4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Acceptance of German Tender
– I desire to ask the
Minister of Defence, without notice, the following questions : -
Has he seen an article in the Age- newspaper of this day to the effect that the Defence Department has given an order to the extent of £9815s. for 50 trucks and 3,000 yards of14-lb. portable tramway track, complete,24-inch gauge (for use at the Naval base at Westernport) to Messrs. Diercks & Coy., a German firm of importers, and that an English firm’s quotation for the rails was rejected?
If the statement is correct, is it the intention of the Minister in future to continue such a policy, which, in my opinion, is contrary to the ideals of the Australian people?
– The honorable senator intimated to me that he was going to ask these questions, and therefore I have been able to secure the papers on the subject. The paragraph in question refers to tenders which were called for the supply of material for the construction of a tramway at the Flinders naval base. It included the following three items : -
A condition of the tender was that the time of delivery and the place of manufacture had to be stated. Two tenders were received for the supply of the whole quantity. Both of these tenderers were representatives of German firms, and stated that the place of manufacture was Germany. One tender was received for the supply of one item only. For the supply of item1, the amounts of the tenders were as follow: - Australian Metal Company, representing a German firm, £153 6s. ; Diercks and Company, representing a German firm, £162 10s. ; and Fraser and Chalmers Limited, £177. For items 2 and 3, Fraser and Chalmers, representing an English firm, did not tender at all. As regards item No. 1, for which they tendered, they required nine weeks to supply the material, while the other firms undertook to supply all the articles at once. The Australian Metal Company represent Ormstein and Kopper, of Germany; Diercks represent Bochm Union, of Germany; while Fraser and Chalmers represent Rupert Hudson, of Leeds. For the track material, the Australian Metal Company’s tender was £23 14s. less than that of Fraser and Chalmers, or 15 per cent; and it guaranteed immediate supply. There were no tenders for the supply of English material for any other item in the contract. The total cost of the track was about £1,000; and seeing that the difference even on that one item was far in advance of the preference given in the Tariff to British manufacturers ; seeing that Fraser and Chalmers could not supply the material, it being wanted at once, whereas the other firms could ; and seeing that Fraser and Chalmers did not tender to supply the whole quantity, I felt that I had no option but to accept the lowest tender.
– Arising out of the question, may I ask if the Department has received delivery of the goods referred to in item 1 ?
– I cannot say. I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
– A lot depends upon what the word “ immediate “ means.
– In reply to a question of mine yesterday as to the correctness of a certain paragraph, the Minister of Defence said -
The Minister’s statement which was based on a minute written at the time, was as follows : - “ As there is apparently a large number of men unemployed, I think, consistent with the policy of preference to unionists, other things being equal, the fact of a man being married and supporting a family should receive consideration in giving employment.”
I wish to ask the honorable senator a question in reference to this policy of preference to unionists. If a single man were a unionist, and a married man having a family to support a non-unionist, would the single man have preference over the married man ?
– I can only reiterate that the instructions are that preference shall be given to unionists, other things being equal ; and that a further instruction has been given in the terms which were conveyed to the Senate yesterday. I have nothing to add to that.
– That is not an answer to my question. I asked distinctly whether a single man, being a unionist, would have preference over a married man who was a non-unionist.
– I refer the honorable senator to my answer of yesterday.
Report (No. 1) presented by Senator
Henderson, and read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Senator Vardon) agreed to -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate a return showing -
The names of all officers appointed by this Government in the Northern Territory.
The duties each officer is called upon to perform.
The salary and allowances paid to each officer.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It is a measure which does not contain any important principles, but which is largely one of detail. Its main features may be summarized in a few sentences. The existing law provides that a lad while serving with the Senior Cadets may become a cadet officer. But when he reaches the age of eighteen years he is obliged to leave the Senior Cadets, and to enter the Citizen Forces, and as the Act stands, he would then have to revert to the ranks, because a cadet commission is not the equivalent of a commission in the Citizen Forces. In other words, a cadet officer is not required to pass the same examination, or to possess as high qualifications as is an officer of the Citizen Forces. We think that these conditions are hardly fair to the cadet, and that they will lead to a very serious disturbance in our Cadet Forces. Obviously, great advantages would accrue from imbuing our best cadets with the ambition to become officers.
– I understand the Minister to say that senior cadets serving as officers will be discouraged if they are required to enter the ranks of the Citizen Forces as privates?
– Yes. We shall have very great difficulty in getting cadet officers in those circumstances.
– But the Minister merely proposes to enable them to continue as officers in the Senior Cadets.
– That is all. As I have already stated, the qualification of an officer of the Cadets is not the equivalent of that of an officer of the Citizen Forces.
– But if both are qualified to become officers of the Citizen Forces, what then?
– For a commission in the Citizen Forces, we prescribe a very much stiffer examination. The senior cadet training is practically confined to company and battalion drill. In the Citizen Forces he needs higher qualifications. Always in the Commonwealth service the senior cadet officer has had to pass a less rigorous examination, and has been required to possess qualifications not so high as were demanded of officers of similar rank in the Militia Forces. This Bill makes it possible for a cadet who qualifies and becomes an officer to continue his service in the Cadets after reaching eighteen years of age.
-Colonel Cameron. - I presume that the officers would be specially selected ; that they would not become officers automatically ?
– That is so. Under the Act, of course, to become an officer a man has to pass a competitive examination. Every promotion is governed by the principle of competitive examination. Furthermore, a man has to serve in the ranks before he becomes an officer.
– The term is “as prescribed.”
– That means that the Department can prescribe the term for which they can serve as officers. But, of course, the term would not be less than that for which they would have to serve under the Defence Act.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Up to the age of twenty-five.
– That is the lowest term, but it may be extended.
– Does the Minister mean that if a senior cadet is promoted to an officer, he can continue to be a cadet until the age of twenty-five?
– The choice will remain with him. He can resign his commission as a cadet officer and enter the Citizen Forces, but if he does he will have to go through the same process as any other officer.
– The result might be that all the positions of officers in the Cadets might be filled up by cadets who elected to remain, and that there would be no places for new cadets coming onto fill up.
– That is why we have taken power to prescribe. From what I have seen of the Cadet Forces, I do not think it would be an advantage to have all the officers senior cadets. I think it is a good thing to have some adults as officers. The battalion commanders and those holding the command of companies in the Senior Cadets are in most cases adults. But if a compulsory trainee accepts a commission in the Citizen Forces now he has to undertake to serve for twelve years. So that if he takes a commission at the age of nineteen in the Citizen Forces, he has to serve, not until he is twenty-five, but until he is thirty-one. One weakness that has always been recognised in connexion with a short term of compulsory service is that you do not get sufficient time to train your officers. That is why we make it a condition that a citizen officer shall remain for twelve years. A senior cadet becoming an officer would have to undertake to serve beyond the age of twenty-five.
– A man ceases to be a cadet officer when he becomes a citizen officer?
– That is so.
– By passing a competitive examination he undertakes all the responsibilities of an officer of the Citizen Forces.
– He cannot transfer as an officer from the Senior Cadets to the Citizen Forces. He has to enter the ranks, and gain his promotion. Suppose that a lad became a lieutenant in the Senior Cadets, and in due course obtained his captaincy. Suppose that he then elected to enter the Citizen Forces.
He would have to commence again as a private, and work his way up to a captaincy.
– But there is nothing to prevent a senior cadet officer passing the necessary examination to enable him to becomean officer in the Citizen Forces ?
– No; but the Defence Act prescribes that every officer in the Citizen Forces must commence in the ranks.
– So that a senior cadet officer would have to revert to the ranks on entering the Citizen Forces ?
– Does that rule also apply to the Navy?
– To that portion which is under universal training. The reason is that a commission in the Senior Cadets is not equivalent to a commission in the Citizen Forces.
– The weakness seems to be that an officer in the Senior Cadets might, by his own choice, preclude himself altogether from becoming an officer of the Citizen Forces.
– I see the point.
– I do not know what would be done. A cadet officer might say, “ I am not going into the ranks of the Citizen Forces after being an officer in the Cadets.”
– He knows what he has to do. He can say, “ I intend to be an officer of the Senior Cadets,” and can continue in that position for any length of time that the regulations will allow. I take it that the regulations will be framed so that he can go on until he reaches the retiring age. That is to say, he can voluntarily serve in the Senior Cadets until he reaches the retiring age, whatever that may be, for the rank he attains. But if a lad who has become an officer in the Senior Cadets wishes to become an officer in the Citizen Forces, he knows that he has to enter the Citizen Forces when he becomes eighteen, and qualify for a commission in the ordinary way.
– My difficulty is that you may Have a number of cadet officers who will say, “We are not going to lower our status by going into the ranks of the Citizen Forces,” and will remain in the Senior Cadets. You will have so many of them doing so that the effect will be to stop promotion in the Senior Cadets.
– I do not think that is likely to be the case. Our trouble is not in that direction, but rather in the direction of getting sufficient officers. The inducements to become an officer in the Senior Cadets are very much less than in the Citizen Forces. There is practically no pay. They get a small allowance to cover expenses, and they get their uniforms; but in the Citizen Forces the officers get payment. I do not believe that the proposal will operate as Senator Symon supposes. I am afraid it will operate in the other way. I do not anticipate that we shall get anything like sufficient officers by this means. There are quite a number of men in the Militia Forces possessing sufficient knowledge, but who do not feel that they can give up the time required to the Citizen Forces. They may, however, be willing to serve as officers in the Senior Cadets. We think that by the means now proposed’ a certain proportion of those officers will be obtained from the Senior Cadets.
SenatorLt. -Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - What about officers in the partially-paid forces? Might they go into the Citizen Forces under this Bill?
– Yes ; all those officers have been transferred now to the Citizen Forces.
– They are not lost to the service?
– No, we do not lose any of them. This Bill gives a cadet an alternative, which may be a means of securing officers for the Senior Cadets; and, as such, I recommend it to the Senate. Honorable senators will recollect that under the principal Act we passed very stringent provisions for the protection of youths who entered our Citizen Forces and1 Senior Cadets from the evil of intoxicating liquor. The question was very much debated, but it was eventually settled, and canteens were abolished. Since then, several complaints have been that some lads in the Senior Cadets have been getting into trouble, and in one or two cases it has been proved that they have committed mischief whilst under the influence of liquor. Under this Bill we are trying to stop that by imposing a penalty upon any one who supplies liquor to a senior cadet in uniform. That is a logical sequence of the provisions to which we have already agreed. A cadet while in uniform is deemed under the regulations to be on duty, and such a provision as is now submitted in this Bill is but consistent with what we have already done in this direction. Many honorable senators have been greatly perturbed because of the penalties which are being inflicted at the present time upon some of the cadets. Some attacks have been ma’de upon myself and upon the magistrates who have dealt with cases of evasion of duty by cadets. I wish to say that under the existing law the magistrates’ hands have been tied to a very great extent by Parliament. When the Defence Bill was submitted it had been given a great deal of consideration both by the press and previous Governments, but it is only by actual experience that we can gain knowledge. I do not know whether it was in the Bill introduced by Mr. Joseph Cook or in a later measure that the penalty for evasion of service was fixed at a maximum of £100 and a minimum of £5. The hardship under the existing law arises from the fact that, although a cadet may have missed only one or two hours’ drill in the year, he is guilty of an evasion of service under the Act, and the authorities have no power of discrimination. We cannot say that we will prosecute a lad who has missed forty hours’ drill, and let one who lias missed only a few hours go free. We must prosecute ail who have been guilty of any evasion of service, and in almost every case, as honorable senators are aware, the magistrates have inflicted the minimum penalty. To the man in the streel it appears to be a manifest injustice that a lad who has missed only two hours’ drill should be fined £5, and a lad who has missed forty hours’ drill should be fined no more.
– The Minister proposes to make the minimum the maximum, and to permit a magistrate to impose as low a fine as he pleases.
– I think the maximum should be left at ,£100.
– I shall show the honorable senator why under this Bill that will not be necessary. Under the existing law we could only prosecute at the end of a year for the total evasions of duty during that year. Under this Bill the principle embodied in compulsory education laws has been adopted, and we shall be able to prosecute at any time for an evasion of service. We may institute prosecutions at the end of a month, or at the end of a quarter, and Senator Symon will see that in the circumstances a heavy maximum penalty will not be necessary in the future. We believe that what is here proposed will be a more equitable system, and will, at the same time, have a stimulating effect upon the attendance at drills. If honorable members will look at section 135 of the Defence Act they will find that it reads -
Every person who in any year, without lawful excuse, evades or fails to render the personal service required by this Part shall be guilt” of an offence and shall in addition to the liability under section 133 of this Act be liable to a penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds and not less than Five pounds.
It is provided, further, that any penalty under this section may be recovered summarily, and that, in fixing the amount of the penalty, the Court shall have regard to the means of the person offending and those of his parents. In addition to that, the offending cadet may, under the existing law, be committed to the custody of the military authorities.
– If, under the existing law, a lad fails to attend any compulsory drills, he is permitted to make up those drills.
– In practice we shall, of course, have to take that into consideration. At present we have a quarterly record of attendances at parades, exemptions, and so on, and I presume that what will be done in future will be to have monthly records.
– I noticed that a lad was fined ,£5 the other day because he had missed one hour’s drill during the whole year.
– I have just explained that this Bill is intended to remedy that injustice.
– Have the Government no power to remit the penalty in such a case ?
– None whatever.
– Should they not reserve power to do so?
– I do not think that will be necessary under this amending Bill. The only person who could remit such a fine is the Governor-General in Council.
– It would be very unadvisable to have remissions of this character on the advice of the Executive.
– Undoubtedly. Under such a practice people who knew how to go about the matter would secure the remission of their fines, whilst those who did not would suffer. That would be a most’ unjust method of procedure, and it is far better to amend the law as we now propose.
– Besides, it would be very unfair to the Executive, who would always be attacked in such cases, whether they were right or wrong.
– In this Bill it is proposed to make it imperative that the alternative for the non-payment of a fine for evasion of service shall always be commitment to a place of military detention, and not to a gaol. The Government think that no taint of criminality should attach to the system of compulsory service, and we believe that what is here proposed will act as a sufficient deterrent to prevent evasions of service. Another matter dealt with is that of registration, which is not adequately provided for under the present Act. It seems a simple thing to compel registration, but in practice it has proved to be most difficult. I am personally inclined to believe that we shall have to have recourse to some such means as are adopted by the Education Department of the States in appointing truant inspectors. At present the area officers and their staffs have recourse to official documents, school rolls, and so on, and we are endeavouring in every possible way to trace lads who have not been registered. I am sorry to say that, so far, we cannot report any very great success. Although the first registrations represented a very good percentage, the registration of those who were born in 1898 has not been by any means good. We are stirring up our officers throughout the Commonwealth to discover the cause for this. There is one contributing cause to which I may refer. Under the principal Act lads are compelled to register in the month of January, but most lads 14 years of age are going to school, and the schools are in recess in January. The lads are away with their parents holiday-making, and do not get back to their homes until the last week in January. It is therefore clear that January is a most unsuitable month for registration, and we propose in this Bill to extend the time to include February also, and thus give lads two months within which to comply with the law. I have explained the principal provisions of the Bill, which does not involve any matter of principle. It will, I think, tend to make our defence . system more effective, and should make the Act work more smoothly.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.10].- The provision enabling a cadet officer to remain in the Senior Cadets instead of passing into the Citizen Forces is, I think, of rather doubtful utility. In the first place, although the Minister does not regard it as very likely to happen, there is a possibility of an undue number of lads desiring to continue as cadet officers after they have finished their cadet training. The object of the Act, I take it, is to give not only a cadet training, but also a more extended military training. After he has passed through the ordinary company and regimental drill, an enlarged’ knowledge should be imparted to every lad, so that he may be made efficient to defend the country. If a lad is allowed to remain as a cadet officer, he will have no incentive to perfect himself in any of the higher branches of drill or in the profession generally. To that extent, this provision will weaken the Defence system, because the lads who otherwise would pass into the ranks of the Citizen Forces, and get the more extended drill and knowledge, will be deprived of that advantage in consequence of their desire to remain in the easier position of cadet officer.
– Is not that provided for by competition for the higher positions ?
– No; because, as the Minister has explained, a lad may say that he prefers to remain in the Senior Cadets as an officer after he has finished his cadet training.
– The election is with him.
– Yes. If a lad determines to follow that course he will not get grounded in the higher grades of his profession. He will only be a company officer. He willnot be prepared to meet any great emergency where it may be necessary to drill in brigade instead of in regiment. If he goes into a brigade he will be lost, because he will not understand the drill. He will be able to do a certain amount of work, but will be unfitted to discharge the more serious duties which devolve upon senior commanders. The senior commanders may be swept away in time of war, and the junior commanders may have to take their places. In this way some of the cadet officers may be placed in such a position that they will be called upon to fulfil the more important and more difficult duties which naturally devolve upon commanders in active service. The very object, I take it, of requiring even a cadet officer, if he wants to be an officer in the Citizen Forces, to go into the ranks and pass competitive examinations, is to insure that he shall have a higher qualification than is considered necessary in a cadet officer. I repeat that, in this respect, this provision of the Bill rather weakens the Act. It provides an easy method for certain lads to evade the more important services which they ought to give to their country, and which it is intended they should give by virtue of the provisions of the Act. I assume that the Minister has thought out this matter pretty well. If it were made necessary that a lad who desired to remain a cadet officer should pass an examination equivalent to that required for a commission in the Citizen Forces, my objection to the provision would be considerably lessened. Although such a person would not have the opportunity of training in the ranks in the same way as ordinary members of the Citizen Forces, he would have to make himself efficient in the higher branches of his profession in order to pass the examination.
– If Senator Gould will permit me, I would ‘like to correct a mistake which I made. I find that I was not correct in saying that a senior cadet officer would have to go into the ranks if he entered the Citizen Forces. Sub-section 7 of section 62 says -
A person who has served as officer in the Senior Cadets shall be eligible, on an equality with persons who have served for three years in the ranks of the Defence Force, to be appointed second lieutenant in the Citizen Forces, if his appointment as officer in the Senior Cadets was promotion from the ranks in a manner similar to that prescribed under section eleven a of this Act.
– What I understand now is that a lad can take the rank of second lieutenant. If he should desire to get to the rank of first lieutenant, or to go up for his captaincy, I assume that he will have to pass the same class of examination as a member of the Citizen Forces would have to pass.
– That is what I was driving at just now. A lad in the Senior Cadets has’ simply to learn his company and battalion drill, and there is an end of the business, but if he wants to get into the higher grades of the profession he has a great deal more to do than merely to learn his drill. He has to pass examinations in tactics, strategy, and other matters in order to show that he is qualified for the higher position. What I desire is that no lad shall be placed in such a position that he can evade the responsibility which falls upon practically every other lad in the community. For there can only be a few lads who will get commissions in the Senior Cadets. The great bulk of the lads who are trained in the Senior Cadets will have to pass into the Citizen Forces, and serve six or seven years whether they like it or not ; there will be no escape for them. But a lad who is fortunate enough to obtain a commission in the Senior Cadets may escape all the more serious duties by simply saying that he prefers to remain in a much more subordinate and much less effective position. In any case, I think it is a weakness in connexion with the scheme. This matter ought to be considered most carefully in prescribing the regulations under which it will be possible for a lad to retain his position as a cadet officer once he has reached the age when he ought to pass into the Citizen Forces. I do not know that we can take any exception to the other amendments of the Act which the Minister contemplates. There is very good reason why the provision regarding liquor should be passed. With regard to prosecutions for absence from drill, I know’ that there has been a difficulty in proceeding until the end of the year. I take it that while this measure will give the authorities the right to prosecute a lad for absenting himself from even one drill, it will be exercised with discretion. A lad might be able to give a reasonable explanation for his absence from drill, when there should be no prosecution, and he should be given an opportunity of making up the time in connexion with the extra drills which they all have an opportunity of attending. I do not think that there is any other comment which I desire to make on that point, because I am quite in accord with the proposal of the Minister. But I wish to refer to the committal of these youths to the military authorities, instead of sending them to gaol, for nonobedience to the mandate to attend the statutory drills. Of course, one recognises that, in introducing a system of this kind, many difficulties must arise from time to time, and that many objections will be made. By careful and reasonable administration a great many of the objections which are very unreasonably urged against the provision for compulsory training may be obviated, except in the case of persons who are extreme in their views, and have not yet realized that one of the highest duties of citizenship is to be prepared to maintain that citizenship and assist others in doing so, even if it be at the cost of war.
– I have no doubt that the Minister, and those who are competent to give him advice on this subject, and who, no doubt, have been consulted by him, have come to an agreement as to this Bill ; and that he thinks that the difficulties which he set out to meet can best be met by its provisions. Therefore, I rise with some diffidence to offer any sort of criticism. At any rate, it will not be hostile. I see a danger in clause 3. I think the Minister will agree with me that the practice proposed in the clause is to a certain extent modelled upon a practice which obtains in some schools where senior boys are made prefects. I do not say that it is exactly like that, but it follows on the same lines. In our Defence Force, we start by training the cadets. Our object is to prepare the lads for the more serious duties which they will have to discharge afterwards. One of our chief desires is, of course, to inculcate in their minds the necessity and the value of discipline. I think the Minister will agree with ‘me that, neither in Australia nor any other part of the world is school discipline respected too well when it is enforced by those who have just emerged from boyhood and become masters. To a certain extent, that feeling may obtain in the Cadet Forces. As soon as a senior cadet attains the age of eighteen years he is eligible to be an officer, so that a cadet who is just a boy in the ranks to-day may to-morrow be an officer endeavouring to enforce discipline on other boys who are practically almost his own age. I am afraid that, under these circumstances, a cadet officer will not succeed. What we specially want to do to strengthen the Cadet Forces is to have them officered, almost in every respect, by men of sufficient age and standing to command and enforce obedience to discipline. That is, I think, a weakness in this scheme. I am afraid, from my knowledge of school life, and of boys who have emerged into manhood, that that sort of difficulty will present itself. Secondly, I see a difficulty which the Minister says he does not apprehend. We may have a very large number of senior cadets who desire to remain cadet officers. The Minister may think that we shall not have a great rush of senior cadets for commissions as officers, but we may have more senior cadets at the age of eighteen years desiring to become officers than we have places for officers to fill.
– If we had that it would constitute a cure for the first evil mentioned by the honorable senator. If the lads continued for a term of twelve years we would have them at a senior age.
– I quite agree with the Minister that if they continued for a term of twelve years or thereabouts they would reach such an age as would command respect, and that they would also acquire sufficient experience. But I am afraid that in such circumstances there might be a rush of applicants in our Cadet Forces for commissions. The proposal of the Government, if adopted, may prove a source of strength to those forces, but from the stand-point of our Citizen Forces it may prove a veritable source of weakness. Our aim is to make efficient citizen soldiers. If we allow too many of our senior cadets to become and to remain cadet officers, the Minister will agree with me that they will never fit themselves to become efficient units in our Citizen Forces. It would be an unfortunate thing if a large majority of our cadets were to continue as cadet officers without attempting to go any further. I offer these observations not in any hostile spirit, but merely because they occurred to me while listening to the speech of the Minister of Defence. There is only one other matter with which I desire to deal. It is that section in our Defence Act which relates to the supply of intoxicating liquors. I cannot quote offhand the provisions of the Licensing Acts of the different States, but certainly the most effective penalty we could impose on a publican who is guilty of the damnable offence of supplying intoxicants to lads who are under eighteen years of age would be to deprive him of his licence.
– How could we do that? The licensing laws are a State matter.
– I know that. But I suggest that the Minister may be able to devise some way by which that penalty can be brought into play.
– We could only do it with the aid of the State authorities.
– I quite recognise that.
– A sufficiently severe fine would achieve our object equally well.
– No. The forfeiture of a publican’s licence is the most effective remedy that can be exercised. I suggest that the Minister may be able to co-operate with the State authorities with a view to securing the cancellation of the licence of any hotelkeeper who supplies liquor to a lad under eighteen years of age. A penalty of£20 is ridiculously inadequate from the stand-point of the heinousness of the offence.
-Colonel CAMERON (Tasmania) [3.30]. - I think there is a slight misunderstanding in regard to this question of officers. To my mind the Minister of Defence put the position very clearly. I take it that a cadet officer as soon as he arrives at the age of eighteen years, will, under existing legislation, automatically enter the Citizen Forces. At the present time a difficulty is experienced in officering our Senior Cadets, and as an inducement for members of that force to strive for commissions, this Bill is intended to enable senior cadet officers to go straight ahead in their career and to compete for commissions in our Citizen Forces.
– That is so.
.- That will be an incentive to our youths to emerge from the ranks and to become senior cadet officers. It will be an inducement which may supply an answer in some respects to the interesting observations made by Senator Clemons in regard to school life. These youths will step out from their fellows with the determination to fit themselves to lead, and to lead in such a way as will gain them, and maintain for them, the respect of those under them. It has been suggested that, under this proposal, a block in promotion may occur later on, and that this may affect our senior cadets. Lads may be prevented from coming out of the ranks if there are not sufficient vacancies for them to fill. But it must be recollected that many persons think they are qualified for positions of command, who have mistaken their vocation, and who. in the natural order of things, must fall out of the running. If this movement is going to be a success we must have as officers, not merely men who can pass examinations, but who will afterwards exhibit the ability to command their fellows. Insistence upon that qualification will eliminate a very large percentage of applicants for commissions. In the higher commands this quality is of even more consequence than it is in the lower commands. In the junior ranks many men of moderate attainments will pass muster, but in the higher ranks of the service they require to be able, not merely to pass an examination, but to handle the personal equation, which, after all, is the great equation. The Minister is to be congratulated upon having moved in this direction. In regard to the penalties imposed for non-attendance at drills I would point out that as yet we are only in the initial stages of our defence movement. It is not the severity of the punishment inflicted, or the certainty that it will be inflicted, which will enable us to maintain discipline. It is rather the knowledge that justice will be done in every case. We must recollect that we have now to deal with a nation in arms. I would, therefore, urge the Minister to remember that it is the knowledge that punishment will be inflicted if it is deserved, and that it will be meted out with discrimination and judgment, which will enable us to preserve discipline. If we had all the powers of the Mutiny Act, and the Articles of War at our back we would not dare to inflict, upon British soldiers, the punishments which they sanction. If we did so we should have a mutiny within twenty-four hours. Whilst we must have the power to inflict punishment for the purpose of maintaining discipline that power must always be exercised with great discretion.
– I am sure that none of us is surprised that the necessity has arisen to amend our Defence Act thus early in our experience, especially when we recollect that the whole of our military system has been very radically altered by the adoption of the compulsory training principle. This is a system of militarism which is entirely new to us. Indeed, I think that ours is the only British community which has adopted it, and, consequently, we have nothing to guide us in the way of British experience. We have to grope our own way in the dark. It is not surprising, therefore, that we should have forced upon us the necessity of amending our Defence Act thus early in its history. In point of fact, I am rather astonished that this new principle has been adopted with so very little friction. It is something for which we should be profoundly thankful, because, as Senator Cameron hinted, it is a principle entirely foreign to British ideas. In regard to the fines which have been imposed upon cadets for non-attendance at the statutory number of drills, that is a matter which will always require delicate handling if we are not to go too far. We must not permit our officers to become martinets, and to be too severe in their discipline. I quite appreciate the remarks of Senator Cameron, who pointed out Bow easy it would be to bring about a rebellion. For that reason, I repeat, this question will always need to be very carefully handled. In regard to publicans who are guilty of supplying intoxicants to boys, which was referred to by Senator Clemons, I think that the imposition of a heavy fine would have a deterrent effect. We cannot deprive hotelkeepers of their licences - that is a matter for State law. If we could, we would have very little hesitation in doing so, when they were convicted of this particular offence. But we must recollect that drink is served for only one purpose - that of making a profit. Consequently, if a sufficiently heavy fine were imposed, we should provide a wholesome check upon this reprehensible practice. I do not know exactly how far the Minister intends to go in that direction ; but I think he can scarcely be too extreme. Regarding the question of promotion, it seems to me that the difficulty of dealing with boys who are officers at the age of eighteen might be got over if sufficiently strict examinations were prescribed. The examination for a cadet officer at the age of nineteen or twenty should be much easier than the examination for a citizen officer. But an officer of a cadet corps at the age of thirty should pass as severe an examination as an officer in the Citizen Forces.
– That might be very severe work to impose upon a man of thirty.
– Why should it not be? We wish to have officers capable of being leaders of troops, and I maintain that at the age of thirty a man should be able to pass as severe an examination in the Senior Cadets as in the Citizen Forces. Unless some such system is adopted there will be a block of officers in the cadets, whilst at the same time many will be officers merely in name, though incapable of leading effectively.
– If the companies are fully officered more will not be appointed.
– There will always be a need for more officers as years go by.One can easily imagine that a boy entering a cadet corps and becoming an officer might, having become acquainted with the members of his corps, choose to remain with them instead of going into the Citizen Forces. There would be no harm in allowing him to remain with his corps if he were compelled at intervals to pass examinations.
– A series of examinations ?
– I would have an examination at the age of twenty, and others at intervals until the officer reached thirty years of age, when the examination should be at least as stiff as that for an officer of the Citizen Forces of the same age.
– The cadet officer might not have the necessary practical experience.
– Practical work should be part of the examination. Unless we insist on cadet officers who remain with their corps passing such examinations we shall have a number of dummy officers blocking the promotion of more worthy men.
. -Clause 8 prescribes that every person who, being liable to training, fails “without lawful excuse” to attend compulsory drills shall be punished. That applies not only to military but to naval cadets. A large number of boys on the Australian coast go to sea. Our experience in South Australia has been that the compulsory drills for naval cadets are set down for certain nights when many boys are at sea. Consequently it is impossible for them to attend. Last year a large number got into arrears. Notices have been sent to them that they have to put in two drills for every one missed. That is a very severe handicap. The parents of these boys are poor, and cannot afford to take them out of their ships. For the boys to comply with the present requirements regarding drills would mean a serious sacrifice of pay. I think that the words “ lawful excuse “ ought to be altered to “ reasonable excuse “ so as to leave a discretion to the magistrate. I am a strong supporter of the compulsory training system., but I do not think that these injustices should be permitted. The facilities for drilling these boys ought to be improved. It is useless to expect them to attend drills when they are at sea. Cannot the Minister devise a plan of extending the days of drills so as to give the boys an opportunity of attending as they are anxious to do? They should be allowed to put in their drills when they have time to spare.
– That is a good idea, but it would not do to alter the word “ lawful “ to “ reasonable.”
– What is a “ lawful “ excuse?
– A “ lawful “ excuse is one defined by the law.
– We have learned to-day that every month is to be treated separately in the matter of drill attendances. Previously every year stood by itself. But if a boy has shipped in a steamer trading between Brisbane and Fremantle, and his home is in Adelaide, it may not be possible for him to attend drills at Adelaide during a particular month. I think that an explanation of his absence made to a magistrate ought to be a good excuse, and it would be reasonable to allow such a boy to attend the necessary drills when he was ashore.
– Suppose opportunities were provided to those boys to attend drills at any port of call?
– The difficulty about that is that a ship scarcely ever stays in a port at night if she can be taken out. If a master can get his ship out of port before 5 o’clock he does. The boys for whom I am speaking belong to the poorer class of the community, and are handicapped by loss of time and loss of money in putting in their drills. I ask the Minister to take these cases into consideration, and to see whether some arrangement can be made for boys who are at sea to put in their drills under such conditions as will not involve unnecessary loss of time and wages.
– I am pleased that the Minister has brought down this Bill, but in my opinion it does not go far enough. We are asking the boys of Australia to give up more for their country than we were asked to give up when we were boys. I doubt whether any of us now would like to give up as much. Australians are a sport-loving people. During my apprenticeship days I looked to the Saturday afternoon as the bright spot of the week. Boys nowadays do the same. We ought to try to make the drills as convenient as we can for them, so that they may not have to give up their Saturday afternoons. A suggestion was recently made by an eminent resident of Sydney that the cadets might have drills on Sunday. He pointed out that that was done in, some parts of England. I am not going to advocate such a proposal, which. I hope will not be adopted here. But we should entrench upon the Saturday half-holiday as little as possible. Another matter that I wish to mention relates to prosecutions. In New South Wales we have a Children’s Court, at which offences committed by persons up to the age of sixteen are dealt with. There is no publicity, and no police officers attend. No one knows anything about the juvenile offenders who are tried. That is a very judicious and commendable system. I think that cadets ought not to be brought before a Police Court to answer for nonattendance at drills. The downfall of many a young man has commenced from his first contact with a Police Court. Once he has gone there he loses his sense of the seriousness of being brought before such a Court, and the next time he has to answer a charge does not mind it at all. When the Bill gets into Committee, I intend to move an amendment to provide that cadets under the age of sixteen shall be tried for non-attendance at drill in a Children’s Court, if there be such a Court in the State in which the offender lives. In some cases in New South Wales when a cadet has been fined, and has had nobody to pay the money for him, he has been put into “ Black Maria,” and conveyed to Darlinghurst Gaol. That is most objectionable.
– I should like the Government to make it quite clear that in administering the law they intend to attack those people who persistently advise cadets not to attend their drills. I have mentioned the matter before, and do not intend to enlarge upon it. I could, of course, read extracts from newspapers to illustrate the point. I ask the Minister to look into this matter carefully. It was dealt with by the Congress of Chambers of Commerce held in Melbourne the week before last. To illustrate the matter to which I refer, I shall made a personal allusion. I have a son who arrives at home from his work at about 7 o’clock in the evening, and it is impossible for him, in the circumstances, to reach the place where his company drills unless he goes without his evening meal. He has to get this when he returns home after drill at about half-past 10 or n o’clock at night. In many cases, youths have to attend business at one end of an area and are obliged to attend drill at the other end of the area, and there is no time for them to go home from, business and have their evening meal if they are to reach the parade-ground at 8 o’clock in the evening. I ask the Minister to see whether it is not possible to so re-adjust the boundaries of areas as to overcome this difficulty ?
– Regarding the suggestion made by Senator Clemons, I think it might be given effect to by the Commonwealth Government approaching the State Governments and asking that where a conviction has been recorded against a licensee under the clause, relating to the supply of intoxicating liquor to cadets, it shall be indorsed on the licence.
– Can we do that?
– We could not do it ; but we could ask the State authorities to do it. There would certainly be no harm in our bringing the matter under the notice of the State Governments.
– I can promise to do what I can to induce the authorities of my own State to give effect to such a proposal.
– As regards Senator de Largie’s proposal for periodic examinations, I think we must wait for some experience to learn how this Bill will work. I do not think that we shall have a greater number of senior cadets seeking to become officers than we shall require for the Cadet Forces. I have said that if a lad has an ambition to become an officer, there are much greater inducements in the Citizen Forces than in the Senior Cadets. A senior cadet officer does not receive any pay, and he has not the same opportunities to rise to the highest rank. It is very unlikely that we shall have any higher rank in the Senior Cadets than that of major, because we do not, in the cadets, go beyond battalions. All the indications are that a senior cadet who becomes an officer will, after a time, transfer to the Citizen Forces, where he will have an opportunity to qualify as a second-lieutenant, and to secure promotion from that rank. We shall, in the course of a year or two, ascertain how this Bill will work; and if we find that too many desire to become cadet officers, or that it leads to any evasion of service, we can amend the law as required. I think that no amendment of the law is necessary to meet the case mentioned by Senator Guthrie. We have already dealt with similar cases amongst the military cadets. When a lad has to go out of his area, it is recognised that he cannot comply with the law, and he is given an exemption for the time during which he is absent from his area. As soon as he returns to the area he has, of course, to comply with the law again. It seems to me that boys who go to sea could be dealt with in the same way. I shall bring Senator Guthrie’s remarks under the notice of the Director of Naval Reserves, who has charge of naval training, ascertain if his views can be given effect to, and if not, why not.
– Might I suggest to the Minister that he should ask the AttorneyGeneral the value and import of the word “ lawful.” Senator Guthrie’s point was that he did not like the words “ lawful excuse.”
– I do not think it is necessary to alter the law to meet the honorable senator’s objection. Where it is physically impossible for a lad to attend drills, it should be possible, as in the case of military cadets, for the area officer toissue an exemption for the period during which the lad is out of his area. Senator McDougall’s objection was that senior cadets should not be called upon to giveup their Saturday afternoons. I think there is a good deal of misconception as to the amount of time which senior cadets are called upon to give to their duties as such. As a matter of fact, it amounts to no more than sixty-four hours for the whole year - four whole days of four hours each, twelve half-days of two hours each, and twentyfour night drills of one hour each. If we assume that each of the full-day and halfday drills are carried out on separate days, this accounts for only sixteen in the whole year, and there are fifty-two Saturdays in. each year. So that the drill would not take up more than one-fourth of the Saturdays in each year: It is possible for a cadet to put in two half-day drills on a* Saturday afternoon in the summer time, and” he can put in a whole-day drill on Saturday afternoon. If that be done, only tendays need be taken up. It is possible, also, strange though it may seem, for acadet to put in a day and a half-day ora one day.
– Who has to decide when time is to be made up?
-The area officer in each case fixes the time for the parades, but he is instructed to meet the convenience of the cadets and of employers as far as he possibly can.
– Does he lay the informations for evasions of service?
– No; he sends in returns of attendances. The informations are laid by the District Commandant.
– Can the Minister tell me why five informations laid in Ballarat were withdrawn when the cases came before the Court?
– I was not aware that any cases had been withdrawn ; but if the honorable senator puts a question on the paper dealing with the matter I shall elicit the information. Referring again to Senator McDougall’s objection, I think it is a fair thing that some of the drills should be carried out on other than Saturday afternoons, but there are difficulties in the way. If they are carried out on the Saturday mornings, the lads lose time at their employment. I am glad to be able to say that some employers, and a fair number of them, are patriotic enough to permit lads to be away from their employment on a working day without stopping their pay.
– I think the bulk of them do so.
– A considerable number do so, but there are some employers who stop the pay of lads while they are attending drill. I asked the AttorneyGeneral whether we could pass a law to provide that, if lads were drilled on any working day, it would be an offence on the part of their employers to stop their pay. He says that we have not the power to pass such a law.
– One difficulty is that boys obtain leave from their employers to attend drill, and fail to do so, and, later on, they come with notices from their area officers that, unless they attend certain drills, they will be liable to punishment, and thus obtain two days off for one day’s drill.
– Some lads have attended parades according to instructions, and because there has not been a sufficient number present they have been told to go home again and come another day.
– I should like specific instances of that. There are 446 training areas in the Commonwealth. If the honorable senator will tell me in which area that happened, we shall deal with the officer responsible.
– Is the Department in favour of area officers notifying employers when their employes have not attended drill?
– I shall deal with that matter when I have finished what I have to say about the point raised by Senator McDougall. The Attorney-General has informed me that we cannot make the stoppage of pay, in the circumstances referred to, an offence against the law. By doing so we should be attempting to do what we tried to do in the Harvester case, and should be determining industrial conditions under a Federal law. I am told that the judgment in the Harvester case would cover such a proposal. The question arises whether, in such cases, the Commonwealth should pay, but when we come to consider the vast bill which the Commonwealth is now called upon to meet for defence, it will be admitted that we cannot very well assume any greater obligations at the present time. We are carrying as big a load as we can bear. It seems that the only thing we can do at present is to meet the convenience of the cadets as far as possible, and I have pointed out that the maximum sacrifice they are called upon to make is no more than sixty-four hours in each year. Referring to the question raised by Senator Chataway, I may say that a deputation of employers waited upon me in connexion with the subject, and 1 promised, if possible, that a scheme would be drafted under which lads would produce certificates from their area officers to show that they had attended parades on a particular day. In this way the employers would not be called upon to pay lads wages for time off which had not been actually spent at drill. It is a very difficult matter to arrange, but Captain Dodds has been instructed to see if he cannot arrange some system of certificates to show that cadets attended drill on a particular date.
– Is there not a shorter method by which an area officer could report to an employer that a lad in his employ ought to have attended a drill and did not do so?
– It is not the duty of area officers to report to employers.
– In Queensland we have had a number of cases where lads. allowed off from their employment did not attend drill, and their employers have, in consequence, sacked them.
– We are trying to meet these difficulties now. We avail ourselves of Children’s Courts wherever they exist, but I would remind Senator McDougall that, in New South Wales, Children’s Courts are only available to youths under the age of sixteen years, and that many of our prosecutions relate to cadets who are over that age. In some of the States there are no Children’s Courts, but even in New South Wales cadets over the age of sixteen years cannot be prosecuted in such Courts.
– There are plenty who could be.
– If the honorable senator will make inquiries he will, I think, find that, in all cases, cadets under the age of sixteen years are prosecuted in the Children’s Courts. At any rate, an instruction has been issued that such Courts are to be availed of wherever they exist, and if the honorable senator finds that that is not being done I should like him to furnish me with instances. I have never heard that the Ministerial direction has not been observed. With regard to Senator Chataway’s complaint about a lad who was unable to get his tea, I cannot understand a case of that sort occurring in any suburb, because the suburban areas are of comparatively limited extent. The drill only occupies an hour, and it seldom commences before 8 o’clock. Surely in any suburb of a capital it ought to be possible for a lad getting home at 6 o’clock, to have tea, and to reach the parade ground by 8 o’clock. I would not be surprised, however, to hear of an instance occurring in the country. We recognise such a possibility, and so we are providing that in the country night drills may be turned into day drills.
– The Minister will recognise that a boy who leaves the city at 6 o’clock by train for a suburb very often gets there at about 7 o’clock.
– Then he must live a long way out of the city, because, by train, you can run 30 or 35 miles in an hour.
– I have not the slightest doubt that if the Minister were in charge of the trains they would go very much more quickly than they do. But it as late when a boy gets to his home on the extreme edge of an area, and he then has to go a considerable distance to attend drill.
– The areas in a metropolis are comparatively limited in extent. The numberof the cadets governs the size of an area. Of course where the population is more sparse the area is larger. I do not know that there are any other points to which I need refer as the Bill has met with such a friendly reception.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section thirty-one of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (2) after the word “ medical “ the word “ Veterinary “ ; and
by omitting from sub-section (2) after the word “ Ordnance “ the word “Staffs” and inserting in its stead the word “ Corps.”
– Section 31 imposes a limitation upon the raising of permanent forces, and indicates to what particular corps they shall be allotted. We have bought horses for the Field Artillery throughout the Commonwealth, and, therefore, we have to keep a permanent staff to look after the horses. As part of that staff we want veterinary experts who, of course, will be permanent men. Therefore, it is necessary to insert the word “ veterinary “ after the word “ medical “ in sub-section 2.The second alteration which is proposed by this clause is merely an alteration in terms. “ Medical Veterinary and Ordnance Corps “ is a better term than “Ordnance Staffs.”
– I have not followed this clause very closely. Why does not the Minister also put in the word “ aviatory “ to describe the flying corps? It seems to me that that is going to be a very strong arm of the Defence Force.
– They are part of the administrative and instructional staff.
– I do not know that the veterinary staff is not also covered in the same way.
– If the Minister assures me that it is not I must be content. I am not looking for trouble. But it seems to me that if we are going to put in a veterinary to look after the animals we ought to put in something to look after the airmen - the gentlemen who are going to fly if they can.
– We will show you whether they are going to fly or not.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section one hundred and fourteen of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting after the words “ may be arrested “ the words “ within the Commonwealth or a Territory under the control of the Commonwealth “ ; and
by inserting after the words “ or of a State “ the words “or of a Territory under the control of the Commonwealth.”
– Section 114 of the principal Act provides for the arrest of deserters by any member of the police force of the Commonwealth or a State. Some of our permanent men have been deserting to Papua, and as the Northern Territory is being developed, it is possible that some of them may go there, and also to the Federal Territory. It is found necessary to insert in the section the words “ within the Commonwealth or a Territory under the control of the Commonwealth.” The clause simply extends the provision of the present law to the Territories of the Commonwealth.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Section one hundred and twenty-seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from the fourth proviso the words “sixty-four” and inserting in their stead the words “ fortyeight “ ; and
by adding thereto the following subsection : - “ (2.) The Regulations may provide that attendance at such drills as are prescribed shall be compulsory.”
– This clause proposes a rather peculiar amendment, and the object of it is to correct my faulty arithmetic. When the previous measure was before the Senate, amendments were made, and a consequential amendment in this section was moved by myself, but in a form which was incorrect. The object of the proposed alteration is simply to correct that error, and to put in the right total, namely, 48 instead of 64. Section 127 lays down the prescribed training, and the first proviso reads -
Provided that, in the case of those allotted to the Naval Forces and to the Artillery and Engineers in the Military Forces, the training shall be twenty-five whole-day drills or their equivalent -
I want to amend that proviso. I move -
That the following paragraphs be inserted after the word “ amended,” line 2 : - “ (a) by omitting from the first proviso the words ‘ Engineer in,’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ Engineer arms of ; “ (b) by inserting after ‘Military Forces’ the words ‘ and to units of the Army Service Corps allotted to those arms.’ “
As every one knows, we have camps of these various arms. The Artillery camp, as well as the Engineers’ camp, is of longer duration than the Infantry camp. Units of the Army Service Corps have to go into camp with eachof these various arms, in order to provide for the services which they look after in camp. It is obvious that if an Army Service unit goes into camp with the Engineers, we shall need that unit to remain in camp for the same time as the Engineers. Under the provision of the Act as it stands, we could not call upon them to remain for a longer period than eight days. The second part of this amendment will enable us to require them to remain in camp for the same period as the other arms.
.- As we have not the principal Act before us, will the Minister kindly tell us why it is proposed to alter 64 to 48? I understand that it is being done to correct a mistake.
– To correct a mistake in the total.
– Is the object of the alteration to reduce the hours which the men have to serve from 64 to 48?
– No; the total was wrongly entered in the other Act. We reduced the parade of the day and half-day and the night drills, but we did not make the total right. The object of this alteration is to bring the total into conformity with what was done.
– Were the prosecutions which have taken place during the past year based upon the original Act, or upon the intention of the Department in regard to this proposed amendment?
– They were based upon the Act as amended last year, not upon this Bill.
– If I understand the matter rightly, the Minister admits that these prosecutions were based upon a mistake made by the Government?
– The Minister said that 64 is a mistake, and that he wants to correct it, and then he stated that the prosecutions have taken place on the basis of the principal Act, and not of this Bill.
– So far as that is concerned, yes. I thought that the honorable senator was referring to the Act. He spoke of the Act, not of this clause. The prosecutions were based on the pro visions laid down as to the number of days, half-days, and night drills, and not on this total, which was wrongly entered in the previous measure.
– That is what I wanted to get at.
– Do I understand, then, that thetotal number of hours of drill is going to be made 48?
– That is not the total. The paragraph dealing with this matter reads -
Provided also that in the Senior Cadets the number and duration of half-day and night drills be varied by the substitution of other drills as prescribed of a total duration of not less than 48 hours.
Outside of that there are the whole-day drills. The clause does not say that the lads shall drill only for forty-eight hours. It merely allows a variation in the character of the drill to the extent of fortyeight hours.
– I am glad that the Minister has made this matter quite clear, because I have noticed in the newspapers reports of the prosecution of youths who had attended fifty-six or fifty-nines hours of the drill which they were required to put in. I am perfectly satisfied with the Minister’s explanation.
– The total is sixty-four hours, but the character of the drill may be varied to the extent of forty-eight hours.
– If these prosecutions are legal I am quite satisfied.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether, in view of the fact that the Department has laid it down that there are a certain number of days on which a boy may make up his lost time in drills, it will be regarded as an offence if he wishes to make it up during the last few weeks of the year ? Will the Bill deprive him of the right to make up any deficiency in his attendance at drills during the last few weeks of the year?
– It is not intended that a boy shall be allowed to make up his drills in that way.
– Nor do I think it is desirable. Will the amendment rectify that?
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Section one hundred and thirty-five of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ and not less than Five pounds “ ;
by adding thereto after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section : - “ (ia.) Every person who, being a person liable to training under this Part-
fails, without lawful excuse, to attend a compulsory drill ; or
commits a breach of discipline while on parade, shall be guilty of an offence and shall, in addition to any liability under section one hundred and thirtythree of this Act, be liable to a penalty not exceeding Five pounds “ ;
by inserting in sub-section (4.) after the words “ the custody of any prescribed authoiity “ the words “ for such time not exceeding twenty days as it thinks fit, or”; and
by adding thereto the following subsection : - “8. A person liable to be trained under the provisions of paragraphs (a) and (b) of section one hundred and twenty-five of this Act shall not be committed to gaol in default of payment of a pecuniary penalty imposed for an offence against the provisions of this section.”
.- I move -
That after paragraph (d) the following paragraph be added : -
by adding thereto the following subsection : - “ (a) In those States in which Children’s Courts exist, offences against this section committed by cadets under the age of 16 years shall be prosecuted in such Courts as far as isreasonably practicable.”
.- I do not intend to object to the amendment, although it merely makes provision for what is the practice of the Department at the present time.
– I know it is the practice in South Australia.
– It is the practice in all the States. At the same time I do not commit myself to the acceptance of the language of the amendment. I should like to have an opportunity to submit it to the draftsman of the Bill.
– If it merely provides for what is the present practice in all the States, why insert it?
– I have no objection to it, so long as it is subject to revision at a later stage should it be found that it does not harmonize with the other provisions of the Bill.
– I notice that it is proposed in this clause to entirely dispense with a prescribed penalty, and to leave magistrates to decide whether or not they will inflict fines for non-attendance at drills. I do not agree with that proposal. If it is adopted some boys may be fined, whilst others may be allowed to escape with a caution. Such a differentiation will obviously cause trouble. People will begin to suspect that favoritism is being exercised. I do not care how small may be the fine which we prescribe, but certainly all classes should be subjected to the same treatment. We want to make our Defence Force as popular as possible, and to eliminate all suspicion of favoritism. Every lad should have precisely the same rights. Yet it is seriously proposed to allow the Civil Courts power to discriminate between children. Such a procedure is bound to engender bitterness and bad blood. I hope that the Minister will see his way to fix the fine as low as possible, and to make it apply equally to all.
– It seems to me that the amendment of Senator McDougall is likely to land us in trouble. Should it be adopted the Government will, to a certain extent, be tied down to the decisions of Children’s Courts in the various States. I ask the Minister to consult the legal advisers of the Government before accepting a proposal of that character. If we are going to enact a law under which we can only prosecute cadets of a certain age in the State Courts, we shall run the risk - if some infuriated parent dares to take a case to the High Court - of having it declared ultra vires of the Constitution. Therefore, I ask the Minister before he accepts the amendment to secure the very best legal advice upon it, because I believe that if we empower Children’s Courts to deter mine the way in which cadets under the Commonwealth law are discharging their duties we shall find ourselves in a bit of a tangle.
– A Police Court would not be in a different position as far as’ the Constitution is concerned.
– But the Constitution specifically enables State Police Courts to deal with Commonwealth offences, whilst there is no provision in the Constitution enabling Children’s Courts to be so used. I am perfectly friendly to the Government in this matter, but I am afraid they will find that Children’s Courts are purely State Courts.
– I do not think that we shall get over the inequalities of the law as administered by justices of the peace by the mere fixing of a minimum penalty. When there is a minimum there is always an inducement to a justice to inflict that penalty. That is how the inequalities have arisen in regard to the £5 minimum. In every case the magistrate has imposed the penalty of £5, although the evasions of drill have varied from one hour up to forty-nine hours. On the other hand, if a magistrate contumaciously refused to inflict a penalty at all, the fact that he could impose a minimum fine would not affect him. With regard to the point raised by Senator Chataway, ° I have already said that I will have the clause submitted to the Crown law authorities for their opinion as to whether it is safe and workable. But, as a layman, it seems to me that the Constitution lays an obligation upon all State Courts to enforce Commonwealth law; and I should think that Children’s Courts are just as much State Courts as are Police Courts.
– I have considerable sympathy with the .point raised by Senator Sayers. There should, at all events, be a minimum, whether it be 1 os. or £5. Of course magistrates vary very much in disposition. One man looks at an offence from a stern point of view and determines to teach a boy a lesson. Another magistrate has a big, fatherly heart, and does not want to punish a boy at all. It would be much better to prescribe a minimum fine. I am altogether in favour of Senator McDougall’s amendment, because I think it is a pity to take lads into the Police Court where they may mix with all sorts of bad characters. It would be better to take cases of this kind before such
Courts as we have in South Australia, where they are known as State Children’s Department Courts. I am glad that the Minister intends to submit the matter to the Crown law officers, and trust that it will be found to be workable.
– I am still of opinion that it would be very much better for the service to insert an amendment prescribing a minimum fine. We have to look facts in the face. Say that a workingman’s son is brought up for evasion of service and is fined 5s. Say, also, that the son of an officer is brought before another magistrate and is let off with a caution. Would not the contrast between those cases be likely to cause a great amount of ill feeling? One of the principles that we have laid down is that all boys entering the service’, whether they be the sons of rich or of poor people, shall be upon one footing. I believe in that. It is for that reason that I do not think it ought to be left to a magistrate to discriminate in such cases. Discrimination causes bad blood. I have brought this matter forward in the best interests of the service, and not to embarrass the Minister. I trust that we shall provide for a penalty of not less than 2s. 6d., and not more than£5. To permit of boys who neglect their drill being let off with a caution simply makes the thing laughable. There should be certain punishment. There should be no such thing as favoritism. Every boy who commits an offence should be convicted and fined, and there should be no letting off with a caution. I am strongly of opinion that it would be judicious to prescribe a minimum penalty.
– I sympathize with the attempt of Senator Sayers to bring about an equality in the administration of justice throughout the Commonwealth. But in the instance that we are debating that is really impossible. Take his own proposal that we should prescribe a minimum penalty of 2s. 6d., with a maximum of £5. Up to the present the magistrates throughout Australia have taken the view that any offence in connexion with attendances should be punished at the minimum prescribed by the Act, namely,£5. They could go upto a maximum of £100, but they have not done so. In no instance have they exercised the wide discretion left to them. All the magistrates in the Commonwealth seem to have come to the conclusion that£5 is a sufficient fine for any offence. We may be quite sure that if these magistrates had had power to inflict fines be- low£5 would have done so. That is evident from the fact that they fined the boy who had evaded his drill all the time no more than they fined the boy who had been absent a few hours. Why did they not inflict a fine of £5 for the evasion of one-hour’s drill, and a fine of £100 for the offence of not having attended drill at all ? That would have been carrying out the spirit of the Defence Act ; but they did not do that.
– Because they believed our legislation to be wrong.
– That may be so. I am sure that it is the earnest desire of honorable senators on both sides that our legislation should be fair and equitable. If we accepted Senator Sayers’ amendment, and fixed the maximum penalty at , £5, and the minimum at1s., it would make no difference so far as the magistrates are concerned. Some would inflict the highest penalty, and some, if possible, would inflict none at all. From the evidence we have before us every day, it is clear that if a magistrate suffers from a bilious attack, or an attack of gout, he will sometimes impose the full penalty, and if he has had a good meal and feels happy and contented, he will be in a generous frame of mind, and fix the penalty as low as he possibly can- That is how the administration of justice is carried out, not only in Australia, but in every part of the world. I might give a few examples to illustrate what I mean.
– Take Judge Jeffries, for instance.
– Judge Jeffries is dead ; and if I cannot say anything good of the dead,I prefer to leave them altogether. I might refer to Good King Hal and show how justice was administered in his time.There were men in the world in those days who fearlessly and impartially administered the laws of the country, just as there are now; but we know that there are others who are not so fearless or so just. There is such a thing in the minds of men who occupy positions on the Bench as prejudice or bias. If the Commonwealth Government, in appointing Justices, appointed Labour sympathizers or supporters, and members of the Opposition who came before them did not get off scot free, they would attribute it to Labour bias. They would suggest that such men were influenced by the doctrine of preference to unionists, and suffered from Labouritis, or some such fell disease. If Senator de Largie and myself were tried by a magistrate who was known to be an inveterate and bitter antagonist of the Labour party, and did not believe in preference to unionists, or to any one with the colour of Labour about him, we should probably say, if we were heavily fined, that he was a Fusionist, or something of the kind, and on that account did not give us a fair show. That is human nature, and these prejudices exist on both sides. When we have a large number of Labour sympathizers in the magistracy of the Commonwealth, we shall hear more complaints from the Opposition than we hear at the present time. To connect these remarks with the amendment, I say that it is clear that if we fixed the minimum at is. and the maximum at £5, the result would be the same. I take the case of a magistrate at Dandenong. Suppose there is a lad in the neighbourhood undergoing training, and who has on occasions robbed the magistrate’s orchard, or thrown stones at his cows. Suppose there is another lad undergoing training who is one of those good boys who never robbed an -orchard or threw stones at cows. Both these lads are brought before the magistrate charged with an evasion of service. It is reasonable to assume that the magistrate would sympathize with the good boy who had done him no damage, ‘ and would be prejudiced against the other. Though the good boy might have been guilty of a greater offence against the Act than the other, he might be less severely dealt with. I could refer to the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act for other examples, to show that, - under the proposal of the Minister of Defence, we shall obtain all the justice we should be likely to obtain under any other system. If a magistrate is convinced that an offender has been guilty only to a small extent, he can inflict a small penalty or none at all ; and if he is convinced that there has been a serious breach of the Defence Act, he can make the penalty more severe. Senator Sayers, and other honorable senators, should understand that, whether a penalty °f £5 °r IS- De inflicted, the lad will be compelled, under the Bill, to make up the drills he has lost. The intention of the Minister of Defence is not so much to punish the boy or his parents pecuniarily, but to see that the boy undergoes the training that he has evaded. That is the object of this Bill, and it was the intention of the existing Act. If the Bill be accepted, I have no doubt that, in a very short time, it will be found to work smoothly, and that there will be fewer complaints than there are now.
.- When I submitted my amendment, I felt sure that it would meet with the approval of both sides. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has given us a speech, of about half-an-hour on Labour principles; but I did not desire to bring any party feeling into this matter. I did not wish to go beyond the Bill. Senator McGregor has proved either too much or too little. He has told us that all the magistrates have fined the lads brought before them £5, whether they were charged with evasion of service for five hours or fifty hours. They did not discriminate, and. they have shown that they believed that the Act was wrong. That is why they would not exceed the minimum penalty in> any case. I hope that the Government will’ take that into consideration and will remit the fines. By the introduction of this Bill, they have acknowledged that such a fine was excessive. The Vice-President of the Executive Council referred incidentally to the question of injustices which have been: perpetrated under the Old-age Pensions Act, but Ministers will not accept any suggestion or amendment from this side. I moved my amendment in good faith; but the Vice-President of the Executive Council has tried to hold it up to ridicule. When the Old-age Pensions Act was being considered, we told the Government how it would work, and suggested amendments. I know, and I believe the Vice-President of the Executive Council also knows, that there are hundreds of people in this country who are entitled to old-age pensions, but have not been able to get them. I have interviewed officers charged with the administration of the Act, and I do not blame them for what has occurred.
– What has this to’ do with the Bill?
– I am referring to a matter which was mentioned by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. The Government would not accept suggestions for the amendment of the Old-age Pensions Act. There are numbers of people who. because of defective sight, are unable to fill in the old-age pension forms, and they cannot get any one to do it for them without payment. It is not the duty of the officials to fill in the forms, and, as a result, these people are debarred from getting old-age pensions.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to know whether the matter the honorable senator is discussing has anything to do with the Bill ?
– I understood Senator Sayers to be making a comparison. So far as he has gone,’ I do not consider that he is out of order. The honorable senator understands that a comparison should not be too long drawn out.
– Senator McGregor, in dealing with my suggestion, wandered all round the compass. He talked of boys stealing apples and stoning cows. As he set the example I have a perfect right to illustrate my point. If he thinks that he is going to burke me he makes a great mistake. I know that the Chair will extend to me equal latitude, but I do not wish to avail myself of that latitude now, as I shall have ample opportunities to elaborate the point later. I think that the VicePresident of the Executive Council has fully proved that my statement was right. He said that the magistrates, without exception, had imposed fines of £5. When the provision was going through the Senate there was no suggestion from the Minister that a fine of £5 might be found to be too harsh. I guarantee that if a suggestion to reduce the amount of the fine had emanated from this side it would have been resented by the Minister, and the provision would have been carried exactly as it was printed. But the honorable senator is now going to the other extreme. When the provision was being considered here the Minister, as well as the Government, thought that£5 was as low a fine as should be imposed upon a boy, and that£100 was as high a fine as should be provided for. What is the next step which the Government propose? It is to make the highest fine £5and the lowest fine nothing. The thing speaks for itself ; the provision in the other measure must have been absurd.
– We learn by experience.
– Honorable senators on the other side will never learn by experience, because every suggestion from this side is immediately met with opposition, no matter how good it may be. I know that honorable senators on both sides thought that my suggestion was a good one when it was offered to the Minister last year.
– A shilling might be very much more to a poor boy than £10 to another boy.
– That is quite true. If one boy is let off with a caution and another boy is fined it will cause trouble.
– That has been done.
– If a boy is punished under the Act he must be fined at least, £5. If the Minister will not accept my suggestion, which is made in a most friendly manner, upon him must rest the onus. I do not think it should be left in the power of a magistrate to punish a boy up to the amount of£5, and to let another boy off with no fine at all. Under this amendment, however, a magistrate can inflict a fine of £5 if a lad is only one hour short in his attendance at drill. If my suggestion does not meet with the approval of the Committee I am perfectly satisfied to let it go.
– I am somewhat surprised at the reasoning and the fear expressed by Senator Sayers in regard to the application of this provision. Having had a little experience in the matter of imposing penalties for derelictions in one way and another I am not apprehensive about the magistrates doing what he has suggested.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council says that they do.
– I am talking from a little experience. I am not apprehensive that a magistrate will ruthlessly raise the fine to £5 when no penalty should be imposed. I certainly think it is right and just that a provision should be made for a case which may be dismissed, as is done in connexion with any other measure.
– I do not wish to prevent a case from being dismissed.
– Does not the honorable senator see that if we impose a minimum penalty we shall at once force magistrates to impose that penalty?
– Not if the boy is not guilty.
– A boy may be guilty of having failed to give one hours’ service, and probably the circumstances under which he did so may be such as to warrant a dismissal, and the offence should not carry a penalty. Therefore, I think that the Minister is acting wisely..
– Why did you not say that when the minimum fine was fixed at
– Probably I did not know so much then as I do to-day. I know that in the administration of the provision magistrates have been fining boys £5 all round, no matter whether the shortage was one hour or fifty hours.
– That is not correct.
– Well, there are very few instances where it has been departed from.
– There was no necessity to fine the boys £5.
– Having provided for a maximum, I do not think that we need trouble ourselves to provide for a minimum.
– The Acts Interpretation Act provides for a minimum.
– I consider that the Minister is doing quite right. I believe that the provision will fill the bill for the time being; and if experience should teach us that it is wrong, we can amend the provision to suit the circumstances which history tells us are required to be met.
– I certainly do not deserve the censure which Senator Sayers bestowed upon honorable senators upon this side as to blindly accepting everything which the Government propose. I think it is very desirable and right that no minimum should be laid down. A fine of £5 has not been invariably imposed. According to a newspaper report which I hold in my hand, nineteen cadets were prosecuted at Newtown, near Sydney. Eighteen of the lads were fined £5 each. In the case of one lad, who had only an hour and a half to make up, no fine was imposed, but he was ordered to pay 10s. costs, and complete the service. So that there has been some discretionary power exercised by the magistrates. It seems to me that it is advisable to allow a discretion to the magistrates in the way proposed. There are some cases where the most nominal fine would meet what might be, perhaps, only a technical breach of the law. Cases have been brought under my notice where it was practically impossible, from the nature of their employment, for the young fellows to attend the parades. In such cases the lads have either to forfeit their positions or to be fined, or, at any rate, compelled to make up the short time later. This proposal may provide a way to meet cases where no real guilt is involved, but only a techni cal breach of the Act, which it may have been practically impossible for the lads to avoid. I trust that the clause will be carried with the abolition of a minimum fine.
– We have discovered that the minimum fine of £5 is altogether too high, and quite out of proportion to the offence which we tried to meet. Senator Sayers has practically insinuated that this side is responsible for that provision ; but he should remember that it was introduced by a Government of which he was a supporter. In my opinion, this clause meets, as far as possible, the complaint which he makes. I would remind him that the suggestion he has offered has not been put in such a concrete form that it can be considered. He repeatedly expressed the same idea, but did not submit an amendment.
– I said that I was prepared to do so if the Minister would agree to accept an amendment, otherwise it is a waste of time.
– The honorable senator’s suggestion was entirely in accord with the spirit of the clause as it stands; but he did not submit a tangible proposal.
– It is not my place to draft Bills.
– The object of this clause is not the collection of fines. At the same time it is necessary to make the penalty fit the offence, and in my opinion the clause does that. If Senator Sayers has any amendment to submit, now is the time that he should bring it forward. Let him propose a scale of fines or penalties to suit specified offences. For instance, that a lad who is an hour short in his attendance at drills shall be fined so much, and that a youth who is two hours short in his drills shall be fined so much more. We should then have a fixed penalty for a definite offence, and the intervention of the Courts would be entirely obviated. I support the clause at it stands, believing that it will meet all cases which are likely to arise under the Act. I can readily imagine that a fine of1s. would be a sufficient penalty in the case of some boys, whereas a fine of £1 would not be too much in the case of others. What does a boy trouble about a fine if his father has to pay it ? But if we compelled him to put in so many drills without inflicting any fine whatever, and thus avoided punishing his father, I think we should achieve our object.
Senator Lt.-Colonel CAMERON (Tasmania) [5.28]. - This clause as drafted reads -
Section 135 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section 1(a) the words “ and not less than
That omission will make the section read -
Every person who in any year without lawful excuse evades or fails to render the personal services required by this Part shall be guilty of an offence, and shall, in addition to the liability under section one hundred and thirty-three of this Act, be liable to a penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds.
Now it is proposed to insert after subsection 1, paragraph a, which contains the redundancy “ not exceeding a penalty of one hundred pounds,” and also the redundancy “ and not exceeding five pounds ‘ ‘-
– The one penalty is intended to fit the case of a person who evades service for a period of a whole year, whilst the other is designed to meet that of a youth who evades service at a particular drill.
– I understand that section 135 of the principal Act was amended last year by omitting the proviso to sub- section 1.
– Suppose that a cadet evades service for a whole year, the first penalty of this clause will apply to him. But he may be prosecuted for evading a particular drill, and fined £5 for the offence.
– So long as that is quite clear the position is satisfactory. It is now proposed that this clause shall be amended by adding to it the following sub-clause -
A person liable to be trained under the provisions of paragraphs a and b of section one hundred and twenty-five of this Act shall not be committed to gaol in default of payment of a pecuniary penalty imposed for an offence against the provisions of this section.
If he cannot be committed to gaol he will be in a position to snap his fingers at the penalty. It seems to me that there is no alternative.
– The principal Act provides an alternative.
.- If a fine is imposed, but the offender cannot be committed to gaol if he does not pay it, how can the penalty be made effective?
– He may be committed to a place of military detention.
.- Is there such a place in the Commonwealth?
– We have proclaimed all military barracks, all area offices, and all drill-halls, places of military detention under the Act.
.- Then all I can say is, “ God help you !”
– This provision is intended to prevent cadets being sent to gaol for the non-payment of fines. Under the principal Act, we have power to commit them to a place of military detention as prescribed. We have prescribed that these places shall include military barracks, area offices, and drill-halls. If a lad fails to pay the fine imposed upon him, the magistrate will prescribe the alternative, and he will be committed to one of these places of military detention. We have further provided that he need not be kept there continuously. He may be required to attend there for six or eight hours each day. He will be under an officer who may set him, to do whatever he thinks fit.
– Suppose that he clears out?
– If he absconds from custody, he can be proceeded against as a deserter and committed to gaol for that offence.
– We come back to gaol, anyhow.
– The idea underlying the provision is a desire to avoid sending lads to gaol for non-payment of fines. We only want them sent there as a last resort. Personally, I regard the provisions with very strong favour. I think they are the most important portions of the Bill.
– I have been told by Senator de Largie that I should embody the suggestion which I have put forward in an amendment. But I have not a draftsman at my back to frame one, and as the Minister refuses to accept my suggestion, I am content to allow the matter to rest there. But why should any fine be imposed upon lads for nonattendance at drills? Why should not they be compelled to put in, not merely the statutory drills required of them, but some additional drills? When a lad is haled before the Court for neglecting his responsibilities in this connexion, instead of a fine of £5 being imposed, he should be compelled to do a little more drill.
– If he will not do the drills required of him, is he likely to do more?
– Surely the VicePresident of the Executive Council does not suggest that our Defence Act is a failure? The parents of lads who are fined may be quite willing that those lads should be subjected to military training. Consequently, I hold that a lad who has failed to attend the statutory number of drills should be ordered, not merely to complete them, but to put in extra drills.
– In that case, the penalty would be visited upon the parents.
– No. The boy’s wages would not amount to£5. Under existing legislation, it is the parents who suffer tor remissness on the part of their children. Does the Minister intend to enforce all the fines which have been levied, or does he propose to remit them?
– I have not the power to remit them.
– Then a very great hardship will be inflicted upon numbers of poor people. I think that the Minister should act in the way I have suggested. There is nothing in the amendment to indicate that a magistrate is empowered to order a lad who has not attended the statutory number of drills to put in more drills than those required of him under the Act. I do not blame the Minister or the magistrates for that. I blame the Act itself. Let us see whether we cannot do without these fines. Why not say that if a boy neglects one hour of his training on a particular day he shall do two hours on another day? If we can enforce the system by fines we can equally well enforce it without fines. I want the parent to be let down as lightly as possible.
– I recognise that the Minister of Defence has brought down a most desirable measure, and agree heartily with nearly everything that Senator Sayers has said. His desire that no fines shall be inflicted has much to commend it. But then the Minister is up against another difficulty. As Senator Cameron says, we must have discipline. What is to be the position of a boy whose father will not allow him to attend drills? Is he or the father to be punished?
– The father, in that case.
– A father may prevent his boy from attending from the noblest motives. He may see in warfare and preparations for war an evil tothe whole community. That is the case with
Mr. Holland, of Sydney. The Government is making a martyr of that man, who has simply been acting from the highest principles. He has been fined £100. In endeavouring to enforce upon a free people a system that is extremely repugnant to many of them we ought to act with great circumspection. We must make haste slowly. I cannot help admiring many of those people who resist such encroachments upon their own time and natural liberty. If Senator Sayers proposes that there shall be no fines I shall be inclined to support him.
– Does the honorable senator object to his children being drilled?
– No; Iam a great believer in the system, and was drilled myself before the compulsory system was established. But, nevertheless, I have a great respect for people who conscientiously believe that there is no necessity for a military system, and contend that we cannot embark upon a military career without encouraging attack upon ourselves. There is no doubt much in that argument. A man who goes about trailing his coat is likely to bring trouble upon himself. The same bumptious spirit on the part of a nation is indicated by militarism. As soon as we become a strong military nation we shall be in danger of provoking attack upon ourselves. But our very existence depends upon preparedness to resist aggression. I can see nothing else for it, though I quite recognise that that very spirit is likely to bring us face to face with evil we least desire. I am not an advocate of peace at any price. I believe that if this beautiful land of ours is worth holding it is worth fighting for. That being so, we have to train the people to fight well for it should occasion arise. But I doubt whether that is any reason why we should dragoon those who hold different views. Severe fines have been inflicted upon people who have refused to allow their boys to attend parades. I recognise that if we showed any weakness in the early stages of the administration of our compulsory training system it would soon fall to the ground. There must be firmness in administration. In fact, I am a little sorry that an element of weakness has been shown by the introduction of an amending Bill, which indicates that we were too severe in the beginning. The old stern military discipline that would make wrong right, irrespective of consequences, would perhaps have broken in the people a little more quickly.
But we are going to endeavour to smooth down the difficulties by making the penalties milder. Undoubtedly some of the penalties inflicted have shocked the whole community. If a man has a conscientious objection, either to drilling himself or to having those belonging to him drilled, it is difficult to know how to deal with him. He is responsible for bringing up his own sons. Fortunately the State has not yet stepped in between a parent and his children. When a parent manifests conscientious opposition, and is brought up sharp against the position whether he will obey the State and allow his child to be trained, or pay a fine, it looks extremely harsh to say that he shall be penalized to the extent of ,£100.
– Would the honorable senator support a conscience clause?
– I have always been in favour of a conscience clause, but, at the same time, I could not support one that would merely leave a loop-hole for shirkers. If a parent has a conscientious objection to having his child trained, it is really a tyrannical act to come between him and his child.
– He is only one man in the community.
– It is the ones that make up the many, and he may be the one giving utterance to ideals that every person will embrace some day.
– Would the honorable senator give to those who conscientiously object to the Federal land tax the right to exempt themselves from it? We should not get much revenue if that were done.
– That is an attempt to do what the Minister is so clever at doing, namely, to reduce an argument to an absurdity. We impose a land tax, because we consider it injurious to the community that individuals should hold large tracts of country.
– Order !
– I am merely replying to an interjection. I recognise that there are grave difficulties in making provision for those who have genuine conscientious objections, without enabling shirkers to escape their obligations. At the same time, if Senator Sayers moves the amendment that he has suggested, I shall support him.
– There is no hope of carrying it. I have offered it to the Minister.
– Probably the honorable senator will receive more support than he supposes. The idea of abolishing fines altogether, and letting the punishment fall upon the lads themselves in the way of an increased number of drills, is a good one. But even then there remains the difficulty of dealing with those who have conscientious objections. If we cast our minds back into history, we shall recognise how often’ those in authority have been guilty of injustice, how often a powerful class have inflicted punishments on people who, for conscientious reasons, would not comply with some law or command. We recognise nowadays that in those cases the wrong persons suffered. The persons in authority should have been punished, and not those who resisted. I am afraid that many will think that the attitude of the majority with regard to compulsory training indicates that there is still lingering amongst us some trace of the spirit which used the thumb-screw and the rack to enforce conformity to authority. At the same time, I am quite at a loss to understand how to deal with a new condition of things quite opposed to what British people have been accustomed to. I recognise that we have to defend this country, and that we cannot do that unless we make it possible for our men to have the efficient training necessary to enable them to take part in its defence against any invading army. To meet that danger we have passed a law under which we compel the whole of the manhood of this country to train. But, unfortunately, we cannot get some conscientious people to recognise the danger. They conscientiously believe that we have conjured up this danger out of our own imagination, and that those people whom we look upon as possible invaders of Australia have the best of intentions towards us. I know of no way of getting over that difficulty. I congratulate the Minister on bringing in this Bill with the object of making matters work more smoothly, and should be inclined to support Senator Sayers in a proposal for the abolition of fines, because I hope that a proposal of that kind would eventually lead to the abolition of all fines under both State and Commonwealth legistlation.
– I am very favorably impressed by Senator Sayers’ suggestion with respect to the abolition of fines, and if he embodies it in an amendment I shall support him.
– If Senator Sayers does not move an amendment, Senator Rae will, I suppose.
– I do not want to take the kudos away from him. I have been fined myself, and should have been only too pleased at that time had fines been abolished. The difficulties referred to by Senator Gardiner are very real, and cannot be overcome by any system of fining. The case of parents who refuse, to allow their children to be trained raises a dilemma for Senator Gardiner and other Democrats, who, while desiring to have the fullest possible liberty of conscience preserved, cannot see their way to agree to anything which might lead to the breaking down of the Defence Act. A system of fines for evasion of duty does not prevent that difficulty arising, nor does it provide any remedy for it. To impose a fine of ,£100 on parents who point-blank refuse to allow their children to be trained will not meet the difficulty, though it may have a tendency to elevate such people to a martyrdom which they may or may not deserve. If, as a Parliament voicing the views of the majority of the community, we have seen fit to establish a compulsory defence system, we have done so because, in our opinion, there is a danger of foreign aggression. If that be so, every citizen of the country should do his share to fit himself to repel such aggression. That is a perfectly logical position to take up. But if we steadfastly adhere to that, principle, there is no room for any -conscience clause in our Defence Act. I maintain that the weakness of the Act is in the introduction of a conscience clause, which is a “ shandygaff “ kind of affair. If honorable senators will look up the section, they will find that it is not provided that any one shall be exempt from training, but that, in certain circumstances conscientious objectors may be exempt from service, but must undertake non-combatant duties. Clearly a man who conscientiously objects to war in any shape or form will object to assist the carrying on of war by engaging in noncombatant duties connected with the baggage and commissariat.
– Or to assist the wounded.
– The honorable senator’s interjection is entirely irrelevant. I do not say that ambulance duties are not noncombatant, but that there are many noncombatant duties to which a conscientious objector would object as much as he would to actual fighting. We know that the managing of the baggage and commissariat is as essential in warfare as is the handling of a gun, and the man who objects to war on conscientious grounds will object to assist in it in any way. To fine such a man will not alter the attitude he takes up in any way. I believe that if a father, on the ground of conscience, objects to his son being trained, we should, inasmuch as we have decided that it is the duty oi every citizen to fit himself for the defence of the country, relieve that father of the charge of his child for the time being. We should keep the son in barracks until he has learned sufficient drill, and should not fine the father at all.
– The honorable senator would take the child from the control of his parent?
– Yes. If Parliament has decided that it is absolutely essential to make the system universal, we should have sufficient backbone to carry out that decision ; and if the parent objects to the training of the son, we must take the son from the control of the parent if our object is to be accomplished. When a lad reaches manhood, having acquired military knowledge, it will rest with himself to say whether he will make use of it or not. Senator Sayers has quite overlooked one consideration which, more than any of the reasons which have already been urged, justifies the abolition of fines. Under the Bill, I understand that it is proposed that if a lad is fined for evasion of service, and the fine is not paid, in addition to having to perform the drill which he evaded, he will be called upon to perform additional drill in proportion to the amount of the fine imposed upon him.
– That is so.
– My contention is that that being so, a lad whose parents can afford to pay the fine imposed upon him will be able to escape a penalty which will be enforced in the case of a lad whose parents are unable to pay the fine. It would be much more democratic, and in accordance with the spirit of the legislation we propose, to abolish the fine, and providethat, in the case of an evasion of service, a certain punishment shall be inflicted in the shape of additional drills, under detention if necessary, to be performed by the defaulter. We should not make the Defence Department a revenue-producing Department. If a lad does not attend drill, we should say to him that he must not only complete the drill he has evaded, but perform additional drills in proportion to his guilt.
– How is the lad to be made to perform his drill without some penalty ?
– If a lad does not perfrom his statutory drills he is prosecuted. He is then handed over to the military authorities of the district in which he resides, and detained in barracks to undergo a certain amount of drill. He may then be released, with instructions to turn up again at parade at a certain time, and if he does not do so he may be arrested and treated as an absconder from duty.
– In the meantime his parents will be losing his wages.
– If they do it may lead to better parental control, but I have little doubt that they would lose less under that system than if the lads were liable to a penalty of£5.
.- I propose to submit a very democratic amendment, which, I believe, Senator Needham will admit the justice of.
- Senator McDougall’ s amendment is before the Chair, but perhaps he will withdraw it temporarily to permit Senator Sayers to move the amendment he desires to move.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That the words “Five pounds” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Two hours extra drill for each hour he has failed to serve.”
That penalty would be upon the boy, and not upon the parent, and it would affect the son of a rich parent as well as the son of a poor parent. Could honorable senators have a more democratic idea than that. If a money penalty be imposed, a rich parent may be well able to pay the fine, whilst a poor parent may be unable to pay it. Under the amendment I propose, the son of a rich parent would be obliged to perform extra drill in just the same way as the son of a poor parent. I think, also, that it will be admitted that such a penalty would be a greater deterrent to a boy than any fine that might be inflicted upon his parents. The amendment is one which, I think, should commend itself to the Minister and to the Committee. I have no desire to injure the Bill, but rather to improve it. If the Minister will agree to accept the amendment he will save time. I certainly do not wish to waste time. I was assured that certain honorable senators would support a proposal of this description, and I was asked if I was game to submit it, which I do in the most friendly spirit towards the Minister, and with no desire to embarrass him. I am quite willing that the consideration of the amendment should be postponed till to-morrow or a later date, because it may need to be referred to the draftsman.
– I believe that Senator Sayers and those who have suggested this amendment are animated by the best intentions, but if they reflect a little more they will see that it will not achieve their aim. The clause deals with the penalty to be imposed upon aboy who has evaded service. At the present time he must be fined, or if he cannot or will not pay a fine, he must be committed to a place of detention, where there may be no drilling going on; in fact, he may be the only person held under detention. He will simply be set to some work as a punishment. May I remind those who wish to save the parents that in nine cases out of ten he will be a lad who is working for wages ? He will be committed to a place of military detention, and under this amendment for every hour which he has missed he will be detained for two hours. He will miss two hours’ employment, and his employer may sack him. In any case if the lad does not lose his employment he will lose payment for the time he is absent from work. Really the punishment which Senator Sayers proposes is heavier than a fine, and may lead to loss of employment. I trust that the Committee will recognise that what he proposes is far more drastic and serious in its consequence than is the clause. A magistrate in fixing the fine will be entitled to take into consideration the circumstances of the lad or of his parents, and if he finds that they cannot afford to pay a fine, may take that fact into consideration. He can say to a boy, “ If you cannot afford to pay a fine there is no reason why you cannot go to a place of detention for a week.”
– Would not the parent lose his services?
– A lad who is committed to such a. place has to serve the time which he missed. This amendment will not relieve him of that obligation, but the penalty which it will impose upon him is that for each hour he omitted to serve he must serve two hours as a punishment, which means that he will have to serve three hours for every hour which he missed. That is a very severe penalty indeed. In Western Australia lads of this age get a fairly good wage. I feel satisfied that both the lads and their parents would prefer that the magistrate should be allowed to impose a fine without being penalized, as proposed by the honorable senator. I trust that the Committee will not accept his amendment, but will carry the clause as it is.
– I promised Senator Sayers that I would support his amendment, and I do so gladly. All the difficulties which the Minister has pointed out are inevitable, whether the amendment or the clause be carried. The loss of money to the parents simply follows as a natural consequence the evasion of service. Therefore, everything which has been said against the amendment from that stand-point applies equally to the clause. I take it that if the amendment is carried, and a lad has to serve three hours instead of one hour, that will leave the conscientious, objecting parent in a position to say whether he will object to the boy attending parades at the proper time or prevent him doing one hour at drill, knowing that in doing so the boy will be compelled eventually to serve three hours. In my opinion all the arguments favour the abolition of the fine. In the case of many families the loss of one hour’s wages to a boy is a serious thing. There is nothing so depressing in the present condition ot affairs as to know how the poorer families who depend upon the earnings of two 01: three children manage to eke out an existence.
– It may mean more than the loss of time. It may mean the loss of employment as well.
– I recognise that, too. I appreciate the difficulties, which the Minister has to face in handling this difficult question, but I venture to submit that the weight of evidence is altogether in favour of the amendment. Boys can avoid the loss of time by attending the parades, and in default the military authorities may be able, instead of detaining them for a week, to let them put in so many hours’ drill at night, so that really there would be no loss of time. I think that the more reasonable method is to abolish the fine.
– I would remind the Minister of Defence that proposed sub-section 8 of section 135 provides that a person liable to be trained under the provisions of paragraphs a and b of section 125, shall not be committed to- gaol in default of payment of a pecuniary penalty, but, as he explained, shall be committed to a place of detention. We have been asked by Senator Pearce, and also by Senator Needham, to consider what a serious infliction it will be upon a parent to deprive him of the services of his son during the period of the- extra drillBut will either of these honorable senators show us how the parent is going to be any more deprived of the service of his son in’ undergoing two hours’ detention for one hour’s lost service than in being committed perhaps for a week or a fortnight to military barracks, involving the loss of his job? Is a lad of more service to the community in cleaning rifles, or stacking packages, or performing other menial work, which the Minister foreshadowed, than he would be in doing two hours’ drill for one? While I agree that many families are struggling on with the assistance of their children, I think that, generally speaking, the cadets are sufficiently well-trained sons to be of some real use to their parents, and probably would not wish, to land them in a penalty of a pecuniary or other kind., The boy who does not put his money into the family exchequer but squanders it on cigarettes, and in “ two-up “ schools, would , be well treated if he got a bit of hard drill to do for the service which he evaded. If the effect of the amendment is, as the Minister has stated, that a boy will have to serve three hours instead of the one hour lost, it caa be altered, because, obviously what Senator Sayers meant to express, was that in addition to an hour lost, an additional hour should be imposed as a penalty. I for one will vote for the amendment if a division is called for.
.- The Minister of Defence has construed my amendment differently from what I intended. What I. meant to express was that a boy should be required to serve an hour for every hour which he had neglected to drill. The Minister went on to show what a great hardship it would be if a working-man’s boy had to serve this extra hour, and he put the time to be served down as three hours instead of one hour. Under this clause if a boy has missed ten hours, he is required to serve ten hours, and he is just as likely to lose his job if he is detained for ten hours, as he would be if he were detained for twenty hours. My proposal is not intended as a punishment to a boy, but as a deterrent against wagging. A school boy knows that if he wags, instead of his parent being fined, the punishment will fall upon him. We know very well that the boys of the workingclasses if properly trained are not those who wag, because they have to go to work every day. I think that if the cases which come before, the Court are examined, it will l>e found that in nine cases out of ten the offenders are boys who lounge at the corners of streets, and do no work. A great many of them live on their parents, and will not work. These are the boys who, if they do earn any money, keep it for themselves. If my amendment is carried, there can be no distinction drawn between any classes in the community. Any boy who neglects to do an hour’s drill will have to serve two hours. Instead of putting in an hour’s drill, he would have to put in two hours.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper : -
Return to Order of the Senate of 18th July, 1912 -
Northern Territory - Particulars showing names, &c, of Officers appointed by the Government.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the Electoral Act should be amended this session, to provide for the abolition of monetary deposits from Parliamentary candidates.
I have been twitted by some honorable senators with the fact that a similar motion was carried by the Senate, at my instance, in a previous session. It is true that in August, 1910, I submitted a somewhat similar motion, and that, after a debate extending over two sittings, it was agreed to upon the voices. The difference between that proposal and the one which I am now bringing forward is that the former merely affirmed the desirability of amending the Electoral Act by abolishing the monetary deposit that is at present required of candidates for this Parliament, whereas the mo tion under consideration is more definite, in that it declares that the Act should be so amended this session. I take it that this Chamber is constituted to-day exactly as it was then - except that we have lost the valuable services of the late Senator W. Russell - and, consequently, I assume that honorable senators will not stultify themselves by refusing to support this proposal. If we are to give effect to the decision at which we arrived in 19 10, this is the session in which we ought to do it. There is, perhaps, no necessity for me to traverse the ground which I covered on a former occasion. But I may be permitted to refer briefly to one or two objections which have been urged to this motion. It has been said that a monetary deposit by parliamentary candidates is necessary, to prevent persons contesting seats who have no chance whatever of being returned, or even of securing a decent minority of votes. But it must be quite plain to those who have any recollection of what has already transpired, that political principles, which to-day may be derided as those of cranks, may, in process of time, be brought within the arena of practical politics, and, as the result of their adoption by one of the leading political parties, may actually be translated into law. Consequently, it comes with ill grace from any honorable senator who has ever taken up an unpopular idea to stigmatize the views of others as those of cranks and faddists. The contention that a number of candidates who have no reasonable chance of being elected may be induced to nominate if no deposit is required of them, and that the issues may thus be confused, is, to my mind, a groundless one, for the simple reason that in the States where no deposit is necessary we find no greater number of candidates offering their services for the various seats than offer themselves at Commonwealth elections.. Take the case of New South Wales. In 1894 a new Electoral Act was passed by the Parliament of that State, under which the monetary deposit of £40 which was previously demanded of candidates was abolished. The abolition of that deposit was one of the planks of the Labour party’s platform, and it was adopted, because it was felt that insistence upon that deposit constituted ari unfair levy upon the poorer members of the community, who had an equal right with the richer ones to contest seats. Both political parties adopted that view, and the Government of which Sir Henn Parkes was the head introduced a Bill which omitted the provision which required a pecuniary deposit by candidates. That Bill was not passed into law, but the Dibbs Government, which followed it, submitted and carried a somewhat similar measure. The first elections held under that Act took place in 1894, since which period np monetary deposit has been required of parliamentary candidates. Seven or eight general elections have since been held, and with what result? In odd cases there has been a large number of candidates., That may happen anywhere if there is no great organization of parties. But in most cases the candidates offering themselves for election in that State have not been more numerous than they have been in other States where the law compels them to put up a monetary deposit. Our Commonwealth legislation professes to be more democratic than that of the States. We claim, and with good reason, that our Federal Constitution is the most democratic of any large country in the world. Both branches of this Legislature are elected on the broadest possible franchise. Yet we impose a property qualification upon each candidate. lt amounts to nothing else. We say to them, “ Unless you can find £25 in excess of what is required to cover your election expenses you have no right to contest a seat for the Commonwealth Parliament.”
– We make outsiders lay us £25 to nothing that they will be returned.
– It is a gambling transaction.
– Like the art union which is held in connexion with the Eight Hours movement.
– I do not propose to discuss the question of gambling on this occasion. But I say that by insisting that an elector shall not contest a seat for either House of this Parliament without first putting up a monetary deposit of £25 is to place the matter upon a property basis. The statement thu such a provision prevents men of straw from contesting constituencies is not altogether true. There are some electorates with which I dare say honorable senators are familiar in which there has been no indication that a contest would take place a little while prior to the election. But as polling day approached, and no genuine candidate offered his services, the people who were concerned in the expenditure of money in the district - the publicans - have put up a bogus candidate to insure a contest, with the consequent drinking that would take place. They have not been deterred from doing so by the fact that they had to put up a deposit of £25.
– Does the honorable senator really think that publicans would put up candidates whom they knew would lose their deposits?
– I do not make any general statement of that kind, but I know it is a fact that cases have happened where bogus candidates were put up in order to lead to the expenditure of public andprivate money in a district. But putting up a candidate to provoke an election, where there was no genuine contest, has not been prevented by the deposit requirement. On the other hand, we find that candidates sometimes contest a seat when a fight is really a forlorn hope, for the purpose of expounding some principle dear to them. We should not, I think, endeavour to prevent such people by the imposition of a deposit condition. Take, for instance, the State of New South Wales, where the International Socialists have been in the habit of putting up Senate candidates at every election since Federation was established. The fact that they have done so is purely their own business. Every honorable senator will admit that they have a perfect right to do it. They have put up the required ,£75 for three candidates, and have forfeited that sum in every instance. My object is not to prevent them from spending their money in that direction, but I say that the democratic principle is that, inasmuch as every person has a vote, irrespective of the amount of his possessions in this world, the natural corollary is that every voter should have an equal right to contest a seat, and that you should not impose a property qualification upon him by saying that he must incur an outlay of £2$ in the beginning.
– The multiplicity of candidates adds to the expense to the State.
– Even if it does, the ^ State has no right to put a barrier in the way of any person who wishes to stand.
– The State does not stop the rich man from offering himself as a candidate, and the honorable senator contends that it should not stop the poor man.
– Exactly so; the State does not stop the rich man, or the man of moderate means.
– It only stops the lunatic.
– It does not even stop the lunatic.
– If it does not stop any one, what is the use of it?
– We may leave the lunatic out of the question, because if some are lunatics in the opinion of certain honorable senators, it is quite possible that other citizens may have the same opinion of people like Senator Chataway and myself.
– Probably they have.
– Therefore, it is of no use to bandy terms of that kind.
– I think the honorable, senator introduced the term.
– I did not; I deny that. If there are persons whom*, we commonly call “cranks,” that is because they hold opinions with which we do not agree. “ Crank “ is one of those indefinite and vague terms which have no real significance, and the “crank” of to-day may be the accepted genius of later times. We who are intrusted with the discharge of public duties here have no right to sit in judgment on the opinions of other people, who may be quite as worthy to represent the electors as we are, if they had the same opportunities of offering themselves. I maintain that this deposit does nothing to prevent the superfluous candidate from coming forward, whilst it penalizes the person who entertains political principles in which a large number of people believe, and who wishes to advocate those principles as a parliamentary candidate. The argument has been used that those who have any reasonable chance of obtaining the required number of votes- are not losers, because the deposit is returned to them after the election. But those who use that argument forget that the money is locked up at a time when it is most required by the candidate. The time when he wants it most is the time when it is not available for his use. For that reason this is an unfair penalty to impose even on those who do not run any great risk of losing their deposit. The argument that unless a man can obtain the required number of votes he should not get the money back does not hold either, because the money which he could spend on a campaign, to enable him to obtain the required number of votes, is locked up at the time when he needs it. I cannot conceive how any honorable senator claiming to be possessed of democratic principles, can allow this survival of old and more barbarous times to remain on our statute-book.. I am honestly surprised that some members of our own party should be found voting for such a thing, and still further surprised that they have not quite recently insisted on the deposit being wiped out. I consider that this requirement is positively a disgrace to Democracy, and that the real intention of it is to protect our own interests by making it more difficult for other persons to contest seats than it would be if the deposit were not required. I shall not attempt to go further over ground that has been traversed before. It seems to me to be a very simple question. I maintain that the ostensible purpose of this deposit, to prevent a large number of candidates from running, is not effectively accomplished by its means, whilst it does undoubtedly penalize some who contest seats for the purpose of expounding a principle. It imposes a great hardship on those whohave not the ways and means to put up this; money as a preliminary to entering upon a parliamentary contest. Even when the deposit is found by means of organizations, it inflicts hardship, because those organizations may be in straitened circumstances, and should not be compelled to have their money locked up when it might be employed for propaganda purposes. I consider, therefore, that on every ground we should be false to our professed principles of Democracy if we any longer placed this hindrance in the way of intending candidates. Furthermore, the deposit does not carry out the purpose for which it is required. That could only be done in an effective manner by an improvement in the electoral system. I, personally, should not be averse to imposing upon candidatesa little more trouble in the way of securing, nominations than is the case now. I think it might reasonably be argued that a person aspiring to represent a whole State in> the Senate might be required to produce the signatures of a larger number of persons showing their willingness to nominate than is the case to-day. He might be required’ to have a larger number of nominators if he desired to stand for the otherHouse also.
– That could easily be got round. I know of one case where a candidate, with a committee of fifty-four,, got exactly ten votes.
– I know that even a provision of that kind might be got round.
– I do not think that Senator Pearce can teach the honorable senator much about electioneering matters.
– I do not arrogate to myself all the wisdom, and am glad to learn from any one. I myself recollect a case in New Zealand where a candidate, nominated by six nominators, secured a “ duck egg “ at the poll. He got no votes at all. Still, if we required that a man should obtain, not a mere requisition, but actual signed (nominations from a larger number of electors, it would be necessary for him to obtain a greater measure of support than is involved in the mere deposit of a sum of money. It would be very difficult for a man who aspired to become a senator to get nominees from every division in a State unless a fair measure of support was likely to be accorded to him from every quarter. If we were to impose a condition of that kind, it would prevent absolutely bogus men from coming forward, and such a step might be justifiable. But no mere money difficulty should be thrown in the way of any man who thinks he has a chance of capturing a seat. In the past too much contempt has been thrown upon persons because their politics may seem entirely strange from our point of view.. Difficulties should not be thrown in their way to prevent them from reaching the places which we now occupy. In my opinion, a man who is not prepared to meet all the opposition that may be fairly brought against him, is not fit to be here anyhow, because he has not the pluck required to make him fit to represent the people anywhere. I suppose that I have as much interest in the success of my party’s candidates as any one has.
– The honorable senator takes rather a more impersonal view of the matter, because he is not going up at the next election.
– Does the honorable senator think that others are influenced by personal considerations when dealing with this matter?
– I do not know whether they are or not.
– The honorable senator was arguing that they were just now.
– I did not accuse any honorable senator of being influenced by personal considerations.
– The honorable senator spoke of the deposit as a device to keep other people from obtaining our seats.
– That is practically what it is.
– If it is a device of that kind, the honorable senator must mean that we are supporting the deposit with that object in view.
– I do not accuse any honorable senator of doing that; but I do think, nevertheless, that that consideration has actuated a good many in the arguments they have brought forward.
– If the honorable senator will give us an opportunity of taking a vote on the motion to-night, it will allow the Government to bring in a Bill this session.
– If there are good arguments against the motion, I shall be glad to hear them, and believe that I shall be able to reply to them effectively afterwards.
– Roughly speaking, Senator Rae’s position is this : that any one should be able to stand for Parliament, without giving any security whatever that he has support behind him. It appears to me that while there are what may be called ethical arguments in favour of the motion, there are very practical arguments which should cause honorable senators to vote against it. An election costs the Government and the taxpayers about ^1,850. That is how the cost works out per constituency, as far as I can obtain returns. Are we going to pay £1,850 for the purpose of allowing a person who thinks, in a vague sort of way, that he has a right to claim the attention of the people to stand as a candidate without advancing any security?
– How much does an uncontested election cost?
– I should imagine that it costs simply what is involved in advertising the fact of the election, and announcing the date when the writs are going to be issued. That would amount to not more than £1 or £2. I have in mind an instance that occurred- in 1886, when a man who, in common parlance, had his leg pulled by certain people, was induced to contest an electorate. He addressed meetings all over the electorate, and, although he had a committee numbering forty-five or fifty, he only polled ten or twelve votes at the election. We should not agree to a proposal which would add to the expense of government in order that a few persons may be given an opportunity to pull a man’s leg. It should not be forgotten that in a very great many instances the deposit is provided, not by the candidate, but by those who induce him to stand. In my opinion, some deposit, is necessary, if it be only to indemnify the Government for the expenses involved in the carrying out of an election. If a candidate is put up by a committee of leg-pullers, they will, no doubt, be prepared to deposit the money necessary to secure his nomination. Since the election deposit was abolished in New South Wales, there have been cases in which from six to nine candidates have stood for one electorate, although only two were in the running at all. The others were persuaded to stand possibly by facetious friends, who invited them to believe that they had the confidence of the electors ; but each additional candidate meant an extra expense for printing, attendance at polling booths, and in other ways in the carrying out of the election. I have no wish to delay the discussion of this matter, and I hope that Senator Rae will get the decision of the Senate upon his motion as quickly as possible. But my experience, and that of others who have been concerned in elections for the last twenty years, is that if there is no pecuniary responsibility placed upon a candidate, any man will contest an election. In 1906, instances occurred in New South Wales when there were eight or ten candidates for a single seat, and most of them secured only a vote or two apiece. The object of the deposit is to prevent that kind of thing, and to prevent unnecessary expense. I hope the motion will be defeated.
– As a similar motion was accepted by the Senate two sessions ago, there is no reason to anticipate that the motion now moved by Senator Rae will meet with much opposition at this time. From a democratic point of view, Senator Rae’s arguments in support of the motion are unanswerable. It may be very convenient to some candidates to prevent certain persons from nominating for an election, and the deposit of £25 now provided for may prevent persons who have not themselves the amount at their disposal from contesting an election. Honorable senators who have contested elections, however, know very well that -wealthy organizations will have no hesitation in depositing -£25 for candidates who have no chance of winning a seat. An uncontested election for the Federal Parliament, and especially for the Senate, is almost unimaginable, and, consequently, all the necessary machinery for the carrying out of Federal elections must be provided by the Government. In New South Wales for many years past no deposit has been required from candidates, and all the facts go to show that every year we are more nearly approaching the time when all the candidates at an election will be bond fide party candidates. It has been shown that at each succeeding election less attention is given to independent candidates, even though they may have legitimate claims for support. The electors will not take them seriously. When I was first returned to the New South Wales State Parliament in 1891, some one had to find the necessary deposit of £40 for me. A similar deposit was required at that time from every candidate, and yet I believe that in those days there were a greater number of candidates than there are at the present time. Politics have become very keen, not merely in New South Wales, but throughout the Commonwealth. The deposit we now require in Federal elections prevents so few from contesting seats that we might just as well abolish it and give every one possessing the qualifications of an elector a free opportunity to nominate for election to this Parliament. In my mind the deposit is an unfair burden to impose upon men for the opportunity to put before the people views which the electors may ultimately adopt. I take the case of the Socialists, who assisted Senators McDougall and Rae and myself by dividing the vote in New South Wales. They polled 14,000 votes at the last Senate election. The people who voted for them no doubt held the opinion that the views which they advocated would, if given effect, be of greater benefit to the country than those advocated by the candidates of the Labour party or of the Opposition. We may live to see the time when those views will be accepted by the great majority of the people. Why should we penalize men who conscientiously contest election after election in the advocacy of principles which they believe to be for the betterment of the people, merely because they secured the support of no more than 14,000 electors in New South Wales? I say that the fact that 14,000 electors voted for them justifies and establishes their right to put their views before the community. It is most unjust that under our electoral law those Socialist candidates should be fined ,£25 each for contesting the election.
– They might secure a representative under a system of propor_tional representation.
– There may be a system which would give people holding those views representation in Parliament, but I do not propose to go into that matter. Senator Rae’s proposal would,in my opinion, remove an injustice which has pressed heavily upon Socialist candidates at the last two or three Federal elections. They have been victimized because they did not represent a certain number of people. My memory on such matters is not very keen, but I have a sort of recollection that the honorable senator who has moved this motion was on one occasion himself the victim of our existing system, and was compelled to make a donation to the Commonwealth Treasury.
– If the honorable senator’s memory of the matter is at fault, Senator Rae’s will not be.
– I have a dim recollection that the honorable senator suffered in this way in a contest with Sir Edmund Barton.
– No, Dr. Liddell.
– I said that my memory was not very clear on the point. I thought for the moment that it was Sir Edmund Barton, and that was due, no doubt, to the fact that Sir Edmund Barton at one time represented the constituency for which my honorable friend was a candidate. Having suffered this injustice, and feeling how unfair it was to penalize a candidate whose views, though they were not at that time acceptable to the people, are advocated by the honorable member who now represents the same constituency, Senator Rae has some grounds for submitting this motion. Here was a case in. which a man was penalized because of opinions which after a few years have been adopted by the majority in the constituency, but the penalty has not been removed. I venture to say that if we compared the votes received by Senator Rae in the electorate to which I have referred at the last Senate election, with the votes polled by the gentleman who defeated him on that occasion, we should find that by his persistent and able advocacy of the views he held, he was able to convert the minority of one day into a triumphant majority of another day.
– A change in the personnel of the electors might account for that.
– That might be so. There might have been an increase in the coal-mining community in the electorate, but a candidate should not suffer because the views he puts before the country are not shared in by a certain number of the people in the electorate he has contested. That being the case we have here a gentleman who thoroughly understands and appreciates what this great injustice is. It is my extreme pleasure on this occasion to do as I have done on every other occasion when he has brought the motion before the. Senate, to follow his lead.
– I believe that on a former occasion I opposed this motion. Since then we have had the benefit of experience, and I am sorry to say that the notorious facts before our eyes are such as to convince me that what I did before was right. I intend to vote against the motion again.
– Do you say that you voted against the motion before?
– I think I did.
– No !
– Was the previous motion carried on the voices?
– Yes !
– I certainly had no sympathy with the previous motion. My memory has evidently failed me as regards a division. I fancy that I did speak against the motion, if a division was not called for. One ground which has always weighed strongly with me in resisting the removal of some form of a monetary deposit has been the practical fact that I do not believe that any candidate under our Democratic Constitutions - State and Federal - who, to use a common expression, was either “ worth his salt,” or was able to impress a considerable number of electors that he was worth some political salt, ever suffered in the slightest degree from the imposition of this small fee, so to speak, preliminary to the contest. Practically, I do not believe that a single worthy individual in the whole of Australia - no matter what political cause or party, or, for that matter, even fad he might represent - has, if he could show that he understood the political ideals which he held, or by his ability or persistency, or by both, was able to get a number of electors to think with him, been unfairly or unduly barred out a State or Federal House.
– At the State elections in Tasmania, afewweeks ago, the Mayor of Launcestonlost his deposit, although he had only vacated the mayoral chair a week or two before, and was one of the foremost and most respected citizens in that town.
– Very probably. I would not like to go into that matter. The lessons which I draw, quite apart from party issues, from the working of the political machinery in Tasmania at the recent elections is such as not to make me very much enamoured of the proportionate system of voting.
– It combats your argument.
– It has been stated by Senators Rae and McDougall that, in New South Wales, the fee, so to speak, has been abolished and - in consequence of that, possibly - we ought to follow its example. If I remember recent political history I think that the Legislative Assembly of that State has been one of the most awful examples within the last few years of the heights-
– That is since Senator Gardiner and I left it.
– I do not wish to make a personal reflection on any honorable senators. I am merely mentioning what is common knowledge. The New South Wales Assembly has recently afforded a puzzle to most of the electors of the State - especially of Sydney - a choice as to whether they would at any time go to see the greatest farce in the theatres or-
– Order !
– Possibly I am treading on delicate ground and infringing the letter, if not the spirit, of our Standing Orders. I shall content myself with saying that what is given as a reason for passing this motion is, to my mind, at any rate, an example to avoid. What principle of Democracy, what principle of free representation of the people is infringed by placing a fee on a man who wishes to seek the suffrages of the electors? I think none.
– It is not a fee.
– It is in the nature of a fee which a candidate puts down and forfeits in a certain contingency. I am inclined to think that the contingency should be there, although there will always be room for difference of opinion as to what the amount should be. I hold that, practically speaking, there has been no hardship inflicted in any case. There is no reason for removing the fee. I do not see any great principle which is being infringed or jeopardized by its retention. On the contrary, I can see some advantage to the State itself, as well as to the electors, in placing what has been called a wager on a man’s political chance in the political race he is going to run. It is highly advantageous in enabling a direct and clear expression of the will of the electors, that the number of candidates should not be needlessly multiplied at the poll. We oftenfind that, apart from the conflicting political issues which are presented to the people, the difficulty of coming to a clear and strong decision is made intensely greater when there is a needless and almost wasteful multiplicity of candidates. In addition to that, where candidates do crowd the political arena at these contests, they necessarily involve extra expenditure on behalf of the taxpayers. It is notorious that in many cases this expenditure, although it may be comparatively small, is caused by candidates who for the most part have not got, to use common speech, a donkey’s show. And, worse than that, the candidates are not only acquainted with that fact, but they know that they are increasing the expenditure of the State. They are aware that they have no chance of being elected, and they are either the instruments of persons who wish to confuse the political issues or are set up by some of the candidates or some organization to confuse the minds of the electors. I take it that the deposit has been prescribed as part of our electoral machinery, not to bar anyman, however poor, from contesting an election, but to minimize the danger to which I have referred, and in minimizing that danger the electoral machinery affords a great advantage very often to the electors. We know very well from our experience in State elections, and even the short experience we have had of Federal elections, that often the verdict of the people has not been allowed to be clearly expressed, but has. been deliberately confused by the multiplicity of candidates, and the fee of £25 is to some extent - and to that extent very properly - imposed, in order to warn off hopeless political candidates, or what is more common still, candidates who are put up for the purpose of creating political mischief, and confusing the minds of the people, it may be from the lowest political motives on their own part or on the part of the small political machines or interested individuals who put them up.
– Why not make the amount higher, then, if you want a deposit ?
– Of course that is a very easy question to ask. But in a matter of this kind we must trust to the discretion and the judgment of the Government of the day who are responsible for the working of the electoral machinery. If they find from their experience of the administration of the Act that a fee of ^£25 is too high, and bars worthy candidates from coming forward, it is their duty to come down and give us clear and distinct instances, and show us the advisableness of lowering the amount. On this occasion the Ministers have not expressed their mind on the subject. They have, if not directly, certainly indirectly, and in the strongest form possible, shown that they disagree with this motion, because they have taken no step to amend the law in this direction. I assume that during their two years of office they have seen good reasons to continue the provision as they found it on the statute-book. I congratulate the Government upon following the wisdom of their predecessors in this regard, and I hope that, notwithstanding this pious motion which the Senate may again pass, they will adhere to that attitude. A debate of this kind is more or less an academic one. When Senator Rae thinks that there is something wrong 011 the statute-book, something which creates a grievance, he has the right to ventilate it, and to persist in doing so, but I think that we must take the silence of Ministers as an indication that they intend to hold by that portion of the Electoral Act which requires a monetary deposit. I shall continue, even in the face of the fireworks which come from the other side about this Ark of the Covenant, or this principle of Democracy and representative institutions, to oppose the total abolition of the deposit. Unless better reasons are forthcoming than have already been advanced, I shall oppose any diminution in the amount of the monetary deposit which is at present required from candidates for this Parliament. I hardly think that Senator Rae’s motion has been brought forward because he desires to give the International Socialists in Australia a better opportunity of securing representation in the Commonwealth Parliament, because, if there is one body to-day which the Labour party fears, it is these International Socialists. For the reasons which I have given I shall oppose the motion.
.-^! did not intend to address myself to this subject, but after listening to the so-called arguments advanced by the last two honorable senators who addressed the Chamber from the Opposition benches, I feel that it is just as well that I should not cast a silent vote upon it. It has been urged that if we removed the undemocratic restriction of requiring candidates for this Parliament to put up a monetary deposit, the result would be that many “ cranks “ would seek the suffrage of the electors. Senator St. Ledger claimed that the existing law acts as a deterrent to candidates who have not a donkey’s chance of being returned.
– As a slight deterrent.
– Evidently he thinks that a “ crank “ is less likely to nominate if the deposit may be retained. But, as a matter of fact, at the elections which took place in my own State a couple of months ago, we witnessed the spectacle of two strong men actually being called upon to forfeit their deposits. For the electorate of Bass, Mr. David Storrer, who held a seat in this Parliament for several years, and the ex-Mayor of Launceston, Mr. Oldham, one of the most popular men in that city, nominated, and both lost their deposits. By no stretch of the imagination could they be classed as “ cranks.” They were shining lights of the Liberal party, and could not by any means be described as unknown or untried men.
– They were unwanted men.
– They may have been. But it was unfair that they should have been penalized to the extent of £25 for having offered their services to the electors, especially after they had fought an expensive campaign. Then I would remind honorable senators that in Tasmania we have a voting system under which votesplitting is impossible. There, an elector’s vote is a transferable one. It does not necessarily stop at his first choice, but may be transferred to his second or third choice.
– Does the honorable senator fool himself with the idea that under that system he secures the real wish of the people ?
– No. I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition. I say that the system results in a- subversion of majority rule. One would have thought that under that system the provision requiring a monetary deposit by Candida’ f would have been abolished. However, it has not been. The Conservative usually opposes the putting up of a deposit, and I quite expected that Conservatives an this Chamber would oppose it. We all know that a deposit of £25 is not a large amount for a political organization to lose. Take the case of the last Federal elections in Tasmania. Upon that occasion an unknown candidate, in the person of Mr. Campbell, was nominated, merely to secure the Orange vote, along with two other members of the Liberal party. That organization, I believe, provided his £25 deposit. It could well afford to lose that amount. The deposit did not deter it from running this unknown candidate against Senator O’Keefe, who topped the poll with 30,000 votes. Mr. Campbell was brought forward merely for the purpose of splitting the Labour vote and secured only 2,000 votes. We know that the party opposite are quite prepared to spend more than £25 when it suits their political ends to do so.
– Would not the honorable senator’s party do the same thing if it suited them ?
– The Labour party spent ,£140,000 last year on the elections in New South Wales.
– That statement is not correct.
– I know of candidates who contested seats in some of the States who could not find the deposit themselves. In two instances they had to borrow it. Anybody who proposes that such men should be thus penalized is countenancing an undemocratic act. Senator Chataway argued that Senator Rae’s proposal is not practicable, and that it would prove too expensive in operation. That is another red herring which has been drawn across the trail. The honorable senator declared that this proposal might lead to a contested election in cases where the sitting members would not otherwise be opposed. But how manyFederal constituencies were uncontested at the last election ? Only about two or three. Consequently, his argument will not hold water. I would like him to point out how the nomination of three or four candidates for a constituency, instead of two, will largely increase the cost of elections. I say that their cost would not be appreciably augmented. -If the motion be pressed to a division, honorable senators will see upon which side the majority of members of the Labour party will vote. In my opinion, we cannot too early remove the disability to which any honest but poor man who desires to offer his services to the electors for a seat in this Parliament is subjected.
– It is so seldom that I have an opportunity of agreeing with the views expressed by Senators Gardiner and Ready, that when the chance does present itself, I cannot abstain from proclaiming it. I should like to reply to some of the statements which have been made here to-night. I hardly think that Senator Rae was quite just to Parliament, as an institution, when he suggested, as he undoubtedly did, that its members were influenced in- the votes which they had cast upon this matter, by the fear of possible opposition to themselves. I scarcely think he will seriously contend that any such influence has been at work. In my judgment, the only candidates we have to fear are those who have no difficulty in finding the required monetary deposit. I have had some little experience in political matters, and I know that the candidate to be feared is the man who has no difficulty in finding the deposit himself, or who has a number of friends who are prepared to find it for him. Therefore, the personal factor has not had any influence either in this Chamber or in the other branch of the Legislature. As I have changed my views upon this question, I desire to put upon record my reasons for so doing. I do not regard the demand for the abolition of a monetary deposit by parliamentary candidates as involving a matter of principleThat demand is like the demand for a certain number of .nominations. It is a condition with which those who sought to be candidates have had to comply. It is a condition which was imposed with oneobject, namely, that of preventing individuals in a spirit of jocularity, or withoutsound cause, from doing something whichwould undoubtedly penalize the community. At the first elections for the Senate in New South Wales, when no deposit was requiredfrom candidates, no less than, fifty personsnominated. It was known that two of them did so as the result of an idle wager. They merely forwarded their names, and neither took the trouble to address the electors or to spend a single penny upon the election.
– Then the country only paid the cost of printing their names.
– It did a great deal more. Then at another election in New South Wales, a gentleman who claimed thename of George Reid- was dug up, brought to town, and nominated against Sir George Reid, clearly with one object. That object was to utilize the similarity of names for the purpose of deceiving a sufficient number of electors to enable a third candidate to be returned. These were the reasons which operated with me when I voted for this restriction. But we have to recognise ,that politics to-day, like many other things, are changing. We are moving along on lines which suggest to us that anybody who has any political thoughts to express can only do so with practical effect if he is working in conjunction with others who hold similar views. In other words, organization in politics is becoming just as necessary as is organization in business. The result of the experience of the last few years justifies the conclusion that we have very little to fear from the individual who will idly step in and nominate in the spirit to which I have referred. If he did so, the electors themselves are too concerned with the result of a political contest to waste votes upon him. On the other hand, there is in existence today, a party which was referred to by Senator Gardiner - a party whose views, little as I agree with them, are entitled to respect. I refer to what is known as the Socialist party in New South Wales. I am very much impressed by the spectacle of that party at election after election collecting the threepences and pennies of poor people in order to raise the £15 which they know full well is going to be lost in an effort to secure public expression of the opinions which they entertain.
– That statement does not necessarily commit the honorable senator to the support of their principles any more than it does me.
– No, I have said that I have no sympathy with their principles, but I have a great deal with the right which they are exercising under our present law. I do not discover now any possible public danger in the abolition of this deposit ; and, on the other hand, I do discover some elements of injustice done to the people to whom I have referred. Under these circumstances, I think we might very safely abolish the deposit. But, at the same time, I should have no hesitation if, as the result of abolishing it, the evil to which I have referred again presented itself, in considering that I was at liberty to impose some other restraining condition to prevent our public institutions being made the sport and toy of irresponsible people.
– There may be better ways of doing that than by a money deposit.
– It may be so; but the interests of the country should be protected against the spirit of levity which induces people to nominate merely to decide a wager. I hope that evils of that kind have entirely disappeared, and, consequently, the methods adopted to check them might as well go too. But should they re-present themselves, this Parliament or some future Parliament might have tq find means of dealing with them.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pearce) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, section ji of the Constitution Act should be amended to give the Parliament of the Commonwealth power to grant pensions to widows with young children dependent on them ; and that the necessary referendum of the electors of the Commonwealth be taken at the next general election.
In submitting the motion that stands in my name, I do not intend to speak at great length. As is well known, our Constitution gives power to this Parliament to grant old-age and invalid pensions. Section 51 would have to be amended in a very simple manner - by the insertion of only one word -to give us power to grant pensions to widows. We should simply require to insert the one word “ widows “ to enable this Parliament to legislate in the direction indicated by the motion. I do not consider it necessary to go into details as to what I believe to be the merits of the proposal. My reasons are these. In the first place, a referendum of the people would have to be taken before this Parliament would have power to pass legislation for this purpose. My object in moving at this stage of the session is that this may be included in the number of proposed amendments of the Constitution which, I understand, are to be submitted to the electors at the next general election. Obviously if the people are to be asked to alter the Constitution; it will save expense if this question is put to them at the same time. I submitted a similar motion last year, but no vote was recorded because I did not take action until near the end of the session. In the meantime I have been able to arm myself with full information which, I think, will be of interest and value to honorable senators in coming to a decision. A few days after I gave notice of my intention to move in the matter last session a Bill was introduced for the same purpose in the New Zealand Parliament. Until that time no State in Australasia had such a law upon its statute-book. But the New Zealand Parliament ^passed a measure extending the pensions principle to widows with young children dependent upon them. The Act received the Governor’s assent in October last. I have before me a report, received only yesterday, from Mr. Robertson, the New Zealand Commissioner of Pensions, showing that the Act came into operation on the ist January. The report includes returns from the ist January until the end of May, and from these figures we are able to make a very fair estimate of what the cost of such a scheme would be to Australia. Obviously it is necessary to deal with the subject in two ways. First, it is necessary to give reasons for so moving ; and if these reasons commend themselves to the wisdom of the majority, it is necessary to inquire what the probable cost would be. Dealing first with the reasons, I may say at once that I do not think it necessary, at this stage of our political life, to dilate at any length upon the desirableness of granting pensions to widows. The pensions system has gained ground, and that not only in the minds of one party in politics. It is now generally accepted by every party in the Commonwealth.
– They all claim credit for it.
– Yes ; but, though some of us, in the heat of party fighting, are in the habit of saying that such and such a politician was not in favour of pensions at one time, we must at least agree that there is now no party in Australia who would seriously propose to do away with invalid and old-age pensions.
– Oh, . yes ; the Irvine party.
– The honorable senator has not been reading the recent speeches.
– I have read the speech which my honorable friend has in his mind.
– That is the difference between Senator O’Keefe and some of his colleagues.
– Nevertheless, I am sure that no party would dare to go before the people at the next elections and advocate the abolition of old-age and invalid pensions.
– The basis of the system has been distinctly challenged.
– I know that a prominent member of one party has shown some desire to whittle away the benefits which the old people and the invalids are now getting from the pensions system, but I am not going to saddle the sins of one man upon a whole party.
– He is about the strongest man in the party, though.
– That is a matter of opinion. The fact remains that even from the lowest motives of political expediency no party would propose at the next election to do away with our pensions system.
– The honorable senator’s friends over there know that perfectly well.
– It has been generally accepted that the pensions system is a humane one, as well as being necessary in our present social life. To my mind, it has always appeared equally necessary that pensions should be granted to women who are left widows with young children dependent upon them, and who have not sufficient means of providing for those children. It is generally accepted, not only by the medical profession, but also by politicians and students of social life, that the juvenile population of any country is one of its most valuable assets. From that point of view, it surely would be good business for any country to try to conserve and increase the value of its child-life - to endeavour to develop the very best in the character of every child, and to extinguish the worst elements. I am certain that every honorable senator is personally aware of many instances of widows who have been left- with young children dependent upon them, and no adequate means of subsistence. Many of these women have to go out every day and earn bread and butter, leaving their children to the kindly care of a neighbour, or, in many instances, leaving them to the care of another child in the family, aged, it may be, eight or ten years. In such cases, it is certainly impossible that the best in the characters of those children can be developed, and the worst extinguished. There is but one natural protector for children of that age, and that is their mother. A system such as I propose might not be sufficient to keep in affluence a mother left with three or four young children dependent upon her, but, at least, it would go some way to provide her an opportunity of bettering her condition. The merits and demerits of such a measure might be enlarged upon at any length, but it is not necessary for me to pursue that course to-night, because, obviously, it is impossible for a Government to bring down a definite proposal until we obtain the necessary power by an amendment of the Constitution. I will not say any more upon this phase of the question than that if it be a calamity for the children themselves that they are deprived of a mother’s care at the most important period of their career - in their very earliest years - it is no less a calamity to the country to which they belong. If we agree that some system of this kind would be a good thing in the interests of the people, the second, and perhaps most vital consideration with many people, is the question of its cost. So far as I can discover, New Zealand is the only part of the British Dominions that makes provision for pensions to widows. I find that the cost of the system adopted there was last year at the rate of 8½d. per annum per head of the population.
– How long has the system been in operation?
– The cost stated is based upon the operation of the system from the 1st January to the end of May of last year. I yesterday received the report of Mr. D. Robertson, the New Zealand Commissioner of Pensions. He points out that it is easy for him on the figures before him to make an estimate of the yearly cost, and he is confident that his estimate will be borne out. He says that 1,334 claims for these widows’ pensions were recorded, 990 were granted, and 200 rejected for various reasons. But I find from the report that at the end of May last there were only 788 of these pensions in force. Mr. Robertson says -
The pension is available to a widow of any age with one or more children under the age of 14 born in New Zealand, and dependent upon her for support, who is a British subject, either by birth or naturalization, who has been resident in New Zealand for a period of six months prior to the birth of any child to whom the Act applies, and who can comply with the qualifications as to income and property as well as to character. Magistrates alone are authorized by the Act to grant or refuse pensions, and each grant is for a period of twelve months, at the end of which the circumstances of the pensioner are reviewed. The maximum pensions payable are £12 per annum where there is one child, £18 for two, £24 for three, and £30 for more than three children.
I should like to suggest here that it would be better that the pension in the case of one child should be £13 rather than £12, so as to make the even 5s. per week. The New Zealand Commissioner of Pensions further states -
It is as yet early to express any definite opinion as to how far the original estimated cost of the scheme - viz.,£55,000 perannum - will be realized, but it may be said that at the present rate of progress the actuality will not exceed the expectation.
In a note to me, Mr. Robertson says -
It is not anticipated that the cost for the first twelve months will exceed the£36,000 quoted by me in my report.
I say that on the present population of New Zealand, which is 1,031,500, that works out at 8½d. per head per annum.
– That is for the first year. I understood the honorable senator to say that the Commissioner’s estimate was £50,000 or £60,000 as the annual cost.
– He made an original estimate of £55,000, but he admits that that has proved to be an excessive estimate. The operation of the scheme for five months from the 1st January to the end of May has been such that Mr. Robertson is confident that the annual cost will not exceed £36,000 per annum with New Zealand’s present population. I think I am fairly entitled to base an estimate of the cost of such a scheme for the Commonwealth upon the cost in New Zealand, because the conditions of life in both countries are very similar. I suppose that there is about the same proportion of widows having young children to depend upon them here that there is in New Zealand. If the cost of the system in New Zealand is not to exceed £36,000 per annum for a population of 1,031,500, the cost of a similar scheme for the Commonwealth would work out at £162,000 a year. The last available figures show the population of the Commonwealth to be 4,455,000, or in round figures 4,500,000. We have about four and a half times the population of New Zealand, and . £36,000 multiplied by 4½ will give £162,000. All political parties in the Commonwealth are, I believe, agreed that we should provide for old-age and invalid pensions. The figures for 1 9 10- 1 1 show that for this purpose we paid £1,868,648. The official figures to the 30th June of this year have not yet been made available, but I have been able to work them out almost to the end of the year, and subject to slight correction, I think it will be found that the total cost’ of old-age and invalid pensions in the Commonwealth for the year ending 30th June, 1912, was £2,148,371. It may be said that we are generous in our provision for pensions for aged and invalid people in Australia. I am prepared to admit that, but I say that no pensions scheme is complete which does not include a scheme for the payment of such pensions as I am advocating. When we are paying £2,148,371 for old-age and invalid pensions, I say that, in view of the suffering and hardship which would be greatly alleviated, if not entirely removed, by the granting of a pension to widows having young children dependent upon them, we may well take the further step necessary to complete our pensions scheme. When we already pay over £2,000,000 in pensions to aged and invalid people there should not be any very strong objection to the addition of £160,000 a year to that expenditure in the way I propose. If the matter is put to the electors by referendum at the next Federal election I do not believe that very many of them will object to pay 8Ad. per annum to give effect to this scheme. If it were possible under the Constitution for this Parliament to pass a measure granting pensions to widows with young children under fourteen years of age dependent on them, on the lines of the New Zealand Act - £12 for one child, £18 for two, £24 for three, and £30 for more than three children - it would mean an addition of only £160,000 a year to the very large expenditure already involved in the payment of pensions in the Commonwealth. I am aware that it has been stated by some public men, and, amongst others, I believe, by the Premier of Victoria, when he learned that a proposal of this kind was contemplated, that in some of the States provision is already made to meet cases of this kind. It is true that in some of the States there is a system in force of boarding out children to the mother, but there is no system in Australia under which a widow, having young children dependent upon her, has a right to claim from the Government a certain pension according to the number of her children.
– There is a boardingout system in New South Wales.
– And also in Queensland.
– There is no such system in Tasmania, or, I believe, in some of the other States of the Commonwealth, and there is an objection attached to the boarding-out system, where it is in force, that the children are regarded as wards of the. State. The State, in the first instance, takes charge of the children, and then boards them out to the mother. In any case, I am confident that the cost of administering the systems at present adopted in some of the States must be greater than if the relief were afforded, as I propose, in conjunction with the existing Commonwealth system of old-age and invalid pensions. Mr. Robertson, in his report, says -
During the year the responsibilities of the staff were considerably increased by the passing of the Widows Pensions Act, which received the Governor’s assent on 28th October, 191 1, and came into operation on the ist January following. This Act provided for its administration being conducted by the officers controlling old-age pensions, and as the system in operation under the Old-age Pensions Acts was readily adaptable to the new measure, the inauguration of the scheme was carried out without any hitch.
Obviously the Commissioner of Pensions is the person best fitted to administer a system of pensions to widows. The system I propose to take the place of those which are at present in force in some of the States would have the advantage that it would bring all pensions under the one administration. We must remember that the same people will have to provide the money in either case. If we are agreed that the class to whom my motion refers requires the consideration I suggest, it would be much better that it should be provided in the same way as we now provide for old-age and invalid pensions. All that my motion asks is that a referendum of the electors be taken at the next general election, and should they decide that section 51 of the Constitution should be so amended as to give this power to the Parliament it would then remain for the party in power, whoever they might be, to bring down the necessary legislation. At present it is only a question of the Senate affirming the principle that it is desirable that the electors should be afforded an opportunity fo express their judgment. If the Parliament should decide in favour of a referendum being taken the advocates or the opponents of pensions to widows can go before the people at the general election and express their views. I have much pleasure in submitting the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator St.. ^Ledger) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19120718_SENATE_4_64/>.