
As I said the other day, it is very difficult to give honorable members and the people of Australia a clear presentation of a situation that is changing every hour, but I shall try to get it out as I see it, and that in proper perspective. The position to-day is still critical. We should be foolish to under-estimate the danger to the peace of the world that has been created by what is happening in the Near East. It would be merely beating the air to attempt now to apportion blame, or to champion the cause of the Greeks or of the Turks. I think I interpret correctly the feelings of the people of this country when I say . that their concern in this matter arises solely from its possible effect on the Empire and the peace of the world. To Australia the matter begins and ends there. We are not concerned with the merits of the dispute between Turkey and Greece. We do not denounce either party, or attempt to say where the blame lies.’ Let me remind honorable members of what has led up to the present position. The provisions of the Treaty of Sevres all but dispossessed Turkey of her foothold in Europe, leaving to her but a shadow of bar former greatness as a European Power. It stripped her of the control of the Dardanelles; she had lost Adrianople in the Balkan war; and she was dispossessed of Thrace. Turkey suffered heavily during the Great War, both in Europe and in Palestine and Syria. The Turkish Government, qua Government, accepted the Treaty of Sevres, but there was much dissatisfaction with its provisions amongst the Turkish people, and another Government was set up at Angora, of which Kemal was the moving spirit. It was under Kemal that the forces which would not accept the Treaty of Sevres and the new arrangements massed themselves. Constantine, who was called to the throne of Greece in circumstances with which honorable members are sufficiently familiar, took up the cause of his - Grecian compatriots in Thrace and elsewhere, and, gathering large forces, attacked the Turks. For a. time his army made great headway, but it was at length driven back by the Turks. This brings us to the position of affairs as it stood three weeks ago, or thereabouts. ‘ The British Government was a signatory to the Treaty of Sevres, as was also the Commonwealth. It is essential to remind the House and the public that upon every signatory of that Treaty was imposed an obligation to maintain its provisions. If peaceful methods of settling international disputes are to be successful, Treaties must be respected. The ostensible cause of the great war was the tearing up of the Treaty which guaranteed
Belgium’s neutrality. It is dear that if reason is to be substituted for force, and the rule of the law is to bo extended into the international sphere, the observance of Treaties is essential. There is imposed upon all signatories of Treaties, and, indeed, upon all peoples desiring peace and the substitution of law for the rule of force, an obligation to punish international criminals who attempt to ignore or violate Treaties just as there is imposed upon civilized nations the duty of punishing those who offend against statute law. The Kemalites, flushed with victory, declared their intention to violate tho Treaty of Sevres by invading the neutral zone, which includes the Gallipoli Peninsula, and is the hinterland to the Straits of Dardanelles. Some days ago, when the Kemalites declared their intention, whether or not through the mouth of Kemal is immaterial, of taking Thrace by force of arms and seizing the Gallipoli Peninsula, and when it was stated quite frankly that Russia proposed to. support them in their claims, Great Britain moved instantly, and stated that as a signatory to the Treaty of Sevres she intended to maintain its provisions. Along with that declaration was the clear and unambiguous statement of her desire for a conference at which the provisions of the Treaty of Sevres could be considered. I may go so far as to say that Britain declared that she would sympathetically consider the claims of the Kemalites, although not undertaking that she would grant thom in their entirety. Notwithstanding this declaration the Kemalites declined to accept the .invitation, and Britain then made a communication to the Dominions, that reached me on Sunday week. As a signatory to the Treaty, and a nation particularly interested in it, Australia was asked to stand by the Treaty and to say plainly to Kemal, as an international offender, that while we were prepared to grant everything to reason, we would yield nothing to force. That, in effect, was and is the slogan of Britain, and it should be the slogan of the civilized world. For a time it appeared that Britain would act alone - I say it appeared, not that it was so. Our attitude was never in doubt. We have done everything we could by moving, directly through our representatives, the
League of Nations, to intervene, and by urging upon Britain the necessity for attempting to preserve peace by all honorable means. It appears that during the week Britain, France, and Italy, and probably other powers, sent a message to the Kemalites inviting them to a conference, and it is stated that the French Government made representations to Kemal strongly urging him to accept the invitation. I shall not pretend to say for a moment whether or not Kemal was responsible, but it is a fact that on the 27th September Kemalite troops entered the neutral zone, and were moving with the intention of seizing the heights above Chanak, which is occupied by British troops. The British general in command interviewed the Turkish officer and urged him to retire. The subsequent events are a little obscure. Whether or not there was any firing I am unable to say; but serious hostilities were not reported in the information that has reached me. It is a fact, however, that the forces of the Kemalites are steadily concentrating around Chanak. Whether they are concentrating inside or outside the neutral zone I do not know, but honorable members will realize that they are almost within striking distance of that place. Of course, we are not speaking of a great country like Australia, with its immense spaces, but of a small territory considerably less in extent than the State of Victoria, probably about tho size of Tasmania. Under such circumstances, eVents move rapidly, a day, nay, even a few hours, may precipitate a conflict. That was the position yesterday. British troops are in occupation of Chanak, and the British Government, using every effort to obtain a peaceful settlement, are nevertheless resolutely determined not to yield to force. With this policy the Government of tho Commonwealth is in complete accord. No further communication has passed from the Commonwealth to Britain since I last had the honour of speaking in the House on this subject. The Government have been kept fully posted as to the program of events j but, having set out our attitude quite clearly, having done all that was possible to secure the intervention of the League of Nations, being confident that Britain herself was using every means at the disposal of a civilized Power to prevent war, we were satisfied to leave the matter where it was in the conviction ‘ that interference at this end would be calculated’ to embarrass rather than to help. The declaration of Australia’s intention was unqualified, and, having given that, it was not necessary for us to strengthen it. We have said, “ We pray that there will be no war. We urge upon you to do everything in your power to prevent war. But if war comes wo are going to stand by your side.” Wo are satisfied that Britain is doing everything in her power to avoid hostilities, and if war unhappily breaks out one nation in tho world at least will be in the right in this matter - Britain. Even though she stands alone she will still be the only nation in the right, because the others also are signatories to the Treaty of Serves, and upon them all is a solemn obligation to uphold that Treaty, unless and until it be modified by a conference or by the League of Nations. Once we yield anything to force, after having subscribed to the Treaty, the last hope of peace to the world disappears. We must, while being ready to yield everything to reason, ruthlessly punish the offender. A dissatisfied nation says that it has not been treated fairly, and that it has a right to a place in the sun. It is not for us to say that the last word has been said, and act like the gods, never willing to revise our . decision. We should yield everything to reason.
There is another phase of tho matter that must be spoken of, the position in Greece. There has been a revolution. I am informed that the Army and Navy have revolted against Constantine. There is a suggestion that Venizelos should bo recalled, or that there should be a dictatorship. The recalling of Venizelos does not necessarily improve the situation, so far as we are concerned, because he could hardly be expected to be reinstated and given absolute power unless he was prepared to do something for those thousands of his compatriots who have been driven out of Thrace, and whose lives are now in danger. If Venizelos declared that ho was in favour of the evacuation .of Thrace, that would hardly commend itself to the Greeks. If he were recalled - and it is not certain that he will - the position would not bo materially improved. As for the. possibilities of a military dictatorship, they are obvious. It would mean war. The military faction in Greece is in favour of continuing -the war in Thrace, and that naturally adds to the’ fear of the K email tes, who have suffered, but are now victorious, and are now, so they believe, within a stone’s throw of their goal. With matters in Greece we cannot interfere, .and the less we say about them the better.
That is also true of the position gene-, rally, because wo would resent very strongly another nation attempting to interfere with any question affecting Australia. As for our policy, I have already declared if. We want, above all things, a peaceful settlement. We in Australia certainly do not approach the question with a bias against Kemal, knowing, nothing of the rights or wrongs of the. situation. But I think I can safely say that the feeling of the soldiers of Australia is that they do not harbor any feeling against the Turks, although they have fought them. But we are for the right. It is the intention of Britain to remain at Chanak, where her troops are. She stands there representing tho international police of the world. If she is not joined bv other nations, the fault lies on their shoulders and not on hers. It is the duty of the civilized nations to uphold the Treaty or else disband the League of Nations and their pretensions to substitute the rule of law for that of force. There would be a definite obligation upon us to supply our quota if the League of Nations declares that “ it will resist by force of arms any attempt to anticipate its decision.” Britain says, “There is our signature.” We are, as a signatory to the Treaty of Sevres, and an integral part of the British Empire, compelled to supply our quota. I leave the matter there, having, I hope, put it in proper perspective. If war begins it certainly will not begin and end in Turkey alone. It is impossible to ignore what- may follow from the conflagration. A war must involve the Balkans, and it could hardly do that without involving the Soviet. It could hardly arouse Turkey without arousing the East, and it could not do that without menacing our very existence, and’ aiming a ‘Mow at the very heart of the Empire.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) suggested this morning that if the coming elections synchronized with the outbreak of war it would be most unfortunate. He. said that if war was probable, . Parliament ought not to prorogue. The position is as I have stated it, and no man is able to say whether war will come’ or. not. AlthoughI have not read the cables to the House, I have given their substance. Honorable: members have read the press. Whether the press messages are censored or not, I cannot say.No doubt we” should not accept them literally, in every particular, and regard every detail as accurate,, but, broadly, they present the position. As one can see, it is an ever-changing position. One day it seems to be resolving itself into a peaceful solution, while at the next moment one can almost’ hear the roll of. the drums of. war. We shall be in a’ much better position to deal with this matter next week. The present situation cannot continue for any great length of time. That conclusion is one declared to all the world, and, therefore, requires no further corroboration from me. If the position demands it, I shall make a further statement to the House, putting the position exactly as it is. It would be altogether wrong for me to say any more than that, because we must not anticipate trouble; But the Kemalites surely understand, or I hope they understand, what their position is, and in what danger they stand. Those who lead them are men of great character and force. They know what nations will be arrayed there. They may believe, because, with all men, the wish is father to the thought - they mav believe that Britain alone will be against them ; but iu that they are mistaken : whoever fails to stand by Britain we shall not. We desire peace more than we desire anything in this country, because peace is the very foundation of our future greatness. Another war might bring down the temple of our hopes in ruins to the ground. But let me speak plainly. Letmesay that Kernel’ and his troops know the Australian soldier well enough - they have met before. I remind the Komalitcs and Turks that, notwithstanding all. that has come and gone, the Australian soldiers, and, I believe, the Australian people, are not hos tile, but approach this question without bias. But the Kemalites are not to believe that Britain will stand alone. We are only a small population of 5,500,000, but in the Great War we put far more troops into the field than ever Turkey could maintain to-day, and if occasion demands, we shall do so again. With that I leave the matter, and hope Kemal will understand exactly where Australia stands. He has, as I say, met the Australian soldier before, when the odds were all in his favour on Gallipoli. He met them once more in Palestine, where the fighting wasopen, and we know the result. He knows that if it comes to counting the graves on Gallipoli which number the most, they are not the graves of Australians, nor those arrayed with them. If there is to be war, we shall do our duty, but we earnestly desire peace. I make this declaration feeling certain that the majority of the people of the country are behind me. I only wish to say that we are not interfering in the negotiations. It would bo futile and dangerous for the British Empire to speak with two voices. We leave to Britain tha business of conducting diplomatic negotiations. Lord Curzon has done magnificently; no one could have acted with greater tact or more effectively, or have done more in the interest of the peace of the world, than he, and I leave, with confidence, the conduct of negotiations with him and his colleagues. I only wish to say once more that if, despite everything we can do, war should come, we shall stand-‘ with Britain.
.- I do not think that the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) requires many remarks’ from any honorable member. The right honorable gentleman has simply traversed the position as it has developed since last we discussed the matter, and wo’ have been told by him only what we have gathered from the newspapers in the interval. All I desire to say at this juncture is- that I am pleased that since the discussiontook place Mr. Lloyd George has endeavoured to bring about aconference with the Allies, France and Italy, and. with Kamal, with a view to preventing a rupture. That is one good result of the discussion.
– Mr. Lloyd George asked for a conference before he sent the wire,
– That may be so; but the cables tell us that no such thing as a conference was thought of until afterwards.
– That is not so’. I shall show the honorable gentleman the wire if he likes.
– I am not going to discuss that phase of the matter to-day, because I regard this as an inopportune time. We all desire peace - we do not desire to see the Empire, or any part of the world, thrown into war if it can be avoided, and our only object is to prevent it. It appears that, though we are expected to participate in a war, if it should occur, we are not to have a voice in regard to the making of war; and that in my view is a very serious matter. Everything should be open and above board, and I remind the Housethat some of the Dominions are given more information than is made available to us. From all I can learn the South African Parliament has had the fullest information laid before it. As I say, we have gained no more information from the statement of the right honorable gentleman than we have had from the press in the last week or bo. I understand that it is not the Prime Minister’s intention to prorogue Parliament if there is to be war.
– I did not quite say that. I said I would make a statement to the House, and that we would discuss the situation. There are wars and wars; there are some that are not serious, and there are others that are. If there is to be a serious world war, orthe possibility of one, I for one would not boin favour of proroguing.
– The Prime Minister pays there may be a minor war or a great war - I agree with him ‘that if a minor war commences it will develop into a great war. There appears to be no doubt as to the ultimate result if a war commences, even with only the Kemalites. However, in view of the statement of the Prime Minister that he will further consult the House, there is no necessity for anything further to be said at this stage. I take it that when the right honorable gentleman receives any information which he considers urgent, it will be placed before us, and that there will be no despatch of troops unless the House is consulted.
I wish now to draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories (Sir GranvilleRyrie), to a telegram that I have received from Darwin to-day. It is rather an urgent communication, or I should have preferred to leave it over until next week. The telegram says that it is reported in Darwinthat the Government propose to light that town with electricity, and that the municipality itself is already negotiating for a similar work to be carried out. I mention the matter now, because I think it just as well that the Minister should be informed, so that he may make inquiries, and that any duplication may be avoided.
.- The statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is naturally a very guarded one, but the House owes its thanks to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) for that statement, so far as it goes. I do not wish to say anything that will embarrass the Government, or to do anything to raise trouble at this particular juncture. It has been said that if war starts this Parliament should not prorogue. The Prime Minister interjected that it would depend on what kind of a war it is. Every one who has inany way studied world politics will realize that if this war starts at all it will be a very serious affair. It was comforting to hear the Prime Minister say officially that’. France and Italy are now standing in behind Great Britain. It should be unnecessary to say that if there is awar in which Great Britain is involved,we stand in. There can be no doubt about that. We are not looking for war. I agree entirely with the Prime Minister,when he saysthat what Australia needs more than anything else at the present time is peace, except that we must, in any event, uphold our national honour. Since we are, as the Prime Minister rightly said, part of the Empire that has signed the Sevres Treaty, if a war starts and the British Empire is involved, we, as a part ofthat Empire, will also be involved in it. I want to say thatwithout any hesitation or equivocation whatever. If this war starts at all, however small an affair it may appear to be at the beginning, it would be the very greatest mistake for this House to go into recess.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220929_reps_8_101/>.