6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 4 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs whether there is any difficulty in the way of furnishing a return showing the quantity of Yacca gum which has been exported from Australia during the last ten years ?
– What is it?
– Yacca gum is a substance which is largely used in the manufacture of explosives.
– If it is in the power of the Trade and Customs Department to supply the information, I will gladly do so, but I would point out to the honorable senator that the export of Yacca gum is already prohibited, because we recognise the possibility of its usefulness to the enemy.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act 1901-14-
Proclamations prohibiting Exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Arms, &c. (dated 12th November, 1914).
Rubber and Graphite (dated 12th November, 1914).
Acaroid Resin, &c. (dated 14th December, 1914).
Whale Oil - Crude and Refined (dated 21st January, 1915).
Vessels, Boats, &c. (dated 29th January, 1915).
Leather (dated 18th February, 1915).
Cancellation of Proclamation prohibiting importation of -
Newspaper entitled Ghadr, &c. (dated 18th March, 1915).
Proclamations prohibiting Importation of -
Certain seditious Indian Publications (dated 18th March, 1915) .
Zoological Results of Fishing Experiments curried on by F.I.S. Endeavour, 1909-10.- Vol. II., Part 5.
Biological Results of Fishing Experiments carried on by F.I.S. Endeavour, 1909-14.
Vol. II., Part 2.
Vol. III., Part 2.
Iron Bounty Act 1914. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 17.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 - Land acquired under, at -
Fairy Meadow, County of Murray, New South Wales - For Building Material purposes, Federal Territory, &c.
Hamilton, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Postmaster-General’s Department : Fourth Annual Report, 1913 14.
War, European : Diplomatic Correspondence published by the French Government.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate if the person or persons responsible for the recent robbery of private postal boxes in the General Post Office, Melbourne, have yet been discovered, and what method the Postal Department is adopting to prevent a recurrence of these postal robberies, so that the confidence of the people in the Department will be maintained ?
– The answer is -
No, but the public may rest assured that every precaution is being taken to safeguard their interests as far as possible. I have no objection to telling the honorable member privately what the position of the matter is, but he will readily realize that to make public what the Department is doing would only tend to assist the thieves.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer is -
The inspections being mode at the border are carried out by officials of the Health Departments in New South Wales and Victoria, and the termination of these measures is entirely within the jurisdiction of the Governments of the two States concerned.
asked the Minis ter of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer is-
There call be no question at present of any arrears of deferred pay in respect of the members of the Australian Imperial Force at present serving, as such payment is only made on the discharge of members of the Forces. In regard to members who have already been discharged inquiry will be made as to whether there are any such payments in arrear.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are-
Jackets, cardigan, 1. Belts, abdominal, 2. Drawers, pairs, 2. Shirts, flannel, 2. Singlets, 2. Socks, pairs, 3. Replacement as required.
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask the Minister if it takes three months to ascertain the suitability of candidates for service ?
– In some cases, yes.
– Arising out of the answer to my fifth question, if -soldiers have been compelled to buy underclothing through the non-delivery of underclothing to them by the Department for the reasons which the Minister has just stated, will not the Department refund them the cost?
– That is only a repetition of the question which I have already answered. I can only refer tha honorable senator to the answer I have given.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay on the table of the Library all papers in connexion with the appointment of Private G. D. MacArthur to a 2nd Lieutenant’s position, also Transport Officer of the 3rd Infantry Battalion, contrary to the recommendation, and in spite of the protest of the New South Wales Committee appointed for the purpose of selecting officers for the Australian Expeditionary Forces?
SHERRINGTON v. DARLOT.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Will he lay on the table of the Senate all papers in the case of Sherrington v. Darlot?
– The file will be made available for the honorable senator’s information by being laid on the table of the Library.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
When does the Minister intend to make an announcement with reference to the amendments he proposes to make in the previously published scale of Federal light dues?’
– An announcement will be made prior to the proposed date of taking over the services, 1st July.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
If it is the intention of the AttorneyGeneral to take such steps as are provided by clause 74 of the Commonwealth Constitution Act to secure the making of an appeal to His Majesty the King in Council from the decision of the High Court in the case brought by the Commonwealth against the State of New South Wales for an alleged infringement of the Commonwealth Constitution in the matter of Interstate trade in wheat?
– The matter is receiving consideration.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers’ are -
In respect of 3 and 4., the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has furnished the following replies: -
– Arising out of the answer-
– I wish to ask your ruling, sir, and I trust it will be understood that it is not only on this particular question that I am raising the point. Our Standing Orders enable us to ask questions without notice at one stageof the proceedings. Having proceeded tothe business of the day, we are entitled to ask questions of which notice has been given, and I should like your ruling as to whether it is in order immediately to proceed to interrogate Ministers by questions of which no notice has been p-iven, on the excuse or with the justification that they arise out of the answers given. I submit that that practice, if allowed, would enable honorable senators to go on pounding Ministers with question after question of which no notice had been given, to the violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of our Standing Orders.
– It is quite true that the Standing Orders provide no facilities for asking questions without notice after the time for giving notice of motions and questions has passed. However, it has almost invariably been the practice of the Senate, where a reply to a question is not considered sufficiently lucid-
– Questions on notice ?
The PRESIDENT__ Yes. It has been the practice to allow a further question arising out of the answer to elucidate the matter, and within reasonable limits I see no objection to that practice. It is the course I have hitherto pursued, an;i shall continue to pursue. It would not be possible to continually pound Ministers with questions, as Senator Millen suggests, so long as only questions legitimately arising out of the Ministerial answers were allowed to be put. I shall allow further questions to be put if they are strictly legitimate, and arise definitely out of the answer already given to a question.
– After the very interesting instruction that Senator Millen has given you, sir, as to the manner in which you ought to conduct the business of the Senate–
– The honorable senator must not debate that matter.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence a question arising out of his statement that the wireless station at ‘King Island was dismantled in accordance with the policy of the Government to dismantle all private wireless stations not under Government control. Will the Minister say that that policy has been carried out throughout Australia, and that all private stations have beendemolished ?
– I am not in a position to say that all private stations have been demolished, but if the honorable senator will give notice of the question for to-morrow I shall endeavour to ascertain.
– Is it proper, sir, for a Minister to make, in reply to a question upon notice, a statement that is not in accordance with fact?
– So far as I was able to follow the Minister’s answer, he said, not that all private wireless stations were dismantled, but that it was the policy of the Government, acting on the advice of the naval and military authorities, to dismantle them.
– He implied that they had all been dismantled.
– I cannot say what was implied by the Minister’s answer. I can only say what his actual answer was. I would ask the honorable senator now to observe my ruling that no debate can be allowed on answers to questions, and that the practice of asking questions arising out of such answers cannot be pursued further at this stage.
– The honorable senator’s question was -
What was the object in destroying the only means of communication that the settlers on King Island had with the mainland and Tasmania? and my answer was -
The action taken in this case is in accordance with the general instructions issued, for defence reasons, to dismantle all wireless stations not under official control.
– I rise for the purpose of saying that I had no intention of insinuating that the Minister had made the statement with the object of misleading the Senate. But I did say - and I repeat-
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to make any statement. If this practice be allowed to continue, it will certainly give rise to all the evilsto which Senator Millen referred a little while ago. Our Standing Orders strictly provide that questions put to Ministers must not be argued. I must ask the honorable senator to conform as closely as possible to that standing order.
– I merely wanted to add that the instruction given by the Government has not been carried out.
– Order !
– I was unable to follow the reply of the Minister to the question relating to the matter of compensation, and I shall be very glad if he will repeat it.
– The answer to that question was “ No.”
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in the event of no evidence being sought or obtained from the mining interests in the Commonwealth by the Inter-State Commission on proposed alterations in the Tariff, the Government will intimate to the Commission the advisability of securing such evidence, in order that the report may be as complete as possible?
– The answer is-
The Inter-State Commission visited every State of the Commonwealth and afforded very full opportunities for the presentation of evidence on Tariff matters. The examination of witnesses terminated some months ago, and it is not thought desirable to suggest to the Commission at this stage that their public inquiries be re-opened.
Western Australian Coal
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer is -
It is presumed that the honorable senator’s question has reference to the tenders which were invited in October last for the supply of 14,000 tons of coal for delivery at Fremantle. I have been advised by the Engineer- in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways that the coal in question was required for storage and general stand-by, and that Collie coal is not suitable for storage purposes. It is fully intended to use Collie coal wherever practicable and wherever regarded as being suitable by the Departmental experts. I may mention that the Western Australian Government imports from New South Wales about one-third of its coal requirements.
Debate resumed from 14th April (vide page 2290), on motion by Senator Peakce-
That the Ministerial statement read to the Senate by the Minister of Defence on 14th April be printed.
– I should like to remind honorable senators, by way of preface, that, although this is actually a continuation of the session commenced in the autumn of last year, it is, for all practical purposes, the beginning of a new session. It was necessary, in the circumstances in which the Government found themselves situated, that Parliament should be kept in a position to be called together at any moment. But for that, the session would have closed in the ordinary way, and we should now have been meeting, as. in fact we are, at the commencement of a new session. It is for that reason, I presume, that the Government have seen fit to present to this Chamber the statement which we are now considering, and the Minister has moved that that paper should be printed, not because he desires it to be printed any more than it has already been printed, but in order to provide honorable senators with the opportunity which would have been theirs had the session been opened in the ordinary way by a debate on the Address from the Throne.
– This is a continuation of the session.
– It is. But the adjournment of Parliament was merely a device adopted to enable the Government to call Parliament together ac any moment if circumstances rendered that course necessary. We are, therefore, practically commencing a new session. At such a time, it is usual for honorable senators, and especially for members of the Opposition, to embrace the opportunity of reviewing the administrative acts of the Government during the recess, and of directing some attention to the programme for the session. When we met here at the commencement of this session, I was the recipient of more than a doubtful compliment from the Minister of Defence. H© paid me the compliment of having been brief in my remarks. I am willing to accept that compliment. It is one which is not too often heard in legislative halls. But he went on to say that it was one of the most pleasant speeches he had ever listened to from my lips in this Parliament. I am not quite certain that that compliment was entitled to be placed in any other category than that of reproach. But, whether it was a compliment or a reproach, I am afraid that I shall render myself liable to a repetition of it on this occasion. When we met on the occasion to which I have referred, we were then, as now, meeting with the knowledge that the one matter which transcended all others in importance - which was filling our minds to the exclusion of all others - was the great war, in which is involved the fate of the Empire. The position is exactly the same to-day. It is true that a certain period has elapsed which has enabled us to adjust our ideas a little more accurately, but the fact remains that this war is still undecided. The reasons which then induced me to refrain from anything in the nature of a critical examination of the Government programme, or to venture a reference to its administrative acts, are those which prompt m© to-day to adopt a similar course - as, indeed, they ought to prompt any public man with a full sense of his responsibilities. Therefore, I do not propose to occupy the time of the Senate for more than a few minutes. This war still overshadows us, and, in comparison with its vital importance, all other matters which at ordinary times might excite our interest, or appeal very strongly to our reason, sink into absolute insignificance. I candidly confess that I find it extremely difficult to interest myself in those other matters. I believe that in saying that I am merely expressing the’ attitude of the general citizen of this country. It is to me inconceivable that honorable senators can address themselves with any seriousness to quite insignificant ‘ matters when at the present moment the fate of the Empire is undecided.
– Many of the other things arise out of the war.
– So far as they are connected with the war, they are matters which should receive our attention. But I am not referring to them. Seeing that the situation to-day is the same as it was then, I feel that it is only necessary for me to repeat the assurance which was then given. I can repeat it with all the more emphasis to-day, because that assurance has been already given by a higher authority’ in the party than myself - by the Leader of the Opposition - and I venture to say that it has been buttressed by the action of the Opposition ever since the advent of the present Government to power. The Government are assured of the hearty co-operation of the Opposition in anything they may do to assist in carrying the war to a successful conclusion. In saying that, I do not merely mean that assistance will be given to them in any action which they may take here. I go further, and say that the Opposition will be found disposed to give the Government the fullest powers for which they may feel called upon to ask, and will consider it its duty not to pass too closely under review their administrative acts, or to criticise them too minutely. Before passing from this matter may I say that I read with considerable pleasure the intimation in the Ministerial statement that the .Government are disposed to take a somewhat brighter view of the outlook of the war than apparently they felt justified in doing when this Parliament met a few months* ago’. There are indications in the statement - prompted, I presume, by official communications with the Home authorities/ - that matters in connexion with the war are proceeding, if slowly and painfully, still satisfactorily. We have been induced to hope so much from the news which has come -to us in scanty form through the newspapers, that it is a gratification to us all to find that there is throughout the paragraphs of the statement read here yesterday a distinctly optimistic note. There is one phrase used in it to which I should like specially to refer -
We face the opening of spring with the highest hopes of success in this great struggle for freedom.
I think we all entertain these hopes, but I should like to remind honorable senators and Ministers that hopes are not going to win this campaign. We shall be entitled to entertain these hopes in proportion as Australia, in common with the rest of the Empire, decides to put forward the best effort of which she is capable in order to convert such hopes into realities.
– Are we not doing it?
– I am not saying that we are not, and the honorable senator cannot assume from anything I have said that that is the view I take. I trust that the speeches which will be made in this Parliament in connexion with the? war will be designed as much for the encouragement of public opinion as- for any influence they may be expected to have upon members of the Parliament. I have said that in my view the war overshadowseverything else, and it is for that reason I distinctly regret the announcement made by the Minister of Defence in reply to an interjection of mine in which he made it quite clear that it is the intention of the Government to proceed with their full party programme this session. That statement, whilst having all the authority of a Ministerial statement, has also been given to the country, though not in such a decisive form, by other members of the Ministry, and particularly by the Prime Minister. Yesterday an interjection was made hene, I believe by Senator de Largie, to the effect that there is no party now. Might I suggest to tha Government, and to honorable senators, that the cessation of party warfare in the presence of this overwhelming crisis muse surely be reciprocal. There cannot be a cessation of party warfare by one side simply ceasing to try to give ‘effect to iti political views, whilst the other side insists on giving effect in the fullest extent to the political views it holds.
– The honorable senator would not accept that offer during the elections.
– I ,am glad to get that interjection, because I should like to say that we are to-day faced with an entirely different position. If Senator Needham refers to the proposal to abandon the elections, it was clearly shown at the time that there was no constitutional or legal means by which that could have been done. The question whether the people should choose those into whose1 hands they wished to give the administration of the country was one thing, but, the people having made their choice, the question whether’ Parliament should h& called upon to devote all its energies, capacity, and patriotism to a united effort to . strengthen the hands of the Government in dealing with the big matters which now call for attention, or whether it should be compelled by the action of the members of the Government themselves to become the arena of heated1 party controversy is an entirely different thing.
– The honorable senator’s party opposed these matters at the elections.
– What matters?
– The matters which the honorable senator has just mentioned.
– Can the honorable senator give us a word or two in explanation of the practical application of these principles manifested at Bendigo?
– I can; but I »m sorry to have to do so. During my visit to Bendigo there was placed in my hands a report of speeches by Ministers in which they used the war and matters associated with it for the purpose of influencing the votes of the electors on that occasion.
– We were accused of trading with the enemy.
– And I was accused of it in this chamber. We can leave that alone. I put to honorable senators and to the country a position which appears to me to be far more important than the little matters introduced by Senator Russell. I am pleading for a different state of affairs from that to which the honorable senator refers.
– I am pleading for the application of the principle.
– So am I. I have given my justification for the interpretation I placed upon it. The Ministerial statement which is before us admits that we are not, to-day, somewhat slightly interested relatives of Great Britain trying to help her in a struggle that is hers, but refers to the struggle that is taking place as “ our war.” And it is our war. That being the case, may I appeal to honorable senators to, as far as they can, put the Government in the best possible position to prosecute their portion of the. efforts made to carry the war to a successful conclusion. What is the position to-day? There is no one who lias had even a few months’ parliamentary experience who will for a moment dispute the statement that there is sufficient work to be done in connexion with the war to exhaust the energy, and demand the most minute attention, of the most active Ministers who ever held office.
– Should urgently necessary legislation be delayed simply because a state of war exists, though it may have a party aspect?
– No. Legislation which is urgently necessary must, in my opinion, be legislation connected with the war. Otherwise, I say it is not urgent. Nothing is urgent to-day but the adoption of the best means to prosecute the war to a successful issue.
– What about the price of food?
– The cost of living is a very urgent matter.
– I decline to be drawn on one side to the consideration of matters apart from the general principle I. am enunciating.
– There is another reason, and that is that it would be a little bit awkward.
– I quite understand that there is a type of mind which cannot for a moment recognise seriousness in an opponent, and that is unable to be serious itself in the consideration of even the most important questions. I aru entitled to put the position before the Senate, and I say that no one will venture to contradict the statement that matters arising out of the war are of sufficient magnitude and frequency to demand every moment of. Ministerial time. If there is any member of the Ministry who should be free to deal with these matters, he is, not even excepting the Prime Minister, the Minister in charge of the Defence Department. I am speaking with a knowledge of what happened during the first months of the war. Though we may assume that matters have to some extent fallen into a beaten track, there must be still a thousand and one new problems coming up for consideration by the Minister of Defence. In the circumstances it is, to my mind, little less than criminal that the mau charged with the conduct of our Expeditionary Forces, and the many matters involved in the control of the Defence Department during the present crisis, should be spending a single moment at the Minister’s table opposite to me in this chamber. The Opposition have offered to place the Government m possession of the fullest powers for which they think it necessary to ask for the purpose of prosecuting the war.
– The honorable senator’s generosity overwhelms me.
– I say that the offer has been made, not by me. but by those who are entitled to speak for the party on this side, and made in all sincerity . I believe that even the more responsible members of the Labour party accept the offer in the same good faith in which it has been made.
– We could do it without the assistance of the Opposition.
– It could be done without the assistance of the Opposition in this chamber, certainly. Am I to understand that, because we are iri a minority in this chamber, our honorable friends opposite scorn the co-operation of their political opponents in carrying the war to a successful issue?
– No; I object to the honorable senator making a virtue of necessity.
– I am not making a virtue of necessity at all.
– You are parading your generosity.
– It is nob a matter of generosity at all. I want to bring home to honorable senators opposite, and to Ministers themselves, this fact, that in my judgment Parliament ought not to have been called together to deal with anything except matters arising out of the war, and that beyond that Ministers should be set as free as possible to devote their energies and their time to the prosecution of this war. What has been done elsewhere? That is the course that has been followed in Great Britain. The Prime Minister there, speaking recently about the matter, said he assumed that any other course than that to which I refer would be received with a considerable feeling of anger by the people and the parties. In Great Britain, Parliament meets and passes the necessary war legislation, granting the Government the fullest powers possible, with the result that the Government there is in the position of an autocrat by reason of the power accorded to it by the united Parliament.
– Would the honorable senator pass that power over to our Government ?
– There would not be the slightest demur to giving the Government the fullest powers necessary for the prosecution of the war. That is a clear and specific statement. It does not appear to be at all reasonable, nor does it indicate anything in the nature of states-, manship, that the Government should use these immunities for the purposes of party propaganda. Not only would the Government be clothed with the fullest powers, but they would have the assurance that their political opponents would not be too critical of them in the exercise of those powers. Except in regard to the necessary legislation which we are bound to pass. Ministers should be set free from attendance in Parliament, and the harassment which must follow a heated party session. There is that alternative before the Government, and, according to the choice which they make, the country will be able to determine from the result whether they have been successful in placing the interests of the Empire before the interests of party.
There are two or three quite minor matters which arise out of the presentation of this document. The first is the publication of a list of figures as to the number of troops sent abroad and in training. I hope that the presence of this document and of those figures is indicative of the obligation resting upon the Government to adopt a more reasonable rule in regard to censorship than that previously existing. Not long ago, the military authorities were insisting that it was little short of criminal to disclose any figures at all connected with the movement of our troops, and in many other ways they imposed on the journals of this country measures of restriction in excess of the needs of the case.
– There was reason existing then which does not exist now.
– I presume the honorable senator means the presence of enemy ships.
– That is one reason.
– I am not going toeclosely into the details, but there were other reasons which animated the authorities in declaring that no newspapers should give particulars as to the numbers of the troops. Even if a parade took place in the city, newspapers were prohibited from giving any particulars,, and that, I say, was carrying the thing to a ridiculous extent. I am hopeful that time, experience, and calmer judgment will induce the authorities to relax their restrictions. I do not say that, we should publish information which would be of use to the enemy, but the temperament of the Australian people is; such that they would resent any refusal to give information the publication of which would not be detrimental in tha public interest.
– We get information sometimes from the English newspapers.
– Yes ; I have known information to be banned here and to be sent out from England. Information concerning the movement of forces in the Pacific has been banned in Australia, and newspapers from New Zealand have
Arrived here giving illustrations and an account of those movements.
– There was the case of the Audacious.
– Yes; but that case was afterwards proved to be not so serious as was at first stated. The authorities here have allowed an excess of zeal to carry them beyond the requirements of the situation ; but I am hopeful, now that the figures have been published, that the powers of censorship will be used in a more reasonable manner.
There is one other matter to which I want to refer, and, next to the war, it is the most serious question with which we are confronted. It is closely connected with the war. I refer to the matter of finance. We shall have shortly an opportunity, on the presentation of the Budget, or of a Supply Bill, to go more fully into the matter; therefore, I propose only to indicate one or two aspects which are of a disquieting nature. It is evident that our expenditurehas gone up beyond the anticipations of a few months ago. I am merely stating the fact, not criticising the expenditure, as indicating the financial responsibility we shall have to face before long. The point that I wish to bring before the Senate, as showing the seriousness of the position, is that not a single penny of the war expenditure has yet been found by Australia.
– Australia is responsible for the expenditure.
– Yes; but there is a difference between what a man or a country borrows to-day and what it may be called upon to repay when the loan becomes due. We are incurring a liability which will add to our annual outlay later on, and we are nob receiving sufficient income to meet our ordinary expenditure. As we are not paying anything towards the cost of the war, and shall have to do so eventually, the position is this : that our annual income being insufficient to-day to meet our expendi ture, when we add to it the amount that will be involved in the redemption of the loan, we shall find ourselves confronted with very serious financial difficulties.
– That is assuming that none of that obligation is taken off our shoulders by the payment of a war indemnity by our enemies.
– Even if some of the obligation is taken off our shoulders - and we may as well recognise that it will be one thing to put down an amount in a document-
– It is a possibility.
– I have no doubt that an indemnity will be demanded, and if the matter rested in my hands, I would see that the amount was so heavy that those who brought about this outrageous war would not be anxious to repeat it at an early date. In my opinion, no indemnity can be placed on any nation to-day which will in any way meet the cost of the war; the figures are too big.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - You did not view with any favour last session our taxation proposals to meet the deficit.
– The only objection I raised last session to the proposed additional taxation was that not a single penny of it was to go to meet the cost of the war. I never discussed the merits of the new taxes, but what I did was to point out then, as I do now, that, so far, we have not done a single thing to raise a penny towards meeting the cost of the wax; in other words, we are financing the war out of borrowed money. I am making no objection to that, and I do not know that anything else could have been done. My purpose in referring to the matter was merely to point out that on the termination of the war, instead of borrowing money, we will have to pay back at least some portion of what we have borrowed. Remembering also that there is a deficiency to-day between ordinary revenue and expenditure, it does occur to me that the financial position ahead is one which is gloomy in the extreme.
– Do not overlook the fact that we are a lender as well as a borrower.
– But the Government are only lending what they have borrowed from another source.
– Pound for pound.
– No fear.
– We are going to lend the States £18,000,000. What are the Government doing? £10,000,000 they are going to get from the hanks, and in proportion as the States pay us back we have to pay back to the banks.
– Do not forget that the banks have a security worth £50,000,000.
– Security for what? Not for £50,000,000, but for £10,000,000. The banks have given the Commonwealth £10,000,000 in gold, and the notes are not worth more than that amount. Honorable senators must recognise this fact, and the Government recognise it by the agreement they made with the banks, that on the termination of the war the notes are to flow back to the Treasury, because they made a stipulation with the banks not to present the notes until after the close of the war.
– Is that the only consideration ?
– The amount we are lending to the States is the amount which we shall be called upon to pay back to the banks. Now the banks are entitled to present their notes for redemption at the end of the war. The States are not going to be called upon to make their refund so soon, because it would bankrupt the States if the Commonwealth Government took that course. The States will have to be allowed a longer period in which to repay.
– So will the Commonwealth.
– The banks are entitled under their agreement with the Commonwealth Government to present the notes the moment the war is over.
– Will they do it?
– They are entitled to do it. I have not the slightest doubt that when the war is over - and it is a question of whether it will not be before - this rather inflated note issue of to-day ‘ will be found to be in excess of the requirements of the people.
– But it is not inflated. ,
– The Government themselves, I say, by the agreement with the banks, have been fearful all along - or shall I say prudently cautious - of the natural tendency of the notes to go back to the Treasury, because one of the terms of the agreement was that the banks would help the Government by not presenting the notes for redemption.
– It is beyond argument that we will have to finance the- £10,000,000.
– That is so; but some honorable senators seemed to think that I was criticising the actions of theGovernment. I was endeavouring, on the other hand, simply to state the facts. I. wish honorable senators would get that into the back of their heads, and not immediately assume when I state facts that I am criticising the Government.
– It is not your facts to which I take exception, but yourstatement of facts.
– What has been wrong in the statement of facts I havemade here to-day ? The Minister of Defence has just admitted that the Government will have to redeem the loan of £10,000,000 from the banks. I conceive - that we are entitled to still keep this problem in view in order that we shall balance matters as far as we can see mentally in considering what action we are to take in the future. I want to point out that, apart from the assistance of theImperial authorities which has been for the purpose of financing the war, the key to the Government’s finance has been the note issue; there is no question about that.
– You are glad that you helped it along.
– That, I think, is a little ungenerous on the part of the honorable senator. The key to the Government’s finance, I repeat, has been the issue of notes. And that being so, I want to quote a phrase from this document on page 7-
The Australian Notes Fund could not have been used in the manner indicated without the assistance of the banks.
I do not know whether any one will assume that I am interpreting that phrase too widely when I take it as an admission that the Notes Fund by itself, and without the help of the banks, would have been practically of little use to us at the present moment.
– We have the power to legislate so that we could attain the same result.
– Yes, the Commonwealth Government could have commandeered the gold in the banks, and, as a last resort, they would be entitled to tlo it. In a national emergency I do not question the power of the Government to do anything. ‘ I am not dealing with that issue now, but am pointing out, first, that the key of the Government’s finance was first the issue of the notes; and, second, that this document contains an admission by the Government that the notes by themselves would have been of little value. It is the action and the cooperation of the banks, with their supply of gold, which has enabled the Government to use the Notes Fund as advantageously as they have done.
– Where would we have been if there had been no note issue ?
– Where would the Commonwealth Government have been but for the banks? This document admits that the Notes Fund could not have been used in the manner indicated but for this vitalizing influence supplied by the banks. It is not the Government who are assisting the banks to-day, but the banks which, on the admission of this document, have been enabling the Government to impart to the Notes Fund an extent of usefulness which would have been entirely absent but for the cooperation of the banks. The financial obligations will intensify as time goes on. On the other hand, our resources for meeting them, so far as the Notes Fund is concerned, are, as I think I will show from this document and other sources, nearly exhausted. Some honorable senators may argue that by drawing further on the supply of gold we could place the Government in a position to issue a further amount of notes, but I think it is quite evident to those who have read this document that even the Government recognise that they have reached the limit at which notes can be safely issued. According to this document, the Government have just now not only borrowed from the Imperial authorities for the purposes of the war, but have borrowed £3,500,000 from them for the purpose of carrying on public works. If the Government were in a position to issue an additional amount of notes with- safety, there was, I submit; no reason why they should have gone to the Imperial authorities for money for any purpose outside the prosecution of the war. But the fact that they have borrowed for public works to the extent of £3.500,000 is, I think, va recognition by the Government that they cannot pursue the policy of issuing notes to an unlimited extent, and that they are getting sufficiently near the margin of safety to render it prudent on their part to call a halt, and look elsewhere for the money they need for public works. That seems to me to be the position, and I am not alone in that view. In reading the accounts of the Political Labour League’s Conference at Sydney, I noticed that Mr. Holman, in discussing that interesting document - the Norton-Griffiths agreement - referred to the claim of those present that the note issue could be exploited to a greater extent. Mr. Holman said “ he did not believe in the issue of a large amount of paper money beyond a certain limit, and that limit was fast being approached.” I think that he” was stating a simple fact. In my opinion, this document shows that the Government themselves recognise that they cannot proceed along the road which they have travelled to a much greater extent, otherwise they would surely abstain from borrowing, not for defence, which I put in a different category, but for the purpose of public works in Australia, if they had the money available from the Notes Fund ?
– Can you tell us when the war is going to end ?
– The honorable senator is aware, of course, that neither I nor anybody else knows that.
– That is our position, and we have to look out for that.
– The Government to-day are entitled to call up 7,000,000 sovereigns from the banks. With that gold in the Treasury, the Government would be entitled to issue £28,000,000 worth of paper money. If the note issue is capable of an unlimited extension, the Government, instead of borrowing £3,500,000 from the Imperial authorities for public works, could have used the money in the Notes Fund for the purpose of carrying on public works. I am not quarrelling with what Ministers are doing. I think that they show a proper recognition of the facts of the situation when they recognise that we cannot go on issuing notes to an unlimited extent.
– No one ever said the opposite, either.
– Mr. Holman did” not say it.
– No; but it has been alleged, and is to-day affirmed and believed by a large number of persons throughout Australia, that the Government could, by the issue of paper money, finance public works to any extent.
– No Labour man made that statement.
– The sole purpose of my observations has been to try to bring home to honorable senators that today we are financially in a position which is going to call for the most careful thought and the most prudent action on the part of those charged with the responsibility of managing our affairs. That is the position, and I do not know that, I have said a single word to which honorable senators, if they are prepared to dispossess themselves for a moment of party prejudices, can take any exception. It appears to me that the big national questions for the moment - the war and its financial problems - are going to make the heaviest demand on our administrators, and, in spite of what they can do, I venture to say that, without the hearty co-operation of all sections of the community, and loyalty on the part of both private and public men in rallying together to endeavour to face the trials ahead, we shall find, not merely our parliamentary concerns, but our national affairs, in a very parlous condition indeed. At any rate, no harm can be done in considering them as far as we possibly can before we are called upon to deal with them. I have invited the Government’s consideration as to whether even now, at the eleventh hour, they would not be better advised to try to limit our work here to those matters which are associated with the war, in order that Ministers could have their hands free for administrative purposes, in order that they could absolutely shut out all party feeling from the walls of Parliament, and assure themselves of the hearty support and cooperation of those who ordinarily are opposed to them. I still think that there should be made known outside as widely as possible the serious results which are attendant upon the war. and in consequence of that there will be a continuation of that intention and determination to support the Government in anything they can do to see that Australia loyally and energetically discharges the obligation in respect to the war which she has taken upon herself.
– I feel that I echo the feelings of honorable senators present when I say that we are thankful to the Government for giving us this informal opportunity to express our opinions on matters as they have developed during the long adjournment. The statement submitted to ustakes the place of the ordinary AddressinReply, and although I am not, and never have been, an admirer of that obsolete practice, still I think on the present occasion, owing to the exceptionally trying experience through which we are passing, there is every reason for us to be glad that the Government have given, us an opportunity to discuss the events that have taken place since we last met here. I was pleased to hear the friendly note sounded at the beginning and end of the Leader of the Opposition’s speech, but unfortunately he fell away from that high standard in the middle of his address. He began well, and finished well, but, while he did not actually commit himself to a hostile form of criticism, he certainly indicated his displeasure at the course that the Government propose to» take in adhering strictly to the letter of the programme laid down by them when first intrusted with the reins of office. The Government would he false to their pledges unless they tried to make some headway with the programme on which they were elected.
– And never mind the circumstances)
– Independent of the circumstances. It is quite true that it would be of great advantage to the Leader of the Opposition to secure a truce on all matters affecting the public welfare while the war was in progress, because so long as things remain as they are he and his party will score all the time. Those gentlemen are here, sir, with the object of bringing about the former order of things. Every day on which they succeed in maintaining the status quo is to them a day of victory. They and their party want to stand still, and it is, therefore, only natural that they should ask for a truce, so that they may avoid as long as possible putting to the test those measures which we, at all events, feel to be in the interests of the bulk of the people. With the Lep der of the Opposition, I recognise that Australia, in common with every other civilized nation in the world - and also Ger- many - is engaged in one of the most terrible struggles recorded in human history. . It is incumbent upon us, who belong to that great Empire which has taken up the cudgels on behalf of right and justice, to make every effort to bring the war to a glorious conclusion. I am sure that what the Government have done may be taken as an earnest of what they are prepared to do until the exertions of the Allies are crowned with success. We can well draw a big lesson from this war. It is very necessary that we should bend all our energies and exhaust all our resources to see that the arms of the Mother Country and her Allies are strengthened in this struggle, and this is, therefore, no time to talk about remedies for future cases. This is hardly the occasion to dogmatize, or experiment, or to talk about what may happen if ever such another monumental exhibition of human folly is given as we have seen during the last seven or eight months; but I honestly believe that the time lias come when all the nations that claim to be civilized should radically remodel their ideas as to the way in which wars should be undertaken, if we are ever pressed to such a cruel necessity.
Up to the present, owing to our peculiar methods of government, and the insidious influences which strong personalities and parties are able to exercise in different countries, the voice of the people has not been heard on the question of the declaration of war. In order to bring about a radical change in that regard, it is absolutely necessary that we should come to some common understanding as to how war should be declared in the future. My proposal is that the nations which claim to be civilized should agree not to associate with any other nation unless that nation is prepared to consult the bulk of its adult population on the question of whether war should be entered upon.
– While you were taking that referendum the enemy would overrun you.
– There is hardly a proposal or expedient that has been offered since deliberative assemblies began but some ingenious critic like Senator Millen has pointed out its imaginary weaknesses, and predicted that something fatal might happen if something else happened previously. A slip-shod attempt was made by the nations in the past to bring about this peaceful order of things by the establishment of The Hague Conference, where the nations had informal talks as to what should be done to minimize, if not altogether prevent, the horrors of war. That expedient was attended with very little success. If the British Empire, which claims to be a Democracy, and the United States, which is a Democracy in theory if not in practice, agreed to enter into no league or treaty with any other country unless it agreed not to declare war until its adult populalation had been consulted, a solid advance would be made. This might be said to be impracticable, but it is worth trying, because our methods up to the present have proved a hopeless failure. Representative government has been cast to the winds, and a very important element in the political life of one of the enemy countries has had its views, if not actually stifled, at least not heard in the counsels of its country. The Socialists in Germany have been silenced or submerged. If any of the enemy countries had previously been warned that to enter upon a war without first consulting its adult population would lead to its being annihilated by a league of all the other civilized nations, the present disastrous conflict would probably never have taken place. I look forward to a strong union of nations like Great Britain, America, and France, which will give concrete expression to my idea, but until that time comes we can never expect that absolute cessation of war which every person who loves his kind desires. It is clear that such a policy would allow the play of reason to operate, and the animal passions that inhere so much in our nature would not be permitted to predominate. All the civilized nations of the world, if they joined together for this purpose, could force their views upon any other nation. I entertain the liveliest hopes that the present war will be brought to a successful issue, though I realize that we are not yet near the end. A long and weary track has still to be passed over, but having started with the first essential in any fight - a just cause - we believe that we shall succeed in the long run.
The Leader of the Opposition expressed the very hearty hope that a party truce would be arrived at in substance. That is a very laudable opinion for him to express at any time, because no person wishes to see the two parties at handgrips in this chamber, even though one is a big party and the other a very small one, at a time like the present; but, unfortunately, the honorable senator and his party have not set the worthy example which they want the Ministerial party to follow. If the Opposition set the example they will be entitled to exhort the Ministerial party to do what they have done. The honorable senator alluded to what had been done in the Old Country, and urged that, as was done there, Parliament should not be called together except to deal with matters arising out of the war. That practice has certainly been followed in the Old Country, but it “has been carried much further, for there the Opposition have religiously abstained from entering into any political contest where the retiring candidate was a Ministerialist. Unfortunately, the Opposition in this country, who now want the Ministerial party to mark time, made the first declaration of war on their own part when they decided to contest every seat held by the Ministerial party that could be contested up to date.
– At election time they made the war itself a party question, and wanted to score off it.
– I believe that is so. They contested the by-elections for Grampians and Bendigo - seats previously held by Ministerialists - and in those contests brought to bear all the forces they could muster to win an Opposition victory. The Leader of the Opposition, therefore, has every reason to go to the Bible for light and leading before he exhorts us to cry a truce.
– Those by-elections took place in the recess. Our proposal for a truce was made last session, and is only repeated now. Your party would not accept it then. The responsibility is therefore theirs.
– The war has been in progress since the 3rd August, and there have been two by-elections since. On each occasion the honorable senator’s party had an opportunity of following the worthy example of the Opposition in the Old Country by declining to contest seats which had been, held by Ministerialists. But, unfortunately, Senator Millen’s party chose to depart from that practice and to generate one of the fiercest exhibitions of party strife witnessed in Aus tralia for a long time. It chose to contest these two vacancies.
– The honorable senator’s idea of a party truce is that his opponent should go to sleep while he carries on his party propaganda.
– The honorable senator’s idea is that whenever Ministerial seats become vacant the Opposition should annex them, so that eventually they may be able to force their policy on the country.
– The arrangement at Home was conditional on the Government not proceeding with contentious party legislation.
– Of course, I suffer from the disadvantage of having to contend with a critic of the honorable senator’s ability. If there be any loophole for escape under the sun, or under the moon, or under the earth, we may be sure that the agility of the honorable senator will enable him to get through ft. If the Opposition had been sincerely desirous of squaring precept with practice, they would have refrained from contesting those two seats, just as did the Opposition in the Old Country, and Senator Millen would then have been justified in making the appeal which he made this afternoon. But, seeing that they declined to adopt that course, their professions stand stultified by their own practice.
There is another feature of the present position to which I feel called upon to refer. Hitherto, the party which now occupies the Ministerial benches have been systematically taunted with a want, of loyalty to the Mother Country. Our opponents have frequently gone out of their way to question our devotion to the British Empire. Of late, it is true, they have abandoned these attacks, but only because the people of Australia, having listened to that fairy tale so long, now turn a deaf ear to the libel. But how has our loyalty endured the supreme test to which it has been put by the present war ? We find that the party with which I am associated has not only proved equal in patriotism to our political opponents, but that it has risen superior to them on every occasion. Recently, figures were compiled by Mr. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statistician, which show the number of trade unionists who” are now serving with, our Expeditionary Forces abroad. According to those figures, the total number of unionists in the Commonwealth who are eligible for service are either with our Expeditionary Forces abroad, or who are in active training for such service, amounts to 6 per cent.’, whereas the number of non-unionists and of persons generally who are not favorable to our policy-
– Do not say that. Say “all others.”
– We all know that those outside the ranks of unionism are not particularly strong adherents of the Labour party. Of the number who supposedly were more devoted to the cause of the Empire, we find that only 4 per cent, have volunteered.
– The figures to which the honorable senator refers do not include all unionists who have gone to the front. They do not include members of the Australian Workers Union.
– It is about time that attention was drawn to these facts. If public attention is not now riveted upon the monstrous libel which has been circulated for years and years, that the Labour party is deficient in loyalty, it never will be focussed upon it. The impression which has been left upon the public mind will never be removed unless attention is directed to the valuable vindication which adherents of the Labour party have experienced at the hands of Mr. Knibbs. I repeat that from the party which has been repeatedly taunted with disloyalty a higher percentage of men has gone to the front than has gone from the adherents of the opposite political party, who have always boasted of their overwhelming loyalty and bursting patriotism .
I turn now to another phase of this question, which discloses the hollowness and hypocrisy of the case that has been sought to be established against our party. Recently this Parliament enacted legislation with the object of preventing trade with the enemy bv the commercial classes of the Commonwealth. Although the Act has been in operation only a few months, we find that some men engaged in commercial pursuits required looking after, and looking after very badly. Although they were prepared to attend public meetings, at which they were profuse in their professions of loyalty, we now know that when their pockets were touched they were disloyal in the extreme, and were even ready to sacrifice their country’s interests for the sake of personal gain. As the result of. inquiry from the Attorney-General’s Department, I learn that no less than twelve - of these gentlemen, whose loyalty has:not hitherto been questioned, and who-‘ have been prepared to go to extremes inexpressing their slobbersome devotion tothe Empire, have already been haled before the Courts and fined, for having attempted to make money by trading with, the enemy. In addition to that, there are fourteen others who are now on the carpet under suspicion of having beenguilty of the same offence. Having regard to the fact that 100 per cent, of those who have already been tried have been convicted, there is strong presumptive evidence that the remainder will suffer the same fate. It is an old saw that a straw indicates the direction of the wind. Small things indicate big things just as plainly as if they wereblazed across the firmament. If any want of loyalty has been exhibited amongst thecitizens of this country, unquestionably it has been exhibited by those who haveheretofore ostentatiously labelled themselves as patriots. In opposition to that,, it is worth while noting what the adherents of the Labour party have been doing. We have observed that throughout the Commonwealth . disturbanceshave taken place in industrial centres. Why? Not because the men were desirous of trading with the enemy. The truth is that they found themselvesworking on ships and in the country alongside of enemy subjects, and they sacrificed their earnings day after day rather than continue in that position. InPort Pirie, in Sydney, and in Western Australia, we find examples where supporters of the Labour party, without hesitation, sacrificed their means of livelihood for the purpose of upholding principles which they regarded as sacred; whilst, on the other hand, the commercial men of the community were endeavouring to make money all the time, even at the sacrifice of the Empire’s best interests.
I come now to the CommonwealthBank. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition in his address this afternoon skimmed very lightly over the long reference which is made in the Ministerial statement to this subject, and to the Australian note issue. We might have expected that, because, perhaps, he is under the impression that the work of the Ministerial party speaks for itself, and requires no extolling on his part. But lest the public outside should lose sight of the good results which have flowed from the establishment of that institution, they are worth recalling. During the present crisis, which is without a parallel in our history, the Australian note issue has been the direct means of sustaining the credit of the country up to date. But before dealing with that aspect of the matter, I want to correct one statement made by Senator Millen concerning the note issue. In referring to it he spoke of “ the rather inflated note issue of to-day.” Now I say advisedly that it is not wisdom on his part to refer to that form of currency in such language, because if there is any note of warning to be sounded, it certainly should not proceed from such an authoritative source, unless there is the most solid ground for uttering it. The Leader of the Opposition is not entitled to take the lead in casting a veiled” reflection on our Australian note issue. I hope that he did so iu haste, and whilst his mind was centred on other points connected with his subject. In his calmer moments he will, I am sure, realize that it is not the duty of the patriotic citizen, and least of all of the leader of a political party, to lead the public to believe that our note issue is inflated.
– The honorable senator does not call it normal, does he?
– Our note issue has to-day an ample backing of 40 per cent, gold. I do not offer my own amateur opinion on this matter. I do not know what opportunity Senator Millen may have had to acquire a deep knowledge of this subject, and to induce him to express the view that ours is a rather inflated note issue.
– Are not some members of the honorable senator’s party in favour of a note issue without any gold backing at all?
– If I .may answer the honorable senator, I say that it takes me all my time to be responsible for my own opinions. What I wish to direct attention to is that, whilst Senator Millen lias told the Senate and the country that we have a rather inflated note issue, the honorable senator should be sorry for what he has said. In order to enlighten the honorable senator and the country, let me say that the matter under discussion was previously, the subject of a searching inquiry in New South Wales. During that inquiry men of distinction, and with a lifelong experience of banking, testified that a very much lower percentage of gold would be quite sufficient for a note issue. A Commission was appointed in New South Wales in the early nineties, and the late Mr. Miller, who was then manager of the Bank of New South Wales, which I shall not advertise beyond saying that it was one of the banks which withstood the financial shocks of the early nineties, was asked by the Commission what gold backing was required for a note issue. He stated in evidence that, in his opinion, 3s. 6d. in the £1 would be an ample gold backing for every note issued.
– Mr. Miller was speaking on the assumption that the notes were convertible. The Government have made an arrangement with the banks that the notes are not to be converted.
– No such thing. Mr. Miller was asked the plain question as to what, in his opinion, would be a fair amount of gold to hold for the redemption of notes, and his answer was that it would be sufficient to hold 3s. 6d. against each note issued. Another manager - I think of the Bank of Australasia - said that as low as 2s. 6d. in the £1 would be an ample gold backing for the redemption of notes. It must he remembered that it was not, at that time, suggested to these gentlemen that a State bank should be established. They had not before their minds the issue of notes by a State bank when they testified that from 12 to 1G per cent, of gold at most would be a sufficient backing for a note issue. So that, in the opinion of the most experienced bankers in Australia, a gold reserve of from 12 to 25 per cent, is ample for the redemption of notes. Here, in connexion with the notes issued by the Commonwealth, we have behind them the resources of Australia, and, what is far more important, the credit of the whole of the people, anr! 40 per cent, in gold in addition : and yet the Leader of the Opposition tells us that a gold reserve of that percentage is not ample for our note issue.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable senator’s words still stand - “this rather inflated issue.” We could only make it less inflated by increasing the gold reserve.
– No; we could make it less inflated by withdrawing some of the notes. I object to the honorable senator twisting my argument in this way because he does not understand it.
– The honorable senator’s words were, “this inflated issue.” Notes to the value of £27,000,000 have been issued, and we know that if there were 27,000,000 sovereigns in the Treasury there would be no inflation. As there is a gold reserve of a fraction over 40 per cent., the issue is referred to by the Leader of the Opposition as rather inflated. That means that by putting more gold in the Treasury it would become less inflated.
– I do not wish to argue these niceties. I think the matter is sufficiently plain, and that the man who runs may read.
– The honorable senator will allow me to say that when I referred to the note issue as being inflated it was because there is an issue of £27,000,000 in a country which it has been shown normally requires only £10,000,000. I never questioned the solvency of the issue at all.
– When those men who have claims to be considered experts were called upon to express an opinion, they said that in the case of private banks from 16 to 25 per cent, was ample. Although in the case of the Commonwealth to-day there is a gold reserve of over 40 per cent., yet we are told that our note issue is “rather inflated.” I ani pleased to say that the’ predictions of our opponents in that regard have not come true. One of the wise gentlemen among the Opposition - a man who, I suppose, has been more or less successful in business - indulged in a witty saying regarding the note issue. “This proposal,” he said, “ contains the germs of disaster.” Where is the disaster that has been produced? I can only say that since our opponents have already placed on record their appreciation of the note issue in helping to finance the Commonwealth in the present Parliament, that in itself is a- sufficient credential without any words of mine to reinforce it. The Opposition said before the last election that this country was secure. Why did they make that statement? It was because we had a note issue. Why did the country have a note issue ? Because it had a Labour Government to establish the note issue. Did the Labour Government do that with the support of the Opposition? No. The Opposition said that our proposal contained the germs of disaster; but we are pleased that, just as in regard to the development of every other proposition tackled by the Labour Government, it has been attended by success. The note issue has been the positive financial salvation of this country up to date. It has helped the Government, not only to finance the requirements of the Commonwealth, but to finance the States. Aye. and even private banks, as well as private individuals.
– What about the British Joan? Did it not have anything to do with the salvation of the country?
– I desire to speak a word or two about the Commonwealth Bank. Senator Millen, of course, slid very gently over that ice, and it is just as well that he did. He made a slight reference to a paragraph on page 7 of the Ministerial statement-
The Australian Notes Fund could not hare been used in the manner indicated without the assistance of the banks, which have agreed not to present notes at the Treasury for gold until the close of the war.
That is quite true; but in regard to that arrangement there is always the other feature to be presented - that the note issue could not have been the help it was without the assistance of the banks. No more could the banks have assisted this country without the aid of the note issue. The position is just the same as if I was in the back country and wanted to get a ton of merchandise carted out from a railway station. If my team were inadequate for the purpose, and I obtained two horses from a neighbour, of course, with the aid of the horses I could get the ton of merchandise landed at its destination, and it could properly be said of me that I could not have achieved that result except with the aid and the help of my neighbour ; but I would know that he came to my assistance as a neighbourly act. or to gain an advantage for himself in the future. Had not the banks come to the assistance of the Commonwealth Government, what would have been the result? Would we not have had a certain dislocation of trade throughout the country? Whilst I am willing to give credit, to the banks for their action, let me remind Senator Millen that they could not have done what they did on their own account. It is a case of mutual co-operation, in which two parties co-operated in a very creditable spirit.
– What advantage is it to a bank to get a note for a sovereign? There is an advantage to the Treasurer, because he could issue three other notes on the strength of that sovereign.
– The note issue has kept the gold in the Commonwealth. It has enabled the people of this country to trade, because, after all, 4,000,000 persons must have some credit, the same as any person of passable repute has credit. The people of this country had no credit until the Fisher Government gave them the power to trade. The note issue could not exist on its own; it wanted a gold base, and by that means it has enabled the Government to circulate £4 for every sovereign deposited in the Treasury. That is an advantage to the banks. It was a transaction praiseworthy to all parties, and no particular share of praise ought to be given to the banks. Had they not come to the rescue we would have had a serious shortage, and such a disruption in our industrial and commercial life as possibly to bring about a repetition of the distress and unemployment experienced in the past - in times, by the way, when Liberal Governments could not cope with the difficulties which the Fisher Government happily have been able to cope with to such an extent that the position of the country is as solid and sound as a bell. This result has been accomplished by a Government who have been exposed to much criticism.
We also have had a further reference to the Commonwealth Bank, which I will help Senator Millen to memorize. We were told by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Cook - I do not know how many times, for I have lost count - that the Bank was being called into existence for the purpose of injuring private banks.
– It was your party who said that.
– But so far from injuring the private banks, the Commonwealth Bank has actually come forward to their help, if not to their rescue. It is a strange role to be filled by a bank which was said to be incubated in a spirit of revenge, with a design to injure other banks, that it should be» their actual saviour at the present time. We have lived and learned, as we always do. The predictions of our opponents have been falsified in regard tothe Commonwealth Bank as well as in regard to the Government, the note issue, and every other big reform which has been carried to a successful issue by the Labour party.
Our proposal to establish a Navy was also opposed. It was referred toby members of the Opposition as a “mosquito fleet”; but where are our critics now? The Labour party brought the Navy into existence, but we do not hear any criticisms now. Thus one more prophecy is tossed overboard, one more prediction is pulverized. We had to wait for good old Time to vindicate the party on the Treasury bench. I am pleased at the progress which the Commonwealth. Bank has made, and at the thought that in three months it has increased its deposits by £500,000. That shows the expanding confidence which is making itself manifest everywhere in this grand institution. What do we find when we turn to the other end of the world? Amongst the banks of the Old World, according to this Ministerial statement, the Commonwealth Bank and the Bank of England were the only two banks which kept their doors open, and did not take advantage of the moratorium passed by the Imperial Parliament. What have our opponents and critics to say on that point now ? Nothing ! Of course, they cannot say anything. They are as scarce on the landscape as a rabbit would be on the Sahara. We do not hear our opponents criticising the Commonwealth Bank, because the operation of time has brought out the weakness and thefalsification of the arguments they used in times past against our proposal. I am also pleased that the Government have taken advantage of their power, although it was a very extraordinary thing to do, to remit the duties on hay, chaff, and fodder entering the Commonwealth.
Although the revenue has not been too buoyant, still we find the Fisher Government sufficiently alive to the primary industries to do a thing which I have not heard of as being done before, in order to help the primary industries during dry times. Those of us who are acquainted with the dry conditions in the inland parts of Australia, and. know the hardships which many a settler lately in the ranks of the wage earners has had to undergo, cannot too highly appreciate the action of the Fisher Government in making fodder free of duty. Ministers have, it is true, gone behind the back of Parliament.
– Have not the Government made fodder free for the carters in the cities as well ?
– Of course they have, even for the hunting horse of the man who rides in the cab.
– You are asking the farmers to fall down ‘on their knees to !bless you.
– What I am endeavouring to’ point out is that the Government, realizing the disastrous character of the season, did not wait for» a command from Parliament to remit the duties on fodder. Knowing the desperate position of some men who cannot get fodder to keep their horses alive - and Senator Shannon will support my statement - I cannot appreciate too highly the statesmanlike act of the Labour Government during the last few months. They did not hesitate to do a thing which many a Government would not dream of doing; they have given a chance to farmers and settlers to cling to their holdings through being able to get cheaper fodder to keep hungry horses alive and get a crop in. How often have the present Government been told that they were not a farmers’ Government? How often has the quintette who remain in the Senate told the people of this country that the enemies of the farmers are to be seen on the Treasury bench ?
– The- Tariff shows that.
– What more could the Fisher Government have done ? They remitted the duty on fodder and showed themselves to be the real friends of the farmers, without waiting for a direction from Parliament. They took a step which, ordinarily speaking, would have justified a vote of censure.
– You speak as a farmer ?
– Unfortunately, I do.
– Are you in favour of fodder duties in normal times ?
– Of course I am, but these are not normal times. I have no need to tell the honorable senator that the Tariff was not made for abnormal times. It was made to advance the interests of this country, and although it was about to press severely upon many an anxious farmer and settler throughout the Commonwealth, the present Government stepped forward and did everything they could to ease the burden on his back. Are our opponents truly sorry for what they have said of the Labour party in the past? I hope that they will be sorry. I do not know whether they want to be tested according to the Christian or the old Egyptian code. The new Christian code is that a person is held responsible for the acts he is guilty of, whereas under the old Egyptian code a person was condemned for the acts he had omitted to do. I verily believe that the old Egyptian code will be the safer one for our honorable friends to be tested by. In fact, their sins of omission and commission have been so numerous that -‘t would be a good thing to re-establish the Egyptian code in order to -allow them to escape the fury which awaits them in the future.
I would like honorable senators on the other side to remember that the party they represent in a great measure in the country ought to be particularly thankful to the Fisher Government for financing the war as they have done.
Senator- Millen. - You mean to the Imperial Government?
– In other countries a very stiff tax would be imposed such as has been imposed on persons in the Old Country who are able to pay. So far, that has not been the case here. While it will be necessary for the Government to resort to the power of taxation to cover the expenditure of the war, still, owing to the disastrous times we have had wisdom prevails in the ranks of the Ministerial party, and no taxation is to be imposed until the productive energies of the country are in a state to stand the strain.- - So the Opposition should be thankful that their main supporters have been allowed to escape so long; but let them not take that fact as a guarantee that they will escape always. I believe that the burden will be fairly adjusted. I believe that when we get a return to normal seasons and the cruel war is over we shall be able to adjust the burden in such a way as will entail no hardship to any individual, and at the same time will secure the finances of this country. The items in this statement so far as I have had time to criticise them have appealed to me very favorably. I am particularly impressed with the way the Government havehandled the situation. I only hope that with the return of good seasons and the cessation of hostilities, Australia, in common with our Allies in the war, will experience a lengthened era of prosperity.
– I must confess that after listening to the very able speech that, as usual, we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition I address myself to this question with a certain amount of trepidation. In that gentle pleading language, of which he is a master, he has appealed to us not to encroach on the domain of party or controversial politics, and after listening to a great portion of his speech I felt that I should almost be committing sacrilege if I turned a deaf ear to his pleadings. I confess that it is my intention to deal with one or two questions which may be considered as of a party nature, because whilst I agree with the honorable senator that the titanic struggle in which the nations of the world are engaged is of paramount importance, not only to those of our kith and kin who are risking their lives on the battlefield, but also to those of us who remain in this country, I realize at the same time that it would be foolish for this National Parliament to stand idly by and pass no legislation except that immediately connected with the war. As a result of that very war, of which I trust the world will never see the like again, there is misery and distress within the four corners of our island continent. ‘ That distress is very keen, and has been accentuated bythe unfortunate seasons that we have experienced. When the wouldbe over-lord of Europe declared war on the nations of the world, the elements in Australia declared war against us, and five of the States have had a very severe drought. We have a large amount of misery and distress owing to unemployment, and it is therefore imperative for this Parliament to introduce and pass legislation to relievo the situation. It is all very well for Senator Millen, speaking, I presume, on behalf of the party with which he is associated in both branches of the Parliament, to say that they are willing to give the present Government full power to deal with war questions and war issues. I was amused at Senator Long’s interjection about the honorable senator’s amazing generosity. Whilst I thank him for his intentions, which I believe to be sincere, his assurances in that regard were totally unnecessary, because the Government already have power without the consent or assistance of the Opposition to do everything possible for the protection of this country, and in regard to every other kind of legislation that will be beneficial to the people who placed them through the ballot-box in their present position.
– They are by no means doing what is possible.
– If the honorable senator means to imply that the Government are not doing all that they could do in connexion with the war, I entirely disagree with him, and will prove that he is wrong.
– I do say so.
– The honorable senator’s leader, who was Minister of Defencewhen war was declared, and the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Joseph Cook, also made a statement that the Government were not doing all they could and should do to assist the Empire in this world-wide struggle, and those statements received a considerable amount of prominence in the Australian press. Both those gentlemen asserted that we must sand to the front 100,000 men. They practically told the people that the Labour Government were not doing all they could to send as many men as possible to help the Allies to victory. Let me tell the honorable senator what really occurred. The Minister of Defence could not reply in public to those allegations. His lips were sealed, and every sensible man knows why. He had from the Imperial authorities information that he could not disclose. He had local knowledge of the abilities of Australia to fit. equip, train, and transport troops. Was he then to open his mouth, and tell the people of the world the actual facts of the position, and thus give information to the enemy that we are endeavouring to destroy? Of course he could not do it. If he could have made the statement which was in his possession, he would have thrown the ranks of the Liberal party into confusion. The AttorneyGeneral, who was at that time Acting Prime Minister, sent to Mr. Cook a certain confidential State document, which explained the whole position, thus taking that gentleman into the confidence of the Government, and from that day to this neither Mr. Cook nor Senator Millen has repeated in public the statements they then made, nor have they had the common courtesy or manliness to withdraw or apologize for them. Both owed an apology not only to the Government, but to the Australian nation, because the substance of their public allegations was that we in Australia were indolent or indifferent as to the result of this titanic struggle. Those are plain and straightforward facts which neither Senator Bakhap nor any other member of his party can deny.
– I deny them.
– The honorable senator cannot prove his assertion. He may have an unlimited capacity for denial, but he has a very limited capacity for proving his statements, so far as my experience of him in this chamber goes.
– The exigencies of the situation disarm our criticisms.
– I do not want to make in this chamber any statement which may go abroad, and do exactly what Senator Millen and Mr. Cook might have done by giving information to the enemy. Had the Minister of Defence replied at that time as he would have liked to reply, without giving away national secrets, he could easily have put Senator Millen and Mr. Cook in a very serious position before the public.
– It will be done later on.
– Possibly , when the war is at an end.
– And the policy of the Government, and of other Governments connected with the matter, will have to be altered before the war is over.
– We should all like to see the war ended, but it is of no use to anticipate the end now. I wish it would end to-morrow. We have learned many things from this war, and one of the lessons which has been severely brought home to us is that we were not as prepared for it as we should have been.
– And we are not as prepared for other eventualities as we should be.
– If the party with which the honorable senator is associated had had its way we should not have been prepared at all. We should not have had our Saddle and Harness Factory, our Clothing Factory, our Woollen Mills, our Cordite Factory, and our Small Arms Factory. We should not have had what his party were pleased to dub a “tin-pot Navy” and a “kiddie Army.” They opposed compulsory training tooth and nail.
– In 1913 I advocated it, and that was only a year before the war.
– The honorable senator might as well talk about what happened in the time of Adam and Eve. The fact is that from 1901 to 1907-8 the honorable senator’s party opposed our policy of withdrawing the naval subsidy and paying for what was really a phantom fleet, with a view to devoting that £200,000 annually to the development of an Australian Navy. His party also stoutly opposed the initiation of compulsory training in the first instance. Indeed everyproposal which the Labour party brought forward, including the establishment of the Small Arms Factory and of other Commonwealth instrumentalities, was dubbed “ Socialism run mad.” But we would thank God to-day if those factories had been established ten years earlier. Hadour Small Arms Factory been established a decade ago we would have been able more easily to equip our men who are to-day going forth to fight the Empire’s battle.
– Hear, hear! I agree with the honorable senator.
– Then of what use is it for the honorable senator to tell us that our policy will have to be revised ?
– I say that it will have to be accentuated.
– If that is the honorable senator’s position, of course I agree with him. Anxious though we are that the present cataclysm in Europe shall be the last of its kind, when its final settlement comes, we do not know that we shall not find ourselves embroiled in another. Too much, therefore, cannot be done towards putting our house in order, so that if we are called upon to fight for the world’s liberty we shall be better prepared to do so than we are today.
– I can applaud the honorable senator’s sentiments.
– There is still another lesson which this war teaches, and that is the necessity for being industrially self contained. In this Parliament the battle of Free Trade and Protection used to be fought, but I am told that there are no Free Traders here now - that we are all Protectionists. However, I am not so sure about that. The war has taught us that if we had had a really effective Tariff on the statute-book we should have been in a far better position, both industrially and commercially, than we are. In referring to the Tariff, let me express the regret which I feel in learning from the Ministerial statement that our Customs and Excise revenue has increased. When the new Tariff was laid on the table of the House of Representatives towards the end of last year, I was under the impression that ic was an effective Protective Tariff.
– I was not.
– To-day I am satisfied that it is not truly protective in its incidence, and it will be the duty of this Parliament to amend it out of sight if it is to be made an effective fiscal weapon, which will preserve the industries already in our midst and develop others.
– If it comes to the Senate in its present form it will leave it in a very different form.
– I hope so. I shall endeavour to amend it to the best of my ability. I admit that, in the terrible time through which we are now passing, there may be a desire on the part of the Government to collect as much revenue as possible through the Customs. I do not say that the Ministry would experience the same feeling in ordinary times. But I hope that that feeling will not be permitted to carry us away from the pledge we gave to the people to the extent of depriving them of that foi which they have asked, viz., a truly Pro’tective Tariff. This is the time to initiate such a Tariff if there ever, was a time, and L trust that no delay will occur in putting the Tariff schedule through’ Parham ment. The very, fact- that to-day we have to depend upon other countries- for commodities which, we can easily manu facture here is proof positive that we have been lacking in that regard. I would like to ask Senator Millen and his party whether they consider that the Tariff is a question which should not be discussed during the war ? Perhaps Senator Bakhap, who is the only representative of the Opposition in the Chamber, will answer my question ?
– What is it?
– The honorable senator’s leader stated this afternoon that this Parliament should only devote attention to matters arising out of the war.
– A very sensible statement.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Tariff is a question the consideration of which should be shelved ?
– In the circumstances it may be desirable to hold it back for a while, especially as the Inter-State Commission has not yet reported upon it.
– The honorable senator says that it might be well to “ hold it back for a while.” For how long does he mean?
– The Tariff is in operation to-day.
– But it is not a Protective Tariff at all. It is merely a revenue-producing instrument.
– Does the honorable senator really believe that we shall ever frame a Tariff which will not produce revenue ?
– I am not so illinformed as to make a statement of that kind. But I do say that we should make our Tariff as protective as possible, and that we should lessen our receipts through the Customs, rather than increase them.
– The United States collects a very big revenue from Customs.
– Having received a mandate from the people to frame an effective Protectionist Tariff, it is our imperative duty to give effect to that mandate.
– Why- does not the honorable senator come out honestly and say that he wants to make the Tariff a prohibitive one? Why beat about the bush ? If he wants: prohibition, why does he not say so ?
– I am glad to know that the Government intend’ to sul*mit the referenda proposals to’ the people once? morel Each time they have been submitted we have been accused of being advocates of unification. But since this Parliament adjourned on the 18th December last Ihave discovered that we have an arch unificationist in the ranks of our political opponents - in the person of Sir William Irvine. We always replied to our opponents that we were not unificationists, but merely sought to confer upon this Parliament certain powers which are necessary to enable it to do the work of the nation.
– Honorable senators opposite are not unificationists, but they want to destroy the Federal machine.
– No. Here is a statement which was made by Sir William Irvine in Ballarat. Referring to the Constitution, he is thus reported -
Proceeding, Sir William Irvine spoke of the Labour party’s proposed amendments of the Constitution. Some of them, and notably the proposal to nationalize monopolies, as the result of a chance vote, were among the most ridiculous proposals ever put before a sane people. At the same time, he wanted to say that the proposals did contain “ the germ of some necessary improvements in the Constitution.” As for the Constitution itself, the cloth was very good, but the cut was always a little old-fashioned. (Laughter.) Moreover, the garment, as a whole, was bursting at the seam. Dealing with the financial question, he deplored the fact that seven different bodies in Australia were in a position to compete in a game of “ Yankee-grab,” the stakes of which were the product of the industry of the people of Australia. He could not conceive of a system more likely to lead to financial disaster. In the domestic establishment of Australia, not only had the housekeeper the key of the storeroom, but six housemaids had separate keys. Also, there had been attempts at agreements among the borrowers themselves; but he thought there was not much to be hoped from such attempts. This was the position that he asked the people’s party to take into its serious consideration, as he considered that on this party lay the duty of investigating the fundamental defects of the Constitution under which they lived. Until somebody could coordinate the other borrowing bodies to itself, there would, he thought, be no improvement.
He then proceeded to say -
But before we could perform the task we must bring the whole sources of public revenue under the control of one Parliament, that should be responsible to the whole people for the money raised, and the way of spending it. He felt this was a time when no man who had firm opinions should hesitate to express them. He concluded - “ It is true we must not sacrifice what you are pleased to call State rights. We must retain that measure of home rule that enables them to manage their own affairs. I, for one, would never dispute that. While you maintain State rights you must also uphold the national security, the development and the fulfilment of the destiny of this country of ours.”
I shall pursue this matter later. As private members’ business is called on after 6.30 o’clock, I ask the leave of the Senate to continue my speech at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the resumption of the debate be an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– I wish to say that I was on my feet prepared to resume the debate before any question for its resumption was submitted to you, sir.
– Senator Needham asked for leave to continue his speech at a later date.
– Certainly; but that did not prevent another honorable senator resuming the debate.
- Senator Long is under a misapprehension. When an honorable senator asks leave to continue his speech at a later date, the question that he have leave is put to the Senate without debate. Leave having been granted to Senator Needham, nothing could intervene to interfere with the right of the Minister to set down a future time for the resumption of the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I wish to take advantage of the motion to call attention to what I believe to be a gross act of injustice on the part of this and previous Governments to the isolated people of King Island. For several years past, I and other members of the Senate have made constant representations on their behalf. Unfortunately, we could never get any declaration from the responsible Minister as to the probability of relieving the King Island people from their isolation by providing them with the required means of communication with the mainland or Tasmania. I had some hope that a Labour Government would be sufficiently alive to the wants of people so situated as are the people of King Island that they would be willing to incur the necessary expense to provide them with communication. In the statement which we have had presented to us, we are told that it is proposed to carry out the preliminary survey of a railway from the Port Augusta line to some point in Queensland, an undertaking that will possibly commit Australia to the expenditure of millions sterling. Yet. we cannot induce this Government, nor could we induce the previous Government, to undertake the very small expenditure necessary to provide the wire less communication with King Island which the residents of that island have been pleading for for years past.
– Is King Island the only island in that position ?
– I know of no other in the same position. If Senator Blakey knows of any other people in the same condition of isolation as are the people of King Island, he has failed in his duty by not calling attention to their needs. When representations are made to the Government in connexion with the matter to which I am referring, we are told that it will be looked into, and that the Government will get reports. Then the old useless method of submitting the matter for report to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Tasmania is followed. He instructs a subordinate to make a report. The subordinate officer makes a report. In due time it goes to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, and finally reaches the Minister through some of the officials of his Department, and the Minister acquiesces in the old practice of some of these highly paid officials not to interfere with existing conditions.
– The time appointed under the sessional order for the dinner adjournment has now arrived, and I wish to point out to Senator Long that, should the House adjourn for dinner, upon its resumption he will have lost the right to continue the speech he. is now making, as private members’ business must then be called on. I suggest to the honorable senator, and to the Senate, that perhaps the most convenient course to adopt, in order that the honorable senator may conclude his remarks, is that we should agree to his prolonging them briefly at the present stage.
– I can make another suggestion.
– It is my desire only to consult the convenience of the Senate and, at the same time, of Senator Long.
– May I suggest to Senator Long that if he moves the adjournment of the Senate to-morrow, the Government will have no objection to the matter to which he is referring being fully ventilated.
– In the circumstances, and because I am so disgusted with the action of the Government in connexion with this matter, I do not feel inclined to accept either suggestion. I feel that I am called upon to make this public protest on behalf of people who have been pleading with the Federal Government for years past to provide them with wireless communication with the mainland or Tasmania. It must be within the knowledge of honorable senators that I have been unceasing in my advocacy of their claims in this connexion. It has been a matter of regret to me that time and again the Postmaster-General, and PostmastersGeneral who have been members of Labour Governments as well as others, have permitted themselves to be browbeaten by the highly paid officials of their Department who do not wish to get out of the rut in which they have been operating for years past.
– I ‘ find that I made a mistake in my statement of the position. The motion now before the Senate must be proceeded with to its conclusion, and Senator Long would, therefore, should the Senate adjourn for dinner, have the right to resume his speech on the resumption of the Senate after the adjournment.
Sitting suspended from 6.35 to S p.m.
– Mr. President, when the tea hour arrived I was addressing some observations to the Senate on what I considered the neglect of the Government in not providing some means of communication between Victoria or Tasmania for the people of King Island. I. have learnt since that it was the desire of honorable senators to complete the day’s sitting at the tea adjournment, and I am sorry if any action of mine in prolonging the discussion has caused any inconvenience. This Government have persistently refused the requests of King Island residents in connexion with the wireless communication, and the most recent happening is one which I think will cause no little astonishment. For some time negotiations of a kind were proceeding between the Government and the people of that island whereby the people were called upon to pay a subsidy to the Commonwealth Government in return for the services established by them. It has been pointed out - and I think that I am justified in again pointing out - that wireless communication has very properly been established at Flinders Island without imposing any such restrictions on the people there. I am in entire agreement with the action of the Government in that respect, and I will not be charged with unreasonableness when I ask that the people of King Island shall be similarly treated. Quite recently, as honorable senators will gather from the question I asked yesterday and the answer by the Minister of Defence this afternoon, the wireless station which had been erected by a private firm at King Island for purely experimental purposes has been entirely dismantled. The Leader of the Government in the Senate carefully evaded one part of my question asking if it was intended to restore communication to those people. Now I am not pleased with this Government, nor am I pleased with the other Government, for what I am inclined to regard as their inhuman neglect of the people in connexion with the- matter. Honorable senators will know that there is only a mail steamer service between Victoria and King Island, or between King Island and Tasmania, and there are times during rough weather when several weeks - in one instance, more than three weeks - have elapsed from the time the boat left Victoria until it was heard of again. Imagine the agony of mind of the relatives of the people on board the steamer, situated as they were, and unable to get any information as to whether they reached King Island safely or otherwise. And now we find that the Government, instead of making an effort to prevent that in the future, have wantonly destroyed the wireless station, which was the only means of communication people had on the island. What is the reason for it? Economy? Why, it would have cost the great Commonwealth Government of Australia nearly £150 a year to maintain that wireless station ! The Government ought to blush, if they have a blush left in them, at their neglect in this matter. I understand that at the outbreak of the war they thought it necessary to place a guard over this wireless station, as a similar precaution was taken in the case of most private wireless stations in Australia. The guard was there for nearly six months, and it has now occurred to the Government that the cheapest way to exercise absolute control over this wireless station is to dismantle it altogether, and so do away with the guard on the island. The Government are to be commended for this decision, and commended for having deprived the people on King Island and the people on the mainland of Victoria and Tasmania of the opportunity of getting into communication with their relatives - a convenience which the residents in almost every other part of Australia enjoy. I think I am entitled to a definite statement from the Ministry as to whether they intend to make some provision for the people to whom I refer. In matters of policy I do not want to go to subordinates for information. I do not want the Government to adopt a circumlocutory process in giving a reply, and find that after a lapse of six months the matter will come back from the Postmaster-General with an indorsement that it is “ contrary to the practice of the Department “ ; but I want the Government to have the courage to tell the Senate definitely what they intend to do in this matter. If they do not propose to undertake the construction of a wireless station, which they say can be erected for half the cost for which they could purchase the wireless plant already erected on the island, I want them to tell me so. I have no brief for the proprietors of the wireless station. My sole object in taking up the time of the Senate on this as on previous occasions was to get some means of communication for the people on the island. If the Government think it is too mighty a project for the National Government of Australia to undertake, let us know exactly where we are, so that the people on the island may be privileged to make whatever arrangements they think best. According to the Minister’s reply this afternoon, it is not the intention of the Government to compensate the owners of the wireless station, which is one of the finest and most powerful in all Australia, for their action in dismantling it. Now, this does not appear to be justice, and I hope it will not appear to members of the Senate as being justice. Although it might have been necessary - and I am not disputing it for a moment - from a defence point, of view to take the action that they did, some other arrangement ought to have been made for the people, and, in justice, the Government ought to compensate the proprietors of the wireless station for whatever damage has been done.
– What about the cable system ?
– I have no brief for any particular system. I do not care what the system is so long as the people are placed in communication with other parts of civilization.
– It was demonstrated by survey that the bottom was not suitable for a submarine cable, which would not last more than twelve months or so.
– £ understand that is so. The most inexpensive system of communication is by wireless. The Minister said this afternoon, in reply to one of my questions, that the stations had been dismantled in accordance with instructions issued by his Department, and that this instruction referred to all privately owned wireless stations in Australia. It would be intensely interesting to know to what extent those instructions have been carried cut, and what number of wireless stations have been closed as the result of that action. I intend to get the information, and to-morrow I shall move for a return of the number of wireless stations that have been closed in Australia since the outbreak of the war. When we get that information I think it will be found that- the answer given to one of my questions this afternoon was simply begging the point at issue, and that, after all, the Government of the day have been actuated by the paltry motive of saving a few pounds. They are pretty lavish in other respects, and will not hesitate to pay mighty large salaries to incompetent individuals who are responsible in some measure for the development of our defence scheme. But that does not worry the Government in the least, though they take fright at the thought of having to spend £150 a year to bring the people of Kine Island into touch with civilization. I have no wish to delay the Senate at greater length, but in this matter I feel very keenly. I have entertained a desire to prosecute a vendetta against the Government because of their apathy. I have made one protest to-night which will be followed by a number of others if something in this connexion is not done.
Despite tEe opposition of the Government, I believe that 1 can appeal to the sense of fair play of the majority of honorable senators to assist me to compel them, without any reference to their subordinate officials, to do justice to the people whose cause I have espoused to-night. I have now only to express the hope that it will not be necessary for me to take the action I have indicated, and that the Government will themselves see the justice of doing for the people of King Island what I think they ought to do, and what is not denied to the people in any other part of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has put forward a case which I think would have been greatly strengthened if it had been expressed in milder language. He should know that the members of the Government, and, indeed, all the members of the Senate, have quite as much sympathy with the residents of King Island for any real grievance from which they suffer as he has himself.
– They have not shown it.
– Why the honorable senator should add to his statement of the case the complaints he has made about the present Government I do not know. I venture to say that his language, and even the veiled threats he has made, will not help the case of the King Island people.
– Does the honorable senator wish to make a personal matter of it?
– Certainly not. I desire to say that the Government will be prepared at all times to take into their most earnest consideration the necessities of any of the people of the Commonwealth, no matter how far they may be removed from centres of civilization, and to give them the even-handed justice which Senator Long has asked for the residents of King Island. There will, however, always be some cases of apparent injustice suffered by people in some part of the Commonwealth.
– Not continuously, surely? ?
– What are the facts? I am not disputing that Senator Long put them very accurately before the Senate, though he expressed them in what may be termed strained language. The military authorities thought it was expedient that the wireless station established at King Island should be dismantled. Furthermore, the postal authorities, as business men conducting a business of the Commonwealth, were of the opinion that the. wireless station established at King Island was too costly a station for them to take over. They had no desire to deal with the people of King Island in any harsh manner, and they put a certain proposition before them. During the dinner adjournment 1 had an opportunity to discuss the matter briefly with the Postmaster-General. The proposition put before the people of King Island by the Post and Telegraph Department is such as has frequently been submitted to people in isolated districts of the mainland.
– Can the honorable senator mention any people in a similarly isolated position ?
– I remind the honorable senator that it has very often been decided by the Department to run mail services under an agreement with the people interested to contribute a certain amount to the expense. It his been a business practice with the Department in providing telephonic communication in outlying districts to do so on the understanding that the people served will guarantee a certain’ revenue from the service or will guarantee the Department against loss.
– Why did not the Government ask the people of King Island for a guarantee?
– It is not fair to ask me a question concerning a matter which I have not inquired into. I had not time during the dinner adjournmentto inquire into everything that had been done in connexion with this matter. I do not contend that every one brought into communication with civilization, as Senator Long has phrased it, should be called upon to pay for the service rendered, but I do say that a plain and practical business proposition his been put before the people of King Island. They were told that if they agreed to contribute a certain amount towards the cost of the communication required the Government would” be prepared to do their share. As I understand the matter, that proposition is still under consideration. Senator Long will not help the matter at all by the use of harsh phrases addressed to the Government. I tell the honorable senator at once that the Government will make no promise to do at once anything he desires to ask.
– I am absolutely sick of the promises of the Government.
– That statement will not add to the reputation for sound judgment which the honorable senator has enjoyed for so many years in the Senate. If the honorable senator is sick of promises that have always been kept it is about time he had experience of promises that are not kept. I hope that not only in this case, but- in all other cases, the present Government will maintain the high reputation they havefor keeping their promises.
– I hope so, too.
– I again state that the question raised by the honorable senator is purely a business one. The people of King Island were without the communication for a good many years. For how long did the Government of Tasmania, when they had control of the island, leave the people without this provision for communication ?
– The honorable senator should know that the population of the island has become considerable only within the last few years.
– Only since Federation was consummated.
– I understand that, since Federation, settlement on the island has increased, and is increasing. It should not be forgotten that, during the past six months, the present Government have had a fairly strenuous time in dealing with a great many difficult questions. I do not think that it is fair that they should be met at the present time with an attack couched in the strongest language imaginable, merely because, during the few short months in which they have been in office, this matter has not been fixed up to the satisfaction of the honorable senator who has put this claim forward to-night.
– I remind the Minister that the Labour Government were in office for three years before their present term ; but, unfortunately, Senator Gardiner was not a member of the Government during that period.
– I wish only to put the position fairly. The Government considered that the wireless system established at King Island was altogether too costly for them to take over, when, from a business point of view, a satisfactory system could be established that would not be half so costly. A matter of this kind affecting a place like King Island cannot be settled off-hand. Yet Senator Long, departing entirely from his usual good-natured manner, has used expressions concerning the Government which might lead to the impression that they have lost the confidence of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth because they have treated the people of King Island .harshly. I will not say that the whole of our departmental machinery does not sometimes work too slowly for all of us, but I give a promise which the honorable senator assured me he will not take.
– I did not.
– I make the promise that, so far as the people of King Island are concerned, if, considering the business aspect of the matter, and the interest of the Commonwealth generally, we can in any way-
– No qualifications.
– I am not in a position to give the honorable senator an unqualified promise. If the people of King Island can in any way be brought more closely into touch with civilization and with Tasmania, I shall be prepared to do my utmost to bring that about. I feel sure that when the honorable senator has fairly considered all that has been done up to the present, he will admit that he was not justified in what he has said. The first proposal made was to take over the existing wireless station ; and, in the opinion of the authorities of the Post and Telegraph Department, it was altogether too big a concern for them to take over. There was then the question of the establishment of another wireless station that would not be nearly so costly. It is only reasonable to expect that it would take some time to consider a business proposition of that kind. If Senator Long believes that the strength of his language will make any very great impression upon tlie Government, he is mistaken. This is purely a departmental matter, which might easily have been settled without making it a matter for discussion in the Senate. Communication with the mainland is a matter of importance to the people, not only of King Island, but of other islands belonging to the Commonwealth, and it is becoming more important every day, owing to the peculiar position in which we are placed.
– King Island contains the largest community of white people of any island on the Australian coast, with the exception of the island State of Tasmania itself.
– I am not attempting in any way to underrate the importance of King Island. I believe that there are about 1,000 people there.
– The honorable senator is overlooking it in his argument.
– I am not overlooking it at all. I quite recognise that a growing population is entitled to the consideration of the Government, no matter where the people reside. But the whole machinery of government cannot be stopped in order that attention may be given to a matter of this kind at one particular time. Negotiations have been conducted for months past.
– For some years past.
– I am not going to take the responsibility of what happened years ago. There has been delay. I recognise that all negotiations or business transactions between the Department and any section of the community are necessarily slow. We have to move slowly in order that we may move safely. There is many a rapid move which, ;f made, would probably please a few persons, but which would end disastrously so far as the Government and the Commonwealth are concerned. I could put before the Cabinet a hundred and one propositions which would be highly satisfactory from my view-point, but which, perhaps, the more matured minds of my colleagues would regard otherwise. 1 recognise that the establishment of communication with King Island cannot afford to wait, and there will be no unnecessary delay. At the same time .the matter will not be expedited either by threats or by the strength of the language which is hurled against the Government.
– I do not know that my language was strong; otherwise I would have been called to order.
– Like the “Vice-President of the Executive Council, I have recognised that the provision of wireless communication for
King Island is probably a matter which can better be arranged for with the Department directly than by occupying the time of the Senate. I have recognised that fact ordinarily; I have recognised it still more strongly in recent times on account of the peculiar circumstances that have made other matters of great urgency for both Houses of Parliament since the outbreak of the war. I have had a good deal of correspondence with the Department on this subject, and, like other members of Parliament, I have had interviews with successive Postmasters-General and members of the staff. In coming over from Tasmania this time I brought over some of my own file on this subject to supplement what I already had here, and the file I have would make a respectable file in any Department, so thick is it. I propose to say a few words in support of the proposition that the Government should take into early consideration the provision of this facility, more especially since the communication which had been established for some time has recently been dismantled. King Island in this matter stands in a peculiar position - a position different from that of any of the other islands round the coast of the Commonwealth. The population, I suppose, is about 1,000 or 1,200. It is a place where a good deal of business is conducted with both Victoria and Tasmania. There has been open there for some years a branch of a prominent bank, whose head office is in Victoria. In order to carry on financial matters for clients in Tasmania, Victoria, and King Island it is essential in banking business that there shall be some means of regular and, speedy communication. Senator Long has pointed out that there is a steamer service which runs between Victoria, King Island, and Tasmania. On more than one occasion a steamer has been weatherbound at King Island for a week or a fortnight or more, and nobody on either side of the strait could even know the simple fact that it was weatherbound there, and that the passengers were safe. That occurs, I think, at least once or more in every year during the stormy months. When it occurs, those who are interested in the passengers on the steamer have to go through a very painful time of apprehension indeed, and it is just at that juncture that representatives from Tasmania are generally impressed by those in anxiety with the necessity of having some sort of communication, and again the Postal Department is stirred up, though with no result. Some years ago, when I was a member of a Government that was arranging to establish Commonwealth cables between Tasmania and the mainland to replace the private cables, I asked my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, to ascertain if it was not practicable to lay one cable via King Island and the other via Flinders Island, and thus have communication with both islands. A submarine survey revealed that the bottom of Bass Strait in those places was of such a rocky character that the life of a cable, if laid, would be very short indeed. As a result of that survey the present cables run from Flinders, in Victoria, to Low Head, in Tasmania. Neither Flinders Island, on the east side of Bass Strait, nor King Island, on the west side, can be connected by cable. Therefore, so far as telegraphic communication is concerned, they are both dependent upon wireless, and in that regard both communities stand distinct from any other outlying island which could be connected by cable. That is a feature which should never be overlooked. The Postal Department have satisfied themselves long since that it is impracticable to lay a cable to either King Island or Flinders Island. It is a case of wireless or nothing. Senator Long has pointed out that the steamers trailing from King Island to Tasmania and vue mainland are frequently weatherbound. Their size is not very great, and mail communication is of very little value in cases when the storms are prevalent. That, again, is a feature in connexion with King Island which must not be overlooked in regard to any provision for communication. Senator Gardiner baa asked how long Tasmania has had this island, and has not provided some means of communication; but I would point out to him that Tasmania could not, at any time, have laid at cable to the island. That was impracticable, and the wireless telegraphy has only been a means of communication since King Island came over to the Commonwealth. It was in 1905 that this Parliament passed a Bill making wireless telegraphy a monopoly of the Commonwealth. No wireless telegraphic communication can be established except by the Commonwealth. Cable communication may be established, but it would be of no value. Postal communication is necessarily infrequent, and, in many instances, very irregular.
– I think that King Island is frequently as long as ten or twelve days without a mail.
– I have known it to be three weeks and more. I have had bulky correspondence with the departmental officers for a considerable time, and have asked questions here on more than one occasion. I have asked, on notice, why provision for wireless telegraphy with King Island was not made. I have asked the question asked here today by Senator Long, why do the Government insist upon the residents of King Island entering into something in the nature of a guarantee when no such guarantee was asked in the case of Flinders Island. I do not deprecate the action of the Government in establishing wireless communication with Flinders Island without asking for a guarantee, but I have asked in this chamber, in questions upon notice, why a : differentiation has been made between the two cases. I heartily approve of what was done in the case of Flinders Island; but why should not both communities be treated alike ? I think thai I am not exaggerating when I say that never once could I here get a definite answer to that question. The answers furnished to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in this chamber, no matter what Government he belonged to, have always, intentionally or otherwise, evaded this issue. For a long time I believed that there was some reason why the Department deliberately evaded the issue, and I think I am right in saying that for a considerable time in my correspondence with the Department I sought unsuccessfully to pin them down to an answer to my question. On one occasion, immediately on receipt of a letter from the Department answering one of mine of a date some time before, I wrote a rather strong letter, pointing out that T had asked this question and wanted an answer to it, and that the answer they had given would be very well in its place, and quite relevant if I had asked something else. In their reply - and I believe this was the only time the fact was brought under my notice - they pointed out that the Flinders Island station was established as part of a scheme of wireless stations throughout the Common wealth for defence and strategic purposes-, and was not established primarily or solely for the purpose of telegraphic communication, and that King Island, was not included in that scheme. It was for that reason that Flinders Island got a. wireless station without any local guarantee being asked for, while King Island was asked to provide such. Senator Gardiner has somewhat stressed the statement that the policy of the Government in regard to outlying districts and telephonic communication was, in most instances where the estimated revenue wa& not proportionate to the outlay, to ask the local residents to make a contribution or give a guarantee. That may be » very correct policy so far as concerns outlying places on land, because they can. always have regular communication by post, and generally have, or can have,. telegraphic communication. King Island;, on the other hand, until its population, and trade grow, and its ports are made of: such a character as to admit shipping towhich the storms of Bass Strait will be* of no moment, cannot have regular mail communication, nor can it have effective’ submarine telegraphic communication.. It is, therefore, in a different position from outlying places on the mainland. It must have regular communication, and the only means for it is wireless or nothing. To those other places,, which have regular mail communication and which already have, or may. have, telegraphic communication, telephoniccommunication is comparatively a luxury superadded to the necessities with which* the Commonwealth has already provided them. I am not aware that the Postal Department ever asks an outlying town which sends in a request for telegraphic communication for a guarantee in regard to it.
– Yes, they do. T know of one case in my own State.
– I knew it was done in the case of telephonic facilities, but was not sure that it was done in regard to telegraph lines. I hone the Minister will bring this matter under thenotice of the Postmaster-General, and nut strongly before him the considerations which I have just expressed and the peculiar position in which King Island must find itself. I earnestly hope that the needs of the population of King Island and of both sides of Bass Strait, and indeed of all those people throughout-
Australia who have trading relations with King Island, will be considered. Victoria does a tremendous amount of business with the island in proportion to its population. King Island stock is frequently seen in Victoria, and is highly appreciated. The- stock sale-yards often witness the marked appreciation of Victorian buyers for stock fattened on King Island. Many more people would do business with the island if regular communication was established. It would mean a great increase in business and a great development of the resources of the place. I am sure the Postmaster-General will realize that there is every need for the Government to do something to provide King Island with regular wireless communication.
– Every Tasmanian senator has approached the Government on the question of the isolation from which the island communities between the mainland and Tasmania have for so long Buffered. I fully believe that the promises of various Ministers to remedy this state of affairs will be redeemed, and I want to inspire the Government to regard the providing of wireless communication with King Island as an absolutely safe revenue producing proposition. King Island is one of the largest islands, outside Tasmania, included in the territory of the Commonwealth. It is in some respects a terrestrial paradise. It may be news to some to learn that in the midst of this great drought there has been an abundance’ nf fodder on the island, and that the output of fat cattle this season runs up to 10,000 head from a community of 1,000 white people. It is a community which is growing in wealth and in trading possibilities very rapidly. Senator Keating; has alluded to the nautical difficulties in the way of providing it with regular communication. It is surrounded by reefs which are flung forward, and make navigation at times very difficult, thus adding to and intensifying the isolation of the community. Successive Administrations have poured out money like water on the Northern Territory, in the hope of inducing an influx of white settlement, but in the few years that have elapsed since the consummation of Federation over 1,000 white people have settled on King Island. At that rate they will soon equal the number of white settlers in the Northern Territory. They are a prosperous and enterprising community, and the provision of wireless communication will add to the possibility of remunerative trade with the mainland and Tasmania. In the Northern Territory I found a zealous and useful official dignified with the title of “ Excellency,” and millions of Commonwealth money being spent, or about to be spent. Although the Territory has been taken over quite recently, hundreds of thousands of pounds have already been spent there to provide railway facilities for the few isolated and somewhatreluctanttoremain white settlers. On the other hand, the population of King Island bids fair to increase very rapidly, but the settlers have pleaded in vain through their - representatives in this Parliament for reasonable consideration at the hands of the National Government. I sincerely urge the Government to take into consideration the fact that this community is distant only 45 miles from the State in which is placed the seat of the National Government, and yet it is more isolated than if it were in the South Seas. Excluding Tasmania, King Island has the largest white population of all the insular parts of the Commonwealth, and certainly deserves consideration. The Department need have no fear that the provision of wireless communication will result in a loss. It is a rich community, and will become richer, and I urge the Department to take heart of grace, to regard’ the present opportunity as most auspicious, and to give King Island the communication it so urgently needs, and which will be so useful to it. I have nothing to say as regards the demolition of the wireless station which has been erected for some time on the island. It is impossible to think that any reasonable National Administration would wantonly destroy the works erected there without good excuse. Notwithstanding the political differences that separate us, I credit the Government with sufficient common sense to- refrain from the wanton destruction of such an important wireless station. They must have very good reasons for their action, and, putting the consideration of that question aside, I would urge the Minister to induce the Government to address itself immediately to the question of removing the isolation from which the community on the island undoubtedly suffers at present.
– If a wireless station is established on King Island by the Postal Department at this juncture, Senator Long is altogether out of his reckoning in thinking that it will cost only £150 a year to maintain. It would cost very much more, because more than one operator would be required if the station were kept open throughout the twenty-four hours each day; and, in addition, every wireless station, for obvious reasons, has to be supplied with a military guard whilst the war lasts. Now the naval and military authorities say that there is absolutely no reason why a wireless station should be maintained on King Island for naval and military purposes. It therefore becomes purely a question for the Postal Department to say whether its existence is justified. We all know that a wireless station was in existence on King Island when the war broke out - it had been established there for scientific purposes - and being there we had to supply a military guard for it. The position is that the Postal authorities say they do not require the station for postal purposes - that it is too costly - and the naval and military authorities declare that they do not need it for naval and military purposes. They affirm that they have dismantled the other wireless stations throughout the Commonwealth, and that the obvious thing for them to do was to dismantle this one. There is no reason why we should keep a military guard there throughout the currency of the war, seeing that the station is not required. As to other privately-owned wireless stations, Senator Long has thrown some doubt on the answer given by me this afternoon. All I can say is that the general instruction was sent out that all privately-owned wireless stations were to be dismantled. That does not necessarily mean that the masts have been pulled down, but the effective wireless portions have been dismantled. I know of no case in which a private wireless station has been maintained. If there are any such stations, either they are being maintained without the knowledge of the naval and military authorities - which is extremely unlikely - or they are being maintained by those authorities for naval and military purposes. It may possibly be that there are some privatelyowned stations in the Commonwealth which are maintained for such purposes.
But the instruction to which I have referred has been issued, and that is why the station on King Island was demolished.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at8.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 April 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150415_senate_6_76/>.