12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11.0 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister able to inform the House of the names of the organizations of employers and employees which are likely to be represented at the resumed sittings of the Industrial Peace Conference?
– The only step I have taken so far is to meet the management committee of the conference in Melbourne and invite it to call representatives of the various bodies together in order to discuss specifically industrial legislation and particularly the amendment of the Arbitration Act. I have received no communication from either employers or employees as to how they will be represented.
– The Canberra Times of this morning reports that the Government is preparing a scheme for the expenditure of £1,000,000 to relieve unemployment throughout the Commonwealth. I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in that statement.
– I have requested the State Premiers to meet me as early as possible in order to discuss a scheme which, if agreed to, will enable the State Governments to proceed immediately with a considerable amount of work. Until I have discussed the matter with the State Premiers, I cannot make a statement on the subject to this House.
– Will the Treasurer be good enough to arrange for the reprinting of the speech made in the House of Commons on the 3rd October by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding the export of gold? Honorable members will be convenienced if the Treasurer will have copies of the speech distributed.
– I shall arrange for the speech to be reprinted.
– On the 22nd November I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs if he would lay on the table of the House all reports of the Tariff Board which have a bearing on the new tariff schedule. The honorable gentleman undertook to place the majority of the reports on the table this week. I remind him that this is the last day on which he can redeem that promise.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension.
– The Minister’s promise is reported in Hansard.
– Either I misunderstood the honorable member’s question or he misunderstood my reply. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked if I would follow the customary practice of having prepared a memorandum settingout the duties that were in operation prior to the change in the tariff schedule of August last, together with the duties imposed by the Validation Bill that was passed at the end of the last Parliament. I promised that such a memorandum would be prepared, together with all other information essential for the proper consideration of the schedule. The reports of the Tariff Board will be made available to honorable members as soon as practicable; some of them are still receiving consideration, and I do not know whether they can yet be released. I assure honorable members that when they are discussing the tariff schedule complete information will be available to them.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether further consideration has been given to the representations of fruit-growers against the admission of the cherry trees which have been offered to the Commonwealth by the Government of Japan for planting in Canberra?
– Yesterday I directed a letter to the Consul-General for Japan asking him to thank his Government for its generous gift, and also for its consideration in offering to withhold that gift if likely to cause us any embarrassment. I assured him that the Commonwealth Government was satisfied with the assurances that had been given regarding the care that would be taken to ensure that the trees were healthy at the time of shipment, and also with the precautionary measures proposed by the Health Department, but that in view of the uneasiness of orchardists I would be obliged if the Government of Japan would withdraw the offer.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Development and Migration Commission are continuing their investigations, or are, as redundant officers, merely awaiting the Government’s decision as to their future ?
– The members of the commission are still in office. The future of that body cannot be decided until a reply has been received by the Commonwealth Government to the cablegram sent to the British Government a few weeks ago. When that reply has been received the Commonwealth Government will confer with the State Governments and then determine the future of the commission.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received from the Tasmanian Government a communication stating that although the carbide works at Electron a are able to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements of carbide, the industry is working only half time because of the competition of imports? Did such communication ask for further protection for the carbide industry. If so, will the Minister state when the decision of the Government is likely to be announced ?
– Communications have been received in regard to the carbide industry in Tasmania, but obviously it is impossible for ‘me to announce at this stage what tariff assistance the Government will propose.
– Some time ago I applied to the Minister for Trade and Customs for the remission of the duty imposed on an importedRaymond crusher required for the breaking up of phosphatic rock used in the manufacture of superphosphates. Its chief attribute was the exclusion of all dust from the factory, thus materially contributing to the health and comfort of the employees. My request was refused. I read, however, in the last weekly bulletin issued by the Trade and Customs Department, that the Minister has approved of the importation, duty free, of a steel tank 10 feet in diameter for the storage of beer, and also certain aluminium vessels for use in connexion with Nathan’s brewing process. In view of this I ask the Minister if he will review his previous decisions regarding the heavy duty on the Raymond crusher ? Does he not consider the manufacture of superphosphates as important as the brewing and storage of beer?
– Inquiries will be made into this matter and if the question is put on the notice-paper a full reply will be furnished to the honorable member.
– The former Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) is reported in the course of a speech at the Melbourne Royal Show, to have made an announcement of great interest to the primary producers. The report states: -
Arrangements had been made by the Commonwealth Government to give generous assistance in connexion with the cost entailed in the importation of pedigree stock from Great Britain to improve Australia’s flocks and herds.
According to the Minister the details of this assistance to be given were that while the purchaser was to pay the cost of the animal the shipping companies would carry it free of freight. All other incidental expenses, such as the cost of stalls, water and fodder during the voyage from the port of export in Great Britain to the port of importation in Australia was to be borne in the following proportions: - One-third by the purchaser; one-third by the Empire Marketing Board; one-third in equal shares by the Commonwealth Government and the State Government concerned.
Is the Minister for Markets prepared to extend similar assistance to persons desirous of importing draught stock? The people in my electorate are very much interested in draught stock, the improvement of which is just as necessary to primary producers as is the improvement of flocks and herds.
– I shall make inquiries into this matter and let the honorable member have a reply later.
– The Prime Minister would study the convenience of honorable members if he would announce the intentions of the Government regarding the duration of the present session, and the date upon which our sittings are likely to be resumed in the New Year.
– I can understand the desire of honorable members to have that information so that they may be able to make their private arrangements accordingly. The Government hopes that this portion of the session will terminate about the 13th December, but that must depend on the assistance which honorable members lend in the transaction of business. It will be necessary to pass the Commonwealth Bank Bill; a Loan Bill; an Income Tax Bill; and the Estimates. The Government believes that if reasonable despatch is shown that programme can be disposed of in sufficient time to enable honorable members to reach their homes for Christmas.
– I thought the Prime Minister believed in a full discussion of the Estimates?
– I do. The programme I have indicated will allow ample time for the discussion of the Estimates; indeed honorable members will have opportunities in that regard such as have been denied to them in past years. The Government hopes to call Parliament together again early in March.
– The Canberra Times this morning makes the very important announcement that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is about to form a new party. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he has made any arrangements for the absorption by that party of the Country party; and, if so, upon what conditions he is prepared to admit to it the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page.)
– Order! Questions cannot be addressed to private members unless they relate to a bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper of which he may have charge.
– In the event of this new party being formed, Mr. Speaker, what arrangements are you likely to make to provide the necessary room when it absorbs the Country party?
– I shall await developments, and when the necessity arises, make whatever provision may be necessary.
Position of Tariff Board
– In view of the fact that, in the preparation of the tariff schedule which has been tabled in this House, the Government has apparently, to a major extent, acted independently of the Tariff Board, will the Prime Minister consider whether that board is not now redundant and unnecessary, and whether in the interests of the taxpayers it ought not therefore to be abolished?
– I am interested to hear the suggestion of the late Minister for Trade and Customs that we might consider the Tariff Board redundant and unnecessary.
– The Government has made it redundant.
– I have not yet arrived at that conclusion, although the honorable gentleman’s suggestion may lead my thoughts in that direction. Further, I am not aware that the major portion of the tariff schedule introduced by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) has been prepared without regard to the views of the Tariff Board.
– Inasmuch as the Tariff Board is now inquiring into applications for increased duties on rice and prunes, and that, in anticipation of its reports upon those matters, the Government has made provision for an increased duty in each case, will the Minister for
Trade and Customs withdraw those inquiries from the Tariff Board in the interest of both economy and common sense ?
– There is on the notice-paper a question that is almost identical with that which the honorable member has raised. If he will await my reply to it he may get the information he desires.
– Arising out of the reply given by the Prime Minister to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that he was not aware that the Tariff Board had been ignored-
– Order ! It is distinctly out of order for an honorable member to base a question upon an answer given to a previous question.
– Seeing that there is on the notice-paper a question calling for all available information in relation to reports of the Tariff Board, these questions without notice are out of order.
– That is a matter for me to determine; and until the question that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) wishes to ask, has been heard, neither I nor any honorable member is in a position to determine whether it is in order or not.
– Is theMinister for Trade and Customs in a postion to state whether the new tariff schedule was introduced in accordance with the recommendations of the Tariff Board?
– The question anticipates one in the notice-paper, and therefore cannot be asked.
– In view of the complaint made last night by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) in regard to the timber industry, will the Minister for Markets and Transport have inquiries made and information supplied to this House respecting the cost per hundred super feet of conveying timber from Launceston to Adelaide and from the Baltic ports to Adelaide?
– I shall have inquiries made, and at a later date supply the honorable member with the information I obtain.
Views of British Government
– In view of the cabled statement that the British Government is greatly concerned regarding the policy of the Commonwealth Government in relation to the tariff and migration, will the Prime Minister disclose whatever communications he has received on the subject from that Government ?
– I have received no communications on that subject from the British Government.
Withdrawals from Bond.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the quantity removed from bond, during the last financial year, of the following Australian distilled spirit: -
Brandy bottled under customs or excise supervision ; ,
Brandy not bottled under customs or excise supervision;
Whisky bottled under customs or excise supervision; and
Whisky not bottled under customs or excise supervision ?
– The information is not available.
asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
What has been the amount paid by the Commonwealth in bounties, bonuses, subsidies, or assistance to industries, primary and secondary, in each State, during the past seven years, enumerating the special industry and the financial assistance afforded in each case?
– I hope to be in a position to furnish the desired information early next week.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Full information on these points will be furnished when the tariff schedule is being discussed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 22nd November, 1929, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) addressed to me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to give the honorable member the following information : -
– On the 27th November the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions : -
With reference to his answer yesterday to a question by the honorable member for Corangamite concerning training in the Australian Navy, what number of men receive petty officers’ pay amongst the 717 referred to in paragraph 2(b)?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that -
Of the 717 petty officers and men who received their first training elsewhere than in Australia, 388 were in receipt of petty officers’ pay, namely, chief petty officers 183, petty officers 205.
– On the 27th November the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that -
– Yesterday the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) sought information respecting the anticipated date of the completion of the Federal highway from Canberra to Goulburn. When the work was commenced it was anticipated that it would be completed by the 30th October, 1930. The officers of the Works Department have assured me that that is still the date upon which it is anticipated the work will be completed.
The following papers were presented : -
Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations, for year ended 30th June, 1929.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Fifth Annual Report of the Federal Capital Commission for year ended 30th June, 1929.
Ordered to be printed.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c
In Committee of Supply: (Consideration resumed from the 22nd November (vide page 213). department of home affairs.
Proposed vote- £33,000.
.- When the War Memorial at Canberra was previously the subject of the committee’s consideration, it was stated that the sum of £20,000 had been placed in a trust fund in the previous year for carrying on the work. Therefore, if £30,000 in addition is now to be made available, there will be a total amount of £50,000 to be expended during the current financial year. We have been told, however, that it is not practicable to expend the whole of that sum in the current year. I suggest that if the £20,000 that was placed in a trust is available, it may be sufficient for the requirements of the coming year, and that, therefore, it is unnecessary to vote another £30,000 now. I ask the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) whether it is a fact that there is £20,000 in a trust fund, definitely earmarked for this purpose, and, if so, whether he does not regard that sum as sufficient for expenditure on the memorial this year? If he considers that another £30,000 should be voted on the Estimates for this year, will he tell us whether it is proposed to add that £30,000 to the £20,000 now in the trust fund. I can see that it is possible that if we pass this item a considerable portion of the money voted cannot be expended, and, in that case, the trust fund would be built up unnecessarily. The money we vote for current expenditure should be expended in the year in which it is voted. I think that that was the intention of Parliament in connexion with the previous year’s vote. Will the Minister say whether the £20,000 that it is said was put into a trust fund is there in cash?
– When this debate was adjourned last Friday I asked you, Mr. Chairman, if I could resume the discussion when the Estimates were next before us, and you informed me that I could. I should like to know, therefore, why you did not call me first this morning?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).In committee there is no adjournment of a debate, and no honorable member can be given the right to continue a speech on the resumption of a committee’s consideration, though sometimes the chairman notices first the honorable member who has expressed his desire to continue the discussion which was going on when progress was reported.
– I have risen to emphasize the points taken by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). I understood the Minister to say in an earlier speech that the Government intended to proceed with the construction of the War Memorial. It seems that it is not now intended to go on with it, although the Government has £20,000 in hand in a trust fund, in addition to some surplus under a vote already authorized. It appears to me that it is unnecessary to place the present item on the Estimates. Clearly, as remarked by the honorable member for Fremantle, the Government cannot expend £50,000 on this work in the present financial year. I desire to know whether it intends to continue the present trust fund, and whether the money now available is not sufficient for the work for this year. In the brief time during which I have been in this House, we have twice discussed the matter of the memorial, and on two occasions, by overwhelming majorities, it was decided that the work should proceed.
– That was determined on the voices.
– That is so. It is due to the men who fought for this country that the work should be continued. There is an urgent need for the absorption of the workless in the country to-day, and the construction of the memorial would serve the dual purpose of carrying out the decision of Parliament and . also meeting the sentimental views of a very large section of the people. Further, it would have the effect of at least relieving in some degree the distress that is now prevalent through unemployment. I understand’ that a considerable sum is now paid by the Government in rent for the housing of the valuable war relics and trophies that have been collected. Everything seems to point to the wisdom of continuing the work. There should be a clear statement by the Minister as to whether he has sufficient money in hand for this purpose to last until the end of the year without Parliament voting a further sum. I realize that the Government has not yet been in office for a sufficient period to enable it to propose a comprehensive scheme for the absorption of the unemployed, but it should take steps in that direction, instead of denying that we have unemployed in Canberra and that retrenchments have occurred. If the Government frankly informs the House that it lias not had sufficient time to enable it to formulate its policy regarding unemployment, honorable members on this side will accept its assurance, so long as they know that a scheme is being developed. ‘ I doubt- whether a Federal Government can satisfactorily solve the problem of unemployment; but this Government has promised to do it, and I think that the country expects some explanation from it as to the way in which it proposes to carry out its election promises.
– In reply to the question of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) whether the sum of £20,000, placed to a trust fund, is available, I may say that that amount has been set aside for the building of the War Memorial, but the money is not available ; if it were spent, our cash reserves would be depleted to that extent. Honorable members are discussing what is purely a bookkeeping entry. An amount is not paid into a trust fund in gold or bank notes.
– Then, when money is put into a trust fund, it is not put in.
– No money is actually paid into a trust fund. The sum of £20,000 will be available for this work when our financial conditions improve, and it can only be used for the purpose for which it has been allocated.
– What was the idea in putting that amount into a trust fund ?
– The honorable member might well ask those of his colleagues who were members of the last Government.
– Did the late Government invest the £20,000 or did it propose to leave it idle, earning nothing?
– The sum of £20,000 was merely credited to the trust fund. I suggest that the ex-Treasurer, the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) might be asked any further questions on this matter. The Government accepts full responsibility for its action.
– Does the Minister mean that the trust fund is overdrawn, and thai this £20,000 is not in it.
– I have not said that the trust fund is overdrawn. I have tried to make it clear that although the sum of £20,000 was placed in a trust fund last year, only a book-keeping entry was made, and no actual cash is now available. If this amount were spent, it would deplete our cash reserves accordingly. The Government is confronted with an extremely difficult position, and it has been decided temporarily to suspend operations in connexion with the War Memorial. We had a comparatively short time to check over our Estimates and make investigations. We were confronted with the fact that we had to get the Estimates to the printer as quickly as possible, in order that Parliament might have them. It was not until after the Estimates had gone to the printer that we decided to discontinue temporarily the work of erecting the War Memorial. Unfortunately, it is impossible under present financial conditions to proceed with it at present. Eleven years have elapsed since the war ended, and the War Memorial is not yet started.
– All the more reason to begin with it.
– The late Government must accept any censure that is applicable to the delay.
.- I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that the Government intends to arrest all work upon the development of this National War Memorial.
– A thing that is not started cannot be arrested.
– The Prime Minister says that our National War Memorial is not started. He is speaking with little knowledge of this great work. This National War Memorial is in its final stages of completion and the work has been proceeding for eleven years. The late Government advanced the work steadily over that period, and there has been no unnecessary delay. There has previously been no cessation of this noble enterprise. The development of the War Memorial falls into two parts. There is first the collection which is to be housed in the memorial, and, secondly, the building itself. No useful purpose would be served in proceeding with the erection of this building at considerable expense unless we were close to the completion of the collection, but the position to-day is that the finest collection of its kind in the world is practically complete It will, we hope, be complete within the next year or two. This work, which the Prime Minister says ft. not started, has been proceeding. since 1917.
– The Prime Minister referred to the building.
– It is all one work.
– That is not so. The item on the Estimates deals with the construction of a War Memorial and not with operations outside it.
– It is all part of the one memorial and this is the final stage. The collection is almost complete, and as to the building, the site has been selected and allotted and some preliminary work has been clone. The dedicationstone was laid a few months ago. The architect’s plans are ready, and, indeed, have been partly paid for. The Government is now asked to take the final step in completing the War Memorial.
Let me tell the committee briefly the origin and story of “ the memorial. Early in 1917 a few Australians on service in France turned over in their minds the idea of a future memorial to those who fell for us at the Avar, and out of their consultation came the proposal made to the Government of that time that Australia’s national memorial - that is one for which the Federal Parliament would be responsible - should take the form of a great collection of historical war records, of trophies and souvenirs of all kinds ; in other words, that we should put together a collection which would tell, as no written word could tell, the story of the war and the sacrifices of those who served overseas. The proposal made to the Government of the day in 1917 was that there should be, first, this collection, and, secondly, at the national capital a memorial building in which to house it. This was approved by that Government, subject, of course, to the endorsement of the Parliament. The work of collecting was then begun in France, Palestine, and the other theatres of war in which Australians were serving. A few years later the project was placed before the Parliament. This House agreed, certainly with an occasional dissenting voice, but without a single division, to the form of the memorial and the successive steps to be taken towards its completion. The magnitude and range of the work that has been done on the memorial is shown by the fact that substantially more than £100,000 has been voted by the Parliament for the development of the collection. It is no new beginning that we are asking for at present. We are asking the Government to take the final steps to the completion of the undertaking by building a memorial in which to house the collection.
There is one thing in connexion with this plea that I make as a member of the War Memorial Board that will not be lightly disregarded either by the present Government or by this Parliament, and that is the very definite promise in connexion with the memorial that this country gave to the men who served and fell overseas. The collection we now possess was contributed to by the soldiers themselves while on service in France,
Palestine, and other fields of warfare. It was got together largely in this way: Our troops oversea were promised a memorial in this form, and were invited to contribute to it souvenirs and trophies gathered by our soldiers individually and by the units with which they were serving. Out of that scheme grew a collection the like of which has never been in existence in the world before. The proposal was taken up with the greatest enthusiasm by the troops. Unit vied with unit in its contributions, with the result that we have an extraordinarily large and varied collection of intimate and personal souvenirs and trophies of the war. Thousands of men contributed souvenirs and trophies to the collection, and many of these men afterwards fell at the war. “We have, therefore, an obligation of the most solemn and sacred kind. The collection was contributed to by the troops under a definite undertaking from the government of the day, afterwards repeatedly endorsed by the Parliament, that at the earliest practicable date this memorial would be built, and the collection which they themselves made would be housed in it.
With regard to the suggestion of delay on the part of the last Government, made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs, I have already pointed out that there has been no delay; that the collection is not ready to-day, and would not he ready even if the memorial building were now complete. But it will be ready within a year, certainly within two years. It will be ready by the time the building is constructed if the work is now proceeded with. I appeal strongly to the Government not to delay the construction of the memorial building. I would remind it not only of our sacred pledge to our troops, but also of the amazing sentiment that there is in Australia behind this project. The incomplete collection, which consists of pictures, models, and a thousand and one small personal souvenirs, telling of the service and life of the men overseas, has been on view in Melbourne and Sydney during the past two years, and no fewer than 2,300,000 Australian people have visited the exhibition. The interest taken in this collection, even in its incomplete stage, has been unparalleled.
It does not represent idle curiosity. These people have viewed the collection in no militarist spirit. They have not visited it to revive the lust of battle or memories of the actual fighting. They have gone there in awe and reverence, to associate themselves again with the memories of those four or five years of service and sacrifice. The attendances at the exhibition have been made up almost entirely, not of detached people who have never been associated with the war, but of the diggers themselves with their wives, and children born before or since the war; with their fathers and mothers.
I do not wish, and should be most loath, to make a party quarrel of this issue. This War Memorial project is something sacred, and I ask honorable members not to make a party question of it. I appeal to the Minister not to arrest this noble project. I recognize that the Government is in an embarrassing position because of the present financial stringency; but surely it should be possible to find at least £20,000, so that a beginning may be made on the actual building this year. I appeal to the Government not to be the first Federal Government that has allowed the grand progressive work of this memorial to be arrested or to lapse even for one single financial year. I trust that before their decision is final Ministers will visit the collection at the War Museum in Sydney where they will see something in no way calculated to stir up racial or international passions. It is a sacred memorial. I challenge anyone to visit that collection without coming to loathe war more than ever, and without a prayer in his heart that we shall never again be plunged into such an international conflict as that which it commemorates.
I appeal to the Government to find at least a few thousand pounds for building operations this year so that the progress of the work may not be arrested. I make my appeal in the name of those who fought and died overseas, and in the name of hundreds of thousands of the relatives of those who gave their lives for their country. The completion of this work should not be delayed a day longer than can be avoided.
– I wish to say something about the matter raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I agree with him that very valuable work is still in progress in connexion with the erection of this memorial. Plaster casts are being made, and the ultimate casts of metal figures showing the activities of the Australian Imperial Forces will be completed within twelve months. Ten such casts are to be made, and already four of them are finished in the war museum. When the estimates for this work were being framed, apparently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was not aware that the museum in Sydney would have to be closed.
– The museum has never been closed before, and would not have been closed by the last Government.
– I can only point out that the amount of money made available on the draft estimates was not sufficient to keep the museum open.
– The museum might have been closed temporarily, but there would have been no cessation of the work on the memorial.
– I was under the impression that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was not aware that the museum would have to be closed owing to the inadequate provision in the Estimates prepared by the last Government. He now admits that it might have had to be closed temporarily.
– That is not the War Memorial.
– The war museum that was in Melbourne, arid afterwards in Sydney, is merely an exhibition that must close some time or other. The Minister does- not understand the position.
– I do understand the position, and I assert that, but for the action of the present Government, the museum would have been closed.
– The museum does not exist.
– It does exist, and one and a half million people have visited it in Sydney. When I took over this department, I found that the sum of £9,500 had been made available for the museum. This would enable certain work to be done, but would not be sufficient, to keep the museum open.. The articles in the museum would have had to be stored and the museum closed. I was able to bring the amount allocated to the museum up to £14,500, which will be sufficient to keep it open. Notwithstanding the plea of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that this should not be made a party matter, every speech from the Opposition side of the House has been a party speech.
– I shall vote against the Government on this matter. I stand by my pledge.
– The honorable member may vote as he likes. I have been able to raise sufficient money to keep the museum open.
– The museum has never been open, and never will be at the rate the Government is going.
– I cast that statement back at the honorable member. His Government was. in power for many years, but during all that time nothing was done beyond making provision for the temporary housing of the exhibits. No steps were taken for the erection of a permanent building except the holding of architectural competitions, and the preparation of plans. The project of this War Memorial was first put forward in 1917, but from then until 1929 not one stone was laid other than the commemoration stone.
– Would the honorable member have had us erect a building, and leave it empty until the collection was ready ?
– The museum in Sydney has been open for a considerable time. .
– The honorable member himself has said that only a few of the models are finished.
– While it is true that the models form an important part of the exhibition, it is nevertheless a fact that other exhibits have proved so interesting as to induce one and a half million people in Sydney to visit them. Even without the models there is a large and varied collection. It is nonsense to say that there was nothing to put into the building if it had been ready. The collection has been ready for many years, and provision could have been made by the last . Government to erect a museum and war memorial in Canberra. So far as I can see, however, nothing was done, in spite of the fact that during those years there was a succession of extraordinarily good seasons and good budgets.
.- The statement of the Minister for Home Affairs is disappointing. It is good to know that the war memorial scheme is not being definitely abandoned, but something more should be done than the Government proposes to do.
– The. work on the War Memorial is being only temporarily suspended. I have made sufficient money available for continuing the work on the casts.
– 1 ask the Government to make sufficient money available to enable the work on the memorial to be continued for at least a year. A few days ago I introduced a deputation from unemployed returned soldiers in the Territory. I then reminded the Minister that there was supposed to be in existence a trust fund of £20,000 for work on the memorial. I am very sorry if the Minister has found in the meantime that that fund does not exist. What has happened to it? Trust money should be put into an account and interest should be payable on it. If the trust fund money is not available I make an earnest plea to the Government that other provision be made for proceeding with this work. I emphasize what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has already said, that this should not be a party matter. I intend to say nothing in criticism of the Government, and I ask all honorable members to. treat this matter as something above party and financial considerations. It is our definite moral obligation to complete this work, and if we are honorable men we shall go on with it. We owe a duty to the men who did not come back. It is their names which will be engraven on the memorial. Those dear to them will not forget, but if we remain inactive through some slip in accountancy over a trust fund we shall be breaking faith with the men who died. Published in the press this morning was a statement that the Government intended to spend £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment. The Prime Minister .was asked this morning whether this was correct, and he said that he was about to consult with the Premiers of the States on the matter. Is there any reason why, if £1,000,000 can be spent for the relief of unemployment throughout the Commonwealth, it is not possible to find £20,000 this year for work on the War Memorial, seeing that the work has already been approved by Parliament? There are from 30 to 50 unemployed soldiers in the Territory alone, and it goes without saying that returned soldiers should be employed, as far as possible, on the construction of the memorial. The memorial may be somewhat grandiose in design, and personally I think that something simpler, such as a cenatoph, would have met the case. However, we- are committed to the present undertaking, and we should go on with it. We must remember that it is not only a memorial, but will also be the repository of the priceless records of the Australian Imperial Force, the permail ent home of the documents and trophies associated with the war. It is our definite obligation to erect this memorial, and I ask that the money for this year’s work be found from sums allocated for the relief of unemployment. I trust that members of the Government who have previously spoken in support of this memorial will continue to urge that the work be proceeded with.
– There is apparently misapprehension in the minds of some honorable members regarding this matter, and I hope to make the position clear. The statement of the Minister for Home Affairs did not in any way indicate that the previous decision of the Parliament to erect the War Memorial building was to be disregarded. The item on the Estimates is still before the committee. A sum of £20,000 has been allocated to a trust fund. It has been stated that this sum is lying idle, but that is entirely erroneous. If that money had been spent it would have meant merely that our cash overdraft had been increased by that amount. When the Minister for Home Affairs was asked whether it was proposed to proceed immediately with the work he said that it was not; that it had been decided to suspend work on the memorial temporarily. As soon as this Government has had an opportunity of ascertaining the exact financial position of Australia the work will be resumed. All members of the committee, as well as the Government, must take their share of responsibility for this. The condition of Australia’s finances is such that any responsible government must hesitate before beginning a building unless it can see its way to complete the work. There is lying idle at the present time in Canberra £50,000 spent on the foundations of public offices, buried in the ground with the dust blowing over them. Apart from the doubt as to the security of these foundations, there remains the fact that the last Government was responsible for spending £50,000 on them without knowing whether it would be able to proceed with the erection of the buildings they were intended to sustain. That £50,000 is a dead loss to the Commonwealth of Australia. The proposed memorial is estimated to cost £412,000 and in the present state of Australia’s finances the Government cannot see how that expenditure can be undertaken. If we spend £20,000 on excavations and foundations and then withdraw the plant because we cannot afford to proceed further, we shall be throwing away the public money.
Mr.White. - That often happens.
– It should not happen, and we are trying to prevent a recurrence of such folly. The Government is not attempting to evade the decision of the Parliament to erect a memorial in the National Capital. On a previous occasion, when the financial position was apparently better than it is to-day, I was favorably impressed by the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) who said nothing against the erection of a memorial to commemorate the names of the men who went to the war and made the supreme sacrifice, but who questioned whether the time was opportune for taking the initial steps. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has contended that the Government might spend £20,000 this year and thus provide some employment.
– The work will be forgotten if it is not commenced now.
– The war ended eleven years ago, and although in the interim past governments had a succession of surpluses, they did nothing.
– All along the years the last Government spent a lot of money in preparing for the erection of this memorial.
– Apart from architects’ fees amounting to about £6,000, not a penny was spent on the War Memorial during the six and a half years of the Bruce-Page regime.
– The collection was not ready for it.
– The Government has been in office five weeks, just long enough to realize that it has inherited from its predecessor financial obligations that will cause anxiety for some years.
– This work would relieve unemployment in the Federal Capital Territory.
– Every penny that can be afforded for necessary public works will be expended, not only to relieve unemployment but also to carry out the Government’s programme. We are told that there are unemployed and that a sum of money voted towards this work is in trust. My reply is that while the money remains in the trust fund it is not adding to the deficit and the interest bill.
– Why pick on this item for retrenchment?
– Because it is not the most urgent. The proof of that is that the last Government did nothing towards the erection of the memorial in all the years it was in office.
– Every year the committee of supply, of which the honorable member was one, voted money for the erection of the memorial.
– I have never voted against this item on the Estimates. The previous Government had to take the responsibility of assuring the Parliament that this work would be proceeded with. Now, visualizing the prospects for the next few years, I tell the committee frankly that the Government sees no possibility of completing this work at present in a regular and businesslike way. If, when the Treasurer is preparing his budget for the next financial year, a survey of the whole financial situation shows that this work may be carried steadily to completion, it. will be commenced, and the decision of this Parliament will be honoured. To spend £20,000 now, merely because the money has been voted, and next year to declare that funds are not available for proceeding with the work, would be to betray the trust of the people as the last Government did in connexion with the foundations of the administrative block. A commencement with the erection of the War Memorial may be made before the end of the financial year. The outlook may so change that the Government will feel justified in saying that the country can afford the gradual construction of the memorial, but before reaching that decision the Government must be satisfied that once the work is started, whether by contract or day labour, the plant and the workmen will remain on the job until it is finished. There are good ways and bad bad ways of undertaking public works, and the worst of all ways is that which was adopted in connexion with the new administrative block.
– Requiescat in pace.
– There is a way of indefinitely postponing the commencement of a work.
– The late Government would have done infinitely better if it had postponed the commencement of the public offices whose foundations are today abandoned.
– The whole Parliament shared in the responsibility for that work.
– The last Government accepted ‘responsibility when it let a contract for the foundations without being sure that it could finance the subsequent operations. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) is shirking that responsibility. The honorable member excuses the last Government by saying that the Parliament supported the expenditure on the administrative block. Unless Parliament has reason to oppose a proposal it accepts the word of the Government that it can see its way to finance a work to its conclusion. The last Government took the responsibility of advising the House to vote money for foundations for the administrative block, the assumption being that the buildings would be carried to completion. Subsequently our predecessors discovered that money was not available for proceeding with the work. I take the responsibility of saying that my Government does not at present believe that the £412,000 required for the War Memorial can be found during the period in which the work should be completed. At the beginning of the next financial year or earlier we may see brighter prospects which will justify us in recommending that the work shall be commenced. The Government is not opposed to the memorial ; it is not even making a hostile gesture. The majority of the members supporting the Government have never opposed provision for the work on the Estimates.
– The honorable gentleman must recognize the danger of postponement, and that the War Memorial is different from other public works. ‘
– The Government does not intend to ignore the obligations of this Parliament to our fallen soldiers. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was reported in the press as having alleged that I had made certain remarks derogatory to the soldiers. There is not a tittle of truth in the allegation.
– The Attorney-General also denied that he had made certain statements. I replied to him and I shall reply to the Prime Minister.
– I have never said, and I hope I never shall say, one word against the men who went across the seas and risked their lives on the battlefield. The proposal to defer the commencement of the War Memorial does not arise from any lack of appreciation of the soldiers. Other works also must be postponed. The last Government had to defer several projects.
– Why proceed with the construction of the road between Goulburn and Canberra in preference to building the War Memorial?
– That road is being constructed in accordance with a contract made by the last Government, and the Commonwealth is under a financial obligation to proceed with it. Does the honorable member suggest that we should break the contract and compensate the. contractor?
– The last Government proceeded with that work without referring it to the Public Works Committee.
– That is so.
– But with the consent of Parliament.
– The last Government ignored the statutory requirement to submit the proposed expenditure to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. The present Government is rectifying that wrong and making legal the illegality for which the last Government was responsible. The amount for the commencement of the War Memorial will remain on the Estimates, and I assure the committee that the work will be commenced as soon as the Government can see some prospect of being able to carry it to completion.
.- Often the Prime Minister makes speeches which in themselves are convincing, but which when considered in conjunction with facts other than those stated by him leave a different impression. An item appears on the Estimates for the commencement of the National War Memorial, and naturally Ministers are asked whether they propose to proceed with the work. The Prime Minister has announced that the Government does not propose to do so at the present time. In those circumstances this item should not appear on the Estimates.
– That is entirely wrong. The work may be commenced before the end of the financial year.
– Having regard to what the honorable gentleman has said regarding the ultimate liability of £412,000, the Government would be acting logically if it removed this item from the Estimates, but it appears to be trying to win both ways.
– Why not build up the trust fund?
– The Prime Minister has been at pains to explain that a mere addition to the trust fund achieves nothing.
– I said that the spending of the money that is placed in the trust fund would increase the overdraft and the interest bill.
– One could understand the Prime Minister’s speech if the Government had not placed the item on the Estimates. If the financial outlook improved the Government could, if necessary, introduce supplementary estimates to enable this work to be proceeded with. But, by putting an amount on the Estimates, and thereby pretending that the money is to be expended during the current financial year, the Government is merely playing with the committee.
– The last Government placed £30,000 on the Estimates and expended only £10,000.
– We have the declaration that, at some time in the indefinite future, when provision has been made in every other direction that is considered necessary, some progress may be made with this work.
– That is not a correct interpretation of my remarks.
– It is always possible to compare this with that, and to suggest that one work should have priority over another; but it is difficult indeed to discover any work that at the present time ought to have priority over this War Memorial. Some years have elapsed since the conclusion of the war. The collection of exhibits has been proceeding ; extensive public works have been constructed at Canberra; and there is a limit to the amount of labour which, at a particular time, it is desirable to concentrate in any place. It was intended to move further departments to this city and to proceed with other works; but the financial position which developed during last year and this has led to an alteration of the programme of construction. It would have been unwise to commence work on the War Memorial until the nature of the collection that would need to be housed was known with approximate accuracy; or during the progress of other extensive works. Other speakers have argued that there is a national obligation to erect in the national city a memorial to our soldiers; but the way that I view the matter is that the memorial and museum should be completed at the earliest possible date in the interest of the city of Canberra. I should like it to be fine and grand, so that it would appeal to the people of Australia and attract tourists to this city. Honorable members are aware that at the present time unemployment exists in the Federal Capital Territory. I do not accede to the proposition that a particular work should be undertaken because there is unemployment; that is not a fair argument. Every work must be considered on its merits. This is a work which, on its merits, ought to appeal to every honorable member. There are ample reasons for its not having been commenced at an earlier date; but there is now an opportunity to begin it. The statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in effect, means that there is to be an indefinite postponement of the performance of a primary obligation.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has made what I may call a perfervid appeal to the sentimentality of the nation. He traversed the history of the War Memorial movement from as far back as 1917. I was in Blighty in 1918, and there were very grave doubts even then as to which side would win the war. Fritz was pushing back the allied armies, and it was not known whether hr> would succeed in getting through to Paris. When I was sent across to France it was said by those who were acquainted with the area to which I was going that I was being drafted into an ironmongery establishment. To talk of collecting material for a museum in 1917 would have been something in the nature of “ cooking your hare before you had caught it.”
– A great deal was collected in 1917.
– Perhaps the honorable member held a position which afforded him opportunities to collect. That, however, does not concern me. But I am opposed to any attempt to play up to the sentimentality of the people. When I raised this question in the last Parliament I was accused of endeavouring to defeat a vote that would provide employment. The position has not altered in the last three months. The honorable member for Henty stated that the war museum had attracted over 2,000,000 people. That would be in the last ten years. Nearly as many persons could be induced to attend a series of test matches.
– The collection has been open to the public only two or three years.
– I am not belittling the collection in the slightest degree. I have inspected these souvenirs and have been most interested in them. They revived memories which were not very pleasant. But what is the use of placing them in cold storage at the foot of Mount Ainslie? Who will be induced to come to Canberra to see them? The only thing that this place has in large numbers is the blowfly. If the proposal were to incur the expenditure where the museum is at the presenttime, and add to the beauty of one of the best cities in the Commonwealth - Sydney - I should say “ Go ahead with it.” I am opposed to bringing the collection to Canberra, not to the idea of honouring the heroes of the Great War.
– The States have their own memorials.
-That fact makes this proposal all the more unnecessary. Every little town has a memorial upon which appear the names of the soldiers who enlisted in it. I noticed in Melbourne last week that a big drive is being constructed to the memorial there.
– This is the national city and, therefore, is the right place for a national memorial.
-The honorable member has been bitten by a “national” bug; I have not. To me this place is nothing but a big tragedy. I am concerned for the well-being of the public servants who have to rear families here, and send them away at a time when they need the protection and guidance of their parents. In both its conception and development, Canberra is a reflection upon our intelligence. The honorable member cannot convince me that this is a practical proposition.
– The honorable member made a perfectly sincere statement.
– From the honorable member’s point of view, that may be so. I contend that these war relics ought to be placed where the greatest number of people can see them. My little grandsons play at soldiers with my tin hat and gas helmet. What would they know about a tin hat or a gas helmet if they had to come to Canberra to see them in cold storage? Therefore, I am unable to understand how any person can be sincere in advocating the transfer of the War
Memorial to Canberra. I agree that we should honour those who are dead. On the other hand, however, why should we not do something for the men who are suffering from war disabilities and paying the penalty of their heroism and sacrifice ? I have done everything I can do to obtain more sympathetic treatment for such men, but have not been very successful. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said that the men were promised a war memorial. Other promises also were made, and it would bring the blush of shame to our cheeks if we were confronted with them, and made to realize to what a slight extent they have been fulfilled.
– The honorable member has his chance now.
– I have never allowed a moment to pass without pleading for the recognition of the sacrifices that our men made. On the 12th December next, I propose to move a motion concerning men who are tubercular as a result of their war service. A man has written to me from the Waterfall Sanitarium expressing the hope that that motion will be carried. He says, “ The sacrifices made by the men who lost a leg, an eye, or an arm are apparent to the general community; but our clothes cover our agony, and the time comes when we have to pay a most exacting penalty.” Any soldier who can fairly claim that his health has been undermined, or that he is suffering great pain on account of a war injury, should be given at least sufficient to live on. He would be earning at least a living wage if he had not gone to the war. In this way we can honour and give satisfaction to our returned soldiers.
– Why not give them work here?
– I should not mind doing that. But the man who is merely out of work at least has his health. My first concern is for those whose health will not permit them to work. I am acquainted with a tubercular soldier, whose wife is maintaining the family by helping to keep clean the Adelaide railway station. She is gradually being worn to a shadow by that work which she has to perform simply because her husband went to the war. If honorable members wish to do the right thing, let them take such action as will make it impossible for any soldier to say that the nation has not stood up to the promises which it made.
It staggers me to find that, although the Estimates show that a certain amount has been expended, in some cases an investigation reveals the fact that the money has merely been placed in a trust fund.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– There was a vote on the last Estimates of £50,000; but, according to figures supplied to honorable members, there is an item on the expenditure side of £30,113. Unless there is some strange method of dealing with public money, the trust account should amount to more than £20,000.
– The balance lapses at the end of the year.
– Although that may be the case, I call attention to the manner in which members are treated when they try to find out the exact financial position in regard to an item. In the last Parliament, I asked to be informed as to the details that made up the expenditure of £30,113, and, on the 4th September last, I was furnished with the following particulars: -
Included in that table is expenditure for the purpose of developing Canberra apart from the erection of the War
Memorial. The officers, when they supplied me with that information as relating to expenditure on the War Memorial, knew that they were misleading me. I presume that that expenditure would havebeen incurred in any case in the. development of Canberra. I tried to discover the facts, and on the last occasion when I asked the Minister for an explanation of the £19,782, representing the total expenditure to 31st August, 1929, he said -
The following statement explains the apparent discrepancy between the figures quoted in my reply and those shown in the budget: -
– The £3,605 must be held in cash.
– I presume that it would be; but this information is contrary to the first reply received by me. I am criticizing the late Government ; I am not questioning the present Treasurer’s method of managing the finances. I desire that he should not be “sold a pup,” as the late Treasurer was. If it is necessary for honorable members to examine closely every item of public expenditure, what state must the finances be in? There appears to be good reason for the complaints of members as to the manner in which their questions are answered. If any way can be found to continue the work of erecting the War Memorial, it will enable the unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory to be given a decent Christmas.
– I listened with particular interest to the Prime Minister this morning, and gladly accept his assurance that he and the members of his Government recognize that the building of the National War Memorial is a solemn and inescapable obligation of this Parliament. I also appreciate his contention that his Government has not yet had sufficient time to ascertain the exact financial position of the Commonwealth in . regard to our various national obligations, but I share the fear of my leader that the Government’s expressed intention not to continue the erection of the memorial during the present financial year will result in the indefinite, if not complete, postponement of the undertaking. I make that statement with some experience of what has happened in regard to other war memorials.
– The honorable member sat behind a government that did nothing.
– Surely, if there is one subject that we can discuss in this House without introducing party politics, it is the proposal to erect a national memorial in honour of those who served and died in the late war.
– I should like to hear honorable members opposite on a party matter, if this has not been made one by them.
– So far, I have not heard one remark from this side which should convey the impression that the Opposition is endeavouring to make this a party matter, and I have no intention whatever of doing so myself. The Minister said that the late Government could have erected the memorial years ago, that there had been neglect and delay on its part. I speak with some small authority on this subject, because I am a member of the War Memorial Board that was appointed to advise the Government, and assist in the establishment of the memorial. I am also a member of the finance committee that works under that board. The intention was not to provide a memorial at Canberra immediately. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has traced the history of the movement. He has shown that the original proposal, made in France during the war, was that a collection should be made of relics from the battlefields. It was thought that the soldiers themselves would show an interest in the movement, and hand over such articles of interest as they had found during their service, and that these should be collected and housed in a war museum. Subsequently it was decided that the collection should be accommodated in a monumental building to be erected in the national capital. The utilitarian object of that building was to house those relics, but its aim was also to provide a hall of memory in which should be inscribed the names of the 60,000 ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who gave their lives for their country, and also the names of those who have since died from the effects of war service. Altogether the names will number 80,000. Apart from those considerations, the collection, which is of untold value, will have a permanent and definite home, instead of being housed in buildings in Melbourne and Sydney, for which a high rent is paid, and where the risk of the total destruction of the relics is ever present.
I suppose that there is no other country that took part in the war that has- not established a national memorial to its fallen soldiers. Every capital city of the Commonwealth has either erected or is at present erecting a memorial, and monuments of some description are to be found in practically every town and village, and even in the most remote parts of Australia. Some of them are intensely pathetic, consisting of plaster figures that are in some instances falling to pieces; but the people have done their best to honour the memory of those who fell. I say without the slightest hesitation that the great majority of the people favour the immediate establishment of a national memorial, not with the idea of keeping alive a militaristic spirit - far from it - because we are a peace-loving people, desirous of living in friendly relations with our neighbours. The majority of the people, men and women, would like to see this memorial erected in. honour of those who gave their lives during the war. If the Government will proceed with the laying of the foundations of the memorial in Canberra, I am sure that the people of Australia will not rest content until the structure has been completed. I firmly believe that they would even agree to the raising of a special loan for the purpose of completing it, if necessary, and I would support definite taxation on an . equitable basis to enable us to raise the sum required to complete “the work. I appeal to the Minister, and the Government, to make provision to carry on this undertaking during the present year. If the Minister finds in the end that he cannot .continue it, let him ask the House for special assistance to enable him to keep the work in progress. I hope that in some way the Government will find some means of overcoming the present difficulty. I am sure that the country would never permit the spectacle of a national war memorial being left uncompleted, if its foundations were laid at the foot of Mount Ainslie.
– I have been waiting to hear the Treasurer make some reference to the item before the committee. The explanations made up to the present have Confused rather than cleared the issue. My conception of a trust fund is that money is earmarked for a specific purpose, and should be available when the work for which it is allocated is to be undertaken. In the first place the Minister stated that the work would be suspended ; then, when honorable members on this side of the chamber urged that some action be taken, he said that the work would be proceeded with when opportunity offered. A sum of £20,000 has already been voted by this Parliament for the’ work, and in the Estimates now before the House we are considering the allocation of a further sum of £30,000. lt is unlikely that more than £20,000 would be spent on the work this year in any case, and I should like to obtain from the Treasurer a statement as to whether this £20,000 will be available for the purpose intended. If it is available then the Treasurer should withdraw the item of £30,000 included in the budget. If the £20,000 passed by a previous Parliament into a trust fund has lapsed the present amount could be passed without debate provided an assurance was given that the money would be expended. There is no good reason for further delaying this important national work. Sufficient has been said: on the history of the War Memorial proposal. It has been said that the last Govern ment’ was responsible for unduly delaying the erection of the memorial, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) has answered that charge satisfactorily. The proposal was before the standing committee on public works for nine months, and after a thorough investigation the committee reported favorably upon it. Architects were invited to prepare plans, and a design was approved. It was arranged that the successful architects should supervise the work, receiving remuneration at the rate of 5 per cent, of the cost. What will be the position in regard to these architects? They will not be prepared to waive their claim indefinitely. The whole thing is a mixup, and I urge the Government, even after so much delay, to reconsider the matter. Perhaps it would be well to postpone the item, and next week the Government may be able to come before the committee with a satisfactory proposal for the early completion pf a memorial which will be a permanent record to the memory of those who lost their lives in the Great War.
– I wish to clear up the position as regards the trust fund, and what has happened in regard to the appropriation. That is the only point with which I am now concerned. The Minister for Home Affairs and the Prime Minister have dealt with the intentions of the Government, and have clearly intimated to the committee that the Government does not want it to be understood that the work is to be abandoned, nor is there any justification for drawing that inference. Honorable members are under the impression that, because £20,000 was allocated to a trust fund last year, that money is available and can be expended. It is true that it is available, and it is equally true that it can be expended, but it can be expended only if the Government considers it wise to start the work, and, having started, proceed with a continuous programme. Nothing is accomplished, even to achieve the great ideal behind the War Memorial proposal, by merely spending £20,000 on the work, and stopping there. I think it will be agreed by the committee that, once a start is made, the work should go on without interruption. The building of this memorial should not be a long drawn-out undertaking; but should be proceeded with in an orderly manner until its completion. The position, so far as the Government is concerned, is that we regard the present as an inappropriate time for beginning construction. There is no justification for saying that we are illogical or inconsistent in leaving the present item on the Estimates. The sum provided for in this item will at the end of the year be appropriated, and paid into the Trust Fund
– Is this £30,000 additional to the amount previously voted ?
– It is. Last year the Government placed £50,000 on the Estimates, ostensibly for the purpose of initial expenditure on the War Memorial. Presumably it intended to spend £50,000, but at the end of the year only £11,000 had been spent. Then, so as not to allow the whole vote to lapse, the Government appropriated £20,000 of the unexpended vote and paid it into a trust fund. The balance of the £50,000 was allowed to lapse, and will have to be revoted. This year £30,000 is being placed upon the Estimates for a like purpose. It will be paid into the trust fund, from which it will be drawn as the work proceeds. This £30,000 is to supplement the sum of £20,000 already paid into the trust fund, so that at the end of this year there will be £50,000 available for expenditure.
– But there will be. no absolute obligation on the Government to use that money for the War Memorial.
– So that the establishment of a trust fund really means nothing.
– No, except that the money in the fund is definitely appropriated for a specific purpose. It represents an actual appropriation for the purpose indicated. It comes out of consolidated revenue fund. It is true that the Government can decide later to repay it to that fund, and that is often done.
– Does this money carry any interest?
– Honorable members must be aware that trust funds are controlled as a whole. If they will look at the supplementary papers circulated last week they will see a statement setting out the balances in trust funds on the 30th June last. There is also an account of trust fund investments. The total credit standing to all trust funds large and small, both statutory and those established by executive minute, aggregates £11,957,000, and of that something over £9,000,000 is invested. This balance represents the net credit to the trust fund, lt is treated as part of the ordinary funds in the control of the Treasurer. There may be cash standing to the credit of one fund, and an overdraft debited against another. The position to-day is that, taken as a whole, there is an overdraftstanding against the various Treasury funds. There is no cash balance at all. As to the details of the trust fund which we are discussing, if honorable members will look at the budget papers circulated by the late Treasurer in August, they will see on page 87 a statement of receipts and expenditure from all trust funds. It is shown there that £20,000 was received for the establishment of a war memorial trust fund. This £20,000 was really part of the unexpended appropriation of £50,000 for the erection of a war memorial, and was placed in the trust fund to prevent its lapsing at the end of the year. It is now proposed to supplement that sum of £20,000 by a further £30,000.
– Is there any obligation to use the money for the purpose of erecting a war memorial?
– There is no obligation, other than the declarations made by members of the Government at different times, setting out the Government’s definite intentions. The money in the trust fund cannot be used for any other purpose than that for which it was allocated, but it is true that the fund can be abolished. In this case, there is no intention of doing that. The fund will be maintained intact until it is used for the purpose of building the War Memorial. I hope that the Government will be able, by obtaining further appropriation from Parliament, to have a sufficient sum at its command to go on with the work next year.
– Will the Treasurer state definitely whether it is the intention of the Government to go on with the work?
– That assurance has already been given three times, and for the satisfaction of the honorable member I say again that it is the definite intention of the Government to proceed with the erection of the memorial. As to when a beginning can be made, that depends on when sufficient funds can be made available.
– Will the Government make a beginning with the work this year, and carry it up to the completion of the foundations? Let us take a risk as to its continuance.
– I have been speaking as Treasurer only. Next year the Minister may want another £30,000, but next year’s- programme of work will depend upon the financial position. No Treasurer would be justified in giving a more definite assurance than that. If the position next year is not less favorable than this year, another £30,000 will be voted for this work.
– Will the Government make the sum of £30,000 available to the credit of the trust fund?
.- I protest against the intention of the Government to delay the erection of the War Memorial. Up to. the present, the time has been fully occupied in making the necessary preparations for proceeding with the work. This vote is not sufficient to carry on the work as fast as it should be done. This should be regarded as an urgent undertaking. It is already eleven years since the armistice.
– And out of that eleven years the present Government has been in office less than eleven weeks.
– Yet one of its first administrative acts was to stop the building of the memorial. It is surely a bad record for a government which has been in office only eleven weeks, that it should already have to its credit the stoppage of work upon the War Memorial.
– Stop it ! Had it been begun ?
– Yes. There has been continuous work in arranging the records and war relics, conducting a competition for the most appropriate design, and laying the foundations after tenders had been approved. This has all been arranged by the Memorial Hall Committee. Stillwe are very much behind the other countries which participated in the war, in the erection of a suitable national war memorial.
– What have they in London in the way of a war memorial?
– They have erected a cenotaph at large expense in Whitehall, and they have provided a splendid tomb for the unknown soldier. We have not got so far with a national war memorial although the States have done much. What has been done up to date for the National War Memorial has been accomplished by the soldiers themselves, who collected on the field of battle most of the trophies which are housed in the present temporary museum in Sydney. According to the War Memorial plans, it is proposed to establish a hall of memory, wherein the name of every soldier who died in the war is to be inscribed. The Australian War Memorial Act, 1925, provides -
The collection of relics to be housed in the museum is unique in that it was gathered chiefly by the soldiers themselves on the field. It is not a war museum portraying - much less glorifying - war; but a memorial conceived, founded, and from first to last, worked by Australian sailors and soldiers themselves in honour of their fallen comrades. During the time the war museum was open in Melbourne, more than 80,000 people inspected it, and since it has been in Sydney more than 1,500,000 have seen it. The relics it contains are priceless, but under present conditions they might easily be destroyed.
– If the museum remains in Sydney more people will see it than can possibly see it in Canberra.
– But it is not properly housed, and might at any moment be destroyed by fire. It is only a temporary building. The various State Governments are pushing on with the building of theirwar memorials and so are the people of the allied nations. In some instances their memorials have been long completed. I have already described what has been done by Great Britain. Among the other allied nations which have definitely undertaken war memorial schemes are the following: -
Scotland. - Hall of Memory in Edinburgh Castle.
Canada. - Gothic Tower at Canadian House of Parliament, which contains a Memorial Chamber to Canadian soldiers. Cost 1,000,000 dollars (£200,000).
New Zealand -
Wellington. - Proposed combined Museum, Art Gallery, Carillon Tower and Memorial Hall to cost, not less than £200,000.
Auckland. - Memorial (general) Museum (with a gallery for war relics), £200,000.
Christchurch. - Bridge of Remembrance
Dunedin. - Memorial Column, £10,000
Newfoundland. - Monumental Memorial, cost 50,000 dollars (£10,000).
All the Allies have completed, or almost completed, their memorials to their fallen soldiers. In these circumstances it is regrettable that one of the first announcements of this Government was that all work in connexion with the National War Memorial in Canberra would be suspended for the time being. The soldiers’ organizations throughout Australia have urged that this work should be undertaken without delay. The resolutions carried in this connexion may be read in the evidence given before the Public Works Committee by Mr. Dibden, when he was general secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. The returned soldiers’ organizations in Canberra have also requested that this work should be pushed on with immediately.
If memorials of this nature are not built at the proper time, they may never be built, or altogether unreasonable delay may occur. A move was made in Brisbane to erect a memorial in memory of the Queenslanders who fell in the South African war, but. for some reason the work was not done at the time. The consequence was that the memorial was not completed for 25 years. If this proposed vote is agreed to the Government will have £50,000 available to push on with the work.
– There is already £20,000 in the trust fund. We do not desire this £30,000 to be placed in the trust fund ; we want it spent on the work immediately. I took part in a deputation of returned soldiers to the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) a day or so ago at which a request was made that this work should at once be proceeded with. The Minister knows the views of the returned men here, and I trust that he will take steps to give effect to them. If it is found later that because of the financial stringency, insufficient money is available to complete the job, I am quite confident that the people of Australia will respond to an appeal for additional funds. All who were associated in any way with those who served in the war will be incensed if the Government persists in its determination not to go on with this work, particularly as £50,000 is available for it.
– Is the honorable member right in that statement?
– That amount will be available if this proposed vote is agreed to.
– I understood the Minister for Home Affairs to say that the £20,000 in the trust fund was not available.
– The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have both since intimated that it is available, and I feel sure that the Minister for Home Affairs is now of the same opinion. I hope there will be no further delay in carrying out this work.
.- The decision of the Government to postpone the erection of the War Memorial is wise for more reasons than one. The principal justification for delaying the work is the present financial position of the Commonwealth. Many men, including returned soldiers, were dismissed from reproductive works during the concluding months of the regime of the last Government. One of the great national reproductive works which should be continued is the building of the Hume reservoir. The Prime Minister has informed us that £50,000 of dead money lies iu the foundations for a public building it is intended to erect in Canberra. One honorable member said, by interjection, that the foundations might not be sufficiently strong to carry the building. Whether that is true or not, there can be no sound reason advanced for curtailing the work at the Hume Reservoir. I ascertained a couple of months ago that £3,310,000 had been spent on this undertaking. It is possible that through the bungling of the last Government, which had not the foresight to survey certain road and railway deviations, the completion of this work may be delayed for another three years.
– This is not a party political issue.
– I am well aware of the fact. If £3,000,000, to use round figures, is allowed to lie as dead money in the Hume reservoir for three years, we shall lose about £450,000 in interest. That would be more than sufficient to pay the full cost of the National War Memorial, which involves an estimated outlay of about £412,000. Which is the more urgent work, the Hume reservoir, which is sadly needed by our producers, and will be reproductive, or the War Memorial? The farmers need the water from the reservoir for irrigation purposes, and it should not be withheld from them for another three years.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Gullett) said that we were under an obligation of a solemn and sacred kind to build this memorial. I agree with him.
– But the honorable member only wants it built after all reproductive works have been completed - unless that will benefit his own electorate.
– Let the honorable member for Indi continue his speech.
– I challenge the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) to make a speech in connexion with the War Memorial.
– I have already done so.
– I give place to no one in honoring the men who served in the war.
– Where are they in the Cabinet?
– We should worthily perpetuate the memory of those who fell; but if we could ask the 60,000 soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice how we could most fittingly honour their memory, they would say with one voice by providing for their living comrades and the dependants in need.
– By carrying out public works in Indi.
– I did not interrupt the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when he was speaking.
– There seems to be a lot of excitement among honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) knows that the Hume reservoir work willbenefit his own electorate.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to refrain from interjecting.
– Under existing conditions we could not honour the memory of the men who fell better than by providing work for their comrades who remain among us, many of whom are to-day out of employment.
– Yet the honorable member is in favour of refusing to go on with the building of the National War Memorial.
– I believe that we should first provide money for carrying on reproductive work such as the Hume reservoir. I received a letter only yesterday from a lady whose brother was killed in the war. She has tried to obtain the gratuity, but has not been able to get it although the will was in her favour and she could well do with the money. There is a great deal still to be done to help the returned soldiers and their dependants who are living among us. The president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League at Albury introduced this particular subject at a conference held in that town, urging the completion of the Hume reservoir. The soldiers there are unanimously of the opinion that this work should be continued.
– And the local returned soldiers want the War Memorial put in hand.
– The Hume reservoir work will be reproductive, and is of national importance.
– Where is the Hume reservoir ?
– When the Hume dam is completed there will be only one bigger water scheme than it in the world. The surface of the Hume reservoir will be f our times the surface of Sydney harbour; yet the honorable member for Moreton shows his ignorance by asking where it is.
– I know that it is partly in the Indi electorate and partly in the electorate of the Minister for Markets and Transport (Mr. Parker Moloney).
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in discussing the relative dimensions of Sydney harbour and the Hume reservoir
– Perhaps the honorable member’s reference to Sydney harbour was rather wide of the item before the committee, but he is in order in comparing the relative urgency of the Hume reservoir and the National War Memorial.
– If the Hume reservoir is completed it will prove a reproductive work, and will provide at least some of the money required for the erection of the War Memorial.
– Hear, hear! All the returned soldiers in the Riverina say that.
– The simple cenotaph in London cost nothing like £400,000. A similar modest monument in Canberra will suffice untilthe Commonwealth is in a better financial position.
– Parliament decided that this work should be undertaken.
– But the honorable member for Indi wants the money to be spent in Indi.
– No honorable member on the Government side has objected to the ultimate erection of the War Memorial. I am in favour of its commencement at the proper time, and I believe Canberra is a fitting place in which to place a monument, which will be the coping stone of the memorial efforts of the Commonwealth. But the present time is not opportune for such expenditure.
– No time will be opportune.
– We have been told by members of the Opposition that delay will be dangerous, because of the possibility of the memorial being forgotten. What progress was made during the eleven years that have elapsed since the war ended ?
– During that time £190,000 was spent. If the present Government will proceed with the erection of the memorial at that rate I shall be satisfied.
– The Prime Minister has stated that although large sums of money have been expended during the eleven years the memorial has not even been started. Why have honorable members of the Opposition become suddenly keen on this project?
– They are keener in Opposition than they were in office.
– I stated before, and I repeat now, that the best way to acknowledge the sacrifices made by our fallen soldiers is to provide for the needs of those who are alive, and the dependants of both the dead and the living. The reply furnished to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) this week, regarding the number of soldiers still appealing for pensions or for increases of the pensions they already have, shows that much remains to be done in this way. The presence in our midst of so many limbless and incapacitated soldiers and others in poor circumstances will be sufficient for many years to remind us of the sacrifices made in the war. I repeat that our first duty is to the living, and by looking after them we shall best honour the dead. When there are no longer returned soldiers in need of work and sustenance, and the country is in a better financial position, we shall be able to proceed with the erection of a National War Memorial.
– I have previously indicated my support of the proposal to construct a War Memorial at Canberra. Although the present debate is one of the most interesting that has taken place in this chamber it has got us nowhere. The Canberra War Memorial would be a fitting subject for a sensational novel by Edgar Wallace; it is one of the greatest mysteries that has claimed the attention of the Federal
Parliament since I have been a member of it, and I would like to see a royal commission appointed to inquire what has become of the money voted by this Parliament for the work. Mere members of Parliament would not be eligible; we should want men ofsuper-human intelligence and with a distinct flair for the occult. I suggest Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the redoubtable Sherlock Holmes. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) told us that already approximately £10,000 has been expended and that £20,000 is held in trust.
– About £6,000 has been expended on architectural fees and plans.
– The Minister stated definitely that £10,000 has been expended and £20,000 placed in a trust fund ; then he added that it was not practicable to proceed with the erection of the War Memorial immediately. To-day the Treasurer confirmed the statement that £20,000 has been placed in a trust fund, and will be available whenever the Government is prepared to proceed with the work. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has summarized the position in this way: £10,000 has been spent, £20,000 is in a trust fund, and if this item of £30,000 is agreed to the Government will have a vote of £50,000 available for the first instalment of the memorial.
– There is a credit of £20,000 in the trust fund and that will be increased to £50,000 if the item on the Estimates is agreed to. But the cash position is not affected in one way or another by this credit. The Government is working on a heavy overdraft bequeathed to it by its predecessor.
– Apparently we are dealing only with paper credits; on paper there is £20,000 in the trust fund, and on paper it will be supplemented by a further £30,000 if this item is agreed to, but still the Treasurer will have no money. Am I correct in supposing that £50,000 will be available only on paper?
– The Government can get the money when it wants it.
– If this additional authority is given, will the Government get the cash when it feels in the humour to do so?
– If the item is agreed to the Government will have no more cash than it has now. The passing of the item will merely place the trust fund in greater credit.
– Apparently we are asked to extend the credit of the Government in respect of this work to £50,000; but no cash will be available. This authority will, however, enable the Government to proceed with the work when it feels disposed to convert its credit into cash. Does the Government sincerely intend to proceed with this memorial? We know that it can raise the money whenever it wishes; but does it consider that the matter is sufficiently urgent to warrant its making that effort within a reasonable period ? I know that Ministers are “ up against it “ financially; but, in view of the general desire of all honorable members that the memorial shall be proceeded with as soon as practicable, we should have a more definite declaration than we have so far had from the Government regarding its intentions. I must vote for the item, because I believe in the proposal, and I have not the slightest doubt that it has the approval of 95 per cent. of the people of Australia.
– I have received what sounded very like a challenge, but what I propose to accept as an invitation, to make a speech upon this subject; and, so that it may not appear that I am exceeding the limits of that hospitable invitation, I shall make only a short one.
I wish to recall the fact that this subject has been before the committee on at least two previous occasions ; also, that the war has been over for about eleven years, during which period there was in power a government whose patriotism was so pure that the people confidently believed that it was all the time favorable to the policy of constructing a national war memorial. But I regret to learn that, although the spirit was so willing, the flesh was so weak, and that, beyond constructing roads in the direction of the site upon which the memorial is to be built, nothing has been done.
– That is not so.
– In regard to the memorial, it is so.
– What has been done is all part of the memorial.
– If I have exaggerated the work that was done by the last Government, I apologize; but that is the information which was supplied to me by the Minister in charge of this item. Turning to Hansard, volume 119, page 6288, I find that, on the 31st August, 1928, I ventured to make a short contribution to a debate which took place on two totally unrelated subjects - a main road from Goulburn to Canberra, and this very subject of a national war memorial. It was necessary for me to couple the two subjects on that occasion in order to call attention to the fact that a majority of those honorable patriots who now sit on the other side of the chamber-
– The honorable gentleman is an authority on patriotism.
– I repeat that a majority of those honorable patriots had devoted the greater portion of their skilled rhetoric to the discussion of the policy of constructing a main road from Goulburn to Canberra, and very little to arguments in favour of a national war memorial. I pointed out that the two. subjects were not of a kind that should be bracketed together, and that it was desirable in the interests of good taste that the greater measure of their eloquence should be devoted to the War Memorial, and the lesser to the motorists’ road from Goulburn to Canberra. Having disposed of that point, I went on to say -
I turn now, for a moment, to a proposed expenditure which is of so much greater importance that I almost hesitate to bracket it with a proposal to spend money on main roads. It was for that reason I criticized the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) for disposing of the War Memorial with a few perfunctory remarks, and devoting the greater part of his very earnest address to the much less important question of the road between Goulburn and the Federal Capital Territory. The War Memorial is a vastly more important matter, because it raises considerations other than those of mere economy. I have no doubt that the intention underlying the proposal to spend money on such a memorial is that honour should be done alike to our living soldiers and the honoured dead. I should like to do them honour to the limit of my small powers for the ideals which they served, and for the suffering and sacri fices which they bore. I should like that honour to be done to them in the first place in the hearts of the people; I know that it is being done in the homes which the war has left desolate. I should like to honour them in service to the afflicted, relief to the suffering, in the provision of homes for the homeless, and in taking the burdens from the shoulders of those who are grievously overburdened. I should like to do honour along those lines to the soldiers who returned, and to those who did Hot return. There are a great many practical methods by which substantial service can and ought to be done to those men who in its hour of need served their country in the spirit to which I have referred, and the Government has in many respects fallen very short in making just recompense and provision for them.
That expressed my view in regard to the National War Memorial at that time. I, who did not serve in the ranks, am greatly pleased that the observations which I then made are to-day endorsed by such a large number of those who did serve, among whom is the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones) who, in this chamber had great difficulty in obtaining a patient hearing from honorable members opposite, many of whom rendered rather more lip than practical service in that trying hour of the nation’s history.
– The honorable member’s party was careful to keep returned men out of the Cabinet.
– From the day on which the dread tragedy of war first broke upon this country, up to the present day, I have never, either publicly or privately, in Parliament .or out of it, referred to the Australian Imperial Force other than in terms of high praise and appreciation.
– Why make such an avowal ?
– Although the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) may not be aware of it, a somewhat undistinguished gentleman who sits on his side of the House, who has not yet earned fame, but mistakes notoriety for fame, has seen fit to state that on some occasion I made a poisonous attack upon the Australian Imperial Force.
– That gentleman is a colonel, who served in the war, which the honorable member was not game to do.
– I take this opportunity to say to that gentleman, to whom good form should mean something, that in the national legislature, there are certain things which are not done. One of the things which I hope later experience will teach him is not done is to make an unfounded and cowardly personal attack upon a fellow member; and, when it is shown that it is impossible to substantiate the charge made, meanly refuse to withdraw or apologize.
– I ask that the honorable member be made to withdraw the words “ cowardly “ and “ meanly refuse.”
– Does the honorable member take them to apply to himself?
– That is fairly obvious, in the light of the press controversy that has taken place.
– It is only fair to you, Mr. Chairman, to say that they did apply to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White),- but, out of respect to you and the rules of debate, I withdraw them. The honorable member, I understand, has had special opportunities to study the life of a man who made his mark in the history of Australia; I refer to the late Alfred Deakin.
– The honorable member is not fit to blacken his boots, and should not mention his name.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the speech which the Attorney-General is delivering has no reference to the item under discussion.
– I have allowed honorable members to make incidental references to various matters; but I trust that the Attorney-General will not make them very lengthy.
– I merely made the remark incidentally, because it has a relation to the false charge that I had made a poisonous attack upon the Australian Imperial Force. I was about to dispose of this youthful honorable member, who will probably learn better manners as he grows older-
– Not from the honorable gentleman.
– I was about to say that he might have familiarized himself with the life of Alfred Deakin, who in this Parliament engaged in many controversies on prominent public questions but never demeaned himself by making personal attacks which he was not able to substantiate; and if, at any time, he erred in that direction, he Was always man enough to make the amende honorable. My attitude to the war, its origin, and its conduct, is all on record. It was on record when some honorable gentlemen, who are endeavouring to make themselves conspicuous in this Parliament, were hardly out of leading strings. Although my attitude in the early stages of the war was the subject of fierce criticism, nobody ever alleged that I had made a poisonous attack on the Australian Imperial Force. I venture to say that many of those who indulged in that criticism have come to join with many public writers and thinkers who have vastly modified the views then expressed. But it is my happy lot to have no reason to change by one iota the opinions I then held and expressed, and which I trust I shall continue to hold and, if need be, express.
The particular matter under discussion is, in a certain sense, no longer apt for debate; it has been settled. With others, some honorable gentlemen on this side have given it wholehearted support. Some who are ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force have opposed it on grounds that they have eloquently stated. In like manner, among the Nationalist party, some returned men like the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) have spoken in opposition to it. I think that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) opposed it, and so did other members of the Nationalist party. Until to-day it has been treated and debated absolutely and scrupulously as a non-party matter. Now, for the first time, this militant opposition has dragged this subject into the vortex of bitter party politics.
– Only as a protest against the abandonment of the memorial.
– The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have both spoken on the subject. We have placed thisitem on the Estimates and invite the Opposition to assist in passing it. It is the intention of the Government to proceed with the work as opportunity offers; but honorable members opposite would have us believe that it is an urgent matter.
– The late Government put money for this work into a trust fund.
– Yes. The “ tragic “ ex-Treasurer has left the Commonwealth with a deplorable burden of debt and unemployment. This great national work, from its very nature - its permanency, and its association with the gradual development of the national capital - must, of necessity, proceed slowly, and by regular stages; it is to last for all time. It is a work for the nation, and, above all, it is not a matter of party politics. My view regarding it is recorded in Hansard. The proposal has been accepted by the Parliament. I have agreed to the principle, and I have at least bowed to the will of the majority in expressing views of the kind that were voiced without difficulty this afternoon by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Jones), in the face of the opposition from the other side. The honorable member addressed his challenge to me, and it has been accepted. Since I see the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) straining at the leash to quote some passages from Hansard about what the late Mr. Andrew Fisher and Sir Joseph Cook said, in a vain attempt to bolster up the charge that I made a poisonous attack on the Australian Imperial Force, I leavethat hopeful young gentleman to his task.
.-I submit that it is deplorable that a discussion concerning the Government’s defence policy should be dragged into the consideration of the vote for the National War Memorial. I challenge honorable members to read my two speeches regarding the memorial, and show that they contain one word that could be said had party significance. I was disappointed in the Prime Minister, when he made reference this morning to the controversy in regard to defence that we had had in the press. He still challenges me to produce the remarks he made concerning returned soldiers. Is it a fit time to do that when we are discussing the National War Memorial? We knew no party in the Australian Imperial Force. I have been accused of being new to Parliament, and inexperienced; but, at least, on the subject on which I metaphorically crossed swords with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General in the press, I did know something. I have been for nearly 30 years in the military forces of the Commonwealth, and I have always taken great pleasure in being associated with them. I am going to say nothing about the war at all. If any honorable member doubts whether I was a soldier, I invite him to look up the war records. I do not know anything about the Attorney-General’s challenge. I was not in the chamber when it was issued ; but this morning I made an appeal to honorable members on the other side to vote sufficient money for the carrying on of the work in connexion with the memorial. We were led to believe that there was a trust fund in which there was £20,000 that could be drawn upon. Only two days ago I introduced a deputation of unemployed returned soldiers in the Federal Capital Territory to the Minister for Home Affairs, who was asked to sanction the spending of some of that money in order to provide them with employment. Some of those men had been receiving food and lodging out of charity, but they could be given employment if the erection of the memorial were proceeded with. We now find, from the Treasurer’s statement, that that money is not available, and we accept that explanation. I asked the Prime Minister this morning whether, seeing that he had stated in the press that £1,000,000 was to be spent in relieving unemployment throughout the Commonwealth, a paltry £20,000 could not be provided to enable the work in connexion with the memorial to proceed. We should be breaking faith with the returned men if we adopted the deplorable course of abandoning this national undertaking.
Referring to the Government’s policy of suspending compulsory military training, I realize that the Cabinet is unique, because it is 100 per cent, a non-soldier ministry. Not one member of it has given military service, so far as I am aware, in peace or war. Certainly they rendered service of the kind given by the Attorney-General during the war period, but I think that they had no sympathy with the soldiers. I have gone further than that, and have said that both that honorable member and the Prime Minister have attacked the soldiers at different times.
– That is not true.
– At Wangaratta the Prime Minister made a speech that was distinctly slanderous of them.
– I absolutely deny it.
– If I am wrong in that statement, I apologize to the honorable gentleman, but I shall quote his remarks in that regard when the defence vote is before the committee. I would have scorned to bring this subject into the present discussion; but, since it has been introduced by the Attorney-General in his characteristic way, I am forced to reply to him. On Armistice Day, of all days, the Attorney-General, according to a report in the Argus, of the 11th November, said -
Armistice Day appears to be a fitting occasion to refer to a statement which lias been attributed to me by Mr. White, M.H.R. . . It was to the effect that I had made a most poisonous attack on the Australian Imperial Force during the war.
There is not a scintilla of justification for such a statement. .1 have never at any time referred to the Australian Imperial Force in terms other than of praise and appreciation. Even had I been inclined to do so (which I was not) I should naturally have been deterred by remembering the long list of relatives and warm friends who wore serving in the ranks, some of whom gave their lives in that service.
If Mr. White is correctly reported, I look to him to make the amende honorable.
– I looked in vain.
– If I am making a mistake, I apologize to the Prime Minister, and I would have apologized to the Attorney-General also, but, unfortunately for his reputation, my remarks concerning him are only too true. I happened to be in the country when Armistice Day was celebrated, and I had not access to the newspaper files for some time, but I noticed the following statement in the Melbourne Herald of the 14th November last -
Justification of his remark that the Federal Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) had made a most poisonous attack on the Australian Imperial Force during the war was claimed by Mr. White, M.H.E., in a telephone message to the Herald to-day.
Mr. White said he was recuperating in the country, and had been unable to reply earlier to Mr. Brennan’s reply that there was not “ a scintilla of justification for such a statement,” and his request for the amende honorable.
Mr. White added that at present he would be content to quote from one of Mr. Brennan’s speeches made during the height of the Gallipoli campaign on the 4th July, 1915, in which he said -
If I were suddenly transported to Gallipoli, and a loaded rifle was placed in my hands and I saw a Turk in front of me I would not pull the trigger. . . In this war, Socialists are fighting against persons they have nothing against, and with whom they have a great deal in common. They are fighting alongside those who have always been their enemies.
In reply to that statement, the AttorneyGeneral, in the Melbourne Herald of the 18th November-
– I made no reply.
Mr.WHITE. - I claim permission to read the reported reply. It is published between inverted commas, and purports to be a statement by the Attorney-General. It is as follows - “ I gave Mr. White an opportunity to make amends for a wrong he did me, but he has not accepted the offer. There is nothing more to be said for the present. The public will judge whether the extract he . quoted is by any stretch of imagination capable of the meaning he ascribed to it.”
In these terms the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) to-day referred to the personal controversy between himself and Mr. White, M.H.R. (Nationalist, Balaclava).
Mr. White has accused Mr. Brennan of making “a poisonous atack on the Australian Imperial Force during the war,” and when challenged supported it by quoting a 1915 speech from Hansard, in which Mr. Brennan said, among other things, that if he were transported to Gallipoli, and a rifle were placed in his hands and he saw it levelled at the head of a Turk, he wouldnot pull the trigger.
The report from which I now propose to quote was published in the Argus on the 24th August, 1915. It deals with a speech made by Mr. Brennan when speaking at Fitzroy Town Hall the previous evening. Mr. Brennan is reported as follows : -
The whole military system was based on corrupt foundations, and in all its avenues and ramifications it was bound to have corrupt outcrops. Appeals were made to the courage of men to go to the front. Young men were sensitive to that sort of appeal, but the invitation was extended to the good and also to the bad. The military business was the only business for which a man required no reference: so long as he was a killing man he would do for the military business. The result was that not only good men and true, but wasters of the worst type, attached themselves to the military. Some of them got to the front, stimulated maybe by passion and hatred infused into them by the press, and by other things that would lead them to give rein to their natural inclinations to rapine and slaughter. There was any number of men about Melbourne who would cut a throat for half-a-crown, and if they enlisted them as soldiers, made heroes of them, and sent them out to kill, they would do more than kill.
– Hear, hear!
Mr.WHITE.- The Attorney-General says “ Hear, hear.” Apparently he is still of the same opinion. I sent that extract for publication in the Melbourne Herald in reply to the Attorney-General’s statement. Mr. Brennan, in the course of his statement said that he left it to the public to judge between us. I also stated in my letter that Hansard of the 28th August, 19.16, recorded that Mr. Cook, now Sir Joseph Cook, asked the Prime Minister. Mr. Fisher, if he had seen the report of this speech, and “ If so, what did he propose to do with regard to those repeated utterances by the honorable member concerning our troops and recruiting generally?”
– The honorable member is not quoting my words by any chance ?
Mr.WHITE.- No; they are the words of a greater man, Sir Joseph Cook. In my letter to the Herald I stated further -
Mr. Fisher, in reply, said . . . “ I do not hesitate to say I deplore the utterance in question. I consider that it reflects on the honour of Australia generally, and that if it were believed by the people, it would be degrading to the troops who are fighting our battle . . I think the honorable member’s remarks are a grave reflection on our defenders.”
Those of us who read those reportson service have not forgotten the indignation Mr. Brennan’s remarks aroused, coming from a representative man speaking in perfect safety at home. I think it may reasonably be asked, even at this stage, whether Mr. Brennan does not owe an apology to the men he maligned, and to their relatives, and whether he is a fit and proper person to be entrusted with a prominent say in the policy of Australia’s defence.
– I challenge the honorable member to point out one of those statments which is wrong. Will he indicate one statement which he is prepared to deny?
– I do not intend to be side-tracked. The honorable member is much more experienced in debate than I am, and I propose to go on in my own way. The honorable member for Batman has said that he has not changed his opinions since he made that speech. He quoted an extract from Hansard in which he stated his approval of the building of the War Memorial. I applaud him for that. But the politicians who stayed at home and carried pious resolutions during the war were not a bit of use to the men at the front. If the honorable member for Batman says that he still agrees with the statements he made, and which I have just quoted, I say again that he is not a fit and proper person to be a member of the Government of this country. In conclusion, let me say that I deplore that party issues should have been dragged into the debate on the proposal to erect the War Memorial.
Alleged Illegality of new Customs Duties.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day to the effect that at a meeting in the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce Mr. A. M. Hertzberg said that an eminent counsel had expressed the view, and his opinion was confirmed by the AttorneyGeneral, that the action of the Federal Government in connexion with the new customs duties and the introduction of the amended tariff schedule was not only unconstitutional, but illegal? Will the Prime Minister make a statement on the matter for the information of the House?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable member alludes, and can only say that the Government is quite satisfied that everything which has been done has been done legally and in accordance with the act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 9.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 November 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19291129_reps_12_122/>.