9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last evening the Prime Minister had not received a statement from Sir Arthur Cocks, the Treasurer of New South Wales, concerning the foundering of the Sumatra, but a statement from that gentleman has appeared in the press to the effect that, under the Navigation Act, it is impossible for the New South Wales Government to hold any inquiry in regard to the loss of that vessel. In view of that statement and the necessity for the fullest possible inquiry into the various allegations which have appeared in the press, will the Prime Minister ‘ take the necessary steps to appoint a Committee or Royal Commission, vested with full powers, to mate the fullest possible inquiry about the condition of the ship!
– I have seen the statement that Sir Arthur Cocks has made, but his telegram has not yet reached me. I expect that I will receive it during the day. I told the honorable gentleman early this morning that if there are insuperable difficulties in the way of an inquiry taking the form we contemplated - a Marine Board inquiry .by the Government of New South Wales - the Commonwealth Government will take action to appoint a Committee or a tribunal of some kind to fully inquire into the matter. I will tutor indicate to the House the action the Government propose to take.
Reports on Works at Canberra.
Mr. GREGORY, as Chairman, presented reports from the Public Works Committee on - (1) Erection of provisional Parliament House, Canberra ; (2) Construction of Administrative Offices, Canberra; (3) Erection of Officers’ Hostel, Canberra; and moved -
That the reports he printed.
.- I present a minority report, and move, as an amendment, ‘that the following words bc added: - and that the minority report (as regards the Provisional Parliament House) signed by Arthur Blakeley, a member of the Public Works Committee, be also printed.
I am reluctantly compelled, as a member of the Public Works Committee, to come to the House and hand in a minority report in relation to the proposed construction of a provisional Parliament House at Canberra.
.- The Public Works Committee Act specifically provides that resolutions moved in the Committee shall be included in its reports. Any amendment moved by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) will consequently appear in the report of the Committee on the work in respect of which the amendment was submitted, and that will indicate the attitude which the honorable member took regarding it. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), the first Chairman of the Committee of Public Works, will bear me out in the statement that, at an early stage of the ‘history of the Committee, it waa decided that minority reports should not be presented to Parliament. This decision was arrived at .because it is specifically provided in the Act that all motions moved in the Committee shall appear in its reports, and Parliament is thus given information concerning the view held by any member of the Committee who might desire to emphasize an opinion which was not adopted by the Committee. The Act under which we are working was based upon the New South Wales Act, and that specifically provides that there shall be no minority reports presented by the Committee. Honorable members who read reports from the Public Works Committee will know that tue motions made in the Committee have appeared in those reports and.’ the voting upon them has been shown. On many occasions members of the Committee differ in opinion, and their differences are indicated in the reports. If the practice adopted by the honorable member for Darling were followed, we might have half-a-dozen minority reports presented to Parliament in connexion with any work inquired into by the Committee.
– Why not?
– In this instance, au honorable member who was wholly unsupported in the Committee desires to bring forward a minority report.
– Because the honorable member was in a minority, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) contends that he has no rights. We know that the other members of the Committee are anti-Canberraites.
– When the honorable member reads the reports from the Public Works Committee he will see that that is not the case. The reports show both sides of each question as put to the ‘Committee by the different witnesses. I point out that if the House agrees to the adoption of this practice it will be quite possible for a minority report to be submitted by nearly every member of the Committee.
– Why should the honorable member be tyrannical? The liberty of the honorable member for Darling should not be interfered with.
– The honorable member mistakes the situation. The report of the Public Works Committee involves many issues. It deals with the type of building to be erected, the material for construction, the site, and other matters. I was much impressed, as were others, with certain views pub forward in regard to *the erection of a provisional Parliament House. A site was suggested far away from the site mentioned in the reference to the Committee. The opinion of honorable members on that matter is clearly shown by the motions set out in the report. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) submitted a motion dealing with the site, which- was not carried, and he has not asked for permission to table a minority report. Other motions on various matters appear in the report. Though the Public Works Committee Act does not distinctly say there shall be no minority reports, it clearly sets out that all motions placed before the Committee shall appear in its reports. I submit that we are now asked to adopt a new practice, which will lead to many and extreme difficulties. This matter was brought before the Committee, and it was agreed by all except the honorable member for Darling that there should be no minority reports. When the question was submitted to me I decided that it should be settled by the Committee, and the Committee determined that there should be no minority report. Every member of the Committee is protected, because all motions submitted must appear in the report.
.- Every honorable member should think before he votes on this amendment. If we desire to squelchthe views of the minority we will defeat this amendment. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is the autocrat of this Committee. I defy any honorable member of this House to turn to ‘the records of the last twenty years and show a case where there has been no minority report when one was needed. There were five separate reports from the Electoral Commission. We should not crush out a man’s opinion because he is opposed to the majority. I do not say this because I am on the Labour side of the House. I would say it, whatever side I was on. We should not deal with this in the way the honorable member for Swan desires simply to meet the whims of a Chairman, nor should we attempt to squelch any member who desires to present a minority view. If any one outside had told me that the honorable member for Swan would take this action I would have been astonished. I should not have believed that he could be guilty of it.
.- On two occasions I have differed, from the majority of the Committees of which I have been a member. The first instance was in connexion with the KidmanMayoh ship-building contract - a most important matter. The second time was still more important. It was in regard to the North-South railway. On the latter occasion I was in a minority of one. In the first instance I wished to present a minority report, but, after giving full consideration to the subject, I concluded that the practice which we are asked by the honorable member for Swan to. support now was the correct one. On the second occasion I prepared a motion which fully covered my views, and moved it in the Committee. It was then placed in the report. That practice, I consider, is a sound and proper one.
– The Public Accounts Committee works under an Act whose provisions are similar to that of the Public Works Committee. In the Public Accounts Committee we fought out this question, and to a report just presented there is attached a minority report signed by three members of the Committee. Our Chairman, like the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, ruled that minority views must be expressed in motions and placed in the report in that way. The Committee, however, decided differently, and minority reports are now presented. I have been a, member of both Committees, and I ap-‘ predate the position of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). He has been a very ardent advocate of Canberra, and desires Parliament to be moved there as quickly as possible. Under the ruling of the member for Swan, it would have been necessary for him to vote for some motion made in the Committee part of which he did not believe in, or else appear in a false position in regard to the other part . of it. It should be. his right to present a minority report, which would make his position perfectly clear. If it were decided in the Public Accounts Committee that no minority reports- should be presented, I would prepare a very comprehensive amendment to set out my attitude on any matter on which I differed from the other members of the Committee.
– Were you not a member of the Public Works Committee when that decision was given ?
– I do not intend to submit slavishly to any particular Chairman. The honorable member for Swan will remember that he and I on one occasion were absolutely against work being proceeded with.
– And that shows in the records.
– Yes ; but why should not the whole position be set out in a minority report ? That has been the practice with all Royal Commissions and with every Committee that has been appointed by any Parliament of Australia so far as I know. That protects the rights of the minority. I do not know what the ruling of Mr. Speaker will be, but I know of no standing order which would preclude the member for Darling from moving his amendment. I do not suppose the House will be prevented from expressing its opinion on this matter, and I appeal to honorable members, particularly to the new members, to vote for the amendment, for they may some day be on Committees, and they might be in the position in which, the honorable member for Darling finds himself to-day. I know of nothing in the Public Works Committee Act which, prevents any member from presenting separately to Parliament the views he holds on the evidence tendered to the Committee.
– I think the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is well within his rights in desiring to submit a minority report. The opinions of members of committees appointed to investigate various questions should be made known, and if there is any serious divergence between them, members of the House should have the benefit of all of them. I recall two or three instances in which minority reports have been attached to majority reports, and have” contained valuable information. One such report, I think, related to Cockatoo Island Dock, and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) attached a minority report to the majority report of one of the Committees upon which they served. It would be unwise to suppress in any way the opinions of honorable members appointed by the House to report upon subjects referred to them. Not only do I see no objection to a minority report being presented, but I regard it as a wise procedure.
.- (By leave.) - This House did me the honour of electing me a member of the
Public Works Committee, and it gave that Committee three references regarding the erection of a Parliament House, hostel and offices at Canberra. I have taken a keen interest in the investigations conducted by the Committee. Unfortunately, I am at variance with the views of a majority of the Committee. I did everything possible to get my views recorded in the Committee’s report, but the Committee would not allow it. I submitted the motion which I have placed before the House to the Committee, but the Chairman refused to accept it. On such an important matter as the erection of the Capital city of the Commonwealth every possible means should be availed of to decide the question correctly. I have considered the question carefully and thoroughly, and have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the overwhelming weight of evidence before the Committee was in favour of a provisional Parliament House. I do not desire, at this stage, to traverse the evidence. I contended that the Committee had no right or power to prevent me from submitting a minority report. A majority of the members of the Committee decided that I had not the power, and refused to grant my request.
– Does the honorable member mean that the Chairman of the Committee refused to accept his motion?
– I proposed my motion, but as certain decisions had been reached, and resolutions had been passed which would have had to be rescinded before mine could be moved, the Chairman ruled me out of order. In the first place the Chairman ruled my request for a minority report out of order, and later the Committee decided by a majority that I had no right to put in a minority report. I hold, however, that there is nothing in the Act to prevent it. Whether the Committee is right or wrong, at least a majority of the members of it determined the question. Personally, I think they are wrong. My views, and the evidence which I desire to bring forward, are not contained in the Committee’s report. I am totally at variance with a majority of the Committee regarding the building of a provisional Parliament House as the nucleus for a permanent building. I ask the House to allow my minority report to be printed, so that honorable members may have all possible evidence before them when they are discussing this very important matter.
– The question of the right of an honorable member who sits on either the Public Accounts Committee or the Public Works Committee to submit a minority report obviously concerns the rights of members generally, and is of great importance. There appears to be considerable divergence of opinion among honorable members, and there is apparently a difference in the practice of the two Committees. As the rights of honorable members are concerned in the matter, and the efficiency of the Committees may be involved, I suggest that the debate be adjourned in order to give an opportunity to honorable members generally, and the Government in particular, to look into the matter and ascertain the true position. A further opportunity will be given to honorable members to discuss the motion before any decision is arrived at. I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
– In reference, to a series of questions which I put upon the notice-paper concerning serious allegations as to the condition, not only of the steamer Sumatra, but also of the Siar; Medang, and Meclong, and reverting to the Prime Minister’s promise to have inquiries made into the condition of the remaining three ships, I desire to ask him whether he has received a report regarding the present condition of those vessels ? Further, will he include them in the scope of any inquiry that may be opened regarding the loss of the Sumatra?
– I have received a telegram relating to this matter from. Mr. Oakes, Acting Premier of New South Wales. The Government of that State contends that under its Navigation Act the Marine Court has no power to make an inquiry of the kind that would ordinarily be held into such a. disaster, because the Sumatra was a Government vessel. The telegram further states that the State Government cannot carry out the inquiry on the lines suggested by the Commonwealth Government. That being the position, and the matter being urgent, this Government proposes to appoint a Royal Commission immediately to inquire into the lamentable loss of the vessel. I have not yet received the report which I have called for regarding the other vessels, but as soon as I do so the desirability of holding ‘an inquiry into the condition of those vessels will be considered by the Government.
– I desire to make a . personal explanation. During the debate on the Shipping Bill I made a statement to the effect that the Australian. Seamen’s Union was antiAustralian in its outlook and was in favour of scrapping the White Australia policy. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) later challenged my statement, and I accepted his challenge, as it impugned my veracity. I have here a copy of a letter written by Mr. T. Walsh, President of the Seamen’s Union, to Mr. Havelock Wilson in Great Britain, and I take from it this extract: -
If the Empire went bung to-morrow it is all the same to me.
There is more. I have here also an extract from the Australian Seamen’s Journal of 1st December, 1922 : -
Speaking in the Parliament of New South
Wales on the question of immigration, Sir George Fuller is reported to have said - “ There lies the open door for the yellow races which aire within a few days’ sail from our shores.” How interests change the outlook of individuals. A. few years ago the same yellow raceswere the faithful allies of the people represented by Sir George Fuller, but to-day those same allies are looked upon by Sir “ Garge “ as enemies, and he does not scruple to appeal to national sentiment for help to protect his property from the possible onslaught of the yellow races. The workers of the world have no country.
There is more to come. This is another extract from the Australian Seamen’s J ournal- of 1st February, 1922 : -
Therefore, if shrewdly viewed, the move of capitalism tobring the Chinese workers into this country will facilitate the growth of international organization amongst the workers of all lands. The true policy, then, for the intelligent (working class, is not to fight the indenture system by arousing racial hatred, and shrieking for a “ White Australia,” but to oppose any restriction upon the liberty of the working class . . . with, out distinction of race or country.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The construction of this building is being considered in connexion with the current year’s Estimates.
Queensland - Western Australia
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will consider the urgency of appointing a Board of Trade for Queensland to deal with the many important industries of that State?
– This matter is receiving consideration, and it is hoped that action will be taken at an early date in the direction indicated.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he is taking steps to establish a Board of Trade in Western Australia as promised earlier this year?
– This matter is receiving consideration, and itis hoped that action will be taken at an early date in the direction indicated.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the necessity for providing an adequate steamer . service to light-houses, will he intimate what has been done in the matter of building steamers at the Commonwealth Dockyard, Cockatoo Island, for such service?
– This matter is receiving consideration in connexion with the estimates of expenditure for the current financial year.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice - .
Whether the resolution adopted by the Premiers’ Conference, providing for the modification of the River Murray agreement to allow New South Wales and Victoria to jointly construct a lock on the’ Murray below the junction of the River Darling in lieu of a lock above the junction, together with other amendments of the River Murray agreement, will be dealt with at an early date to allow of this work being proceeded with?
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made.
– On the 4th July, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions: -
I am now in the position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 4th July, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– I rise to make a personal explanation. In the course of a speech I delivered in the House on 22nd June, I referred to the manner in which the election in the Northern Territory had been conducted. Yesterday a document purporting to be a reply to my statements, by the Chief Electoral Officer (Mr. Oldham), was laid on the table of the House, and made available to the press. In fairness. I should be allowed to refute some of the statements made therein. The report says: -
Attendance of Returning Officer at Noon on Day of Election.
Section 79 (2) of the CommonwealthElectoral Act requires the Returning Officer to attend at the place of nomination at the hour of nomination, noon, and there publicly produce all nomination papers received’ by him, and declare the names and residences of all candidates nominated. Mr. Storey deemed it sufficient to post, at noon, on the Government notice-board, a declaration signed by him setting out the nominations, and cause the Registrar, as his representative, to be in attendance to formally produce nomination papers (which were on his table), if required. Whi1st this procedure was not strictly in accordance with the text of the Act, the law was complied with to all practical purposes, and no injury whatever was done to any of the candidates.
I did not say that as a result of the Returning Officer’s action injury was done to any candidate. I stated that the Returning Officer had neglected to perform his duty, and that allegation is confirmed by Mr. Oldham’s reply. Another complaint I made was that the envelopes containing the postal ballot-papers were not sent to the Supreme Court, as required by the Act; and to that Mr. Oldham has replied : -
It was not the duty of the Returning Officer to send envelopes containing postal ballotpapers to the clerk of the Supreme Court, Darwin, but to retain them in safe custody for the purpose of the scrutiny, in the same manner as envelopes containing postal ballotpapers ore retained by Divisional Returning Office* conducting an election in the State.
I ask honorable members to note the next paragraph -
It was, however his duty to forward the sealed parcels containing envelopes from which postal ballot-papers had been drawn to the Clerk of the Supreme Court.
I stated that that requirement of the Act was not complied with until six weeks after the actual counting of the ballot, and then only under pressure.
In the earlier stages of the scrutiny Mr. Storey took the view that the law required him to forward these parcels to the Clerk of the Court on the completion of the whole scrutiny, and he appears to have been supported in his view by the local Crown Law Officer. On the 22nd February Mr. Hallam, acting on behalf of a Northern Territory political organization, pointed out that there was on objection to the sealed parcels of envelopes and sealed parcels of ballot-papers being, for any length of time, in the same custody, and contended that at each stage of the scrutiny the parcels of envelopes should pass into the hands of the Court. Mr. Storey then called the scrutineers together- that was six weeks after the envelopes had been lying in his office - for the purpose of making a critical examination of the parcels of envelopes, which after being sealed and signed had been locked in the official safe.
After six weeks had elapsed there was no chance of saying whether or. not the secrecy of the ballot had been violated, because Mr. Storey alone had been in possession of the papers and envelopes.
The scrutineers expressed themselves as quite satisfied, and the .parcels were then placed in the custody of the clerk of the Court. Subsequent parcels were treated similarly.
That statement is incorrect. The scrutineers did not express their satisfaction; my scrutineers definitely stated that the action then taken by the Returning Officer would not restrain them from talcing proceedings in my behalf at a later stage if necessary. This reply shows a total disregard of the facts and a great deal of partiality. Any inquiry into statements made in .this House should be conducted in the presence of all the parties interested, and should not be confined to getting the view of the individual accused. Mr. Oldham continues -
The most that can be said is that an experienced officer - Mr. Storey was conducting his first election - would have taken a different view of the law and passed the parcels of envelopes to the clerk of the Court stage by stage, from the 9th January forward, and so have avoided any possibility of criticism. It cannot be suggested that there was any violation of the dignity of the ballot or that any candidate was in the slightest degree prejudiced by the course followed in this matter.
It is not for Mr. Oldham to dispose of the matter in that fashion. I say that violation of the secrecy of the ballot can be suggested. There were numbered ballotpapers and numbered ballot-envelopes, and, as both were in the possession of the Returning Officer for six weeks, there was nothing to prevent him knowing how the wh ole of those votes had .been cast, thereby violating the secrecy of the ballot. Tine third charge is dealt with by Mr. Oldham as follows: -
Serial Numbering of Postal Ballot-papers and Postal Envelopes. - The serial numbering of postal ballot-papers and postal envelopes is, and has always been, the law throughout the Commonwealth, and therefore Mr. Storey acted properly in this matter.
That is a positive evasion. I did not say that it was incorrect to number the ballot-papers and envelopes, but that it was wrong for the Returning Officer to retain both in his possession after the scrutiny had taken place. Mr. Oldham proceeded -
Votes Recorded on Mr. Nelson’s Behalf were Delivered at the Office, but did not come to* light until too late. - :The Returning Officer who could not know for whom the votes were oast, properly rejected all ballot-papers which were received too late. If he had token any other course he would have violated the law.
That is Dot an answer to the charge I made. I said that postal ballotpapers had been delivered at the office of. the Returning Officer, where they were stowed in a private drawer instead of being deposited in the proper place, and did not come to light until too late. Of course, the Returning Officer could not admit them when they did come to light, but gross negligence in the handling of the papers was shown by him or his officers. Mr. Oldham goes on to say -
Adverse Criticism of Returning Officer. - Throughout the election, which presented many difficulties, I was in touch with Mr. Storey by wire, and have no reason whatever for believing that he discharged his duties otherwise than in a careful, conscientious, and impartial manner, and with a full realization of his responsibilities.
Redress of Abuses. - There is no evidence of abuses in connexion with the conduct of the election. I need hardly say that if a candidate with any grounds for complaint had communicated with me as Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth there would have been an immediate investigation. I am assured that five or six scrutineers attended every scrutiny from inception to finalization, and when asked if they desired a recount answered in’ the negative, and expressed themselves as quite satisfied, in view of the completeness of the scrutiny.
That does not affect the position. Certainly my scrutineer, when it was found I was leading, was not going to ask for a re-count, and it is obvious that if the other candidates were in collusion they would not desire any investigation into the manner in which the poll had been conducted. Such a reply should not be permitted in this House; and a statement like that from which I have read certainly should not be given to the press before the member making the accusation had had every opportunity to make himself thoroughly conversant with it. When a definite charge is made, each side should have a chance of putting its case. I adhere to the statement I made in my first speech here, and the truth of it I am prepared, to prove if the Minister so desires.
.- I move -
I wish to impress it on honorable members that under this motion, if any person makes a false declaration a prosecution for wilful and corrupt perjury may follow, and I feel certain that no one would run such a risk. At one time in Victoria, on the recommendation of any member of Parliament, clergyman, or other person of repute, the UnderTreasurer for the State could grant what was called a compassionate allowance of 10s. per week. This was a means of relief to many persons who were ineligible for oldage or invalid pensions, because, as honorable members know, an invalid pension can be paid only to persons over sixteen years of age, while a woman must be sixty, and a man of sixty-five, before being eligible to receive an old-age pension. That compassionate allowance was discontinued for a time. Later it was re-introduced, but in a greatly impaired form by Sir William McPherson, the State Treasurer, into whose brain the bug of economy has crept. On one occasion I fought Sir William McPherson for the Melbourne seat, and I may say that I never wish to meet a more honorable opponent. This makes it all the more difficult for me to understand that gentleman’s attitude, not only towards those poor people to whom my motion relates, but also towards the hospitals of the State. At the time of the election contest, Sir William was a comparatively poor man, whereas to-day he is wealthy, and I can only explain his present disposition by the fact that it is the money that owns the man and not the man that owns the money. I say this with regret, but Sir William McPherson is, in my opinion, unjust to those who are really in need.
I have submitted a similar motion in’ previous Parliaments, and should I not be successful to-day, I shall move one in succeeding Parliaments. The wide choice of persons to ,whom the declaration may be made is proposed in order to make the way easy for hungry unfortunates. Only two days ago I met one of the unemployed, whose physical condition was such that I immediately advised his going to a hospital. This he did, and he was admitted, and one of the leaders of the unemployed subsequently told me that the doctor had found him to be suffering from stomachic troubles induced by starvation.
In the Patriot, a Brisbane publication, there appeared the following on the 8th instant: -
The following sensible suggestion has been made by Dr. Arthur: - “ Surely it is the height of inhumanity to allow any human being to sleep out these nights if it can possibly be avoided. Now, we citizens o? Australia own a number of idle and useless ships which are at present lying in Sydney Harbor. Let us call upon our servants, the Federal Ministry, to order that one or more of these ships shall be brought alongside a wharf - one at Fort Macquarie would do - and the unemployed and homeless be permitted to spend the night on them, and do any cooking and washing on condition that cleanliness and decency are maintained.”
Dr. Arthur is the well.known humanitarian member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. On reading this I drafted the following questions to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) -
Honorable members may possibly think that I am exaggerating the present trouble, but if they do, I ask them to visit the Labour Bureau at the corner of King and Bourke streets, and have a look at the type of men to be met there. With thirty-five years’ experience of unemployed movements in this very city, I judge them to be of a very fine type. The great General Wauchope waa the first British General, and Mr. Wignall was the first British member of the House of Commons, to address a meeting of the unemployed in Australia, and the General was much impressed by the number of returned soldiers in his audience. Doubtless, General Wauchope, on his return to England will report the result of his observations here. These men have no homes to go to. A little money is being collected for them, and in this connexion I understand that the Sun newspaper is doing splendid work, and that the Herald is also starting a collection for them. Those amongst them who .are married have the first call on what little money is available. Loaves of bread are distributed amongst these men and eaten heartily. This is in the great City of Melbourne. If a-ny honorable member has any doubt as to the serious condition of these men, his doubts will be removed if he refers to that great and good man, the Reverend Ainslie Yeates, Anglican Minister of St. John’s, La’trobe-street, who helps them with blankets and rugs, and in any way he can. Honorable members can refer also to the authorities of the Salvation Army, to whom I pay my heartfelt thanks for the assistance they are giving. The proposal I make would afford relief in such a case as I have now to refer to, and which years ago was brought under the notice of the present Speaker, the Bight Honorable W. A. Watt. .This is the’ case of a woman who suffers from a congenital double hip dislocation, and though she is absolutely incapable of earning a livelihood, is not entitled to a pension under the provisions of the Old-Age and Invalid Pensions Act. In July, 1917, she wrote the following letter to Mr. Watt, who was then Minister for Works and Railways : -
Dear Sir, -
In Friday’s Argus report of proceedings in the House, mention is made of a Bill having been introduced to amend the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. Will you be kind enough to tell me if any clause .in amendment would apply to my case. I am an invalid (congenital dislocation of both hips), and only disqualified for pension as I was four and a half years of age when arriving in Australia from England thirty-four years ago. I am entirely without means, so I am very anxious to know. You may know something of the case, as Mr. Hannan, late member for Fawkner, was interested when I was in his electorate, and mentioned the matter in the House. I believe it to be an isolated case, and therefore would not entail much extra expense, and yet mean such a lot to me. Regretting the need for troubling you, and thanking you in anticipation.
I am, yours respectfully,
The right honorable gentleman to whom the letter was written took action in the matter, and received the following reply from the Treasurer of the day, the late Lord Forrest -
Dear Mr. Watt, -
With reference to the attached copy of a letter forwarded by you, I have to say that I have referred the case .to the Commissioner of Pensions, who has supplied me with the following report: -
The proposed amendment of the Invalid -and Old-age Pensions Act will not affect Miss Rothery’s case. Miss Rothery is ineligible to receive an invalid pension, because she did not become permanently incapacitated ‘for work whilst in Australia. She is suffering from a congenital complaint. The Act provides, that a person who, as a result of such a defect, is permanently incapacitated for work, may be regarded as having become incapacitated in Australia, if he (or she) arrived in the Commonwealth before attaining the age of three years. Miss Rothery was, however, four and a half years of age »>n her arrival in this country, and she cannot therefore benefit by the provision.
That is a sample of the red tape which prevents this unfortunate woman from obtaining that justice which the people of Australia would heartily extend to her. If she had been eighteen months younger on her arrival in Australia she would have been entitled to consideration under the Act. When we have permitted such persons to enter Australia we should be prepared to treat them as, under the law, we would treat them if they had arrived a little earlier in their lives. If the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act were amended as I suggest, we could give some help to those who made sacrifices for Australia in the war. There are many of these men who, because of the restrictions of red tape, are not receiving British fair play. I saw a man wheeled in a chair only the other day who was plainly incapable of earning a living, and “I ask honorable members how such a man could live on 5s. per week in these times. If honorable members saw some of the members of the executive of the unemployed soldiers they would recognise what fine types of men they are. One of these men, by the kindliness of the owner, spends his nights in a boatshed. There are others who seek shelter wherever they can get it. Those of us who are blessed with good overcoats should sympathize with those who have no warm clothing and no proper shelter. I have fait that I could impress honorable members most by a simple statement of facts. It is an infamy that in this city, boasting of a population of nearly 1,000,000, no shelter is provided with a fireplace at which human beings could wami themselves.
Mr. O’Keefe. The same may be said of other cities in Australia.
– I go through the slums of every city I visit. I made a practice, when visiting the cities of Scotland, Ireland, and England, other than London, which I know well, of visiting the Police Courts in the morning and going through the slums. I visited the offices of societies giving relief, and amongst them the Salvation Army, which I found pre-eminent in this regard. Our soldiers at the Front found the representatives of the Salvation Army always willing to help them, as I have found them in every city that I have visited. I do not belong to their faith, but I certainly give them credit for carrying out the teachings of Christ, and I wish them all success. I hope that if my motion is not carried it will at least have the effect of inducing the Government, in the Bill to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, to raise the pension to at least 20s. per week. If what honorable members on both sides desire were given effect, the amending Bill would be passed in this House in half-au-hour. I attend to a number of old-age pensioners, and they have told me that they find by actual experience that it is hard in these times to make ends meet on anything less than 20s. per- week. My office is situated near to where a number of old-age pensioners are paid. If honorable members could see these old folks struggling down to collect their small amounts of money, and could contrast them with the old people who, before the introduction of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act were asked, in some cases, to live on eighteen pence or halfacrown per week, they would know how much brighter and healthier are the old persons now in receipt of pensions. I do not blame the Ladies Benevolent Society for the small amounts which were given in relief before the introduction of the Act. They could not do otherwise than they did with the miserable amount of money placed at their disposal. I hope that provision will be made to enable the pensioners to earn more than 10s. per week. If a person has £320 now he cannot get an old-age pension, but if he has a home worth £1,000 or £10,000, provided he does not earn more than 10s. per weeK, he can claim a full pension. That is a matter which was fixed by a regulation, which is one of the very few regulations which I can admire. I think that Mr. Andrew Fisher was responsible for it. It is right that the pensioner’s home should not be taken into account in fixing his pension. The fact that a man possesses a home is an indication of thrift, a virtue practised by the French people more than by any other people I know. If these persons are allowed to earn a little more, and so have a little more to spend; it will all be spent in Australia, and I hope that the amendments I have suggested will be made in the law.
-I support the motion. I accept without reservation the general principle the honorable member for Melbourne has laid down. Doubtless he will concede that if the principle embodied in his motion is accepted it will become necessary to create machinery to give effect to it and to prevent’ abuses. It has not been recognised sufficiently that it is r,he first duty of a nation to provide for its destitute citizens. We make provision of a paternal character for the preservation of the people by our Health Acts and other legislation, but our first duty is to protect the citizen from imminent starvation from want. That duty has been recognised in our old-age and invalid pensions scheme, and machinery has been established to operate that scheme. Necessarily i”. excludes from its benevolent operation a great number of persons who, as the honorable member points out, are as deserving as some who are included. They have been excluded through the operation of that well-known principle which has been expressed in the words, “ Hard cases make bad laws.” We could not, of course, under our old-age and invalid pensions scheme provide for. every individual; and in order to prevent abuses we had to make conditions. We had to hedge round the provision with a large number of regulations, some of which are necessary, ai-d others oppressive, vexatious, and quite unnecessary. I do not think any member of the House will deny that there are many deserving cases which do not come within the scope of the existing legislation. It has been suggested by the member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) that it may not be within our powers under the Constitution to pass legislation of the kind contemplated in the motion. I do not pretend to express 1:11 opinion on that at present. I think the House may well look upon this motion as merely the declaration of a belief, without inquiring too closely into our constitutional powers. May I inquire what would be the position in this community, and in every civilized community, if there were not a certain limited number of benevolently-disposed persons to protect and preserve the lives of the unfortunate in the community. The result would be that the community would be confronted with the scandal of people dead and dying from want in a land of superabundance. Such an occurrence would so shock the public conscience that even the most careless would see that something should be done by legislative enactment for the unfortunate. It must be conceded that even the benevolentlyminded amongst us do not feel the seriousness of the situation so long as something is being done, no matter what the sacrifices made by the people other than ourselves who are doing it. If something is being done people generally do not trouble very much. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) paid a well-deserved tribute to the Salvation Army. That tribute might ‘ be paid with equal justice to a large number of other benevolent institutions and benevolent individuals who take up what should really be the nation’s work. I suppose there are some who would regard the honorable member’s proposition as impracticable. I suggest that it is nothing of the kind. After all, the number of people who live under the conditions we have had described is by comparison not great, though sometimes, I fear, it is greater than is realized, and greater far than it ought to be. If we had a register of the folk in the Commonwealth who are in a state of destitution, it would help us to deal with the matter. I do not suggest that we can hope to banish altogether sickness, or the conditions that sometimes overtake people who are strangers among us, or the fact, that there are persons who are inept and not altogether suitable for any employment; but the community, as a whole, cannot afford to ignore the claims of these classes. There is a national and not an individual responsibility’ for giving relief. I read the other night in the Herald of the peregrinations of some philanthropic person in this city who visited the places where these unfortunate human beings lodge for the night like dogs, in the middle of this cold winter. The publication of that article should be sufficient to make our comfortable and selfsatisfied brethren ashamed of themselves. In justice to them, however, I should say that I think, if a personal appealwere made, they would, with comparatively few exceptions, be willing to make the sacrifice necessary to alleviate in some degree the circumstances of those people. There may be some who would put off the matter by saying, “You will have that kind of thing in all big cities.” But, because, they have taken that comfortable view in the Old World, there is no reason why we should take it here. In the larger cities of the world people soothe their conscience in regard to the conditions that have grown up on the theory that they are inevitable, and natural, and under these ‘ conditions thousands, and even millions, of people are utterly destitute, and must remain a standing disgrace to our so-called civilization. . For that reason we should welcome this motion. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has been associated with motions of this kind more than once, and for that reason some people may say that, though he is benevolently minded, what he has proposed is utterly impracticable; and they would be prepared to let the proposition go as a mere expression of the honorable member’s kindness of heart. There will also be those who would say, “ Shall we add millions to our annual payments in respect of oldage and invalid pensions in order to deal with the destitute of this country ?” I do not propose on a motion of this kind to open up any general question of politics in discussing how the poverty of this country might be obviated, but I say emphatically that, if we have not sufficiently grappled with the problem we must see how we can alleviate it. For that reason I could not allow the honorable member’s motion to -pass without comment and indorsement.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) mentioned that I suggested to him that perhaps the purpose of the motion was beyond our constitutional powers. I did suggest that, for the reason that several years ago, when I took up in the Senate the question of providing a pension scheme for widows with young children dependent upon them, I was told by . our constitutional authorities that the Federal Constitution, as at present worded, did not give power for money to be taken from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose I had in mind. If that was so, I suppose the same constitutional argument could be used against the motion moved by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney).
– You are not opposing the motion I hope?
– Certainly not. I am in full sympathy with it - as sympathetic as any member of the Chamber can be - because I know that the state of affairs so graphically depicted by the mover exists, not only in Melbourne, but in. every other city, and most of the large inland towns of Australia. When people get into the condition that has been described, they seem to go away from the smaller centres into the big cities, where they may obtain a little relief, ‘which they cannot get elsewhere. Many people are feeling this bitterly cold winter season, which seems to be inclement througnout Australia. It is causing intense suffering, because there is no. proper organization upon which the duty devolves of providing, out of public funds, for urgent needs.
– Yet we have a surplus of over £7,000,000.
-I am properly reminded that we have a large surplus, and the fact that we had a surplus of £2,000,000 last year has been blazoned throughout the press of Australia. . In such a Parliament as this we should take upon ourselves the duty of providing proper shelter and food for these people. If the Commonwealth has not the Constitutional power to provide for the indigent cases referred to in the motion, and for those widows who have young” children dependent upon them, it does not say much for it. We should take the necessary power to ourselves as soon as possible. I believe that the Government could overcome the constitu- tional . difficulty and devise means to alleviate misery and suffering. In every big city in Australia the same suffering is being endured, as has been described several times recently in the Melbourne newspapers. About a fortnight ago an article was written by a Mrs. Brookes and published in the Melbourne Herald. Mrs. Brookes is evidently a philanthropic lady, whose heart has been touched by the misery which we see around us, and she made it her special business to investigate some of the slum conditions of the city of Melbourne. She stated the facts in language which should arouse the sympathy of every citizen of this country. I thought it was a bad advertisement for the magnificent city of Melbourne that Mr. Wignall, a visiting member of the House of Commons, had to place on record his opinion regarding its slums. He said, by way of extenuation, that the slums of Melbourne were not so bad as those in the more congested cities of the old world. “Why should they be ? “Why, in Heaven’s name, should this young community, born but yesterday, be comparable for misery with the old and congested’ cities of the world? I hope that when our cities have become as old as they it will be seen that we have not followed their bad example. I am heartily in sympathy with the motion of the ‘honorable member for Melbourne, and I hope this Parliament, before the present short session ends, will find means to alleviate the suffering existing in the cities of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Groom) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, a Committee of Inquiry should be appointed to inquire into and report upon the effect of the operation of the Navigation Act upon Australian trade, industry, and development in the various States and Mandated Territories of the Commonwealth.
By, ‘ ‘ a Committee ‘ ‘ I mean a select committee of seven members of this House, whose names I shall suggest. No Act upon the statute-book is of more importance than the- Navigation Act. The different States appoint committees from time to time to inquire into the working of the railways, and there are Railways Commissioners continuously engaged upon their proper management. The sea roads of this great sea-girt . continent are not less important to the development of Australia than the railways, and nothing has a closer relation than sea-carriage to our future development. This is not a party question. If the Act is not satisfactory it ought to be altered. Many complaints have been received from the States regarding its strangling effect. These complaints may be right or wrong, but the people who make them axe certainly sincere in alleging that the evils of which they complain are due to the Act. Although members of Parliament, when they pass a Bill, may have the best of intentions, they cannot always foresee its consequences. The Australian Navigation Act, I suppose, is in advance of any similar Act in any part of the world, particularly in regard to the conditions provided for men -working on board ship. The ship-owners of Australia opposed the Bill when it was before the House, but, to-day, they do not object to the Act. It would appear that they have since formed a combine, for the passing of the Act gave them a monopoly of the coastal trade. The general effect of legislation should be studied to its logical conclusion. I shall quote later on the report of the Tariff Board regarding the operation of the Navigation Act. This Board was appointed by Parliament to watch over our industries, and we should take cognisance of its views. The attempt to bolster up one industry in Australia lays a corresponding burden upon another, and all such attempts invariably tend to increase the cost of living. Behind Tariff walls crushing combines are formed, competition is destroyed, the few are made rich at the expense of the many, and the development of Australia is consequently retarded. No country can be considered to be on a sound basis which does not produce plentifully and live cheaply. The effect of the policy of Australia is to bring about theopposite result. Thus we find a Navigation Act is brought into being providing conditions and pay in advance of any other country. The apparent result is that’ the Australian steam-ship owners are given a monopoly, and they form a combine. Competition being destroyed, freights are made prohibitive. The service given is irregular and inadequate. The States are, in effect, separated further than ever from each other, and there cannot be a reasonable interchange of the commodities of production between the States. As an instance, I may mention the high cost of meat in Victoria and the cheapness of cattle in Queensland - steers 5s. per head in Queensland, and meat over ls. per lb. in Melbourne. Not only meat, but every industry in Australia is affected by this Act. Indeed, every attempt to artificially bolster up industry has created like anomalies. To give sugar high protection the cost of living is increased and the fruit-growing industry burdened; to give the mine-owners protection on sulphur the primary producers of .Australia are burdened with an extra 6s. per ton on the fertilizers they require; to give protection to the woollen industry the cost of living is again increased, and a few mill-owners and middlemen make huge profits.
– “Why did the honorable gentleman agree to sell the Commonwealth Woollen Mill?
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) would give a high degree of protection to the remaining private mills, although the Government mill sold cloth at 5s. a yard cheaper than the other mills, and on top. of that showed 25 per cent, profit. When the House again considers the Tariff it should have another inquiry made to - ascertain who is fleecing the people of Australia.
– Because the Commonwealth Woollen Mill did what the honorable gentleman says, he was in favour of selling it.
– And the honorable member continues to vote for a high Tariff for the benefit of capitalists. To give protection to the shipbuilder the fishing industry in Australia is made impossible, and the whaling “ industry is allowed to remain in the hands of the Norwegian to enrich him. Ships are made costly, and expensive ships and high freights run together. To cover this artificially ra:sed cost of everything, the labourer seeks and obtains Arbitration Court awards for higher wages. He thinks he is better off, but forgets that the purchasing power of the money he receives is correspondingly reduced.
Worse still; production costs are increased until sales cannot be made to people outside Australia, with the certain result that business cannot expand, and unemployment must follow. It is necessary to have all possible shipping facilities on our 13,000 miles of coast. Without cheap shipping services our industries cannot compete with those of other countries. Every industry is affected. Factories requiring raw materials from a distant State are burdened with heavy freights, and ask for higher protection to cover the cost. The operations of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company are hampered because of the freightage on its iron ore from South Australia. At the last Melbourne Show I saw a machine which I thought would suit me, and upon inquiring the price I was told it was £105 on rails. “ Very well,” I said, “ you place it on rails for me at Fremantle.”’ The salesman nearly fell over, and told me that the price at Fremantle would be £121, because, he said, .Fremantle is in Western Australia. “ Fremantle,” I replied, “ is in Australia.” The freight on that machine from Melbourne to Western Australia was greater than the freight on a similar machine from any other known port in the world. These high charges represent a handicap upon the people of my State. As a farmer, I am at a great disadvantage in comparison with my brother ‘ ‘ cocky “ in Victoria, because he can get that particular machine for £16 less than I am obliged to pay for it in Western Australia. The money which I am obliged to send into Victoria helps to employ people in this State, while the industries in my own State are impoverished. Every broadminded Australian should be interested in the’ people of all the States of the Commonwealth getting an absolutely fair deal. Let me quote for the information of honorable members the effect on taxation of this differential treatment. We have it on the authority of th3 right honorable member for Balaclava (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt), now the Speaker of this House, that one twenty-fifth of the taxpayers pay four-twenty-fifths of the taxation. I find that in Western Australia a person with a taxable income of £5,000 pays 6s. 3d. in the £1 Federal and State taxation, whilst a Victorian taxpayer with a similar income pays only 3s. 3d. .A taxpayer with a taxable income of £8,000 a year pays 8s. 9d… in Western Australia and 4s. 9d. in Victoria. I want an inquiry into the effect of the operation of the Navigation Act in order to secure a fair deal for my own State, as well as for Queensland and Tasmania. Let me mention another instance. Not so long ago we endeavoured to wrest the whaling industry from the Norwegians. We bought their plant, and had some hundreds of tons of fertilizer which we wanted to ship, from Port Cloates to Fremantle, a distance of less than 300 miles, but we found that the freight by a vessel that had to comply with the provisions of our Navigation Act was higher than the freight to England. The company could not afford to ship the manure to Fremantle, so it had to be taken to England. I am sure that honorable members on both sides of the House agree that there is every reason for an inquiry to be made into the strangling effect of the Navigation’ Act upon our industries. The other day I received a letter from the wharf lumpers in Albany asking for work to be done in the Postmaster-General’s Department. My sympathies went cut to them, and fortunately I was able to secure them the temporary employment. Before the Navigation Act came into force, there was on an average about two vessels per week trading to Albany. There is now only one vessel a month. We should have an inquiry into this state of affairs, and ascertain whether it is right. We have also had complaints from Papua, because under the Navigation Act, rice is now brought from the Far East, past their doors, right down to Sydney, and then shipped back. We had hoped to be able to confer some benefit on the people in the Islands of the Pacific; that they could remain black and we white, but still trade with them. At one time we had a substantial interest in the copra trade, and by giving Burns, Philp, and Company a mail contract we subsidize the trade with the Islands. That trade has been almost entirely lost. New South Wales gets practically no benefit from it at all now. These are matters which the Select Committee should inquire into. The same conditions are prevailing all over Australia. I have just had an interview with a local manufacturer, who tells me that, despite the high Protection which he enjoys, his industry is fading way. Here is another complaint. It comes from the Australian Dried Fruits Association, and I have no doubt that other honorable members have received a similar appeal -
Tlie view of those vitally interested in theindustry here is that Australia, with its high’ growing costs, including goods and labour and the high transportation costs, will suffer a disastrous blow to the industry, for at least 80 per cent, of the dried fruits produced will require to be shipped to oversea markets.
Perhaps more than anything else we ought to take notice of the report of the Tariff Board. I extract the following statement on this subject from the Melbourne Argus of 7th July : -
Many bitter complaints have been made to the Tariff Board that the Navigation Act is acting detrimentally to the interests of Australian primary and secondary industries. In its annual report, which was tabled in the House of Representatives this week, the members of the Board declared that it had been emphasized to’ them that while the Ministry professed to. do all in its power to encourage decentralization and the peopling of distant parts of the Commonwealth, yet it indorsed the policy of the Navigation Act, which, more than any other legislation, discouraged the settler on coastal parts far removed from the industrial centres.
It was urged also that oversea merchants were assisted against Australian producers by the fact that the present method of administering the shipping laws placed heavy freights on Australian products, while oversea goods were carried for much lower freights. The Board found that this discontent existed in all the States, but that it was most keenly evident in Western Australia and Queensland. Not only was the freight ‘ on Australian goods shipped to those States high, but the heavy freight in return placed the producers at a serious disadvantage when endeavouring to compete with imported goods in other States. Representations had also been made to the Board in regard to the serious disadvantage imposed on Tasmania by the restriction on shipping.
Inquiries made by the Board showed that the cost of shipping certain goods from South Australia to Western Australia was greater than the cost of shipping them from Europe to Western Australia. Again, it was frequently stated to the Board, the freight on butter’ from Queensland to other States was much heavier than that from New Zealand to Australia. “The Board,” the report stated, “has no hesitation in reporting that the present Navigation Act is working very detrimentally against the best interests of the primary and secondary producers. Much of the benefit conceded by .the Tariff is lost through the additional cost in freight on Australian goods, and our primary producers and manufacturers will not be able to obtain the full share of the markets they are entitled to until some other methods can be adopted to provide a service that will not place our shippers at a disadvantage. If such action can be taken, while preserving the present benefit to Australian seamen, the Board believes that our Australian producers and manufacturers will receive material advantage.”
I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate -resumed from 5th July (vide page 750), on motion by Mr. Charlton -
That a Select Committee be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the statements made by the late Ministerf or Defence (Senator Pearce) and the ex-Prime Ministerthe Right Honorable W. M. Hughes) reflecting on the character of ex-Gunner Yates, with power to recommend compensation if deemed necessary.
– When the debate was adjourned last week I promised the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that ‘the Government would take the matter he had raised into consideration. That promise has been fulfilled. I now submit an amendment which I think will meet with his approval. I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted, with a view to insert -
” In view of the finding of the Special Committee appointed to inquire into the reply furnished by the Assistant Minister for Defence in this House on April 14, 1920, regarding the war service of ex-Gunner Yates, a Select Committee of this House be appointed to inquire into and report upon the question whether, under the circumstances, ex-Gunner Yates is entitled to any compensation, and if so, what should be the amount of compensation.
” Such Committee to consist of the following members: - Mr. Charlton, Mr. Hurry, Mr. Mackay, Mr. Makin, and Mr. Paterson, three to form a quorum, with power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to adjourn from place to place, and have leave to report, from time to time, its proceedings, and the evidence taken, and such Committee do report not later than one month from the date of the passing of this motion.”
Honorable members will recollect that questions upon this subject were asked in the House in 1920, which the then Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) answered in good faith. Sub sequently a Special Committee was appointed, and reported upon the military service of ex-Gunner Yates, and the only question with which we need concern ourselves now is whether, in the circumstances, that gentleman is entitled to compensation. Immediately Sir Granville Ryrie found that he had been supplied officially with information that was incorrect, he, as an, honorable man, did what every one who knows him would expect of him - he made a frank and manly statement to the House. He said, when presenting the report of the Special Committee on 29th September, 1920 -
I wish to . express profound regret that answers given by me in this House should have been responsible for putting Mr. Yates under a cloud, and casting aspersions upon his service as a soldier. Whilst not wishing to qualify that expression of regret in any way, I shall explain to the House how I came to give the incorrect answers.
He then proceeded to relate the circumstances in which he had been misinformed. Asthe whole matter concerning Mr. Yates’ service has been inquired into, I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) to accept the amendment.
– I accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28th June (vide page 485), on motion by Mr. Mahony -
That His Excellency the Governor-General be respectfully requested to summon the first meeting of the Tenth Parliament at the Federal Capital, Canberra.
– From the very inception of Federation I have keenly appreciated the necessity for establishing a Federal Capital at the earliest practicable date, in pursuance of the intention of the framers of the Constitution to create a Seat of Government in a locality so far removed from the large centres of population that the deliberations of the Commonwealth Parliament would be free from any suggestion of State influence. I believe that the people would be more inclined to accept the views of the Federal Parliament expressed at Canberra as the truly national views of Australia than they are at the present time, when we sit in Melbourne. As one moves about this continent he cannot avoid noticing the continual suggestion that in matters of. administration and legislation the doings of this Parliament are coloured by its environment. That suspicion is, I think, unwarranted in many respects, but we cannot deny that it exists. It is desirable that the Australian people should have confidence that the laws and administration of the Federation truly reflect the national sentiments. In regard to Canberra itself, those who are familiar with what has been happening know that since construction work was resumed after the war, the development of the City generally has been proceeding on sound and businesslike lines. “When the Government decided to continue the construction of the City, they resolved that the first requirement was a plan of development which would insure a steady and continuous policy of construction, in connexion with which every penny of expenditure would be an efficient and useful contribution towards the consummation of a definite objective. To that end, the Government appointed a special Advisory Committee, and we were particularly fortunate in the selection of its personnel. The chairman is Mr. Sulman, of New South Wales, . a man with vast experience, who, as a consulting architect, is pre-eminent in Australia. Another member is Mr. Ross, of Sydney, who has considerable experience in engineering and architectural work, and is able to advise in regard to the business side of the construction also. The third member outside the Commonwealth Service is Mr. de Burgh, who is admitted to bo one of the greatest, if not the greatest, expert in Australia on sewerage and water supply. In addition, there are two capable and experienced Commonwealth officers. That Committee inquired into the work that had been done at Canberra up to the date of their appointment, and their finding was most satisfactory. Wild statements had been made about extravagant expenditure at Canberra, but those expert advisers, sitting in a judicial capacity, reported -
Bearing in mind the acceptance of a specific design ofcity lay-out, together with the restriction which any definite city plan would necessarily impose on a subsequent design of “ engineering work, and having due regard to the differences of opinion usually to be found in all engineering proposals, the Committee has reviewed the works and services now existing, and advises generally that these works and services are well designed, of sound principle, and properly constructed, forming necessary and useful development. The proportion of works unsatisfactory, but, in a measure, useful, -is small. The actual capital loss on unsatisfactory works, in the opinion of the Committee, does not exceed 1 per cent, of the capital outlay thereon.
It was very gratifying to have the declaration that expenditure previously authorized by Parliament had been, on the whole, wisely managed, and formed a very good basis for future operations. Upon that foundation the Advisory Committeeare building, and they have presented from time to time comprehensive reports which aim at the development of the city on sound business lines, so that every advocate of the construction of Canberra may be able to reply to. critics that, on the whole, the work is being carried out as economically and as efficiently as possible. Up to the time when operations were resumed after the war, a considerable sum had been spent in the Federal Capital Territory, and since that time various amounts have been appropriated by Parliament, but not those which had been recommended by the Advisory Committee. They advised that the firststage of development, extending over a period of three years, would involve a further expenditure of £1,799,000; and the . second stage, extending over a further period of three or more years, would cost £1,294,000.
– The estimates of the Advisory Committee are based on the assumption that private enterprise will come in and assist to build the city. But up to the present time no effort has been made to encourage private enterprise by making land available for selection.
– That is correct. The scheme outlined by the Committee contemplates a minimum of Government expenditure and the encouragement of. private enterprise as much as possible. The time is approaching for lands to be made available, and for private enterprise to step in. If this scheme is proceeded with as it should be, and sufficient appropriations are made by Parliament, it will not be impossible for Parliament to assemble at Canberra at the date indicated in the motion. At any rate, that is my own belief and hope; but, of course, we cannot foresee what may happen to delay development.
– If this motion is carried it will encourage private enterprise to take up land and build at Canberra.
– As soon as the public know that the construction of the Federal City is definitely and steadily proceeding, and that the date for its occupation by Parliament has been fixed, private enterprise will derive confidence and proceed to make its own arrangements so that private businesses and other concerns may be in operation contemporaneously with Parliament first meeting there. Moreover, as the city develops there will be a further transfer of officers thither. I hope that it will be possible to give effect to the motion, and that the Commonwealth Parliament will meet at Canberra at the earliest possible date.
.- The form of this motion is quite unique. I doubt if a motion -directing the representative of the King to do certain things has ever before been submitted to any British Parliament.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) submitted a similar motion some time ago.
– That may be, but this motion has been so framed as to possibly lose the support of many honorable members who are thoroughly in earnest in desiring that at the earliest reasonable date the Federal City shall be completed, and Parliament transferred there. I am not convinced’ that it is possible under any conditions for this Parliament to assemble at Canberra within the period contemplated by the motion, but such expedition would certainly mean excessive and unjustifiable cost. The officers who are responsible for the construction of the Federal Capital can do certain things in a rush, but undue haste in order that Parliament may meet at Canberra in the minimum of time, will involve enormous cost, inefficiency, and waste, and no Government or Parliament can reasonably hold the officers responsible for the excessive expenditure that will inevitably be involved. What matters a delay of six or twelve months. The fulfilment of the solemn compact with New South Wales is long overdue. Until recently, there was strong feeling against the removal to Canberra, at any rate, for some time to come, but I believe that there has been a change of opinion in the Commonwealth, and even in the State of Victoria. But we must proceed reasonably and discreetly, for we are the custodians of the public purse, and responsible to the people. We cannot expect the work to be satisfactorily completed within the period suggested.
– What did you say when you were Minister for Works and Railways?
– Exactly what I am saying to-day. I know the position of the officers of the Department, and their opinions on this matter, and I should not like to be responsible for compelling them to undertake a task that is economically impossible. One huge difficulty in the way of carrying out the work as proposed is the dearth of skilled labour. When I was in office, I was harassed night and day about the cost of building at Canberra, but I say that the best results possible were achieved under the adverse conditions prevailing. There are millions of money in Australia, and in the Old World, waiting for investment in bricks and mortar in this country, but, owing to the scarcity of skilled labour, I am afraid, the intending investors will have to wait for a long time. The costs of erecting homes for public servants at Canberra have proved so high as to require the charging of extravagant rents, if not for all time, at any rate for forty or fifty years. Even such rents would return, at most, 5 per cent, on the money expended, making no provision for wear and tear. My view was that these’ buildings ought to meet the interest for which the Government was responsible, and every effort was made to keep down the costs to the lowest point. The public servants themselves were very much concerned. They .did not, perhaps, feel the rents so severely under the conditions then prevailing, but they were apprehensive that, when normal conditions returned, they would have to continue paying the high rentals, while others were provided with houses on much easier terms.
– What was the average cost of the houses?
– It varied; but the smallest cost was about £800, without land, and the highest from £1,000 to £1,200. If my honorable friends opposite, in their extreme enthusiasm and anxiety to get to Canberra at an early date, plunge the Government into an unjustifiable expenditure, their action will be for long remembered by the community generally.
– Nothing can be done unless the Public Works Committee ‘ reports favorably.
– That part of the business could easily be arranged. The real difficulty is the dearth of skilled labour. It is not a matter of merely paying award rates, but of paying rates higher by ls. to 6s. and even then it is impossible to attract all the labour necessary. Instead of offering the award rate of 21s., we shall have to offer nearly 30s., and if we thus attract skilled labour, it- will be drawn from the cities, where it is urgently required. Skilled men in the building trade are needed in the large centres of population, and if honorable members opposite desire a reasonable solution of this difficulty they will induce the Government to import from 2,000 to 5,000 artisans. If that were done, the men would be “ mopped up “ at the ship’s side by the contractors of Australia. Indeed, I believe that this country could absorb 10,000 skilled workmen - that not one would be found out of employment within a week of his arrival. Such an influx, instead of increasing the volume of unemployment, would mean a demand for all the available ordinary labour required in the building trade.
– Why do you not bring those men out?
– I am not the Government. We hear the stupid cry that the arrival of workers here takes jobs from those already in Australia. The dearth of skilled labour affects, not only the construction of the Federal Capital, but also enormous building undertakings that are necessary for the development of our secondary and other industries. Further, the lack of skilled men is preventing Australian manufacturers and manufacturers abroad from extending their operations or establishing new businesses here.
I challenge any honorable member opposite to cite an .occasion on which I, v; hen Minister, placed the slightest impediment in the way of the prosecution of the work at Canberra. At present building costs in this country are 30 to 40 per cent, higher than they ought to bc, and, at the same time, there is only 40 per cent, of the bricks laid to-day that used to be laid at 10s. per 1,000. I do r.ot believe in using exceptional cases by way of illustration, but I shall do so now for the benefit of honorable members opposite. In five minutes the Minister (Mr. Stewart) could ascertain all the facts at his own office. For some time past the Public Works Department has been working uv.der the contract system - the only way in which public expenditure o* this kind can be checked. The case to which I refer is that of a post-office at Brunswick, the cost of which was estimated at £2,000. More than once tenders were called for unsuccessfully, and then the State Director of Works informed me that as the building was urgently required he would undertake to carry out the work at the estimated cost. I told . l im to go ahead, but warned him that if hi: did not redeem his promise he would “ hear something.” Towards the end of the job the Director of Works applied for a1’, extra £200 or £250, and told me that, although he had made visits of inspection two or three times a week, ‘>e could not induce the men to “get a move on.” In answer to me, he said that the men vere laying 200 bricks a day each - ia contrast to the 1,000 bricks for which 10s. was paid in the past. I myself went to Brunswick, and found that the men, although they were moving, were not moving fast enough to make a cinema picture.
I make these remarks from a sense of public duty, and I do not care a snap of the fingers whether or not they are appreciated by honorable members opposite. There is no man here more earnest in his desire to honour the compact with New South Wales, but I wish it to be honoured without any waste of the public funds.
.- When a young man who is in a good financial position has been engaged to a young lady for quite a number of years, and continues to put off the important ceremony on the plea that a delay of another twelve months or two years will make little or no difference; he is liable to an action at law for breach of promise. In just the same way, I think that Australia, as a whole is open to a charge in this House of grave breach of promise . because of the non-fulfilment of the compact made with New South Wales at the institution of Federation. Some honorable members seem to think that this matter is not looked upon as important in New South Wales; but I can assure them that by a great number of the people, and most. of the representatives of that State, it is regarded as most important. It was so considered at the institution of Federation, because, if honorable members will cast their minds back, they will recall the fact that the first Commonwealth Constitution Bill was not accepted, very largely for the reason that it did not secure the Capital of the Commonwealth to the Mother State of New South Wales. The sentiment which existed then has been growing. It is a very wholesome sentiment; indeed, honorable members will make a very great mistake if they ignore it.
– It is recognised by the Commonwealth.
– That is so. Perhaps no one has been more loud in his protest that he recognises it than the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), and no one has been more disposed than the honorable member to put off the fulfilment of the contract from one time to another. He has told us that he is absolutely in earnest in the matter, and that, during his regime as Minister for Works and Railways he placed no impediment in the way of the construction of the Capital at Canberra. I will not say whether he did or not, but I will say that if he was no more in earnest in those days about fulfilling the contract than he is to-day, it is idle for the honorable member to tell us that he placed’ no impediment in the way of the construction of the capital.
– I told the House that I would not waste money on it.
– The honorable member professes to’ be very much in earnest in the matter, and says he desires to see the construction of - the Federal Capital expedited, but he also says that he would not run the Commonwealth into undue cost in its construction. I should like to remind him that during the time he held office an Advisory
Committee was appointed to consider the construction of the Federal Capital, and the time within which it should be constructed. That Committee was composed of Mr. John Sulman, consulting architect ; Mr. E. M. de Burgh, Chief Engineer of Water Supply and Sewerage of New South Wales ; Mr. Herbert E. Ross, architect; Colonel Percy T. Owen, DirectorGeneral of Works for the Commonwealth; and Mr. J. T. H. Goodwin. I have before me the report submitted by these gentlemen. No one who has listened to the wild, irresponsible ex parte statement of the honorable member for Wakefield would attach more value to his opinion than he would attach to the opinion of the gentlemen who formed the Advisory Committee to which I have referred’. I do not know whether the honorable member will contend that his opinion is worth more than the opinion of any member of the Advisory Committee, but even if he should, I do not think he will claim that his opinion is worth more than the collective opinion of . the members of the Committee. I think that all the conditions in regard to undue cost of materials and labour which prevail today, and have made the honorable member come to the conclusion at which he has arrived, . prevailed in New South Wales two years ago. Yet here is the opinion given two years ago by the members of the Advisory Committee with respect to the time required for the construction of the Capital -
The period of three years assigned by the Committee for the first stage is the minimum that resources in materials and labour would permit without unduly increasing cost.
Honorable members will see that these gentlemen took into consideration the chief factors of cost in materials and labour.
– What is the date of the report which the -honorable member quotes ?
– It will be found in the Parliamentary Papers for 1921-22. In spite of that report made so long ago, honorable members opposite tell us to-day that we are- going at a break-neck pace.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– It has been said during this debate. The honorable member for Wakefield may not have used the significant and picturesque phrase used by other honorable members, but he has spoken in similar terms. We are told that we are going at a break-neck pace in the construction of the Capital.
– The break-neck pace of the crab.
– If further obstacles are placed in the way of the construction of the Capital, so far from making progress we may find ourselves going backwards like the crab. It may be that at the opening of Canberra as the Capital city of the Commonwealth, the greatest curiosity present will be some old identity who remembered the passing of the Australian Commonwealth Constitution Act.
– How are we -to find the money required ?
– The honorable member will not deny that Che financial position of Australia is sufficiently sound to warrant us in undertaking the work at the present time. When this motion was last under discussion, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) told us that while he was Prime Minister sinister influences were continually brought to bear on him to place obstacles in the way of the construction of the Federal Capital at Canberra. He said that while the present Government might be quite serious in their desire to expedite its construction, he trembled for them, because he knew that the chances were that they would be no stronger than he had been to resist the influences to which he referred. The fact that the right honorable member for North Sydney was compelled to yield to those influences gives us some idea of their strength and of their sinister nature. The right honorable gentleman is not a man easily thwarted. When a member of the party to which I belong, and, later, when a member of the party to which the honorable member for Wakefield belongs, he encountered obstacle after obstacle in his march forward, but he overcame them all until, in connexion with the construction of the Federal Capital, he was confronted with an obstacle which he was unable to surmount. Does the honorable member for Wakefield believe that the present Government is stronger than the Government in which the right honorable member for North Sydney was Prime Min ister? Or does he think that influences brought to bear upon the honorable member for North Sydney will not be brought to bear upon the present Government? We hope that the present Government will show that it is a strong Government and will not yield to those influences. The statement made by the right honorable member for North Sydney represents one of the strongest arguments that can be used for the removal of the Federal Parliament of Australia from the place in which it now sits, and where the influences to which he referred, but did not define, prevail, to a place like Canberra, where no such influences can operate.
j - I returned yesterday from a visit to Canberra. I considered it right to see the place for myself, rather than accept my information about it at second hand. I am prepared to say at the outset that, so far as I am able to judge, Canberra is a beautiful site’ for a beautiful city. The situation was a complete surprise to me. I had previously obtained my information about it from printed matter, and I was very genuinely pleased to see how beautiful the surroundings of Canberra are. I, therefore, approach the consideration of this question without any prejudice against the site o’f the Federal Capital. The question cannot be considered as though this were the first Parliament of the Commonwealth. A great deal has happened since the first Federal Parliament met, and since the Federal Capital Territory was accepted from New South Wales. We are not to-day approaching this question with entirely new minds, able to determine whether there should be a Federal Capital, and, if so, where it should be. These issues have already been determined, and this Parliament must accept the position as it finds it. At the same time, I ‘submit to the House a different view from that which has been the commonplace of this debate. We have heard a great deal about a solemn compact and promise. What are the facts? They are that at the beginning of Federation the State of New South Wales drove a hard bargain. That is the simple truth. The rest of Australia had to submit to the terms of that hard bargain. That bargain must be carried out. What were its terms? They were merely these: That the
Federal Capital should be in the State of New South Wales, in territory to be granted by the Parliament of that State, and not within 100 miles of Sydney. Those were all the terms of the bargain, and -they would have been observed if this Parliament had so far never done anything in connexion with the construction of the Capital. The constitutional provision forbids the construction of a Federal- Capital elsewhere than within the area defined by the bargain. That imposed no positive obligation on the Commonwealth. It imposed only the negative obligation that no attempt should be made to set up a Federal Capital elsewhere than within the area defined by the constitutional provision. It was a matter left entirely to the discretion of this Parliament to say when the Federal Capital City should be constructed. My view is that there is nothing serious in the suggestion of a solemn compact under the Constitution. But matters have gone further since the Constitution was adopted, and this Parliament must approach the consideration of the question from the stand-point of today. This Parliament accepted territory from New South Wales for the purpose of the construction of the Capital. It is in that fact that the obligation to construct the Capital lies, and not because of any constitutional- undertaking. The territory having been accepted, Parliament should proceed to construct the ‘ city; but I decline to accept the statement that its construction must be carried out because there was an original, solemn, constitutional obligation. I prefer to describe it in entirely different language. I suggest that many New South Wales people are to-day somewhat ashamed of the hard bargain that was driven. If I spoke merely as a Victorian, looking at the matter merely from a provincial point of view, I consider that it would be a good thing for Melbourne if the Federal Parliament were away from here, because its presence in this city tends to prejudice Victorian institutions. From many points of view Victoria would be better off if the Federal Parliament were turned out of Melbourne as soon as possible. To-day, however, we are faced with the proposal that the GovernorGeneral should be invited to summon the next Federal Parliament to meet at Can- berra. The time of the summoning of that Parliament will arrive in two and a half years, or possibly a shorter period.
– Perhaps in less than six months.
– I saw this week at Canberra that, though a few roads are made, many more must be constructed before the occupation of the city by the Parliament could be dreamt of. The main sewerage channel is nearly completed, but much reticulation will be needed before any considerable number of people can reside there. -
– When Parliament first met here there was no sewerage system.
– There is a great difference between connecting a single building and connecting a small city or town with a sewerage system. Canberra has an abundant supply of beautiful water, but that is not everything. Transportation to Canberra, at present, is one of the most awful things that an Australian citizen- could be asked to endure in the course of a normal life. In July there is really no pleasure, even though one sees beautiful snow-covered mountains on the horizon, in getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning at Yass and travelling 46 mile® by motor car, over indifferent roads for a considerable distance, to arrive at Canberra for breakfast. To return to Melbourne you leave Canberra at night, and drive 11 miles to Queanbeyan, over only middling roads. You then travel from Queanbeyan to Goulburn. The night on which I did the journey was cold and wet. At Goulburn you enter a train already occupied by persons who are asleep, and who do not wish to be disturbed- You arrive at Melbourne at 2 or 3 o’clock the next afternoon. It is a miserable and wretched journey both ways. There must be improved transport before any serious consideration can be given to the removal of the Federal Parliament to Canberra. I am not arguing whether or not, by removing the Parliament from the city of Melbourne, you will diminish, the influence of this metropolitan area on the members, but I must say that the sensitiveness of some members of this House about what the newspapers choose to say of them is a surprise to me. It is quite impracticable and foolish to think of this Parliament marooning itself at
Canberra. That is what would happen with the present transport arrangements.
– New South Wales is responsible for building a line from Yass to Canberra.
– The line must be constructed before there will be any reasonable transport conveniences, and until those are in existence we cannot have an effective Parliament at Canberra. We have to consider the convenience of the general community as well as the convenience of members of the House. The Parliament must be accessible. There must be the necessary buildings to accommodate the Parliament. At present a little more than half of the hostel is above the ground. If the hostel were complete it could only accommodate a few people. Parliament should have ordinary appurtenances and conveniences. There should be a Library that would be of some use. It is difficult to imagine Parliament without a printing office adjacent which could work at high pressure for short periods as required. It would be impossible for Ministers to attend to their parliamentary duties at Canberra, and also discharge the administrative work at their offices in Melbourne. They cannot leave their office work in Melbourne untouched for months while they attend Parliament at Canberra. The central offices of the various Departments must be where the Parliament meets, or we will have Ministers in the House unable to give the information which honorable members need. We realize that there must be branches of the Departments in the various States, but if Parliament is to function properly it is essential that the central administration officers should be where the Parliament meets. These are my reasons for suggesting that it is impossible for Parliament to meet at Canberra within the time contemplated by the motion. I am not foolish enough to think that all members will agree with my opinion, but to me the reasons I am advancing are weighty. . I recognise the obligation to construct a national city, iu which the Federal Parliament will meet, but it is no use shutting . our eyes to facts. It is not practicable for Parliament to meet at Canberra in, say, two and a half years. Parliament will not always sit for only ten weeks in a year, as other honorable members know better than I do. We should not make it necessary for members of Parliament, and those associated with Parliament, to undergo separation from their families even for the delights of living in the Capital City. That is what it would mean if the motion were adopted. There must be quite a substantial city for some hundreds of persons before we can have an effective Parliament at. Canberra. Otherwise we will have a Parliament which will be ineffectively debating various questions on which members will be unable to obtain the information which is necessary to enable them to discharge their duties properly. I understand that the report of the Public Works Committee on this matter has been laid on the table of the House. I feel that it is our duty to determine a continuous policy on this question. The trouble, as far as I have been able to gather, from a short acquaintance with the subject, is that there has been no continuous policy. In order that we may form one, I suggest that the House should consider this report carefully. For instance, we should come to a definite decision whether the buildings to be erected are to be of a temporary or permanent character. I ask the House to consider this question seriously, because we shall be building a city for centuries, and not merely for to-day or the next few years. A good deal of the structure of Parliament House is internal, and must be the same whether the Parliament meets in temporary or permanent buildings, and we should carefully consider whether we are justified in spending some hundreds of thousands of pounds upon buildings which, it is said, will be only temporary, and will soon be pulled down. There are very serious reasons why these buildings should’ be permanent. Many buildings now in use in Australia were built as temporary structures, and there are many unfinished Parliament Houses in the States. The Parliament House of New South Wales is an example. If temporary buildings are provided at Canberra there will be the risk that they will become permanent, or will at least outlast the lifetime of most honorable members now present. It is important that the Federal City, when built, should be a rallying point for national sentiment. I suggest that it would be unwise to put op galvanized iron, fibro-cement, or even i.n ornamented brick structures as temporary buildings. They would merely tend to make the Federal Capital an object of public derision. “We are building something which, we hope, will last for centuries. Honorable members from soma of the other States may differ from me, but I hold that in an enterprise of this magnitude the difference between three years and ten years is not worth considering. When this House has formulated a definite scheme, which it has rot done yet, I shall be prepared to support a continuous policy for the development of the Territory of the Capital City, but I shall not vote for a motion which, according to my opinion, based upon my present information and knowledge, asks for the impossible.
.- As one who has given no small amount of attention to this subject since I have been a member of the National Parliament, I feel it my duty to say a few words in favour of the motion. While I recognise that the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has made a valuable addition to the debate, he reminds me somewhat of a gentleman named Foster Frazer, who visited Australia some years ago, and, after spending a week here, wrote a book about us. The honorable gentleman has been at Canberra for three days, and comes to Parliament and tells us all about it. I admit that there are some points in his remarks worthy of consideration. When one compares the number of members who a few years ago supported the cause of Canberra with the number who support it to-day, the change is remarkable. The honorable member stated that the sewerage scheme was not complete, the water reticulation was not finished, and the roads were only in course of construction. I would remind him that the history of the Capital of the United States of America is similar to that of Canberra. The City of Washingtoncould not be completed for a long time because of influence exerted by those who did not want the Parliament to go there. A motion was submitted in the National Parliament of that country similar to that placed before this House by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), and at that time Washington was less advanced, structurally than Canberra is to-day. There was no sewerage system, only a small water supply, and no roads. Because these under takings have not been completed at Canberra, it is said that Parliament should not go there. The Governments which delayed the building of Canberra during’ the war can be forgiven, and I think the Government which was in office after the war pursued the right policy in proceeding to construct roads, and provide water, railways, and other utilities necessary for Parliament to meet there. The proposal which will be submitted by the Government for the appointment of a Commission is wise, but we should instruct it to do certain things. It should be told that Parliament desires to meet there on a specified date, and it should have power to raise money to establish the Capital by that time. Notwithstanding the arguments used against the motion, the late Sir Denison Miller was of opinion that if the Capital site were given to him he could establish the Capital within two years. He said to me on one occasion, If the Commonwealth Government will give me this land for twenty years, I will provide administrative offices, a Federal Parliament House, and other facilities free of charge and make a fair dividend for my Bank.” I think that even the honorable member for Kooyong will agree that the work already carried out has been well done. The water, sewerage, and lighting services are excellent, and good bricks, which will be used extensively in the near future, are being made. The honorable member says that it would be a nightmare to have to rise early in the morning and travel from Yass to Canberra, but if Parliament decides to meet at Canberra within three years the New South Wales Government will at once honour its compact, and build . the 30 miles of railway from the Canberra border to Yass. Nothing has been said about the travelling disabilities which honorable members have to suffer in journeying to Melbourne. We do not complain. We have chosen our bed, and must lie on it. The honorable member says it will be inconvenient for officers to live away from their wivesand families. Many members of this House leave their families every week, and get home only at the week-ends. When the Federal Capital has been established officers will not leave their wives, but will take them with them. The Commission should also be instructed to house the workmen properly. We cannot expect workmen to be contented, and officers to carry out their duties efficiently, unless they have decent conditions to work under and proper homes to live in. I hope that if the motion is carried, and the Commission appointed, the Ordinance will be given effect to at the earliest possible moment. The outside public should be informed that Parliament has decided to meet at Canberra on the 1st of January in a certain year. Private individuals would then bid for the blocks of land to be auctioned, and would occupy them, and by the competition which I feel sure would ensue, the value of the land would increase to such an extent that the people of Australia would benefit considerably. The honorable member belongs, as I do, to a party which believes in decentralization. The establishment of the Capital is one means of decentralizing. If we could create more big towns throughout the Commonwealth, it would be better for the people as a whole. The establishment of the Capital will open a route through Yass to Jervis Bay, which is idle to-day, but into which the largest liners afloat could come and collect produce from the Riverina and surrounding areas. I hope honorable members’ will carry the motion on the voices, and show to Australia that they are willing to honour the compact made with the people, not merely of New South Wales, but of the Commonwealth.
– That is not the question. The question is whether we can get to Canberra in three years.
– I believe we can. I was speaking the other day to the man who is in charge of the erection of the hostel. He is allowed eighteen months in which to complete that building. He said to me, “ Let them give me the contract for building Parliament House, and I will build it easily in eighteen months.” If practical men say that, why should honorable members, who know very little of the building trade, question their statements? If officers of the Department are allowed to obtain cheap blocks of land, they will, to a large extent, build their own homes. If the land is thrown open to the public, houses will grow like mushrooms, and Canberra will become a populous Territory.
.- I do not intend to cast a silent vote on this question. I am strongly in favour of the motion. I recognise that twentythree years ago the compact was made that the Capital would be established at Canberra. If a quarter of a century is not long enough in which to make up our minds to move to the Capital City, there must be some sinister influences at work such as have been mentioned by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. P. McDonald). I trust that the carrying of the motion will be regarded as an instruction by Parliament. The Federal Government of Australia should not be carried on in any State Capital, for it is undesirable that large centralized influences should be allowed to exert pressure by lobbying in the National Parliament. The Federal Parliament is to a certain extent dominated by Melbourne interests. I do not want to be parochial, but that is a fact. We should look at this matter from an Australian standpoint. We want the Australian Parliament to be far removed from the influence of existing capital cities. Over 100 years ago the United States of America set us a good example in this respect. The capital city of the State, as well as of the Republic, was established in a comparatively small village in the first instance, and as near as possible to the centre of the State. Thus, in California, the capital is the comparatively small city of Sacramento; and in New York, a closely-settled State, the small city of Albany, on the River Hudson, has the honour of being the State capital. The same policy has been pursued , in nearly all the States. The time has long since arrived when this Federal compact should be honoured. I do not propose to deal at length with the points raised by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster). His main objection to the motion is that there will be great difficulty in securing skilled labour for the erection of the necessary buildings. He mentioned that when he was administering the Public Works Department bricklayers engaged on the erection of a post-office in Brunswick laid only 200 bricks a day. I am confident that, in connexion with this great work, the Australian bricklayers will lay considerably more than 200 bricks a day. As ona possessing special knowledge of the building trade - I have been a bricklayer myself -I do not attach very much importance to the honorable member’s objections. Quite a number of my relatives are bricklayers also. I was brought up in the trade. It is usually contract work. Over thirty years ago I was bricklaying in Melbourne with my brother, who is still in the business, and when I asked1 him a few days ago if bricklayers nowadays did less work, he replied promptly that matters to-day were much the same as thirty years ago; that if a bricklayer did not do a fair day’s work he would get the same treatment now as then - he would get his pay on Saturday night and be put off the job. He also informed me that the bricklayers of to-day were doing a better class of work. I have a fairly intimate knowledge of the trade, not only here, but in other parts of the world, and I can say with every confidence that, compared with English or American bricklayers, the Australian is a faster and a better worker. I am sorry that I have to mention this matter, but it was raised, and in justice to the Australian workman I feel that I must say that, in my opinion, he is second to none in the world.
– In view of the definite pronouncement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and the reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the intentions of the Government, the motion submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) was hardly necessary. It is not- my intention to speak at any length, but I desire to reply to one ortwo statements made during the course of the debate. The honorable member for Dalley stated that of the amount voted last year for the Capital city, £90,000 was unexpended. I hold no brief for any previous Government; but I may state that for the financial year ending 30th June last the loan vote for Canberra was £379,000, but restrictions imposed by the Treasury reduced it to about £334,000, and the actual expenditure was £332,693, leaving an unexpended balance of only £1 , 441 . There was an unexpended balance of the 1922 vote of about £4.6,000, but that will soon be spent upon the works in hand. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) made some reference to a galvanized iron Parliament House, which, he said, had been suggested. No such building has been proposed. That honorablemember also said that he had had the number of cottages at Canberra counted, and found that only thirty-nine had been built. The real position is that since work was resumed in 1921 we have either built or have in hand fifty-five brick cottages, and have accepted tenders for another nineteen brick cottages, making a total of seventyfour. These; with twenty other wooden cottages, have been- built for officials and others.
– Is the Minister going to reply to the honorable member for Kooyong ?
– The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), at all events, has departed from the policy of his predecessor, inasmuch as he visited Canberra and was able to speak at first hand upon this question. It is the intention of the Government to proceed with the building of the Capital city, and to transfer the Seat of Government to Canberra ‘as soon as the necessary conveniences have been provided there. That policy was laid down in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and it will be adhered to. I have been closely associated with the work for some time now, and my indorsement of the proposal to proceed as expeditiously as possible with the building of the Capital is no sudden conversion since my accession to office. The honorable member for Dalley and many other honorable members have been championing this project in season and out of season for some years. I remind them that I have done something which they have not yet done. I advocated Canberra and the transfer there of the Seat of Government when that course was not so popular in my constituency as it was in theirs. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) stated that an excessive and unjustifiable expenditure would be incurred if we transferred the Seat of Government to Canberra within the time mentioned in the motion. I do not agree with his view. I believe, barring untoward events, for which we always have to provide, that the Capital can be transferred to Canberra in three years without excessive and unjustifiable expenditure. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) referred to a statement made by the right honorable member for North. Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes), in which he hinted at some mysterious and sinister influence, and trembled for the present Ministry. I can assure the right honorable member for North Sydney, arid incidentally the honorable member for Barton, that they need not tremble for us. My predecessor in office declared that he had not discovered any evidence of this sinister influence. Neither have I. But, whatever happens, the policy of the present Ministry is to carry on, in spite of any sinister or other influence. The honorable member for Kooyong mentioned the inaccessibility of the Capital city at the present time. I agree with him, and I am hopeful that the New South Wales Government will perform their part of the bargain and improve the railway communication. I hope that the honorable members from that State will use what influence they possess with the New South Wales Government in this matter. The honorable member for Kooyong also referred to the absence of a continuous policy. Lack of continuity in past operations has caused not only delay but also very heavy expense. A Bill is now being drafted which will be presented to the House shortly, to provide for the appointment of a permanent Commission, who will insure continuity of construction, and lay the foundation of a permanent developmental policy which, I predict, will make of Canberra a city that will reflect credit on the founders, and one which future generations of Australia will be able proudly to compare with any other city in the world.
.- During the election campaign I made, the definite promise to my electors that if returned to Parliament I would take every opportunity to further by voice and vote the national project for the establishment of a Federal Capital. I congratulate the mover of the motion on having specified a definite time for the assembling of this Parliament at Canberra; and I am pleased to learn from the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) that they, after consideration of all the facts of the case, realize that it is possible for Parliament 10 meet at Canberra by that time. . I listened with close attention to the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham).
Although I shall not attempt to argue with a member so eminently learned in constitutional matters, I certainly think he is wrong in stating that the people of New South Wales are not very gravely concerned in this question. ‘ They are concerned; they think that it is high time that the moral, if not legal, obligation contained in the Constitution was honoured by this Parliament. I am sure that the honorable member for Dalley, in submitting hie motion, had no intention of embarrassing the Government. The Federal Capital Vigilance Committee, of which I am a member, is heartily in accord with the motion. I hope it will be carried, because it is quite in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution and in harmony with the ideals of the great founders of the Federation.
– I have previously stated that I am in favour of the Federal Capital being established at Canberra, because the Constitution requires that it shall be in New South Wales, but it does not necessarily follow that I am in favour of the motion.
– Has the honorable member been to Canberra?
– I was * there on one occasion, but owing to the tremendous press of people it was rather difficult to see the foundation stones which have been laid. The Constitution provides -
The Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and shall be in the State of New South Wales, and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney. . . . The Parliament shall sit at Melbourne until it meet at the Seat of Government.
The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr . Latham) has expressed the opinion that that section does not impose any legal obligation upon the Commonwealth to. commence or proceed forthwith with the creation of the Federal Capital. Whether it does or does not constitute a strictly legal obligation, it certainly constitutes a moral obligation, which is now being honoured. If the determination of the site of the Federal Capital had been submitted to my judgment, I should not have voted in favour of Canberra. I have always held that
Melbourne, by reason of its geographical situation, is’ naturally fitted to- be the Capital of Australia. I fully realize the great merits of Sydney; but Melbourne is equi-distant from Sydney and Adelaide, -lies approximately midway between Perth and Brisbane, and is the closest mainland capital city to the island of Tasmania. Those reasons would have influenced me in casting my vote in favour of Melbourne. But the site of the Federal Capital was fixed years ago; the obligation of deciding the matter does not devolve on me, and it is our duty as a Parliament to carry out the arrangements made by our predecessors. Objection has been raised to the continuance of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne on the ground that it is subject to certain sinister influences. I have not had very much political experience, but I should think that, wherever the Federal Capital may be, Parliament will not get beyond the reach of telephones-, telegraphs, and newspapers. In transferring the Seat of Government to Canberra, Parliament may be merely ex: changing’ the influence of one city for the influence of another. It is not as though we were establishing a university. The American system of establishing universities in later years has been to place them in the woods, away from the bustling and congested cities. And there is a great deal to be said for that arrangement. But Parliament is not a university, and in every decade it becomes less like one. The influences which operate in Melbourne will continue to operate wherever Parliament may be; they are not confined to one city. I believe there are some people who are in favour of reopening the controversy as to whether Canberra is the best possible site in New South Wales for the Federal Capital.
– It is not.
– That may be, but so much work has been done, and so much money spent there, and so much of the time of this Parliament has been occupied in threshing out this question over and over again, that we cannot reopen it now. I would not at this stage be in favour of any proposal for altering the venue of the Federal Capital, but I do not see that it is possible to request the Governor-General to convene the first meeting of the Tenth Parliament at Canberra when we do not know when the
City will be ready to receive Parliament. I gather from the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), who has recently visited Canberra, that he has grave doubts of the possibility of Canberra being ready in 1925. The mover of the motion may be willing to sleep in the open or in a tent; I am not. Tents may be excellent accommodation in the field, but they are not suitable for a Parliament that has to deal with the legislation of a nation. I rose to make it perfectly clear that, whilst I can- * not support the motion on account of its terms, my opposition is not due to any antagonism to the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra in due time.
.- I listened very patiently to this debate in the hope of hearing the subject dealt with from a business point of view, but I have not heard one honorable member say a word regarding what return the Commonwealth will get from the immense capital outlay at Canberra. Already £2,000,000 has been expended, upon which not one penny of interest is being received.
– The honorable member is making a mistake.
– At any rate, the return has been very small. It is now proposed to expend further immense sums of money on land that will carry only one sheep to the acre. As a practical business man, I ask what return that land will give for the capital outlay upon it. Having regard to the huge public debt of Australia, it’ behoves us to tread warily. We should not incur a big capital outlay simply because the Commonwealth has a small surplus at the present time. It is our duty to the small population of Australia to apply that surplus to the reduction of the nation’s liabilities, rather than to expend it upon unproductive works. There are plenty of places throughout the Commonwealth in which accommodation could be provided cheaply for this Parliament to carry out its functions There is in Hobart a domain of 640 acres and an unoccupied Government House. That property would not cost the Commonwealth very much to acquire; in fact, Tasmania would be glad to let this Parliament have the place gratuitously, and honorable members might get inspiration from the balmy breezes that blow off the Southern Ocean, and the sunny climate, which would help them in making of Australia a great nation. Some honorable members think they can make the Commonwealth blossom like a rose with the aid of a bottle of mixed pickles. I suggest to New South Wales representatives that, instead of carrying this motion, it would be better to ask the Government to advance money to the Government of that State to spend on really productive works.
.- I appreciate very highly the interest honorable members have taken in this motion, and the views they have expressed regarding it. If the motion be carried, it will immediately remove this great question from the arena of party politics, and place it on the national plane where questions of the kind should always be. That is one reason why I so strongly urge the House to give an affirmative vote. I trust honorable members will rise to the occasion and record an overwhelming majority in favour of our early removal to Canberra.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . … 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
The following papers were presented: -
British Phosphate Commission - Report and Accounts for year ended 30th June, 1922.
Public Service Act-Promotion of T. H. Cameron, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - Nos. 6 and 7of1923- Commonwealth Public Service
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
.- I move-
That all the words after the word “That” be omitted, with the view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ this House is of the opinion that the unsympathetic administration of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, as reflected by the decrease in the total payment of war pensions last year to the extent of £278,000, has caused considerable hardship and misery to returned soldiers and their dependants. Further, that the Government be instructed to place an adequate sum on the 1923-24 Estimates to permit of a just and sympathetic administration of the Act.”
I do not move this amendment with a view to gaining kudos, but solely in order to see that justice is done to many returned soldiers. If I did not submit the amendment I should fail in my duty to those of my comrades who are crying out to the Government and people of this country for the just treatment to which they are entitled. Many incapacitated men have been forced to seek employment ; many have been unable to obtain employment, to secure pensions, . or even to find shelter. The position of a great many of the men in New South. Wales is very unsatisfactory indeed. Only this week the New South. Wales Government entered into arrangements with the military authorities to provide shelter at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney, for returned soldiers. When our public men were taking the platform in support of recruiting during the years of the war, who would have had the temerity to say that after the cessation of hostilities and our men had returned from years of war service, they would be obliged to seek the assistance of the Commonwealth or a State Government to provide them with shelter ? ‘ As an evidence of the unsympathetic treatment meted out to the returned men in New South Wales, I should like to inform honorable members that the total number of war pensions paid in that State is 67,858, whereas in Victoria the war pensions number 75,664. That is to say, there are nearly 8,000 more war pensions paid in Victoria than in New South Wales, notwithstanding the fact that there were 52,000 more enlistments in New South Wales than in Victoria. These figures are very significant, and clearly demonstrate that there is something wrong with the administration of the Repatriation Department in New South Wales. Not only are many incapacitated men denied pensions, but many who could accept employment are denied the opportunity to work. The Prime Minister has said that his Government stands for preference to returned soldiers. It is not preference that these men want, but the right to work for those who are able to do so, and the pensions to which they are entitled for those who are not able to work. There is one case to which I will briefly refer. It is that of a man who was invalided home and was granted the maximum pension payable at the time. The Repatriation Act was amended, and the maximum pension increased in the case of permanently incapacitated soldiers. This man applied for the increased pension, and it was denied him. After fighting the Department for fourteen or fifteen months, he sought legal assistance. The Department persistently refused his demands on the ground that he was not totally incapacitated ; but within a week after he caused a summons to-be issued v against the Department for the maximum amount of pension it was granted, and £129 back money paid to him. That case is. .on record, but we do not know how many hundreds of similar cases there may be. Every soldier who left our shores to go abroad was certified as fit for active service. All the cases to which I intend to refer tonight are those of men who were certified as fit for active service. They spent many years in active service abroad, and returned to Australia incapacitated. They were discharged as medically unfit, their unfitness not being due to ‘any misconduct on their part. The first case with which I will deal is that of a man named Seary. This man was in the infantry. He gave three years’ active service, and his certificate of discharge shows that he was wounded and suffering from gunshot wounds on the left of the spine. He is a married man with five children. I have been in his home, and nothing stirred me more than the pitiful look of his poor wife, who has to struggle week in and week out to make ends meet. This man is denied a pension, and in spite of the fact that he was wounded in the back, has not received one shilling since his return to Australia.
– For what reason was the pension refused?
– Representations were made to the Treasurer to see whether a pension could not be granted in this case, and he replied in the following terms: -
Any disability from which the ex-soldier was suffering would not be regarded as being due to, or aggravated by, war service.
– Hundreds of such letters have been received.
– This view was not borne out by the details of the reports of several doctors who investigated the case. The Treasurer further said -
Responsibility for determining what pension or allowance shall be granted ex-soldiers or their dependants rests upon the. Repatriation Department, and, in the circumstances, he was unable to interfere with the decision of the Commissioner.
The second case, of which I have had some experience, is that of a man named Sampson. He had been in receipt of a pension for five years, but in January last his pension was cancelled. It was the only means of subsistence he had. He is a married man, and is hardly able to drag one foot after the other. When his pension was cancelled he was forced to look for work, though he was incapable of working. Owing to the Government’s policy of preference to soldiers he was eventually found light employment in. threading labels for mail bags, in the Sydney General Post Office. He was unable to continue even that light work, and was forced to take to his bed. He wrote to the Prime Minister, in March, 1923, the following letter, to which I direct the attention of honorable members: -
Dear Sir, - I am a married returned soldier, and have been in receipt of a pension of £4 per fortnight until 25th January, 1923. I have been informed by the Repatriation Department here that the pension has been cancelled, and that I can be afforded no treatment or other medical benefits. Now , sir, I first contracted this trouble whilst in camp on Salisbury Plains in 1917. It was a. sort of influenza. I was a bush-worker prior to enlistment, and did not know what it was to have a day’s illness. On my return, I was operated on for some stomach trouble, and, since 1917, I have not been able to eat anything solid. I cannot even eat bread unless it is in the form of a sop. I have been under continuous treatment in various hospitals, and, now that the Repatriation has cast me out to seek civil treatment, I have no idea where I shall get the wherewithal to exist. The final blow has been the hardest, for after I was refused treatment as a soldier, I went to a civil hospital, where I met a doctor who treated me in 1918. He has diagnosed my case as pulmonary tuberculosis, and forbidden me to work. Here I am now, penniless, and that weak that I can hardly drag one leg after the other. I appeal to you, sir, as a fellow soldier, to do something that will alleviate my suffering. My present condition is this lung trouble, the inability to digest ordinary food, and a wasting of the muscles of the legs. There is no history of tuberculosis in my family. My father and mother are both alive, and are well. My grandmother is alive and aged 87 years, whilst grandfather died at the age of 84 years. In my dire distress I feel that I can look to’ you for a reconsideration of the heartless act of cancelling the pension that I had been receiving for five years and refusing me medical treatment. Thanking you in anticipation, I am, &c.
I can substantiate the statements made by this man. He is now unable to work and has a wife to keep. They are living in a dingy room, and my heart goes out to them. “What I want is not sympathy. I want the members of the Government to open their eyes to the conditions existing- at. the present time, and to do something for the poor unfortunate returned soldiers.
– Did the Prime Minister reply to the letter the honorable member has read?
– The letter was sent to the Prime Minister, as a soldier, and the appeal was unavailing. I am anxious to see justice done in these cases, and having obtained no satisfaction from the Repatriation Department, I made application to the Treasurer for relief. On 21st June, I asked the Treasurer to lay on the table of the House all papers in connexion with the applications for war pensions from ex-4874 Private T. Seary, 54th Battalion ; J. J. H. Goodwin, 103rd Howitzer Battery, 3rd Brigade ; and ex-3185 Private C. G. Sampson, 34th and 63rd Battalion, A.I.F. The Treasurer replied -
It is not considered desirable to lay the papers on the table, as they contain confidential information as to the circumstances of the persons concerned. If, however, there are any phases of these cases upon which the honorable member desires information, I shall be glad to supply it on receipt of a request from, him.
How could I possibly ask the Treasurer for information on certain phases of the cases when I could not get the file of papers to see the reasons why these pensions were so dealt with? No doubt the Minister will advance certain reasons for the action of the Department in refusing the claims of the men. In the case of Sampson, they may say that his people had tuberculosis at some time, and that the man himself had traces of the disease in his system before his enlistment. I am not concerned about that, because he was accepted for active service, and was certified to be medically fit. He went away, and did everything he was asked to do. He underwent all the privations and exposures of active service. Surely the Treasurer or the Commissioners for Repatriation will not suggest that these experiences helped the man. As a fact, through them he became broken in health and spirit. The Department, after paying him a pension for five years, cancelled it at a time when his health was worse rather than better. Seary is suffering from gunshot wounds left of the spine. No honorable member will suggest that that will help him to work satisfactorily. He obtained employment for a time with a municipal council in my electorate. Ultimately, he was given a certificate by the overseer, which stated that he was totally unfitted to do hard work. He was anxious to work, and he would work if he were able. He is a fine specimen of humanity, weighing 15 or 16 stone, but he has to hobble about on sticks, and sometimes has to take to his bed for a fortnight or three weeks at a stretch. It may he suggested that at some time he suffered from venereal disease, or that he is so suffering now. The Treasurer will not allow us to see the papers on his case so that we may ascertain whether poisonous statements of. this description are being made. Thus injury may be done him behind his back. 1 appeal to honorable members to help me to prevent thrusts of this kind at a man’s character. If the man did not suffer from venereal disease at the time of his enlistment, will it be suggested that the soldiers who left our shores were expected to remain continent for the whole time they were away? Certainly not. If they were indiscreet while they were away, should their wives and children be made to suffer? I have brought one case only of this kind forward, but many similar instances could be mentioned. Let honorable members picture this man’s little wife, and the home with its uncovered floors and bare cupboards, and the anxious eyes looking to father and mother to provide them with the wherewithalto exist. This condition of affairs is shocking. I hope the Government will do something to rectify it. I said there was a possibility of this man suffering from venereal disease. There is also a possibility, if the medical officers have made that statement, that they have made a mistake in doing so. I have a case in which a mistake was made. A member of the Australian Imperial Force, named Veitch, was certified to be suffering from a syphilitic throat. The trouble commenced while he was in camp in England. He went on sick parade and was eventually drafted to Bulford Hospital, a venerea] disease institution. An Army Medical Corps man reported his case to the medical officer, who, with one glance at his throat and without taking a swab, said, “ You have a syphilitic throat.” He ordered injections of “ 606 “ and mercury. ‘ The man protested. He had led a clean life, and had left behind him a dear mother and father and also a young lady to whom he was engaged. When he protested the medical officer said, “ You shall have the injections whether you like it or not.” The man was handcuffed and the injections were made. Subsequently the man refused to go on duty because he wanted to bring his case before higher authorities.
For this he was court-martialled and fined £10. He had forty-two days’ pay stopped, and also lost 253 days’ pay for the time he was in two or three different hospitals. He went on fighting,, but he was continually kept in the hospitals, and his comrades came to consider him an incurable syphilitic. Eventually word got home and his allotment was stopped. Naturally, his people wanted to know why, and somebody told them. There is always some one who will carry news of this kind. When he returned home his people would have nothing to do with him, and his’ young lady broke off the engagement. The man suffered a distinct wrong at the hands of the military authorities, for it was found that he was ‘ suffering, not from a syphilitic throat, but from ulcerated tonsils. As some of the medical officers of the Australian Imperial Force were previously blacksmiths, mistakes of this kind are not to be wondered at. The treatment Veitch received was shameful. He wrote to the Department of Repatriation, Sydney, on the 9th April, and on the 12th April he received the following reply: -
Receipt is acknowledged of your letter dated 9th April, 1923. In reply you are informed -
Diagnosis, ulcerative tonsilitis.
Swab, gram and diplococci.
Here is the text of a certificate issued by the Pathological Laboratory at Bulford Hospital on 28th February, 1918 -
This soldier has been suffering from recurrent attacks of ulcerative tonsilitis for the past twelve months. His blood has been tested by Wassermann reaction three times at this hospital since 10th November, 1917, and each time the reaction has been a clear negative; and I am of opinion that the condition of the throat is not due to specific disease, viz., syphilis. (Sgd.) Caplis,
This statement was made after the man had been put to much torture and misery for many days. . I bring this case forward because it may be suggested that Seary is suffering from- venereal disease. A mistake was clearly made in the case of Veitch, and he was put to all the suffering and loss that I have described because the medical officers blundered and were unable to repair the damage done. It is distasteful to me to bring these matters forward, but I should be shirking my duty if I failed to do so. Such eases as these, and there are many of them, should be reconsidered and the injustices rectified. Experiences similar to those of these three men have occured all over the Commonwealth. The Government should consider whether Veitch should not be awarded compensation. His claim is a fair one and should receive sympathetic consideration.
– I think he should. He has suffered a great deal because of the inefficiency of the medical officers who were the servants of the- Commonwealth Government. I appeal not only to the twelve returned men who are supporting the Government, but also to honorable members generally to see that something is done quickly in this matter. I make my appeal not to make political capital out of these cases, but simply to secure justice for these unfortunate returned men.
.- The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) ought to be commended for having brought this subject forward. It is a matter for wonder that five years after the signing of the Armistice it should be necessary to occupy the time of this House in discussing such a question. We made, enough promises to the soldiers who enlisted. We promised them, from every platform in Australia, that they would be dealt with justly upon their return to this country, and it is heart-breaking to think that now, in the year . 1923, we have to listen to appeals such as have been made by the honorable member for Cook. Honorable members believed a few months ago that we had removed the grievance relating to pre-war injuries. We understood that an amendment then carried gave the necessary power to grant pensions without reference to a man’s prewar injuries. But to-day men who have been receiving pensions for four. and five years suddenly have them reduced on the ground that their disability is the result of pre-war injuries. Five years after a man has returned from the war it is impossible for any doctor to honestly certify that his disability is due to pre-war injuries. If a man now disabled was accepted in 1914 or 1915 as medically fit, went abroad and lived under conditions that were almost unspeakable, he ought to be entitled to a pension without reference to his pre-war condition. It is little wonder that the health of the men broke down. I honestly believe that the real cause of the present complaints ls unsympathetic administration. Has the Treasurer given any instruction to the pensions doctors to reduce the pensions list?
– No such instruction has been issued.
– Some sinister influence has been at work since the present economy Government came into power. I am familiar with the case of a Private Godwin, a permanently and totally incapacitated returned soldier. The medical authorities have certified to that effectAn Act was passed by Parliament granting a pension of £4 4s. a week to totallyincapacitated soldiers, and naturally Private Godwin thought he would receive that amount. The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association and the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Fathers Association supported his claim, and I did my best to secure him the pension. After months of argument the Department agreed to PaY it. but only from the date on which the decision was reached. Retrospective payments as from the date when the Act came into operation were refused. Private Godwin was a poor man, and there was no question as to his permanent incapacity. Again and again an appeal was made to the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions to pay the back money, and again and again .he refused. Godwin had £40 saved, and he said to me, “ I am going to see a solicitor to try to get what I am justly entitled to.” Through Mr. Mark Lazarus, a solicitor, the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions was served with a writ, and the result was that within two days the solicitor at Ballarat received a telegram requesting that the proceedings should be withdrawn, in which event, it was stated, a cheque would be forwarded. The writ was withdrawn, and within a few days a cheque for £125 was received. Why did not the Department pay that money without compelling the soldier to take legal proceedings? Why should a man have to invoke the aid of the law to secure his rights? The Department knew months before it ordered the money to be paid that the man was entitled to it. Its action was nothing but ari attempt to bluff him out of £125 to which he was entitled. Unfortunately, many pf the soldiers think that they cannot take the military authorities into the law Courts. Although Godwin was a poor man, the Department was not game enough to face in a public Court the story he had to tell.
If Parliament would take the control of soldiers’ pensions out of the hands of the military authorities, it would confer a benefit upon the soldiers. The Pensions Act was first administered by the Commissioner for Old-age and Invalid Pensions, but, on the motion of the Government, Parliament took this work from the Commissioner and handed it over to the military authorities. The change .involved an additional expenditure of about £25,000 a year. The Act was formerly administered sympathetically by officers who were accustomed to dealing with poor people, and who honestly desired to honour the promises made to the soldiers. The control was handed over to a few people with the rank of colonel, major, and captain, many of whom were in the pay service, and never left Great Britain during the war, and knew little of the sufferings of the soldiers in the trenches. Too many of our doctors are anxious to say to the soldiers, “ Your pension is reduced by half.” It is almost inconceivable that a man who, at forty-five years of age, was granted a pension of 30s. a week, can justly have the amount reduced to 10s. when he reaches fifty years of age. Men do not improve physically as they grow older, and, if a man was entitled to a pension of 30s. a week at forty or forty-five years of age, he is entitled to it when older. Yet I have known many cases of nien who, although they are ageing visibly, have to go before the doctors every six months to have their pensions reviewed, and .in nearly every instance they receive a notification that a reduction has been made.
Parliament ought to say emphatically that if a man has been receiving a pension for five years he is entitled to it for the rest of his life, without further medical examination. During every session of Parliament since the termination of the war, the attitude of the doctors towards returned soldiers has come up for consideration, and the complaint has been made periodically that pensions have been reduced unjustly. If men were well enough in health to be accepted for service in 1913 or 1914, and if they went abroad and did their bit, they should not be told, now they have come back, that they were not fit to be soldiers of the Empire. They are being told, after they have done the fighting, that they were not fit to fight. The authorities seem concerned only with the question of cold £.s.d. I hope that as a result of the debate the question will be finally settled. If the Government wishes to reduce pensions it should do so openly, and not on the plea that the men are suffering from pre-war injuries. I believe it is the wish of every member of this House that this should no longer be admitted as a valid reason for reducing pensions. If it is desired to save money by acting unjustly to returned soldiers, the people of Australia ought to be informed.
I would like the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) to tell all he knows about the treatment of venereal disease at the Front. If the truth were told to the people of this country concerning venereal hospitals and the treatment given in them to Australian soldiers abroad, not another Australian soldier would be sent away from these shores. As a Reinforcements Officer, I have seen these men in general hospital at Le Havre, where they have been browbeaten and made to act as waiters. The condition of the blankets supplied to them was too horrible to mention. It has been my duty, as Reinforcements Officer, to take these men up into the firing line. I know a lad who was made totally blind for life by using an infected towel. These incidents have occurred, but they have never been published. If the history of the venereal cases at the Front were told, not many people in Australia would be talking of sending boys to another war. I commend the honorable member for Cook for bringing that side of the question under notice. It has been covered up long enough. I hope the soldier to whom he has referred will receive ample compensation. I know that when he was taken into Bulford Hospital his protest against having “ 606 “ injected into him would be of no avail. He would be quite helpless under the control of the military authorities. He would have no hope of appeal to anybody. The military doctors would do what they liked with him. I can sympathize very deeply with him, and can realize the intensity of his feeling, when he knew that he was not suffering from the disease attributed to him. Despite his opposition, “ 606 “ would be injected; his pay-book would be indorsed to the effect that he was a sufferer from syphilis, so that the whole world might know of it; his pay would be stopped, and when he came out of the hospital his allotment at home would be withheld. Money will not recompense this man for what he has suffered, but at least Parliament can re-establish his honour among his fellow citizens, and, as he must have suffered financially, it ought to make monetary compensation to him. I hope instructions will be given to the doctors administering the Act to be much more sympathetic in their treatment of soldiers, and not to make further examinations in cases where pensions have been received for four or five years. One purpose of the present arrangement seems to be to find good jobs for a few doctors who would be better employed in a civil occupation. I am heartily in sympathy with the views of the honorable member for Cook, and hope that as a result of the discussion justice will be meted out to those who have fought and bled in the interests of this country.
.- T join with the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) in his appeal on behalf of diggers. My only regret is that his motion does not go further. There is a definite responsibility upon this Parliament and the people of Australia to honour the promises made to our soldiers. I was sitting on the other side of the House when the first Pensions Bill was under discussion, and I sought to amend it in the direction of providing a living wage for the rest of their lives for all men totally incapacitated as a result of their participation in the war, but, unfortunately, I could not find a seconder for my amendment. I then said that in all probability we should, in the future, see injured returned soldiers standing about in Bourke-street, -Melbourne, and in the other capital cities of the Commonwealth, with a placard, on their chests announcing that they had been injured in the great war, and were left unprovided for. History is repeating itself. It grieves me to think that such a state of affairs could be possible in this country. If we, who are in good health, are taxed up to the last penny to provide for those who sacrificed so much for us in the war, the burden should not be too heavy, because we can never recompense them for what they have suffered. Personally I do not ask for a penny. What I did during the war I did voluntarily. The man who came back uninjured from France or the other theatres of war ought to rejoice that such good fortune was his. Until we have provided adequately for those who have been permanently incapacitated we shall not have done our duty as citizens of Australia towards those who fought for this country. Our ears should tingle at the accusations made from day to day in the press about the treatment meted out to some of our returned soldiers. I intend to quote briefly from the Sydney Bulletin of the week before last the following apt reference to this very important subject -
No Digger who is worth his salt wants from the country, on the strength of his war services, anything more than he is legally and equitably entitled to; nor will he be found sympathizing with the few wasters who do. 09 per cent, of the undertakings shouted in the ears of the soldiers years ago may with advantage be allowed to go the way of -the young women who were proud to take incapacitated fighting men for motor drives, or to sing or get up theatrical shows for .them, and who now regard their war-time idols as captious undesirables. But there are men, thousands of them, who have a right to consideration; which right is being denied them an part, and which, as the tide of indifferentism rises and rises, threatens to be withdrawn or allowed to lapse altogether. The Bulletin recently stressed the inhumanity and illogicality of the .review arrangement in T.B. cases which leaves these unfortunates in perpetual doubt about their pensions, and which presupposes the impossible - that a lung which is partly gone can be made whole. There is not a branch of the Returned Soldiers Association which cannot produce cases of great hardship; there is probably wot a T.B. hospital in the country which does not contain ex-soldiers and sailors who, on .some technicality, have been jockeyed out of their pensions and have no money beyond the few shillings of charity which the Red Cross or some similar body allows them. Despite the continual appeals for work made by Diggers with clean discharges, and in many cases families, the com.fortable theory is promulgated that no exsoldier need he unemployed who does not want to be; and by way of proof it is pointed out that the State Labour Bureaus are periodically cleared. But scores of the ex-soldiers who got jobs through the New South Wales Bureau months ago have long been out of work, their employment having terminated in a few weeks through no fault of theirs, and no one else has since been prepared .to employ them. However, the Bulletin is less concerned about the able-bodied among these men than it is for those who have suffered and still Buffer from physical disabilities, and for their dependants* It is a scandal and a reproach that these men - and these women and children - should have any less than we promised them; and tens of thousands of them have less, and are in perpetual dread of having nothing.
That constitutes the indictment of this Parliament. The T.B. cases, and those who have been permanently incapacitated, should be our chief concern. Many of these men are to-day walking the streets of our cities sorry that ever they went to fight for the protection of the Empire. Far be it from me to say anything to belittle their effort; it was too great foi- words. I discussed this matter with the Complaints Officer of the Returned Soldiers Association in my own State, and urged that his association should leave no stone unturned to enjoin upon this Parliament to lay down the principle that’ subsequent illness of a returned soldier should be regarded as disability arising out of the war. These men should be entitled to pension privileges. I may quote my own experience as a case in point. I was gassed and lost my voice for a week. How do I know that at some future date I shall not be affected, and perhaps become a tubercular patient? I also injured my wrist whilst helping to shift the guns at Villers Bretonneux to get a better shot at Fritz. My wrist swelled badly. I went to the “ quack,” who gave me some stuff to rub on it, and it went down again. At Pozieres I got off to put the brake on, and when I caught hold of the strap to jump back to my seat my wrist gave way again. Honorable members can see that the thumb on that hand has withered. It has half gone already, though it is never likely to be a disability preventing me from earning my living, seeing that I am a politician. Let me quote a case which every digger understands, .although he may never have been gassed. It was frequently our experience in France, when shifting from one position to another on a sunny day, to get symptoms of gas poisoning off the grass. It was never strong enough to use gas helmets, but there was gas about, generated perhaps by the sunshine, and men were sneezing nearly all the time. Who can say that some men, susceptible perhaps to lung disease, were not affected, although their disability might not have manifested itself till some years afterwards? When men enlisted, they came before a doctor, stripped, had to say “ninety-nine,” and raise their arms and go through various gymnastic movements, standing first on. one leg and then on. the other, and, generally speaking, they were fit to go to the Olympic games. Yet if some disability manifests itself after the war, there is the suggestion that it was not due to war service. This is no compliment to the doctors who accepted the men in the first instance, and a denial of responsibility is no credit to the Commonwealth. I am not pleading for the returned soldier in good health. He can look after himself, as a rule. My chief concern is for the man who falls ill. We can never repay him for his sacrifice. I did not know until late that this matter was to be brought forward, but I could, if necessary, quote dozens of cases in support of the motion. Last year I ‘got the honorable member for Angas (Mr. ‘Gabb) to bring under notice the case of a young man who is now to be seen walking about the streets of Adelaide with -the aid of a stick. This man, before the war, was a navvy working on the East- West Railway line - the only line that is not owned by the money-bugs. It was built by a Labour Government, too. When the call came, this man offered his services. He was fit then, and was accepted, ‘but came home suffering from chronic rheumatism, and for two years was in receipt of a. war pension. In October, 1921, he was informed that his pension would cease after a certain date, but he was advised to apply for an invalid pension. To get this he had to make a declaration that he was totally and permanently incapacitated. I saw this man only last week in King Williamstreet, Adelaide, hobbling about with his stick. He has been thrown out upon the world, and must now be content with an invalid pension. ,The Defence Department have shifted their responsibility on to the civil Pensions Department. This is the kind of treatment meted out to one who was a warrior in France between 1914 and 1918. I- ask honorable members not to discuss this amendment in a party spirit. It must appeal to them as Australians and impel them to force the Government to take some action. I take off my hat every time to any man who lived through the fighting in France. Let me tell honorable members of another young man who came into my office.
His case was most pitiable. He was a blacksmith’s striker, a big burly individual, probably twenty -five or twenty -six years of age. On the right hand he had only two fingers and a thumb ; portion of his thigh had been blown away, and into the wound I was able to insert my fist. He was no longer able to work at his trade, and no one wanted to employ a man who was partially incapacitated. Yet all he was receiving from the Defence Department was a pension of 8s. 6d. per fortnight. I referred him to the Returned Soldiers Association, but so far as I know nothing was done for him. I am merely referring to one or two cases I can recall offhand as having come under my notice. The unfortunates thought that I had power to help them, but as I had not, I referred them to the soldiers’ own organizations.
There are also the tubercular cases. My heart goes out to a man whose lungs are diseased, and whose . days are numbered. The soldier who has lost an eye or a limb may have many years of life before him, and may yet have some enjoyment, but the man whose lungs are affected . has only a limited and insecure tenure of life. Those cases command our sympathy. The pensions are not meeting the requirements of the situation, and it is our responsibility to re-organize the system. I am inclined to think that the pensions are governed by the consideration of pounds, shillings, and pence. The honorable member for Cook has said that there was a total decrease of £278,000 in the payments in respect of war pensions last year. I am afraid that there is the desire to save money in connexion with the treatment of soldiers rather than do justice to them.
– That figure is for New South Wales only. The total for the Commonwealth is £800,000.
-That is not so. The fact is that we spent in pensions last year £106,000 more than in the previous year.
– That is to be expected, because, as the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) pointed out, the soldiers are getting older, and the responsibilities of the Commonwealth must increase until the soldiers begin to die off. Then the payments will decrease. But, regardless of statistics, there is an obligation on us to do the right thing by those who have suffered so much. The cases which came under my notice grieve me very much, and if any personal sacrifice would improve thelot of the soldiers, I would gladly make it. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) said at one time that he, personally, was prepared to be taxed to the limit of his capacity to pay, in order to help to defray the cost of the war. That is my attitude, for if I were taxed to the limit, I would still get a lot more joy out of life than do the maimed and diseased soldiers. All that we ask is that the community shall show some sincerity in regard to the promises that were made to the soldiers. I heard the promises made, and I had a fear that they would not be honoured. At the same time the Commonwealth was undertaking to pay 4½ per cent, for the money lent to it in order to send men to the Front. ‘ That interest charge remains. The lenders lost neither an eye nor a limb, and the Treasurer is now proposing to pay them 5 per cent., plus a bonus of £2 if they will renew the loans. “ Sacrifices must be equal,” we were told ; and I, damned fool that I was, thought that the statement was sincere.
– Order !
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. Let the capitalists who have made no sacrifices so far make them now on behalf of the men who have returned to Australia injured or with shattered health. In yesterday’s Melbourne Herald there was published a statement which may or may not be accurate, but which calls for inquiry: -
Sells Matches! Blind “Digger” Rebuffed.
Sydney, Wednesday. “ Only this week a blind soldier applied for sustenance, and was told he could earn a living selling matches in the streets. It is an absolute disgrace that men of the Repatriation Department - men who, I suppose, were not at the war - talk inthis manner to the boys who fought for our country.”
This was said by Alderman Sheeley when the Waterloo Council last night received the Parramatta Council’s circular letter asking for co-operation in a deputation to the Minister for Defence to obviate maimed soldiers having to solicit alms. “ Since money for the relief of soldiers who needed it has been voted by the Federal Government,” added Alderman Sheeley, “ what right have these Repatriation officials to treat men as they do? “
Officials have no right to treat soldiers in that manner. It is a disgrace that a blind soldier should have been told to sell matches in the streets; and we should rise as one man and protest against such a thing happening. Even if a man has been profligate with the money he has received, we should still stand behind him in remembrance of the sacrifices he has made.
– Is not a blind man entitled to a full pension?
– He should receive a full pension, and it may be that something is behind this case which is not apparent in the report; but no Repatriation officer should tell a blind soldier to go into the streets and sell matches. Perhaps he was told that his blindness was due to his having been an inmate of the camp at Bulford: but it mav not have been his fault that he was sent there. In Egypt, every place that was worth going into was “ out of bounds “ : the soldier could only go into places in which he was likely to get syphilis. At Alexandria and Suez, the private soldier was not allowed to ride in a decent railway carriage or enter a decent hotel. If he wanted a stimulant he was obliged to buy “ dope.” Therefore, when we hear that an individual has contracted venereal disease, we should not blame him; we should blame the circumstances that were responsible for his misfortune. It will be a disgrace to Australia if the allegation that a blind soldier was told by a Government official to go out and sell matches is not investigated and explained. The bald statement that such a thing happened has been published to the world, no extenuating or explanatory circumstances have been set forth, and people in other countries who read the report will have a peculiar notion of the way in which Australia treats those men who were maimed in fighting for her. I have dealt principally with the injured and maimed soldiers, because their claims take priority. Those men have made the sacrifice ; they have been penalized for fighting in defence of their country.
Then there are those other individuals who accepted the promises of the Government with regard to War Service Homes and have been basely defrauded. That is where the profiteer came in. The men »f wealth, who were to make1 sacrifices equal to those made by the soldiers, have made thousands of pounds out of them. If honorable members doubt my statement, let them visit the soldier settlements in South Australia, at Galway, named after a former State Governor, and at Novar, named after a former Governor-General. Apart from old houses in the slums, no more mean and miserable houses can be seen in any city than those which have been erected for the soldiers and heroes of the Commonwealth.
– That does not apply to the first houses that were built.
– I am referring to two settlements that are “ toney “ in name, if not in character. The Government could not name those settlements Bullecourt or Kernel Hill, or any other name that would indicate that they were soldiers’ areas ; they had to name them after some high dignitary who had stayed at home and “ sooled “ the soldier on. Any settlement or institution connected with the soldiers should bear a name that signifies its purpose and its origin. In the Galway settlement the streets, instead of being named Polygon Wood, Bullecourt, Kernel Hill, or some other historic war name, were christened after State politicians, “ Ritchie-avenue,” “ Peakecrescent,” “ Anstey-street,” and so on. Smith’s Weekly has published the statement that it has forced the Minister for Defence to take action in regard to soldiers’ homes. I read a newspaper article published in South Australia recently to the effect that the Department had discontinued the use of reinforced concrete window lintels in soldiers’ homes built by contract, and were substituting bricks so that the officers could have better oversight of the work. Complaint was made about the alteration, and the officers in the Bank explained that one concrete lintel had been broken open and found to be “ reinforced “ with a piece of gaspiping that could be broken across the knee. In reinforced concrete foundations, five ends of steel rods were showing, but there were only two complete rods, and three dummies. Yet for these houses that are so mean, miserable, and common looking, the soldiers have paid from £700 to £800 each. That is the way we house our heroes !
– Were there no prosecutions ?
– There have been none to date. The devil takes care of his own.
– I would have prosecuted contractors for abuses of that kind.
– Things would have been different if the honorable member had been a member of the Ministry, and was not “ nobbled.” But there are the facts. I admit that the expenditure bythe Government has been lavish. Thousands and millions have been devoted, not to the Digger, but to the men who bled the Digger. However, if my vote will do it, the Digger will get every penny to which he is entitled. The Government is open to the condemnation conveyed by this amendment for the manner in which the Digger has been treated, not only in the matter of War Service Homes, but also that of pensions. All this is quite contrary to the promises made to the men when they enlisted. I should now like to read an extract from a letter which sets forth the details of a case in which the injustice suffered certainly calls for reparation. The letter is as follows : -
Soldier H. H. Hobcroft enlisted December, 1915, aged sixteen years; discharged September, 1919. After his discharge he applied for vocational training at electrical wiring and fitting. He had to wait for a school to he fixed up, being paid sustenance during this time. Passed with honours at Keswick, and was sent to the advanced school at Broken Hill. He gained a first-class certificate at Broken Hill. On reaching Adelaide work was impossible; some 150 electricians were looking for work. Having no wish to loaf around he went to Soldier Settlement Department to find if it was possible to go on the land. He stated that he had vocational training, and was informed that it did not make any difference; as he had not had assistance on the land he would be quite eligible for assistance on the land. Trainee papers were signed, and he came to Renmark to a Mr. J.C. Hay, at Settlers Bend. When the land known as Block F was surveyed he made inquiries from the local secretary of Repatriation, who by the way, was also a land agent, named S. J. Dridan. Dridan wrote to the Land Settlement Department, and received reply that the Department would be prepared to lift the mortgage of the difference at a Government valuation. The land in question was cleared and fenced, ready for the plough. The price was £30 per acre. Government valuator valued it ‘for Repatriation at £16. Being assured that everything was in order, he drew out of bank all his savings, £183, which he paid, when the application was made, for the Department to do their part. Nothing was heard for a time; then notice was received that owing to H. H. Hobcroft having had vocational training, he was not eligible. It appeared that the Repatriation Commission has to approve of deal before they advance the £640 out of the £800 allowed to land settlers. He then got notice that before he could become eligible for assistance he would have to pay back all moneys expended on his previous training. The bill sent was £64. Hobcroft went to Adelaide and drew his gratuity bond for £93 odd. . Then the Department made him a fresh bill of £145. He was charged for the sustenance received while waiting for the school to start; his tram allowance, 3s. per week; sustenance while training; also his fare to Broken Hill to advanced school. They took his bond for £93, and were kind enough to let the balance stand at 5 per cent, for two or four years. This was in February. Was told that everything was in order, and should receive approval from the Soldier Settlement Department. Heard nothing for some time. ‘ Got secretary local Repatriation . to write; no notice taken. As planting time was approaching, he sent to Repatriation ; answer was prompt that his case should have been fixed up months previously. His approval came too late, as. the Soldier Settlement Department had sold all their vines. He was fortunate to get a few around about. Department . said no vines available; they had sold 75,000 to Victoria, and had over half a million left in the nursery at Barnera at the end of the year. He lost his first year and almost lost his second. You will notice the position: he had to sacrifice his savings, £183, if he refused to pay over his gratuity bond of £93. Without the assistance of the Repatriation he could not carry on, as it cost £110 to get the water right from the irrigation trust and other expenses. At present he is going to . build. He applied for the usual furniture grant of £40, but was knocked back; information received, no grant to men on the land. Of course, he always depended on his bond for furniture. As he says, they stripped him clean, but the one consolation was, he would be up to all moves by the next war.
That was this man’s consolation - he would be “up to all moves by the next war.” That is only one case. There are others I could quote if honorable members have an idea that there is lack of reason for the amendment submitted.
Another case I should like to bring under the attention of honorable members is that, not of a Digger, but of a Digger’s wife. The papers referring to the case are in Adelaide, but I shall take another opportunity to place them on record. This husband was recruited, went to the war, and never returned. He was not killed; it is not known where he is, and it has been stated that he deserted. In any event, the responsibility and consequences of any act of this man should not fall on the woman. She is the mother of two children, whom she supports by working at the wash-tub; and an anomaly is presented in the fact that her sisterinlaw, who also has two children, and whose husband was killed, is paid a pension, while she is reduced to accepting a destitute allowance from a State Department. This woman doubts the statement that her husband deserted, and she has some ground for thinking that he is still alive. She could not prevent him from going to the war; he only did what he was asked to do by those who considered it to be his duty as an eligible man. Even if this man deserted, it is not always cowardice that impels men to such a step. I know that during the war we were called upon to “ boot and saddle” at midnight, and when we were ordered to return to Ypres two of the number refused, not because they were cowards, but because they had had enough of that place.
– The honorable member is somewhat wide of the amendment.
– I am describing circumstances under which men attempted to desert, and submitting that when they do desert the burden should not be thrown on their wives.
– The question, of course, is the administration of an Act.
– And I hope that the Minister in the administration of the Actwill have regard to the details I am giving, and that they will have the effect of softening his heart. In another case,” when we were at Villers-Bretonneux, I was placed on guard over a man who had been put in “ clink “ for desertion. It appeared that he had been wounded in the head, and subsequently had told his officers that he could not, and would not, face shell fire. For this offence he was sentenced to imprisonment for sixteen years, but on the day when he was taken to head-quarters, and immediately Fritz’ began to shoot, he put spurs to his horse, and tricked his guards. When it is said that a man has deserted, it does not do to conclude that he is a coward, for it is a psychological question, and not always one of actual courage. Many men who so deserted would have shown infinitely more courage under other circumstances. As I said before, the penalty and responsibility should not in any case fall on the woman left behind. In the case of the woman I mentioned, the man was evidently .not strong enough to do what he undertook on behalf of the country, and his wife is penalized because the Government does not recognise its responsi bility. I suggest that the Treasurer should recast the whole management of the Repatriation Department. I would sooner have increased taxation, or repudiate our national debt than see our tubercular returned soldiers lack the care and attention which is their due.
.- I have listened with great interest to the last speaker. I hope the Minister will take note of some of the matters he has mentioned. I agree with the honorable member that a wife left with children as the result of alleged desertion by her husband should be considerately treated. During the war the promises made to the manhood of Australia as an inducement to enlist caused a number of men to do so in the hope that if anything happened to them their dependants would be provided for. We who have returned from the war in good health may be classified amongst the fortunate ones, and “ I join with all honorable members who claim that the unfortunate men who returned from the war maimed, blind, or suffering from T.B., should be sympathetically treated. Nothing is too good, in my mind, for those who sacrificed their health and strength in the war. I think that the question should be dealt with in a non-party spirit.
– It has been dealt with too long in that spirit. That has been the cause of the trouble. If honorable members of the Opposition had been on the other side there would have been no misery.
– If they had been on this side it is probable that the returned soldiers would not be receiving some of the benefits they receive to-day. . However, this National Parliament is the custodian of the good name of the people of this country, and should see that the promises made in their name to those who enlisted are honoured: I believe that a returned soldier where the absolute justice of his claim may be in doubt, should be given the benefit of the doubt, and the dependants of our soldiers should certainly not be left any worse off in life because their breadwinners went to the war. When we discussed the administration of the Repatriation Department here a couple of years ago, the consensus of opinion was that while it remained under political control there would always be dissatisfaction. This Parliament resolved that it should be placed under a Commission. That was insisted on by the Returned; Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. They said that they wished the Department to be administered by a Commission free from the influence of politics, and demanded representatives on the Boards which were created in each State. A central administration Commission was established in Melbourne. Unfortunately, I am compelled to say that in almost every case, in which returned soldiers have been appointed to carry out the work of repatriation, they have exhibited the lack of sympathy in administration of which honorable members have to-night .complained. That is an unfortunate circumstance from the standpoint of the returned soldiers. When we had civilians in the Repatriation Department more sympathetic treatment was meted out to the returned soldiers. In common with other members of. the House, I have received numerous complaints of harsh treatment “ by the . Repatriation Department and the War Service Homes Branch of that Department. But the treatment of returned soldiers as a whole by the people of Australia cannot be judged by particular cases brought under the notice of honorable members. The* fact remains that there is no country in the world that has given its returned soldiers the benefits which the Australian people have given theirs. At the great Congress of over 100,000 delegates of returned soldiers’ leagues, held in America last year, the great American nation paid Mr. Dyett, the president of the Australian Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, the compliment of saying, “ We only wish that in. America we were giving to our returned soldiers the benefits and privileges which the Australian people are giving to theirs.” I will not say for a moment that we are doing more for our returned soldiers than they are entitled to. It is our duty to see that the promises made on behalf of the Australian people shall be fulfilled. It is the duty of honorable members to insist that the complaints in individual cases brought under their notice shall be sifted to the bottom. If the statements which honorable members have submitted to-night can be shown to be true, I join with them in saying that justice should be done to the returned soldiers to whom they relate.
– Hundreds of such cases might be quoted.
– No doubt that is so, but we should recognise that 400, 000 men enlisted in Australia. Unfortunately, 60,000 of our best men laid down their lives on various battlefields. A very great number have come back, and I think it should be admitted that the great majority of them have been successfully repatriated.
– I say they have. New South Wales sent a tremendous number of men to the war, and I know, from personal investigation, that considerably more than 50 per cent, of the returned soldiers who enlisted in New South Wales have repatriated themselves. They never went near the Repatriation Department, but took upon themselves the responsibility of securing such positions in civil life as they held before the war. Their action is greatly to their credit, and their repatriation has certainly been satisfactory. That, of course, does not absolve members of this Parliament from the obligation to see that, in cases of individual hardship, justice is done. While the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was speaking, a peculiar case that was brought under my notice recently, occurred to me. It is that of a man who desired to purchasea motor lorry and run at a cast of £200, and had £60 saved up. He said to the Department, “ This will cost £200 and I have £60 towards it.” The Department sent a man to inspect the turnout and the run. . He reported that it was a good proposition, and the Department approved of it. The returned soldier paid his £60 to the vendor. The Department was to pay the balance of £140, but some officer made a blunder, and sent the vendor a cheque for £200. The returned soldier went on paying his instalments, and, when he had paid £140, he was told that the vend.or had been overpaid to the extent of £60, that the Department could not be at that loss, and that he would have to make it up. That was not a just way in which to treat the man. I would say that the man who was responsible for the mistake in that case should pay the penalty. But if we set about mentioning individual cases brought under our notice we should talk of nothing else until the end of the session.
I believe that as a result of the discussion .that has taken place to-night the Minister for Repatriation, taking note of what has been said, will see that the Repatriation Commission administer the Act in the most liberal way possible. I was glad to hear what the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) had to say about the T.B. men. No more unfortunate men served in the war. I remember that when we were fighting the case two years ago for an increased pension, I took a deputation of eleven or twelve T.B. returned soldiers to ‘ Mr. Hughes’ place. Their tale was pitiful. After hearing the Repatriation Commissioner speak, the right honorable gentleman said to the men, “ You are in a most unfortunate position. You are put into a home, and as soon as the managers’ of the home say that you are well enough to go out and earn your own living, you are put out of the home. But you are allowed to go out only on the condition that you will follow a certain diet.” They received a pension of £2 2s. per week, and when they went out of the home the cost of the diet they had to follow was £2 5s. per week, to say nothing of what it cost them for lodgings. But the right honorable gentleman spoke to these men definitely and straight. He said, “ If you men came to me and asked me for a position I would not, for the sake of my family, employ you. I am speaking now as the Leader pf the Australian people, and what I would not do the general body of the public very probably would not do. They would not take a T.B. man into their homes, at the risk of the contamination of their families.” But if we will not do that, we have a right to stand by these unfortunate suffering men, and should compensate them in some way for the sacrifices they have made. Under the schedule to the Repatriation Act, there is nothing between the pension of £2 2s. per week and the maximum pension of £4, in the case of men totally and permanently incapacitated. We require to be able to exercise common-sense. If a man lost two legs, an eye, and all - arm in the war, he would be regarded as totally incapacitated, and would deserve £4 per week. I know of a peculiar case in Sydney. The firm employing a certain man said to him before he went abroad, “ When you come back your job will be there for you.” He came back minus two legs, and the proprietors of the firm said, “ That does not matter. We made a promise. There is your job.’That man was given an easy position, but the Repatriation Department said to him. “ You are getting the same salary as you received before you went away, and so we will not give you the full pension.” I say that no man should have been treated in that way.
– How long has the honorable member been in finding this out? He has been behind the Government all the time. Why has he not forced them to do something? He is only talking claptrap.
– Order !
– The honorable member talks a fair amount of claptrap in this House, but I have listened to him without interruption.
– “ Claptrap “ is not a parliamentary expression.
– I will withdraw it and say the honorable member is talking nonsense.
– That is disorderly.
– I will say that it is wickedness on the honorable member’s part.
-The honorable member is -again disorderly.
– I cannot concede to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) the sole right to speak for the returned soldiers, or admit that he has endeavoured in this Parliament to help the returned soldiers more than I have tried to do. I have done only what duty demanded I should do. As a returned soldier, I am prepared to stand by returned soldiers, alongside all honorable members in this House who would do likewise. My experience in this Parliament has impressed me with its desire to do the best that can be done for the returned soldiers. I hope we will combine to see that the soldiers get fair treatment. The majority have been fairly dealt with, and the individual cases which have been mentioned should be sifted to the bottom. If the Minister will promise to do that, I am satisfied that the House will trust him to see that the inquiry is made. The honorable member for Adelaide said ‘ that men who were accepted for service should be understood to have been physically fit. I believe that. A man in New South Wales whom T know sold his station and went to Sydney for enlistment. I tried for three weeks to get him through, but failed. He was a splendid specimen of manhood, bub the military authorities would not accept him because he had lost his forefinger. They said he could not use a rifle, yet the man was the best kangaroo shooter in the country. He used the centre finger for the trigger, and could shoot from horse-back with the best. Some men, we are told, were accepted for service, and it was afterwards found that they should not have been accepted. In those cases the responsibility rests on the Government, and the men should be treated as though they were physically fit. The Government have raised the pension of blind men to £4 a week. I cannot understand why the man mentioned by the honorable member for Adelaide is not receiving the £4. The limbless and maimed soldiers’ pension has been raised to £4, and the tuberculous soldiers’ pensions have been substantially increased. The T.B. men have been sitting in conference in Melbourne dealing with various matters of this description, and I shall have the honour to introduce a deputation to the Prime Minister to-morrow to ask him to deal with certain cases. Generally speaking, the soldiers are pleased with the treatment they have received, but some cases have been harshly dealt with.
– If the soldiers are satisfied, why are you going to the Prime Minister ?
– To ask him to deal with certain anomalies.
– Can the cases to be brought forward be dealt with without an amendment of the Act?
– If they cannot, we should alter the Act.
– I do not know whether they can be satisfactorily reconsidered, according to the Commissioners’ interpretation of the Act. No fault would be found with the Commissioners if they gave most liberal interpretations. I trust this discussion will do good. Neither this nor the last Government should be charged with unsympathetic treatment of the soldiers, because they have done “what Parliament and the Returned Soldiers League wanted them to do. They appointed a Commission. If the Commissioners do not administer the .A nb along the lines laid down in this debate. we should put other men in their places. While I am in this House I shall speak on behalf of the returned soldiers, and I will co-operate with other honorable members to see that the returned men receive justice.
.- As a returned soldier who has spent a considerable period in military hospitals since my return from the war, I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley). He has rendered a public service in bringing this matter forward. The Government should recognise that this is a national question and a national responsibility, and these complaints should not be treated in any carping party spirit. The soldiers who have suffered injustice should have their grievances rectified. Every member of this House receives complaints from returned soldiers of anomalies that have arisen owing to unsympathetic administration or to defects in the Repatriation Act. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), iri defending the administration of the Repatriation Commission, suggested that possibly the limitations imposed by the Repatriation Act may have stultified their efforts to help cases such as those submitted to the House by the honorable member for Cook. In that case, the Government should bring down an amendment to the Act. Under the Act, incapacity is limited to diseases contracted while a man was on active service. This places a tremendous responsibility on the doctors who examine returned men. If a man was accepted for active service, it should be prima facie evidence of his physical fitness, and he should not be compelled to undergo examination after his return from the war for’ any latent disease that might have been present before he left Australia. Any predisposition to disease would be aggravated by the hardships and exposures that the men had to undergo while abroad. Like the honorable member for Adelaide and other returned soldier members, I spent days in cattle trucks, exposed to extreme cold, and we lived under very arduous conditions. In view of the severe tests imposed on soldiers whilst serving, it is giving the medical officers too much power to permit them to say that diseases may have been present before the men enlisted.
We should apply to this matter the fundamental principle of British justice - that it is better for ninety-nine guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to suffer. It is better that ninety-nine men should wrongfully receive a pension than that one genuine case should be deprived of it. There is a contrast between the treatment of returned soldiers- and the attitude of honorable members opposite towards the war debt. The Government recognise an obligation in regard to Australia’s war debt, and we are told that Australia is paying £30,000,000 per annum in interest on this debt. The amount paid in pensions is only £7,000,000. We should recognise that our greatest obligation is towards the returned soldiers, and they should receive the most sympathetic treatment possible. We have cases of returned men who are lying in public hospitals- “ unwept,- unhonoured, and unsung.” They have no military pension allowances because medical evidence attributes their ill-health to pre-war disabilities. They receive no invalid pensions because the’ Old-age Pensions Act requires them to be permanently and totally incapacitated, and thus they have been driven to take refuge in some benevolent institution, dependent more or less upon public charity. That is a standing reproach to the national conscience of Australia, and does not redound to the credit of this or any other Government. My experience in this regard in New South Wales, I refer to the Lidcombe Hospital, where dozens of returned men are inmates, is, no doubt, the experience of others in various States in the Commonwealth. If the wording of the Act makes sympathetic treatment impossible or difficult in cases such as these, the Government should introduce an amendment to the -Act, so that all cases of injustice such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Cook ‘ (Mr.. C. Riley) and other honor- able members may be remedied.
.- I am pleased that such an important matter is before us. I sincerely hope the Minister concerned, and other members of the Cabinet who have listened to this debate, will take notice of what has been said, and that in the future we shall not find a repetition of the anomalies in the administration of the Act. This subject is quite beyond party considerations, and ;
I deprecate the making of political capital out of such a serious matter. The honour of Australia is involved in seeing that the promises that were so lavishly made to our soldiers before they left for the Front are redeemed to the best of our ability. I should hate to see political capital made out of anything of this kind. I trust that before the debate closes to-night the Treasurer will tell the House that he has noted the statements, and that a drastic change will be made in the administration of the Act. Unless such an undertaking is given, I shall support the amendment, even if it means a decision against the Government. The matters brought forward have been mainly questions of administration. As is well known, I did not particularly love the previous Government; in fact, I defeated a man .who was considered one of the strongest members of that Government. But I do not charge that Government nor the present Government with a lack of sympathy. I think it is the administration that is largely ‘to blame. I was one of the founders and first vice-president ‘ of the Limbless and Maimed Soldiers Association, and I am a member of the State Council of the Returned Soldiers League in New South Wales, which, as honorable members may know, is the governing body of the League. More instances of maladministration have, come under my notice than honorable members are probably aware of. I do not intend to cite any specific cases, for all honorable members can supply them ; but I hope that the unsympathetic treatment of returned soldiers during the former Administration will not be continued.
A pension, in my view, is “ the discharge of part of the national obligation to a member of the Forces incapacitated or otherwise injured in the war.” Men accepted the obligation of defending this country, and whether they were right or wrong in doing so, does not now enter into consideration. This country asked for their services. They volunteered and went abroad. If they were injured or incapacitated in the discharge of their duty, the Commonwealth is morally and legally responsible to compensate them, and does so, with what we call a “pension.” The size of the pension should have no relation to the earning capacity of the individual. A certain .pension has been fixed for, say, the amputation of an arm above the elbow. The loss of an arm above the elbow makes very little difference to the earning capacity of a member of the legal profession, although it is certainly an inconvenience to him. If, however, before the war he was a navvy, the loss of an arm above the elbow would place him in a different category. Tie probably would be precluded by his age from being vocationally trained. To place that man in the same class, so far as earning capacity is concerned, as the professional man, is to do him an injustice. A man’s earning capacity should not be taken into account in assessing his pension. The pension itself must be adequate.
In addition, the length or quality of the service a man may have rendered to the State should not be considered in assessing a pension. ‘ One might ‘have received his injury as soon as he reached the firing-line, and another might have spent three or four years at the Front before “getting his issue.” The intention to serve was equally good on the part of both men. The Commonwealth must cut itself adrift from the oldfashioned idea, which existed prior to the last war, that when ‘ an incapacitated man has been given an inadequate pension or an artificial limb, the State is entitled to leave him to limp through life without further assistance. Having given him an inadequate pension, the State io the past washed its hands of him. If the promises made to the soldiers who went to the war are not redeemed, and if they do not receive what is due to them, an injustice will be done, and those who condone it will be branded as liars and hypocrites. I would not condone any such treatment of my comrades who received injuries to .their bodies or suffered in health while serving this country overseas.
I sincerely hope that, as a result of the discussion to-night, the injustices of the past will be removed. It has been a particularly bitter discussion, for many unpleasant things have been related. The Treasurer should take note of what has been said, and, before the debate closes, should definitely state the intention of the Government. I hope he will tell the House that acts of malad- ministration will not be repeated, and that sympathetic consideration will be given to returned soldiers by the Repatriation Commission or those to whom the work of assessing pensions is intrusted. A certain newspaper styled the Repatriation Commission “ The cyanide gang.” The gibe or nickname has stuck to it, and was believed to be justified by a large number of soldiers. Whether they were right or wrong, I am not here to say. If the Administration in the future follows the lines of the past, there will be trouble. I hope the newly constituted Board will receive such definite instructions from the Treasurer regarding the wishes of Parliament that the occurrences of the past will not be repeated.
.- I believe I was the only member of this House who served on the Victorian Recruiting Committee. If I am wrong in that statement, I am open to correction. At all’ events, I can claim that I was the only member who joined the Committee upon its creation and remained with it until it was disbanded. The chairmen of the meetings attended a few times, disappeared, and were succeeded by others. I cannot remember one instance in which we asked men to volunteer without promising them that they would be looked after when they came back, that billets would be found for them, and that their wives and dear ones would be cared for while they were away. In the large majority of cases the promises have been fulfilled. In no previous war have the fighters been so well looked after as in the last war. That, however, does not excuse the cases of injustice that are so numerous’ to-day. I have no ill-will against the Commission. I would not know the members of it if I saw them in the street, but I know that they are too fond of red-tape, and that they lean too much on the letter, instead of the spirit, of the law. Two great surgeons of this city, Dr. Stirling and the late Dr. O’Hara, wished to place proper premises at the disposal of the Defence Department for the examination of recruits, it being impossible to examine men properly in the Melbourne Town Hall, with noisy trams passing on two sides of. the building. The examinations made there were mostly a farce, and I challenge any medical man to deny the truth of that statement. The offer was not accepted by the brass-bats of the day. Plain Thomas Smith or John Brown, who went to the Front, risked a life as valuable as a general’s. What did the Government do when General Bridges unfortunately fell? God knows that I did not wish him to fall! It brought in a special Bill to give ?4.500 to his widow. I do not object for one moment to her having that money, but, by the living God, I want the same kind of treatment for Thomas Smith and John Brown! As for T.B. and syphilis, who knows better than the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) how easily they can be’ contracted ? Lane, who was one of the leading members of the Royal Society in my early student days, and was consulting surgeon to St. Mary’s Hospital, London, relates how a man caught syphilis by smoking a cigar made in Havana. It is known that a Jewish Rabbi innocently gave the disease to 180 children, and killed himself afterwards as a punishment. It has been shown that the disease can be spread in glass-works. A servant in the bouse of a business man in this city, who has now joined the great majority, caught the disease by being kissed by one of his visitors, who never meant to transmit the disease. Sir Henry Morris, the great skin specialist in London, mentions the case of two friends, one of whom became an “ unfortunate.” She visited her friend, who had married a labourer, and, with a woman’s love, kissed her friend’s child and gave it the disease. The child carried the infection to the mother’s breast, and the mother gave it to the father. No blame was attachable to any member of that family. It is possible to-day, by taking blood tests, to discover the presence of the disease. Would our soldiers have refused to submit to that test? They had serum injected into them for typhoid fever and half-a-dozen other diseases, . and they were vaccinated, and it is not reasonable to assume that they would have refused to undergo a blood test for syphilis. The rich red blood which prompted them to offer their lives for their country would not have hesitated at that. . It would be an inf amy if men who had been passed as eligible were sent to the training camps and subsequently overseas to fight for this country were not to be regarded as having been healthy men be-
Dr. Maloney. fore the war. I asked this question of the Treasurer the other day -
Will he bring before the Cabinet the necessity of deciding that all the enlisted men were healthy when passed by (the duly accredited medical officers appointed by the Government of the day?
In his reply the Treasurer said -
It would not be reasonable to ask Cabinet to reach any such universal decision.
Wey, I ask it; and I consider the request a reasonable one. I am satisfied that those honorable members who enlisted themselves and were passed will say it is fair that all such men should be regarded as healthy. I know, of course, that there were exceptions. One man who was taken from the Hospital for Incurables, and another, a man with one eye, were smart enough to pass the doctor. 1 do not blame the latter, because, as I have explained, during the. busy hours of recruiting the examination was, in some respects, a farce. This man was sent into camp, and happened to come under the notice of the surgeon who had removed his eye. When he asked the medical officer if he knew that this man had only one eye, the latter replied, “Nonsense! he has been passed.” “But, replied the surgeon, “I took out his eye myself.” Of course, that man would have been discovered sooner or later. I maintain that all these men who are now suffering as a result of war service are entitled to a living wage, I feel pretty safe in saying that when the Government passed the special Bill to provide a pension for the widow of the general to whom I have referred, they did not ask the widow if she had ever suffered from some troublesome disease in the past, Yet we know that one out of every f.ourteen in England suffers in this way either from heredity or from contagion; and if we can believe the statement made by Dr. McLaurin, of New South Wales, in his book, Post-mortems, nearly every one of the Royal family, from the time of Henry VIII., of unpleasant memory, down to modern times, suffered from the disease. We are told also that the present representative of the Churchill family cannot pronounce the letter S properly. The clergymen of the world . hitherto have been chiefly responsible for preventing this disease from being stamped out, but
I am glad to say that some independent spirits even among the clerics are standing out and recognise that something must be done. No more disgrace attaches to contracting this disease than to getting many other infections. No man or woman would ever willingly try to contract it. I would much prefer that a committee of laymen, elected by returned soldiers, should control the Commission. We would then have an assurance that there would be far more sympathetic administration. I suggest also that our military hospitals should be under the control of a committee of laymen. I held a different opinion as a young medical student in London. On one occasion when this matter was being discussed in the students’ room, Mr. Owen, the great surgeon, told us that it would be most inadvisable, quoting as his reason his experience in a huge hospital in Vienna, where no less than twenty cases of syphilis had been induced in order that the medical students should have an opportunity of observing all the symptoms. That would not be permitted in any hospital controlled by a committee of laymen. I made the suggestion some time ago that laymen should have control, and Senator Pearce seemed” to think there was something in it, but the departmental officers. ruled it out. This is one reason why, I think, there is so much murmuring concerning the administration of the Caulfield hospital. The other day I asked why it was necessary to get permits for treatment between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and I am glad to know that the point I raised then has resulted in a modification of the regulation. I also wanted to know how many soldiers passed as fit to fight for Australia, and having been invalided, had been refused pensions and other promised rights, and I was told that no special records of such cases had been’ kept. This is most important for the individuals concerned. “ I understand that the departmental file contains all the information, and I ask honorable members, in the name of common sense, why it should not be given. If the authorities do not know the name of the doctor who examined a man on enlistment it is quite likely that it can be supplied by the returned soldier himself. No blame can be attached to the examining medical officer if, in certain cases, men have developed disease later. I maintain that every, man who was passed as fit, and was trained to be sent away to fight, should be eligible for pension privileges if subsequently disabled. We all recall the treatment meted out to our men in the Boer war. In those days I was what is known as a pro-Boer, and I remember the promise made by the Government, through the LieutenantGovernor, the late Sir John Madden, to the men who enlisted. Towards the end of his life Sir John, to his honour, publicly stated that the promises had been broken most unfairly.
– The Government never honoured one of them.
– The men came back, and they were forgotten. The monument now being erected to their memory is twenty years late. Other money that was raised at the time should have been made available for the wives and. children of those who suffered. They have been defrauded of it.
– And the same may be said of promises made during the last war.
– The money collected has, in many instances, not been devoted to its rightful purpose. I urge the Government to act and remove all cause for complaint. The men who fought for’ Australia should be treated as if they were healthy when they left.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) referred just now ‘ to a “misconception that had arisen in Melbourne regarding the times and hours at which returned soldiers could receive treatment at our military hospitals, and just as fuller information completely dispelled the rumour that was current concerning that matter, so, I think, the motion now before the House is based upon a misconception of the facts. On 4th July I presented to this House th.e actual figures for the year. I think the estimate was £6,750,000, and the actual expenditure on war pensions was £7,134,996, or £384,966 more than had been estimated. This amount was £106,000 more than the total amount spent last year.
– What about the preceding year?
– And a good deal more than was spent in the preceding year. The best year of expenditure on pensions was, 1920-21. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) has apparently got hold of the wrong figures, and is comparing an estimate with the actual expenditure of the previous year.
– Is it not a fact that the estimate for war pensions in 1922-23 was £278,000 less than the expenditure for the previous year?
– The estimate may have been less.
– And, as a result, the Repatriation Department was forced to economize and administer the Act conservatively.
– The honorable member is completely misinformed. The actual expenditure last year was £384,000 in excess of the estimate, and the Commission understood, from the terms of the amendment of the Act carried in the final session of last Parliament, .that the Statute was to be construed most liberally, and has acted accordingly throughout the year. In fact, during the last year, instead of the administration by the Commission being uniformly unsympathetic and harsh, approximately 20,000 more pensions were awarded than during the previous twelve months.
– That only indicates a conscience.
– It shows that more money is being spent in war pensions now than was spent previously. Those figures completely dispose of the statement contained in the motion that unsympathetic administration is proved by a decrease in the total payment of war pensions.
In regard to the latter part of the motion, there is no necessity to instruct the Government to make proper provision for war pensions, because our treatment is intentionally as liberal as it reasonably can be. Parliament, in its wisdom, saw fit to intrust the control of war pensions to a Commission vested with powers with which no Minister can interfere, and consequently if this House is dissatisfied with the manner in which the Commission interprets its Statute, it is for the House to say in what way it desires the interpretation varied. Therefore, I approve of the action of the honorable ‘member for Cook in bringing specific cases before the
House, but I deprecate the terms of the amendment, because they are not in accordance with facts.
– Government by Commission !
– The honorable member helped to appoint the Commission.
– I did not.
– The Commission was created to administer the most liberal Repatriation Act in the world. One has only to look at comparative figures regarding war pensions and repatriation benefits generally to realize that the Australian Parliament and people, from, the commencement of the return of their soldiers from overseas, have never stinted the treatment to be given to them. The Commission which controls pensions is composed of three soldiers, of whom the various soldier organizations are entitled to nominate one. Actually two of the present members of the Commission were nominated by soldier bodies.
– Has the Commission power to deal with the case of the woman whose husband is supposed to have deserted her? - -
– The Commission’s powers are limited only by the terms of the Statute. However much we may criticise the manner in which the Act is administered, Australia has nothing to be ‘ashamed of in respect of the provision made for its soldiers and dependants. The Commonwealth takes second place to no country in the provision that all parties have agreed in making to insure that the returned soldiers get fair treatment. If we find that they do not get as good treatment as we intended, the facts should be laid bare and the Act amended accordingly. Of the present three Commissioners, two were nominated by various soldier organizations. One is Lieutenant-Colonel Tilney, who was nominated by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, and the other Mr. Teece, whose nomination was supported by two or three independent soldier organizations. In the past I have been just as critical as other honorable members in regard to the administration of the Commission, but during the last five months I have had an opportunity of acquiring an intimate acquaintance of the methods adopted by that body, and my daily experience proves to me that its members devote most intelligent and painstaking care to the examination of all cases that come within their purview. It is true that occasionally cases, such as that mentioned by the honorable member, for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), are not treated as they should be, but the explanation in respect of many of them will be found to be that, because of the immense number of pensions dealt with, it is impossible for the Commission to go into the whole of the details, and conclusions have been arrived at on a wrong basis, and merely upon a summary of the facts. Everything that is humanly possible has been done to secure proper treatment and a review of all cases. In dealing with claims for pensions on account of physical incapacity, . examinations are made by doctors who have practically graduated in that school of war disabilities. During the last five months I have made it my business to obtain first-hand knowledge in !N”ew South Wales and Victoria of the methods that are being pursued. The affectionate interest displayed in the .men by the part-time and whole-time doctors astounded me. They take, a great interest in their work,’ and devote an immense amount of time to the problems involved in the repatriation of many of these men. After he has been. examined, the condition of a soldier is reviewed by. a Special Appeal Board, on which two medical officers sit. Their report is sent to the principal medical officer in Melbourne, by whom it is again reviewed. In addition, there is in Melbourne a Special Appeal Board, on which sit Sir Henry Maudesly, Dr. Syme, Dr. Armytage Wood, and Dr. Stawell - men who are honoured not merely in Australia but all over the world because of their eminence in their, profession. For a miserable fee they sit at intervals and examine minutely and carefully the cases brought before them by the Commission. The Commission is extremely anxious to obtain the opinion of these experts. I have gone down with cases involving a good deal of medical difficulty, and have sat from 8 to 12 o’clock at night with these four distinguished men in an endeavour, not only to settle those particular cases, but to evolve general principles that will insure that fair play and satisfaction shall be given to every case that arises. The Commission is absolutely sympathetic towards the returned soldier, and is endeavouring to treat him fairly in every possible way. Errors of judgment sometimes occur; but the Commission is prepared to review and discuss cases brought under its notice.
As for pre-war disability, the amendment which, last year, I was able tosecure in the legislation was accepted by the -Commissioners as an intimation that in future pensions should be given to those men whose condition was undoubtedly due to their service abroad. I have found, as the result of discussion with the eminent authorities, that I have mentioned, that lengthy war service has been responsible for the advanced condition of those who suffered from syphilis prior to the war. .Every case is dealt with on. its merits. During the last four or five months cases’ have come under my notice involving real hardship, and men who previously had been turned down are now receiving full pension. I was a critic of the Commission before I became intimately associated with it, but my experience has’ convinced me that no more keen, enthusiastic, hard working body of men exists.
– Is it any use appealing to the Minister after an appeal has been refused by the Commission?
– When cases are brought to my notice, I go through the papers personally. If there is a reasonable chance of the previous decision being reviewed, I ask the Commission to review it, and if the case warrants it, to see that it comes before the special - Advisory Board. I shall personally go through Veitch’s papers to see what the position is. I shall also have the other cases investigated, and, if necessary, make a statement to the House at a later period. The papers were open for the inspection of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) if he desired to see them. If an” honorable member comes to me, he can see any file. It will be readily understood that it would be’ inadvisable to reveal the whole of the medical history of some men. It is a commonplace among medical men that confidences reposed in them are inviolate. It would be grossly unfair to the soldiers if their medical sheets were placed on the table for any one to peruse. Honorable members who desire to assist the returned soldiers will have the fullest liberty in regard to these documents. If the honorable member for Cook (Mr. O. Riley) will come to the Department 1 shall see what can be done in regard to the case. As to the other case, 1 am under the grievous disadvantage that attention was called to it after the 0111Ce had closed, and I am therefore unable to give a detailed reply sow. I shall take an opportunity later, either privately or in the House, of dealing with the matter.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. Riley) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 July 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230712_reps_9_103/>.