7th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., andread prayers. ,
– Has the Leader of the Government noticed a statement in this morning’s press to the effect that a man with ten children, five of whom are fighting at the Front, has beendischarged from his job to make room for a returned soldier?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but if the honorable senator will place it in my hands I will do what is necessary.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act 1902-1916. - Promotions, Department of Trade and Customs -
GIVENS v. SYME. .
Statement by the President.
– With the indul gence of the Senate, I propose to make a short statement on a matter concerning myself, and also the conduct of business here. Honorable senators, ofcourse, are aware that recentlythere has been certain litigation going on between myself and the Age. On that, I would have no comment of any kind to make, either in the Senate or anywhere else, were it not for the fact that in a leading article commenting on the case in this morning’s issue that newspaper makes a further gross misrepresentation in regard to my action, and being misrepresented, I claim the privilege to put the Senate and the public right on the matter. In the course of this article, the Age says -
The Age,in fact, did no more than attempt to convey to the public a fair and accurate account in epitomised form of what had occurred in Parliament, in good faith and without malice. Senator Givens, however, not only questioned thesubstantial accuracy of our report; be raised the question of the right of a newspaper - and of a private citizen- to express an honest opinion on an occurrence in Parliament.
That is a gross misrepresentation of my attitude and my proceeding. At no time; either in my -own person or as President of the Senate, have I questionedthe right of, or attempted to prevent, any newspaper, or any member of the public, or any corporate body of any kind, from fairly reporting what took place in this Parliament, or from commenting on the same. I never questioned it. The right of the public and of newspapers to do that is unquestioned and unchallengeable. What I did do was to challenge the right of any newspaper or of anybody else to misrepresent or distort what took place in this Parliament. That is all I did, and I had a perfect right to do it. In order that honorable senators may understand the matter I may point out that the only question at issue between myself and the Age was, Did it accurately report the proceedings in this Parliament ? The Age made a certain clear, definite, and emphatic start emeriti. It said that Senator Watson on a certain day had charged me and other people with having attempted to corrupt him by offering him a monetary and other consideration if he would resign his seat. The fact was very simple. Either Senator Watson did doso, or he did not. I venture to say that there is not a single member of the Senate who listenedto Senator Watson who will not instantly repudiate any idea thathe even suggested any such thing with regard to myself.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– With what Senator Watson said about other people I personally have nothing todo.I was only concerned with what the Age represented him as having said about me, and I venture to assert that there is not a single man who read his statement, whether he is inside Parliament or outside of it, who will say for a moment that there was a justification for anybody in alleging that he charged me with anything of the kind. However, the Age was successful in getting a benevolent majority of the jury to say that it was fair comment, and with regard to ‘that verdict I have no further remark to make. The Age states this morning that it - did no more than attempt to convey to the public a fair and accurate accountin epitomised form of what bad occurred in Parliament in good faith and without malice.
I do not question that the Age made an attempt to convey an accurate and fair statement of what had occurred in Parliament, but I do question the success of that attempt if it so made it. The Age, in the course of its article, also says that it is important that the right of a newspaper to fairly report the proceedings in Parliament should be fully maintained, as that is the only means the bulk of the people have of becoming acquainted with what takes place there. That is quite true, and because it is true it is equally important that a newspaper should not have a licence to misrepresent or distort what takes place there.
There is just one other aspect of the matter which it might be as well for honorable, senators to understand. What has happened recently has only been a culmination of a constant vendetta which has been ceaselessly pursuedby the representatives of the Age in this Chamber, and elsewhere, towards myself. That vendetta is due to the fact that I, as Chairman of the Joint House Committee, and acting on the unanimous resolution of that Committee, had occasion, as far back as 1913 I think, to inform the representatives of the press in Parliament of the privileges which they were allowed, and to which they would be confined in the future. Of course, honorable senators are aware that I made a statement on this subject on the 15th December, 1914, a copy of which is available for any honorable senator. The whole matter was fully set out there, and includes all the correspondence. Since then, there has been a ceaseless vendetta pursued against me, and no opportunity has been lost to distort or misrepresentwhat I said or did, or what I did not say or do.
– And other members of the Committee.
– And other members of the Committee, as Senator McDougall reminds me. That is all I have to say. on the matter. I would not have troubled the Senate with it now, or made any allusion to it, were it not for the fact that this morning the Age has made a further attempt to misrepresent my action in trying to make the public believe that I tried to prevent either that newspaper, or any one else, from making fair and honest reports of or comment on the proceedings of the Senate. I never did anything of the kind. I repudiate the suggestion of any newspaper, and deny the right of any newspaper to say that any action of mine can bear any interpretation of the kind.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
As honorable senators are fully aware, I think, the motion to which they are asked to assent is one to give the necessary parliamentary sanction in the aggregate to expenditure which has already been assented to by mean?) of monthly Supply Bills in detail. Unfortunately, the money involved in this measure has been spent, but it was spent under the approval of Parliament. I mention that fact so that honorable senators will not anticipate the luxury of spending the sums of money involved as one yet to come. Seeing that all the items have been placed before the Senate and have received its approval, I assume that.it is not necessary for me to say any more than that in voting for the Bill the Senate will re- affirm the decision already arrived at.
– I do not propose to make a lengthy speech, but to ask the Minister in charge of the measure whether the money has all been spent; and, if so, whether he thinks it necessary that all this printing should be done? In these days, we want to save money in every possible direction, because we require every penny we can rake up from every source to carry on the great war in which we are engaged, and to help to repatriate our soldiers. Paper is very scarce in this community, yet a copy of this measure must contain quite a pound weight of paper, the contents of which I warrant no member of Parliament, either here or elsewhere, will ever read. I would like the Minister to say if it is not possible for some curtailment of expenditure to be made in this direction.
– As a new member, would you not read the Estimates yourself?
– I find it is hard enough to do all the necessary work before me without undertaking any unnecessary duties; but in connexion with this matter, I would point out that the waste of paper is really serious, and I hope the Minister will look carefully into the question I have raised. We are now in the days when economy is urgently needed. I do not want to make myself a nuisance, but I intend to do my best to see that a policy of economy is given effect to.
– I am sure every honorable senator will appreciate the motive underlying the honorable senator’s remarks, but I would point out that every member of the Senate, as well as every member of the other House, is entitled to the fullest information concerning every item of expenditure, no matter how minute it may be, and these details are not given in the Supply Bills.
– Whether a member reads them or not?
– Well, that is a responsibility that has to be adjusted between members and their parliamentary consciences. Senator Fairbairn will see that even in this case any member of the Senate might have risen and asked how certain totals of expenditure were made up.- He is entitled to be supplied with details, which should be on record somewhere for the information of the Parliament. So far as this particular document is concerned, I understand that only eighty copies have been printed for both
Houses, and I doubt very much whether there is any opening for the use of the pruning knife. The question raised, however, touches the larger issue as to how far we can usefully revise our printing generally, and I invite members of the Printing Committee to consider if it is possible, by perhaps a little more rigid application of the censorship which they enjoy, to effect some further economy in the printing of parliamentary papers generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through Committee without request.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 19th July (vide page 292), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I would not at this early stage have addressed the Senate but for the fact that the Bill before us is essentially a non-party measure, and one for’ which the people of Australia have been looking for a long time. The Bill, too, is an innovation in the history of civilization, and I was struck with the ability with which the ideas contained in it were placed before the Senate by the Minister in charge. It is generally admitted that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has a most difficult row to hoe in this matter, because there is no precedent for the administration of a scheme of this nature in the history of the world. Not only are we going to bring our soldiers back to the country which they left, back to their allegiance and their citizenship, but through our Government we are practically going to say to the world at large that we are determined that the soldiers who fought for us and our liberties shall not suffer pecuniarily thereby. In this matter, Australia again leads the world as she has done in many other forms of advanced democratic legislation. Again we lead, as a community caring, after peace is declared, for those heroes who fight for us. I am pleased, indeed, as a new member of the Senate, to come into this atmosphere of review and calmness in the discussion on a measure of this description. I am sure it is pleasing also, not only to the Senate, but to the whole of the people of Australia, to learn from the speeches delivered by Senators Gardiner and O’Keefe, that they, too, will help to mould and perfect this Bill, as far as possible, for the good of our soldiers. I had not the pleasure of listening to the whole of the debate yesterday, but the speeches I heard seemed to indicate that all members of the Senate are at one in their desire to help the Minister in his difficult task. I am glad to know that there has been no suggestion of “damning with faint praise” this effort to repatriate’ our soldiers. One writer has said that the man who made two blades of grass grow where one grew before did a greater service to humanity than the whole of the politicians put together. I believe it is the feeling of this Parliament, in its attitude towards this subject of repatriation, to make the blades of grass ever grow over the desert of war.
As I have said, there is no precedent for such a measure as this. It is quite novel in the history of British government. There is nothing in the past to guide us, just as this war is like no other war in the history of the world. It has been said that the Minister brought down merely a skeleton of the machinery required for the Bill before the Senate, but I would remind honorable senators that since the war began no one has been able to sense the future. All the quidnuncs have been wrong in their prophecies as to what would happen in this war. The British Munitions Act itself was purely a skeleton when introduced by Mr. Lloyd George. The whole proposal had to . evolve out of the exigencies of the war, and this repatriation scheme, in my opinion, will have to evolve as we realize from time to time what the future has in store for us. I think, therefore, that the Minister was wise not to confine the Bill within rigid limits, or to shape it on hard and fast lines, and in preferring rather to be guided by the developments of the future.
I have considered, with a good many reservations, the figures given to us on this subject of repatriation. I have tried to estimate how many men will desire and require assistance from the Government under this proposal. So far, roughly speaking, we have sent about 300,000 soldiers overseas. From that total must be deducted about 50,000, who, unfortunately, have made the supreme sacrifice, or have returned to Australia, and are already in civilian occupations. Taking an optimistic view of what might happen in the future, that possibly we might get a surprise any time now, through the developments amongst the democracies of Europe, resulting in the end of the war on a satisfactory basis for us, it occurs to me that 300,000 is an approximate figure as to the number of our soldiers who will return. In Australia’s democratic army there are included may men of all professions, trades, and businesses; men from the land, as well as men of independent means, whose patriotism was their only spur to enlist. Their one and sole desire after the war is over will be to return to Australia as quickly as possible, and get back to their ordinary avocations again. That being so, I think it would be approximately correct to say that probably only one-half of the 300,000 will desire or require assistance under this scheme. It seems to me that the end to be sought in a scheme of repatriation is to replace the returned soldier in that walk of life for which he is best adapted. If a man, when he returns, is still fit, he should be required, wherever possible, to go back to his former employment, if it be still open to him. We know that in many cases war roughens and unfits men for the avocations which they pursued in days of peace. It certainly will take time for a good many of our heroes to drop back into the, habits of their pre-war days. But ours is a democratic army, made up of all sorts and conditions of men, all patriots, and all men who have made sacrifice. Consequently I believe that our repatriation problem will not prove to be quite so huge and so difficult as we may now think it will be.
Listening to the Minister in charge of the Bill, I was particularly pleased to hear that he proposes to start repatriation, practically overseas. He proposes some - sort of registration scheme whereby the men before leaving the shores of the Old
Country will be drafted. and sorted, so that time will not be wasted in obtaining evidence at this end to guide us as to what the country has to face. In ‘ connexion with this phase of the question of repatriation, I remind the Vice-President of the Executive Council that it is very likely that, owing to the great shortage of shipping and passenger space, the return of our men to the’ land of their birth will be unduly delayed, unless some provision is made to give them preference, not only in troopships, but in passenger ships, to secure their return as soon as possible. Under normal conditions it must take a very leng time to bring back 300,000 soldiers 12,000 miles across the ocean, and I submit that no man, woman, or child has a right to travel, either for business or pleasure, until all our soldiers are given the opportunity to return to the Commonwealth. I think it would be as well in the future if the Government were not only to supply as many troopships as possible for the purpose, but also to commandeer the whole of the passenger space of steamers coming to Australia until our boys get home.
During’ the debate something has been said in opposition to the proposal of the Minister to bring voluntary effort into the operation of the repatriation scheme. I am entirely opposed to the contention that there should be only paid workers’ engaged in carrying out the undertaking. I think that an initial mistake was made by the Commonwealth Government of the day, at the beginning of the war, in declining to avail themselves of civilian assistance of any kind in connexion with the work of the Defence Department. I believe that many of the complaints that have arisen as the result of mistakes in the Defence Department during the course of the war were due in a very large degree to the lack of expert civilian assistance. To my personal knowledge many business men of high probity and character were only too .glad to voluntarily place their services at the disposal of the Government early in the war. If that voluntary civilian assistance had been accepted, the result would have been a considerable improvement upon what has taken place. It must be remembered that the voluntary workers of Australia, so far as they have been allowed to assist, and the sphere- of their operations has been limited, have done very handsome and history-making work. Their contributions towards benevolent and patriotic funds have led the world. They have been greater per head of population than even those of England. This work has been accomplished by noble self-sacrificing men and women. If such work could be done in the restricted and limited sphere of Red Cross, comforts and other beneficent work on behalf of the soldiers, surely we should do well to bring that great civic spirit into this question of repatriation.
The Minister has announced that final decision in connexion with the repatriation scheme must be made by a Board sitting in Melbourne, and consisting of seven or more members. He mentioned that the Board is to be composed of voluntary workers, and with that I entirely agree; but I do wish to impress upon him the fact that ‘ that, , in. connexion with the scheme, we should have some sort of decentralization. For years there have been complaints all over Australia that in the Customs, Defence, price fixing, and other Departments of the Commonwealth Government small matters have had to be referred to Melbourne, and inexcusable delays have thereby been caused. I remind the Minister that the State of New South Wales, which I represent, contains about 38 per cent, of the population of Australia. The residents of that State pay 42 per cent, of the whole of the Federal taxation. I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to consider whether a Board could not be established in New South Wales in connexion with the repatriation of her soldiers, with authority to make final decisions, at all events concerning matters of fact, if not of principle.
– There will be such a Board. The only diversion from its decisions will be at the option of the soldier himself - only if he is dissatisfied’ with the proposals of Such a Board.
– I am glad that by interjection the Minister has indicated that a policy of decentralization will be largely adopted in connexion with the administration of this scheme. I am sure that he will act! upon right lines if .he will in future ask for voluntary assistance in carrying it out.
I respectfully submit tEat some consideration might be given to the custom of treating the soldiers to alcoholic liquors. A great deal of harm has already beendone in connexion with the idle interregnum between their arrival in Australia and their return to civil life. I am sure that sympathetic consideration given to this. little aspect of repatriation would improve the operation of the scheme, and insure its greater success.
A good deal has been said in connexion with land settlement for soldiers. I am not sure that we are not making too much of that aspect of repatriation. I remind the Minister that, in addition to the land settlement side, there are also the commercial and industrial sides of repatriation. I have always contended that Australia should be a self-contained and selfsupporting nation. I think that the development of new industries should be regarded! as an integral and essential part of repatriation. One aspect of it is certainly the creation - of new industries, and the providing of plenty of work. In addition to the very estimable suggestions with respect to the development of forestry and the raising of hogs, I remind the Minister that there are other matters to which we might set our hands in the development of the resources of this country. There are, for instance, the development of the wiredrawing industry in Australia, and the manufacture of matting, felts, and linoleum. Many other industries may occur to the minds of honorable senators, the establishment of which might well be considered in connexion with our repatriation scheme. I have the utmost sympathy with the remarks made by the Leader, of the Opposition, Senator Gardiner, suggesting the diversion of some of this huge sum of money towards the construction of national works, such for instance as the unification of our railway gauges, and in the direction of irrigation. I ask the Minister to consider other forms of national work which might be undertaken in connexion with the repatriation scheme.
I put forward these suggestions in a spirit of helpfulness* and having regard to the fact that honorable senators have a duty to do, not only in moulding the Bill in such a way as to make the scheme a success, but also in helping the Minister in his very difficult task.
It is in that spirit I have spoken. None of us know what the future holds in connexion with the war, but we are all going to see that the returned soldier shall be given a fair deal.
I respectfully suggest ‘that the position will be so difficult that it will require almost a psychological department to assist in the administration of the scheme. The Minister must consider that those upon whom the responsibility will rest of carrying out this great scheme must be accorded sympathy and patience, and must not be bound ,up in the red-tape of bureaucrats. It is on this account that I approve of the idea of taking advantage of voluntary assistance. I am sure that the civic spirit of Australians is sufficiently great in connexion with this matter, and that the services of patriotic, sympathetic, and patient voluntary workers will greatly assist to make our repatriation scheme a success.
Senator SENIOR (South Australia) £11.46]. - I wish, in tie first instance, to congratulate the “Vice-President of the Executive Council on the splendid effort he has put forward in the introduction of this Bill. None of us can see far when looking into the darkness. In connexion with a measure like this, in view of the fact that we have no precedent to guide us, and no searchlights ahead, it could not be expected tha* our vision would penetrate very far into the gloom. We are all agreed on one point, and that is that the soldiers deserve well of Australia. We are” agreed that our efforts must riot be confined to sentimental flag-wagging, but must give evidence of Australia’s appreciation of what our soldiers have done for the country.
But I think the Vice-President of the Executive Council will find that, in attempting to incorporate the official with the voluntary element in the carrying out of this scheme, extreme difficulty will be experienced. Yet it must be patent to honorable senators that there is a dual side to the question. There is not merely the welfare of the returned soldier to be considered, but also, if we are to avoid waste, the protection of the taxpayer. It will be evident, therefore, tHat if the scheme is to be effective, the official side of it must be equally as strong as the voluntary side. I quite recognise the desirableness of associating voluntary effort with the administration of this measure. Nob”ody can ignore what has been done for our soldiers by Australia sympathetically and spontaneously, and we have a right to assume that these voluntary endeavours will be continued. The danger which confronts us is that it may be found very difficult to reconcile the voluntary and the official elements, so as to insure the harmonious working of the scheme. But if they can be completely reconciled, the result will unquestionably be good.
I was very pleased with one or two remarks made by the. Vice-President of the Executive Council at the beginning of hia interesting and lucid address. I was- glad to hear him say that Australia assumes absolute responsibility for this great under* taking. That is a circumstance which should always be kept in mind, because, to the disgrace of the Old Country be it said, she has too frequently forgotten her responsibilities to her soldier heroes and their dependants, responsibilities which should have remained with her as long as they lived. I am glad, therefore, that the Government accept full responsibility for this scheme, and for its efficient administration.
I am pleased, too, that it has not been approached from the stand-point of a money-making project. Still, I see no reason why, from the soldiers’ view-point, ib should not be thus approached. To my mind, our returned soldiers should be permitted to make as comfortable a living for themselves as any other citizens, in fact, more so. I know that the Minister says he does not propose to entirely eliminate from this undertaking something in the nature of an annual voluntary effort. I think that that is a wise course to adopt. I am aware that there may be simmering in the minds of honorable senators an objection to the collection-plate. But this is not a question of the collection-plate so much as it’ is one of bringing before us continually the debt that we owe to those who have fought our battles. We must not for one moment suppose that when this project -has been fairly launched, when our returned soldiers have been settled upon the land or elsewhere, Australia has discharged her debt to them. If we think that we can wipe out our obligation by assuming the responsibility for the payment of a certain sum of money, we shall be adopting a very cheap and paltry way of evading that obligation. I repeat’ that it will be a good thing for Australia to have annually brought before its people the debt which we owe to these men. They have done much more than we can calculate at the present time. We cannot imagine what would have been the conditions prevailing to-day if they, and such as they, had not stood firmly against the foe in our hour of trial. They not only deserve well of Australia, but they deserve the very best that we can provide for them, and they deserve it, not in the nature of a single effort, but of a continuous one.
I think, too, that provision should be made for relieving more than the normal necessities of our returned heroes. We all know that there are contingencies which cannot’ be foreseen. Owing to fire, drought, flood, or perhaps the premature death of a returned soldier, his family may be left dependent. To my mind, it would be a good thing if the voluntary subscriptions raised annually throughout Australia on behalf of our repatriation funds were set aside for relieving cases of this kind.
I am glad that the Government propose that the registration of a soldier shall take place before his return to Australia. The interregnum between the time when he quits the troopship which brings him back to our shores and becomes settled in some occupation here is the most dangerous period that he has to face. He may be in the company of friends. But there are socalled friends who are mistaken ones, and who, consequently, are dangerous to him. It may be that, from spontaneous gratitude, they lure him into ways that are not helpful to him. That interregnum must be bridged, and bridged by the Government. With this end in view, I suggest that provision should be made for. something more than registration. In my view, there is room for the exercise of a good deal of tact by officers appointed to ascertain from our returning soldiers particulars, not merely as to the vocation they wish to follow, but as to the capital they require, and where they would like to settle. There will be abundant opportunity for such officers to proffer friendly counsel to the men with whom they come into contact. If that course be followed when a soldier lands in Australia, he may be prepared to lodge .whatever money he possesses in the bank until such time as the assistance granted to him by the Government is forthcoming, thereby avoiding considerable trouble in the future. I know that there are many institutions in our. midst which are doing valuable work amongst soldiers, notably the Young Men’s Christian Association. If the Minister can see his way clear to impress upon officers returning to Australia the desirableness of safeguarding the savings of the men who accompany them, he will be rendering a very useful service.
Honorable members will recognise that, in connexion with repatriation, we have to deal with two classes of men - those who are returning to us in possession of all their faculties, who are sound in mind as well as in body, and those who are partially or totally incapacitated. I do, not anticipate very much difficulty with regard to the former. A large proportion of those who return will be sound and sane, and much more intelligent than when they went away. They will have seen life in its broader aspects, and on their return to Australia will see the immense possibilities that there ‘are in this land. With the assistance which is proposed to be given through the medium of this Bill by a generous Government acting for a generous people, we shall have little difficulty with them.
The Minister mentioned the River Murray question and forestry, two undertakings that, in themselves, are capable of providing means for settling the whole of. the sound men who return. The Stateowned forests of Germany have provided for 1,000,000 of the German population, and, through their products, have provided for the employment of a further 3,000,000. We may think that in this country we have a good many, natural forests, and Western Australian’ senators may be under the impression that their timber resources will never run short; but, according to the statistics of the world’s timbers, we are consuming at such a rate that in a very few years it will be necessary for Australia, to make provision for the timber that it will need. Even our valuable redgum is running short, and it must be remembered that these trees cannot be brought to a stage fitting them for profitable commercial use under thirty years. From the cradle to the grave man is absolutely dependent on the tree.
– Thirty years hence we shall be over all these difficulties.
– But the generations that follow the honorable senator will have a right to expect to enter into a’ heritage as rich as that which he entered into when ,he came to Australia. We should never devastate our country, be- < cause our children have the right to inherit from us as rich a heritage as we- possess. We have no right to destroy our forests without making provision for their future growth.
– We are making that provision.
– In a very small way. The land set apart for forestry in Australia, including that already planted, is only one-sixteenth of an acre to each inhabitant, whereas in little insignificant Spain the proportion is 5 acres per inhabitant. In no other country on the earth’s surface is the proportion so small as it is here. Money spent in that direction would be well spent, and could provide employment for every one of the soldiers and their dependants, while at the same time Australia would gain immensely by the product. In America, from which we draw so much of our timber, ten times as much is destroyed by fire as by the axe. Yet, in a comparatively few years, we have seen imported timber appreciate in price by something like 300 per cent. As a matter of sober fact, there is not fifty years’ supply ahead of us in our own forests. Therefore, unless we take wise counsel, and go into the matter with a determination to grapple with it as its importance demands, those who follow us will not only have to pay appreciated prices, but will have to wait until the tree grows. It may be said that many things are now being put forward as substitutes of timber, but, as population grows and settlement increases, it will be found that the need for. timber in other directions will be widened. I am sure that if the Government put forward a wise policy on this question - although it is somewhat difficult for them to do so in their capacity as a Federal Government - most of the States will be prepared to join in with them. It has seemed to me for some years that there is an absolute necessity for the different States to be federal in more senses than their legislation, especially in matters similar to this. The varying climates of the States would provide for the varying classes of timber that could be grown.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to make this Bill a mere peg on which to hang a long disquisition on another matter. He is entitled to make a passing allusion to it, but I have followed him carefully for some time, and it seems to me that he is discussing re-afforestation, and not repatriation.
– As the Minister mentioned the matter in his speech, it seemed to be opportune to point out that the Bill offers absolutely an open door for the initiation of the very best, possible scheme of re-afforestation, which hitherto has been so neglected in Australia.
The difficulty in dealing with a Bill of this kind is that we are so frequently brought up against subjects that have already been discussed. An instance of this is the closer settlement system as it exists along the Murray.. I have in my pocket a letter calling attention to the difficulties that fruit-growers are meeting with in various parts of Australia in regard to their outlook. That is a temporary trouble due to the war, but our closer settlement in the direction of fruitgrowing in Australia has more than caught up Australia’s needs. I felt that I could not stress the value of closer settlement for fruit-growing purposes, and, therefore, I diverged into the other question of afforestation, which seemed to offer a much greater opening for the energies of returned men. I hope the Minister will recognise that I have enlarged on the question in an earnest desire to help him.
Australia is a land subject, if not to continuous, to intermittent droughts, and it is astonishing when a drought does occur how soon we are on our beam ends. A very few months from the commencement of the last drought our stock were almost starving. It was in a land somewhat similar to this, with seasons not unlike our own, that a wise statesman on one occasion, foreseeing the danger, made provision for granaries. When we advocate closer settlement in this country we should also encourage the making of provision to carry the settlers over times of drought. We should provide for storing not only food for man, but food for beast. If this broader provision can be made with the help of the men who are returning, it will not have been altogether in vain that we have passed through this season of stress. It may be that the men who are coming back to us will have seen in far-off lands some such provision as I am suggesting here, and so-transplant to their own- land the good ideas which they discovered abroad*
I come now to the question of the men who will return minus some of their limbs, and have to enter into new avocations. The returned soldiers must include not only men who have lost a limb, but men who lack a ray of hope. These men will have to start life afresh. They will know, of course, that they are in the midst of friends. The most difficult portion of this repatriation scheme, I think, is to make provision for the partially disabled man. There is one lesson which we can learn from out foe, and perhaps a guiding hand here may lead some of the returned men into a track which will prove beneficial, not only to themselves, but to their country. Germany has won much of her grasp of world power by means of chemistry. In Australia chemical research is almost unknown. Many of the returned soldiers “will be young men, impressionable and teachable. I venture to say that if, in Australia, we could discover a stream containing sulphuric acid, it would be worth as much to the country as would a gold mine.
– There is here plenty of material out of which to make sulphuric acid.
– Then sulphuric acid has no right to be so dear as it is to-day, and to that fact is due the excessive price which is charged for the artificial manures produced in Australia. We have very large deposits of low-grade phosphates of lime. These deposits could be worked efficiently, and to the advantage of Australia. At the present time we have to import every year hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of artificial manures; and efficient steps should be taken to insure their production locally. The impetus we can give to manufacturers and to new industries, which will be ad,vantageous to returned men, will also be beneficial to the Commonwealth. That is why I say we ought to regard this” scheme, not only as an acknowledgment of Australia’s indebtedness, but as an investment for Australia in the future. I have not the slightest fear that any money which may be wisely spent for the benefit of the returned men will prove a loss to Australia. I believe that it will prove to be a great gain. It is in this spirit that I look at the question.
Coming back to the subject of the Commission and the State Boards, I think that the Minister would do well to provide in the measure that, in each case, the president shall be a responsible Government officer. Such a provision may . entail more cost; but we have had so many experiences in which the mistakes have cost more than the successes that it would be wise on this occasion to consider carefully what we do. I think that it would not only be economical, but advantageous to the scheme as a whole, if at least two out of the seven members of each body were officers responsible to the Government. Then, with the other members, you could link up the generous help of the citizens on the land. The Central Commission ought, I think, to include even more than that number of Government officers. I feel positive that eventually the scheme will have to be controlled by a Government Department. I am no lover of red-tape, as red-tape; I am no lover of officialdom; but this scheme involves the expenditure of a large amount of money and the useful settlement of the best of Australia’s manhood. Therefore, I feel that it demands that we shall not merely follow the line of .least resistance, but take the best way. If we do that, I feel confident that the scheme will redound to “the honour of Australia, and prove once more that she leads the world.
– I have not the slightest intention to make a long speech. I wish to express my “gratitude that a scheme of repatriation on the extensive lines foreshadowed by the Minister has been placed before the Senate as an unprecedented piece of legislation,. Although the Minister certainly extended to us all a very cotdial invitation to assist him in this great effort, I am not going to offer any suggestions for the improvement of the scheme which he outlined. I feel that, as it is an entirely new embarkation upon the political sea, we shall be compelled to take into, review each phase of the subject at the time it arises. One fact must be clearly apparent to every son and daughter of Australia, and that is, that we owe to the men who have sacrificed so much for us the best of everything which Australia is capable of providing for them. We also recognise that the different wants of the men can only be provided for by obtaining a knowledge of those wants. I compliment the Minister upon his placing so clearly before the Senate a problem with regard to which he had no precedent to guide him,, and had to take the initiative. When these numerous and varied wants are presented to the people of Australia, 4hey will have to make up their minds to meet them. To attempt an estimate of the cost of a scheme which is unprecedented in the history of the world would be a most risky business. Certainly we know that some of our soldiers will return, but how many we cannot at present determine with accuracy. I am very hopeful that a much larger number will return than some of us anticipate. I recognise that, unfortunately, very many will not return. Bub we must recognise the responsibility resting upon us, and I say that to those who do come back, we in Australia owe such a debt of gratitude, both to them and to their dependants, that nothing short of the very best effort we can put forward will be adequate to repay that debt. That is all I desire to say on the repatriation question.
– I do not propose to detain the Senate long. I wish to say a few words covering generally the discussion. First, I want to express my pleasure at the reception which the Senate has been kind enough to extend to this initial effort in the way of a Government repatriation scheme. I feel that, in view of that reception, I am proceeding with the assurance of, at any. rate, a sympathetic understanding as to the nature and the magnitude of the task, and of the need that the Minister in charge of the measure has for every possible help and suggestion which any member of the community is in, a position to render..
One very cheering feature about the proposal, to my mind, is that, although several honorable senators have addressed themselves to the subject, there has been no unanimity on the points to which attention has been directed. I hope, from that fact, that there is no great fundamental weakness in the scheme. Hardly two speakers addressed themselves to the same principle involved in the Bill.
I hope, therefore, we may assume that the scheme, though not perfect, is, at any rate, without any fundamental defect.
I turn now to the points upon which revision is possible, and upon which much of the criticism has turned. Senator Gardiner, the Leader of the Opposition, drew attention to the fact that in my speech I made no reference to the question of finance. That omission was not accidental. It was intended. When I put the proposal before the Senate I took up the attitude that I would outline what I conceived to be the duty of the Australian public to the soldiers, and I asked the Senate to say whether or not the Bill made provision for the discharge of that obligation. I say, quite frankly, that, to my mind, the cost of the scheme is a secondary consideration. We have, first, to make up our minds what we want to do, and, whether the cost be small or great, we must do it. Something has been said about cutting our coat according to our cloth. In this case, we have to consider what is a fair and reasonable coat to make, and, having determined that point, we must set to work to get the cloth for its production. But there is another reason why I made no reference to finance. I told the Senate quite candidly that I could not say what it is going to cost. I do not know, for instance, how many men are coming back hale and well, and how many will carry, for a more or less lengthy period, the scars of war or be maimed seriously as the result of their sacrifice on our behalf. Inquiries which I have made extending beyond these shores throw no light on the position in this respect. Even if the war ended to-morrow, and the men came back in the proportion between those whose names appear in the casualty lists and those who, fortunately, have not been put out of action, I could not tell how many would desire to seek assistance from this organization. The whole thing is represented by the letter “ X,” and until we come a little more closely to the discharge of our duty in connexion with this matter, it is idle to talk around the question of cost. All I can say is that Australia has accepted the obligation to do the fair thing by these men, and that when time and experience have shown what the cost will be, we shall have to face it.
One other point raised by Senator Gardiner was whether the cost was to be borne out of revenue or out of loan. I submit that this does not affect the matter at this juncture at all, but it will be a subject for consideration in connexion with the introduction of the Government financial proposals. We are asked to decide now, not where the money is to come from, but what it is we have to do ; and when the Government’s financial proposals are submitted, the Senate, I think, will find no unfair distinction between that portion of cost which is’ a reasonable charge upon revenue and that which may be spread by means of loans over a longer period.
Another matter referred to, and which attracted some attention, was the divergence of views as to the desirability of a purely Government Department as against the co-operation of citizen effort. I have admitted that what I am attempting to do is an innovation - an attempt to graft on to an ordinary public Department some element of citizen life. It is an experiment, and, like all experiments, it may break down. We can never say quite how an experiment will result, because, if we could, it would not be an experiment. There may be a little jolt here and there, but honorable senators should consider the position fairly from both points of view. We are dealing with a problem in which human nature enters very largely. We must not act as military officials who give orders and expect them to be obeyed. -We will be dealing with a large number of men - it may be a quarter of a million private citizens - each man with his .own peculiar temperament and capacity. We cannot expect any set of hard and fast rules to operate satisfactorily, and, because of the tremendous amount of interest which the public takes in this matter, it seems to me worth while to make an experiment, to see whether we cannot secure some of the softening influences which will come from joining with the official organization some of .the elements of our ordinary private life. However, the experiment is not to be like the laws of the Medes and Persians. I informed the Senate when introducing the Bill that I approached this matter with an open mind, and invited honorable members to do the same. I am firmly convinced that we must be prepared to alter our views and actions in the light of our growing experience. Therefore, all I am suggesting is that this innovation, arising from our attempt to organize a committee of private citizens to act in co-operation with an official Department, is an experiment that at least is worthy of a trial.
I am inclined to think that some honorable senators have overlooked one of the provisions of the Bill. Two or three honorable senators have stressed the fact that responsibility ought to rest with the Government, and I point out that finally, under this Bill, it does. Honorable senators will see in the measure a provision which requires that all the regulations shall receive the consent of the Governor-General, and every parliamentarian knows that that means the Executive Council - in other words, the Ministry - so that, although a Board of citizens may be charged with the duty of shaping the regulations, Parliament will be in a position to assert a great measure of authority in regard to them, and, moreover, there will be the final reserve power in the hands of Ministers, if they find that the policy being pursued is contrary to the interests of the soldiers, or in conflict with their own judgment. Further, Parliament Will be asked to provide the money necessary for the scheme, and that will make Parliament a party to the proposal in the same manner as in regard to any other Department. With these safeguards Parliament will have as much control over this organization, so far as its administration is concerned, as it has over the other ordinary Departments of the Commonwealth. Parliament, however, will not have the same control over the relationship between the individual soldier and the authorities dealing with his application. It is advisable that the treatment to be meted out to the individual soldier should be lifted as much as possible out of the hands of departmental officials or of parliamentarians .
– That is the point at issue between the two lines of thought.
– When I submitted the Bill, I invited honorable senators to give me the benefit of .their views, and I also ask them now to consider the views which I am putting forward, because iti is only by the clash of intellect upon intellect, and the examination of every suggestion, that we can expect to make the scheme as near perfection as we can ever hope in a world so full of imperfections.
The question of private funds was also raised. Senator Bolton was particularly pronounced in his declaration of war on this point, and I want honorable senators to understand exactly what private funds are referred to. They are not im any sense funds which have something to do with repatriation. My conception of the work of repatriation is that iti should take cognizance of the man when he ceases to be a soldier, and reinstate him in civil life. Up to that point, and except in the case of disabled men, convalescents in hospitals and homes wherein they will be given preliminary training, this organization will not come in touch with the sol?dier at all. So long as he remains a ‘ soldier a man remains under the control of the Defence Department. Repatriation will affect him only when he gets his discharge. Senator (Bolton seemed to think that it was degrading for a soldier to receive money raised by private contribution. I wonder if he has thought thoroughly around the subject. It is the duty of the Defence Department to feed, clothe, and look after its soldiers, but that does not induce Senator Bollon to denounce the War Chest Fund, which supplements what the Department is doing. It is the duty of the Defence Department to 8na medical aid and comfort for the wounded, but Senator Bolton does nob denounce the Red Cross Society for supplementing that effort, and yet both .the War Chest and Red Cross Funds are the < result of private contributions. I think, therefore, that we can dismiss this rather illogical denunciation of these private efforts to supplement what the Government through the Defence Department is able to do for our soldiers. The private funds which I have in view bear the same relation to the Repatriation Department as the War Chest and Red Cross Funds do tlo the Defence Department. It) would be no more a degradation for a soldier to obtain the benefit of effort supplementary to the repatriation activity than it is for him to receive supplementary effort represented by the War Chest and Red Cross Funds.
– Is the money raised under this scheme to be spent in the district in which it is raised ?
– If raised by local committees, yes. Money raised locally will be controlled locally, and disbursed locally. Senator Bolton suggested that this supplementary effort will result in inequality. Well, in the same way, inequality must result from the supplementary effort by the War Chest and Red Cross
Funds. Let me give an instance of what is happening in one locality, and which I believe will be reproduced in other districts. A gentleman, whose guarantee was worth having, the other day made a proposal that we should allow him to raise £10,000 in his district, on the understanding that it would be invested in war funds, the income from which would be devoted to the assistance of wounded and maimed soldiers returning to that particular district. That is a local effort. If we withhold permission because a similar movement has not been started in the next district, our refusal will not benefit the soldiers outside the district, but it will penalize soldier’s within that district.
– They should all be treated alike.
– The Government does treat them all alike.
-Colonel Bolton. - The Government are offering a premium on preferential ‘treatment in certain districts.
– There is no preference at all. To obviate the difficulty we must pass a law to prohibit all private effort.
– You can control it, but you need not prohibit private effort.
– We cannot control private effort in this direction without prohibiting it.
– I think you can.
– In what way, except by insisting that all moneys raised shall be paid into a central fund?
-Colonel Bolton. - The Government should dissociate itself from private effort altogether.
– If we did that there would be an immediate demand from Senator Bolton that the Government should take over all funds raised by private effort. I have spent more time over this point than upon any other detail of the Bill in trying to secure, by means of Government action, the best and most generous treatment for the soldier, and at the same time leave a fair field open for private energy and sympathy to assert themselves. I could see no other line of demarcation that would be at all workable. If we were to say that all who desire to contribute for the assistance of the soldiers should make their contributions to a central fund, to be distributed equally, we should not get a cent contributed by private persons to that central fund. The people would know from thu declaration that the Government intend to control the funds, and they would assume that what they paid into it under those conditions would not go towards the price of an extra packet of cigarettes for he soldiers, but merely to relieve the Treasury. We know how patriotic and sympathetic the people are, but I doubt whether it would be possible to raise £5 !-y voluntary contributions for the relief of the Treasury. We must do one of two things. We must prohibit all private effort or allow it to assert itself in whatever way those putting it forward desire, i have laid down three conditions regard.ing it, which I think are quite reasonable. First of all, as I have informed the Senate, where a committee is established in i district, the proceeds of funds locally raised for local distribution must be diaributed not for the benefit of any individual soldier, but for the benefit of all the soldiers belonging to that district. The next condition is that these funds must be controlled by the committees created under this measure ; and the third condition is that the Government shall have the right to audit them. I think it would be a vital mistake and a stupid blunder if, private generosity waiting to assert itself, we stepped in and deprived the .soldier of the benefit of it.
Senator Pratten’s references to one matter caused an interjection from me whilst he was speaking, and I may now perhaps be allowed to make some explanatory remarks on the subject. The honorable senator was urging very forcibly, and, as the speech was the first he! has made in the Senate, I may be allowed to say, also very eloquently, that there should be decentralization in the administration of the scheme. I quite agree with that. When in Committee honorable senators get closer to the details of the Bill, they will find that the largest possible measure of decentralization is provided for, but they will agree that there must be centralized legislation. That is to say, that direction must proceed from a common centre. We could not have an authority in New South Wales laying down one policy and a particular scale of benefits, and another authority in Victoria or in Western Australia carrying out a different policy. We must have centralization in laying down a policy, and that is provided for, but beyond that there is also provided decentralized Ed- ministration. The various Boards in the different States will, subject to the regulations laid down by the central authority, be free and uncontrolled in their actions.
– And in their decisions ? _ Senator MILLEN. - The central authority will not be able to disturb their decisions unless the soldiers concerned are dissatisfied with them and appeal against them. If honorable senators believe that the soldier should not have the right of appeal against the decision of a State Board, and that such decision should be unquestioned, they may strike out the right of appeal provided for in the Bill when we come to consider the measure in Committee, but it has been included with the idea of giving satisfaction to the soldiers.
– Arn I to understand that the Sydney Board, for instance, will have the power of final decision?
– Yes, subject to the right of the soldier to appeal against its decisions. I recognise that in a machinery Bill of this kind there are many things which cannot be fully expressed. It is therefore right that honorable senators should seek to know, and it is my duty, so far as I can, to explain, the way in which the Bill will be administered. It is my intention to administer the measure in the way I have mentioned. There must be decentralization in administration, but we must have centralized direction.
Senator Pratten expressed the opinion that perhaps there is a tendency to make too much of the land-settlement aspect of repatriation. I do not desire that any one should think that I am making too much of any section of this work. If I have referred at considerable length to the question of land settlement, it was because that matter is big in a financial sense, and has special difficulties and complications of its own. I wish to utter a note of warning, and it is that there must be a balance preserved between all these things. We are dealing with .300,000 men of all classes and different occupations, and there must be no attempt to jamb an arbitrary number of them into one channel. We must maintain a reasonably adjusted balance. I wish further to say on this point that we must on no account allow ourselves to use the needs of the soldiers for the purpose of helping on some particular project to which we are ourselves unduly attached. I am not at all desirous, nor do I intend to use the soldiers for the purpose of helping on the development of forestry, but I am prepared to use forestry for the purpose of helping the soldiers. I want that distinction to be maintained in regard to all the Aspects of the repatriation scheme. Judging by the way in which the enthusiasts for technical education in this country publicly discuss the matter, they would appear to consider that this affords a fine chance to rope in about 250,000 men and have them taught technical education. The only use that I have for technical education in this connexion is to help the soldier, and I shall not stand by to see the soldier used to help technical education. If we want to assist technical education, which I believe in very thoroughly, we should put forward proposals for the purpose, having application to the community generally, and not especially to the returned soldier. I desire that all these projects should be viewed in this way. It is a question of maintaining in proper relation the subjective and the objective. If that be done, honorable senators will agree that the test of the merits of the various proposals made for the purpose of repatriation must be the extent to which they will aid the reestablishment of the soldier in a manner satisfactory to himself.
On the passing of the second reading of the Bill, which I confidently anticipate, it is my intention to adjourn the Committee stage to next week. I propose to do so because many suggestions are now coming to me over the wires. I believe that the public outside, and the press, should be afforded some opportunity of joining with us, if they can, in perfecting the scheme, and honor able senators themselves may, upon further consideration, have additional suggestions to offer.
– I am preparing amendments which I could give the honorable senator immediately.
– I have been promised that some honorable senators will move amendments, and they will generally agree with me that it would not be wise to unduly press the Committee stage of the measure if any advantage in the perfecting of its provisions is likely to be gained by affording a little more time for consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
– I have received an intimation that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral will attend in the Library on Wednesday next, at 3.30 p.m., to receive the Address-in-Reply from the Senate.
– I desire to inform honorable senators that, in accordance with the intimation that the VicePresident of the Executive Council has made, I shall, at 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday next, proceed to present the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General and I shall be glad if as many honorable senators as possible will accompany me on that occasion
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Before the Senate adjourns I desire to refer again to a matter I mentioned in the Senate yesterday week. I refer to the publication and distribution of certain pamphlets by Critchley Parker. I regret that I should have to mention the matter again, but I am anxious to remove a false impression that has been created in the minds of honorable senators and in the minds of the public by statements made by the Minister for Defence when replying to me. The honorable senator said that I knew perfectly well that these pamphlets were distributed in thousands in Western Australia by the party to which I belong. I gave that statement of the Minister a denial in very strong and unparliamentary language, which, in accordance with the Standing Orders, I afterwards withdrew. Senator Pearce then withdrew that portion of his charge which referred to myself as being aware of the circulation of these scurrilous pamphlets in Western Australia by the party of which I am a member. Since then I have received further information which, in justice to Senator Pearce and to myself, I propose to give to the Senate, In connexion with the honorable senator’s first charge that the party of which I am a member circulated these pamphlets in Western Australia, I wired to the general secretary of the Australian Labour Federation of Western Australia, Mr. McCallum, and I received from him the following reply: -
Parker pamphlets arrived Western Australia same boat Pearce.
– Was anybody else on the boat as well as Senator Pearce?
– The telegram continues -
Distributed without our knowledge, and to democracy’s serious detriment.- -McCallum.
Mr, McCallum does not say, nor do I, that Senator Pearce knew that these pamphlets were onboard that boat.
– That is not the inference, of course.
– I am not saying it.
– No, having got it in, the honorable senator is not saying it.
– I suppose the honorable senator is not inferring it either, nor does Mr. McCallum.
– I am not inferring it, nor does Mr. McCallum. I am saying now, on behalf of the party of which I am a member in Western Australia, that they had no knowledge of the arrival of these pamphlets at this time. They had no knowledge of their circulation. I repeat now what I said yesterday week to the Minister for Defence, that the members of the Australian Labour party in Western Australia were not parties to the publication and distribution of the Critchley Parker pamphlets.
Sitting suspended from 1 to2.30 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was calling attention to a charge made by the Minister for Defence against myself and the Australian Labour party in connexion with the circulation of the Critchley Parker pamphlets. I leave it to the honorable gentleman to prove whetheror not the party with which I am associated were responsible for the publication, circulation, and distribution of those pamphlets. I shall be very glad indeed to hear what proof he has to support the charge which he has made. In the course of his reply, the
Minister, in referring to the party upon this side of the chamber, stated -
They extracted from the Prime Minister a rigid promise that, during the elections, the censorship would be used wholly and solely for military purposes, . that no political matter of any sort would be interfered with.
The Minister for Defence claims that, in accordance with that promise, neither the Prime Minister nor himself should have attempted to interfere with the publication or distribution of those pamphlets. Now, I am going to prove either that the honorable gentleman himself, or some officer in his Department, did actually intervene in connexion with this literature. For this purpose, I intend to read correspondence which passed between the Department of Defence and Senator Russell in reference to this matter. On the 15th March, 1917, the following letter was addressed to the Minister for Defence -
Under separate cover I am sending you a copy of the Australian Statesman and Mining Standard, published on the 8th inst., and would direct your attention to the insulting cartoon published on page 158. It is difficult to imagine anything more prejudicial to recruiting than the publication of such grossly offensive cartoons and statements reflecting on any section of the community.
I would respectfully remind you of your favour of the 26th July last year (No. 24584), in which you stated that “ such action has been taken as will, it is hoped, obviate any further cause of complaint of this nature.
– He was, at that time, the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Federation, and the reference in the last paragraph of his letter is, I am informed, to statements made by Dr. Leeper. In connexion with the letter which I am about to read, I may mention that there was a communication, dated 27th March last, of which the present general secretary of the Catholic Federation, Mr. Kennedy, did not possess a copy. I rang up Mr. Trumble yesterday, and asked if I could be supplied with a copy of that letter, and I gave him the number of it. He said that he would ask the Minister, and I now have to thank the
Minister and Mr. Trumble for having today forwarded me the copy which I desired. The covering letter to it reads -
In accordance with your verbal request, I beg to attach copy of “a letter addressed to the General Secretary, Australian Catholic Federation, oh the 27th March last (No. 22973), relative to cartoon published in the Australian Statesman and Mining Standard.
Yours faithfully, H.Trumble, Acting Secretary.
The communication to which it refers reads- 27th March, 1917.
In reply to your letter of the 15thinst., relative to the cartoon published in the Australian Statesman and Mining Standard, I am directed to inform you that, while the Minister deplores the bitterness which sometimes characterizes sectarian controversy, and earnestly desires to see unity and harmony prevail among all sections of the community, it does not appear possible, on the grounds of military censorship, to justify suppression of such matter as that referred to by you.
If military censorship could be employed to deal with a matter such as this it would be necessary that allegations by either side with regard to questions of the character now in dispute should come within its scope and be prevented from publication.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) M. Maguire, for Acting Secretary. The General Secretary, Australian Catholic Federation, 98 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne.
On the 29th March, 1917, the following letter was sent in reply by the general secretary of that Federation - 29th March, 1917.
Your favour of the 27th inst. (No. 22973) is to hand, and I regret to note the apparent help lessness of the Department to put down what is generally regarded as a nuisance and a menace to the peace of the community.
Iam unable to follow the last paragraph of your letter, in which you refer to “ allegations by either side with regard to questions of the character nowin dispute,” as I am not aware that any vituperation has been indulged in with regard to the individual responsible for the publication of these insulting cartoons and false statements.
At a time when it is most desirable that all sections of the community should be united for the national welfare, it would be most regrettable if the authorities were unable to take effective steps to deal with those who are doing the work of the enemy by sowing the seeds of dissension and strife in attacking the religious beliefs and practices of any section of the community.
To quote the words of the Premier of New South Wales, “ This cartoon is a deliberate insult to every man of the Roman Catholic faith or Irish nationality.” I am sure that the Minister for Defence will indorse this statement.
Under the circumstances, I have again to ask that the matter be brought under the notice of the Minister, and that steps be taken to prevent Catholic citizens being insulted by the circulation of these vile and offensive publications.
Yours faithfully, General Secretary.
Then, on the 27th April last, the following letter was addressed to Senator Russell 27th April, 1917.
Referring to our interview of Wednesday, 25th inst., relative to Critchley Parker cartoons, I have to draw your attention to the enclosed advertisements, showing that a further instalment of these cartoons is about to be distributed.
In view of the reported utterance of the Prime Minister to the electors of Bendigo, “ I want to emphatically repudiate this literature, and say that, as far as I am able, I shall see that Australia is purged of it during the con-‘ test,” and further, in view of the opinion expressed by you at our interview, I would ask you to take such action as is necessary for the suppression of the distribution of these pamphlets as outlined in the enclosed advertisements.
Yours faithfully, General Secretary.
That letter, it will be seen, contains an extract from a speech made by the Prime Minister at Bendigo, in which he promised to purge Australia of this offensive literature during the election contest. Yet, strange to say, this offensive literature continued to be distributed throughout every State right up to polling day. It will be seen, therefore, that the Prime Minister did not keep his promise. It may be said that he promised to do so “ as far as he was able,” but he could exercise all the powers conferred by the War Precautions Act, and was in a position to prevent the distribution of this literature through the post, and tobring those responsible for it to justice. On the 6th June, the following letter was addressed to Senator Russell - 6th June, 1917.
As the State Council of the Australian Catholic Federation is desirous of making representations re the issue and distribution of cartoons published by Critchley Parker to the Honorable the Prime Minister, I would ask you to be good enough to arrange for a deputation from the members of our executive to wait on theHon. W. M. Hughes in the matter.
Awaiting the favour of your reply.
Yours faithfully, General Secretary.
The reply to that communication is as follows - .
Mr. J. H. Kennedy, Secretary, Australian Catholic Federation, 98 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne.
With reference to yours of 6th June, I regret I was not able to get the matter before him, owing to his illness and absence from Melbourne.
This morning I received the enclosed communication from Mr. Shepherd, Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, which explains the attitude of the Prime Minister in regard to the matter referred to in yours under acknowledgment.
Yours faithfully, E. J. Russell.
The letter attached to that communication reads -
With reference to your letter of the 8th June, forwarding a communication from the secretary of the Australian Catholic Federation, of 98 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, relative to the desire of the Federation that the Prime Minister receive a deputation -regarding the issue of certain literature reflecting on Roman Catholics, I am directed by the Prime Minister to forward”, for your information, copy of an extract from the Proceedings of the House of Representatives of the 14th June, and to invite attention to Mr. Hughes’ remarks on the subject.
Yours faithfully, M. L. Shepherd,
Senator the Hon. B. J. Russell, Melbourne.
I do not intend to read the extract accompanying the letter, as it is already embodied in Hansard. I merely wish to point out that it took from the 6th June till the 13th or 17th July for the secretary of the Australian Catholic Federation to receive a reply, either from Senator Russell or the Prime Minister. In reply to the statement of the Minister for Defence, that the members of the Australian Labour party had tied down the Government as regards the censorship except in respect of matters of military significance, I propose to read an extract from an article in the Melbourne Tribune of Thursday, 29th March, 1917. The con cluding paragraph of the article is as follows : -
What we want to know is, whether steps will be taken immediately to stop this outflow of vile and scurrilous literature, the only purpose of which can be to create embittered feeling between sections of the community. In our next issue we will place before our readers the correspondence between the Catholic Federation and the Defence Department, when we shall have something further to Bay in regard to Mr. Critchley Parker and his scurrilous publications.
That refers to the correspondence I have just read. The Tribune of Thursday, 19th April, published the following: -
By Orderof the Censor.
In our issue of March 29th, we stated that we would publish in our next issue the correspondence which passed between the Australian Catholic Federation and the Defence Department in regard to the circulation of sectarian literature for the purpose of creating embittered feeling between sections of the community. We have received a number of inquiries as to our reason for not fulfilling our promise. Our answer is that we have been prohibited from doing so byorder of the censor. Though the correspondence has no direct reference to military affairs, it must be treated as confidential State documents, which must not be published. In submitting to the decision of the authorities, we can only express our regret that, at a time like this, when it is most desirable that all sections of the community should be united for the national welfare, that the authorities should find themselves unable to take effective steps to deal with those who are doing the work of the enemy by sowing the seeds of dissension and strife in attacking the religious beliefs and practices of any section of the community.
Here is the correspondence which the paper was forbidden by the censorto publish, because it consisted of “ State documents.” There is nothing on the copies of the letters from the Defence Department which I have, read to indicate whether they are confidential or of a State nature, and, therefore, not to be published. How, then, can the Minister stand up here and say he was obeying the request alleged to be made by this side not to censor anything except of a military nature? Will the Minister state that the circulation of the Critchley Parker documents, was a matter of a military nature ? Ac- . cording to his own speech it was not, and because it was not he did not censor them or take any action to prevent their publication or distribution. Neither did the Prime Minister. But the Minister stands here on the floor of the Senate and charges the party to which I belong with conspiring to print these things in thousands, which charge I have replied to and ask him to prove. I want now to know from the Minister why he allowed his censor to prevent the .editor of the Tribune publishing the correspondence I have read. The editor saw me yesterday afternoon and this morning, and told me that an officer of the Censor’s Department came to him and told him that he would not be allowed to publish the correspondence in his paper. Yet the Minister now tells the people that he could not intervene to prevent the publication and distribution of. these venomous and filthy circulars because, forsooth, he had a mandate, as it were, from this side not to interfere.
– The Tribune, which is the Catholic paper of Victoria. 1’ make no secret about this. I hold no brief for the Tribune or any other Catholic paper, nor am I speaking in any sectarian sense. I am replying to the statement of’ the Minister for Defence that he could not’ intervene, whereas his officers intervened by forbidding the publication of this correspondence. The proof of that statement is here.
– Your main grievance is that the censorship could not be’ used to interfere with Critchley Parker’s publications, but could be used to interfere with correspondence bearing on them?
– -That is the essence of the whole thing. I asked the Minister for Defence, when I. first referred to the matter a week ago yesterday, why this stuff was allowed to be distributed. I gave him credit for his expression of regret when he addressed the meeting at Subiaco. I do not believe the Minister would be a party to the .stirring up of a sectarian cesspool. I know the honorable senator too well,, and I know that he has none of that bias in his nature, but I want him to be fair to us and the people, and explain why, if he could not intervene in the censorship, the censor intervened and forbade the Tribune to publish the correspondence. I leave it now to the Minister to prove that the Australian Labour party connived at and assisted in the distribution of the Critchley
Parker pamphlets. I also leave it to him to explain why, in view of his own statement in Hansard, the censor would not allow the Tribune to publish the correspondence.
– I said in the Senate, and repeat here again, that the only persons in Western Australia who were in possession of these pamphlets and were distributing them - not in the sense of giving them to anybody, but in the sense that they went around displaying them and showing them to persons - were the canvassers of the Official Labour party. I was told that by not one, but dozens, of electors.
– Will you give us the proofs?
– I have no proof other than my own statement, which can be corroborated by the statements of others who had the same thing told to them. They told me that they endeavoured to get these pamphlets from the canvassers, but that the canvassers refused to hand them over.
– What would they gain by taking them round and showing them?
– They were creating the impression that Critchley Parker was receiving the indorsement of the National party, and that his pamphlets were being put round by the National party. They were careful whenever they came across a voter whom they knew to be a Roman Catholic to use mat argument with him to prejudice him against the National party.
– How did they get hold of these things?
– I do not know, but I am going to draw attention to a telegram from Mr. McCallum that Senator Needham read here to-day, showing that Mr. McCallum, at any rate, knew by what boat they came to Western Australia. He says they came by the same boat as I did. That is news to me. Perhaps Mr. McCallum also knows to what body they were sent. I inquired at the Nationalist head-quarters in Perth and Kalgoorlie, and not any of them had possession of the pamphlets or had seen them except in the hands of canvassers for the Official Labour party.
– I got mine from a Nationalist.
– We know that they were published from the National party’s office in Collins-street.
– How does the honorable senator know that? Senator Maughan. - Ry the imprint.
– They were not published from the National Federation’s office in Collins-street.
– The imprint shows that they came from the same building.
– The National Federation has denied having anything whatever to do with them. Senator Needham said I charged the Official Labour party with printing the pamphlets. I never charged them with anything of the kind. I charged them with taking them around and showing them in Western Australia,,’ That is the only way I know they were distributed there.
– I want you to produce your proof of that.
– That is my proof - that various electors told me they were shown them by canvassers of the Official Labour party. As regards the attitude of the Defence Department, I have nothing to add to the letter read by Senator Needham to-day. It sets out absolutely my attitude on the question of the pamphlets as regards the censorship.
– Did you authorize it?
– I not only authorized it, but I dictated the letter which the honorable senator read here to-day from the Secretary of Defence. The Secretary told me to-day that Senator Needham was asking whether he could have a copy of the letter, and I told him to send o it up by special messenger.. I know nothing of the Tribune not being allowed to publish the correspondence, and this is the first time I have heard that the Tribune was prevented from doing so. I will make inquiries as to who issued the order, why it was issued, and who authorized it. The honorable senator knows that he did not make that statement when he spoke the other day. That action was certainly not taken on my instructions, but, as I say, I shall make inquiries.
– This is not a savoury subject to me, and I would far rather have had nothing to say upon it, for I absolutely hate the idea of the sectarian question being introduced into politics in any shape or form; but, in view of the very serious statements of Senator Needham regarding the peculiar methods of censorship employed in this matter, I feel it incumbent on me to speak. I am not concerned as to who first issued these scurrilous pamphlets. The proof is on the pamphlets themselves. They were issued by one Critchley Parker, whoever he may be. What his object was I do not profess to know, but I have a very fair idea. He apparently has not much love for a certain form of worship in Australia. That is his business. He may hate Roman Catholics like poison for all I care. That has nothing to do with me. It is a matter between himself and his conscience; but there can be no doubt who issued the pamphlets, because his imprint is on them. They were issued from an office in Melbourne, in a building which also contains the office of the National party. I am no.t going to say that, because of that,’ the National party authorized the issue of the pamphlets or had anything whatever to do with them. I do not know whether they did or not. It may be a coincidence, and I am willing to accept the view that it is a coincidence. I am not concerned either with the dispute between Senator Needham and Senator Pearce as to who further circulated the pamphlets after they were issued by Critchley Parker. As a matter of fact, I know that in my. own State certain of these pamphlets were received through the post by non-Catholics. ‘ It is hardly likely, seeing that they would do some damage to Catholic candidates in that bitterly contested campaign, ‘ that any member of the Labour party would , deliberately post to a non-Catholic the pamphlets believing that they would assist the Labour party. So I take it for granted that the pamphlets which were received .through the post by people I know in Tasmania, who are not members of the Catholic persuasion, were not sent to them by members of the Labour party, or by anybody who wished to advance their interests in the campaign. I believe that the fact that they were issued was “used by members of the Labour party to show what sort of methods were being descended to by certain people in Australia in their bitter sectarianism. And very probably members of the Labour party who happened to belong to the Catholic persuasion were so incensed, and, I think, sp.. rightly incensed, at these scurrilous and vile insults to thiem, and their religion, and to all who belonged to them, that they took that opportunity of showing the pamphlets round and saying,*- “ This ‘ is one of the methods which are being descended to by opponents of ‘ the Labour ‘ party.” If .they did that, they did it because they knew that Critchley Parker was not only an opponent of the Labour party, but one of its bitterest opponents. Therefore, I believe it is quite possible that certain members of the Labour party did use the pamphlets in that way. I am not ‘concerned with the other matters at all, because I have always found- that, after all, in their great good sense, the majority” of the people of this country will not have anything to do with sectarianism in politics. My very presence here as a senator for fourteen out of the seventeen years of our national life bears the most eloquent testimony to the belief which I hold - that in a State1 where four out of every five of the electors do not belong to the same religious faith as I dp, I have held the confidence of a very big majority of those electors for fourteen out of seventeen years. These things show that the heart of the people Of Australia is absolutely sound on this question, and that non-Catholics equally with Catholic members of the community repudiate this kind of business, and hate the idea Of the slightest element of religion, being introduced . into politics. But there is one . phase of this dispute to-day between Senator Needham and Senator Pearce which has not been satisf factorily cleared up by the latter. He has certainly said that he did not know that certain things had been done, and that he is going to make inquiries. It seems remarkably strange to me that, although .the powers of censorship were not used to prevent the first issue of these circulars, yet the powers of the same censorship were, immediately put in force when a, certain, body, .believing itself to be aggrieved, and acting as the mouthpiece of a. large number of Australian people, tried, to get into its organ a reply to the circulars.
– No. What Senator Needham said was stopped was the pub lication of the official correspondence between the Department and the Tribune.
– But the official correspondence, as read here by Senator Needham to-day, was nothing more or less than a simple protest against the issue of the pamphlets.
– The honorable senator will see that that has not necessarily stopped a reply. It has only stopped the publication of official documents. I am not saying that that was justifiable.
– I leave it to the common sense of every member of the Senate - I do not care which side he - sits on, or what faith he belongs to - to ‘ ask himself this; question: Is .there the slightest shred of consistency in the two acts of .the censor?
– And of the Minister.
– I must accept the statement of the Minister - and I do so unqualifiedly - that, he did not know that these things, which are called official statements, were censored. If that is so, I say that the censor who was responsible for such an unfair discrimination is no longer fit to occupy his position, because there must be bias. The facts are simple , and plain. ‘ Certain pamphlets containing, the most vile insinuations and reflections on a large portion of the Australian people in a matter which is always, dear to them - their religion - were allowed free circulation in Australia through the post and without any censorship. Then followed immediately protests from the body’ which considered itself aggrieved. These protests were censored by, I suppose, the san-o censor’. - If any honorable senator cannot . see some most peculiar inconsistency in that, I am very sorry, for the frame of mind he has got himself into. I have no more to say, except this: That this is the first time that the question, of religion in politics has been mentioned by me in the Senate, and I hope that it will be very long before I shall feel called upon to do so again. I think that .*he occasion calls for it, that the circumstances, as placed before the Senate by Senator Needham to-day, call for it, apart from what, was done previously by this vile sectarian - for that is all he is - this creature of sectarianism, Critchley Parker.
. -I have no desire to detain the Senate for more than a minute or two. It happens thatI am secretary of the Labour movement in Tasmania, and, lest some persons may take away the impression that these scurrilous pamphlets were circulated with the knowledge of the Labour party inthe State, I have risen to repudiate the idea.I certainly saw some of the pamphlets in Tasmania. How they were circulated, I do not know, nor have I any idea. In addressing a meeting in the midlands one night, I think at Boss, one of the pamphlets was brought to me by a woman ‘ who belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, and who, I think, had one ortwo sons at the Front. She was very sorely aggrieved at such a thing being circulated throughout the community. She asked me if I knew who was circulating the pamphlet, and why it was done. I answered from the platform that it was certainly not the party to which I belonged, and that wo knew nothing about the pamphlet.I assert in all sincerity that the Labour party in Tasmania had not a scintilla to do with the matter. We knew nothing at all . about it. Personally, I abhor sectarianism: I abhor bigots on either side. My religious faith is known, . I suppose. But whatever it may be, I say let everybody go along freely and without the leasthindrance follow that religion which he pleases. Do not put a straw in the way of people by the introduction of this sort of litera ture. These scurrilous pamphlets ought to be scouted out of Australia. They ought to be discountenanced by every man and woman with any sense of justice and right in them. I have thought all through that the Government ought certainly to suppress the pamphlets. It seems to me that the Minister made a very poor excuse the other day when he advanced the pretext that the Senate or somebody else had tied him down to some extent as to how he should use the censorship. Certainly nobody would have objected; I think that ninety-nine out of every one hundred persons in the community would have agreed with the Government’ if they had suppressed these scurrilous pamphlets. I simply wanted to put on record that the Labour party in Tasmania had nothing whatever to do with the pamphlets. We do not know who issued or circulated them, but the name of the -publisher appeared at the bottom of the pamphlet, and heought have been prosecuted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 July 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170720_senate_7_82/>.