6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Min ister of Defence yet received a report in reference to a question I asked last week about the publication of a statement of the late Governor of German New Guinea ?
– I have received the following reply to the statement -
There is not much that is inaccurate in attached account, so far as facts are concerned. The numbers of our troops are exaggerated, but the Governor could not know them exactly.
The mistakes are mostly omissions. Thus, he says he did not entrench at Toma, but forgets to say the routes to the W/T station at Bita Paka were entrenched, and that riflemen were put in trees along the route.
The statement about “bluffing for ten days” is simply putting the best side on what he did, no doubt for the benefit of his compatriots.
As to his statement that he hoped for the arrival of the German Fleet, that is exactly what the Australian Fleet hoped for too, but were disappointed.
– In view of the wellknown fact that the Tobacco Trust of Australia is earning huge profits annually, have the Government considered the advisability of taking such legislative action as will divert a considerable pro portion of those profits to the Commonwealth revenue, and so lighten the burden of the taxpayers in other directions?
– I understand it is on record that a previous AttorneyGeneral, in reply to an inquiry, gave it as his opinion that, under the existing powers of the Commonwealth, the Tobacco Monopoly cannot be taken over. That opinion stands until there has been an alteration of the Constitution which will enable the Government to take action.
– Cannot you do something else ?
– Under your war legislation ?
– There is no other way of dealing with the matter except by means of an income tax particularly directed against that company.
– That would be an equally effective way.
– Is the Minister of Defence yet able, in accordance with a promise he gave a day or two ago, to make available to honorable senators the papers and correspondence in connexion with the promotion of Lieutenant Payne to the position of captain in the Military Forces ? If the documents have not yet been made available to honorable senators, can he. indicate when they will be ?
– If I made such a promise, of course the papers will be sent for from Tasmania. They have not yet reached me, but as soon as I receive them I will lay them on the table of the Library.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether, under his administration, any promotions of military officers have been made without the officers having passed the usual military examinations ?
– I have no knowledge of any such promotions having been made.
– How many have been made honorary ?
– Honorary rank is not substantive rank, and officers do not have to pass an examination to qualify for honorary rank.
– They get the pay all the same.
– Honorary rank confers no right of command.
– It confers the right of pay.
– Nor of pay, either.
– All the pilots have been given it.
Exercise of Franchise - Eight Hours Procession
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs make arrangements for any electors of Dalley who may be in camp at Liverpool on election day to record their votes ?
– This question is really one which should have been addressed to the Minister of Defence.
– I thought it should be put first to the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs.
– It involves a question of leave. The invariable practice, when elections are to be held, is to give leave to any electors in camp to attend at a polling-booth, and that will be done in this case.
– They do not always get it, though.
– Can the Minister of Defence say whether an arrangement has been made to allow any unionists in camp to march in the Eight Hours procession next Monday?
– A notice has been sent to the Commandant of this district that those who wish to attend the procession are to be given leave on that day.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer is- 1 and 2. The matter, which is surrounded by many difficulties, is receiving consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Minister make provision so that electors ofDalley in Egypt may be able to vote in the by-election for Dalley on 15th May, 1915 ?
– The answer is -
It is not practicable to make such a provision in connexion with the forthcoming by- election for the Division of Dalley.
– Has the Minister representingthe Minister of Trade and Customs yet received a reply to my question of last week regarding the exportation of Yacca gum ?
– There is no information to hand yet, but I will try to let the honorable senator have it before the Senate rises to-day.
The following papers were presented: -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired underat -
Glanville, South Australia. - For Defence purposes.
Glebe, New South Wales. - For Defence purposes.
Hurstville, New South Wales.- For Defence purposes.
War Pensions Act 1914. - Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 41.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
The number of men employed in the TrafficBranch of the trans-Australian railway on 31st March, 1915-
Revenue collected for fares and freights tor three months ending 31st March, 1915 - 3. (a) Is it a factthat recently a truck of metal destined for the culvert Rang was transhipped from the State truck into a wide-gauge truck, and was not cleared by the Traffic Branch for three days, despite the fact that the gang above mentioned were waiting for the material?
– The answers are - 1. (a) 50.
Public traffic, Port Augusta, £2,387 l1s. 5d.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Is the Government taking steps to carry out the recommendations of Dr. Wade for the development of the oil-fields of New Guinea?
– Yes. Operations on the field, which were suspended some time ago to enable special plant to be procured, are about to be resumed under Dr. Wade’s personal direction.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That leave to given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Act 1903-1914.
Bill presented, and, on motion by Senator Pearce, read a first time.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
During the adjournment of the Senate the Government of the United Kingdom introduced the Defence of the Realm Act, which they found necessary to give them additional statutory power to deal with the situation created by the war. At the beginning of this session we introduced a War Precautions Bill. We had, fortunately, had no previous experience of this class of legislation, and the Bill was largely a copy of the Imperial measure. Experience has demonstrated that that legislation was inadequate in England, and we have had somewhat the same experience here. Certain things, for which there was really no statutory authority, have had to be done by the Government by means of their inherent power to deal with circumstances as they arise in time of war.
This Bill is largely one of detail, and is intended to fill up the gaps which experience has revealed in the previous Act. I will explain later why it has become necessary to make the amendment which I have circulated, and which I admit is very lengthy, but it has to be lengthy, because of the subject with which it deals. The Bill makes it clear that offences against the regulations which have been made under the Act, and will be made under this Bill, are punishable on summary conviction. The measure introduces another important principle, as it gives the Commonwealth power to take over, if necessary, factories, or the output of factories. As a matter of fact, we have had to take over the output of the woollen mills of the Commonwealth, showing that we have found the necessity for such a power already.
– Was that done by arrangement ?
– Yes. It has also been found necessary to requisition factories and wholesalehouses for certain materials and equipment. I want to say here, for it ought to be said, that quite recently we had to requisition a large amount of underclothing, in some cases taking the whole of the stock of the warehouses. I wish to place on record the fact that the Commonwealth was met in a most generous spirit by the proprietors. In many cases, whilst they were obliged to hand over the material, they were not obliged to fix its price at the figure at which they did fix it. They might legitimately have charged us the price which the goods would have realized on the retail market, yet in many cases we were able to take the whole of their stocks at the invoiced prices, with the freight and other handling charges added, but without allowing their owners any profit whatever. I am very pleased to be able to pay this tribute to them. In many instances it is a fact that they sacrificed their profits, and thus enabled us to save expense to the Commonwealth.
– Does that remark apply to most of them, or only to a few?
– It applies to a large number, and to a great quantity of material. In some cases we actually took the whole of their stocks in particular lines.
– They are not such a bad crowd, after all?
– When we meet with an experience of that kind I think that it should be acknowledged. This Bill goes further in some respects than does the principal Act, in that it provides that where it can be clearly shown that the action of individuals has had the effect of assisting the enemy, drastic punishment may be meted out - in some instances even the punishment of death. But of course that penalty will apply only to a very limited class of cases. The first draft of this Bill forwarded to us by the Imperial authorities provided that the whole of the cases with which it is designed to deal should be tried by court martial. No sooner was that Bill introduced than its purport was cabled to us. But before it finally passed both Houses of the British Parliament - during its passage through the House of Lords, as a matter of fact - an amendment was inserted providing that civilians should have the right of trial by a civil tribunal. We did not get the text of that amendment until a few days ago, and consequently we were not able to incorporate it in the measure. This circumstance explains why honorable senators have been supplied with a copy of the amendments which it is intended to submit - a list which, as Senator Millen has said, is rather larger than is the Bill itself. But honorable senators will recognise that when an important principle in the Bill is altered we must provide the full machinery for dealing with it. This fact alone explains the voluminous nature of the list of amendments. Under one of these, civilians will have the right of trial by a civil tribunal.
– Are the Government following the language of the Imperial Act in regard to that provision?
SenatorKeating. - Has the Minister got a copy of the British Act, or does he possess merely the purport of it?
– We have the Act itself. I am sure that the alteration which I have indicated will commend itself to the democratic thought of Australia. There is something to be said in favour of the original proposal that civilians should be tried by court martial, when one reflects upon the reasons which prompted the British Government to bring it forward. Whenthe Imperial measure was originally drafted it looked quite possible that there might be an invasion in force of Great Britain, and one can readily see that in such circumstances it might be absolutely impracticable for cases in certain parts of the country to be tried by a civil Court. In those parts which were overrun by the enemy it might be essential that the Government should provide for a right to try cases by court martial. But the prospect of invasion looks extremely unlikely now, and that fact has doubtless influenced the Imperial Government in their action.
– Owing to the skilful strategy of tha German naval commander the German High Sea Fleet is still intact.
– It is still intact, but I think that it must be getting a little rusty. Certainly it will not be improving as a naval force by remaining securely sheltered in German harbors. But whatever the prospects of an early invasion of Great Britain may have been, the prospects of an early invasion of Australia are very much more slender: Seeing that the Mother Country has decided to adopt the course which I have outlined, we can, with all the more safety, adopt it here. The Bill sets out the class of cases - as do also the amendments - for which the regulations will provide. These regulations will extend th,e cases for which provision was made in the War Precautions Act. In that Act we did not take power to deal with those persons who interfered with the forces, either naval or military, of the Allies. Now it is manifestly just as much our duty to prevent anything being done against those forces as it is to prevent hostile action being taken against our own. In this Bill we take to ourselves that power. I have now dealt with the main principles of the measure, and in Committee I will submit an amendment having for its object the granting of the right of trial by a civil tribunal to civilians.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales [3.281. - I do not anticipate that we shall be occupied very long in giving our assent to this Bill, with or without amendments. I do not desire to discuss the alterations which it is intended to submit, but I should like to take this opportunity of making one or two observations upon the principles which, in my judgment, ought to underlie legislation of this character. It is unquestionable that by means of this amending Bill, and of the parent Act, the Government are seeking to arm themselves with extraordinary powers. The circumstances justify them in doing so. There will be no difference of opinion on that point. What I wish to do is to bring home to those charged with the exercise of these powers that the mere fact that they have been granted is not to be taken as an intimation that they must necessarily be used. I venture to make these observations because of one or two happenings of which the press has recently informed us. I need hardly remind honorable senators of the Court episode of a few days ago. In regard to that, I congratulate the Minister of Defence upon taking the course which he finally did take. But that little incident indicates the quite usual tendency on the part of military authorities clothed with big powers over the civil rights of the population to stretch those powers to an extraordinary extent. I say, without hesitation, that to do that would be resented by the people of Australia unless the clearest justification were shown by those charged with the exercise of those powers. But I cannot help expressing some surprise at the admission which was made by the Department in the case to which I have referred. In the affidavit which was made by the permanent head of the Derpartment it wa-s stated that five orders had been issued, for the production of which the Court had asked. The affidavit also disclosed that after diligent and exhaustive search only three of these orders could be found. The officer deputed to present the affidavit to the Court afterwards came down with a report that another order had since been discovered, although the ink on the affidavit itself was scarcely dry. This intimation to the public that serious documents, involving the liberty of citizens, could not be discovered within a week or two after they had been issued and acted upon is certainly disquieting. It discloses a condition of affairs which must be somewhat alarming to the general community, and which is certainly not complimentary to the Department itself. I mention these matters in order that it may be brought home to the Minister that these officials are not placed in the position of autocrats, but that they must administer the law in the proper spirit.
– Can you give us any instance to the contrary ?
– There was a case of a German pastor in South Australia, who was called upon to deliver up certain documents or property, and I understand that no general order had been issued.
– A general order was issued with regard to those subjects.
– If the Minister gives me the assurance that all the legal requirements were satisfied I will accept it, but that is not the information that was given to me.
– There was a general order issued in the instructions to deliver up certain property, and in that case it was not done.
– The man acted on the opinion of his legal adviser.
– Though the Minister says that the legal requirements had been met, I believe they were not. Referring more particularly to the measure before the Senate, I desire to point out that there has been a change so far as Great Britain is concerned, due to the fact that the conditions at Home have become less onerous, and I think there ought to be some modification of the great powers to be intrusted to the officials in this country. The Minister has stated that our liability to attack is less now than it was a few months ago, and, therefore, under these circumstances, the exercise of powers should proceed with greater moderation and greater circumspection than would have been the case if we were liable to be attacked. So far as the measure is concerned, I would like to say that no punishment, in my opinion, could be too great for any one who does anything to jeopardize the interests of the State, and, therefore, anything that I may say will, I hope, not be regarded as an excuse or plea for the wrongdoer. The traitor to his country should suffer the full penalty provided by the law for his actions.
– You would give him a fair trial, would you not?
– Unquestionably, and that brings me to the point that British people have always prided themselves on the fact that they have invariably afforded to. the man who is a criminal the fullest opportunity of defending himself. For that reason I am particularly pleased that the Minister is now introducing into this Bill a proposal which will enable a citizen who may be brought to trial the option to have his case tried in a civil Court. I am sure, therefore, that the measure will command support and sympathy from members of this House, as well as the general public. I candidly admit that I cannot discuss the various details of this measure, because while the Minister delivered me a copy of the Bill yesterday, he has now brought in a long list of amendments, which will have the effect of transposing certain provisions, and enlarging or altering them. I would like to point out for the consideration of the Minister the fact that there is a clause in the Bill which does not appear in the Imperial Act. I refer to paragraph 6 of sub-clause 3 of proposed new section 4, the effect of which is to prevent the transmission abroad, except through the post, of any letter, post-card, or letter-card, written communication, or newspaper. I see no objection to that proposal, because it seems there might be an advantage in having it inserted in the Bill to meet Australian conditions. Naturally, in comparing this measure with the Imperial legislation, one’s attention is directed readily to points of discrepancy rather than to points of similarity. As there will probably be little opportunity in Committee of considering suggestions, I would direct the attention of the Minister to the wisdom of including in paragraph d of sub-clause 3 of proposed new section 4, provision for dealing with the publication of disloyal utterances, the necessity for which was brought under my notice recently. A little while ago a German resident of Sydney was very free in his utterances on this subject, and I am only surprised that they did not bring him some personal inconvenience or violence. Not long ago when a report reached Australia of what appeared to be a little temporary British reverse, this man ,gave a dinner in Sydney to celebrate the occasion, and he freely made utterances of the character I have referred to. I think, therefore, that as we are asked to pass legislation of a drastic character for what appear to be no more serious offences, it would be reasonable and fair if we introduced a provision to deal with the publication of disloyal utterances.
– Would you continue that after the war?
– No. The Act itself will terminate withthe conclusion of peace. I candidly admit my inability to follow this later list of amendments, and I merely content myself with asking for the Minister’s assurance that this Bill is in all essentials a reproduction of the Bill recently assented to by the Imperial Parliament.
.- As this Bill is an emergency measure arising out of the war, we cannot freely criticise it in the usual way in this Chamber. We must recognise that while there are many things we would like to inquire into it is essential that the Government shouldhave the extraordinary powers outlined in this Bill to carry on the administration of the country at this particular time. I wish it tobe understood, therefore, that anything I may say will be merely suggestive to those who have the responsibility of the government of the country on their shoulders. But I would like to know, if it is within the possibility of reply, whether he has taken into consideration the question of the wages to employes in factories and shops that may be taken over, or that of paying for the stock or produce which may also be acquired by the Government under the powers conferred by this measure. I would like to know, also, how the Government propose generally to safeguard the interests of the workers, because we know the factories will be continued under military authority. I should also like to be informed if any arrangement has been made, or if the Government has got any system that they intend to adopt, for the payment of compensation, and in what way they propose to regulate prices. These are all very important points upon which a great deal of public expenditure may be incurred, and I think we should have some information as to what the Government intend to do in regard to them. Another matter involved in this measure is the question of contracts. Factories may be taken over which are under contract to produce certain articles the manufacture of which may be transferred under contract to some third party.
– Do you mean by subletting ?
– No. I take it that the factories the Government will take over will be principally weaving, clothing, boot, and engineering factories or motor-building factories.
– Motor factories?
– There are no motor factories.
– Oh, yes, there are; I could name several. There is no doubt that we have a number of motor factories in Australia building and putting together motors. There are also factories here similar to those which have been taken over in the Old Country for the preparation of ammunition and munitions of war. I would like to know if the Government, in taking over a factory of that kind, propose to have any understanding with the owners. What understanding are you going to have with regard to compensation to employers, in the first instance, and what understanding will you have with regard to contracts that these establishments may have entered into ? Contracts have got to stand; if they are broken the Government must take the responsibility. It would hardly be fair to ask the owner of a factory to be responsible for his contracts if the factory were taken out of his hands. I believe that for some little time, at all events, the chief matter with which the Government will be concerned under this Act will be in the valuation of goods taken. Ultimately we may extend the operation of the Act, but I think the first thing we will have to consider will be the taking over of the various articles that are required for our contingents. I should like to know from the Government what basis of valuation will be adopted. I fully recognise the difficulty of the Government in giving candid replies to all the questions 1 have asked.
– As I have said more than once this session, I think it is eminently desirable that we should unanimously give to the Government the fullest powers they deem necessary in order to enable them to deal with the state of war in which we are unhappily placed at the present time. And for that reason I think this Bill will have a clear passage through both Houses of Parliament. That, I believe, is the general feeling of honorable senators. It was my intention, in addressing myself to the motion for the second reading, to speak briefly upon one point. I shall be even more brief than I had intended to be, because of what has fallen from Senator Millen. He has pointed out that there is one matter to be guarded against in legislation of this kind. That is the tendency which may be likely to manifest itself in officials in the Defence Department to exercise powers given to them by Parliament for apparently no other reason than the fact that they possess those powers. So far as the Minister himself is concerned, I think we may rely upon his discretion, his tact, and his judgment; but, without having any hostile feeling towards the Department over which he presides, I think that there is in the mind of the people generally who have noticed what has been taking place, a fear that many officials of the Department, who think defence, who talk defence, who live defence, and who, as Senator O’Keefe says, dream defence, will develop a tendency, as departmental officers who are enthusiastic in their work generally do, to live in their own world and in no other world. There is a fear that officials clothed with extreme powers may lose their sense of perspective, and it is quite possible that they may on occasion use their powers when the circumstances do not really warrant their use. Every member on both sides of both Houses of Parliament will rely with confidence upon the tact and discretion of the Minister in charge of the Defence Department to restrain any ‘impetuous and unwarranted use of the powers which this Act will convey.
– It will be too late when it comes under his notice.
– I think we all agree that the Government must have this authority, but we will rely upon ‘t that the Government, and the Minister of Defence in particular, will see that the possession of those powers is a guarantee that they will only be used upon occasions when the circumstances warrant the exercise of such drastic authority. What I have said in regard to the Defence Department would apply, I believe, in connexion with any Department under any Government and in almost any self-governing community. The tendency to bureaucracy has been observed by students throughout the world in relation to self-governing communities, and the reasons for it are that the en thusiastic officers of a Department live and dream of their departmental routine work, and it is to them for all practical purposes the world.
– They mostly dream.
– No; I think that they work, and work very enthusiastically, but in working they are apt to lose, because they are, to a large extent, living in their own world, a sense of perspective and a. proper perception of the balance of things as regards the community generally, in relation to that portion of the community which is peculiarly affected by the operations of their own Department. I have only had a brief opportunity to compare the amendments circulated to-day with the Bill distributed yesterday. So far as I can see, there is no radical departure from the Bill, nor are there any additional provisions other than those which have been indicated by the Minister in his second-reading speech. As regards how far it follows the British Act, we are not in a position to say, but the Minister has given us his assurance that the Government have had not only the purport of the British measure, but the text of it, and I presume that we may rely upon it that this Bill, to a large extent, follows the British Act. The Minister referred to two matters to which I desire to allude. One is the provision in the amendment circulated to-day giving to an accused person in certain circumstances the option of a civil trial, rather than a trial at court martial. With that I think we all cordially agree. Another provision is contained on page 3 of the amending notice-paper. Subclause 8 of proposed new section 6 of the Act provides that, in the event of any special military emergency arising out of the present war, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, suspend the operation of sub-section 6 of that section - that is to say, that the Governor-General may, in certain emergent circumstances, suspend the operation of the provision of this amending Bill, which enables an accused person to elect to be tried civilly, rather than by court martial.
– Only a British subject.
– That is in case of invasion.
– That is probably due to the circumstances in respect to which the Minister differentiated Australia from Great Britain. The emergent circumstances, I presume, would be something similar to those which were in the minds of the drafters of the original British Bill, when, as the Minister said, the invasion of Great Britain was a possibility. But, as he has reminded us, happily we are not in that position. The chances of an invasion of Great Britain at the present time may be very slight, but ours, in comparison, are very much slighter. Still, it is well to be prepared for any unforeseen emergency ; and all that the Government intend, I take it, is that, should circumstances so occur as to make it impossible or impracticable in certain circumstances and in certain areas to have civil trials, the subject will not have that option, but must be tried by court martial. He must be tried by court martial, because there will be practically no civil Court before which he could appear. I notice that, in taking this power from the Governor-General, the Government have also made provision that the suspensive proclamation may apply to the whole of Australia, or to any specified area of it. That, I presume again, is done because it may be that in some limited area of Australia alone, owing to these untoward circumstances arising, civil Courts would be missing, and it would be only necessary to suspend the provision for civil trial as regards that particular area. Another matter on which I trust we shall get some enlightenment in Committee is a provision which appeared in the Bill circulated yesterday, and which appears again on page’3 qf the amending notice-paper. It reads as follows: - (7.) For the purpose of the trial of a person by a court of summary jurisdiction for an offence against the regulations and the punishment thereof the offence shall be deemed to have been committed either at the place in which it actually was committed or (subject to the Constitution) at any place in which the person may be.
No reference to that provision was made by the Minister, but I trust that in Committee we shall get some information from him. What is intended, I take it, is that an offender shall not escape trial by reason of the fact that the offence was committed in one portion of the Commonwealth and he happens to have moved to another place; that he should not be entitled to plead to the jurisdiction on the ground of locality simply. Generally speaking, this amending Bill has, like its predecessor, my cordial approval, and in supporting its passage, which I hope will bc expeditious, I again say that we must rely- and I, for one, do rely - confidently on the discretion of the Executive and of the Minister of Defence in administering its provisions.
– Senator Millen has asked a question about the new sub-clause to prevent the transmission of certain things abroad. It was found necessary to include the provision because the ordinary censor powers given in the principal Act had been found not to be sufficient. We have discovered that a practice has been followed of placing letters on neutral ships going to neutral countries, where they are posted to an enemy country. The letters do not go through the post in Australia, and, therefore, we do not get them under our censor powers. We need further power to be able to see such letters. Senator Millen has also referred to the attitude taken up by officers of the Defence Department, and by myself at a certain stage, in a case recently heard before the Supreme Court of Victoria. This matter came upon us somewhat hurriedly. Some of the orders are necessarily confidential and secret, and for a reason which I will explain. Under the Trading with the Enemy Act some orders have been issued in which the officer empowered to make the search has been directed as to what he should search for, and, in such direction, the names of firms under suspicion have been mentioned. For instance, an officer has been told to go down and search the premises of the firm of A, and been instructed, when making that search, to look for letters addressed to or from the firm of B, another firm in Australia, because some information has reached the Department that the two firms have been acting suspiciously in connexion with trading with the enemy. It may be that in making the search we are acting upon a mere suspicion, but the suspicion is of a sufficiently serious character to warrant us to_ direct the officer in searching the premises of A to try to find out what he can there about the firm of B. Perhaps the search has disclosed that, as regards B, there is no offence. Obviously, it is not in the public interest that we should be called upon to produce an order of that kind. Both honorable senators have overlooked the fact that, whilst these orders are issued in the various States by the District Commandant, they are not in the possession of the Head-Quarters Staff. Senator Millen knows very well that each district carries out its work, and that an order to do certain things is transmitted from headquarters to them, but when it gets to them it is the Head-Quarters Staff which instructs certain officers to do it, and directs the way in which they shall act. Therefore, when a case like the recent one occurs, it can be easily understood that these orders are not readily available at head-quarters, because they are not retained there. An order is kept in the district office. In the recent case, the request for the orders came somewhat hurriedly, and, knowing that many of the orders contained a direction such as I have indicated, it was deemed advisable that we should take up the attiude that we Should not be called upon to disclose the orders. That was the reason why, in the first place, a refusal was made to produce them. Then, when the case went over to the next day, and the question again came up that we should produce the orders, an opportunity was given to us to get them from the district office. They were hurriedly called for, less than half a day elapsing between our sending for the orders and our having to produce them. They were only able, on the spur of the moment, to find three orders, and each of the three we saw contained nothing to implicate anybody else. If, however, one of the orders had contained an instruction such as I have indicated. I think that I would have been acting in the public interest in refusing to produce the order.
– The lawyer appearing for the Crown said he was not producing the orders because they did contain information which, in the opinion of the Minister, should not be published.
– I am not concerned with what the lawyer said, but with the facts. First, we took up the position that we should not be called upon to produce the orders, and there was a good deal to be said in favour of that view.
– Then there would be nothing before the Court to show the authority of the officer to go into the premises.
– The question was whether the newspaper was entitled to publish the news which it did print.
– The defence was that the officer did go into the premises, and went in on the authority of the Department.
– It is quite conceivable that, arising out of the hearing of a civil case, some Court might command the production of orders which every honorable senator would say, when he knew the facts, the Department would be quite justified in refusing to publish during the war. If we were not at wax, the Department would not have such right, I freely admit; but, as Senator Millen knows, there are in existence orders which, if they could be called for by a civil Court, would disclose to the enemy - for a disclosure to the public is a disclosure to the enemy - the preparations made for the defence of certain important points in the Commonwealth. It might happen that on the question of trespass, on the question of a guard having the right to stop a man on a certain road, if we had to produce the order which necessitated that guard being placed there, it might disclose to the enemy our precautions for the defence of that point. That could easily arise. I say, therefore, that the time might well come when it would be in tho interests of the Commonwealth that the Department should absolutely refuse to produce an order called for in some civil case.
– I would suggest that the Department should look over the order first before refusing to produce it.
– Quite so, and also that time should be given .to enable that to be done. Senator de Largie asked a number of pertinent questions which have already had to be faced. Up to the present we have not taken over any factories. We have not taken over the woollen mills. We have merely taken over their output. The factories themselves are still under the management of their owners. They are simply turning over to us their total output.
– They are confining all their operations to making the stuff you want.
– They are making no other stuff.
– How will that affect their contracts to supply others?
– That was a point raised by Senator de Largie. He also asked what the position would be as regards wages in the factories taken over. I take it that even if we did exercise our power to take over a factory, that factory would be only in the position in which our own factories already are. There seems to be an idea prevalent, that because we take over the output of a factory, or even take over the factory itself, we are thereby called upon to revise the whole scale of wages, hours, and conditions of labour in it. I have pointed out in reply that the Defence Department is not an Arbitration Court. It has neither the machinery, the officers, nor the time to do arbitration work. There is an Arbitration Act and an Arbitration Court in existence, under which the employes of a Commonwealth factory can havetheir wages, hours, and other conditions of labour adjusted.I take it - of course this is only a sort of bush lawyer’s opinion - that if we took over a factory its employes would be, for the time being, the employes of the Commonwealth, and have the same right as any other Commonwealth employes either to make an industrial agreement with the Minister, or to take him before the Arbitration Court, and get an award of the Court. The next question raised by the honorable senator was that of compensation. One of the Acts that we have passed provides that compensation shall be determined between the parties, or, if they fail to come to an agreement, shall be referred to a Judge of the High Court. That is the basis on which compensation will be treated. In the case of steamers requisitioned for transport, if there is no agreement between the parties, the matter has to go to an Admiralty Court, and the High Court for the purpose of dealing with ships in Australia, has Admiralty jurisdiction. We have endeavoured to deal with the question of price on this basis: We had in the Department tendered prices for woollen materials in various forms. During the last few months there has been a substantial rise in the price of wool. Fortunately, we have in our employment a Mr. Smail, the manager of the Woollen Mills at Geelong, and he has during that period been buying wool for the Commonwealth, with a view to commencing operations at Geelong. He is a highly-qualified man, who knows the quantity of wool that goes into a yard of material, and he was able to advise us as to the relative increased cost of a yard of cloth caused by the rise per pound in the price of wool. Wo have adjusted the prices by adding to the lowest tendered price of some two or three months ago, a proportion based on the rise in the price of wool. The prices we have now agreed upon, which are universal throughout Australia, are adjusted in that way. Mr. Smail knew the process through which the woolwould have to be put, and what proportion of waste there would be before it reached the cloth. Another difficult question was that of contracts. A number ofwoollenmillsand others had contracts to supply private firms. We went into the question with the Crown Law authorities, and were advised that if we requisitioned a factory or its output we, by that act, relieved the firm of any legal liability to the person with whom they had contracted - that he could not then sue them for not supplying the goods which they had undertaken to supply under their contracts. These are all very interesting and exceedingly difficult questions, and that is the way we have endeavoured to meet them.
– They are questions which caused a good deal of trouble in the Old Country.
– Undoubtedly, and we have had to face them here. I can assure Senator Keatingthat it is not my desire that the military authorities here should get that lust of power which has really been the cause of the present world-wide war. We do not want German militarism here, and I shall certainly set my face against any unrestrained use of these powers. We are forging here a very formidable instrument which might easily become most dangerous unless wisely and carefully exercised. Of course, asthe Allies become more successful, as the position of the Empire becomes more secure, we can relax these powers, until the time comes, which we hope will be soon, when the whole lot of them will be swept into the waste-paper basket. There is a fairly good safeguard in this respect, that the principal order which gives the right to take certain action has to receive the assent of the Governor-General in Council, which, broadly speaking, means the Government. The actual order to carry out that action, once the main order has been given, will rest with the Commandant of the State, or the Military or Naval Board. The Ministry must take the responsibility of their acts, but as Parliament is sitting it is not likely that the Minister would court trouble by giving his Naval or Military Board, or his naval or military advisers, unlimited power, nor does the necessity for any unlimited power exist. The military have sometimes been unjustly criticised. For instance, when certain searches were being made there was some criticism of the use of soldiers for the purpose. It was asked why the police could not have been used. In the first place the police are fully engaged with their own duties, especially in time of war, and are not readily available for military purposes. I would ask honorable senators to take their minds back to the state of public feeling at that time. There was a considerable amount of resentment against the German section of the community; much more than exists at present. It was rather an exaggerated feeling, and one can easily realize that, especially in some of the bigger cities and in some of the more populous streets, if it had been known that a search was being conducted of the premises of some of the firms suspected of having traded with the enemy, public demonstrations might have taken place against them, and lives and property might easily have been lost. In such a case an armed guard might have been essential. If the searches had been conducted without an armed guard, and the premises of an innocent person who was wrongfully suspected had been wrecked and lives lost, people would have gibed at the Defence Department for not providing an armed guard to prevent it.
– I think the public temper was extremely patient and tolerant.
– There was also a time when the public temper was a little hysterical. The suspension of the right of civil trial for civilians would undoubtedly take place only under exceptional conditions. It is not intended that that power should operate in ordinary circumstances, and I can assure the Senate that I shall see that it is utilized only under exceptional conditions, which I trust will not arise. The German fleet might break out, and there might be a raid on some portion of our coast. It might then happen in some cases that we should have to exercise our power of court martial. I am not so optimistic as to believe that all the friends of Germany are inside our concentration camps or outside of Australia. It is quite possible that some civilian friends of the German cause are at large here, and if a favorable opportunity occurred, they might take some action detrimental to our country. We should have no civil Court to deal with them, and should have to take the extreme step of suspending the right of civil trial and dealing with them by court martial. I am sure that if that happened public opinion would indorse our action.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section four of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : -
– I move -
That all the words after “ stead “ be left out, with a view to insert the following : - “4. (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth, and in particular with a view -
to prevent persons communicating with the enemy or obtaining information for that purpose or for anv purpose calculated to jeopardize the success of the operations of any of His Majesty’s forces in Australia or elsewhere, or the forces of His Majesty’s allies, or to assist the enemy; or
to prevent the transmission abroad, except through the post, of any letter, post-card, letter-card, written communication, or newspaper; or
to secure the safety of His Majesty’s forces and ships and the safety of any means of communication or of any railways, ports, harbors, or public works; or
to prevent the spread of false reports or reports likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty or public alarm, or to interfere with the success of His Majesty’s forces bv land or sea, or to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with foreign powers; or
to secure the navigation of vessels in accordance with directions given by or under the authority of the Naval Board; or
otherwise to prevent assistance being given to the enemy or the successful prosecution of the war being endangered, and for conferring such powers and imposing such duties as he thinks fit, with reference thereto, upon the Naval Board and the Military Board, and the members of the naval and military forces of the Commonwealth, and other persons. “ (2.) Any such regulations or any orders made thereunder affecting the pilotage of vessels may supersede any enactment (whether of the Commonwealth or a State), order, by-law, regulation, or provision as to pilotage. “ (3.) The Minister may -
require that there shall be placed at his disposal the whole or any part of the output of any factory or workshop in which arms, ammunition, or warlike stores or equipment, or any articles required for the production thereof are manufactured ; and
take possession of and use for the purpose of His Majesty’s naval or military serviceany such factory or workshop or any plant thereof; and the power to make regulations under this Act shall extend to the making of regulations in relation to the matters specified in this subsection.”
– Are the words “ or to prejudice His Majesty’s relations with foreign powers” in the Imperial Act?
– They are rather vague.
– I do not think so. There is a certain Power which could afford very valuable assistance to the Allied cause, and which we believe is likely shortly to take a very important part in the war. We could not allow in this country a public demonstration through the press or otherwise against that Power, for it would certainly have the effect of prejudicing His Majesty’s relations with it if we did. That is the meaning of the phrase. We want power to prevent anything being done to prejudice us with other countries with which we are not at war, while the war lasts.
– A very casual observation with regard to the undesirableness of some action may be construed as a contravention of such a general term.
– I can assure the honorable senator that he need have no fear in that regard. The power will not be used wildly, but with common sense.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted to follow clause 3 : - 3a. Section six of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 6. (1.) Any person who contravenes, or fails to comply with, any provision of any regulation or order made in pursuance of this Act shall be guilty of an offence against this Act. “ (2.) An offence against this Act may be prosecuted either summarily or upon indictment, or if the regulations so provide by court martial, but an offender shall not be liable to be punished more than once in respect of the same offence. “ (3.) The punishment for an offence against this Act shall be as follows : -
If the offence is prosecuted summarily - a fine not exceeding One hundred pounds or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both;
If the offence is prosecuted upon indictment - a fine of any amount or imprisonment for any term, or both : Provided that where it is proved that the offence is committed with the intention of assisting the enemy the person convicted of such an offence shall be liable to suffer death.
If the offence is prosecuted by court martial- the same punishment as if the offender had been a person subject to military law and had on active service committed an offence under section five of the Army Act :
Provided that where it is proved that the offence is committed with the intention of assisting the enemy the person convicted of such an offence by a court martial shall be liable to suffer death. “(4.) For the purpose of the trial of the person summarily or upon indictment for an offence against this Act the offence shall be deemed to have been committed either at the place in which it actually was committed or (subject to the Constitution) at any place in which the person may be. “ (5.) For the purpose of the trial by court martial of a person for an offence under the regulations the person may be proceeded against and dealt with as if he were a person subject to military law and had on active service committed an offence under section five of the Army Act. “ (6.) Where a person being a British subject but not being a person subject to the Naval Discipline Act or to military law is alleged to be guilty of any offence against this Act which is triable by court martial, he shall be entitled, within six clear days from the time when the general nature of the charge is communicated to him, to claim that he be tried by a civil court instead of being tried by court martial, and where such a claim is made, the offence shall not be tried by court martial :
Provided that before the trial of any person to whom this sub-section applies and as soon as practicable after arrest the general nature of the charge shall be communicated to him in writing and notice in writing shall at the same time be given in the prescribed form of his lights under this sub-section. “(7.) The expression ‘British subject’ in sub-section (6) of this section includes a woman who has married an alien but who before marriage was a British subject. “ (8.) In the event of any special military emergency arising out of the present war the Governor-General may by proclamation forthwith suspend the operation of sub-section (6) of this section, either generally or as respects any area specified in the proclamation, without prejudice, however, to any proceedings under this section which may be then pending in any civil court. “ (9.) The regulations may authorize a civil court or court martial, in addition to any other punishment, to order the forfeiture of any goodsinrespect of which an offence against this Act has been committed.”
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21st April (vide page 2454), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the Ministerial statement read to the Senate by the Minister of Defence on 14th April be printed.
– The first portion of the statement to which I desire to address myself is that which refers to the oroposal to construct a strategic railway. I require information in connexion with that proposal before I am in a position to say whether I am in favour of it or not. I desire to know whether the Governmentintend that the projected line shall be one constructed for strategic purposes only. And if so, what are to be its terminal points? If that is not their intention, is it contemplatedthat it shall be a line for strategic purposes primarily, but one which will also develop country which at present lacks railway facilities? If the Government have in their minds the construction of a line for other than defence purposes, their proposal opens up a very serious question indeed,namely, whether we have now reached that stage in the history of the Commonwealth when we should embark upon a generalpolicy of railway construction. Until the infor mation which I have indicated is forthcoming, I cannot say whether I am opposed to the project or otherwise. I want to ascertain the resources of the country which the line would traverse. I also require to be informed whether that portion of it which would be in South Australia would also form a portion of the proposed north-south transcontinental line. We know that we are already committed by agreement with the South Australian Government to build a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. There are so many matters upon which we must have definite information before we can commit ourselves to the proposal that it was almost unnecessary to incorporate it in the Ministerial statement.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the railway system of Australia requires linking up ?
– I do. Senator de Largie must not conclude that I am hostile to the proposed undertakingbecause I ask for full information concerning it.
– Only a survey can provide us with that information.
– We must not forget that we are committed to the construction of a transcontinental line from north to south, and that another transcontinental line from east to west is already in progress. Hence my desire to discover whether the proposed strategic railway would take the place of any portion of the projected north-south line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. I should also like to know something about the line from Port Moresby to Sapphire Creek, in Papua, for the construction of which the necessary funds have already been appropriated. I believe that there is considerable justification for proceeding with that railway, and that it should be undertaken before we authorize any expenditure ofmoney even upon a survey of the proposed strategic line. I understand that no work is proceeding on the line in Papua to which I have referred, and that, as a result, apromising mining field remains undeveloped.
– Mining operations there have practically been suspended owing to the war.
– We do not expect that the war will last many years, and if the money for the line has been allocated, I think that the work of construction might well be proceeded with.
– Let us begin nearer home.
– I have it on reliable authority that the mining prospects of Sapphire Creek arevery encouraging. Probably on account of the expenditure we are not proceeding with the north and south line, and as far as I know there is no proposal to commence the work, though we are committed to it. If, however, we are going to complete it, it will beunder far more expensive and disadvantageous conditions than if we had started it from the southern end. I know we put a Bill through to construct a small section of it, but that was considered to be only a stop-gap, and I was given to understand that as soon as we found that our finances would stand it, the work would be undertaken from the southern end as well as from the northern end.
– Does not the honorable senator know that it would cost £150,000 to bridge a stream ?
– I know that it could be constructed at a much cheaper rate, and to far greater advantage, if we could only start from the southern end instead of having to carry all our material and men round Australia to begin from the other end. Before’ we undertake the construction of a railway for strategic purposes, we should decide what we are going to do with the north-south line; whether we are going to make the proposed strategic line a portion of it, and carry it in that direction, or whether we intend to abandon that idea and break our agreement with South Australia. This brings me to the question that if the Commonwealth is not going to enter upon a policy of general railway construction, why should one particular portion of the Commonwealth, or one or more States, be chosen as the terminal points of this railway as against any other State? The whole question seems to be surrounded by difficulties. I admit that Australia will stand a great deal more railway construction, but this ought to be a matter for the State Governments rather than the Commonwealth Government, unless, of course, it is demonstrated that a railway is required for strategic purposes absolutely. Therefore, I want some information on these points before I commit myself one way or the other. There is only one other matter upon which I wish to address the Senate, namely, the question whether or not the electors should be asked to grant those additional powers by way of referenda to the National Parliament. It has been stated that the referenda will be taken again in the near future to see if, at the third time of asking, the people will endow the National Parliament with those increased powers. Of course those who are opposed to the idea laugh at the suggestion that the electors will say “ Yes “ on the next occasion. But if the time is not ripe now for the Commonwealth Parliament to be invested with these powers, it never will be. I must confess that twelve months ago - aye, even six months ago - I held the view that it would be too soon to again put those questions to the people of Australia; but, in view of what has happened in the last few months, my opinion has changed, and I think now there is a necessity for conferring upon the National Parliament those greater powers, or at least of having defined clearly and in plain language what the Constitution really means. If there is one section of the Commonwealth Constitution which more than another seems plain and commonsense English, which any school boy ought to be able to understand, it is section 92, which reads as follows: -
On the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
And yet we have a unanimous judgment of the High Court given the other day, the effect of which absolutely tears up this portion of the Constitution referring to Free Trade between the States. The judgment, I believe, was unanimous for the first time, and was given by the Chief Justice and five other Judges, the only absentee being Mr. Justice Higgins.
– It is supposed to come into conflict with the right of eminent domain.
– If there was any shadow of reason before for the increased powers being given to the National Parliament, so that we should not be led into any pitfalls, that reason exists in tenfold force to-day, and there is all the greater reason that this question should be taken to the people, so that we may know where we stand.
– Is not the honorable senator stressing the argument when he says that the referendum proposal should be submitted to the people because the High Court has judged the trade and commerce clause to be weaker than we imagined.
– There i? no half-way house, according to Sir William Irvine.
– We know what Sir William Irvine said, and we also know what attitude he takes in another place on the subject. He admits that these increased powers may be necessary, but he will not agree to the Parliament having, them while the Labour party is in power. I repeat that we want to know where we stand on this subject. I am not arguing for a moment that the judgment of the High Court Judges is wrong, but I must confess that section 92 of the Constitution appears to have a meaning entirely different to that which I thought was conveyed by its language.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the High Court decision ought to be reviewed?
– Yes, but I want it reviewed by the people of Australia, and I want the people to make the Constitution clearer, because the decision of the High Court absolutely cuts out of the Constitution the provision relating to Free Trade between the States. If this decision holds good, the other States could do just what New South Wales has done. For example, Queensland provides the Commonwealth with practically all the sugar it requires, and we could easily conceive of a situation arising which would induce the Government of Queensland to commandeer the whole of the sugar, and sell it to the best advantage to the people of that State.
– A very good illustration.
– We can also take another State. Tasmania, for instance, is a very large producer of apples, and the Government of that State might one day be induced to commandeer the whole of that particular commodity, and sell it to the detriment of the people of the other States. That action, of course, would be an interference with free intercourse in trade, which this Constitution supposedly gives to the States.
– Even Governments may become prejudicial monopolists, then?
– Certainly. A Government acting in that way might easily become a prejudicial monopolist, and it should be the function of the Commonwealth Government to safeguard the interests of the States against action of this kind. I am not saying that the Government of New South Wales were wrong. No doubt they were doing the right thing for the electors of that State, but I am pointing out that other Governments of the Commonwealth may do the same thing, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth will be an ineffective instrument for the protection of the other States. In pursuance of our powers under the Constitution, we passed the Inter-State Commission Act, and part 5 of section 24 of that Act states -
The Commission shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine any complaint, dispute, or question, and to adjudicate upon any matters arising as to (a) any preference, advantage, prejudice, disadvantage, or discrimination given or made by any State, or by any State authority, or by any common carrier, in contravention of this Act or of the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce, or any law made thereunder. . . .
We thought we were doing the right thing when we passed that Act, but the Commonwealth High Court, by the decision of four out of six Judges - Mr. Justice Barton and Mr. Justice Duffy dissenting, I believe - decided that we had no such power, though the section in the Constitution, as we understand it, gives us the power to pass the Inter-State Commission Act, embracing the functions that we gave to that body. It would appear, therefore, that we are in a hopeless tangle regarding constitutional matters between the States in their relation to the Commonwealth. There is another question in regard to the issue of eminent domain raised by Mr. Hall, in New South Wales, upon which Mr. Hall has made a very pertinent statement. I have not got any official report of what he said, but the newspaper account states that, in commenting upon the decision given, Mr. Hall said -
If the State could not pass a Wheat Acquisition Act, the Commonwealth could not, and we would have the spectacle of a people who, prior to the passing of the Commonwealth Constitution Act, were entirely self-governed, finding themselves without the power, through any of their Parliaments, to make laws which might be absolutely essential to meet national emergencies. It would be a curious result of Federation if it had robbed the Australian people of the power to make laws for their welfare and good government in the way suggested by the Commonwealth. Parliament may act unwisely, and, no doubt, sometimes it docs. But it is better for the people of Australia that the Parliaments, which are answerable to their constituencies, should retain their powers than that we should discover these powers had passed away, both from the State and the Commonwealth, on the acceptance of Federation.
This is very valid argument. We want to know, not only where we stand in this constitutional tangle, but whether this right of eminent domain shall be vested in one Parliament or shall run concurrently in both State and Federal Parliaments. If only one Government is to have this power of expropriation, then, in the interests of the Free Trade section of our Commonwealth Constitution, it should be the Commonwealth Government.
– Perhaps it has got it.
– I do not think so, but that is what we want to know. J. do not profess any legal knowledge, but these are the- difficulties that confront a lay mind in considering these questions, and I will put it to my friends who are opposed to again consulting the people in regard to an alteration of the Constitution
– Who are they?
– Have I discovered another convert? The Liberal party has used all the power and eloquence at its command against granting additional powers when we asked for them.
– Against any power ?
– Against the powers that we asked for.
– That is different.
– May I ask the honorable senator if his Government ever brought forward any proposal to increase any power? If our friends opposite were prepared to confer additional powers upon the Commonwealth Parliament, why did they not bring forward a measure to grant those increased powers when they had the chance?
– If the Commonwealth has the power to commandeer clothing), for instance, has it not the power to commandeer wheat? The mili tary authorities, I am told, say “ Yes.” In that case we may be able to upset the jurisdiction of the High Court.
– Unusual powers have been taken by this Government in connexion with matters of defence. We know that the commandeering of clothing was entirely an emergency matter.
– If you possess that power you possess the power to commandeer wheat.
– I quite agree that it would not be a bad thing if the Commonwealth Government were possessed of this power, because I believe that the people should be supreme. I believe in the right of eminent domain, but the question for the moment is - which authority should exercise that power in the best interests of Australia ?
– Can commandeering be in the best interests of Australia ?
– The honorable senator is not putting his question seriously. My argument is that if any Government is to have the power, it should be the Commonwealth ; because the Commonwealth would be able to act fairly between State and State in a crisis or on any occasion when a question of importance arose, such as the acquisition of wheat in New South Wales. If it is desirable for the power to run concurrently, the State Parliaments may have the power at the same time, but I think, in the first instance, the Commonwealth should be the authority to exercise it. Regarding the general question as to the necessity of a referendum, I will ask our friends who believe that it is wrong to fix the price of anything, and who believe that the great increases which have taken place in the price of foods are only due to the natural causes of drought and the war, why it is that the price of wheat the other day was something over 8s. per bushel in this Stats, where the Labour party is not in power, in view of the fact that two and a half times as much wheat has been raised in Australia this year as was raised in that very bad drought year of 1903. In the harvest ending in the year 1903, only 12,000,000 bushels of wheat were raised, and the highest price was 6s. 2d. per bushel.
– Because we had the free circulation of grain, which the New South Wales Government have now interfered with.
– Nonsense ! Six shillings and twopence was the highest price wheat went to in any State - I think it was in New South Wales - and the price only existed for a month. I think the average highest price then was about 6s. per bushel. In this year, 30,000,000 bushels have been raised, two and a half times as much as was produced in that other bad year. I am sure we have not got two and a half times the number of consumers we had then, and yet wheat went 25 per cent. higher. The point I want to make is this : That it is not due to drought and war that wheat has gone up to the present price. There is another factor, and that is the presence of the get-rich-quick gentlemen in Australia.
– I think the honorable senator’s figures are wrong - 29,000,000 bushels of wheat in Australia this season !
– Those are Mr. Knibbs’ figures.
-Three million in Victoria, 5,000,000 in New South Wales. Where does the rest come from ?
– The honorable senator is wrong. It was estimated that nearly 17.000,000 bushels would be raised in New South Wales. It is estimated now that it may not reach 14,000,000 bushels.
– Mr. Knibbs’ estimate, made three weeks ago, showed a production of 29,500,000 bushels. A month before, his estimate was 30,000,000 bushels.
– I beg Mr. Knibbs’ pardon, but only 3,000,000 bushels have been raised in Victoria.
– I cannot understand the difference between the price now and in 1903, and would like an explanation of it from some of our honorable friends who are always stating that we should do nothing to attempt to fix the price of anything.
– Will the honorable senator give us the price of European wheat ?
– Will my honorable friends give me some explanation of the fact that wheat is 25 per cent. higher in price during this drought than it was in that other drought.
– The population has increased 25 per cent.
– Yes, but we have produced 250 per cent. more wheat.
– I can give you the explanation in one word - “ scarcity.”
– I will give you the explanation in one word,” speculation “ - the speculation of the wheat ring that still exists.
– The old parrot cry.
– No; it is the presence of that old honorable understanding which exists in my honorable friend’s State, and he knows it exists, and which is probably existing in some mysterious form or other in other parts of Australia. This argument may not be very interesting, but it is a very vital one to hundreds of thousands of the people of Australia who are anxious to know what really is causing the tremendous price of wheat today. I say there are other causes than that which is generally alleged, and for that reason I think the sooner we get to the people, and ask them to give this Commonwealth Parliament the power to control monopolies, trusts, rings, and combines, in so far as they can be controlled by any legislation, the better it will be for the people of Australia. I trust that before many months elapse they will be again given the opportunity which they have been given on two previous occasions, and I think that, though they refused to accept the proposal to grant increased powers then, they will accept it now, after the experience of the last few months. I hope sincerely that within the next twelve months we shall get a vote from the people of Australia that will give this Parliament greater powers than it has, and that will also define what the powers of this Parliament actually are, so that we shall not be continually led into pitfalls and traps, and into the passing of Acts of Parliament which, when they come to be reviewed by the highest tribunal in Australia, are declared to be ultra vires. When that Court gets hold of our legislation it frequently tells us that we do not know what we are about, and that we cannot understand the real meaning of the Constitution. Apparently we cannot; but it seems to me that our National Constitution will quickly become a Judge-made Constitution, and not a people’s-made Constitution if we go on as we are. I do not say that the Judges’ interpretation of any section which they have been called upon to consider has been wrong, but my point is that the question of what the Constitution should mean is a matter for the people to decide. The sooner we know where we are, the better. I do not want to be living here under an absolutely Judge-made Constitution. If it is possible for us to have the Constitution more simple and more definite, and expressed in plainer English, it is our duty to the Parliament and to the people of Australia to do so. Therefore, I hope that we shall have the referenda questions submitted to the people at the earliest possible moment.
– The statement presented to the Senate by the Minister of Defence is, on the whole, very satisfactory. It is particularly pleasant to know that, although at the outbreak of the war the British Empire was in a state of great unpreparedness, nevertheless during the intervening period of eight months it has not been dilatory in making every possible preparation. We cannot but admire the manly speeches delivered by the leaders of the British Government, both to the workmen and to the nation generally. We must also admire, I think, the spirit which animates the workmen there in deciding to devote their best efforts in the workshops to turning out all the munitions required. That is where, ultimately, war preparations are going to tell. The efforts being put forth by British workers should, in my opinion, receive the highest possible commendation. Generally speaking, the Ministerial statement is, as I said, very satisfactory. But there are a few points which I think ought to have received more attention at the hands of our Ministry. For instance, in the daily press the other day we were told that the Canadian Government - they have no more facilities at their disposal than our own Government have, if as many - are making provision whereby Canadian soldiers at the front will be able to take part in the coming elections. Many of the Australian troops have not. so far, got beyond Egypt, and there should be no difficulty about enabling any of our electors in that country to take part in a byelection, such as the one proceeding in Dalley. We are told that already 43,000 men have left these shores for the front. Most of the men, I presume, are on Egyptian soil. There should be no trouble inmaking provision for men who are not actually at the front to take part in the present by-election. Without wishing to make an invidious comparison, I have no hesitation in saying that by far the greater number of these men will be Labour supporters, and that, unless some action is taken, we shall be robbed of a considerable number of votes owing to the fact that the matter has been overlooked by the electoral authorities.
– If you can give us a practicable proposition we will consider it.
– Why not send the names of the candidates to absent electors of Dalley, and let them exercise their suffrage? There is no insurmountable difficulty in the way if there is a desire to carry out the idea.
– How many Dalley electors are there?
– If there are 43,000 men in Egypt, that number must include nearly 1,000 Dalley electors. That is a very substantial number of men to be deprived of the right to exercise the franchise.
– Does Dalley contain one-fortieth of the electors in the Commonwealth ?
– It contains oneseventyfifth, and they are very enthusiastic voters. I estimate that, approximately, there are 1,000 electors of Dalley in Egypt at the present time, and I think that the Government ought to have taken the necessary steps to see that those men shall not be practically disfranchised at any time. I am not prepared to admit that there are very many Australians in Egypt who are not old enough to have the suffrage. I think that most of our troops there are over twenty-one years of age, and, therefore, they ought to be enrolled. I am pleased to see that the Government have adopted as their unchanging policy the idea of equipping, training, and sending to the front as many men as are prepared to go and fight for Australia: That is one phase of the situation which has my entire approval. Only the Minister of Defence and his immediate advisers can have an idea of the immense efforts which have been put forth by the Department, more especially to equip the men. We heard hysterical utterances some time ago from the Leader of the Opposition here, and elsewhere, that we should send forth 100,000 or 200,000 men, but the Government, to my mind, have done all that they could reasonably be expected to have done. More men are being equipped and trained every day, and no matter how long the war may last, I feel confident that the present Government will be quite equal to any emergency that may arise, and that Australians generally will respond as well as we could expect them to do. I am also pleased to observe that considerable encouragement is being given to the formation of rifle clubs. I do not quite agree with the idea of conscription. If every man had to be conscripted and trained, I would not object so much; but, unfortunately in this matter, as in every matter, we find that a large number of men, on one pretence or another - on account of either age or avocation - are not fit subjects to fight for their country. If conscription should come about, I for one would not favour the exemption of any male elector ; absolutely every man should be required to go and fight. But, so long as men are prepared to volunteer, I am opposed to the idea of conscription. In the history of the British Empire it has not yet been deemed necessary to impose the duty upon the population, and, so long as the present spirit holds good, it will not, in my opinion, become necessary. What we require is a more efficient means of training the men who are available; not to be so very rigid with those who are prepared to enlist, and to see that every possible effort is made to promptly equip them. Emphatically do I say that we are not doing justice to ourselves when we do not insist upon every factory at our disposal working three shifts a day and turning out all the ammunition and arms it can. If I had my way, I would see that that was done without the least possible delay. I do not know what is being done in British Dominions elsewhere, but I presume that nothing is being left undone to insure the utmost possible amount of ammunition and arms being sent forth every day. I desire to refer to the estimated receipts from the Federal land tax. I find that it is expected to yield something like £2,700,000 this year.
I am pleased to notice that it is intended to get a very large amount of revenue from the Customs and Excise duties. It must be very pleasant to ardent Protectionists to realize that
T921 - a foreign-made goods are expected to come into Australia this year and to produce a revenue of £14,261,000.
– Do you mean that Protectionists like to see foreign goods coming in ?
– I do mean to say that Protectionists like to see foreign-made goods coming in.
– Nonsense 1
– I can put no other interpretation upon the facts. I think it was to-day that I heard an honorable senator in the chamber state that they fully intend that, for an indefinite number of years, large quantities of foreign - made goods shall be imported into Australia.
– We cannot help it.
– That is, and has been all along, the policy of the Protectionist party. Occasionally we are supplied with figures on this question, and they prove conclusively that, no matter what may be said to the contrary, it is the aim of the so-called Protectionist party to insist upon the importation of foreignmade goods. They maintain that policy in order that the land-owners may be protected from taxation. During a recent visit to a part of Tasmania, I was astonished to find that no man from the mainland is allowed to make a home there unless he pays to some local land-owner a licence amounting to £150, or, perhaps, £200. I was very surprised to find that in the small township of Burnie, in the north, no man is allowed to settle unless he pays to the Van Diemen’s Land Company, or to some other land-owner there, a. sum equal to £200. I was informed that, owing to the ineffectiveness of the land taxation in operation, both State and Federal, it was absolutely impossible, unless a person was prepared to pay that price, to secure a home site at Burnie.
– Your informant was not too well informed. The Van Diemen’s Land Company is selling its land now, largely because of the land tax.
– I’ was informed by the secretary of the Typographical Union at Burnie - a man who is very anxious to make a home for himself, and whose word I am prepared to take - that he cannot secure a home site there for less than £150. Furthermore, he asserted that if persons could secure land there, the building trade would be immensely advantaged; that fifty -new houses would be built as soon as possible after the land was secured.
– The position is, that before the Federal land tax was imposed, a man could not buy a site at all; but now the company is offering sites for sale.
– The company is offering a very limited number, and at a very high price. The land tax in Tasmania is not sufficiently high to compel the company to disgorge its land, and no one knows that better than does the honorable senator.
– The company will pay nearly £10,000 this year under the Federal land tax.
– No doubt the company is doing so; and it will pay the tax willingly, because it is not heavy enough. The mere fact that the company is paying the land tax would be an indication to most persons that it is still holding on to the land. I cannot understand why a man like Senator Ready cannot see that self-evident truth.
– This is the first year in which the company will pay that amount. Under the previous land tax, it paid £7,000 , but this year the amount will be increased to £10,000. We hope that it will cause the company to sell the land more quickly.
– We hope that it will, but our hopes are in vain. It is expected that the Government will get this year £2,700,000 from the operation of the land tax. The conditions in Tasmania are typical of what prevails to-day throughout the Commonwealth. It is typical of the conditions in New South Wales, notwithstanding all the rosy pictures drawn to amuse, edify, and attract immigrants from the Old Country. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 23rd March of this year the following statement appears : -
MOREE, Monday. - The local court-house was crowded when the ballot was taken for the Benarba 4,000-acre block, for which there were C40 applications. The Land Board disallowed 65 applications, ‘admitting 584. The successful applicant was D. W. Moore, of Guyra, the next in order being G. Munro, A. G. S. Smith, E. Cummin, and W. Gredi. The Land Board today confirmed the block to Moore.
The incidence of the Federal land tax has not been sufficiently heavy in New South Wales to compel the owners of large estates to dispose of them, as is shown by the fact that 584 eligible applicants made application for one block.
– Winning a block is a better prize than winning a Tattersalls sweep.
– I should think it was, and the odds against winning are not nearly so heavy. A man has to put up a deposit, but that is returned if the application is unsuccessful. I refer to that matter to indicate once more that the tax is not as effective as some of us would like to see it. In support of my other statement that even the Tariff now in operation is ineffective, I quote from the
Age the following incontrovertible statement: -
If any further evidence were needed to demonstrate the absolute ineffectiveness of the amended Tariff schedule which was brought into operation at the end of last year, it is provided by the huge importations which have since taken place.
That is after the Tariff which we shall be presently asked to indorse was brought into operation : -
In his Budget Estimate of the Customs and Excise revenue for the current financial year the Prime Minister calculated that there would be a falling-off owing to the disturbance of trade in consequence of the war of somewhere about £170,000. With a little over two months yet to go, the receipts from this particular source are actually only £87,000 behind those for the same period last year, and it seems likely, in view of the present volume of trade and the accelerated revenue of the last month, that the actual decrease will be an exceedingly slight one.
A Tariff which enables the Customs revenue to practically maintain its normal level at such a crisis cannot be said to have achieved its object - the encouragement of local industry.
It should be quite apparent to honorable senators that the object of the Tariff is not to exclude foreign-made goods at all. It is to produce revenue to avoid the necessity of increasing the Federal land tax. That point cannot be too strongly stressed.
– There are many factories which could not be built in three years.
– Then how do you expect the importations to be stopped ?
– A Protective Tariff does not stop the importations in any country. The United States, which is looked upon as the home of high .Protection, derives practically all its revenue from the taxation of imported goods.
– It imports less per head than any other country.
– It imports quite sufficient to enable it to get practically all its national revenue from that source.
– Are we to understand from that that you have become a convert to high Protection.?
– I was only stating facts. I was not expressing any individual opinion. I simply pointed out that the Tariff was not keeping out, and was not intended to keep out, foreign-made goods. The only reason for its imposition is to produce revenue so as to avoid the necessity of placing extra taxation upon companies like the Scottish absentee organization called the Van Diemen’s Land Company.
– Then we can hope for higher duties and less revenue from you ?
– The honorable senator cannot yet tell what he may get from me. I should certainly make the land value tax sufficiently heavy to compel companies like the Van Diemen’s Land Company to promptly dispose of their estates, and allow people who desire to use them an opportunity to do so.
– You have taken all their revenue already.
– They still hold on to their land.
– They have been selling it rapidly since the land tax was imposed.
– In the Ministerial statement I read that in the Federal Capital Territory, approximately 650 men are employed, and it is expected that the number will be increased by another fifty or more. That is very well so far as it goes, and indicates that, in a somewhat slow manner, the Capital site is being developed, but I want to enter my protest against the action of the Home Affairs Department in refusing to comply with State awards.
– Which award do you mean?
– I refer particularly to the award of the United Bricklayers Society of New South Wales, which provides, amongst other things, for the payment of 14s. 6d. per day. The Home Affairs Department is not’ paying that rate. There is no reason why it should not. Its action is causing unnecessary friction. If the State Government can afford to pay the rate, and private employers can afford to pay, and do pay it, the Home Affairs Department should certainly be called upon to pay it. The award also provides that the railway fares of bricklayers should be paid to the point at which they are to be employed. The Home Affairs Department absolutely refuses to do this. That is not fair, either to the New South Wales Government or to private employers. A paltry action of that kind is not worthy of the Department, and should not be tolerated. I hope the Department will look into this matter, and see that the New South Wales awards are observed in the case of men from New South Wales employed at the Federal Capital. I do not say that all men working on the site should be drawn from New South Wales, but those who are there should get the benefit of the awards of their respective States. I- hope the condition there is not typical of what prevails on other works throughout the Commonwealth. I have heard no extensive complaints of awards being violated on other works carried out by the Department, and I hope that the Government, when they carry out works, will not seek to take advantage of the necessities of people who are out of employment by refusing to pay their railway fares or the rates fixed by State awards.
I do not know when the proposals to amend the Constitution will be submitted, but I should like to see them placed before the public at an early date. I do not want to see done anything that would interfere with the work of the Defence Department in rendering all possible assistance to the Home Country. If I thought that the submission of the referenda proposals or any other measure would interfere with that to any extent. I should not support it. Every effort ought to be concentrated on seeing that Australia does its part in the great struggle now going on, but I do not believe that it is necessary that we should absolutely shut up shop and do nothing but conduct our warlike affairs. The Government ought to embrace, as soon as possible, the opportunity to place the referenda proposals before the country. “We are undoubtedly very much handicapped by our constitutional limitations, as was recently shown by the action of the New South Wales Government in regard to the wheat supply. No one imagined a few months ago that any State could take such action under the Constitution as New South Wales took. It appeared to the lay mind to be a direct interference with the provision of the Constitution for absolute freedom of trade between the States, but the lay mind cannot read these things in the same way as the legal mind can. I trust these Bills will be placed before us in the near future, so that the public may again have an opportunity of saying whether they are prepared to clothe the Commonwealth Parliament with the powers with which we on this side, at least, believe it ought to be clothed. Whatever else may be done, I hope the Government will not leave anything undone to assist the Imperial Government to the best of their ability to carry the war to a successful conclusion.
.- The statement submitted to us by the Government discloses one or two matters of great importance. If ever there was a war that was justifiable, this is the one. Never in the history of our race have we had a war which was more justifiable. Only recently I read the remarks of Mr. Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Imperial Exchequer, to the effect that if it had not been for the interference by Germany with Belgium, he would not have consented to war. It was not for any purpose of aggression, but only for the sake of defending that little nation, that he consented to Great Britain taking part in it. The Ministerial statement shows us that the progress of the war has been satisfactory, if I may use that term. I use it in a restricted sense, because I suppose that no war is satisfactory to us. We do not want bloodshed. I, for one, hate war as I hate sin, but while we are engaged in war we desire to see our arms mid those of our allies successful. I be lieve, from the tone of the statement submitted to us, that we are making satisfactory progress. I should say, from the limited information we get, that only one ending is possible, and that is that our nation and our allies must prevail over our opponents.
– God help us if we do not.
– Exactly. I hardly think there is any possible doubt about that.
– We ought not to leave any doubt about it.
– That is so. I ask honorable senators to recall the harassing conditions under which the present Government took office. They were faced with an immense dislocation of trade, with thousands of unemployed, and with financial problems to the solving of which they had to bend their best energies. They required millions of pounds to enable Australia to worthily prosecute her part in the war. But, notwithstanding all the difficulties which confronted the Administration, its members have succeeded beyond all anticipations. To them great credit is due for the admirable way in which they have overcome gigantic obstacles. At the outset of this debate the Leader of the Opposition, who doubtless spoke for his party, strongly urged the desirableness of both political parties entering upon a truce. This matter has already been dealt with by other speakers who have preceded me.’ It seems to me that it would be most unwise on the part of the Government and their followers - who were returned to give effect to a definite mandate from the people - to agree to devote themselves exclusively to matters arising out of the war until it has been brought to a triumphant conclusion. How shall we be met by thousands of unemployed if we do not endeavour to provide them with the means of livelihood both for themselves and their dependants? How shall we be met by tens of thousands in the community who are anxious that we should deal with the difficult question of regulating the prices of commodities? How shall we be met by that large army whose members have for years been clamouring for a scientific Protective Tariff? Then again, ought we not to deal with the many constitutional difficulties which have been disclosed by judgments of the High Court since the very inception of Federation? As a result of those judgments we have discovered that this Parliament does not possess a tithe of the power with which we thought it had been endowed. There is scarcely a member of it who, at the inception of Federation, imagined for a moment that its powers were so restricted. With all these matters confronting us, it would be something bordering on insanity for us to tie our hands by entering into a party truce and determining to do nothing during th© currency of the war. I do not suggest that the Leader of the Opposition, in making the statement which he did, was prompted by a desire that we should discredit ourselves throughout the Commonwealth. But I do say that it would be most unwise for us to drop the policy upon which we were elected, and to remain idle until the terrible struggle now being waged in Europe is brought to a close. If honorable senators opposite choose to assist us in enacting war legislation, we shall be grateful to them for their help. I am glad to know that so far we have had their hearty co-operation in all legislation arising out of the war. But I would remind them that there still remains a great deal to be done in the interests of the people. There was just one remark which’ fell from the lips of Senator Millen during the course of his speech upon this motion, which I exceedingly regret - I allude to his reference to the note issue as an inflated one. I do not attribute to him a desire to convey to the public the impression that there is an insufficient gold reserve behind that issue. Nevertheless that is the first deduction which would be drawn by people outside. If, on the other hand, he intended to convey that the note issue of £26,000,000 is an inflated one, I think that his statement is open to question.
– About half of that amount represents the normal issue.
– If . the honorable senator bases his view upon an issue of £10,000,000, the present issue may bear the complexion put upon it by Senator Millen. But if the public were once to get the impression that our paper issue is on an unsound basis, a panic might conceivably set in, and if our opponents desire to assist us during this time of stress, that is the last thing which should cross their minds. I was very glad that Senator Lynch promptly called attention to this matter, and thus drew from Senator Millen a declaration that Eis remark was not intended to suggest that the present note issue has an insufficient gold backing. In the document before me, credit is justly given to the private banks for the assistance which they have rendered during the critical time through which we are now passing. It says -
The Australian Notes Fund could not have been used in the manner indicated without the assistance of the banks, which have agreed not to present notes to the Treasury for gold until the close of the war. .
Some of my honorable friends opposite, however, have endeavoured to give all the credit to the private banks. If I am not mistaken, the movement which I have just outlined was initiated by the Ministry. It did not emanate from the banks. Whilst it is greatly to tlie credit of private financial institutions that they acted in the way they did, I think it was immensely to their benefit to do so. Let us suppose, for example, that the Government had been short of funds to carry on necessary public works. What a dislocation of trade would have followed ! As a result, the banks themselves would have suffered more than would any other institution. Consequently, they acted wisely in their own interests in coming forward to assist the Government as they did. It is only right that we should give them their meed of praise. The fact has been stressed that the granting of the Imperial loan to the Government was a generous act. Of course it was. But what on earth might the Imperial authorities have expected if, at such a critical juncture, they had refused financial assistance to a portion of their own dominions? Whilst they have assisted tlie Commonwealth to the extent of £18,000,000, and whilst they are willing to help it still more, they have also assisted by hundreds of millions of pounds other countries to prosecute this war. Though we are very pleased to have their timely aid, we recognise that, in acting as they did, they were also assisting themselves as a nation. They did no more than any Dominion might expect the Motherland to do for it. The money thus advanced has enabled the Government to financially assist several States. New South Wales, for example, will secure £7,400,000; Victoria, £3,900,000; South
Australia, £2,600,000; Western Australia, £3,100,000; and Tasmania, £1,000,000. In the absence of this assistance, what might have happened throughout the Commonwealth? Each State has been enormously, aided by the Commonwealth in its task of carrying out. public works, and thus giving employment to thousands who had unfortunately become unemployed. Reference is made in the Ministerial statement to the Commonwealth Bank. Personally, I think that the measure authorizing the establishment of that institution may be regarded as the greatest piece of legislation ever enacted in -the world’s history. Nobody will ever know the influence which the Commonwealth Bank has exercised in this war crisis in Australia. We do know that several private banks have been saved by it, and we are aware that it has been thanked by the managers of those institutions for what it has done. But nobody can calculate what it has achieved in the direction of allaying public panic. In the little city from which I hail, scores of people became alarmed on the outbreak of the war and withdrew their deposits from the private banks in the form of gold. Some of them hoarded their money secretly. After the influence exercised by the Commonwealth Bank had allayed this feeling of insecurity these persons re-deposited their gold in the banks. As a matter of fact, one bank manager in Launceston approached me with a request that I should use my influence in dissuading persons from withdrawing their deposits. In these circumstances I repeat that we shall never be able to calculate the influence which was exercised by the Commonwealth Bank in averting a financial panic. Possibly half the private banks would have had their shutters up to-day if they had not felt that they had the Commonwealth Bank behind them. That feeling of security was not inspired by the amount of gold which the Bank possesses, but rather by the unlimited public security which is behind it. There is just one other matter to which I desire briefly to refer. I have no sympathy with the sentiments expressed by Senator Bakhap in this Chamber with regard to conscription and the payment of ls. 2d. per day to our soldiers who are risking their lives in defence of the Empire.
– They are doing it in England.
– But I am talking about Australia.
– And England is a richer country than Australia.
– But the general public of England are not richer than the general public of Australia.
– It is because they have a Liberal Government in England that they are paying ls. 2d. a day, and it is because we have a Labour Government in. Australia that our men get 6s. a day.
– I might very well refer Senator Bakhap to the- statements made by some of the social writers in England. Very often I have felt my blood run cold when I have read about the rates of pay upon which millions of our fellow creatures have to subsist in that great country, which, he says, is the richest in the world.
– It is so rich that we have to borrow our money there to carry on the war.
– That may be so, but we are not borrowing from the general public of England. It has been stated that 1,250,000 people of London alone are living on less than £1 ls. a week for the whole family, and 2,250,000 people of London are living in houses unfit for human habitation.
– Campbell Bannerman said that there were 13,000,000 in the United Kingdom on the verge of starvation.
– Yes, and statistics show that 22 per cent, of the families in Scotland live in one room. Let Senator Bakhap read what the social writers have to say about the conditions to which the people of England are reduced. For my part, I hope that the ls. 2d. per day now paid to the British soldiers will not be long continued, but that the men who are fighting the Empire’s battles will be paid something more than that.
– It is perfectly amazing that such a country is able to finance us during the war.
– I am not questioning the production of Great Britain. Speaking from memory, I think it totals about £1,750,000,000 a year, but what I complain about is the distribution of the wealth.
– That is why Great Britain is able to lend us the money.
– It is because of the miserable rate of wages paid to the working people that they are able to lend us millions of pounds.
– Every year, of course, sees an enormous increase in the production of wealth in the Old Country. But only twelve months ago Lloyd George said there was more poverty than ever before in the history of the country, which, as Senator Bakhap tells us, is the richest amongst the nations. Possibly it is the richest, but the great bulk of the people are very poor indeed. I have no sympathy with that kind of thing at all, and I hope Australia will have no sympathy with it. We must give Senator Bakhap credit for the courage of his opinions, but I do not give him credit for discretion in making statements of that character in this Chamber, and so I want it clearly understood that I have no sympathy whatever with them.
– None of us could stand1s. 2d. a day.
– The people know that I would not advocate1s. 2d. a day except for very grave reasons.
– I have only one or two more words to say on the question of the Tariff. I stated some time ago in this Chamber that I was a Protectionist, and I have been one since Federation. Prior to Federation, and when there were barriers between the States, I could never see the wisdom of a Protective policy; but once those barriers were removed my views on that subject changed. To-day Senator Grant referred to an effort on the part of somebody - I do not know who it was - to do away with the necessity for land taxation; but so far as I am concerned, I am going to tax land, and do what I can to make this Commonwealth self-sustaining. Australia should be able to produce all she requires, and with a little extra taxation this may be done. For instance, when war was declared, we were sending away a large quantity of raw products to the Old Country to be made up and returned to us in the form of manufactured goods. All this work, with a reasonable amount of taxation, could be done in Australia, and it is my intention to do all that I possibly can to bring about this state of affairs. There are, of course, some articles which we are not able to produce, and I fail to see any reason for a heavy duty in such cases.
– Why put any duty on such articles as those which we cannot produce?
– Quite so. I hope we shall not be so unwise as to put a burden on the people by taxing those articles which we cannot produce, and which are required for every-day consumption. In my opinion, an alteration of the Constitution has become an urgent necessity. Icould never understand, even when the first referenda proposals were placed before the people, how they could so far forget themselves as to refuse to give their representatives the power to do what they desired in the best interests of Australia.
– You asked too much; that was the trouble.
– Well, I have read nearly everything the so-called Liberal leaders have said on the subject. I have read Mr. Cook, Mr. Glynn, Sir William Irvine, Mr. Sampson, and a number of others, who have all as strongly urged an amendment of the Constitution as any honorable senator on this side of the Senate. I suppose no man in the Federal Parliament in either Chamber has so strongly stressed the necessity for an amendment, of the Constitution as Sir William Irvine in the other Chamber.
– You ask for what he suggested, and you will get it from the people of Australia. I make that prediction.
– I am afraid you are wrong.
Senatorde Largie. - We will get that and a great deal more, with or without Sir William Irvine’s consent.
– Do you mean his latest suggestion that there should be only one financial authority?
– I read Sir William Irvine’s statement with a great deal of pleasure. The position with regard to trade and commerce between the States is such that there is not a single individual, even among our opponents, who will not readily admit that there is room for an alteration in the Constitution. But the trouble is generally that they do not want to put the power into the hands of their opponents. That has been said before to-day. I am satisfied, however, that when the people have another opportunity they will rush to the poll and say “Yes.” You can fool them once or twice, but you cannot fool them all the time; and as surely as night follows the day we will have an alteration in the Constitution in the way that the people desire, and that, I believe, is the way advocated by the Labour party.
– And then, I suppose, we will reach the millennium.
– If the millennium comes, well and good; but I am not expecting it for some considerable time yet, for there are many other reforms to be secured. I pledge myself to support an effective Protective Tariff, and also pledge myself to do my utmost towards getting an amendment of the Constitution when the proper time comes.
Debate (on motion by Senator Henderson) adjourned.
Senator McDOUGALL (New South
Wales) [6.7]. - I move-
That for self-reliance and economy the Government should at once establish works for the manufacture of all electric cables required to supply its ever-increasing needs.
I do not think that anybody in this Chamber will seriously oppose this motion, because it is part of our whole policy that we should, if possible, manufacture in Australia all the things that are necessary for the Commonwealth. By the manufacture of these cables we shall not only save a great deal of money, but also be doing something towards making Australia a self-reliant country. If there is one thing above all others that we should manufacture in Australia it is the electric cables required for the Postal Department. I am given to understand that, at present, it is almost impossible to get orders from the Old Country to carry out the necessary repairs, and the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral will correct me if I am wrong in saying that the recent wet weather in Sydney proved that the whole cable system connected with the General Post Office in that city is in a bad state of repair, owing to the lack of material. If supplies are cut off at present, it is possible that they will also be cut off at some future time, perhaps when badly needed; and it should be our duty now to obviate such a difficulty by manufacturing our own cables in our own workshops. Cables other than those needed for the purposes of the Post Office will be required, and these should also be manufactured in this country by the Government, for it is necessary that we should be able to get cables in Australia in order to prevent any dislocation of the Post and Telegraph services or of the work of defence. In the past we have trusted to foreign countries for many of our electrical requirements. We never attempted to manufacture, because we did not think this war would be on us so quickly, but it is here, and it has been very difficult to keep our electrical works going, because we have run out of commodities that are only manufactured in Germany and America, and we are not getting supplies from America now, for the reason, I suppose, that they are able to get better prices elsewhere. In the first place, we should establish this factory, in order to supply our own wants, so as to be independent of any other country, and I will show by figures that it is quite possible for the Commonwealth to do this. I will also make bold to say that if the Commonwealth Government would place all their orders in Australia a private company would immediately proceed to establish factories for the carrying out of these contracts if they were extended over a certain number of years. If a private company is prepared to do this, surely a Government should be prepared to establish its own factory. By establishing our own factory, we shall train our own mechanics, give employment to Australian people, and educate our men to an industry that is not yet known here. In the matter of economy, I will show, from calculations, based on the figures of one of the largest firms in England, that, after allowances are made for the higher cost of labour in Australia, considerable saving will be possible to the Government by the establishment of such works as I propose. Savings can be effected in several directions. Every one has seen loads of cables coming along the streets, landedhere in hundreds from almost every ship that comes in. The large wooden drums on which cables are rolled cost a certain amount of money in the Old Country, and when they are unwound here now they are sold for 2s. or 3s.each to be broken up. If we had the factories, old drums couldbe used over and over again, and in that respect alone a considerable saving would be effected to the Department. Now, old cables are thrown on one side. With a factory they could be stripped, re-covered, and, instead of having a life of ten years as they have to-day, they would each last fifty years.
– I understand the life is ten years, and I think I am correct. At all events, I have got the information from the Department itself.
– Do you say that you have figures from the Department showing the life of a cable to be ten years ?
– Then my information differs from yours.
– That has nothing to do with me. As I have pointed out, the saving in that respect alone would be very considerable to the Department. Identification and classification of cables as they arrive here from the Old Country also cost the Department a considerable amount, which would be saved if we had our own factory, as neither identification nor classification would then be necessary. There would also be a considerable saving of time. At present, when a cable is out of repair, a temporary cable has to be used, and the time occupied by workmen on these temporary cables is wasted. Every shilling paid in wages, which would not be required if this proposal is adopted, is now lost to the community. Another advantage would be in regard to the heavy freight charged for importing cables. That, in itself, amounts to a huge sum every year. I admit that, to-day, certain Government factories are not paying as they should be. There may be a reason for this, but I say emphatically that if this factory is established, it will, according to my figures, and with good management, pay handsomely. It will be necessary at the start to import a number of men expert in the manufacture of cables, but the number will only be small, and I have no hesitation in saying that even with the higher wages ruling here, such a factory as I suggest can be made to pay. It is only fair that in submitting this motion for the establishment of a new factory, I should be prepared to show the
Senate where they are going to gain, and I have a number of figures which will show how this can be made a payingconcern. Old cables, for instance, are now scrapped as useless. If we had a factory they could be stripped of the lead, re-dried, and in using the lead again a saving of 75 per cent. would be effected on the cost of repaired cables, as compared with the purchase of new cables to take their place, and cables bybeing treated in this way would last fifty years. On that basis alone it is estimated that the saving would amount to £20,000.
– You say you would save by re-using the lead on the cables. Is not that material of some value now ?
– It is of no use whatever.
– Not as lead, after remoulding ?
– It does not pay to strip cables, because there is not any factory here at whichthe stripping can be replaced. That work has to be done in the Old Country. It is estimated that the saving in the classification of cables as they arrive in Australia would be £150 per week in Sydney alone. On a small estimate, the saving for Australia would be £750 per week, so that the actual saving to the Postal Department in fifty weeks would be £37,500. The time that would be saved in not having to wait for deliveries, and in not having to fix up temporary lines can hardly be estimated. It may be taken at almost £500 per week as covering the whole of Australia, but I will put it down at £250, which makes a total of £12,500 per annum. So that on these three items alone the General PostOffice would be £70,000 to the good.
– You would wipe out a fourth of our deficit on the PostOffice.
– Yes. The figures I have as to the probable cost of the factory are based upon the cost of the English factory of Henleys Limited, one of the largest cable factories in the Old Country. On the basis of a turnover of £200,000,ayearmachinerywouldcost £30,000, land £4,000, buildings £3,000, and travelling expenses and other expenses of importing the necessary men to Australia will run into about £1,500. Working capital and material would cost £20,000, wages £5,000; so that it would cost about £65,000 to establish this factory. The cost of labour is a very considerable item in any factory, and the difference between labour charges in Australia and in the Old Country is very appreciable. To operate this factory we should require 100 men at £3 a week - that is £300 - and 100 boys at 25s. - that is £125 - making a total of £425 per week.
– How many men could be got in Australia to work for £3 a week?
– The Commonwealth Government are paying mechanics to-day only £3 a week; but if they think as the honorable senator does they ought to give the men a rise.
– Where are mechanics working for the Commonwealth at £3 a week?
– At the Saddlery Factory.
– That is about 6s. a week above the award.
– It is; but the Minister interjected that mechanics could not be obtained in Australia at £3 a week, and I wanted to let him know that the Government are employing mechanics at that rate, and on that payment my figures are based.
– It is of no use to base your estimate on the rate of £3 a week for mechanics.
– How will this estimate do ? -
The cost of the permanent staff is estimated at £335 a week. Let me now compare the cost of labour in this industry in England with the estimated cost in Australia. In England the labour required for the same turnover would be 100 men at 30s. a week, and 100 assistants at 15s. a week, making a total of £225. The charges, based on the expenses of Henleys Limited - one of the largest cable firms in England - would be 150 per cent. on labour; that is £337, making a grand total of £562. In Australia the labour would cost £425 a week, and the charges £385, making a total of £760. That may appear to be a great outlay so far as labour is concerned, but we would save on many things. The saving on the freight to this country would counterbalance the cost of the labour. Then there would be the saving on the drums of which I spoke. Fifty drums would be required every week. The drums, at £4 each, would cost £200, from which we must deduct 10 per cent. for depreciation, leaving £180; that amount per week would be actually saved. Again, the freight on the cables from England to Australia, at the rate of 30s. per ton for 100 tons a week, would come to £150; while the freight on lead, at the rate of 15s. per ton for 40 tons, would amount to £30 ; making a total saving of £360. The Australian labour and charges come to £760, while the English labour and charges amount to £562. The difference between the two sets of figures is only £198; while the saving on the freight and on the drums is £360; so that the total Australian gain on the transaction comes out at £162. I have given details concerning the establishment of the factory. I know very well that there is not an honorable senator here - and I believe that even Senator Bakhap would support me - but would give a vote in favour of my proposal. The establishmentof a factory would make Australia self-reliant so far as this industry is concerned, and, in my opinion, she should occupy that position in regard to every industry. I shall be obliged if the Minister can show me where my figures are not correct. I cannot say that they are correct, but I believe that they are, because they came to me from a gentleman who has had more experience of this industry than has any other man in Australia. I would have liked an opportunity to address the Senate at greater length. I hope that the Government will accept the motion in the terms in which it is submitted, and that a factory for the production of our cables will be in evidence before very long. It will, of course, take some time to erect a building and to equip it, but it will not be many years after its establishment before it will have cleared the whole of the initiatory expenses.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise to ask the Minister of Defence whether the papers relating to the McArthur case, which I asked for, are yet available. I have not had any notice of the production of the papers.
– Have you inquired at the Library?
– No. I thought that I would have received a notice that the papers were ready.
– If the honorable senator will inquire at the Library, I think he will find the papers there. The practice when a promise to produce is given by a Minister is that the papers are laid on the table of the Library.
– I will inquire.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 April 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150422_senate_6_76/>.