6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and react prayers.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral if his attention has been drawn to the statement made by Mr. Jus: tice Powers, in giving his award in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Officers Association recently, that single men employed in the department should enlist? Is it part of the powers or duties of a Judge to make such a remark when giving an award in regard to an industrial dispute?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question. The full report of the statement and judgment by Mr. Justice Powers will be laid upon the table of the Senate.
Separation Allowance - Enrolment of Only Sons
– Do the Government proposals in regard to the soldiers’ separation allowance apply to every soldier? A private receives 6s. per day, and I desire to know if it is proposed that his pay and allowances shall be capable of reaching a maximum of 10s. per day?
– The separation allowance is paid only to the wife and family of a soldier. Therefore it obviously is not paid to every soldier. The payment depends on his having a wife and children, so much per day being allowed to the wife and so much for each child. The maximum payment which a private may receive, including the separation allowance, is 10s. per day,
– Itdoes not mean that the increase is to be paid to the officer and not to the private?
– A separation allowance is not payable to anybody receiving more than 10s. per day.
– The proposals of the Government for calling up men for service provide that the only son of a family shall not be called upon for service. Does that provision apply merely to families who are dependent on such only sons, and not to the only son of a family who is in. position to allow him to serve his country ? Does the provision apply in every case whether the family is dependent or not on the only son?
– It applies in all cases.
Report (No. 7) presented by Senator
The following papers were presented : -
Norfolk Island.- Ordinance No.3 of 1916.- Foreign Marriage.
Papua. - Ordinances of 1916. -
No. 3. - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 2), 1915-1916.
No. 4.- Supply, 1916-1917 (No. 1).
Public Service Act 1902-1916-
Promition of j. R. McManus, Department of Trade and Customs.
Temporary Employees.- Annual Return for Financial Year 1915-16.
The War. - Paper presented to British Parliament -
Report on the Administration of the National Relief Fund up to the 31st March, 1916.
War Precautions Act 1914-1916. - Regulations amended, &c. -
Statutory Rules 1916. Nos. 97, 112, 122,. 128, 129, 135, 137, 161, 163, 169, 189-
– The cost was £42,953.
– I have received an intimation from Senator Ferricks that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “the press and other censorship being exercised at the present time.”
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 11 a.m.
That the object of my motion is one of great public and urgent importance has been brought home during the last few weeks to those who have the honour of being members of this Chamber and another place. The extent to which despotism can rule in a freedom-loving country like Australia has also been made apparent. I charge the Prime Minister with being responsible for this state of affairs. He has created a position which is unique in the history of the world. I do not think that in any other country, even in Germany or Russia, a newspaper or periodical is prevented from indicating that portion of its articles has been censored. Those who have been looking into this question are fully seised of the length to which the Prime Minister has gone. I need only refer to his actions in connexion with his communications with and addresses to Labour leagues in Australia. He went to Sydney last week and laid before the executive Labour body of New South Wales his proposals in regard to conscription in Australia, but that body, after having heard the whole of his statements, turned down his proposals by a vote of twenty-three to five. It followed action that was taken by the central executive body in Victoria, which, I understand; turned down the proposals unanimously. But nothing was allowed to appear in the press in regard to either of those decisions. The matter was censored.
– Does the honorable senator know whether the press were supplied with the information?
– Pressmen told me that they had the information and were not allowed to use it. They came to me and asked what had occurred, and when I told them I did not know they said, “ That is all right, we know all about it; but we cannot use it for publication.”
– They did not get it officially?
SenatorFERRICKS.- I cannot speak as to that, but I can assure the honorable senator that after the Argus had received and published the official manifesto issued by the Labour Congress in Melbourne the manifesto itself was censored. And when the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney, at its conference, held in the first week of this month, turned down Mr. Hughes and his proposals by 116 votes to 60- virtually by a majority of two to one - nothing as to that appeared in the press.
– I saw it in the press.
SenatorFERRICKS. - I do not think that the honorable senator could have seen it until within the last few days.
– That is not so.
-It did not appear in the press during the week in which the conference was held. It did not appear in any of the Sydney papers. Reverting to the conference between Mr.
Hughes and Labour leagues, there was a change of venue to Adelaide, where the Prime Minister, by what I consider a trick on the part of the Premier of South Australia, received a certain portion of endorsement of his policy. Mr.Vaughan combined a motion expressing confidence in the Commonwealth Government with a vote of thanks to Mr. Hughes for his address.
– That is the conference at which Mr. Blackburn, a Melbourne lawyer, sought to be enrolled as a shearer.
SenatorFERRICKS.- Mr. Blackburn had as much right to represent the shearers as the Prime Minister has to represent wharf labourers.
– The Prime Minister does not seek to do so outside his own State, whereas Mr. Blackburnsought to represent shearers outside his own State.
– These matters are not connected with the question raised by the honorable senator’s notice, and as the time of the honorable senator is limited, he should not be led away from the subject by irrelevant interjections.
SenatorFERRICKS.- Publication of the shandygaff motion passed in Adelaide was allowed by the censor, but a motion that was passed at the same conference, almost in the same breath, and by a majority of twenty, to the effect, “That while this conference approves of the principles of the referendum, it is totally opposed to the conscription of human life,” was refused publication.
– I saw the two motions in the Sydney newspapers on the following day.
– And I saw them in the Melbourne press.
SenatorFERRICKS. - At any rate the motion to which I refer did not appear in the Adelaide papers. The Prime Minister took it upon himself to give an authorized statement, but it made no reference to the second motion, except to say that another motion, the wording of which was not given, had been adopted.
– Now that the honorable senator’s charge against the Prime Minister is shown to be unfounded, why does he not do the fair thing?
SenatorFERRICKS.- I do not admit that it is unfounded. It is true that Mr. Hughes did make reference to the motion in his statement to the press. As I have a limited time at my disposal I appeal to honorable senators to allow me to proceed with my statement.
– Then let the honorable senator use his time to give facts.
– I wish to refer now to the censorship exercised in regard to telegrams. On this subject I have been in communication with Mr. Arch. Stewart, secretary to the Political Labour Council of Victoria. I have a letter which he wrote to me on the 13th September, but the date might just as well be the 21st September, because I communicated with him to-day by telephone, and asked him whether the conditions set forth in his letter were still in existence to-day, and he replied that no alteration had taken place. His letter addressed to me is as follows -
The following is a lettergram sent by the secretary of the New South Wales Political Labour League, Mr. P. C. Evans, on 30th August, 1916, but up to date it has not reached this office. The lettergram reads as follows: - “New South Wales executive to-night re-affirm conference decision to oppose conscription of human life for service abroad.”
That lettergram has not been delivered.
– How does the honorable senator know that it has beencensored? A telegraph messenger may have been to blame.
SenatorFERRICKS. - The excuse offered by the Minister is a very poor one. To show that this was not an isolated case. Mr. Stewart’s letter goes on to say -
The following telegram was sent to me by Mr. E. Grayndler, general secretary, A.W.U., on the 28th August, 1916, but has not reached this office to date: - “Urgent telegram. In name of Labour movement ask you to urge members to stand firm against conscription at all cost; agree to nothing affecting the workers without first placing the position before State executive. See Barnes and others. - Grayndler.” While in Sydney last week, I drew the attention of the Prime Minister, at the Trades Hall meeting, to the fact that the above lettergram and telegram had been sent to me, but had not reached their destination, and he then promised that, on arrival in Melbourne, he would make inquiries. Up to date I have received no communication from him.
– The inquiry showed that the censors had not seen the telegrams.
– Why has not Mr. Stewart been communicated with to that effect?
– Because we have only just been able to get the various censors questioned onthe subject. Not one of them has ever seen these telegrams.
– It is very peculiar that these telegraphic communications passing between a responsible Labour body in one State and a similar body in another State should each be mislaid.
– One of Mr. Grayndler’s telegrams was held up, and he has been so informed. I guarantee that the honorable senator would not quote it. It was very different from that which the honorable senator has just read.
– I do not think that there is anything in the two messages that I have read detrimental to the cause of the Allies or detrimental to the interests of Australia, or of use to the enemy. On the 9th September I sent the following telegram from Adelaide to Mr. Dan Green, at the Central Hotel, Bourkestreet, Melbourne: -
Conference very mixed up. Vaughan’s motion, combining thanks confidence, carried 124 to 100. Later motion affirming principles referendum, but totally opposing conscription human life, carried by twenty votes. Neither Blackburn nor I had a say. Blackburn’s credentials turned down by twelve votes. Leaving to-day. Regards. - Ferricks.
Is there anything in that telegram that is vital to the question of conscription? Yet it has not been delivered because I referred to the actions of the Adelaide Conference.
– If that sort of thing is kept back, I do not wonder that the honorable senator is angry.
– But has it been kept back?
– The telegram has not yet been delivered.
– Probably the telegram is in the same boat as the others.
– To show that there is some wonderful coincidence inregard to these telegrams, here is another that was despatched from Melbourne on 29th August to Mr. Grayndler, in Sydney -
Urgent reasons why you should be here protect A.W.U. interests this crisis. - Dan Green.
It dealt with a purely political matter, and was entirely unconnected with the war or conscription, or with anything appertaining to either. I challenge the Minister for Defence, who represents the
Prime Minister, or any one who may agree with him, to rise in this Chamber and defend such a condition of affairs in our so-called free Australia.
– The honorable senator need not challenge me. I have no indention of defending it.
– Because the Minister or his leader cannot do so. This telegram did not arrive at its destination. Mr. Grayndler reached Melbourne to-day, and we are informed that all the communications of the general secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Sydney, and of the Australian Workers Union secretary in Brisbane, are subject to the bann of the censorship. We know that in Melbourne the telephone wires connecting the Exchange with the Trades Hall have been tapped, and that a military lieutenant, assisted by a shorthand typist, has been set to this task. The remarkable thing is that all these precautions are taken against Labour bodies. I have no intention of putting up with them. I am not prepared to accept the assurances of Mr. Hughes or his Government that both sides will obtain a fair deal on the conscription campaign.
– Did the honorable senator ever think that they would?
– I have never had too much faith in the assurances we have had at various times from Mr. Hughes. Many of them have not been carried out. Yesterday I received from Queensland a telegram in regard to some speeches delivered in the State House against the imposition of conscription. One speech was delivered by Mr. Collins, the member for Bowen. My colleagues from Queensland will agree with me that Mr. Collins is one of the pioneers of the Labour movement in that Stale. In the Queensland Hansard, No. 3, of the current session, page 203, he is reported as having referred to the Victorian railways strike, and as having used these words -
Who arc the people here (in Australia) who have been continually urging on us since the war started to go in for conscription? Sir William Irvine was one. Who is he? He was at one time Premier of the State of Victoria, and he blocked the big railway strike, and did all he could to injure the working classes. This is the man who is advocating conscription.
It cannot be said that that statement has any bearing on the war or upon the defence of the Commonwealth. Yet a portion of it has been excised by the censor. According to the telegram I received from Mr. Collins, the reference to Sir William Irvine having done all he could to injure the working classes has been struck out. The telegram also states - “ Reference to Hughes struck out ; also portion reference to Ireland, and portion reference Russia, struck out.” Will any sane man in Victoria say that during the great railway strike Sir William Irvine did not injure the working classes? I do not hesitate to say that he did, yet that statement of fact was excised.
– It was not cut out of Hansard, was it ?
– No, but out of a report of his speech published in pamphlet form for distribution. Mr. Collins says that he desired to have his speech, as reported in Hansard, reprinted by the Government Printing Office, and that these statements were cut out of it. Mr. Collins is not an Irishman, but an Englishman. He has a son fighting at the front, but because he referred, in the course of his speech, to the situation in Ireland, and made some reference to Russia, the censor exercised the stupid and dangerous powers conferred upon him by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to excise these statements. This is an intolerable state of affairs. If the referendum campaign is not conducted on different lines, then I fear very much for the peace and good government of the Commonwealth. If our people cannot get a fair deal in respect to our boasted freedom of the press of Australia, then they are going to take such action as will prevent others from taking action.
– Cock-a-doodle-do !
– I wish I could view as light-heartedly as the honorable senator appears to do the impending industrial troubles of Australia. The Conservative press of the Commonwealth, including the Melbourne Argus and the Brisbane Courier, have not learned the despicable art of suppression to such an extent as the so-called Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, has done. The instructions issued to censors were read in another place this morning by Mr. Finlayson. They specifically set out that nothing must be printed or published that might be an affront to Mr. Hughes.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable senator has his own view of this matter, but let me give him the views of several who have written to me with regard to it.
– Will the honorable senator read the instructions to which he has referred?
– Has the honorable senator a copy of the instructions?
– They were read in another place this morning, and Senator Pearce was in the gallery at the time.
– I want to know whether the honorable senator has a copy of those instructions from which he can quote.
– Like Mr. Hughes, the honorable senator merely wants to know what suits his own purpose.
– No; I should like to know the greatest extreme to which the honorable senator would go. We have not yet heard it.
– No matter to what extremes I might go. I would never go as far as Mr. Hughes has in this policy of suppression.
– The censors are under the direction, not of Mr. Hughes, but of the Minister for Defence. The honorable senator should direct his artillery at the Minister, and shake him up.
– I shall not do so, because I do not think he is responsible. I do not think he knows what is going on. He was not aware that, because the Sydney Sun of the 6th September last published a report of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council of which Mr. Hughes did not approve, together with an addendum stating that he intended to remain in Sydney that night, the Prime Minister threatened to close it down unless an apology was published. Further, the Minister for Defence was not aware that the Inter-State parcels of the Sydney Sun containing that report were commandeered on reaching Melbourne and Brisbane. He was not responsible for that The responsibility rested with Mr. Hughes. I know that Senator Pearce has no more control over these matters than I have.
We all know what elaborate preparations have been made for conducting the referendum campaign in the interests of the conscriptionists. I propose to make a quotation from a letter which I have received, and while ] shall refrain from giving the name of the writer, I will show it to the Minister for Defence privately as a guarantee of my bona fides. The writer of this letter says: -
Dear Sir, - I wish to bring under your notice the whole of the plan which W. M. Hughes is going to foist upon the Commonwealth to mislead and “gag” the people by means of the coming press campaign. Mr.- of a Sydney paper, he is sending to Melbourne to direct affairs, at nothing a week, you can bet. Mr.– , of Sydney, has been engaged at £10 per week to look after New South Wales - mainly the provincial papers. His office is to be on the sixth floor of the Commonwealth Bank, and to have a staff. These men are being lent by their employers until after the plebiscite. I have seen the whole of the secret instructions. They are to be in daily touch with Hughes, and keep him posted by press cuttings and wires. Pro-conscription copy is to be sent to every paper in Australia daily. The larger provincials and dailies are to have special matter. Women’s votes are to be specially appealed to. The campaign speakers are to be boomed in advance of their visits. The more important papers “ may be induced to publish the articles.” Pictorial papers are to be well catered for.
– Who is paying for all this?
– That was the question which Captain Toombs recently addressed to Mr. Holman in the New South Wales Parliament. Mr. Holman said it was a purely Federal matter. We are anxious to know why Mr. “ Blank,” who arrived here about fourteen days ago-
– I met him.
– We all know he is here, and that, as my friend put it, he is receiving “ nothing a week, you can bet.” As a leading journalist his income would probably be between £800 and £1,000 a year.
– It would be interesting to know where some of the money for the anti-conscription movement is coming from.
– Are the conscriptionists providing out of their own pockets for all these expenses ? My correspondent goes on to say that these articles, after the issue of the writ - will be signed by apparently disinterested pressmen, who are in theemploy of the Commonwealth. A special deposit is to be lodged in the banks at the respective capitals for the press agents to “ work upon.” Salary to start from 11th inst. Please wire if this reaches you safely, and oblige.
– Does the honorable senator think that these pressmen will work upon the deposits to which he has referred ?
– Like the honorable senator, I have had a little experience as a country “ ink-slinger,” and I believe that pressmen, like all other men, will take advantage of the best opportunities that are offering. The conscription campaign is to be financed out of the Consolidated Revenue, while the anticonscription campaign, after much cajoling and coercion, extending over a period of about twelve months, is, according to Mr. Hughes, to be allowed ‘ ‘ freedom of speech.” That freedom will exist, however, only on the surface. We know what has happened when there has been any genuine opportunity to prove the worth of the right honorable gentleman’s assurance. If the position is not altered I, for one, fear the result. We know that cartoons have also been censored. Cartoons that have been passed in New South Wales have been censored in Victoria, and others which appeared in the Brisbane weekly newspapers have not been allowed to appear in the Sydney press. I appreciate the situation in this respect. I do not expect uniformity of action on the part of the respective censors. Uniformity may not be possible where every one is trying to go his own road, but a definite policy should be laid down with the object of securing something approaching uniformity. The Brisbane newspapers have loyally abided by the dictates of the censors, but recently, I believe, some trouble has arisen because instructions are being rained down upon them to such an extent that the” newspaper authorities are coming to the conclusion that it is futile to endeavour to act in accordance with them. Cartoons have been censored that have had no bearing on any phase of the war, but which have simply referred to Mr. Hughes. They have referred to him as the Prime Minister, and as a public man, who should not resent public criticism.
– Did they do him justice or show him mercy?
– Prior to this, I do not think that Mr. Hughes ever objected to being caricatured. When the famous full- page caricature of the Prime
Minister appeared in the Bulletin - a cartoon in which he was depicted going abroad blowing up his balloon, and returning with the balloon burst, and Hughes burst with it - he was highly enraged, and told the censor concerned that it should not have been passed.
– I agree with him.
– I think it was an excellent cartoon. The deputy censors have said to artists who have waited upon them with cartoons, “ It is no good, these cartoons will not be published; they are a personal affront to Mr. Hughes, and cannot therefore be allowed.” Colonel McColl, who, I believe, is the chief censor in Victoria, indorsed the sentiments, of his sub-censors, and when an appeal was made to the Minister for Defence, that honorable senator would not even listen to it or look at the cartoons concerned. He refused to do so, because he knew that they concerned the Prime Minister. He knew what his authority was worth where any matter affecting the Prime Minister was concerned. Another cartoon which was censored was entitled “ Fat’s Dummy.” In this Mr. Hughes was depicted as a ventriloquist’s dummy, manipulated by a typical capitalist. There was no reference in it to the war. Why should such a cartoon be turned down 1 Still another cartoon, entitled “ The Traitor,” founded on the picture of the same name in the National Gallery, and which depicted Mr. Hughes being denounced by honorable members of both Houses of Parliament, was likewise censored. We have reached a state of despotism such as was never before conceived as possible in Australia. As I stated last night, Mr. Hughes, during the last month or so, has by his suppression of free speech, easily out-iceberged Irvine. Unless the Government take such action as will show that they recognise the seriousness of the position, I fear that the friendly feeling which has for so many years characterized our inward life will not oe continued. A great discrepancy has occurred between the actions of censors, not only within the same State, bat within the same town. I know of one instance where a remark or part of a speech was excised by the censor when it was presented for publication in the Daily Standard, Brisbane, on 4th August.
– The honorable senator has occupied his full time.
– I am rather glad that the motion has been submitted, because it gives me an opportunity to say something in regard to the censorship. Senator Ferricks to-day has made some very wild and whirling statements, many of which, I am confident, will prove on investigation to be just about as well ‘ founded as his allegations in regard to the resolutions in Adelaide.
– They are pretty serious if they are as true as those other allegations.
– It is a fact that there is a censorship; and every country which is at war makes a censorship one of its war preparations. Surely we are not children that we should be expected to believe that our enemies are all in enemy countries. We have enemy spies and traitors here who would sell this country and hand it over to the Germans to-morrow if they could. Any country which loses sight of such facts and dangers, is foolish, and stands unarmed before its enemies; and it is, therefore, our duty to see that the press,, and the facilities for passing communications through the country or from the country, should not be made use of for enemy purposes. Senator Ferricks has spoken to-day as if there were no such thing as war - as if we were at peace. The indignation shown, based on what I know it to be based, would be quite legitimate if we were at peace ; but we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are at war. If the enemy within our gates - hostile to us and the Empire, and to the cause of the Allies - can use our press our post-office, our telegraphic service, and all similar means, for the prosecution of the German cause, we might as well allow the German soldier here, and leave the German spy and the paid agent with full opportunity to advocate the cause of their country.
– What have personal cartoons to do with the war ?
– I shall come to that all in good time. I know that the honorable senator does not desire to hear too much about this phase of the question, but I must deal with it. It is a phase that honorable senators constantly lose sight of, and they speak as if we had no war and no enemies - as if German money were not being spent in America to poison the minds of the people there against Great Britain, in the same way as she is prepared to spend money here for a similar purpose. I know that Germany is prepared to do such work, and that money has been spent, and is being spent, here witu that object.
– Do you suggest that Labour organizations are getting German’ money %
– That is the inference all along, and it is a dastardly suggestion.
– My inference is that, knowing the enemy will do this, we have to exercise such censorship as will prevent it- -that is the inference and no other. This, I say, is done by every country that has an enemy and is at war. I quite agree that the censorship regulations should have regard to the due liberty of the press and freedom of speech - that the rules should always be governed by the main consideration thatthey are aimed at the enemy and not at our own people and our own institu:tions. It is obvious that no matter how these rules may be drawn up they have to be administered bv human beings; and there must be from time to time faulty administration. But while, as I say, the censorship is aimed at the enemy we must realize that the enemy will use all available channels of communication if he has the opportunity. Further, there is always a number of misguided individuals who are not enemies, but who, many of them, have a “bee in their bonnet,” or are fanatics of one kind and another, with particular fads or fancies which bring them within the censorship regulations. Such people, if not regulated, will unconsciously - not with malice aforethought, but in pursuance of their particular fad or fancy - actually play the game of the enemy. It is a fact that a nation at war has to rely very largely on public opinion; and the more democratic a nation is, the more reliance there is on that influence. Therefore, an enemy who has to deal with a country on a different political status - it may be democratic, or approaching the autocratic - seeks to disunite the people with a view to harassing their power of offensive, and one method is the influencing of public opinion. If given the opportunity, such an enemy will disseminate facts, fancies, or statements which will have the effect of disrupting public opinion, and causing dissension and disunion.
– Is there any element of German influence in this country that would “ cut any ice” at all?
– I am absolutely sure there is.
– The Minister for Defence will find behind him men who desire to see the war prolonged.
– I take it that Senator Barnes asked the question with a view to obtaining some information, and I can tell him that this much-abused censor has already held up a circular issued this year- from Berlin to the German press representatives in* Australia. That circular informed these representatives how they could affect public opinion in this country in order to defeat the results of the Paris Economic Conference resolutions.
– Are those press correspondents still in the position to do any damage ?
– They are not; they are safely in a certain place.
– Are they interned ?
– Long ago, and the document I have mentioned is in our possession. I think these facts ought to prove convincing to Senator Ferricks and others.
– That is the legitimate function of a censor; but how about f e Trades Hall?
– We cannot be sure that we have got all the instructions that have been issued to such representatives in Australia, or that we have got all the representatives; but what I have said has been done. One way of interfering with the conduct of the war is to create dissension as to the objects of the war, and the censorship has to be directed to prevent that. Let us remember what happened when our Forces were being sent overseas at an earlier period of the conflict. There was a time when these seas were not clear of enemy shins, and the public were keen to know when the transports in which their friends and relatives were would leave our shores. In that case we had to interfere with the freedom of the press.
– Nobody objected to that.
– No, but there was objection to other Government action that was quite as justifiable. Indeed, objection was raised to the action of the Government in regard to the transports, and I have some of the criticism in my office at this moment. There is no doubt that there were many people who objected to the Government preventing the announcement of the time and place of the departure of the transports. But the public did not know what we knew, namely, that German vessels were within striking distance. To the public the Government action looked foolish; that is, it appeared foolish not to allow people to know the date of departure, and to see their friends off to the war. As I say, we knew that the German fleet was then in striking distance of Port Melbourne.
– They are not now, are they?
– No; but it is not long since a German raider got into the Atlantic, and attacked and sunk a number of merchant ships, though the fact was not known generally until captured vessels began to arrive at New York and elsewhere. Government action, such as I have described, has very often to be taken for the protection of our own people, and it ‘ all means interference with the freedom of the press and with the liberty of the subject, though, of course, in a perfectly justifiable manner.
– But the passing of telegrams between one private citizen and another does not call for that kind of action.
– Conceivably it may. A Government is charged with the responsibility of conducting the war. If some private citizens form the opinion that the war should not be carried on, and they begin a conspiracy to prevent the Government carrying it on, is the Government to sit back and allow those people to use the postal and telegraph services to further their own ends? If so, that is not my conception of government. I believe that a Government in possession of these benches has a right to conduct a war in the way it thinks best for the country.
– Do you justify the actions of the censor that I have enumerated?
– The honorable senator has enumerated so many that I should like to inquire into some of them of which I have now heard for the first time. It seems remarkable that the honorable senator should have had these facts in his possession all this time and not have brought them under my notice. The honorable senator has said that the two resolutions at Adelaide were not published, but in the Age of 11th September I find a full report of the Adelaide Conference, including both resolutions.
– And they appeared in the Sydney newspapers.
– Hughes’ authorized statement !
– Senator Ferricks made another allegation which is not correct. He said that a Labour manifesto, the publication of which was prevented, had been published by the Argus.
– In effect, yes.
– In effect ; but the honorable senator is inaccurate. The publication in the Argus was also censored ; it was not a full report of the manifesto. The Argus was supplied by somebody belonging to the national executive of the Anti-Conscription Conference with a copy of the manifesto, and it was submitted by the Argus to the censor. That official cut out certain portions, and sent it to the Deputy Chief Censor for confirmation. Next morning the Argus came out with the portions censored - not the whole manifesto, as Senator Ferricks would have us believe. The Deputy Chief Censor brought the manifesto to me to ascertain whether he was right in censoring it, and I told him that he was, and that he had to censor some more. I do not blame the censor, but take the full responsibility myself. That is how it came about that the manifesto was censored to a greater extent than was the Argus publication.
– Was that the manifesto in which they threatened revolution ?
– They said a lot of things that I shall not advertise by repeating here. Now as to the allegations regarding the holding up of telegrams. Mr. Grayndler complained to Mr. Hughes that certain telegrams were held up. The Prime Minister communicated the facts to me. There was one allegation that a telegram to Mr. John MacNeil, the Secretary to the Australian Workers’ Union at Ballarat, was held up. It concerned a number of men working in the Ballarat district. Mr. Grayndler told the Prime Minister that it was held up by the censor. I made a full investigation into the matter, and found that the censor never saw the telegram in question. It was mislaid in some way in the telegraphoffice, and the authorities there have not yet been able to discover how it was mislaid. I made full inquiries into the allegation that the telegrams were held up by the censor, and I found that only one telegram was held up in that way. I do not propose to make that telegram public, but I am prepared to tell any member of the Senate what it contains, and I venture to say that when he hears it he will agree that the censor was justified in holding up that telegram until he found out what was meant by it, because as worded it was open to a very dubious construction.
– Was that a telegram to or from Mr. Grayndler?
– I am not sure, but Ifeel certain that Mr. Grayndler, upon considering the construction of the telegram would agree that it is open to a peculiar interpretation.
– Does the Minister not think that the censors are somewhat supersensitive?
– Upon reconsideration, I think that Mr. Grayndler did not send this telegram, but that it was sent to him. It was the only one that I could find that was held up.
– Did the Minister say that he is prepared to permit honorable senators to see that telegram privately ?
– Yes, I am prepared to let Senator Ferricks or any other member of the Senate see it.
– The censorship of that telegram might be quite legitimate, but what about the censorship of other telegrams to which I have referred, which had no connexion with the war?
– I do not know anything about them.
– No, I thought the Minister did not.
– This is the first time I have heard the allegation that such telegrams have been held up, and I shall make inquiries into it. I did hear that Mr. Grayndler had complained that telegrams which he received or sent were held up, and upon inquiry I could only find the one to which I have referred, and which the censor was justified in holding up until he knew what was meant by it.
– He was not justified in holding up some of the telegrams that have been referred to by Senator Ferricks.
– In view of the fact that while it was alleged that a telegram sent to Mr. MacNeil was held up by the censor, and investigations proved that it was not, I am not prepared, without inquiry, to admit that the other telegrams which have been referred to by Senator Ferricks were held up by the censor.
– If they were, drastic action is called for.
– If they were, it was certainly not justified. Senator Ferricks has referred to the censorship of a speech made by Mr. Collins in the Queensland Parliament. It was not its publication in the Queensland Hansard that was censored, but a reprint of it from that Hansard. The honorable senator has said that some portion of the speech, referring to Sir William Irvinewas censored. The censorship of that speech was shown to me and I never saw any reference to Sir William Irvine struck out; but there were references to Ireland, England the Government of Great Britain, and Russia struck out and with my approval.
– The Minister heard the telegram I received from Mr. Collins ?
– I did. The portions of the speech which I saw censored contained no references to Sir William Irvine. I should say that there was no need to censor such references, but I repeat that I approve of the censorship of the references to Ireland, England, the Government of Great Britain, and Russia, The mere fact that these references were contained in a speech delivered in Parliament constituted no reason why they should receive different treatment from any other statements.
– Can the Minister explain why the Labour Call was prevented by the censor frommaking reference to the pay of Russian soldiers, whilst the Victorian School Paper, circulating amongst the children of the schools, was allowed to publish the same information ?
– I suppose that the Victorian School Paper was believed to be of so harmless a nature that no demand was made for its submission to the censor. I frankly admit that there will be differences in the administration of the censorship, because we have six censors one in each State, with a staff for each. They have the same set ofrules, but these may, in the circumstances, be given a different interpretation. There have been shoals of instructions issued, withdrawn or amended, from time to time as the nature of the war has changed. For instance, what it was absolutely essential should be censored when we had German ships on our coast would not be in the same category now. Any one who is prepared to consider the question dispassionately, will admit that, a few months ago the war, so far as Australia is concerned, became more tinged with political colour than it had previously been since its commencement. As the censorship must change to meet the varying circumstances of the war, it has naturally become more important to have regard to political statements and conditions during the past few months than at any other period during the war. I know that this has caused much of the dissatisfaction and criticism which has found expression from time to time. I want to tell honorable senators now exactly what is the present position as regards censorship. These are practically the. whole of the instructions now in existence with regard to the censorship -
The publication of arguments, resolutions, and motions, &c, for and against conscription and the referendum, and adverse criticism or support of the Government’s policy, is to be freely allowed, provided that the publication of such matter -
Does not reflect on and is not offensive to Great Britain or any of our Allies.
Does not incite to the breach of any Federal or State law or to any sort of strike.
Would not be a contravention of any of the provisions of the War Precautions Acts and the regulations made thereunder.
– That will be pretty hard to dodge.
– The honorable senator is quite mistaken, because the paragraph has not the bearing which he thinks it has. The instructions continue -
Generally allow greatest freedom and latitude of expression and publication to the press, especially with regard to statements that are capable of easy contradiction, explanation, or disproof.
Cartoons should be dealt with in accordance with the spirit of the above instructions.
Referring now to paragraph c, what it means is that persons are not allowed to do through the press what they are not allowed to do in any other way. What I mean is that the War Precautions Act, for instance, forbids trading with the enemy, and paragraph c means that a person is not allowed through the press to advertise enemy goods or to assist in trading with the enemy. The War Precautions Act forbids certain things which have no connexion with the Military Service Referendum Bill, or the proposed referendum, but are connected with dealings with the enemy. If paragraphs a and b stood by themselves, the censor would not have the power to prevent what he now has the power to prevent, namely, the use of the press to defeat the provisions of the War Precautions Act. On the subject of the Military Service Referendum Bill, and the referendum campaign, there are only two instructions operative, and these are contained in paragraphs a and b. Paragraph c has no reference to the referendum campaign, but refers generally to dealing with the war, and its limitations have existed throughout with little or no objection. In paragraph 6, there is a reference to a “strike,” but what is meant is not a strike for industrial purposes, but a strike for the purpose of dealing with the referendum campaign. Paragraphs a and b are the rules applying to the campaign, and under them the censor is forbidden to allow the publication of incitements to strike for the purpose of defeating the operation of the Military Service Referendum Bill, and the object of the Government, which would, in any case, be illegal as a breach of the Arbitration law. These are the instructions now sent throughout Australia, and upon which the Government propose to stand during the referendum campaign. I venture to say that any one who desires to fight the question honestly without interference and with full freedom will be able to do so under these instructions. Why should it be necessary, in order to fight out this question, to insult or offend any of our Allies, or to incite or suggest a breach of the law? Apart from these limitations, there will be freedom in the conduct ofthe campaign. No reasonable man would ask for more. No member of the Senate would suggest that theAllies, who are fighting with us to maintain our freedom as well as their own, should, by those advocating or opposing conscription, be subjected to offensive or insulting references. There is surely sufficient for argument in the merits of compulsory service or its demerits without recourse to that kind of thing.
– Before the honorable senator concludes, will he give the Senate an assurance that the instances referred to by Senator Ferricks will be investigated.
– I give the Senate that assurance. I shall have inquiries made. The telegrams to which Senator Ferricks . has referred were not stopped within my knowledge and I shall find out whether they were stopped, and if they were, under what conditions, and by what authority.
– Will the Minister stop there ?
– Certainly not. If it is found that any one has acted in defiance or in excess of the instructions, he will be dealt with.
– I think it necessary to put Senator Ferricks right upon one point. He said that a resolution had been carried at the Adelaide Conference by means of a trick by the Premier of South Australia. I do not think that statement should go unchallenged. As a duly accredited delegate to the Conference, the Premier of South Australia had as much right to move any resolution he pleased as had any other member of the Conference. If there is one gentleman in this country who ought to leave the Adelaide Conference alone, he is Senator Ferricks.
– Not at all. I was very pleased to have been there.
– I think so.
– Order! That matter is not under discussion.
– Senator Ferricks referred to it, but I have’ no wish to contravene your ruling.
– The honorable senator will remember that I prevented Senator Ferricks from dealing with the matter.
– Very well, sir. Senator Ferricks made another incorrect statement regarding the Adelaide Conference. He was wrong in saying that the resolution was not published in the Labour newspaper of South Australia. The resolution has been published. It was published in the Daily Herald.
– Of Saturday?
– No; on Monday.
– Yes, when Mr. Hughes gave the authorized statement. It was not published in Saturday’s issue, although the first resolution was published in that issue.
– I have the Daily Herald here, and it contains reports of the transactions of the Conference from day to day. These reports had to be submitted, I presume, to the censor in the same way as other matter supplied for publication, and the publication consequently took some little time. Senator Ferricks does not know whether Mr. Hughes authorized the publication or not. I may say that I have every sympathy with the action that the honorable senator has taken this afternoon. I agree that the matter he has mentioned should not have been censored as it was, and I find no fault with the honorable senator for bringing the grievance before the Senate. I have here the report of the Conference in the Daily Herald, Adelaide, dated Monday, 11th September, 1916. It begins with this resolution -
That this conference supports the taking of the referendum, but is opposed to the conscription of human life.
Another Adelaide newspaper, the Advertiser, of the same .date, contains a long article from its Melbourne correspondent. I understand that no papers, except the Labour journal, were represented there, so this information in the Advertiser must have been obtained from some other channel than was contemplated by the Labour people in South Australia. The Advertiser states that two resolutions were carried at the Adelaide Conference, one being to the following effect : -
That this conference expresses its confidence in the Prime Minister and the Federal Labour Government.
– That is not the motion.
– The other resolution was as follows : -
That this conference approves of the referendum, but is opposed to the conscription of human life.
– The first resolu.tion quoted was not the one adopted. That resolution thanked the Prime Minister. You can thank him without expressing confidence in him.
– The resolution about which the honorable senator is complaining is the one having reference to the taking of a referendum on the conscription of human life, and the honorable senator has not strengthened his case by any means. No man in this Senate desires censorship to be exercised over anything that is not injurious to the wellbeing of Australia, and, on the other hand, no loyal subject of this country would desire the publication of anything that might be of benefit to our enemies at the present time. My sympathy is with the honorable senator concerning the telegrams which he has read, but the Minister has promised that that matter will be looked into. Surely, in view of this fact, there is no need to make statements that are not strictly in accordance with the facts of the case.
– I .have no desire to contribute lengthily to this debate, but I want to bring under the notice of the Minister for Defence an instance in which the censor erred in the opposite direction. Some time ago the Fremantle Trades Hall Association had a notice of motion on its agenda-paper calling a general strike in the event of conscription being put into operation. That notice of motion was published widely, in spite of the censor, and in course of time the Association discussed the motion, which was defeated by thirty-five votes to five; but, strange to say, no notice was then taken of it, although representatives of the press were present. My feeling is that if we brought down the archangels from Heaven to preside over the censorship to-day, they would not please everybody. I am only sorry that there has not been a closer censorship over events that have happened within our party, because very accurate reports have appeared concerning the secret Labour Caucus. God help the secrecy of the Caucus if that is what happens.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to discuss that subject under cover of this motion.
– I am aware, Mr. President, that I am transgressing, but then there are faults on every side, and I think that if those who are strongly advocating censorship would only search their hearts, they might discover that, after all, there is little necessity for censorship at all.
– Have you not some grievance about liberty of speech at Yarrabank meetings?
– I am very glad of the opportunity to refer to that matter. The Yarra-bank is one of those places where there is no censorship at all. I went down to that classic resort recently, and was present at a meeting of about 7>000 people, presided over by Dr. Maloney. Having heard so much about freedom of speech, I asked him if I might say a word on the other side. In my innocence, and accustomed as I have been to public meetings throughout the country for the last thirty years, I thought that I would, at least, be vouchsafed the opportunity to say something. When I asked Dr. Maloney, he said, “ Come up here, Senator Lynch,” so I pressed my way through the crowd, some advocates of free speech meanwhile hooting me and advising me to go to Germany. But when I got near the platform, and asked Dr. Maloney if I might say something on the other side, he said, “No, brother.” For the first time in my Australian experience I was refused the opportunity of speaking at a public meeting.
– Order! The honorable senator is, no doubt, very interesting, but he is out of order in referring to that subject at this stage.
– Senator Ferricks has brought under the notice of the Senate a matter of very great importance, not only to those who, like himself and myself> are conscientiously opposed to the Government’s proposals, but to everybody, whatever may be their way of thinking, for it is not a question of censorship as affecting the Labour press only; the matter affects every newspaper in the Commonwealth of Australia. It appears, however, that some special attention is being paid to the Labour press in this country. This was evidenced by the raid lately upon the Trades Hall in this city, at the instance of the military censor.
– It is a good thing for the country that we have Trades Halls.
– Yes, it is a good thing for every working man and woman in Australia that we have such institutions as Trades Halls in our several centres of population. I turn to those institutions when I want light and leading to guide me. Recently a conference was held at the Melbourne Trades Hall; all the States of the Commonwealth but one were represented. Matters of considerable importance were discussed at that conference, and certain decisions were arrived at. In the furtherance of the business that had been transacted, it was decided in the interests of the anticonscription campaign, and on behalf of the industrialists of Australia, to issue a manifesto. It would appear, however, that a mistake was made by the drafters of the manifesto, because it was not submitted to the censor for approval. Evidently the Minister for Defence was made aware of this, but instead of exercising common sense, and giving some fair play, which might be expected from a Labour Minister, what was done? At the Trades Hall the officials are engaged, during the whole day, in the various offices, administering the affairs of the different organizations, and there is telephonic communication, as well as a frequent tramway service, between the military barracks and the Trades Hall.
– And from the Trades Hall to the Minister.
– As I said, there is an easy means of communication between the military barracks and the Trades Hall, but the military authorities instead of doing their work in the daylight, came down to the private residence of Mr. Holloway, secretary of this organization, when he had retired, and informed him that they wanted the manifestoes that were to be distributed throughout the States of the Commonwealth. He was indisposed to let them have them, but they warned him that if he did not, they would break into the Trades Hall. In order that they should not destroy property at the Trades Hall, he accompanied them to that building and gave them possession of the pamphlets. Then they journeyed to the office of the Labour Call, where they secured possession of documents, and took away tho forme containing the type from which the circulars were printed. And notwithstanding the statement by the Minister of Defence, I affirm that the pith or that manifesto was published in the Argus When that fact was brought under the notice of the honorable gentleman, he at once became a super-censor, and above him to-day there appears to be yet another censor, in the person of the Prime Minister. j.his censorship in respect of anti-conscription is irritating to men who have helped as far as they possibly could “to build up the movement with which we are associated. How, in the name of goodness, are we to put our case against the Government if such rigid censorship is to be exercised ? The censorship does not apply only to the Labour press, because I recently brought under the attention of the Minister complaints by the provincial ,press of Victoria as to the way in which their news matter was being censored. A very glaring case was submitted to him more than a week ago, a case in which a newspaper which is not run in the interests of Labour made very serious complaints because of the paradoxical way in which it was treated as compared with the treatment accorded to city journals.
– That trouble has been rectified.
– That circumstance in itself- shows that the censorship has not been what it should be.
– It merely proves that it is human, and liable to err.
– The complaint has been rectified in regard to the country press generally.
– I brought under the Minister’s notice the case of a provincial journal-
– The complaint was not confined to that journal, bub applied to all country newspapers, and it has since been rectified.
– Then the Minister might, as a matter of courtesy, have officially communicated the fact to me, in’ order that I might reply to the newspaper proprietors who had written to me concerning the censorship. Now, the Sydney Bulletin is a very violent advocate of conscription. Yet that paper is loud in its complaints of the censorship. It does not know from day to day what comments it will be allowed to make upon the various questions with which it deals.
– Did the honorable senator read last week’s issue ?
– No, but I read the previous issue, in which the position is summed up very fairly. As the Bulletin expresses my view of the censorship, I propose to quote from a leading article in its issue of 14th September.
– Cannot we take it as read 1
– The honorable senator may take a good deal as read, but I intend to get these extracts into Hansard, because I feel strongly upon this question. The article, which is headed ‘”’ The Principles of the Censorship,” reads -
Ordinarily the press is the guardian of the public interest. If a wrong is being done, it is to the press that the discoverer of the wrong takes his knowledge. Or he tells his tale upon a platform to half-a-dozen people, perhaps, and the press tells it to half-a-dozen millions. The public does not know now the things it i.? not permitted to know. That is to say, newspapers are not permitted to tell what things arc censored, and there can be no protest against it. The public must not be informed that a wrong is proceeding. This is a power too vast to hand over to party politicians. It is a power which at least should be subservient to the High Court; and no regulation or instruction should have any force until it had the approval of a Judge of the Court. No work of equal importance confronts the distinguished Bench, lt is not judicial work, perhaps, in the ordinary way; but it is work of exactly the same character as that which the High Court wag created to perform.
If the censorship were vested in the Justices of the High Court, the people of Australia would be safer than they are, and newspaper proprietors would secure a much fairer deal. Before resuming my seat I wish to say, with all the sincerity of my soul, that I do deplore the attitude taken up by the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister, who, whenever anybody makes out a case against the censorship, or against anything pertaining to their administration of Departments, emphasize the fact - as if we were not aware of it - that we are at war, and go out of their way by innuendo to charge certain sections of the community with being subject to German influence and in the receipt of German pay. Such innuendoes are damnable and despicable, and if the Minister for Defence, or William Morris Hughes, charges me or anybody with whom I am associated with such heinous offences, I shall certainly do something to make them sit up. They themselves hold an honest opinion, and surely in this Australia of ours there is room enough for us all to have an honest difference of opinion without having recourse to such outrageous statements. The Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister have outraged a big section of the community by these innuendoes. I hope that they will discontinue making them from this time onwards.
– I would not have risen but for the circumstance that Senator Ferricks, who wishes to reply to some of the statements which have been made during the course of this debate, has been suddenly called out of the chamber. To myself and to a number of honorable senators the allegations which he made were positively alarming. The most grave of them, I regret to say, was not touched by the Minister for Defence. I confess that I was surprised at this, because I suppose that Senator Ferricks has some reason for making the statements which he did, especially those in regard to cartoons. One allegation was that a cartoon had been published which represented the Prime Minister in a certain position, and that that gentleman immediately wanted to know why the censor had allowed it to pass. Evidently, if it had been submitted to the Prime Minister himself, it would not have been published. That is the only inference one can draw from the statement made by Senator Ferricks. If we are going to have a censorship to that extent in Australia the forthcoming campaign will not be conducted in the ordinary way.
– But did the Prime Minister do what has been alleged?
– Other statements were made in regard to the censorship of cartoons. It was asserted, for example, that certain cartoons were submitted to the censor, who said, ‘ ‘ You know very well that these are adverse to the Prime Minister, and, consequently, I cannot allow you to publish them.” I wish that the Minister for Defence had dealt with that charge, because it constitutes the gravamen of the complaints made by Senator Ferricks. I can quite understand the explanation which has been offered in regard to the censorship of telegrams. I can readily conceive that the trouble may have been due to a mistake in the telegraph office. But no such explanation can be offered in regard to the cartoons.
– Would the honorable senator have a censorship of cartoons ?
– There is a censorship of cartoons.
– But would the honorable senator have any censorship of them ?
– I think so. At the same time, I do not think that there is any reason to have a censorship of cartoons which relate to political movements in Australia. If any cartoon is calculated to give assistance to the enemy I can quite understand it being censored. But whether the matter is within the knowledge of the Minister for Defence or not, no answer has been made by him to the charges which were so ably dealt with by Senator Ferricks.
– Honorable senators have thoroughly accepted and indorsed the statements made by the Minister for Defence as to the course of conduct which must be followed in regard to the censorship by a country which is at war. He laid down general principles, to which everybody will assent. But I cannot help thinking that he entirely overlooked two important matters which arise out of this discussion. In the first place, I would point out that there is a vast difference between a military and a political censorship; and, in the second, that the Government have already decided in regard to a most important matter of public policy, that it shall be removed from the parliamentary arena and transferred to the people. Both of these matters have a distinct bearing on the motion submitted by Senator Ferricks. I am quite convinced that whatever instructions have been issued by the Ministry, the censors have lately been following them to an extent which is little short of criminal, and is certainly very foolish. So great has become the restiveness of the public under the censorship as they know it to exist, that quite recently the Labour party in my own State held a meeting and practically presented an ultimatum to the Government that those who favoured this course were prepared to throw themselves heartily into the campaign in favour of conscription, provided the censorship was modified. That statement appeared in the press, otherwise I should not have known of it. There is evidence, in the minds of those who are not politically opposed to the Minister on the conscription issue, that the censorship has been carried to undue and unnecessary lengths. As one who heartily supports the Government proposal covered by the referendum, I would point out that if the censorship is exercised as it has been of late, it will be the most powerful weapon that we could have to fight, and will play right into the hands of our opponents. Senator Ferricks made certain statements about alleged cases of censorship, no doubt in good faith, but presented no evidence to substantiate his assertions in any one case. He affirmed that certain telegrams which he read out had been censored There is no evidence that the censor ever saw them. If they were censored, he should rememberthat, when a censor finds that suspicious telegrams come to or go from an individual, he may be pardoned for exercising a little extra severity with other messages passing to or from the same quarter. In this case, the Minister affirmed that he himself approved of the censoring of one telegram passing to or from Mr. Grayndler.
– Is that a reason for holding up all the others?
– Where a man is found to be connected with a telegram of such a character that the Minister not merely approves of its being censored, but offers, in the frankest possible way, to enable honorable senators to form their own independent judgment on it. he must not complain if later messages to or from him are regarded with suspicion.
– Then you justify the holding up of these telegrams’
– -No. I do not know that they have been held up. I am only stating a general principle. Communications which are more or less traitorous - and I call them traitorous if they are against the interests of this country - do not go to an individual unless there has been some prior communication making sure that. he will receive them.
– Was the telegram traitorous 1
– I do not know. The Minister said he approved of its being censored. If he thought it was one which ought not to have been sent, I assume that it was against the best interests of Australia.
– It was a wildlyworded telegram.
– If people are so careless as to send wildly-worded telegrams, they must not altogether blame the censor if he looks with undue suspicion upon their later communications.
– Senators do not wish to reflect upon Mr. Grayndler because such a telegram was sent to him.
– A telegram of that nature suggests previous correspondence.
– The fact that he received the telegram would not necessarily connect him with the contents.
– Telegrams of that kind do not pass from stranger to stranger. I accept Senator Gardiner’s statement as probably correct. If people get into the slovenly habit in a time like this of sending “ wildly- worded telegrams,” they do not stand in the same position as an ordinary citizen who is careful of what he sends.
– The Minister should state the contents after your remarks about traitorous telegrams.
– Anything deliberately intended to injure the interests of this country is traitorous. The Minister, in reading,the letter, of instructions,, mentioned the direction to the censors to prevent the publication of anything which would incite to a breach of a Federal law. I hope he will make it apply also to anything calculated to lead to a breach of a proposal which may become a Federal law. I refer to statements which amount to an incitement to people, if the Government policy should become law, to refuse to obey it. Honorable senators have talked about the censors suppressing matter that ought to be allowed to be published, but those officials are open to condemnation for not suppressing statements of that kind, because I know nothing more likely to incite a spirit approaching rebellion than that responsible people should publicly declare that, if Parliament passes a law, and a majority of the people, approve .of it, they, . with thousands of others, will resist it. The censors might reasonably ask if that is not a direct incentive to a prospective -breach of a proposed Federal law, leading to public turmoil, and, possibly, culminating in revolution. When speaking about what the censors have suppressed, honorable senators should consider what they are passing. I take a serious view of the position, because there are evidences that it will not take very much to create a very excited state of public opinion. There is, therefore, an obligation on every one to choose his words with great deliberation, considering not what effect they have upon his own mind, but the effect they may have upon minds less disciplined. . If revolutionary utterances of this nature are to be made in the coming campaign, the obligation rests upon the censors, and those controlling them, to see that they are not circulated by means of the press throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
– Senator Millen’s remarks confirm in a measure the statement of the Minister for Defence that those responsible for the censorship are carrying out their duties impartially.- Senator Ferricks called attention to what he believed to be tyranny on the part of the censors, and used some very strong language in so doing, and Senator Millen has castigated them in language not quite so strong. These facts confirm the Minister’s view that the censors are doing the best they can, for it is evident that they are pleasing neither side. Some men have been prone to throw the whole responsibility for the censorship upon the Prime Minister. His burden is quite heavy enough as it is, although he may be quite willing to carry any additional burden that may properly be placed on him. We know that the Minister for Defence has never sought to escape the responsibility for the conduct and control of the censorship system in this country. That .matter is entirely in his hands. It should, therefore, be remembered, in justice to the Prime Minister, that we have in this chamber a Minister directly responsible to Parliament for any grievances honorable senators may have against the censorship. I have a little grievance also. I have in my hand an article against conscription, presenting the case from the Australian point of view, and written by Randolph Bedford, one of Australia’s best known and ablest journalists. It contains some very fine arguments and some unanswerable facts, but for reasons best known to themselves the censors have not allowed it to be published. Senator Ferricks made some very serious statements. They have been in a measure answered by the Minister, but the matter can in no circumstances be allowed to remain where it is.
He said a number of telegrams had not been delivered, and when more than one is treated in that way the matter goes far beyond the realm of coincidence. Senator Ferricks must accept the responsibility for his statements, and be prepared to hand them over to the Minister for Defence. He should invite the Minister to make the fullest and most complete investigation to ascertain if telegrams of the . character he read out this afternoon have been Stopped. If they have been the Minister will be doing only what the Senate expects of him if he deals in the most drastic manner with the person responsible for their suppression.
– I now ask Senator Ferricks to give me those telegrams, or a list of them.
– The Minister can do nothing fairer. In justice to the Minister, and in the interests of that freedom of speech which Senator Ferricks is anxious to preserve, the honorable senator should take every step necessary to insure the fullest inquiry ‘into the matter. That can be done only by supplying the Minister with copies of the wires.
– He can have them.
– I am glad to hear it. The honorable senator may rest assured that if his statements are found correct I shall go as far as he can possibly desire me to go in seeing that the existing censorship conditions are modified during the coming campaign. I have sufficient confidence in Senator Pearce to believe that he will take drastic action against those found responsible for the suppression of the telegrams quoted. If the facts are as alleged, nothing short of drastic action will satisfy the great majority of honorable senators.
– I expected the Minister for Defence to make some comment on my statement regarding the engagement of a prominent journalist and staff in Melbourne for the furtherance of the conscription campaign.
– What has that to do with the censorship?
– Because those people ‘will get certain material before the public, whereas we, owing to the drastic censorship prevailing, will not be able to present our side of the case. I raised the question not so much in relation to what has passed as in relation to what I fear in the future. Mr. Grayndler has been to Sydney, Mr. Stewart has been to Melbourne, and I have come from Adelaide. The Minister can have copies of the telegrams, but the messages are now of no value. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of traitorous comment, and the Minister for Defence stated that he had approved of the censoring of Mr. Collins’ remarks concerning Russia and Ireland. Mr. Collins complained that his remarks about Mr. Hughes had also been cut out. Mr. Collins was reported, on page 202 of thu Queensland Hansard of the 29th August to have said regarding Ireland -
When I heard the honorable member for East Toowoomba talking about justice, my mind went back to the commencement of the war, when a man belonging to the wealthy classes of Great Britain organized against giving a certain part of the British Empire the same rights as we in Queensland possess to-day. He raised a volunteer army, and he was the cause of that insurrection which took place in Ireland. Talk about British justice. We afterwards saw that man put into a position of power, and he became a member of the British Government. Whether the working classes were right or wrong in raising that insurrection against the powers that be, there was no reason to shoot men like Connolly and others.
I have nothing to say against our Russian comrades. In Queensland our Russian friends are amongst the best unionists that we have, and in many cases can show the colonials the way in industrialism and unionism. Any reference to their country is no reflection on them, for they nearly all left Russia because of the despotism there prevailing. Mr. Collins, speaking of the censorship, said -
We are getting freedom in Australia. Are we not allied with the greatest despotic country in the world? Where have they ever had to put up a greater fight for freedom than in Russia? The graves in Siberia will tell you of the men who fought for freedom in that country. That is ‘where we will have to go to find the graves of those who fought for freedom in Russia
Some remarks that I made at an anticonscription meeting were censored. I have here a censored proof of the report which was to have been published in the Brisbane Baily Standard of 5th August -
Senator Ferricks said that nowhere were the people consulted [in regard to the war]. The foreign service . and the diplomatic service of Great Britain had the right alone to make treaties. Before any man could get into that service he had to have a private income of not less than £400 a year and blue blood in his veins. It did not matter if the blood was illegitimate or not, and very often it was. Those blue-blooded men were sent to alien countries to represent the British Empire, where they soon got out of touch with the people of their own country; but that was what the people ‘had to put up with, and showed how much Democracy there was in warfare.
There is nothing there that reflects greatly on the British Empire, yet the blue pencil was run through the passage.
– It was done to improve the speech.
– That may be the honorable senator’s opinion; I do not think it an advantage to suppress the truth in that way. In the early stages of the war, trouble was caused by the authorities preventing the people from learning the truth about it. At Gallipoli the. Australian volunteer soldiers put up a wonderful achievement. They saved the Russians, who were being hotly pressed by the Austrians and the Germans, from a flank attack by the Turks. I stated in my speech that by holding the Turks at bay at Gallipoli the Australians had saved the’ Russian conscript hordes from annihilation. The word “hordes “ was struck out,although it means merely migrating crowds or bands, and fighting armies are migratory. The censor, in the exercise of his discretion, refused to allow the word “ hordes “ to be applied to the Russians in a report published by the Brisbane Standard, a Labour anti-conscription journal, but on 5th’ August the censor permitted the words to be published in a’ pro-conscriptionist journal. A correspondent, tilting at me, was there permitted to write-:
I had the honour of attending an anticonscriptionist meeting last night, and there was a remark made by one of the speakers which impressed me above all others. During the course of Mr. Ferricks’ speech, a considerable portion of which was a tirade against the military systems of other nations, in order to demonstrate how superior the voluntary system is, he informed his hearers that it was the gallant Australians at Gallipoli who saved the Russian conscription “ hordes “ fromannihilation.
I trust your report of this speech will record this word “ hordes,” because it is a most significant one. If you remember, during the time of the terrible Armenian massacres many years ago, this was the word of contempt and abhorrence used against the “unspeakable Turks,” and their bands of assassins were known as the “Turkish hordes.” This is Mr. Ferricks’ description of the noble army that has been accomplishing such unparalleled deeds of heroism and achieving incredible victories against the. Germhun. and I hope it will be remembered by all of us when the proper time arrives. - Yours, &c. Chelmsford.
Brisbane, August 4.
It was thought quite right for a proconscription journal to speak of Russian hordes, but a Labour anti-conscription newspaper was not allowed to print the words.
– It is not a complimentary term to apply to the Russians.
– I did not mean to use it in a disrespectful sense. I speak of the Russians in Queensland as I have found them. They are men from the tips of their toes to the crowns of their heads.
– The expression . was unfortunate.
– It was an impetuous or impulsive, but I do not admit that it was an unfortunate, expression. The Russians of Queensland are good unionists, good industrialists, and good Australians. They acknowledge that they left Russia because of the despotism ruling there. It is because of that that they are opposed to conscription in Australia. They have experienced in their own country the ills of conscription. My object in moving the adjournment was to ventilate what I considered a very serious matter. Having achieved that object, I ask the permission of the Senate to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– When speaking on the adjournment motion, I spoke of a telegram sent to or from Mr. Grayndler as having been held up. This telegram was subsequently referred to by other speakers, and, as I do not wish to create a false impression regarding it, 1 make the following personal explanation : - The telegram, having been held up by the censor, was brought to me, the censor asking whether I approved of it being held up. After reading it, I told him that I approved of his action. I wish to say, however, that my mind did not receive the impression that Mr. Grayndler was disloyal, or a party to disloyalty.
Despatch of Guns - Censoring of News
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that two machine-gun sections have been sent to Broken Hill; and if so, what is the reason for so doing ?
– It is not a fact.
– I ask the Minister why is the publication of all news from Broken Hill prohibited? Is that one of the reasons for the rumours that are in circulation ?
– It is not a fact that all news from Broken Hill has been censored. There have been in circulation in this city certain very ugly rumours regarding Broken Hill, which, upon making inquiry, I found to be without foundation, and I contradicted them. My contradiction was followed by the assertion that news from Broken Hill is being censored. That assertion is as untrue as the rumours to which I have referred.
– I have seen the circulars sent out to the newspapers, telling them that they must not publish certain news coming from Broken Hill.
– That is not a fact. No such instruction has been issued.
– It is a fact. I have seen the statement. I object to the Minister’s denial.
– Senator McKissock and the Minister for Defence will have ample opportunity to ventilate this matter later. I cannot permit the further discussion of it now. It has gone beyond a mere question and answer.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Government has received information of a confidential character which it is unable to make public. It has noted that the Government of New Zealand has recently put into force the compulsory provisions of its Military Service Act.
asked the Assistant Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is -
Yes; before a permanent appointment is made.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister be good enough to provide senators with information as to the rates of pay made to officers and soldiers now fighting in the armies of the Allies?
– The following are the rates of pay in the British Army : -
No authentic information is available regarding the rates of pay of the other armies of the
Allies or the South African forces.
Motion (by Senator Buzacott) agreed to-
That all papers in connexion with the dis charge from the A.I.F. ofG. T. Currie, No. 265, 11th Battalion, A.I.F., be laid on the table of the Senate.
Paper laid on the table.
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives.
SenatorPEARCE (Western Australia) [5.20]. - I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional
Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Ido not propose toask honorable senators to pass the Bill through all stages at this sitting, but if the Standing Orders are not suspended the only stage, we shall be able to take to-day is the formal one of reading the Bill a first time. Senators are f ully aware of the contents and intentions of the Bill, and I am quite sure they have come here to-day prepared to proceedwith the debate. I am moving the suspension of the Standing Orders in order that after the first reading we may be able to proceed with the second reading, the debate on which maybe continued until a reasonable hour to-night, when, I hope, we shall have made sufficient progress to enable the Bill to be disposed of at an early hour to-morrow. It is necessary that the Bill should be passed as soon as possible. The Government desire to secure its passage this week, and that can be done while still allowing every honorable senator full opportunity to express his views. I trust, therefore, that there will be no opposition to this motion .
– I object to the suspension of the Standing Orders for the purpose of carrying this Bill beyond its first reading stage to-day. There is no urgency in the matter. Already the writ for the taking of the referendum has been issued, and the Prime Minister has said that whether the Bill be passed or not, the referendum will be taken. So that apparently the passage or rejection of the Bill will not really affect the taking of the referendum.
– If that is so, it is immaterial whether we pass the Bill through all its stages to-day or not.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to reject it on the first reading? As the Prime Minister has flouted this Parliament, and said that whether the Legislature approves of the Bill or not he intends to proceed with the referendum, we should take him at his word and reject the Bill. In any case there ought to be no hurry in dealing with this measure. The Prime Minister has not been in a hurry to consult the Senate.
– He sat all through last night in order to consult the Senate to-day by means of this Bill.
– : Some members of another place did sit all night, but the Prime Minister exercised a little more sense. I cannot see the necessity for suspending the Standing Orders on this occasion. For every proposal that comes before theSenate we are asked to suspend everything and deal with itat once. We must not keep members of another place waiting for a moment.
– Do you not wish anything said in opposition to the Bill ?
– If you do not desire to prevent discussion, do not oppose the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– Even if the Standing Orders are not suspended the Bill will still be able to pass its first reading to-day. There is no urgency to warrant the passing ofthe motion .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) put -
That this Billbe now read a first time.
The Senate divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a machinery measure, but it involves a very important principle, and that principle is contained in the question that the Bill proposes to submit to the people. The question will be -
Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this war, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?
It will be seen that in putting this momentous question to the people the Government deliberately limit the operation of their scheme to “ the term of the war.” Statements have been made that an affirmative decision upon this question will rivet militarism upon the shoulders of the people of Australia. It will not be so. After the war is over the people can revert to the position that now obtains, in which there is no provision on the statute-book for enforcing military service overseas. When the war is over the people must decide for themselves whether that provision shall appear on the statute-book. It is a matter for future decision during times of peace. The object that the Government have in view in submitting this question to the people is associated entirely with the prosecution of the war. The Government will be no party to using for industrial purposes the power which will be conferred on them by an affirmative answer to the question. Any statement to the contrary I flatly contradict.
– The Government have not a million to one chance of getting the power.
– It is easy to hold that opinion, and it is equally easy to hold the opposite opinion. In discussing this Bill we are not considering what the people’s reply to the question may be. We must consider what it involves, and it is my object to show that. Attempts have been made in the press and on the public platform to show that something sinister or something which does not appear on the surface is involved in the question to be submitted to the people. It has been claimed that once the Government are given authority to call up certain grades of persons the power will be used for some ulterior motive, whereas the sole object of the Government is the prosecution of the war, and the sole object of calling up these persons is to maintain the supply of reinforcements to our troops who are now at the front. The Government hold that they should possess this power. Some people hold that voluntary enlistment has not failed. Unfortunately the figures are an unanswerable contradiction to that assertion. The enlistments from May last have declined at a very rapid rate. In the months preceding sufficient recruits were enlisted each month to meet the number of reinforcements required - in fact, in some months there was a surplus”; but since May at no time have the numbers been equal to the number required. I am a strong believer in the voluntary system. I wish it had been possible to carry through the war under that system. I would be a much happier and much more satisfied man. I am sure that honorable senators who support the Government and support the Bill, who eventually will be found supporting the affirmative side in the referendum campaign, will be doing so with no degree of pleasure, but rather with the feeling that their position is one that they must take up, however unwillingly, owing to stern and sad necessity. That is my position. I would be very much happier if we could find reinforcements month by month without having to resort to compulsion. But there is still another answer to the contention that the voluntary enlistment method has not failed. If it is capable of doing what is required in the way of providing reinforcements month by month, no action towards compulsion need follow an affirmative answer at the referendum. Butit is obvious to any one with the least imagination that there can be no hope of success in that direction. However, if in any month the voluntary system, which will proceed side by side with the other, brings in sufficient numbers to provide the necessary reinforcements, to that extent there will not be a resort to compulsion. There has been some cavilling as to the number of reinforcements for which the Government have called. I have heard the argument put forward, and it may bo brought forward again during this debute, that the Government are asking for 16,500 recruits per month, whereas figures given by me have shown that during six weeks there was a loss of 17,000 through casualties. It is said that the casualties represent a rate of 3,000 per week, whereas the Government ask for over 4,000 recruits per week. It is thought that there is some sinister motive in asking for the greater number of recruits than the rate of casualties shows to be necessary. It is urged that we have some idea of extending our forces. ‘ I repeat what has already been stated publicly. The Government have no intention of putting new units into the field. Their intention is to keep the existing units up to their proper strength. Those who talk about the discrepancy between 17,000 casualties in six weeks and 16,500 recruits in. four weeks lose sight of the wastage that goes on apart from thebattle-field wastage. The margin asked for is required to meet that wastage which occurs before the recruits go into the battle line.
SenatorReady. - And it is not counterbalanced by the wounded who return to duty?
– No. Our experience over a period of twelve months shows that the wastage that occurs between the time of enlistment and the actual entry to the firing lino is close on 20 per cent., and as we have no guarantee thatthis rate will not continue, we must take into consideration not only the heavy wastage on the battle-field itself, but also that which occurs before our troops reach the battle-field, owing to sickness, disciplinary cases, medical unfitness - though fit when despatched - desertion, and various other causes of that kind. I am trying to anticipate points which may be raised duringthe debate, in order, if possible, to shorten the discussion. There has been some comment, particularly in the State of Victoria, as to the number of men who have been rejected as medically unfit. The number was so great as to be very disturbing, and in order to ascertain if there was any leakage in that direction, and whether men who were actually fit were being rejected as medically unfit, an inquiry was held by an independent Board of highly-qualified medical men into the cases of 600 men who, since the 1st July last, had been rejected as medically unfit. A close examination disclosed that only five of them should have been passed as medically fit. On the other hand, according to the last despatchesfrom Egypt, there is a large number of cases of men who had been accepted in Australia as medically fit who ought never to have been accepted. These men have broken down before they could reach the battle line. Obviously, from the complaints from which they are suffering, they were medically unfit at the time of leaving Australia. These two examples can afford little consolation to those who say that men who ought to have been taken have been rejected.. On the one hand, only five out of 600 men who have been re-examined have been described as men who should have been passed. On the other hand, we have a large list of men who are being returned from Egypt without doing a day’s fighting, and who have cost the Commonwealth thousands of pounds for equipment and training, who have been found medically unfit, and were so at the time of enlistment.
– Does not it all point to the fact that the Victorian medical officers are more careful than those of other States?
– Before that can be said, it will be necessary to analyze the names of those who are being sent back for the cause I have mentioned, in order to see whether some States have been more lax than others in this regard. That may be the explanation. I hope that the debate on the Bill will be conducted without rancour, and that the subsequent campaign in the country .will also be conducted without rancour or personal vindictiveness. To those with whom I am politically associated, but who differ from me on this particular question, I say that th» Labour Party has always contended that the people should be consulted on political matters. The party have agitated for the adoption of the initiative and referendum. For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament we have been faced with the necessity for giving an important decision. Whether or not honorable senators agree with the decision arrived at by the Government, they must face the fact that some sort of decision had to be made, either to say “ Yes, we will supply the men,” or to say “ No, we will not supply the men.” If the former, then obviously there was only one way of doing what was necessary, and that was by the method which has been proposed by the Government. If the latter decision be arrived at, if we do not supply reinforcements for our troops, what will happen) We have four divisions of infantry in France ana a light horse division in Egypt. There is also in Great Britain a fifth infantry division, which has not yet taken the field. The four divisions in France are not intermingled with. British or French troops, or even with troops from the other Dominions. They hold a certain defined line of the front. In other words, a certain portion of the line in France, covering so many miles, is held by Australian troops, and the whole responsibility for holding that portion rests with them. It takes so many battalions to form a division, -and each division has its own defined line to hold. It has so many battalions in the front, so many in the supporting trenches, and a certain number 01 battalions in the rear resting. Each in their turn take their place in the front line.
– The Australians at Pozieres were intermingled with other troops.
– La a mixed-up fight they might converge on the one point.
– Sometimes they get mixed with the Germans.
– The point that I wish to make is that if, as the result of casualties, deaths from wounds, or sick- - ness, a battalion which is holding, say, a mile of front, loses one-half its strength, then, obviously, it must shorten its line to half-a-mile. or the. line must be ‘held by only one-half the number of men who were previously holding it. ‘ If that were the experience of every battalion, what would be the .result? If the people of Australia would not find the necessary reinforcements, we should be compelled to say to the British Government, “You must reduce the extent of line our troops are holding, or else ask every man in the battalion to hold’ twice as much ground as he waB holding when he had the support of his mates who have fallen.”
– Could not Britain supply reinforcements?
– I shall deal with that question. If we decreased the number of men who were holding a certain lino, the gaps in the ranks could not be allowed to remain unfilled. They would have to be filled by either the French or the British, and in either case they would be filled by compulsory soldiers. That is a point that I desire to bring home to the minds of honorable senators. If we declined to fill the gaps made in our ranks as the result of casualties, then they would be filled by men from Great Britain who have been compelled to go into this war, or by citizens of France, who, likewise, have been forced to do so.
– Suppose that Canada or South Africa filled the gaps with volunteer reinforcements?
– If they were sofilled, then, of course, my argument would not apply. I should like to have the assurance that either Canada, South Africa, . or New Zealand are able to do more than supply the requisite reinforcements for their own troops. So far as my information goes, however, they are unable to do more than Australia has done, and that is to supply the necessary reinforcements for. those whom they already have at the front. There iB no proposal, on the part of NewZealand at all events, to do more than keep up its existing units in the field.
– New Zealand has adopted conscription.
– If their troops were to be used in filling up gaps in our ranks, then a gap would be created somewhere else.
– There are’ not many gaps. The man who goes to the front is back again in the reserves eight or nine days’ later.
– That is so.
– Lloyd George says they have army upon army.
– That may be. It is true that all our troops are not in the field at the one time. We all know that they take turn about in the front line. But the point that I am making is that, if the people of Australia said that they would not keep up the necessary reinforcements, the inevitable result would be the shortening of the line that the Australian Forces are holding.. I invite honorable senators to ask themselves whether that is an answer which Australia could make with honour to herself and to the men she has already sent to the front? When this war broke out, the Cook Government were in office, and they offered a division of 20,000 troops. Our party was then in opposition, and Mr. Fisher, who was then the leader of our party, announced to the country - it must not be forgotten that at the time we were all before the people - that we would support the Government in every measure they were taking to back up the Mother Country in this war. It cannot be denied that that announcement met with no op- . -position on the part of members of our party. Indeed, so far as I know, it was indorsed by every member of our party speaking throughout the country.
– But Mr. Fisher spoke only of volunteers.
– Quite so. At that time, there was no suggestion of compulsion. The announcement was made that both the Government and the Opposition at that time favoured the sending pf the first division to the front. The general election resulted in the return of our party with a majority, and tho Fisher -Government from time to time, as volunteers presented themselves, announced that they had offered new units to the Imperial Government, and that these had been accepted. And so we went on until’ these new divisions were accepted, and I heard no word of protest, either on the part of the present Opposition, or from honorable senators on this side, as to the divisions now in the field being offered for active service. Lot me say -“that the British Government never, at any time, asked that we should send any one of those units. Every one of them has been offered voluntarily, and willingly, on behalf of the people. I believe I am therefore right in assuming that the people of Australia, and their representatives in Parliament, have acquiesced in the placing of these divisions in the field. That carries with it the further obligation of seeing that those men are supported by sufficient reinforcements to enable them to put up a fight against the enemy, and to maintain themselves at their full strength. I trust that when this question is submitted to the people,’ it will receive their indorsement. That, however, is not the question with which we have now to deal. The question involved in this Bill, and which we have first of all to face, is as to whether we are going to give tho people the . opportunity to answer the question that I have read.
– It is entirely different from the question of policy.
– Yes. I am speaking, rather beyond the Parliament, to the people, as to the reasons for the question I have read. I come now to the reason for the Bill itself. There was another course open to the Government. Either under the War Precautions Act, or by the introduction of a Bill, compulsory service could have been brought about.
– Does the honorable senator mean, that, under the War Precautions Act, the Government could have compulsorily sent men abroad ?
– I believe they could have done so, by virtue of that Act and of- the executive power which must repose in every Government in time of war.
– And if we defeated this Bill the Prime Minister would do that. He said in another place that he would.
– I understand that Mr. Hughes withdrew the statement referred to by the honorable senator. I have not seen it published, but I understand that the Prime Minister did make a statement that was held to be capable of bearing the construction that the honorable senator has placed upon it, but that he subsequently withdrew it. I am inviting the Senate to consider that there was another course open to the Government. They could have submitted a Bill providing for compulsory service.
– Who? The Government or the Prime Minister ?
– The Government.
– That implies the consent of a majority of the Cabinet.
– The honorable senator is dealing with’ one point, and I am dealing with another. I am simply showing what could have been done by any Government that happened to’ be in power when this question arose. The Government of the day, no matter to which’ party it belonged, could have brought down a Bill for compulsory service; but with what result? In the first place, it would probably have wrecked the Government, and secondly, it would probably have wrecked the Parliament.
– It would not have passed.
– Having wrecked the Parliament, it would have been referred to the people - not as a question standing by itself, but as a question linked up with all sorts of other considerations. It would have been interwoven with the question of party, and with questions arising out of the individuality of candidates. Various political considerations would have been dragged into the arena, so that the question would not have been discussed on its merits before the people, although it must inevitably have gone before them.
– That is on the assumption that Parliament would not have passed it.
– I think that the veriest tyro in politics could see that this Parliament was incapable of passing a Bill for compulsory service without a general election. Thus the question would have gone to the people in any event. Those who are opposing this reference to the people are, therefore, face to face with two alternatives; either they must say, “ We shall not send the required reinforcements,” or “We shall send them, and we will pass a Bill authorizing the Government to provide for compulsory service.” We know they would not be prepared to pass such a Bill, and if they are not prepared to let this Bill go to the people it is obvious they are not prepared to let the men go to the front. A serious responsibility, therefore, rests upon those who oppose this measure. The question they are called upon to answer is not as to whether this is the proper course to follow, since it is clear that it is the only practical way open to us. By opposing this Bill, therefore, they say, in effect, that they are not prepared to send reinforcements to the front.
– Except those who volunteer.
– That is so. I propose to give some little consideration to the further point that the Government should have used its executive power to deal with this matter. In a country like Australia, and more especially when a Parliament elected since the war was actually in session, what would be said of any such attempt on the part of the Government to use its undoubted grant of power from the people, without consulting the Legislature?
– It would be a monstrous thing to do.
– In those circumstances it would be. It is thus obvious that the Government have not only taken a democratic course, but one that is in accord with the principles of the party for which the Government stands.
– But for an undemocratic end.
– Can the securing of reinforcements be said to be an undemocratic end? It is a military question rather than a democratic one - a question of military necessity, to which the country is asked to give an answer.
– I am not talking about the sending of reinforcements as undemocratic, but about the conscription of men as undemocratic.
– There is nothing undemocratic in conscription.
– Not in conscripting the manhood of the country?
– I see nothing more undemocratic in the conscription of men for military service than I do in the conscription of men into unions for indus trial service. As a Minister for Defence - as a Minister of the Crown - I have been conscripting men for industrial service ever since the last election; that is to say, I have had to say to men, “ If you want employment in the Department you must be a. unionist.”
– I am surprised to hear you using such a Tory argument!
– Is it not a fact?
– The men go into unions of their own free will.
– Their own free will is tempered by the condition that they have to be members of a union.
– Suppose you applied the same thing to the Army?
– In the case of the Army the condition is that the men must serve as the price of citizenship; in the other case, the price of employment is service in a union.
– There is a big difference ; in the case of conscription a man has to go, whereas he pleases himself about the. union and the employment.
– If the one is undemocratic, so is the other, though I hold that neither is undemocratic. I justify my action in regard to preference to unionists by saying that unionism is in the interests of the country and for its benefit; and so I justify my action in regard to conscription by saying that it is in the interests of the country and for its benefit. The interests of the country must come before the interests of the individual ; and that, I think, is pure Democracy. I am, therefore, prepared to defend my action in regard to conscription on democratic grounds. Surely it is democratic to allow the people of the country to say what shall be the law in this regard? Why should honorable senators arrogate to themselves the right to say, although the people vote in the affirmative, conscription is wrong? Surely the people are as well able as we are to judge on this question ? The people will be liable, and they know what conscription means. To many thousands it has a significance which it has not for most of us, seeing that they are within the military age, while most of us are beyond it. These people, therefore, have a personal reason for studying the question to even a greater extent than we have. This Bill is a mile-stone in human progress.
– You mean a millstone !
– I mean a milestone. What is it that we have been contending? That war is made as the result of secret diplomacy - that it is made in the offices of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, without the people being consulted. And what have - we been saying but that the people should have a voice in the matter?
– There would have been some sense in that argument two years ago, but there is none to-day.
– The people then had a voice, because they elected a Parliament after the war had been entered upon. I know that the honorable senator is enthusiastic for this war, as is shown by the fact that his son is in the Forces; but, to use a hypothetical case, if he had then said that he was against the war, and against Australia taking any part in it, would he ever have come into this Chamber ? Of course not. The honorable senator knows that, like himself, the great bulk of the people were enthusiastically in favour of supporting Great Britain in the war; and I therefore say that the people of Australia have spoken on the question.
– There may be a limit to their enthusiasm.
– Of course; enthusiasm must always be tempered by prudence and judgment.
– I mean that there must be a limit to the supply of men.
– We are now asking the people to give their judgment again. They were willing to go into the war.
– We were in the war; and what the people did was to approve.
– And they will approve of what we have done and are going to do.
– You do not suggest that the people then had any conception of the future extent of the war.
– Of course not; but while it then meant sacrifice, it now means very much greater sacrifice than any of us dreamt of - a sacrifice far beyond our wildest imaginings. v The people are now to be given another opportunity of saying whether, having indorsed the action of the Government in going into the war, and having been content to make sacrifices to that end, they are prepared to make still greater sacrifices. What Democrat could oppose or object to such a proposal ? What Democrat would arrogate to himself the right to answer this question for the people, without giving them an opportunity to answer it for themselves ? The challenge that the Bill makes to honorable senators is contained in the question whether they regard themselves as greater than the people. Have they greater concern in the matter than have the people? If not, why stand between the people and an expression of their opinion? I cannot see how any Democrat can oppose the submission of the question to the people. I do not propose to go into the merits of the question of compulsory service beyond the cursory remarks I have already made. The point is that the Bill lays on the people the obligation and responsibility of answering the question.
– The Minister must remember that, although the people will be consulted, only a few will be penalized.
– No; I donot know that. We cannot say that only a few have been penalized in this country as a result of the war, because, as a matter of fact, a vast army of people have been penalized. We have a casualty list of over 50,000 killed, wounded and sick ; and although some of these may have been only slightly wounded, the sufferings of some of the relatives, if small, have been very intense. I venture to say that there are very few homeswhich have not, to some extent, suffered as a result of the war. Under the proposal, of course, the suffering will be spread over a wider area, and the measure, at any rate, affords an opportunity to make the sacrifice more equal. Honorable senators know very well that my mouth has been closed about the inequality of sacrifice, owing to the fact that I have been responsible for the voluntary system. I have had to take it, with all its inequalities, but I have never ceased to recognise those inequalities. It is one of the great failings of the voluntary system that, while a, man who recognises his duty steps in prepared to pay the price, another man, who should stand by his sides,keeps back, and makes no sacrifice at all. As the Government have already announced, the question to be put to the people deals with one phase - the compulsory service of human beings on the field of war. The Government recognise that this imposes an obligation on those who remain behind to also make some sacrifice; and during next week honorable senators and the public will know what those sacrifices are to be.
– We ought to have known that before now.
– There is no doubt on the part of the Government that this sacrifice is called for, and before Parliament adjourns for a few weeks honorable senators and the country will have placed before them a statement showing clearly that we recognise the dual liability.
– Conscription will be law, whereas the statementwill not.
– The honorable senator need not worry himself about that. Unfortunately, our needs will compel the statement to be made law.
– What about the third factor? You have dealtwith money and men, but what about material and metals, which are still at an exorbitant price?
– As to metals, the action taken by Mr. Hughes in diverting thorn from sources which, if not German, were under German control in America, made it possible for Great Britain to afterwards get them at a very much lower price than before.
– Surely not?
– It is quite true.
– All metals are almost. 50 per cent. higher in price than before.
– They are higher in price, but Great Britain is getting metal at a cheaper rate than when the trade was under German control.
– Copper at £100 per ton cannot be called cheap.
– I am talking of spelter and lead.
– That is £25 higher than ever before.
– The price is lower than when the trade was controlled by Germany. I do not propose to refer to the machinery of the Bill at this stage, beyond saying that we recognise the fact that the men at the front are still citizens of the Commonwealth, and have a right to a voice in the matter, and that, therefore, an opportunity will be afforded to them to record their votes. This provision applies to nurses at the front, as well as to the crews of transports and the Australian Navy.
– Why not to all fighting men, no matter what their age ?
– That raises the point that we do not recognise persons under twenty-one years of age as voting units.
– They ought to be recognised under the circumstances.
– That may be, but the recognition ought to be on its merits, quite apart from the question of conscription. The Government, therefore, take the Electoral Act as they find it, and as the expression of the will of Parliament.
– An amendment to that effect was moved in another place.
– The question we have to determine is not at what age the citizens of the Commonwealth shall be permitted to vote ; that is a question which may stand by itself. If Parliament decided that at eighteen years of age the men at the front should be permitted to vote, then there should be the same age qualification in Australia; we cannot have one class of voters at the front arid another class here. The Bill affords opportunities for people- in the various Territories to vote, and clauses provide for the disqualification of certain persons, amongst whom are naturalized British subjects who were born in any part of the territory of any country with which Great Britain is now at war, and persons who are interned. That was the original provision in the Bill, “but an amendment was made by another place exempting such persons who have sons at the front. These, under the Bill as it now stands, will be entitled to vote.
– Then that clause will not apply to Mr. Dankel and Mr. Stumm, who are members of the House of Representatives?
– I think not, for I Relieve both have sons at the front.
– They are both Germans - of German descent?
– They are both of German origin.
– How long will the single men last if conscription be carried ?
– In my statement of the Government policy, I said that we have 103,000 men in the pool - reinforcements here, on the sea, and in the division in England.
– That will carry us on until the end of January, with 3,000 over.
– Without the reinforcements under the proposal, we reckon that the men I mention will carry us on until January, with, as Senator Millen says, 3,000 over. From the end of January, assuming the war to last till June, we say that there are enough fit single men without dependants in the Commonwealth to maintain the supply.
– I think I shall be able to disprove that statement, although I am not a Minister.
– How long will it take to call these single men to the colours?
– It will take seven clays.
– In the face of the statement you have just made, why is it necessary to call up 32,000 this month and 16,000 each month afterwards?
– The reason for calling up the 32,000 is that the large number of casualties during August and September have rendered it necessary to draw on the division in England. I take it that the reason for drawing upon that division is that the 40,000 reinforcements are not sufficiently trained. The men belonging to the division will obviously have had more training than the reinforcements that hare just landed in England. The authorities are taking men from the division and sending them to the front, because they have had more extended training than the reinforcements, and it will, of course, be necessary for us to replace the number taken from the division.
– Counting the 32,500 men, and the 16,500 per month, the Minister must see that the Government are proposing to take 213,000 men within twelve months from the present time.
– The honorable senator must lose sight of the number of men in the pool.
– That does not affect my statement.
– The number in the pool will last us until the end of January.
– That does not affect the statement that the Government propose to call up 16,500 men per month.
– The men we are calling up now do not go into the field now.
– But they go out of industries in the Commonwealth now.
– They must be trained here before they will be available. We shall have the 32,500; we must replace the 20,000 drawn from the Fifth Division, and the normal reinforcements will be 16,500 per month.
– Under the Government’s scheme we shall require to call upon married men by the end of January.
– The honorable senator’s statement is not correct. When the Government were pressed to adopt conscription six months ago - and it must be borne in mind that they were so pressed - my reply was that if we had conscription we could not send an additional soldier away.
– The Government have no guarantee now that they will be able to send men away.
– Later on, when enlistments were falling off, and the press were becoming more insistent, I stated at Bendigo, speaking of the returns up to the end of May, that, up to that time, we had been able every month to secure the necessary number of reinforcements; but I added that I was not sure that I would be able to make a similar statement three months hence. So I say to honorable senators, who are now speculating as to what will be necessary four months hence, let us see what will happen in the interval. »
– Then the Minister should let the people know that. He should tell . them that the Government want only 60,000 men, but that they do not know whether later on they will not require 600,000 men, if they can get them.
– The Government are not so foolish as to attempt to answer hypothetical questions; they have to deal with practical matters. What we do know is that shortages will occur, and that we shall have to make them good. We know that we will have a sufficient number of single men in Australia to make them good up to June next. We know also that if it becomes necessary to call up married men, we will have ample time within which to consider that necessity, and Parliament also will have ample time to deal with that question. I am not going to be led away into the consideration of hypothetical circumstances, and what is likely to be required four months from now. The Government tell Parliament that they are going to call u;p single men, and before they take any other action they will have time to consult Parliament again.
– On the Minister’s own figures, all the single men available will have been called up by about- January.
– What then? Will Parliament have ceased to exist? Is the honorable senator and other members of the Senate going to die in the meantime? I repeat that I do not propose to answer hypothetical questions or to be drawn into an academic discussion as to what the Government will be likely to do in some, other circumstances than those with which we are at present faced. The Government proposals deal adequately with the present situation. We tell honorable senators that it is our present intention to call up single men, and 1 shall not be led into an argument as to what will happen when the supply of single men is exhausted, because I say that before that time arrives the Government will have ample opportunity to meet Parliament and inform honorable senators of what they propose to do. We shall have time within which to decide whether we shall require to call up married men, and if so, to what extent.
– The people will ask these questions.
– If they do, I have given the honorable senator the answers.
– In a year 214J0001 men will be called up, under the Government’s proposal.
– Senator O’Keefe can work out the total for himself when he knows that 16,5u0 will be required per month. Let me remind honorable senators that all these hypothetical speculations as to what will be necessary on a certain date are vitiated by the results of our experience in the past. When our men were at Gallipoli, we sent to the front a certain percentage of reinforcements, but after heavy fighting took place, we had to double the number of reinforcements, and later the number required was reduced again. We may find that in three months’ time 12,000 reinforcements ,per month will be sufficient. What we have to meet is the present situation as we know it, and 16,500 per month’ will be necessary to meet it. Six months hence only 10,000 per month might be required.
Senator MULLAN (Queensland) [6.20J. - This is, perhaps, one of the. most important Bills ever submitted to this Parliament, and it deals with a momentous question. The way in which Parliament proposes to deal with the question under this Bill is to shirk its responsibilities and shoulder them on to the people. In my opinion, this so-called “ Military Service Referendum Bill “ is a sham and a fraud. It is a mean subterfuge by which certain politicians hope to shirk their responsibilities to the people. Mr. Hughes has said that, whether this Bill be carried or not, the referendum will be taken all the same.
– Did the Prime Minister make that statement publicly ?
– That statement by the Prime Minister appears in Hansard. That is definite and public enough for any man. On the same occasion Mr. Joseph Cook went further, and said that even if the referendum failed to secure the approval of the people for conscription, we would have it all the same. This shows what a fraud this Bill is. As a proof of the bona fides of the statement made by Mr. Hughes, I remind honorable senators that, regardless of the fact that Parliament has not yet passed this Bill, the writ has been issued for the proposed referendum. Upon what authority ? There is none whatever, except in anticipation of the passage of this Bill. If this measure fails to become law, on what authority will the taking of the referendum rest, unless, as Senator Pearce has suggested, it would then be taken on the authority of the War Precautions Act? What we and the people ought to know is the authority upon which the referendum will be taken, because apparently it is not intended that it should be taken on the authority of this Bill.
– Does the honorable senator not know that the proclamation of the writ could be withdrawn?
– I know that that would be quite inconsistent with the statement made by Mr. Hughes that whether this Bill be carried or not, tins referendum will be taken. So far as I can see the referendum is merely a salve to save the faces of super-sensitive politicians. We are told by certain gentlemen that the referendum is a plank of the
Labour platform, and they ask why members of the Labour party are going to vote against it. I answer that question by asking another : Why should the Conservatives who have so violently opposed the referendum all their lives now be going to vote for this plank of the Labour platform ?
– That does not clear Labour members who are opposed to the referendum.
– I know that the honorable senator is committed to conscription.
– At any rate we are free men.
– The Conservatives have -been converted to support this referendum introduced by a so-called Labour Government.
– Some Labour members have been converted against it.
– The proposed referendum is in our opinion a sham and a howling farce.
– Does the honorable senator wish to convert Conservatives to his side?
– Why do I regard this Bill as a sham and a fraud ? It is because the- taking of a vote of the people implies the right and the opportunity to also submit to them the arguments pro and con on the question they are asked to decide. Notwithstanding the explanation of the Minister for Defence to the contrary, in my opinion the position of the anticonscriptionists in the campaign will be like that of a man going into a duel armed with a bayonet to fight against a man armed with a modern rifle. The man with the bayonet would be all right if he could use it, but of course the fellow with the rifle will see that he never gets a chance to do so. In the same way the conscriptionists led by Mr. Hughes in this campaign will see that the anticonscriptionists never get a chance to state their case. We have had ample proof of this during the last three or four weeks. We have had proof submitted to us this afternoon that for some considerable time the Government have been deliberately trying to cultivate a political atmosphere suitable to the growth of their noxious weed, conscription-
– In what way?
– I shall proceed to show the honorable senator. In the first place the industrialists of Australia met here in Melbourne.
– Some of them.
– A representative gathering of the industrialists of Australia met in Melbourne and drew up a manifesto against conscription in the name of the industrialists of Australia. They issued that manifesto and it was suppressed. Why? I am told that one of the strongest reasons given for the suppression of that important document was that it contained certain reflections upon some of the Allies.
Sitting suspended from G.30 to 8 p.m.
– If a man be against conscription, and wants to argue against it, is it not reasonable to suppose that he will go for his arguments to those countries where it has flourished ? What else can he do to prove his case against it? That was the course adopted in the preparation of the manifesto from what I might term the most representative industrial body that ever sat in Australia.
– Only the offensive references to France and Russia were cut out of that manifesto.
– The authorities had no right to cut out those references at all if there was an intention to give the anti-conscriptionists a fair deal in this campaign. It looks now as if we shall not get a fair deal. Mr. Hughes has addressed the Labour Caucus at length. He has also addressed at length the political bodies of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and for a long time, as was stated by Senator Ferricks, the only account we could get of those gatherings was a garbled statement to suit the Prime Minister’s purpose. Such a despotism over the press as that exercised by Mr. Hughes since his return to this country has never before existed in Australia. If the Liberals, while they were in power, had done what the so-called Leader of the Labour party has done, I think Labour men would have been ready almost to lynch them.
– Your comments do not apply to South Australia, at all events.
– Well, South Australia does not count for very much in this conflict. In my opinion, a referendum taken under these circumstances cannot be anything else than a sham, a fraud, and a farce. It has been said, and a great deal of capital has been made out of the statement, that Mr. Hughes has been to the front, that he has consulted the War Councils of England and France, and that, therefore, his position as an authority on this crisis is much stronger than that of any other man in this country. I have had the privilege of hearing the strongest arguments, and seeing the reddest picture, that the Prime Minister in his own inimitable way has presented to us, and, notwithstanding that, I am here to-night unconvinced that he has made out a case sufficiently strong to justify us in forging upon ourselves the shackles of conscription. I take the full responsibility of saying, that no legislator who has had his eyes about him, and has read of the things as they appear here and in neutral countries, can deny that if the people of Australia today really knew the dangers to which they are exposed, they would lynch every legislator who advocates the policy of further denuding this country of its manhood. I make that statement deliberately, and I challenge its contradiction by those who advocate conscription. I cannot say all I would like to on this matter, but perhaps the hour of trial will come to Australia with appalling suddenness, when perhaps it is too late, ana then an infuriated and betrayed Australia will be looking for the men who were responsible for this policy of sending away our manhood at this juncture. I am going to prove my statements on no less an authority than the Prime Minister himself, for this is what he said ‘at a public meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall a few weeks ago-
We have nailed “ White Australia “ to our mast, yet we are but a tiny drop in a coloured ocean. We are 5,000,000 of white people, and wo live within “cooee” of a thousand millions of coloured people, who jostle one another for want of room.
Those sentences from the Prime Minister’s speech are worth a thousand speeches against conscription, for they carry on their face the strongest condemnation of the policy now advocated by the Government.
– Do you think that Australia can protect herself from within her own borders?
– Well, Australia can try to protect herself at all events, and every man sent away means that there will be one less to face the situation.
There is hope for Australia under the policy which we advocate, hut I question if there will be any hope under conscription. We have been told that Mr. Hughes has first-hand information. It has been suggested that, because he speaks on the authority of that first-hand information, we ought to tumble over one another in order to embrace conscription. But what is the position? We know that Mr. Hughes besought his Cabinet to agree to conscription; he placed the whole of the facts before his colleagues, and laid his cards on the table. He pleaded with Caucus, and there also he placed his cards on the table. Later on he pleaded with the political and industrial bodies of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. He gave them the same facts; but in every case his proposal was turned down, and I am satisfied that there will be an overwhelming majority against it when the people have an opportunity of voicing their opinions on the fateful 28th October. The industrial councils to which I refer were unanimously against conscription, but Mr. Hughes is now appealing to the people themselves, and he is not going to tell them the facts, nor will he allow us to do that either.
– That is a serious statement to make.
– I am aware of that, but I take all the responsibility for making it. Honorable senators know very well that we cannot tell the people the real position. We dare not. If I were to give some of the strongest arguments I have against conscription - using the information which I have - Mr. Hughes would call me a traitor tomorrow, and perhaps I would deserve it. Even Mr. Hughes cannot give the people all the facts, and so how are they to arrive at a true decision in the matter?
– We have not won the war yet.
– Well, the few men we can send will not affect the balance.
– They will all help.
– We have heard a good deal about the need for men. The moment Mr. Hughes returned to Australia he emphasized the statement that men were urgently required at the front, but in this connexion I want to point out what appears to me to be unmistakable evidence of a conspiracy or collusion between the Imperial authorities and the Prime Minister of this country. Mr. Hughes had scarcely landed on his return to the Commonwealth when a dummy was put up in the House of Commons to ask Mr. Lloyd George if he thought Australia would be able to find sufficient men as reinforcements. That looked as if somebody was moving. At all events, the question appeared to have been inspired. A little later on, at the time when Mr. Hughes was trying to win his case here, Mr. Lloyd George said in the House of Commons -
The Empire wanted every available nian of the Dominions and the Mother Land for this light.
That looked to be more than a mere coincidence. It appeared to be part of a plan to convert the people of Australia to conscription. On the top of that we now have the request from the Imperial Army Council to Australia for drafts of reinforcements, a thing that had never been done before by the Imperial Government. In 1914, just after the outbreak of the war, when this country had offered only 20,000 men for service at the front, when the small British Army was putting up that immortal retreat from Mons, when the guns of the Germans were thundering outside Paris, and Calais seemed almost within their reach, when our Fleet had not as yet proved its unmistakable superiority over the German Navy in any big sea fight, no request was made to Australia for assistance. Yet when, according to Colonel Repington. who is generally acknowledged to be the best authority on the war in Britain to-day, there are 15,000,000 Allied troops at the front; when Roumania has joined those forces; when we are on the offensive instead of being on the defensive, we are invited to believe that Great Britain has departed from her traditional policy of refusing to ask her Dominions for help, and has actually ‘ requested assistance from Australia. I refuse to believe that she has asked for help from us, unless she was requested to ask for it. There is no record that New Zealand, or Canada, or South Africa has been asked to render assistance. In these circumstances, it is indeed remarkable that such a request should be made to Australia. I believe that this conspiracy was carefully hatched in Great Britain between Mr. Hughes and certain responsible persons there. We all know why conscription was introduced in the Old Country. Nobody is so foolish as to think that the men of Great Britain were conscripted for the trenches. The truth is that the authorities there desired industrial conscription. The great Northcliffe press, supported by the capitalistic influences of Britain, were determined that the workers should be brought under military control in the interests of capitalism. That is the real reason why they were conscripted. In support of my statement, I intend to read a few extracts. The first is a summary of the situation by Mr. Stead, who has written the sanest articles on .the war that have been published here since the commencement of hostilities. In his Review of the 3rd June last he says -
The Compulsion Act in Great Britain has received the Royal assent. In a message to his people, King George stated that, acting on the advice of his Ministers, he had deemed it necessary to enroll every able-bodied man- between eighteen and forty-one. He said, further, that -
– Is the honorable senator quoting Mr. Henry Stead, of Melbourne?
– Yes. He continues -
No fewer than 5,041,000 men had voluntarily enlisted. That is an amazing fact, and makes one wonder why compulsion is needed. I have referred before to the fact that it is generally accepted that the total number of nien a country can put in the field is just exactly 10 per cent, of the entire population. The number of men, women, and children living in the British Isles is 40,000,000; so that, apparently, the total number of soldiers which could emeiently be put in the field is 4,600,000. But 400,000 more than that have actually been obtained as volunteers. Is conscription, then, going to yield many more men? If not, why has it been introduced? One would imagine that compulsion was needed rather to fill the munition factories than to swell the army - rather to put all workmen of fighting age under military control than to increase the already huge total of fighting men available.
– The 10 per cent, which i3 represented as the limit of the man-power which any nation can put in the field applies only to a war upon that nation’s own soil.
– That makes my argument still stronger. Another extract reads -
By a majority of 326 to 36, in a House of 070* members, the British Parliament decided in favour of universal conscription. As, according to Mr. Asquith, Great Britain lias no less than 5,000,000 men under arms, it is difficult to see how conscription will put any more soldiers in the field. Conscription will, however, enable the Government to organize the entire nation far more effectively, for all workers of fighting age will be under military control. The suggestion has already been made that miners should work for ten hours instead of eight, in order to make good the shortage of coal. Under present conditions that would bc quite impossible; but under the conditions brought in by conscription, it would be quite feasible.
Here is yet another sidelight upon how conscription came to be inaugurated in Great Britain. Mr. John Dillon, in writing on this question, says - “ In recent British history, there has been no such discreditable chapter as that which contains the history of the campaign against the voluntary system in Great Britain. If the Conscription Bill is presented and passed, it will be the crowning triumph for Lord Northcliffe and his newspapers, for the Daily Mail is fully justified when it claims that the campaign is their campaign, and the triumph is their triumph. And the working classes of Great Britain will do well to remember that a large number of those who have carried on this campaign have been predominantly influenced, not by a single-hearted desire to win the war, but by considerations of the conditions of England after the war is over, and by a desire to create an instrument which can be used hereafter to resist and put down the Struggles of Labour which they anticipate will follow on the conclusion of peace.
The statements which I have quoted let in quite a flood of light upon the real reasons which animated some of the men who advocated conscription for Britain. Had Mr. Hughes, who has brought back such strong arguments in favour of conscription, only looked round him when he was in France, he would have found that, according to no less an authority than Mr. Winston Churchill, there were 200,000 flunkies and servants amongst the Army officers behind the trenches there - men who were capable of going into the firing line.
– Why does not the honorable senator give the answer which was made to Mr. Churchill’s statement on the following day?
– I am so accustomed to the press denying its own statements
– Then why quote them ?
– I presume that Mr. Churchill’s statement was correct.
At any rate, I have seen no contradiction of it. “
– Another statement was cabled out to the effect that a large number of gamekeepers in the employ of English gentlemen were also exempt from service.
– Exactly. Tire chief reason why conscription was introduced in Great Britain was that the military authorities there might control the industrial classes, both during the war and after its termination. The same remark is applicable to this country. We have in Australia a class which is out for the employment of child labour, coloured labour, or any other class of labour, so long as it is cheap.
– Does that charge apply to the Ministry?
– It applies to the leading advocates of conscription. The arch-conspirators in this business are animated by the one desire for cheap labour, both during the progress of the war and after its conclusion.
– The honorable senator said just now that this conspiracy was hatched in England.
– Yes, and it has been transplanted by Mr. Hughes and others to Australia.
– Who has done more good work for the Labour movement than Mr. Hughes?
– What is the good of an artist, who, after completing *a beautiful picture, destroys it? What I have said of England applies with equal force to Australia. We have unmistakable evidence that the people here who advocate conscription do not desire it for military service abroad. At the last conference of the Chamber of Manufactures the following statements were made -
Strikes are still occurring. “ If they had national service or conscription there would be no strikes, and the difference of opinion that was taking place in the Government workshops would be wiped out while the war was on.
National service would also be extended to the women of Australia as well as men.
These gentlemen will not be satisfied with merely conscripting the men of the community. They will desire to conscript our women for industrial purposes. Then at a meeting of the Queensland Farmers’ Union, which was held on the 1st June last, Captain Burroughs, in supporting a motion for conscription, said -
He spoke with a heavy heart because his health would not permit him to go to the front. Those who had cold feet said that if there was conscription of the person there should be conscription of wealth. There already was conscription of wealth. (Hear, hear ! ) Let them have a conscription - not to send Tom, Dick, and Harry into the trenches, where they feared they would be sent, but in order that our men, women, and trades might be organized. We did not want our young men slacking during forty-four hours a week. Let them be put into a munition factory and made to work eighty-three hours a week.
This gentleman is one of the leaders of the conscription movement in Queensland. Now let me come to Melbourne. What was said the other day at a meeting of the shareholders in the Austral Hat Mills ? While discussing the labour problem, the Chairman (Mr. Staughton) remarked -
There was great scope for industries in Australia, but, unfortunately, the working men were killing them at the start by excessive rates for labour and the going-slow process. …… ‘ There was only one way to block that sort of thing, and that was to import Japanese and Chinese labourers after the war.
In final proof of my contention that these gentlemen desire conscription for industrial and not for military purposes, 1 will read a short extract from the Pastoralists’ Review of 16th February last. I notice that the censor did not censor the statements contained in that extract. He censored the manifesto of the industrialists of Australia, but he overlooked the statements which I am about to quote. The proposal under consideration at the time was one to the effect that all the tropical part of Australia above 23J degrees of north latitude should be developed by means of coloured labour. The article says -
Within this strip indentured coloured labour from Java, the archipelago to the north of Australia, China, India, or * the South Sca Islands, should be allowed free scope, under white supervision; but it must not be allowed to pass south of the line represented by the 75 degrees wet-bulb isotherm.
The indenture should be of, say, five years’ duration, although at the expiration of that time the men could be allowed to sign a fresh agreement for a further period of years. Restrictive legislation would have to be framed to prevent them obtaining vested interests in the country; but that would present no great difficulty. Children born in the country would be subject to the same conditions as their parents, and would have to leave with the latter, or after a fixed number of years. Of course, we realize that the great problem would be to deal’ satisfactorily with the half-caste; but, owing to limited space, this question must be discussed in a future article. It is a problem that can be solved, must be solved, for, even if the question of climate did not make a White Australia impossible, the war has put an end to it. After peace is declared, the colour line will become more and more indefinable, and we shall be compelled to recognise the fact, for Britain will say to us, “ Renounce your White Australia policy or suffer the consequences. Your blood will be upon ‘your own head.”
There is the opinion of the capitalist of Australia. Is that what you are sending the manhood out of the country for - to make it easy for the spoilers and exploiters to destroy the country ? That .is what these men are out for. Within a few months of the passing of conscription an insistent demand will be set up for coloured labour., and with the unions smashed or seriously damaged by conscription, they will be unable to put up the great fight that they would be able to put up under normal conditions. With a gagged press, and speakers gagged on the platform under the War Precautions Act, what chance will they have to raise an outcry against the attempt which will inevitably be made to foist coloured labour on the country within a few months of the advent of conscription ? So surely as conscription is passed, and a scarcity of labour succeeds, the arguments for coloured labour will become more plausible, and almost unanswerable, according to the ideas of the capitalists.
– You do not mean to say the Argus wants cheap or coloured labour ?
– The Argus and the people it represents have battened and fattened on cheap labour. Mr. Hughes, in the Sydney Town Hall, this week, made a statement which I propose tq challenge -
We have examined the war census returns relating to single men, and have had them brought up to date. We believe that, supplemented by volunteers, the supply will be sufficient.
That means the supply of single men. That statement is made, in my opinion, with the deliberate design and purpose of deceiving the people, and deluding married men and others who may be called upon into the belief that only the single men will be required, plus such married men as may volunteer. These are the facts: - 32,500 men must be called up at the end of this month, or the difference to make up that number. Up to yesterday there were 4,000 volunteers, so that probably 25,000 men will be called up on the 1st October. We shall want 16,500 per month afterwards. This means that for one year this country has to raise 214,000 men. According to Knibbs’ figures, quoted by the Minister himself a week ago, the single men physically fit, according to the census cards on the 9th June last, between the ages of eighteen and forty-four, were 203,402. Of these, 50,572 were in camp on the day the Minister made his statement, reducing the number of single men available to 152,830. It is estimated that those over eighteen and under twenty-one number 40,000.
– By whom?
– Various estimates have been made. The Minister gave as high as 50,000. The honorable senator can take the 40,000 as my own estimate if he likes, because I cannot get Knibbs’ figures on the point.
– I gave Knibbs’ estimate, which does not agree “with yours.
– The Minister said it had been stated that they reached as high as 50,000, but I am knocking 10,000 off. That leaves 112,830. Only sons of widows and sons in families that have already sent a boy to the front will take off a considerable number. It is said that there “will be judicious exemptions for certain industries. Doctors, and also workers in special industries, will be exempt. I have put these down at only 20,000 single men. This reduces the available number of single men to 92,830. The number of rejects as medically unfit has, so far, gone as high, in some cases, as 50 per cent. I will assume that only 33$ per cent., or 30,970, are rejected as medically unfit. This brings the available number of single men between twenty-one and forty-five to 61,887. The Minister, said the wastage in camp had gone as high as 20 per cent. I will put it as low as 10 per cent., or 6,188. This will bring the total number of single men available in the Commonwealth between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five down to 55,699 for the twelve months, meaning that within four months the available single manhood between twentyone and forty-five will have been exhausted. The married men available on the 9th June last, according to the Minister’s own figures, quoted from Knibbs, were 294,859, divorced and -widowers 4,839, making a total of married manhood between twenty-one and forty-five of 599,698. Taking the medically unfit as 33A per cent., and it may be a good deal higher, we get a deduction of 99,899, leaving a balance of 199,799. Married men under twenty-one who will be exempt may be roughly estimated at 5,000. That figure seems rather low, but there are not a great number. This brings the total down to 194,799. The wastage on a 10 per cent, basis will bo 19,479, bringing the total available married men between twenty-one and forty-five down to 175,320, or a grand total of married and single men available between those ages of 231,019. If we want 214,000 men, on ~Mt. Hughes’ and Senator Pearce’s figures, for the first year, we shall have a balance available at the end of twelve months of 17,019, or enough for one month?
– You start this year with 102,000 in the pool.
– I am not worrying about them. If figures mean anything, the Minister’s statement means that we want 214,000 men for the year, so that there will be only one month’s available manhood in Australia within those ages at the end of twelve months. I am giving these figures to prevent the public being deceived by Mr. Hughes, or anybody else, into thinking that the Conscription Act is not far-reaching. It is far-reaching and all-embracing,, and may include all the single and all the married men, not only between twenty-one and forty-five, as Mr. Hughes would have us believe, but between eighteen and sixty, because the kernel of the Bill lies in the clause containing the question to be put to the people. That refers to “ the same compulsory powers in regard to requiring military service for the term of the war outside the Commonwealth as the Government have now in regard to military service within the Commonwealth.” That is what Mr. Hughes and the other supporters of conscription should be honest enough to tell the people. That it involves single and married men between eighteen and sixty, is proved by the wording of section 59 of the Defence Act-
All male inhabitants of Australia (excepting those who are exempt from service in the Defence Force) who have resided therein for six months and are British subjects, and arc between the ages of eighteen and sixty years, shall, in time of war, be liable to serve in the Citizen Forces.
If the question is carried in the affirmative, that is what will become law with regard to military service outside the Commonwealth. Let us be honest, and tell the people what we intend. The lives and liberties of many of our citizens are involved. Therefore, let those who vote know the whole facts. If we continue the campaign as it was opened by the Prime Minister, with an outburst of calumny and the misrepresentation of opponents, how can the people arrive at an honest verdict ? We have a terrible responsibility in this matter, and must, therefore, put our case fairly, fearlessly, and faithfully. Hitherto the Minister has found the greatest difficulty in sending away 13,000 men per month. The men sent away this year have not averaged more than 9,000 or 10,000 a month, and the average for the two years of the war is about 7,500 per month.
– Have transport facilities increased ?
– No. Unfortunately they are decreasing, and there is no prospect of an increase. How, then, shall we send away 16,500 men a month ? If the Imperial Government have to choose between transporting 10,000 men from Canada and 3,000 men from Australia, will they not take the Canadians, so that their shipping may be employed to the best advantage? Three trips can be made from Great Britain to Canada for one trip made to Australia. In view of these circumstances, there is no warrant for the attempt to impose the shackles of conscription on the country. We have done excellently- in comparison with Canada, where there is a population of over 8,000,000, and where it is not necessary to keep men for home defence. Were Canada denuded of her manhood, neither Germany nor any other country would dare to lay hands on her, because of the protection afforded to her by the Monroe Doctrine. Every man that we send away weakens our own defence. Sir
Wilfrid Laurier, the Leader of the Opposition in Canada, said-
Wc must repel the imputation that this is the prelude to conscription. There must be no conscription in Canada, and we should- have an authoritative statement from the Prime Minister on this subject.
To that Sir Robert Borden replied -
In regard to conscription, he would repeat to-day, with emphasis, the statement which he had made public months ago, that there was no intention to introduce conscription.
If Canada, which can spare men better than we can, takes that position, why should we court disaster by denuding Australia of her manhood? With conscription there will be insufficient men to harvest our crops, to shear our wool, and to prepare our meat. This will make the argument for the employment of coloured labour stronger. Our productivity will be reduced just when it should be increased, that is, when the strain is at breaking point. It has been costing us, approximately, £70,000,000 per annum to do our part in the war, and at the end of the year the cost of it will reach £100,000,000. Let us hesitate before making it greater. We have in camp and abroad approximately 300,000 men. If we increase the number by 213,000 within twelve month’s, our expenditure will reach the staggering sum of £234,056,250 per annum. That estimate is based on the assumption that it costs 25s. a day to keep a man in the field, having regard to food, munitions, equipment, and everything else.
– Does that figure include the cost of the Navy?
– No. If the cost of the Navy were included, my case would be still stronger.
– Has the honorable senator calculated what it would cost us if we were to lose the war ?
– I leave that to the honorable senator. Putting down 5 per cent, as the interest on the money that we borrow, and taking concessions and other expenditure into consideration, the rate will be slightly higher. Our interest bill at the end of twelve months will be £11,702,000. It seems to me that the country cannot carry such a load. Some people seem to think that we can help in the war only by hurling men into the trenches. France and England soon found out that that is not the only way of winning the fight. In the first instance, shops and factories were closed, and artisans and others were rushed intothe trenches.
– England sent away 200,000 coal-miners.
– Yes. England denuded her collieries of men, but it wassoon found that by closing the factories, and the workshops injury was being done to the Allies’ cause, and men were- brought back from the trenches. We may have the same experience here. A supply of wool is vitally important to our men, who, if they are to withstand the* rigours of a European winter, must be well clad in woollens. Similarly, our men must be well fed, and Australian meat, than which there is no better in the world, must be provided for them. Our wheat will be in great demand until the Dardanelles are opened.
– Queensland would not let her meat go to South Australia.
– Because the people at the front needed it more. We need also gold, copper, and other metals. If, however, we send away too many of our men, we shall reduce our production, and thus injure the Allies. There may be a difference of opinion as to how we can best help, but I think we can do’ best by sending materials and increasing production. Others think that we should send men. Whilst I respect the opinions of my opponents, I ask them to respect mine. We cannot produce things that are essential to the conduct of the war, and at the same time increase our contribution of troops by over 200,000 within the next twelve months. To do that would ruin the country. Under the most favorable conditions after the war it will take two years to bring all our men back. Production will be decreasing instead of increasing, but, notwithstanding that, we must pay our men until the opportunity comes to discharge them. We may thus get into a condition of which the consequences will be terrible. Let us view the matter rationally. If we lead the country to disaster we shall damage the Allies more seriously than if we declined to sanction conscription. The other day the Treasurer asked for a loan of £50,000,000, and obtained £23,000,000. When men are demanded, and an insufficient number offers, honorable senators cry for conscription. But when gold is asked for and is not obtained honorable members do not endeavour to conscript it. Where, then, is the logic of the conscriptionists ? A person who will conscript one man’s life and will not conscript another man’s gold has no right to claim the name of a Democrat. What will be done by the press-gang if it is sent on the warpath by the present socalled democratic Government? The first place they will go to will be a mansion. They will rap at the door; the owner will be too old to go to the war himself, and, as is usually the case with the aristocracy, probably will have no son to send. He personally cannot be conscripted. Perhaps in his paddock he will have 100,000 sheep. Could they be conscripted? No; sheep are sacred -private property, and therefore must not be touched. So they will pass the rich man’s mansion and his flock, which are inviolable. Then they will arrive at the cabin of a poor man; they will find that he has a son. Will that boy be immune? No, he will be conscripted ; he will be fair game for the press-gang. The poor man’s son will be forced to take part in the ghoulish butcher’s carnival in Europe whilst the rich man will be exempted in regard to both life and wealth. Yet we are told that there ought to be equality of sacrifice. Even if we had partial conscription of wealth - we are not likely to get entire conscription of wealth - there could be no equality of sacrifice in this war. Two married men may be conscripted, one rich, and the other poor. Both may go to the war and lay down their lives for their country. What is the position of their families? One man’s children must be dragged up on a pension of 5s. per week each, less than sufficient to keep body and soul together under present conditions, and the other man’s children, whilst they certainly will have suffered an irreparable sentimental loss, will be still in affluence and will be reared in conditions approximately the same as if their father had never been killed. Who, then, will say that there can be equality of sacrifice ? The Commonwealth has floated a war loan, and allowed to the rich man of this country per cent, with exemptions. The poor man has to give his son, but the richer a wan is the safer he is from all levies. Under the extraordinary and immoral law passed by this Parliament last June a man may have £1,000,000 and receive approximately £50,000 per annum in interest for in vesting it in the war loan, and yet unless we resort to repudiation we cannot compel him to pay a single penny of taxation for the purposes of the war. That is an anomaly which should not be tolerated anywhere. Some well intentioned people are deluded into the belief that Mr. Hughes intends to propose the conscription of wealth. A good deal of coaxing will be required to convince me that Mr. Hughes will keep his promise in that regard, any more than he kept it in regard to the conscription of life. On the 16th of July of last year Mr. Hughes stated in Parliament, when dealing with the War Census Bill -
The Bill is not for the purpose of conscription for service either in Australia or abroad. Tn no circumstances would I agree to send men out of this country to fight against their will. If the day ever comes when nien will not fight when their country is at death grips, it will be because the country is rotten to the core, and not worth fighting for.
If Mr. Hughes could violate that sacred promise of July of last year he could equally violate his promise in regard to the conscription of wealth.
– How is he violating his promise of last year ? He is not conscripting anybody.
– I am afraid he has conscripted the honorable senator’s vote for this Bill.
– He has done nothing of the kind, and if the honorable senator were’ a Democrat, Mr. Hughes would not require to conscript his vote for the referendum.
– If this proposed referendum were not a fraud and a sham, a mean subterfuge designed for the sheltering of politicians and others, I might consider the advisability of .supporting it.
– The honorable senator asked just now that there should be mutual respect for contrary opinions, and this is the way lie shows that respect.
– In this case there is mutual antagonism.
– I am just as much opposed to conscription as is the honorable senator, but I am not opposed to referring the matter to the people.
– We know that the policies of Australia and Great Britain in regard to raising’ the wealth for financing the war have not been right. Fancy Great Britain in a time of war allowing the shipping companies to accumulate the stupendous sum of £250,000,000 in profit. In 1913 the shipping companies of Great Britain made profits ‘aggregating £20,000,000. That was a time of peace, but in a time of war those same companies increased their profits by £2.30,000,000. Should such a scandal be tolerated in our Empire when the worker is scraping for a bare existence, and when the cost of living has increased by 33 per cent. ? Even in Australia the banks last year made a profit of no less than £3,000,000, which was equal to 13 per cent, on their capital - a pretty good result to obtain in time of war. We are told of an immense armament ring in England with a capital of £25,000,000. The more big battles fought and the greater the number of men killed, the greater will be the combine’s dividends. That ring should not be tolerated in our Empire. What is the Government’s policy for financing the war? They say they intend to introduce a War Profits Bill, but only to take half the profits. We are allowing the exploiters of Australia to rob the widows of men who have been killed at the front, and the wives of soldiers who are fighting there. The exploiters are piling up huge fortunes out of the necessities of the people, but do the Government step in and say they will not allow such a policy to continue ? No ; they say, “ Halves, brothers, halves.” That is what one thief says when he catches another. The Federal Government say- to these men, “ Rob the people as much as you like - exploit them as much as you can ; so long as you give us half the profits you will have discharged your obligation to the State.” That is not my idea of financing the war or protecting the people during the war. Among the party represented by honorable members opposite, among members of War Councils, and the elite of capitalism, we find men praying for the suspension of Wages Boards in order that returned soldiers may be employed as slow workers on low wages, and thus help to cut down the system of unionism. We are told by one gentleman that 29s. 6d. a week is quite sufficient for the maintenance of a family of five people in decency and comfort.
– It was never stated that they could live on that sum.
- Dr. Arthur is reported in the Sydney press to have said that it was a ‘sufficient sum on which to bring up a family of five - an average of os. 10¾d per head per week. No matter whether this Bill passes or not, on the 30 th of this month the Government propose to call up 32,500 men under the provisions of the Defence Act - for home defence, I suppose. Has such a fraud ever been perpetrated on the people before, when we know that if the verdict of the people is given in the affirmative these men are really being called up for foreign service? We should be honest, and suspend the compulsory calling up of any man until the people have given their decision. I maintain that the voluntary system has never had a fair deal. It has done magnificent service, which would have been infinitely better but for the fact that at the outset a section of the community, for some purpose best known to themselves, took a set against it, and put forward strong proposals for conscription. In Queensland practically the whole of the Liberal party realized what I suppose some of the Liberals in the Federal arena do, that the Labour movement was whole-heartedly against conscription, and instinctively they took advantage of the circumstance, as all along they have been prepared to take party advantage of every opportunity afforded by the alleged political truce.
– Another instance of the honorable senator’s fairmindedness !
– The result has been that all the Liberal ex-politicians and political derelicts of Queensland are out looking for the scalps of Labour men and incidentally advocating conscription. We know what they are after. They saw a. possibility of dividing the Labour party on this great issue if they could only force a certain position. They have done so. 1 candidly admit that they have succeeded’ in putting. Mr. Hughes into the tightest corner of his life, and the Labour party into the tightest corner of its life.
– And Mr. Hughes and the Defence Department have helped them by giving them so much licence.
– They have had unlimited licence to put forward their views, while the other fellow has been brought under the operations of the War Precautions Act. The men in Queensland who support conscription are those who have always been opposed to reform, and have done all in their power, by hook or by crook, to prevent the men they would now drive to the front from having a say in the management of the affairs of the country. In the Sydney Town Hall the other night Mr. Hughes made this remarkable statement -
The proposals of the Government do not destroy voluntarism; rather do they stimulate it.
If I walk up to Mr. President, and ask him for £1, and say to him that if he does not give it I will take it, he can hardly be said to be giving the money voluntarily if he gives it to me in those circumstances. Similarly, the man who becomes a volunteer in order to avoid being a conscript can hardly be described as a volunteer. Mr. Hughes’ statement will not bear examination. The Labour movement was started a quarter of a century ago with one aim and object in view, namely, to dethrone the autocracy which then ruled supreme. The movement said that no man should dominate a Parliament or a people; that the people should rule instead of being ruled. For the purpose of bringing about this reform leagues, unions, and conferences were established, and the objects of the movement found final expression in the platform that the party adopted. Mr. Hughes was one of the principal architects of that platform. 2Tow he is out to destroy some of his handiwork. He is out in spirit to-day to depart from one of the principles that animated the movement, namely,- that the movement should lead its leaders, and arrogates to himself the right to lead the movement. The moment any movement, Labour or otherwise, allows itself to be dictated to by one man it is in danger, because if that man succeeds in one case he will succeed again. If Mr. Hughes succeeds, and conscription is carried, the Labour party is doomed. Speaking to a Herald reporter prior to his departure on Saturday, Mr. Hughes said -
In this, the greatest crisis of the civilized world, a crisis in which Democracy and Labour are fighting for their existence, this secret junta dares to tell me, and those who stand with me, that, on pain of expulsion, we must not speak as our consciences direct.
In assuming that attitude, the “secret junta” referred to by Mr. Hughes are merely copying him, because he, in turn, has said to his Cabinet, “ Only those can remain in my Cabinet who follow, not the dictates of their consciences, but my policy.” He blamed the movement for heaving him out because he would not conform to its wishes; yet he is prepared to heave out his Ministers if they do not conform to his desires. Every one knows that the lips of his Ministers are sealed. Every one knows that six members of his Cabinet are to-day against conscription.
– Then what becomes of the honorable senator’s argument?
– The honorable senator may draw what inference he pleases. There are six members of the Cabinet against conscription. The lips of one are not sealed, because he has retired from the Cabinet, but the lips of the others are, and must remain sealed unless they, too, leave. They cannot speak according to the dictates of their conscience and remain in Mr. Hughes’ Cabinet. Yet he blames this so-called secret junta because it imposed upon him the same obligation.
– The honorable senator’s statement is not accurate.
– The Minister knows that if my statement is not quite accurate it is substantially correct.
– It is neither correct nor substantially so.
– I am not infallible, but- 1 think I am correct.
– The honorable senator is now hedging.
– No. I honestly believe the statement I have made to be correct. If I did not I should not have uttered it. Mr. Hughes has no right to complain of having his lips sealed when he himself seals the lips of the members of his own Government. 1 undertake to say that not one member of his Cabinet will remain in it and talk against conscription. That is7 the test, and there is no answer to it. My position is this: I regard the meeting which was held in the Sydney Town Hall last Monday night as the practical beginning of an unofficial coalition between Mr. Hughes and certain other people. That coalition is going to draw closer and closer. It is just as well that we, as Labour men, should know where we stand. I know where I stand, and am quite satisfied that every man who follows Mr. Hughes in this unofficial coalition, which he commenced on Monday, and which will draw tighter and tighter as the differences between him and his party broaden, must be led to the one inevitable position. The man who has already gone with these people will find by and by that there is a point beyond which he cannot go. But, unfortunately, he will have burnt his boats, and will be thrown upon a political noman’sland, where he will be exposed to i-he fire of every party. That has been the experience before in regard to these coalitions. All have had their beginnings in the same way, and I am afraid this will” have an ending like some that I can recall to mind. I saw the beginning of a little coalition in Queensland, and I saw its disastrous end. But at the same time I saw rise out of the ashes of it a resplendent movement, better than ever it was before, and I believe that out of all this trouble the Labour movement will rise higher, and nobler, and better than ever it was. No one can keep down this movement. It is too big. too all-embracing and high in its ideals, to be kept down by any man. Its ideals are above man and party and place. So long as the soul of the movement outside is sound, there is hope for it, and no politician can break it down.
.- The Bill now put forward for our consideration and decision is the most important that has ever been submitted to this Chamber. Prior to its introduction in another place the newspapers of this State airily assumed that the great majority of the people of Victoria were anxiously and eagerly awaiting the application of conscription in the Commonwealth in respect of the titanic struggle that is now being waged in Europe. But since the introduction of this Bill the newspapers- of this State, at least, have discovered that there is a section, and a very big section, of this community, who are determined by every legitimate means in their power not to have imposed upon them that which the publications to which I have referred assumed that the people desired. Last night, at the Exhibition Building, Melbourne, there was held a meeting which was attended by probably 15,000 or more citizens of Victoria. It was by no means the first meeting that had been held by organizations and interested persons who are putting forward every legitimate effort to defeat the referendum in this State on the 28th October next. When the resolution in opposition to conscription was submitted to that immense gathering, it was carried unanimously. So far as the chairman and I noted, there was not a single dissentient hand or voice raised against it in that great gathering. The reason why the industrialists of Victoria are determined, if possible, to prevent the introduction of conscription in this young country of ours is that they know that it is vicious in principle, and because they know also that the conscription of human life is but the first step, the next step being the conscription of labour. That there is not wanting evidence of this is shown by the utterances of various gentlemen in different spheres of activity. A few evenings ago, in the Victorian Legislative Council, Mr. Hagelthorn, Minister for Agriculture, made .certain remarks that had little or no application to the measure then before the - Chamber; but evidently the matter to which I am going to refer was in his mind, and he thought, maybe, it would be a fitting opportunity to give expression to it. Bte said -
Before very long the Government, either directly or through agencies qualified for the purpose, would have to take into very serious consideration the limitation of certain industries and activities when harvesting operations were on and fruit picking was in full swing; for, he repeated, it was apparent that there would be very great difficulty in getting a sufficiency of labour to undertake the garnering of cereals and fruit, and yet the gathering of those crops must proceed.
That was the statement of a responsible Minister, made before the people had had an opportunity to express their views on the question that is to be submitted to them on the 28th October next. T expect that when he speaks of the limitation of certain industries that are in existence today, he means that, if the people now employed in them could be better employed in picking fruit or gathering the harvest, those other industries ought to cease. There is no doubt that those who were running the industries affected would object unless there was conscription of labour; and although the Minister stated to-day that the Government had no intention at present to conscript labour-
– I did not say “ at present. ‘ ‘
-Although the Minister said there was no intention to conscript labour- ‘
– The Bill makes the intention clear.
– The Bill does make the intention clear. If this war continues for any great length of time, though I do not think it will, it will follow, as the night the day, notwithstanding the assurance of a Labour Minister for Defence, that, if we have conscription of human life, we shall have conscription of labour as well.
– Suppose another Government got into power?
– Senator Findley could not trounce another Government more than he is doing this one.
– I do not think that any other Government could do worse than the present Government. However, Senator Mullan referred to the statement by the Prime Minister which was reported in Hansard of July last; and it is a statement that cannot be too often emphasized. The Prime Minister then said, “ In no circumstances will I agree to send men out of the country to fight against their will.” When he made that statement he was Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Australian Labour party. It was only last year ; and at that time he knew, as we all knew, that Lord Kitchener had said that, in his opinion, the war would last for at least three years - that preparations were being made for a three years’ war at the shortest. We also knew that Russia was more or less disorganized, and more or less unequipped, and we were told that France was being bled almost white. Further, we knew that the Prime Minister of England, and other gentlemen holding responsible positions in the heart of the Empire, had declared, “ What we want are munitions, munitions, and more and more munitions, and more and more men.” At that time there was no conscription at Home, and both Britain and her Allies were short of munitions. To-day, circumstances, like Mr. Hughes, have changed. We were then well within the danger zone, while to-day we are not only outside that- zone, but Germany is beaten, and the end of the war is within measurable distance. In my case, Russia is better off than she was over twelve months ago. She is better equipped than she was when Mr. Hughes said he would under no circumstances conscript men for oversea. Today, France has more men in the field than she had at the beginning of the war, and Britain has ample munitions and ample men. Yet we are told that the reason Mr. Hughes has changed his opinion is that necessity has arisen for such a change.
– I doubt the honorable senator’s statement that France has more men in the field now than she had then.
– I shall show that, later on. According to the Government’s proposals, a proclamation will be issued shortly calling up for home service 32,500 single men. The voluntary enlistments will be deducted from the 32,500, and the difference will be called up before the 1st October next for home defence. If the people of Australia are not in favour of the Government’s proposals, these men will not be sent overseas, and neither will they, in my opinion, be retained for home defence. Now, home defence is to me a matter of supreme importance. It is so because I love Australia, the land of my birth, with all my heart and soul. I love her because she is rich in all that makes for a nation’s greatness. She has every variety of climate, every diversity of soil, and unbounded resources and potentialities. I love her because she gives to her people, particularly those who, like myself, are born and reared in the school of adversity, greater opportunities for a fuller and better life, and a higher civilization than any zone that belts the globe.
– And yet you will not fight for her !
– I know there ave some in this chamber who are haunted by the fear that the Allies will not win this war - the fear that the defeat of the Allies would mean that Australia would be a prize for the enemy. Such a contingency to me is unthinkable - it is impossible. The Allies have already won - Germany is beaten.
– Could the honorable senator communicate the news to the Kaiser ?
– I communicate the news to those gentlemen who are haunted by the fear that unless we conscript a few thousand single men in Australia, the Allies, with their innumerable millions, will be defeated and civilization blasted. I have said that Germany is beaten .
– You have said it several times.
– It cannot be too often repeated to some honorable senators.
Mr. Bonar Law, a member of the British Cabinet, speaking last week at the luncheon given to Sir Edward Morris, Premier of Newfoundland, said -
We were all anxious in the early spring, but that anxiety has gone. There is no shortage of ammunition, the best proof of which is that the German newspapers complain of British cruelty in exterminating the enemy by artillery.
I do not profess to sec the end of the war, but the end is coming. I do not see how the war will end, though I have no doubt what the ultimate end will be.
Honorable senators and some gentlemen in another place who are advocating conscription have doubts, but it will be seen that Mr. Bonar Law has none. LieutenantColonel Repington, the military correspondent of the Times, in reviewing the situation last week, made these striking statements -
When we learned of the German decision to transfer the offensive to the west front, wc knew definitely that Germany had lost the war, and given Russia the necessary breathing space. It must have been gall and wormwood to the German soldiers on the cast front to see the fruit of their great labours thus thrown away.
Here is another authority. Although Mr. Hughes went to the front, he never had, and never can have, the opportunities that General Joffre has had to pass an opinion upon the duration of the war. For the first time since the war began, General Joffre last month granted an interview to recognised and well-known American pressmen. He made these significant and striking statements to those gentlemen -
Consider the situation of our enemies. We know they are fighting as desperately as ever, but they arc drawing on their last reserves. Their plan up to now has been to transfer those reserves from one place to another. They now find this impossible. We know this from information from all fronts. It is not for me to say how long the war will last. It matters little. We know that the break has come. We have already passed the turning point.
That was a month ago, and General Joffre said further -
Notwithstanding our losses, the French army will end the war with more mcn in the field than at the beginning.
Those are my authorities for saying that Germany is beaten, and that the end of war is within measurable distance. We have been told that only single men are to be called up; that only single men will be necessary to see this war through. I am going to quote figures which will show that if there is anything in that statement it is but a confirmation of the statement I have previously made, that there is no danger whatever of Australia becoming the prize of the enemy, because the number that can be called up under the scheme outlined by Mr. Hughes in Sydney will be comparatively so small as to make no material difference in the re- . suit of the war. The Prime Minister has said that the Government propose only lo call up single men, and that they do not think it will be necessary to call up married men. According to figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, there were, on the 9th June last, 450,000 fit men, between the ages of eighteen and forty-four years. Of that number it may be assumed that one-third are single men, and the remaining two-thirds married men. One-third of 450,000 gives us, in round ‘figures, 150,000 men. The figures’ show that on the 9th June last there were 150,000 fit single men between the ages of eighteen and forty- four years. I understand that we are entitled to make a deduction of 25 per cent, from this number to. represent those between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one years, who will not be conscripted, and, according to the best authorities, of the volunteers who presented themselves for medical examination and enlistment at the various military depots in this State during the past four months, there were 36 per cent, of rejects because of physical unfitness. I make bold to say that if from the 150,000 single men between the ages of eighteen and forty-four years, we take 25 per cent., representing those under the age of conscription, 36 per cent, as rejects because physically unfit, and the number covered by the exemptions provided for under the scheme outlined by Mr. Hughes, we shall find that there will not be available more than 50,000 or 60,000 single men. In the circumstances, I say that when the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister tell us that they do not think it will be necessary to call up married men, the statement is misleading, and, in my opinion, more or less dishonest.
– It seems to confirm the honorable senator’s idea that the war is about to end.
– I am stating my view of the case seriously. Those who favour the Government’s proposal believe that the war will last longer than I think it will. I challenge the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence to contradict my contention that when we make up the difference between the number of volunteers and the 32,500 who will be required on the 1st October, and send forward 16,500 per month after that, the eligible single men in the Commonwealth will have been pretty well exhausted by the end of the year, and by January or February, 1917, the call for married men will be made.
I am against conscription for many reasons. I said earlier that home defence is to me a matter of supreme importance. We have played a very big part in this war. It is well that the people of Australia should understand what our financial responsibilities are and will be as the result of what we have done up to date. During the first year of the war, according to the Budget statement of the Treasurer, our expenditure was, in round figures, £20,000,000. In the second year it was £50,000,000. If we do not conscript a single man, our financial responsibility for the financial year ending the 30th June, 1917,and assuming that the war will be ended then, will amount to another £75,000,000. It is estimated by those most competent to judge that if the war is over at the end of June next, it will take two years before our soldiers abroad can be returned to Australia and settled in different avocations.
– Not all of them.
– It will be nearly two years before the last of our soldiers abroad can be returned to Australia. The major portion of them will have to be paid for that period, and it is estimated that if the war ends by June of next year we shall be involved in an additional expenditure of £60,000,000 on this account. That will mean a total expenditure of £205,000,000 as a new debt for the Commonwealth of Australia.
– It will be a long way more than that.
– I have gone into the figures very carefully, and I have arrived at the conclusion that the new debt upon Australia up to. June next will be £205,000,000.
– You are leaving out the amount we owe the British Government, which advanced us money on account.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will have an opportunity of putting the financial position from his point of view. These are the conclusions that I have arrived at. Upon that total of £205,000,000 there will be a new interest bill of £10,250,000 every year.
SenatorReady. - In addition tothe £13,000,000 that the State Governments have to pay.
– I am not concerned with the State Governments at all. This £10,250,000 in interest is a particular liability of the Commonwealth.
– What interest are you providing for?
– I am allowing 5 per cent. Now our taxation proposals bring in £4,500,000, so if we do not conscript a single man our present taxation must be more than doubled to meet this new liability. If, however, we conscript 300,000 men, the additional expenditure will be £75,000,000, bringing the total new debt up to £280,000,000, and the interest bill will be increased by £3,7 50,000, making the total of interest £14,000,000. It will be seen, therefore, that if the people of Australia go in for conscription, and they call up 100,000 men, our present taxation proposals will have to be more than trebled to meet our interest liabilities.
– You are forgetting, apparently, that of this sum a debt of £200,000,000 has already been incurred, according to your figures. Therefore, conscription will not treble the debt that we shall have to carry.
-I am saying that by conscripting 100,000 men our present taxation proposals will have to be trebled, for we shall have to provide the difference between £4,500,000 at present received by way of taxation and an interest liability of £14,000,000.
– But not because of conscription.
– No ; the interest liability directly due to the conscription of 100,000 men will be £3,750,000 per annum.
– Less the amount that would be incurred if the voluntary system were continued.
– If we conscripted 200,000 men, we should have a further responsibility of £100,000,000, and a total interest bill of £19,000,000 a year.
– We want to win the war.
– Well, if the people of Australia want conscription, that is what it will cost; and, so far as the Labour party is concerned, they will see that the taxation is imposed upon those who, apparently, have not borne their fair share of it, in respect to this war, up to the present. I would not send a single man out of Australia by conscription, because the question of home defence is of .supreme importance. The turning point in the struggle has been passed, and victory for the Allies is as certain as that day follows night. There is, therefore, no danger, so far as Australia is concerned; there is no danger in respect to the Empire.
– Men talked like that before the war broke out.
– If the people of Australia see this matter in the proper light, I think they will view favorably the proposal I am going to put forward. Instead of conscripting 100,000 men, as is proposed, involving an expenditure of £75,000,000, I would spend that amount in the construction of strategic railways, in hastening on the unification of the railway gauge3, in the building of seaplanes and submarines, and thousands of aeroplanes, as well as a fleet of dirigibles. I would also erect the most tip-to-date arsenal in the world, and honeycomb Australia with stations for the location of our air fleet. 1 stood almost alone on this question years ago, when I pointed out the possibilities of aerial defence. I said then that the next war, which I hoped to God would not take place in my life-time, would be the most bloody in the history of the world, and that it would be largely determined, not as wars have been in the years gone by, but under the water and in the air. Those who have followed the progress of this
Avar know that the submarine has played an important part, and that the substantial progress made by the Allies on land is due to the fact that they have become masters of the air. Thi3 question of aerial defence is receiving very careful attention from the most advanced military authorities in the world. Even Great Britain is preparing for the next war, for in the Age of the 14th of this month there appeared a cable message stating that the British air defence, after the war, would involve the establishment of an encircling cordon of 20,000 aeroplanes and 1,000 air craft for the army. What would it mean if we spent the £75,000,000 in. Australia? It would enable us to construct strategic railways, to adopt a uniform railway gauge, to build a large fleet of aeroplanes - thus affording employment for thousands, who will probably experience difficulty in securing employment after the war - and to materially assist the Empire.
– Would it accomplish anything in the direction of ending the war ?
– The war is over so far as the Allies are concerned. Germany is beaten. I make that prediction after having given the matter very serious consideration.
– The honorable senator says that Germany is already beaten, notwithstanding that she is still in. possession of a third of France.
– Never mind that. I affirm most unhesitatingly that she is beaten. Only a few years ago an agitation was started in the Commonwealth for the presentation of a Dreadnought to the Mother Country. A certain section of the community believed that that was the most appropriate “way in which we could recognise the services that had. been rendered to Australia by Great Britain in the matter of affording us adequate protection. The Labour party came into power, and said, “ The best service that we can render to the Empire is to build a navy of our own,” and accordingly that was done. In the same way I maintain that the best service we can render the Empire now - seeing that all doubt as to the issue of the war has been removed - is to go in whole-heartedly for an efficient system of home defence. I do not desire to trespass any longer upon the time of honorable senators. I have expressed my views in regard to this Bill. From the first I have never doubted the ultimate result of the war. I have said many times that men, money, and munitions must eventually prevail. That they have prevailed is borne out by the substantial evidence which I have produced this evening. When this Bill is referred to the people, I and others who are opposed to the Government policy, will do what we can to prevent conscription being fastened upon the Commonwealth. If I am any judge of the feeling of the people of Victoria, and if I understand their determination aright, a majority will not be found casting an affirmative vote in respect of the Bill on the 28th October.
– Nor in any other State.
– I cannot speak for other States. I know that meetings have been held in some of the State capitals by the advocates of conscription. We have been assured that the meeting which was addressed by the Prime Minister in Sydney the other evening was one of the most successful gatherings ever held in the Commonwealth. We know that the speech which he delivered on that occasion had practically been delivered in the newspaper offices here before it was uttered in Sydney, and that cheers had been given for itby the sub-editors of certain journals and by others. We have been told that it was a packed meeting which was held in the Sydney Town Hall - that is to say, that the hall would not hold more people, that the early doors were rushed, and that when the motion was put to the gathering, 4,000 persons voted in favour of it, and only seven against it.
– Did the honorable senator count them?
– No, but somebody else did. Outside the Sydney Town Hall those who could not get admission to that building by the early doors held a meeting on their own account. The meeting was more numerously attended than was the gathering inside the Town Hall, and, when a vote was called for, 8,000 persons were found to be opposed to conscription, and only eight in favour of it. I have that information from a most reliable source.
– The honorable senator would not use it otherwise.
– Although I can indulge in a little “leg-pulling” occasionally, I can assure honorable senators that I never felt more serious in my life than I do upon this question. It is because I have a conscientious objection to conscription for military service abroad, when I consider it is quite unnecessary, that I have raised my voice in opposition to it. When the numbers go up on the 28th October I believe it will be found that the proposals of the Government have been defeated by an immense majority.
– In common with other honorable senators, I do not think that this is a time for silence. Bather is it a time when each one of us should express his views freely and frankly on the momentous issue which faces us to-day - the most important issue with which Australia has ever been confronted. I shall approach this question with a full sense of my responsibility, and with a desire not to reflect in any way upon the opinions of those from whom I differ. Only a brief two years ago therewas no member of this Parliament, and no citizen of Australia, who imagined that today we should be face to face with the question of conscription. In this land of ours - the freest under the sun - we little dreamt that within a few brief months we should be faced with the question of determining whether or not our manhood should be shackled with conscription; but we are face to face with it now. That being so, I am prepared to take my share of the responsibility, and shall treat the measure in that light. When Mr. Hughes was in London his speeches there were acclaimed here. They were acclaimed in every part of the Commonwealth. When he arrived in this country he had a triumphal march. He was hailed as a Heaven-born leader by every capitalistic paper.No man has ever left Australian shores for the heart of the Empire and acquitted himself so well as he did. I do not agree with some things he has said, or with some of the things he is doing today, but, speaking of him as a man, all the acclamation given to him as a man was richly deserted. But when he returned from his Empire mission, and had, with his colleagues, considered the situation facing the country, when it was announced that the policy of his Government was to submit the question of conscription to a referendum of the people, the capitalistic press to which I have referred, with the honorable exception of the Age, practically turned him down. Yesterday he was a Heaven-born leader; to-day he was nothing. Yesterday they cried “Hosannah!”; to-day they cried “ Crucify him !” He was a Heaven-born leader, but he did not lead in the direction which they thought he would take. They, therefore, turned him down, but in twenty-four hours they changed their minds, and now the same papers that decried him are again acclaiming him, which shows how little you can depend upon the whims and vagaries of certain people who write in the public press. I am against conscription of human life, and no vote of mine will ever bring about the conscription of human life, good, bad, or indifferent. We have been told by the Prime Minister and those who agree with him that it is essential to conscript the manhood of Australia in order to preserve our liberties. With that pronouncement I do not agree. Such a doctrine would have been right twelve months ago, when the fate of the Empire and its Allies was trembling in the balance. The position to-day, so far as this world-wide war is concerned, is entirely different from what it was then. The fate of the Empire and its Allies is not trembling in the balance. That is true of the fate of the Central Powers instead. Those who run surely can read, and when I make that statement I do not want it to be understood that I think the war is over. But the position is so much improved in our favour that it is not necessary to ask for the conscription of our manhood. Senator Mullan, in his very able address, dealt with the question of the cost which the Commonwealth would have to incur in the event of the Bill being indorsed by the people, but I would ask the Government why a financial statement in connexion with the resources of the Commonwealth has not yet been made? It is most remarkable that, whilst the Government have found ample time to bring forward this Bill, which purports to conscript our manhood, it has not yet had time to make a financial statement of the probable cost of that policy! This should have come from the Commonwealth Treasurer before the Bill was submitted. The Treasurer has not enjoyed good health during the past few weeks ; but a financial statement could have been made by the
Prime Minister or another of his colleagues. The Prime Minister has been busily engaged in travelling from place to place, and I marvel at his vitality, but he could well have expended some of his energy in letting the people of Australia), understand their position in regard to borrowed money, and the obligations which will be entailed by an affirmative vote on. the 28th October. As it is, we are being asked to sign a cheque in blank.
– Should we not insist on a financial statement before passing the Bill 1
– I am prepared to do so. It is only right that before Parliament places its imprimatur on the measure, we, the custodians of the public purse, and the people who have to foot, the bill, should be fully informed regarding the financial situation. I understand that another place has adjourned until Wednesday next, when a financial statement will be delivered. I cannot accept the statement of the Government that married men will not be called to the colours. The figures are too conclusive to allow me to do that. Should conscription become the law of the land, we shall not be able to give that assistance to the Empire for which the Imperial Army Council has asked unless we conscript married men. As to the conscription of wealth along with the conscription of life, it is true that the Prime Minister has’ said that wealth will be conscripted in proportion to manhood, but he has not stated to what extent or in what manner wealth will be conscripted.
– He said . that there would be equality of sacrifice so far as humanly possible.
– It is impossible for the sacrifice of wealth to equal the sacrifice of life. No man, not even the illustrious Prime Minister, can put a value on human life.
– He said “ so far as humanly possible.”
– Should not the Prime Minister tell us exactly what he intends” to do. That was humanly possible. He should have told us exactly what he proposes to do with the wealth of the country, just as he has told us what ho proposes to do with that most sacred thing human life. That would have been the better course to take, and fairer to those who owe allegiance to him. It has been said that taxation can be introduced which will provide for the conscription of wealth. I do not think that is so. The people are already taxed fairly heavily, though the taxation is not in proportion to the ability to bear it. Those who pay the taxes pass them on to the worker and the consumer. Can any one stand on a public platform and deny that ? Consider the cost of living to-day. I marvel how it is possible for any workman in Australia who has to pay rent, and maintain a wife and family, to keep his own body and soul together, let alone carry out his responsibilities to those dependent upon him. Continue increasing taxation if you like, but every increase will be passed on to the worker and the consumer. That being the position to-day, unless wealth is conscripted the worker will not only be offering his life for his country, but will be paying practically the whole cost of the war. That is an indisputable fact. If it should happen that a majority of the Australian people vote in favour of the conscription of life, power will be given into the hands of the nine or ten men who form the National Government to control every man in the Commonwealth, and to direct him to go here, there, or wherever it is their will to send him. Human flesh and blood will be directed into a national pool controlled by the Government of the day, and if that should happen, surely to God they should have the’ right to direct wealth in the same manner.
– Suggest that to the ardent conscriptionist, and he will immediately remember an urgent engagement to see a man about a dog.
– I care not what the ardent conscriptionist thinks; I am stating my opinion as to what should be.
– And will be.
– Has the honorable senator, any proof of that ?
– Yes; we have the assurance of the Prime Minister.
– We are living in times when assurances are not of very much worth. My leader has said that he will conscript wealth in proportion to manhood ; but why is he not as definite in regard to that matter as he is in regard to the conscription of human life.
– He is asking for a week to consider the matter.
– How can we take that assurance when twelve months ago he said that in no circumstances would he send men abroad to fight against their will.
– I am making no attack on the Prime Minister. I am simply exercising my right as a member of the Senate to express my opinion, just as the Prime Minister has the right to express his opinions. I repeat that the Prime Minister might just as well have been as definite in regard to the conscription of wealth as he was in regard to the conscription of life. He should have given us details as to how the system will be applied.
– It takes time to work out those details.
– Another point is that if conscription is adopted we shall be draining this young nation of its manhood, and sending men overseas to do battle for us who might be necessary to defend us on our own shores.
– Let us hope that will not be so.
– I re-echo that hope; but the honorable senator knows perfectly well that there is another menace hanging over our heads just as great as, if not greater than, the menace we are facing to-day on the far-flung battle-fields of Europe. I may not speak as freely on this question as I should like to do, because I will not violate the bond of secrecy into which we have entered, but if I were free to speak either in this chamber or outside, the public would be afforded a better idea as to the necessity for retaining our manhood within our shores.
– We want to win the war as soon as possible.
– That is my desire. Australia, so far, has proved its earnestness about winning the war as soon as possible; it has done nobly and well. I know of. no portion of the Empire that can equal, let alone excel, Australia’s record in this war.
– And no braver men than the Australians ever trod a battlefield.
– No braver men have ever sacrificed their lives for their country.
– And the honorable senator will not allow them to sacrifice their lives in vain ?
– I do not intend to do so. I am treating this matter from an Empire point of view, as well as from an Australian point of view, and I say that the Commonwealth has taken, and is taking, a noble share in the campaign, and has excelled the record of any other portion of the British Dominions. I am glad, indeed, that those men who went abroad to defend our country will have an opportunity of voting on the proposed referendum If there are any men who should have the right to vote on this question they are those who have volunteered to defend our liberties on the battle-field of the Old World. I congratulate the Government on having made that provision for them. When it was proposed to take a referendum on the alteration of the Constitution, I asked the Government whether it would be possible for soldiers who were then at the front to cast a vote, and .the answer was that ballotpapers could not be issued to soldiers at the front, and the Government had abandoned their intention of obtaining the votes of the soldiers, because it was found impracticable, and because the soldiers were under Imperial control at the front. That was on the 11th December of last year. If the proposal for soldiers to vote was impracticable then, how has it been made practicable to-day?
– Because the troops are now in France. Tn December they were at Gallipoli, where no voting-places were possible.
– I accept that explanation, but there were two answers to my question. Firstly, I was told that it was impracticable to take the soldiers’ votes; and, secondly, I was told that our troops were under the Imperial control while they were at the front.
– The Electoral Department found it impossible to give the soldiers votes on the previous occasion.
– The honorable senator can see the difference between France and Gallipoli. In France the soldiers can move back for 50 miles from the front trenches, whereas in Gallipoli they could not move back more than 2 miles.
– No matter where our soldiers may be to-day, whether on a vessel on the way to the front or on a vessel returning to Australia, or whether at the scene of action, they are to have the right to vote.
– Not in the trenches.
– But in December last, no matter where they were, so long as they were outside Australia they could not be given the opportunity to vote and take part in a referendum.
– At that time it was stated that arrangements could not be made with the Imperial Government to take a poll, of the soldiers.
– It is remarkable how arrangements are now made for that purpose.
– Since then our ambassador has been Home.
– I make no imputations. I simply call attention to the fact that while it was impracticable to take a poll of the soldiers then, it is now found practicable, no matter where the soldiers may be. I am glad to see it. If it had not been for what I think was a mistake on the part of the Prime Minister a little while ago in offering another 50,000 men to the Empire, we would not have been asked to face this question of the conscription of Australian manhood. The wiser course would have been to maintain a supply of reinforcements for the divisions already in existence.
– How many of us would lock the stable door after the horse has been stolen ?
– Parliament was not consulted, but I do not suppose that any member of Parliament objected at the time. I simply say that it was a mistake. I admit that I am speaking in the light of after events. As the Prime Minister had made that offer, it. required an extra effort, which has unfortunately failed, and accentuated the position in which we find ourselves today. I believe that if the Prime Minister’s mind were searched, he would admit, in the light of after events, that he had made a mistake in submitting this further offer of troops, when Australia was already doing very well.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT Gould. - No one objected to the offer.
– I did not object at the time, but there were many who did. We already had quite enough to do to keep our existing divisions reinforced, and if the extra troops had not been offered there would have been no need for a referendum to-day upon the question of the conscription of human life.
– Seeing that the offer was made, does not the honorable senator think that we should honour it ?
– I admit that we should honour it, and so far we have done so.
– So far we have, but we ought to do so to the end.
– We shall do it. The honorable senator should not cut one off in the middle of a sentence. If we had had the facilities more men could have gone. There are already sufficient men in camp, but the honorable senator knows as well as I do that the facilities for transporting the men were not available, and I question if they are available today. The honorable senator will not claim that they are.
– I do not profess to know one way or the other.
– I pass on to another phase of the question. Why was Australia asked ,for more men, and .not Canada or South Africa, which are much nearer to the centre of the Empire ? Why have those two Dominions not been asked to send more? Why was Australia asked to send more troops ?
– I think that South Africa has done fairly well in her own country.
– I am not in any way decrying what South Africa has done, nor am I decrying anything that has been done by any of the Dominions. My question is a plain one. Why have the Dominions of South Africa and Canada not been asked by the Imperial Government to send more men ?
– Does the honorable senator know that they have not been asked 1
– If they had been, we should have heard of it. No better argument could have been used by the Government to carry their referendum proposals than a statement that the sister Dominions of South Africa and Canada had been asked to send more men. If such a request had been made, it would have been used by the Government in this case. I undertake to say that it has not been preferred, otherwise we should have heard of it. Whilst I do not decry what has been done by any of the Dominions, I do say that, in proportion to her population and having regard to her distance from the great theatre of war, Australia has done more than has any of the Dominions. Having regard to her population, to the distance she has to transport her troops oversea - 12,000 miles - and to the relative cost of training, equipping, feeding, and transporting her men, Australia has done more than any part of the Empire outside the heart of the Empire itself. Another matter to which I desire to refer is the proposed constitution of the appeal Courts. If the referendum be carried, opportunities will be given to men to show cause why they should not be conscripted. The Bill provides, first of all, that they must go before a police or stipendiary magistrate. If he refuses their application for an exemption, they may appeal to the Supreme Court of a State, and from that tribunal to the High Court. I enter an emphatic protest against this proposal, and in Committee should like to see it amended. Let us focus our attention upon this particular point. Take the case of a rich man and a poor man who desire to be exempted. Both appear before the magistrate, and, let us assume, the exemption in each case is disallowed. The rich man can afford to appeal to the Supreme Court, and from there to the High Court; the poor man cannot. He has to stop practically at the first Court; he cannot afford to go further.. The Bill should be so amended as to provide for the appointment of a board in different districts in each State, representative of rich and poor alike, so that a speedy determination can be made as to whether a man shall be exempt or not, and litigation thus avoided. Inevitably the rich man will be able to exhaust all the channels which the clause as it stands affords, whereas the poor man will be compelled to stop at the first Court. I commend to the Leader of the Senate the suggestion that this should be remedied -
– The honorable senator thinks there should be only one Court of appeal?
– The poor man should not be practically compelled to go to the Supreme Court, and then to the High Court. He cannot afford to do so.
– He will not be compelled to do so.
– He will not be able to do so because of lack of funds. Why should the rich man have the opportunity because he has the money ?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there should be only the one Court - that of the stipendiary or police magistrate?
– I do not suggest that there should be only one Court, consisting of a police magistrate. I should not like to trust my destiny to such a tribunal. I should like a board-
– For yourself.
– The honorable senator’s interjection is, as usual, of an insulting character. I am not proposing a board for myself or of myself. What I suggest is that there should be in certain districts in each State a board comprising an industrial representative and an employers’ representative, with an independent chairman, to settle such questions. I should hot like to trust myself entirely to the decision of either a police or stipendiary magistrate in such a matter. Another point is that it has been suggested that during this campaign it will not be necessary for leading articles and letters dealing with it, and published in our newspapers, to be signed. Is that so.?
– No; they must be signed.
– I understand that the statement was made in another place that during this campaign it would not be necessary for them to be signed.
– An amendment was moved in another place, but not carried.
– ,So that during this campaign newspaper articles and letters relating to the . referendum will have to be signed?
– The Electoral Act will apply.
– I am glad to have that assurance. Having said so much, I desire now to intimate that I am going to support the Bill. In view of my remarks, this may be considered strange, but it is not strange to my mind, x have no mandate from my constituents to conscript human life, nor have I any mandate from them not to conscript it. I believe in the principle of the referendum. It is a Labour principle, and one that I have favoured ever since I have been able to act and think for myself. I am not going to use it now as I would treat a suit of clothes - use it while it pleases me and cast it aside when it does not. I cannot do that with the principle of the referendum. There is a higher and a greater tribunal than that in which we are gathered to-night. That tribunal consists of the creators of this Parliament, and of me as a senator through the ballotbox. It is because I trust the people in all things that I trust them in this. I would not be worthy of the trust reposed in me if my vote meant that those most concerned would not have an opportunity to say yes or no on this great and most momentous issue. While I am against the conscription of human life, I am supporting the Bill in order that it may be submitted to that greater tribunal of which I have spoken. And when the Bill is before the people, if God spares me health and strength, I shall exercise my right as a citizen, and give my views on the public platforms of Western Australia as I have given them to-night.
Debate (on motion by Senator Beady) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I have to ask honorable senators to try to bring the debate on the Referendum Bill to a conclusion to-morrow.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware of the fact that the Argus this morning printed an article on the subject of conscription which was not signed, notwithstanding the statement made to-night that all articles having reference to that issue must be signed? I understand that a difficulty has arisen, through no fault of the paper, but through the fault of the Prime Minister. The reason for the position seems to be that a writ for this referendum has been issued without the authority of law, and the newspapers are in a position to defy the Government. As I say, a writ has been issued without authority, and the result is that a great morning paper has been able to laugh at the restrictions sought to be imposed, and to publish an unsigned article regarding conscription. I do not know whether this is done with the connivance of the Government or not ; but, as I have said, it really means that a writ has been issued without the authority of law. What does the Leader of the Senate intend to do ? Does he intend to ask the newspapers to recognise the spirit of the law? The Government have issued an illegal proclamation, which will remain illegal until it is sanctioned by Parliament.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister who controls the administration of the Electoral Act. I am not aware of the facts as stated, nor do I know whether they amount to a breach of the law or not.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 September 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1916/19160921_senate_6_80/>.