6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he will make available the papers in connexion with the employment of interned German officers at Wa tson’s Bay? I am dissatisfied with the answers given to me yesterday, because I believe that they are not correct.
– I cannot answer the question off-hand. As honorable senators can easily understand, it might not be desirable to make public papers relating to the internment of German prisoners. I will look into the matter, and ask the honorable senator to repeat the question next week.
– Will the Minister of
Defence lay on the table a return showing, first, the number of wireless station’s licensed or registered in Australia, and second, the number that has been dismantled by the authority of the Defence Department ?
– I would also like time to consider those questions.
– Will the Minister of Defence be good enough to lay upon the table all the papers; correspondence, and reports in connexion with the promotion of Lieutenant Payne to the position of captain, and his appointment to the Claremont camp in Tasmania?
– The papers will be laid on the table of the Library.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory. - Public Service Ordinance 1913.-
Proclamation of commencement.
Petroleum in Papua, Report on, by Arthur Wade, D.Sc. (Lond.), A.R.C.S., A.M.I.M.M., F.G.S.
Conditions of Employment
asked the Minister representing the Minister . of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In calling for applications for positions on Commonwealth railways, why are those who are over thirty-five years of age ineligible’ for appointment?
– The answer is -
In connexion with the positions referred to by the honorable senator, persons over thirtyfive years of age who are at present in the Commonwealth or State Government Public Service are not ineligible. Persons who are not in the Commonwealth or State service are ineligible for the positions in question, as it is not in accordance with general railway practice to start training, orselect for what may be permanent positions, persons over the age specified.
– Does that answer apply to all workmen - to timekeepers, storekeepers, and labourers - or simply to officers in the higher positions?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question, as I have no information on that subject.
Completion of Equipment
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Distribution in England.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Debate resumed from 15th April (vide. page 2331), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the Ministerial statement read to the Senate by the Minister of Defence on 14th April be printed.
– Immediately prior to the dinner adjournment yesterday, I was referring to the statement by Sir William Irvine in which he advocated one controlling power in connexion with the finances of the Commonwealth. In a speechhe delivered during the course of the recent adjournment, he said that the financial powers should be vested in one Parliament, and in one Parliament only. He did not indicate what Parliament he meant, but it is safe to assume that he had in his mind the Commonwealth Parliament. I am sure that he would never propose to vest full control of financial matters in a State Parliament. That statement, which has been published in the press of Australia, and whichhas not yet been contradicted, is a declaration of unification, pure and unadulterated. Whether or not the honorable gentleman will have the courage of his convictions, and endeavour to persuade his party to think with him, I do not know. At any rate, he, along with others, will shortly have an opportunity of speaking on the referenda proposals which the present Government intend . to re-submit to the Parliament and to the people. He, on more than one occasion, has realized, and I believe to-day realizes, the necessity for an alteration of the Constitution. In the speech I referred to yesterday, he described the Constitution as a garment with an old-fashioned cut. It was bursting at the seams. On a former occasion, when the Government of the day, a Labour Government, submitted proposals to the Parliament with a view to the alteration of the Constitution to bring it up to date so as to prevent the seam from bursting asunder, what was the attitude taken up by the honorable member? He recognised candidly, on the floor of Parliament and on the platform, that the Constitution required alteration, but he could not trust the party on the Treasury benches. That was the statement. Now, here is a gentleman returned to the National Parliament by the people, and who, because there is on the Treasury bench a party opposed to him in politics, refuses to lend a hand to alter the Constitution, in order to make the garment a proper fitting one, and make it more effective so far as the people of Australia are concerned. There ave one or two other matters to which I desire to refer, and I do so with a certain amount of regret. I feel, however, that I would be wanting in my public’ duty if I did not call the attention of the Minister of Defence, the attention of the Senate, and also the attention of the people of Australia, to something that has occurred in connexion, with the Government contract for the supply of material for our soldiers in Australia. It would be unfair to many of the private firms in Australia who are assisting the Government to equip our troops for the front if I were to refer to those matters without giving the names of the firms concerned. These firms are Messrs. Goode, Durrant, and Company and Sandover and Company. Goode, Durrant, and
Company tendered for 3,000 pairs of boots for the military authorities in Western Australia, and succeeded in getting the contract. They were supplied with a sample of leather of which the boot had to be made, but shortly after commencing work on those boots, as the result of the vigilance of the Chief Ordnance Officer and his staff, it was discovered that they were not putting into the boots1 what they had contracted to put in. As a matter of fact, they were putting in leather of a very inferior quality so far as the insole of the boot was concerned. It was not much better than brown paper compared with the leather they had to put into the boot according to the sample supplied them. I had hoped to have a sample of the boot here to show to honorable senators. I applied to the Minister of Defence to give permission for that to be done, and the Minister wired to the Ordnance Department, Western Australia, to furnish a sample of the boot I wanted to show, but so far it has not arrived. In the first portion of the delivery of the boots seventy-four pairs were rejected by the Ordnance Officer.
– Why not all?
– Because the firm I refer to are now providing the proper leather, and are carrying out the contract satisfactorily. But that does not remove the blame from the firm which attempted to “ get at “ the Government, and in doing this to imperil the lives of our soldiers who are now leaving Australia to fight Australia’s and the Empire’s battles.
– The Department did not accept those goods.
– I have already explained that seventy-four pairs of boots were condemned by the Chief Ordnance Officer, and I say that had it not been for his vigilance inferior boots would have been continued to be supplied.
– How many pairs were supplied of which the seventy-four condemned pairs formed a part?
– I have already said that 3,000 were tendered for, and that in the first lot delivered seventy-four pairs were rejected.
– But how many were delivered ?
– I cannot tei’: ; but seventy-four pairs were rejected.
– If only seventyfour pairs out of 3,000 pairs were rejected it would not be a very big percentage.
– The Ordnance Officer sent those boots back to the Ordnance Stores and dissected them, with the result that he found that leather of an inferior quality had been used. If this defect had not been discovered the soldiers wearing the boots would have been barefooted in a few days.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - How many defective pairs were not discovered ?
– I do not know. I am only speaking of what I know about the boots that were rejected.
– Inspectors are appointed to discover such things.
– But firms are not supposed to defraud the Government and imperil the lives of our soldiers. If there was any honesty about the business there would not have been one pair rejected. The boots should have been the best the firm could have turned out.
– You would want no Government inspectors if all firms enjoyed that distinction.
– I do not know who is making this speech, whether it is the honorable senator or I. If Senator Bakhap is content to be an apologist for men who were defrauding the Government and people of the Commonwealth, and imperilling the lives of our soldiers, I am sorry for the attitude he thinks it well to adopt.
– I do not do anything of the sort.
– The price paid by the Government for these boots is 12s. 6d. per pair, and very good boots could be turned out at that price. In contradistinction to the action of Goode, Durrant, and Company, let me quote the firm of Pearse and Company, of North Fremantle, who have been given by far the largest portion of the boot contract. Out of 3,000 boots delivered to the Defence Department by this firm, only one was rejected because of a little mistake in the sewing of the upper. It will be admitted that, perhaps, the most important part of the equipment of a soldier are his boots. If he can keep his feet dry, and is well fed, he will be able to stand any amount of hardship. After the Chief Ordnance Officer had rejected the boots supplied by Goode, Durrant, and Company, and informed them that they must supply boots made of leather, according to the sample, it was discovered that they were supplying boots that were badly sewn. The workmanship in them was simply disgraceful. Again, the firm had to be told that unless they complied with the demands of the Ordnance Department the contract would be taken from them. As a result of the persistent vigilance of the Ordnance Department, they are to-day, I believe, satisfactorily carrying out their contract. Another firm to which I wish to refer is that of Sandover and Company. This firm received an order to supply a number of candle boxes for field service. The boxes were supposed to be made of block tin, and to hold 1 lb. weight of candles. The weight of each box was to be 10^ ozs., according to th© sample tin which I saw. When the tins were delivered to the Ordnance Department by this firm and tested, it was found that they weighed barely 6A ozs. each, or 4 ozs. short weight in each tin. Further the soldering of the tins was disgraceful. The lid was so soldered and hinged that it would not stand being opened more than half-a-dozen times without breaking. The sample tin supplied was mad© in such a way that the top was rounded, so that a soldier opening the tin in a hurry to get a candle would not be likely to cut his fingers. The tins supplied by Sandover and Company had an edge on the top as sharp as a razor, and it is easy to imagine what might have occurred if they were put into use. A soldier in the trenches might be for weeks without proper food, and that would impair the condition of his blood. Upon opening one of these field service boxes supplied by Sandover and Company, he would probably cut his fingers, and there would at once be the danger of gangrene and blood poisoning. Sandover and Company had also to be pulled up by the Ordnance Department, and under duress they ave supplying satisfactory tins to-day.
– That is the proper way to deal with them.
– I should like to deal with such people very much more severely. I ha.ve brought this matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence and of the Senate, and I hope that if no other punishment is to be meted out to the two firms of which I have complained, at least they will never get another contract from the Government. I have here a cutting from the London Daily Mail of 6th February, 1915, which bears somewhat upon matters of this kind. I quote the following: -
Some tilings are better managed in Germany than here. Fraudulent contractors are among the number. Mr. McKenna’s remark in the House of Commons, “ contractors will be contractors,” was a tacit admission that contractors in time of war need careful supervision, to put it mildly. Militarism has this advantage, that it stands no nonsense from civilian contractors. During the French Revolution guillotining was the penalty for fraudulent contracts. Nowadays,weare too sentimental to shoot the directors of a fraudulent company. But ifwe sent a few of them to penal servitude we should help to safeguard our soldiers against the meanest form of commercialcheating.
I should like the Minister of Defence, when replying, to indicate what action he proposes to take to deal with firms of this kind.No other instance of such fraudulent practices has come under my notice, and that is saying a lot for the honesty of private firms who have been called upon by the Government to assist them in this time of stress. There should not be one firm guilty of such practices as I have complained of. As an excellent example of irony, it may be mentioned that the two firms of whose work I have complained, so I am told, contributed to the motor ambulance fund in Western Australia. They were going to assist the soldiers to get to the ambulance much more quickly than they would have been assisted by a German bullet, if their inferior boots and candle boxes had been accepted. I regret to have had to bring this matter under the notice of the Senate, but I feel that I should have been lacking in my duty if I had not done so. I hope that the Minister will see that, if no other punishment can be meted out to these people, in future they will get no more contracts from his Department. We have passed legislation to prohibit trading with the enemy. If we find an enemy within our gates we at once intern him. I say that men guilty of such actions as those to which I have referred are certainly enemies within our gates, though they are our own kith and kin, and they should be dealt with in some way. Another matter to which I wish to refer is also connected with the Defence Department, and has relation to assistant armourers. I believe the matter has been brought already under the notice of the Minister of Defence, who held, rightly or wrongly, that the men are being adequately paid for the services they render the Commonwealth. I do not think the Minister has any intention of paying a low rate of wage. I presume he is acting on the advice of his experts, but when I inform him that the men have to pass a very stiff examination he ought to admit that they are not getting the wage to which they are entitled. The practical test for assistant armourers is as follows : -
M.L.E., M.E. - Westly Richard and Francotte Rifles.
– I could get an ordinary rifleman to do that.
Will Senator Millen get an ordinary rifleman to temper a bayonet?
Class of Work done at Perth.
Manufacture of two complete sets of carriers, maxim gun, and tripod.
Making and fitting trees to saddles.
Manufacturing instrument for killing bullock.
Manufacture of sets of carriers, ammunition box, maxim gun.
Re-cutting breeches, chamber, lead, and extractor way, for barrels, Francotte.
Manufacture of all necessary tools, &c., required in armoury. This consists of smithing, fitting, carpentering, turning, and painting.
I do not agree with the Minister or the ex-Minister of Defence that an ordinary rifleman can be got to do all this class of work.
– My interjection referred only to the first item.
– The honorable senator can see from that list what the men have to do. I saw the men at work at the armoury works at military headquarters, Perth. I saw where they were even engaged in tempering “bayonets, which are made of the very best steel. That work requires very skilled and experienced men to do it properly. .From my experience in working in these trades, I know that an ordinary man without experience could not do it. They have to work lathes, planes, slotters. milling and drilling machines. I have here a small sample of the spring gear of a gun - this is the spring sight aperture. This is a little thing, but an ordinary unskilled man could not make it. It requires a skilled tradesman to do it. These men are not getting a proper rate of wages for the work they are doing. If they were dismissed no ordinary man taken from the street could do the work. They are not being paid even at the same rate as men engaged in similar occupations in the Old Country, nor have they the same rank. If this practice continues, it means practically evading the principle of preference to unionists, to which the Government and party are pledged.
– Is it intended that that principle should be applied to those enrolled under the Defence Act?
– I am contending that every man. in the employ of the Commonwealth Government should have the principle applied to him.
– Not to soldiers.
– The principle of preference to unionists should be applied to the men employed by the Government in making these parts, just the same as to any other men.
– But these men are to all intents and purposes soldiers. They are given military rank, and come in as soldiers under the Defence Act.
– They are practical mechanics, working in the armoury branch of the Department.
– They are soldiers in the sense that: they are under discipline.
– Even if that is so, why should they not be paid as well as their comrades of similar rank in the Old Country?
– I am not referring to that question. The point you raised was the application to them of the principle of preference to unionists.
– Even admitting, for the sake of argument, that they should not get preference to unionists, why not pay them as well as men who are doing similar work in Great Britain.? I have received the following letter from the secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Perth : -
If you would ask for the regulations controlling the engagement of assistant armourers and armourers, you will find that they are expected to pass an examination in fitting, turning, and a few other trades, yet when they are engaged they receive the magnificent wage of !)s. per day. In fact, they were reckoned on the same grade as the electrical mechanics in the Postal Department until the latter came under the notice of Judge Higgins, when their pay advanced to Ils. 3d. per day with holidays, clearly proving that the Public Service Commissioner was not capable of assessing the value of such workers.
I know that it will be said that these men require only u very slight knowledge of the trades mentioned, but the fact that they are examined in them is a clear proof that they should be paid the wages of the trades they work at. I might say that the matter is rather mixed up, as the armament artificers in the regular forces are paid at a higher rate than the one mentioned, but the men working at the Perth drill hall are the men I refer to, and they are paid less than the artificers’ labourer with the regular forces.
I think you will see the force of the argument for higher rates for these men when they were classed the same as the Postal electricians, showing that it was thought their work equal; and now, when a competent tribunal takes the matter in hand, they, the electricians, get a good increase.
For your information, I may state that these men are sent all over Western Australia to inspect and repair rifles for the Citizen Forces, a clear proof of their responsibility. In addition, they repair and make new parts for pom poms, maxim guns, Colt guns, and other expensive arms.
The work is similar to that performed by the men in the Army Ordnance Corps in Britain, for which a rate of pay is given that more than equals the ruling rate for engineering mechanics there, when all allowances are taken in. The Army Ordnance men are sent along with a regiment, and classed as staffsergeant, with regimental pay, 4s. Gd. per day for seven days per week; working pay of ls. 6d. per day; quarters equal to 6s. 6d. per week; uniform equal to ls. 2d. per week; fuel and light equal to 2s. 6d. per week, and rations in sergeants’ mess, equal to 10s. 6d. per week; if married, 8d. per day for his wife, and 2d. per day for each child.
It is worth the while of the Minister to go into the matter again.
– I am prepared to do so, but when I quoted those conditions and allowances here I was told that they should not be considered in fixing the wages.
SenatorNEEDHAM.- I was not aware of that fact, but the secretary of the society rightly contends that the men should get better wages. This would enable them to . be members of the union in connexion with that trade. The document presented to us by the Treasurer is generally satisfactory, particularly with regard to the Commonwealth Bank. We ought to be proud of the work that the Bank has accomplished, and the statement will relieve the minds of many people as to our financial situation. It proves to the world that, although we were faced suddenly with the greatest crisis in our history as a young nation, we stood the testwell, that we can look forward to the future with great confidence, and that we shall continue to take a nation’s part in the great struggle. There is only one other matter in the Ministerial statement to which I desire to refer, namely, the amount whichhas been expended by the Commonwealth during this trying period in the relief of unemployment. Under the heading of “ Additions, new works, and buildings,” Parliament last year voted £4,303,870, but out of that amount only £1,513,250 has thus far been expended. If that represents the full spending capacity of the Government upon our public works, it is not altogether satisfactory. It might be all right in normal times, but we must realize that today there are great armies of unemployed in the various cities of Australia. In these circumstances I would like to know why only £1,513,250 has been expended out of a vote of £4,303,870? I sincerely hope that the day is not far distant when this Parliament, with other Parliaments of the Empire, will meet under happier auspices, when the crash of shell and shrapnel will have ceased, when the cause of the Allies will haveemerged victorious, and when the liberty of the world will have been assured.
– In offering a few observations on the Ministerial document presented for our consideration, I shall endeavour to avail myself of the advice tendered by the VicePresident of the Executive Council last night, by being more moderate in my language. Prom my point of view, indeed, I may say from Australia’s point of view, the Ministerial statement is entirely satisfactory, and constitutes a triumph of the defence and financial policies of the Labour party. Yesterday it was most refreshing to hear the Leader of the Opposition informing us for about the sixth time that it is the intention of his party to most cordially co-operate with the Government in the despatch of business during this session. In making that declaration, however, I think that he quite overestimated the powers of himself and his followers. The Government - although they are thankful for such an assurance - realize to the full that we have been sent here by an overwhelming majority of the electors of Australia with a definite mandate to give effect to the policy upon which we appealed to the country, and that either with or without the assistance of the Opposition, that mandate must be respected. Although there may be a good deal of quality in my honorable friends opposite, there are not sufficient of them to seriously obstruct the progress of business in this Chamber. One would have imagined that, at a period like the present, Senator Millen and his colleagues would have been inclined to be a little generous, and to give the Government that credit which all right-thinking people recognise they have earned duringthe past six or eight months of strenuous work. We might have expected from them some eulogy of the magnificent work which has been accomplished by the Commonwealth Bank, and of the blessings which have flowed from our note issue. We might also have anticipated that they would have paid some tribute to the efforts of the Labour party during the past eight or nine years to perfect our Defence policy. Had that policy not been actively pursued by our party the Commonwealth would have cut a very inglorious figure in the great conflict which is now raging in Europe But, happily, we are able to say that our response to the call of the Empire has been quite as generous and effective as has that of any other component portion of it. I repeat that had it not been for the wisdom of the Labour party in promulgating and perfecting the naval and military schemes which are now in operation we would not have been able to play the worthy part that we are playing in this great and unprecedented cataclysm. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, when all the energies of the Minister of Defence and of his officials were concentrated upon equipping our Expeditionary Forces, we had nothing but carping criticism from the Leader of the Opposition in another place, who was ably supported in that criticism by Senator Millen in this Chamber. Both affirmed that the Government . were not doing their duty - that they were not sending sufficient men to the front - although they both knew perfectly well that the real trouble with which the Government were confronted was not that of finding the necessary men, but of furnishing the requisite equipment. Had these gentlemen not been aware of this difficulty there would have been some excuse for their criticism. But seeing that they had been fully taken into the confidence of the Government, their conduct was inexcusable, and anything butpatriotic. In any case, it is definitely laid down in the Ministerial statement which we are now considering that the unchangeable policy of the Government is to equip and transport to the seat of war every available man who is fit to help us in the task of defeating our enemies. When we consider the number of men who have already been despatched for service abroad, and the number who are now in training for such service, it will be conceded that we have every reason to be proud of the part Australia is playing, and that we have every right to honour those who have been responsible for bringing about these results under such trying and adverse conditions. There is no more ardent supporter of our defence scheme than myself. One of the ideals of the Labour party, when that scheme was contemplated, was that promotion should be a reward of a man, no matter what his social standing might be, provided that he had earned it, and that the class distinction and prejudice which characterized military life in the Old Country and other parts of the world should not find a place in Australia. But that ideal has not been realized, and to-day, unfortunately, we have in a measure as much class prejudice against the ranker here as there is in the Old Country. It is necessary in a time of crisis that promotion should be rapid, and, consequently, there must be a great many promotions; but urgent as the matter may be, the authorities ought to hesitate before any action is taken which would inflict an injustice upon good and effective members of the Defence Force who have served Australia very faithfully and capably for many years past. I know that in a very complicated system such as our defence scheme one cannot expect the Minister of Defence to give personal attention to every detail, but I do contend that when matters are brought under his notice by a member of the Senate or of the other House, he ought to take some action in the way of inquiry, and to right that which the honorable member making the representations to him believes to be an injustice. I regret to say that I have not found the Minister at all sympathetic in that respect. He is quite willing to delegate the responsiblity of making promotions to a Military Board here, and to a Military Board who, no doubt, carry out their duties to the best of their ability, but who, in my opinion, entertain a distinct prejudice against the ranker going up. Almost every day we have the spectacle of young lads who have had practically no experience being given commissions.
– Do you advocate that the Minister ought to make all promotions ?
– Must he not delegate that power to somebody ?
– The Minister must delegate the power, but the ultimate responsibility, I think, rests with him, and I have pointed out how impossible it is for him to give attention to every little matter. I think that when representations are made to the Minister by a member of Parliament concerning what he believes to be a gross and flagrant injustice, the Minister should give the case some attention, and not dismiss or dispose of it in the stereotyped Ministerial way.
– Do not forget that there are only twenty-four hours in the day, and that the Minister is a busy man.
– In Australia we have a number of men upon whom largely depends the successful development of out defence scheme. I refer to the staff non-commissioned and warrant officers - men who have given many years of loyal service to Australia, and who could worthily fill a position in the forces much higher than that which they occupy, but which, except in a few instances, they have not been able to obtain. Over and over again these members of the administrative and instructional staff have the humiliation of seeing young and inexperienced members of the Citizen Forces brought into concentration camps and placed in authority over men who have forgotten more than they are ever likely to know. In my mind’s eye I have the case of a young man - enthusiastic, no doubt, and ambitious probably - who was sent down to the concentration camp at Claremont, near Hobart, and instructed by the non-commissioned officers. Two staff officers sat as a Board of Examiners, and examined the aspirant for his captaincy. He passed his captaincy according to the standard then required, and he was placed in charge of that camp, at a salary of £375 a year, over the heads of men who are capable of instructing him, and of the two staff officers who sat as his Board of Examiners, and each of whom had passed an examination for captaincy on a basis equal to the Imperial standard two and a half years ago. These officers had to stand by while a novice was brought into the camp and placed in authority over them, and all that he is capable of doing is simply to sign the official papers. Furthermore, be it remembered that that man - Captain Payne as he is now - was placed in command of the camp in opposition to the recommendation of the Commandant of Tasmania. Still the Minister of Defence said that everything is all right, that Captain Payne is only appointed temporarily, and that his services can be dispensed with at any moment. I am aware that it is only a temporary appointment, but it is a temporary appointment which surely might have been conferred upon one or other of the more capable members of the. Defence Force who had by all the elements of justice rightly earned promotion ! Notwithstanding the fact that the Commandant recommended this man as being competent to perform junior staff work only, he has, a3 I have stated, been placed in charge of the whole staff. That is not the kind of thing which is going to inspire the ranker - and these two men have risen from the ranks - with any confidence in the justice of the military administration. Nor does it make for good discipline. It does not make these men work as they would like to work, did they believe that promotion would come to those who earned it. That was the ideal of the Labour party, but I claim that that has not been given effect to by the present Administration, . and principally because of the constitution of the various Military Boards or Selection ^Committees that regulate appointments and promotions in the different States.
– They will not take their recommendations.
– Often they will not. The staff and non-commissioned officers ought to have at least one representative on every such Board, so that the genuine interest of the class of men to whom I have referred should be looked after.
– You see the difficulty of pleasing’ everybody. In one case where the recommendation of a Selection Board was not accepted, Senator McDougall is after my gore, but in a case where I did accept the recommendation of a Selection Board, you are after my gore.
– I am not after the Minister’s gore; I am after justice for a section of the Defence Forces, who, I say, are entitled to it.
– -AEsop’s fable again.
– I do not think that the j3Esop fable to which the Minister refers has any connexion with this matter. Let me give him my assurance at once that, never in my life, have I seen the two staff officers of whom I have spoken - Lieutenant Davis and Lieutenant Tackaberry.
– I cannot please everybody.
– No; but by referring to an JEsop fable the Minister implied that I had an axe to grind.
– No, I was alluding to the fable of the old man who tried to please everybody and pleased nobody.
Sentor LONG. - That is not an -3Esop fable.
– I thought it was.
– TheÆsop fable refers to the person who has an axe to grind.
– I defer to your superior knowledge.
– It is stated that those in good social circles -by good I mean select - boldly declare that it is no trouble now to get a commission. A day or two ago I was travelling from Bridgewater to Hobart in a train with a young fellow who, barely nineteen, was in the uniform of a lieutenant. I got into conversation with him, and asked him if he was at the Claremont camp. He said, “Yes; but as soon as the war is over I am going to the Military College.” I remarked, “ I thinkyou will have some difficulty in getting there, as you are over the age. Now there is only one process by which you can reach the Military College, and that is by competitive examination.” “ Oh,” he said, “ I do not think that there will be much trouble to get there. If it is no more trouble to get to the Military College than it was for me to get this commission, I shall be there all right.”
– That gossip proves something, does it not?
– It proves that social influence is at work, and that there is a prejudice against the ranker getting that recognition from the Military Department which his work and bis service entitle him to receive.
– But that was always so.
– Yes; and it was the hope of the Labour movement to knock that out.
– It is worse than ever it was.
– I do not know. The Minister may treat this matter as lightly as he chooses, and can place himself unreservedly in the hands of his subordinates. I had some hope that we had at the head of the military affairs of Australia a man who would not tolerate that kind of thing,and that he was one of the very best.
– Are you satisfied that that kind of thing exists ?
– I am satisfied that there is something very unfair in the administration of our defence system.
– You are willing to accept a single statement and condemn the whole Department?
– That is not the only instance that I have in mind. This young fellow comes from Launceston. I say there is no better exponent of Labour ideals, and no better defender of the Labour platform in public, than the Minister of Defence, and if I am asking anything unreasonable when I ask him to give effect to the ideal for which the military movement of Australia has been established by the Labour party, then I confess I do not know the Minister of Defence as well as I thought I did.
– Apparently, you are prepared to condemn me on the ‘ ‘ say-so ‘ ‘ of some young whippersnapper in military uniform.
– No; I am condemning the Minister on my own personal experience. I have asked over and over again that personal representations made in connexion with these matters should receive his closest attention, and that, if he finds my statementsto be correct, he should right the wrong that has been done. The Minister has not done that.
– I have inquired into every matter you have brought before me. I have not been able to agree with you, and, therefore, it appears that I must be wrong.
– Does the Minister say that he inquired into the matter I referred to just now - the promotion of Captain Payne over the heads of staff officers ?
– And does he say that he found that matter to be wrong?
– No, I did not say that. I say we differ on that matter, and, therefore, I must be wrong, it appears.
– No ; the Minister did not differ. He decided, as he had a perfect right to do, as Minister, that I am wrong. But I want to say that if I am wrong I am in very good company, for I err with the Commandant of the Military Forces of Tasmania. If the Minister takes the view that a grave, gross, and flagrant injustice only means a difference of opinion, it is useless for me to pursue the subject further.
– The difference is that you think it an injustice, and I do not.
– Then all I can say is that the Minister takes a very peculiar view of an injustice. Now, leaving the matter of defence for the moment, I want to come to another subject, which is one of very grave concern to all honorable members, and I am sure it is a matter of no little concern to the Minister. I refer to the matter upon which Senator Needham spoke a few minutes ago - the small expenditure on public works for the eight months of the financial year. Parliament authorized an expenditure of £4,303,000 on additions and new works, and, although eight months have expired, we find that only £1,513,000 has been spent.
– That was up to 28th February.
– Yes, and it is a very small proportion. Surely we could reasonably expect that in these bad times at least half the amount voted by Parliament would have been expended by this time.
– You must remember that the Works Bill was not passed until after the elections. It was very late ‘u September.
– I realize that, and I want to say right here that I am not going to hold the Minister altogether responsible for this. I maintain that the officials of the various Departments are responsible for it, and I urge that they should be compelled to “ get a move on,” and make this work, which has been authorized by Parliament, available to the great number of men out of employment all over Australia who are very much in need of work. There are openings for men in almost every capacity, but the officials usually say there is “ nothing doing “ yet, and that they hope to get the work in hand in two or three weeks’ time. Invariably we get a reply like that after two or three weeks have elapsed. What we want is a Minister bold enough to say to these officials, “ This work must go on at once. Put it in hand. If you do not, I will make it my business to get somebody who will.” The war is a serious matter, bub the drought, which, fortunately, has terminated, has also been a very serious matter to Australia, and the unemployment problem will become more serious for Australia if it is allowed to extend. Ministers representing the different Departments should use all the powers with which they are invested by Parliament to compel the officials to wake up, and get these works in hand without further delay. We have only two or three months more to go before the present financial year terminates, and yet there is a very large proportion of the money which was voted for specific works last year still unexpended. I hope the Government will realize the seriousness of the situation to many thousands of men and women throughout Australia, and that what can be done will be done at once to expedite the works already authorized. I join in the wish expressed by the Minister of Defence, Senator Millen, and by Senator Needham, that the awful conflict now in progress in Europe will terminate at an early date in a complete triumph for the allied forces, which are standing up for the rights of humanity and civilization.
– As far as the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber is concerned, and I may couple with it the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in another place, the Government have very little to complain about. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber was admirable in tone, and I hope we will reciprocate the sentiments expressed in it. For my own part, I do not intend to raise any party feeling by anything I may say here on any occasion, and more particularly in times such as we are now passing through, when party interests should be subordinated to the national welfare. I hope, therefore, that the Opposition will endeavour to assist thB Government to put through the programme they have placed before the country, and by that means carry out the public business outlined in the programme. I feel quite sure that this can be done without any delay, and with a minimum of party strife. Before I proceed any further I would like to correct the false impression which Senator Millen received from an interjection I made whilst he was speaking. Senator Millen said that I interjected, “ There is no party now.” Well, I scarcely intended that to be taken literally, because I meant that in the Federal Parliament there were no parties now, so far as fiscalism is concerned, and I think that :s a correct summing up of the position at the present time. There are no Free
Traders in Australia nowadays, or, if there are, they are a very negligible quantity in public life, and their views are scarcely ever taken into account.
– There are plenty of them, but they have got into the trenches.
– I observe that the Protectionist journal, the Age, refers to them as “ Free Trade Protectionists.” There is very little of the Free Trade element manifested in Australian politics to-day, and therefore when I was making reference to the absence of partyism, it was the fiscal question that I had in my mind more than anything else. I feel sure that any legislation brought forward in this Parliament, with the exception of Tariff legislation, will be emergency legislation arising in one way or another from conditions due to the war. As Senator Millen has agreed that that is the only kind of legislation we should now deal with, we ought to be a very happy family during the remainder of the session.
– Everything depends on what is considered emergency legislation and legislation arising out of the war.
– I agree with Senator O’Keefe that there is room for difference of opinion as to what may be properly termed emergency legislation arising out of the war. I believe, for instance, that the necessity for again passing the referenda measures has been greatly accentuated by the conditions brought about by the war. The fact that this Federal Parliament should have the necessary constitutional power which it is the object of the referenda measures to secure for it is more apparent to-day than ever it was before, when we find that the State Governments, and amongst them Conservative Governments, have been compelled to make efforts to pass legislation which should be passed by this Parliament. If, therefore, we decide to carry out even the programme laid down by Senator Millen it will be necessary for us to pass those referenda measures during the present session. At the last election both parties were agreed as to the necessity for a really Protectionist Tariff, and members of the Government, as well as Opposition members of this Parliament, will be unfaithful to their election pledges if they do not see that a satisfactory Tariff is framed during the present session. I should like to refer briefly to a question which has been given some prominence during the recess, and that is as to whether there should be an Imperial Conference held during the present year. I think there was an understanding that such a conference should be held every four years, and if that be so the next is due about the month of May or June of this year. The last Imperial Conference was held in 1911 and the Conference previous to that in 1907. At both of those conferences resolutions were carried to the effect that if the Imperial Government and the Governments of the Overseas Dominions - Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand - desired to arrive at a common understanding, the proper method to adopt was to hold an Imperial Conference. If there ever was a time in the history of the Empire when there was need for the holding of such a conference it is surely at the present time. The Overseas Dominions have reached manhood. They have armies and navies of their own, at least, so far as Australia is concerned, and they have taken upon themselves all the functions and responsibilities of independent nations. If differences of opinion as to the proper course to be followed in the interests of the Empire exist they should be discussed at an Imperial Conference, which should be held this year. I am disappointed that the Imperial authorities have not taken steps for the holding of such a conference. We have been told that they have been in communication with the different Dominion Governments, and that the majority of them have not been in favour of the holding of such a conference at the present time. We all know that the Government of Australia are not of that opinion. Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand have taken up their share of the burden of the fighting that is going on, and I am at a loss to understand why they do not make some effort to come to a common understanding with the Imperial authorities. It should not be forgotten that when peace is declared the settlement may be brought about very suddenly, and so the views of the Governments of the Overseas Dominions should be known in advance to the Imperial authorities. Australia and South Africa have both taken territory from the enemy.
– And are going to keep it.
– I hope they are, but the honorable senator should remember that should a settlement of the war be brought about suddenly, it is possible that we may have very little say in the terms to be agreed upon, and we should have a say in matters affecting the part of the world in which we are directly interested. We have taken German territory in New Guinea and the Pacific, and we should have some understanding as to what is going to be done in the future.
– I think we had better beat the Germans first.
– We have acquired German territory already, and should a settlement be arrived at rapidly, the opinion of the people of Australia should be known, and the best way in which it can be made known is by consultation with the Imperial authorities at an Imperial conference. Many references have been made to the small amount of public expenditure since we last met. I believe that much of the money voted for public works might very well have been spent by this time on very urgent and necessary works. Though we are at war, all our people cannot be at the front. Some must be left behind to carry on the industries of the country. Many who desire to go to the front, because of age and physical limitations have been unable to do so. I hope that something will be done to extend the age limit, for instance, beyond the present limit of 40 years. Many men are at their best at 45 years of age, and if they went to the front, would be capable of giving a good account of themselves. It is, in my opinion, a mistake to prevent such men from actively participating in the war.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should accept those men before we have exhausted the supply of younger men?
– I certainly do. I do not think it is at all wise for us to exhaust the supply of young men. We have to consider the future of our race. We have to remember that the war is far from being finished. We have been fighting for the last seven or eight months, but we have not yet done very much. No doubt the British Navy has secured command of the seas, but the German Navy is still intact. We have yet a long way to go before Ave can claim that we are safe. We must destroy the German Navy first.
– The honorable senator should qualify his statement. It is not correct to say that the German Navy is still intact.
– So far as we know, the German Navy is pretty much in the position it occupied at the beginning of the Avar.
– No; they have lost over 30 ships.
– And so have we lost ships. There is no denying the fact that we have not yet accounted for the German Navy, and it may give us a great deal of trouble. We have further to remember that the enemy is still in possession of practically the whole of Belgium. Their front extends from the English Channel, through Belgium and France, to the borders of Switzerland. A considerable portion of France and practically the whole of Belgium is under the control of the enemy. There is therefore still a big task ahead of us before the Germans are driven out of Belgium and France. If we can drive them out this year, we shall have done a magnificent summer’s work. Even then Ave shall have only got the enemy into his own country, so that we still have a long way to go to end the fight we have begun. In view of this fact, the question of how we are going to find work for our people here forces itself upon us. Quite a number of suggestions have been made as to the kind of work that should be provided, and I hope the Government will be very careful that any work they undertake is such as will be beneficial to the country later on. I hope there will be no foolish squandering of money. Though it may be plentiful now, the time may come when it will be scarce. I should like to say a few words in support of the construction of defence or strategic railways mentioned in the document before us. Railways of this kind will be a pressing necessity for this country. It may be a long while before we have another war of the same proportions as the present, but still there is every necessity for us to keep a proper control of our own country so that we may be able to defend it. We do not want to go to the expense of providing a navy such as we have at present, because I think there will be an agreement among the nations for disarmament. If there is not disarmament, this war will have been waged in vain. I hope that the enormous expenses which the nations have borne up to almost the breaking-point, to provide armaments, will in the future be, to a considerable extent, obviated. One of the benefits which I hope Australia will secure is that of being able to do with a much less expensive navy than that we have already brought into being. Even if that comes about, we shall still have to face the necessity of providing for the land defence of the country. Our continent is removed a long way from the probable zone of danger, and what we may have to look to is defence by land forces. Australia will have, before many years, in proportion to population, the largest citizen army in the world, and the problem we have to consider is how to use that enormous body of trained troops to the best advantage for defence purposes.
– Take care that it is trained. The trouble at present is that it is not.
– I hope it will be. We are training our boys in the proper way now, and the instruction which is being given is such as any good average intelligent Australian can take advantage of.
– It takes months to make a trained soldier out of the men who are presenting themselves here.
– Those men have not passed through our cadet system.
– Many went to South Africa.
– Fifty per cent, of them have had no previous experience.
– We cannot make a soldier out of a man who has had no training as quickly as we can out of a boy who has been trained under our present defence system. He would be a dull Australian who could not be turned into a good soldier in a few months after going through our system of training between the ages of fourteen and twentyfive - the most-impressionable years of a man’s life. In England, at present, Kitchener is endeavouring to create an army of 2,000,000 men out of raw material in a few months. It is a dangerous experiment, but I suppose it must be undertaken. Many of the men when recruited did not even know the “goose” step, and knew nothing about military train ing of any kind. We in Australia have been wise enough in the past to see the danger of that sort of thing, and took the proper steps to prevent it. I hope that our Compulsory Training Act will save us from that dilemma, if ever we should be called upon to defend this country. Whilst, however, we may have an enormous trained army in proportion to the population, something more is required than men, ammunition, .and arms, because defence railways are just as necessary. Not very many years ago, the cry in Australia was not for strategic railways, but for armed men. According to General Hutton - perhaps one of the ablest soldiers we have had here - what we required then was troops. He gave his opinion with regard to the transcontinental railway. We had at that time no compulsory training, and practically no troops, and his view was that it was nonsense to talk of building a strategic railway from east to west when we had no troops to carry over it. The first step, he said, in a sound, commonsense way, was to find the troops, just as one must first catch, one’s hare. “ If an armed force invaded Western Australia,” he said, “you people in the east might like to go and help your comrades there, and it would be a good idea to have a railway for the purpose, but you have no troops. Get your troops first, and build your railways afterwards.” To-day we have the troops and a certain mileage of railways, but we are in such a hopeless tangle owing to the numerous breaks of gauge, that we could take a contingent to Western Australia by water nearly as quickly as we could by rail.
– So long as you have command of the sea that is the best way to take them.
– It is a slow, expensive, and dangerous method. The difficult point with the various armies of the world has always been that of taking them expeditiously over water.
– The British troops were taken from England to the Continent without an accident.
– True, but Britain’s present position makes that possible. The greatest maritime Power in the world ought to be able to do it, considering that the distance is only about 21 miles.
– They just had to hop over the channel.
– It was not a case of hopping over to South Africa.
– I would advise honorable senators not to mention the South African war, which was discreditable to us, and we should forget it as soon as possible.
– Because it was an unjust and unwarrantable war in the interests of the “ gold- bugs “ of the Rand, and because, also, of the insignificant forces opposed in that war to the greatest Empire in the world. The present break of gauge difficulty in Australia is such that any attempt to transport a considerable number of troops for any great distance would result in a state of hopeless confusion. The present position on the eastern front in Europe shows the value of strategic railways. Russia, so far as population is concerned, is the mightiest nation in Europe. When the war began we hoped that tie Russian army - variously estimated at from four to ten million men - would be the big steam-roller that would settle the thing right off. They were to be in Berlin before the Germans could possibly get back from the western front. Yet this enormous army has been kept at bay for eight months by a German army of 1,000,000, for Germany cannot have more than a million men on her eastern frontier according to the figures I have seen. The enormous Russian army has been held in check by the enemy owing to the advantage of the strategic railways of Prussia, which enabled Germany to shift large bodies of troops quickly from one point to the other.
– The distances there are very short compared with those of Australia. Germany is a very small country compared even with New South Wales.
– I admit that it is much easier for Germany to build strategic railways than it is for us, but that is no reason why we should ignore the question. It is one of the things we are here to consider. Whether we require the east-west railway or not for defence purposes we shall, at all events, require it for the carriage of our mails. If honorable senators will follow the procedure that will be adopted in transporting our mails from Western Australia to the Eastern
States when the present transcontinental line has been completed, they will realize what a very slow process would be the moving of troops over the same area under existing conditions. Upon the arrival of the English mail steamer at Fremantle, the mails will have to be transferred to the train, whence they will be carried a distance of 400 miles to Kalgoorlie. There it will become necessary to again transfer them from the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge to the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge of the transcontinental line. “ Upon that line they will be carried 1,060 miles to Port Augusta, where they will once more be transferred to the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge which runs to Terowie, 120 miles distant. At Terowie, they will again have to be dumped on to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, on which they will be carried to Adelaide. From Port Augusta to Adelaide they will be proceeding direct south, instead of going east to the more populous portions of the Commonwealth. On the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge the New South Wales and Queensland mails will be carried another 500 miles further south to Melbourne, and then north to Albury, where ‘ they will again require to be dumped on to the 4-ft. 8J-in. gauge, provided that they are then in a fit condition to withstand the transfer. Now, I take it that Sydney is the most central city in Australia, and I do not propose to pursue this phase of the question further, although I would point out that still another break of gauge occurs on the Queensland border.
– The honorable senator” does not believe that Sydney is the most central city in Australia? Port Augusta is more central.
– Do you say Port Augusta is a city? Sydney is the most central city from my point of view, as it is also the most important. It will thus be seen that we shall have to transfer our mail matter no less than six times between the time of its arrival at Fremantle and the period of reaching its final destination. I wish also to point out that the distance which our mails would cover between Port Augusta and Sydney by the present route would aggregate 1,323 miles, whereas if they were taken direct, the distance traversed would be only about 800 miles. It will thus be seen that, if a standard - gauge railway such as is suggested by the
Prime Minister were constructed, a saving of more than 500 miles between these, two points would be effected. The distance which has to be covered in order to reach Brisbane by the present route is 2,046, and by the direct route 1,000.
– What would be the traffic from Western Australia to Brisbane)
– All the traffic would not originate in Western Australia. There is a considerable area between from which traffic would come.
– But we would not shift the area.
– What is the traffic on the inland lines of New South Wales?
– The fact that, under existing conditions, when the transcontinental line is completed, our mails will travel double the mileage that is necessary should, surely, be a sufficient justification for pressing on with the proposed strategic railway. I have already demonstrated that there are good reasons why the Government should push forward that work at the earliest possible moment. We have the hands available with which to build the line, and there is no denying the fact that, if there is one matter more than another which should be considered by this Chamber it is the development of the interior of Australia. The building of railways, the sinking of bores in our artesian basins, and the construction of dams constitute the very best works into which we can put the taxpayers’ money at the present time.
– Then we ought first to extend the transcontinental line from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges.
– I am quite prepared to help the honorable senator to secure that railway, because I recognise that it is one which ought to be built. But at the present moment I am urging the necessity which exists for constructing a strategic line which will enable us to make use of the east-west transcontinental line.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I desire to make a passing reference to the Commonwealth Bank, and more particularly in connexion with the Australian note issue, which some persons declare has nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth Bank. I scarcely think it is an accurate representation of the fact, because the
Commonwealth Bank business and the Australian note issue are simply two branches of the same undertaking. I hope that the day is not far off when the two branches will be worked from the Bank itself, instead of, as at present, one from the Treasury and the other from the Bank. The note issue, owing to its enormous increase in the last year or so, shows what benefit may be derived from a paper currency, especially at a time such as we are now passing through. On several occasions in the history of the world, wars have demonstrated the benefit of paper money. We know that gold has ever been of a timid nature. When times of trouble and strife have arisen, gold has very often disappeared, and countries have been left without the usual medium of circulation, and consequently times without number countries have been obliged to resort to a paper currency, and found it very awkward, indeed, to initiate and put it into operation. We in Australia have been more fortunate, in the fact that we had our machinery in operation before the war began. We have had some experience of a paper currency, and that experience undoubtedly has been for the good of the community. We have not had the slightest obstacle placed in the way of the circulation of our note issue. If it had fallen to our lot to bring in this great reform during a war, it is difficult indeed to say what might have happened, but it must be admitted that, so far, it has done a wonderful amount of good. I think it is safe to say that if the enormous funds handled by private banks were put in the balance on one side, and the amount of good done by the circulation of the Australian notes were put on the other side, it would be found that the greater service has been rendered by the circulation of the paper money. In addressing himself to this question, the Leader of the Opposition made, in my opinion, a very unfortunate remark. That kind of reference to the subject has become somewhat too frequent. It keeps us in mind of the fact that the introduction of the Australian note issue was a party measure, and apparently, our political opponents are determined to keep up their party attitude towards it. They opposed the note issue when it was brought into existence, and there has been opposi- tion to it more or less ever since that time. I think that they are an extremely foolish political party to maintain that attitude. They certainly cannot do the note issue a great deal of harm, but, politically speaking, it is bad business for them to go on decrying it in the way they are doing, because they will suffer a great deal more from so doing than the note issue will do. Remembering the backing in gold we have, against the amount of paper money in circulation, it is the height of absurdity for Senator Millen to say that the note issue is inflated. I recognise that the private banks at the present time are endeavouring to help the country, but when we consider the very small extent to which they are helping in proportion to their enormous wealth- j-
– Ten millions?
– Ten millions the banks have promised, but only £3,000,000 has been used up to the present time. For these three millions of gold they have received notes worth 20s. in the pound of the same value. Having regard to their enormous wealth, the banks ought to be able to produce a great deal more than £10,000,000 at a time such as this. To talk about the banks demanding back 10,000,000 sovereigns, if we take their gold, at the end of the war, is, to my mind, a rather unpatriotic utterance. Perhaps that will be just the very time when we shall be least able to pay back the gold.
– And it would be very injurious to the banks if we did.
– It would be very harmful to the banks and to the business of the whole country. In September of last year the banks were credited with holding nearly £35,000,000 in gold, coin and bullion. Wow, to say that the banks would embarrass the Government or insist on a hard and fast agreement before they would do anything for the country which has made it possible for them to continue in business; to say that they would demand the gold at the close of the war, is, to my mind, to attribute to them what would not be a patriotic action, and I cannot even think that it would be good business for even the banks.
– Who says that the banks are going to demand it back ?
– That is the agreement which the banks entered into with the Government.
– That is the provision in the agreement, but there is no indication that the banks intend to make such a demand.
– For their own sakes I hope not. But even if the banks did demand the gold back, there are other ways in which wealthy institutions could be made to contribute their share to the Government of the country. For very many years in Canada the banks have been obliged to hold 40 per cent, of their reserves in notes. In all probability Australia will see its way to adopt that principle, and require the banks to contribute as much to the Government of the day as Canadian banks are required to contribute. In that way the Commonwealth would get some return for the protection which the taxpayers are called upon to provide in the shape of an army and navy. Instead of decrying the Australian note issue, and talking about it being inflated, I think that all parties should see that it is one of the finest financial innovations which have ever been introduced here. I have read a good deal of the history of banking, and I think that never before in the world’s history was a greater success made of this medium of circulation than has been made in Australia. To throw cold water upon the note issue, or to decry it in any shape or form, and to say that it is inflated, is not only a misrepresentation of the facts, but a very unpatriotic action. Surely we do not want any panics to arise nor suspicion cast on our safe and sound financial position. We do not wish any doubt to be thrown upon the efforts of the Government at the present time. It is the patriotic duty of every man, especially of a man holding a high responsible position, such as that of leader of a party in Australian politics, to weigh his words very carefully before he gives utterance to a statement of that kind.
I desire to make a . further reference to the question of railways. Our first and greatest duty is to provide railways for the defence of Australia. In the past railways have been built by six different Governments, each looking at the proposal from a State stand-point, and the result has been that each State hae quite ignored the national interests.
Hence the necessity for this. Parliament to employ whatever money it has to spend during the war in making the Australian railway system as complete as we possibly can by linking State railways, by adopting a uniform gauge, and by every means in our power improving and developing the interior. Our desire is to promote the development of the interior. We are only beginning to realize what Australia is. Time was when it was regarded as mostly a desert, and when only a very small margin along the coast line was considered sufficiently fertile to maintain a population. But as settlement pushed backward and backward, this so-called mythical desert disappeared, becoming beautifully less all the time. It has been found that just as settlement has pressed backward the interior has been proven to be a great deal more fertile than many parts of the coast line. Take, for instance, the position of Western Australia. Fifteen years ago it waa considered that most of that State consisted of desert country, but we know that millions of acres of fertile wheat country have been put under the plough, and have produced splendid crops from that time on. I daresay that most parts of Australia will have a somewhat similar experience. I believe that much of the country through which it is proposed to build our strategical railway will be fit for wheat-growing. It will be a profitable proposition for us to build a railway through such country. It is not to be a mere defence railway. It will not only shorten the number of miles to be run from Port Augusta, if that is taken as a starting point, to such places as Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane, but it will actually add to the number of acres of wheat land under cultivation. It is the want of railways that restricts our wheat production more than the want of rain. There is no better purpose to which we could devote our cash than the development of country. I believe that we shall get a splendid return from the investment. When we have probably a greater number of unemployed than we aTe likely to have in normal times, now is the time for us to carry out this proposal, and develop the country, so that when peace is restored, Australia can contribute its volume of trade to the requirements of the times. If the present Government want to do something big, they will pro- ceed with the construction of defence railways, linking up the various lines from Port Augusta, going direct to New South Wales, running north to Brisbane, and undertaking to complete the work of the transcontinental line.
– Do you not think that they ought to complete the line through the Northern Territory before they talk about building any other railways?
– I would prefer one railway to be completed so that we could get some return. If we allow the different gauges to stand as they are; if we run a 4-ft. 8-in. railway from Port Augusta, and then link it up with the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge in South Australia, and then back again to the 4-ft. 8^-in., and later run from that gauge on to a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, we should get no benefit or profit from it whatever. At the present time our transcontinental railways may be said to be running into a dead-end, because of the roundabout routes by which they reach terminal points in the various cities of Australia. Therefore, it is imperative to take in hand the proposal to continue the railway into New South Wales.
– And prosecute a war for two or three years as well ?
– It does not matter how long the war may go on. We have to find work for our people, and the most expensive and extravagant policy that we could adopt would be to allow our people, the manhood of Australia, to be idle.
– Is not the manhood of Australia capable of finding employment for itself ?
– The manhood of Australia, as represented by disorganized units, is unable to do anything for itself, but Australia as a whole, as a united body, can do almost anything, and so long as there is developmental work to be done in our country I maintain that the Australian Notes Act is sufficient to supply the wherewithal to provide the circulation through the veins of the body politic to keep it healthy and vigorous. Much of the land that, in the past, was considered useless for wheat production, is coming more and more into use in Western Australia. Though the drought was one of the worst in the history of my State, we have coun- try producing crops with a rainfall of 5 and 6 inches. This is due to the fact that the soils of the interior are of such a light, sandy nature that they are productive with a very light rainfall. Recently I was presented by the President of the Agricultural Bank in Western Australia with a sample of wheat grown on land with a rainfall of only 3 inches during the growing period. I make this statement on the authority of a man whose business it is to watch the production of the State closely, and I think the statement forecasts great possibilities as to what hitherto has been regarded as desert country. In the past we have been iri the habit of putting the cart before the horse, and instead of building railways first we have sent out the settlers to the backblocks, where they have either perished or abandoned their holdings because they have become tired of waiting for the railway. In this way land settlement has, to some extent, failed. Let us run our railways through these areas, and I have no doubt whatever that settlement will follow. Even if the railways do not quite pay for a little while, the development of the country is one of the duties that we cannot lose sight of. The interior of this country must be developed, and there is no better method of attaining this object than by building railways of the character I have referred to. I hope that the brief reference to strategic railways in the statement presented to the Senate is not indicative of the importance attached by the Government to the great question of railway construction. There is no undertaking of greater importance than the construction of these railways, and, therefore, I shall be very pleased indeed when a measure comes along to link up Port Augusta with New South Wales and Queensland, and other parts of Australia. In my own State there is a part of the transcontinental railway which will require to be altered to the standard gauge. This expenditure, however, will be exceedingly heavy for a State with a small population. Western Australia comprises about one-third of the total area of this great continent; - roughly speaking, about ] ,000,000 square miles - but it has a population of only 300,000 people, and it would be a big undertaking for the State to find £2,000,000 to alter the gauge of the existing railway to the standard fixed by the Commonwealth. I do not think those people should be called upon to pay for that work. It is surely a matter that the Federal Government could very well undertake, just as they are undertaking the construction of the strategic railway. I do not put forward this proposal for the _ benefit of my own State only. The whole of Australia will benefit by the project, and that being so, all parties should give their adhesion to it. If, as the outcome nf the present war, we are able to complete the railway scheme in Australia on the lines indicated the war will not have been fought in vain.
– It is my intention to offer a few remarks, perhaps somewhat discursively, on the various subjects touched upon by the honorable senators who preceded me in the course of this debate. I regret that circumstances compelled me to be out of the chamber very frequently while two or three senators spoke yesterday, but I endeavoured to amend matters by reading proofs of their remarks which they very kindly permitted me to see. I am quite prepared for the announcement that the Labour party are going on with several important items of their political programme, and as they have come to that decision I am not going to say very much about it. I will accept the situation as it is, and they must also be prepared, if they offer any contentious item in their programme, to receive such criticism as may be offered from this side of the Chamber. I wish to say at the outset that I fully associate myself with Senator Millen, the Leader of the Liberal party in the Senate, in his assurance to the Government that any measure which it may be necessary to introduce as the outcome of the war will receive the hearty cooperation of myself, and, I feel sure, of every member of our party in this chamber. The cause of the Empire is the cause of Australia. In the course of my remarks I may give expression to certain opinions, and I want to make it plain at this stage that I do not want any responsibility for those opinions to be placed on my party, for I am not aware that the Liberal party as a whole, or even members of the Liberal party individually, have given consideration to the subjects with which I intend to deal. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am speaking for myself, for I have the courage of my opinions, and will, I feel sure, be able to give very good reason to the people of Australia for these opinions. Assuming that the Labour party are going to attempt to carry out their lengthy programme, or certain major features of it, I think the situation with which we have to deal legislatively presents three important features, namely, that connected with the war, that connected with the Constitution under which this Legislature was called into existence, and that dealing with what is known as the Tariff. Now, in connexion with the war, I, with every other British subject, desire to see it ended speedily, with victory crowning the Imperial arms and those of the nations in alliance with our Empire. And it is because of my ardent desire to see victory that I propose to ventilate certain opinions in regard to the adoption of necessary measures to bring about that victory at an early date. I am not, however, going to sound any note of criticism of administration. My criticism will be directed to the people of Australia.
– It does not always do to talk back to the “ boss.”
– He might get the “ sack “ sometimes.
– Then I will chance that. I am asked why I do not go over to Tasmania and tell these opinions to the people there? I have already given expression to these opinions in the columns of the Labour journal in that State. The people of Australia have been burning a great deal of incense lately to indicate what they have done to assist the cause of the Empire in this war; but I want to say that if any enemy lands a force on our shores, and it takes us as long to get together an effective force as it lias taken us to equip 70,000 men to serve the Empire, the defence we will be able to put up will not be a very effective one. I am aware of the difficulties which have confronted the Administration, and which, to a considerable extent, disarm criticism in regard to the war. Everywhere throughout Australia we hear nothing but laudation of ourselves, the efforts we have made, and what we have done for the people of Belgium. Let us just examine the situation. According to the Ministerial statement, we have in course of preparation a force of 70,000 men, some 40,000 of whom have already been despatched to the seat of war. These men have undergone a considerable amount of training in Australia, but the military authorities of the Empire have considered that they needed a great deal more before they were fit to be put into a European battlefield. I do not think that a force of 70,000 is, proportionately to its population, such a very large force for Australia to raise in about eight months, in view of the fact that the very existence of the Empire, of which we are an important unit, is at stake.
– It is a bigger proportion than the force which Canada has raised.
– That, has nothing to do with it. If the people of Canada do not realize their responsibility, that is no reason why the people of Australia should not realize theirs.
– Does the honorable senator know of any country with a similar population that has ever done as much as we have done in Australia ?
– I question whether the honorable senator could refer me to any country which bears the same relation to the British Empire as Australia does.
– Had the honorable senator’s party had their way we should not have been able to do what we have done. The honorable senator’s party opposed the national manufacture of equipment.
– I am not criticising this particular Government. This is too big a subject on which to enlarge from a mere party stand-point. I wish to deal with it from a national stand-point. Let me remind honorable senators that a very severe indictment is being prepared in the Old Country against the Imperial Government for their neglect of proper precautions in connexion with the war. Criticism there is in the meantime disarmed for the very same reason that it is disarmed here, though I am prepared to admit that criticism here need not be of so violent a character as it certainly will be in the Old Country, because of the lack of preparation by the Imperial Government for the great struggle which the members of that Government should have known was before the Empire. I may quote something on this point from one of the best informed and most highly respected organs of public opinion in the Old Country. I refer to the Spectator. in which I find the statement made -
We have plenty of criticisms to make on the want of preparation for which the Go- vernment are responsible, and will take occasion when the proper time comes to press them home. The attitude of the Government was so foolish as to amount to criminality.
The Australian people are indulging in a chorus of laudation of what they have done, and are doing ; hut I say that what the Australian people have done and are doing is lamentably insufficient in this great crisis.
– It is the best we could do.
– It is not.
– Will the honorable senator say how we could do better ?
– If the honorable senator will give me a little time I will do so. There is no Bill coming up from another place yet, and I propose to take ray time in dealing with this matter. What should we say of the captain of a vessel who, in full sight of a lighthouse, ran his ship upon a known shoal? If he exhibited great seamanship in getting his vessel off the shoal that might be pleaded in mitigation of penalty, but it could ‘not be pleaded as a complete exculpation. The imperial Government at the present time are doing their best in the circumstances in which they find themselves, with, perhaps, one or two exceptions. But what about the attitude, before the war, of the men who are acclaimed as statesmen, in the Old Country to the great Power that is endeavouring to accomplish the downfall of the British Dominions throughout the world ?
– Does the honorable senator not think that his remarks are in very bad taste?
– No, I do not. We have had plenty of laudation, and a little tonic should do no harm.
– Do the members of the Imperial Government not know how to manage their own business without the assistance of the honorable senator ?
– I remind Senator Findley that in this chamber we have frequently before told them how to manage their own business.
– Mr. Asquith is taking a note of this.
– I do not care whether Mr. Asquith hears of it or not. I have no doubt that he will before very long hear some criticism from much more able men than myself in connexion with this matter.
– Does the honorable senator not think that he should leave the criticism to those abler men?
– No, because I am leading up to the statement of what I think should be done in Australia, and what must be done by the Empire before victory is achieved in the war. To digress a little: We have been lauding ourselves for having done something for the people of Belgium, who took not the ca’-canny, but the heroic course in this great struggle. These people, by reason of their resistance, though it was of a temporary character, enabled certain dispositions to be made which checked the onrush of the German forces to Paris.
– I dare say that even that could have been done better.
– Because we have subscribed, possibly, £1,000,000 in Australia for the benefit of the Belgian people, we are indulging in never-ceasing laudation of ourselves for having done so much. What are other people, who are not at all as vitally interested, doing for the Belgians? It is frequently the case with neighbours that they are not very friendly disposed towards each other, but I remind honorable senators that the Dutch, who are neighbours of the Belgians, are feeding 30,000 interned Belgian troops, and are providing them with so many pence per day pocket money. They are also feeding hundreds of thousands of Belgian refugees. The United States of America, a country with which we in Australia should have the happiest relations, is doing the major portion of the work of feeding the Belgian nation.
– Does the honorable senator complain of that ?
– What I complain of is that we should be patting ourselves on the back because of what we have done to assist the Empire and to assist the Belgian people.
– They have thanked us very freely for what we have done for them.
– Does the honorable senator think, that we should not have been thanked if we had sent only £1,000 to Belgium?
– How many men would the honorable senator send to the war from Australia?
– Let me tell Senator Gardiner that I am in favour of conscription. That policy would put an end to the kind of talk in which Senator Lynch indulged yesterday. The honorable senator reminded me of the advice given by the little boy to his mother, when she was quarrelling with a female neighbour, that she should question the legitimacy of the other woman, and hurl abuse at her, or her opponent would do it first. That is the attitude which Senator Lynch adopted yesterday. The honorable senator produced a list of figures which, if they proved anything, showed that no very large number of Australians are going to the front, in proportion to our population.
– Does the honorable senator think that if we had conscription we should have been able to send a single additional soldier from Australia?
– Perhaps not, because of the lack of preparation on the part of the Imperial Government to which I have already referred. I admit that this lack of preparation is one of the best answers that could possibly be given to the German contention that Great Britain had been preparing to make war upon Germany, and that she brought about the war. The fact that the Imperial Government were really unprepared, when war was declared, to wage a war of any very great magnitude is a complete refutation of the German allegation that she brought about the war. Seeing that Germany is right across the creek, so to speak, from Great Britain, and that Great Britain is supposed to have had a secret service and to be well informed concerning continental operations, she should have made some satisfactory preparation to meet the attempts of the great German Empire, which years and years ago set out with the intention of compassing the downfall of the British Dominions.
– The British people could not have been induced to believe that such a thing was possible.
– Quite a large number of people believed that it was possible. I do not wish to pose as one of those who are wise after the event, but I may inform honorable senators that, four or five years ago, when in the Tasmanian Parliament, people were discussing the j alleged menace of a certain Power, I told them that a war with Germany was inevitable, and that it was a war for which the Empire, and Australia in particular, should make speedy pre paration. It is stated, and I hope it is true, that the soldiers recruited in Great Britain for what is known as Kitchener’s new army, number, perhaps, 2,000,000 of men or more. We should remember that Australia is one of the most important of the King’s Dominions possessing a white population. The population of the United Kingdom is, roughly, about 50,000,000 souls, whilst the population of the Commonwealth is about 5,000,000. It is incumbent upon the Commonwealth, if the professions of loyalty’ which we hear so frequently throughout the length and breadth of Australia mean anything more than lip service, to send forth its full population proportion of the troops necessary to bring about victory in this war.
– Does the honorable senator say that we could have done more than we have done ?
– Yes, I do. Does Senator Ready not read the English press? Does he not know what was done in recruiting Kitchener’s Army? He must know that there are hundreds of thousands of recruits in the Old Country who are being drilled with umbrellas, sticks, and so on.
– Does the honorable senator think that we could have sent more men ?
– I think that we could have had a very much larger number of men drilled and ready to send, awaiting only the distribution of the necessary military equipment.
– Is this a joke?
– No, it is not a joke. I will jest with the honorable senator at any time he feels disposed to jest, but in this matter I am not jesting. I am in deadly earnest. There is another important consideration in connexion with the sending of troops and the giving of assistance to the Empire, and it has a close relation to the important question of finance. I have expressed myself in favour of getting the troops necessary to assist the Empire by conscription. I will admit that so long as the Government of the Commonwealth engage soldiers as they engage carpenters, there must be a contract between the Government and the men to pay them such a reasonable rate of wages as seems satisfactory to the men enlisting. That is all right. But let us remember how we are financing our share in this war. We are really not financing it at all. We are simply getting raw recruits, and the British Government are financing our share of the war. We are borrowing money from the Home Country to pay our troops - quite legitimately, I admit, so long as we are contracting with them for voluntary service - a wage which is greater than the wage paid by most of the State Governments to the police. I say that if this is going to be a war of financial exhaustion, and it will be necessary to prosecute it much beyond the present year, the system under which we are giving assistance to the Empire will break down.
– Would the honorable senator make our troops go to the front for nothing?
– Unless Providence is very friendly disposed towards us indeed, I say that it will be impossible for us to wage war for any length of time under such a system with an Empire which imposes the duty of military service upon its subjects as a citizen obligation.
– Does the honorable senator think that 6s. a day is too much ? ,
– I do not think it is too much for men who voluntarily enlist, but I say that this is not the way in which to economically prosecute the war.
– The honorable senator does not think that we should pay our men more than troops are paid in the Old Country?
– Once we conscript our men, I do not think it would be right for us to pay them any more than British soldiers are being paid.
– -Who would keep their dependents ?
– We are told that we should never prophesy unless we know, but I will venture the prophecy that if the war lasts beyond the present year there must be conscription in the Old Country. Australia boasts that she has often shown the way to the Old Country in connexion with many things necessary for the development of our civilization, and I say that it is incumbent upon us to show how the war can be prosecuted on the most sound and economical basis. This is not a popular thing to say. It is not a popular thing for me to go out, as I have done, and say I believe in conscription and in men being sent to the front as a national duty, but I feel that that is what I ought to say, and that I should be a poor custodian of the people’s interests if I did not say it. I say it here now, even if it costs me my seat. What if it does ? I had a pretty lively existence before I got into Parliament, and hope to have many lively years when I get out of it.
– Would you commandeer the money as well as introduce conscription ?
– The honorable senator shows his lack of appreciation of the situation by comparing two things that are altogether unlike. I may err in connexion with this matter, but if I do, I err in singularly good company. Senator de Largie has alluded to the fact that the Allies on the west of Europe are holding over 300 miles of battle front, extending from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. The British Forces are holding only about 31 miles of it. The duty, therefore, of keeping back the Germans in western Europe still devolves for the most part on the troops of France and Belgium, although it is just as vital to British interests as it is to French interests that the Germans be kept out of France.
– Does not the Navy count at all ?
– We would have the Navy in any case. When the time comes for settlement after the war, unless we have done our duty, unless we have put forth the whole force of our Empire, our prestige will not be sufficient to protect us from certain dangers of the future which are at present only in an incipient stage.
– In considering the extent of the British effort on land, are you not ignoring the Navy altogether?
– No; I desire to be just. The British Navy was in a singularly efficient condition, and credit is due to those who were administering the Naval Forces.
– I do not think your leader will indorse a statement like that.
– I am making statements to which my Leader is not committed. I took the precaution when I arose to indicate that I was speaking on my own account. I do not ask any member of the Liberal party to indorse what I am saying.
– I entirely agree with your statement that Great Britain was not in a state of efficient preparation on land.
– And do you indorse conscription also ?
– I have said nothing of that kind.
– What you did say we all indorse, but we object to conscription and no wages.
– There has been a great deal of talk about the Commonwealth Bank and the note issue. I am prepared to accord the Bank all kinds of praise. I was never an opponent of it; but, notwithstanding the Commonwealth Bank and the note issue, had we not received financial assistance from the Imperial Government, it would be very difficult to ascertain how we could have financed our share of the assistance which it was our duty to render to the Empire. It is therefore incumbent upon us, if our assertions of patriotism and self-sacrifice are worth more than the paper they are printed on, to economize financially. In order to beat the Germans to their knees, drive them out of Belgium, liberate Prance, and put our Empire in the proud position which it ought to occupy after this war, it is necessary for us to wage war as the Germans are doing - with our full force. We must husband our economic resources, and do our level best to put our whole strength in the field on the cheapest and most economical basis possible. Economically, we should wage war on the German basis. That would be the quickest way to secure the triumph of our arms. We are part and parcel of the Empire ; we have_ certain self-governing privileges which we exercise by the generosity of the Mother Country; and in coming to her assistance it is the duty of the people of the Commonwealth to acquiesce in the policy of rendering help on the most efficient and cheapest possible basis. The necessity for waging war may last for years. The British Empire waged war for about twenty-three years against the forces of the French Republic, and of Napoleonic France; and he is a wise man indeed who is able to state definitely that this war will end within the course of the next few months, or even the next year.
– That is why the honorable senator argues for conscription and ls. 2d. a day.
– Most decidedly. I accept the responsibility of my utterances. The wisest policy for Australia is to ascertain the number of men that we should, according to a population basis, supply to the Forces of the Empire, make preparation to enlist them compulsorily, if necessary, and then pay them certainly not more than the British voluntarily enliste’d soldiers are receiving in the trenches.
– And that is ls. 2d. a day.
– Yes. The honorable senator may make what use he chooses of the statement.
– That is 2d. more than a member of the Labour party advocated some time ago.
– I was not aware that any member of the Labour party had advocated the payment of ls. per day.
– Not in Australia.
– Yes, in Australia, by Mr. Hughes in the early days of compulsory training.
– That was not for men going to war.
– The immediate vital interests of the Empire are more concerned with the struggle in western Europe than with events in any other part of the world, but the destiny of Australia as a portion of the Empire depends as much upon what is happening in the east. There is not the slightest doubt that the fact that the British Empire is involved in a life and death struggle in western Europe is causing its interests to suffer most materially in what is known to us in Australia as the east. The whole world is at war, and there are numberless indications, which I am prepared at any time to epitomize for the benefit of the Government, that there will be many wars after the conclusion of this great struggle. What then are we doing to prepare ourselves for a crisis such as I have just vaguely indicated ?
– What can we do?
– We can do a great deal more than we are doing. If there is one thing more certain than another established by this war it is the value of the long service and highlytrained soldier. The British Expeditionary Force sent to Flanders in the early days of the war, although not numerically very great, was a splendid professional military machine which fully justified the long period of training to which its members had been subjected.
In a struggle such as the Empire is engaged in at present, the amateur is of very small account, and our Australian soldiers, although excellent material, are only amateur soldiers after all. Some time ago the Government secured the services of General Sir Ian Hamilton, whose military experience is so highly prized by the Imperial Government that it is commonly reported that he is to command one of the new armies that is being despatched to the Continent within the next month or two in order to shatter the German position in the west of Europe. I have heard practically no reference to the report he made when he visited Australia, but I have read it. It clearly indicates the necessity of making better preparations for home defence than our national defence scheme provides for at present. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned .
Expeditionary Forces : Equipment - Horses for Military Purposes - Small Arms Factory.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
The schedule consists of one line “Expeditionary Forces, £3,130,000.” That is practically the excess expenditure over the Estimates already submitted, and is due to the increased number of troops that we have undertaken to send.
– Will that amount carry you up to the 30th June so far as the excess is concerned ?
– Does it include rifles and equipment?
– It refers to the whole expenditure on the Forces, but I am sure honorable senators will not ask for details to be given. I have recently had the opportunity of seeing the Army and Navy Estimates submitted to the British Parliament this year. Not a single item of any kind is given. All that appears is, “ Naval Service, £1,000,” “Military Service, £1,000.” Everybody knows that these services cost immensely more, but the Estimates were simply a blank cheque given to the Government to fill in after the war. We have done the same thing in a smaller way.
– In a smaller way - £3,100,000?
– Of course, the Imperial authorities had a political reason for not putting in the amount. But in our case it was almost impossible to separate the items.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not rise to oppose this measure in the slightest degree, but there are two points which I think can, with advantage, be brought under the notice of the Minister. Upon the authority of an expert authorized by the previous Ministry to purchase horses for military purposes, I understand that quite a number of animals was placed at the disposal of the Government which were not worth anything.
– Does the honorable senator refer to gift horses?
– Yes. My informant in this matter was one whose services were specially requisitioned by the late Government as an expert, and he assured me that he would not have these animals at any price. If the practice of accepting these gifts is still in existence, it is about time that the donors were told to keep their valueless horses, as they are of no use to the Commonwealth. The second matter to which I desire to direct attention relates to a lack of equipment among the men who have enlisted, and who are encamped in Western Australia. As a result of this shortage of equipment, there is a pronounced indisposition on the part of many men to enlist.
– Is the shortage one of clothing?
– I think so. I was told that the lack of equipment, particularly in the matter of clothing, was a decided drawback which is making men reluctant to join our Expeditionary Forces.
– There is just one point that I would like to bring under the notice of the Minister. Personally, I am entirely dissatisfied with the progress of work at the Small Arms Factory. I understand that that establishment is working little more than one shift per day. The excuse urged is that trained mechanics are not available to make a double shift possible. If that be so, the management ought to be given imperative instructions to at once train the necessary number of mechanics for the purpose. It is absurd that after the factory has been in existence for so long it should not be able continuously to employ two shifts.
– I hope that honorable senators will restrain their criticisms in respect of some of these defence establishments. -It is not wise to drag their shortcomings too much into the public view. In regard to the horses to which reference has been made by Senator Lynch, I am prepared to receive a million of them on the same terms. They would assist to considerably swell the Commonwealth revenue. The position is that on the outbreak of the war a large number of genuinely patriotic persons came forward with offers to the Government of gifts ranging from 10 to 100 horses* They did not know whether the animals were suitable for military purposes or not. They thought that they were. When the horses were examined it was found that whilst many were good riding hacks they were not suitable for military purposes. Consequently, they were put into t”he sale yards and sold. Some of these gift horses which were rejected for military purposes realized more than £20. Others brought only £3. But even so, that was a clear profit of £3 to the Commonwealth.
– I saw a handsome little polo pony sold which was quite unsuitable for military purposes.
– The Commonwealth did not suffer by its acceptance of these gift horses in any way whatever. On the contrary, it gained a handsome sum of money.
– I have merely given the statement which was made to me.
– I heard a similar statement soon after I came into office. The criticism was directed at my predecessor, during whose term most of these gift horses were received. I inquired into the matter, and found that so far as those animals were concerned we made a very good bargain indeed.
– I do not think 100 horses had been received before the criticism reached me.
– Quite so. As to the horses purchased by the Department, and rejected upon further examination, the percentage, is exceedingly small. We have purchased something like 50,000 horses for various purposes since the outbreak of the war, and the total percentage of rejections is, I think, only 1.60, while the rejects in the case of horses purchased by the departmental officers represent less than 1 per cent. That, I think, is a wonderfully good record.
– And some of the rejects in that case would be the result of accident after the purchases had been made.
– Or of defects subsequently discovered. As regards the Western Australian camp, I can assure Senator Lynch that we are doing our best. We are conscious of our inability very often to keep up the necessary supply of certain articles of clothing, but we are doing the best we can in the circumstances. We are endeavouring to provide the men, not only with a working garb, but with a change of clothing, recognising that, in the winter, they will need two working suits. We do not provide them with uniforms until they are about to leave, since, if we did, we should have to supply them with a second suit when they were going away. The woollen mills of the Commonwealth are being taxed to their utmost capacity to turn out one set of clothing for each man being sent away, including the reinforcements. The uniforms of the men already away are also wearing out, and have to be replaced. I have heard Senator Lynch himself deplore the backward state of many of our industries, and particularly of the woollen industry of Australia. Australia is thrown on her own resources in this regard. In every European country every article of woollen clothing has been commandeered by the Government, so that all our outside sources of supply have been cut off. Even countries whose factories have been established for hundreds of years have had to import woollens from America, and are importing them to-day. It is, therefore, no disgrace to the Commonwealth that in the unparalleled demand that has taken place we have been unable to supply every article that we should have liked to supply.
– It is an argument in favour of Protection.
– And of still further encouraging the woollen industry of Australia. We are doing our utmost, but I am quite conscious that we are not altogether meeting the demands made upon us in this respect. As to the Small Arms Factory, T can tell Senator Grant that I have visited the factory and have questioned, not only the manager, but his staff - the foremen, the men, and the leaders and representatives of the unions I have made a thorough investigation, and am satisfied that the manager is doing his best. Every month the output of arms from the factory is increasing, and increasing fairly rapidly.
– Are we to interpret the Minister’s statements, that the manager is doing his best, as meaning that the management is of the best?
– I believe it to be the best available. In other words, I do not think we have any reason to assume that the manager is not exhausting every means of obtaining the maximum output of the factory. The men, I am happy to say, are reciprocating. The two main unions associated with the factory have forwarded to me letters assuring me that they will do their utmost to assist the Government in every way possible; that if any of their trade union rules stand in the way they are willing that they shall be waived until the War is over, and that no matter what happens no .dispute will be allowed to bring about a cessation of work at the factory while the war lasts. I should like to see the factory working twenty-four hours per day, and the manager and his staff are to-day training men with that object in view. It is not yet, however, practicable. In this connexion I think it well to point out that one of our Allies in whose country the manufacture of rifles was commenced, I dare say, thirty or forty years before our Small Arms Factory was established, is not yet able to work its main factory three shifts a day, and that it has been importing rifles, so that, to use a colloquialism, it is not “ as easy as falling off a log “ to run three shifts a day at a Small Arms Factory. I can assure honorable members, however, that the desirableness of such a thing has not been lost sight of. The mere fact that it has not been discussed in the press is not to be taken as an indication that we have no such object in view. We are doing our very best, but quite apart from the difficulties mentioned by the honorable senator there are many obstacles in the way which it would not be wise or politic to bring out. I am thoroughly alive to the necessity of making our output as large as possible. No ‘ stone is being left unturned, and I shall certainly continue to be watchful and vigilant.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages, without request.
Senate adjourned at 3.62 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 April 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150416_senate_6_76/>.