7th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view ofthe report of the Commonwealth Meat Inspector that meat in large quantities’ is held in cool stores by Angliss and Company, will the Minister in charge of foodstuffs exercise the powers conferred on him by taking immediate and effective steps to release this, food and place it within the reach of Australian consumers at reasonable prices)
– Full inquiries are being made into this matter.
– On behalf and at the request of Senator Gardiner I ask the Minister for Defence if he has received replies to the following questions asked by the honorable senator in reference to a man named Garden: -
Is it not a fact re alteration of voucher that it was done by authority of his superior officer -
Was it altered in order to give authority to issue material which had been paid for and was not delivered?
Is itnot a fact that J. 8. Garden has always been looking out for the welfare of the Department?
Is it not a fact that J. S. Garden urged upon the Department the urgent need for overhauling 11-oz. cloth that was lying over at Darling Harbour Stores since the outbreak of the war, owing to the destruction of same by moths and silver-fish, and the Department, after persuasion, did what was’ requested ?
– I have been furnished with the following answers: -
It ls not known what object Garden had in view in altering the particular voucher referred to.
Garden can be entitled to credit for saving £13,000 or any sum in this connexion.
TREATMENT OF SOLDIERS.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that a number of soldiers who were on board the steamer Rotomahana yesterday, evidently on leave” to proceed to see their friends in Tasmania, were ordereda shore just before the boat was to leave ; and, if not, will he make inquiries and prevent this irritating sort of thing from happening in the future?
– I was not aware of tho circumstance mentioned by the honorable senator. I will inquire into tbe reasons for tbe action takon.
FARES ON INTER-STATE STEAMERS.
– I ask the Minister in charge of transport what action the Government have taken in the matter of regulating the fares on the Inter-State steam-ship service; and if no action has been taken, when do they propose to deal with this urgent matter? Further,if any action bae been taken, or is contemplated, has the exceptional position of Western Australia been taken into account in reducing orregulating these excessive fares?
– The matter hae benn referred to the Federal Price Fixing Commissioner for inquiry and report. An inquiry is now proceeding.
– He has it a long time before him.
The following paper was presented: -
Defence Act 1903-15. - Regulations amended, &c.- Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 149,150, 151, 157.
TASMANIAN MAIL SERVICE.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
SenatorRUSSELL. - The answers are -
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with the message that it had agreed to two, and disagreed to one, of the amendments made by the Senate.
That the message be referred to a Committee of the Whole for consideration forthwith.
Clause 5 - (7f) In any prosecution under this Act proof that the defendant hasat any time since tbe beginning of the present war been a member of an association shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be evidence that he has continued to be a member of the association at all times material to the case.
Senate’s Amendment. - Insert after the word “ an “ the word “ unlawful.”
House of Representatives’ Message. - Amendment disagreed to.
.- I move-
That the Committee do not insist on the amendment.
The reason I am asking honorable senators to reverse a decision with which I concurred yesterday is that further consideration of the proposed new section 7f demonstrates that the insertion of this word would Teally rob it of all its value. Honorable senators will recognise ‘ that the period indicated in this provision, namely, “ since the beginning of the present war,” was a period prior to the passing of the principal Act. Now only on the passing of that Act did an association become an unlawful one. It is quite possible, therefore, that any individual proceeded against under this measure may have been a member of an organization a considerable time prior to the passing of the principal Act, and prior to that association being proclaimed an unlawful one. Under the proposed new section, as amended by the Senate, there would thus be a loophole under which an offender, might possibly escape. In these circumstances, I ask honorable senators not to press the amendment, because under the provision as it stands in the Bill, no injury can possibly result to any man who is innocent ofan offence. By deleting the word “ unlawful,” I would urge the Committee to restore the proposed new sub-section to itsoriginal form.
– I hope that the Com- mittee will not yield to the advice of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. If honorable senators will refer to the previous clauses of the Bill they will find that from beginning to end of it, in almost every sub-clause, the word “ unlawful “ appears. Upon observing yesterday that this word had been omitted from proposed new section 7f, I suggested to the Vice-President of the Executive Council the wisdom of inserting it there as the governing word in that provision, just as it is the governing word in other provisions of the Bill. The honorable sena.tor accepted my suggestion, and the Committee indorsed his action. To-day he has advanced no reason why we should reverse our decision.
– One provision is in the past tense, whilst the other is in the present or future tense.
– I am not dealing with the past - I am merely endeavouring to provide for the future. I would point! out to honorable senators that clause 2 contains a proviso which reads -
Provided that this last sub-section shall ‘not apply in the case of any association registered under any arbitration law of the Commonwealth or any State, or any law relating to trades unions in any State.
I contend that that proviso adequately protects every lawful organization in Australia. If the Committee does not insist upon pressing its amendment, it will be quite open to the Government) and to the Governor-General to institute prosecutions not merely against any association or any organization, but against any individual. So far as the individual is concerned, State laws exist which can deal with these matters, but here is a Bill dealing with associations, and setting out to describe a certain body aa an unlawful association. Some time ago wet passed an Act declaring it to be an unlawful association. I want to insure the continuity of the word “ unlawful,” because I am very much afraid that otherwise genuine organizations registered under the Commonwealth Arbitration . Acts would be affected.
– There is no danger of any lawful association being attacked.
– If the honorable senator were the Governor-General, and presided over the body known as the Governor-General in Council, I should be prepared to take his assurance that nothing would be done to penalize a lawful organization, but he is not the GovernorGeneral yet. It is necessary for Senator Millen to submit further arguments before we agree to go back on an amendment which we carried unanimously yesterday.
– It was. carried under a misapprehension.
– That is rather a reflection on the intelligence of the Committee, each member of which had, or ought to have had, the Bill before him . “ unlawful “ is the governing word throughout the measure. I am sure the Committee desire to protect legitimate organizations but if “unlawful” is left out of proposed new section 7p there will be an undoubted danger of legitimate or ganizations being assailed.
.- The attitude of the Government, after the way in which the amendment was carried yesterday, is surprising. I suppose the Caucus met this morning, and honorable senators opposite are to be compelled to go back on their unanimous opinion of yesterday. I tak.” it that the idea is to make this provision retrospective, so as to bring within the scope of the Bill any person who belonged to the Industrial Workers of the World or the “O.B.U.”- One Big Union- before the original Unlawful Associations Act was passed, up to which time those bodies were perfectly lawful. Many men in New South Wales who belonged to the Industrial Workers of the World previous to the outrages in Sydney were perfectly bond fide in their opinions, which are still held to-day by them and many others. Those opinions are expressed by the phrase “ One Big Union.” Numbers of them are among the best citizens of this country. Some of them have five or six boys fighting to-day at the Front, and, although they were bond fide members of the Industrial Workers of the World prior to those outrages, they immediately left it when they found out what sort of an association it was. I take it that under this provision those men, should they do anything at all, can be penalized because of their membership of the Industrial Workers of the World prior to the passing of the original Act.
– No; they are given a month even after the passage of this Bill to clear out, and they are safe.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, but I do not believe it myself. I am convinced that the object of the provision is to make the punishment retrospective. Opinions have been given here many times by legal gentlemen that were shown afterwards to be absolutely wrong, and I have often remarked that if all learned men agreed there would be no use for our Law Courts. I do not think the proposed new section should be retrospective. The word “unlawful” should be retained in order to protect men such as I have described. The Industrial Workers of the World itself is a mere nothing. It becomes a menace only when its members resort to the dastardly outrages that they have been guilty of, and with which nobody on this side has any sympathy. If aman gave up associating with those people immediately he became aware of their objects, no law should be passed that would apply the punishment retrospectively to him.
. I regret that while I was absent for a few moments yesterday, this matter came up. It was not until I was listening to the debate in another place last night) that I knew ‘this amendment had been accepted here. I thought then, and still think, that it was accepted inadvertently by the member of the Government in charge of the measure in this place. It seemed to me from the beginning that this section was badly placed. All the other proposed new sections, from 7a to 7h, deal with a variety of matters in connexion with existing unlawful associations, but 7f deals entirely with a distinct matter - a matter of procedure in our Courts, a matter of proof, a matter of evidence. It simply provides that where a prosecution is taken under this Act, proof that the defendant has at any time since the beginning of the war been a member of any association shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary be evidence that he has continued to be a member of that association at all times material to theprosecution.
– It says “ an association,” not “any association.”
– That means any association. It may be the most innocent association, and instead of this provision operating unfairly upon individuals, it may be their protection. The mere fact that a man claims that he is a member of an association, and shows that he was a member of it at any time since the war - it may not be an unlawful association at all - will be accepted as proof, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that he still continues to be a member of that association, which may be a perfectly innocent one. The provision does not apply to any individual association, but to all. Senator Millen gave a very good reason why the Senate should accept the position asked for by another place. He pointed out that there are in existence unlawful associations which, prior to the passing of the parent measure, were innocent associations. The proof that a man was, a member of such an association in its days of legal innocence will be accepted as proof that he has continued to be a member of it at all times material to the prosecution. This would work a> hardship but for the fact thati the words “ in the absence of proof to the contrary “ qualify the section.
– Suppose he has not got proof to the contrary?
– The likelihood is that he will have proof. The mere assertion that he was a member of the association prior to the passing of the original Act, when it was a perfectly innocent one, will not be conclusive, because it will be open to him to prove that he ceased to be a member of it as soon as this Bill or the parent Act came into force, or within a month after either event. The proposed new section will not inflict any hardship, and it is not out of harmony with the spirit of the whole measure. As I have said, however, it is out of place, and because the words “ unlawful association” are mentioned in every other paragraphof the clause, one would naturally infer that they should appear in this particular provision, but it is not necessary, nor is it right, that they should.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Aus rather a new construction upon the proposed new section.
– It is the correct one.
– It is a construction which, I hope, the Committee will not accept, because Senator Keating admits that the onus of proof will be upon the individual.
– That is so.
– Then it will be entirely at variance with the recognised code of British justice.
– No. It is the provision that appears in nearly all our penal legislation, right from the introduction of the Customs Act.
– Suppose I were arrested and charged with being a member of an unlawful association, on whose shoulder would the responsibility rest to prove I was not a member ? Under this Bill, would I not be required to produce proof of innocence ? But is it not a principle of British justice that a man , is always held to be innocent until he is proved guilty? Senator Keating says that under this proposed new section a man will have the opportunity to prove he is not a member of an unlawful association, and, according to my view, that is not right.
– Read the provision again, and perhaps you will get a different construction.
– I have read it several times, and I listened carefully to Senator ‘Keating, who is an eminent lawyer, but I am not prepared to accept his interpretation of it.
– We do not go so far in this measure as in most of our penal Statutes. In the Customs Act and every other Act we have said that the averment by the prosecution shall throw the defendant on the proof. In this case we have first to prove before we call upon the defendant to answer.
– There is scarcely an analogy between this Bill and the Customs Act, because this measure is aimed at a specific organization - the Industrial Workers of the World - and honorable senators on this side of the Senate are helping the Government to kill the Industrial Workers of the World. Yesterday’s proceedings proved this, and when the Bill was introduced in another place our party also gave the Government assistance. We say, however, that this
Pill will provide the opportunity to prosecute, not only the Industrial Workers of the World, but every other legitimate organization in Australia.
– This is only a question of procedure.
– I admit it is a question of procedure,, but this might cost a duly registered organization under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act or the Trades Union Act a lot of money. It is all very well to talk to me about procedure. I know perfectly well what that means, because I am a member of an organization which was involved in an expenditure of £4,000 on a question of procedure alone, and apart altogether from the question of jurisdiction.
– This will simplify the procedure.
– I am very much afraid it will not. I fear it will put a genuine organization in a dangerous position; but if the Committee has made up its mind, as the result of the representations by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, it is not likely that members on this side will be able to influence honorable senators to press the amendment.
Question - That the amendment be not insisted on - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will recognise that the position in regard to. wheat production in Australia to-day is abnormal. The great bulk of our wheat has been sold to the British Government, and we have made ourselves responsible for its good order and condition up to the 31st December of this year. Although responsibility for the protection of the wheat will after that date rest nominally upon the British Government, there will at the same time be a moral responsibility upon us to preserve it and deliver it in the best possible condition, which I am sure the people of Australia will gladly accept.
With the wheat that is already stacked in Australia to-day, and the crop that will come in in December and January next, we shall have, in round figures, between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 tons of this product. This represents from four to six times the greatest quantity we have ever had in Australia before. Honorable senators are familiar with the conditions which brought into existence the Australian wheat pool, namely, the difficulty of obtaining ships sufficient to deal with what was then considered an average normal crop. All that it is possible for the combined Governments to do in securing means of transport for the Australian wheat has been done. But, despite the best energies of the Government and their desire to charter all boats that might be available for the purpose, wheat has accumulated in Australia to such an extent that to-day some of that which we have stacked is nearly two years old.
In the first wheat season after the drought little or no vermin had to be contended against, and the great bulk of our wheat, after twelve months’ storage, was in almost as good condition as it was on the day it was stacked. But0 we must look to the future, and there is no immediate hope that we shall be able to transport the great bulk of the wheat that has accumulated in anything like a reasonable period of time. The mice plague is not the most serious difficulty with which we have to deal in connexion with the storage of wheat. I believe that, with the experience we have gained, we are now in a position to deal successfully with the mice plague. All the best minds in Australia competent to deal with the question have been considering it, and I believe that we can expect in the future to prevent mice getting to the wheat. One of the most difficult matters with which we have to deal in the storage of wheat is to prevent the depredations of the weevil, especially in view of the fact that, as I have said, some of the wheat that is stored is two years old. Owing to climatic conditions the weevil never attacks wheat in some parts of Australia, the reason being that it requires more than 10 per cent, of moisture before the weevil can live in wheat. In normal conditions the moisture in wheat is only a little over 7 per cent. But in some parts of the Commonwealth, owing to climatic conditions, the weevil breeds freely. In New South Wales great difficulty is experienced at the seaport, Sydney.- In Victoria, on the contrary, at Williamstown it has been found possible to keep wheat in good condition for three or four years.
– Is there no moisture at Williamstown 1
– Yes, but, owing probably to the position of the wheat stacks and the climatic conditions there, the weevil is not generated as it is in other parts of Australia. In many inland parts of Australia wheat very rarely shows any signs of weevil.
But much of the wheat we have stacked is new wheat, and we have to reckon with the fact that we may have to keep it for a very long time. The proposal of this Bill is to erect concrete silos.- Although such silos are used commonly for the bulk handling of wheat, this Bill has nothing to do with that question. Being compelled to provide storage for the immediate preservation of our wheat, it has been decided that, as the bulk handling of wheat is likely to be adopted in Australia, the storage provided under this Bill should be of such a character as to be suitable and available whenever subsequently the practice of the bulk handling of wheat is adopted. Quite apart from the initiation of the bulk handling system of deal- ing with wheat, where permanent structures are provided for the storage of wheat it has been found that concrete silos are the cheapest and most effective means of Storage that could be adopted. Their depreciation over a number of years is practically nil. The care of the wheat is our responsibility. Owing to the mice plague we have already lost a good deal of money in the wheat pool. This system of storage will also have this advantage, that once the wheat is in the silos it will be impossible for the mice to attack it. A great loss has ensued, not so much from the damage done by the mice as from the te-bagging of the wheat, which has run into a considerable amount. Our only regret is that we did not make this effective provision for storage in the first place, as the cost of the bags themselves would have meant a considerable lump ‘sum towards the cost of providing permanent storage, which will be wanted at all times.
The object -of this Bill is twofold. First, to give power to create a Commission ; and, second, to empower the Commonwealth Government to advance a certain sum to the States for the purpose of erecting wheat storage.
The Commission will consist of a representative of each of the four States which are now handling the wheat through the pool and a representative of the Commonwealth. Their duty will be to control the erection of the storage plants to the extent of seeing that they axe made uniform throughout Australia; that they comply with the best conditions and that the work is carried out on a high standard; and, also, to control the expenditure in so far as it will be supervised by the Commonwealth.
The plant, type, and style of the silo is to be approved of and adopted by the Commission . Each State will be advanced money by the Commonwealth up to the value of the work to be done, and subject to its effective control. That is to say, the States will not be permitted to go on their own, as it were. Once a uniform, plan has been adopted, no modification can be made by any State in the erection of the silos unless it has the approval of the Commission. Experience may teach us as we go along that certain modifications may be desirable, but the individual States will not be permitted to depart from the uniform plan unless the alteration is indorsed by the Federal Commission.
The silos are to be erected on a 50,000- bushel basis, because it is the- most economical silo to handle, and will give better satisfaction to Australia. But power is given to some States to erect a silo with a capacity of 25,000 bushels, because there will not be sufficient wheat at a particular station to fill a larger silo. It is not an advantage to erect a . 25,000-bushel silo, but rather a disadvantage. In some cases it will be better to erect a silo of 25,000 bushels capacity than to be without a silo. Therefore, there will have to be some very good and substantial reason given as to why any silo with a capacity of less than 50,000 bushels is erected.
Likewise, the Federal Commission will have full power to select sitesand determine the number of silos to be erected. There may be many cases where, as on tha border, two silos may be wanted so close together as to cost a deal of money, and bring about unnecessary conflict and competition. The Commission will have the power of final decision in regard to all such cases.
Under the scheme it is proposed to build one-third storage capacity for the average normal production of Australia. Now the normal production for the ten years from 1907-8 to 1916-17, excluding the drought year, was about 12.25 bushels per acre. The area under wheat in 1915-16 was 12,483,208 acres; and in 1916-17, 11,600,000 acres. The mean production was 12,041,640 acres. The average normal harvest - that is, the average yield, multiplied by the mean ‘of ‘the last two years’ acreage - was 147,000,000 bushels. The storage capacity recommended is 49,000,000 bushels. It is estimated that at½d. per bushel the capital cost will be £2,858,333.
asked a moment or two ago what is to become of the balance of the wheat. The reason why we have adopted the principle of one-third is that we think it will be a saving rather than a loss that the first third, which can be used in normal times, should be built on strong, solid, and permanent lines. Possibly we shall have to determine in the future how much temporary storage will be required for the balance of the harvest by the number of ships that are available to transport the wheat. Of course, the more wheat to be transported the less storage we shall need, but that storage will have to be of a temporary character.
Many suggestions have been made.. For instance, in districts where wheat is not subject to weevil owing to the climatic conditions, it is anticipated that some buildings will be erected. Some persons suggest the provision of concrete floors with a light covering, while others favour asphalt floors, because it is said that mice will not go over tar. There are many suggestions for a cheap form of storage which will protect the balance of the wheat for three or four years. It must be remembered that wheat storage is not required to the same extent in Australia as in America, Canada, or Russia. Probably during this year Russia has multiplied her wheat storage ten times in the midst of the war, but wheat is more subject to dampness and weevil in that country than in some of the sunny parts of Australia.
I have been asked by Senator Shannon to state the length of time which wheat can be kept in silos without deterioration. On that point I will read an interesting extract from the report of tha Commission on Wheat Storage.
Reports as to experience elsewhere indicated that wheat may be stored in silos indefinitely if properly handled, and your Commissioners obtained confirmation of this by cable to Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister of Canada, to the following effect : - “Greatly obliged if you can inform me a; to length of time wheat stored in silos of elevators will keep without deteriorating.
To this the following reply was received : - “ In answer to your telegram 27th May good dry grain will keep indefinitely in both wood and concrete elevators. Damp grain arriving during winter will keep until sum’ mer; arriving in the spring or summe: will keep for fifteen or twenty days, and must be re-elevated.”
– Do you propose to have an elevator apparatus in connexior with every silo? .
– Yes. The silo: are to be of cylindrical shape, holding or an average 50,000 bushels. There wil be an elevator leg going up by the side This leg may command one silo or half a-dozen.. The wheat will be put in at the top. The elevator will have a hop per bottom from which the wheat can bt taken out and elevated over the top of the silo. The elevator will practically run automatically by the application oi an oil engine. The men can do other work while the elevator is turning the wheat, and that operation will . prevent the development of weevil.
Many persons who have given a good deal of study to this subject are very much inclined to say that, the stacking of wheat is very largely the cause of the evils from which we suffer.
– Have you any evidence to corroborate the statement of Sir Robert Borden ?
– Yes, but I am not able to quote any authority now. As one who had the opportunity of hearing most of the evidence given before a Royal Commission, and who has read many’ works concerning the experience of other countries, I have no hesitation in saying that it is an absolute fact. However, I think that I have quoted a fairly reliable authority. I do not know any reason why he should attempt to put Australia Wrong in this matter.
– Where do you propose to erect the silos - on the coast or inland ?
– I hope that the silos will be erected both at the seaboard and in country districts. The conditions, of course, will have to be taken into consideration. At the present time it may be an advantage not to erect silos in country districts, because most of the old wheat is lying at the. seaboard. Under normal conditions it may be better to erect more silos in the country districts than at the seaboard, where, as is well known, the old wheat is now in danger.
As regards the order of precedence in erection, the Commission will take into consideration the danger which may happen to the wheat. We still have plenty of wheat in Australia. Notwithstanding all the troubles we have had, the damage to the wheat, though very serious, has been much exaggerated. At least twothirds of our wheat has hardly been attacked. At Port Adelaide I saw a stack of 1,000,000 bags of wheat which is almost as good as it was when it was brought to the port, which is a good place for the storage of wheat. At Williamstown we have millions of bags of wheat in perfect order.
– Did you get as far as- Balaclava ?
– I know all about Balaclava. I know every part of Australia where damage has been done to wheat. Having had an experience of the mice plague, we would deserve strong condemnation if we permitted such damage to be done again, more particularly as the country which purchased all this wheat has enabled our farmers to have as prosperous a time as they had prior to war conditions. If it were only for the sake of requiting a good turn we ought to make a double effort to preserve every grain of wheat for the British Government and our Allies, who will need it in the very near future. In reply to Senator Shannon, I may mention that the wheat stacked at Williamstown is nearly two years old. The danger is already there, because the menace of submarines does not make sufficient boats available. It is of no use to delay the erection of silos until the wheat has rotted and is attacked by weevil. In the absence of scientific knowledge, I am prepared to bow to the decision of the gentleman who has been called the number one citizen of Canada. If the honorable senator can quote any greater or more reliable authority on the matter, we shall be pleased to hear him.
The cost . of this undertaking, it is estimated, will represent about $d. per bushel. It is proposed to erect silos in which to store about one-third of the crop during normal years, namely 49,000,000 bushels,, at a cost of £2,850,000. This money is to be advanced to the States, and in the erection of the silos a uniform design will be adopted by them - a design approved by the Federal Commission, constituted as it is at present, otherwise the States will have perfect freedom to carry out the work as they think fit. The advances will be made to them subject to a plan approved of by the Federal Commission, and they will be permitted to carry out the work as they deem best.
– What are the farmers going to pay?
– They will probably pay very little. The Commission have recommended that no profits be made out of this undertaking - that it be run by the nation in the interests of our rural producers. In the earlier years of the scheme, I can conceive of no simpler way of dealing with the producers than of charging the interest and depreciation connected with it to the wheat pool. If that be done, seeing that two-thirds of the wheat will not require to be stored, the cost to the farmer will probably not exceed one-twenty-fourth of a penny per bushel. Ah the same time I have no desire to indicate that amount as a precedent in connexion with future bulk handling charges.
-Is that an estimate of the cost of storage over the whole of the wheat?
– Yes, over the entire crop of approximately 150,000,000 bushels. After the lapse of five or six weeks for transportation, the cost of storage wouldbe about a farthing per bushel on the quantity stored. However, the scheme contemplated in the Bill is merely in the nature of a temporary expedient until after the war, when the bulk handling question will have to be seriously faced.
– What is the estimated life of a silo?
– We are going to standardize the reinforced steel that will be used in these silos, and we hope also to standardize the quality of the cement. If we can accomplish these things, the depreciation of a silo during our lifetime will be a negligible quantity.
– Are the Government prepared tio specify in the Bill the charge which is to be imposed upon the farmer ?
– Seeing that no profit is to be made out of the undertaking, it would be very foolish to do so.
– Will the Government specify the charge that is to be made for the storage of wheat in these silos, ana make it the maximum charge?
– No. There is already a Commission in existence, on which each State is represented, together with the Commonwealth. If that body cannot be trusted to fix a price, which may require to be adjusted from time to time, I do not know what body can be.
– Does the onetwentyfourth of a penny per bushel cover the entire cost of the scheme ?
– Yes; it is estimated that the cost of the storage which is to be provided will be redeemedin about ten years.
– One twenty-fourth of a penny per bushel on 49,000,000 bushels.
– No; but one twenty-fourth of a penny per bushel on the entire 159,000,000 bushels.
In recommending this Bill to the favorable consideration of honorable senators, I ask them n’ot to confuse the proposals embodied in it for the storage of wheat in silos with the question of bulk handling.
– If it does not provide for bulk handling it is not worth the paper on which it is printed.
– I was at considerable pains to explain previously that although this scheme has nothing whatever to do with the question of bulk handling, it is advisable to base it upon lines which can be adapted to that purpose if desired.
– It is really the first instalment of the bulk handling system?
– That is so. Under this Bill we shall be redeeming our pledges to the Imperial authorities, and rendering good service to the Allies by providing them with all the wheat that is in our possession.
– Will the scheme involve the storage of the wheat inbulk in the silos?
– Not necessarily. Whichever system is regarded as preferable will be used. But obviously the wheat must eventually be sent away in bags, seeing that we are making no arrangements for its bulk handling.
– Are not some of the States making arrangements to send grain away in bulk?
– There has been some talk of it, but the machinery connected with bulk handling constitutes a big item, and we do not desire to spend more money at this stage than we can possibly avoid.
I ask honorable senators not to take a small view of this matter. The scheme is devised to apply to wheat that we have already sold - wheat which will be wanted early next year to feed the troops in the field. It is consequently incumbent on Australia to help her Allies by preserving every possible grain of that wheat. Conceivably, some of the States may say that they do not propose to come into the scheme, because future bulk handling will not be successful within their borders. That, however, is not the question we have to consider now. The Bill does not compel the States to come in. But I do say that none of those
States which have participated in the operations of the wheat pool, and in the big sales which have been effected to the British Government - especially in view of the fact that Britain is our only possible customer next year - can avoid its obligation in this regard, because by so doing they would be sacrificing the great advantages which they enjoy through the operations of that pool. I ask honorable senators to give this measure their hearty support. Whilst there is nothing grand, new, or unique in it, it will at least be a guarantee to the Old Country that we shall do our best to preserve our foodstuffs for it, it will be honouring the bond into which we have already entered, and at the same time it will be of great assistance to our producers.
– I am not going to indulge in any criticism of this Bill. On the contrary, I intend to assist the Government to pass it without delay, believing, as I do, that it is one of the measures brought forward to assist the Empire in its hour of need. But . the Honorary Minister said a few minutes ago that some of the States would not come into the scheme. I do not understand what he means by that remark. I hope that the time is not far distant when the States will not have an opportunity of refusing to enter into an undertaking of this sort. If they are receiving assistance from the Commonwealth in the storage of their wheat it is bad grace on their part to refuse to come in.
– I did not say they would not come in. I said they might not. But if any State failed to take action to preserve its wheat, I think that the Commonwealth would intervene under the War Precautions Act.
– I am very glad to hear that. Under that .Statute the Government have power to do anything that they may wish to do in regard to the question of bulk handling, or any other national matter. At all hazards it. is imperative that our wheat should be preserved. Under the War Precautions Act, the Government are in s position ‘to say to the States, “ We lave put forward a certain scheme, and you must subscribe to it.”
Personally, I do not agree with the pro.posal te advance money to the States to carry out this work. I would rather see the Commonwealth handle the whole business itself. I have been given to understand that the scheme for the build- ing of these silos emanated from an in*terested firm, which has submitted plans to the Government, and that it is the intention of the Ministry to authorize this firm to build the silos without inviting competition for them. I hope that any firm which may be desirous of assisting the Government in the erection of the silos will be afforded an opportunity’ to do so.
– I am sure that every honorable senator hails with considerable satisfaction this practical measure, which has been brought forward in the interests of the producers of Australia. If the silos will be completed before the next Australian wheat crop is garnered, and if the estimate of cost is not greatly exceeded, I cannot see what objection can be taken to the proposal.
The Minister was not very clear on the question of finance. The proposal, as I understand him? is to spend, approximately, £3,000,000 for the erection of 1,000 silos, each to hold about 50,000 bushels df wheat. It is proposed that the’ Commonwealth shall lend the money to the States, and that the States shall control the business and decide the number of silos that they. want. I also understand from the Minister that . the Commonwealth is to be repaid the money by a charge on the wheat stored in the silos, such charge to be made a charge upon the pool, or, if the pool does not exist, upon the wheat that is there to the debit of the individual farmer. If a charge is made of one-eighth of a Id. per bushel per month, that will mean 1½d. per bushel per year, and will amount, aproximately, to £300,000 per year as rent for the wheat in the silos. This will be a reasonable provision for interest upon the capital cost of silos that do not wear out, and allow a fair sum for amortization.
The Bill gives full latitude and power to the Commissioners to fix what rent they like, but, on behalf of the primary producers, I should like to see a maximum rent fixed beyond which the Commissioners cannot go.
– Read paragraph b of clause 7, which gives the Commission power to deterrr-ine the cost per bushel to be charged for storing.
– I should still like to see a maximum fixed by Parliament. Mr. Bonar Law told the Empire some time ago that the man who was growing wheat was doing a service to his country almost equal to that of the man who was fighting at the Front.
– But with not so much risk.
– Certainly not; but I should like honorable senators, in considering the question of financing the scheme, to see if they cannot protect the man on the land from excessive rent charges. After all, the Government have brought down estimates, which I suppose have been carefully gone into, and I am sure the whole question of cost has been carefully considered. I see no reason why a maximum rent cannot be fixed, to prevent any possibility of the exploitation of the farmer in the future.
– The charge will not be one-eighth of the pre-war charges.
-Then what is the objection to fixing a maximum ?
– We should leave that to the Commission, to be determined after full inquiry.
– I take it that the inquiry has already been made, in relation to the cost of the silos and the possible crop.
It seems to me that it would be better to have more details in some of the Bills that have been placed before us than have been given. In times of peace I. believe every honorable senator would object to government by regulation, and I hope that some definite indication will be given to the wheat-growers of the charge that is going to be made to them for storing their product.
– It is definite in so far as it provides that no profit shall be made from the wheat storage, but that a nominal charge shall be made, just sufficient to cover interest on capital post and working expenses.
– What will happen if the silos, owing to some unforeseen cause, cost twice the amount estimated ?
– We have given a very conservative estimate. What would happen if they cost 25 per cent. less than the estimate]
– Then there would be no harm in fixing the maximum rent.
– Why not suggest that the rent shall not exceed pre-war rates ?
– Perhaps some further suggestion will be made in Committee. The Minister has not indicated when the silos will be ready, but I am very hopeful that, with a good hurry-up on the part ofthe powers-that-be, some, at all events, will be ready to receive next season’s wheat.
– I have no fear that the Commission will be likely to charge an excessive price per bushel for storage, because it is to consist of one representative of the Commonwealth and one of each of the States in which the silos are to be erected, and we may be quite sure that the primary producers directly concerned will see that the gentlemen elected to the Commission take very good care that no overcharge is made for storage.
The Minister might have given us a little more information as to the prospective cost of each of the silos. They appear to average out at about £3,000 each.
– The cost will vary according to the size. Some will hold 25,000 bushels, and some 50,000, and the honorable senator can work the cost outat the rate of ls. 2d. per bushel.
– As the silos are to last indefinitely, and . the war will probably not, what will happen in the event of sufficient ships becoming available to transport the wheat abroad as it is produced ? Who is then going to foot the bill for the interest on the cost of the silos ?
– If I thought we could get ships to take the wheat, and that we could get it all away, I would gladly throw that money in the air.
– It is certain that, in the event of a shortage of wheat in ‘ Great Britain, and the war ending, strenuous efforts will at once be made by the Imperial Government to transport to their own country the whole of the wheat they have bought, and that as further wheat becomes available it will at once be shipped abroad. I should like the
Minister to tell us in that case who is going to be responsible for the interest on the money sunk in the silos, if they are no longer necessary to store the wheat.
But I look upon the scheme as the forerunner of a more efficient method of handling wheat. There should be no difficulty in this country, which has a climate much the same as that of Egypt, in storing wheat for, an indefinite number of years, free from pests. It should be much easier to deal with the wheat expeditiously, taking it from silos and handling it in bulk, than by the expensive process that has now to be followed. The cost of bags alone should be very greatly minimized.
I appreciate the proposal to construct these silos, and should like to see the plans and elevations of them placed before honorable senators before the Bill finally goes through, but in the absence of that information I think we may rely on the Commission to see that the very . best designs are adopted, and their erection proceeded with expeditiously and simultaneously in all the Stales.
– Do you realize that the detailed plans for the whole of this scheme throughout the Commonwealth would nearly fill this chamber?
– I take it that all the others will be but a duplication of the plan and elevation of one, andI do not suppose a plan of that sort would occupy many square inches. I take it that the representativesof the States and Commonwealth on the Commission will realize the importance of the question that will be placed under their control, and see that the best plan is adopted and carried out ato the earliest possible opportunity. 1 support the second reading.
Debate (on motion by Senator Shannon) adjourned.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 25th July, vide page 416.)
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
There shall be a Repatriation Commission to consist of seven members.
The Commission shall be a body corporate, with perpetual succession and a common seal, and may hold real and personal property, and may sue and be sued in its corporate name.
All Courts, Judges, and persons acting judicially shall take judicial notice of the seal of the Commission affixed to any document or notice, and shall presume that it was duly affixed.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia [4.35]. - I move -
That the word “ seven,” line 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three.”
This amendment, as well as others which have been indicated, haye.been drafted by Senator O’Keefe, who is unable to be present to-day, and has requested me to submit it to the Committee. The object is to reduce the number of members on the Commission from seven to three. I notice that Senator Bolton has an amendment of a similar character, and I cannot understand why seven members should be required on the Repatriation Commission. So far I have heard no argument from the Minister why’ the number should be fixed at seven, and I think it would be wise for the Committee to accept the amendment. Should the measure in its operation prove to be hot so effective as desired, it will be an easy matter for the Minister in charge to ask Parliament to increase the number of commissioners. There is also the matter of expense to be considered. I presume the gentlemen to be appointed will not be called upon to act in an honorary capacity.
– This is a matter for the Committee to decide, and it is just as well that we should thresh out now the question whether the commissioners are to be paid or not.
– I also think it wise to raise at once the question whether members of the Commission are to be paid or whether they are to act in an honorary capacity, because it might make a very considerable difference to the voting on this amendment. Personally, I believe the commissioners should, be paid, although, after listening to the Minister, I may be prepared to alter my views on this point. I favour the principle of three commissioners, even if they are to be paid. If they are to act in an honorary capacity I do not know that it matters very much whether we have seven or three, although I think the balance of advantage lies with the smaller number.
– I should like to ask the Committee to consider this amendment not merely as a proposal to substitute three commissioners for seven, but as an alteration which, if adopted, would destroy the whole scheme of the Bill ; though I do not mean to say that it would destroy repatriation.
I will leave for a moment the particular amendment under discussion, and ask your indulgence, Mr. Chairman, while I make reference to some matters covered by later clauses of the Bill, because this amendment, if carried, would pull out the keystone of the arch. We may proceed in three different ways in the creation of an organization to deal with repatriation. The first is the ordinary departmental method, with which we are all familiar, and under which we would have an ordinary department with its paid officials under the control of the Minister. There is a second method under which commissioners are sometimes appointed - as in the case of our railways, waterworks, and other public utilities - and I cannot help thinking that honorable senators are a little confused, because of their familiarity with commissioners in such cases, and that they’ are assuming that the Commissioners under this repatriation scheme would occupy somewhat similar positions. The third method by which we can deal with this matter is by inviting the assistance of private citizens. These are the only methods under which we can carry on the work of repatriation.
As to the first, method - that of the ordinary Department - I admit it gives what I hold to be essential, namely, parliamentary control, and parliamentary responsibility in the last resort. That, to my mind, is absolutely necessary in connexion with this work, seeing that Parliament will be invited to find the money to finance the scheme. I agree that an ordinary Department will insure this, but it will also leave this important matter entirely to paid officials, and will shut out altogether that association of private citizen life in this country to which I attach much im portance. Moreover, I think a large number of people, returned soldiers included, would regard the scheme with some suspicion if we told them that we were going to leave them entirely under the control of an ordinary official Department as it is generally understood. For that reason, I have endeavoured to get away from the departmental method in seeking a satisfactory method of handling this proposition.
With regard to the appointment of commissioners, I admit at once that in many cases such a course is extremely desirable. In the case of our railways, for instance, we appoint commissioners, who get their sailing orders, and we rely upon their integrity and expert knowledge to manage our railways as a business concern. A definite responsibility is placed upon them, but this could not be done in the case of commissioners for repatriation, because it cannot be said that any one is an expert in this department of our social life. Even supposing that we did find the most competent man in the whole of Australia, we could not lay down any definite instructions for his guidance. We could only say that we wanted him to deaf fairly with our soldiers. We could not tell him how to run the scheme unless we were prepared to face the task of drawing up a complete schedule setting ‘ forth the benefits to be allowed in every case that might be presented. Obviously, that would be impossible, because if we completed a list of benefits to-day it would be possible tomorrow to find .half-a-dozen new and entirely different sets of circumstances. Each case must be dealt with on its merits.
As I have already pointed out, the effect of the amendment will be to sweep the Minister on one side, and destroy the nexus between the repatriation body and Parliament.
– Cannot we take one amendment at a time 1
– No; because we must look at the purpose of the amendment, which is one of a series affectingthe many activities which I placed before the Senate when introducing the Bill, and leave the treatment of ,our returned soldiers to the discretion of three paid officials, appointed for a fixed term.
-Colonel Bolton. - That is not so.
– That is the object of the amendment. It is idle to say that it does not involve this question, because if the consequent reduction from seven to three be made the other amendments that have been drafted will be proceeded with.
I want honorable senators to consider what the duties of these commissioners will be. They will not control the Repatriation Department, but will act as an advisory board to the Minister, advising him as to. the nature, extent, and degree of the benefits to be extended to the soldiers. It is because three is too small a number to enable the Minister to surround himself with representatives of different interests or different classes, that seven is the number selected. I think it is the smallest number necessary to make the Commission effective for the purpose for which ‘it is designed. The alternative is not to have a Commission of this kind to advise the Minister at all. Senator Bolton’s similar proposition sweeps the Minister away from the Commission, and would leave it entrenched in the position of a Board of permanent officials with the power to determine the .character, extent, and degree of benefits to be given to returned soldiers.
– No. The Minister would have the right of review. He would approve of the recommendations of the Board.
– Senator Bolton desires the establishment of a Board of permanent officials with a fixed tenure of office, during which there would be no possibility of removing them.
– They could be removed at the pleasure of the Governor-General .
– No; because the honorable senator proposes that they should be appointed for a fixed term.
– Appointed during the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral.
– Senator Bolton can take it from me that he will get no gentleman of standing to take a position of this kind with a condition of removal under those circumstances, since they would be making the work their means of earning a living, and would look for some fixity of tenure.
– The members of the Inter-State Commission were appointed in the same way.
– No, they were appointed for a fixed term of seven years.
Assuming that the Committee decided upon the appointment of three paid Commissioners, it has to be remembered that they would not be in the same position as Commissioners for Railways, who are placed in .charge of a definite business, and told clearly what is required of them. The conduct of the business is then left to their expert knowledge, and reliance is placed upon their integrity. But what is the duty of the Commission proposed to be constituted under this Bill 1 It is to consider what is a fair measure - of benefit to extend .to this or that class of soldier. It will not deal with the individual. Its business will be merely to lay down the character, extent, and nature of the benefits to be conferred under the scheme of repatriation. It will advise the Minister on “these points.
I think there is great advantage in bringing to the aid of the Minister the views of representatives of the private life of the country. If the point be taken that we cannot get men of standing to accept these positions unless they are paid, let me at once set the mind of the Committee at rest by Baying that I have had the moat gratifying assurances on the point, and amongst them from gentlemen who have stipulated that they would take the position only if it were honorary. Amongst them is a gentleman who is a representative of one of the biggest bodies of organized Labour in Australia. I do not anticipate ‘the slightest difficulty in securing for the proposed Commission men whose names will not only command the respect of honorable senators, but who will be regarded as fairly representative alike of the citizens and of tie returned soldiers. Let honorable senators consider what demand is likely to be made on the time of the gentlemen constituting the Commission. Seeing that they have merely to lay down the scale of benefits to be conferred, I say that if at the beginning they sat three days a week for a month, one meeting a month afterwards would be sufficient. They will not be administering a Department, and will not be dealing with individual applications. The administration will be in the hands of the Minister, and it will be the duty of the State Boards to deal with the individual applications.
– The State Boards are to be honorary also.
– I am quite willing to admit that Senator Bolton might make out a better case for paid officials on the State Boards than he can for paid officials on the central Commission. It will be representative of the ordinary citizen life of the country, and will be merely a board of advice to the Minister.
– It will be only an advisory board
– That is all. In the circumstances, I ask honorable senators to remember that the alternative to the Government proposal is to substitute for an advisory Commission a board of three paid Commissioners, and to sweep the Minister off the board. That is Senator Bolton’s proposal. He proposes to place in the hands of three paid officials, or of three men, who, according to my experience, if not officials when first appointed, will soon become officials;’ he proposes to place in their hands for seven years, or for whatever term, may be fixed for their appointment, the power to determine exactly how the benefits which Parliament will provide under this scheme shall be dispensed. We might pass such a proposal to-day, but I venture the prediction that it would not last for twelve months.
This Parliament will not only desire to exercise a very close control over what is done in connexion with the repatriation scheme, but, in mv opinion, it should exercise that control, and for the purpose of the proposed Commission, we should get) the best possible assistance and advice from representatives of the different sections of the community. Whatever is done must be submitted later to Parliament, and Parliament must have the opportunity of revising it. Senator Bolton proposes to substitute for the Commission suggested by the Government the appointment of paid officials, and to leave the Minister with only the right of veto. He would deny to him the right to confer with these officials, sitting as one of themselves, and would leave him merely the right to accept or reject their proposals.
– In the case of an appeal from any individual, would it come before the proposed central Commission ?
– Yes, it would. Is it not to be assumed that the ordinary soldier will prefer that his appeal, if it should be necessary for him to make one, should come before a body of seven men representative of different walks of life, and with returned soldiers upon it, rather than before a board of three paid officials ?
– Where is the provision in the Bill for the appointment of returned soldiers to the Commission?
– I expect Senator Bolton to accept the assurance which, in introducing the Bill. I gave to him and other honorable senators, that on all these Boards returned soldiers would find a place.
– I think the matter is so important that it should be provided for in the Bill.
SenatorNeedham. - I think it should be in the Bill.
– This is the first time in my experience that the assurance of a Minister on such a point has not been freely accepted. I take no exception to Senator Bolton’s objection as a new member of the Senate, but Senator Needham should know that when a member of the Government gives an assurance of that kind, it is invariably accepted.
– How many returned soldiers would be on the Commission ?
– I propose to include two, and I think that would be a very fair proportion. It is not to be supposed, as Senator Earle reminds me,that the other members of the Commission will be in opposition to the representatives of the returned soldiers. There is a double advantage in having returned soldiers on the Commission, since they may be expected to represent to some extent the soldiers’ point of view, and will be of value in a greater degree because the soldier will have the assurance that there are men on the Commission specially qualified to understand his position.
I again remind honorable senators that the Commission will not run the Department. It will be the duty of the Minister to see to the administration of the scheme, and the actual dealing with applications will rest upon the State Boards. The proposed Commission will be merely a Board of Advice, and honorable senators will agree that the Minister will require all the advice he can possibly get for the successful carrying out of the repatriation scheme. For these reasons’ I ask the Committee to leave this matter as it stands in the Bill at present.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [4.59]. - I can assure honorable senators that in supporting the amendment I am not acting in any frivolous or factious spirit, but with an earnest desire, at the inception of this great undertaking, to assist the Government to secure such conditions as will promise the greatest measure of success.
In the Bill as it stands the provision to give effect to the reliance of the Government upon voluntary effort is, in my view, an inherent weakness. They have already accepted full responsibility for it. This reliance upon voluntary effort is calculated to create the impression in the public mind that the Government are not really in earnest over this matter.- It must be obvious that the success or failure of the scheme must depend largely upon the central Commission, which will have the responsibility of creating the whole of the machinery of administration.
– It will not create the machinery of administration. It will have nothing to do with it.
.- It will be charged with the preparation of the regulations, and these will form the machinery which will govern the administration. The members of this Commission must be men of ability, and should have sympathetic experience, knowledge, and understanding of the subject. Unhampered by other issues, they should be in a position to devote the whole of their time, energy, and intelligence to the creation of the policy and regulations which are to give effect to the will of the people and Parliament in connexion with the repatriation scheme.
In my opinion it will be quite impossible for an honorable senator, such as the Vice-President of the Executive Council, to devote the necessary time to the work of Chairman of the Commission to enable him to do justice to the importance of that work. It will need the whole of the time and energy of any man. If it were proposed by an individual, or by a corporate body, to build a bridge across a swiftly-flowing and turbulent stream, they would not invite an expert financial man, a statesman, or a politician to’ design the bridge. They would invite some one able to form a reliable opinion of the weight the bridge would have to carry, the strain which the material of which it was constructed would bear, and the design of the piers necessary to carry the load even when the stream was flooded. I say that the men who’ are to create the regulations or machinery to give effect to this tremendous undertaking must be men in a position to devote the whole of their time to the work, and must have a personal responsibility to the Government and the country, and not men with only a superficial or casual interest in the success of this great movement, giving to it only occasional attention.
– Where are we to get the experts to take up this work?
– I think it is possible to find amongst those who have been connected with repatriation and amelioration, and those who have seen service, a body of men who will be able to enter into the. details of the question in a way which could not be expected of the ordinary citizen.
– That means that we should hand the whole matter over to the returned soldiers.
– Nothing of the kind. Plenty of repatriation work has been done in this country by men who are not returned soldiers.
I do not see how we can hope to secure, men who have the necessary time and experience to take up the work of this very difficult position as honorary members of a Board. It must be remembered that the men with whom we propose to deal are men who have been down to the very depths of hell. ‘ By the protection of Providence they have been able to stagger out of that hell, but shattered in body and soul, and with their minds in anything but a fit condition to consider matters. The Minister spoke of beginning the work of repatriation in the United Kingdom. He talks of registering men in the United Kingdom or on board ship on the way back to Australia. The men in such circumstances will not be in a mental condition to . consider what their prospects are likely to be or what are their inclinations.
– How does this affect the amendment?
– It shows the class of work that the members of the Commission will have to do.
– The Commission will have nothing to do with that work.
– It shows that honorary commissioners under the ‘proposal of the Government, are not likely to understand that work.
Let me say what has been the practice adopted up to the present time. When a man arrives1 here from the Front he reports to head-quarters, and receives permission to go to his friends for a fortnight or three weeks. I have experience of what happens to the men. I have seen 600 or 700 of these men, war worn and weary, coming down the Bed Sea in the heat. I have noticed them in the evening turn their faces in a south-westerly direction, and line the bulwarks of the ship to get the first glimpse of the Southern^ Cross above the horizon. Honorable senators should have heard the ringing cheer that went around the ship the first evening they saw the Southern Cross. As they caught the first glimpse of the shores pf Australia the joy exhibited by the men was something wonderful. And as they arrive in their own town or seaport where their relatives and friends meet them, I contend that if any form of restriction or discipline is imposed the authorities will take on a very serious responsibility.
– Why raise a bogy? I did not propose to do it.
Sentaor Lt. -Colonel BOLTON. - The questions of pensions, amelioration, and repatriation cannot, in my opinion, be separated. After the returned soldiers have been with their friends for a fortnight or month, and have had time to settle down and think calmly and collectedly as .to their future, they may have to report to the military authorities. A Medical Board will have to say whether a man has to go into a hospital or not. If a man has to go into a hospital he will still be under the authority of the military people, and, if necessary, should be tenderly cared for and treated. If, however, he has not to go into a hospital it will be a question of pension, amelioration, and repatriation. That is the point where I think the men should be dealt with. It is the regulations which the Commission will have to administer. I heartily support the amendment.
– We must all look at this proposal from the point of view of how we can do the best for the returned soldiers. The question is whether we are ito have a Commission of three or seven members to assist the Minister in the administration of the Act. The idea of the Minister is to select honorary commissioners of various social standing, and two of .them to be returned soldiers, so .that every shade of .opinion willi be available to guide him in his administration. That is, I think,, a very wise provision indeed. I expect that one of the commissioners will be chosen because .of his knowledge of land masters, and possibly another commissioner may be selected by reason of his knowledge of business matters, so that when any body of soldiers require to be settled on the land he will be able to give expert advice on the subject. An architect or an engineer, of course, must be employed to build a bridge; but the best person to say “who is the right man to employ for that purpose is, as a rule, a business man - that is the man indicated by Senator Millen’s scheme. With most directorates cases of that sort arise. A board of directors never think of building a bridge as indicated by Senator Bolton, but, after making full inquiries, they are the best men to advise as to who should be employed. That is the class of men whom I would trust in the interests of returned soldiers to do the work.
– And suck directors are always paid.
– I believe so. I think that in a case of .this sort we might expect a little patriotism to be displayed.
– It is forthcoming.
– If we go on as we are doing, the community will soon be made up largely of paid commissioners. This is, I think, a very wise provision. We desire to get the best brains of the community to assist the Minister in administering the measure, and this, I consider, is the way to do it. If we had a body consisting of three paid commissioners or returned soldiers, they would only see one side of a matter. No doubt they would understand what the men wanted, but they could not be expected to see both sides.
– It is not suggested to have three returned soldiers on the Commission.
– I understood that suggestion was made.
– That is not my amendment.
SenatorFAIRBAIRN. - How many members of the Commission would be returned soldiers?
– I would have one out of three if the Committee should carry my amendment.
– I think that the Minister’s suggestion ought to be adopted. We are only proposing to tentatively try this measure, and, as we go along, we shall acquire experience and learn how to do things better. I think that the system of a Commission with State Boards is likely to produce as good results for the soldiers as any scheme which could be suggested. The Minister seemed to be hesitating about having honorary Boards in the States. I think that in the other States he will be able to find a class of men who will know the local conditions and will be just as patriotic and as willing to help as men here. I hope that he will stand firm on these points.
– I intend tlo support the proposal to reduce the number of commissioners - that is, on the understanding that they are going to be paid. I believe that we should pay the men who are to holdthese positions, because hitherto the administration of a great fund in the hands of honorary commissioners has been entirely unsatisfactory.
– These commissioners “will not administer the fund.
– The commissioners will have a lot to do with that phase of the work.
Not long ago a deputation waited upon the Minister here and placed before him some figures. I read the report in a Sydney newspaper. The figures were not made much of at the time, but in my opinion they show that the persons who have been administering patriotic funds up to date have acted in a very poor way. The amount collected to date has been £2,559,738. The disbursements to soldiers and dependants have amounted to £590,974, and other payments have come to £769,839, leaving a balance in hand of £1,198,925.
– What were the “other payments”?
– That is what I wish to know.
– Who made the audit?
– If the suggestion is that the “other payments” were expenses I can contradict it at once.
– The report in the newspaper has not been contradicted. According tlo these figures, whether they are right or wrong, it took £7 to distribute £5. I presume that the funds are deposited where they will earn some money. I know that the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic Fund of Sydney is earning money. If the whole of the funds to which I refer were invested they must have earned not less than £100,000 by this time. In that case it has taken £7 to distribute £4.
I want this fund managed by three men who will be in practically the same position as the Judges in the High Court. Senator de Largie has asked if I would not want a representative of Western Australia. I would not want any State representatives. I want the three best men to be found in Australia, even if they were all to come from Western Australia. This is a national matter,’ and although the Senate is a States house, it does not matter to me where the commissioners come from. It is a business transaction pure and simple, and the services of the three best men ought to be secured. We do not want offers from any men. We need men who have had some experience and possess business and financial knowledge. The land shark has been using his claws in New South Wales. The State Government are challenged for having paid huge sums for resumed estates, and one member of Parliament, who is a farmer and a member of the National party, says that the returned soldiers who go on this land will have a harder battle to fight than they had in Gallipoli. Unless the Government secure the services of men who will stand to their guns staunch and true they will find the same ravages creeping into the administration of this fund in its early life. Good men should be picked out and paid a fair salary. No man should be appointed because of his patriotism. My complaint is that there is no patriotism to be found among these people. Patriotism is only to be found in the lower classes of the community. I have in my pocket a newspaper report of the case of a certain person who desired to be appointed on the Executive Committee of a fund suing the aged and almost blind father and mother of one of our soldiers for rent. They applied to the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic Fund for a sum to pay the claim. The controllers of the fund ‘never pay the full sum asked for rent, because they hold that there should be patriotism exhibited, and that the landlord should be willing to forego a portion of the rent. The parents of a soldier, the father being eighty years of age and the mother seventy years, were to-day actually forced to apply to a patriotic fund for money to pay the rent owing to a champion of the soldiers and an officer of a society for the assistance of soldiers’ wives and dependants.
– Did he get the money ?
– He got a part of the amount.
– To pay the landlord his rent?
– Yes. I do not say for a moment that they would apply that treatment tlo all persons, but there is a probability of it creeping in at any time, and that is what I wish to prevent. There are some returned men who are well qualified to creditably fill the proposed positions. But they cannot do so unless they are paid for their services juste as they were paid when they were at the Front. My desire is to assist the VicePresident of the Executive Council in his laudable effort to do the best that he can to secure the efficient administration of this scheme.
– From the moment that this Bill was presentedto the Senate there have been undoubted manifestations of a desire on the part of honorable senators to make the scheme for which it provides a thorough success. We all admit that, in dealing with the question of repatriation, we are treading an unknown region. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, I presume, has given this matter more attention than has any other member of this Chamber.
– No doubt Senator Bolton has also given it much consideration. If I desired advice upon military matters, I would probably pay a great deal of heed to the opinion ex pressed by the honorable senator. But this is not a military matter, and though Senator Bolton knows a great deal more about military questions than I do, I am not prepared to credit him with the possession of a very large knowledge of repatriation matters. It will be admitted, I think, that the Red Cross Association of Australia has done excellent work up to the present time. Here is a body of men who are giving freely of their time, money, and abilities to a great cause.
– They occupy honorary positions, I think?
– Yes; and the fact that there are so many men interested in that work to-day is an encouraging augury of the success we may expect if we enlist the services of voluntary workers in connexion with this question of repatriation.
– But this work is very different from Red Cross work.
– Surely we ought to be able to get one man in each State who will be prepared to perform this work in an honorary capacity! The adoption of that course will be infinitely preferable to the establishment of a number of well-paid positions at the very inception of this scheme. Nothing could be more damaging to the undertaking at its very outset than the creation of three fat billets.
– That was the intention of the Government two months ago.
– I do not know how the honorable senator can say what was the original intention of the Government. Certainly it was never my intention.
In submitting his amendment Senator Needham referred to the Inter-State Commission. But with all due respect to that body, he would be a pretty bold man who would say that it has been an unqualified success.
– I did not mention the Inter-State Commission in connexion with this amendment.
– I have no desire to indulge in a discussion of the work of the Inter-State Commission, but I do say that if we follow the creation of that body with the appointment of another highly-paid Commission we shall be making a very grave error.
The Government are charged with responsibility for the scheme outlined in this Bill, and it is only fair that we should give their proposals a trial, especially in view of the frank avowal of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that nobody can dogmatize on the question of repatriation, and that he will be quite prepared to alter any portion of the scheme which is found by experience to be unworkable. We ought not to make a party issue of this matter. I do not say that the Government scheme should be adopted in every detail, but in respect of great principles, such as the appointment of the Commission which it is proposed to create, I do think that it oughtto be.
– I am opposed to the creation of honorary commissioners. We have been repeatedly told that in proportion to its population Western Australia has contributed more men to the fighting line than has any other State.
– And she has done so at less cost.
– That being so, it would not be right to exclude Western Australia from representation on the proposed Commission. I have no great regard for the boundaries of States in the selection of commissioners, though in all probability one member would be appointed from each State. Then, just as everything has been centralized in Melbourne, I presume that the Commission would meet in this city. The VicePresident of the Executive Council expressed the opinion that it would meet several times a week for a certain period.
– I said that if the commissioners would devote three days a week to this work for a month, I was satisfied (that one day a week afterwards would be the maximum demand on their time.
– According to the interjection of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the Commission would require to meet monthly.
– They would meet as often as necessity demanded.
– The representatives of Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and New South Wales would require to come to Melbourne at least once a month. Presumably they would expect their expenses to be paid, as well as a daily allowance while tihey remained in this city. Now whilst I have no objection to their expenses being paid, I am strongly of opinion that the expenses of seven honorary commissioners would amount to more than would the salaries of three paid commissioners. Personally, I am quite prepared to leave this matter in the hands of the Vice-President ofhe Executive Council. We can get at him occasionally, and ascertain from him how matters are progressing; but if this question is relegated to a Commission, whether it be honorary or paid, it will, to a certain extent, be removed from the control of Parliament). For that reasonI am not in favour of the creation of a Commission, either honorary or paid. I think that the Minister can administer the scheme just as efficiently as can any body of men who may meet occasionally in Melbourne.
We must recollect that this question of repatriation is going to be an enormous undertaking. Only the other day the Vice-President of the Executive Council told us that it may involve an expenditure of £60,000,000.
– I only used those figures for the purpose of snowingthat if present methods were followed, and 40,000 men were settled on the land, that would be the cost.
– Conceivably the scheme may cost considerably more. For my part I do not mind how much it costs. We cannot possibly do too much for those who have gone to the firing line. But I am deadly hostile to the appointment of an honorary Commission. Such Commissions are more expensive than are paid commissioners; they are exceedingly unsatisfactory, and they practically shoulder no responsibility. The Government have been exceedingly ill-advised to ask the Senate to agreeto a proposal of this character.
But apart from the central Commission which it is proposed to create, another Commission or Board is to be appointed in each State. I do not know whether it is intended that the members of those Boards shall fill honorary positions or whether they shall be paid. Men who are prepared to carry out work of this kind without direct payment do not appear to me to give that satisfaction which is given by men paid straight out for their time. We have no fault to find with the members of the Inter-State Commission so far as I know, even though, they can take no other contracts during the period of their appointments. They are being paid, and have security of tenure.
– What would you suggest by way of payment?
– I suggest that the matter be left in the hands of the Minister. I am against the creation of a Commission for this purpose. I am decidedly against the creation of an unpaid Commission, but if this body is to be created it certainly ought to be paid, in fairness to its own members and to the returned men.
Senator EARLE (Tasmania) [5.371-1 can quite understand the anxiety of honorable senators to arrive at the soundest and most advantageous conclusion concerning the appointment of a Commission and the establishment on a sound footing of the principle of the repatriation of soldiers, not only because it is going to be a very big undertaking, but also because it is a question on which we have no precedent to guide us.
The main question of repatriation must be considered in the light of the fact that the soldier has rendered to the nation a service for which no monetary payment or no effort of repatriation can possibly recompense him. The main payment which a soldier receives for the service which he has rendered to His country is undoubtedly his country’s gratitude. While we establish a system for the repatriation or reward of these men, we have then to provide for a system by which the utmost liberality and consideration will be given, considering at the same time the financial possibilities of the nation. Even if the nation were to impoverish itself in the effort to repatriate or reward its soldiers, it could not adequately reward them by any monetary effort.
The question is how this task can best be effected. Senator Grant advises that the matter should be left in the hands of the Minister. That is absolutely impracticable. The Minister would have to be surrounded by officers in the different States, who would advise him and administer the Act in their States. It is impossible for the Minister individually to administer such an Act in one State alone, let alone in six. As the Minister has to have certain advisers, it is the duty of Parliament to decide upon that system of advisory tribunal which will ad minister the Act in the best way, and render the greatest assistance to the Minister, with the least cost. I realize that the debate is hinging around another amendment-
– I am giving the Committee a great deal of latitude, recognising that a good deal hinges on the amendment.
– That being so, the Senate must realize that- if they decide upon a paid advisory Commission it becomes a permanent tribunal, and must consist of men with a fixed tenure for a certain number of years at a certain salary. We cannot disguise the fact that in all these matters we must pay for brains. We must have intellectual ability, and pay for it. Whether three or seven are appointed they must be men of marked ability, and be appointed for a given number of years at a given salary.
On the question of whether there shall be three or seven commissioners there hinges also the question whether they shall be .paid or honorary, which leads me to direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that if they are honorary the Minister may discontinue the tribunal within a month of its establishment, -while if they are paid we shall have set up a body which cannot be discontinued for a number of years. The honorary Commission which the Minister intends to establish will hold office at the pleasure of the Governor-General in Council, which, of course, means the Government. If, after a trial of that Commission, it is found to work unsatisfactorily, the Minister can immediately with-* draw its .commission and appoint a permanent Board from the best of its members or from others.
– Not without legislation.
– But it can be done.
– According to the Bill a permanent Commission can be dismissed.
– It cannot be dismissed at will. If the Bill says it can, we shall not get the right class of man to take up the work. No man will take such a position if he can be “booted out” at the caprice of a Minister or of a majority in Parliament.
– Will not that apply whether the commissioners are honorary or, paid?
– It will not. Certain men may take up the position in an honorary capacity. I use that expression, but I am not sure whether it is an honorary capacity or not, because every man in the community owes a certain duty to the nation at the present time. If these men give the whole of their time, because they cannot do anything else, to the work of repatriating the soldiers, they will be giving nothing more than they have the right to give.
– You will get only the men who can afford to do that, no matter what ability they have.
– I admit that. They will probably have to be the secretaries of organizations, or retired business men, or the secretary or other officers of the Returned Soldiers Association. They will have to be men who could give the time, but I believe that from that class you will get men of the necessary ability, with financial training, and sympathy towards the soldier. That sympathy is the first necessity, and I think every man is sympathetic towards the soldier. At the same time, each commissioner must have the capacity to realize accurately what the nation can do towards the repatriation of these men. My experience in Tasmania has led me to assume that we may anticipate a very effective response to the Minister’s appeal to such men to take up this duty. I do not think there will be any difficulty.
I take it that the central Commission will be as largely representative as possible of the whole of the States, and that, therefore, its members will bring local knowledge to bear from each State.
– You will have to pay their expenses to come to Melbourne.
– What if we do? If we have only three representatives it will not be possible to have each State represented, and they will have to be like three public servants, probably all living in Melbourne, administering the Act with a hard-and-fast determination to carry out the strict instructions of the law ; but that means that we shall lose all the sympathetic element in the administration which must be present if the scheme is to be made a success.
– You appear to forget the State Boards.
– The State Boards will have the duty of the actual applica tion of the Act in their own States, while the central Commission will be an Advisory Board to the Minister as regards the application of the principle of the measure to the whole of Australia.
Senator McDougall made a statement regarding the collection of patriotic funds which I do not like to let pass, in view of the very valuable services which have been rendered in an honorary way in my own State. I do not know what paper he quoted from, but it showed that the administration of these funds costs £7 for the distribution of every £5. I do not know whether the whole expense of entertainments, and so forth, organized for patriotic purposes, is included in that calculation, but cases have come under my notice where attempts to organize different functions to raise patriotic funds have resulted in a very small net return, and such cases would swell the cost of administration* if they were included. I venture to say that in Tasmania the distribution of the patriotic funds does not cost½ per cent. So far as I can learn by pretty close association with them, the distribution of the Mayor’s Patriotic Fund, the Disabled Soldiers’ Fund, and several others, has been very satisfactory. The honorary assistance rendered during the war by the citizens of Tasmania has been decidedly satisfactory.
We are in this matter in a difficult position. We have the right to demand from the citizens of this nation certain honorary assistance at this time. The occasion is not like anything else. We could not, for instance, ask a Commission to report on the Northern Territory, or render some other service to the people, in a matter in which they were not partisans, for nothing. In a matter like this the work would be a labour of love, and I would be surprised if we could not find a number of men willing to render voluntary service. I know cases like that referred to by Senator Grant will crop up, but we must not expect everybody who offers voluntary assistance to be of the same calibre as the people referred to by him.
I intend to support the Bill as it stands, because I want to give it a fair trial, and if experience shows that it is not satisfactory, it will be an easy matter to correct the fault.
– How are you going to prove the efficiency of the system?
– By its working results and the actual administration of the Act. There will he no difficulty in proving whether it is a success or not, because the scheme will be in operation for a great number of years. At present we are in the experimental stage, and I do not think it is advisable to launch out on a scheme which will tie us down to a definite proposal for a certain number of years. If experience shows that we cannot get whole-hearted and patriotic voluntary assistance in the administration of the Act, we can then Tevert to the system of administration by , paid officials.
– Experience in War Council matters has shown that already.
– Experiencehas not shown that. At all events that is not the experience of any own . State.
– Nor in New South Wales.
– Well, in two States it ‘has been shown that it is not impossible to get whole-hearted and patriotic assistancein the administration of War Councils’ affairs. Ever since the appointment of War Councils, the voluntary assistance given in my State has been entirely satisfactory, and if we had been called upon to pay for the services rendered we would have been involved in very heavy expenditure.
– It is not a question of cost; it is a question of doing the work.
– I am sorry Senator Bolton’s experience is different from mine, but I should think it would only be a matter of stirring upthe people to get them to realize their obligations. I hope honorable senators will accept the suggestion of the Government in order thatwe may give the scheme a trial.
– Why experiment with it when you know it will be a failure?
– I do not know it will be a failure. My experience leads me to believe it will be a success.
.- I am not so much concerned about whether the commissioners are to be paid as I am about the system which is most likely to be efficient. If the commissioners are to be paid, their numbers must necessarily be limited to two or three, and, therefore, it will not be possible to have the same wide range of selection as in the case of honorary commissioners, who may be chosen from the different States. Gentlemen so appointed will bring to the councils of the nation the experiences of their own State in regard to land settlement, industrial legislation, and many other matters, and therefore there is less reason to fear. any failure in regard to the scheme than would be the case by the appointment of a paid Commission of, say, three men. No matter how careful we may be in the selection of three commissioners, or how much we may desire to give them fair remuneration, we could not expect to get men capable of controlling a scheme of this kind for £1,000 a year. There aremen with such experience who would be able to make more than that amount in a fortnight in private life. I believe, however, that men of exceptional ability will be prepared to offer their services and advice to the States free, and 1 think the Senate should adopt the Government’s proposal. I realize, of course, that we could not expect ‘these men to continue their arduous duties for all time in an honorary capacity, but while our legislation along these lines is in the experimental stage we might fairly expect this voluntary assistance from public-spirited men of experience. Senator Grant and other honorable ‘senators have referred to the paying of travelling expenses. I presume it is not proposed to tie down paid commissioners toan office in Melbourne.
– Certainly not. It is a question of tying them down to their job.
– Whether we have paid officials or honorary commissioners it would be unreasonable to tie them down to an office in Melbourne. They could not be expected to carry out their duties without travelling and investigation. This is an entirely new scheme; the road we are travelling is unknown to any of us.
– The Minister said that he has no sign-posts along the trade
– Yes; and at present nobody is prepared to erect them for me.
– This scheme is new, and, of course, travelling expenses will have to be met whether our commissioners are paid or not.
– They will be able to spend money without being made responsible.
– Whether a man is responsible or not, he will still make mistakes, and very often a paid official, in his anxiety to give the best possible return for his money, will make greater mistakes. I feel sure that if we have an honorary Commission, comprising men of the highest integrity and experience, the scheme will give much better results, and there will be less danger of mistakes.
.- I rise to support the scheme as laid down by the Minister, for I consider that in the management of a proposal affecting the whole of Australia, and under which every case for repatriation will have to be judged on its merits, a Commission of seven men will not be too large. I trust that one Commissioner will be selected from each State, because by his more intimate knowledge of conditions in his own State he will be able to make valuable representations to the Minister. We should try to secure the best value for our money with the least possible expenditure, and from the economic point of view I am satisfied that a Repatriation Commission of honorary members will serve our purpose best. To suggest that honorary commissioners will not perform the duties of the. office as sympathetically as paid officials in the interests of the returned soldiers and their dependants is ridiculous. I have had some experience, though it is no.t extensive, of repatriation work in Queensland. I think that honorary commissioners are likely to be more sympathetic to returned soldiers and their dependants than paid officials would be. My, experience of the work of paid officials is that after a time they become less sympathetic than they might be. Speaking from the point of view of the returned soldier, and as one who has been in contact with a great many returned soldiers during the last year, I can assure honorable senators that the returned soldiers will not feel that they are likely to be in any way badly treated should the administration of the repatriation scheme be left, to a certain extent, in the hands of honorary workers. We have a Repatriation Committee in Queensland that since its establishment, has done very fine work indeed on behalf of the returned soldiers. If the facts were secured from that State, I think it would be shown that the percentage of returned soldiers in need of assistance or employment there is very much lower than in any of the other States. The whole of the work of repatriation in Queensland is done, and done well, by honorary workers. Similar work is being well done in all of the other States by honorary workers, and, in the circumstances,I see no reason why, in the establishment of the proposed Repatriation Commission, the Government should be invited to make a few big fat billets for certain people. With respect to the suggestion by one honorable senator that we should have three returned soldiers as Commissioners-
– Who suggested that?
– I think it was suggested by Senator McDougall.
– Nothing of the sort.
– I understood Senator McDougall to say that he was in favour of three commissioners, and that they should all be’ returned soldiers.
– Nothing of the
– Then I must stand corrected.
– Something like that was said.
– I do not think that I am hard of hearing, and I was certainly listening to Senator McDougall very intently during the whole of his speech. It must not be forgotten that two sections of the community are concerned in the repatriation scheme. First, there are the people who are providing the money for repatriation, and, second, the returned soldiers and the dependants of soldiers who are to benefit under the scheme. The people who are finding the money for repatriation have the same claim to be represented on the Repatriation Commission as have those who are to receive benefits under the scheme. I should not personally be in favour of the whole of the
Bepatriation Commission consisting of returned soldiers.
– That has never been proposed.
– I hope that when the scheme is brought into operation, and paid officials in connexion with it are appointed in the different States, every effort will be made to see that the services of returned soldiers at present working in connexion with repatriation schemes are retained, and that if additional appointments are necessary they will be made from the ranks of returned soldiers. I realize that this is merely a machinery Bill. ,If it is found, that the seven honorary commissioners proposed by the Government do not carry out their duties in a satisfactory manner, and it is considered that the work can be more efficiently carried out by paid officials, I shall be prepared to support an amendment of the measure to provide for a paid Commission. At present I believe that the VicePresident of the Executive Council is proceeding upon right lines, and that the right class of me,u will be found willing to offer their services for this important work. I am prepared to support the clause providing for a Repatriation Commission consisting of seven honorary members.
– I am entirely at one with the Vice-President of the Executive Council with respect to the Repatriation Commission. In speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I indicated that I thought that, in connexion with the State Boards, a different course would have to be adopted. I differ from Senator Foll, who has expressed the opinion that the Repatriation Commission should consist of representatives of the different States. It seems to me that the honorable senator has overlooked the fact that the functions of the Commission will differ entirely from those of the State Boards. The Repatriation Commission should be representative, but not necessarily representative of the different States. I think that it would be rather a drawback that it should be representative of the different States, because it will from time to time have to consider matters referred to it from the State Boards. I take it that the work of the Commission will largely be to review the work of the State Boards. We have been told that the returned soldiers are to be represented on the Commission. If there is a representative of the landed interests on the Commission, he will know what class of land is suitable for the settlement of returned soldiers. A representative of the financial interests, in conjunction with the Minister, will consider the appropriation of funds for the purpose of repatriation. The Commission must be representative of interests rather than of States. The work of repatriation must be dealt with, not as a State matter, but in a broad, national sense, and the Repatriation Commission should be representative of the elements most useful in the constitution of such a central body. If later on’ it is found necessary, as the result of experience, we can alter these proposals, but at present we are sailing on an uncharted sea, and must adopt the course which at present appears to us likely to satisfactorily meet the circumstances which we believe will arise. When we remember the large and varied interests that are concerned, I think it would be a grave mistake to reduce the number of the Commission from seven to three.
The Commission will have to consider where men are to be placed, and will have to review the representations made to them by the State Boards with respect to individual men. This is the only provision of the Bill which brings the Minister into actual contact with expenditure under the scheme. So far, it is not proposed that the Minister shall have any power in controlling the State Boards.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that the Repatriation Commission will supervise the action of t)i9 State Boards?
– Absolutely. That is the crux of the Bill.
– How cam they do that if they are honorary officials ?
– That is a matter which we have yet to consider. I take it that the whole of the work of the State Boards will come under the review of the Commission.
– Then it must meet more than once a month.
– That is not troubling one. What I am concerned about is to make the Repatriation Commission effective for the work it will be called upon to do.
– This is not the way.
– That is a matter of opinion. If Senator Bolton can point out a better way, let him do so. It is not a better way to reduce the number of the Commission to three. That would mean practically the establishment of a separate Department, with the Minister controlling that Department, and paid officials to carry out his commands.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council is, in my view, rightly desirous of invoking the assistance of voluntary workers. He has selected this plan because of what he has seen taking place in the administration of Red Cross and other patriotic funds which have been raised. He recognises the good work which has been done. He is really in a better position to judge in this matter than are honorable senators. “We ought, at this stage at any rate, to accept his proposition. I do not think that three paid men would administer this fund more effectively than would six men together with the Minister.
– Put the Minister says that they are not going to administer the fund.
– I listened very attentively to the Minister’s speech on the second reading of the Bill, but I did not glean from him that the administration of the fund is to escape from his hands. He will be the administrator, but he will take into counsel six gentlemen. So far as it was foreshadowed by the Minister, the proposed Commission is an excellent one for the purpose. I do not agree with the idea that its members should be drawn from the different States, because State representation can reach the Minister through the State Boards. Hereafter, I may perhaps take exception to the constitution of the State Boards, but at the present time I will decidedly support the Minister’s suggestion.
– When I moved my amendment, I did not expect the debate to range so far as it has done. The Minister said that the amendment if carried will remove the keystone of the arch, and so destroy the whole scheme. I cannot see how. if the Committee decide in favour of a Commission with three men, the whole scheme of the Government will be destroyed. I believe that three men could do the work as effectively as the seven men whom the Minister suggested.
– You cannot pretend to shut out of view the ultimate objective of this amendment.
– In the discussion of my amendment, the question oi pay or no pay for the Commissioners has been introduced, and the Minister himself has referred to it. I might have introduced the question of payment when I moved the amendment, but it was not in my mind. My only desire was to remove what I thought cumbrous kind of machinery. Later in the Bill the question of payment or non-payment of the Commissioners could have been raised; but whether the Commissioners are paid or not, my contention is that three are quite sufficient, lt has been said by Senator Foll, and I think by Senator Plain also, that an honorable senator on this side has suggested that there should be three returned soldiers appointed to the Commission. ‘ No such suggestion has been made from this side, but I believe that Senator Bolton intends to move an amendment to the effect that the returned soldiers should be represented on the Commission. Whether the Commission is to consist of three or seven men, I consider that a returned soldier should be there to represent that section of (he community.
– The Minister has promised that.
– J admit that. I come now to the question of voluntary work. Senator Fairbairn has mentioned that a feeling of patriotism should impel men with the qualifications required to offer their services. In such circumstances, 1 do not think we would get very much effective work from the seven Commissioners. Patriotic men have many ways in which they can prove their patriotism without offering their services on this particular Board.
– Do you not want the best men ?
– I do not think that the best could be obtained from the source which Senator Fairbairn referred to, with all due credit to the gentlemen whom he had in his mind. This is not a question of patriotism. It is a question of this Government and this country handling, perhaps, 300,000 returned soldiers, and replacing them in civilian life, as the Minister has said.
Sitting suspended from. 6.27 to 8 p.m.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, if the consent of the Imperial Government can be obtained to the action being taken, it is desirable that a High Commissioner for Australia should be accredited to the United States Government at Washington.
Notwithstanding the importance of this motion, I do not intend to occupy the attention of the Senate for any length of time, because I hope that I shall never be one of those who desire to unnecessarily stress the obvious.
About two years ago my colleague, Senator Lynch, spoke very ably in this Chamber of the necessity . for the Commonwealth being represented at the capital of the United States of America. So ably did he address himself to the question that I felt constrained to support his remarks, and it was not long afterwards that we discovered that our words had found an echo in the somewhat distant territory of the United States itself. Many American publications gave considerable prominence to the somewhat cursory remarks of Senator Lynch and myself. Beyond all doubt they most enthusiastically welcomed the proposal that the Australian Commonwealth should be represented by an accredited diplomatic representative at the capital of their country.
At the time that Senator Lynch and myself spoke on this matter, it cannot be said that America was overwhelmingly popular in certain parts of the British Dominions. Many writers in publications which saw the light in the Dominions of the Empire as well as in the Mother Country, thought that America should have addressed herself to the considerations arising out of this great world war in the fashion which commended itself to them. Because America did not do that, they thought fit very frequently to abuse President Wilson, the great representa.ive of the people of the American Republic. It strikes me now - as it struck me then - that many of these journalists, notwith standing that it is part and parcel of their profession to keep in touch with the difficulties which arise in foreign countries, were scarcely aware of the difficulties surrounding President Wilson. They were somewhat oblivious of the fact that he had to walk exceedingly warily. But now many of thein have, to a large extent, swallowed their words - smothered theirwritings - and have joined in the general chorus of acclaim to that great mau who represents the governing and executive power of -the greatest of English-speaking peoples. It must not be forgotten that in this Empire of ours, there are fewer Englishspeaking people than there are in the great Republic of the United States. If we exclude from the calculation the black population of the latter, it must be confessed that there are more white Englishspeaking people in the United States thanthere are in the British Empire.
– They speak alt languages there.
– But the point I wish to make is that there are more Englishspeaking white people in the United States than there are in the British Em- ‘ pire.
– And English is the official language.
– And as Senator Keating reminds me, English is the official language. As illustrating the change of opinion which has come over journalists,, cartoonists, and artists, I may say that I saw in one of the most topical Australian . publications a cartoon which depicted the whole of the cartoonists and artists of the English-speaking world meekly apprqaching President Wilson, hat in hand, and saying, “ We take it all back.” In other words, they were represented as being ashamed of the way in which he had been lampooned for lacking a correct knowledge of the broader phases of this great conflict. When time has allowed international rivalries to lose their fine edges, I venture to say that President Wilson will be acclaimed by posterity as one of the greatest men of all ages, because by coming into this struggle in the way that he did, by exhibiting: tact, consideration, and a proper perception of the great interests of humanitv he has established the moral strength of the cause of Great Britain and her Allies beyond all cavil.
I do not think there is any member of this Senate who will commit himself to the statement that our High Commissioner, who is accredited to the capital city of our own Empire, is unnecessary. I venture to say that the status of Australia has been improved,, and that knowledge of its resources and of the possibilities of its - future have been more amply disseminated throughout the world because of our representation by the able gentlemen who have filled the position of High Commissioner in Loudon, than they have by any other means. Now, if it is necessary in the interests of Australia that she should be represented at the Capital of the Empire, which has a population of only $7,000,000 of white people, it is equally essential that she should be represented at the capital of the United States of America, in which country there is a population of 100,000,000 of Englishspeaking people.
There are very many reasons why the friendship of America should be most assiduously and carefully cultivated by us. It is unnecessary to enumerate all of them. But one of the most important functions of the High Commissioner in London is to advise the Australian Government from time to time regarding the state of the financial market. Now, I think it is pretty evident that one of the results of this war will be the constituting of America as the great financial reservoir of the future. We see now that the Allied countries need “to have recourse to America for financial assistance almost monthly. We know, too, through the great Liberty loan which was floated the other day, that ample means exist in America to permit of generous assistance being afforded ~to Great Britain and her Allies. That assistance, I am happy to say, is being accorded day by day.
In passing, I may mention that the United States has a very long Pacific coast line, and undoubtedly many of the great interests of the world will have connexion with commercial and maritime supremacy in Pacific waters. I think it was an instinctive perception of this circumstance, and also a full recognition of the additional fact that the American people are in every sense of the word our kinsmen, which prompted Australia to give such a hearty welcome to the American Fleet when it visited our waters a few years ago. That welcome was very much relished by the men of the Fleet, and was particularly favorably commented upon by the people of the United States. But in these days of national materialism 1 suppose 1 shall be asked to lay particular stress on the material advantages that will follow our being diplomatically represented at Washington .
I am quite aware of the fact that my proposal will be regarded as a rather startling departure. It will probably be said that we are a-unit of the King’s Dominions and have no right to separate diplomatic representation. I do not regard that point as at all important. We are within the Empire. We are proving in every way that our affection and regard for the Empire are matters of the most substantial .kind ; we are demonstrating that! the ties which unite us to the Mother Country - although not enforced by anything in the shape of a constitution setting forth Imperial rights over us - are very vital forces* indeed. I venture to say that if the Australian Parliament, by resolution., respectfully requests the Imperial Authorities to give it permission to be represented by a High Commissioner at Washington, no difficulty whatever will be put in our way. The obstacles which some people may think would attend our diplomatic representation at. Washington are more apparent than real.
– Does the honorable senator want a diplomat to represent us, or a trade commissioner ?
– I want something better than a trade commisioner. I want an individual who will be clothed Wit* powers that will permit him bo be diplomatically received, and to enter into diplomatic consultation with the United States Government in regard to all matters affecting Australia and the Empire..
– -That is a very drastic change.
– But sometimes a very drastic change is a most salutary one. I believe that what I propose would be a most salutary change, which would increase the status of the Commonwealth, and advance the interests of all the Dominions of the Empire’.
– Is the honorable senator thinking of the appointment of Mr. King O’Malley, who is over there now ?
– Mr. O’Malley may speak quite as enthusiastically of Australian things in America as he did- of American things in Australia, and, if so, I will be quite satisfied with his utterances. America promises to be the financial centre of the world after this war, and probably before it is concluded. The energy and enterprise of the American people should particularly commend themselves to Australians, for it is those qualities which we have been in the habit of priding ourselves upon emulating and possessing.
In regard to diplomacy, there is one thing which is always of special value, namely, that diplomatic agents should give early information to their respective Governments of prospective happenings in foreign countries.
– If that had been done years ago, there would have been no war to-day.
– It may be so. Without reflecting in any way upon the undoubtedly great abilities which have been displayed by many diplomatic representatives of the Empire in the capitals of the various countries of the world, I will say that in many respects our diplomatic representation has shown considerable short-comings. Even as America is likely to become’ the financial centre of the world, so it is going to become the nerve centre of the world in many other respects. During this war, I say, without fear of logical contradiction, that the most authentic information of European, and even the world, happenings has been found in publications issued in the United States of America.
– That is because they had not a censorship as we, necessarily, had.
– That may possibly have accounted for a little freer expression of opinion in America than in British countries; but, item for item, tile news to be discovered in American publications would give any reflective politician a better opportunity of judging world happenings than anything he could derive from the press of his own country. The news of the Russian revolution broke upon an astonished people in Australia. It may have been anticipated, to some extent, in the Home country, but in Australia such a thing as an immediate Russian revolution during the progress of the war was not looked upon as even remotely likely.
– Senator Stewart predicted it the night before it took place.
– Senator Stewart spoke in a general way about the tendency to displace monarchies in ‘favour of the republican form of government, but he did not particularly predict the revolution in Russia. At any rate, some months before the Russian revolution there waa to be found in an important American magazine an article setting forth the likelihood of that revolution, and describing almost in detail the lines upon which, it actually afterwards transpired. I have read in American publications articles dealing with the European situation, the progress of the war, and the difficulties which our .Empire would be called upon to face, of the most conclusive and informative nature, which no responsible politician could peruse without having fresh light thrown upon the subjects that he was compelled from time to time to consider and discuss. An Australian diplomatic representative, dwelling in Washington, would be able to give the Government of the Commonwealth far more authentic and satisfactory information regarding impending world happenings than it would be likely to derive from any other source.
– Not generally, surely.
– I make that statement after full consideration of the matter in all its bearings.
– The obtaining of the information you spoke of just now in America was due to the fact that there was such a large admixture of Germans in the United States of America population.
– I do not think that circumstance accounts in more than a secondary sense for an American journal’s foreknowledge of an impending Russian revolution. The information should have been just as available to journals published in the British Empire. The fact remains that an American magazine was able, at least two months before it happened, to give, almost in detail, the lines on which that revolution would progress.
Many of our leading representatives, able though they mav be, have proved in the diplomatic service that they were to a certain extent blind. In Germany, which is no further removed from England than Tasmania is from Victoria, things were proceeding apace, schemes were maturing for the destruction of our Empire, and yet many of our diplomats. seemed to be absolutely oblivious of what was transpiring under their very noses.
– They knew of it.
– If they did, they must have conveyed the information to the statesmen of the British Empire in such a fashion that they took very little heed of it, for very little preparation was made - in fact, the very event which transpired was said to be quite unlikely to happen.
– That was diplomatic language.
– Whether it was or not, the Empire was caught, to a very large extent, unprepared for the struggle into which she was plunged.
– They were not caught napping.
– They were to such an extent that it has taken us several years to put ourselves into anything like a state of preparedness for the assaults which are being precipitated upon us.
– But the fleet was ready.
– If they had not kept the fleet ready, British statesmen would have deserved hanging.
Australia is undoubtedly associated with future happenings in all countries washed by the Pacific Ocean. We rate the strength of the American Republic at a very high standard, and hail its advent into this struggle as our ally as something which compensates for the slackness in Russia caused by the state of revolutionary flux into which that country is plunged, we hope, temporarily. If the advent of America into the war redresses the balance which was depressed against us by the paralysis of Russia, by admitting that fact we bear tribute, consciously or unconsciously, to the great material might of the people of the United States. I am not speaking of their moral force, or of what posterity will undoubtedly acclaim - that the American people did not come into this struggle to seek conquest, or from any lust of power, but to maintain the liberties of mankind. If they are going to be, as I am sure they will be, such an important factor in this struggle, they will, I hope, be an equally important factor in maintaining what ought to be the dominant note of all transactions connected with the Pacific, namely, peace. Australia is, next to America, both numerically and actually, the most important country peopled by whites with a Pacific sea-board. It is) therefore, obviously essential for Australia to cultivate the most friendly relations with America, and to be represented at the American capital in such a way that its Government will have early and confidential information of anything important likely to transpire in America, or in European or other countries with which American representative wen may be in touch. By establishing diplomatic representation of the Commonwealth in the United States, we help to establish a chain which will put the Australian Government in touch with the events of the world as it has never been in touch with them before.
It is said from time to time that very little is ‘ known of Australia in America. I do not subscribe to that. I believe the American people are very well possessed of information regarding the Australian Commonwealth, and, beyond all doubt,all public men representing Australian interests, and visiting America, are most hospitably received and entertained. I do not think one dissentient voice of importance would be raised in American public life if it were cabled to the United States of America to-morrow that the Senate of the Australian Commonwealth had adopted a resolution in favour of the Cow monwealth being diplomatically represented at Washington. I feel sure the United States would open its arms to our representative .and receive him with a most fraternal embrace.
– Would there not be constitutional difficulties?
– So long as the Imperial Government consents, I believe no constitutional difficulty’ exists, and I venture to say that the Imperial Go,vernment would be the last to object.
We have talked from time to time of Imperial federation to constitute some form of government which will make the tie that unites the Dominions of the Empire with the Mother Country more rigid. I believe that the evolution of the Empire is not going to take place in that direction. It will take place in this direction, that while nominally in one sense and actually in the sense of affection constituting units of a great Empire, there will be permitted to each one of those units within the Empire tlie freest exercise of liberty, initiative, and general action.
– Just as is the case now.
– The present condition will really be improved upon very much to the benefit of the Empire as a whole and its units individually.
If the Australian people think it will be to their interests and the interests of the whole Empire to be diplomatically represented at Washington) that desire on their part will be willingly conceded by the great Mother Country. We know that an unfortunate event happened about 125 years ago, when the citizens of the thirteen States wore loyal to the British Crown, and a too-fatal insistence by a somewhat narrow-minded monarch, and his somewhat short-visioned advisers, gave rise to the struggle known as the war of. the American Revolution, which resulted after seven years in the almost permanent detachment of the United States from the Mother Country.
– And which made the Empire.
– It may have done so in the sense that it taught the Empire the lesson that the countries of the outer seas, the- populations of the children Dominions, were not to be governed in a rigid fashion, but should be given free scope for their legislative activities and natural aspirations as units within the Empire. The mistake made in the case of the American Colonies is not likely to be repeated, and anything that savours of its repetition is likely to be harmful to the Empire. Therefore, any enlargement or broadening of the Commonwealth Go?vernment’s policy such as may be effected by this motion will not be regarded by the Imperial authorities as detrimental to the interests of the Empire, but will rather most honestly recommend itself to them.
America was unfortunately lost to the British Empire about a century and a quarter ago, but in another sense she may come within the friendly circuit of English-speaking nations once more. She has entered the war as our ally, in defence of those ideals which are ours. She has proved herself possessed of the same conception of the liberties and rights of mankind as are the people of the British Empire, and it may be there is no need for any aspiration in the direc tion of bringing the English-speaking people of the United States once more within our fraternal circuit, seeing that realization has been reached by American assistance to our arms. There is need for the removal of those aspersions, which, in some quarters, still remain as a consequence of what took place a century and a quarter ago. It would be expecting too much to assume that members of the English-speaking race in the Home Country were always well received and well regarded by the people of the United States of America. There is not the slightest doubt that a very considerable number of English-speaking people in the Republic looked upon the average Englishman with a certain amount of dislike, regarding him as the representative of a regime that had acted in a particularly inimical way to the interests of the early American colonists. I am hopeful that recent events in connexion with this war will remove that feeling, and I have no doubt that this motion will be taken as an indication on the part of the people of Australia of a desire to assist in engendering a better understanding between all sections of the United States of America and the people of the Motherland. Australia can render great service to the Empire by doing something in this direction, and, as the population of the United* States of America is likely to increase within the next century to something like 200,000,000 of people, there will be an increasing need for the representation of Australia at the capital of the great Republic. Indeed, it is inevitable that Australia, with an increasing trade volume with the United States, should be represented there.
There is talk, I understand, of the Commonwealth being represented in the countries of the East; in foreign territories inhabited by people who do not understand our language, and who do not even belong to our race. I emphasize the fact that, on the other side of the Pacific, there resides a population of 100,000,000 who speak our language, whose civilization, to the extent of 70 or 80 per cent, anyhow, is our civilization; whose outlook on life is ours, whose philosophers pursue the same line of thought as ours, and whose atmosphere is more akin to the national atmosphere of Australia than it is to the atmosphere of the Motherland.
In these circumstances, surely, we must do our best to recognise, not only the practical needs of the situation, but the value of the sentiment embodied in such a motion as this.-
If it is good to have a High Commissioner representing Australia at the capital of the Empire I urge that it is equally necessary for this country to be represented at the capital of a Republic numbering 100,000,000 of Englishspeaking people. The United States of America is likely to become the strongest financial country in the world after this war; so, on financial grounds, we ought to be represented there. On the ground, also, that, to a certain extent perhaps unconsciously, we allied ourselves with that campaign of vituperation which was indulged in against President Wilson - and which the march of events has shown to bc wholly unjustified - we ought to be diplomatically represented at Washington, so that in the future there can be no misunderstanding between two great English-speaking peoples. We ought to be represented at the capital of that great and glorious American Republic, in which, if I may be permitted to paraphrase Bulwer Lytton, “the antiquated institutions of European countries must, as we have done, earnestly seek their model, or, tremblingly, foresee their doom!” The United States of America are progressing on the lines which the Australian Commonwealth must inevitably follow. Their interests are not divergent from ours, and, because of the racial and practical considerations involved in the progress of the two countries, I urge the Senate to adopt the motion which I have placed upon the notice-paper.
– I have pleasure in seconding the motion. This matter was referred to previously in this chamber, but the action which Senator Bakhap now proposes to take was not then contemplated. It was discussed somewhat loosely before this war commenced, and, if now carried to this conclusion, it will have very much more value on that account. The subject was approached on that occasion apart altogether from the war, or the share which America is now taking in this great conflict. We debated it purely from the stand-point of any advantage that would accrue to this country by the adoption of some such action as has been suggested.
It has been said that the appointment of an Australian representative at the capital of the United States of America will infringe all the usages of diplomacy; but I would point out that, while, under the existing arrangement, Australia is indirectly represented at every foreign court - including Washington - by an Ambassador, the United States of America is not content to have her interests in Australia safeguarded by her Ambassador in London, but is directly represented here by a Consul-General, and Vice-Consuls in every one of the States. While at present we may be conforming to the usages and customs of diplomacy, Australian interests are, to some extent, .prejudiced by the present arrangement regarding representation. It might be said that the motion will be a departure from the usages of the past; but I would prefer- such usages to be broken rather than that Australian interests at Washington should suffer. I support the motion particularly with the view of having our interests directly and sympathetically safeguarded.
Senator Bakhap made reference to the visit of the American Fleet to Australian waters some years ago, and of the welcome then accorded to- the naval representatives of the United States of America. That visit, I remind the Senate, was made for a very distinct and avowed purpose: We desired a closer friendship with the people of’ the United States of America, and the American Fleet was invited to our shores for the purpose of assisting in the insurance of our protection, and of making this island continent better known in America. During the recent . discussion upon conscription I heard some foolish men, who had seats in this Parliament, refer to the future of Australia, and assert that the Commonwealth could stand alone and fight her own battles against all comers. It was only quite lately that these foolish men gave voice to this equally foolish notion. We invited the American Fleet here some years ago for a well-understood purpose.
While we have a population approaching 5,000,000 of people, charged with the government of an island continent, and while we have the British Fleet to protect us, it was then thought wise to have the goodwill of the American people, together with whatever aid its Fleet might give in a time of emergency. We spent something like £100,000 upon the reception to the naval representatives of the Republic, in order to make our position here m’OTe secure, perhaps, than it was. By passing this motion we shall be but taking a further step in the direction in which we advanced when we invited the American Fleet to visit Australia.
The motion proposes a closer friendship between the people of this continent and those of the same blood and speech who hold the United States of America to-day. There is no reason why a closer friendship should not be cultivated between these people. The affinity of blood and speech is one of the strongest of ties. It is quite true that it may lead to family quarrels, but blood is thicker than water, even in national affairs. The population of the United States of America possess the same ideals as ours, and are developing the huge area within their control under difficulties similar to those which we have to face to-day. They are trying to advance along the sinuous road of human progress, laboriously working their way up hill to a higher social level, just as we are doing here, and in all the circumstances it is only fitting that our people should seek a closer friendship with the people of the United States of America for our mutual advantage, if for no other purpose. We” are entitled, by reason not only of the area and resources of the continent we occupy, but of our population, though it is comparatively small, to direct representation at Washington. Nations comprising far smaller populations than the population of Australia - such as Servia, Portugal, and the small independent State of Hayti, in the Caribbean Sea - are represented there. I could name a number of other nations representing a smaller population and controlling a smaller area than that of Australia which are to-day represented at Washington,
The trade relations between this country and the United States of America have been mentioned by the mover of the motion.
– And they are increasing every week.
– That is so. ‘ Their importance is such that we may find in them a .sufficient ground for taking action in the direction indicated by the motion. The figures indicating the balance of trade between Australia and America are interesting and illuminating. They show that whilst America has been willing to sell commodities upon a continually increasing scale to us, for some reason or another she has nob been equally inclined to buy our commodities. A reference to the Commonwealth Y ear-Book will show that during the period covering 1892 to 1895 3.8 per cent, of our total imports came from the United States of America. In 1912, 12 per cent, of our total imports came from America; and in 1915, according to Mr. Knibbs, 14 per cent, of our total imports were received from that country. I remind honorable senators that 14 per cent, of our total imports represents more than our import* from all other .countries put together, with the exception of the United Kingdom and British Possessions. ‘ The lesson to be extracted from these figures i£ that in, a steadily-increasing ratio, during the last thirty years we have been buying from the people of the United States of America. The tendency has been in the other direction when we come to consider the purchase of our products by the people of the United States of America. During the period covering 1892 to 1895, America bought 3.8 per cent, of our exported products, but in 1909-13, after thirty years’ trading between the two countries, she bought proportionately less from us than she had done thirty years before.
– The honorable senator means to say that she bought a lesser percentage of our products.
– That is so. The volume and value of her purchases from us was not smaller, but she bought from us a smaller percentage of our total exported products. It is true that in 1914 the United States of America purchased 4 per cent, of our exported products, but owing to the abnormal conditions prevailing as the result of the war we cannot regard that as conclusive in indicating the trend of trade between the two countries.
– They were nearly all raw products that the United States of America purchased from us.
– I see from the record that ti at is so, and gold figured largely. What is the inference to be drawn from these figures indicating the balance of trade between the two countries ? It is that for some reason or another the people of the United States have been enabled to unload their produce here far more successfully than we have been able to unload the produce of Australia in America. This, I think, may be admitted to be due to some extent to a want of knowledge on the part of the people of the United States of America of Australia and her resources.
No systematic effort has been made tlo let the American people know what we can produce in Australia. It is true that agents representing the different States have been sent to the United States at different times. I believe that New South Wales had a direct commercial agent in the United States, but it is not) unreasonable to assume that he was more particularly concerned about what New South Wales could sell to America than about what Australia as a whole could send to that country. He might from time to time lend a helping hand in making known the products of Australia as a whole, but hia first and always important concern would be to see that whatever New South Wales could produce should find a readier sale in America than . the products of any other part of the Commonwealth. The other States of Australia have not been represented in America to the same extent as New South Wales. This shows the vital necessity for Australia, as the Americans say, “to get a hustle on,” if we desire that our products and resources shall be known in that great consuming country, with its 100,000,000 of people.
– Does the honorable senator think that direct preferential trade with England is responsible for some of the facts he has referred to?
– Trade may develop upon” a preferential basis later, but what we are concerned about now is that some one should represent Australia in a high capacity at Washington. We should have some person there to represent not one particular area of the Commonwealth, but the interests of the Commonwealth at large. On the ground of the balance of trade, in order to make Australia- better known in the United States, and particularly following the example of the United States in the appointment of Vice-Consuls in every State of the Commonwealth, we should move in the direction indicated by the motion.
It is an old maxim that trade, like water, will find its own level, but whilst that may be so there is such a thing as pushing trade. Although they are vastly superior in industrial methods to the people of any other country , the American people find it a most valuable aid in pushing their trade with the world to have men representing them abroad, tlo make known to every nation what the United States can produce. They have had their representatives in every country and in every State of the Commonwealth, whilst we have been represented only in a perfunctory way in the United States. f am not to be understood as suggesting that the advantage of the proposal will be all upon one side. So far from that, I agree with the mover of the motion that the appointment of a special representative of the Commonwealth at Washington would be mutually advantageous. I believe that the United States would stand to gain as much by the arrangement as would Australia. It would be an advantage to the United States tlo have here in the southern seas a friendly nation. Mr. Roosevelt has referred to this country as “the Giant Commonwealth of the “South.” There is no reason why we should not strengthen the ties which at present connect this Commonwealth of the South with the greater Commonwealth of the West, especially in view of the fact that we are people of the same blood and speak the same tongue.
– We never know when we might need the help of the United States.
– And the people of the United States do not know when they may find our help of great assistance to them. They have Possessions very close to our shores at the present time. The northern portion of this continent is closer to the American Possessions in the Philippines than are the Possessions of any other friendly nation. If at any time America desired a haven of refuge, coaling stations, trade advantages, or a friendly theatre for her activities in the Pacific, she would find it in Australia if we took the initial step to bring about a condition of closer friendship with her. She has cast the Monroe doctrine deliberately to one side. She has entered into the sphere of world politics, and is now one of the strongest arbiters among the nations. It has been plain during the present war that there was no other country in the world whose friendship was so much courted, whose opinion was so much canvassed, as was thai of America. The Allies and their enemies alike took care that the latest information should be given to the American people, and their friendship was sought with greater earnestness than was the friendship of any other neutral nation. In view of the magnitude of the resources of our countries, their great area, and the fact that their populations are of the same stock, it is the most natural development in the world that our people should seek a closer .co-operation and a stronger bond of sympathy with each other.
We in this country are in a most dangerous position should a drawn battle be the result of the struggle in which we are at present engaged. I have repeatedly asserted that there is no part of the British Empire that is more perilously situated than is Australia unless we are victorious in this war. We secured possession of ‘this continent some 130 years ago, and have made a marvellous advance in its colonization and reclamation. I suppose we have a better record to our name in the matter of colonization and reclamation than has any other population of the same number in the whole history of mankind. During this period, short as it has been inhuman history, we have had “a very good time,,” to put the matter in plain and homely language. We have been developing our destiny according to our own ideas untrammelled and unhampered by the happenings in any other part of the world. There have been upheavals in other parts of the world whilst we have been pursuing our lonely course, but they have not in the least interfered with Australia. The vibrations of the titanic struggle of the Peninsular War never reached these shores, nor did the Crimean War affect us ; But the present war did. Why? Because we realized at last that, though the Empire, of which we fora? a part, was vitally concerned in past wars, in this country the danger was approaching much closer to our doors than ever it did before. Why is it that we enjoyed this security? We enjoyed the security because the British Fleet has kept sailing round our island continent all these years, warding off all danger from us.
I mentioned, the other day, the pretensions of our common enemy, Germany. I will repeat the reference.
– Order ! The honorable senator has been very discursive. I have allowed him a great deal of latitude. His- statement now is rather a disquisition on war than a disquisition upon having a representative in America.
– Very well, sir, I will leave the matter at that. All that I want to emphasize is that this country has been lying under the shelter of a Power of greater strength than we ourselves could maintain, and that if that Power is threatened we shall need to look in another direction for a Power to take its place. I mention the terrible, the unthinkable, contingency of this European war ending in a draw. What will it mean to Australia if the British Fleet is withdrawn? As an alternative to its withdrawal we will find some help and succour in the carrying of this motion. That is the reason why I refer to the subject. I think that the reference is of value, because, if the war were to end in a draw and the British Fleet had to retire from these waters, a single shot would not be fired on our behalf, and Australia would have to stand alone. Are we not entitled, therefore, to look in another direction for help, comfort, and safety? That direction is where our friendship lies - the United States of America.
– And we want another market to take the place of the German market.
– Yes; that would come incidentally. Looking at the proposal, not only from the stand-point of the advantages which this country can bring in the way of the United States of America, but also from the stand-point of the solid material and far-reaching advantages which this, country can reap from the United States of America, we should cultivate a closer friendship under the terms of some such proposal as this.
I would direct the attention of honorable senators to what we are indebted to the United States of America for more than to any other country. Where Was the very Constitution we quote from so often taken from? Nearly 90 per cent, of our Constitution was borrowed from the United States of America’ document.
– And we have proved the utility of certain portions of it.
– We have the decisions of their Supreme Court to guide us.
– Quite so; showing that, in a constitutional, legal, social, industrial, and domestic sense, this country has patterned its procedure and moulded its institutions largely upon American precedents. What, in a social sense, have we done ?
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to go into a constitutional disquisition any more than . into a war disquisition.
– When we are asked to seek a closer affinity with the United States of America, as this motion asks the Senate to do, I think, sir, that I am within bounds in tracing the relationship which has existed between the two countries. I say, without contradiction, that the very Constitution which was approved by a majority of the people of Australia was largely borrowed from the United States. I feel that I am not very much wide of the subject in mentioning that fact, because it cannot be controverted.
As regards our social ideals, why should we not cultivate a fuller knowledge? Of the numerous difficulties which confront Australia at the present time, I have only one to mention, and that is the settlement of our population in the dry areas. That one alone should prompt us to keep in very close touch with the United States of America to-day. Up to a few years ago, the United States of America had only 5,000,000 people beyond its 197th parallel. Drawing a straight line down the continent, there were on one side 5,000,000 people, and to the east side of the line about 80,000,000 people. In Australia we have dry and arid districts. If we want to make this arid soil productive, and capable of bearing a population, we shall need in turn to look to the country from which we get the most and best information. On that pointy what does
America tell us ? It points us to a lesson which we need to learn very much. It is quite true that if we come from certain States, this matter does not concern us, but it concerns nearly every State to go in for water conservation. What lesson does America teach us ? It teaches us the fact that it has successfully brought under cultivation, in its western zone, by means of artificial water, nearly 9,000,000 acres of land. Under the Murray River proposal, which is thought to be a very large undertaking-
– Order ! Does the honorable senator think that he is entitled to discuss the Murray River proposal under cover of this motion ?
– -All right, sir. I thought that when I was telling the Senate something which it did not know it might be interesting.
I have pleasure in seconding this motion for the appointment of a High Commissioner at Washington for the sole purpose of looking after Australian interests there, and seeing that we do not suffer for want of direct, immediate, and intelligent custody of our concerns there. I ‘ believe that we cannot depend upon our case being adequately represented at Washington unless we have direct representation. “ I could enlarge considerably upon the necessity for appointing a representative, but I feel that the Senate is in a sympathetic mood, and is anxious that Australia should have the great benefit of competent representation at Washington, just as Washington has direct representation here. For that reason, and for no other, I commend the proposal of Senator Bakhap to the favorable consideration of the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
– In moving-
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I wish to refer to a statement made this afternoon by Senator McDougall. It was a statement of such serious import that I make no apology for correcting, at the earliest possible moment, the figures he gave. He quoted the figures from a paper, and therefore the main responsibility does not rest with him. His statement was that in connexion with the patriotic funds it was taking £7 to distribute £5. Whether these are the exact figures he used or not, the proportion of expenditure was greatly in excess of what would appeal to one as being fair and reasonable. I have obtained the figures for various funds, and without giving honorable senators the details, for there are very many funds, I find that the expenses occasioned by the disbursements are less than 3 per cent. That is the average for eleven of the funds. There may be one or two other smaller funds of which I have not particulars, but as regards those eleven funds, which include all the large recognised funds throughout Australia, the cost of administration is 2.8 per cent. These figures, which I believe may be accepted as satisfactory, are certainly very much in contrast and conflict with the figures given by the paper from which Senator McDougall quoted to-day.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Senate what appears to me to be an ‘unsatisfactory state of affairs in the Pensions Branch of the Treasury Department, particularly so far as Queensland is concerned. I have received some particulars of the case of a man named Robert S. Webb, and I have no reason to doubt that the statements supplied to me are absolutely correct. Mr. Webb complains that he enlisted at Toowoomba on the 24th April, 1917, and was discharged from camp on the 28th June, 1917, as medically unfit, owing to an internal strain contracted in camp. He is 44 years of age, and married, with, one child5½ years old. He gave up his employment to enlist. He is now stranded and penniless, as he has received no pension or compensation from the Department. I contend that a man who enlists in the service of his country, and is injured in camp, has earned a pension. By enlisting when he did he endeavoured to do what he could on behalf of his country, and the fact that he got wounded in camp and not at the Front entitles him, I think, to the same consideration as a man who has gone to the other side of the world to fight.
I wish also to bring under the notice of the Senate the case of Trooper H. Lane, late of the 2nd Light Horse. He was invalided back to Australia from Gallipoli on account of a wound in the hip. He embarked in November, 1915. The medical officer reported favorably to Melbourne on the man’s case, and he was passed as fit to return to duty. He reported himself at Camp Head-quarters, Enoggera, on the 17th January, 1916. He was then medically inspected at the camp by Major Douglas, Australian Army Medical Corps, who rejected him as unfit for service on account of his wound. He was discharged, and joined the recruiting staff; his application for a pension being refused on account of his employment as a recruiting sergeant. In May, 1917, he interviewed Mr. Cornell, the pensions officer, and stated that he was willing to go back to the Front. Mr. Cornell sent him to the 6th Australian Garrison Hospital, Kangaroo Point, for the purpose of being examined by a Medical Board. The result of this examination was that Trooper Lane was again rejected for active service. He states that Mr. Cornell then offered him a pension of 7s. 6d. per week, which he refused, as he considers that he is justly entitled to more.
In addition to these cases I have had numerous cases brought under my notice where men have been treated quite differently by the Pensions Office in Queensland. I know of one case in particular.
– May I ask if these cases have been brought under Ministerial notice ?
– I do not think that these cases in particular have been brought under the Minister’s notice. The Pensions Office in Queensland, to my mind, is not being conductedas it should be. I know of another case, in which a man was granted a pension, and subsequently obtained employment. After the lapse of a very brief period, however, he received ah intimation to the effect that his pension had been cancelled because he had secured employment. Yet in another case a man who has been granted a much bigger pension is still earning a larger income, and, apparently, is none the worse for his adventures abroad.
– That is quite right. A pension should not be reduced in consequence of a mansecuring employment.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. But pensions have been reduced on that account, and that is why I am bringing the matter before the Senate this evening.
Mon should not be deprived of their pensions by reason of their employment in civilian life. Those pensions have nothing whatever to do with returned soldiers’ incomes. They are merely rewards for services which have been rendered. To my mind, the pension system should be put on. a proper basis, so that differential treatment may be eliminated. But if one man is going to receive 30s. per week by way of pension, and another man has to be content with a smaller sum, groat antagonism willbe aroused, and a severe blow will bo struck at recruiting. I do hope that, so far as Queensland is concerned, an. inquiry will he made into the way in which pensions are allotted, with a view to preventing preferential treatment.
– I am very glad that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has been able to refute the statement which I made this evening, hut he has not answered it in the way I would like him to have done. The statement which was published in the newspaper to which I refer was to the effect that a deputation had waited upon the honorable gentleman in Melbourne, and had placed certain figures before him.
– That statement is not correct. No deputation waited on me or gave me any figures at any time. I do not read the newspaper from which the honorable senator quoted.
– I did not quote from a newspaper. If the deputation did not wait on. the Vice-President of the Executive Council* and the figures were not placed before him, his refutation of the statement should he broadcasted throughout the country.
.- I hope that Senator McDougall does not think that I associated him either with the figures which he read, or with the statement containing those figures. I did not. I do not think that he would assume the responsibility of making so grave a charge. But if the statement which ho made is current in
Now South Wales, or anywhere else, I, personally, thank him for giving me an opportunity of putting the true .position before the Senate.
Senator Foll has brought forward some matters which are certainly of interest. But, while he was speaking, I interjected, asking him whether he had put those matters before the Minister. He replied that he had not. May I suggest now that he should do so ? In the first place, I think that the Minister has a right to be informed of cases which come under the notice of honorable senators, and which seem ito demand attention. If the facts are as he stated, I say unhesitatingly that the man who was injured in the Australian Imperial Force Camp, and was discharged before embarkation, is entitled to a pension. He stands in exactly the some position as does a man who has ‘been abroad, and who has returned wounded. Therefore, it is simply a case of that man presenting himself before the proper authorities, and, if the facts are as stated, he will be entitled to his pension. Regarding the other case cited by the honorable senator, I know nothing of it personally, but I will see that the honorable senator’s statements are placed before the Treasurer, who controls pensions, and also before the Minister for Defence, and I will invite them to inquire into the matter.
During the course of his remarks, Senator Foll suggested that there should be an amendment of the Pensions Act. I would remind him that in introducing the Repatriation Bill I outlined an amendment which will go a long way in the direction he’ indicated, though not, perhaps, all the way. On that occasion I pointed out that many men who - are incapacitated, and who know that their pensions aTe liable to revision, are disinclined to endeavour to improve their earning capacity, because they fear that as that earning capacity goes up, their pension . may go down. I indicated that the pension law might be. amended in that respect, and in such a way as to provide that after the expiration of six months their pensions could not be altered except in an upward direction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.23 pan.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 July 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170726_SENATE_7_82/>.