6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p. id., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1915-16.
Supply (Works and Buildings) Bill (No. 1) 1915-10.
Charges by Mb. ORCHARD M.P.
– Has the Minister of Defence any report to submit in reference to the charges made in another place against the administration at the Liverpool Camp?
– I have some lengthy reports here, but perhaps it would be better if I were to obtain permission to make a statement.
– The first report I have is one by the Quartermaster-General who was in Sydney when the allegations were made, and who was instructed to proceed at once to the camp and make investigations. It is dated Melbourne, 5th July, 1915, and reads as follows: -
Statements re Treatment of Recruits at Liverpool Gamp.
Jacket. The only occasion when a greatcoat becomes really necessary to recruits is when visiting their friends in the evening, and on these occasions men wear their own private clothes. By far the greater majority come into camp with overcoats; those who do not are only in the same position as they were before joining the forces., However, the Department, with almost an undue solicitude for the welfare and comfort of the soldier, has sanctioned the issue of a greatcoat to all men immediately on joining, and these garments should certainly have been provided as directed by Head-quarters. This matter is now the subject of separate correspondence.
That refers to the fact -that it is possible to close up the ventilation which, has been, provided for.
– Medical arrangements, I found, after a careful inspection, to be very complete ‘and en- . tirely satisfactory. Accommodation is provided for the more serious cases in two cottage hospitals, wherein patients receive treatment such as could not be bettered in any institution in the city. The general medical conditions were as good as, if not better than, any I have ever seen in the Commonwealth, India, or Great Britain.
Rifles in sufficient numbers for training purposes are on issue to the Camp Commandant. That Lithgow rifles are defective is incorrect. Minor disabilities, such as can be readily remedied, will be found in small arms of every pattern.
In addition to that report the VicePresident of the Executive Council, Senator Gardiner, was in Sydney, and on seeing the report of the allegations in the Sydney newspapers he took the train to Liverpool at once. H? informed the Commandant of his arrival, and on the latter offering to supply him with an officer to go round the camp, he said ‘ that he would prefer to go “on his own.” He spent a day in Liverpool making inquiries, and has supplied me with the following report: -
On reading the report of Mr. Orchard’s speech in the Sydney morning papers, I immediately set out for the Liverpool encampment. On arrival at Liverpool, I wired to Senator Pearce, Minister of Defence, that I was going to have a look round, to see for myself the conditions.
Going into camp, I reported to the Camp Commandant, Lt.-Colonel Kirkland, that I had read Mr. Orchard’s charges, .and wanted to see for myself what the conditions were like. I then strolled through the lines, talking to groups of men here and -there, and, as the midday meal was being served, I had the opportunity of observing both the quantity and quality of the food supplied. It was well cooked, of first-class quality, and comprised roast beef, baked onions, boiled potatoes, bread, and tea.
Later I visited the kitchen, where the cooks were preparing a warm evening meal for the men who wore having a field day. That meal consisted of beef, vegetables in ample quantity - potatoes, onions, and carrots. As there was an abundant supply of good, wholesome food, I was satisfied there was no room for complaint on that score.
Immediately upon arrival at camp the troops ore given two suits of warm woollen under- clothing, and dungarees for the rough camp life while going through squad drill. When they are passed into a company, uniforms are supplied, and, although all are not yet supplied with greatcoats, it is a mistake to think that there are only a few in camp. Upon inquiry I learned that every man engaged on night duty is supplied with a greatcoat.
Huts and Bedding.
The huts are large and roomy, and, being new, are quite clean. The floors are tongued and grooved boards. The framing is Oregon; the walls and roof are of corrugated galvanized iron. The ventilation is an air space between the top plate of the wall and the roof, which, extending over the walls in bungalow fashion, keeps out the rain.
Three blankets and waterproof sheet are served out to each man on arrival, and in many cases straw has been supplied. On inquiry I was informed that the reason why all had not been supplied with straw was due to the fact that straw was almost unobtainable; owing to the high price of fodder, there was little straw on the market.
The Medical Officers and the Hospital.
I had not the pleasure of meeting Dr. Schlink, but I heard expressions of regret on every hand that unfounded and unwarranted charges should have been made against him in Parliament. He holds a very distinguished position in his profession, and among his many friends he is spoken of most highly.
It is impossible to understand why an attack should have been made on the hospital management and the treatment of the sick at camp. While there are the regular early morning and afternoon parades of the sick, any serious or urgent case is attended to at any hour. I saw a man carried on a stretcher to the hospital at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and he received prompt attention.
In cases where a patient is seriously ill, he is sent in the ambulance to one of the Sydney hospitals - that is, if he can be moved with safety; if not, he is put in one of the two private hospitals at the camp, where there is a matron and nursing staff.
The less serious cases are sent to the hospital tent; the beds, bedding, &c, are just what one expects to find in a modern wellequipped hospital.
I was informed that the instructions of Colonel Wallack, Commandant of New South Wales, were that no expense was to be spared where the sick were concerned.
I spoke to quite a number of the hospital inmates, inquired closely about their treatment, and did not hear one single complaint.
In conclusion, I would point out that I have been through seven military camps; the knowledge gained there made it easy to make my inquiries without assistance, and, although I questioned group after group of men, I heard no serious complaint.
To my oft-repeated question, “Any complaints?” the most general complaint seemed to be that it was a hardship to ask the men who had given up good positions, where they were earning good money, to serve the country, and give, if necessary, their lives in that service, to ask them to pay their railway fare when visiting their homes. “ Cheap fare or free pass “ was the most oftrepeated complaint uttered, and therefore I concluded there was little room for complaint, and wired the Minister accordingly.
7th July, 1015.
Senator Gardiner informs me, further, that when he spoke to the Commandant in Chief that officer had not then seen the morning newspapers, and was therefore ignorant of the allegations having been made, so it was not possible for the camp to have been readied up for inspection. I wish .to read also the following letter which I have received from a parent of a man who has been in the camp. It is addressed from “ Fennell’s Bay. Toronto,” and is dated “ 2nd July, 1915. “ The letter is as follows: -
Sib, - I read with much surprise of Mr. Orchard’s allegations with regard to the treatment of soldiers at Liverpool Camp. My son, Private Ernest Watkins, A Company, 17th Battalion, was at Liverpool Camp for four months prior to his departure on 12th May for the front. On his visits home, and to my relatives who visited him, he spoke highly of the way men were treated at the camp. They were well fed, well treated, and had little to complain of. He made no complaints. The tents were rather crowded, but he knew this was unavoidable, and even it was improving. They had no beds, but plenty of blankets, which were, he considered, sufficient.
My son was dangerously ill in hospital for about a fortnight while at Liverpool, and was most grateful for the- care and attention he received from the doctors and nurses. He had a comfortable bed, and everything was satisfactory in every way.
My father was a soldier - QuartermasterSergeant Groves, of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Buffs. He served in the Zulu war, and gained medals. I was with him as a child, and know a little of war’s horrors, also of soldiers’ life in barracks, so I can write from knowledge of both; and my son and his mates, I believe, told me the truth about life in camp.
You can’ use this letter as evidence, if necessary. Trusting I have not taken too much of your valuable time,
I have only to add, in conclusion, that the Government have taken this matter into consideration, and in view of the nature of the allegations made, they have communicated with the Chief Justice of the High Court, asking him to nominate a Judge of the High Court in order to give Mr. Orchard an opportunity to. justify before him the allegations he has made.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if h? has yet received replies to the questions I asked him on 25th June on the subject of the undergrounding of the telephone cables in Sydney.
– I have received the following further answers to the questions, and have pleasure in giving them to the honorable senator -
Each year the Estimates provide for laying further cables, and this will be continued so long as the necessity exists. On 31st December, 1914, over 440 miles of telephone cable had been laid underground in the Sydney metropolitan area, over 27 miles having been laid in 1914.
It is proposed to lay a further 56) miles in this area during 1915-16, and an approximately similar length will be necessary for 1916-17.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911. - Award by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, dated 15th June, 1915, on a plaint submitted by the Postal Sorters Union of Australia; Statement of Laws and Regulations of the Commonwealth with which, in the opinion of the Deputy-President of the Court, the Award is or may not be in accord; Reasons for Judgment of the Deputy- President ; and Opinion of the Attorney-General.
Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1911 and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-1912. - Regulation amended. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 98.
Defence Act 1903-1915. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos.
90, 99, 100, 101, 102.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired under, at Taree, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Naval Defence Act 1910-1912. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos.
Naval Defence Act 1910-1912. - Regulation amended. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 91. Public Service Act 1902-1913. - Appointments, Promotions, &c. -
Prime Minister’s Department. - Promotion of A. E. Whiteside as Examiner, 4th Class, Auditor-General’s Office, Central Staff. Department of Home Affairs. - Appointment of E. H. Henderson as Draughtsman, Class E, Professional
Division, Public Works Branch, New South Wales.
Postmaster-General’s Department. - Promotion of M. J.Clavin as Inspector, 2nd Class, Inspection Branch (Central District - Rockhampton), Queensland.
War Precautions Act 1014-1915. - Regulation amended. - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 105.
SenatorFERRICKS asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
What is the annual loss, if any, on the Government freezer at Darwin?
Is the freezer capable of making sufficient ice for all residents desiring to become subscribers ?
Why is not the privilege of delivery of ice, and cold-stored goods extended to Government wage-earners, as well as officials in the Government service?
Do the Government officials pay extra for the service rendered in the delivery of ice and cold-stored goods by Government buggy?
– The answers are -
Enrolment of Married Men: Dependants
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1. Yes. The following instructions were issued by the late General Bridges on 11th August, 1914, in regard to the organization of the 1st Australian Division and 1st Light Horse Brigade: - “ Single men to be preferred, but married men and widowers with children may be accepted, provided that they state they are aware that no separation allowance will be issued either before or after embarkation, and that they signify on the form of, attestation their willingness to allot not less than two-fifths of their pay, not including deferred pay, while abroad to their families.
The following Bills were received from the House of Representatives, and (on motions by Senator Gardiner.) read a first time: -
Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill.
Constitution Alteration (Corporations) Bill.
Constitution Alteration (Industrial Matters) Bill.
Constitution Alteration (Railway Disputes) Bill.
Constitution Alteration (Trusts) Bill.
Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 17th June, vide page 4087) :
Clause 2 (Commencement).
– When the Committee adjourned the deliberation on this Bill some time ago, it was announced that a deputation would wait on the Attorney-General with the object of placing before him certain suggestions with regard to some of its provisions. That deputation did wait on the Minister, and the Attorney-General intimated that some of the suggestions would be accepted by him, and, through the representative of the Government in charge of the Bill, would be proposed to the Senate. I should like to ask the Minister if he is in a position to state which of the desired amendments the Government intend to adopt; because, if the Minister can make an announcement now, it will simplify the task which the Committee has before it. . Senator GARDINER (New South Wales - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.30]. - A deputation did wait on the Attorney-General, who, I know, is favorable to certain of their- suggestions; and the position the Government propose to take up towards this “Bill, so lar as this afternoon is concerned, is to agree to postpone any clause which an honorable senator wishes postponed, but to get on with the clauses to which no exception has been taken by the insurance companies or by any one else. As a matter of fact, there are conflicting deputations with conflicting views, and this makes it a little difficult to determine what we will do. We have brought the Bill on now because it is felt that perhaps these useful measures usually get scant consideration at the hands of Parliament.
– You do not suspect a party motive ?
– There is not enough party motive to have Bills of this kind pushed forward as are other Bills. I shall be pleased to postpone any clause in which the fire or life insurance companies are interested-
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - They are interested in all of them.
– But there are some which, when we reach them, I can definitely announce the intention of the Government not to alter. For instance, the Government intend to stand by clause 76, which provides that the acceptance by a life insurance company of a premium in respect of the second year of insurance shall be regarded as an admission of age by the company. We shall, therefore, be in just as good a position now as afterwards to deal with debatable clauses of that character, because I can definitely announce the intention of the Government to stand by their principle, with any reasonable improvement that can be shown to be desirable.
– I accept with pleasure the Minister’s promise to postpone this or any other clause in regard to which it is thought that further matter may be brought before the Committee, but I would ask him to go a little further. Until the Attorney-General’s reply is given, it will be almost impossible to say what clauses should be postponed, and I would suggest that the Minister should promise to afford facilities later on for the recommittal of any clause.
– Yes, I will accept that suggestion.
– That will enable us to get through a large portion of the Bill without an undue consumption of time, and leave us free to discuss ‘ the more debatable provisions after the AttorneyGeneral has given his decision.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions’).
– I ask that this clause be postponed, because one of the matters which it is proposed to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General, by deputation, is the definition of “ fire insurance business.” It is thought that this might interfere with marine insurance policies, which it is clearly not the intention of the Bill to cover. A deputation is to ask the Attorney-General this afternoon that that paragraph be so modified as to make it clear that that section of marine insurance business which covers fires on vessels and their cargoes will be excluded from the operation of the Bill.
– I consent to the postponement of the clause.
Clause 5 (Certain State Acts to cease to apply to .insurance business).
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.36].- Does this clause include all the State Acts, or are any to be allowed to remain in operation 1
– A certain proportion of the State Acts dealing with insurance are hereby repealed, but I do not think the clause interferes in any way with cases where the States have made provision to do their own insurance. There may, therefore, be cases where State Acts are not repealed.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.38].- Does this clause cover the whole of the Acts in all the States dealing with fire and life assurance? If so, it raises the. question of marine insurance already referred to by Senator Millen. The first Act mentioned in the clause is the Life, Eire, and Marine Insurance Act of 1902. of New South Wales, which, as a matter of fact, covers marine insurance, lt might be better later on to insert a clause making it perfectly clear that the Bill does not in any way apply to marine insurance. In the meantime, this clause might well be postponed.
– I agree. Clause postponed. Clause 6 -
– Provision is made for the appointment of only one Commissioner. It will be extremely difficult for those controlling insurance offices in various States to transact all their business under this Bill with one central office situated in Melbourne, Sydney, or the Federal Capital. No provision is made in this clause for the appointment of Deputy Insurance Commissioners to control the business in other States.
– Does the honorable senator desire a Deputy Commissioner to be appointed in each State 1
– Provision should be made for the appointment in the. other States of men who would practically be receiving officers just as provision isi made for the appointment of State electoral officers under the electoral law. We know that there is a Commonwealth Electoral Office in Melbourne, and that there are other electoral offices under its control which transact the business in other States. A similar system obtains in connexion with postal work. It is desirable that provision should be inserted in the clause to meet an emergency which will undoubtedly arise, and thus obviate the necessity for amending the law in the near future.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.41].- Honorable senators should recollect that under this Bill we shall effect a great change in methods of administration. At the present time each State has its own authority dealing with insurance matters. Under this measure it is proposed that everything shall be placed under the supreme control of one central office, which will probably be located either in Melbourne or Canberra. It stands to reason that if the Bill is to work satisfactorily it should be administered locally so far as it can be, consistently with the retention of supreme power in the hands of the central authority. One of the complaints which has been repeatedly voiced in connexion with postal administration is- that there is too much centralization. Excessive centralization has been the chief bane of the present system. We know that there is in each State capital a Deputy Postmaster-General, who is vested with a fair amount of authority, and it seems to me that we require to devise a somewhat similar system in connexion with insurance. I recognise that we must have a Chief Commissioner and a principal office in some centre of the Commonwealth - an office to which all matters must ultimately gravitate. At the same time all that is possible should be done in the different capitals of the States. If that course be adopted the measure will work much more satisfactorily than it will if too much centralization be tolerated.
.- It seems to me that the two honorable senators who have immediately preceded - me have made out a very good case. It is evident that, in connexion with a complicated business like that of - insurance, there will be an inordinate number of inquiries, especially at the inception of the system. I believe that the Chief Commissioner will be inundated with queries from all over Australia, and it is manifest that he will require the services of a fairly large clerical staff.
-Colonel Sir Albert GOULD - His staff should consist of men who are f airly expert in insurance business.
– Exactly. They should be men who have had considerable experience of insurance as a business. Is it not possible for the Government to establish a Deputy Commissioner in each State, and to attach him -to the staff of the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions and the Deputy Commissioner of Land Tax? These gentlemen have officers in each of the State capitals, and accommodation could surely be found there for an extra officer. I suggest that a Deputy Commissioner of Insurance should be attached to these offices throughout the States instead of being established in the central office. Then all the demands for local information, instead of having to filter through to the central office, could be dealt with by him promptly, and thus valuable time would be saved. I hope that the “Vice-President of the Executive Council will favorably consider the suggestion.
– I recognise that the contention of Senators Senior, Gould, and Ready is a perfectly reasonable one. But I would point out that no matter how many officials may be required for the efficient administration of the measure, this clause will still be necessary. I am sure that whoever may be appointed Chief Commissioner will be faced with a formidable task, and that he will require the services of a well-equipped staff. For the convenience of the public, that staff should be spread over the whole of the Commonwealth .
– Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council say that, under this clause, it will be competent to appoint Deputy Commissioners in the different States?
– It will be competent, when the Commissioner is appointed, for the necessary staff to be created to carry out the functions of his office. I see nothing in the clause to limit that power in any way. I recognise how useless it would be to have a Commissioner who could not employ any person because the Act did not say that he could. I do not pretend to be able to bring more than an ordinary lay mind to the reading of the clause, but the duties of the Commissioner are clearly defined. He will have to carry out certain functions, and these, of course, will be carried out under the management which he will bring into existence. I am quite pleased with the honorable senator’s suggestion, and I invite similar suggestions. In my opinion, the clause is all right. I. am not going to give a pledge that we will appoint a Deputy Commissioner for each State. There may be no occasion to do so, but if the Act contained a provision to that effect we would have to appoint such officers. Our policy is to bring the Act into existence under the management of a Commissioner, whose duties are prescribed, and who, of course, will be responsible for the management of the whole of the insurance business which is carried on at present, and which will come under the provisions of the Act. I see nothing in the clause to limit in the slightest degree the power of the Commissioner to appoint a person in each State to represent him as to particular business. I agree, however, with Senators Gould and Ready that it may prove much more con venient for the people, and the smooth working of the law, to have a Deputy Commissioner with almost full powers, not only in every capital, but in any centre where the business of insurance warrants such an appointment being made. But that is all beside the question as to whether the clause is necessary or otherwise.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [3.53].- With a good deal of what the Minister has said I quite agree. It is true that we must have a clause to provide for the appointment of a Commissioner and to define what shall be his duties and powers, . but it is contended that in each State there should be an official who would have some authority, and be able to authoritatively determine questions which must arise from time to time. It is quite clear, of course, that under the Bill it will be competent for the Commissioner to establish proper offices. It will be competent for him, of course, with the sanction of the Government, to employ necessary clerks and servants to carry on the business. He will, no doubt, have offices in the various States, but they will only be manned by a head or chief clerk, who will have no authority to deal with any matter unless it is given in the Act itself. If the Commissioner is endowed with authority to delegate certain of his powers to individuals elsewhere, he may, or may not, delegate sufficient powers, and Parliament will not know, except in the ordinary way, what powers have been delegated. If we were to insert a provision to the effect that the Government may appoint a Deputy Commissioner in each State where that is deemed necessary, and that he shall be clothed with all the powers of the Commissioner, so far as business in that State is concerned, subject always to an appeal to the Commissioner from any important action which may be taken, the latter would be supreme, as the Government evidently intend him to be, and as I presume he ought to be. At the same time, each State would be able to have a Deputy Commissioner where, in the opinion of the Government, the volume of business warranted an appointment being made, and, of course, the Deputy would have power to deal with various’ matters arising under the law without the necessity of referring everything to headquarters for determination. If it is desired to destroy the efficiency of a par- ticular measure, it can be accomplished by tying up the administration with redtape. The States should be made to realize that there is no desire to drag them at the heel of a particular office in some part of Australia, but that each State is to have supreme control so far as that is consistent with the general law. If the Minister will give us a promise to submit a new clause, we might very well accept this one.
– Could not the provision be made by adding a few words?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - It would need more than the addition of a few words to make the provision satisfactory. It is far better that the draftsman should be called upon to prepare a provision to carry out the general wish, and if that course is taken, there can be no conflict arising between the Chief Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner, who, of course, must be under the control of his chief in the final instance. Personally, I see no objection to passing the clause if .we get a promise from the Minister that he will introduce a new clause. It must be remembered that, very often, amendments made in Committee on the spur of the moment are found to act like boomerangs.
– The Minister is right in saying that it is necessary, so far as the administration of the Act is concerned, that there should be one central authority. There must be one ultimate central authority in order to secur.e uniformity of administration and decision in regard to various matters. We have to remember, also, that it is not only the interests of the Government, but the interests of the insurance companies and the policy-holders, which are concerned. In other Acts we have recognised that fact. The interests of the Government are largely provided for by centralization, by reason of the fact that those interests are primarily concerned with uniformity of administration. So far as expedition is concerned, that is the primary feature of the interests of the people who are doing business in those portions of the Commonwealth which may be very far distant from the Central Administration; to the Government that is not so important. but to the policy-holder, and to the company, it is of the greatest importance. When we passed the Judiciary Act in 1903 we provided in section 51 -
Principal Registrar, and such other officers as arc necessary.
In that case, it was obligatory on the Government to provide, not only a Principal Registrar, but District Registrars - the authorities to whom the persons having business with the High Court in the States have immediate resort. They are in constant and regular touch with the Principal Registrar, and uniformity of practice and procedure is secured by reason of that fact.
– Have the Government power to remove the officers, or any control of them, or are the officers absolutely independent?
– I am not going by the book; but I say that they are under the control of the Government because they make the appointments.
– Are you not quoting the case of an independent service ?
– I think not. I recollect that, quite recently, applications were called for the appointment of the Principal Registrar. That is a Government appointment, and not one which is made by the Judges. I am now dealing, not so much with the tenure of the office as with the principle we recognised then, that it wa3 desirable in each State to have a District Registrar and a District Registry. In the Patents Act of 1903 we provided, in section 10 -
There shall be a Commissioner of Patents, who shall be appointed by the GovernorGeneral, and who shall, under the Minister, have the chief control of the Department of Patents; and the Governor-General may appoint one or more Deputy Commissioners, and so many Examiners of Patents as may be necessary. It will be seen that in the Patents Act also we recognised the necessity for expedition and a certain amount of decentralization. We wanted all. the advantages of centralization, and also the advantages of decentralization. We wanted as far as possible to harmonize both, and,, therefore, we made it obligatory on the Government to appoint a Commissioner of Patents, and granted power to the GovernorGeneral to appoint such Deputy Commissioners and Examiners of Patents as he might think necessary. The Designs Act of 1906 contains the following provision in section 8 : -
I think that in the Public Service Act and the Customs Act I could find a similar provision. The provision in the Designs Act, with the necessary modifications, would very easily meet the present case. It is a very simple provision. It does not compel the Government to appoint deputies, nor is the Government to appoint them at any particular time, but only when the occasion arises, and then to appoint them for whatever the circumstances warrant. If the Minister does not care to have a provision inserted at the present juncture, 1 suggest that before the Bill leaves the Chamber a provision based on section 8 of the Designs Act be inserted in this clause. I think it would then meet the views expressed by the Minister and other senators who have any dread, wholesome or otherwise, of overcentralization.
– Senator Keating has referred fo provisions in various Acts that go towards the goal which Senator Gould and others have in view, and that is to provide for a more definite system of decentralization. I cannot help but think that the provision made in the Land Tax Act of 1910-11 would meet a case of this kind. It is short and to the point. Sections 4 and 5 of the Land Tax Act provide for the administration of the Act and the appointment of a Commissioner. Then section 1 reads as follows: -
There may be such Deputy Commissioners of Taxes as are required, who shall, subject to the control of the Commissioner, have such powers and functions as are prescribed or as the Commissioner directs.
I cannot help thinking that an addition of that kind to the clause now before the Committee would be a material improvement, and would save a great deal of trouble. I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : -
There may be such Deputy Commissioners of Insurance as are required, who shall, subject to the control of the Commissioner, have such powers and functions as are prescribed, or as the Commissioner directs.
– Would it not be better to follow the form of the appointment of the Commissioner himself ?
– I think it would be more convenient in the form suggested by Senator Maughan.
– Who would appoint the Deputy Commissioners ?
– Who appointsthe Deputy Land Tax Commissioners? The Governor-General in Council would, of course, appoint them. The amendment I have proposed is almost an exact copy of the similar provision in the Land Tax Act.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT” GOULD ,(New South Wales) [4.10].- I am prepared to support the amendment, in default of getting something better, but I should prefer to have the Deputy Commissioners of Insurance placed in a. more independent position than that which they would occupy under it. Nodoubt the Deputy Commissioners would be recommended by the Commissioner, but the powers which it is proposed to intrust to them are . so restricted that I am afraid a very great deal would have to be referred by them to> the Commissioner, which it would be much more convenient that they should deal with themselves. I should like the amendment to be of such a character as tomake it clear that the Deputy Commissioners would be appointed by the Go- vernor-General in Council. They should be given certain definite powers, and should have such further powers as might be necessary, and as might be prescribed^ The amendment might, I think, be improved by the Parliamentary Draftsman, whocould submit it in a form which would better meet the views of honorable senators. I made an interjection concerning, the appointment of officials of the High Court, and in connexion with that I wish to say that no Government would consider themselves in a position to dictate to the bench who their officials should be, though it is true that they must be appointed by the Governor-General, with the advice of” the Executive Council. I have had a little experience of this matter in the conduct of affairs by a State Government,, and I know that the practice invariably has been to have the approval of the Judges for appointments made in connexion with the Courts, although the appointments have, of course, to be made by the Governor in Council. That is what I meant by my interjection. The Judges. of course cannot make appointments quite irrespective of the views of the Government, but Governments are very loth to interfere in the slightest degree, with the exercise of their discretionary powers by the Judges in the making of such appointments. The Vice-President of the Executive Council might permit the amendment to go as it stands with a view to having it referred to the Attorney-General ‘ later, and, if necessary, to the Parliamentary Draftsman to be put into a better shape to give effect to the views of honorable senators.
– I prefer the amendment as submitted by Senator Maughan to that suggested by Senator Gould. The object of the Bill is to bring about in the Com- monwealth a uniform system of insurance. If Deputy Commissioners were appointed in the various States having equal authority with the Commissioner, we might have different systems and methods creeping in, and in that way the object of the Bill would be defeated. If we make it necessary for the Deputy Commissioners in the different States to refer certain questions to the Commissioner, we shall insure a uniform system, because the ‘Commissioner will, of course, be bound to give the same decision upon similar questions arising in any of the States.
– It may lead to centralization.
– We must not assume that everything will be referred to the Commissioner. Under other Acts which have been referred to, Commissioners and also Deputy Commissioners are provided for. The Deputy Commissioners have to refer important questions to the Commissioner in order to secure uniformity, but they are able to settle questions of less importance themselves. If Deputy Commissioners of Insurance are given authority, as Senator Gould seems to suggest, to settle big and little questions affecting insurance without reference to the Commissioner, that may lead to the adoption of different systems in different States.
– I admit the force of Senator Newland’s reasoning, that it is not advisable to have six different methods of administration in the Commonwealth, but it is ‘ necessary that we should have more than one centre of administration, even though that administration should be uniform in character. That is why I called attention to the fact that clause 6 makes no provision for a delegation of the powers of the Commissioner to any other person. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has been as silent a3 the Sphinx on the amendment. We have not been told whether the Government are prepared to accept it or not. The honorable senator appeared to think that 1 am opposed to clause 6, but that is not so. I regard it as a good- clause so far as it goes; but, in my opinion, it does not go far enough. I am in favour of such an amendment as has been suggested by Senator Gould. I think that it is necessary to make provision that the Governor-General in Council may appoint Deputy Commissioners. That appears to have been considered necessary in other cases, and it is equally necessary here.
– We should not give them co-ordinate powers with the Commissioner.
– The fact that a man is a Deputy Commissioner indicates that he is under the Commissioner. He should be appointed by the GovernorGeneral in Council, but should not have co-equal powers with the Commissioner.
– Senator Gould has suggested that he should, and I am opposed to that.
– Each Deputy Commissioner will be practically a governor over a segment of the circle of administration, but subject to the Commissioner. The advantage of this system has been proved in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Act. First of all, there, is the general power given to the PostmasterGeneral, and our experience proves that it was necessary for the PostmasterGeneral to delegate some of his powers to Deputy Postmasters-General in the different States.
– But the Deputies have not the same power as the Post- master- General .
– No, and in this case the Deputy Commissioners, if appointed by the Commissioner, would only be, so to speak, clerks from his office. Something different to that is required to insure the smooth administration of the Act.
– You could not call the Deputy Commissioners clerks from the head office.
– They would, of course, be rather more than clerks, because they would have certain powers. I would like to see them empowered to deal with all local matters that appertain to a district, irrespective of the Commissioner.
– Would there not be a danger of interfering with the uniformity of administration?
– I think not.
– There must be a central government.
– I quite agree with that. It would be necessary to have a central office, and if the Deputy Commissioners were appointed, and Lad an office in each State, deposits could be lodged with them and forwarded on to the Commissioner. Then we have to consider the question whether a person, applying under a life insurance, has to present the credentials of his birth to the Commissioner in Melbourne, or appeal to the Supreme Court. It seems ridiculous that a . man should be haled before the Supreme Court over a question of age. Matters’ of this kind should be settled by Deputy Commissioners, and should not be referred to the Commissioner at all.
– We are all agreed on that point.
– But the point is, how much power shall be delegated to the Deputy Commissioners? I say that everything that appertains to a district should be dealt with locally, and anything affecting the general administration should be settled by the Commissioner. There* will be general and subsidiary powers. General powers should be held by the Commissioner, and in that way uniformity of action may be secured. In a big Bill like this, affecting as it does insurance offices that are dealing in millions of pounds, it is absolutely necessary that there should be a little decentralization. It was for that reason that I called attention to the clause, and for that reason I would like to hear if the Minister is prepared to accept the suggestion that has been made, and bring down a properly drafted amendment to meet the case.
– There may be some point in the statement that I have not spoken to this amendment, but I was not in a hurry to speak, as I wanted to hear what honorable senators had to say. My experience in handling Bills is that a Minister can soon gain the reputation of wanting to “out” everything, and I do not desire that. I want to have every proposal carefully considered, and, if deemed desirable, to have it included in> the Bill. Therefore, before saying “ yes” or “no” to the suggestion, I wanted io> listen to the discussion by honorable senators, and I have been able to make up my mind. I am inclined to accept the
Amendment in preference to the suggestion by Senator Gould. We are aiming as much as possible at decentralization, but the central authority should be supreme. Deputy Commissioners should not be given authority to> give decisions on the law without reference to the central authority. I think that we are pretty well in agreement with regard to this amendment, and? I want to say that my reply, in the first place, to the criticism of the clause was> not hostile, though the tone of it may have been, to the statement made by Senator Senior. Now, it is a question’ whether the Commissioner shall appoint the Deputies, or whether they shall be appointed by the Governor-General. p think it is wise to allow this matter to» rest in the hands of the Commissioner. He will not be dealing with Government insurance. I want Senator Senior to be perfectly clear on that point. Under this Bill the Commissioner will be seeingthat the private companies administer their businesses properly, and therefore he will not be mixed up in any of the detail work of a company’s business. On> the question of age, to which Senator Senior directed attention, I desire to sayin the most friendly way possible, that if the policy-holder were not accepted by the company because of disagreement asto the age, then he could appeal to the Court against the company’s decision.. This Bill gives him the power to do so.
– It is giving to hima right that he has not now.
– Yes, and itsalso gives him and the companies absolute freedom to act as they like. The. Commissioner will have powers of supervision over companies at present almost entirely privately managed, and overwhich the Commonwealth or the StateGovernment have no authority. Honorable senators must not get the idea into- their minds that the Commissioner is to have an immense amount of detail work in connexion with the management of the insurance companies. At present, he will not have that. Therefore, if an amendment is necessary - and I think the consensus of opinion of the Senate indicates that - I am prepared to accept the amendment moved by Senator Maughan. I can quite understand the view put by Senator Gould and Senator Senior, representing, as they do, the States of New South Wales and South Australia. The States are sovereign entities in this Commonwealth, and would like to have Deputy Commissioners with equal powers with the Commissioner.
– That is not what I said. I want the Deputy Commissioners to have powers to deal with local matters affecting each district.
– I think it would be better if we do not pursue a discussion on a fine distinction of this kind. Briefly I may say that, although I think the clause providing for the appointment of a Commissioner is sufficient, if honorable senators think it is not, I am prepared to accept the amendment, because there may be some good in it, and I do not think it can do any harm.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Every company carrying on insurance business in the Commonwealth at the commencement of this Act shall be allowed a period of six months after the commencement of this Act for the purpose of obtaining registration and a licence under this Act.
– I would like to ask the Minister whether, in view of the amendment to a previous clause, it would not be advisable, in the case of a company applying for registration, to allow it to apply to a Deputy Commissioner?
T4.34].- I am not inclined to leave such an important matter as the formation of new companies in the hands of the Deputy Commissioners, because I think the creation of bogus companies will be one of the dangers to be faced by a Government responsible for the administration of this Act. Probably, on the face of it, some of these companies may appear sound; but on such an important matter as registration, I think the delay, even of coming from the farthermost ends of the Commonwealth, is not unreasonable, in view of the enormous responsibility resting on the Commissioner to see that the people are not in any way defrauded of their investments. It is, therefore, a matter of sufficient importance to leave entirely in the hands of the Commissioner.
– Would not the application come through the Deputy 1
– It would naturally come through the nearest office, but it would have to be finally determined by the Commissioner himself.
– The Minister seems to be labouring under the impression that there are in existence, or mav spring into existence, companies of a bogus character. A small company may be quite as solvent as a large one within the ambit of its business, but, under a later clause, small companies will be precluded from registering by the excessive amount of the deposit demanded. The deposit to be paid by a large company bears nothing like the same proportion to its total business as in the case of a small company, although the latter may be just as safe. This shows the advantage of local consideration, because the local Deputy Commissioner would know the circumstances of each case, and the assets and liabilities of each company. I do not object at all to the provisions of clause 7 regarding registration, but the period under clause 8 should be extended to at least twelve months. As the Bill now stands, a number of small insurance companies now in existence will be forced to wind up, although they are doing a legitimate business under the present law. It is just as if the Government decreed that there should be no more small shops in Bourkestreet, and that only big concerns should be allowed to continue, by requiring the small shops to pay the same licence-fee as the big ones, and get their licence within the same period. That would surely be unfair.
– There is nothing in clause 7 or clause 8 to prevent a small company from registering.
– But they have to put up £20,000 in six months.
– That is the point. It is. a subsequent provision that requires a, very heavy deposit, and this clause gives the small companies practically no time to wind up their businesses. I. have in my mind a company doing a legitimate business under the present law in a limited ambit for a limited number of persons. It is perfectly solvent, but it cannot put up £20,000. It is a small shop in the way of insurance, and if this clause is passed it will be allowed only six months in which to pass out, or become liable to very heavy -penalties. It is just as if we required an honest man. doing a legitimate business, to wind up his affairs and clear out, leaving the field to larger concerns.
– If the Bill contains a clause requiring a deposit too large for small companies to pay, when we reach that clause it will be time enough to consider the necessity of providing for smaller deposits or easier conditions for small companies. All this clause does is to fix the time within which the licence shall be taken out. When we reach the other clauses I shall be pleased to assure Senator Senior that no provision shall pass this Committee that will give the big companies any pull over the small ones. There are in existence now some absolutely cooperative insurance concerns - really business concerns - which have been formed by a number of business men, or by municipalities, to do the insurance business necessary under the Employers’ Liability Act and other State legislation. It is the intention of the Government to make it quite clear that this Bill shall not operate to their disadvantage. If it appears that the Bill does, I now give the -Committee my promise, that, before it finally passes the ‘ Senate, purely cooperative concerns of that kind will not be injured, and huge deposits will not be required from them. It is the intention of the Government to exempt them definitely and clearly from the provisions of the Bill, except that we may make it compulsory for them to furnish returns. That applies to .co-operative insurance businesses run, not for profit, but for the protection of their members under certain State Acts. We intend to make it clear that” the Bill shall not deal with them by making them put up deposits, but it will be no hardship to them to furnish returns, which, on the other hand, may be of dis, tinct assistance to the Government. It would be absurd to compel a few business men, whose yearly expenditure to meet liabilities does not amount to £500, and who return in bonuses- to themselves any surplus moneys over and above a small reserve fund, to pay annually to the Commonwealth 25 per cent, of their profits, or anything like it. We have no desire to harass, interfere with, or annoy small concerns of that kind, and the same remark applies to municipalities which have established little insurance concerns of their own for the same purpose. I assure Senator Senior that we are not going to make the little man close up his shop. If there is a mutual insurance company well, or reasonably well, managed, and conducting a legitimate business, no wilful act on the part of the Government by the insertion of harsh provisions in this Bill will compel it to wind up its business. I do not object to Senator Senior putting forward his objections at this stage, because he fears that if he lets the clause go through it will be too late to remedy the evil, but the honorable senator will agree with me that any company that persists in transacting business without a licence after the Bill becomes law should be liable to an extremely heavy penalty. Six months is ample for registration, and existing concerns are well aware that this legislation is be’fore Parliament, and must sooner or later become law. I confidently expect the Bill to be passed within the next twelve months. It was introduced on the 29th April last, and the companies are paying rather keen attention to its provisions. I know that there will be a general feeling of relief throughout the community, particularly on the part of those running purely co-operative concerns, when it is learnt that they are not to be included under these provisions, and are not to be treated on the same footing as the gigantic fire and life insurance companies. I still think, however, that it is unnecessary to amend this clause. I shall not promise to accept any amendment that Senator Senior may move on the later clauses to which he referred, but if he can show that any hardship will be inflicted, I shall be quite willing to postpone them for further consideration. At the same time I am not prepared to postpone this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
A foreign company shall not be entitled to registration unless it has appointed some per son who is a resident of the Commonwealth to be its representative in the Commonwealth in all matters between itself and the Commissioner, and has lodged with the Commissioner a notice in writing of the name and address of the representative.
– I desire to .know the interpretation which the Minister places upon “foreign company”? Does a “foreign company” mean a company of foreign nationality, or simply a company foreign to Australia?
– A company carrying on business outside of Australia.
– A “foreign company “ is a company which is incorporated, and which has its head office outside of Australia.
– There is no definition of the term in this Bill. I hold that there should be, so that the interpretation of the measure may be rendered easy. I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to make a note of my point.
– I have made a note of the honorable senator’s suggestion, and I really think it is essential that there should be a definition of the term ‘’ foreign company,” assuming, of course, that in existing Acts there is not some definition of general application.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 -
– I think that there should’ l)e a definition of the word “ office.” I recognise that there are some insurance societies which do practically the whole of their business within the boundaries of a particular State. In other States they transact very, little business indeed. In these circumstances I think that we require a definition of the word “ office.”
– Is it not covered by subclause 2 of the clause?
– An office, I take it, is a place for conducting business in the ordinary acceptation of the term. The clause provides that -
Notice in writing of the situation of the registered office, and of the name of the representative in charge thereof, shall bo lodged with the Commissioner for registration.
Personally I can see no reason for any better definition of what constitutes an office. The clause is ample for all purposes. However, when we are discussing the definition clause, if Senator de Largie chooses to bring forward a definition of the term “ office,” I shall have no objection to considering it.
– The danger which I see is that of a company registering with some agent in a State who might thus be the representative of most of the insurance companies of Australia. In such circumstances very little of the business of those societies would be transacted at that office. I hold that when registration is permitted ,at an office there should be some pretence of management there. It should not be an office in name only.
– I thoroughly appreciate Senator de Largie’s desire to make this Bill as perfect as possible, but I think that he is unduly apprehensive in regard to this matter. The clear purpose of the clause is to enable any person who desires to institute legal proceedings against any company to discover - without having to indulge in a wild-goose chase over the States - who is the representative of that company. The clause makes it quite clear that even if that representative has disappeared, the mere fact of service at the registered address of the company will be sufficient for all legal purposes. The provision merely gives effect to a practice which is common in the case of mining and limited liability companies. These companies are required to register their offices for the purpose of enabling anybody who may so desire to serve legal notices upon them. As to the business management of insurance companies being centered at their registered offices, that is clearly impossible. There must be a centralized authority in connexion with all these- matters. If Senator de Largie will recall what is going on today in the case of registered companies he will realize that the purpose of the clause is abundantly clear.
– I quite agree that every insurance company should have a registered office in each State, but I desire to know whether, for the purposes of this Bill, the Northern Territory will occupy a different position from that of any other State?
– Or the Federal Capital or Papua?
– Will it be necessary for every insurance company to have a registered office in each of these Territories, which are dependencies of Australia ?
– Yes, it will.
– Is it not desirable that there should be?
– I am considering whether we may not strain the idea too much, and come to a breaking point. In other words, whether, for the purposes cf the Bill, we may seek far more than is necessary.
– Suppose that a resident in the Northern Territory wanted to institute proceedings against a company under the laws prevailing in the Territory. It would not be sufficient for him to serve a notice on the company in Melbourne. It must be served in the Northern Territory in order to come under the jurisdiction of its laws.
– I do not wish to be obsessed by the idea that we must have a visible office, whilst we render it more difficult for a person who is doing business with the insurance companies. Suppose, for example, that fifty persons in the Northern Territory have insured their lives or premises with twenty companies, and that it becomes necessary to register the twenty offices simply because a very small number of insurances have been effected with each of the offices.
– That is the present position.
– That, I take it, is the position required by the law’ of the Northern Territory at present, but I do not think it is the position in the de pendencies of Australia. If we could secure the advantages which the clause aims at, and escape the disadvantages which certainly seem to loom up, I would be very pleased. That is why I asked the Minister for a definition in regard to “ Territory.” It will be very hard on an insurance company if it is required to have a registered office in each place. Take, for example, the Federal Territory, in which there may be 100 insurance offices.
– What is the cost of registration?
– The cost of registration is possibly nothing, but there is a good deal beside the fact of registration to be considered. I do not think that there is anything to be gained by the provision in question. In the case of a State the local Court is defined in the definition clause as the Court in which cases may be tried.
– So it is in the case of the Territories.
– In the Territories you have not a Supreme Court, or the High Court, and those are the two Courts prescribed in the measure.
– Pardon me, you have. In the Federal Territory, for instance, you have ; because we have adopted the laws of New South Wales.
– We have not adopted the State laws* in the case of the Northern Territory.
– I think that we did.
– We have a Judge who is acting at present. It is in order to avoid entanglements that I want to be clear on the point,’ and if the Minister will submit it to the Attorney-General for his consideration I shall be quite satisfied.
– I quite appreciate the desire of Senator Senior to avoid entanglements, but I am afraid that I might strike a mine if I started to dodge them. To my mind, the clause is definite, clear, and necessary. If we did not provide that an insurance /company, transacting a small business in the Northern Territory, should have a registered office there, what would be the position of a widow at Darwin, who wished to proceed against a company to recover the amount of a life policy? If it would not pay a company to nave an office at Darwin, it ought not to pay it to transact business there. My desire is to avoid the more grave and serious danger of a person being obliged to travel from one end of the Commonwealth to another in order to get justice. The clause seems to me to be clear, definite, and with a fixed purpose. It is quite necessary to the Bill, and, therefore, I propose to stand by it.
Clause agreed to.
– The clause provides that, in the event of the amalgamation of two or more companies, notice of the proposed amalgamation shall be given to the Commissioner and to the shareholders, and, unless the Court otherwise directs, to each policy-holder of each company concerned. The provision is, to my mind, entirely necessary and wise in connexion with life offices, but a difficulty arises from dealing with life and fire insurance companies at the same time. It is obvious to any one that a policy-holder in a life insurance company has a distinct and permanent interest in its affairs ; but with the holder of a fire policy the position is entirely different. In the majority of life insurance offices, the principle observed is the mutual one, and, therefore, every policyholder is a shareholder in the sense that he has a definite and permanent interest in the company. But fire insurance companies invariably consist of proprietors who have put up a certain amount of capital, and the persons who do business with the companies have only a brief interest which rarely extends beyond a year, and which not infrequently is’ for a shorter period. The holders of fire policies are in an entirely different position from the holders of life policies. A man cannot transfer his life policy to another office if he is dissatisfied, for he has become a part proprietor of the concern. But the holder of a fire policy can transfer his business to another office, because he has no proprietary interest at stake. That difficulty was foreseen by our own Royal Commission, which strongly recommended that life and fire insurance companies should not he dealt with in the same provision. It is interesting and instructive to note that, while the English Act contains a somewhat similar provision, it has this proviso -
The provisions of this Act with respect to ‘ the amalgamation of companies shall not apply where the only classes of assurance business carried on by both of the companies arc fire insurance business, or fire insurance business and accident insurance business; and the provisions of this Act with respect to the transfer of assurance business from one company to another shall not apply to fire insurance business.
The clause fs perfectly right with regard to life insurance companies; but in the case of fire insurance companies, while it is extremely desirable and necessary that the shareholders should get notice of a proposed amalgamation, I cannot see any reason or wisdom in notifying the policy-holders. For what purpose are they to be notified? Is it proposed to go further, and allow the policy-holders to appeal or object to a proposed amalgamation? They are merely the. customers who are doing business with the companies from day to day, and in no sense have a proprietary interest or share in the capital. There is no advantage in giving notice to the policy-holders, because no rights are given to them by any later clause. No companies can amalgamate to-day without some publicity. But I am unable to see any reason why every policy-holder in a fire insurance office should be notified of a proposed amalgamation. What would be said if two big mercantile houses in Melbourne proposed to amalgamate, and I was doing business with them? No one would dream that I should receive a notice of the proposed amalgamation. My course after the event would be clear. If I did not care to do business with the new firm, I would go elsewhere. In the case of a life insurance office the clause is entirely sound and necessary, but there is a distinct difference in the case of a fire insurance office.
– Following .my intimation that I would be willing to welcome every reasonable amendment for the improvement of the Bill, I suggest to Senator Millen that he should move an amendment to the clause or agree to its postponement so that an amendment may be drafted to his satisfaction. My view is that it is unnecessary to put any two fire insurance offices to the trouble of notifying policy-holders, as their premises are insured for only a brief period. I think that an amendment can be drafted to meet the reasonable objection put forward by Senator Millen.
– I have no objection to submitting an amendment on the lines of the provision in the English Act, but as this was one of the matters which the deputation discussed with the Attorney-General and one which I felt, from his attitude, he was disposed to deal with, I suggest that the Vice-President of the Executive Council should postpone the consideration of the clause in order that the AttorneyGeneral’s Department may draft an amendment.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to a further amendment which I think would improve the clause. I agree with the suggestion of Senator Millen. I do not think it is the wish of any honorable senator to harass insurance companies or put them to unnecessary work or trouble. It is quite obvious that a life policy isi on an entirely different plane from an annual fire policy. What I wish to point out to the Minister is that no provision is made to prevent an unfair deal from being arrived at between two boards of directors. I think that where an amalgamation of two companies is brought about, the object is to insure economy by conducting the business with one board of directors, under one management, and in one office. On the second reading of the Bill, I referred to the case, which occurred in Melbourne, of the amalgamation of the Australian Widows’ Fund Society with one of the mutual societies that are so numerous that it is impossible to remember their names. When that amalgamation took place a deal was brought off in which I think the shareholders were taken advan tage of. The directors of these societies are elected every year, and I think it savours very much of corruption that, because a number of directors lost their jobs through the amalgamation, they have been given a retiring allowance of somewhere between £200 and £300 a year. That seems to me to be taking advantage of the shareholders, and we ought to have a provision in this Bill to prevent anything of the kind in the future. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will make a note of the case to which I have referred, and see whether something cannot be suggested to meet such a case in the interests of the shareholders of these companies. The manager or actuary of an insurance company is a man who makes a profession of insurance work. To give consideration to such a man because his means of living is taken away from him is one thing, and it is quite another to give a retiring allowance to a mere director whose services are no longer required, and who may be of any or no profession. Some of the retiring directors in the case to which I have referred were clergymen, who occupied pulpits in some of the most fashionable churches in Melbourne. /Senator Guthrie. - Still, they were citizens.
– Certainly, bub Senator Guthrie must recognise the difference between giving a retiring allowance to a professional insurance officer, and giving an allowance to a retiring director who is already in receipt of a handsome salary from a business other than that of the insurance society, when the retirement is due merely to an amalgamation of two societies for greater economy.
– The honorable senator does not believe in the clergy being employed in the fire insurance business?
– I thank the honorable senator for the reminder that the clergy are already in the fire insurance business in connexion with a place which 1 hope is far removed from Melbourne,, and so long as they confine their effortsto that particular work I have no objection. I do not wish to see them too much involved in the other business, or taking advantage of the shareholders of an insurance company in the way I have.mentioned. If the Vice-President ‘ of the Executive Council can have an amendment framed to prevent that kind of thing in ‘the’ future, it will make the- Bill -a much more perfect measure than it is at present.
.- I have listened with interest to the remarks of Senator de Largie. I am not acquainted with the case to which he refers, but it appears to me that the clause as it stands would do all that he desires. Under sub-clause 2 it is provided that the notice which, under sub-clause 1, is to be sent to the shareholders, shall give full particulars of the proposal for amalgamation, and shall be accompanied by actuarial reports on the proposal. Then under sub-clause 3, it is provided that -
The Commissioner anil any shareholder or policy-holder shall be entitled to be heard on any application to a Court to sanction the proposed amalgamation or transfer.
That, I think, is wide enough to cover such a case as that referred to by Senator de Largie. As the postponement of the clause is suggested, I think that the matter which the honorable senator has mentioned is worthy of consideration. If he does not think that the clause as it stands sufficiently safeguards the interests of shareholders and policy-holders, I shall have no objection to ask the AttorneyGeneral to consider such an amendment as may be necessary to prevent such a thing as Senator de Largie has referred to occurring again. I am afraid, however, that in just such a case as the honorable senator has mentioned a satisfactory remedy would be beyond human ingenuity, since we are advised that to those who seek first the Kingdom of Heaven all other tilings are added.
– I think the Vice-President of the Executive Council is right in proposing to postpone the clause for further consideration. It has been suggested that the word “policy-holder” should be struck out of sub-clause 1, and I direct attention to the fact that the word occurs also in sub-clause 3. I raised the question whether it necessarily follows that if the word be struck out of sub-clause 1 it should also be struck out of sub-clause 3. It may be advisable that in certain instances a policy-holder should be heard by the Court in resisting a proposed amalgamation. Under sub-clause 1, notice of a proposal for amalgamation must be sent to the shareholders of a company, and to each policy-holder of each company concerned in the amalgamation “ unless the Court otherwise directs.” To secure the non-sending of notice to policy-holders there would have to be an application to the Court. If the idea suggested by Senator Millen is given effect, there will be no necessity for any resort to the Court at all, since the policy-holders will not be entitled to the notice, which, under ‘the clause as it stands, they must receive in the absence of any direction of the Court. I find that there are such companies as mutual fire insurance companies.
– There is one carrying on business in Tasmania.’
– In’ that case the policy-holders will be recognised as shareholders.
– I do not know exactly what is the constitution of the society. The Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Tasmania was established in 1375.
– It may not be mutual in principle, though called mutual by name.
– That occurred to my mind. I knew the name well, but whether the society is mutual by name only I am not in a position to say.
– The clause fixing the amount of capital required answers the question.
– I think that is so. If a company is formed upon mutual principles, it is obviously necessary that’ the policy-holders should receive some notice of a proposal for amalgamation. As the claus® is to be reconsidered, I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to direct his attention to the recurrence of the word “ policyholder “ in sub-clause 3, and to consider whether it is necessary that it should be allowed to remain, should the word - be struck out of sub-clause 1.
Clause 18 -
Any notice which is by this Act required to be sent to a policy-holder may be addressed and sent to the person to whom notices respecting the policy are usually sent, and any notice so addressed and sent shall be deemed and taken to be notice to the policy-holder.
– I directed attention to this clause on the second reading of the Bill. It is usually provided in Acts of Parliament, with regard to the service of notices, that they shall he served by post or in some other specified way. Under this clause, it is required merely that a notice shall be “ sent.” That is very vague. It might be held that the clause would be complied with if notices were prepared and put into the hands of an irresponsible boy. We should have something a little more definite than “ sent,” because the consequence of the clause would be that a notice sent in any way at all would be binding upon the person to whom it was addressee), though he might never have seen it.
– Put in the words “ by registered letter.”
– It need not be by registered letter, bub I think that it should be by prepaid post. I think that we should insert, .after the word “ sent,” the words “ by post.” That would not mean that every notice must be sent by post, but it would provide that where a notice is sent by post, and proof is given that it was posted and the postage prepaid, the person to whom it was addressed would be bound by it.
– How would the honorable senator prove that?
– It is proved, so to speak, daily in the Courts.
– You might get some boy to post the letter, and he might merely say that he had done so.
– It is proved by the boy getting into the witness-box, and referring to his stamp book to show that he had posted a certain letter that was given to him. I move -
That after the word “sent” the words “by post “ be inserted.
– That is the ordinary daily method of doing a much more important business.
– If the amendment is carried we will be in exactly the same position as we are now. I want to make it absolutely sure, and that can be done by providing that the notice shall be posted by registered letter. There will then be an absolute safeguard that a notice posted in that way will reach the person for whom it is intended, and I will move an amendment to that effect.
– It will be very costly.
– But it will save money in the end.
– I can quite understand that Senator Guthrie should desire to take every precaution against an amalgamation or a transfer of a company’s business without ample notice being given to the shareholders, but I would remind him of the fact that hundreds of companies carrying on ‘business are required to givenotice under the provisions of the law under which they are operating, and in no case that I am aware of is it necessary to do more than is provided by the clause with the amendment as proposed. An enormous volume of business is transacted every day by this simple method, and I cannot see any necessity to place even a small additional impost upon a company by requiring the registration of notices.
– It will increase the cost three times.
– Yes. Let me also remind Senator Guthrie that he is connected with a wide-spread organization. Probably he frequently sends out notices affecting that organization, and I venture to say that he sends those notices by ordinary post.
– Yes; and we have continual complaints that they do not reach their destination.-
– I know that Senator Guthrie is connected with a body of men who have always claimed the privilege of making complaints, and I enter-‘ tain sincere admiration for him because he has managed to control an element of that kind for so long and so successfully. I ask honorable senators not to place any additional impost upon the transactions of companies by requiring notices to be forwarded by registered post.
– Do you not realize that Senator Guthrie has some concern for the postal revenue?
– That may be so, but I do not think that any one desires to replenish a depleted postal revenue at the expense of a business which we all seek to enCourage. The amendment which he has indicated will largely affect life insurance businesses, and as this class of business is falling into, the hands of mutual life insurance societies, any additional impost will press, not upon the proprietary companies, but upon thousands of comparatively small people who are insured in these mutual life societies.
I hope the amendment moved by Senator
Keating will be adopted. Amendment agreed to. Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) [5.42].- I move-
That after the word “post” the words “by registered letter “ be inserted.
It is absolutely necessary, in my opinion, that there should be some safeguard to policy-holders or shareholders with regard to these notices. We are all aware of complaints that letters sent out from various companies to shareholders have never been received ; but if we provide that such notices must be sent by registered letter, this trouble will be obviated in the future.
– As Assistant PostmasterGeneral, I feel disposed to accept the amendment, because I can see’ how it may be applied in other directions, and how by this simple and indirect method we may reap a magnificent revenue for the Postal Department.
– And the safety of the public may be considered, too.
– The Government would get a direct and distinct advantage, and as Assistant PostmasterGeneral the argument appeals to me; but as the Minister responsible for this Bill, I am very much afraid that, even if I had the good fortune to get the amendment through the Senate, it might meet with a rebuff in another place. Therefore, I must personally decline to accept it.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 19 -
A company carrying on insurance business in the Commonwealth at the commencement of this Act shall, within six months after such commencement, deposit with the Treasurer money or approved securities to the following amounts : -
Provided that, where the Commissioner is satisfied that compliance with the above provision would press unduly upon the resources of the company, he may by writing permit a smaller initial deposit and annual deposit, but so that the initial deposit shall not be less than twenty-live per cent, of the then insurance fund of the company and the annual deposits shall not be less than twenty-five per cent, of the premium income.
– The provisions regarding deposits to be lodged by companies will put the companies of Australia on quite a different footing to that on which they have been working hitherto. Under this Bill, the State Acts will cease to apply; and I remember that when I made a comparison between the amount of deposit necessary under the State laws, and that provided by this Bill, I found that in some of the States the deposit was quite as large, for one State, as that which we are asking under this Bill for the whole of the Commonwealth. That is to say, the adoption of these provisions will reduce by six the amount of deposit which companies are obliged to make at present. It should be the aim of the measure to guard against the creation of anything like mushroom companies, which have little else to show than a big brass plat© and a showy office window. We must make sure that a company coming into existence does not consist of straw men, and has really behind it the capital that it claims to have. If we require for the whole Commonwealth only the same amount as a company now has to put up under a State law, we shall really be making a very radical alteration, and, before the clause finally passes, I should like to hear reasons why such a substantial reduction should be made. Under the clause the deposit required from a fire insurance company is much less than that required from a life assurance company. As a matter of actual fact, in view of the greater risks run, a much larger deposit should be required from a fire office than from a life office. In insisting on a substantial deposit, we are not asking for actual hard cash, or placing any great burden on a company, because it is provided that approved securities may be accepted. The putting up of a deposit, therefore, does not mean a loss of capital or interest to a company, and we ought to be quite sure that a sufficient deposit is required. The reduction which it is proposed to make is altogether too great, and I should like the Minister to look into the matter again before such a drastic alteration is made in our insurance laws.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) £5.53]. - I was surprised to hear Senator de Largie say that the deposit required is less than in some of the States. He should, not forget that there is a further requirement on the companies to supplement the £20,000 deposit each year until is, accumulates to £120,000. I am as anxious, as he is to see that what he calls mushroom companies do not spring up; “but there is another aspect of the matter to be considered. I do not know any of the established companies that have made the slightest objection to the deposit, although in the aggregate it will amount to .much more than they have to put up now. Companies like the Australian Mutual Provident Society already hold as part of their assets a much larger amount in public bonds than is stipulated for in the Bill, and they have no objection to handing those bonds over to the Commonwealth Treasurer, especially as the Treasurer will be responsible for their security.
– Will the Commonwealth have to pay interest on those securities ?
– No more than it :is. paying now.
– If a company -hands over State Treasury bonds in lieu of cash, will the Commonwealth have to pay interest on them?
– No; the Common.wealth does not pay interest on securities merely because they are lodged with it. Whilst no established company is likely .to raise objection to the provision, we -should not make the deposit so great as to prevent rival companies starting. If a mutual life office is begun on sound lines, it scarcely requires any capital. The Australian Mutual Provident Society started in that way. I admit that the case is different with fire insurance companies, but with mutual life companies all that is required, is sufficient money to see them, over the first year of business and meet any claims in excess of the nor- - mal. We must be careful not to make the deposits too large, because that would mean giving a monopoly to already established offices, and putting up a barrier against others who may desire to enter the same field. Nothing could be more foreign to the mind of this Committee. In that regard the Bill is a very wise effort to reconcile two conflicting points of view - one seeking to secure stability in offices doing business with the public, and the other seeking not to impose any barrier to the creation of further offices of the same kind. I hope the Minister will retain the clause as it stands.
– In view of the conflicting opinions expressed, and the fact that the clause begins a new part of the Bill, this would be a convenient stage at which to report progress. I promise to give full attention to what Senator de Largie has said.
Expeditionary Forces : Mail and Cable Services : Casualty Lists - Ms. Keith Murdoch - Munitions Committee - Colonial Ammunition Company: Naturalized German Employees - Captain Payne. Senator PEARCE Western Australia - Minister of Defence) [6.0]. - I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn. ‘ It is proposed to-morrow to move the second reading of the Constitution Alteration Bills, and we hope that those honorable senators who wish to speak on them will come prepared to do so tomorrow. I do not think it will be necessary to have an adjournment of the debate, as the arguments pro and con are well known.
– The honorable senator has a very fair idea of what they contain. I feel sure honorable senators will be prepared to go on with the second-, reading debate to-morrow. At the same time, we wish to give full opportunity for any debate that is required on the measures.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-
General to the complaints I have received regarding the non-delivery of letters to the troops abroad. If the Minister will consult the Postmaster-General on the matter, I think he will be able to bring about some reform. Every mail brings me letters on the subject. A prominent citizen of Warwick, Queensland, writes: -
Can nothing bo done so as to insure the delivery of letters in reasonable time to the wounded, and also to the men who are serving their country so gloriously at the front?
I have a .son who has been at Mena some weeks, having been one of those who was wounded at the landing on 25th April, and in his letter, dated 25th May, he states that lie had received no letters from any one or a newspaper either for six weeks. I can- understand some confusion taking place in the early days, but six weeks is too long a time for our brave fellows to be kept without their correspondence. I am not one of those who airs his grievances through the press, neither do I believe in worrying the defence authorities if I can help it. Cannot you suggest some way by which letters and papers should be delivered to the men?
That is a sample of many letters I have received, and I have no doubt other honorable senators are in the same position. I quite recognise that there are difficulties, but I would again urge the Minister to consult the Postmaster-General, and see if something cannot be done to insure the delivery of correspondence, especially to the wounded in the hospitals. I would urge the Minister of Defence to call into consultation with him in connexion with the question of munitions, in addition to those gentlemen whose names - have already been published, representatives of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and other Australian unions. I can show the Minister English newspaper cuttings stating that the Minister of War has already been in consultation with leading members of no less than twenty or thirty trade unions. Whilst I have no desire to depreciate the capacity of the men who have been appointed, I think the Board would be improved if some members from trade unions, and especially from the engineering trade, were called in to give the Government the benefit of their advice at this important period in our history.
– Before the Minister replies to Senator Maughan’s complaint in regard to the unsatisfactory delivery of letters, I wish to ask him whether he is free to give the Senate some particulars of the duties which, according to press reports, are to be undertaken by Mr. Keith Murdoch. The newspapers have announced that that gentleman has been deputed to inquire into the lack of postal facilities experienced by our troops at the front. I do not doubt in any way Mr. Murdoch’s capacity for the work. In my opinion, he is well qualified to undertake it. But I desire to know whether his duties will commence in Australia, and whether he will follow our postal system from its source to the actual distribution of the letters at the front? Nothing is causing greater irritation - and, in many hstances, greater pain - to people in 011 midst, than the knowledge that letters and newspapers despatched by them to their friends at the fronts are not being delivered. Anything that the Minister can do to terminate such an unsatisfactory state of affairs will be warmly welcomed. Will the honorable gentleman tell us what is the exact scope of Mr. Murdoch’s duties?
– I had a number of complaints to voice in respect of the nondelivery of letters at the front, but, as the Senate did not meet last week, I approached the Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales in respect of them, and he referred me to the Superintendent of Mails. That officer informed me that, in Egypt, fifty postal officials, who had enlisted for service at the front, had formed themselves into a post-office staff. He also told me* that a staff has been formed at the Barracks in Sydney, and that every morning this staff returns to the senders, letters which are improperly addressed. The position seems to be that no matter how the necessity for sufficiently addressing their correspondence is impressed upon the people, they will persist in wrongly addressing it. The staff formed in Egypt is composed of capable mail officers, who had enlisted for service. The cause of the complaint is the wrong or insufficient addressing of the letters.
– I desire to refer to a matter which I raised in this chamber some time ago. On that occasion I. asked the Minister of Defence some questions in regard to the dissatisfaction which exists amongst th© employees of the Colonial Ammunition Company. I was credibly informed that quite a number of those employees took exception to the retention of the services in that company of certain men of German birth, or German extraction. To> the first question which I put to the Minister I received the reply that, as the result of inquiry one of the employees had been interned. Subsequently I asked whether the person interned was the man who was charged with the responsibility of accepting or rejecting ammunition, and whether or not he was a Commonwealth employee. In reply I was told that he was a Commonwealth employee, but that, though he was of German extraction, he was not born in Germany, aid that his services had been retained. “Upon that subject I merely wish to say, on behalf of a large number of employees at the Colonial Ammunition Company’s works, that a feeling exists amongst them that he ought not to be there, and especially that he ought not to be charged with the responsible task of either accepting or rejecting ammunition. I have since been credibly informed that the employee from these works who was interned as the result of inquiry, has since been liberated and reinstated in his former position at the factory.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator is aware of it, but he is not correctly quoting my replies to his questions.
– I have no desire to misrepresent the Minister. His reply to my second question reads -
A number of the Colonial Ammunition Company’s employees alleged that the testing officer was of German parentage, and objected to his accepting or rejecting ammunition The facts are that the employee complained of, who was born in Australia, but whose grandfather came to Australia from Germany, does not accept or reject ammunition, but merely assists the testing officers at proof and examination of small arms ammunition. The two testing officers are British-born, of British parentage.
I Save nothing further to say on that matter.
– Is the German to whom reference is made in that answer the man who was interned ?
– No. But I am informed that there are quite a large number of employees at the factory who think that this man should not occupy the position that he does, and that while he occupies it justice is not being done to the country. In regard to the employee who was interned as the result of inquiry, I am now credibly informed that he has been liberated and reinstated in the tool room of the Colonial Ammunition Com pany’s works. I do not know whether he is a Commonwealth employee.
– It is ah extraordinary thing that he should be interned one week and allowed to resume his former position soon after.
– That is my information. I returned from Sydney only yesterday, and to-day I have been busily engaged on personal matters in connexion with the war. I have brought forward this question in order that the Minister may make inquiry into it with a view to ascertaining whether it is a fact that this man has been liberated and reinstated in his former position, and if so, what is the justification for the course that has been adopted. I am not now presuming to pass judgment upon the action which has been taken.
– The question raised by Senator Maughan in regard to the nondelivery of letters at the front has revealed the fact that the Government have appointed a gentleman named Murdoch - a gentleman whom most of us know as a journalist - to report upon postal matters. It is certainly news to me that this appointment has been made. We all know Mr. Murdoch as a capable journalist, but it will occasion not a little surprise to learn that he has any particular qualification to inquire into postal matters. I know that in his own profession he is considered to be at the top. I understand that he is not now in Melbourne - that he has been in Sydney for some time. Personally, I cannot understand why# the Government should appoint a gentleman like him to undertake this particular task, seeing that he has no particular knowledge of the working of the Postal Department. If inquiries are to be made as to the conduct of that Department, surely there are sufficient officers connected with it - officers possessed of the requisite ability - to whom the work could be delegated. Why should we ask a raw recruit to undertake such a task? There have been too many appointments of this sort made by the Government. .There is, for example, another appointment in connexion with the output of munitions, and Mr. McKay’s name has been mentioned in that connexion. Now, whilst we all entertain a great admiration for Mr. McKay as the inventor of the harvester-
– This is Mr. S. McKay, not Mr. H. V. McKay. The former is a brother of the inventor of the harvester.
– As engineers, the McKay brothers are undoubtedly men of great capacity. Certainly they have placed upon the market one of the finest harvesters in the world. But whilst they are familiar with that class of work, I do not understand that either of them is fitted to act as an expert in the manufacture of war munitions. The manufacture of war munitions is quite different from the manufacture of harvester machinery. A knowledge of the latter will not give t/hem any knowledge of the steel, the explosive, or, indeed, any other part of a shell with which they ought to be familiar. I doubt whether Mr. McKay has any special knowledge of this business. Yet he has been appointed as an expert. It seems to me that in so acting the Government have taken a very foolish step. I recognise the difficulty of getting experts in Australia, but I say that it is idle to go out of our Government Departments to secure the services of men who are no more competent than are those sitting in this chamber. I enter my protest against this sort of thing, and I hope that the Government will see that we have no more of it. To appoint to such positions men who do not possess special knowledge is foolish in the extreme. We have in the Defence Department officers who could fill positions on the Munitions Committee much better than the brothers McKay. In the Department there are officers who know much more about postal matters than does Mr. Keith Murdoch. Speaking with due respect to both gentlemen, I think it is foolish on the part of the Government to appoint men as experts unless they are really experts in the business which they are chosen to investigate. I trust that the Government will be chary before they make more appointments of that kind, because if they do they cannot expect to obtain any satisfaction.
– Ought we to send a couple of senators?
– I dare say that men who have given much attention to postal affairs would start with a far better knowledge of the business of the Department than will Mr. Keith Murdoch.
– One of the ablest men at that business offered his services free of charge to the Department.
– I was not aware of that, but I do know that in both Houses of the Federal Parliament there are men who have had a very fair drilling. I do not claim to have a special knowledge of the Department, but I think that I can claim to have had a very good experience on the Postal Commission. I cannot lay myself open to the charge of presumption if I say that I know as much about the Department as Mr. Keith Murdoch does, and I can name officials who know a great deal more about it than I do, and whom I could have suggested for appointment had the Government thought it worth while to consult any members of the Royal Commission as to a fit man for the work. There are in the Department officers whom we examined as witnesses whose appointment, I feel sure, would have been far better than that which has been made. I am sorry that I have need to rise and make these complaints, but I am sure that honorable senators will recognise the reasonableness of what I have said. We should not allow any appointment of thi3 kind to pass without a protest.
– With regard to* the non-delivery of mails, a case has been brought under my notice where Colonel Cameron, who was well known in the Senate until very recently, wrote a letter to the mother of a private who happens to be his orderly. In the letter, which has been published, Colonel Cameron told the mother that he was very sorry to hear from her son, whom he eulogized for his work’ as orderly, that no letters had reached him, although he left here in February, and he felt sure that the mother and sisters had written to him. He said, “I am now telling him that if you address his letters to care of me, he will be sure to get them without delay.” If officers may get letters without any delay, it “ seems strange to me that privates cannot have that privilege. We must, of course, make great allowance for the many difficulties in the way of insuring quick delivery. Is it not advisable that it should be made known publicly to the relatives of the soldiers at the front that if they . address any letters to care of the Defence Department at Melbourne, a properly organized staff will see that they are forwarded to the right places? Senator McDougall has said that he was told by the Deputy Postmaster-General at Sydney that the reason for the non-delivery of so many letters is that they are wrongly addressed. If those who write the letters do not know the correct address, how are they to address them properly? If my suggestion were adopted by the Minister, it might do away with very many of the complaints that are now made.
.- The question of the delay in the delivery of letters to and from out boys at the front has been written about in the press and referred to in Parliament times out of number; but we are in no better position to-day than we were at the commencement; indeed, if anything, the position is worse to-day. Anything I may say will not be in condemnation of the Defence Department for the administration in Australia. I want the Minister to understand clearly that we are ventilating a grievance because we are desirous of strengthening his hands in any action he may take. I was astonished the other day, and so wore honorable senators, to read of the appointment of a gentleman to go to Egypt or elsewhere.
– YOU are quite under a misapprehension there. No appointment of anybody has been made to go to Egypt. Mr. Keith Murdoch happens to be. going to England; he has not been given any appointment.
– According to the newspaper reports, the gentleman has been given authority to make inquiries into the postal arrangements as regards letters passing between the troops and their friends.
– Surely you do not object to him being asked to inquire ?
– No. This gen- “tleman, if he has any authority, will merely make inquiries in Egypt, and go on to London. Some person or persons should be sent to Egypt with absolute authority to take possession of the mail matter at the front, or at the base in Egypt, and deal with it from a practical, common-sense, business stand-point.
– There are in the Department men who are well fitted to do that, too.
– I think that if that plan were adopted it would save a certain amount of time, and the soldiers at the front would have a better chance of getting their letters, and so, too, the people, who are anxious to receive news from the soldiers, would be more likely to get letters. Yesterday week I received from my son a letter which he wrote on the 3rd May, when he was lying in a hospital at Alexandria. The letter was in transit for two months ; . by ‘some means or other it went to England, and came round to Australia via America, whilst other letters written on the same day to friends of my son reached Adelaide, a month ago. I am not blaming the Defence Department for the fact that my letter did not reach me till last Tuesday.
– After it left the camp it would not be handled by the Defence Department.
– I am making this explanation in justification of my recommendation that some person should be sent there with authority to deal with the letters from and to the troops. Another matter I desire to refer to is the receipt of a departmental telegram - and here again I do not blame the Department, because they gave me the best information they had; but some alteration is required. Although my son was wounded on the first day of landing at Gallipoli, I received - the departmental telegram on the 25th May, that is exactly one month after he was wounded.
– Was that telegram the first official intimation you had after he had been wounded ?
– Yes ; a month after my boy was wounded I received the telegram.
– I received to-day a telegram about a man who was killed two months ago.
– You would get the telegram on the day after we received it. Sitting suspended from 6.80 to S p.m.
– I was explaining that some steps should be taken to improve the means of postal and telegraphic communication between our soldiers at the front and the people of Australia. I have said that on the 25th May I received a departmental telegram to the effect that my son had been wounded. Later I received a comunica- tion from him informing me that he had been wounded on the 25th April. So that the telegram had taken Exactly one month to reach me.
– It had not taken a month to reach the honorable senator, but it was not sent until a month after his son was wounded.
– I repeat that I am not blaming the Defence Department. I know perfectly well that all the information which the Department receives in connexion with matters of this kind is given to the people of Australia as soon as possible after they receive it. I say that it indicates serious laxity of administration at the front, when it is a month from the date on which a lad is wounded before notice of the fact reaches his parents in Australia. In due course I received a card from my son dated 14th May, 1915, which informed me that he would be back again at the front in two days’ time, that is to say, on the 16th May. As a matter of fact, I know that he is back again in the firing line, but the point I wish to make is that he was back at the front for nine days before I received the telegraphic message to. say that he was wounded. That shows that there is something seriously wrong. I have not yet received any official information that my boy is back again at the front. It is evident that the Defence authorities at the other end have lost all track of him. He must have been registered as received at the hospital wounded, his discharge from the hospital and the fact that he went back to the front must also have been recorded, and yet no official information has been received in Australia regarding the matter. A recital of these facts may satisfy the public who are under the impression that certain persons in the community are given information of what goes on at the front before the general public. I hope it will satisfy them also that the Defence Department are doing the best they can.
– It amply justifies the step taken to secure some one other than a departmental official to make inquiries ‘ into the matter.
– I know only from newspaper reports that a certain gentleman has been selected to go to Egypt and then on to England.
– That is incorrect.
– I have given the newspaper report on the subject. The fact remains that after eight months the business arrangements in connexion with postal facilities are more imperfect today, if that be possible, than they were at the commencement of the war. I am suggesting that the Government should do something practical to remedy what is complained of. Why should the Minister of Defence have this matter on his mind all the time? Why should he not send some one to the front with authority to take charge of postal and telegraphic business ?
– That waa done long ag°-
– Then what are those- persons doing?
– That is what we want to find out.
– The whole business has been shockingly bungled. One, two or three men who knew something of the details of post-office work should be sent to the front straight away.
– That was done long ago.
– They should be instructed to take charge of the post and telegraphic business, and be in a position to see that letters and telegrams are sent without delay. What sort of administration is it under which a letter addressed to me is dealt with in such a way that n goes first to England, and then to Australia, via America ? That is the work of a man who does not know where Australia is situated, or the shortest route by which to communicate with Australia. Two or three letters have been delayed for a month, owing to the stupidity or incapacity of some one connected with the post-office business at Alexandria. I do not wish to labour the question, but as the matter was brought up, I thought it advisable, and perhaps beneficial, to give my personal experience, to suggest that the whole business has been badly muddled up to the present, and to ask the Minister of Defence to take steps to put it upon a satisfactory basis. We cannot take up a newspaper without finding half-a-dozen letters complaining of nondelivery, or delay in the delivery, of communications between Australia and our soldiers at the front. I know that this is causing the Minister of Defence and the officers of his Department a good deal of worry, but it seems to me that it should not be difficult to remedy what is complained of. If some practical steps were taken in the matter, honorable senators here and honorable members of another place would not need to take up time in discussing it, and a stop would be put to the complaints made on the subject.
.- With Senator Newland, I think that something ought to be done to insure that our lads at the front shall receive some consideration at the hands of those charged with the transport of mails to and from Australia. Unlike Senator Newland, I am in entire agreement with the action of the Minister of Defence in appointing a gentleman, whom I regard as thoroughly qualified for the purpose, to conduct an investigation on behalf of the Government, and to make to them a full report. In making that appointment, I hope that the Government will clothe him with ample authority to carry out the investigation thoroughly, and that no obstacle whatever will be placed in the way of his getting the fullest information to enable him to make recommendations which will put an end to a very unsatisfactory state of affairs indeed. 1 want to say that, in my opinion, the blame in this matter does not lie with the officials at the other end. Although postcards from my lad at the front are received by us fairly regularly, he complains in each one that no letters have been received by him from home since early in February, but each letter that is posted by him reaches us in reasonably quick time. For instance, a postcard bearing the postal stamp of the 16th May reached us on the 18th June, demonstrating that there had been very little delay in the transit of that communication from Gallipoli to Australia. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not allow Mr. Murdoch to go away without full authority to investigate the various complaints, so that he may be able to recommend a remedy. There is another matter to which I think I ought to refer in justice to myself. It relates to an objection I made to the Minister some time ago regarding the appointment of Captain Payne to take charge of the administrative and instructional class at Claremont, in Tasmania, and in regard to which I subsequently made a complaint in the House in consequence of not having received satisfaction from the Minister. I believed then, and still believe, that a grave injustice had been done to members of the Permanent Forces who are connected with the Administrative and Instructional Staff. At that time the Minister was very emphatic in his opposition to the attitude I had adopted, and contradicted in very severe language the statements I had made. But I am glad to say that the Minister, who, I know, is an exceedingly busy man, has been able, during the last few weeks, to look into the facts, and I am inclined to think that he found them to be as represented by me. The result has been that the Minister has cancelled the appointment of Captain Payne. In a letter of the 4th June, the Minister wrote to me as follows: -
With further reference to the appointment of Captain Payne to a temporary position on the Instructional Staff, Tasmania, I desire to inform you that, in view of the fact that the extreme urgency for the immediate appointment of officers to the Instructional Staff has now passed, and, also, the fact that the duties now being performed by Captain Payne might be equally as well performed by a lieutenant, I have approved of the termination of Captain Payne’s temporary appointment as from the 3’Oth June, 1915. The Commandant is being instructed to call for applications for the vacancy thus caused, which will be classed as that for appointment as lieutenant or 2nd lieutenant, at £250. Officers of senior rank will be eligible, provided they are prepared to accept the salary offered.
I felt that I ought, in justice to the members of the Permanent Forces, to bring this matter before the Minister, and subsequently before the Senate. The Minister, in a speech in reply, stated that I was actuated by unworthy motives, and that my statements were in accordance with a threat I had made to make things uncomfortable for him during this session. In view of the fact that the Minister has seen fit, after giving the matter further consideration, to act as I suggested, I think it would be only a graceful act on his part to relieve me of that charge. I assured him then that I had no intention of causing him the slightest inconvenience or embarrassment, but he did not seem disposed to accept that view. Having regard to the latest developments, however, I think I am justified in asking the Minister to relieve me, as publicly as he charged me, of any intention of bringing this matter forward for the purpose of making tilings uncomfortable for him. I had no other object than to do what I considered my duty. I have never seen either Lieutenant Davis or Lieutenant Tackaberry two distinguished members of the Permanent Forces, and I have never met Captain Payne, whose appointment led to this controversy. All I desired was that worthy and capable officers of the Permanent Staff should receive from the Minister of Defence that consideration to which I thought they were entitled, and I did resent at the time the accusation which the Minister made, and which I feel sure he will now do me the justice of withdrawing.
– First of all, I. should like to say, in regard to Senator Long’s statement, that I certainly understood him to make a threat to me, if not in the words, at any rate in the sense I conveyed to the Senate at the time. However, the honorable senator says that he did not threaten me, and I accept his assurance, and if I have misinterpreted his attitude, I apologize to him for such misinterpretation. I wish him to be under no misapprehension, however, that his statements were responsible for the cancellation of the appointment of Captain Payne. The appointment was cancelled in exactly the same way as it was made, namely, on the recommendation of Lt.-Colonel Dodds. the AdjutantGeneral, whose duty it is to make such .recommendations to me. Senator Long will notice that the letter I wrote to him states that the cancellation took place on the ground that the duties now being performed did not warrant the employment of an officer of such high rank and drawing such high pay as Captain Payne.
– The Minister will admit that Captain Payne was performing those duties for some months.
– He was ; but Captain Payne was not appointed for performing those duties at the time the appointment was made. Senator Long attacked the fitness of this officer to take charge of a certain camp, and subsequently for another appointment, the nature of which I forget for the moment. The Adjutant-General has recommended that the duties now being performed could be very well carried out by a second lieutenant, drawing a salary of £250 per annum. In regard to Senator Maughan’s suggestion to appoint a workers’ represen tative on the Munitions Committee, I desire to inform him that I have already taken action in that direction. I have instructed the Iron Trades Council to select a representative who will act as a consultative member on the Committee, and he will be called in whenever his services may be required. Honorable senators will understand that the Committee as constituted is practically a Departmental Committee. Mr. McKay, for instance, is not a member of it now, but he may be called in if he is required. The whole of the members of the Committee are departmental officers, but we have attached to it, as consultative members, Professor Payne, and Professor Masson, of the Melbourne University, as well as other experts in their particular departments. They will be called in as consultative experts when it is desired that their advice shall be obtained. In the same way, the representative of the workers will be called in whenever he is required to deal with questions in which the workers themselves are particularly interested.
– Is either of the professors a professor of chemistry ?
– Professor Payne is a professor of engineering, and Professor Masson. I understand, is a professor of chemistry. Coming to the other questions, as honorable senators know, there have been complaints for some time, not merely with regard to letters being sent to. and received from the Dardanelles and Egypt, but also in connexion with cables and with the news as regards the disposition of the wounded. Honorable senators must, I think, give me credit for not looking for trouble just at present. I meet plenty of it every day, and it is my purpose to avoid trouble if I can. I dare say this matter of the mails to and from the troops at the front has given me more concern than any other member of the Senate, for I get the concentrated complaints, not only of honorable senators, but of the general public as well. We have tried in several ways to remedy this matter. First of all, I got into communication with our officers at the bast in Egypt. I sent to them the complaints made in Parliament and in the press, and I called for a report, informing them of the suffering entailed on relatives by these unsatisfactory delays. I have heard more than one honorable senator say, “It is no use sending these matters on to the departmental officers for a report, because they will only try to whitewash their fellow officers.” But I would point out that this matter affects more than one Department, and that, after all, the Defence Department is only connected with it in a secondary way.
– We recognise that.
– This matter is handled by the Postal Department, and some time ago the Postmaster-General and myself arranged a conference at which the best officers in each Department were present for the purpose of perfecting some scheme which would remove the cause for complaint. The members of that conference deliberated for several days, and made a. series of recommendations which were duly placed before the Senate. Those recommendations seemed to be perfect, so far as I could judge, for they provided for the machinery to overcome all the complaints, and I might mention that that machinery has been in operation for some time. The suggestions made here to-day were long ago adopted. That is to say, men skilled in handling postal matter were sent to Egypt, and are there now, but still the complaints continue. We have also borne in upon us the fact that some of the cables sent in the case of wounded soldiers have never been delivered. And, again, we have found that wounded men have sent letters to their relatives in Australia from hospitals in England, while we in Australia had not been informed that the men had been sent to England at all, and consequently we were not able to advise the relatives.
– That would not be the fault of the postal authorities, would it?
– I am not saying that it is the fault of the postal authori-,ties. I am only proceeding to sketch out the complaints made to us, and the action taken thereon. I want to tell the Senate, also, that the conduct of the war is not the responsibility of the Defence Department in Australia, but is the responsibility of the War Office: that the troops which are sent to the front from here are under the command of the War Office. We can make our recommendations, of course, but, after all, we can only advise; we cannot direct the disposition of any of those troops, because they are handed over to the War Office, for them to dispose of as they think fit.
– Neither can senators criticise the War Office. We can only criticise the Department here.
– I am not objecting to criticism. The disposition of the wounded, the compilation of the casualty lists, and the distribution of those casualty lists, have nothing to do with the Defence Department in Australia. The General commanding has deputed a certain officer of his staff, whose duty it is to collate those casualty lists and forward them to the base in Egypt. Our officer at the base, Colonel Sellheim, gets a copy of that from the British War Office Base in Egypt, and it is forwarded on’ to us. Now it frequently happens that the hospital at Alexandria becomes filled, and ships that have started away from the Dardanelles with wounded on board have been advised by wireless, upon approaching Alexandria, of the position, and instructed to proceed to some other place - to Malta, or perhaps to England. Perhaps the officials at the base in Egypt have been advised that a certain transport is on her way, but later on are advised that these wounded are being sent to Malta. Then it might happen that when the vessel reached Malta, word would be received to go on to England. I mention these facts to show how difficult it is for the base, no matter how well staffed it might be, to keep in actual touch with the casualties and be able” to advise correctly the disposition of the wounded. Then, again, we have to remember that the casualty lists are collected in the first place under very great difficulties in the fighting line. A company officer practically has to report the names and numbers of any wounded soldiers under his command, and when we remember what were the conditions of the early fighting in the campaign on Gallipoli Peninsula, how companies, battalions, and even brigades were mixed up, and how long it took for the officers to sort out their men, we can easily realize how difficult it was for the officers of the companies to compile their casualty lists. It might happen that a man would be wounded, but, owing to the confusion in the fierce and continuous fighting, that casualty might not be reported by the officer in command, because the company list did not indicate it.
In the case of death it has to be remembered that many of the men who took part in the first charge across the heights died in country that has not yet been occupied by our Forces, and probably .their bodies have not yet been recovered. Until we can hear from the United States Ambassador that these men have not been taken prisoners by the Turks, they ,can only be put down as “missing.” .Again, it must be borne in mind that .these officers, knowing the confusion that existed, knowing that they had men in their company who did not belong to their company - not even to their .battalion or to their brigade - would be justified in assuming that possibly the same confusion would exist in other parts where fighting was going on, and that their missing men might be alive. That being so, they would naturally hesitate to return other men as either “ missing,” or “ dead,” or wounded,” until they could get accurate information. This confusion existed for a considerable time, and I think we ought to be very charitable to those officers in the firing line, working under such conditions, in regard to the criticism that we may pass upon any clerical duties that they may have been called upon to perform. All these casualty lists come to the base in Egypt, where the officers are absolutely dependent upon information from the front. They, themselves, have no knowledge whatever of the men who are wounded, killed, or missing.
– They merely pass on what they receive.
– They pass on what they receive. They collect the lists and pass them on to Britain, India, Australia, or New Zealand - to whichever country the men may belong - and we have to remember that the casualty lists come to us as they have been received and sorted out by the officer in charge of the casualty lists at the base in Egypt. As soon as we get them, telegrams are despatched to the relatives, informing them of the nature of the casualty in which they are interested. In the case mentioned by Senator Newland, as soon as the Department got the information it at once ‘ telegraphed to Senator Newland, and that is done in every case. I know there have been one or two instances where, through some mistake, or owing to some carelessness, telegrams have not. been sent, but exceed ingly few cases have occurred where the Defence Department have received a. notification and have not sent it on to the relatives before the casualty list has appeared in the press. When we have done this, the casualty lists are copied and handed to the press for publication. I now come to the question of the delivery of letters. I told the Senate a few days ago that we have in camp here what is known as a Base “Records Office, where the record is kept of every soldier sent to the front. Every soldier can see at that base office, when he goes to post a letter, the proper way in which letters should be addressed to him. It is pointed out that when people address letters to him they must give his company, his battalion, his brigade, and, if possible, the force to which he is attached. Samples of the correct method of addressing letters to the troops are continually being exhibited in the newspapers in order that the people generally shall know what to do. On one occasion, without any notification whatever, I went to the Base Records Office, and whilst I was there a mail bag standing about 2 ft. 6 in. high was brought from the General Post Office. It was one day’s consignment of letters that had been insufficiently addressed.
– Letters originally posted at Broadmeadows ?
– It was a bag containing letters from the public to the troops. For instance, instead of a letter being addressed to “ Private Smith, A Company, 17th Battalion, 4th Brigade,” a letter might be addressed “ Private Smith, A.I.F., Egypt.” When such a letter as this is brought into the Base Records Office, the officials in charge try to find out which Private Smith it is intended for, which company he is in, and which battalion, whether light horse or field artillery, or whatever it may be.
– Do the soldiers get all these explicit instructions1 before they go to the front?
– Their friends are from time to time reminded through the press of the manner in which letters should be addressed.
– Are all these instructions at the base ?
– They are, so that a soldier in writing to his friends may tell them how letters to him should be addressed.
– He gets all this information before he goes to the front?
– He does. It is continually being drilled into the soldiers here; it is continually being placed before the public by means of the press that it is essential, if letters are to reach the soldiers, that they should be fully addressed. Yet, on the one occasion on which I visited the Base Records Office, I saw this huge bag of letters insufficiently addressed. In order to assist the people who blunder in this way officials at the Base Records Office have gone to considerable trouble in order to find out the proper addresses of the soldiers to whom letters have been sent. If they cannot do that the letters are opened and returned to the senders. So that part of the blame for the letters going astray rests upon the public who send them. One can easily understand also how letters may go astray in the Post Office if they are insufficiently addressed. They go on to Egypt, and, being insufficiently addressed, do not reach the soldiers. The three chief items of complaint now referred to comprise cables, information, regarding wounded, and . letters. I have had reports by the score from officers occupying positions of authority. A conference has been held between the Post Office and the Defence Department; a scheme has been drafted; officers with a knowledge of the state of things existing here, trained experts in the Post Office, have been sent to the front, and still the complaints continue. Some time ago, I heard that Mr. Keith Murdoch had accepted an engagement in London - not with the Defence Department, as some honorable senators seem to think, but in connexion with his employment. I know Mr. Keith Murdoch. He is a pressman, and a very able man, and I think that his training as a pressman should be a very effective training ‘for the making of inquiries. No one can be in a Ministerial office for long without discovering that a pressman is just about the best man hat can be put on to a task that necessitates inquiry. I know they stagger me sometimes with the manner in which they ferret out things I think nobody knows.
– Sometimes they ferret out things you do not want them to know.
– That is so.
– And frequently they ferret out things which never happened at all.
– They do. They ferret out all sorts of things, and sometimes exercise a very lively imagination. But this gentleman was going to England. Having had ex,perts from the Post Office and the Defence Department, it occurred to me that, perhaps, it might be as well to let a humble layman see if he could find out what was wrong. The press know what is wanted. These complaints go into their papers; pressmen read of them; they are always questioning Ministers about them; they hear the discussions in Parliament; and they know the state of feeling that exists regarding these matters. Finding that Mr. Murdoch was going, I sent for him, and asked him whether he could arrange with his employers to get off the steamer at Egypt, make inquiries, and see if he could find out what was wrong. That is a terrible crime, I must confess, and I am surprised that some of those who have been making complaints should resent what I have done. It seems to me a common-sense arrangement.
– I hope the Minister does. not include me among those who resent it.
– I do not know; I thought there was a general resentment expressed.
– I took no exception to the appointment, and merely wished to know the duties allotted to Mr. Murdoch.
– I accept the honorable senator’s assurance, but some honorable senators seemed to show considerable warmth, and almost to imply that I was open to public suspicion for having dene this thing.
– Being a journalist, he must, of course, be a proper man to report on handling mail matter L
– We have had the man who handles mail matter there, and he has not helped us. We have had scores of them there. Men who have had business training have been picked out, and put on to the work, and still the complaints come in.
– For what my opinion is worth, I think it is an excellent step.
– The total financial responsibility with which I have loaded the Commonwealth in this respect i.3 £25. We have agreed to pay Mr. Murdoch’s expenses up to that sum.
SenatorDe Largie. - It may possibly be £25 thrown away, for all the good you will get out of it
– It may be, but it seems to me that it is worth a trial. I have given Mr. Murdoch instructions to inquire into the reasons of the delay in notifying us of the disposition of the wounded. I have given him instructions to inquire how and why it is that letters sent from here to soldiers in Egypt do not reach their destination, and letters sent by soldiers from Egypt do not reach their destination here. I have given him instructions to inquire why cables sent to Egypt by relatives do not reach those for whom they are intended, or are not forwarded to where they can reach them. I have also sent instructions to our officer in command of the Australias base in Egypt to give Mr. Murdoch every facility, and to ask the General Officer Commanding in Egypt to give Mr. Murdoch every facility to make inquiries, and to place all facilities at his disposal. T am sure the Senate will agree that I have not done anything very wrong in the matter, but that, on the’ other hand, I have done a common-sense thing which may have some result. At any rate, we will see what it brings forth. Senator Keating raised a question about a naturalized German employed at the Colonial Ammunition Company’s works, at Footscray, and who was interned and subsequently released. The man was interned, and representations were made to the Department for his release. It is not the policy of the Government to intern all naturalized alien enemies. It has never been their policy, nor have they done it, and I have not yet heard any member of Parliament advocate that it should be done at the present juncture, at any rate. This man is a naturalized German, and is well known in this city. After his internment it was represented to the Department that a wrong had been done, that there were no grounds for his internment, and that the representations made at the time were aimed, not at him, but at another man to whom Senator Keating afterwards referred. The Intelligence Branch of the General Staff was instructed’ to make the fullest inquiries, and in those inquiries they had the assistance of the Detective Branch and of the police. As a result, it was established that this man had never at any time given voice to disloyal sentiments, but that, on the other hand, he was a highly respected citizen, vouched for by respectable business and other people. On that he was released on the recommendation of the Chief of the General Staff. In the other case that Senator Keating raised, he did not quote me quite correctly at first, but now that I have shown him my answer he will see. that the man subsequently referred to by’ him is not an inspector, and is not in the Commonwealth Service. He is in the employ of the Colonial Ammunition Company, and assists the inspectors in their work. There is no report available from the police or the detectives, or from the Intelligence Branch of the Department, in any way impugning that man’s loyalty. ‘ We ought always, of course, to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, but we ought to pause before we commit ourselves to the policy of interning all naturalized enemy subjects in Australia. That has never been advocated by any responsible man, and it is not carried out; in the Mother Country, where the need, perhaps, would be very much greater than ours. The principle we have acted upon has been to invite the public, if they know of anything suspicious in connexion with enemy subjects, naturalized or unnaturalized, to communicate freely with us; to let us know, if they have any doubt about, or suspicion of, a man, what their suspicions are, and we will thoroughly investigate them. We have done that right through, and wherever there is a doubt we give the benefit of the doubt to our own cause, and not to the person against whom the charge is made.With regard to the case mentioned by Senator O’Keefe, I have never heard it suggested that officers get any preferential treatment in regard to their letters. There are no instructions to that effect, and I would certainly discountenance anything of the kind. I have seen no indication that it is countenanced . by the British authorities, who Have the disposition of these matters in Egypt. We brought the representations in regard to these matters before the War Office some time ago, and if Mr. Murdoch can make suggestions to us for alterations, we shall certainly bring them under the notice of the War Office also.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 8.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 July 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150707_senate_6_77/>.