9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– A week or so ago I made representations to the Prime Minister suggesting assistance to municipal authorities in the maintenance of their roads. The right honorable gentleman promised that the Government would consider those representations, and I now ask whether it has considered the matter, and, if so, what is the result of that consideration ?
– I regret that the Cabinet has not yet had an opportunity to consider the honorable member’s representations, but I hope it will be able to do so at an early date.
– In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Commonwealth Constitution, will the Prime Minister give Parliament an early opportunity to consider drastic amendments of it in order that they may be submitted to the people of Australia for their approval at an early date?
– The Government will give consideration to the request the honorable member has made.
– Can the Treasurer indicate to the House when the proposed amendment of the Superannuation Act will be brought down, in order to extend the benefits of superannuation to officers taken over from the state services who have not been ten years in the Commonwealth Service ?
– The effect of extending benefits under the Superannuation Act is now being actuarialy investigated, and as soon as that investigation has been completed, the policy of the Government will be announced.
– I wish to ask a question of the Prime Minister, the answer to which may possibly indicate a shortening of the life of this Parliament. The statement has appeared in the press to the effect that the Federal Farmers Union is strongly opposed to the coalition pact, and urges the Australian Farmers Association not to ratify the same. I ask the Prime Minister what is the effect of this announcement upon the Ministry?
– I suggest that the honorable member should not pay too much attention to what he reads in the newspapers.
“SQUIRTER” DISEASE IN BANANAS.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the losses occurring in Queensland bananas in Melbourne and Adelaide, through what is known as “ squirter,” will he instruct the Director of the Institute of Science and Industry to have this matter investigated, with a view of determining the cause and arriving at a remedy?
– The director of the Institute of Science and Industry is already making preliminary investigations into the disease in question. It is also intended to inquire whether the State Departments concerned are taking any action in the matter.
Protection op Native Women and Children.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact that under normal conditions overtime will increase in the busy months of the year.?
Sir LITTLETON GROOM. The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
See answer to 4.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When is the Government likely to arrive at a decision with regard to the recommendations agreed to by the Gold Mining Conference (held under the auspices of the Federal Government), and submitted to the Treasurer several months ago f
– This subject is at present receiving consideration, and as soon as a decision is arrived at the honorable member will be advised.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he give immediate consideration to the appointment of a doctor for Alice Springs, Central Australia?
– As the Government has undertaken to financially assist the Australian Inland Mission in the establishment of a properly equipped hospital at Alice Springs, which is now in course of erection, and which will meet the requirements of that district for some time to come, it is not proposed to take any action at present in regard to the appointment of a medical officer for the district.
Parcel Post Regulation
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
With a view to assisting in the development of Central Australia, will the Acting PostmasterGeneral reintroduce the 11-lb. parcel post regulation that was in operation prior to Commonwealth control, from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs and surrounding country.
– The limitation of weight of parcels to 3 lbs. operates only in regard to services over which mails arc not conveyed by vehicle.
This limitation of weight operates generally throughout the Commonwealth, and forms the basis of all such mail contracts. It would, therefore, be impracticable under present circumstances to make the alteration suggested.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice - ‘ .1. Has his attention been drawn to the statement made by Judge Roberts in the Northern Territory whilst he was hearing an appeal in the assault case, Storey, Government Secretary, v. Quelch, in which the judge characterized a certain application as an attempt to “ pack the bench,” and sternly rebuked such attempt?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will furnish a comparative return showing (a) the number of banks trading in Australia: (&) the number of branches of each bank: (c) the number of directors; and (d) the number of local boards, if any?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information asked for.
Fortnightly Payment of Salaries. Mr. E. RILEY (for Dr. Maloney) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it n fact that the salaries of Commonwealth public servants arc divided into 20 payments per annum ?
Is it a fact that such payments are alleged to be the cause of numbers of the rank and tile of the Service being compelled to live on the time-payment system?
Is it a fact that such is a much higher rate for living than a cash system?
Is it a fact that workers everywhere in the Commonwealth, with the exception of the Commonwealth and State Public Services, are paid once a week?
Will the Prime Minister consider placing before the Cabinet the question of Commonwealth public servants’ salaries being divided into 52 payments per annum?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the depression in the mining industry caused by the closing down of many of the big mines of Australia, and consequent loss of employment, the Government will, in their budget proposals, give special consideration to the taxation burdens on this industry by direct and tariff imposts, with a view of granting some relief?
– At the invitation of the Commonwealth Government the representatives of the gold mining industry met in conference some time ago. The suggestions submitted for the relief and assistance of the mining industry are at present receiving consideration, and immediately a decision is arrived at the honorable member will be advised.
Cost of Site
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Five and a half per cent. (the rate payable under the mortgage) on £3,500 for the first six months after the date of acquisition. That interest, viz., £96 5s., was added to the £3,500, and interest thereon was computed at the rate of 3 per cent. from the date of acquisition until the date the mortgage was paid off.
Ballasting of Trans-Australian Railway
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The claims for compensation for economic losses have received the careful consideration of the Government, which has now decided that apart from the creation of an undesirable precedent, there is no basis for such claims against the Commonwealth, and, in the circumstances, these claims cannot be recognized.
Road Construction, Preston, Victoria
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Conditions of Service
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether any decision has yet been reached regarding (a) increased pay and improved conditions of service for members of the Permanent Naval and Military Forces; (!>) the extension of the provisions of the Superannuation Act to all members of the Permanent Forces ?
– The following reply has been supplied by the Minister for Defence : -
The Government has considered the pro posals laid before it, and has approved of provision being made on the Estimates to cover the additional cost of the recommendations, which it is estimated will approximate £68,000 per annum1. The proposals include substantial increases to the warrant and non-commissioned officers of the forces.
Immigrants from Southern Europe.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the prevailing unemployment in Australia (particularly amongst unskilled workers), and the idea apparently existing in South’e’rn Europe that Australia can readily absorb unlimited numbers of unskilled workers without capital, he will take steps to acquaint the various Southern European Governments with the true facts of the position, so that neither the interests of Australia shall be prejudiced nor these people themselves misled.?
– I desire to point out that the Government give no encouragement, nor grant any financial assistance whatever to Southern Europeans to come to Australia, and it has already been arranged with the Government of Italy, the country most particularly concerned, that passports for Australia shall only be issued to intending Italian emigrants who have sufficient funds to support themselves, or who have been nominated by relatives or friends in Australia who will look after them and find them employment on arrival.
– With reference to the question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), respecting the appointment of Mr. A. G. Turner as secretary to the Speaker and junior clerk in this department, I desire to say that it has long been felt that the staff of this House is too small for the amount of work demanded of it, and that future efficiency will best be provided for by the appointment of juniors of good education, who will be thoroughly trained in the work of Parliament. The honorable member’s question can be divided into three sections. He asked, first, whether the appointment was made by the Public Service Board. The answer is that the appointment, which is on probation, was not made by the Public Service Board, but by the Speaker, in accordance with section 9, sub-section 1, paragraph b of the Public Service Act. The second part of the question was whether the necessary examination had been passed by the person appointed. To that the answer is that the person appointed passed the intermediate examination, which is under the control of the Melbourne University, in all of the eight subjects for which he entered. This examination I prescribed as an equivalent examination, in accordance with section 33, sub-section 1, paragraph c of the Public Service Act. The third section of the question was whether the amount of salary stated is in keeping with such a responsible position as that of secretary to the Speaker. The answer to that is, that the officer appointed is a youth who is not yet eighteen years of age. He is taking the place of the Speaker’s former secretary and typist, and he is also performing the duties of a junior clerk. The terms of his appointment, at a salary of £100 per annum, provide for yearly increments of £50 until he reaches the salary of £250. This salary is, in the circumstances, considered quite adequate. I have only to add that the rearrangement in connexion with the office staff has so far worked satisfactorily.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) drew my attention to the absence of certain papers from the file of correspondence relating to the claim by Bawra and the payment thereon by the Commonwealth Government, which was laid on the table of the Library on the 27th June. I find that the documents referred to consist of enclosures which, by reason of their bulky nature, could not be incorporated in the file, and were therefore filed separately. I have now taken action to have these documents placed with the papers at present on the table of the Library.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act - Regulations amended.
Statutory Rules 1924, Nos. 95, 96.
Quarantine Act. - Regulations amended.
Statutory Rules 1924, No. 85.
– I move -
That, in view of the serious financial position of the state of Tasmania, this House is of opinion -
That the Government should consider the advisability of providing for an annual payment to be made to that state, in accordance with section 96 of the Constitution;
That this annual payment should continue for a period of ten years and thereafter until Parliament otherwise provides;
That it should commence at an amount of not less than £200,000, and be reduced by £10,000 annually.
I submit this motion not with any pleasure, but because of the serious responsibility that lies upon me and every other representative of Tasmania. For the benefit of those honorable members who do not know the history of the previous grants made to that state, I shall briefly recapitulate the events that have led up to the present situation. Section 96 of the Constitution was inserted at the instigation of the late Hon. John Henry, who, at the federal convention, stated the case for Tasmania so effectively as to leave no shadow of doubt among its members that federation would adversely affect the finances of that state. His prediction has been verified. The then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. - later Sir George - Reid, admitted that that section made a decided improvement to the Constitution, and ensured that the claim of states like Tasmania would be dealt with in a proper manner.Honorable members are aware that one provision of the Constitution was that three-fourths of the customs revenue collected by the Commonwealth should be paid over to the states, but that arrangement did not by any means compensate Tasmania for the revenue it was losing, because its import business was chiefly with the mainland. The royal commission which was appointed in 1912 at the instance of the then honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jen-sen) reported that on a 3 per cent, basis an amount of £900,000 was due to Tasmania, but statistics may be quoted to prove that that amount was totally inadequate. It is estimated that the percentage should have been 5 or 6 per cent., or even higher, but in accordance with the recommendation of the royal commission this Parliament agreed to pay Tasmania £90,000 per annum for ten years. Since the expiry of that arrangement the Commonwealth has made two further payments to the state of £85,000 each. At the present time Tasmania is bearing an intolerable burden of taxation, which is seriously hampering its development. The reasons for its present financial position may be summarized as fallows: - (1) high taxation; (2) low taxpaying capacity; (3) slow increase of population; and (4) rapid increase of the public debt. The heavy expenditure undertaken by the state during the last seven or ten years was designed to attract population, but it has failed to achieve that purpose, and the public debt has increased more rapidly than the population. In 1913 the population was 199,675, and ten years later it had increased to only 215,064, or an advance of 7^ per cent. in the decade. The public debt, on the other hand, increased from £11,495,963, or £58 13s. 4d. per head in 1913, to £23,215,439, or £106 per head, in 1923. In other words, the debt has more than doubled, and its increase per head has been ten times as rapid as the growth of population.
– The Commonwealth debt also has grown a little during that period.
– I recognize that, but Tasmania is bearing its share of the Commonwealth burden, and, indeed, a rather unfair proportion of it, as I shall show later. The principal claim of the Tasmanian people to consideration at the hands of this Parliament is based upon their low taxpaying capacity. At the request of the Premier of the state (the Hon. Joseph Lyons) a publication was issued by the Government Statistician some months ago, in which, he quoted the results of the wealth census in 1915 to show the low index of income and taxpaying capacity of the Tasmanian people. As that publication has been forwarded to honorable members, I shall not quote the figures in extenso, but they show that the average income in Australia in 1914-15 was £49 8s. 7d., varying from £50 lis. 2d. in Victoria, which was lOd. higher than tha.t in New South Wales, to £36 0s. Id. in Tasmania. Taking 1,000 as the basis, there was a variation in the index of income from 1,043 in Victoria to 743 in Tasmania. The index numbers of the taxpaying capacity for those two states were 1,088 and 552 respectively. I draw the attention of honorable members to the more up-to-date figures of the federal income tax assessments for the eight years 1914-15 to 1921-22. They show the taxpaying capacity of each of the states by the following index numbers : - New South Wales., 1,051; Victoria, 1,022; Queensland, 979; South Australia, 907; Western Australia, 1,056; and Tasmania, 566. It will be seen that Tasmania’s taxpaying capacity is less than 60 per cent, of the average for the six Australian states. If honorable members will peruse the figures for the eight years, they will notice the very slight variation in the index numbers for New South Wales and Victoria, which were practically over the 1,000 during the whole period. There was a marked rise in South Australia from 642 to 993, the figures for the two years prior to 1923 being 1,138 and 1,095. Western Australia experienced a decline from 1,066 in 1914-15 to 871 in 1921-22, although in the year 1915-16 it reached 1,370. But in Tasmania we started in 1914-15 with an index figure of 577. We touched our highest figure of 693 in 1920-21, and the average for the state was 566. Honorable members can understand what that means to taxpayers in Tasmania. There is not only a low taxpaying capacity, but also a very small population. That small population is maintaining services that were designed for a much greater number of people than are now in the state. Another factor in the unequal incidence of taxation is the customs and excise revenue. Considering the taxpaying capacity with the customs and excise taxation, we find that for years past our loss has been something like £171,000 a year. That is fully explained in a subsequent pamphlet issued by Mr. Giblin in March of this year. That pamphlet also deals with the severity of taxation. For the purpose of making a proper comparison the Tattersall’s taxation is omitted; that is borne mostly by- people in the other states, for nearly . 95 per cent, of the tickets sold are sent to people resident on the mainland. The crude rate of taxation in 1922-23 was : In New South. Wales, 71s. 10d.; in Victoria, 51s. 2d.; in Queensland, 84s.; in South Australia. 71s. ; in Western Australia, 57s. 6d.; and in Tasmania, 49s. 8d. Mr. Giblin divided the crude rate by the index figure of the taxpaying capacity, and multiplied the result by 1,000, which gave the following corrected rates: - New South Wales. 71s. 5d. ; Victoria, 44s. 2d. ; Queensland. 106s. 6d.; South Australia, 66s. Id. ; Western Australia, 66s. 4d. ; and Tasmania, 84s. 5d. The average for the six states was 65s. lid. The Tas.manian treasurer recently increased taxation there by no less than 12s. per head, so that to-day the corrected rate is 105s. 2d., or within Is. 4d. of the Queensland rate, although there is an infinitely lower taxpaying capacity in Tasmania than m Queensland. Taken over the last eight years - and it is reasonable that we should not take any particular year to ascertain the severity of taxation - we find that the figures are : For New .South Wales, 68s. 4d. ; Victoria, 50s. Id.; Queensland. 85s. lOd. ; South Australia, 78s. 3d.; Western Australia, 54s. 5d. ; and for Tasmania, where taxation is highest, S7s. 9d. Heavy taxation like this can only do two things. It must drive people out of the state and prevent others from going there. Melbourne is a very big attraction for the people of Tasmania. That is no new factor, for I read in the Melbourne ‘Herald recently that 50 years ago people from Tasmania were migrating to the big centres of population. Serious loss has been caused to Tasmania by its isolation. The effect of strikes has been very serious, particularly to the primary producer. Three years ago hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of produce rotted on the wharfs there. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) knows more about that than I do. Those products could have been sold in an excellent market had it been possible to ship them away, for the state of New South Wales was suffering from a partial drought and crying out for the goods. There were three shipping and coal strikes in four 3’ears.
– Every state has been similarly affected.
– There has not been a railway sta’ ike on the mainland for some 37ears, and the effect of the shipping and coal strikes upon Tasmania has been disproportionately great. The revenue from public services is much smaller in Tasmania than in the other states. The land revenue is 8s. Id. per head, as against an average of 16s. in the other states. Tasmania has been called the “ Garden of the south.” Unfortunately, we cannot, collect taxes from our scenery, which, although it may be an asset from the tourist point of view, does not help our land revenue. In order to attract population we launched the hydro-electric scheme. In that connexion I would like to quote what the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) said in Hobart recently -
The harnessing of your great natural water supplies with the creation of your hydroelectric schemes has stamped Tasmania with the hall mark of courage and vision.
It took some “ courage “ and some “ vision “ to carry that scheme through. The state is finding the burden a very heavy one, and it will be some years before we can put the hydro-electric scheme 011 a paying basis. We gave the lead in Australia in a work that was much overdue, and I am pleased to hear that the other states are considering the harnessing of their water power, with a view to becoming independent of coal supplies, which are frequently withheld. Contracts for the supply of electric power were let before the works were completed, and the high cost of materials, the high cost of construction, and the high rates of interest on borrowed money during the war greatly increased the initial cost of the works. Tasmania contributes to public works in all states, but it has not been necessary for the Public Works Committee to visit Tasmania to investigate any proposal made by the Federal Government for expenditure there. That shows that no work involving an expenditure of over £25,000 has been proposed for Tasmania since the committee came into existence in 1913. Tasmania made no bargain when she came into the Federal compact; other states did. Several millions of pounds have been spent in New South Wales at Canberra and more will be spent there in the future, and there has also been the expenditure 011 the Jervis Bay and other colleges. Tasmania contributed to the sugar bounty for Queensland and handicapped its own fruit industry by so doing.
– It saved its fruit industry.
– That is open to question. Our fruit-growers say that it did not help the industry, but we nevertheless stood loyally to the compact. I, as a Tasmanian representative, supported sugar control, and assisted the sugar industry of Queensland, but I believe that the fruit-grower would have received more for his product if sugar had been cheaper.
– Do not belittle the other states.
– I am making out a case for Tasmania, not for New South Wales. South Australia has been relieved of the burden involved in the Northern Territory, and the Commonwealth also took over from that state the Quorn-Oodnadatta railway, which was, and still is, incurring an annual loss. Western Australia, whose position is similar to that of Tasmania, has secured a transcontinental railway, and, in addition to that, received, for five years, special treatment in regard to Customs revenue. Furthermore, Western Australia was given a grant of £250,000 per annum, the amount to be reduced by £10,000 a year. This year, I believe, the grant amounts to £130,000. Victoria, from the inception of federation, has had the benefit of the seat of Government being situated in Melbourne, and a big expenditure has been made in the state in the establishment of the Flinders naval base. The states of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia have had the benefits of a huge Common weal th expenditure in connexion with the Murray waters scheme. Last year, when a grant of £85,000 was made by this parliament to Tasmania, the very next measure that came before us was a bill to extend the Murray waters scheme, and the expenditure on that work involved a greater cost per head of the population of Tasmania than the grant which had just been made to it. It is useless to make a grant to Tasmania if, at the same time, that state is required to contribute to national schemes the cost of which only makes its position worse than before. We are now faced with probable expenditure in connexion with the unification of railway gauges, a work that cannot benefit it. If the £21,000,000 scheme is proceeded with, Tasmania’s contribution will amount to £750,000.
– Does the honorable member wish Tasmania to enjoy the benefits of such schemes without sharing the financial responsibility?
– How can Tasmania benefit from the unification of the mainland railway gauges, or from the Murray waters scheme? I realize that, if a million people were settled in the valley of the Murray. the general conditions in my state would eventually improve, but it is of no use to starve Tasmania while these works are in progress. I would not object i to even greater expenditure of, public money on large developmental works than is now devoted to that purpose. My advocacy of the north-south railway is an indication of that. It is said that Tasmania is the only state asking favours of the Commonwealth, but let me point out what some of the other states are trying to obtain.
– Western Australia requires fair treatment.
– No doubt it does; and under the Constitution that state will probably receive it. Queensland wants the Northern Territory railway taken through a portion of that state.
– Queensland has not asked for that.
– But its representatives in parliament have certainly b.een very insistent upon it. New South Wales and Queensland are desirous of having a standard-gauge railway built from the New South Wales border to Brisbane. I am in favour of a uniform gauge, but I do not think Tasmania should be asked to contribute to all such works unless favorable consideration is given to its own requests. Another projected federal work that will not benefit Tasmania is the railway from Port Augusta to Hay, and one could name half a dozen other undertakings that chiefly concern the mainland states. Returning to the terms of the motion, I call the particular attention of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) to the fact that Tasmania would prefer a straightout grant of £200,000 to the recent offer of the Government, of the whole field of lotteries’ taxation. It may be in keeping with the wish of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to avoid duplication of taxation, but Tasmania, under his scheme, would then be dependent for about one-fifth of its total revenue on the money received by the taxation of in- vestments in “ Tatters all’s,” and it is too much to ask that state to rely on a source of revenue that may vanish within a short period. Another state may pass legislation to empower lotteries to be conducted within its borders, and it is quite possible that in that case “ Tattersail’s “ would leave Tasmania, whose condition then would be very precarious.’ I think I am voicing the opinion of the bulk of the people of my state when I say that a direct grant of £200,000 is preferable to the sum annually derived from “ Tattersall’s “ being made part of the grant. The message of the Treasurer to the people of Tasmania, delivered through the state Premier (Mr. Lyons), was: “Increase your own taxation. Effect economies and put your bouse in order.” Mr. Lyons has adopted that suggestion. Tasmania is now the most heavily taxed state in the Commonwealth. Certain economies have already been effected, and others are being arranged as rapidly as possible, but there are certain services that cannot be further curtailed, since efficiency must not be sacrificed. Without a very prompt reduction of taxation, which the proposed grant would enable Tasmania to bring about, all that the state can see ahead of it is decreasing population and a total prohibition of factories and big business enterprises. It is” unreasonable to ask Tasmania to carry its present burden of taxation, for industries will not be established there if the taxes are so heavy that business is made unprofitable. I confidently commend the motion to the House, believing that section 96 of the Constitution could justly be applied to the case.
– I regret that it has been necessary for an honorable member to submit this motion. In view of all the circumstances, which for a considerable time have been well known to the Treasurer, the Government should have taken the responsibility of moving in the matter without waiting for a private member to do so. All the figures and facts which can be adduced in support of the request, some of which have been given to-day by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), have been within the knowledge of the Treasurer for several months past. I believe that that honorable member was one of a deputation of Tasmanians, representative of both branches of the state legislature, who approached the Treasurer early this year owing to the financial stress then felt in my state. The predicament of Tasmania was clearly and concisely expressed by the Premier (Mr. Lyons), who, it was generally agreed, made out the best case that had ever been presented for a financial grant to the state. The Treasurer, after listening to the request, replied in these terms : - “Go back to Tasmania; tax yourself to your utmost reasonable capacity ; put your own house in order ; and then we shall give the most sympathetic consideration to your request.” In other words, he led the members of the deputation, including myself and the Tasmanian Treasurer, to believe that if the Tasmanian Parliament during its then approaching session agreed to new taxation proposals under which the people of that state would be taxed reasonably according to their capacity to pay, the request that had been made to him would be considered immediately by the Federal Government. I feel that honorable members of this Parliament, no matter what state they represent, will actjustly towards Tasmania, and that if a concrete proposal to assist that state is made by the Government, it will be dealt with entirely on its merits. If assistance is not given by one Government, it certainly must be given by another, for the present condition of affairs simply cannot continue. I regret that this Government has not seen fit, so far, to give effect to the implied promise made by the Treasurer that it would aid Tasmania to overcome her difficulties. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was absent from Australia when the promise was made, but he has been back for some months and, so far as I know, he was only acquainted with the details of Tasmania’s financial position when the state Treasurer again visited Melbourne in connexion with the matter a few weeks ago. I submit that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) should have put all the facts before the Government, and that it should have taken the responsibility of introducing concrete proposals to this Parliament to meet the situation. The Tasmanian Government is in the unfortunate position of being unable to make any move until the Federal Government’s decision has been announced, and it is now practically waiting on the steps of Federal Parliament House to be told what is to be’ done. It cannot even submit a policy to the State Parliament until the policy of this Government is stated. In view of the answer given to me recently by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), I have little hope that he will make any definite announcement until the budget is introduced.
– Do you not think it is a proper thing to bring down all the financial proposals of the Government together ?
– Speaking in a general way, I do; but the circumstances of the case warrant the Treasurer indicating immediately what steps he proposes to take to honour his promise to Tasmania.
– The Tasmanian Parliament meets on the 22nd J July.
– That is so.
– “We have not yet ascertained our receipts and expenditure for the last financial year.
– The Treasurer may not have the definite figures, but he has known for some mouths, and certainly since Parliament re-assembled this year, that the Government would be in a position to assist Tasmania. He knows now that it could grant £200.000, or even more, at once, for a large surplus is available. I regret that this debate is limited as to time. Under the Standing Orders the matter may be dis.cussed only for about one hour more. The Government should have introduced the subject much earlier in the session and given honorable members ample time in which, to discuss it. Some of them would like a good deal more information on it than they have. The Government Statistician of Tasmania has forwarded to each honorable member a bulky document which gives all the details, but I have no doubt that they have had little time in which to assimilate the figures. If the Government had acted early in the session the matter could have been thoroughly ventilated. So far from doing that, however, I have been given to understand, on good authority, that it does not propose to enlighten even the Tasmanian Government as to its intentions until the budget proposals have been introduced. The Prime Minister does not seem to have had thefacts laid before him. until within the last two or three weeks. In all these circumstances, it is hardly possible that the full seriousness of the position can be realized by him or by honorable members generally. I may be excused, therefore, if I add some figures to those already given by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson). Tasmania’s financial difficulties commenced soon after the establishment of the Commonwealth, but the practice of making special grants to her was not begun until 1912. In that year £500,000 was voted to her, to be paid at the rate of £90,000 a. year. Subsequently, an additional £400,000 was granted. She was paid £90,000 a year for ten years from those two grants. After those two grants had been exhausted another grant of £S5,00O was made; but so far nothing* has been voted for this year. Tasmania’s financial troubles are consequent upon, and inseparable from, federation. In 1914 she had a surplus of £35,000, but since then, owing to the war and other causes, the state finances have shown an annual deficit, which has increased year by year. In the eight years from 1914 to 1922, the accumulated deficit reached the sum of £350,000. In the belief that the crisis had passed the then Treasurer of Tasmania persuaded the State Parliament to fund the deficit of £350,000, and a loan wasraised for that purpose. In June of the following year - 1923 - the same Treasurer had to announce a new deficit of £298,000. Again, despite drastic efforts to retrench wherever possible, the deficit for the year ending on the 30th June of this year amounted approximately to £220,000. This amount it will be seen is £60,000 less than the deficit for the previous year, owing to the efforts made by the present Tasmanian Government to retrench. The loss on soldier settlement in Tasmania, which is a, separate account, amounts to £232,000 to the end of the last financial year. These figures give a total floating debt of £1,100,000 which the 200,000 people of Tasmania have to carry in ad”dition to their funded debt. To justify Tasmania’s claim I point out that the taxpayers of that state are not trying to escape their fair burden of their taxation. The question of what is fair taxation must be answered, not by the amount of tax per head actually collected, but by the ability of the people to pay taxes. It was pointed out by the Government Statistician only the other day that whilst in England the taxation per head is about £17 per annum, the people there are better off, and better able to pay it than the people of India would be with a taxation burden of 17s. per head per annum. Ifc has been pointed out in recent discussions of the relative severity of taxation in England, France, and Germany, that the relation of taxation per head to income per head, must be the measure of the severity of the tax. So that when comparing taxation in Tasmania with taxation in the other states the average income per head in the different states must be taken into account. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) gave a number of figures relating to the capacity of taxpayers in the different states to pay taxation, and it is unnecessary that I should repeat those figures. The natural conditions of Tasmania are such that the cost of settlement is proportionately much higher in that state than in the other states. 1 should like honorable members from other states who may be sceptical about the justice of Tasmania’s claim to remember that in Tasmania, owing to the rainfall and the nature of the soil, all roads have to be metalled, and heavy expenditure must be incurred for bridges, jetties, culverts, &c. These facilities are absolutely necessary, because without them the settlers could not get their produce to market during a greater portion of the year. A comparison of the expenditure on roads, bridges, jetties, and so on in Tasmania and in the other states shows that in 1922 Tasmania expended £24 7s. 7d. per head on these work3 as against an average expenditure of £7 13s. per head on similar works in the other states. The average expenditure per head on railways in the other states was £47, as against an expenditure on railways in Tasmania of £29 per head. These figures show a far heavier expenditure on railways in the other states than in Tasmania, but it has to be borne in mind that railways are revenue earning works, and roads, bridges, and jetties are not. The following figures show the excess of revenue over expenditure on railways annually per head of population in each of the states : - New South Wales, £3 7s.; Victoria, £2 4s.; Queensland, 8s. 9d.; South Australia, £3 3s.; West Australia, £2 lis. 3d., and Tasmania 10s.
Id. These figures do not include interest on capital cost. The figures show that the Tasmanian railways earn only 10g. Id. per head per annum to meet interest and other charges, whilst the earnings of railways in New South Wales amount to £3 7s. per head per annum. The drain upon Tasmania in connexion with Commonwealth finance has been very considerable since 1915. Tasmania has contributed £7,310,000 to loans raised by the Commonwealth Government. During the same period, the State Governments have been obliged to borrow, for developmental works, about the same amount of money.. On every occasion when the Commonwealth Government made an appeal for funds on the score of patriotism Tasmania practically stood alone in contributing over its quota. Very little of the £7,310,000 which Tasmania has contributed to Commonweath loans during and since the war has been spent in that state. Owing to the conditions prevailing in the state, Tasmania has not derived very much benefit from federal expenditure. I do not cavil for a moment at federal expenditure on big national undertakings in the other states. I have always tried to look at such matters from a national stand-point, and have by voice and vote assisted to carry proposals for big national undertakings in this Parliament. I raise no question now as to the fairness of expenditure on such undertakings, but I say that, owing to the peculiar geographical position of Tasmania, that state has not benefited from a very large expenditure on national undertakings. Its largest undertaking is the hydro-electric scheme, and I may inform honorable members that the Tasmanian Government paid about £250,000 in Customs duties on plant and material for that scheme, which could not be obtained in Australia. Although it was subsequently agreed by representatives of the states in consultation with representatives of the Commonwealth that such importations for state enterprises should be free of Customs duties, no rebate was allowed to Tasmania of any sums previously paid in that way. I submit that it would have been a fair thing if that state had been allowed a rebate of the £250,000 paid in Customs duty on imported plant and material necessary for an undertaking which means so’ much to the state. As I have already said, the loss on soldier settlement to the end of the last financial year in Tasmania was £232,000. This loss has been increased by the fact that no rebate of interest was allowed by the Federal Government on £500,000 raised in Tasmania to carry out its arrangements with the Federal Government at a time when the Commonwealth was not prepared to advance the money required. The following figures will show honorable members how governments in Tasmania have tried to restrict expenditure on public services. In 1922-23, Tasmania spent on railways and tramways, £2 10s. 3d. per head. The average expenditure for similar purposes in the other states was £6 3s. per head. On education, Tasmania spent £1 5s. per head, whilst the average expenditure in the other states was £1 10s. 9d. On hospitals and charities Tasmania spent 13s. 7d. per head, whilst the average in the other states was 16s. 3d. On police, Tasmania spent 7s. 2d. per head, whilst the average expenditure on police in the other states was 9s. 5d. per head. With respect to all other expenditure under the head of general administration, Tasmania’s ex,penditure amounted to £2 2s. per head, and the average expenditure of the other states to £3 4s. per head. Taking together these items of necessary state expenditure, the totals show that Tasmania spent £10 10s. lOd. per head as against an average expenditure of £16 2s. 5d. per head in the other states. These figures are a complete answer to any one who may say that Tasmania should have cut down her expenditure. They show that Tasmanian Governments have made cuts in expenditure, even in connexion with hospitals and charities, wherever retrenchment has been possible. In Tasmania, 33 per cent, of the total revenue is derived from direct taxation; in the other states only 20 per cent, of the total revenue is derived from this source. In Tasmania we receive from public services, mainly railways, 36 per cent, of our total revenue, whilst in the other states, the same services return an average of 58 per cent, of the revenue. To avoid expenditure, Tasmania has been neglecting her railways to such an extent that in the next five years it will be necessary for the State Government to spend about £250,000 on repairs to rollingstock and the permanent way to ensure the safety of those who travel over them. During the first ten years” of federation, Tasmania received £900,000 in special grants. In the same period the Commonwealth derived in direct taxation from Tasmania the sum of £2,300,000. In other words, Tasmania paid to the Commonwealth £1,400,000 more than she received by way of special grants. I make no apology for having occupied so much time in reading the figures I have given to the House. This matter is of vital importance to my state. Notwithstanding that the Treasurer has promised to bring forward the budget proposals within the next week or two, I would like him to indicate to-day the Government’s intention regarding Tasmania’s request for assistance. I do not altogether agree with the wording of the motion in the name of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson). In view of all the conditions, no reduction should take place during the first five years at least. The position in Tasmania is so difficult that the Government which has recently assumed office there will find it almost impossible to put its house in order, or to bring forward anything like a proper developmental policy for that state without financial assistance. Tasmania would be justified in asking for a grant of £200,000 per annum for a stated number of years, without any reduction. I do not think that she will be prepared to accept a reduction of £10,000 a year from the commencement. I do not know the proposals of the Federal Government, or when they will be brought forward, but I know that Tasmania’s position has been brought about by her entry into the federation. She is not asking for charity. The honorable member for Bass mentioned that one of Tasmania’s delegates to the Federal Convention pictured the financial troubles which his state was likely to meet after federation, and I believe that it wa9 largely owing to the speeches made by the Tasmanian delegates that provision was made in the Constitution to enable federal grants to be made to necessitous states. This is not a new thing in the history of federation; the same power exists in other federal Constitutions. It not only exists in the Canadian Federal Constitution, but it has been availed of. Such powers are necessary in any federal Constitution. It is even more necessary that, once the necessity for assistance is shown, such assistance shall be forthcoming. The present position of- Tasmania is due to no fault of her own i-I do not even blame past governments for it, although the deficits have probably been made larger by the governments which have been in power. Recently there was distributed among honorable members a document, prepared by the Government Statistician of Tasmania, Mr. Giblin, showing that there is ample justification for the request now made by Tasmania. Mr. Giblin points out that it is practically impossible for Tasmania to develop as she should without financial assistance for a number of years. With her splendid hydro-electric scheme in operation, providing cheap electric power, manufacturers may be induced to come from other parts of the world and establish factories in Tasmania, and it is to be hoped that the next few years will see her financial position such that she will not need further assistance from the federation. But for the next five years £200,000 per annum should be granted to that state. At the end of that time the position could be reviewed. I am aware that the Treasurer of Tasmania recently suggested an alternative proposal, but I do not know what attitude the Federal Government has adopted concerning it. Personally, I should prefer a grant of £200,000 a year, to commence forthwith, and not to be subject to reduction for five years. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion, although I hope that that portion referring to a reduction of £10,000 a year will be deleted so far as the first five years are concerned. *
.- For the last ten years I have advocated in the Parliament of Tasmania and elsewhere that a special grant of £200,000 per annum should be made to Tasmania. Long before the Jensen Royal Commission was appointed I held the opinion that the state should be given such a grant. Federation has proved an awful handicap to Tasmania. The Constitution provides that where a state is financially embarrassed through joining the federal compact, the Federal Parliament may come to its assistance. The word “ may “ should be “ shall.” Tasmania can no longer stand the strain to which she has been subjected. Metaphorically speaking,, we arc compelled to maintain a Rolls:Royce,: when we should be going about in la Ford tear. Tasmania is contributing to the Commonwealth far more than she can afford. Her population is small, comprising but. 218,000 souls, or one-quarter of the population of Melbourne. In the year preceding federation, before Tasmania was fool enough to enter the federal compact, her total taxation was 74s. 8d. per head. Since that time she has forgone her Customs and excise duties, while the Federal Government has imposed land and income taxes and probate duties, and other levies too numerous to mention. Tasmania’s population is now taxed in addition by the Commonwealth to,.- the extent of £6 9s. 2d. per head. That is a lamentable position. Tasmania has been asked to pay towards many of the “wild cat” prepositions of the Commonwealth. Her people contributed towards a special grant to Western Australia, as well as to the cost of the transcontinental railway. South Australia has got rid of her Northern Territory, and her non-paying lines, on which millions have been spent. Victoria, has had the Seat of Government since federation was inaugurated, and has received the advantages attendant thereon. New South Wales is to have a Federal Capital on which £3,000,000 has already been spent. Queensland has had her sugar bounties. Tasmania’s share has been to pay, pay, pay for the lot.
– What about Tattersall’s ?
– Even from Tattersall’s the Federal Government have col- .lected many thousands of pounds. But it is not right that Tasmania should have to rely upon a lottery to save her from insolvency.. The people in Victoria live in affluence, yet no assistance is given to Tasmania, whose people are groaning beneath this oppression. If Tasmania does not get justice from the Federal Government, I am prepared to resort to any tactics to get that state out of the federal compact. That is my attitude.
– What do you want?
– We want justice only. I am a true federalist, provided justice is meted out to Tasmania, but not otherwise. I do not care what Government may be in power here or in Tasmania, I am prepared to advocate secession if justice is not granted. I do not use those words as a threat, but the financial solvency of my state is a matter of importance to me; and that solvency necessitates a grant being made. I want honorable members to realize that I am sincere in my statements. I know the position. Tasmania has the lowest income tax exemption and the highest direct taxation of any of the states. The present condition can no longer be endured. Tasmania has not the same facilities as the other states, nor has she their population, or their area. Her part has been to pay, pay, pay. Had it not been’ for federation, Tasmania would to-day be the richest state in the Commonwealth.
– Cheer up !
– -I. will fight for the sod that my forefathers trod. My country is first with mt. 1 hope to see Tasmania obtain justice. The Government has the numbers, and can mete out justice to Tasmania; and it behoves it to do so forthwith. It only needs Tasmania to put the fire in the stack and Western Australia will be only too happy to secede. South Australia would follow, and Queensland also. Victoria and New South Wales would then be left to carry on alone. That will be the position if we do not get justice. Tasmania has had to contribute towards the naval expenditure of the Commonwealth, the construction of the transcontinental railway, the Murray river scheme, and other public works, but that state has not derived one farthing’s benefit from them. That state of affairs is no good to Tasmania. What is the use of putting men on the land if there are no markets for their produce ? An endeavour should be made to obtain markets. Later on I shall have something to say concerning the banking question. I ask the Federal Parliament to realize its responsibility to that state, which has been a loyal member of the federation, has borne the heat and burden of the day, and sent the best of its manhood to fight abroad. The people of Tasmania will do anything in reason, but they will not, in the spirit of weaklings, submit to injustice. . Given justice in the terms of the Constitution, they will be perfectly satisfied.
.- Whilst I admire the enthusiasm of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I counsel him not to threaten so much, because threats usually prejudice rather than help a cause. I have very much sympathy with the proposal that the
Commonwealth should grant some financial assistance to Tasmania. That that state is in a position different from that of any of the other states was recognized by the framers of the Constitution when they provided that for a number of years a certain sum of money should be repaid to Tasmania by the Commonwealth, and that thereafter this Parliament should decide whether that form of assistance should continue. In a matter of this kind we should not be influenced by petty parochial feelings, but should endeavour to take a national view. Tasmania is at a considerable disadvantage, because of its isolation. Being an island it is deprived of the advantages of railway communication with its partners in the Commonwealth, and because of that it has suffered commercially very much during the last few years. The matter has frequently been mentioned in this House by representatives of the state, who have spoken of the difficulty Tasmanian producers experience in getting their produce shipped across to the mainland and overseas. I think the Commonwealth might long ago have gone to the assistance of that state by providing shipping facilities to compensate for the absence of railway communication with the mainland. Some people urge that Tasmania has no special claim to consideration in this regard, but the Commonwealth, as the parent body, should do everything possible to foster and develop the other members of the family. Tasmania is not on an equal footing with any other state, and in saying that I am not unmindful of the unfavorable position of Western Australia, and perhaps of other states, too. Tasmanian Governments have administered the affairs of the state economically ; notwithstanding accruing deficits from year to year, they have taxed their people heavily, and only recently additional taxation was imposed in compliance with the suggestion of the Federal Treasurer to the Premier of Tasmania that he should impose further taxation upon his people before seeking assistance from the Commonwealth.
– An additional 10s. per head of taxation was imposed in compliance, with the request of the Federal Treasurer.
– That is a very heavy increase, and shows that the Tasmanian Government is prepared to do a fair thing, but there is a point beyond which taxation cannot be safely increased.
– If any further taxation is imposed all the young men will be driven out of the State.
– Inquiries I made in Tasmania recently showed that the young men were leaving the state, and I do not doubt that that will continue unless this Parliament does something to assist the state. The cost of living in Tasmania is much higher than in any other state, and at the same time the wages are lower. That is a fact which we must take into consideration. In Hobart today 36s. will purchase only as much as could be bought with £1 in 1911. The basic wage is £4 12s. 4d. per week, whereas in Sydney it is £4 14s. 6d; in Melbourne, £4 15s. 7d. ; in Brisbane, £4 14s. 2d. ; in Adelaide, £4 10s. 9d. ; and in Perth, £4 14s. 2d. Though the wage is lower in Adelaide than in Hobart, living in the former city is cheaper, £1 lis. 4d. being equal to £1 16s. in Hobart, so that, relatively speaking, the Adelaide -worker is better off than his fellow in Hobart. In view of these figures it is very difficult for any honorable member to oppose the claim that has been presented by the representatives of Tasmania. There is every justification for asking the Commonwealth, to give some assistance to that state. I do not suggest what form that assistance should take, and I shall curtail my remarks in order to afford the Treasurer an opportunity of stating the intentions of the Government. Statistics prove that Tasmania is rigidly restricting its expenditure. Although the state is small in area, its population is sparse, and that makes it difficult to operate its railway system economically. I find that in 1921-22 the Tasmanian expenditure upon railways and tramways was only £2 10s. 3d. per head, whereas the average for the other five states was £6 3s. 3d. Upon education, including administration, tha expenditure in Tasmania was £1 5s. 5d. per head, as compared with an average for the other five states of £1 10s. 9d. It is clear that Tasmania is in such a bad financial position that it cannot afford to give to the rising generation the educational facilities that are enjoyed on the mainland. Upon hospitals and charities Tasmania spent 13s. 7d., as compared with an average of 16s. 3d. for the other states; upon police, 7s. 2d., as compared with 9s. 5d.; and upon all other forms of expenditure, including genera] administration, £2 2s.
Id., as compared with £3 4s.. 5d. The total expenditure per head for all purposes, including interest, was £10 10s-. lOd. in Tasmania, as compared with an average for the other five states of £16 2s. 5d. In other words, the mainland states are spending £6 per head annually more than Tasmania can afford to spend. Why? Simply because Tasmania has not, and cannot, get the money to expend.
– Hear, hear ! Tasmania does not get anything like the same revenue from its public services as do the other states.
– I agree with the honorable member, and I say that that state has a just claim for consideration by the Commonwealth. If honorable members ask why a special grant should be given to Tasmania, I would remind them that the Commonwealth has relieved South Australia of the Northern Territory, a very costly responsibility, of which Tasmania has to bear its proportionate share. The east-west railway, although very necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole, was built chiefly for the benefit of Western Australia. Queensland has enjoyed the sugar bounty; of that I make no complaint, but it has cost the Commonwealth millions of pounds, and Tasmania has paid its share of that. New South Wales will get the benefit of the many millions of pounds to be expended at Canberra. Each of the other states has directly or indirectly received some big benefit from the Commonwealth, and Tasmania, as their partner, has to contribute towards the cost. If from any cause whatever any state is in difficult circumstances, it is the duty of the Commonwealth to come to its assistance. I shall not detain the House further, but shall await with interest the Treasurer’s pronouncement regarding the attitude of the Government to Tasmania’s claim.
.- As a representative of one of the mainland states, which will have to provide any money that may be paid to Tasmania, I shall have to justify my vote upon this motion. I remind the representatives of Tasmania that from 1914 until recently the Tasmanian Governments have been representative of the Liberal party, of which the honorable member for Bass is such an ardent supporter, and they have continued to pile up deficits year after year. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) has amusingly threatened that if Tasmania does not get what it is seeking it will petition to be allowed to secede from the federation. I should regret the honorable member’s departure from this Chamber, because his peculiar style of speech has always afforded a certain amount of amusement to other honorable members. Tasmania is a small state, with a population of only 218,000, but it has all the flummery of a Governor. It has an upper house of parliament, and an agent-general in London. Seeing that Tasmania is always in debt, why has it continued to spend money on these things? About four or five months ago the Parliament decided to continue the office of Governor. I remind the state of Tasmania, that expenditure saved is revenue earned. It does not need a financial genius to discover that. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) referred to New South Wales. ‘I remind him that New South Wales has many expensive undertakings in hand. It has thirteen lines of railway that do not pay for axle grease. Owing to the vastness of the state, its railways are very expensive to run. The honorable member should have made no reference to New South Wales. That state has a population of 2,000,000, as against 218,000 in Tasmania, and it therefore stands to reason that a larger sum of money should be spent there. While the births in Tasmania last year exceeded the deaths by 3,000, the population increased by only 170 persons. Why, in the face of such facts, does that state support an expensive scheme of immigration? It ought to cut down its expenditure on immigration.
– How much does Tasmania propose to spend on immigration ?
– I am unable to state the figures.
– They are not available, because Tasmania is not spending anything on immigration.
– When the late Premier of Tasmania was in Great Britain, he spoke of Tasmania as a state that wanted immigrants. I extend my sympathy to the Labour Government there, for it is suffering for the misdeeds of its predecessors. The Treasurer should fall in with the views of the honorable member for Bass, and in that case Tasmania will have a chance of securing better government than she has had for many years.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Bass on the way in which he stated the case for Tasmania. I congratulate him especially for departing from the method often adopted in the past. He said, quite frankly, that he approved of the spending of money on works of urgent national importance, such as the river Murray irrigation scheme, the unification of railway gauges, and the like. He views the subject from a national point of view, and does not base Tasmania’s claim on the fact that money has been spent on national works in other states. In my consideration of Tasmania’s case, I have been inclined to regard favorably the fact that during the last ten years, at any rate, that state has been attempting to overcome the disadvantages which its geographical isolation places upon it. It has made strenuous efforts to develop its secondary industries, and by undertaking the big hydroelectric scheme it has placed itself on the road to’ permanent progress and prosperity. Finding itself in a difficulty, it has not unreasonably come to the Commonwealth Government and asked for consideration under section 96 of the Constitution. It has always been fortunate in having very doughty champions of its cause both in this and the State Parliament. No members have fought more gallantly than the honorable members for Bass (Mr. Jackson), Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt). Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), and Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), and the Tasmanian senators. On consulting the departmental files, I find that, not merely has there been a persistent and consistent advocacy of Tasmania’s claims in this Parliament, but State Premiers and legislators have never lost an opportunity of stating the facts. On the 28th April, 1919, Sir Walter Lee, who was then Premier, made a representation to you, Mr. Speaker, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth. That was shortly before the expiration of the £900,000 grant. The grant was continued at the amount of £85,000. Sir Elliot Lewis, Chief Secretary of Tasmania, again put forward a strong case in 1922. It received the favorable consideration of this Parliament, and another year’s contribution of £85,000 was made. Last year, and the year before that, Sir Walter Lee and Senator Hayes put up a. strong fight for special consideration, apart from, and in addition to, that £85,000. The fact that the Commonwealth Government submitted proposals to the Premiers’ Conference last year showed that it was ready to give sympathetic consideration to the request, and to extend special sympathy to Tasmania.
Mr.O’Keefe. - Later investigations have shown that those proposals would not have placed her in such a good position as the figures represented at the time.
– That is not so. It has been freely stated that the figures presented in a memorandum to the Premiers’ Conference were not accurate. I wish to give that statement the lie direct. The figures represented the actual assessments of the previous year. The State Treasurers at the conference wanted to discuss the Commonwealth Government’s proposalsin the light of the current year’s figures, which, of course, were not available. The only figures available for the current year were estimates. Representatives of the Commonwealth pointed out that it was impossible to get accurate estimates, but, at the request of the State Premiers, we discussed the question on the estimates. The figures produced originally, however, were the actual assessments, and cannot be controverted. I am glad that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) has given me an opportunity to nail that lie to the counter, for it has had currency for too long.
– It is rather a strong term to call the statement a “ lie.” I have statistics and the word of the Treasurer of Tasmania to support me.
– If the Treasurer says that anything uttered in this House is a lie his remark is not parliamentary.
– The statement was made outside the House. The figures prepared at the time of the Premiers’ Conference were taken from the official assessments of the Taxation Department. Early this year the Premier of Tasmania came to me with a deputation that represented all parties and both Houses of this Parliament. I think the deputation also included representatives of the Tasmanian Parliament. The Premier stated the case in terms similar to those employed during the last three! or four years, but he brought the facts up to date. I pointed out to the Premier the points which, in my opinion, laid themselves open to criticism. The chief criticism was that the taxation of Tasmania at that time was not so high as that of the other states. The Premier told me that he intended to try to carry through taxation proposals to remedy that defect.
– The taxpayers of Tasmania can tell the Treasurer that he has kept his promise.
– The Tasmanian Government was not able to get certain proposals through the Upper House to prevent the deficit enlarging, but the Premier has informed me that he has imposed additional taxation to the following extent: - Income taxation, £80,000; land taxation,’£19,000; death duties, £16,000; stamp duties, £2,000; and liquor taxes, £14,000- making a total of £131,000. Those facts will be taken into favorable consideration by the Government. It is impossible for the Government to make any proposal except as part of its general financial arrangements. Ministers are making a special effort to bring down their proposals at the earliest possible moment, and the Premier of Tasmania has been informed that whatever is done the Government will make the payment retrospective to the 1st July, so that he will have no difficulty in arranging his own accounts if he finds it necessary to impose further taxation. In those circumstances it would not be proper for me to make a detailed statement of the Government’s intentions. During the last six or eight months the Government has had this matter under careful consideration. It has investigated the whole incidence of taxation in Tasmania, and it has analysed the manner in which the Tasmanian public debt has been incurred. It has noted that the Premier of Tasmania has followed the advice offered in regard to the imposition of taxation, and when the budget is brought down the financial proposals of the Government will be known.
– I should like the debate to he adjourned.
-I was about to announce that the time allotted to the consideration of notices of motion had expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lister) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29th May (vide page 993), on motion by Dr. Maloney -
That ill view of the pronounced favoritism of those who possess the gift of distribution of public works -
This House declares that all architec tural plans, designs, specifications, &c, of all works for the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank, the estimated cost of which amounts to £3,000 and upwards, shall be thrown open to the public competition of the architects of Australia.
Contingent upon this motion being car ried, it be an instruction to the Government of the day to bring in amending legislation so as to control the policy of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in allotting architectural work and the like to one firm consisting of his relations and others.
.- The motion, in effect, lays down the principle that the plans for all works likely to cost more than £3,000 shall be- thrown open to architectural competition. Most of our post offices exceed £3,000 in cost, and are erected in all parts of the Commonwealth. If the motion is carried, the plans for these buildings will have to be made the subject of competition, and this would cause, not only delay, but heavy expense to the Commonwealth. The fees of members of the architectural profession are 6 per cent, of the value of the buildings erected, and it would be necessary -for the Works and Railways Department to retain a professional staff and executive officers to protect Government interests. Even if we did throw the work open to competition we should have to retain nearly the whole of, if not all, the staff that now does this work, and the clerical staff might have to be increased to deal with correspondence with the architectural firms engaged in the competitions. A rule of the Institute of Architects is that the successful competitor shall be given the supervision of the work. This might involve heavy travelling expenses, particularly for work in remote parts of Australia. It does not necessarily follow that a successful architect is competent to supervise the erection of the building he has designed. The system proposed would increase the time taken in the execution of work, and it would complicate the administration. Honorable members will therefore realize that it would be inadvisable to pass the motion. The Works and Railways Department is in constant consultation with various Government departments. It has had years of experience in designing, for instance, buildings for the Postal Department, and it is in close touch with its particular requirements. The Chief Commonwealth Architect, Mr. Murdoch, is a very competent officer, and he has given every satisfaction in his work. Since the present Government took office it has instituted competitions amongst architects for carrying out various work at Canberra, and it is now proposed to allow private architects to compete for: the work of designing the administrative buildings there. A similar competition was recently held in connexion with the erection of a group of cottages. I mention these facts to show that the Government is not rigidly adhering to the policy that all public buildings shall be designed by Government officers. The Director-General of Works, Colonel Owen, states that the system advocated in the motion would greatly increase the cost of works administration, and the delay inseparable from the procedure of inviting, receiving, and judging designs would be fatal. If the works in the programme for the financial year just closed had been carried out under the system advocated they would have cost in the neighbourhood of £100,000, exclusive of premiums to successful competitors, travelling expenses of supervising architects, &c. The whole branch now costs only about three-fourths of the sum mentioned, and the bulk of the present staff would still have to be retained. I think the arguments against the proposal are overwhelming, and I ask the House to reject the motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mahony) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd May (vide page 845), on motion by Mr. Manning -
.- It is useless to attempt to build an effective capital at Canberra without proper railway communication with the main southern line. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) by his motion invites the House to approve of railway connexion with the main southern line, but he has included a proviso, with which I do not agree, that the matter should be referred again to th Public Works Committee, so that it might report on the most favorable route. We have already had the chairman of the Public Works Committee (Mr. Gregory) saying that it is of no use to refer the matter back to that committee, since it could only come to the same decision as before, that is, one against the construction of a railway from Yass to Canberra. I do not intend to weary honorable members by resuscitating old arguments. The Federal Capital is being built at Canberra, and railway communication with it should be provided without delay. Honorable members should accept the responsibility of deciding that railway communication shall be immediately established between Canberra and the main southern line. I agree that the chairman of the Public Works Committee should not be asked to take that responsibility.
– In anything that is done honorable members must consider the Federal Territory Acquisition Act, which provides for a railway to Yass. “
– I sympathize with the honorable member for Swan in the unfortunate position in which he finds himself as chairman of the Public Works Committee, but he realizes that Canberra, as the future Federal Capital, must have railway communication.
– How does the honorable member propose to surmount the difficulty presented by the Public Works Committee Act?
– If the House agrees to the amendment that I am about to submit, that difficulty will be effectively overcome. I move -
That paragraph 2 be left out.
– I hops that the amendment will be carried.
– The Public Works Committee rejected the proposal on financial grounds, but if Parliament referred the matter back to the committee I think it would make a satisfactory report.
– I do not think it would, after your recent statement.
– The committee would regard such a resolution as a definite instruction.
– Parliament is to meet in Canberra in less than two years The construction of this line will occupy some time, and, in the interests of honorable members living in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia, it should be commenced as early as possible.
– The line would only save an hour and a half in travelling time, and would cost £750,000.
– I shall net be con.venienced by it, for I represent a Sydney constituency, but the convenience of honorable members who represent states other than New South Wales and Queensland should be considered. Without doubt, many deputations will visit Canberra on public business; public servants will be required to travel there frequently; and many visitors will go to it. These should all be considered. It is hardly fair that a city like Melbourne should be denied direct communication with the Federal Capital. Compared with the amount of money that has already been spent at Canberra, the cost of the line will be a mere nothing. We shall reduce the expense of establishing the Federal Capital if .we agree to construct this railway, for large quantities of building material will be carried from Melbourne on it. It will be no reflection upon the Public Works Committee if honorable members agree to the amendment, for the committee will undoubtedly accept the decision of the House as an instruction, and report accordingly. A railway is just as much a part o-f the equipment of Canberra as is a Parliament House.
– I trust that the House will consider the position very seriously before it agrees to the amendment. Very heavy expense is being incurred in essential works at Canberra. I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members who wish to rush the Government into building this railway. The Public Works Committee is now dealing with the question of constructing a building for the secretariat. I asked a series of questions of the Prime Minister recently in regard to this matter, and learned that so far there has been no consultation whatever by the authorities concerned to ascertain how many officers will be needed at Canberra in the early stages, or what arrangements must be made for their accommodation.
– The honorable member for Swan must confine himself to the amendment.
-I do not think honorable members who travel from states south of the federal. Territory will be greatly inconvenienced if the railway is not built at once, for I have no doubt that arrangements can be made with the New South Wales Government to put special Canberra carriages on trains from the south for the convenience of passengers travelling to the Federal Capital. Those carriages could be shunted off the main Hue at Goulburn, and run down to Queanbeyan into the Federal city- No change of trains would then be necessary, and. the journey would only take one and a half to two hours longer than if a direct line from Yass were built. That arrangement would be quite suitable in the early stages of settlement at Canberra. Honorable members who represent New South Wales constituencies should show a little more consideration than they are doing for their own state, for if the Yass proposal is adopted it will involve New South Wales in an expenditure of about £340,000, and the railway would not earn enough money in the next eight or ten years to pay for axle grease. When the Federal Parliament is established at Canberra, honorable members will be better able to estimate the measure of inconvenience involved by the arrangement I have suggested, and, if necessary, steps could then be taken to build the railway.
Motion (by Mr. Lister) put -
That the debate bo now adjourned.
The House divided.
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Order of the day called on for the resumption of the debate (vide page 980), on motion by Sir Elliot Johnson -
That, in the opinion of this House, with a view to removing the uncertainty which exists at the present time as to the authority for the publication of the Parliamenary Hansard, section 3 of the Parliamentary Papers Act should be amended to include Hansard among the documents authorized by Parliament to be printed and published.
Motion (by Mr. Marr)-
That the consideration of the order of the day be postponed until 24th July, - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Postponement agreed to.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Postponement agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Order of the day called on for the resumption of the debate (vide page 1,000), on motion by Mr. Jackson -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should immediately commence the construction of that section of railway line Oodnadatta-Alice Springs, as part of the NorthSouth Railway, and as recommended by the Public Works Committee.
Motion (by Mr. Jackson) -
That the consideration of the order of the day be postponed until 24th July. - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 3
Order of the day called on for resumption of the debate (vide page 697), on motion by Mr. Pratten -
That, in the opinion of this House, in view of the economic and financial position of the Commonwealth, and especially in relation to overseas exchange and credits, the Government should immediately initiate a policy calculated to rectify conditions which are penalizing our export trade and frustrating the beneficial effects intended to be produced by the national policy of tariff protection.
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) proposed -
That the consideration of the order of the day be postponed until 14th August.
– The honorable member may only speak as a personal explanation.
– I do so, Mr. Speaker. I understand that it is the invariable rule, when pairs are given, that they are only given in connexion with vital governmental measures, and not in connexion with private members’ business. Two honorable members from this side of the House absented themselves from the last division, believing that by so; doing they were honouring their promises to those with whom they had agreed to pair, but there is no reason why they should not vote in connexion with the next motion.
– Mr. Speaker–
– Is this a question of order ?
– Yes. Do I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs has moved that this motion be adjourned ?
– I understand that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) had secured the adjournment of the debate.
– On the question of order, the point raised by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) is not good. The invariable practice, has been to permit an honorable member responsible for business on the noticepaper, and in charge of it, to move that the order of the day be postponed to any date convenient to himself. It is then for the House to decide whether the postponement shall be agreed to. The action taken is strictly in order.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Postponement agreed to.
Debate resumed from 29th May (vide page 985), on motion by Dr. Maloney -
That this House is of opinion that the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act should be amended in order to provide for a destitute allowance to be made to all inhabitants who are destitute, so that any person making a statutory declaration (to a postmaster, Customs officer, or other appointed Commonwealth official, a schoolmaster, a union secretary, a magistrate, or other appointed individual) that he or she is insufficiently fed, clothed, or sheltered, shall be paid as soon as possible the sum of 15s. per week, and for each child 10s. per week, until relieved.
That the passing of the foregoing resolution be an instruction to the Government of the Commonwealth to bring in the necessary amending Act -
Upon which Mr. Marr had moved by way of amendment - “That after the first word “That” the following words be inserted : - “ in the opinion of this House, the question of amending the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, to provide for the payment of a destitute allowance, be referred to the Royal Commission that is inquiring into National Insurance for report.”
.- I have the right to speak to the amendment. I consider that for such an amendment to be moved is an impertinence, as it will hurt the feelings of every sensitive poor person in the community. No man in this House, if asked on a public platform if he believed that those who are really poor, destitute, hungry, and homeless, should be placed under a commission, to be tried God knows when, would dare to signify his approval. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will agree with me that the satirical philosopher was right when he said, “ If God had placed the making of the world in the hands of a commission, it never would have boon made.” For this House to carry this wicked and cruel amendment would be an indication to the public that members have neither kindly feelings towards suffering humanity, nor knowledge of the necessities of life. Why did not the honorable member endeavour to amend the motion by moving that after the word “ relieved “ at the end of paragraph 1, these words be added, “ for three weeks, to enable inquiries to be made by the Department of Old-age and Invalid Pensions in respect of such destitute cases “ ? I can quite understand that this House contains some members who, themselves,have never suffered want, and who probably doubt that other people are not so well placed as themselves, so far as this world’s goods are concerned. I hope some honorable member will move a further amendment so that the House will have something definite upon which to express its opinion. I have never asked a human being to surrender a conscientious conviction, but I resent very strongly the flippant amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parkes. I ask him, as the father of a family, and as one who fought in the war, to agree to some amendment which will achieve something for suffering humanity. I am informed that the very commission to which the amendment refers already has power to deal with this matter. The Victorian Parliament regularly voted a compassionate allowance, until the practice was discontinued during Sir William McPherson’s term as Treasurer. I have heard Sir Alexander Peacock resent the action of Sir William McPherson in discontinuing the compassionate allowance. A member of parliament, a clergyman, or a reputable merchant, could write to the Undcr-Treasurer that a certain family was in need, and immediately assistance was given, pending inquiry. That is all I desire the Commonwealth to do. I am sure that if the honorable member for Parkes will think of those who are destitute and without homes he will regret having proposed such a wicked and cruel amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Mahony) agreed to -
That the question he now put.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Make’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Original question as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Order of the day called on for the resumption of debate(vide page 498), on motion by Mr. O’Keefe -
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the necessity for the Commonwealth Government making provision for an adequate direct shipping service between Melbourne and Hobart.
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) proposed -
That the consideration of the order of the day be postponed until 14th August.
.- We are making a farce of parliamentary proceedings. I fail to understand, if honorable members postpone all the business. why there should be a private members’ day. Only one clay a month is now allowed for private members’ business, three other days allowed formerly having been taken away. I raised no objection to the curtailment of that privilege, because I realized the need for getting on with the country’s business. Yet on the one day a month when private members’ business is allowed honorable members refuse to proceed with the motions standing in their names. I suggest to the Prime Minister that some action is necessary. It would be better not to have a private members’ day than to waste the time of Parliament as we are doing to-day. There may be good reasons for the postponement of one or two motions, but when it is proposed to postpone all of them., and when it is borne in mind that they have been on the noticepaper for many weeks, one is led to the conclusion that they are intended merely ns placards for the electors. Those, honorable members who submitted them could not have been earnest about them. Honorable members should refrain from putting motions on the business-paper unless they intend to proceed with them when they have an opportunity. I can speak impersonally in this regard, for I have had only one item of private members’ business listed in the State or Federal Parliament. Rather than do as we are doing to-day, I would prefer to proceed with Government business. We shall soon be asked by the Government to meet on Tuesdays, and perhaps to sit all night. It is therefore foolish at this stage to waste time.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that it is unfortunate when private members’ business cannot be proceeded with, but I would remind him that on private members’ clay honorable members themselves are responsible for what is done. The adjournment of the debate was secured by Sir Austin Chapman, who was then Minister for Trade and Customs. There is now a new Minister for Trade and Customs, and it is natural that he should desire to look farther into thequestion before coming to a decision upon it. I feel sure that honorable members will realize that there is a very good and substantial reason why the motion cannot be conveniently proceeded with at this moment. The previous motion on the business-paper we have dealt with, and a vote has been taken on it. To illustrate the difficulty of proceeding with private members’ business in all cases, u motion by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen)-
– The honorable gentleman is not permitted to refer to that.
– I referred to it to remind the House that the honorable member for Riverina is absent through illness. I did not intend to refer to the subject of the motion. I doubt whether the House would readily accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government should take away the small amount of time still allowed for private members’ business.
.- At the beginning of this Parliament, over a year ago, I placed the motion on the notice-paper. It was fully discussed. I cited facts and figures that I thoughtwould enable the Government to make up its mind as to the wisdom or otherwise of agreeing to the appointment of the proposed committee. The motion has been postponed time after time, and the Prime Minister promised me last year that I would be given an opportunity to have a vote taken. I have not had that opportunity, and the motion still stands in my name. The people I represent, and to whom this is a vital question, are wondering what is the matter, and are asking why a vote cannot be taken. I am not permitted to discuss the merits of the motion now, but I have a right to demand a statement of the Government’s intentions. If the Government is not prepared to agree to the appointment of the committee, I should prefer to remove my notice of motion from the business-paper, and to take some other action to achieve my purpose. I should like to have a vote taken without further delay. I assume that if a vote is taken, I can rely on the support of my fellow members from Tasmania, and, in that event, the motion will probably be carried. This is not a party question. The committee would be required only to make an investigation, and its appointment would not involve the Government in any expense. It could complete its inquiry in a week. I am willing to allow the Government to choose the members of the committee.
– The honorable member is discussing the merits of the question.
– The appointment of a committee and the merits of the question are entirely different things. If the committee is appointed, it will investigate the merits of the question.
Motion (by Mr. E. Riley) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question - That the consideration of the order of the day be postponed - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Postponement agreed to.
Order of the day called on for the resumption of debate (vide page 502), on motion by Mr. Kill en -
That, in the opinion of this House, all government work should, as far as possible,be carried out by contract.
– In view of the absence of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) through illness, I move -
That the consideration of the order of the day be postponed until the 24th July.
– The reasons advanced by Ministers in requesting the postponement of motions are many and delightful. Sometimes the excuse given is that a Minister is sick, and when he is not sick thathe is new to the work.. When he is not new to office theexcuse is that he is too ill to go on with morions. If a Minister is neither sick, new, nor ill, he asks for an adjournment because somebody else is sick. I should like to know how many more reasons are to be furnished in support of such requests.
Motion agreed to; consideration postponed.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: “ in the opinion of this House a Royal Commission comprised of. three members of the House of Representatives and two members of the Senate should bo forthwith. appointed to investigate and report upon the administration of the Mandated Territory of
New Guinea, embracing “,e management of the Expropriation Board, and particularly inquiring into the disclosures recently made by Mr. John Ambrose Begley, late Senior Medical Assistant to the New Guinea Administration.”
I submit the amendment in no party spirit, but as an Australian, and as a member of this House who has visited the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. I was a member of the parliamentary delegation that went to New Guinea last September, and returned in October. That delegation had not sufficient power to cany out such an investigation as, in my opinion, is necessary. In the speech I am about to make I do not intend to father any of the accusations made by newspapers or individuals against the Administration or the Expropriation Board. I have been assured by some people that the charges are justified. Others say that there is a lot of truth in the accusations, while nobody from the Territory is prepared to assert that they are untrue. I have met some people who have returned from the Territory since Mr. Begley’s , disclosures were made, and they state definitely that the charges are substantially correct. For the good name of Australia there should be a royal commission appointed with full power to subpoena witnesses, take evidence on oath, and protect witnesses against victimization. Several officers, who are no doubt gentlemen of high character, have been sent to the Territory to report on various matters, but they have not been given the power to take evidence on oath. A royal commission would be clothed with ample powers. In the Commonwealth Gazette, No. 91, dated 27th September, 1922, regulations under the Public Service Ordinance for the Territory of New Guinea are published. Section 22 provides that an officer shall not publicly comment on any administrative action, or upon the administration of any department, or use for any purpose, other than the discharge of his official duties, information gained by him or conveyed to him through his connexion with the Public Service. Section 23 states that, except in the course of his official duties, no officer shall directly or indirectly give information concerning public business, or of any matters of which he has knowledge officially. One can readily understand that men in the Service who could make rather startling disclosures concerning the administration are afraid to have their names mentioned for fear of dismissal, but they say that they would be prepared to give to a royal commission evidence on oath which would prove that there has been maladministration in the Territory. Some of these officers served during the war in Europe, and others were engaged in New Guinea. They are good Australians. ‘They declare that their sole motive is to improve the administration with a view to the speedy development of the Territory along right lines. The land area of this territory is 90,000 square miles; its width from north to south is 450 miles, and its length from east to west 1,100 miles. One of the outposts is 600 miles, and another is 410 miles from Rabaul. In setting out to control a territory that was new to it, and which for 39 years had been administered by the Germans, Australia undertook a difficult task. I do not wish to detract in the least degree from the credit due to those who have done the pioneering work in the Territory. Any statements or suggestions I make will not be offered in a party or vindictive spirit, for I desire to be impartial in the matter. I base my request for a royal commission on the following grounds: - 1. Mr. Begley’s charges of ill-treatment to natives, extracts from which I shall read: the report; of Mr. H. E. A. Cameron, a medical assistant; and the report of the Commissioner for Native Affairs in the territory (Mr. Carden) referring to Mr. Begley’s charges. 2. The Administration’s unfair statement that no notice should be taken of Mr. Begley, because he was allowed to resign instead of being dismissed owing to suspicion of his being of unsound mind, a statement which a number of medical certificates by eminent specialists will disprove. 3. Lack of housing accommodation in the Territory; the pernicious chit system, which results in scores of young ] men getting intoxicants in Chinese hotels as long as they are sober enough to sign slips of paper, with all evil consequences ; the unsuitable methods of selecting district officers or police magistrates. 4. Allegations made by the Public Service Association at Rabaul against the Administrator in a letter to members of the parliamentary delegation in September, 1923. 5. A letter from the honorary secretary of the Kaewieng branch of the Re- - turned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. 6. General dissatisfaction amongst public servants and private citizens in the Territory. 7. In the best interests of the good name of Australia this Parliament should not be silent while grave and serious reflections are cast upon the Commonwealth’s administration of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. 8. Experience has shown that depart-, mental inquiries and official reports fail to elicit the evidence when no protection is afforded to the informants. Those grounds axe covered by many statements made to me by officials and others while I was in New Guinea, and numerous letters I have since received. Some of the people who spoke to me came to the hotel at night, so that no one would see them with me. They told me many things and asked me to move for a royal commission. I went to the Administrator about one particularly serious matter, but I shall not go into details about it, for to do’ so would cast serious reflections on officers who have relatives living in Australia. When I asked for files during my visit I was told that I had no power to demand their production. They had no authority to meet- my wishes. I had the greatest difficulty in obtaining authentic information. Certain people told me things in confidence which I had no facilities for investigating thoroughly. As this territory is now under the control of the Commonwealth Government, it is highly important, as I think even the Prime Minister will admit, that honorable members should take a keen interest in its administration. The territories under the control of the Commonwealth are - a Territories, originally parts of the states, which have been surrendered by the states to the Commonwealth, namely, the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Terri-tory; 6 territories not parts of the states, which have been placed under the authority of the Commonwealth by order in council under section 122 of the Constitution, namely, Papua and Norfolk Island; and c territories which have been placed under the administration of the Commonwealth by mandate issued by the League of Nations, which are the territories of New Guinea and Nauru. Nauru has to be administered in conjunction with the British and New Zealand Governments. Australia will have control for three years, the British Government for three years, and the New Zealand Government far three years.
Only territories of classes a and b are really permanent territories of the Commonwealth. Under the treaty made with Germany on the 28th June. 1919, which was ratified and came into force in January, 1920, Germany renounced, in favour of the principal allied and associated powers, all her rights and titles over her oversea possessions. By the Covenant of the League of Nations which is embodied in the treaty such of these colonies and territories as were inhabited by people not yet able to stand by themselves were entrusted to the tutelage of advanced nations. The council of the League of Nations constituted under the peace treaty issued to His Britannic Majesty, a mandate dated the 17th December, 1920, to be exercised on his behalf by the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia in respect of the former German colony of New Guinea and the former German islands situated in the Pacific Ocean and lying south of the Equator, other than the islands of the Samoan group. The islands lying north of the Equator, namely, the Marshall and the Caroline groups, were placed under the control of Japan by a similar mandate. The Treaty of Peace Regulations 1920-22 contain provision for vesting, as at the 10th January, 1920, in the public trustee, and subsequently in the custodian of expropriated properties all properties, rights, and interests within the territory of New Guinea of German nationals and charging the net proceeds of their sale, liquidation or other dealings with the payments as provided for by the Peace Treaty. In the Mandated Territory of New Guinea two important bodies are responsible for the control of the Administration and the expropriated properties. One of these is a Government department of approximately 230 officers, called the Administration, and the other is the Expropriation Board, with a staff of 300’. The administration of these territories has not been very expensive to Australia. So far, the only loans granted have been one of £10,000 recently made to Rabaul, and another of £10,000 granted by the Expropriation Board for medical services. When the sum of these two loans is compared with the sum of the administrative expense.1 incurred in respect of other Australian territories it does not appear to be very great. It was laid down that th;
Territory of New Guinea should be self-supporting, and an effort is being made to give effect to that provision. One of the chief grievances of the people in New Guinea is that they lack representation in this Parliament. They have no means whatever of giving expression to their wishes. They ask for an elective legislative council on adult franchise; and if possible a representative in this Parliament. I shall make some further reference to that on another occasion. In support of my request for a royal commission, I shall read several letters which I have received. ‘ I wrote to Dr. A. Honman, a Collins-street medical man, with reference to this matter. He was the chief medical officer in that territory for some time, and is a practitioner of high repute. I asked him to express his view on the proposal for the appointment of a royal commission, for I believe that he is keenly desirous to see the territory advance.
– He is well qualified to express an opinion.
– The honorable member for Newcastle knows Dr. Honman well, and can vouch for the value of his opinion. In reply to my letter, Dr. Honman wrote - Dear Mr. Forde, -
A special royal commission should he sent to New Guinea, accompanied by a business man of ability and a secretary with an intimate knowledge of local conditions. Before a royal commission, all evidence should be taken on oath - in justice to everybody. It would be useless for a man to take a round trip, as it is called. A stay of several weeks or months would be necessary for a complete investigation to be made. It is of much more importance that this should be done in the interests of Australia than that things should be covered up, and individuals, whether of high rank or ordinary officials, white-washed. Nothing short of this would satisfy the public.
The doctor is one whose word can be taken. The next letter is from a high official in Now Guinea, who is not in a position to disclose his name. To do so might mean the loss of his position. He writes -
It requires a master mind to deal with the situation. However well intentioned the present Administrator is, he is not big enough for the job. A cheap man is always unsuitable. You will have to pay a good man from £2,000 to £3,000 per annum. It is no good trying to cure the body of minor ills if you are going to allow the head to be in a diseased condition. A good Administrator could pull New Guinea out of the deplorable condition it is now in. The private citizen has no say at all in New Guinea. He is looked upon as so much dirt. ‘J hose people should be represented on a legislative council and an executive council to assist the Administrator. The present advisory committee is a farce. The advisers are heads of departments who are subservient to the Administrator and are afraid of him.
The next letter I wish to quote is from a man who has no grievance and whose sole reason for making any suggestions is that the Territory may be benefited. He wrote -
Premising that all diseases have symptoms and every disease a remedy, it follows that thorough expert investigation by a Royal Commission is needed to locate and provide the remedy.
Symptoms. - (1) Begley’s charges; (2) native affairs in relation to commercial progress; (3) discontent and inefficiency in the service; (4) signs of general stagnation.
Comments. - Begley’s charges and other matters can only be investigated by a Royal Commission, any other form of inquiry would be futile, a waste of energy, time, and money; (2) housing - many officers, married and single, are living in conditions of slumdom damaging alike to self-respect and physical well-being; the quarters provided for single men at the building known as Treasury flats are particularly bad and, indeed, intolerably so; such accommodation is not only uncomfortable, but is lowering to self-respect and results in rapid mental and physical deterioration, and also damages a white man’s prestige in the eyes of the natives.
Note. - The Treasury flats and other similar buildings were built without the sanction of medical authority, and, indeed, were condemned by such authority before completion. Owing to lack of privacy and quietness essential to the peace of mind and rest of .the body in the tropics, flats are altogether unsuitable, even if well planned, for single no loss than for married people.
Most of the buildings in Rabaul. particularly those of the administration, are in a state of abject decay. The effect is extremely depressing and harmful to the moral tone of the community, and also lowers the national prestige in the eyes of the natives and Asiatics, who, accordingly, we have reason for believing, place us on a much lower plane than the Germans.
The houses, however, of certain high officials are well and truly cared for.
Admittedly, the task before the Administrator is big and complex. A cheap man is worse than useless. Knowledge, high administrative ability, strong personality, and tact should be his. chief characteristics.
General Griffiths is a man who is respected, and commands confidence in the Territory.
General Rosenthal, who is a Sydney architect would also be highly acceptable.
The control of the Expropriation Board by the Administrator, and the consequent benefit financially and generally, would be possible if a master mind, m every sense of the word, were to control affairs.
I say, deliberately, that until such a man is appointed no alleviation of the conditions outlined, and a reform leading to commercial progress and financial stability, is possible, or is to.be hoped for.
The statements of those gentlemen were made with no other motive than that of patriotism to the Territory, and to Australia. I could read other similar opinions, but time “will not permit. These letters arc sufficient to show that there is a strong desire for the appointment of a royal commission to correct things that are not right at present. The opinions given are those of persons who are qualified to speak. I also wish to quote from a letter written by Mr. B. W. Sherman, honorary secretary of the Civil Service Association of Rabaul. He shows clearly that things are not right in New Guinea from the point of view of the Public Service generally. He sent a copy of this letter to each member of the parliamentary delegation, but the members of that delegation had neither authority nor power to make any investigation into the matters mentioned. The officials of the Territory, as a matter of fact, were frightened to be seen speaking with the members of the delegation, for they knew very well that if anything happened as the result of disclosures their superior officers would get rid of them at first opportunity. It is of no use to suggest that the high officials there are any different from high officials elsewhere. If one of the rank and file of the Service gave information which reflected upon his superiors he would be a marked man. But if a royal commission were appointed members of the staff would not bo afraid to tell the truth on oath, for they would know that they would be protected, and have no fear of victimization. Some of them said to me, “ If we gave evidence to a royal commission, we would have to speak the truth, because we would be on oath, and a royal commission would have power to deal with the Administrator or any one else who attempted to victimize us. Given the protection afforded by a royal commission we should be quite prepared to give evidence.”
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– Before the tea adjournment I was appealing to the Government on non-party lines to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the adminis tration of New Guinea. I have submitted this motion for the appointment of a royal commission in no party spirit, but because I believe it proposes the only satisfactory way in which to investigate the many grievances of which we hear from time to time from members of the Public Service and private individuals in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. If we are content merely to accept the denial of the Administrator, who is the accused person, to the charges that are made, we shall be lacking in our duty. I contend, not that all the charges which have been made are true, but that they should be investigated by a royal commission. I have read statements, not only from Mr. Begley and men in the Public Service, but also from others, and investigation by a royal commission is necessary to clear the atmosphere. The appointment of a royal commission would show the Assembly of the League of Nations that when rumours are current, and accusations are made, this Parliament is prepared to appoint a body clothed with ample power to carry out all necessary investigations. In my view there is greater justification for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the administration of New Guinea than, for instance, there was for the appointment of the Navigation Commission at the instigation of certain persons who desired to submit evidence to break down our navigation laws. Royal commissions have been appointed in connexion with many other matters that were not so important as this.
– Would the honorable member say what he considers the scope of the proposed royal commission’s inquiry should be?
– The commission should have all the powers that are usually given to a royal commission. It should be able to subpoena witnesses and take evidence on oath. It should investigate not only the administration of the Mandated Territory, but also the management of the Expropriation Board. Honorable members on the other side, as well as on this side of the House, have received letters from individuals in the Territory, making serious complaints, and asking for an investigation into them. I wishto assure the Prime Minister that in bringing this matter before the HouseI do so, not in order, to damage Australia, but to vindicate its good name. Serious allegations have been made against the administration of this territory, controlled by the . Commonwealth under a mandate of the League of Nations. They can only be probed by a royal commission having the power to subpoena witnesses and take evidence on oath. I believe that Australians have done a great deal to develop the Mandated Territory, and are making a better job of the task than could bo expected of inexperienced men from any
Other country. Any people taking over the administration of a Territory like New Guinea must for some time, and until they have gained experience, expect to make mistakes, but when definite charges are made against our administration of this Territory, a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into them. Persons have been sent up to the Territory to make inquiries, but they have not been invested with the power to subpoena witnesses, and as a consequence men who could give evidence have kept their evidence to themselves in order to retain their jobs. In other instances it is alleged that arrangements were made for certain individuals with favorable information to give evidence to whitewash the Administration. I am not submitting this motion only because of the statements which Mr. Begley has made. I do not know whether all these statements arc quite accurate. But I do know that everybody I spoke to stated that Begley was an honest, reliable man. All I ask is that his statements and the statements of others should be thoroughly inquired into. I ask the Prime Minister not to adopt the attitude of the Minister for Home and Territories who, in another place, merely read a statement dealing with statements which appeared in a Sydney newspaper. I do not intend to comment upon those statements, but I say that they should be inquired into, and justice should be done. I make the following extract from a letter by Mr. B. W. Sherman, which was handed to the parliamentary delegation on the occasion of their visit to the Territory in September. He says -
Tn Australia there is a ‘Parliament, press, independent people, and an articulate public opinion. Here there is no press, few independent people, and public opinion is not articulate. It must be remembered that the Government and Board officials, who are the majority of the European residents, are dependent on the Government. The planters, traders, and others who receive their licences and leases from the Administration are in the position that the enmity of the Administration may at least cause serious inconvenience. The powers of the Administration are vested in the Administrator, and to all purposes there is no appeal from him. . . Ho is free from the check which a press and articulate public opinion would place on his actions. . . Hundreds of returned men and other Europeans, and thousands of natives, are under the unsupervised control of the Administrator. The unsupported word of the Administrator is accepted as sufficient by the Department in Melbourne. . . His Honour has had no training in civil administration work, and his military career, brilliant as it was. would only tend towards despotism. This tendency has caused great unrest in the Service, and has, in our opinion, tended to make the Administrator less liable to listen to the advice of the technical advisers but to overrule them, as was done in the case of building the flats at the Treasury, and the boats recently built. . . . The flats are considered by the Service as the last resort to which they may be compelled to go to for accommodation, and when the then Director of Public Health held that all plans should be submitted to the Public Health Department for approval, the Administrator replied, in writing, to the effect that the greater included the less, and therefore his approval was sufficient. . . .
The position is that the civil servants, both senior and junior, are absolutely dependent on the Administrator, who is as yet comparatively new to the work given him. . . . Senior married officers are still more dependent on the Administrator. If a man incurs the dislike of the Administrator, the man and his family can be shut out by the Administrator from practically all the ‘social life of the Territory. In this way the senior married officers are even more dependent on the Administrator than junior officials. In the office and social life the Administrator can exercise a despotic authority. . . . Every one, although to a man in favour of something being done, is afraid to take any action, fearing the kick back from the Administrator. . . . The letter of the R.S. & S.I.Tj. of Australia to the Administrator and his reply speak for themselves. We say this is conclusive of the general opinion that’ the Administrator is a man who will victimize those who differ from or go against him. Given an inquiry, when evidence can be taken on oath, we can prove what we say. . . . We say that the power given to the Administrator has been exercised in such a way that members of the Service have in the past dared not object to actions which, in their opinions are a gross injustice.
The Association arc of opinion that the two and a half years’ of civil administration have shown -
If that statement is true, what chance is there that a man making an ordinary inquiry would bo able to secure evidence against the Administrator ? It is for this reason that I ask for the appointment of a royal commission. Mr. Sherman’s letter continues -
Membershave, at three general meetings this year, expressed this opinion. . . . Individual membersdare not give evidence under present conditions for fear of victimization. . . . We make a charge and call witnesses. The matter is then referred to the Administrator,who makes a statement we do not see, and on which we cannot cross-examine him, and on his own statement he is judged. As we have no faith in the impartiality of the Administrator, members do not feel that, under existing conditions, they would receive fair treatment, and that later they wouldsuffer by bringing forward what the Department in Melbourne, on the word of the Administrator, regards as a false charge. It must be remembered that members of the Service do not see the remarks the Adminstrator sends to the Minister. Eight months ago seventy-one members of this association, at which the majority of the permanent heads and senior officers were present, decided by secret ballot, without dissent, to ask for an inquiry into the causes of the discontent widespread throughout all ranks of the Service, and the meeting; stressedthe fact that the members were of opinion that the attitude of the Administrator to the Service was one of the main causes of the discontent, and asked for an inquiry by an outside person. . . . . . After articles appeared in a Sydney paper in June to the effect that practically every civil servant had a grievance, the Department, after submitting the matter to the Administrator, say, in the face of the motion passed by 71 members and the statements in the Sydney press, that the discontent is not widespread. The action of the Department has made it impossible to get members to allow their names to be used.
The letter is a lengthy one and deals with various matters but concludes in these terms -
In conclusion, we wish to emphasize -
That the lack of previous training, together with the tendency towards militarism, unfits the Administrator for such a big position, this being particularly shown by -
That is not a letter from one who was dismissed from the service in New Guinea. Mr, Begley does not appear in connexion with it at all. It is from Mr. B. W. Sherman, secretary of the Public Service Association at Rabaul, and the statements made in it demand the fullest investigation. I asked the Administrator for the file concerning one case, but he said that he had no authority to give it to me. The complaint from the Public Service Association was sent to the Minister, and in the course of the reply it was stated, inter alia -
With regard to the request of members of the deputation atRabaul that an inquiry be made into General Wisdom’s administration of the Territory, I am of opinion that justification for such an inquiry has not been established, and it is not, therefore, proposed to take any action in the direction indicated.
The Administrator was asked to report on these matters, and on his word no inquiry was granted. I have another statement here - from the honorary secretary of the Kaewieng branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League -
In forwarding the attached copy of a communication addressed to the General Secretary, Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League for your perusal and information generally, I have the honour by direction to ask for your co-operation and attention as far as possible to the several matters contained therein.
As regards reference to Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. therein I have to state that this Branch was responsible for the institution of proceedings against and the conviction of a Chinese - Tong Sam - for illegal trading on the lease at Bulgai, which is one of the leases taken up by the firm referred to, and that charges made, vide p. 2 of attached letter, were borne out by evidence given during the proceedings.
In the accompanying letter to the general secretary of the Returned Sailors and
Soldiers Imperial League in Australia the following statement appears: -
At a general meeting of the local Branch of the R. S. & S. I. League held on the 25th instant the following resolution was unanimously carried : - “ That this meeting of- returned men desire to express their dissatisfaction with the attempt to install Asiatics in competition with returned men on trading stations.”
That shows that the complaints cannot he classed as anti-Australian propaganda. These men are returned soldiers, who fought for the Empire, and who have the interests of Australia and of New Guinea at heart. They consider that they have -a grievance. The letter continues -
A Chinese hotelkeeper - Soo 1’ong - has made several contracts with Asiatics whereby the latter are to conduct these trading stations under a licence taken out in the name of Burns, Philp, & Co. Ltd. It is significant that this ‘Chinese (Soo Tong) himself and not this Company’s representative actually negotiated with the kanaka to secure the latter’s con-sent necessary for the allotment leases in question. The native was actually questioned by two members of the local Branch of the League, who found that the native did not know “or recognize Burns, Philp, & Co. in the matter, but Soo Tong only. Furthermore; there is no relation of employment between the Chinese actually operating these stations and Soo Tong, much less between them and Burns, Philp, & Co. Ltd. The Chinese in question state that they paid Soo Tong for their trading licences, &c, awl that Soo Tong was to advance them an instalment of trade goods on credit to enable them to make a start. All copra bags were to .be branded “BP” and delivered to Soo Tong, who would then continue to advance trade goods as a sot-off against copra. Here, again, it is obvious that these Chinese look to Soo Tong - whatever their real relation to him may be deemed to be.
What Soo Tong’s actual” terms are with Burns, Philp, & Co. cannot be stated yet with certainty, but it is reasonably sure that Soo long is acting virtually as a commission agent - all copra being ultimately delivered to Burns, Philp, & Co.’s representative here. In short, we contend that this firm, whose name is being used to secure trading sites and licences, are practically subletting to Asiatics. Of course, were this attempted directly it would obviously be illegal. It may be apposite to here mention that as this firm is in receipt of a subsidy of some £55,000 from the Australian Government for carriage of mails between Australia and this Territory, and have a virtual monopoly of freights, fares, &c., the Federal Government should be able to exercise some measure of control over this Company, especially as the experience of certain returned men who are making a bona fide attempt to settle in this District goes to show that this firm through its agents are not favorable to returned men settlers generally. Other instances of the Government’s intention being frustrated are the issue of three licences direct to Asiatics in their own name in this district.
At one time all the trading licences were issued to Chinese, but the returned soldiers made representations to the Federal Government, and it was then decided that after the 30th June, 1923, all the licences should be granted to them. They have since complained that Burns, Philp, and Company, through Soo Tong, engaged Chinese to compete unfairly with them. That is another phase of the discontent that exists. I shall not reiterate the complaints which appeared in- a Sydney newspaper, and which have already been referred to. The Government knows all Mr. Begley’s charges. I have not the time to repeat them. It is not my desire that Australia’s name shall be discredited before the members of the League of Nations. My sole purpose is to obtain a royal commission to investigate these charges. An effort was made by the Home and Territories Department to discredit Mr. Begley, who made certain statements. I have evidence to prove that Mr. Begley is a sane, honor.orable person. It may be wise for me to quote other gentlemen’s statements on this occasion. Here is a letter from Mr. H. E. A. Cameron, the medical assistant at the Longan General Hospital, Bahmatt Island, Ninigo Group-
– A very capable officer.
– Yes. Mr. Cameron states -
During the last two years 1 have seen both free kanakas and indentured labour brutally treated by some overseers both at Witu and Ninigo Group. At Witu I felt it my duty to report, in confidence, one or two eases to the late D.O. of Talasea, Col. Neligan, and regret to say that that official told the overseers, with the result that I was in hot water with the overseers, and called a pimp. Eventually I asked to be moved from Witu, and was sent to Longan in charge of the General Hospital here, and during my eight months here I have met some awful cases of brutal treatment to natives, several cases having to be treated in Hospital. One boy has been in Hospital IS!) days pending a Court case by the District Officer. This boy is still in Hospital. Only as late as January of this year, about the 14th, the boy Tatia was most brutally struck and knocked on the floor of the hospital, and his mouth made to bleed. Three or four days after this the same boy was struck across the face by his master.
I do not say thai the Administrator would condone that kind of thing. I do not think that he would, but he has to call for a report from the men who are responsible. Naturally, they deny the charges, and make counter charges against the man who gives the information. Any man who> gives information to the Administrator, or to any one in Australia, is branded by them as a “ pimp.” Every effort is made by the departmental officials to discredit every man who has the temerity to come to Australia and make known truths of which they do not approve. I have dwelt on none of the statements made by Mr. Begley to-day, because they are already known to disclose serious charges of brutal treatment of native men and women. I have quoted statements from the Returned Soldiers’ League, the Public Service Association, and Mr. Cameron. I shall now give a statement made by Mr. Cardew, Commissioner for Natives, to the Administrator regarding the allegations made by Mr. Begley -
A boy, Daren, who was previously indentured to Patrol Officer Wilkin, and who is now returning to Buka “ finish time,” substantiated the majority of Begley’s statements when 1 spoke to him in Rabaul. He also made a statement to me quite voluntarily as to certain affaire which occurred in the village of Burra Burra when he was present.
Buna. Burra was the native village which Begley said was burnt at the instigation of certain officials. Mr. Cardew’s statement continues -
Leaving Kaewieng we proceeded, to Manus, where I served a warrant on an official’ on a charge of “ Carnally knowing a girl under the age of seventeen years.”
On arrival at Matty the case was heard and the official was committed for triad at the Central Court, Rabaul, and the witnesses and interpreters were brought in on the Mataram
We next proceeded to Silio (Eitape), where Mr. Begley, Medical Assistant, came off to see mu. He made several charges against various officials, which are embodied in the Appendix hereto, but I told him I would only deal with them insofar as they concerned Native Affaire. He also desired me- to examine certain witnesses, but I told him I would lay his papers before the Administrator in Rabaul, and if I was so instructed I would institute an inquiry into Native Affairs of the Eitape District, when the boys he mentioned would bo thoroughly examined. If even a portion of Mr. Begley’s statements aire true the position seems to call for a full and thorough inquiry.
Mr. Begley, I am told, was never asked to appear before a tribunal of enquiry on these charges.
I desire now to deal with the statement of the Prime Minister to the press in the early part of last month, referring to certain allegations made concerning the Administration. On that occasion the Prime Minister said -
It will he remembered that at about this period last year there was a campaign of slander against the Administration of New Guinea, which occurring us it did, just prior to the annual meeting of the Permanent Mandates Commission, constituted under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, gave rise to the apparently well-founded suspicion that it was designed to prejudice Australia in the eyes of the League. … It is, therefore, a most significant fact that there should be a recrudescence of this campaign just prior to the forthcoming meeting of the Permanent Mandates Commission, which it is expected will be held about the end of the present month.
I do not blame the Prime Minister personally, or say that he thinks that any thing said against the Territory or its administration is anti-Australian propaganda. The officials prepared the statement and always hide behind that charge when accusations axe made.
– I was accused of that.
– I am as good an Australian as any honorable member in this chamber, and would not willingly do anything to discredit Australia’s name. My request for the appointment of a royal commission is to vindicate the honour of Australia. If any men are guilty of maladministration, they should be brought to book. Why should we allow these accusations to go unchallenged ? The person responsible for the articles in the Sydney Daily Telegraph last year was Mr. M. H. Ellis, whom I know personally. I have nothing to say against Mr. Ellis except that he does not support the party to which I belong ; but that is not a matter of much moment. He is a prominent Nationalist. In Queensland he was the publicity officer of the Nationalist party, and occupied the position of secretary to the Nationalist Leader of the Opposition. Afterwards he was secretary to the Country Party Leader. Subsequently he was appointed to the staff of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and was sent to New Guinea as a special commissioner. He made serious allegations against the administration there, and against the Expropriation Board. He was much, perturbed when his allegations were branded as anti-Australian propaganda, and interviewed the Prime Minister to explain that he had no desire to damage the name of Australia in anyway. The Prime Minister recognized that that was so. Yet it is still stated that any adverse comment on New Guinea is anti- Australian propaganda. This is what was published in the Age as a statement- from the Prime Minister regarding Begley -
The Minister for Home and Territories has received a preliminary report from the. Administrator of New Guinea, which disclosed the fact that the person to whom the statements are attributed is no longer an officer of the New Guinea Service, having recently been permitted to resign from the service as an alternative to dismissal for discreditable conduct, the only reason for not taking the serious step of dismissal being that a medical report had raised a doubt as to Mr. Begley’s mental condition.
He is greatly concerned about that, because his friends had read that he is of doubtful mental condition. In another place the Minister for Home and Territories made the following statement: -
When the first of the articles containing the allegations by Begley appeared, a summary was communicated to the Administrator of New Guinea by radiogram. An interim reply has been received from the Administrator containing, inter alia, the following particulars respecting the termination of Begley’s services : - “ Cilento (i.e., Dr. Cilento. Acting Director Public* Health, New Guinea) recommended discontinuance services on ground of doubtful mental condition and extraordinary actions Sepik River. Begley engaged crusading (against) fellow officers.
Those fellow officers were the ones against whom he made the accusations. The same things, in different form, were told to me when I was there, but I had no means of investigating them, and, therefore, said nothing. The report continued -
Many case3 charges already proved unfounded. Strongly indicated religious mania combined with dipsomania. … On receipt rambling report District Officer instructed investigate and discovered Begley, Freeman, Wilkin, concerned drunken fracas causing terror natives. All three removed Rabaul where result of inquiry Freeman, Wilkin dismissed; Begley, in view Cilento’s report, permitted resign.”
Begley states that on the evidence of two men who were dismissed from the Service certain accusations were made against him, but that there was no inquiry. He was given leave to December of this year and resigned of his own accord; he was not dismissed. The statements against his character were made by men concerning whom he had made serious allegations which I shall not repeat, because those men have relatives in Australia. The Minister for Home and Territories read a plausible statement in the Senate in the course of which he said that a deliberate attempt was being made by certain people to damage the credit of Australia. He quoted paragraphs from a Sydney newspaper and referred to a man named Murray, who was supposed to have corroborated something that Begley said, and added that Murray had attempted to commit suicide. It was not Murray but Armstrong, I am told, who said he could corroborate those statements. The Minister was only begging the question, and I feel sure that the Prime Minister will not resort to tactics of that kind. Certain other men, including Captain Thompson, were discredited in order to prove that these allegations against the administration are faked. Mr. Begley did not bring those men into it at all. Why try to discredit him if any of them have not got a good record. I am assured that the correspondence between Moorhouse and Begley was initiated by the former. The Prime Minister stated to the press that Begley was suspected of being mentally unsound, and the Minister for Home and Territories said that he was allowed to resign because of his doubtful mental condition. Begley is an Australian citizen, and has a right to have his grievances heard : but he cannot expect them to be sympathetically investigated by an administration against whom he has made certain charges. He certainly has a good case for defamation against the Federal Government. Begley was a private in the army medical corps attached to the 57th battalion. He was three years at the war, serving in France and Flanders. His father and mother are native born Australians who reside in New South Wales. He is receiving a half pension on account of gun shot wounds. Half his kneecap was knocked off, he had a flinch wound in the knee and a bullet in the shoulder. After he returned to Australia, he was a convalescent at Georges Heights Military Hospital, Sydney, which housed 1,000 patients, and he became senior orderly in charge of the whole hospital for eighteen months. Later when the Georges Heights hospital was closed he was transferred to Randwick, and remained there for eleven months as chief dresser for all the specialists. The adjutant then informed him that there were vacant positions in Rabaul, and lie would have pleasure in recommending him for an appointment there. Begley went to the Territory on 30th August, 1920, and left on 12th May, 1924. During the four years he was without a holiday. For some time he was applying for leave, and received no reply until after the assault case, when he was told that leave was not granted pending the hearing of the charges. I have medical certificates from men who are in a position to say whether or not Begley is of unsound mind. Dr. R. R. Stawell, of 45 Spring-street, Melbourne, who is a mental specialist and one of the first six medical men in Melbourne, has written. -
This is to certify that on the 13th June, 1924, I made a special neurological and mental examination of Mr. John A. G. Begley. I find that he shows no sign of any abnormality; and I am of opinion that his mental condition is normal in every respect.
The following is an extract forwarded to me by a medical man in the Territory, who thinks that Bagley is not being treated fairly -
B,e Mr. Begley, ho was under me for some time. The opinion that I formed was thai; he was a most competent man and a man who in addition was not afraid of work. lie had the knack of making natives take an interest in any work they had to perform, the result being that no driving was necessary. The natives had a big respect for him, and carried out his instructions promptly but without fear. As regards his medical knowledge, I considered he had reached a high state of efficiency for a medical assistant. His knowledge of medicine had in no way spoilt him, for he was always eager and ready to accept advice.
This letter is from Dr. A. Honman, of 65 Collins-street, late Director of Public Meal th in New Guinea - 11th June, 1924. 1 have examined Mr. J. A. Begley. I find him perfectly sane. It is extraordinary that any doubt should be thrown upon his mental condition.
Dr. J. W. O’Brien, of 456 Lonsdalestreet, Melbourne, who was second in command and Acting Principal Medical Officer in New Guinea from February, 1921, to January, 1922, wrote on the 12th June, 1924 -
Mr. John A. P. Begley consulted me this morning, requesting certificate as to his mentality. I have had exceptional opportunities of testing his mental condition as 1 served with him on the public health staff in the Mandated Territory of the Near Pacific Islands in 1921, and saw him practically every day for at leastfour months. I have no hesitation in certifying that he is now and always has been a very observant and careful officer, meticulously accurate in his work in hospital and in the field, a strict disciplinarian to those under his charge, sober, honorable, and honest in all 1 saw of him, and kindly and self-sacrificing in his attitude to the sick and suffering in his capacity as chief of the hospital staff of orderlies, white and black, in the native hospital, Rabaul.
In a letter written to me, Dr. O’Brien said- John Begley was under my observation whilst on service with the Public Health Department in New Guinea. He was my chief white orderly in a small-pox scare in mid 1921, ana it was mainly through his personal efforts that the east coast of the Mandated Territories of New Guinea was vaccinated by him under my instructions. He is, to my mind, a man to be absolutely trusted. I found him a particularly careful officer, always sober, and meticulously careful in the many duties apportioned to him.
I have here another statement from a person in New Guinea who worked with Begley, and knows him well -
Begley is a good man with the natives. He stands for their protection, first, last, and all the time. You could not say that Mr. Begley is insane. Any man away up the Sepik River, hundreds of miles from civilization for a long period without associating with whites is liable at times to become a little abnormal, but I have always found Mr. Begley quite normal, intelligent, and sane.
The following letter was sent to the principal medical officer at Rabaul from R. N. Glasson, M.S. Wunatali, Marienberg, on the Sepik river - Dear Sir,
I hereby wish to tender my appreciation of the splendid help your officer, Mr. Begley, lias been in the care of our recruited natives,’ in so far as their health is concerned, while travelling on this schooner, and also since we have billeted them ashore here. If ho had not been on the river I feel pure that we should have lost quite a number of them during an outbreak of heavy colds. Not only am I praising Mr. Begley for his help to us, but also for the splendid work ho did whilst with us for the natives, both on the main river and also on tho tributaries visited by us.
An ex-employee of the Territory named R. P. Grigsby writes of Mr. Begley as follows: -
Mr. Begley was for some time in various responsible positions which be hold to the satisfaction of the then departmental heads. At all times his ability was unquestioned, and he was well respected by all those with whom he came in contact. He was of temperate habits, and quite normal.
The letter continues in the same appreciative strain. As Mr. Begley’s allegations are well known I have not dwelt on them to-day, but have confined myself to the statements by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, the Public Service Association, H. E. A. Cameron, Mr. Cardew, and the testimonials which show that Begley was held in very high repute by medical officers. I have spoken to other medical officers in the Territory, who, while corroborating the evidence I have read, arc not prepared to allow their names to be used lest their positions should bo prejudiced. I submit that I have made out a good case for the appointment of a royal commission. I, in company with other members of this Parliament, went to New Guinea as a delegation, because we th ought it right that legislators for the Commonwealth which controls that Territory should familiarize themselves with it and learn what is taking place there. But we had not the investigatory powers that would be enjoyed by a royal commission. I suggest that instead of allowing members to go to the Territory as tourists they should be given the responsibility and status of a royal commission to investigate these allegations. I do not say that they would find that all the allegations are true, but I am confident that a great improvement in the administration of the Territory would result. Mr. Begley has been most unfairly treated. He has been branded as disreputable, insane, and unreliable, and, while ho may get some redress by an action at law for defamation of character, he asks that he be allowed to vindicate his reputation before a royal commission. As an Australian citizen he is entitled to that opportunity. I am not a sponsor for any of his charges, but I ask that a royal commission be appointed to probe them to the bottom, and vindicate the good name of Australia. Australians are the people best qualified to control that Territory, and if a royal commission is appointed to investigate these allegations and see that wrongs are righted, the League of Nations will recognize that our administration is honest and sincere. As my time h exhausted I must now con clude, but. 1 shall have something more to say at a later date.
– I second the motion.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has stated his case with moderation, and has shown a considerable appreciation of the grave and serious responsibility that rests upon us in the Mandated Territories, because of the fact that their administration has been entrusted to Australia by the nations of the world through the agency of the League of Nations. Whilst the Government cannot acquiesce in the appointment of a royal commission, I appreciate the reasons which have caused the desire for such an investigation. But the honorable member, in presenting his case to the House, overlooked a number of pertinent facts. Most of us are aware of the recent history of the Mandated Territories and the attacks which have been made upon Australia’s handling of the trust reposed in her by the League of Nations, and upon the administration of the expropriated properties. I shall remind the House of what has occurred during the period in which this mandate has been held by the Commonwealth, and I shall have a few words to say about the actual work done in New Guinea by the Australian Administration to show that the interest and welfare of the natives have been safeguarded in every possible way. But, before doing that, I would remind honorable members of some recent history. About twelve months ago numerous charges were made in the press of Australia against the administration of the Territory, which was accused of ill-treating the natives. Those articles were fully discussed in this House on several occasions. Following upon the publication of the articles, I dealt very fully in this House with the charges made, for the Government is very jealous of Australia’s honour in regard to the manner in which we are administering the Territory. I delivered a very long speech on the subject, and I can well remember the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) asking, in the course of it, whether it was necessary to deal with all the minor charges levelled against the administration. On the present occasion I do not intend to reply to all the charges that have been made. Many of those made twelve months ago were proved to be quite frivolous and unwarranted, but the Government selected those that were obviously of a serious character, and those that alleged maltreatment of the native population, and made them the subject of a special inquiry by Mr. Canning. It is now suggested that his investigation was useless because the people who knew the facts, being apprehensive of what might happen to them if they stated the truth, did not come forward to give evidence.
– They had every justification for their fear.
– I ask the honorable member how the position would be materially altered by the appointment of a royal commission. We all understand what a royal commission is, and we know that witnesses who give evidence before one are protected. But the honorable m ember for Capricornia suggested that deliberate, if not overt, action would be taken against any one who gave evidence at “Mr. Canning’s investigation, and, if that statement be true, I think that the same influences would operate in connexion with any type of inquiry. T do not agree with the honorable member’s view that Mx. Canning’s investigation was not thorough, or that an opportunity was not given to every one to bring facts forward and state them publicly in the fullest possible manner. One person who was interested in the allegations contended that the scope of Mr. Canning’s inquiry was too wide, seeing that he was instructed not merely to investigate the charges that had been made, but also to ascertain whether there were grounds for any other charges. When that objection was made to me, my reply was that the Government, besides being concerned with the charges made in a newspaper or by an individual, had the great responsibility of ensuring that there should be no possibility of the maltreatment of natives. I said that we had to assure ourselves and satisfy the public conscience that nothing had been done to the detriment of the natives. The holding of an investigation by Mr. Canning was the proper thing to provide for. Similar charges have again been made, and have been given wide publicity by one newspaper. They cover things that happened before the investigation by Mr. Canning, and it was obviously open to Mr. Begley, who has made them, to state the facts at that inquiry, yet none of the allegations now made came to light at the inquiry. It was only after this gentleman had left the service that he proceeded to make his accusations. One newspaper, just as happened twelve months ago, has published charges about the treatment of the natives, based on information furnished by one individual. I submit to the common sense of the House the question whether the Government could have done more, when charges had been made, than send to the Territory a special investigating magistrate with judicial training to hear evidence from any one who wished to put the facts before him ? That inquiry having shown that the charges were unfounded, we cannot be expected to continue to appoint investigating magistrates or royal commissions every time a fresh charge is made. The Government is very anxious to ensure by every possible means that there shall be no ground for complaint against Australia of bad treatment of natives or maladministration of the Territory. I spoke of Mr. Begley in this House recently. I shall not now go into that matter again, particularly as the honorable member who moved the motion has not pressed it, or dealt with the charges Mr. Begley made ; but even in view of the statements of the honorable member about the effect of living far from civilization, as Mr. Begley has done on many occasions, the charges made by him are not such as to justify immediate action in holding another inquiry. I hope that the honorable member, who has been so sincere in bringing the subject forward, will not think that I am brushing it lightly aside, but I wish to bring under his notice one fact that seems to render the appointment of a royal commission at this time quite unnecessary. After the discussion in this House last year, and because of the desire of the Government to remove any possible doubt that might exist, a cablegram was sent to the British Government asking.:it to make available to us the services of an officer with a life-long training in the handling of native populations. The British Government responded to the request and made available to us the services of Colonel Ainsworth, who is at present in the Territory, and will shortly return to Melbourne to prepare his report to the Government on the state of the administration. Until we have received that report it would be premature to appoint a royal commission. Colonel Ainsworth is a very experienced officer.
– Is he dealing with the natives only?
– He is inquiring into the work of the administration only, but not into the management of the expropriated properties. There is frequently a confusion of the ordinary administration of the Territory and the administration of the expropriated properties. They are two entirely different things. To a great extent the honorable member for Capricornia dealt with the ordinary administration of the Territory, and that is what 1 am speaking of now. This borrowed officer has been in the mandated territories for some time. He received instructions to make an impartial investigation of the administration, and to report fully and frankly to the Government. We have given him the widest possible powers; he can inquire in any direction he desires, and can obtain all the information he can possibly need in order to form a sound judgment upon the way in which Australia is discharging its trust. We must wait until we get that report; but I can assure the honorable member that if there is any indication of anything warranting the appointment of a royal commission to conduct a further investigation, or any suggestion that something more ought to be done to promote the welfare of the natives or to administer the Territory better, the Government will not hesitate to do what is required. It appears to the Government that at this moment it would be premature to appoint a royal commission. We base that decision upon a wide survey of the situation. Improvements may be desirable in matters regarding which no charges have been made. I appeal to the House to await Colonel Ainsworth’s report, and I suggest to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), that he will have other opportunities during the session to bring forward matters that, in his opinion, require further consideration. The Government cannot agree to appoint a royal commission at this moment. The honorable member has referred to the Administrator, whom he has described as “ autocratic.” He said that the Administrator’s military career had unfitted him for the position which he occupies. The honorable member has somewhat changed his views on that subject. I remind him of what he said when he returned from New Guinea when the administration of the Territory was fresh in his mind. He said then that what was really preventing the proper administration of the Territory was that it was completely in the hands of a bureaucracy in Melbourne. He pointed out that when the Germans administered it, the Governor had almost complete and absolute control, being unfettered and unhampered, and he seemed to suggest that Australia should conduct its administration in the same way. To-day, he says that the Administrator has too much power, which he is exercising autocratically.
– I was merely reading thai opinion of the secretary to the Public Service Association.
– The honorable member had previously referred to the communication he had received from the Public Service Association in New Guinea, but I understood from his speech this evening that he was endorsing what the association had said. Perhaps I was wrong Possibly the honorable member still holds the view that the administration is strangled by the bureaucracy in Melbourne. The honorable member appears to have adopted two different attitudes, or else, having quoted the communication he received from the Public Service Association at Rabaul, he totally dissociates himself from the statements contained in it. At all events, he did not make his position quite clear. But I do not wish to stress any minor point of that character; I merely desire to state plainly the attitude of the Government in regard to the administration. The Government recognizes the responsibility for placing the administration on the best possible basis. It has not hesitated to admit the great difficulties in the way of establishing a service for the administration of a native territory, seeing that Australia has never previously had such a task entrusted to it. Steps had not been taken to train a civil service with the necessary qualifications for handling a native population. But on the evidence that the Government has before it - and I was glad to hear the honorable member for Capricornia endorse this view - it must be admitted that, under most difficult circumstances. and with no trained personnel, the administration has, on the whole, been creditable to Australia; for great initiative in coping with a new and difficult problem has been displayed. Although we think that Ave have done well, yet, when charges arc made that something improper has been done, or that the administration has not been of the high standard we desire, Ave have taken steps to ascertain the facts, so that, if possible, the administration may be improved. We not only sent Mr. Canning to the Territory to conduct an official inquiry, but Ave gave an opportunity to any honorable member of the House to go to New Guinea and make himself familiar with the conditions there. Further, we requested the British Government to lend us one of its most able administrators, who was experienced in dealing with native population?. We expect, shortly, to receive his report, but until it comes to hand we do not intend to appoint a royal commission. If, after that report has been received. it is thought that the appointment of a royal commission is desirable, the Government will not hesitate to take the necessary action.
The expropriated properties present an entirely different problem. The allegation was made that these properties were being mismanaged, unci that Australia was incurring great responsibility by the manner in which it was allowing them to deteriorate. Representations were made that action should be taken to ascertain the true state of affairs. Upon those representations the Government appointed a firm of auditors in Sydney, Messrs Yarwood, Vane and Company, to make an investigation of the matter, and I think that honorable members Wl 11 admit that no firm of accountants has a higher standing in Australia than that selected for the work.
– It had no power to inquire into the administration.
– Of course, the firm was appointed only to investigate the management of the expropriated properties. Associated with it was an expert in tropical agriculture, who accompanied the representative of the firm to New Guinea. Honorable members have had an opportunity of perusing the report presented, and no one who has carefully studied it will deny that, according to the opinion of this firm, the manner in which the properties have been administered is, on the whole. quite as satisfactory as could have been hoped for in the exceptional circumstances. Certain suggestions were made in the report as to what should be done in future, and if these representations were acted upon the expenditure of a large sum of money would be incurred. Whether or not these suggestions should be adopted is a question for consideration by Parliament at a later date. I refer to that report at the present juncture merely to indicate that everything possible has been done by the Government to determine whether the expropriated properties are being properly administered, and whether any action should be taken to improve the manner in which they are handled. No useful work could be done by appointing a royal commission to inquire into the administration of those properties. I know that certain honorable members have views concerning the way in which the expropriation was carried out and the treatment of the people from whom the properties were expropriated, but that is not the matter that has been dealt with by the honorable member for Capricornia. I can only say regarding it that the fullest investigation has already taken place. Most of the disputes with the former German owners were settled some time ago. Nine months ago 1 asked how many cases were outstanding, and a special board was appointed to dispose of them. There can be no doubt that the fullest consideration was given to those cases, and a reasonable measure of promptitude was shown by the Government in clearing up a position that had existed for some years by the appointment of the board about October of last year. In view of the report that the Government has just received from Messrs. Yarwood Vane and Company making definite recommendations as to what should be done, Ave feel that there is nothing that would warrant the appointment of a royal commission to consider the care and development of the properties. I do not think any honorable member would suggest that such a commission should be sent to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea to ascertain whether even-handed justice has been meted out to the persons from whom the properties were expropriated. It is always possible to make representations in regard to individual cases. If it can be shown that anything in the nature of injustice has been done in any case, the Government is quite prepared to reconsider it and determine whether any further action should be taken. I have mentioned the only possible way in which the question of the administration of the New Guinea Territory can for the moment be approached, and the only reasons on which the appointment of a royal commission could be justified. As to-day is set apart for the ventilation of grievances, I do not propose to dwell on the subject to anything like the extent I should like to do, but it is well to remember what has been done by the administration for the betterment of the condition of the natives and for the general welfare of the Territory. Honorable members should read the reports prepared year by year for the information of the mandates commission of the League of Nations. These reports show at great length exactly what is being done there, and they indicate a record of considerable achievement, for they show that the condition of the natives has been considerably improved. At the very most, all that has been alleged, even by the severest critic of the administration, whether he has written newspaper ‘ articles or has given the information upon which newspaper articles have been based, is that in individual cases certain things have been done, and individuals concerned in the administration have been guilty of conduct, which nobody would suggest for a moment any Government of Australia would endorse. All that has been alleged by any of the critics is that in certain instances excesses have been permitted and injustices perpetrated against the natives. If such charges can be established it is essential that a full inquiry shall take place. We should remember that the administration visits heavy punishment upon any member of the service who is convicted of acting as has been alleged. But we should not allow our judgment of the way a great task is being performed in the Territory to be prejudiced by such charges as have been made. Even if some of them were proved to be well founded, it would not offset all that stands on the credit side in the improvement of the health, education, and general welfare of the native population of New Guinea. I ask honorable gentlemen, when dealing with this question, to consider the importance of their remarks. If they feel compelled to speak of improper things that are alleged to have taken place, or to be taking place, I trust that they will remember to give credit to the administration for the very great service that has been rendered to the native population since Australia took charge of New Guinea.
.- I had occasion, last year to refer to the matters which have been dealt with by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), and it is not necessary for me to go into the subject again in detail. I do not say for one moment that all is wrong in Now Guinea, but honorable members on both sides of this House continually receive information which proves that all is not well there. It is because they recognize that Australia has a big task in administering the territory that they exhibit diffidence in making disclosures which may besmirch her fair name. I know nothing about the affairs of Mr. Begley, but I am in a position to say that the reason why the local residents are not prepared to come forward ;ind make definite charges in. respect to maladministration is that something serious happens to every one who dares* to do so.
– Would not that happen even if a royal commission were appointed ?
– It is time that the Government took steps to protect people who give such information. ‘ When I was in the Mandated Territory the president of the Returned Soldiers’ Association boarded our steamer at the Island of Manus and asked me to receive a small deputation of two returned, men who had some complaints they wished to make to the authorities. I was not looking for trouble, and I asked one of the officers of the Expropriation Board to go with me. He said that he was too busy to do so. There happened to be a young officer on board who had not ceased to drum into my ears praises of the Expropriation Board. He was ashore. The two men made the ordinary complaints respecting living conditions, the necessity for mosquito doors, and so on. Soon (after they began to speak the young officer commenced to interject, although he had nothing whatever to do with the matter. I asked the deputation to put. their complaints in writing, which they did. It is significant that in consequence of information given to the authorities by the young officer, one of the members of that deputation was sent south in the boat that followed the one I was on. When things like that happen, people cannot be expected to give information. Subsequently I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) for the papers in the case, and they were placed on the library table. Air. Ellis, whose name has been mentioned in this discussion, was in Melbourne at that time. He was present at the deputation. I asked, him whether some of the statements that that young officer alleged that the returned soldier had made to me had really been made by him, and Mr. Ellis said that they had not. It is of little use for the Government to send Mr. Canning, or any body else, to New Guinea to make inquiries unless protection is given to the people who give information. I wish now to bring a matter under the notice of the Minister for Defence. Some little time ago I asked him why the Navy Department had given increased orders for coal from Wales for the use of our navy. It is well known that small quantities of coal were imported in years gone by, and placed at certain points on the coast as a reserve for war purposes, but lately a tremendous quantity has been landed right at Newcastle, the home of the Australian coal industry. The Minister said that this coal was for war reserves. When I was in Newcastle last week-end I ascertained that that coal had cost £2 12s. per ton landed in Newcastle, and that after having been dumped there it was reshipped in the Biloela and taken away north, where our vessels were cruising, It can hardly be argued, therefore, that it was for war reserves. When the French naval vessels were cruising in Australian waters they used Australian coal, and so did the vessels of the American Navy. If our coal was good enough for them it surely ought to be good enough for our own navy. There is no need whatever to bring coal from the other side of the world for naval purposes. I would like to know who lied to the Minister by telling him that this coal was for war reserves. There must have been some lying, for the coal was used in ordinary cruising. Many mines in the Newcastle district are unable to obtain sufficient trade to maintain full production, and it is ridiculous that coal should be imported. The Navy Department should be compelled to use Australian coal. It is scandalous that the importation of Welsh coal at a cost of £2 12s. a ton should be permitted when an . equally good article is obtainable locally at a lower price. I’ do not know what this coal cost after reshipment to Thursday Island and other places. The practice of importing coal should be stopped, and I assure the Minister that I shall not rest until the right thing is done, and our navy is compelled to use Australian coal. It should not be allowed to waste the people’s money and do injury to our local industry by importing coal.
.- The Welsh coal to which the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has referred was not used by the Royal Australian Navy ships on its northern cruise. I repeat what I told him before, that not one ton pf Welsh coal was used in our boats on that cruise. Australian coal was used. The only shipment of coal taken from the reserve stocks was taken at the request of the Admiralty, and was for an Admiralty ship which is at present in Australian waters. Our arrangement with the Admiralty is that while vessels of the Royal Navy are in Australian waters the requisitions of the captains of those vessels shall be honoured. This particular vessel had been using New Zealand coal from Westport, but the officer in command reported to the Admiralty that it was not suitable to the vessel’s furnaces. The Admiralty thereupon requisitioned 200 tons of Welsh coal on a repayment basis for its own vessel. We had no control over that vessel, and had to honour the Admiralty requisition. The only other parcel of Welsh coal that has been taken from reserves was a few tons that was brought down to Flinders Naval Base for testing purposes. It is being tested to ascertain whether there has been any depreciation. As a matter of fact, the Royal Australian Navy vessels on their northern cruise tried Queensland coal, which they shipped in Brisbane, and the results, I understand, were very good. It is proposed later to pick up more Queensland coal at Gladstone. The “Welsh coal is purely and simply a reserve for war purposes, and is provided because it gives 2 or 3 knots an hour more steaming power than the best Australian coal. Welsh coal has not been, and will not be, used in the Australian Navy for ordinary peace services.
– I applaud the honorable member for Capricornia. (Mr. Forde) for bringing forward this matter to-night. I feel very keenly for the people in New Guinea, because I have lived for twelve or fourteen years under a similar system of administration. I was surprised that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) did not have something to say in connexion with the statements touching the sanity of Mr. Begley he previously made, and which were refuted by the honorable member for Capricornia. Doubt as to the sanity of Mr. Begley was assumed by the Prime Minister here, and by the Minister for Home and Territories in another chamber, as sufficient reason to dismiss his allegations. Yet we now learn that the finest mental specialists we have in Australia have certified that Mr. Begley is not insane, and we have had no apology from the Prime Minister for what he said on the subject. This matter is in itself a sufficient justification for the appointment of a royal commission. Having had experience of a similar system of administration, I know what can be expected under the present regime in New Guinea. We heard a lot to-night about the Canning inquiry. I have known of similar inquiries in the Northern Territory. Commissions on all fours with the Canning commission have been sent to the Northern Territory, and as soon as the commissioner arrived he lived with the Administrator. When his inquiry was over for the day he went driving with the Administrator, and his environment from the time he came until he went away from the territory was conducive to findings by him desired by the Administration. The sending of any commission to New Guinea that is not vested with the full powers of a royal commission will only be followed by similar results. The Prime Minister laboured the statement that, although he made charges, Mr. Begley did not come forward to substantiate them at the Canning inquiry. As a matter of fact, he was 100 miles up the river, and it was not possible for him to attend the inquiry. I have had past experience of this very old trick in connexion with all sorts of inquiries into matters of administration. I have known of repeated instances where responsible officers who were material witnesses in an inquiry were at the psychological moment sent to places far away from where the inquiry was being held. In connexion, again, with the question of Begley’s sanity or insanity, I may say that for many years in the Northern Territory there was but one doctor in control of medical affairs. He could certify that any man in the territory was insane, and could, have him nut into an asylum and kept there. Similar conditions appear to have prevailed in New Guinea, and it is highly improper that members of the medical fraternity should be used in any such manner. Cases have arisen in which junior officers have been called upon to adjudicate on matters by which their seniors were affected. In such cases the junior officer may be quite honest, but he has to consider his job He knows that if he gives a ruling adverse to his senior officer, his tenure of his own office will be very short indeed. With reference to the statement that these charges are always fomented on the eve of a sitting of the Assembly of the League of Nations, I ask whether it is not infinitely preferable that Australia should clear these things up itself than that it should receive an order from the League of Nations to do so. These matters are being taken up by English journalists and ventilated in the English press. On that ground alone it is essential that we should go into them thoroughly. Quite independently of the statements submitted by the honorable member for Capricornia. I can give the House some idea of numerous letters I have been receiving from, most reliable sources. dealing with affairs in New Guinea. I do not intend to read the letters in detail, but the charges which are made in those letters against magistrates during the last twelve months include rape, connexion with girls under the age of twelve years, forced labour, ‘or blackbirding. These charges are being taken up, as I have said, by English journalists, and they are made by persons who are in a position to know what is taking place. This should be sufficient to induce the Government to clean up its house before it is compelled to do so by the League of Nations. According to my correspondent, in one district alone, serious charges arc made against district officers, deputy district officers, two patrol officers, and a medical assistant. The district officers are magistrates, and it is stated that, up to a few months ago, they could imprison a white man for life, and even now they have the right, without appeal, to inflict upon a native any punishment but death. Serious charges are laid against these men, but, in some mysterious manner, they invariably evade any trial. Legal advice given on these matters has been ignored, and men untrained in the legal profession have adjudicated on several cases. It is said that Wisdom, the Administrator, will make the excuse that the officers sent to him were incompetent. Most of the officers had no previous training in administration, but they were jumped over the heads of men with 20, 30, and 40 years’ experience of civil administration. It should be borne in mind that for three or four years the whole of the staff of the Administrator occupied more or less temporary positions. During that period, had the Administrator known his work, he could have weeded out those who were unsuitable, and might have made application to the Home and Territories Department for officers better qualified for the work. But I think I can show the House that it was a case of kissing going by favour, and qualification for the position was quite secondary to the friendship of the Administrator. Most of the officers who were made permanent on the recommendation of the Administrator in 1923 were the very men who were charged with committing serious offences. After all,
Wisdom himself has had no great experience in administration. He was an hotel-keeper in Western Australia, and though it does not necessarily follow that he was a bad man, or unfitted to be Administrator, we look usually for men with some administrative experience to tackle such a job as his. It is claimed by those who are in a position to know that he had neither the training nor the education to fit him for the position of Administrator. According to my correspondent, what may be said of Wisdom in this respect is even more noticeable in the case of some of his officers. He says -
When the people of Australia hear of the cruel doings in Rabaul, they will shudder. Wisdom has no experience or system of training his staff. He has done nothing, because he did not know how to do it.
There is one case which I wish to bring before the House to show the partiality with which the administration is conducted in New Guinea. Some months ago a boy named Luxmore -was convicted on a charge of stealing, and sentenced to three months imprisonment. By a requisition from the people the Administrator was asked to remit a part of the sentence because of the youth of the offender. He refused to do so. To show the impartiality of my correspondents, I may add that, in connexion with this matter, they say -
The Administrator acted quite rightly in notremitting the sentence because it was suitable to the offence.
A month or two later a man named Dyson Hoare was convicted of receiving the goods stolen by Luxmore, and he was sentenced by the chief judge to imprisonment for three months. The judge severely commented upon the conduct of Hoare in putting all the blame on the boy, and he said that Hoare was the ringleader in the business. This man Hoare was married in Administrator Wisdom’s house. His wife was an intimate friend of Wisdom’s, as were Hoare’s father and mother. Hoare’s brother-in-law. Grose, now Superintendent of Police, was also an intimate friend of Wisdom’s, and was Acting Government Secretary for twelve months. The sentence passed upon Dyson Hoare was remitted by the Administrator without consulting the Crown Law officers. Here, a youth was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, and compelled to serve the whole term of his sentence, yet the man who, according to the judge’s statement, was practically responsible for his offence, was reprieved by the Administrator without consultation with his responsible legal advisers. That shows the manner in which administration is carried out at Rabaul. I should like to know whether the judge who tried Hoare or the Grown Law officers were asked for their comments on the proposed release, and what is the relation of Hoare to the Superintendent of Police. In 1923, at a conference between the Administrator and the Civil Service Association, it was pointed out to him that the conduct of some of the officials was bringing discredit on the Service. The association asked for stricter discipline. The heads of departments and senior officers found it impossible to get rid of certain offenders simply because those men were under the wing of the Administrator, and, like the great kings, could do no wrong. The officers who- were bringing discredit upon the administration were known to the Administrator, because sheaves of letters on the subject were forwarded to him by the Public Service Association and the Returned Soldiers’” Association supporting the statements I am making. In March, 1923, the association placed before the Prime Minister the views of the senior officers, when they stated that the methods of control, and the incompetence of the. Government Secretary, had mined their authority. That was before those scathing articles appeared in the press. I ask the Prime Minister to produce a letter, dated 12th April, 1923, from the Civil Service Association of Rabaul, addressed to the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department. That letter, which has been ignored by the department, contained a warning that things were falling to pieces, and that the end was not far off. I have had experience of these things, as for many years a similar state of affairs existed in the Northern Territory. What happened in the Northern Territory will happen in Rabaul, and Parliament will be responsible. The reason for the trouble is that these people are not given an opportunity to clear things up. We have been told that when commissions were appointed evidence could not be obtained. From personal experience, and from letters I have received, I know that the officials are quite willing to give the most damning evidence against the present administration, if protected by the powers of a royal commission. But to send a man there, and to ask those officers to volunteer evidence, and then to leave them to the tender mercies of those against whom they have given that evidence, is asking too much of them. What happened to Dr. Jensen, and to the Chief Protector of Aborigines? As soon as the inquiries were over their positions were abolished. Dozens of similar cases could be quoted. But when a royal commission was appointed, the judge made it clear that there was to be no victimization. The result was that whereas the previous commissioners returned with a negative report, the royal commission brought back an affirmative one; in fact the judge, who came from Tasmania, said that if the things which were happening in the Northern Territory had happened in Tasmania there would have been a revolution within ten minutes. That will be the outcome of the present administration ;n Rabaul. I want to emphasize the fact that Grose was a personal friend of Wisdom, and was made Government Secretary as soon as he arrived there. He obtained the position over thb heads of officers of many years’ service. I ask the Minister to state the educational qualifications of Grose for the position, his age when he left school, and also his civil occupation before the war. If the Minister supplies that information, honorable members will be able to see the kind of man who is being appointed to high positions over the heads of experienced officers. I understand that the present Treasurer’s brother is now the Government Secretary, and that Grose is the superintendent of police. The manner in which the Administrator travels about the island is repulsive to the people there. A correspondent informs me that he gets about the island with a. staff, carries a sword, has a crown on his car, but will not go off the main road. Such conduct is offensive to Australians. I am informed that there has been no inspection of district officers and their work, apart from those on the main road. The disgraceful state of affairs as affecting the natives was only found out as the result of parliamentary visits, or because of disputes among the officials. General Wisdom should be asked to justify the appointment of these untrained men. The man named Dyson Hoare, to whom I have referred, held a recruiting licence. Here, again, is evidence of the favoritism I have mentioned. He committed an offence against the ordinance under which licences are granted, and was fined. Later, he committed another serious offence against a native labour ordinance. The matter was inquired into by Grose, his brotherinlaw, who cancelled his licence. He was not brought before the court, as should have been done, but he was tried by a relative, and acquitted. Four months later, under the authority of the Administrator, he was given another licence, whereas others who had similarly offended have been refused licences for years. I contend that the law should not only be fair, but that it should appear so to the general public. Dyson Hoare has now been committed for trial on a charge of receiving. These complaints are not confined to one set of officials, but are general throughout the Territory. I would like to quote one more example from the letter of the Civil Service Association to show the remarkable position which has arisen in the Territory -
About two months ago the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League at a meeting decided to convene a public meeting to consider means to obtain some improvement in the present method of government. After the meeting the officers of. the League approached leading members of the community to ask them to allow themselves to be nominated as members of a committee to be formed. The response was so bad that it had been practically decided to abandon the calling of the public meeting, although every one was in favour of something being done - they would take no part because of the fear of the kick-back from the Administrator, The League then wrote and asked the permission of the Administrator, which was granted, and the people approached, on being informed of this, consented to take part. The letter of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia to the Administrator and his reply speak for themselves. We say this is conclusive of the general opinion that the Administrator is a man who will victimize those who differ from or go against him. We ask that you ask for the production of those letters. Given an inquiry when evidence can be taken on oath we can prove what we say. That is the general feeling of the people on the island. They will not attend to give evidence when their positions may be jeopardized because of what they say, but if given a royal commission they will come forward with this evidence, ft is in the interests of the Commonwealth that the position should be cleared up. When it is remembered that the charges include rape and murder it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government, particularly in view of the fact that this is a mandated territory, to see that they are thoroughly investigated, and either proved or disproved.
.- I wish to refer to a matter affecting the Commonwealth employees engaged on the transcontinental railway. The permanently employed men on that line are compelled, under the Superannuation Act of 1922, to contribute to the Superannuation Fund, and to take up at least two units of pension. The cost to them varies, with the age at which they commenced to con tribute, in many instances the deduction being as much as 16s. or 17s. a fortnight. Because their wages are based on the cost of living figures, with . no allowance for the payments to the Superannuation Fund, and the amounts they actually receive are 16s. or 17s. a fortnight less than the basic living wage for the district in which they are working. Another section of employees, working in the same localities - the clerk3 in the employ of the Commonwealth railways - receive a child endowment of 5s. per child-per fortnight. Those clerks are thus enabled to provide for their children’s education in a way in which the other employees are not. My point is that the same conditions should apply to all. Mr. Justice Powers, in his judgment in the Australian Workers’ Union v. the Commonwealth Railways Employees case, has dealt with this matter. His Honour said -
If the employees along the line were clerks or persons in higher positions under the Public Service Act, they would, in cities or large country towns, be paid an allowance for each child, in addition to the basic wage. This court cannot yet in general awards fix allowances for children, but, as the men are really working “ in the Public Service,” the court or the Government should consider whether the men on the line, at least,, ought not to get an allowance for each child to enable them to give better educational advantages than are possible along the line.
In making that statement Mr. Justice Powers recognized the justice of the claims of these men. Similar clauses exist in other awards. In many cases employers carry out suggestions made in this way; and I ask the Minister to see that these men, who are forced either to join the Superannuation
Fund and have deductions made from their pay, or to leave the employ of the Commonwealth, are dealt with justly. Those men are compelled to contribute to the superannuation fund, and as a result they are receiving less than the standard wage fixed by the Arbitration Court. For the sake of uniformity in the service and in justice to those employees, they should receive the same bonus on account of children as is paid to the clerical members of the service. I ask the Minister for Works and Railways to give consideration to this matter and let the House know what relief he is prepared to offer.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Deputy’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the execution by the Commonwealth of an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Tasmanian Hopgrowers’ Pool Limited, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Pratten and Sir Littleton Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pratten, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I regret the absence, through illness, of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) who with other Tasmanian representatives has assisted the. Government considerably in the preparation of this measure. I understand that it has the sympathy of the Leader of the Opposition.
– Hear, hear !
– The object of the bin is to authorize the Commonwealth to execute an agreement with the Tasmanian Hopgrowers Pool Limited. The main points of the agreement are: The Commonwealth is to advance a sum of £24,500 to the pool on the security of 2,558 bales of hops exported by the pool to Great Britain, and also the assets of the pool. Interest at61/2 per cent. will be paid on the balance remaining from time to time unpaid. The moneys realized from the sales of the hops will be paid into the London branch of the Commonwealth Bank, to the credit of the Commonwealth in repayment of the advance and interest thereon. If the advance and accruing interest are not fully repaid at the expiration of twelve months from the date of the agreement, the pool must forthwith pay the deficiency. The usual conditions are imposed requiring the deposit of documents of title with the London branch of the Commonwealth Bank, and insurance of the goods to their full value. Authority is also given to the Auditor-General to make any examination of the affairs of the pool which he may think necessary. The agreement ensures that the amount advanced shall be forthwith distributed to the growers. The bill practically provides for a loan to the pool of £24,500, repayable with interest as the hops are sold, and limited to one year. The reason why the advance is necessary is that many hopgrowers are in a very bad way. Some of them have had to go out of the industry owing to the fact that the pool has a large surplus of hops from the 1922 and 1923 seasons which it was unable to sell in Australia; consequently, no return could be made to the growers in respect of the unsold hops. In order to find a means of relieving the position, towards the end of 1922, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), after a good deal of negotiation, succeeded in having an agreement made between the Australian brewers and the hop pool, by which the brewers undertook to limit their consumption of imported hops to 15 per cent, of their total annual consumption. On the other hand, there was an understanding not mentioned in the agreement, that Henry Jones and Company would relieve the brewers of the overseas hops they had contracted for to the extent made necessary by the limitation of the use of imported hops. For reasons that are not clearly ascertainable, the contract hops were not taken over by Henry Jones and Company Limited, and they continued to come in, with the result that the agreement was not observed and the Hop Pool was left with a large surplus of unsaleable hops. This surplus has now been exported to Great Britain, where there appears to be a reasonable opportunity of selling it at a payable price. The quality of the hops which have already arrived in England has been favorably commented on. The reports received indicate that the crop in Great Britain is short of requirements. The consumption of hops there is under Government control, and the controller, in releasing hops for consumption, is giving preference, after disposing of British supplies, to the dominions. As this year’s crop in Great Britain will not be on the market for some time, the opportunity of disposing of a considerable portion of the Tasmanian hops in the meantime appears to be very favorable. A small quantity of the hops shipped has been sold at £10 per cwt., which is a very reasonable price. The balance was shipped on consignment for sale by the Pool’s representatives in London. The question will probably be asked why the Pool could not obtain an advance from the banks in the ordinary way of business. This could not be done, because the bulk of the hops was shipped on consignment, and, in view of this, the banks would not do business. If the hops had been actually sold for delivery in England there would have been no difficulty in this respect. Another aspect of the case needs to be mentioned. In addition to the 2,558 bales exported by the Pool, other concerns have also exported hops to Great Britain to the extent of 1,150 bales. This quantity includes 500 bales exported by Henry Jones and Company Limited. This company has given an undertaking, in legal form, that until the Pool has sold in England 500 bales of the Pool’s hops, Henry Jones and Company Limited will not sell, or allow to be sold, any quantity of their hop? in excess of the quantity of the Pool’s hope sold. This undertaking was required from Henry Jones and Company Limited, and it demonstrates in a practical and effective way the confidence of the company in the market. The total value of the hops exported by the Pool at £10 per cwt.. the price which reports indicate will be realized, is, approximately, £56,000. As the amount advanced is only £24,500. the security for repayment of the advance is amply sufficient to guarantee the Government against loss. Honorable members will realize that the action proposed to be taken is in the interests of the small growers, who are entirely dependent upon the sale of their hops to enable them to carry on until they receive returns for their next crop. As I have already stated, the agreement provides that on payment of the advance the proceeds will immediately be paid direct to the growers. The hop industry is a valuable one to the
Commonwealth, and is of very vital importance to Tasmania. There is every prospect that when the accumulated surplus of past seasons is got out of the way by sale to Great Britain, the existing arrangement, which is being strictly observed, whereby the breweries are restricting their use of imported hops to 15 per cent, of their requirements, will enable the industry to be placed on a very satisfactory basis. The Government has very carefully considered the matter, and I commend the proposed arrangement to honorable members as being business like, and, in the circumstances, justifiable in the interests of the Tasmanian hop-growers. As this is the first time I have had the responsibility, in the honorable position I occupy, of submitting a bill to the House, I hope it will have a quick andhappy passage.
– What is its urgency?
.- I should not have risen if the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) had not asked, “What is the urgency of the bill ?”I am pleased that the Minister has introduced the bill. There are many small hop-growers who are in difficult circumstances, and the banks would have closed on them had it not been for the action taken by the Government. They are not to blame for their troubles. The agreement referred to was drawn up at the end of the last Parliament. It provided for taking over all the hops produced in Australia, with the exception of 15 per cent., which would be exported. As our production is in the vicinity of 10,000 or 11,000 bales, there was no difficulty in finding a market. Although the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) stated that the agreement would be policed after the election, for some reason unknown to me that was not done. I played my part in drawing up the agreement, and subsequently I was absent from this House through illness. Later I ascertained that the agreement had not been policed, and that thousands of pounds worth of hops, upon which duty had been collected, had been imported from New Zealand. Tasmanian hop-growers found themselves with their hops on their hands. That is the position facing the Government to-day. There was a large carry over of hops,not because there was no demand for them in Australia, but because New Zealand hops had been allowed to come in. Henry Jones and Company sent the hops to England, and covered themselves for what they had paid to the New Zealand growers. As a result, there is an accumulation of hops which have been sent overseas. Some have been sold since their arrival. They are very satisfactory, and the people of England have stated that there will be a market for Tasmanian hops for all time in that country. I do not think there will be any hops to send after the present accumulation has disappeared, but in the meantime, because of the accumulation of Australian hops, there is no money available to pay the growers. There are very few rich people in. the hop-growing business ; most of them have small areas, and employ their own families. Had not the banks and Sir Henry Jones and Company stood behind them, they would have had to go out of business. It is now very necessary that money to finance them should be made available at the earliest possible moment. The banks gave notice to them that they must meet their liabilities, but, when it became known that the Government would advance the money against ample security, the banks held off. The Government takes no risk in the matter, for the security is sound. To delay passing the bill would mean, if the Senate does not sit next week, that two or three weeks might elapse before it would become law. The bill is of great importance to the hopgrowers. It affects their bread and butter. I am very pleased that the Government has submitted the bill even at this late hour of the evening, and I congratulate the Minister, who has stated the facts very clearly.
.- I do not intend to oppose the bill, but I urge that, as far as possible, an opportunity should be given to honorable members to read and study bills before they are passed. No departure should be made from that practice except in very urgent and unavoidable cases. The Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have given good reasons why the bill should be passed. I remember that, on a previous occasion, a bill introduced by the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs, and endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition, was about to pass the second reading before members had had an opportunity of even seeing it. I hope the
Minister will make clear that it is urgent that the bill should be passed to-night.
– I assure the honorable member that the bill is urgent.
– It appears that the Government is justified in going to the assistance of the hop-growers, but the Minister should not ask for bills to be passed in this way if there is any possibility of giving honorable members an opportunity to peruse them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
.- In moving-
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to inform honorable members that in view of the complaints regarding decisions as to whether the disabilities of certain ex-soldiers are due to or aggravated by war services, and also in view of questions raised by honorable members on the subject, the Government proposes to appoint a royal commission, consisting of eminent medical men, to consider and report on the following reference: -
Is the present method of determining whether an ex-soldier’s disability is due to or aggravated by war service adequate to decide the origin or the degree to which it is aggravated, and what portion of his present incapacity can be regarded as having resulted from his war service?
Owing to the length of time since the cessation of hostilities and the increasing complications of damage done to soldiers by their war service and of things happening after the war, the question of assessment of incapacity is now mainly a medical matter. In order to ensure proper methods of determining all the factors that can be held to cause the incapacity as at present existing, it has been decided to ask a royal commission, consisting of eminent medical men representing the different states, to thoroughly examine and report upon the procedure at present adopted. These medical men have all a wide knowledge of disabilities as they particularly affect soldiers, and the appointment of such a commission cannot fail to prove helpful to all concerned. The difficulties inherent in the work of evaluating pensions have been experienced in every country. Although pensions have been introduced in every country, and although the principles underlying the granting of them are universal, the method of applying those principles and overcoming the difficulties involved are found to vary in some degree not only in every country, but from time to time. However, it is felt that such a royal commission as is proposed will prove to be very beneficial, and will result in a general feeling of satisfaction to the soldier and to the public generally, for it will be realized that nothing will be left undone to put into effect the desire of the community generally that these men, who suffered disabilities in consequence of their devotion to their country, should not fail to be amply recompensed so far as pension benefits can be said to recompense them. The methods employed up to the present have been designed carefully and thoughtfully, and it is confidently hoped that the proposed royal commission will be welcomed, not only by the soldiers, but also by those whose responsibility it is to reestablish them medically. All the names of those proposed to be appointed will command respect, not only in their own state, but amongst the soldiers and also overseas, for practically all the names are those of men of world-wide reputation. The result of an inquiry by such men as these, with the experience of the past few years to guide them, must be of the utmost value generally. I am sure that honorable members will welcome the appointment of a commission of such a character.
– What are the names of the commissioners ?
– I cannot mention them at the moment, since the Government has not yet received their acceptance of appointment. I hope to be able, to-morrow, or at any rate in the near future, to announce the personnel of the commission.
Another point I desire to bring before the House is that, whilst the commission will examine the methods adopted in assessing the disability of soldiers, so that honorable members and the public generally may know that the best possible means are being taken to ensure just and equitable treatment of the soldiers, the question of administration must inevitably enter very largely into the inquiry.
All honorable members have had many cases brought under their notice in which apparent injustice has been done to the soldier, and the Government is desirous that honorable members should have the fullest opportunity of ascertaining the exact circumstances surrounding any case that may be submitted to them. The Government, consequently, proposes to make available the services of another Minister in order to discuss this question with honorable gentlemen who from time to time have cases which they desire to bring under notice. As all honorable members are aware, this feature of repatriation work is under the direct control of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who, with his many duties, is physically incapable of devoting the time necessary to discuss individual cases with honorable members. I think, therefore, that it will help us all if another Minister is made available to devote all the time necessary to the consideration of cases requiring attention.
I also desire to notify the House that the Government has determined to recognize the great accomplishment of WingCommander Goble andFlight-Lieutenant Mclntyre in their flight round Australia in a Fairey sea-plane. The Government has decided to make a gift of £500 to Wing-Commander Goble and of £250 to Flight-Lieutenant McIntyre. The feat of these two officers is one of the most wonderful accomplishments in the history of aviation. Their services have already been recognized by the King, who has conferred upon them the Order of the Companionship of the British Empire, but in the recognition by His Majesty no distinction was made between the two officers. The Government felt that in this further recognition a distinction should be shown, for Wing-Commander Goble was the officer responsible for the flight, and the whole of the arrangements were in his hands. He acted as the navigating officer throughout the exploit, and the burden on his shoulders was somewhat greater than that on his companion.
– I hope that a direct representative of the returned soldiers will be appointed to the commission.
– Every member of itwill be a returned soldier.
.- I am very pleased to hear the announcement of the Prime Minister that a commission will be appointed to inquire into the methods by which the degree of incapacity of returned men is now determined. I should like to know whether the commission will have power to take evidence in each of the states, or whether it will merely sit in Melbourne at the seat of government. It seems to me that it is highly desirable that the commission shall have power to visit the various states if it wishes to do so. I hope no obstacle will be placed in the way of its doing so.
– While congratulating the Government on the appointment of the commission, I think it would, perhaps, be well if the Prime Minister could now assure the House that effect will be given to the recommendations of the commission. In the event of those recommendations clashing with thepolicy at present adopted by the Repatriation Commission, I maintain that they should be submitted to the House for approval. I am sure honorable members would rather adopt the recommendations of such a body than continue a policy that has given rise to enormous dissatisfaction. If any amendments to the Repatriation Act are necessary in order to give effect to the recommendations, will the Government take action forthwith to amend the act accordingly ?
.- I can assure the honorable member for Denison (Mr.’ O’Keefe), that the Government will afford the commission every facility desired by it to fully investigate the subject of reference. Regarding the question raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), the commission’s recommendations will be treated in exactly the same way as those of other royal commissions. No Government can relieve itself of its own responsibility by the appointment of such a body. When the commission has made its report, the Government will take such action upon it as it considers to be in the best interests of the soldiers. It will then be for the House to express its opinion of the action taken by the Government. I can assure honorable members that any recommendation made by the commission will receive the fullest and most careful consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 July 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240703_reps_9_107/>.