6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is it the intention of the Government to close some, or all, of the military training camps in Australia, and to send forward to England without training those persons who, in future, may enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, and, if so, are the Australians to he officered by Australian or British officers?
– It is not our intention to close any camp if we can get reinforcements to put into it. In regard to the second part of the question, portion of the training will be done here, and the remainder in England. The reason for that course is that the training, especially in the special subjects, varies from week to week and from month to month, and it takes time for the changed orders to reach here. Therefore, it is better that the special training should be given in England. As regards the third part of the question, Australian officers are appointed wherever it is possible.
– Has the Minister for Defence now available for the Senate any information with regard to the travelling of Australian troops by railway in Egypt?
– I told the honorable senator yesterday that we had a report on the subject, and that I would get it and read it to the Senate. Some few weeks back we cabled to Egypt as follows : -
It has been represented that Australian soldiers required to travel third class with natives. Please cable information Minister practice respecting railway travelling.
To that inquiry we received the following cabled reply : -
A third class coach, to carry seventy-eight, is entirely reserved for conveyance of military passengers on all the principal trains. On other lines individual soldiers or parties of less than seven may travel second class. Invalids on certificate medical officer travel second class.
That cablegram was followed by a copy of the general orders, in which these conditions were contained, but as they appear to apply to troops when travelling on duty only, we have asked for definite information in regard to soldiers travelling while on leave.
– That is the main point.
– Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the Industrial Commission to the United States, and, if so, when will they be in a position to announce the names of its members?
– The matter is receiving the consideration of the Government at the present time.
– In the event of an Australian soldier being transferred from the Australian Imperial Force overseas to the British Aviation Corps or other part of the British service, would the transfer necessarily involve the reduction of his pay as an Australian soldier to that of a British soldier ?
– I would like the question to be made a little clearer. Does the honorable senator mean the pay to which the soldier has been entitled up to the point of transfer, or the pay after transfer ?
– I mean the Australian standard pay. After transfer from an Australian unit to a British unit, would an Australian soldier receive the Australian or the British rate of pay ?
– I would like the honorable senator to give notice of the question. I know that there are different arrangements in different parts of the war field.
– My reference to this matter, if I may be permitted to explain, is in consequence of the British. Aviation Corps asking for Australian volunteers to undertake the work of’ aviation in England. Several of our Australian soldiers have volunteered, and are anxious to know what their position will be in regard to the rate of pay.
– I shall be glad if the honorable senator will give notice of the question.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911 -
Opinion of Attorney-General in connexion with further variation of Award of Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on plaint submitted by Australian Letter Carriers Association.
Order (dated 29th September, 1916), varying Award made by Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on plaint submitted by Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union ; together with Statement re Laws and Regulations, Copy of “Reasons for Judgment,” Memorandum by Acting Public Service Commissioner, and Opinion of Attorney- General .
Order (dated 29th September, 1916) further varying Award made by Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on plaint submitted by Australian Postal Electricians Union; together with Statement re Laws and Regulations, Copy of “ Reasons for Judgment,” Memorandum by Acting Public Service Commissioner, and Opinion of Attorney-General.
War Precautions Act 1914-1916. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 289, 298, 300, 301.
Variation of Awards
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay on the table of the Senate at the earliest opportunity -
The variation of the award given by Mr. Justice Higgins in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court on the 29th September, 1916, re increase of salaries to members of the Australian Telegraph and Telephone Construction and Maintenance Union?
The variation of the award given by Mr. Justice Higgins on the 22nd November, 1916, re acting positions, &c, to members of the above-named organization ?
– Following up that reply, I should like to know from the Leader of the Senate, who laid the papers on the table a few moments ago, if the decisions embraced both awards ?
Referendum : Cost of Camps : Interruption of Public Meetings: Lease of Camp Site: Voting in Territories: Enlistments.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– This information is being obtained, and will be supplied when ready..
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay on the table of the Senate a return showing in detail the cost of calling up men in Australia recently for home defence?
– This information is being obtained, and will be supplied when ready.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he inform the Senate -
At whose instance prosecutions for disturbing public meetings in Tasmania during the recent referendum campaign were instituted?
Why only those alleged to have disturbed conscription meetings were prosecuted, whilst those disturbing anti-conscription meetings are in no case proceeded against?
– The answer is -
– Before calling upon the next question, I want to direct attention to what I have repeatedly said in the Senate with regard to questions, viz., that they must be asked only for the purpose of obtaining information, and must not contain any statement or comments. This matter was brought under my notice last night. I did not press the objection, but I want the Senate to understand that this must not be taken as a precedent, and that questions in a form contravening my ruling must not be asked in the Senate.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– I am not aware of any official prosecutions in Tasmania. Inquiries are being made.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer is-
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
How many persons were enrolled or entitled to vote, and how many votes were recorded at each of the following places, at the referendum, on the 28th October, 1910: -
– The answers are - 1.I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister administering the Electoral Act.
Charges by D. L. Gilchrist.
asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answer is -
Scale of Rations - Compulsory
Military Service Referendum : Manifestoes to Soldiers - Delivery of Cablegrams
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries willbe made, and the information will be furnished when available.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether the Postmaster-General has made inquiries respecting the complaint as to the delay in the delivery of cables to soldiers of the A.I.F. in England and France?
– The answer is -
Information furnished to the PostmasterGeneral shows that many messages addressed to soldiers have remained undelivered because the senders have not observed the instructions given to them regarding the proper method of address. Notification was given in the press as long ago as July last that, as private telegrams for soldiers were not permitted to be telegraphed to France, they should be addressed care of “ Stralis,” London, arrangements having been made for forwarding such telegrams by post direct to the addressees in the trenches or elsewhere. The Commandant, A.I.F. Head-quarters, London, having reported that relatives sending messages to soldiers had neglected to use the address referred to, with the result that such messages had remained undelivered, notification has again been given in the matter.
asked the Min ister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government is not yet in a position to make a definite announcement of the details of the proposal, which is now being considered. As soon as possible full information will be given.
asked the Min ister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact that during the recent visit of the Prime Minister to Britain he arranged with a British firm for the manufacture of all electric cables required by the Postal Department for a period of ten years?
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) proposed -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to alter paragraph (i) of section 51 of the Constitution.
– There is no need for any discussion on the point of order. I wish to point out to Senator Millen and other honorable senators that the motion submitted is merely for leave to introduce a Bill. Neither Senator Millen nor any other honorable senator can have any knowledge of what is contained in the Bill until it is introduced. We cannot say whether it is identical with a previous Bill dealt with by the Senate. I am sure that I cannot do so. That being so, I think Senator Gardiner must have the right to put to the Senate his motion for leave to introduce the Bill. No one can say whether the Bill proposed to be introduced will be in order or out of order until it has been introduced and we can see what’ it contains. I therefore rule that Senator Gardiner is in order in submitting the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to alter paragraph (xx) of section 51 of the Constitution.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution by empowering Parliament to make laws with respect to industries and businesses declared to be the subject of a monopoly.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for on Act to alter paragraph (xxxv) of section 51 of the Constitution.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for anAct to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws with respect to trusts, combines, and monopolies.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to alter the Constitution by empowering Parliament to make laws with respect to industrial disputes in relation to employment in State railway services.
Order of the Day for the resumption of the debate adjourned from 18th May (vide page 7980), on motion by Senator Lynch -
That in the opinion of the Senate the name of the Federal Capital should be changed from Canberra and the Capital rechristened Anzac.
Read and discharged.
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 9236), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the paper be printed.
– The Senate listened yesterday with, I have no doubt, considerable interest to a statement delivered by the Minister for Defence, but if honorable senators will recall that statement, they must be struck, as Iwas, by the many omissions from it. It informed us certainly of important Ministerial changes, but it gave us no information, for instance, as to the causes which had rendered those changes necessary. I submit that the Senate was entitled to some little information on that point. The question as to who are to occupy positions as advisers of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral is a matter of concern, not merely to the individuals themselves or His Excellency, but to this Senate as a co-ordinate branch of Parliament. If Senator Pearce will look up the precedents, he will findI am correct in stating that it is not unusual to inform Parliament of the reasons for such drastic changes. Another omission from the statement was any reference to the referendum. Honorable senators will know that that was the big outstanding question confronting us when the Senate last met. I was surprised at the absence of any reference to it other than that relating to the new recruiting scheme. There was a third omission to which I wish to direct attention. This is a new Ministry. It has only just taken office, and I think the Senate has a right to look for a little fuller explanation of the Ministerial policy than is contained in the statement. That statement is full enough in regard to recruiting, but it is quite silent upon one or two matters in respect of which we require information at the earliest possible moment. For instance, it set out the determination of the Government to proceed with all energy with the prosecution of the war; but it did not say whether it was intended to introduce for the balance of the year any other than war legislation. It states that all other things are to be subordinated to the necessity for prosecuting the war to a successful issue; but it contains no intimation as to whether the Government intend to proceed with other than war legislation. 1 direct attention to this matter, because I am under the impression - in view of a statement which was made elsewhere - that these omissions are accidental, and not intentional. I draw the attention of the Minister for Defence to them, in the hope that, if they are accidental, he will, at the earliest moment; make them good. There was another very serious omission from the statement. Nobody can shut his eyes to the fact that to-day Australia is confronted with a serious industrial problem, and with the possibility of still more serious consequences developing from it. We might, therefore, have expected some intimation of the attitude of the Government towards this outstanding difficulty. I repeat that I assume these omissions are accidental, and that the Minister will, as early as possible, place the Senate in possession of the desired information.
In regard to the Ministerial changes which have taken place, I wish to say a few words. Apparently, the first thing to break up the late Ministry was the resignation of Mr. Higgs and Senators Gardiner and Russell. I wish to say at once that, so far as I know the circumstances which resulted in their resignations, those gentlemen were not only justified in what they did, but that no other course was open to them. Of course, my only source of information is the daily press, and if I am incorrect in what I am about to say, it is because those who are in possession of more accurate information have not made it available to me. According to my information, it is the practice of Departments to send direct for Executive approval ordinary routine regulations - matters that are, perhaps, complementary to a policy that has already been approved - and for such regulations to be treated largely as formal. But whenever a regulation involves a question of policy, as this particular regulation undoubtedly did, it is necessary that it should first be submitted for Cabinet consideration and decision. According to the press reports, this was not done. A very important regulation, involving a matter of policy, went, not to the Cabinet for consideration, but to the Executive Council - a body, an ordinary function of which is to simply note a formal approval on the papers submitted to it. At that Executive Council meeting this particular regulation was, apparently, turned down, the Ministers present being Mr. Higgs and Mr. Jensen, and Senators Gardiner and Russell. The press states that these gentlemen unanimously rejected it.
– How does the press know?
– I do not know. I am dealing with the matter only on the facts supplied to me by the press.
– Which somebody had given away.
– That is not my concern. If the statement is incorrect, it is within the competency of some persons within this chamber to correct me.
– The honorable senator is absolutely correct, and I took the responsibility of giving the press the information.
– Why did not the honorable senator do that in the Belamba case, when he agreed to send men away to sea?
– The honorable senator is behind the people who want to send them away.
– I shall quote Scripture to these Christians if they continue in this way. I wish now to proceed with my recital of what I believe to be the facts of the case. After the Executive Council had refused to approve of the regulation, the Prime Minister - not convening the same members of his Ministry - called an Executive Council meeting, consisting of himself, Mr. Webster, and Mr. Jensen, the last-named being the only one of the four who had originally turned it down. At that meeting this regulation was approved. Assuming, as I have a right to do, that the fact’s are as stated, there was only one course open to those Executive Councillors who had disapproved of it in the first instance. There was only one course open to a man with any self-respect, namely, to resign from the captaincy of a chief who treated him with such scant consideration. It seems to me that the action taken by the Prime Minister was so extraordinary, so arbitrary, and so absolutely unreasonable, that if those Ministers who dissented from the regulation had remained in the Government they must have done so at the forfeiture, not only of their own selfrespect, but that of the community at large. Apart from the method pursued to get it adopted, the regulation itself was sufficient to have justified the resignations of Ministers.
– Opinions differ about that.
– And I am expressing my opinion. My honorable friend and I belong to a party which does not machine us. I disagree altogether with that regulation. Seeing that it involved a matter of vital public policy, it had no right to be put through the Executive Council in that way. Let there be no mistake about it - it was put through, and it was acted upon. It was only withdrawn, not because of any change of policy on the part of the Government, but because of the fear of the consequences that might follow from giving effect to it.
– So was schedule 9, which the honorable senator agreed to.
– Section 9.
– I am dealing with this regulation, and not with section 9. I am sorry that Senator Russell has left the chamber, because I wish to say a few words personal to himself. Aa I remarked just now, I can only approve of the action of those Ministers who resigned from the late Government as a protest against the regulation, and, therefore, it is incomprehensible to me that one of them - Senator Russell - is still seated on the Treasury bench. I submit to him that out of regard for his own public standing and reputation he owes some explanation to the people. If lie does not give it he must not be surprised if people think lingeringly of the story of the Vicar of Bray.
– Do you not think other Ministers owe us some explanation of their actions ? They have not made it yet.
– I am dealing now with the regulation, and aa Senator Russell is now present I will repeat exactly what I said.
– That regulation was withdrawn.
– Whether it was withdrawn or not it was acted on. It was put through irregularly in a way which compelled certain Ministers to ‘resign. Seeing that Senator Russell took a course of action, for which I commend him, in resigning as a protest either against the regulation or the method of putting it through - that is to say against the action of his chief - I am surprised that he still finds a place on the Ministerial bench. I now suggest to him that out of regard for hia public standing, position, and reputation,” he should take the country into his confidence and explain how, having resigned on that ground, he still finds it compatible with that resignation to rejoin his old chief.
– All in good time. Do you regard my position as a losing one, seeing that the regulation was withdrawn ?
– I am merely stating the case as I think it appears to everybody outside the Senate - that it is extraordinary that a gentleman who resigned because of the action taken then should have rejoined the Government a week or two afterwards. I suggest to him now, in all friendliness, that he should put before the people the explanation as to what has enabled him to do this. I am certain that if he presents a reasonable explanation to the people they will judge him much more kindly than they are disposed to do at the present moment.
– You will admit that I have had no opportunity to date?
– My honorable friend is a judge of his opportunities. I say nothing about that. I merely suggest that at the earliest opportunity he should take the public into his confidence on the question.
The statement made by the Minister, and a glance round the chamber, remind us that many changes have taken place, all of them interesting, some of them possibly of permanent ‘ importance, but none of them without some bearing upon the inter-relation of parties within the Parliament and in the country, and what is very much more important, upon those many matters of grave and urgent public concern now demanding consideration. But in all these changes there is one thing which has not changed, and that is the attitude of the- Opposition in its unswerving determination to subordinate every thing to a successful prosecution of the war. The Opposition maintains with every confidence that it has so acted in the past. It intends similarly and equally to so act in the future. It’ is not so greatly concerned with the domestic disturbances which have disrupted the one-time dominant majority in this Chamber, and it is not particularly concerned as to the personnel of the Ministry, except so far as these matters may have an influence upon the one great outstanding and paramount question - the national safety. There is to-day, more than ever, an imperative call for the highest patriotism, and the Opposition believes that it will best respond to that call by concerning itself more with the things that have to be done than with the men who may have to do them. For two years it has adhered to that policy. It will continue to do so, asking only that within the limits imposed by the referendum, the war shall be prosecuted with the utmost energy and determination. While assisting the Government in this connexion, it will retain its separate political identity, reserving to itself the right in the public interest to criticise to the fullest extent and decide on its merits each measure submitted to this Chamber, I hope that statement will make quite clear to the Senate and to the electors exactly where the Opposition stands.
As one of those who voted and worked to the best of his ability to secure an affirmative result, I am bitterly disappointed with the verdict recorded by the country at the referendum. But although I regret that decision, I say without equivocation, that it must stand; it must not, either in the -letter or the spirit, be tam.pared with in any -way until the people themselves take the responsibility of undoing it. It is worth while considering what the verdict meant.
– A ‘German majority - 63,000 Germans.
– I did not so much mean the causes which contributed to that decision as the interpretation which is being placed on it to-day by public journals, and sometimes by public men. Before the vote was taken many of the . conscriptionist journals declared that a negative vote would mean this, that, or the other. They are attempting now’ to prove that it does not mean anything of the kind. They said before that a negative vote was to be accepted as a declaration that Australia had drawn out of the war. They say now that it is only a decision as to the methods by which we are to continue to prosecute it. More harm has been done, with regard both to the referendum and the war, by refusing to face the issue, and an apparently shuddering disinclination to tell the simple truth to the public, than by anything else. This is an enlightened community, and we shall do no harm by telling it the plain .truth. We have done harm enough by withholding the truth from it. Those who proclaimed before the poll was taken what the effect of the verdict would be, and are now attempting to misconstrue that verdict, are either acting from mistaken motives or are wilfully trying to withhold from the people the full effect of the vote. When I declared on the platform that a negative vote would mean that Australia was hoisting the signal that she was tired of the war and had had enough, I meant it, and I so accept that vote to-day. I amnot going to turn round now and say to the people whom I told that by a negative vote Australia would pull out of the war, “ Oh, I did not mean it.- I waasimply trying to fool you out of your voteby my statement.” I did mean it, and, unpleasant though’ it may be, I accept that verdict as an intimation from Australia that she has done all that she is* prepared to do in the matter of finding recruits, except so far as there may still be found men willing to volunteer for that service. It is unpleasant to look at thematter in that way, but it is of no use for us to shut our eyes to a thing because it is unpleasant. Passing from that aspect of the case, I think that we are doing an injustice to our cause, to ourselves, and to the Empire, if we attempt in any way to belittle or tone down the serious consequences of the verdict given on the 28th of last month. I want now to deal with one or two of the causes which brought about that verdict, and I will not do so with any idle desire to indulge in recriminations. I would be perfectly content if the whole thing could’ be regarded as dead and buried. But the matters to which I desire to direct attention are those which are still current, and are likely to continue to damage our efforts to obtain men. If we were finished with the recruiting, I would say nothing about them, but they are operating to-day, in my opinion, as anti-recruiting influences, and therefore I refer to them. The first one of them is that with painful optimism, or stupidity, ever since this war started, there has been a great tendency on the part of our public journals, and many of our public men, to sound the stupid cry of, “ We are bound to win.” Everywhere it has been insisted, ‘ It may be a little longer than we expect, but, after all, we are bound to win.” The result of that cry was to> convey to the masses, of the people an impression that all was going well, that there was no serious danger confronting us, and in consequence people were not disposed to turn upside down a whole system with which they were familiar to meet a danger which they were led to believe was passing away. I will give a concrete instance of the effect of that cry. A little time before the referendum vote was taken, there was at Liverpool a unit. members of which had obtained final leave. I happened to know many of the lads, and when I met some of them in Sydney, they told me that a majorityin the unit was voting “N o. “ I asked why, and they gave me what to my mind was the most pointed and effective reason I had heard for a negative vote. One of the lads said, and the others; endorsed his statement, “Our leaders here, our newspapers here, English generals, French generals, the statesmen in Allied countries, in fact, everybody tells us that we are winning and are bound to win. Under these circumstances we are not prepared to take the risk of introducing conscription here; but, if the Empire were in danger we would risk conscription and everything else.” That is bringing home in one definite case the danger which has arisen from the continual preaching of this cry.
– How do you explain the vote of the soldiers at the front?
– I do not know, and I am not allowed to know, the vote.
– You have a good idea..
– I have not, as my imagination is not so lively as my honorable friend’s. We are, or pretend to be, all in favour of doing the best we can under the voluntary system. I say that we retarded the effort to get volunteers by our failure in the past, at any rate, to bring home to the people of the country the fact that we are standing face to face with a tremendous danger. For twenty months this cry of “ We are bound to win” was preached throughout the country. It was only on the eve of the referendum, when the Prime Minister had returned to Australia, that any effort was made to present the real seriousness of the position to the electors. Is it surprising then that they assumed that this was an attempt to make the prospect look gloomier than it was in order to compel them, out of their loyalty, to vote in an affirmative way? Side by side with that was the other idea, equally fatal, that in this country we are fighting not so much for our national existence as to help the Empire. We here have heard that fallacy exposed, but it is a strange thing that it has become so much a habit with many of us that even in the statement read yesterday by the
Minister for Defence this aspect of the case is put forward -
The policy of the Government in regard to the war will be to prosecute it with all the energy necessary to give effect to the desire of the people of Australia” to render the utmost assistance to the Mother Country and her Allies.
That is a wrong and false note to sound. The real position is that we are asked today to fight for our own national existence.
– It is a good note, but it is worded in the wrong way.
– I remember Senator Pearce joining with me here in denouncing that presentation of the case, but it has become so much a habit that, . almost inadvertently, we use that form of words. It has created the impression in many places that what we are doing to-day is not fighting for Australia, but in some way or other showing our good will towards the Mother Country, our belief in the ideals and the civilization for which we stand by helping her. We should bring home to our people two things, and this we have failed to do yet. First, instead of running round and saying, “ We are bound to win,” we should bring home to them . what I believe to be a simple truth, and” that is that we are bound to fail unless we make a further effort. If we could bring home to the people that what we are doing is not merely helping the Mother Country, but in addition to that fighting for our own national existence, we should, I believe, obtain an affirmative instead of a negative vote. I mention that as one of the causes which led to the defeat of the referendum, in the hope that in future there will be an attempt to present to the people a truer picture of the danger which confronts us. A second matter which contributed largely towards influencing votes at the referendum, and a matter which is still operating, is the exercise by the Government of its powers of censorship. When the referendum campaign was started, we had an assurance from the Prime Minister that we were to have a free press and a free platform. I remind the Minister for Defence that it is not always the actual enactment or regulation which itself is the evil as the impression it creates. When the Government commenced to break away from the assurance it had given to this country, and attempted to use the censorship for political rather than military reasons, it is not surprising’ that the people became suspicious, even where the Government’s action was beyond suspicion. I will give a case in point. I could give at least half-a-dozen instances where the censorship was used in a way which, in my judgment, was a breach of the Prime Minister’s promise, and certainly had a very serious political’ effect on the minds of the electors, then about to vote on the proposal. But I will give only one case. Honorable senators will recollect that we had placed on the table of the Senate the instructions given with regard to the conduct of the censorship in the referendum campaign. I have not a copy of the paper here, but it will be remembered that it prohibited the publication of anything in the press which would, for instance, be offensive to the Allies. Honorable senators will probably recollect that the paper contained four prohibitions, but not one of those prohibitions had any reference to political matters. Yet, in the midst of the campaign, the Government issued through the censorship an instruction to the press not to publish anything having reference to ‘the arrival of Maltese here. That instruction was given, and a more stupid or more suicidal instruction could not be imagined. 1 came across the instruction when I was addressing a series of country meetings. It was presented to me at a meeting by a member of “the audience, who had so little faith in me that, having stated that he would not part with a copy of the instruction for a pound, refused to hand the paper over unless he was allowed to keep a grip on one corner of it, so much did he value’ the instruction as an aid to the anti-conscription cause. On the paper was an instruction from Colonel Nicholson, Chief Censor in Sydney, prohibiting any reference to the arrival of Maltese. That instruction was circulated not by tens, but by tens of thousands, throughout New South Wales, and any man reading the instruction would say, “ Clearly, Maltese are arriving.” In the popular imagination, it was not 200 Maltese that were arriving, but, at The time this document was circulated, 200,000 at least were being brought here, and brought here, in the mind of the anti-conscriptionists, by the direct connivance of the Prime Minister. No more foolish action, than that could have been taken. It was, first of all, a breach of the Prime Minister’s promise; it did not affect the Allies; it was not a war measure; it was purely political ; but it was so stupid in its character that it passed beyond the region of an error, and became a crime. Its effect on the voting in my State it is impossible to calculate. That instruction was not issued on the responsibility of the Censor himself ; it was issued, on a direction from Melbourne. Not only was .it foolish in regard, to the Maltese question, but it has created a belief to-day that the Government is using the censorship Tor political purposes, and it is for that reason that I refer to the matter. I want the Government to make the censorship more in conformity with the democratic ideas of this country. I appeal to the Government to try to counteract the “ impression which has got abroad that the censorship is being used to withhold from the people news which they ought to have, and that an attempt is being made to utilize the censorship for political, and not military, reasons.
– Your words to-day will be used by those who want the censorship for another purpose.
– If so, the responsibility must rest, not with me, but with those who, by that mistake, compelled my reference to the matter.
– You do not want a censorship which is going to allow the other stuff through?
– As regards anything which would help the enemy, I would have no mercy on those who published such information, but I draw a sharp distinction between information which is useful to the enemy and that to which the public is entitled.
Referring now to the new recruiting scheme. It may be, as has been suggested that, for want of a better proposal, the Government have brought this forward.
– You are playing the part of the candid friend to the Ministry.
– Well, I am not supporting the Ministry, but I am prepared to support any proposal which will have the effect of enabling us to prosecute this war successfully. Now I want to turn to the new voluntary enlistment scheme which has been brought under our notice, and if I express any absence of enthusiasm in regard to it, I apprehend that I shall not surprise any honorable senator acquainted with the history of voluntary recruiting in this country for I have declared, as the Government did, in the words of the Prime Minister, that the voluntary system had failed.
– There are no “ hear.hears “ from the other side to that statement.
– Because it has not failed.
– One of the most promising features about this matter is the’ stalwart declaration on the part of several ‘honorable senators that the voluntary system has not failed. I take that as an intimation that they are prepared to accept the responsibility of making it a success. If they can get the recruits by the voluntary system, and if I can stand as a door-opener to their tents, I shall do that with pleasure. I have no great enthusiasm for this new proposal, and as a matter of fact it is not a new scheme at all, though it bears a new name. It is no more a new scheme than is last season’s dress new because a bunch of fresh ribbon may have been placed on the garment. It is the same scheme, I am sorry to say. It is true that we are to have a DirectorGeneral of Recruiting, but there is nothing fresh in the proposal itself except that there are to be a few paid officials.
– They will be needed for electioneering purposes.
– If they prove no more effective for electioneering purposes than as recruiting agents then I should be sorry for the party in whose interests they were engaged. Let honorable senators consider for a moment what is proposed under this new scheme.- We are to have local organizations and a central body in each State, and a still more majestic central body in Melbourne. But we had all that before. We had a central Federal War Committee, and there .was in each State a War Council with recruiting agencies in the various districts,. In every country town there was a committee of some kind and the local mayors walked abou? with a new and added importance. Shire presidents vied with them. And later on we sent to all of them men in khaki as recruiting sergeants to stump the country for the purposes of securing recruits. I fear that under this new scheme there is a great risk that we shall lull the people of this country into a sense of false security by allowing them to think that what we are about to do will meet the difficulty and provide reinforcements.
– There is no alternative.
– Then if there is no alternative it is far better to tell the people plainly than to go on trying to fool them with the idea that effective measures are in operation to insure success with the scheme.’
– But honorable senators over there say they can get recruits under the voluntary system. The Ministerial statement is quite clear.
– What is quite clear ?
– We say that we think we cannot get the reinforcements by this scheme; but there is the machinery, and we look to members of Parliament to help in putting it into operation.
– Let me remind the Minister of the statement which appears in the paper laid on the table concerning this scheme -
It seems hopeless-
The scheme itself appears to be recommended in a spirit of hopelessness - to expect that we can by the voluntary enlistment raise 16,500 men per month; but we propose to do the utmost that voluntary enlistment ls capable of.
It may be, as Senator Lynch has suggested, that the only thing to do at present is to go ahead with this proposal ; but I do say it is a tremendous responsibility to allow the people to think for a moment that it will meet the difficulty.
Senator– Pearce. - We say distinctly that we do not think so, but honorable senators on the other side have said they can make it a success.
– And I am going, with the Minister, to put those honorable gentlemen to the test. They have, declared they are strong advocates of the voluntary system, which they say the Government have somehow or other depreciated or discounted. I am going to give those honorable senators an opportunity to rehabilitate it, and I would say to them, “If you can make it a success, for God’s sake take it up and carry it through.”
– We said that the voluntary system was sufficient for the number of men Australia had arranged to send away.
– That interjection confirms exactly many of the statements made prior to the referendum - not that the conscription system was good, bad, or indifferent, and the voluntary system was better, but that Australia had done enough.
– It was that, under the voluntary system, Australia had sent away too many men to enable the country to keep up the actual reinforcements.
– Let honorable senators come out into the open and not shelter themselves behind the shield that the voluntary system was not able to keep up reinforcements.
– I say here and now that to send 16,500 men a month out of Australia would mean ruination.
– It would be ruination to a much greater extent if we had 16,500 Germans coming here every month. Unfortunately, some people have never conceived it to be a real possibility that this country may pass under German rule. I do. What is the outlook at the present time ? When we last met here we had Germany beaten flat on the table by Senator Findley, but to-day this “ beaten “ Germany is holding us on theWest as she is holding Russia on the East, and is still able to find strength in men and munitions to drive Roumania out of Transylvania, and is now even threatening the capital of that country.
– You are a sack cloth and ashes pessimist.
– I just want to say before I pass entirely from this question that as long as the scheme, for which the Government takes the responsibility, is put into operation, I shall do what I can in the performance of my simple public duty to support it. Having said that, I desire to draw the attention of the Minister to what is possibly an oversight on the part of the Government. They have put forward an elaborate scheme of organization, have carefully found a place for every member of the House of Representatives, but apparently there is no place in it for a single senator.
– Do not make any mistake about that. You are overlooking the State Committee.
– No. I observe there is to be one or more Federal members on that body. I want now to refer to the seriousness of the outlook. Germany has shown that she is a long way from being beaten, and passing for the moment from the happenings in Roumania - which I fervently hope will not share the fate of Servia - I want to direct the attention of every loyal citizen of the Empire to the condition pf Great Britain to-day. Are honorable senators aware that Great Britain is approaching the day when her people may be placed on food rations ? It is all very well to take consolation from the newspaper cables about the state of affairs in Germany - we were informed months ago that Germany was being starved, and that her people had to secure bread and butter tickets, and all that sort of thing - but what is Great Britain’s position to-day? Claiming to be mistress of the seas, she is reduced now to the position that she has to follow Germany’s lead in the regulation of her food supplies and the standardization of flour by the introduction of a larger proportion of the rougher elements in the product. Has this state of affairs been brought about because we are shaking hands with victory, or is it because we stand facing the possibility of failure ? In common with other honorable senators I read the newspapers, and I see to-day that no less than thirteen ships were claimed yesterday by German submarines. During the last month they have sunk an average of three ships a day. They claim ninety ships for a month and thirteen in one day. The meaning of this is plain, and it is that if we allow the land war to drag on year after year, we shall be unable to make such terms of peace as are the reward of victory, and though we may manage to pull out of the war unbeaten ourselves, we shall have lost everything for which we went to war. We cannot forever or indefinitely continue this state of affairs, and if we will not summon the resolution to bring to the aid of the Empire the additional strength necessary to secure victory now, the time may come when the opportunity to do so will have passed.
– The honorable senator says that the people’ in England are starving now. How are they to feed more men if we send them there?
– I did not say that they are starving. I never used the word. Its use by Senator Barnes is typical of the exaggeration which seems to be a part of the unlimited stock in trade of my friends on the cross benches.
– The honorable senator complains that they are asked to eat a healthy loaf.
– Senator McDougall would growl if he had to eat it.
– I always do eat it, I eat nothing else.
– Then I say that the honorable senator takes it medicinally, and he has my sympathy, as have all patients. The point of my contention is that whilst continuing the war our friends will not make the supreme effort necessary to shorten it and bring about victory. Instead of proceeding by dribs and drabs, and becoming weaker in the process, wo should by a supreme effort marshal all our strength and bring the war to an end not the year after next, but possibly in the course of a few months. Unless we do that we shall find ourselvesbled white and utterly unable to grasp the fruits of victory.
– Purely imaginary.
– Let honorable senators read some of Senator Barker’s speeches in England. The press there reported him as saying there what we are going to do.
– I am prepared to stand by all I said in England.
– We shall publish some of the honorable senator’s statements.
– When I hear the statement made that what I am saying is purely imaginary, I recognise that Senator Barker is one of those who have been impressed by the silly nonsense that we are bound to win. Unable to look into the facts for themselves, or to analyze them, they go on their way perfectly satisfied that we are bound to win. I tell Senator Barker that we are bound to be beaten unless we make a sufficient effort to secure victory.
– The honorable senator knows nothing about it when he talks like that. It is only so much “ tripe “ that he is talking.
– I wish that Senator Barker could go toRoumania and tell that to the people there to-day.
– What could the few men that we could send from here do when they got toRoumania ? Could they win the war?
– What about Sena- . tor Barker’s speech in which he said that we should send every man that was required ?
– By preventing the success of the voluntary system, the Government did more harm than anything else I know of.
– Senator Barker, apparently, is of opinion that things are all right. I should conclude from his remarks that everything is proceeding very satisfactorily, and that, instead of being at war, we are engaged in a little family picnic. It is strange how distance may affect a man’s opinions. Things may appear to be quite right to those who are 10,000 miles away from the firing line. That Senator Barker, when he turned his back upon it, became bolder and braver, I will not say; but his interjection has reminded me that he told the people on the other side of the world that every man was wanted.
– I never said a word.
– Then I am bound to say that, if Senator Barker, while in England, never said a word, he did the wisest thing he could possibly do.
– I left it to wiser men. than I to say whether man were required.
– Let me remind the Senate as to how we stand in regard to our own units. The Minister for Defence has not told us how many men are in our camps to-day, and I am not asking him to do so. Like other honorable senators, I can make a calculation, and I propose to make one. When the Government submitted their proposal to us, they toldus that we had in camp in this country 43,500 men. Yesterday, the statement of the Minister for Defence disclosed the fact that from that time to the end of October, 20,590 men had been enlisted, making a total of 64,000 to the end of October. We have to-day received the figures for November, and they disclose the enlistment of some 3,500 men, making a total of between 67,000 and 68,000. Against these figures we were told, as honorable senators will remember, that the requirements for September were. 32,500; for October, 16,500; and for November, 16,500; or a total of 65,500. We have to set these requirements against the 67,000 men in camp.
– What about the division in England ?
– We have seen the statement that the Prime Minister has been advised by the Imperial authorities not at present to disturb that division. The Government, during the referendum campaign, proposed to despatch recruits in accordance with the policy which had then been outlined. Following on that policy, we should, between that time and the present, have sent away 65,000 men, and we had in camp during the time, including the November enlistments, at the most, 67,000 men. I can readily assume that the local wastage from sickness of men in the camps would equalize the difference between these figures, and, therefore, the men to be sent away have exhausted the men in camp. If there are any men in camp to-day, they are men who ought to be on the water, and probably would be if sufficient transports were available. If every man enlisted up to the end of this month was sent away, we should only have met the requirements. There cannot be many men in camp to-day. There may be 5,000 or 10,000, but, however many there are, they ought to be on the water to meet the requirements which the Government disclosed when presenting their referendum proposal. To all intents and purposes, our camps are now empty, since those who are here are already overdue, and ought to be on the water. If they are not on the water, it is because, in my judgment, the Government have been unable to arrange for transports for them.
– There have been men on Salisbury Plains for the last twelve or fifteen months, and they cannot get to the front.
– Here is another military expert! My honorable friend, Senator McKissock, is wasting his time here. He ought not to be here. He ought to be in Roumania. That is where they want generals.
– I do not assume as much as does the honorable senator.
– I admit that my honorable friend is a strategist and a general. I do not claim to be one.
– Let the honorable senator ask Senator Barker and others who have been to the front.
– Senator Barker, I repeat, if the English press is not lying, declared in England that every man is wanted. I say that our camps are, to all intents and purposes, empty to-day, and I ask, What are honorable senators going to do?
– Fill them.
– We have the alternative of the plan submitted by the Government, and the open declaration of a policy of do nothing. I admit at once that I am not enthusiastic about the Government scheme, but I say that, if there is a possibility of getting even half the men we require, let us try to get them. If it is possible only to get one-fourth of the number we require, wo must go on and do the best we can to get them, though we none the less deplore the decision of the country which has denied! us the opportunity of. sending to our soldiers at the front the reinforcements they so badly need, and so richly deserve.
Debate (on motion by Senator Gardiner) adjourned.
– In view: of the inability of Senator Gardiner to go on with the Bills he has received permission to introduce, though I am quite prepared to give him the opportunity to do so, I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 November 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1916/19161130_senate_6_80/>.