6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
-Has the Minister of Defence any objection to lay on the table of the Senate copies of the instructions issued to the Chief Censor, and the instructions issued by the Chief Censor to newspapers, since the return of Mr. Hughes to Australia?
– This question was asked last week, and I then informed the Senate that the instructions referred to are confidential. I therefore cannot lay them on the table of the Senate, but any member of the Senate may see copies of the instructions to the censors at the Victoria Barracks.
– Can the Minister of Defence tell the Senate how much each soldier, under arms in Australia, or abroad, costs per day to the Commonwealth ?
– I am unable to answer that question off-hand, but within the next three weeks the Treasurer will be making a statement to Parliament, in which full information on the point will be given.
– Can the Minister of Defence inform the Senate whether the French soldiers who fought at Gallipoli were conscripts or members of a French volunteer army corps? Can the honorable senator say also whether the French soldiers now at Salonika are conscripts or volunteers?
– I have no information on the subject.
– In the event of an Australian soldier being wounded at Gallipoli, and subsequently in France, is he sent back to Australia to be given an opportunity to recuperate, or what is done with him by the military authorities?
– This is determined by circumstances. If the soldier has been so severely wounded as to be rendered unfit for further service, or is likely to suffer a considerable period of invalidity, he is returned to Australia after he has sufficiently recovered in England. If his wounds are of a minor character, and the time necessary for his recuperation is likely to be short, he is kept in England during the time of his invalidity.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act 1903-1915. - Regulations amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 202, 208, 209.
Norfolk Island- Ordinance No. 2 of 1916.- Export of Cattle and Beef.
Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1916.- Regulations amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 193, 196, 197, 199.
Public Service Act 1902-1916 - Appointments, Promotions, &c. -
Department of Home Affairs - H. J. Cottee.
Postmaster-General’s Department -
W. H. Pye.
War Precautions Act 1914-1915. - Regula tions amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 102, 198, 200, 201, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207.
Report of Public Accounts Committee on Stores and Supplies for Commonwealth requirements, and Report (No. 2) on the Stationery, Printing, and Advertising Accounts of Commonwealth Departments, presented by Senator Stewart.
– Will the Minister of Defence cause the large number of regulations issued in connexion with the War Precautions Act to be bound and forwarded to honorable senators with the Act?
– That has been done already on one occasion, and is being done again to bring the regulations up to date.
– In view of the often very unnecessary delay in regard to decisions in industrial disputes, have the Government had brought under their notice the comment of one of the Justices of the High Court recently to the effect that “ The experience of this Court is that in many of these industrial cases there is as much delay as can within the lawbe brought about “ ? During the recess, or any adjournment of Parliament, will the Government consider the necessity of so amending the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as to prevent, as far as possible, these unnecessary delays ?
– These matters have been brought under the notice of the Government, who have at present under consideration the question of such an amendment of the Act as will avoid delays.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been called to a statement reported to have been made at a meeting of the Recruiting Committee at Colac, Victoria, on 5th September by Mr. T. W. Hancock, that “ he thought the more pressing duty was to educate the people up to vote’ Yes ‘ at the referendum “ ? Will a similar opportunity be given to members of Recruiting Committees who are opposed to conscription to educate the people up to voting “No”?
– The honorable senator must be under some misapprehension. I have no control of the conduct of the recruiting campaign in Victoria, nor has the Federal Government. It is controlled by the Recruiting Committee. I have seen in the press, as no doubt other honorable senators have, an appeal by the committee, over the signature of the chairman, Mr. Mackinnon, and of Mr. Billson, to all speakers in the campaign, to avoid all reference to conscription or anticonscription ?
– This man is prostituting his position.
– The appeal leaves the matter to the good sense of those who take part in the meetings.
– Is not that man liable under the War Precautions Act, seeing that he is restricting recruiting?
– Will the Government give an opportunity to members of the Expeditionary Forces to record a vote at the coming referendum, no matter whore they may be? Will they be entitled to vote, independent of any disqualification in respect of age?
– All these matters relating to methods of voting will be dealt with in the Bill that will probably be shortly before the Senate.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Cost of Transport
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
The cost of transporting varies with each ship, having regard to the following: -
It is estimated that the cost of transporting troops to the United Kingdom is approximately £17 per man.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for theNavy, upon notice -
In view of rumours as to the condition of the s.s.Rotomahana, now trading between Tasmania and the mainland, and the great age of the vessel in question, will the Minister for the Navy authorize a thorough survey of this ship to ascertain if her hulland machinery are in every way seaworthy?
– This is a matter which does not come within the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Navy, who will, however, refer it for the consideration of the authorities responsible.
Call for Military Service
SenatorGUY asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Respecting the proposal to call up men for military service under the provisions of the Defence Act -
Is it the intention of the Government to make the levy in proportion to the total population in the several military divisions of the Commonwealth, or in proportion to the male population of eligible age?
Is it the intention of the Government to give any consideration to those military divisions which, so far, have contributed the largest percentage of recruits ?
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask if the statement appearing in to-day’s newspapers, and attributed to the Minister, is therefore premature? The statement as published really answers this question on the authority of the Minister.
– I have made no statement on the question.
– The newspapers attribute it to you.
– Look at it again.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will he cause to be prepared, and lay on the table of the Senate, a return showing -
Names of men who have gone through Duntroon Officers’ Training School?
Their previous military experience ?
Results of their examinations ?
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible.
asked the Minister of Defence,upon notice -
In view of a number of married men unemployed in Launceston, Tasmania, at the present time, will the Minister issue instructions to commence at once the work on the Launceston Rifle Range, which has been authorized for some time, as relief work for these men?
– Instructions have been issued that the particulars concerning work required at Launceston rifle range be immediately prepared and forwarded to the Department of Home Affairs to carry out.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Under what authority will the writ be issued for taking the Referendum on Compulsory Military Service if the Bill which it is proposed to introduce for that purpose is not passed before18th September, the date mentioned for the issue of the writ?
– The authority for the issue of the writ is given by the Referendum Military Service Bill. It is not material whether the measure receives the assent of the Governor-General before or after the issue of the writ.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether in view of the fact that men over eighteen (18) years of age and under twentyone (21) are eligible to fight for their country, and are doing so, the Government will take into consideration the advisableness of so broadening the franchise that males and females over eighteen (18) years of age shall be entitled to vote at all future Federal elections ?
– This matter will receive consideration.
Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate on the motion by Senator Bakhap iti reference to compulsory military service read and discharged.
Debate resumed from September 1 (vide page 8416), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the paper be printed.
– I venture, as a preliminary observation, to express the opinion that no member of this Chamber who takes part in this debate will be able to free himself from a sense of responsibility arising from the undoubted gravity of the position that confronts us. The gravity of this position is, I think, very fully emphasized in the statements made by the Prime Minister, and by his colleague, the Minister of Defence. It also arises from a consideration of the military position so far as we are allowed to understand it from the daily papers, and though it is quite true that the later news has heartened us considerably, I venture to say that, taking even the most favorable view of this later news, the most we can say at the present juncture is that we have reached the stage at which we can, I think, say with confidence that it is now clear that Germany cannot win. But it is equally clear we can only defeat Germany - and by defeat I mean the attainment of the full objects for which we went to war - if we resolve to continue, to supplement, and to expand the efforts which we have so far made. To my mind, that constitutes the one question to which we ought to direct our thoughts in consideration of the problem that immediately confronts us. A word now as to the statement which we are discussing. When the first statement was made by the Prime Minister, I ventured to express a feeling of intense disappointment at what I regarded as its insufficiency. That disappointment, I feel sure, was shared by a very large section of the community that holds views similar to my own as to the course of action which we are called upon to take. In order to understand the position we have to recall the circumstances under which the statement was made - the circumstances which caused that statement to be awaited with such intense interest by the people of Australia, by the people of Great Britain, and I might also say - though in perhaps a lesser degree - by the people of the allied countries as well. Mr. Hughes had just returned from a triumphal career through Great Britain, in the course of which he aroused a very considerable and widespread measure of enthusiasm, by the dynamic energy with which he appealed to the people of the Mother Country, and demonstrated how that salvation was to be attained, not by hesitancy and delay, but by prompt, decisive, and continuous action. The Prime Minister proceeded through the Old Country as a stern and unrelenting prophet of decisive action. He was indeed a veritable human fiery cross, calling to action the people, not merely of Great Britain, but of the Empire.
– A Peter the Hermit.
– I prefer my own simile. As I have said, the Prime Minister went through the Mother Country as a human fiery cross, calling upon the people immediately to do all, to dare all, and, if needs be, to sacrifice all, in order to proceed to the rescue of the Empire in the hour of its greatest crisis. Those speeches which the Prime Minister made in Great Britain were in a sense messages to Australia as well, and they were so accepted in this country. Any impartial student reading his later speeches in Australia could only come to the conclusion that he was repeating here the dectrines which he so eloquently expounded at
Home. It was at this stage, and when I, like others, believed that the time had arrived for prompt action in the direction of introducing compulsory military service, that the Prime Minister made his statement in the other House, and the Minister of Defence made a similar statement in the Senate. I want honorable senators to recollect what I have said as to the conditions which existed at that time. In that statement it was set out that the Government intended to proceed by referendum. In listening to that statement honorable senators must have come to the conclusion, as I did, that the Government accepted the referendum as a virtue, and not as a necessity; that they were attaching faith to it as a principle from which under no circumstances would they depart ; that it was in itself the most desirable course open to them. It was under these circumstances that I was disappointed, and felt that there was a big gap between’ the irresponsible critic in the Old Country and the responsible Prime Minister of Australia. Since then we have been allowed to see things a little more clearly. We know that the Prime Minister was for four days, I think, in close conference with his immediate political supporters, but we are not privileged to know what happened at that conference. We do know, however, that after perhaps our sense of proportion had time to adjust itself, the Prime Minister favoured us with another statement, and his colleague, Senator Pearce, delivered another statement in this Chamber. I invite honorable members to consider the difference between these two attitudes. From the first statement it appeared that the Government were adopting the referendum as a virtue; the second made it clear that they were adopting it as a necessity. We know now, from the words of the Prime Minister, that the Government felt the desirability of obtaining definite authority before proceeding to enforce compulsory military service, which would be such a great departure from our existing policy. It looked to the parliamentary machine to provide the authority ; but the Prime Minister has clearly indicated that there is very little prospect of Parliament - I speak of both Houses - assenting to that proposition. The Prime Minister has openly and frankly told Parliament and the country that his real difficulty is this Chamber, and seeing that there was, ap parently - aDd I assume he correctly judged the possibilities of the situation - no prospect of obtaining authority from Parliament, he resolved, by means of a referendum, to appeal from Parliament to the people themselves. That puts an entirely different complexion on the situation. I can accept the referendum as an expedient, but not as a principle. Under the circumstances, one must feel a measure of sympathy with the Prime Minister and ‘ his colleagues, who, feeling that there was a certain work to do, found themselves hobbled as it were by one branch of Parliament. But whatever our feelings may be - and I am still disappointed that circumstances did not permit the Government to proceed by a more direct route - we are confronted with this position. The Government having taken the responsibility of deciding upon the action to be taken, there is only one course left to every member of this Chamber and every member of the public outside. They have got to say “ yes “ or “no” to the proposition. For myself, my course is clear. I do not pretend that in all its details the Government’s proposition is entirely as I would like it, but I do say that it is the proposition with which we have to deal, and under these circumstances I shall have no hesitancy in doing what little I possibly can in order to insure that the necessary question submitted by the Government shall be answered in the affirmative.
– That is a very patriotic attitude to take up now.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator is serious or not, but as I told the Senate before, I am speaking now with all sincerity.
– I hope the honorable senator will accept my assurance that I was serious.
– This matter is too grave and serious for any other attitude to be adopted towards it. Having said that, may I observe that if there is anything in our Constitution or parliamentary machinery that in a time of great national emergency may paralyze a. Government, then so much of that Constitution or parliamentary machinery must go, seeing that it becomes a hindrance and a danger rather than a help and safeguard.
I should like now to say a word cr two on the principle of the referendum as applied to a matter of this kind. It is, perhaps, a trifle abstract now, but at the same time I can conceive a danger to the future of Australia if it is to be accepted as an essential principle, that, in a time of great emergency like this, it shall be necessary to consult the people directly. If it is a sound proposition that we cannot proceed to apply compulsion to the extent of raising the necessary reinforcements now without consulting the people, it was more necessary that we should have consulted the people, at the outbreak of the war, as to whether Australia should participate in it or not.
– Did not your Government make the promise that they would send troops before they went to the country, and did not the Leader of the Opposition say he would support them ?
– That is so; but my point is this: I am not now dealing with a particular case, but with the idea which has apparently entered many minds, that, before a step of this kind is taken in a period of great emergency, the Government ie under an obligation to consult the electors. If that were a sound and necessary course of action to take now, it was, as I have said, far more necessary that we should have done it at the outbreak of war, because everything that has happened since has been in consequence of what was then done. But no one ever suggested that a referendum should be taken before we made that offer to the Old Country, and no one would have hesitated for five minutes before making that offer. Yet the question involved then was much more serious than that arising now. The question was whether we should go into the war or stay out, and it was the duty of the Government to take the responsibility of speaking and acting for the people. When the Government announced the course it intended to pursue, it received the fullest assurance of whole-hearted support and approval from the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Fisher.
– But there was not any question of anything but voluntary effort then.
– It does not make the slightest difference. The question waa not whether Australia should fight with volunteers or conscripts, but whether Australia should join in the war at all. If Germany succeeded in winning, she would not say, “ I will deal only with the men who fought”; but she would say, “ Our quarrel is not with the men who fought, but with the Government and the people of Australia.” Therefore I want to bring home to honorable senators that, whilst a referendum might be entirely suitable and essential in time oi peace, it might be tragic in its consequences if we bound ourselves down to the doctrine that in all circumstances, before decisive action is taken, there must be an appeal to the people. May I also point out that the proposal with which we are now confronted is the direct result of the action approved by this Chamber ? Something has been said about the present demands upon our resources, and an effort is being made to depict this as being an appeal from the Imperial authorities for something more than we have offered. I can see nothing to justify that view of the case. In November last, this Government, with the unanimous approval of the people of Australia, sent forward a voluntary offer. They undertook to send additional units, and to maintain by reinforcements both the original army and the new one ‘ they proposed to create. No one then raised the slightest objection - at any rate, I did not hear of it - and the Government had either the active or the silent approval of everybody for the offer then made. The Imperial authorities are now asking us to redeem the promise then made. The need for raising more men arises from the distinct offer which was made in November last. Having made ourselves, by our open or silent approval, parties to that offer, we have now to consider whether we shall see our promissorynote dishonoured, and Australia placed in the ranks of defaulters, 01* whether we shall take the one step which remains to us in order to redeem the promise which we then made. Honorable senators, I am sure, are not limiting their vision to the present when they consider this matter of the referendum. To my mind, it would be the most dangerous principle which could ever be adopted or approved if we did accept it as essential to military action on the part of Australia, that there must first be a direct reference to the people. Australia is a continent with a population of 5,000,000 souls. We sometimes indulge - and’ we are entitled to indulge - in some very proud speaking regarding the heritage that has come to us. But we must recognise that science has annihilated distance, and that we have already shown Europe that it is possible to send considerable bodies of troops right round the world. We can send troops to Europe, and they can send troops here. What would be the position if we were threatened with some hostile invasion here, and there was not a moment to lose? Would we then take a referendum, or would the Government act on its own responsibility ?
– The law already provides for that.
– I am aware that the law provides for our home defence, but the defence of Australia might not actually take place upon Australian soil. As a result of this war, Australia may be charged with the responsibility of some lands outside the mainland.
– The honorable senator said “ in the event of an invasion here.”
– I would like to reply to those people who speak of the virtues of home defence only. What would they say if we were threatened with invasion, and Great Britain, in response to our cry for help, said, “ Gentlemen, we propose to take a referendum first.”
– If Great Britain did that, she would have nothing to be ashamed of, because Australia has done a mighty good turn.
– Great Britain would have everything to be ashamed of if she paltered with the question in that way when invasion threatened us. But if the referendum, as a principle in a time of great national emergency, is a good thing for Australia, it must be equally good for England. And if it is a good thing for England, my honorable friends opposite must be prepared for the time when an invasion is actually threatened here.
– The nations of the world will adopt that principle, and that will be the end of war.
– Let my honorable friend go to Germany and preach that doctrine. That seems to be the most fruitful field for his endeavours. But today we are confronted with a danger which threatens the entire world. We cannot consider the taking of this referendum as a principle-
– The referendum should be No. 1 article in international law.
– When my honorable friend can bring about that state of things I shall be found heartily supporting him. But to-day we have not reached that ideal state. We are dealing with an imperfect human nature - very imperfect in regard to some of the countries with which we are now at war. Until the condition of things pictured by Senator Lynch comes about, it would be idle for us to talk in the language of peace. We cannot apply the practice of peace to the dire necessities of war.
– The honorable senator’s argument is that we must not take the first step because we cannot take the last.
– When Australia entered this war she recognised that she was not going into a game of cricket from which she could withdraw her team whenever she chose. There are only two doors by which she can emerge from the present conflict - that of defeat or that of victory. Until we do emerge from it we are bound to put forward every effort of which we are capable in order to see that victory comes our way.
I mentioned a little while ago that there were two features in the Government proposal which I thought were capable of amendment. I mention them now, not that I have very much hope that the Government will amend them, because, rightly or wrongly, I have formed the conclusion that the Government have limited their proposal, not because the limitations imposed are an improvement, but possibly in the hope that such limitations may make their proposal more acceptable to those who are known to be opposed to the underlying principle of compulsion. One of the objections which might be raised to this proposal by supporters of compulsory service is that it is intended to allow the voluntary system to run side by side with it, not merely for the current month, but for all time. There are two or three serious objections to that. First of all, are we going to create, even in the minds of the people, a difference between the volunteer and the conscript soldier? That, in itself, would be very undesirable. Is the volunteer in camp to say to the conscript, “ I am a superior citizen to you because I came here of my own free will, whereas you waited until the hand of the law coerced you “ ? That, I submit, would introduce a very undesirable feeling in the minds of men who enrol after the Referendum Bill has been passed.
– Does the honorable senator propose to dress themin different uniforms ?
– I am merely pointing out one of the defects of the Government proposal. The Government having frankly admitted that the voluntary system is not equal to the obligations which Australia of its own free will accepted, it would have been butter to have made compulsion absolute, and to have retired the voluntary system altogether. But apart from the fact that it is proposed to create two classes of recruits, I would point out that it is intended to conscript only single men from twenty-one years of age upwards, whilst at the same time accepting as volunteers lads of eighteen years of age and married men. Now, I hold very strongly that we have been sending away to the front men who were too young for the task that was ahead of them. 1 know that the military authorities are not quite unanimous as to the effect which the strain of a campaign has on these lads.
– It is impossible to keep them back.
– We could keep them back if we had conscription, or if we declined to enlist volunteers under twenty-one years of age. It seems to me that if the Government decide to continue the voluntary system it is well worth consideration whether they ought not to limit the age at which they will accept volunteers to twenty-one years.
– An analysis which was made quite recently of returned invalided soldiers shows that there is a less percentage of invalids amongst men from eighteen to twenty-one years of age than amongst older men.
– I accept the statement of the Minister of Defence, but I am curious to know over what area that analysis proceeded. It has been affirmed oy a very competent writer, dealing with the Napoleonic wars, that in all the marches which Napoleon made - and it was his rapidity of movement which was so largely responsible for his startling successes - it was the men over twenty-five years of age who pulled him through. It was the younger men who fell out first.
– But they were not Australians.
– They were not. But whilst the Australian of eighteen years of age may be better than a man of similar years elsewhere, I am not prepared to admit that the results in the case of bodies of troops from Australia would be very different from the results in the case of troops from other countries. I wish to refer to one of the evils arising from this practice. First of all we have to recognise that the recruiting officers are very keen to get men. Owing to the necessity for this keenness I venture to say that they have not scrutinized too closely well -grown lads under eighteen years of age who have come forward to enlist. It is curious that only in the last week I noticed these two statements in two different newspapers, but on the same day. One is a communication from the Reverend Thomas McVitty, who states -
The other evening I was called upon to impart the sad intelligence to a widowed mother that her only son had been killed in action. You can picture my astonishment when I was informed by the mother that he was barely 17 years of age, and was only 161/2 years at the time of enlistment.
– He must have made a false declaration.
– Verylikely he did. One can honour the boy’s keenness, courage, and patriotism in determining to get through, but I am entitled to direct attention to the need for some tightening up of the recruiting machinery which enabled him to get through. The other announcement was amongst the notices of deaths, and was as follows : -
Wilson. - Killed in action in Egypt, between 4th and 6th October, H. Noel, age 17 years, only son of Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Wilson.
I saw one of these notices in the Evening Sun, and the other in the Sydney Morning Herald of the same day. I have had personal knowledge of cases of a similar kind. It will be admitted that, in the case of well-grown lads of seventeen years of age, it is not easy to say whether they are 17 years, 18 years, or 19 years of age. But I say that if the recruiting officers are assured of an ample number of troops by means of the compulsory system, there is every reason why they should scrutinize more closely the enlistment of these lads of tender years. Assuming that it is the Government’s policy to obtain the necessary men by means of compulsion, there will be no need to rake in every volunteer, and if it be decided to continue the acceptance of volunteers under twenty-one years of age, we should ask for something more from them than their declaration as to their age. We should ask from their parents, in addition to their consent to their enlistment, a statement as to their age. The enlistment of these lads of tender years is in one sense a scandal, whilst in another it naturally fills us with pride that they should be willing to face the dangers of the trenches in the interests of their country.
– Thirty per cent, of the Victoria Cross winners are under twenty years of age.
– I am not doubting the courage of these, young men. I suppose that if we asked the school boys of Australia to form a brigade every boy amongst them would be willing to join. I am not doubting the courage of our young men at all, but I do ask whether it is quite fair that boys of this age should be enlisted when we have men enough in Australia for the man’s job that has to be done’?
– The honorable senator might tell us how he would stop it ?
– I thought I had done so. Seeing that it is proposed to compel only men over twenty-one years of age to serve, if the Government intends to continue the voluntary system side by side with the compulsory system - and I do not think that should be done - they should not accept volunteers under twentyone years. In the case of lads coming forward for enlistment we should provide by regulation that they should have not only their parents’ consent to their enlistment, but a statement from their parents as to their actual age. A boy will quite willingly sign a false declaration if he is determined to enlist.
– If he is under twenty-one he must have his parents’ consent.
– That is so; but we should also have an assurance from the parents as to his age.
– The parents know his age.
– I am sure that the Minister of Defence does not approve of lads of seventeen years of age being shot in the trenches.
– No; and I say that they would not be there- unless they had made false declarations. The parents must have been parties to the false declarations by giving their consent to the enlistment.
– Do they not send in a letter saying that they are willing that their sons should enlist?
– Then I suggest to the Minister of Defence that a form should be devised under which, if his parents consent to the enlistment of a lad, they should at the same time make a statement as to his age. There would then be a double check. It might oe that the parents would enter into collusion with the lad to tell a falsehood, but the course I suggest would, I think, lessen the evil to which I direct attention.
– His parents cannot prevent a boy of eighteen years of age going to the front.
– I am dealing with boys of sixteen and a half years of age, and I am sure that the honorable senator does not approve of lads of that age going to the front.
– No, I do not; but I know, from personal experience, that you cannot prevent a- lad of eighteen years going to the front if he is determined to do so.
– I say that if we continue the voluntary system, anc under it accept lads of eighteen years of age, we should take all the precautions necessary to insure that those who are enlisted are eighteen years of age. Any member of the Senate could, in five minutes, devise machinery to require ladE desiring to enlist to bring with them some proof of their age. Proof of age is a difficulty which we easily surmount many times in the ordinary transactions of life. I wish now to say a word with regard to the enlistment of married men. The Minister of Defence referred in touching terms to the spectacle presented by a married man with family responsibilites going to the front, whilst single men are staying at home. I indorse everything he said on the point. Lately the methods of embarkation have been altered, but in the earlier stages I have seen units proceeding to embark at the wharfs and at railway stations, and as the troops have marched along the street, I have seen some woman hanging on the arm of her husband, with two or three toddlers clinging to her skirts, and at the same time the footpaths have been lined with single men without a chick or a child to care for. I say that the Government ought not to accept married men if they volunteer fifty times whilst there are single men without family obligations available.
– Is it not probable that, under the Government’s scheme, we shall reach the married men in January next ?
– If the war goes against us, we shall be compelled to go much further than the present proposals of the Government, but I am dealing now with the present proposals only.
– Under the presentproposals we shall not reach the married men in January at all.
– I cannot see that the married men will be affected by the present proposals. It is proposed only to raise a certain number of men up to March, and there are ample single men to meet our requirements. - Senator Watson. - What if the single men run out?
– They will not run out. There are ample to meet requirements up to the middle of next year or even beyond that time.
– They will run out in four months.
– They will not run out in anything like that time.
– Of those offering now, 75 per cent, are being rejected.
– That is no guide. There will not be 75 per cent, of the men who will not volunteer rejected. Before I went to one town in connexion with a recruiting meeting the recruiting sergeant said to me, “You will have five men come up when you ask for volunteers.” I said, “How do you know that?” He said, “They come up at every meeting.” I asked whether they were the same men, and he said “Yes, they have been examined here, and two of them went to an adjoining camp and tried to get through there. They come up and offer every time. I spoke to them, and they said they knew it was no good, but they wanted to give the other fellows a lead.”
– Such nien help to swell the number of rejects.
– Does the honorable senator think that the examining officer would be such a fool as to be taken in in that way continuously?
– I am speaking of a public meeting. The examining officer was not approached at all. It is not the examining officer that is the fool in this case.
– They have to go before the examining officer.
– They do not do anything of the kind. I speak of a public meeting at which a call was made for recruits. The practice in New South Wales, at recruiting meetings, has been to make an appeal for recruits at the close of a meeting, and they come on to the platform.
– Recruits presenting themselves at Melbourne have to go before an examining officer.
– I am not dealing with that. The percentage of rejections may be phenomenally high, and it might be worth while to inquire whether there is not some reason underlying the high percentage. But I refuse to consider the percentage of rejects amongst recruits voluntarily offering themselves in Melbourne as a guide to the percentage of rejects under a system of compulsion applied to the great body of the men of the country.
– It shows that there are a good many unfit.
– The more unfit there are offering, the greater the need there is upon us to compel the fit to go. I have dealt with what seems to me to be the undesirability of continuing the voluntary system side by side with the compulsory system, but if we are to continue the voluntary system we should accept as volunteers only the class of men liable to conscription, that is men from 21 to 45 years of age, single, and without encumbrances. One other limitation in the Government’s proposal which I very much regret is that the authority that the Government seek is limited only to the sending away of reinforcements. I do not imagine that there would be any immediate advantage from widening the authority that is being sought, but, if the war should go against us, and it was found in a few months that the crisis had thickened, it would be appalling if we were then confronted with the necessity of taking another referendum in order to make a further effort. It would, therefore, have been more advisable for the Government to ask the people for full authority to apply the provisions of the Defence Act to oversea service, giving, at the same time, an assurance that there was no present intention to use it to any greater extent than indicated in the present proposals. Such a course would have left them free to face any fresh demand to meet a new crisis should such unhappily arise.
It is proposed to issue a proclamation, from 1st October, calling into camp under the home-defence provisions a certain number of men. Will the Minister consider whether it is not advisable to issue that proclamation at once? If it is issued on 1st October, the men called to camp under it will not be in camp and have settled down before the end of October.
– Oh, yes.
– I am taking the Prime Minister’s statement that under the proclamation the men would be in camp, or in process of transit thither, by the end of October.
– They will be in camp long before that.
– They cannot be there long before. I will take the middle of October, for the Government have to be reasonable, and give fair notice to the men that they are required.
– Have they not had notice now ?
– No; each particular man who is to be called has not received notice. The quota is not yet settled. I put this matter forward, not simply for the sake of criticising, but to secure the more effective working of the policy which the Government have outlined. If the men are in camp by the middle of October, and I do not believe they can be there by that date, they are the men wanted for reinforcements in February of next year. It “takes two months to send them Home, and in the two months on board ship they cannot do much effective training. From the middle of October to the middle of February is sixteen weeks, and deducting the eight weeks on shipboard leaves only eight weeks for training. When they arrive they will be needed, not to stay in English camps to complete their training, but to go forward as reinforcements. The time for giving them that effective training which is their due before they go to the front is clearly so short that I urge the Minister to consider whether it is not worth while to issue the proclamation before the 1st October, even if only a week before, so as to get the men into camp at the earliest date, and give them a slightly longer period of training.
When the Minister was making his speech, I interjected a question which he received in quite another spirit from that which I intended. I asked him whether we could assume that the Government would support the referendum when it was before the country, but the Minister apparently thought I was seeking in some way or other to embarrass certain members of the Government who might not cordially approve of compulsory military service abroad. That was not my idea. I saw that it would make a big difference in the mind of the country if the proposals were put forward with the Government supporting them, or if they were put forward with the Government indifferent to their fate. Part of my question has been answered by the Prime Minister’s declaration that he intends not merely to put the referendum to the electors, but to support it when it is there. It is a matter of great interest to Parliament and thecountry to know what the attitude of theGovernment will be on the question when the electors are called upon to deal with it, and that was the reason I asked the.question. It will make a considerable difference to the success of the appeaL whether the Ministry are divided or united on it. The electors are entitled to assume that the Government contain the men who know at least as much of the actual facts as any other body of men, if not more, and if Ministers are united on the subject, that knowledge must influence the electors considerably. If, on the other hand, they are unfortunately divided, the people will be entitled to say, “ It is quite true that some Ministers tell us they regard compulsion as necessary, but others tell us it is not “ ; and therefore they may be pardoned if they decide that it is safe to vote in the negative, as the matter cannot be very urgent, seeing that the Ministry cannot agree on it.
– Hear, hear ! When in doubt they ought to vote in the negative.
– I had no intention of taunting Ministers with inconsistency. On the contrary, if any Minister or other public man or private citizen who has previously expressed a view hostile to compulsion now advocates it in the light of the present position, no- taunt of inconsistency will fall from my lips, because nothing that we thought before the war came with its awful lessons to us ought to restrain us in our actions to-day.
The Government propose to submit this matter to the people, and ask them to pass judgment on it. This brings us to the question of whether the people, in order to arrive at a sound judgment, are to have the advantage of a free platform and a free press. There are indications which no one can afford to ignore that the censorship is today being carried to an extreme not dreamt of six months ago, and, strong supporter as I am going to be of the proposal of the Government, I still say that we ought to ask them to give the country, not merely an assurance, but an absolute proof that the censorship will be relaxed as far as it is safe to do so, having regard to military necessities.
– That has been already given.
– It has, but the censorship is being tightened all the same. The policy which the Government have enunciated is not going to be helped by the present censorship, which will furnish the opponents of the referendum with the strongest and most effective weapon they can ask for. They will be able to say to the people, “ The Government ask you to decide, but dare not let you know the truth. You may hold your meetings, bub you shall not let the people in the next village know what you say. Whatever resolution you pass may not be printed.” Even in this Parliament, if a question is asked and answered on the subject it is often censored, so that the electors have not the fullest information necessary to vote on the question. The best way to defeat the Government’s proposal is to continue the present censorship, and the most effective way to insure its success is to remove the gag which is now placed on both press and platform.
I recognise that in the campaign on which we are about to enter, consequent upon the Government’s policy, there is going to be a very sharp division of opinion. I am quite unable to understand the mind of those who oppose this proposal, but many currents of thought are at work. The opposition does not all spring from the one motive. Many are, I believe, animated by fears which, although groundless, are nevertheless sincerely held. The same fear was expressed in Great Britain when the Imperial Government proceeded to introduce compulsion there, and I venture to say that members of industrial unions at Home were just as keen to maintain their privileges as are the unionists of Australia. Since then, however, the opposition in the Old Country seems to have evaporated.
– How do you know?
– You are not allowing for the censorship of news in England.
– Yes, I am. When the Imperial Government introduced their scheme for compulsion, there was a threat of a strike that would have the effect of laying idle the whole of the English industries; but that threat did not eventuate, and. to-day the industries of the Mother Country are proceeding more briskly than ever before. I mention this in the hope that, whilst these fears are, no doubt, sincerely held by a large number of unionists here, they may take courage from the fact that ultimately they were overcome in Great Britain. I would like to ask unionists in Australia to consider whether, seeing that their brother unionists in Great Britain decided eventually not to oppose the Government proposals, they would be running any greater danger by adopting that course in this country, where they have infinitely more political power. I remember that, at the time of which I speak, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, in order to allay those fears, gave an assurance that any alteration or modification of industrial privileges rendered necessary by the war would not be allowed to affect the position at the conclusion of peace. I do not know whether it is possible for some such guarantee to be given to the unionists in Australia. 1 can quite understand that it will be answered that, while an individual can bind himself, he cannot bind institutions or other sections of the community; but I do suggest that, in view of this fear that, in some way or other, compulsory military service might be made use of as the thin end of the wedge to destroy the industrial fabric which has been erected in Australia, some form of guarantee might be given that any alteration of the privileges at present enjoyed shall not be continued here after the declaration of peace.
– The electors will put their suggestions in the ballot-box.
– Yes ; but that is not quite an answer to the suggestion.
– It will be the one that will count.
– So far as I am concerned, it is not merely a question of getting the verdict of the people. I believe that the verdict will be in the affirmative. But I want something more than that. I do not want to see in this country either a large or a heated minority in opposition to the proposal now under consideration, and, therefore, I invite consideration upon this suggestion. All public men, I think, are under an obligation to give it consideration, because if some such guarantee could be given, it would, I think, remove very largely the hostility shown to the Government proposal - an hostility founded upon fear, but which I regard as without foundation.
– Could such a guarantee bind the members of any future Government ?
– Could any guarantee be better than that given by Mr. Hughes last June, when he said that under no circumstances would he send men out of the country against their will ?
– I am not now dealing with something said by the Prime Minister on any former occasion. Mr. Hughes is now seeking a popular mandate for a course of action which he feels is necessary in the interests of the Empire. If the nation’s existence is at stake, we must set aside for the time being any views expressed on a former occasion.
– That makes the guarantee you suggest of little avail, then.
– Do honorable senators take up the position that they are prepared to risk national safety rather than industrial unionism? So far as I am concerned, every institution we have, excepting that of national existence, should go into the melting-pot first. I am trying to see if it is possible to allay those fears to which I have referred by some form of guarantee as to the industrial conditions of Australia after the war. I have not come here with any cut-and-dried plan, but I do invite honorable senators, believing that they, as well as myself, are concerned with the future of Australia, to give serious thought to this suggestion, and to see if we can allay the fears of those who are at present opposed to the Government proposal.
– Like the Leader of the Opposition, we can all agree that there is not a member of this Chamber, or, indeed, of this Parliament, who is not fully seized with the gravity of the present situation - a situation which is not due to any action on the part of Australia. Let us carry our minds back to the outbreak of the war, when the Cook Government went to the country. As the Minister of Defence has pointed out, when the Government of the day promised to send men to the front no one at that time dreamed that Australia would be called upon to render assistance to the extent that she has done. We well remember that for weeks the newspapers of Australia were emblazoned with headlines to the effect that Australia should aim at raising 100,000 men. At that time it seemed a stupendous task, but to-day the Commonwealth has enlisted for service, not 100,000 men, but over 300,000, and I think we can justly claim that Australia has not only done her duty, but that she has done more than her fair share. I do not say that everything has been done, but, in my opinion, everything has been done in consonance with the safety and continuance of Australia as a growing nation. In regard to the question now under discussion, I think it is fair that one of us, as a member of the Federal Labour party, should take upon himself the responsibility of informing the country that the Government proposals are not the indorsed and approved proposals of the Federal Labour party. I leave members of the Cabinet, individually or collectively, to speak for themselves. I take the responsibility of speaking as a member of the Labour party.
– Speaking for yourself.
– I may say, in reply to that pertinent interjection, that I speak for a big section of the Labour party, and I think it is due to the people that the fact I have stated should be known. I know that in New South Wales and South Australia, which I visited last week, the opinion was that the Federal Labour party was behind these proposals.
– Rut in South Australia the Labour party told you pretty straight what they thought.
– No. They are still Under the impression that these proposals emanated from the Federal Labour party. They were prepared to hear Mr, Hughes, and Mr. Hughes alone, on them. Personally, I am not going to support the Government’s proposals as they are now before the Senate. It has been stated by the Leader of the Opposition that, though as a principle he is against the referendum, on this occasion he is going to support the referendum.
– Not against the principle of the referendum, but against the idea that you must necessarily appeal to the people on every occasion.
– My position is (hat I am in favour of the referendum in general cases, on every occasion possible, but I am opposed to this referendum ; and I feel that I am right, because my views are so divergent from those held by the Leader of the Opposition. I admit my position may appear illogical, but I think I can justify it. I regard the matter of dealing with sacred human life as being one of conscience, and conscience only - a sacred matter of conscience - and in my view, if 99 per cent, of the people said “Yes,” that expression of opinion should not bind the minority which said “No.” I refuse to any Government and to any majority the right to trade in the lives of the people.
– But they do decide it, and have a right to decide it.
– They have no right.
– If you live in a community, and share in the good things of that community, you must be prepared to defend it. Either that, or get out.
– Irrespective of what the views of the people may be on this question, 1 am going to oppose it. This is not the only occasion upon which I have taken up a similar attitude. I remember, when the question of religious instruction in State schools arose in Queensland, I took the responsibility of adopting the attitude that the will of the majority ought not always to prevail, because there are occasions when the majority has no right to rule the minority.
– They are two different subjects; one is fish, the other kangaroo.
– If the ‘ honorable senator is prepared to joke on a matter of this kind-
– We can make reasonable provisions for conscientious objectors.
- Mr. Hughes has said that he thought it was the opinion of Australians generally that conscientious objectors would not be worth dealing with, or something to that effect ;. but those who vote “ No “ have no right to be forced to take any action upon which might depend, and probably will depend, sacred human life.
– Then if it is a matter of conscience, compulsion is wrong for home defence.
– I have said before, in this chamber, that I believe in compulsory training from a physical point of view. I think it is a good thing foiour growing young men ; but for the purposes of home defence I do not think it, would matter twopence, so far as the Australian is concerned, whether there waa compulsion or not.
– Then where does your conscience come in ? It has gone now. I think you have a most convenient conscience.
– It is one that I think will bear examination in this connexion.
– Suppose the Germans landed here, would you compel fit men to fight?
– No, I would not. I do not think the Australian would require any compulsion in such a case. I asked the Minister of Defence this afternoon if the French soldiers who went to Gallipoli were conscripts or volunteers? He replied that he had no information on the subject. I asked Mr. Hughes a similar question in Sydney, and received a similar answer but I think they should have been able to inform us that the French soldiers who went to Gallipoli did not go as conscripts, but as volunteers for overseas service, so that in this proposition we are going further than France in asking to conscript soldiers for service overseas. When this Government took upon itself the responsibility of offering a further 50,000 men to Great Britain, I did not think there was any likelihood of the reinforcements not being met by the voluntary system. Up to May last there was no falling off in recruiting. When the Defence Department was charged with the task of getting these men, every day, every week-end, the newspapers urged upon the Minister of Defence and the Defence Department the desirability of laying bare the position. The Minister eventually gave particulars showing that, owing to the temporary cessation of hostilities at Gallipoli, it was not necessary to send forward the same large drafts that had been going. As soon as the Minister disclosed that information, recruiting committees, press, and others at once attacked him, charging him with having brought about a reduction in recruiting.
– They did not charge the Minister with disclosing the information, but a rather unfortunate phrase was used, which the Minister hastened to correct.
– I say that that is what gave the bodies of which I speak the opportunity of dropping their advocacy of voluntary recruiting, and of going bald-headed for conscription. From that time onwards members of Parliament, members of shire councils, the press, and other over-zealous citizens, instead of addressing meetings in favour of the voluntary system, unreservedly denounced it.
– Not over-zealous citizens, I hope.
– They were over-zealous in the wrong direction. They denounced voluntary enlistment and Advocated conscription.
– Who did?
– Members of Parliament, members of shire councils, and, I am sorry to say, members of the clergy. I have in my mind one meeting in the Prahran Town Hall,” at which Sir Frank Madden spoke, and at which a section of the community were described as “ greybacks “ and “ creeping things “ - palpably meaning lice. These were the men who were permitted to address public meetings. They were allowed not only the liberty, but the licence to preach conscription, whilst anybody opposed to it who dared to address a public meeting was hounded down and coerced and the Defence Department took no action.
– Those who opposed conscription were allowed to erect a banner on which was inscribed. “Let those fight who want to. We won’t.”
– I am speaking of meetings that were held in the heart of Melbourne. The inevitable result was a noticeable falling off in the recruiting figures. Had the Defence Department been firm with these recruiting agents, had it commanded them to stand off preaching conscription at public meetings, there would have been no necessity for this proposal. I refuse to admit that the voluntary system in Australia has failed. How can it be said that it has failed when out of our mere handful of people we have enlisted 300,000 men who have passed the physical test? In such circumstances, how can anybody urge that the voluntary system has failed?
– It is not a question of whether it has failed in the past, but of whether it is adequate to the future.
– I believe that our resources have not yet been dried up. We are told day after day in the press that if our soldiers at the front are not supported to the extent of 16,500 reinforcements monthly, they will be left to the German wolves. The Leader of the Opposition used some such argument today. Does anybody make that statement in all seriousness?
– Yes, I should think so.
– Then the honorable senator is paying a very poor’ compliment to the Imperial authorities. Are those authorities going to allow
Australian volunteers to perish at the front after all that Australia has done ? I will not libel them to that extent.
– They will send British conscripts to help our soldiers.
– If we cannot keep up our reinforcements I do not think that Great Britain -will allow our volunteers to be slaughtered. Australian volunteers, even during the war, have nobly aided the conscript armies of European countries. Is it not a fact that a mere handful of Australian volunteers at Gallipoli kept the Turks at bay at a most critical time for the Russians, and thus saved the latter from what might have been annihilation? Had the Turks been able to reach the Russians on their flank when they were being so strongly pressed by the Germans, disaster would have been unavoidable. Therefore, our Australian, soldiers have done something for the conscript armies of European countries, and, consequently, I do not think it is fair for the advocates of conscription to retort that Australia will have to rely upon conscripts from abroad.
– The honorable senator is dealing with the past. What about the future ?
– I will come to that now for the edification of my honorable friend. In the statement made by the Minister of Defence it is set out that the necessities of the immediate present comprise reinforcements to the extent of 16,500 per month, and for the month of September reinforcements to the extent of 32,500. This latter number is made up of the ordinary monthly contribution of 12,500, and of an additional 20,000 that is required to replace what is known as the Fifth Division which is now in England, and which is to be broken up to supply renforcements
– Which means that we have fallen into arrears to the extent of 20,000 men.
– The other day the Minister affirmed that it takes three months to train a soldier - that our men cannot be trained in less than three months. A little later on he said - I read the statement in Hansard only yesterday - that this Fifth Division which is now being broken up for reinforcements had not completed its base training, and that it was extremely improbable, in all the circumstances, that it would have gone into action this summer.
– I was referring to the summer in the Northern- Hemisphere.
– The position, then, is this: The Defence Department, or those who are responsible for drawing up this scheme, ask for 20,000 men during the current month in order to make up the big total of 32,500. I would like the Minister to tell us why these 20,000 men, who are needed to replace the Fifth Division in England, are all required during the month of September. In the Northern Hemisphere the next summer cannot commence before the beginning of April. That is seven months >hence. If the men were raised by the end of December they would still have January, February, and March - three months - in which to become trained soldiers. Why, then, are these 20,000 men required during the current month ? This is a point upon which I am not at all clear, and unless the Minister can give us some good reason why it is necessary to secure this force during September, although its services will not be required at the very earliest before April of next year, I shall be forced to conclude that the military authorities do not desire that the recruiting system shall live, and that they wish to kill it by imposing upon it the impos*sible task of raising 32,500 nien during the present month.
– Leaving the extra 20,000 out, you still have to supply 16,500, the norma] reinforcements required per month. Can that be done under the voluntary system ?
– I believe it is n very big undertaking.
– Why not go the whole way and say that you do not believe we can do it?
– I do not think we shall be able to do it for very long if we have compulsion. Mr. Hughes himself only gives us eleven months in which to spin out the whole manhood strength nf Australia. I ask Senator Millen what Australia will do then. Shall we depend on conscript nations to protect us then ?
– I hold that one of the best services we can render the Empire at the present time is to refuse to deplete Australia of every available man. I do not agree that the Allies have ever been short of men-. What they have been short of is munitions and equipment. I do not believe that they have been short of men at any time, or that they are short of men now.
– The honorable senator will surely not put himself up as a judge in that matter.
– That may be so; but I may be allowed to express a humble opinion. I cannot be expected to accept the opinion of every one else as correct. If we had been guided by our own opinions in connexion with the Gallipoli landing, and had not depended so entirely on the military advisers, and taken all they said as gospel, the people of Australia would not in those early days have been led to believe that our men would get through to Constantinople. Personally, I now think that they could not have done so. This was not owing to a shortage of men, because there were thousands of Australians in Egypt at the time. If the reason for the Gallipoli gamble or slaughter was a shortage of men, the fault was certainly not due to Australia, because we did not have the direction of the forces engaged. I-come now to the consideration of a phase of the Government proposal which I consider the more serious because of its imminence. I refer to the proclamation which the Government are about to issue calling up men under sections of the Defence Act. I think that is a mistake. I hope that even at this late hour the Government will decide not to call up these men before the result of the referendum is known. The vote at the referendum would not alter my opinion of the matter, but it would go far to g reserve peace and good order in the Commonwealth if the Government could see their way not to call up men by proclamation under the Defence Act until the referendum has been carried. There is an aspect of the question which has been given some prominence, and on which great stress might be laid. I refer to the legal aspect of the intended action of the Government. I remember that Mr. Blackburn, the member for Essendon in the Victorian Parliament, raised the question at a meeting in Melbourne. He pointed out - and his opinion has since been confirmed by other barristers - that the Government have no authority under the Defence Act to call up these men for service overseas. They have authority to call them up for home service only. The Government in their proposal, and neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Defence in their explanatory speeches have ever professed that these men are to be called up for home defence, or that their services are to be used for home defence. They are being called up in preparation to be sent abroad in the event of the people ratifying the Government proposal at the referendum.
– What are they to be sent abroad for?
– For service overseas.
– Will not that be to defend Australia?
– I hold that, in calling these men up a month before the referendum is taken in order that they may be sent abroad, the Government will be acting unconstitutionally and illegally. The Defence Act is specific on this matter. Under sections 46, 59, and 60 it is provided thai men may be called up for home service only, and the power to issue a proclamation calling up the reserves applies to a time of war.
– Are we” not in great danger ?
– Under section 4 of the Defence Act “ war “ is defined to mean not such a world-wide war as we are experiencing to-day, but it is stated that - “ War “ means any invasion or apprehended invasion or attack or apprehended attack on the Commonwealth or any Territory under the control of the Commonwealth by an enemy orarmed force. 1 submit that the Government do hot apprehend an attack on Australia, or upon any territory in Australia.
– That is just what they do apprehend.
– The Government are not calling up men for that reason.
– Why not?
– Because they are not calling them up for home defence under the Act.
– Are we not defending Australia in this war?
– The Government are simply calling up these men for training.
– The Government claim the right to call up the men under sections 59 and 60 of the Defence Act.
– Which allows them to be called up for training.
– Y.es, for training for home defence, and not for service abroad. The Government have no power under the Act to call up men for training in anticipation of sending them overseas.
– Does the honorable senator contend that the Government have no power to call up men under the Defence Act without stating the reason for which they are called up ?
-Not unless they apprehend an invasion of the Commonwealth or a territory of the Commonwealth, and they do not apprehend any such invasion.
– How does the honorable senator know that ?
– Because the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence have said so.
– I have stated that one of the consequences of the loss of the war would be the invasion and conquest of Australia.
– - Then, you say, the Government are calling out these men for home defence ?
– I stated that as one of the consequences of failure in the war.
-The Government are calling the men up, but they are not calling them up for home defence. I may say why I should regret to see the issue of this proclamation before the people have ratified the Government’s proposal. I listened intently to the remarks of Senator Millen when he referred to the industrial aspect of this crisis> because it is a crisis. I agree with the honorable senator that the position is very serious. I profess to know something of the temperament of the workers of Australia, and I say candidly that I fear for the industrial results in Australia if the Government go on with their contemplated action, and call out men under the Defence Act prior to the ratification of their proposal by the people. In 1912, during the general strike in Brisbane, we had an opportunity on several occasions to witness the gathering of angry mobs. We know that feeling at that time was intense, and we have reason to know now, from communications which have been received, that the pentup feelings of the industrialists of Australia may find very serious vent if instigated or intimidated by any action of the Commonwealth Government in. this regard. I fear grave results may follow.
Personally, I do not want to see them. I spoke at a meeting in the Guild Hall, Melbourne, last night, on the question of a general strike. I told the audience not to consider such a matter in a light or frivolous vein. I said that we had had experience in Brisbane of a general strike, and knew that it involved want, .suffering, and care to a great section of the community, and -not to the wealthy section, who, I suppose, made little or no difference in their mode of living because of the strike-. I told the audience also that if the opportunity presented itself to choose the lesser of two evils, they should choose the lesser evil, and I viewed the imposition of conscription, or the contemplated introduction of it into Australia, as being a greater evil by far than would be a general strike in Australia. I beseech the Government to give this appeal more than a passing consideration. The Minister of Defence, by the figures he has submitted in this Chamber, has shown us that even if not another nian were enlisted under the voluntary system before the end of December we should have sufficient men to carry on with up to that date.
– When did I saythat?
– In your statement. We must expect that somemen will enlist under the voluntary system between now and the end of December. Men are, as a matter of fact,, coming forward now at the rate of 4,000 or 5,000 per month. This will account for from 16,000 to 20,000 men, and it is reasonable to anticipate that there will bean increase in the number of volunteers.
– Twenty thousand men in how long a period ?
– In four months.
– But we require- 16,500 per month.
-The honorable senator should let me finish what I wish to say. Voluntary enlistments will give usfrom’ 16,000 to 20,000 men, and that will meet all the necessities of the Government for a further period of one month after the end of December. A month will necessarily elapse between the proposed issue of the proclamation and the takingof the referendum. So that voluntary enlistments would be sufficient to coyer the additional period to be provided for if the proclamation were delayed, as I SUK. gest, until the result of the referendum is known. I trust that the Minister of Defence will give this matter serious consideration, because I, for one, view it with very great concern. I do not speak without knowing something of the temperament of Australian industrialism. That is why my fears find such expression. On the question of the enlistment of married or single men. Senator Millen mentioned that married men had gone to the front whilst single men have refrained from enlisting. I recall the interjections made when the honorable senator was speaking by my colleagues on the other side. Even if the supply of single men should not be exhausted until four or five months have passed, we should, after that period, have to bring the married men in. We should then witness the spectacle of married men going to the war and leaving wives and families behind.
– In those circumstances we should be taking the married men last, but under the existing system we ave taking them first.
– We are not taking them now; they are going themselves. That is the whole difference.
– And you are shelter-‘ ing behind them.
– No, I am not sheltering. I have endeavoured to avoid being personal in this debate, but I want to tell Senator Millen now that even if Parliament should pass fifty conscription measures, and the people should carry fifty referendums in favour of conscription, they are not going to conscript me. I am definite and terse on that point, as the honorable senator has taken it upon himself to raise that personal question. We are invited to accept Mr. Hughes’ assurance that wealth will be asked or compelled to bear its fair share of the burden of the prosecution of the war.
– Equality of sacrifice was mentioned, which is impossible.
– Quite impossible. The Government put forward a cut-and-dried scheme for getting the men required, but have no concrete proposals for obtaining the wealth. I say candidly that I am not going to take the assurance of Mr. Hughes, or of the Government, on this matter. I am not going to place filthy lucre on the same plane as sacred human life. I said in this chamber as far back as May last that conscription of men and conscription of money are not to be mentioned in the same breath. Are we to accept a vague, sweeping sort of promise that, after having made provision for the compulsion of men, the Government will see that wealth comes in afterwards 1 The proper procedure would have been to’ make provision for obtaining the wealth before mentioning the conscription of men; and even if that were done it would not alter my opinion regarding the conscription -of men. We can judge this Labour Government only by their actions during the past two years, and I say unhesitatingly that they have not done the fair thing regarding the provision of wealth for carrying out Australia’s part in the war.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Parliament can compel the Government to adopt whatever financial scheme it chooses.
– It is strange that some of our friends are always ready, judging by their interjections, to make provision for the compulsion of men, but we do not hear many voices raised to compel the Government to make the necessary financial provision. Any number of people are prepared to support the Government proposals for conscripting men who would execrate the same Government, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Defence, if they brought forward any concrete proposals for raising Australia’s share of the money necessary to finance the war.
– That cannot apply to the members of this’ party.
– Interjections on the question of compelling men have been far more frequent than interjections about conscripting wealth when Ministers have been unfolding the Government’s financial proposals in this Chamber. I would ask some of my honorable friends who interject so freely when the question of compulsion of men is under review where they were when amendments were proposed on a previous occasion for raising the war loan at pre-war rates of interest ? Where were they when endeavours were made to amend the Government’s policy so that subscribers to the loan should not be exempt from State and Federal income tax, and to prevent members of the stock exchanges getting a commission of 5s. per £100 ?
– What help did you give me when I brought up the question of the unfairness of granting exemption from income tax on the war loan ?
– A division was taken on an amendment by Senator Mullan on that very question, but I do not think Senator Millen voted with us on that occasion.
– I was the first to raise the question here.
– The honorable senator may have raised it, but he did not push it to a division. I supported it by my vote, which is more than the honorable senator did.
– Senator Millen was not present.
– Possibly that is the explanation. The individuals to whom I have been referring may howl at those of us who are opposed to the conscription of human life.
– If your way of raising a war loan was adopted you would get no money at all.
– Why not conscript it and take it, as the Government are now seeking to take the men? Another line of argument used by Mr. Hughes is, “ Why should you bo afraid of conscription, seeing that you have your “own Government in power? Surely you are not afraid of the harsh administration of a conscript law by your own Government?” Conscription is wrong whatever Government it is passed or administered by, and as for accepting an assurance that the Labour Government would not administer it harshly, I can judge them only by their administration of the War Precautions Act during the past two years. It is my honest and firm conviction that they have been most harsh and partial in their administration of that Act. Influential and wealthy men, or men with good backing, could take any action they liked regarding the preaching of conscription, but those without influence and money and backing have been thrown into gaol for preaching against it.
– Not one; but for preaching against recruiting, yes.
– The plea has been that they were prejudicing recruiting. If the Minister had made a start on Sir Frank Madden, he would have done something equitable. It was he who referred to the workers as “ grey backs “ and “creeping things.” Dozens of instances can be brought forward in which the War Precautions Act has been put into operation against the working classes, whilst influential men were allowed to go scot free after insulting the workers at their own sweet will. Men who did not enlist under the voluntary system, men with family obligations or other good reasons for not enlisting, were called rotters, wasters, and wastrels, while those who opposed conscription were called cowards and bullies in the leading columns of the influential daily papers of Melbourne. The military authorities took no action against these influential people, but if a man on the stump preached against conscription it could be. twisted into an utterance detrimental to recruiting, and he had to suffer the consequences. We believe that no Labour Administration should bring in conscription. Since his return from Great Britain, Mr. Hughes has, I believe, expressed the opinion that the Labour Government, or a Fusion Government, or a Government led by Mr. Cook, would have to introduce it. Even if it meant the formation of a Fusion Government to-morrow, and putting us into opposition for the next seven” or ten years, I would sooner receive a proposal for conscription from a Fusion Government than from a Labour Government.
– What about the mischief they would do to the workers in the meantime?
– My experience of the workers is that when they are oppressed they revolt and remove the disabilities, but when, as during the past two years, they suffer under the insidious administration of their so-called friends, they put up with far more than they would from their opponents. When the workers have to bow their neck to tha yoke of conscription, it will hurt far more if it has to be riveted up by a Labour Prime Minister or a Labour Government.
– What hope have you of financing the country according to your ideas if Mr. Cook gets into power ?
– The position is serious now, and with conscription and the increased casualty lists and the bigbill for pensions, one wonders where it is going to stop. All the Labour Government have done has been to follow thebeaten track of anti-Labour Governments, and go loan-mongering without bringing in effective taxation. The. first thing that should be taxed is the land, because all the money borrowed by Australian Governments prior to the war was borrowed to improve theland.
SenatorReady. - Is not the loan system voluntarism ?
– Quite so, but it should not be put on the same basis as voluntarism of human life. The wealth of a community belongs to the community, but the life of an individual does not belong to the community.
– If it does not, what right has the individual to ask the community to protect him?
– In this lifeanddeath matter, the life of the individual does not belong to the community, and I dispute the right of the people to give that man’slife away unless the man is willing to take on the risk voluntarily. For these reasons I cannot support the Government proposals, and trust that before the fatal first of October is reached they will give the matter earnest consideration, with a view to a big modification, particularly as regards issuing the proclamation calling up the men even before the people have said “ Yes.” In my opinion, the Government are making a fatal mistake, which will alienate, to a great extent, much sympathy which might be given to them at the present critical time. I sincerely trust, therefore, that this aspect of the matter will not be overlooked. Those who agree to the referendum on this question of life and death will be morally bound to support the verdict of the people if the vote should prove to be in the affirmative. That is only a logical conclusion. I am, however, opposed to this question going to the people, because I do not think it should be decided by them. Therefore, if a vote be given in the affirmative, I will not abide by the will of the people in this sacred matter of conscience.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Business of the Senate.
– In moving
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to say that a Supply Bill is coming before another place to-day, and it is necessary that it should go through the
Senate to-morrow, because the payments included in the Bill are due. The Supply Bill will be the ordinary formal measure dealing with past expenditure, and before the Senate adjourns for the referendum campaign, the Government will bring forward a financial statement embodying the proposals for financing the war.
– Do you anticipate the Supply Bill passing in another place to-day?
– I expect that the Bill will be here to-morrow, and for that reason the Senate should sit to-morrow to deal with it. It is hoped that the Referendum Bill will have passed in another place before the end of this week, and it is necessary that that Bill should be through the Senate before the end of the following week. The Government desire to give honorable senators the fullest opportunity to debate the details of that measure, and it will be advisable, therefore, that the Senate should meet on Tuesday next. No honorable senator will then be in a position to say that he did not have an opportunity to speak on the provisions of the Bill. I am aware that this course will call for some sacrifice on the part of those honorable senators whose homes are in the other States, and whose practice is to return to their homes at the week-ends.
– Do you anticipate that the Referendum Bill will be here on Friday?
– No; I expect it will be here at the beginning of next week, and I am indicating this so that honorable senators will be able to make their arrangements accordingly. The business to-morrow will be the consideration of the Supply Bill. The Referendum Bill will be taken next week, and before Parliament adjourns for the campaign, the Senate will have an opportunity to deal with the financial statement, which will set out the Government’s war policy, and which will cover both taxation and other financial proposals of the Government.
– I am sure all honorable senators desire to help the Government to conduct the business in the most expeditious way, and as there appears to be some doubt concerning the progress which may be made in another place, I suggest that, after transacting the business before the Senate to-morrow, instead of adjourning until Tuesday, the Government might ad journ until Friday afternoon, by which time we would be in a position to know what are the prospects of obtaining measures from the other House on Tuesday; and we would know whether we should adjourn to the ordinary day, or till Tuesday. The Minister will see that it would be rather foolish to adjourn the Senate from to-morrow until Tuesday, if, when we came here on that day, we found that the business in the other House had not been sufficiently advanced to allow the Senate to proceed.
.- What I said just now was an intimation concerning the present intention of the Government, which might have to be varied before to-morrow by any developments in regard to these Bills in another place. I can only say, at the present juncture, that the Government will give consideration to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, because it is not the wish of the Government to bring honorable senators back on Tuesday if there will be nothing for them to do. It is intended to take the formal stages of the Referendum Bill on Tuesday, and enable the secondreading stages to be commenced on Wednesday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 September 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1916/19160913_senate_6_79/>.