9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m.. and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister if the statement . appearing in the press to-day to the effect that the Government has communicated with the Commonwealth Shipping Board asking the reason why it came to a settlement with the seamen in connexion withthe shipping dispute, is correct? If so., how does the right honorable gentleman reconcile this action of the Government with the statement he made when the Shipping Board was appointed, to the effect that it was necessary that there should be no political interference with the work of the board in order that the Commonwealth line of steamers might have every opportunity to prove itself a paying concern ?
– I have not in any way interfered with the control of the Commonwealth Lino of steamers, or brought any political influence to bear on the Shipping Board. I communicated with the board after I saw the notification of the settlement it had arrived at. and asked, for the information of the Government, to be informed as to what exactly was the action which the board had taken.
– Are we to understand that the right honorable gentleman’s reply indicates that the statements appearing in the press are not correct, and that the Government did not demand an explanation of its action from the Shipping Board?
– I do not know exactly what statements have appeared in the press, but the facts are as X have stated in reply to the Leader of the Opposition. I have communicated with the Shipping Board asking for information.
– With reference to the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday in connexion with the cruiser Brisbane, I ask whether the right honorable gentleman; will consider the desirability of communicating with the British Government, stating that in view of the conditions in China, if the Admiralty desires, or thinks it necessary, to use the Brisbane in any way to ensure the safety of Australians or other British subjects, its action in doing so will have the approval of the majority of this House, and of the right-thinking people of Australia ?
– The Government has made it clear that while attached to it the Brisbane can be used in connexion with any action taken by the China Squadron to preserve the lives and properties of British subjects. That is clearly understood by the British Government.
Mr.FORDE.- Have any of the State Governments yet agreed to the Commonwealth migration scheme, and, if so, will the Prime Minister say which of thorn has agreed to it?
– The Victorian Government has intimated that it has accepted the scheme,but I do not think that the official notification of its acceptance has yet been sent. Early this week I had a conference with the Premiers of Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, and Victoria. We- discussed the whole of the provisions of the migration agreement. There were certain provisions they wished to have clarified. Asa result of the conversations which we had, I am very hopeful that the Governments of all these states will very shortly notify their acceptance of the scheme.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration when will the report of the Board of Trade committee on the hop industry be made available?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he supply a return showing -
The number of cases in which additional amounts of duty were levied during the last twelve months upon importers who had in all good faith paid the duty originally demanded, and who had already sold all or part of the merchandise on which such extra duty had been levied?
The average length of time which elapsed between the original payment of the duty and the imposition of the “post”?
– It would’ not be possible to answer the honorable member’s questions with any degree of accuracy for the reason that the department is not in a position to know whether the duty paid in the first instance was paid in good faith, nar is it aware whether the goods in question have been sold before the extra duty is demanded.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice–
– I have no information with regard to this matter beyond that referred to as appearing in the press, but inquiries are being made in the matter.
Retrenchment oe Temporary Officers.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The informationis being obtained, and will be made available to the honorable member as early as possible.
asked the Treasurer, 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 : - 1 and 2. The English silver coin is repurchased outright at its face value by the British Government, and the Commonwealth is not concerned as to its disposal.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s ‘ questions are as follow : - 1.Yes.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Hunter be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, and that in his place Mr. Prowse be appointed a member of the committee.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Debate resumed from 2nd July (vide page 651) on motion by Mr. Watkins -
– I shall deal briefly with this subject, as the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) last week fully explained the position. Prior to the adjournment of the debate, one honorable member stated that his vote would depend on whether the fact could be established that Messrs. Dean and Sons were induced to incur expenditure through the representation of the department. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has, on the ground of a claim for compensation based on moral considerations, asked that a select committee be . appointed to inquire into this case. Presumably the claim is based on the ground that Messrs. Dean and Sons were induced to enter into a contract by reason of representations made to them by officers of the department regarding specifically the manufacture of bricks. The Minister for Works and Railways traced the history of the case, and showed that it was tried before a judge and jury. Although there were two alternative contracts, the jury’s finding did not state which contract had been set up. The case was then taken to the Full Court of the Supreme Court at New South Wales, and for the information of honorable members I . shall refer to one or two paragraphs in its judgment.
– Why not quote the first judgment?
– I shall show what theFull Court said in regard to the jury’s finding in the first trial.
The following is the judgment of the Full Court : -
The jury found a general verdict for the plaintiffs. I should have thought myself that the evidence pointed to the conclusion that there was no definite agreement entered into between the parties on the 20th September, and that they did not intend to bind themselves until a formal agreement in writing had been prepared, but the question was one of ‘fact for the jury, and they have found that the parties were bound by on agreement on that date. Their: finding, however; leaves its terms uncertain. Two different contracts are alleged in the declaration’, and the parol evidence of what took place between the parties does not entirely bear out either.
The plaintiffs were suing on alternative claims, and. in the judgment it is stated that- the parol evidence does not entirely bear out either. Dealing with the terms of the alleged contract,, the Chief Justice said -
In. my opinion, assuming that the contract relied upon in the added count was the contract in. fact entered into by the. parties the; plaintiffs’- case fails upon.’ the short ground, that there isno. memorandum of its terms signed by or on behalf of the defendant sufficient to satisfy the Statute of Frauds.. If there is one thing that appears clearly on the. evidence it is that one of the principal reasons why,, throughout the negotiations, the plaintiffs were unwilling to- enter intoa binding- contractwith, the defendant for any specified1 quantity of bricks was because of the large, outstanding, orders to other- customers to which- they were committed. . . . . -It was. not an unessential or unimportant termeither. The plaintiffs insistence upon the retention of the Tight throughout the whole of the negotiations- shows that it was- not only a term of the bargain,, but an important term, and- the law is clear that, one.of the requisites of a written memorandum sufficient to satisfy the Statute of Frauds is that it should contain the terms of the contract. . . . . . This essential term of the bargain,, providing for the right to fulfil existing orders, is omitted’ from- the memorandum, and that, in my opinion,. is sufficient to dispose, of the- case.
I quote that passage to show that throughout the negotiations the contractors were insistent upon their right to> supply existing orders from private customers.
– Thenegotiationg showthat the firm anticipated being able; to do that before the contract was reduced, to legal form.
– That may or may not be so. The onus is on the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) to establish his case, and prove that the department did make any representation of. the kind alleged. We know that the plaintiffs made a claim and issued a writ, and that in- the courts- they absolutely failed. Therefore, in the eyes of the law they did not establish any case. Is there evidence of any promise or of representations by the department by virtue . of which the plaintiffs, were induced to incur certain- expenditure? The honorable member for Newcastle has not adduced any evidence of that nature. In order that the matter may be understood by the House, I shall direct attention to some of the evidence. The plaintiffs alleged that by virtue of certain representations by the department they were induced! to incur expenditure in the erection of additional kilns, and that, failing to get a contract from the department, they suffered a loss. The facts are that, fol- lowing, upon previous negotiations, the department in July, 1920, again approached Dean and Sons with a view to- a contract, and on the 20th September the result of’ the> negotiations was embodied in a memorandum by Mr. Cook to the1 Deputy Commissioner. That document is already before the- House. Therewas no concluded contract-, but that . memorandum- set out the basis- of negotiations and-, the terms upon which a.contract might be ar ranged. Those terms were not accepted by the department. The parties could not agree upon, the question. of price. Mr. Hutchings, Deputy Commissioner for War Service Homes, in giving evidence at- the trial,, said -
I am only able- to place approximately the date of that interview by reference to that last letter you showed me (i.e. letter of 13th
November1920). It wouldbe within a week after that,I think, or, at any rate, within. fourteen days after that. It wouldbe a few days after that letter-. I do not remember Mr. Shoesmith being-at that interview,buthemay have been- there. On. that occasion, I informed Mr. Deanand any others whowere present (.there wereothers present, but I cannot, swear its to who they were) that I had been in com- munication with the-Commissioner, Colonel! Walker,, relative- to, the suggested contract, for the supply of bricks, and that the. Commissioner was quite agreeable provided they would reduce the price of ‘the bricks to 60s. per 1,000. Mr. Dean stated’ that he was not prepared to soreduce- the price-, but that when he had completed the building of. his additional: kilns, and was in a position, to give a larger output, very possibly he would considermaking acontract on those terms.
– That is not what Dean said.
– I am quoting the evidence given by Mr. Hutchings before a judge and jury. It appears that the department was willingto enter into a contract for the supply of bricks at 60s. per 1,000. but Dean and Sons intimated that they were not then prepared to make a contract on that basis, but would possibly consider ii: later.
– That took place twenty-nine weeks after the agreement was drawn up in writing.
– I am quoting the sworn evidence of a witness who stated that those negotiations took place within- a week after the 13th November. Dean knew that there was no concluded contract, for even after the date of the alleged contract, he said that when he had completed the building of his ‘ additional kilns, and was able to increase his output, he, mightconsider a contract on those terms.
– He was incurring the extra expense of building ‘ the kilns in consequence of representations made to him by the commission.
– That is the allegation, but it is not supported by the evidence. I shall now quote the evidence relating to the intention to build the kilns. The main question is : When was the decision to build the kilns reached? The contract was supposed to be contained in the memorandum of the- 20th September, but the evidence shows that before that date Dean had decided to construct the kilns. There is no evidence that he so decided at the request of the commission.
– Does the Minister suggest that it was Dean’s intention to erect these kilns apart from the contract to supply the commissioner with bricks ?
– The firm was carrying on business at Newcastle. It probably saw that the commission had acquired a large area of land, arid assumed that an extensive building programme would be carried out. Negotiations had taken place with the War Service Homes Commission, and the firm took an ordinary business risk in building the kilns. In a letter written on the 11th September, nine days before the alleged contract, to the district officer of the War Service Homes Commission, Dean said -
Your letter of the 7th instant has remained unanswered till the present, it being our intention to call on you yesterday and explain the position, which date, however, was not convenient to yourself.
Just at present we are not in a position to make any contract for the supply of a specified quantity of bricks per week, for the following reasons: -
On Monday next, we start the erection of two more temporary kilns, and on completion of these it is our intention to immediately begin the building of a patent kiln.
This will mean that for the next four or five months the bulk of the output will he required for our own work, the quantity depending on the number of men we are able to put on the work. The more the better.
The present position is not satisfactory to our customers or to ourselves, for the conditions under which we are working make it impossible to give delivery with any certainty, and the sooner the position is improved the better from every point of view; and we regard the matter of such importance that we think our .best policy is to make the necessary developments here as speedily as possible.
As soon as we have the two kilns in operation, we fully expect to be able to supply you with a larger quantity of bricks than in the past: and, ir) the meantime, we will be pleased to let you have all the bricks we can spare, more than this we cannot do under the existing conditions.
Had anything transpired up to that date to give Dean any moral claim ?
– Yes. The Minister has not stated the negotiations that took place.
– The negotiations do not include representations of the kind alleged.
– The commission told Dean that if he could make the bricks he would be doing it for the next ten years.
– There was no undertaking by the commission to enter into a legal or binding contract. There was a series of, negotiations, similar to those that had taken place with other firms in the Commonwealth. In crossexamination, at the trial Dean was asked, “ Do you say that on the 11th September you had decided to build the patent kiln ?” and he answered, “Yes.” He confirmed that answer in subsequent crossexamination, except that he made the date a month earlier. The questions and answers were: -
Question. - You say that on the 11th September you had arrived at that decision. How long before was it you reached that decision?
Answer. - Only about that time.
Question. - That day, the week before, the month before, or when ?
Answer. - It may have been a month before. I saw Mr. Gain, and I saw Mr. Hughes. I think it was the 17th August.
It is obvious, therefore, that as far back as August Dean intended to extend his works, and erect the extra patent kiln.
– Did the departmental officers first approach Mr. Dean, or did he first approach, them ?
– I think I can clear up that point for the honorable member, but even if the commissioner approached Dean, his action in doing so would only be the beginning of negotiations. It would he quite proper for the commissioner to get quotations from different firms. I have dealt with the first kiln, but there are two others in question. The letter I have read shows that Dean commenced the construction of the second kiln about the second week in September, which was about the date that the terms and conditions of the negotiations were set down in the document. The third kiln was started on the 5th October, and was completed by the 1st November, 1920. If those dates are correct, the decision to erect the kiln must obviously have been reached some weeks before.
– The Commissioner had told them the number of bricks -that would be required. Nothing would have justified the erection of those kilns but an order of that magnitude.
– The fact that the firm was approached by the commission did not necessarily justify it in making a claim on the department.
– There is more than that in it.
– Dean and Sons were informed of the department’s requirements, and they spent money in the hope of getting the business. The first claim made by them was in September, 1920. That claim hopelessly failed, as they were unable to establish any contract in law. Not only so, but after this alleged contract had practically been set aside, they continued to supply bricks to the commission from September, 1920, to February, 1922.
– That is consistent with their claim.
– Is it? The contract that they endeavoured to get in 1920 was for the supply of bricks at the . rate of 63s. per 1.000; but from September, 1920, to February, 1922, they supplied bricks to the commission at rates ranging from 63s. to 68s. per 1,000; the price was practically 68s. per 1,000 throughout. The company made a specific claim, and sued the department for breach of contract. After the negotiations for a contract failed in’ 1920, they made no claim whatever for breach of contract, foi* unjust treatment, or for not receiving orders for as many bricks as’ the department had said it would require. They supplied bricks upon the ordinary requisitions of J:he department, and, without express agreement, were paid at the rate of 68s. per 1,000 practically all the time from September, 1920, to February, 1922.
– The honorable member must recollect that the price of coal and the rate of wages increased _ during that period.
– The point to be remembered is that no claim that a legal contract existed was made during that period of many mouths. There, was not even the suggestion of a moral claim.
– Were large quantities of bricks supplied during that period?
– The number supplied was 329,000, whereas, if a contract had been entered into, the number would have been about 10,000,000. Nevertheless, no claim was made on account of short orders having been given. It was only when the firm ceased to get orders that a claim for compensation was made, in March, 1922. Twelve months later it issued a writ making a legal claim, but failed. Thosefacts show clearly that the firm had neither a legal nor a moral claim. Now, at this late stage, an attempt is made to show that the action of the firm in expending money was due to the direct representations of the department - representations of a character to create a moral claim. But no letter, document, or word of evidence has been cited to show that any such representations were made. The facts have been investigated carefully by the Crown law officers, who have advised that the firm has neither a legal nor a moral claim.
– The Minister should have read the letters from Cook to Dean and Sons prior to September, 1920.
– No representations have been quoted which would support even a moral claim.
– To mymind, that is not so.
– No evidence has been produced to show that the firm was induced to incur expenditure on specific representation’s of the department which . have not been honoured. Honorable members will see that what happened in this case is exactly what has happened in many other cases. When business firms think that there is a prospect- of big public works being undertaken, they are prepared to take risks in the hope of getting that business.. I submit that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has made outno case that would justify this House in agreeing to the appointment of a select committee. Messrs. Dean -and Sons adopted legal means to obtain their rights; they issued a writ, but. the case went against them in the court. Now they are . refusing to abideby the decision of the court, and are appealing to Parliament in order to obtain something they could not get . otherwise. Such a claim should not be recognized by this House ; to recognize this claim would establish a precedent which would have to’ be followed in other similarcases. Noevidence has been produced to show that anything in the nature of an injustice ha3 been done to Messrs. Dean andSons, and I, therefore, ask the House to negative the motion.
.- Th The Attorney-General said that Messrs. Dean and Sonsha ve no moral claim. The same argument was used last session by the Minister then controlling the War Service Homes Department (Mr. Stewart), who made out jnst as strong a case in favour of the department as the AttorneyGeneral has done to-day. But in that instance the Minister, when he discovered, in the course of the debate, that several honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House weae of the opinion that a further investigation should be made, gave way.It may be well to recoun t briefly some of the incidents connected with the case to which I have referred, because it was on all fours with that now before the House. The Cooperative Estates Limited, of Tasmania, had entered into a contract with the War Service Homes Department to build^ near Sydney, a number of homes, or shells, under a patent concrete system. When the contract was agreed upon the manager of the company went to Sydney, where an agreement was drawn up. The War Service Homes Department advanced to the company a. sum of money for the purchase of certain plant. The agreement, while it protected the War Service Homes Department in every possible legal way, left the company without protection. For that the company was, of course, to blame. Subsequently the policy -of the War Service Homes Department was changed, and it was decided not to proceed with the erection of these concrete homes. The departmentt hereupon called upon the company to refund some of the money advanced for the purchase of plant, the Bum claimed being about £5,000. After much controversy the company, under protest, paid about half that sum. The Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom), who in this case also is the advocate for the department, then advised it that thecompany nad neither a legalnor a moral claim. The manager of the company, however, was so satisfied of the existence of a moral right that he spent some months in Melbourne in an endeavour to secure what he believed to be justice for his company. The aid of honorable members representing Tasmanian constituencies was enlisted on behalf of the company. After a good deal of trouble the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) consented to be interviewed by the manager. Nothing was gained from the interviews which took place, and eventually the right honorable gentleman declined to be further interviewed,- saying that he was quite satisfied that the department was in the right in denying the existence of either a legal or a moral claim. The manager of the company then asked me to take up the matter. Lt will be remembered that I moved in this House for the appointment of a select committee to carry out a further investigation. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) was then in charge, of the administration of the War Service Homes Department. He made out what appeared to be a very good case for the department, but I was able to bring forward facts that appealed so strongly to several honorable members opposite that they said it was possible an injustice had been done, and that a further investigation could -do no harm.
Although the Minister had at first emphatically declined to consent to such an investigation, claiming that it would he useless, these expressions of opinion by honorable members opposite convinced him of the wisdom of adopting a different attitude. I was prepared to allow the personnel of the proposed committee to be named by the Minister, and on his suggestion the House agreed to refer the matter to the Committee of Public Accounts. The integrity of that committee is admitted by every honorable member. When it commenced its investigation the company was threatened with ruin. The War Service Homes Department had made imperative demands for the return of the £5,000 that it had advanced against thepurchase of plant. Approximately half of that amount was subscribed by the shareholders, and, failing to obtain the balance, the department issued a writ for its recovery. The other creditors of the company thereupon stepped in and submitted their claims. After a full investigation the Committee of Public Accounts recommended that the writ should be immediately withdrawn, and the company be given a clear receipt for the balance owing. Proof is thus furnished that facts were elicited by the committee! which were not’ . within the knowledge of the Minister when he declined to allow a further investigation to be made. That case is parallel with the one that the House is now considering. Whilst I express no opinion regarding the merits of the case that was presented by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), I am nevertheless loth to oppose a further investigation by an impartial tribunal. An inquiry by officials of the department could not be impartial as they would naturally lean to the view that is taken by the department No harm can be done by having an investigation by a select committee. Such a committee would be guided by evidence that is relevant to the matter, and it would give an impartial verdict. For that reason I intend to vote for the motion.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked me a fortnight ago whether I would consent to be a member of this proposed committee. On the f acts that he placed before me I gave that consent. When the matter was discussed in the House last Thursday I was not able to be present, but I have since had an opportunity to read the correspondence that took place between the parties. I want honorable members to realize that no man is more anxious than I am to give every one a fair and impartial hearing. I do not excuse many of the mistakes that have been made by the War Service Homes Department. As the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) has stated, it made a very grave mistake in connexion with its contract with Cooperative Estates Limited. That contract, however, was quite different from this one. It was started and finished. After the contract had been finished, the War Service Homes Commission asked the company to build further houses. In this case no contract was ever signed. I find from the correspondence that on the 12th August, 1920, Dean did not want to make a contract. All the bricks he made were for his own customers, and he wanted to be left alone until he could get his plant extended. That clearly shows that no contract was made, and that Dean and Sons had no intention at that time of entering into a contract. One might suppose, as I did, when I was approached by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), that whilst Dean and Sons had not a legal claim, they might have a moral claim, but after reading the correspondence and the evidence in the case I am unable to see that the firm has even a moral claim. On the 20th August, an agreement was ready for Dean and Sons. Mr. Dean could agree to most of its provisions, with the exception of those providing for the delivery of the bricks and the keeping of the kilns clean . Mr.Cook was prepared! at that time to take prompt delivery. The department was quite prepared to accept all the bricks that Deancould supply. This further shows that no agreement had been entered into, and in my view relieves the Government of even any moral . obligation to Dean and Sons. On 7th September Mr. Dean made the statement -
Just at, present we are not in a position to make any contract for a specific quantity of bricks. On the completion of our orders, we are going to build kilns.
That is to say that all the bricks the firm was making were to be supplied toits own customers as the firm had agreed, and on the completion of its contract with its customers it was prepared to build new kilns. It was actually twelve months after this before the new kilns were in operation. I can find nothing in the correspondence from Dean and Sons, or in the evidence taken by the court, to suggest that any contract was signed, or that Dean and Sons had even a moral claim against the Government. This is a totally different case from that to which the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) has referred.
– N - No harm can come from an impartial investigation of the case.
– It is wrong in. principle.
– Unless I were satisfied that the department. was under at least a moral obligation in the matter,- I would not vote for the appointment of a select committee to investigate a claim. I am sorry that I cannot support the motion, although I agreed to act on the proposed committee. When I agreed to do so, I knew only what I was told by the honorable member for Newcastle. I have since gone through the whole of the correspondence in the case, and have changed my mind with respect to the claim. I must vote against the motion.
– I certainly must disagree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). It would appear that, so far as he is concerned, justice is to be confined to one state. If a man who claims to have his case investigated by a select committee of this House comes from Tasmania, the honorable member will support the request for such an investigation ; but if the claimant comes from Newcastle he apparently regards it as an altogether different proposition. Personally, I do not know of two claims that stand more nearly on all fours than the claim of Dean and Sons and that which has been referred to by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe). I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee that investigated the whole of the facts connected with the Tasmanian case. The files showed that certain offers were made by departmental officials which established a moral claim for the Co-operative Estates Company. I had an opportunity also of investigating with other members of the committee’ quite a number of war service homes cases, and the whole of the operations of the War Service Homes Commission up to a certain period. This case is exactly similar to a score of cases that came under my notice, where Commissioner Walker had outlined an extensive building programme, purchased areas of land, and was seaching here, there, and everywhere for people who could manufacture bricks and other building material. All the communications between departmental officials and persons doing business with the War Service Homes Commission were not put down in writing, and it is very difficult for a man to establish a legal claim if he has not something in writing to support it. Dean and Sons were in communication with Mr. Cook, the representative of. the Wai- Service Homes Commissioner in Newcastle. From time to time there were conversations between Mr. Dean and Mr. Cook. It was brought out in evidence time after time during the inquiry into the operations of the War Service Homes Commission that promises were made by officials to contractors, and that contractors undertook to do certain work, and to extend their plants if the commission was prepared to give them very extensive contracts. The whole of these troubles originated as a result of the decision of the Government to go out of the business of building war service homes. Honorable members know how Mr. Driver was persecuted - I will not say prosecuted - by the War Service Homes Commission. He got a verdict from a jury of his fellow-countrymen, but he was taken by the commission from court to court, and thousands of pounds were spent in the effort to defeat his verdict. I suppose that in this case if the High Court had decided , against the War Service Homes Commission there would have been an appeal to the Privy Council.
– Two courts dealt with this matter. Dean went to the Full Court and then to the High Court.
– How many verdicts were given in the case?
– The first was a verdict for Dean, the second a reversal of that verdict, and the third was a verdict against him on appeal.
– I know that in some cases money was advanced to contractors to enable them to extend their plants in order to take up contracts for the commission. In cases where money was not advanced promises were made by officers of the commission. I understand that in this case the jury found that the agreement was not in existence on the 20th September.
– The High Court decided that there was not any agreement.
– No, the Full Court and the High Court held that there was no agreement which was enforceable by law.
-But there were promises made to Dean and Sons. I heard some honorable member on the other side say that Dean was asked to enter into a contract, and while he wished to enter into a contract for 63s. per 1,000, the department wanted the bricks at 60s. per 1,000. That is not so.
– It is absolutely so.
– I shall read a portion of the agreement which I have in my possession, and I do not think the Minister can controvert it. I shall not read the whole of the- agreement, because I think the case does not require much more discussion, as there seems to have been some whipping-up on the Govern - ment side in connexion with the motion.
– There has not been as much whipping-up on this side as on the Opposition side.
– I was not asked to speak on the case.
– There has been a lot of lobbying.
– The honorable gentleman mistakes for lobbying what happens in all such cases. An honorable member intending to move for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into a claim must interview honorable members whom he desires to be appointed on the committee. He must get their consent to the appointment. I have not been following the movements of the honorable member for Newcastle, but I do not think he has clone any more than interview members whom he desired to sit on the committee.
– I picked them out indiscriminately. The lobbying has all been on the other side.
– I quote the following from a communication, by Mr. H. Cook, the Newcastle district officer of the War Service Homes Commission : -
The price for good quality common brick., equal to submitted sample, tobe 63s. per 1,000. The delivery to be taken by the War Service Homes Commission at kiln. ‘Henry Dean and Sons agree to load all lorries or drays
Hi kiln with . ill dispatch. Priceas aforesaid to be varied only by -
That was the agreement.
– Mr. Cook, who was district officer at Newcastle, forwarded that document to the War Service Homes Commissioner, who replied that he could not accept the price of 63s., but would agree to 60s.
– Mr. Dean, when giving evidence in the court, stated that at Newcastle he spoke to the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Hutchings, who informed him that the Commissioner desired to obtain bricks at 60s. a. thousand. Dean repliedthat he could not supply bricks at less than 63s., which was a cheaper rate than that charged byother brickmakers in Newcastle. Finally Cook agreed “to the price of 63s. He wrote -
I shall be glad if you will have this document framed in the form ofa legal contract, inserting in it any additional matter that may be necessary, but not drastically altering the conditions, and return it to this office to be submitted to Mr. Dean for approval and signature.
– That document was sent from Cook to Mr. Hutchings. I read in the House the other day Mr. Hutchings’ reply to it.
– That may be so, but Dean gave his evidence in court. I am here to protect the Commonwealth purse, as far as possible, but any person who has grounds for a claim against the Commonwealth is entitled to ask for the investigation of his case by a select committee composed of members from both sides of the House. If the committee thought that the claim was not justified, it would undoubtedly bring in an adverse report If the Minister examines minutely the departmental files he will find . that inducements have been offered to various firms to establish new works, and I have not the slightest doubt that an inducement was held out to Dean and Sons to build fresh kilns. The representative of the department told this firm that the department’s requirements would be 250,000 bricks a week for perhaps the next ten years. He opened up a vista of successful business that was certainly alluring. Money has been paid to contractors, who were not nearly so deserving Of consideration as are Dean and Sons.
But Mr. Driver had to fight his case from court to court and from board to board, and had even to mortgage his home. Other claims again have been satisfactorily settled, although not without proper investigation. Brigadier-General McCay was appointed to inquire into various claims, and in his investigations he was greatly assisted by his legal training. He found that some eases were deserving, and compensation was,, therefore, paid for uncompleted contracts.
– Brigadier-General McCay reported adversely on this case.
– That is quite likely, but, on the other hand, the court decided in favour of Dean and Sons. Although I make no reflection on departmental officers, I contend that there were certain particulars in the files that should have been submitted to the Minister.
– I have not withheld any information.
– I am referring to the honorable member forWimmera (Mr. Stewart), who I am sure, had he known the full facts, would have framed differently certain, speeches he made previously in this House. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) mentioned a case the files, of which disclosed that inducements had been held out to companies to contract for certain works. Apart altogether from the moral claim of Dean and Sons, it would be a good thing, to have the case investigated by a select committee, which, if appointed as suggested, would comprise four honorable, members from that side of the House and three from this side.
– No matter who might be appointed I would still hold the same opinion…
– The Minister has so many matters to attend to that it is almost impassible, for him to examine the files,, but a select committee of the House would be fully charged with this duty. In. one case mentioned by the honorable member for Denison, the contractor said that he had no legal claim. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) said that the contract- had been signed and completed, but that was not so. This man had no legal claim against the War Service ‘ Homes Department. The committee of inquiry, of which- I was a member,, recognized that this man had a strong moral claim, because he had been induced by the Department to expend money to carry out experiments, and to erect certain buildings.
– What- position was held by Mr. Cook?
– He was the district officer at Newcastle. I take it that when a servant of any institution enters ‘into certain arrangements, the institution- is responsible.
– Mr. Cook did not enter into any arrangement.
– Not in writing, but there is such a thing as a word of honour between men. Apart altogether from the law, Dean and Sons have a strong moral claim against the War Service Homes Department. In the Tasmanian case the contractor admitted that he had no legal claim.
– H - Hiscase would have failed in all the courts of the country. He entered into* a contract on the strength of promises made by the department.
– The Minister intimated that Dean and Sons had sufficient work in hand to warrant the erection of fresh kilns, apart altogether fromt he requirements of the War Service Homes Department. That statement is> not correct, as the following telegram from Charles Dean will show : -
Made no such admission, patent kiln built, extramachine bought solely to meet- warservice homes requirements, also dismantled pipemaking machines, and kilns for same purpose.
– That is not so.
– It is one man’s- word against another’s. At the time this- arrangement was made with Dean and Sons, similar arrangements were made with other firms in Melbourne,. Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, and other places. Timber mill’s were bought by the Government The. sum of £500,000 was spent in purchasing timber yards to- provide for warservice homes. The scheme involved fully £60,000,000, and the department was inquiring’ everywhere- for building materials. Knowing the spirit of that time it is evident, to me that certain inducements were held out to Messrs. Dean and Sons. I support, the appointment of- a select committee to inquire into- this case in1 the interests^not only of this Parliament, but also, of the taxpayers of this- country.
.- The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), when introducing this motion last week, made out a very good case. Naturally such appeals as this meet with the sympathy of all honorable members. I object to them because there is a tendency to make Parliament a court of appeal, which is a most undesirable practice. For some time past applications to both Houses of Parliament have been increasing rapidly, and much of the time of honorable members has been taken up investigating various cases. Soon every litigant who has had dealings with the Government, and has been disappointed in the courts of the country, will approach some member of Parliament and ask him to move for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into his case. This objectionable practice should not be tolerated. If the circumstances of the case are such that it deserves particular consideration, I should prefer the appointment of a committee composed of persons outside of this House altogether. I am sorry that I cannot support the honorable member’s motion.
– I confess candidly that I know nothing of this case, other than what I have learnt from the speeches delivered in this House, but from the trend of the debate it seems that an inquiry is really justified. The Government is really against an inquiry, because the firm concerned has little business standing. Apparently, the greatest disqualification of this firm was that it was in business in a small way, and had not a contract worth millions of pounds. We are all. aware of the great attention paid to many contractors whose dealings with the Government were on a big scale. I am not prepared to vote upon the merits or demerits of this case, but, unfortunately, it is being tried in this House.
– Where it should not be tried .
– That is so. Therefore, a committee should be appointed to inquire into it.
– The case has been tried and settled.
– It may be that these contractors had not a legal claim, but acted in good faith upon the word of a government officer. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has shown clearly that this firm was induced to undertake certain financial obligations in anticipation of a contract with the War Service Homes Commission. This afternoon the honorable member for Maribyrnong quoted a letter from Henry Dean & Sons in which certain statements were made, and the Minister for Works and Railways interjected that they were not true. That may be so, but we hear these assertions and contradictions, and I do not think the Minister or any one else is in a position to declare which party is right. It may be that the firm has a moral claim, but not a legal claim. Those circumstances obtain in connexion with many contracts. Unfortunately, honorable members are tawing sides, and the case is being tried in this House, which is not in a position to come to a decision upon the facts. If Henry Dean and Sons have any claim at all an investigation of it by a select committee will cost very little, but the possible cost should not influence a government which has spent thousands of pounds upon royal commissions which were appointed to inquire into all sorts of matters. If the committee be appointed, and reports that the contractors have no claim, the matter will be ended. But a refusal of an investigation merely because the plaintiffs have no legal claim will not be fair to either the honorable member for Newcastle or the contractors. The claim for an inquiry is reasonable, and I can see no justification for refusing it. Ministerial members will be in the majority on the committee, and, therefore, the interests of the Government will be safeguarded. The Government should be prepared to trust the committee to deal with the facts impartially.
.- Although I have not been able to listen to the whole of this debate, I have gathered sufficient knowledge of the subject to warrant me in addressing myself to it. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) said that the mover of the motion had made out a case which was calculated to enlist the sympathy of honorable members, but he could not support the motion, because, on principle, he is opposed to this Parliament becoming something in the nature of a court of appeal from the properly constituted courts of the land. That general principle was laid down by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) a week ago, and I have no quarrel with it. but even the acceptance of it is by no means a final answer to the request of the honorable member for Newcastle, nor does it debar the honorable member for Lilley from supporting the motion. The allegation is that negotiations were opened up with Henry Dean and Sons for the supply of bricks to the War Service Homes Commission. The first and most curious fact about the negotiations is that it was not Henry Dean and Sons’ who sought the contract; a representative of the War Service Homes Commission was running after this brick-making firm and endeavouring to induce it to enter into a contract. The result was that some kind of inchoate agreement was made between Henry Dean and Sons and the commission, or, at any rate, Mr. Cook, an officer of the commission. The firm thereupon undertook onerous commitments and responsibilities, and the anticipations of business with the commission not being realized, suffered a serious loss. Out of these negotiations litigation arose, and opinions and reports were obtained from responsible officers of the Crown. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) told the House that the courts had decided that no contract existed between the War Service Homes Commission and Henry Dean and Sons, and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) pertinently pointed out that the decision of the Full Court was that there was no contract enforcable at law. The contractors’ claim was upset on technical grounds, and apparently, although I am not aware that this point was raised, it was held that Mr. Cook had no authority to make a contract. At any rate, there were certain statutory defects in this contract which made it unenforcable at law, and it was impossible for Henry Dean and Sons to get redress in the courts. If this were a dispute between Henry Dean and Sons and, say, Robinson or Jones, private citizens, the decision of the court would have to stand, because this Parliament could not undertake to redress grievances or even obvious injustices as between private individuals. But in this instance the grievance, the injustice, and the loss suffered by Henry Dean and Sons are the result of a moral agreement with a representative of the War Service Homes Commission. If the firm cannot get redress in the courts for an injustice done by a government instrumentality like the War Service Homes Commission, the only authority that can give redress is this Parliament, which created the commission and is responsible for its actions.
– The case is not that there was an agreement which cannot be proved. The Crown has always denied that there was any agreement.
– Perhaps the honorable member will tell the House on what grounds the Crown denies the existence of an agreement. The honorable member’s’ interjection rather strengthens the case for an inquiry by a select committee.
– After the courts have dealt with .the case ?
– The verdict of the jury was that there was an agreement.
– And the Full Court did not understand why the jury arrived at that decision.
– Very frequently the judges do not understand the reasons for a jury’s decision. There are many people at large who, in the opinion of the judges, should be in jail, but, nevertheless, they cannot be re-arrested. The War Service Homes Commission was an instrument of this Parliament. It is alleged that Henry Dean and Sons have a moral claim against the commission, and that the claim, though not enforceable at law, has some moral right behind it. This is a public matter especially affecting the honour of this Parliament, for it is the duty of honorable members to see that no man who believes that he has entered into an arrangement with the Government of this country shall suffer loss or injury through a technicality. All these considerations strengthen the case for an inquiry. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) appreciates the vital distinction between a case on the merits of which a court of law has given a decision, with which we are asked to interfere, and a case in which, the court not having given a clear decision on the merits, we are asked to consider the redressing of a wrong. I do not know whether a wrong has been done to Henry Dean and Sons, but I say that a prima facie case has been made out, and that this Parliament is competent to deal with it without interfering with the prerogatives of the courts or violating the general principle that when a question has been decided in the courts the decision must rest there. I sincerely hope that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) will, on reconsideration, see that this is a case in which the holding of an inquiry would not violate the principle which is dear to him, and which I accept as rightly binding honorable members of this House.
.- I support the motion of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) for an inquiry into the claim of Henry Dean and Sons against the War Service Homes Commission. After carefully listening to the debate I have come to the conclusion that prima facie the firm has a moral and just claim. I am not prepared to say that the claim should be granted, but it should at least be closely scrutinized by a select committee. The War Service Homes Commission was created at a time when it was proposed to provide large numbers of houses for returned soldiers. It was a new form of activity for the Government, and in a short period of time the Commissioner had to collect a staff and decide matters of administration. It is only reasonable to assume that mistakes and misunderstandings occurred. Many large schemes were outlined, huge undertakings were foreshadowed, and large estates were purchased. Two large estates were acquired in the Newcastle district, and negotiations with Henry Dean and Sons were entered into by Mr. Cook, the Newcastle representative of the War Service Homes Commission, who, in a letter to the firm, wrote -
We wish to assure you that our constructional programme is permanent, and that our requirements will only be mot by the receipt of 250,000 bricks per week for at least ten years. It is not the policy of the commission to acquire brickworks cr commence new works of sufficient capacity to supply the whole of our requirements. We are in a position to make an agreement with you to accept the maximum quantity of bricks for which you are in a position to guarantee delivery, say from 50,000 to 75,000 per week for three, five, or more years.
That letter clearly indicated to Henry Dean and Sons that the War Service Homes Commission intended to proceed with a large building scheme in- the district. On that the firm dislocated its business and made preparations to meet the new demand. It ceased to make pipes and tiles, and commenced the erection of extra brick, kilns. An agreement was definitely reached between Mr. Cook and Mr. Dean on the 20th September, 1920. During the following month the War Service Homes Act was amended, and the effect of the amendment was to restrict considerably the powers of the commissioner. Comprehensive schemes that had been foreshadowed had to be submitted to the Minister, many projected undertakings were cancelled, and much of l he work formerly in the hands of the Government was left to private enterprise. The Minister and many honorable members who support the Government contend that there was no contract. I do not know of the existence of a contract; but an agreement was reached. By the appointment of a select committee the facts can be inquired into, and the firm treated” justly. Special attention should be given to the moral side of the claim. 1 am sure that a committee of this House would not advise anything detrimental to the interests of the Government, and would see that right and honest treatment was given to the firm. The honorable member for Newcastle, and those who support him, do- not challenge the decision of the courts. A judge and jury gave a verdict in favour of Henry Dean and Sons, but the War Service Homes Commission appealed, and that and a subsequent appeal by Henry Dean and Sous went against the firm. I am not arguing this case on the basis of law. I admit that the firm has no legal claim, but if it re-arranged its business and suspended the manufacture of pipes and tiles in order to be able to execute large orders for the War tiervice Homes Commission, it should receive some consideration from the Government. I do not support the view of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) and the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) that the firm took an ordinary business risk. It would not have dislocated its business and undertaken the construction of additional kilns had it not anticipated orders from the War Service Homes Commission as a result of the agreement between Mr. H. Dean and the representative of the commission. When the case was heard in court, Mr. . Hutchings, Deputy Commissioner for War Service Homes in
New South “Wales, gave evidence, in the course of which he said that he authorized Cook “ to arrange a binding contract with some firm of brickmakers - Brick SUpliers, if possible - for some years ahead,” and that he also instructed Cook “to endeavour to arrange for a binding contract with some firm of brickmakers to secure adequate supplies of bricks for our requirements for a period of years ahead.” That instruction was given in July, 1920’. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
.- I move -
I make no apology for bringing this motion before the House, nor for the subject of it. Were I inclined to make an apology, it would be on the ground of my inability to treat the subject as it deserves, j purpose to deal with this important proposal, which is by no means a new one, in a dispassionate and impersonal way. When criticizing the present system, particularly the present cabinet system, I shall make no charges against the present Government, because the evils of which I shall speak are common to all governments. I shall criticize the system, but not individuals. I, in common with all honorable members when they first enter Parliament, was amazed and disconcerted by the forms and procedure of the House, and I very early formed the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that the system did not lead to the efficient conduct of debate or the expeditious performance of public duties, and that a different system would be preferable. I held the opinion that the Cabinet system, particularly as it applied to Cabinet secrecy and responsibility, was not an idea] one. In the whirligig of time I became, for a short period, a member of that select body, the Cabinet. My experience while a Cabinet Minister, instead of curing me of my discontent and altering my views, revealed the defects of the system in a clearer light than I had previously seen them. I then realized more than ever the necessity for an alteration of the Cabinet system. It can be made. Our present parliamentary system is the product of centuries of evolution ; it is modelled upon the British Parliament, known as the “Mother of Parliaments,” and with slight variations has been adopted throughout Australia, as have also the rules, forms, and procedure generally of the British Parliament. At the first federal convention, the late Sir Henry Parkes advocated this principle of elective Ministries. At the convention which drafted the Constitution the subject was again discussed, and even proposed. It was, however, notstressed, because it waa desired that the way should be left open for its adoption by the Commonwealth Parliament should it desire to adopt it. There is, therefore, no constitutional obstacle in the way of the adoption of a system of elective Ministries in lieu of the present cabinet system. The subject was discussed in this House in August, 1905, on the following motion of the then member for Perth, Mr. J”. M. Fowler : -
That the present methods of constituting Ministerial Cabinets, together with the powers exercised by these bodies, amount in many respects to the usurpation of the rights and duties of Parliament as a whole, tend to foment unnecessary party strife, impede the work of legislation, and precipitate artificial crises; and therefore, in the opinion of this House, such legislation as may be necessary should be introduced to provide for the election of Ministers by Parliament.
During my investigation into this subject I ascertained that in the Parliaments of several of the states, as well as of New Zealand, this matter has been discussed. In the Victorian Parliament, on the 30th August, 1905, you, Mr. Speaker, moved -
That, in the opinion of this House, the time is ripe for the abandonment of the Cabinet system of government and the establishment of an elective executive, individually responsible to Parliament, and with a definite tenure of office.
I do not know what views you, sir, hold on this subject to-day, but it is interesting to recall the views that you then expressed. My object in making these quotations is to emphasize that the subject is by no means a new one. Although I have made inquiry, I can find no record of any debate on the subject in this House later than 1905, but I am satisfied that the public generally is to-day more discontented with the working of our parliamentary system than at any other time in the history of this country. Under the present cabinet system the Prime Minister has autocratic and responsible powers - he holds the resignation of every minister in the hollow of his hand; he can, and sometimes does, dismiss the whole cabinet at will.
– That cannot be done in the democratic Labour party. The honorable member should take the most shining examples of wisdom.
– I am not discussing exceptions to the general rule, and do not intend to wander into the by-ways of the procedure adopted by the various political parties. The way in which the political machine of honorable members opposite functions is well known, but its working does not in any way destroy the case that I have put forward, namely, that the Prime Minister - whether a Labour Prime Minister, or otherwise - can, if he so desires, end the life of a government, and possibly of a parliament. Whether a Labour prime minister who did so would remain a member of the Labour party af terwards is of no consequence in this connexion. Not only has the Prime Minister the powers to which I have referred, but in these days of international responsibilities and obligations he speaks on behalf of the people of Australia ; his speeches are telegraphed to all parts of the world ; and his signature is at the foot of treaties and documents involving the citizens of Australia in serious and solemn obligations. Is it not remarkable that the individual who has these powers and responsibilities is not elected to his position by the people of Australia ? He is not even elected to that position by Parliament; his election usually takes place behind the locked doors of the caucus meeting of the largest political party in the Parliament. That there are exceptions to that rule is shown in the case of the Parliament of Victoria, where the Premier was elected by the smallest political party in the state.
– That was true also of the late Prime Minister of England, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald.
– It is true also of the present Treasurer.
– I pass from the responsibility of the Prime Minister, and the method of his election, to the manner in which the remaining members of the Cabinet are chosen. In the selection of the members of a Cabinet the deciding factors should be ability - particularly administrative ability - and personal character. Under the party system the application of this principle would mean that the ablest members of the party would be chosen for Cabinet office ; ideally applied, it would mean that the members of the Cabinet would be selected by the whole of the members who had been elected by the people, to represent them in Parliament. Unfortunately, under our present system, Cabinet Ministers are not always selected because of their ability. I go further, and say that they are sometimes selected because of their lack of ability, such men being more likely to be subservient to the Prime Minister who selects them. The present system requires that the members of the cabinet shall be united, indivisible, each being responsible for the action of his colleagues. They constitute, in effect, a secret junta that dominates the Parliament. They fix the date upon which Parliament shall, meet, the date upon which it shall go into recess, the sitting days, the order of business, and the nature of the business with which Parliament shall deal. I have stated that administrative ability is not the sole qualification for selection for cabinet rank. Sometimes an individual is selected because of his social standing, or because he represents certain interests upon which his party are dependent for election funds. He -may even be the nominee of influential newspapers which are able to influence public opinion upon the leading questions of the day. It is the Cabinet, so appointed, which dictates the business of the House, governs the country when the Parliament is in recess, and administers the expenditure of the huge sums of public money that are voted by Parliament for public purposes. It frequently goes further, however, and arrogates to itself functions and duties that rightly belong solely to Parliament. Although I hesitate to depart from the principle that I enunciated at the outset, of making my speech as impersonal as possible, I shall instance two actions of the Government during the recent recess. I refer to the placing overseas of a contract for the construction of two cruisers, and the rejection of the Geneva Protocol. I have no desire to discuss the merits of either action. The Government decision may have been quite right in both cases, but it cannot be denied that it is fundamentally wrong for any Cabinet to take upon itself the responsibility of making such decisions of international importance without first consulting Parliament and obtaining its consent. The system that permits such a course to be followed is a wrong one. It has been said that the Parliament has control over all matters, inasmuch as it can dismiss any government which acts contrary to its wishes. Under our present party system, however, the real issue is obscured by the party issue that is raised when Parliament meets months after the action has been taken. It is argued, “ Why put the Government out and throw the country into chaos because of something that has been done and cannot be undone ?” So the helpless private member on the Government side of the House can express disapproval of any of its actions only by making a vigorous protest in the party room ; on the floor of the House, he must vote to save the Government when the inevitable motion of censure is moved from the Opposition benches. Such a system is entirely wrong. The Executive should not control Parliament. On the contrary, Parliament should control the Executive. Parliament should be, not a class, but a national machine. I have no hesitation in saying that the private member who supports the Government is frequently merely a cog in the wheel of the party machine. He cannot initiate legislation without the approval and the sanction of the Government. He must stand sponsor for everything that the Government does, whether he approves or disapproves of it. Perhaps I cannot do better than quote the very eloquent words that were uttered by you, Mr. Speaker, when dealing with this matter in the Victorian State Parliament twenty years ago. You said-
The chief complaint which I have to make against the system is that men are frequently called on to vote for measures they do not believe in, either to help their party forward to office or keep the party they are supporting in office.
Mr. Murray. ; Or vote against measures they do believe in.
– Or vote against measures which they do believe in, perjuring their consciences, twisting their convictions, distorting their moral sense, and destroying their individuality.
Those are very strong, but, nevertheless, very true words. An honorable member of the Opposition, whilst his party is in opposition, is a freer man. His duty is plain. He is opposed to the Government and all its works, even though he may believe in some of them. He can see no good in anything that it does. He resorts to every stratagem under the parliamentary rules to hold up the business of the. House in order that he may elevate the party to which he belongs, to the detriment of the party that is in office. He waxes eloquent upon the incompetence, the hypocrisy, and the general inability of the party that. happens to be occupying the treasury benches. In short, he plays the party game. Honorable members on the Government side of the House are paid to govern the country. He is paid to prevent them from governing it. So the game goes on, whilst the man in the street and in the country wonders what it is all about, and whether the system cannot be improved. I have not the slightest doubt that if, in the course of time, honorable members opposite obtain possession of the treasury benches, the present occupants of those benches will play the same obstructionist game that honorable members opposite are now playing. It has been said that the ideal Parliament is one in which every member would be free to act and to vote according to his convictions, untrammelled by any party ties or considerations; that the Cabinet would be elected from amongst the best brains in the Parliament, irrespective of party or opinions; and that administrative ability and persona] character would be the deciding factors in making the selection of Ministers. However desirable such an ideal may be, I do not think that it is possible of accomplishment.
It appears to me that it would necessarily mean the abandonment of the present party system. Leaving out of consideration altogether the question whether the abolition of political parties is desirable, I do not think that it is at present practicable. The party system in Parliament is but a manisfestation of a social law that leads men who think alike to band together to forward the ideals which they hold in common.We find that law operating in every walk of our social life outside of Parliament; in’ our clubs, our societies, our associations of all kinds, there is ‘an illustration of that fundamental truth. If we desire to improve the present system - and I give every honorable member credit for having that- desire - the thing that we have to consider is, not the abolition of political parties as they now exist, but the manner in which the present procedure may be altered so as to permit of the different parties working together for the good government of the country instead of spending their time in the House in ceaseless party warfare. Can that be done; and, if so, would it be wise to do it? I answer “yes” to both of those questions. I have carefully read all the available literature on the subject, and have found a great paucity of constructive ideas for overcoming the evils of the present system. I find that nearly all advocates of a change fall back on the Swiss system of elective ministries. I may be pardoned if I quote from a work, Government in Switzerland, by Vincent, a very brief outline of the cabinet system of that country. He writes -
The Cabinet is a. public body in regard to records of its proceedings.
That is a striking departure from our method of secret Cabinet meetings. In Switzerland the reports of Cabinet meetings are published in the Government Gazette, and when Parliament meets, every member is handed a report of the business done by the Cabinet.
– Those are reports of decisions, as distinct from discussions?
– How far the proceedings of the Cabinet are published in detail I am unable to say. The writer continues -
In Switzerland the federal cabinet is a creation of the federal legislature, and each secretary holds a separate commission. Tenure of office is not dependent on the president, but is fixed by the constitution at a definite term of years. Re-election is possible, but always at the hands of a new legislature. Practically, cabinets in America have a fixed term of four years, but in Switzerland a faithful official has a legal claim upon a three years’ tenure, of which he may not be deprived except by a decree of court. Hence this is not a parliamentary ministry, which rises and falls with the measures which it advocates. It is usually elected by the party of the majority, but does not feel called -upon to resign when one of its bills fails to pass. The proposal of legislation is one of the duties laid upon the council; it is expected to lead the way in making and changing federal law, but it has no autocratic monopoly of initiative even within its own party. Any member of the chambers may move the adoption of a bill, but all are submitted to the council for an opinion, and must be returned within a certain time. . . . When, however, projects urged or approved by the cabinet are rejected by the legislature, the ordinary parliamentary result does not take place. The self-respect of Ministers is not called in question, because they were elected for the very purpose of giving their honest opinion on legislative proposals, and if this opinion does not agree with that of the legislature, they prepare bills which will be acceptable. Instances are rare where Ministers resign on account of disagreement with their colleagues or with the majority, and tenure usually depends on their own will in the matter. Men who have proved capable administrators are kept in office term after term.
The writer quotes various names and long periods of office, up to 30 years in extent, in illustration of this point -
This long tenure has been partly due to the fact that the same party, or some shade of it,h as been in power most of the time; but parties have not always upheld the projects of their own Ministers, and yet when their terms expired have given the men a re-election. It has also happened that good executive abilities have brought men of different parties into the same cabinet, and the machineryof government has run as smoothly as if there were no political differences.
– How is the Cabinet elected - by the party in power?
– It is elected by the Parliament, but it naturally follows that the party having a majority in the Parliament would be represented by a ma jority in Cabinet. I make just this one more quotation -
It will be observed that such a thing as a “ cabinet crisis “ is out of the question. Violent and rapid changes of ministries, one of the chief objections to parliamentary government, are overcome by the fixed tenure of office, and although the legislature has opportunity once in three years to renew the national executive, public opinion, or tradition, or business instinct, whichever it may be, keeps . the faithful officer in place. Consequently the administration of affairs has readied a high degree of perfection.
The conditions in Switzerland differ in many’ ways from those in Australia, and I do not think that the Swiss system in its entirety could be applied successfully to Australia. I have a proposal which I submit for the consideration of honorable members, and which, whether they agree with it or not, is at any rate a constructive proposal, and is submitted for what it is worth. I believe that the present system of Cabinet responsibility should be abolished, and that the Cabinet in the main should be an administrative body. The Cabinet should have less power, and the Parliament as a body should possess the real power. Parliament should not, as under our system, create a body having greater powers than it possesses itself. The ‘ Cabinet should contain a proportionate representation of all the members in the Parliament.
– That would be a good “ hotch-potch.”
– I have heard the term “ hotch-potch “ applied to such a body before.
– Would your recommendation apply even where parties are separated by fundamental differences?
– Yes . We have in a small way adopted this principle in this Parliament in the appointment of two permanent committees - the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. The unwritten law is that there shall be proportional representation of the various parties on those committees. When Minister for Works and Railways 1 came into close contact with the decisions of the Public Works Committee, and frequently had occasion to respect and be guided by them. Members of these permanent committees, although they are strongly partisan in the House, do excellent work on the committees. During the last few years, I venture to say that it is no exaggeration to claim that the Public Works Committee, this so-called “ hotch-potch “ committee, has saved millions of public money by its recommendations.
– The committee is not run on party lines.
– I am not advocating that the Cabinet should be run on party lines. To show what the position would be, were my recommendation adopted, let me say that the usual argument against it is that, with strongly divergent views in the Cabinet, chaos would result and parliamentary government would be impossible. Whilst there is some logic in that contention, I think the difficulty might be largely .overcome by the appointment of a greater number of permanent committees to deal with specific subjects. I shall give an example of one such committee that might be appointed, and that is a defence committee. I believe that the machinery of government might be improved by the appointment of a permanent defence committee, based, as our existing permanent committees are based, on the proportionate representation of all parties. The committee should be required to deal with all questions of defence. I quite recognize that it would be impossible, with a cabinet composed as I have suggested, to agree upon a defence policy. It might agree that a defence policy was necessary and should be defined, but, when it came to define it, differences of opinion would arise. All that the Cabinet need do is to declare, that a defence policy is necessary, . and then refer the matter by resolution of Parliament to the defence committee for inquiry and report. The committee could take evidence from admirals, generals, and officers of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, could inspect bases, ships, and fortifications, and make such other inquiries as it thought fit, and then submit to Parliament a definite and concrete proposal for a defence programme. Taking the worst possible view of the matter for the purpose of my argument, I assume that the Minister for Defence is personally opposed to the recommendations of the defence commission. The Parliament would order a bill to be drafted on the lines proposed by the majority of the defence committee. It would be presented to Parliament, and I again assume that the Minister in charge of it would be against its provisions. Let me assume, for instance, that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) is the Minister for« Defence, and that the majority of the defence committee is composed of members from this side of the House. The committee recommends measures for the defence of the country to which the honorable member is. opposed. He could still stand at the table and move the necessary motions to carry the bill. He might state plainly that he was against the whole bill or against some of its provisions. He could say it was his duty as the Minister concerned to explain the measure fairly and impartially to the House, and in concluding his observations might reiterate his intention to vote against all or some of the recommendations of the defence committee. But, if carried, it would be his duty to administer the act as passed by the Parliament. That would be a much more sensible procedure than the present method of dealing with such a measure. Under the present system a Cabinet Minister opposed to a measure puts up a fight against it in Cabinet. If he is beaten there, he comes into this House and advocates and votes for something to which he is perhaps utterly opposed. In other words, he must bow to the principle of Cabinet solidarity and responsibility, or vacate his office. One advantage of such a system as I suggest would be that each party would select its ablest administrators for office, knowing well that they would have to compete against able rivals in other parties. You could obtain Ministers of higher calibre from the whole of the Parliament than by confining the selection to a party. At present in this aud every other Parliament following the same system, we have the spectacle of able administrators sitting idly upon the Opposition benches. The country is deprived of their talents aud services, and they exercise their ability, not in governing the country, but in endeavouring to prevent other men from governing it. Such a system as I suggest would put an end to the present policy of governments endeavouring to secure favour at elections by the manipulation of taxation and by making proposals to obtain favours for certain classes to whom they look for support.
– How would that come about ?
-It has frequently been done in this Parliament, and if this Government does not do it at the next elections it will be the first in the history of this country that has refrained from doing so.
– This is the first Government to do quite a lot of things.
– Quite so. I am not criticizing the Government as a govern ment, but merely combating the honorable member’s interjection. Governments appointed under an electoral system would run their full term, and so obviate the ridiculous position that arises to-day, of a, country plunged into political chaos and turmoil simply because some honorable members successfully move, against the wishes of the Government, that a sUm of so many millions be reduced by £1.
– How could there be an assertion of great principles under a different system?
– We could better assert our principles by being able to vote, free and unfettered, upon the issues before the House. It frequently happens that an honorable member votes against his convictions for the sake of his party. Take the case of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister). Last session, he vigorously attacked the Government for letting a naval contract for serge cloth overseas instead of to some very admirable firm in Geelong. The honorable member said that the Government for its action was deserving of the most severe censure. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), ever ready to secure a party advantage, sympathized with him, and moved a motion of censure against the Government, which the honorable member for Corio voted against. The honorable member for Bourke then termed him a “ darned fraud.” It was not the honorable member, but the system that was the fraud. The honorable member for Corio acted rightly by refusing to vote against the Government on a small matter when he approved of its policy respecting bigger and more vital issues. It has been said that the fact of each Parliament running its full term would be a disadvantage in the sense that there would really be no control over Parliament, and that the people, although frequently disapproving of the Government, would have to endure it helplessly for the full term of three years. Such a position might be overcome - and this step might be well worth considering - by the introduction of legislation so long and ardently desired by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) to bring about’ the initiative, referendum, and recall. Parliamentary systems, like all human systems, must and will change. The present parliamentary procedure is the result of centuries of evolution, and is totally unsuited to a young democratic country like Australia. It enables a small minority party to dominate the parliamentary machine, a condition which is undemocratic and intolerable. There have been instances of a single individual controlling the whole Parliament. I understand that the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt), when a member of the Tasmanian Parliament, occupied this singular position, and I have no doubt that his strong and fearless attitude on all questions gave grave concern to the government of the day. One of the greatest evils of the present parliamentary system is that the floor of Parliament is, in effect, a battleground upon which advocates of the various political parties spend most of their time fighting for merely party advantage. Parliament itself, with the growth of secret party meetings, is more often than not a chamber to record publicly decisions that have been arrived at behind the locked doors of caucus meetings. Each Government of the day spends most of its time fighting for its existence against the attacks of the Opposition, instead of administering the affairs of the country. No honorable member can ignore these facts. It is all very well for us to say that Parliament is what the people make it; that the people get the kind of government they deserve. The people look to their representatives in Parliament for good government, and if the parliamentary forms and procedure are so antiquated and cumbersome as to render good government difficult or even impossible, then the people have a right to l look to members of Parliament to change the parliamentary machine, and render good government possible of accomplishment. It can be changed not by the people, but by us. There are no constitutional difficulties in the way. This Parliament could change its present system in 24 hours, or if considered necessary, this afternoon. I quite recognize the danger of sudden and violent changes in parliamentary systems of government. I well appreciate the point so eloquently stressed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) during a recent debate,- the value of clinging fast to the old; but I submit that we have too long clung to the present parliamentary system. We are not trying to improve it. As a Commonwealth and a nation, we have led the way in industrial and other legislation. Surely we can lead the way in changing the procedure in Parliament, and substituting in its stead a system that will be a model for the whole world to imitate. Is it necessary that we should cling to the present system simply because it is the system of the Mother Country? There is no getting away from the fact that Parliament and parliamentary members are not held by the people outside in the esteem and respect that they deserve. This position is brought about, not because honorable members as a body are not sincere in their desire to govern the country properly, but because as new members they come here and are confused and disconcerted by the forms of Parliament. They naturally endeavour to learn these forms, and in learning them become accustomed to them, and then drift along with the tide.
– What office would the honorable member desire under that system ?
– I regret that the honorable member has made that interjection, but, at any rate, it gives me the opportunity of saying that I cannot well be charged with a violent desire for office, or with being ready to sink principle to obtain or retain office. I find in reading past debates that nearly all advocates of this system have been twitted with the same unworthy motive. Under the system I am proposing, the representation in the Cabinet of the party to which I belong would be two, instead of five as at present, and if I desired to obtain office - and I do not desire it - my chances would be less under that system than they are to-day. That. I think, is an effective answer to the honorable member’s interjection. I am glad to have had the opportunity of moving and discussing this motion. I did not bring it out merely to give it an airing. It is part of the platform of the Victorian Country party, and I bring it forward in the spirit of one who endeavours, if possible, to put the platform of his party into effect.
– The elective system is also on the platform of the Country party of New South Wales.
– I believe so. I may fairly predict that before very long it will be upon the platform of the Australian Federal Farmers’ Association. I am asking for the appointment of a committee representative of all parties to make inquiries respecting the American, the Swiss, and other systems of government, with the possibility of improving our own. I venture to say that not one honorable member will suggest for one moment that our present parliamentary system is ideal. I appeal to the House not to sidestep this motion, and allow it to remain on the notice-paper for months, but to appoint a committee forthwith. Let each party elect its own members to such committee to take counsel together, to inquire into these systems, bring down to Parliament their recommendations, and give the members of this House an opportunity of comparing them with the existing system. I am satisfied that the present system can be bettered, and that some day it will be altered. If, by moving this motion this afternoon, I have done something to bring nearer this alteration, I shall be well satisfied.
.- I thank the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) for having submitted this motion. What I should like to have said he has said much better than I could possibly do. With his every word I thoroughly agree. The honorable member has also told me a lot I never expected to know of the procedure of Cabinets. ‘ I had an idea that such things took place, but the honorable member’s statements is the first definite information I have received on the subject. It is well known to honorable members that I am opposed to the party system, and was elected to this House as an Independent. Of course, we shall never get all to think alike. There will be those who believe in the Labour policy - to some extent, all of us do - and others who will be opposed to most of the Labour planks, particularly the more extreme proposals. But would any man attempt to conduct a business in the manner in which Parliament conducts the affairs of the country? Imagine half the directors on a board continuously engaged in trying to undo what the other half do.
– All are trying to rob the shareholders.
– That is not so. because most directors are personally interested in the success of the business which they control, their money being invested in it. All the members of a board of directors will not hold the same view.
– They have one interest in common.
– In some instances that may be true. I am not reflecting upon any honorable member. I have learned to admire my fellow-members, most of whom are at least as sincere as I am in the desire to develop the country and better its people. When directors meet at the board table all are imbued with the desire to do their best for the company and its shareholders, but they may hold differing views. The pessimist may say that because the outlook is not bright, and money is dear, the firm had better call in some of its securities and restrict its business. Another man is an optimist and he urges expansion of the business so that the proportion of overhead expenses to turnover may be reduced. But the pessimist does not try to undo what the optimist is doing. They take counsel together. The optimist agrees that money is tight and that it might not be wise to go forward as rapidly as he had suggested, whilst the pessimist recognizes that it would be sound policy to expand the business to some extent, in order to lessen the proportion of overhead charges. In the end all the directors agree upon a policy, which probably is superior to the proposals of either the pessimist or the optimist, both of whom are extremists. How different is the procedure in this Parliament! If one party is returned in a minority of two it goes into Opposition and constantly endeavours to undo what the majority party has done. The worst feature of our parliamentary system is that a gigantic blunder on the part of the Ministry redounds to the advantage, of the Opposition. I do not say that an Opposition will deliberately lead the Government into a blunder at the expense of the country; but if Ministers do seriously err, Opposition members are pleased, because they believe that their chance of gaining the reins of government is thereby improved. I am not prepared to speak at length on this motion to-day, so I shall content myself with endorsing what the mover so ably said.
Debate (on motion by Sir Littleton Groom) adjourned.
.- I move -
I do not think that honorable members can doubt the accuracy of the first paragraph of the motion. In five of the six states Labour governments are in power; and in two of them, New South Wales and South Australia, the state parliaments have passed resolutions protesting against their citizens being recommended for titles. I have not the slightest doubt that the parliaments in the three other states governed by Labour will soon come to a similar decision.’ In the Victorian Parliament the Government and the Opposition are fairly even, and I suppose that opinion upon the subject of titles is fairly well balanced. At any rate it is reasonable to assume that the opinion of the state parliaments is overwhelmingly against the further granting of titles, but the Commonwealth Government is able to over-ride that sentiment. Only a few months ago the Honorable David Gordon, M.L.C., of South Australia, was knighted, and the State AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Denny) wrote to the Prime Minister a protest against the State Government being ignored in the matter. That case illustrated the present anomalous system by which the Commonwealth Government may recommend individuals for honours, despite the opposition of the parliament of the state of which they are citizens. The whole trend of Aus- Itralian sentiment is against the conferring of these titles, and it is time that this Parliament stepped into line with the Parliaments of Canada and South Africa. I find that in both those dominions members were practically unanimous in declaring that none of their citizens should be recommended for titles, and, accordingly, the debates on the subject were very brief. Their attitude is easily understood. There has been so much corruption in connexion with the obtaining of titles that they are no longer honorable distinctions. Quite recently, a Tory Government in Great Britain appointed a royal commission to inquire into the alleged sale of titles, and that body, upon which the radical ‘representatives were certainly not in the majority, reported - There is no doubt that there has been for some time recently an increasing number of persons who, for want of a better name we may stigmatize as “ touts,” and who have been going about asserting that they were in a position to secure honours and titles in return for specified payments.
That report by a representative commission confirmed the belief of a good many people that titles are granted, not in recognition of public service, but in return for monetary contributions to the party in power. An eminent scientist, who is engaged in work for the benefit of the community, is not prompted by any expectations of a title; he is animated merely by his enthusiastic interest in science, and his humanitarian zeal. A case of the opposite nature is that of Sir Lionel Robinson, of South Africa. Without the British Attorney-General, or the Colonial Secretary, or the Premier of the state of which Sir Lionel Robinson was a citizen having been consulted, that gentleman was recommended to the .King for elevation to the peerage. But the intention of the Government was disclosed, and so strong was the public outcry against the ennobling of Sir Lionel Robinson, that the Government was compelled to withdraw his name from the honour list. During the war, one man who was made a peer of the realm deserted Great Britain a few months later, because he objected to paying the war-time profits tax. The class of men upon whom honours have been bestowed in “ recent years has created a suspicion that titles are no longer the reward of talent, but are the perquisites of men with long purses. Peerages were at one time openly hawked about. James I. of England charged -£1,000 for a baronetcy. I do not know how much those honorable members paid who have a knighthood, but I understand that some fee is charged. History tells us that Charles II. did not charge for peerages, but that he “made duchesses of those whose pretty faces pleased him, and children of doubtful parentage are still foisted on the peerage, and draw incomes from the public estate.” There are titles like those of the Duke, of Grafton and the Duke of St. Albans still in existence, which had their origin in the shameful issue of a profligate king and doubtful characters. The citizens of this Australian democracy should consider it a doubtful honour to be associated with many of those whose ancestors obtained titles hundreds of years ago by methods that will not bear investigation. It is surprising how many titles there are in Australia. On the cover of Hansard I find “Donald Charles Cameron, C.M.G., D.S.O.” Those are military distinctions, but we know that the “ D.S.O.” was not given solely for gallant services at the front. Men who did only administrative work in the war have received that distinction. There is also “ The Honorable Sir Littleton Groom, K.C.M.G., K.C.” I do not know that the work he has done for the community entitles him to be added to the list of notorious people I have quoted. Here is another of our friends, “ The Honorable Sir Granville de LauneRyrie, K.C.M.G., C.B., V.D.” I can hardly imagine that he earned all those letters. If another war breaks out, he will have all the letters of the alphabet attached to his name. We sent 300,000 soldiers abroad, and every infantryman earned at least a Victoria Cross. Yet we know that very few military crosses and distinguished conduct medals were given to men below commissioned rank. The granting of these distinctions should not be left to the discretion of individual ‘commanding officers. When they left Australia our lads did not expect titles, nor did they expect that when they returned others would be writing after their names “ K.C.M.G., C.B., V.D.” The Prime Minister enjoys the distinction of “ P.C.” and “ M.C.” The military cross was not awarded to anyone below the rank of a non-commissioned officer.
– That statement is not correct.
– I do not know of any one below the rank of a noncommissioned officer who received the military cross.
– I do.
– I desire to raise a point of order. The motion to which the honorable member is speaking is -
That in the opinion of this House the granting of titles is contrary to the sentiment of the citizens of Australia,
Is he entitled, in discussing that motion, to refer to military decorations, which are not titles?
– I do not see how the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Mauning) can expect the chair to rule that his point of order is well founded. Even if the honorable member for Ballarat made an improper, or what the honorable member for Macquarie considers an improper, use of the word “ title,” the chair could not regard that as an offence under the law of Parliament.
– Before the point of order was raised I said the military cross could not be secured by any one below the rank of non-commissioned officer. In making that statement I was in errer, but, I am not aware that, one has ever been granted to a private. An invidious distinction has been made in the granting of titles. The people of this country want no association with the old nobility of Great Britain. We wish our political movements to be free from the corruption that has been engendered in other countries by men, who, having acquired wealth, have obtained social advancement by purchasing a “handle to their name.” Wealthy men use their moneyto corrupt political parties and secure coveted titles. We in Australia, at the beginning of our nationhood, should carry this motion to respectfully request His Majesty the King not to confer titles on Australian citizens. Five of the State Parliaments are already agreed on that question, and the remaining State Parliament is almost in line with them. There are no titles in the great nation of the United States of America. Recently, when the groat Arctic explorer, Amundsen, arrived in Norway, he was not given a title, but the King recognized his bravery by presenting him with a medal, only two or three of which are in existence. He would naturally covet such a medal more than a title. Some of our greatest Australian statesmen - men like the late Mr. Alfred Deakin and Mr. W. M. Hughes, notwithstanding his faults - have not coveted titles. It is not . outmost eminent scientists, our best doctors, or our ablest statesmen that have accepted titles, for generally they have not wished to be associated with many of those who hold them.
– Both those statesmen were created Privy Councillors.
– There is not much distinction in the letters “ P.C.”, and it can at least be said of a Privy Councillor that he has rendered some service to his country. My general objection - to titles is that they are often given to men whose only claim to distinction is that they have amassed wealth in ways that will not stand investigation. Theatrical managers and organizers of pugilistic combats have been placed among the titled members of the community - men who, because of the size of their banking accounts, can influence legislators to submit their names to the King. This is an insult to the King and the nation. The people of Australia will always recognize merit. They will recognize the services of those men who are making sacrifices for the community, who are doing research work in laboratories for the cure of cancer, or are labouring to right a wrong.
Motion (by Mr. Atkinson) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, means - should be provided for the effective enforcement of all the laws which Parliament places or allows to remain upon the statute-book, and that, as a general rule, such enforcement should not be left to the initiative of interested parties : in particular, that officers should be appointed for the purpose of making necessary inspections and inquiries for the purpose of securing the observance by alt parties of awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and of enforcing the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
My mind was brought to this subject more particularly by reason of what occurred in, I think, January last, when the general president of the Seamen’s Union was prosecuted for inciting persons to strike, or for some offence of that nature. At the time very strong protests were made by the friends and associates of that gentleman, because, as action of that kind had not previously been taken, it was felt that the prosecution was a political one. It is unfortunate that the enforcement of the law should have been allowed to get into such a condition that there was room for the genuine belief, on the part of a large section of the community, that it had been, as it were, exhumed for a particular purpose ; that it was being enforced for political purposes on that occasion. Ever since the establishment of the Comonwealth it has been the practice to allow some of its laws to be enforced, if at allr at the initiative of individuals only It is quite proper that individuals should have the liberty to enforceany law when a breach of it adversely affects them. But speaking generally, there should be an administrative’ department of state, charged with theenforcement of the laws which Parliament places upon the statute-book. The establishment of such a department would help the automatic and regular enforcement of the law, and would, I suggest, tend ho remove the feeling which otherwise will” be associated with the enforcement of the law in certain matters upon which the Commonwealth has legislated. At present, if an employer is guilty of a breach of an award, the union concerned, or itssecretary, usually prosecutes. Similarly, if an employer complains that a union is- guilty of some breach of the Arbitration Act or of an award, the employer prosecutes. At least, that is so in the Commonwealth jurisdiction; in the jurisdiction of the states it is not so. The states administer a large volume of industrial legislation. “Where an employer is thought to have been guilty of a breach of a wages board determination or a judgment or an award of a State Arbitration Court a complaint is made to the department concerned, It is generally the employer who is guilty of a breach of the industrial laws, because those laws impose obligations upon employers rather than upon employees. On receipt of the complaint, an inspector ascertains the facts, and, if the officer administering the act thinks proper, a prosecution is instituted. That is done in a regular, automatic way, without any personal feeling, or any one being concerned politically. It is done in exactly, the same way as the ordinary laws are enforced by the police. If two citizens are found drunken and disorderly, they are usually arrested, and, later, brought before a magistrate, without there being any suggestion that the enforcement of the law in their case is part of a political scheme. «If we are to place, as the Commonwealth has sought to place, industrial relations largely upon the legal plane, the law should be enforced in the same regular, automatic, aud non-partisan manner as other legislation. It is well known to all who in “any way have concerned themselves with the history of industrial legislation that the early Factories Acts passed in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and, indeed, most of the factories legislation passed up to almost the middle of that century, failed in effect because the enforcement of the law was left to private persons. Honorable members will find evidence of that in the writings of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, in The Town Labourer, by J. L. and Barbara Hammond, as well as in other similar works. It is only when, in addition , to placing the law on the statute-book, means are provided for putting it into execution, that it becomes real. I have suggested that all industrial laws ought to be “enforced without any personal feeling at all, just as the industrial laws of the country are. We should then have a useful test ©f the reality of our legislation. I cannot help thinking that some of the legislation of this Parliament is more or less a sham. It will remain upon the statute-book only so long as we do not endeavour to enforce it. There are, for example, the provisions of sections 6 and 6a of the Arbitration Act, which prohibit strikes and lockouts. Honorable members know that those provisions are very largely a . dead letter. I am not now concerning myself with the merits of any particular dispute, and do not want this important matter to be side-tracked by any discussion of that nature. I am well aware that what, ‘ from one point of view, is regarded as a strike, from another point of view is regarded as a lockout. It is, however, perfectly, plain, that there have been many stoppages of industries due either to strikes or lockouts, and the law has not been put into force, but, on the contrary has, in general, been ignored. I shall not debate the effect which that has had upon the parties interested. It is fundamentally an error to allow to remain on the statute-book laws which Parliament, or the executive, is afraid, or is not able to enforce. It. is a matter for very grave consideration whether there should be legislation in general terms against strikes. While the law remains as it is, I suggest that it is the duty of Parliament to see that it is administered. The present position should not be allowed to continue, because, when action . is taken under a certain law, the result is ait exacerbation of feeling, and a kindling of intense resentment, which would be absent if Parliament saw that its laws were regularly enforced.
– W - Was not a law passed a few years ago for dealing’ with combines ?
– That law is another example of legislation that has not been enforced. It is known as the Anti-Trust Act, but its title is the Australian Industries Preservation Act. Only one prosecution was instituted under it, and that prosecution failed. The act has since been a dead letter. I place that legislation in the same category as the law relating to conciliation and arbitration. Either our laws should be enforced or they should be taken off the statute-book. Parliament has not discharged its responsibilities when it has passed an act and placed it upon the statute-book as if with the exclamation, “ Thank heavens, that is done!” It is the responsibility of Parliament to see that its laws are enforced according to their terms. If it is discovered that it is difficult or impossible to enforce them, Parliament is given the best guidance to useful amendment or .repeal. This subject is connected with that respect for law upon which the existence of our parliamentary institutions, and our social system generally, depends. I, therefore, ask honorable members to affirm the general principle which I have expressed. I do not think that my proposal involves the setting up of an extensive or expensive department. There would need to be in each state an inspector or two to whom complaints could be made, and they would investigate and report to head-quarters in important cases. My idea is to remove the administration of an important branch of our law from the suspicion of being connected with the political exigencies o? a particular government or % particular time.
– D - Does the honorable member propose that such a staff should move on its own initiative when it believes that the law is being broken, or that it should wait for the government to move ?
– I think that it should move on its own initiative as well as when it is moved officially. Only in that way can we make real some of our legislation, particularly our industrial legislation. I can see no objection to the appointment of a staff to put the law into execution. I do not mean that there should be a permanent set of inquisitors. That would be unnecessary. But there should be officers who would be empowered to see that Commonwealth legislation was being obeyed in all cases where it applied. I have said that the principle applies with equal force to the laws relating to trusts, combines, and monopolies. That law is at present in a condition of quiescence. We all know that one source of very grave and intense feeling amongst the community to-day is the suspicion of being the victim of trusts and combines. There is upon the statutebook a law which is very severe in its terms - so severe, probably, that it overreaches itself - and yet no steps are being taken to enforce its provisions. The states seem to believe that all matters relating to trusts, combines, and monopolies come solely within the scope of the Commonwealth Government. They do not. The majority of the alleged trusts, combines, and monopolies which are said to be unduly raising the prices of commodities, are operating within the limits of a single state, and it is within the power of the parliaments of the states concerned to control them. It is, of course, convenient for the states to suggest that the Commonwealth should look after the matter. The Commonwealth, however, can deal with such trusts, combines, and monopolies only when they affect interstate and foreign trade. It is for this Parliament to see that that law, equally with other laws, is enforced. Even if an attempt to enforce it fails, advantages will be gained. If it were proved that an alleged trust, which was charged with operating to. the detriment of the public, was not so operating, the mind of the community would be more satisfied than it is at the present time, when nothing is being done. I accordingly ask the House to’ affirm the principle which is expressed in the motion.
Debate (on motion of Sir Littleton Groom) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 635 to 8 p.m.
Major. Story ; Commonwealth Coat of Arms Case of Gunner Yates Case of Gunner Perry Canberra Tile Works
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed .
– On the 25th June, in this House, I offered some criticisms of the- administration of the Northern Territory and of public officials responsible for that administration. The Government Secretary is one of the officials to whom I referred, and I coupled my criticism of his administration, which I think is bad, with a review of his military history, which I venture to say is not too good. I spoke of his character, but I should like it to be understood that I was, of course, concerned only with his character as a public official of the Commonwealth, and as an officer of the army. I had no desire or intention to pry into his private life, in which I am not in the least degree interested. I have been reminded that I should not use my privileged position as a member of this House to make unmerited attacks on officials who are not in a position to defend themselves. I agree with that, because I am one who believes in fair play, though I have not always myself received it. Apparently honorable members supporting the Government think that this is a principle which should be applied, very strictly in the case1 of officers and other persons in comfortable and assured positions, but somewhat laxly in the case of non-commissiontsd officers, and particularly in the case of industrial advocates, or, let me say, in the case of one who advocates the interests of the pioneers of the Northern Territory. I should like to* place before the House a few interesting items for the purpose of demonstrating the inconsistency of honorable members opposite in the attitude they have adopted towards me. I have here a letter which I received a few days ago -
Mr. Nelson, M.H.R
Dear Mr. Nelson,
Last year, Bruce and Pearce, with the protection of parliamentary privilege, cast very serious reflections on my character to bolster up the awful state of affairs in the maladministered Territory of New Guinea. These two politicians said on the floor of the House that Begley was non compos mentis, a dipsomaniac, and a religious maniac. Every utterance they made as to myself is of a most wicked nature, as many of the leading medical men will tell you - damnable lies. I am a returned soldier, and according to my war pension, I am 40 per cent incapacitated, but the Returned Soldiers Imperial League never had a word to say when Bruce and Pearce attacked me. Perhaps Major Story is one who supports the interests of Pearce and Co.
What I desire to say in connexion with this letter is that the writer is a returned soldier, and was wilfully maligned on the floor of this House. Some of the most vile statements that could be concocted were made against him. It was said that he was non compos mentis, . a dipsomaniac, and a religious maniac. This man presented some of the best medical certificates obtainable in Australia to show that he was perfectly sane, but I did not see honorable members opposite jumping up to defend his honour. What was the reason? Obviously, that he was not an officer. Had he been an officer I have no doubt that he would have found many honorable members on the other side to defend him. He was wilfully maligned, and yet no apology was ever given, al though the statements made concerning him were proved, as he says, to be absolutely unfounded. My statements, to which exception has been taken, differed from those which were made concerning this man. I claim that any statements I make have some substantial basis, but that could not be said of the statements made concerning the man to whom I have referred. Then, let me cite the case of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), which must be fresh in the minds of honorable members. He was maligned on the floor of this House on crook evidence faked by one of the departmental officials. The honorable member lost his seat because of that faked evidence. Honorable members are aware of the result of a subsequent inquiry into his case. Howmany honorable members on the other side rose to defend him?
– They did so, because it was forced upon them by honorable members on this side. I have mentioned the cases of two men who were not officers, It seems to be the rule that so long as a man is not an officer an honorable member may stand up here and malign him for all he is worth, and it is quite all right. If he happensto be an officer, and particularly one holding a government and a responsible position, immunity is claimed for him, and he must not be attacked under the privilege of this House. If this last is the correct attitude to assume, all I ask is that honorable members opposite should apply it in all cases, whether the person referred to is a ranker or an officer. I should like to ((note the following from the Argus of the 10th January, 1920 : -
Brigadier-General G. H. Jess has deferred the promulgation of sentence on Lieutenant H. G. Harris, who was tried by court-martial in London on a charge of fraudulently disposing of rations belonging to the -Australian Government, also of goods belonging to the Australian Comforts Fund, of a total value of £1,500. Harris pleaded guilty of the offence, which occurred in Belgium in 1919, and represented that he was acting under the instructions of Major C. B. Story, 8th Battalion. Story was jointly charged with Harris,but the hearing in his case was deferred. Harris offered to make restitution as far as possible of the amount for which he was responsible. He handed over £50, and undertook to cable to Australia, where he had £100 on -fixed deposit.
I should be exceedingly sorry to make a charge against any person merely on the foundation of an Argus report, but I submit this quotation for what it is worth as corroboration of other and much more important testimony that I have received. I direct attention to the attitude adopted by the press in dealing with the comments I made in this House, though they were to a certain extent based upon statements published by the press. If it takes to itself the liberty of publishing these things, surely the press has no right to chastise a man who quotes it as his authority for repeating statements it has published. I do not suppose that the people who are .taking drastic action against myself will write to the Argus and demand an apology for the statement I have quoted. If they did the reply they would probably receive would be that the article was founded on fact, and the Argus was going to stick to it. Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) made a statement in which he quoted from a letter received from General McNicol. I quote also from General McNicol, and the more readily because of the letter from him read by the Honorary Minister. ‘ I have already stated that I have never spoken to General McNicol, nor do I know him. I relied on what I believed to be good information when I quoted him as a person who could throw some light on the matter I had been discussing, and that view has since been confirmed. I have no quarrel with the terms of the letter from General McNicol, read by the Honorary Minister. It confirms rather than rebuts my statements. The general says that there was no reflection on Story’s personal character. I did not say that there was. That is an “ Aunt Sally “ set-up by the Government.
– The honorable member called Major Story a coward and a thief.
– The honorable member will be able to quote my words if he speaks in reply to what I am saying now. I say that this was. an “ Aunt Sally “ set-up by the Honorary Minister and the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse).” When they put up these “ Aunt Sallies,” so far as I am concerned, they are free to knock them over as often as they like. I quote now the official record of General McNicol’s minute, dated 15th June, 1917: -
Headquarters Tent, A.J.F., 37th Battalion
Referring to minute, please inform Major Story that his action in ordering the withdrawal of the 37th Battalion from the green line on 7th June is considered unsound. Major Story has already been informed personally by me of the decision of the Divisional Commander, namely, that for the present he will not bc considered for any higher command than that of a company commander. The promotion of Captain Rolleston to the rank of major has been recommended. His appointment to be second in command of your battalion will be approved and may be anticipated by you.
William Ramsay Mcnicol
I tender that minute in order that it may be placed side by side with the letter from General McNicol read by the Honorary Minister. It is significant that Major Rolleston, who was junior to Major Story, was placed second in command. If the Minister searches the file he will find that Major Story complains bitterly about being superseded by a junior officer. I could fill volumes of Hansard with this sort of stuff in support of what I have said, but for the present I leave the matter at that. I consider that public officials and members of Parliament must be prepared to stand up to criticism, and in the short time I have been a member of this House I have often heard very strong cases made out by honorable members against officials in the various departments, and rightly so, because the honest administration of the country’s affairs in the full light of day is more important than the feelings of the individual. I am told that I should be sure of my facts, and I agree with that statement. A certain spokesman for the Government does not appear to know the difference between facts and verbal hair-splitting’. I am concerned, not with verbal quibble, but with substantial truths. On the 3rd July the Minister for Defence said that my statement that Major Story was relieved of his command of the 37th Battalion was tantamount to an accusation of lack of courage. That is my first sin against Heaven and the officer class. As I am not to be believed, I shall not at this stage say whether I am right or wrong. Surely the Minister’s military friends ought to know the facts. and I shall let honorable members judge whether they are right. Incidentally, if they are right, I must he right. The Minister for Defence quoted part of General Mon ash’s report respecting the conduct of Major Story at Messines. Quoting from the files the Minister read -
There is strong reason to believe that this withdrawal was actually ordered by Major Story, but after inquiries I caine to the conclusion that there was not sufficient evidence available on which a definite charge of any specific impropriety could be laid against this officer.
After mildly qualifying that statement, the Minister continued -
I found, however, on the report of the Brigadier and upon his own statement in writing that he had displayed such shortcomings under the stress of battle that I ought to convey to him a mark of displeasure. I therefore instructed his Brigadier to inform Major Story that T viewed his action on the date in question so unfavorably that I would not be prepared hereafter to recommend Major Story for a higher command than that of a company until he had satisfied me that he was able to command a company in action creditably and efficiently.
The Minister there broke off, although it would have been more honorable for him to finish the quotation. General Monash’s report continues -
I would, however, point out that the whole tenor of what Major Story has written in his letters of 15th July and correspondence shows a lamentable incorrect attitude to his responsible position as regards the determined leadership and keeping of the morals of the men placed under his command.
I cannot understand why the Minister did not quote the full text of the report. Did he intend to mislead and deceive the House? I am entitled to my opinion of what was in the mind of the Minister when, in answering my statements, he resorted to such tactics. If Major Story was not then relieved of his command technically, he was later relieved of it both technically and actually. To prove that I shall quote some of the official records. The following report is from Australian Corps Head-quarters, and is dared 17th September, 1918:-
The corps commander endorses your action in suspending Lieut. -Colonel Story from his command of the 37th Battalion, and will be glad if you will submit at once a recommendation as to his disposal. Please state if you can. absorb him as a Major, and whether you consider it desirable to do so.
Staff Captain (Vic.) attached to Australian Corns
I particularly draw honorable members’ attention to the next portion of the document, which reads -
With reference yours 132/1/238, of the 17th September. - Although on the re-organization of the 10th Australian Infantry Brigade- there will not be sufficient Majors available to complete establishment without Temporary Lieutenant Colonel Story, in view of his action and tone of his letter and the statements contained in paragraphs 1 and 3 of it I consider it undesirable to post him to any battalion in the field, and, therefore, recommend that he be returned to Australia and his services dispensed with. Temporary Lieut-Colonel Story is being sent to base depot pending decision as to his final disposal.
Commanding 3rd Australian Division
The next report reads -
A.I.C. Attached Head-quarters, 5th Army. Major (temporary Lieut.-Colonel ) Story has in addition to the faults pointed out by the G.O.C., 3rd Australian Division, been indicted on former occasions as in this case for forwarding communications to higher authorities direct and not through the proper channel. In spite of warnings he continued to display, as in this case, an insubordinate and disloyal attitude towards the decision of his superiors- I am of opinion that it is understood it is undesirable to retain his services further and recommend that he be returned to Australia.
Lieut.General Commanding Australian Corps
This minute is on that report : - “ G.O.C. approved return to Australia for termination of appointment, Signed T. H. Dodds, Brigadier-General, D.A.C. A.I.C.” The next report, dated 23rd September, 1918, reads-: - “ Brigadier Birdwood approves of Major Story’s return to Australia.” The Brigadier’s report reads -
Headquarters, 3rd Australian Division
Will please inform this office the date this officer was relieved of his command, from which date he will relinquish temporary rank of Lieut.-Colonel.
I read these documents because they support my statement that Major Story was relieved of his command.
– I said nothing of the sort, and I challenge the honorable member to find that statement in. my speech. When the interjection was made, “Why was Major Story sent home ?” I answered, “ Because of the manner in which lie behaved himself under fire.”
– What does that mean?
– I did not say that Major Story was a coward. On the 25th September, 191S, instructions were given for Story to proceed to Australia, and the Melbourne office was accordingly notified. On the 5th October, 1918, instructions were issued to Major Story at Havre, France, and the London office was also notified that Major Story would embark that day. I want to be fair in my interpretation of the reports on the file. It is evident that Major Story was not aware that the military heads had ordered him to be returned to Australia for discharge, because at that time he wrote asking head-quarters to appoint him as a senior major to a Victorian infantry battalion other than in the 10th Australian Infantry Brigade, and preferably to one of the battalions in the 15th Australian Infantry Brigade. The astounding part is that the filing office on the 2Sth September, when inquiries were made about Major Story, stated that no papers had been received, yet some of these reports had been written on the 17th September! On the 2nd October, 1918, Major Story submits a humble and sincere apology for his action and statements. The apology was minuted on the same date as when Major Story was under instructions to return to Australia. Matters remained quiet until the 17th October, 1918, when inquiries were made to ascertain if Major Story’s application for service in another battalion had been considered. On the 23rd October, six- days later, a letter was sent to retain Major Story, pending further instructions. On the same date General Monash, wired from England : -
Am prepared to accept Major -Story elsewhere than 10th Battalion, provided lie disposed to render loyal service.
On the 26th November, 191 S, Major Story was sent across to join the 8th Battalion. The Minister for Defence admitted that this officer temporarily commanded the 37th Battalion from the 11th August to the 13th September. Such is the tenderness between military officers, that Major Story seemed for the time being to have been forgiven. He was given a second chance provided that he was disposed to render loyal service. As the Minister stated, the 37th Battalion was chosen for disbanchuen t. We are not told why, but we are entitled to guess. Major Story wrote a letter, which the Minister for Defence said was “ a bit over the fence,” but the material question is, what was said by Monash, Gellibrand, Townsend, Dodds, and Birdwood? Major-General Gellibrand wrote on 15th September, 1918-
I do not think that any clearer proof of Story’s incapacity could be given than the statement put forward in this letter. I have, therefore, suspended him from his command, and request that he be sent to the Australian Base depot pending the decision as to his final disposal.
On the 17th September, the corps commander endorsed that view, and said -
In view of his actions and the tone of his letter, I consider it undesirable to post him. to any battalion in the field, and recommend that he be returned to Australia, and his services dispensed with.
That must appeal to honorable members as very significant. A re-organization of the Australian troops was taking place. The officer commanding the battalion wished to find a post for Major Story, but although the Army was short of majors it was not thought desirable to post Major Story to a battalion in the field, and he was recommended to be returned to Australia. The Minister for Defence said that this officer had committed a merely technical breach. I submit to the House that if that was his only offence he was harshly treated by the military authorities, when, although the Army needed majors, they ordered him to be sent back to Australia to be discharged. I said in my previous speech that Major Story was practically cashiered from the Army. That is very similar to what. Sir John Monash recommended on 20th September, 1918. I have already read his remarks, and they are even more to the point than the statement I made. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Marr) said that on one occasion Major Story was held to have committed an error of judgment, and the Minister for Defence said that the letter he wrote was a little “over the fence.” I have culled the facts from the files, and placed them before the House, and I leave it to honorable members and the country to say whether the Minister for
Defence was right, and Monash, Gellibrand, and I were wrong. It is true that Major Story, being an officer, and able to bring influence to bear, was forgiven and sent back to the field, but a condition was imposed, “provided he is disposed to render loyal service.” I said also that he had been court martialled - I did not say that he was convicted - and I submit this evidence in support of my statement. On the 31st December, 1919, instructions were issued for certain prisoners to proceed toFrance for a court martial. The document set out the president and members of the t ribunal, the prosecutor, and the prisoners’ friends. The prisoners mentioned are MajorC. B. Story, and Lieutenant H. G. Harris, who were then at Head-quarters awaiting embarkation. According to the charge-sheet, Major Story was charged with -
Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, in thathe, at delousing camp, Australian Base Depot, Havre, on or about the 14th June, 1.919, improperly authorized the sale of certain Australian Comforts Fund goods when he was not entitled to do so.
Then follows a summary of the evidence and the names of the witnesses for the prosecution. The next document bearing on the case is this letter, dated the 31st December, 1920-
Lieut. H. G. Harris, 12th Battalion, A.I.F.,
Major C. B. Story, 8th Battalion, A.I.F.
The evidence submitted in this case is not strong, depending almost entirely upon the evidence of Lieut. Harris, but is sufficient, I think, to justify trial of the accused upon the charges submitted under section 40 as now amended in red pencil.
The file does not show what the amended charge was -
In view of the fact that Lieutenant Harris is also accused of offences in connexion with the disposal of Australian Comforts Fund goods,. &c., I am of opinion that his trial should be completed before Major Story is brought to trial.
On the bottom of that page is this minute, dated the 16th January, 1920: -
As there is no evidence to substantiate any of the statements of Lieutenant Harris, but, on the contrary, there is evidence to disprove same, there is no charge against Major Story, who is to be at once relieved from custody.
He had been in custody from the 23rd December, 1919, to the 2nd January, 1920. There was other evidence in connexion with this charge. One, O’Neill, who apparently was resident in France, admitted, when interrogated by the investigating officers, that he had purchased five billiard tables from Story. O’Neill said he knew Story well because he (Story) used to visit his (O’Neill’s) house, but finally he refused to give any evidence against him. I submit that had the authorities been desirous of ascertaining the truth or otherwise of O’Neill’s statement they could have had recourse to another tribunal, which would have forced him to disclose from whom he had purchased the tables. No such action was taken, and the charge against Story collapsed. So much for my statement that he had been court martialled.
– The honorable member did not say that he had been discharged.
– I have given the whole of the facts on the file. Honorable members will see that every allegation I made against Story is justified by the records, and, judging from appearances, nothing detrimental was inserted therein that could be left out. I do not suggest that the Minister for Defence held back anything from me; on the contrary, he was very courteous, and gave me all the assistance possible. Nevertheless, many things are missing from the file. For instance, I know that after the Messines engagement, the officers of the 37th Battalion made written statements, but there is no trace of them, or of the amended charge against Story in regard to the sale of goods belonging to the Australian Comforts Fund. I admit that my statements were inaccurate in certain slight details, and I frankly regret those inaccuracies. The Minister for Defence said that I charged Story with theft and want of courage. As a matter of fact, I charged him with neither of those failings, as honorable members may see by referring to the Hansard report of my speech. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr), in his statements about me was, if possible, more inaccurate than his colleague, but I do not ask either him or the Minister for Defence to apologize. They jumped in eagerly to support one of their caste and class, but their enthusiasm outran their knowledge. Had they gone more carefully into this matter, they might not have been so hasty. Mv only regret is that Story and his friends have made it necessary for me to disclose all these facts. Probably after to-day Story will pray to be saved from his friends. I wish him no harm, and if he had given me and the Northern Territory a fair run, I would not have troubled myself about him. Some people outside this House have been waxing indignant because of my speeches on this subject. I came into this House to represent a large section of the Australian people, and although I am voteless I am not voiceless. My concern is to observe the rules of this House, and, after that, to be responsible only to my conscience and my constituents. I have not fought my way in the Australian outback in kid gloves and patent leather boots, and I do not intend to be dictated to by any person or organization. As I owe allegiance to no party, I am not amenable to the dictates of outside bodies or persons as to what I shall say or do in the performance of my duties here. I realize that at times, when an honorable member is doing, in the interests of the people he represents, something that is unpopular, he must stand the brunt of it. My sole purpose’ originally in bringing this case forward was to drive home the charges I had made, and I contend that an examination of the documents I have read will prove my statements to be true and correct in detail. The documents show that, temperamentally, the person of whom I have been speaking is not fit for the position he holds. It was on that ground that I attacked him, but . was driven, at a later stage, to make accusations that I was not anxious to make, but which, now that I have made them. I do not regret.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) made certain charges against an official of the Northern Territory, who is an ex-member of the Australian Imperial Force. These charges were challenged and their accuracy impugned, and. it was suggested that they were contemptible. The honorable member then said that, after the file had been made available to him he would be prepared, if his statements were wrong, to apologize for them, and would attempt to do something like justice to the man he had attacked. I have listenedto many speeches in this House, but the one just delivered by the honorable member is the most despicable it has ever been my misfortune to bear. Tt is hardlv believable that an honorable member. having made such charges, and having, had . an opportunity to learn that they were false in every particular, would attempt to justify them and his action in making them. The honorable member has not uttered a word in proof of his previous allegations. He says he owes allegiance to no party, and to no one but his constituents. I trust that this question, above all others, will not be treated as a party matter. This honorable member, for whose conduct we, as members of this House, are responsible, has had the opportunity of ascertaining that not one word of the charges he made is true, yet he has not had the decency or manhood to say that he was wrong, and to try to do tardy justice to the man he accused. It is necessary, unfortunately, to analyse what has been said, to show that there is no justification for the statements of the honorable member. He said that the Minister for . Defence (Sir Neville Howse) was wrong in saying that he (Mr. Nelson) had accused Major Story of cowardice and dishonesty. He denies that he accused that officer of those crimes. Let me read what he did say -
I point out that this officer was relieved of his command in the 37th Battalion after the Battle of Messines as a result of an inquiry into his conduct, and the manner in which he behaved under fire. ls there any person in the community who would read that statement to mean other than that this officer, was relieved of his command because he had been guilty of cowardice?
– Cannot the Prime Minister face this simple issue: Is the statement true or not ? Be man enough to face that issue, and drop the Billingsgate stuff !
– I warn the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that his’ conduct is not becoming in Parliament, and must not be persisted in. The honorable member for the Northern Territory was heard in silence.
– He was much less offensive. May I protest, against the right honorabie the Prime Minister referi ng to a member of this House as a liar ?
– I did not hear that statement.
-Iheard it. It was allowed to pass without notice at the moment and is my excuse for the indig nationI have shown.
– The honorable member for Batman well knows that there is a proper parliamentary way of protesting when the right time comes. It can never be by unseemly interruptions of the speaker who has the ear of the House. I commend that to the honorable gentleman as an experienced parliamentarian.
– I shall not refer to the interruption of the- honorable member for Batman; but I suggest to him that he should leave the honour of the honorable member for the Northern Territory in that honorable member’s hands. I repeat that to any one who reads them the words of the honorable member for the Northern Territory must suggest that Major Story was relieved of his command because he was guilty of cowardice while under fire. Let us inquire into what occurred at the Battle of Messines. Major Story was then in command, not of a battalion, but only of a company. He was given as his objective the “ green line,” which he was told to take. The line was not taken, and at a subsequent inquiry the conclusion was reached that he had not shown proper judgment. Because of that decision the honorable member for the Northern Territory considered himself justified in making his accusation against him. It is very clear that the honorable member was’ not at the war; had he been there he would not have made the accusation. I appeal to any returned soldier on the Opposition side to say how many men there were who committed most hideous errors of judgment in the circumstances in which they were placed. Men who. possibly had not slept for two or three weeks, day or night, whose nerves were in such a state that they did not know what they were doing, of course committed errors of judgment, and for those errors were censured; but would any decent man in the community bring those errors up
Against them now in the contemptible way adopted by the honorable member for the Northern Territory? He has tried to blast -this officer’s career because of a possible error of judgment in circumstances of which he and his kind have not the faintest conception, and took extraordinary good care that they should not experience. The circumstances were stated in the clearest possible way by the Minister for Defence, who did not suggest that this officer was not told after the battle that he had not shown good judgment. But it was one thing for that to happen and a very different thing to accuse this mau of want of physical courage, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory has seen fit to do. He has not added one new fact to-night to what he said previously ; but, perhaps, .he thought that by continuing long enough he would deceive member? of this House. The Minister for Defence read what finally happened, but the honorable member followed the case from the battalion to the brigade, from the brigade to the division, from the division to the army corps, and from the army corps to the general officer commanding. Is there any one who was a) the war who does not know that communications had to go through those channels, and that at every stage the statements were repeated as they were passsd on to the higher command? That wa3 the sum total of what the honorable member had to say about this episode at Messines. He said that he had not accused Major Story of physical cowardice, but I ask the House to judge what his words mean. He has not said one word in justification of his previous statements, but has read something written by General McNicoll - something that accounts for nothing, and means nothing.
– Is it on the file?
– The honorable member read it from the file. He glossed over what General McNicoll said in a letter written during the last few days, and read last night by the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr). I shall read that letter again now -
Yours of the 29th inst., with Hansard cuttings, to hand this morning.
War records not being available, I must rely on memory.
After the Battle of Messines, Major Story was held to have committed an error of judgment, and the Divisional Commander decided that he was to have no higher command than that of a company until he justified such a recommendation. There was .no reflection on his personal courage - such would have been ridiculous in the case of a man like Story - and I feel sure he did not leave the battalion.
In 1918, I reported to Divisional H.-Q. that I considered Story quite competent to bo entrusted with the command of a battalion.
During my absence on leave in September, 1918, Story wrote a letter protesting against the proposed absorption qf the 37th Battalion by the other three, under the “ threebattalion per brigade “ organization, and sent his letter to a number of superior officers simultaneously. For this act, I believe, the
Divisional Commander, General Gellibrand, had him transferred from the division. He was gone when I returned from leave. 4, Finally, I have the file copy of my letter recommending Major Story . for the Legion d’Honneur : - “ Ma jor Charles Barnet Story, 8th Bn. (formerly 37th Bn.)
For conspicuous gallantry in action whilst in command of his (37th) battalion during the heavy fighting on the Somme in the vicinity of Bray and Clery in August, 1918. During operations which involved the capture of several important villages this officer showed -marked ability in the ‘handling of his men.
Recommended for Legion d’Honneur.”
Trusting that these few details may be sufficient to throw some light on the matter, and with kind regards,
Yours very sincerely,
Ramsay McNicoll, Brigadier-General.
Late G.O.C., 10th Brigade, A.I.F.
– Was the recommendation for the Legion d’ Honneur made after the battle of Messines?
– Yes, and it was made by General McNicoll, whose evidence we were told the honorable member would produce to justify his charges. I have given the whole story of the Messines episode, and I say that the honorable member has distorted the facts, and has done everything in his power to substantiate his previous statements, for which there was no shadow of justification. He would have taken a more honorable course if he had -done what he said he was prepared to do, apologize, and repair as well as he could the evil he had done. He said that Major Story was cashiered out of the army.
– He said “ practically “ cashiered.
– “ Practically “ says my legal friend, who will descend to any quibble. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has tried this evening, quite unsuccessfully, to explain what he meant. He has told us that he said that Major Story was practically cashiered out of the Army. He told us, too, that his statement was that this officer was court martialled, and not that he was found guilty. What does any one believe is meant when he hears only that a man has been court martialled?Does he believe that the person was acquitted by the court martial, or that he was court martialled and convicted, and deserves the contempt of every decent man? The honorable gentleman, having said that
Major Story was “ practically cashiered out of the Army,” added -
Subsequently, because of some big “pull “ which he possessed, he received employment in the de-lousing depot, and, later, with the Comforts Fund Department, where he was again court martialled for selling to French civilians goods belonging to the comforts fund.
I ask any honorable man if he can read into that statement anything other than that this officer was court martialled and convicted because he sold goods belonging to the comforts fund. It can have no other meaning. Yet the honorable gentleman contends that he said nothing as to Major Story’s conviction, that he only stated that he was court martialled. To try to justify his statement in that way is a contemptible subterfuge. The honorable gentleman has talked to us in a way that has almost made us sick. The facts connected with this episode were all given by the Minister for Defence, who made it perfectly clear that Major Story, together with Lieutenant Harris, was accused of having sold goods from the comforts fund, and that both were to be court martialled, but before the court martial the papers were, gone through and the evidence carefully examined. The honorable member for the Northern Territory read out the list of the witnesses who were to be called, and the charges that were to be laid; but he did not explain that, subsequently, the charges against Major Story were withdrawn, that he was relieved of any responsibility for the wrongful sale of the goods, and was released from custody.
– I quoted that.
– The honorable gentleman gave details of the witnesses, and the charges, and subsequently read what I now propose to read; but he made no attempt to connect the two statements, nor did he point out that after Lieutenant Harris had been court martialled and convicted the charges against Major Story were withdrawn. There was not a word of that from the honorable gentleman’s lips, showingclearly that he deliberately attempted to create a false impression Let me recite the facts. When this charge was laid, the Judge Advocate-General on the 31st December, 1919, stated -
The evidence submitted in this case is not strong, depending almost entirely upon the evidence of Lieutenant Harris, but is sufficient, I . think, to justify trial of the accused upon the charge submitted. In view of the fact that Lieutenant Harris is also accused of offences in connexion with the disposal of Australian comfort fund goods, &c. I am of the opinion that his trial should be completed before Major Story is brought to trial, lieutenant Harris was brought to trial, and after his conviction the following minute was placed upon the file by the General Officer Commanding the Australian Imperial Forces: -
As there is no evidence to substantiate any of the statements of Lieutenant Harris, but, on the contrary, there is evidence to disprove same, there is no charge against Major Story, who is to be at once released from custody.
Those are the facts. I ask honorable members whether the honorable member for the Northern Territory put them fairly to the House, or attempted to make it clear that, although all this evidence had been collected, and certain witnesses had been summoned to appear before the court-martial, yet after Lieutenant Harris was found guilty the charges against Major Story were withdrawn because based largely on statements made by Lieutenant Harris, whose word could not be accepted. I have given the history of the alleged court-martialling of this officer, and I ask the House whether the statement of the honorable member for the Northern Territory does not totally misrepresent the position, and whether he should not have been so ashamed of what he had said that he would have withdrawn it immediately. I now come to the third statement of the honorable member, namely, that Major Story was “ practically cashiered out of the Army.” I desire to direct the attention of the House to the fact that the words “practically cashiered out of the Army” occur in the honorable gentleman’s speech immediately after the following passage: -
I point out that this officer was relieved of his command in the 37th Battalion after the battle of Messines as the result of an inquiry into his conduct, and the manner in which he behaved under fire.
In that position, what meaning could they convey other than that there was some connexion between this officer’s behaviour when under fire at Messines, and his being turned out of the Army ? “ Let me place matters in their right perspective. The battle of Messines was fought in June, 1917. The episode to which I am now about to refer occurred a little before the sign ing of the armistice in November, 1918. Major Story did get at loggerheads with his official superiors in the Army. I am somewhat surprised to find the honorable gentleman from the Northern Territory complaining that this officer was at variance with those set in authority over him. One would have regarded it as the more natural thing for the honorable gentleman to agree with any one who attempted to defy his superior officers. After the Messines episode Major Story continued to serve, and bear the strain of active warfare; he saw the business through. Many months afterwards he attained to the command of his battalion, aud when he was in command that tragic period arrived when there was a shortage of recruits. I say nothing as to how far the honorable gentleman representing the Northern Territory contributed towards that shortage; the fact remains that there was a shortage of recruits, and that, instead of there being four battalions to a brigade, there were sufficient men for three only. Because of the absence of reinforcements, the 37th Battalion, of which Story was at the time in command, was one of those that had to go. It would be useless for me to endeavour to explain to the honorable member for the Northern Territory the extent to which sentiment affects the man who has done service with a battalion with an honorable record, as I should be talking to ears without understanding. Suffice it to say that that sentiment is very real. The pride of a man in his unit, and his desire to continue to serve in it, was an outstanding feature of the war in connexion with every section of the British Army. This officer in command of the 37th Battalion was not only the men’s leader, but one for whom they had a great affection. The honorable member cannot gainsay that, as during the past few days we have had ample evidence of the regard in which Major Story’s comrades in the battalion have always held him. This officer, inspired by high ideals, and by the great affection of his men, did something which unquestionably went beyond the ordinary bonds of discipline - he wrote to his commanding officer a letter protesting against the action which those in authority were being forced to take because of the shortage of recruits. Major Story undoubtedly got into trouble because of that action; but the honorable member for the Northern Territory contemptibly associated that fact with his conduct when under fire at- the battle of Messines, by saying that Major Story was practically cashiered out of the Army. Words would, I think, fail any one to express his opinion of a man who could not only make such a charge, but afterwards try to justify it, instead of having the manliness to say that he had made a mistake which he deeply regretted, and that he would do whatever lay in his power to remove the stigma which he had placed upon an officer who, in the hour of his country’s need, did his best and played a part of which any man might be proud. The honorable gentleman took no such course. I cannot adequately express my regret that he did not see his way to take what I am sure every man in this House believes would have been the proper course for him to take, namely, the withdrawal of his charges, and did not apologize for the wrong that he has done.
– I am not prepared to be stampeded into any such course by the honorable gentleman’s remarks.
– The honorable gentleman has failed to take the honorable course, and I leave the country to judge him. But as a member of this Parliament, I deeply regret the attitude adopted by the honorable member, because it cannot do other than bring this Parliament into contempt. That any honorable member should, under the privilege’s which we enjoy as members of this Parliament, descend so low as to speak as the honorable member has done, and then not have the courage to withdraw his false accusations ; but, on the contrary, try to shelter behind such statements as “ I am doing wrong, but some one else did wrong before me,” is contemptible. I trust that this unfortunate occurrence will cause every honorable gentleman to realize that, because we enjoy great privileges, we have great obligations and responsibilities; and I feel sure that every one of us, and particularly every returned soldier who knows what the conditions at the front were, and what men had to endure there, will show by his action that he absolutely and entirely repudiates the unwarranted and unjustified statements of the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
.- I should not have taken any part in this debate had it not been that I, perhaps unfortunately, was provoked into interjecting whilst the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was speaking. Let me say at once that I have no grievance against Major Story, and that I have not risen to try to make out a case against him. On the contrary, as I have already mentioned to friends of mine, I knew MajorStory fairly well in Victoria, and if I have any bias it is towards rather than from him. The reason I have risen is that the debate, which was originated by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has degenerated into a political bombardment by the Government and its supporters m the hope that, by it, they may be able to destroy politically the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– Nonsense 1
– I sat as a member of this Parliament during the whole of the war period, and I have only too vivid a recollection of the reign of terror that was then experienced by honorable members who ventured to express views which were in the slightest degree out of harmony with those held by the members of the Government and their militant supporters. I remember that it was then, as it is now, the policy of the Government, to inflame the public mind against certain honorable members of this House, in order that those honorable members might be terrorized or bludgeoned into silence. God forbid, that”, years after the war has concluded, I should sit in silence whilst this distinguished novice in parliamentary warfare (Mr. Bruce) endeavours to win applause from the public and his party by traducing a fellow member.
– The right honorable gentleman was not a novice in the great war.
– The right honorable gentleman commenced his observations this evening with the deliberate declaration that the speech of the honorable member for the Northern Territory was false in every particular and in every regard. He was permitted to say so.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory, either because he correctly assessed the value of that statement, or because he treated it with contempt, or for some other reason that was sufficiently satisfactory to him, did not rise in his place and call the right honorable gentleman to order. So we had to bear with the statement. I, at any rate, did not listen to it in silence. I appeal to honorable members of this House and to the people outside to read the records that were quoted by the honorable member representing the Northern Territory. He read from the file which the officials of the Defence Department have had to disclose as the result of the discussion of this matter. Whatever else may be said, can it be shown that the statements of the honorable member for the Northern Territory were false in every particular “ and in every regard ? Let us take another example of the right honorable gentleman’s accuracy, and his devotion to immortal truth ! He said that the cuttings which were referred to by General McNicol contained the speeches of the honorable member for the Northern Territory. His object was to prove that General McNicol made the statement, “It would bc absurd to call his (Major Story’s) courage into question” on the strength of a perusal of those speeches only. Had he been candid the Prime Minister would have admitted that General McNicol was sent, not only the speeches of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, but also those of the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr), and the Minister for Defence (Sir Neville Howse), in which were made the statements regarding the courage of Major Story. They were the only speeches in which such statements were made.
– I point out to the honorable member that the speech of Sir Neville Howse was made on the 1st July, whereas General McNicol ‘s letter is dated 30th June.
– What about the speech of the Honorary Minister ? Has the Prime Minister anything to say on that point ? He told us that the only thing against Major Story was that it “had been said of him that he had been guilty of an error of judgment. The record speaks for itself. The honorable member for the Northern Territory said to-night, “ If I am not to be believed, I shall rely upon quotations from responsible officers.” He quoted the opinion of Major-General Gellibrand, who said that this officer should be sent to Australia and dismissed from the forces. He quoted Sir John Monash’s concurrence in that suggestion. He quoted BrigadierGeneral Dodd and other high military officers to the same effect. Yet in the face of these declarations, to which every honorable member listened, the Prime Minister said that the statements of the honorable member for the Northern Territory were false in every particular and in every regard ! It is very hard to listen with patience to a declaration of that kind. It is exceedingly hard for me, because I know that it suits honorable members opposite - and it is not the first time that they have done it - to inflame the anger of persons and organizations outside against honorable members on this side of the House for expressing the views that they hold and delivering the message that is in them. How did this question originate ? Again I impress it upon honorable members that I do not propose to pass judgment upon Major Story. That is not my grievance, and I would rather do Major Story a good turn than a bad one. 1 listened to the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I can truthfully say that, my experience of him leads me to believe that we have not had in this chamber a more fair-minded and honest debater. This question originated in a complaint by him regarding the administration of the Northern Territory, including a criticism of the Government Secretary. On more than one occasion in this chamber he has complained that he could get neither redress nor even a serious answer to his complaints regarding maladministration in the Northern Territory. Finally he said to himself, “ I shall arrest attention by expressing my view, which is. that Major Story is a man who had a faculty for getting into trouble in the army, who was criticized by his superior officers, who was nearly cashiered out of the army, who got into trouble regarding stores, was charged, and narrowly escaped a courtmartial.” Those, he said, are the only qualifications of this gentleman for the responsible position of Government Secretary in the Northern Territory. The honorable member was entitled to examine the military record of a gentleman who was appointed to a government position in
Australia because of bis military experience and his ability as an officer. That is the attitude which he has taken up in this matter. He obtained no satisfaction when he made charges against the administration. ‘ He therefore went into the qualifications of this officer for the position that he now holds. Any honorable member who reads his speeches will not find that he accused Major Story of being a coward and a thief, as was stated by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hurry). That is merely the inflammatory language of a man who expects to tickle the ears of persons in his electorate who think as he thinks. It has no relevance to the words that were used by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. The Minister for Defence said that the honorable member accused Major .Story of cowardice and of a lot of other things. If one reads the speeches of the honorable member, . one will find that he has not accused Major Story of any of those things. All that his accusation amounts to is- an argument that Major Story failed in the field and in the Northern Territory, and that he is unsuited for the position that he holds. I do not pass judgment on the truth or otherwise of that statement. I repeat that I have no quarrel with Major Story, and I will not allow the Prime Minister or any other honorable member to make it appear that I have. I shall n»t allow them to shelve their responsibilities for their words in this debate, and to say that I, or any other honorable member on this side, attacked Major Story. There is no nian in Australia who would wish less than I to criticise the actions of men, either in the war or out of it. I know that the sufferings of many persons who did not take part in the war were bad enough ; and probably the sufferings and trials of those who fought in the trenches were a good deal worse. I let that pass. This is a political matter, and I know what the effect of such matters generally is. The Prime Minister will shortly be receiving deputations regarding it. Doubtless, he has already received them. He will be asked to move a motion in this House. If he does so, I shall ask him why he did not move a motion dealing with the case of Private Holland, when one of his Ministers repeated on the floor of this chamber foul slanders that had been uttered against that soldier. It. was said that his illness was a fake, that he pretended to have fallen into the sea, in order to claim a pension. Did the right, honorable gentleman then call for a public apology for the traducing of a private soldier t No! The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), backed up by his officers, repeated the foul lie. I could fill pages of Hansard with instances in which honorable members opposite and departmental officershave traduced men who were in the army and out of the army. They have abused their position a score of times, but no apology has been made by one of them. In those cases, of course, the attacks were made upon private soldiers, not upon officers, if you please ! Because Major Story holds a superior rank and is Government Secretary, and because the honorable member for the Northern Territory has got a little under the wing of the Government, he is threatened with all sorts of pains and penalties. My advice to him is to bear in mind that he is not the only one who has been made to suffer in that way. This fusillade of poison gas has repeatedly been directed at us for doing what we were sent here to do, namely, to give expression to the opinions of our constituents and to endeavour toright their wrongs. If the time should come when members of this House* are brow-beaten into silence by individuals or organizations outside, Parliament will cease to be a useful representative institution. I have> no quarrel with Major Story. I wish him well. I did not originate any attack upon him, nor did the honorable member for the Northern Territory, except in his capacity as Government Secretary. When this supine Government took no notice of his complaints, he said something that made it take notice. Perhaps he has performed a useful service in that way. At all events, the Prime Minister need not threaten us because of our refusal to remain silent. It suits him to use the terms “ contemptible,” and “ lying,” and other phrases which he, apparently, picked up at Oxford for use in Australia, with other phrases of Billingsgate, which he would have pass for argument.
.- I seeno reason why I should withdraw a single word that I have said, nor do I intend tofollow the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) through the smoke screen he has endeavoured to raise in this House. What I said was that the charge made against Major Story by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) practically amounts to a charge of cowardice and theft. I see no reason to withdraw that. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has gone fully into the matter, I need not say much more about it. But I should like very much to know what an ordinary jury outside would say of the charges made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory if they were brought to an action for slander. I am sure that the honorable member for Batman would be only too glad to take up a case of that kind. He knows very well that if the statements made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory insidethis House were made outside of it, the honorable member would have a good chance of forfeiting a good deal of his salary of £1,000 a year. If the honorable member is game, let him repeat his statements outside, and let Major Story have a “go” at him, and he will find that his statements will cost him a great deal. In regard to the first charge, I gave the House my assurance with regard to Major Story’s conduct at the battle of Messines. It was quite without reproach. I have received a letter from the signalling officer of the 37th Battalion, which bears that out. Major Story was at that time in command of the front line. He brought back the flank of his company in order to conform to the position taken up by the troops on his left. Honorable members who understand the subject will know how very awkward is the position of the commander who finds his flank “ in. the air.” That is the position which is now occupied by the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– That is contrary to the facts.
– The second charge made was in regard to the conversion of funds in Havre; and that occurred some time after the armistice. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has read extracts from documents to show that there were orders that Major Story should return to Australia. As a matter of fact, he did not do so, and the reason was that the General Officer Commanding, General Monash, accepted his explanation and put him in command, of another battalion. This shows that there could not have been very much in the charge. It is unnecessary that I should amplify what I said the other night; but there is a broader aspect from which this matter should be viewed, and it is that no honorable member should make use of his privilege as a member of this House to make statements within this chamber that he would not be game to make outside. When the honorable member for the Northern Territory first entered this chamber we thought he was going to be a splendid representative. He was the one and only representative of the Northern Territory, and no one here could say whether he was right or wrong in. anything he told us. I have only now to say that if the information he gives us with regard to affairs in the Northern Territory is not more accurate than what he has said concerning Major Story, it is not worth a snap of the fingers.
. -I desire to say a word or two on the matter which ..is now being discussed. Honorable members are of course aware that I am peculiarly interested in the manner in which a soldier’s honour is protected by this House. While I have no comment to make on the statement of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) regarding Major Story and his conduct in France, I remind honorable members that one nas only to visit New Guinea, and on every side he will hear of men appointed to positions there by governments, though not, perhaps, by the present Government, because of their military record, who are absolutely unsuited to those positions. In support of this statement I may on a subsequent occasion bring over a book from the South Australian Parliamentary Library, in which this charge is explicitly made regarding appointments in New Guinea. Men have been turned out of New Guinea and put back in their positions again by the Government. From this point of view it may appear that the charges made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory have been rather moderate. I do not intend to criticize Major Story, but I do wish to comment on the attitude which is now assumed by honorable members opposite towards the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and to contrast it with the attitude honorable members on the same side assumed when I was attacked in this House. I was attacked by the then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (Mr. W. M. Hughes). I admit that I was only a gunner. I held no rank, but I defy any one to say that I ever refused a duty put upon me. When the then Prime Minister attacked me he was asked by honorable members on this side to whom he referred. There were then only two men on this side who wore the returned soldier’s badge, and the then Prime Minister said that one of them had changed into every unit in the Army, and had never been nearer the line than he was. He could only have referred to me when he said “ I am no soldier, but I was much nearer the line than he ever was.” Mr. Considine, who was then on this side of the House, said, “ Whom do you mean?” And the member for Adelaide at the time made it clear that the reference was to myself. I did not take the attack lying down. I supplied the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) with a series of questions founded upon entries in my diary. On my behalf he asked whether I was not on the gun at Villers Bretonneux and at the straightening out of the line at Morlancourt, whether I was not on the gun at Hamel, in the hop-over on the 8th August, and at the memorable pull-out at Pozieres. He asked also whether I had changed to any unit in the Army, or had asked for a change. The answer to every one of the questions I submitted to the honorable member for Hindmarsh was “ Yes,” with one exception. It was stated that there was no record of where I was; but it was said that I could not have been in the hop-over on the 8th August, because I was then on duty at Blangy Tronville minding a dump. I wrote to the Leader pf the Opposition at the time (Mr. Tudor), and detailed the whole of my movements, as I was able to do from entries in my diary. I was able to give day and date, and honorable members are aware that, as a result of the action 1 took, honorable members on this side were able to force on the Government an inquiry into my case. I was no longer a member of the House when the attack was made upon me. I had been beaten by underground statements made in my electorate. I can prove this, because, on the eve of the election the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) went to Adelaide and made a memorable speech in the town hall there. This was two nights before the election, and although he said he had nothing to say against Mr. Yates, he had a lot to say for Mr. Blundell, who stood behind the Prime Minister and the Empire. I was told the next morning that the right honorable gentleman . had “ put it all over me,” and so he - had. At the declaration of the poll I said, “ Yes, I admit that I did not stand behind Mr. Hughes and the Empire.” Those present roared at me, and roared at me again when I repeated ,the statement. When their noise had somewhat subsided, I said, “ I did not stand behind them; ‘ I went and stood in front of both of them,” and thatmade them as quiet as sheep. Why was there no complaint from the opposite side when I, as a soldier of the Australian Army, was attacked ? I do not say that I performed miracles, or did any more than any other soldier ; but, thank God, I had friends on this side who considered my honour worth protecting. A committee was appointed to inquire into my case, and though the finding cleared my reputation, no one has yet apologized for the attack made upon me. The honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) was Assistant Minister for Defence at the time, and he said, “ If I have been sold a pup, some one will have to pav for it.” He was sold a pup, and it grew to be a mastiff and bit him, but what happened ? General Foote, the man who was responsible for what occurred, is still in his job. Some honorable members talk about a civil action in such a case, and if I had had the wherewithal to institute a civil action I should have prosecuted, not the Prime Minister of the day, but the Defence Department, for supplying false information to this House to defame my name and character. When I came back to this House I demanded from my party some return, and they gave me so much support that the party on the other side permitted an inquiry to take place, and gave me the opportunity to obtain some little redress for the injury done me.
There would appear to be some justification for the comments made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory concerning Major Story, but there was absolutely none for the statements made about me. Before my inquiry was commenced I was asked whether I would object to a colonel being on the board, and I said, “ I do not care; you can make it a general.” The higher the authority, the greater the confirmation, and I was satisfied that my commanding officer should say what happened. I knew him, and had every respect for him as a fine officer, and I knew he would tell the truth. When it came to a question of compensating me, do honorable members think that the Commonwealth paid what it should have paid ? The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), because he was accused of telling tarrydiddles to the farmers, wants £10,000 damages. There is a great deal in what the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said concerning the attitude adopted towards the honorable member for the Northern Territory. Honorable members opposite did not do the fair thing when I was attacked by the highest authority in the land, the man who cajoled every one into going to the war, and told people that they were heroes. I was attacked because I was of a different political colour. I might have refused to go to the war, because I was over the age for enlistment, but I desired to go. I do not regret having gone. The Commonwealth is not responsible to me for anything, because I was not hurt. I do not desire a scintilla of praise, but when it comes to doing what is fair, I say that honorable members should be as fair to a gunner as they are prepared to be to a major. When I was attacked by a man in a more responsible position than that occupied by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, not one word of protest was uttered by members of the party opposite. It was proved on the floor of this House that the Defence Department, through ineptitude or a desire to please the then Prime Minister, supplied information which gave colour to the suggestion that I had not been in the line. I hope that if there is any more clearing up of this character to be done it will be done in respect of the most humble soldier, if he did his work faithfully and well, and that honorable members opposite will stand up for him as they have stood up for Major Story, and as they should have done for me.
, - I wish to refer to the design of theAustralian coat of arms. The other day I questioned the Prime Minister regarding an announcement in the newspapers that the Government had decided to substitute the Australian coat of arms for the Imperial coat of arms which has been in use since federation. I object, not to the use of the Australian coat of arms, but to its. present design. The drawing of the animals is simply atrocious,, particularly that of the kangaroo, which is a libel on that marsupial. There are plenty of artists in Australia who would give a much better representation of that Australian native, the kangaroo, to people overseas. Another defect in the design,, apart from its general weakness, insipidity, and poverty of idea in construction, is the adoption of the wattle as the national flower of Australia. Why should we adopt the wattle as our national flower, seeing that it is common to all countries in the southern hemisphere? We should adopt as our national flower the waratah, which is more adaptable for conventional treatment in design, and as far as I know, does not grow in any country outside Australia. Since questioning the Prime Minister regarding the design of the Australian coat of arms I have received a number of letters from persons who support mo in my view that the design should be altered. With them has been sent a little pamphlet by Mr. C. W. Peck, secretary of the Waratah League. In it he says -
No flower is more dangerous and inimical to the health of human beings than the wattle (Acacia). The profusion of pollen is a prolific cause, first of a fever (‘hay fever), and subsequently of catarrh. No tree is such a host for the destructive insect larvae(vide Flowering Plants and Ferns of New South Wales, by Maiden , and Campbell, 1895). No flower is more transient or weak in character. Its wide distribution throughout the Southern Hemisphere precludes it from rightly being enthroned as an Australian emblem. It grows more luxuriantly in New Zealand than in Australia, and a very large portion of our continent is without it.
In no sense can the wattle be termed the national flower of Australia. There are several authorities who might be quoted in support of the contention that the waratah instead of the wattle should be adopted as the Australian national flower. The pamphlet continues -
That a great mistake was made when Australia, or any part of Australia, accepted any llower other than the waratah (Telopea) as the national one, is apparent to all who have looked into the matter and treated the historical aspect of it with that consideration which is due to it. Students of history find that eminent botanists specially idolized this native bloom in those days when the name New South Wales stood for all Australia. Sir James Smith noted it (vide ASpecimen of . theBotany of New Holland) in 1793, and Curtis figured it in 1808. All our forbears who were the pioneers of Australia cherished it as the national flower. Botanists of later days, including Fred. Turner, F.L.S., and J. H. Maiden, F.L.S., wrote of it as the national flower of New South Wales, and by New South Wales was meant Australia.R. T. Baker, F.L.S., has produced the most beautiful National Flower Book in the world, showing that the waratah is Australia’s nationalflower, and how wonderfully the bloom lends itself to the applied art of all the Australian states.
I shall refrain from further discussing this subject, because the Prime Minister has stated that it will receive consideration. I hope that my suggestion will not be shelved, and that the present design will not continue to offend our artistic sense indefinitely.
– Does the waratah grow in all parts of Australia?
– It is known to grow in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. It is not grown at present in South Australia and Western Australia, but probably it will be found growing on sandstone tracts in the interior of Australia. I hope that the Government will take this matter into consideration at an early date, with a view to procuring a design for the Australian coat of arms more suitable than that already in use. It might be as well to invite competitive tenders for a design, and then perhaps appoint a committee of leading artists in Australia to adjudicate upon them, and to make recommendations. We should then be able to obtain a design suitable for our Commonwealth stationery, publications, and official documents.
.- If the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) could see the glory of the Australian wattle blossoming in South Africa he would not advocate the adoption of the waratah as the national flower of Australia.
– That does not make the wattle an Australian flower.
– The wattle in South Africa was grown. from Australian seed, and it has grown there so successfully that, according to the Age, that country produces 6,000 tons of -wattle-bark which we poor fools in Australiashould be growing ourselves.
– Wattle can be grown extensively in Australia.
– Is the honorable member aware that the area planted in Australia is 47,000 acres, and in South Africa 600,000 acres?
– Grown under black labour.
– Not always, but it would be if the honorable member were working there. I am glad that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has stood to his guns, although the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hurry) dared him to make his statements outside. That threat comes very well from a gentleman who has two kinds of privileges. I understand that he is a legal gentleman, and we all know how the privileged libertines of the legal profession in the courts ask witnesses on oath questions they would not dare ask outside. The honorable member for Northern Territory has made serious complaints about the administration of that country. I have watched the government of the Territory, and I sometimes wish that our Australians had used the methods of the westerners of the United States of America, and had killed Dr. Gilruth, Judge Bevan, and another scoundrel there. I begged and implored Mr. Glynn, when a Minister in this Parliament, to go himself to the Northern Territory or to send some honest man whose word could be trusted. Unfortunately, nothing was done. I recall my experience with the Defence Department when appealing on behalf of a poor devil named Gunner Perry. When this man was in1 hospital over the other side of Princes’ Bridge, electricity was applied to his ear, nose, and the tip of his tongue by Dr. Mead. At 11 o’clock one night the Defence Department attempted to arrest Perry by sending a man of German descent- in a motor, but failed because, a magistrate of this city took that poor devil on his shoulders, carried him upstairs, and hid from the
Department. The honorable member for the Northern Territory said that certain papers on the files were missing. The Prime Minister made no answer to that charge. Any person who makes a claim in the law courts for debts, or anything else, must produce documents in support of it. The honorable member for the Northern Territory has to-night produced the documents. He read from the files, and. the Prime Minister quoted from memory. I do not know Major Story. He may be a relative of one of my best friends. Two complaints have been made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. Major Story has been accused in his public position as secretary, appointed by the previous Government, of actually punching a man in the street. It is nothing new. The Administrator sent to the Territory by the same Government assaulted a man within three months of his appointment, and was fined in the police court.
-i also accused Major Story of illegal practice.
– What would happen if the Governor-General was fined by the court for assault? Would not the British Government recall him ? Did the Commonwealth Government withdraw the Administrator who was fined for assault? In the case of Gunner Perry, I was refused permission to see the file for seven days, and when finally I did see it, I found that documents were missing from it. Medical men stood in the witness-box and, for the sake of the little decorations they wore as marks of their service, they swore that Gunner Perry was a malingerer. I wanted a County Court judge or a Supreme Court judge to conduct the investigation for which I asked; but I was given Mr. Phillip Cohen, who d’d not permit even the ordinary procedure of a police court to be observed. The result was that, on the second or third day, at his request, the man was sent to a receiving home at Royal Park. I may explain to those who do not know, that, in such an institution the patients are kept under observation the whole time. Some time afterwards, I asked Dr. Godfrey whether Perry was a malingerer. Dr. Godfrey is one of God’s good men. He has done much for the reclamation of those who suffer from alcoholism. I wish the world had thousands more like him. His reply to me was, “ Do you think he would be there for five days ifI thought him a, malingerer ?” Perry stayed in the home for six months. When he, came out he was given a pension. By the. way, I am sorry to say that the Repatriation Department has ceased to pay his wife’s pension because she cannot prove whether her husband is dead or alive; but the man who should never have been at large, if the Defence Department was right in its contention, went to. Brisbane, and this beautiful department actually employed him to look for recruits. He subsequently turned up with another cock-and-bull story, and paraded, as a captain; and, after it had given me this fourteen days of hell, fighting in the’ interests of this man, the department ac-‘ tually had the cool cheek to write and ask’ me if I could give it any information concerning him, and tell it what was the last I had heard of him. All I had heard of him was that he had persuaded some poor girl to marry him; but, fortunately, she discovered in his pocket a letter from his’ wife in Melbourne. He gave her a hiding; she disappeared; he disappeared. Probably they both committed suicide. B.ut such was the action taken by a department that had men of the highest position in the medical world, swearing in the. witness-box that, in their opinion, Gunner Perry was a malingerer. A member of the present Ministry actually swore that the man had been lifted . ‘ over a hospital fence which was 7 feet high, whereas, as. a matter of fact, the fence was not more than feet high. Any one who heard the impassioned speech of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), who suffered imprisonment, would wonder why the Prime Minister should make such a cowardly attack as he made to-night. In the words of my legal friend from Bendigo (Mr. Hurry), he would not have dared to talk in the same way outside.
– He would have got one on the jaw.
– Yes. The honorable member for Adelaide enlisted in an Australian regiment. The great wealth of the Prime Minister permitted him to enlist in . an English regiment. The right honorable gentleman has sunk in my, estimation. I once had a high opinion of him. I thought that from the great wealthy class of . this country we had at. last secured one who would do good for Australia, and would help to build it up ; but the Prime Minister’s record is one of ruin that will end at the next election. Those honorable members who have accused the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), were not speaking from the book. They did not have the documents to read, as he did. Perhaps they allowed their enthusiasm, or their friendship for Major Story to carry them away when they placed on the honorable member’s words a meaning that he did not intend to convey. Neither the Prime Minister nor my learned friend from Bendigo has said that the documents which the honorable member for the Northern Territory read were false.
– I do not say so now.
– Then let the honorable member call a public meeting and have the documents read there.
– I was alluding to the meaning of the words used by the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member said deliberately that the honorable member for the Northern Territory had said things which he did not say.
– The honorable member for Bendigo is not denying the documents. He would not care to have similar evidence produced against himself. No soldier who loves Australia would like such evidence given against him. I am sorry the Prime Minister lost his temper. Even the unguarded language he used was not pleasing. He said it was hard to hear what , the honorable member for the Northern Territory had said. I confess that that honorable member was under a difficulty. He was speaking a little into the floor of the chamber. But I expected better things from his lips. I expected him to say that the honorable member for the Northern Territory had read from archives whose authenticity could not be contested, and that he accepted the evidence. Then he might have made his ad misericordiam appeal, ““Let bygones be bygones.” The honorable member for the Northern Territory has faced difficulties in the north which other men who have not been there cannot possibly realize. I did not realize what they were until I had made two visits’ to the Territory. He is the last man in the world not to give another a second chance. It was no wonder the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and I interjected in anger. It is said that in a bee-hive it is only necessary for one bee to get angry to set the whole hive in motion. When one man in an assembly loses his temper he causes others to do the same. However, the honorable member for Batman has handled the Prime Minister very well, and I do not think that, in similar circumstances, he will again lose control of himself, as I am sorry to say he did to-night.
The warmth and indignation expressed by the honorable member for Batman were well justified, and the timely rebuke the honorable member administered to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was richly deserved. I certainly did not expect the right honorable gentleman to take upon himself the role of political bully. His attempt to intimidate and overawe honorable members was most unbecoming on the part of one occupying his high and responsible position. Even if he had any doubts as to the merits of the case presented by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), that did not justify his insulting attitude. I resent it. My toleration, patience, and sense of decency were outraged by his speech. The honorable member for the Northern Territory is at least a gentleman, but I cannot say that of the Prime Minister. The debate this evening recalls to my mind other anomalies and injustices in connexion with the administration of Commonwealth affairs. One man who lived in what was formerly part of my constituency was practically murdered by the Government and its officers through their refusal to grant him in his dying hours the treatment and relief he needed. Colonel Bell, the head of the repatriation administration in South Australia, might be expected to have some sympathy with returned soldiers,but in all my experience I have never met a man who, temperamentally and in respect of capacity, was more unfitted for the position he occupies. Of his war record I know nothing; but his attitude towards members of Parliament is, to say the least, insulting. Such a man does not get the opportunity to insult me twice, and for a considerable time past I have referred direct to head-quarters in
Melbourne all pension matters with which I have been required to deal. Notwithstanding that he has proved himself unsympathetic towards returned soldiers, and that he is not even a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, he has been made Deputy Commissioner for Invalid and Old-age Pensions in South Australia, having been promoted over the heads of deserving public servants. The Government has so far forgotten its duty to the public and its permanent officers as to give patronage to one whose only qualification is that he rendered military service abroad. War service should not be ‘ the only qualification for appointment to Government positions. A man who is to administer successfully the pensions department, must have ability and sympathy, and one lacking those attributes, even though he be a colonel or a general, has no claim to be appointed. I add my quota of commendation and appreciation of the courage of the honorable member for the Northern Territory in expressing his opinion. I cannot help contrasting the attitude of Ministers tonight with the treatment meted out to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). I was a member of the select committee appointed to consider the payment of compensation to him, and I am able to say that the ministerial members serving on that committee were not animated by a spirit of generosity when considering his claim. But for the efforts of my leader (Mr. Charlton) and myself, the payment to him would not have been nearly so large, and even what he received was nothing like adequate compensation for the injury done to his character. He was only a gunner in the Australian Imperial Force; had he been a major, a colonel, or a general, nothing less than thousands of pounds would have been considered sufficient compensation. Whether a man be a private or a field-marshal he is entitled to have his record investigated, and if the history of an officer occupying a public position of trust and responsibility will not bear such scrutiny, this Parliament has a right to know it.
– About three weeks ago I asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories re- garding the inquiry into the tile works at Canberra. I was furnished with a lot of information I had not sought about an inquiry into the brick-works. The House is entitled to know what is taking place in connexion with the manufacture of tiles at the Federal Capital in connexion with which . an inquiry was conducted by one of the directors of a tile combine in New South Wales. As . a result of a recent ‘ investigation under the anti-trust law in that state the combine was found guilty of having acted in restraint of trade. The then Nationalist Government refused to prosecute, but the present Labour Govern,ment is, I understand, doing so. The combine has a record of having bought out and squeezed out of business dozens of rival companies, and of having increased the prices of its commodities by 50 per cent, during the last twelve or eighteen months. Despite that fact, one of its directors was sent to Canberra .to inquire into the operations of the tile factory, and the answer I received to-day confirms information which had previously reached me, that the purpose of the inquiry is to close up those works. Of course, if that happens the combine will get the whole of the roofing business at Canberra. I understand that the Federal Capital Commission proposes to depart from the policy of roofing all Canberra buildings with tiles, and is making experiments with slates on a few dwellings. One of the members of the commission is connected with a company that has acquired a slate quarry near Goulburn, and I understand that it also controls a slate quarry at Mudgee. It seems to me that an effort is being made to close-up the tile works at Canberra, and probably we. shall soon see the buildings at the Federal Capital being roofed with slates. This would naturally be very much in the ‘ monetary interests of at least one member of the commission. It has been suggested that £20,000 would have to be spent to bring the Canberra tile works up to date, but my information is that for an outlay of a few hundred pounds the works could be made capable of producing sufficient tiles of the best .quality for the purposes of the commission. Fancy the commission .asking one of the directors of the tile combine in NewSouth Wales whether or not the tile works at Canberra should be closed ! The shutting up of the works would probably result in the roofing material required at
Canberra being supplied by that combine, in which at least one member of the commission is financially interested. It took me about a month to obtain an official reply to my question, and the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) took a month to make up his mind whether or not the information should, be supplied. An inquiry is apparently necessary to dispel the suspicion : that is growing regarding this matter. The Government should take care, in the early stages of the construction of the Federal Capital, that there is not the making of a scandal of a nature that would be most discreditable to the Government and all concerned.
Question resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration of Deputy Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page), agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising of moneys to be loaned to the states, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That . Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure to enable the Commonwealth Government and the Parliament to give effect to the arrangements made this week by the Loan Council in regard to the borrowing programmes of the states. It will be remembered that during last month two meetings of the Loan Council were held, when the various State Treasurers met the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and discussed their borrowing programmes for the current financial year.
– Are all the states agreed on this measure?
– Yes. All the states except New South Wales were represented at the meeting of the council. The Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales (Mr. Lang) sent a telegram expressing regret that he was unable to be present owing to urgent public business, but intimating that he would favorably consider co-operation with the other states and with the Commonwealth in respect to any resolutions that might be carried. During the last eighteen months the loan operations of the Commonwealth and the states have been carried on in accordance with the agreements made by the Loan Council, which consists of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the treasurers of the states. It is admitted not only by all the governments concerned, but also by the principal financial authorities in Australia and overseas, that substantial benefits have resulted from the work of the council. Whereas formerly the Commonwealth and State Governments were competing with each other in the local market for the money available there, there is . now a voluntary regulationof their respective borrowings, and, as a result, loan moneys have been secured to the advantage of all, on more favorable terms than formerly obtained. The money market, moreover, has had definite periods of freedom from government issues, and more money has been available for private enterprise. Last year, the Loan Council arranged for the Commonwealth to act as the central borrowing authority in Australia, and it will be seen that this bill is a replica of the States Loan Act passed last year, with the exception that, whereas the latter measure specified a definite sum, the present bill provides for the borrowing by the Commonwealth on behalf of the states of such amounts as may be agreed upon by the Treasurers as necessary, and as are authorized by their respective Parliaments. This bill does not give authority to the Commonwealth to borrow for its own purposes. The necessary appropriations for Commonwealth purposes will be provided for . as occasion arises. The bill gives a general power to enable concerted action to be taken in the money market by the Commonwealth and the states. Last year Parliament passed a bill for an act which had the same title as this bill. That act expired on the 30th of June last, and this bill is to give the Government similar powers until the 30th June, 1926. Last year Parliament authorized the Commonwealth to raise a loan of £10,300,000 for the developmental works of the states. In none of that money did the Commonwealth participate, for it was divided among the states according to a mutual arrangement. We also raised £5,300,000 to enable the State Governments to convert various loans that matured during the year. Both the loans issued in Australia by the Commonwealth for the states last year were fully subscribed on terms which at the time were satisfactory to the Governments concerned. The most notable feature of the money market in Australia during the last nine months has been the steady fall of interest rates. In September, 1924, Commonwealth bonds were issued giving an effective rate of interest to the investor of £6 7s. per cent, for a five-year period, and £6 4s. per cent, for a tenyear period. At present Commonwealth bonds are selling on the market at prices which show to the investor interest of less than 5£ per cent. Thus in the last nine months rates of interest have fallen more than J per cent, per annum. This considerable fall may be ascribed to the abstention of the governments from local borrowing, the removal of the embargo on the export of gold, and the favorable position of the chief primary products. Borrowing in London last year was carried on as before, each government issuing its own loans. An agreement was reached, however, as to the amount which each government would so raise in London. At its recent meetings, the Loan Council agreed, amongst other things -
It will be seen that very definite arrangements have been made regarding public borrowing in Australia during 1925-6. The Commonwealth will have a clear field for the conversion of the £68,000,000
War Loan falling due on the 15th December, and will be the sole borrower in respect of the whole of the money to be raised in Australia for the states this financial year. As I have already said, concerted action is to be taken with regard to all overseas borrowing during 1925-6. It is undesirable to state at present what plans are proposed in regard to overseas borrowing. It is never ‘the practice to make announcements regarding loan arrangements until the negotiations have been completed, because any announcement during the negotiations might prejudice the success of the plans. Under the bill now introduced, authority is sought for the Treasurer to enter into agreements with the states regarding the loan programme of 1925-6. The agreements are to . provide how much money may be borrowed by the Commonwealth for the states, and the terms and conditions under which it may be lent to the states. The agreements will also provide for the conversion into Commonwealth loans, or for the redemption by the Commonwealth, of state loans falling due up to the 1st July, 1926. The subsequent sections of the bill give the Treasurer authority to borrow the necessary moneys and to apply those moneys for the purposes of the agreement. Power is also asked for the Treasurer to make advances to the states pending the issue of the proposed loans. These advances will be repayable to the Commonwealth when the loans are issued. Authority is also sought for the Treasurer to convert into Commonwealth loans any state loans falling due up to the 1st July, 1926. A definite limit is provided in the bill to the amount of money the Commonwealth may raise. This limit is not expressed in figures. The Commonwealth will be authorized to borrow such amounts as may be declared by the agreements’ with the states to be necessary for the general loan purposes- of the states, and as have been, or may be, authorized by the parliaments of the states up to the 30th June, 1926.
– Has the Treasurer any idea how much loan money the states will want up to that date?
– There is some idea, but at present the budgets of the states have not been completed, and it will be necessary for them to have some money to carry On works during the -first two or three months of the financial year. There is no authority in this bill for the
Commonwealth, to borrow moneys for its own purposes. The usual loan acts authorizing the Commonwealth to borrow for its developmental programme will be submitted with the budget. The present bill relates only to the loans the Commonwealth desires to raise as a central borrowing authority on behalf of the states. I strongly commend the bill to the House, because I firmly believe in the co-ordination of the loan arrangements of the Commonwealth and the states. There is nothing of a party nature in its provisions, or in the Loan Council agreements. The meetings of the Loan Council have been marked by the great frankness displayed by Ministers of different political parties, and by the great harmony which has prevailed. There have been changes of government in some of the states since the Loan Council was formed, but, notwithstandng them, the new Treasurers have, up to the present, readily fallen in with the plans of the Council. It is not yet clear whether New South Wales will act in concert with the Commonwealth and the states during the ensuing year, but the Treasurers of the other states “and I are confident that the New South Wales Treasurer, on studying the recent proposals of the Loan Council, will, in the interests of his own state, as well as of the other Governments concerned, approve of the proposed arrangements. The Acting Treasurer of Western Australia was unable to commit his Government to the plans made for the ensuing year. The Honorable Mr. Collier, Premier and Treasurer of Western Australia, has now returned from London. He is no doubtwell acquainted with the facts relating to overseas borrowing, and I feel confident that he, too, will fall in line with the other states and the Commonwealth in the proposals for the new year.
.- I am fully in accord with the statement of the Treasurer in favour of having one borrowing authority for the whole of the Commonwealth, and I am pleased that an arrangement has been reached with the states whereby the Commonwealth Government will be the only party that will go upon the market to borrow money. That will restrict competition in borrowing, and may perhaps have the effect of enabling us to borrow at a lower rate of interest. When honorable members are asked to pass a bill of this kind, we should be given some idea of what we are committing ourselves to. The Treasurer ought not to ask the House to pass a bill to raise money for the states without giving honorable members an idea of the amount involved. We may pass this bill, and afterwards find that the amounts borrowed are staggering. The time has arrived when we should exercise the utmost care in borrowing money. We must not hamper the states, of course. If they have reproductive work to do, we ought to help them to do it, and we are justified in doing so. My complaint at this moment is that we do not know all the facts. It seems to me that before we agree to a bill of this character, which will give the Treasurer power to borrow an unlimited amount of money, we ought to know more than we do about the purposes for which the money will be used.
– We are backing a bill.
Mr.Fenton. - We are signing a blank cheque.
– As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has said, we are signing a blank cheque. It cannot be said that we are backing a bill. I have backed bills before now, and I have had to pay. We ought to know how much money will be borrowed under the provisions of this measure. The Treasurer has had two meetings with the Treasurers of the various states. Surely he must have some knowledge of their requirements. If he has not, he ought to make inquiries into the matter. Honorable members of this Parliament should be placed in possession of the fullest possible information when they are asked to deal with measures of this description. For all we know, the Treasurer may borrow £100,000,000 under the provisions of this bill. I think he is asking rather too much when he asks us to consent to the passing of a measure like this. We shall have no check at all upon him when he is given this power. It must be remembered that these borrowing proposals are additional, to those for conversion purposes. This money is to be borrowed abroad.
– It may be borrowed in Australia.
– I am glad to hear that. I hope that it will be borrowed here if it is procurable. If we borrow from Britain we shall be obliged to . accept British goods at least to the value of the money that we borrow. That is true respecting any country from which we may borrow. It is questionable whether we shall be able to find sufficient money in Australia to meet the 4£ per cent, loans that will fall due this year. We may have to go abroad for some of it. That will increase our overseas interest bill. It appears to be likely that the money raised under this measure will be borrowed in the United States of America. According to cables published in yesterday’s newspapers, negotiations have taken place with some American financial interests with that object. Not so very long ago, when the Premier of Queensland was forced to’ go to America to obtain the money he needed for public works in that state, because he could not get it elsewhere, he was subjected to a good deal of adverse criticism in some quarters. It appears now, however, that this Government . proposes to follow his example. In the past we have obtained our money from London, and that has considerably helped our trade relationship with Great Britain. Everybody knows that, while we are supposed to receive money when we borrow abroad, we actually receive goods. If we transfer our borrowing from Great Britain to the United States of America, it .simply means that we shall have to accept goods of some kind from there.
– More pernicious picture films. I expect.
– I do not know what kind of goods we would get, .but we shall certainly have to accept goods, and that will not be in the best interests of our own secondary industries. If we wish Australia to be self-contained, we shall have to cease borrowing money from other countries, when it may be obtained here. It is idle to say that the tariff is a sufficient protection to our industries. If we borrow money abroad, we must accept goods from abroad; ‘if we accept goods from abroad, our people must buy them; if they buy imported goods, they cannot spend their money on goods manufactured in Australia. It must be apparent to honorable members, therefore, that it is highly desirable that we shall curtail, as far as possible, overseas borrowing. We cannot escape from the position that the overseas channel through which we receive borrowed money will be the channel through which we shall receive goods to the value of the money which we borrow. Although the hour is late. I consider it to be my duty to place my views upon this matter before honorable members. We must carefully consider any proposal which may have- the result of increasing our public debt, which is heavier now than we can comfortably carry. Nobody knows when it may become necessary for us to increase our debt rapidly, as we were compelled to do a few years ago. I trust that that time will not come, but I must confess that I am not at all satisfied with the way things are shaping abroad. It is for that reason that I am uttering this warning. We should be very carefully husbanding our resources. Our public debt totals more than £1,000,000,000, and we should be straining every nerve to reduce it. Borrowing abroad must result not only in increased taxation, but in materially curtailing the development of our industries. It is absolutely essential that we shall encourage the development of our secondary industries rather than depress them. Any policy which will result in our receiving large quantities of manufactured goods , from abroad will, be detrimental to the best interests of Australia. While I should not be justified in opposing this bill, for the reason that the proposals it contains have been agreed to by ‘ the state treasurers in consultation with the Commonwealth Treasurer, I feel justified in saying that we are entitled to the fullest information when proposals of this nature are put before us. So far as this measure is concerned, we do not know how much money each state requires; what the money is for, or whether we are justified in agreeing to the proposal to borrow it. It may be said that if the states want the money, we would not be justified in refusing to borrow it for them There is a . certain amount of truth in that, but there are other aspects of the question. We may find, after this money has been borrowed, that the purposes upon which it is being expended do not commend themselves to us. I must accept the bill on the assurance of the Treasurer that the various state governments require the money which will be borrowed. I also accept it for the reason that it gives effect to a policy that I have frequently advocated, namely, that of one borrowing authority for the Commonwealth and the states. I trust, however, that the money raised in accordance, with its provisions will be used for necessary and reproductive works.
.- I hope that the Treasurer will allow the debate to be adjourned, as this bill contains some of the most extraordinaryclauses that I have ever seen. As the Leader of the Opposition states, Parliament is asked to supply the Treasurer with a blank cheque to borrow money. As business men we are not justified in doing that. A schedule should have been attached to the bill setting out the amount to be borrowed.
– And the purpose for which the money is required.
– I am not greatly concerned as to the purposes for which the money is required, but I consider that we are not justified in asking Parliament to agree to the bill as it stands. Clause 3 reads -
The Treasurer may, from time to time, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1918, or under the provisions of any act authorizing the issue of Treasury bills, borrow moneys to such amounts as are specified in any agreement made in pursuance of section two of this act.
Clause 2 gives no information. Some limit should be provided. As a representative of the people, I am not justified in agreeing to the Treasurer being given the authority to borrow any sum of money that he desires. If there were some amount stated - let it be £1,000,000 or £100,000,000 - we should know where we were. I am satisfied that a reasonable agreement is being made with the states, but now that the Commonwealth is getting them to agree to one borrowing authority, we should come to an agreement as to the control of borrowing. The time has come when we should call a halt to the borrowing policy of the Commonwealth and the states. If there should be a sudden stoppage of money from abroad, it would mean appalling destitution among our people. We cannot forever mortgage our heritage. If the Treasurer will agree to some limitation of the amount to be borrowed, I shall withdraw my opposition, but I hope that, in any future negotiations, an effort will be made, by an amendment of the Constitution, if possible, to have some limit placed on the amount which can be borrowed by the Commonwealth and the states. During the last ten or twelve years our public debt, has increased considerably, and has now reached the enormous sum of £1,000,000,000. That is a huge indebtedness for 6,000,000 people. We should not be looking after the interests of our constituents, or showing proper business acumen, if we fail to provide a limit to the borrowing powers of the Treasurer. It is not that I distrust the present Treasurer, but no occupant of that office should have the right to borrow unlimited sums of money. The Treasurer should agree to a limit being placed upon the amount which can be borrowed.
.- Honorable members have not yet had time to consider this bill, although it contains provisions granting to the Treasurer powers greater than are conferred’ on any Minister by existing legislation. The Treasurer seems to think that there is a great deal of’ secrecy about this matter, and that we should know nothing about it; but only yesterday we saw in our newspapers that J. P. Morgan and Co., the well-known financiers of the United States of America and Great Britain, are already making arrangements for a loan of £20,000,000 to Australia. The head of that firm, when interviewed in New York, said that there was some truth in the rumour. I do not know whether the Treasurer made any arrangement for obtaining this money when he visited the United States of America; we have had from him no information concerning this trip ; and do not even know who paid his expenses. Clause 6, which deals with the conversion of state securities, reads -
The Treasurer may; for the purposes of any agreement made in pursuance of this act, convert into a Commonwealth security any state security falling due on or before the first day. of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-six.
An explanation of this clause should be given to the House, as when the conversion loan takes place the Commonwealth Government will have to bear the loss of interest. The Treasurer did not say that. Clause 5 reads -
Pending the borrowing of moneys ‘in pursuance of this, act, the Treasurer may, from time to time, advance to the states out of any moneys in the Commonwealth Public Account, sums not exceeding the moneys which may be borrowed in pursuance of this act.
That means that the states will have the power to borrow from the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth will have to bear the burden until such time as a loan is raised to relieve the Common wealth of the liability. There is no provision in- the bill that the states shall pay interest on the money. At the present time the states issue treasury bills for terms of three months or six months, the rate of interest being 3£ or 4 per cent. In this case we do not know what the arrangement will be. We do not know who will have to bear the responsibility, nor has the Treasurer intimated whether the loans are to be raised in Australia or on the foreign market. The last loan of £10,000,000 was entirely successful, although it was floated at the very worst period in the financial history of the Commonwealth. In connexion with loan conversions, T havealways advocated the adoption of a policy that would not penalize the general pub- he, but, unfortunately, I have not been able to get the Treasurer to see eye to eye with me. I am very much afraid that, largely because of the absence of administrative capacity on the part of the -Treasurer, the rate of interest in future will be higher than the rate which ruled during the war period. No one can reasonably find fault with the principle of having only one borrowing authority for Australia, but we should certainly know something about the amount likely to be raised under this measure. It will be at least £174,000,000. Why should the bill be hurried through at this late hour? Unlike the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), I do not. object to a sound borrowing policy, but all the negotiations should evidence business capacity on the part of the responsible minister in the interests, not only of the Government, but of Australia as a whole. I shall not oppose the bill, but I feel justified in directing public attention to the obvious defects of the measure, which should have the closest attention of all honorable members. Australia will not always be in the enjoyment of bounteous seasons and high prices for her products. Droughts and financial stringency will undoubtedly recur, and we should make provision for them by effective parliamentary control of public borrowings. The secrecy displayed by the Treasurer must have a very serious effect upon loan negotiations. The Minister should definitely state, for the satisfaction of the public, the probable amount to be raised under this measure. As the hour is late, the Treasurer should postpone the measure until to-morrow, and furnish honorable ‘ members with further information. As my leader has pointed out, the difficulty in the exchange position since the war has penalized our producers to the extent of from £3 to £5 per £100 on all primary products exported, and since all overseas loan transactions resolve themselves into a system of credits, Australia pays very dearly for the privilege of raising money overseas. Clause 5 of the bill, which authorizes the Treasurer to make advances to the states pending the raising of loans, requires the serious attention of every honorable member. The Minister should state the position clearly for the information -of the House. There are one or two features of the bill that I do not like. It appears, to me to have been very loosely drawn. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) should give a full explanation regarding it. I cannot understand the indifference of some honorable members to the matter. They appear to think that, because the Government is responsible, there is no reason for alarm. Governments, however, make mistakes. We have a right to know, before the bill passes this chamber, what its effects are likely to be. The Treasurer should state what arrangements with regard to borrowing have been made. To-morrow morning it will be found that the press has been supplied with information that was not disclosed to honorable members.
.- This. is a very important matter.. Several hours of the present sitting were devoted to the consideration of the career of one man, and I protest against the action of the Government in bringing the bill forward at such a late hour, and attempting to rush it through without allowing it to have the consideration that it deserves. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that a schedule should be added to the bill, so that we may know the amount that it is intended to borrow. We should certainly be told whether there is any truth in the statements that have appeared in the press, that the Government proposes to alter its policy in regard to the places in which it intends to borrow additional sums, or to establish new credit. Even if we do not pass this bill the states will still be in a position to raise the sums that they require. Under the bill their future borrowing will come within the patronage of the Commonwealth. It may be a matter for congratulation that the Loan Council is preventing competition among the states on the loan market, and bringing about a lowering in the rates of interest. Is the Treasurer, as the representative of the Commonwealth, doing his best to cut down to the utmost the sums that are asked for by the states? We should not take this matter lightly. I think that we are becoming too lax in this chamber. Because the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) frequently speaks upon financial matters his remarks are regarded lightly. If honorable members studied his speeches they would find in some of his statements a great deal of food for thought. The fact that we have borrowed millions since the war is not a reason for looking at such amounts as though they mean nothing. Every twenty years our national debt is doubled. That rate of borrowing cannot continue, and it behoves honorable members to give the matter very serious consideration.
– There are four checks imposed upon the amount that can be borrowed - three in the bill and another that operates automatically. The first check is that the money will be borrowed for the states for one year. A further check is that the amount to be borrowed for a state must be authorized by the Parliament of that state. Loans for the states have to run the gauntlet of their respective parliaments.
– The bill provides” or as may be authorized by Parliament.’’
– The amount must be authorized by the state parliament before it can be handed over to a state government.
– Is that done in the case of treasury bills?
– Our borrowing is done in conformity with the provisions of our appropriation acts; but this measure does not apply to Commonwealth borroAving. The third check is that the amount asked for must be approved by the Treasurer, which, in this case means the Loan Council. The fourth safeguard, and the one which I referred to as an automatic check, is that borrowing must be limited to the amounts which can be obtained in the money market. In regard to the question whether the Loan Council exerts a curtailing influence on borrowing, I may mention what occurred only last year, when the Treasurers met, and it was found that the total amount sought to be raised was altogether too large. If the states’ requirements had been considered separately, borrowing to a greater extent would have occurred, but as a result of the deliberations of the Loan Council, we were able to reduce the total amount by 20 per cent. The amount set down last year for the states was roughly £30,000,000, which was to be borrowed in Australia or overseas, but as we were able to raise only within several millions of that amount a further check on borrowing was provided. Reference has been made to the fact that no definite amount is stated in the bill. We could, at the outset, have stated a total amount which would have enabled the states to carry on for several months; but Parliament will be in recess after Christmas, and consequently a general authority is necessary to cover the whole year. For these reasons I ask the House to assist in the passage of the bill. At the same time I assure honorable members that the Treasurers are doing their best to curtail expenditure and to reduce borrowing to the lowest possible limit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
.- I should like to know what arrangements have been made in regard to the rate of interest, and whether on the conversion of a loan the Commonwealth or the states will bear the increased interest charge ?
– The position in regard to conversion loans is exactly the same as that in relation to the raising of new loans. The Commonwealth issues its own stock, and the states issue their stock to the Commonwealth for a similar amount. The operations of the Loan Council have the beneficial effect that the Commonwealth insists upon the states paying interest and also providing a sinking fund.
– That is not provided for in this bill.
– It is provided for in the measure relating to sinking funds, and it automatically operates. The states pay the whole of the interest on all money borrowed, both when old loans are converted and when new loans are floated.
Bill reported without amendment.; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 July 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250709_reps_9_110/>.