7th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Leader of the Senate any information in reference to the question I asked recently regarding the issue of passports to ladies ?
– I have received from the Minister for Home and Territories a statement, which reads as follows : -
I have read Senator McDougall’s remarks in the Senate yesterday regarding the issue of passports to women, and am in receipt of the letter from Mrs. Freeman which you forwarded. In that letter, Mrs. Freeman makes certain statements which were not before the Department when her application was previously under consideration. The papers at that time disclosed no facts amounting to specially urgent reasons for an exception being made to the rule which prohibits (except in eases showing exceptional strong reasons, such as of health, or urgent domestic necessity) the travelling of women through the danger zone; but the assertions now put forward are such that I have decided to give consideration to the new facts stated. The officers in Sydney will be instructed to make inquiries, and I shall apprise Senator McDougallso soon as I have considered their report.
With regard to the honorable senator’s remarks generally, it is incorrect to say that ladies are permitted to visit Great Britain for pleasure purposes. All cases of ladies who, from their application, appear to, or who may, have special justification for visiting Great Britain at the present time, are submitted to me personally, and have been the subject of very close and anxious consideration on my part. But you can assure the honorable senator that no discrimination whatever was made ‘ between classes of people, and certainly no passports have been granted when the object of the visit was believed to bo mere travelling For pleasure.
The case of Mrs. Holman, to which special allusion is made by the honorable senator, ‘ affords no illustration of a departure from our rules. The facts are: Mrs. Holman applied for a passport to Great Britain; her application was strongly pressed, but, in view of the Secretary of State’s instructions referred to, I declined to authorize the issue of a passport to England. At that time there were no restrictions on women travelling to Ceylon, and when a request was made to me to issue pass- ports to Mrs. Holman and her sister for Colombo, I saw no reason why they should not be granted. The responsibility for the extension of her passport beyond Ceylon does not rest with this Government.
SenatorKEATING.-Arising out of the reply, I wish to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council if there was any foundation whatever for the suggestions, if I may so call them, which were made when Senator McDougall raised this matter, as to a differentiation in the case of the wives of certain gentlemen in Australia ?
– There is no ground for the suggestions. The position is that there is a prohibition against the issue of passports, ‘ except in very special circumstances, to ladies wishing to travel through the danger zone. There is no prohibition against ladies going to Ceylon. Mrs. Holman applied for a passport to Colombo, which was granted to her, as it would be to anybody else who applied. That was not one of the prohibited places, and any woman is entitled to put in a similar application.
– !No ladies are given passports in London.
Debate resumed from 26th July(vide page 487), on motion by Senator Rus- sell-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– In moving the second reading of this Bill yesterday, the Honorary Minister gave to the Senate the assurance that it is not to be considered as the first instalment of the bulk handling system. Having had that assurance, I wish to know whether he is of the opinion that the States arc going to continue the Pool system when we have returned to normal times in Australia? But, whether he is of that opinion, or not, I predict that when Australia does return to her normal conditions, the Wheat Pool will be a thing of the past.
– I hardly think that that statement represents what I said. What I said was that it would be possible to adapt this storage system to bulk handling, but that it did not compel the States to adopt bulk handling.
– Does the . Minister say that this Bill is not to be considered as the first instalment of bulk handling?
– Of course it is.. That system could be adopted, but it is not compulsory on the part of any State to adopt it.
– Then it will be advisable for those States to which bulk handling will not be advantageous, not to have any silos built, for this all-sufficient reason, that, in any State where bulk - handling will -not be in existence under normal conditions, the silos would be absolutely vacant or not in use. That is the point which I wish to submit to the Senate most emphatically.
We are asked to approve of the expenditure of £2,850,000 on the erection of silos which, in ten years’ time, will be prac- tically lying idle. If that is likely -to be the case, I suggest that the Senate ought to think, not twice, but even thrice, before it sanctions the expenditure of such a large sum, just to stand the chance of lying idle in the course of ten years.
We are told, also, that the silos are to be constructed for the purpose of preserving the wheat sold to, the Imperial Go vernment. This is the 27th July, and, within four months from this date, the new crop in Australia will be being reaped.
– That is in South Australia.
– I venture the opinion that, within four months of this day, under normal conditions, the new wheat crop of Australia will be in progress of being harvested. I predict that, if this Bill should be passed through all its stages here to-day, very few of the proposed silos will be fit to be occupied before the new crop becomes available. If, however, the new crop should be available to the silos, I hold that i’t would not only be folly, but sheer madness, on the part of the Government to put into a silo one grain of the wheat which is already stacked. Why ? Because a large part of that wheat will have been in stack for two years, and the greater portion have been stacked for one year. We are told that, after, wheat has been in stack for two years, it more or less deteriorates in’ value. To put old wheat into the silos when new wheat was available would, I repeat, be nothing short of madness. Therefore, the stacks now in existencethe bulk of the wheat has already been sold to the Imperial Government - will have to remain where they are, whether silos are built or not.
The question more particularly for the Senate to decide is this : Under normal conditions, is wheat’ as well preserved in stacks as it could be in silos ? Yesterday, the Honorary Minister quoted to us no less an authority than the Prime Minister of Canada. I do not question for one moment the opinion of that authority as to what may be done in silos, but I ask honorable senators to take the authority of their own eyes. Let them examine the wheat stacks and judge for themselves. We have, fortunately, the opinion of Mr. Hagelthorn, a member of the Wheat Commission, and a gentleman who has given as much attention to this question during the last twelve months as has any living man, not only in Australia, but, probably, in the wide world. He is undoubtedly a man of authority, and, addressing a conference of dairymen yesterday, he said -
At Geelong, there were 4,000,000 bags of wheat, andnot a mouse in them. There was not one-tenth of 1 per cent, that was not of f.a.q. condition. At Williamstown, there was not a bag in bad condition, and no mice. Seven million bags were stacked at Brooklyn, and they had got all the wheat at the seaboard except 1,000,000 bags.
Need we go to the Prime Minister of Canada, or anywhere else, for information on. this . question, when it is here at our own door? Within six hours, any honorable senator can investigate wheat stacked in Australia, and see the condition it is in after the expiration of nearly two years.
– Surely you realize that wheat two years old is in danger of developing weevil? How do you propose to prevent or cure that?
– If I thought for a moment that the expenditure of this sum of £2,580,000 would- save Australia from the weevil likely to attack this old wheat after being in stack for two years, I would not have a word to say against the proposal. But, let me remind the Honorary Minister again that not one grain of the wheat in the stacks would find its way into a silo. It would be sheer madness to put old wheat into a silo. Why ? No authority can say when weevil will attack wheat in stack. You cannot smother weevil. You can attack wheat which is likely to be infected with weevil. You can put old wheat into a bottle and seal the bottle, and still weevil will make its appearance.
SenatorRussell. - You are absolutely wrong.
– I am absolutely right. This point has been decided more than once in South Australia. I have seen there a sample of wheat which had come from England in a bottle. It was held in an office where I have the privilege of presiding now and again. The wheat was put in the bottle for six months; the bottle was corked and sealed ; but any time the bottle was shaken, weevil in abundance could be seen. Therefore, what is the use of the Honorary Minister talking about stifling weevil?
– Has that been confirmed by an authority, do you know?
– I am telling the honorable senator what I know is an absolute fact;. If I cannot believe what I have seen with my own eyes, I am not going to believe any other authority. I know that in some districts there are wheats which, if put in normal condition in a bottle and sealed, weevil will make its appearance in the bottle. Irrespective of what the Honorary Minister has said, this can easily be put to a test at any time he likes. He must recognise that, if wheat stacks two years old are likely to be attacked with weevil, it will be a thousand times better for the wheat to remain in stack than to be put into a silo. Why? Because, if the stacks are attacked by weevil, then, in the breaking down of the stacks, the weevily portion can be dealt with separately, and the other wheat can be dealt with on its own ; whereas, if the old wheat is placed in silos, and has to be aerated, as the Minister explained yesterday, I venture this opinion that, ifthe wheat is attacked by weevil in the silos, the second state of the wheat will be a long way worse than its first state. By the revolving of weevily wheat through a silo, not only would you have one corner weevily, but you would have weevil throughout the silo. No one recognising these facts would think of putting the old wheat into the silos.
Mr. Hagelthorn has told us, and, indeed, we can see for ourselves, what is going on in . connexion with our wheat stacks. Wheat can be stored in bags and preserved for a lengthened period, so long as they are protected from the weather. I venture the opinion that if it had not been for the mice plague we should have seen nothing of this Bill. The Assistant Minister does not deny that statement. I tell the honorable senator that, before the ink of the signature of the GovernorGeneral assenting to this measure is dry, the mice plague of 1917 will be a thing of the past. This is not the first time that Australia has been visited by a mice plague. Twenty-three or twenty-four years ago we suffered from such a plague. The mice were so bad at that time that they were even eating live pigs in their sties.
– I should have thought that the pigs ate the mice.
– The mice were in such numbers at that time that they attacked pigs in their sties. Once that . plague disappeared there were no mice to be seen for quite a number of years. I. believe that when the present plague has run its course Australia will be free from the mice plague for a number of years to come. When “the first plague occurred some people in South Australia, being under the impression that there would be a regular recurrence of the plague, had their sheds protected by the erection of mouse-proof fencing. This was simply done by putting up plain iron fences around the bottom of the sheds. This made the sheds absolutely mice proof. As there was no reappearance of the plague the fences were kept in order only for a few years, and most of them were not in a condition of repair when the plague reappeared this year. This is characteristic of the Australian people.
We have had experience of many droughts in Australia, and when one overtakes us we say that we shall be able to combat a drought should one overtake us again. Our experience, however, has been that, when a drought does overtake us, we are just as unready as ever to deal with it. Perhaps it is just as well that our people should be so forgetful of these things, as otherwise they would be in trouble all their lives. Before I left South Australia on the last occasion, to attend the Senate, I met a gentleman who is a resident of one of the mice-infested districts of the State, and he gave me his assurance that there is now not a mouse to be seen in the district. This is a sign of the disappearance of the present plague. It is not remarkable .that the mice plague should have caused greater ravages to our wheat than upon any previous occasion, because this year we have had greater stacks of wheat for the mice to work upon. This is no reason why the Government should introduce panic legislation involving the expenditure of £2.850,000 for silos to protect wheat against the ravages of mice. This is asking intelligent men to do an unreasonable thing. Let me tell honorable senators that much of the damage that has been caused to our wheat, as a result of the mice plague, is due to the fact that our wheat has been protected from the weather by roofing nailed to the stacks, and not by roofs independent of the stacks themselves. Under the system of roofing which has been adopted as soon as the mice attacks the stacks they take away the support of the roofs. The stacks sagging because of the ravages of the mice cause the roofs to sag, and so make channels which, in wet weather, run the water into the wheat. The best way in which to save the wheat as much as possible is, therefore, to immediately remove the roof of a stack which has been attacked by the mice. If the stacks had been protected by the erection of independent roofing the damage done by the mice would have been unimportant.
I agree with the Honorary Minister that there is much greater danger to Australian wheat from the ravages of the weevil than from the mice, but I do not agree with him that it is possible to prevent damage by weevil by the establishment of silos. The very last thing that should be done is to put old wheat j.J.to the silos. Let me remind hon.orable senators that if the ravages of the mice nad not, been so serious as to justify the statement that our wheat stacks have suffered from, a mice plague, the agents, who have control of the wheat, would have been responsible for the whole of the damage. As it has been accepted by those, in authority that the damage has been caused by a plague, the agents have been relieved of responsibility for that damage. If the Commonwealth Government now propose to come to the assistance of the agents by the expenditure of £2,850,000 on the erection of silos, I say that the protection of our wheat could be secured for a very great deal less than that sum by the erection of shelter sheds with roofs independent of the stacks. Such sheds would be all that would be necessary, and they would last practically for all time.
– The agents have never accepted responsibility for more than twelve months.
– A great proportion of the wheat now stacked has not been there for more than eight months, and the agents would be responsible for the damage to that wheat if the Government had not admitted that there was a mice plague.
– Over 7 per cent, of damage done by mice is declared to be due- to the plague.
– Until Australia has declared in favour of the bulk handling of wheat the Senate will, in my opinion, ‘ make a grave mistake if it authorizes the building of the proposed silos.
– Will not this measure help the bulk-handling system?
– We may not decide to adopt the bulk-handling system in Australia, and then we shall have these silos on our hands.
Should we not adopt the bulk-handling system, and should the wheat , pool not continue in normal times, we shall have these silos on our hands. We should first consider whether Australia is to be committed to the bulk-handling system.
– What is the honorable senator’s definition of Australia?
– I speak of the six States -of Australia.
SenatorRussell. - A majority of four have declared for it, and the other two are indifferent because they have not much wheat.
– The representatives of one of the four States declaring for it went off at half-cock. They were opposed to the opinion of their own Government, who have refused to approve of the system. When it is shown to be possible and practicable to ship wheat from Australia in bulk to any port, it will be time enough for us to talk of adopting the bulk-handling system. The Government should try to prove that wheat can be shipped in bulk before making such a proposal as is now under our consideration.
– I might mention that we made the necessary tests in our own ships last year.
– And we have not heard a word about it.
– Yes; I gave publicity to the matter through the newspapers. We made the test in two of our own ships.
– This is the first I have heard of it, and, in my opinion, honorable senators were entitled to the information when the Minister introduced this Bill.
– The whole of the public were given the information through the press.
– Although we have been told by the Minister that this is the first instalment of bulk handling.
– I did not say anything of the sort. I said it was optional for any State to go on and adopt the system.
– I accept the honorable senator’s denial. My ears must have deceived me.
I should like to point out that the wheat held in stacks by the Pool amounts to no less than 145,000,000 bushels. By the time the proposed silos are erected, we shall have reaped another harvest from what, it is admitted, is likely to be a normal crop, and this will give us another 145,000,000 bushels. That being the case, before the new crop is harvested we shall have sufficient storage accommodation for only one-third of that crop, without providing storage for a single grain of the 145,000,000 bushels of wheat already in the hands of the Government. If we adopt the bagging system for two-thirds of our wheat production, and silo only one-third of it, obviously the cost of the dual system will be much greater than that of a single system. That fact has been pointed out to the Prime Minister by the Farmers and Settlers Association of South Australia.
– Look at the alternative. We shall have no wheat to put in either bags’ or silos unless we do something.
– I fail to recognise the pertinence of the Minister’s interjection, seeing that he must know that we shall not be able to put into the silos which it is , proposed to erect a solitary grain of the wheat that is already stacked in Australia.
– I assure the honorable senator that I do not know that. I think that the wheat which is nearest to deterioration will be the first put into the silos.
– If that course be adopted, we shall simply distribute the weevil already in our stacks throughout the silos, and consequently the sooner we reject this Bill the better. I am sure that the Minister, on reflection, will recognise that if the plan he has suggested be followed wheat attacked by weevil will be put into the silos.
I would further , point out that the erection of silos at the present time will probably cost about 40 per cent, more than they would in normal times.
– Not necessarily.
– At any rate, they will cost a great deal more than they would in normal times. Yet to-day there is an enormous quantity of iron belonging to the Wheat Pool which’ for a tithe of the expenditure proposed could be put into roofs over our wheat stacks, thus preserving the grain just as effectually as it can be preserved in silos. Por this reason I think that the Senate should reject the Bill and impress upon the Government the wisdom of expending this money in the erection of rain-proof sheds throughout Australia. If the measure be carried, South Australia has emphatically declared that she will not adopt the system of bulk handling.
– Will not that State obey the law?
– It will not be the law. Only yesterday the Minister stated that any State will be at liberty to decline to come into the scheme. I trust, too, that the Commission to be appointed under the Bill will be authorized to empower any State to expend its share of this money, to be advanced by the Commonwealth, in structures other than silos. I am quite aware that the measure provides that a State may erect temporary structures. That provision, however, is absolutely worthless, because no Commission would sanction advances to a State for the erection of temporary structures. The structures must be of a permanent character before any State can hope to secure assistance from the Wheat Pool. Then clause 8 of the Bill provides that the money shall be spent in the erection of silos. It is obvious, therefore, that a State which does not favour the silo system will not be able to participate in this scheme.
I trust that if the Bill gets into Committee the amendments that have been outlined by Senator Rowell will be adopted. If I for a moment believed that this scheme is a practicable one, I should be the very last to offer opposition to it. But any honorable senator, by devoting half-a-dozen hours of his time to an investigation of our wheat stacks, can conclusively prove that where wheat has been protected against the weather, and has not been attacked by mice, it is in as good a condition to-day as it was two years ago. I do not ask for any greater evidence than I can see with my own eyes. If honorable senators choose to do so, they can soon convince themselves that wheat can be preserved just aa effectually under an iron roof as it can be in a silo, and that Australia is, therefore, not justified in sanctioning the expenditure of £2,850,000 upon the erection of silos for this purpose. I hold in my hand a letter from the representatives of all the farming districts of South Australia, stating that some amendments should be made in the Bill in the direction I have indicated. That communication: states -
The money apportioned to South Australia should be spent in the erection of further rainproof sheds, which can be made mice proof when required, and which experience has shown meets the requirements of this State.
That letter is signed by Laurence O’Loughlin, H. D. Young, John E. Pick, Peter Allen, Wm. Angus, David James, and W. Miller, and, to my mind, it ought to speak most eloquently to honorable senators. Its signatories are all men who have made a life study of the wheat business, and they recognise that grain can be preserved in a rain-proof shed quite as effectually as it can be under any other system. I repeat that the ravages caused by mice to our wheat stacks would have been infinitesimal if the roofs overthose stacks could have been kept intact, and the stacks themselves had been protected from the weather. It was the fact of the roofs having to be removed, thus permitting weather ‘ influencesto operate, which was responsible for the major portion of the damage that has been done.
I believe that the Honorary Minister, on reflection, will recognise, that if the course which I have outlined had been followed, 75 per cent, of the damage sustained by our wheat stacks this . year would have been obviated. That being so, I fail to see how he can ask Parliament to sanction the expenditure of such a large sum upon the erection of silos to provide storage accommodation for only a small portion of our wheat crop. I say, unhesitatingly, that if weevil attack grain in a silo, and that grain is going to be aerated, the sooner it is taken out of the silo the better, because the moment that wheat is revolved the weevil will be distributed throughout the whole of it. At the present time, however, if weevil attack our wheat stacks, the affected grain can be isolated, and the sound grain treated independently. That fact is indisputable. In the circumstances, I hope that Ministers will pause before asking the Senate to pass this Bill. I shall certainly oppose it.
.- I have listened attentively to the remarks of Senator Shannon, and I cannot agree with the views which he ha9 expressed. I realize that, to some extent, South Australia cannot very well come into line with the other States upon the question of the bulk handling of wheat. But, judging from the honorable senator’s remarks, and from the speeches which have been made elsewhere, South Australia is not by any means free of dangers that are ahead. Speaking in the other branch of the Legislature, Mr. Poynton referred to various stacks in South Australia, notably to one at Glencairn South, where he affirmed that stacks had been built from 20 to 25 feet high.
– I would remind the honorable senator that he is not in order in referring to the speeches delivered in another Chamber.
– I am glad, sir, that you have called my attention to the fact. I recognise that we cannot possibly couple this scheme with the question of the bulk handling of wheat, and I sympathize with the Honorary Minister in the embarrassing position that he occupied in introducing this Bill. But I think that every honorable senator will admit that1 the scheme which is embodied in the measure represents the first instalment of the system of the bulk handling of wheat. So far, Victoria is the only State that has gone into this matter in a systematic manner
– And New South Wales.
– If this Bill passes, the silos for which it provides will be erected at the earliest possible moment. The principal argument adduced by Senator Shannon this morning was to the effect that these silos will be valueless if weevil attack the wheat, because it will be impossible to treat the infected grain separately. I wish to inform him that the only effective way in which weeviled wheat can be treated is by the construction of silos.
– Does the honorable” senator say that weevil cannot get into wheat in a silo
– They can get into wheat stored in a silo, and they pan prosper there. But there is a very effective method of killing weevil in any. wheat that has been placed in a silo.
In passing, I may remark that the silo system is in extensive operation in America. There, they have what are known as “hospital” silos - that is to say, silos of a particular type, which have been erected for the express purpose of dealing with weeviled wheat. The silos are filled, the carbonic acid gas is put in, and then they are sealed. For the cost of 4d. per ton every grain of wheat in the silos is saved from the attacks of weevils.
– Is iti deteriorated for human consumption t
– Not at all, and the gas is not lost. It is very heavy, and penetrates from the- top right to the bottom of the silo. It ia then recaptured and used for the next silo. The present position, in South Australia in particular, is that the stacks that are open to the elements are already affected by moisture. It is true, as Senator Shannon says, that there are not many weevils in them yeh, or not many signs of weevil, but directly the warm weather comes in, not only will those stacks in South Australia be attacked, but. the 4,000,000 bags that have such a handsome appearance at Geelong may be seriously affected also by the pest. The Geelong stacks consist of bags that have been sent from various parte of the State, but the wheat has been re-bagged and re-stacked to a great extent. Let there be no mistake about it, when the warm weather comes the weevils are going to make their appearance, and “unless we take means beforehand to cope with those destructive vermin we shall lose millions of pounds’ worth of wheat.
– More than by mice?
– Far more. That is the reason why we should be up and doing, and .be prepared for the attack when it comes.
We are also informed that we may have to retain and store a certain amount of grain for the British Government in years to come, and I take it that it is our duty to look after that wheat to the best possible advantage for the people who have paid us for it. The States will be paid for the extra handling.
– But the projected silos will accommodate only one-third of the normal crop.
– Yes, in Victoria they will accommodate only about 20,000,000 bushels, but if it becomes necessary at any time to use them as hospital silos we can treat an enormous amount of old wheat in them. It will not be necessary to treat the new wheat if it is properly safeguarded.
– Will this treatment by gas render the wheat immune from future attacks by weevils?
– It will if the wheat is not again exposed to the elements. Of course, if it is going to be thrown out in the open again the weevil will attack it once more. The process does not make it immune in the way the honorable senator suggests, but it can be saved.
– We should have to have 3ilos large enough to take the whole of the wheat.
– That is not necessary. It can be passed through the existing silos at the. rate of 10,000, 20,000 or 50,000 ‘bushels at a time wherever the weevils have attacked it. Unless some precaution is taken in South Australia the weevil may soon attack the bags that are exposed over there, and what position will the people of South Australia be placed in then if they have no silos ? The wheat cannot be treated in stacks to prevent the increase of weevil.
– You are putting quite a new phase of the matter, one that the Minister did not tell us of at all.
– These are the questions that we have to debate. It is essential to take every precaution possible to protect not only the 6,000,000 tons that are likely to be in hand by February next, but even the following year’s crop, which we may also have on our hands, because if we fail to protect our only asset at this time, we not only pull down the whole of our industrial structure, but cripple for years to come our productive progress.
– The silos will take only a small proportion.
– But there is no limit to the quantity which could be treated. The silos can be filled and emptied again and again as often as you like.
– Would you put it back into stacks again after treatment?
– That can be done, but it must be taken care of. There is no danger if it is properly treated, and put under a roof where moisture will not reach it.
– Is not- the genesis of this Bill the report made by a special Wheat Commission recently ?
– I am not aware of it.
– Were not the conclusions of that Commission agreed to by the South Australian representatives ?
– Yes, but those representatives were not farmers.
– The greatest opposition to the bulk handling system has come from farmers who profess to know all about it j but I notice that the very men who were so much opposed to the system some years ago are most in favour of it now. In Victoria the farmers as a whole are now sympathetic towards bulk handling, because they see that it is not possible to produce wheat satisfactorily, and to an advantage, if the present system is continued. The only improved method that commends itself to them, so far as safety is concerned, is the bulk handling system. The Minister, no- doubt, had in his mind when he moved the second reading of the Bill, the idea that something must be done, but he did not indicate whether he intended to treat the wheat in the way I have indicated, and it seemed to me that the reason why he did not express his views o the Senate on that question was the fear that he might create some panic and anxiety in the minds of producers that all was not well with their wheat. If we can point out some way by which we can save their wheat during the years to come, and safeguard their interests, it is our duty to do so. Honorable senators can point to no other method by which that can be done. It may be suggested that we can build sheds and put the wheat1 in them, but that will not save it should the weevil attack it. If it does, they will find that they have in those sheds in a year’s time nothing but husks.
– And the sheds would be just as expensive as the other method.
– Quite so. I am satisfied that Victoria, when she takes the matter in hand, and the Bill goes through this Parliament to give her power to do so, will go straight ahead with the introduction of the system of handling and storing wheat in bulk.
I realize that the operations of the scheme are very complicated. The Commonwealth Government must have some control aver the State authorities. We are advancing them the necessary money to carry out the scheme, and asking them to put the silos in the places where we think the States will be most benefited by them. We are likely to retain some control or supervision over them, and a certain amount of conflict may .arise on that point between ‘the two bodies. The Commonwealth supervisor may not be satisfied with the particular system adopted, or may express the opinion ‘that the silo is not being put in a proper place. The States” may tell him to mind his own business, as they are putting the silos in the positions which in their opinion will be most beneficial to the country, and to their own system of handling. However, I think any such friction can be easily got over.
I trust the Senate will remember its responsibility in this matter to see that the very best methods to prevent any great destruction of our wheat crops are adopted. If honorable senators can point out any other system that is likely to prove more beneficial ito the producers, I am with them, and will even go so far as to throw away my ideas so far as the prospect of the first instalment of wheat handling is concerned. I will support any scheme that they can prove to the Senate will meet the requirements. No honorable senator has done so up to the present time, but I shall be only too pleased to support any practical scheme that) they bring forward that is superior to the one I have outlined.
.- Whilst the Senate will always pay attention to men in the wheat trade, and try to gather from them the prevailing opinions of those interested in the business, I cannot altogether agree with Senator Shannon’s forecast of the future results of the Wheat Pool. If I thought the Pool was to become a thing of the past, and the Government was to have no hand in the wheat trade of Australia in the future, I question very much whether we should be justified in making the preparations that we propose to make with the £3.000,000 mentioned in the Bill.
My own opinion is that we are just at the beginning of the organization of our wheat trade, and I have come to that conclusion after having visited Canada last year, and seen the enormous organization of the wheat trade of that country. Until Senator Shannon, Senator Plain, and other Australian wheat-growers or traders go to those countries where the bulk handling system is in vogue, they can have very little idea of the want of organization in Australia. Our isolation is making us quite parochial and narrowminded in our views. That is always one of the evils of an isolated country. Canada is quite close to the United States of America, and practically for trade purposes one nation with them. The United States of America and Canadian experiences are working side’ by side, so that everything that is possible and new in the trade is there seen in operation. Australia is the only big wheat-producing country in the world where the bagging system prevails. We are still where we began a hundred years ago. We have not advanced one step beyond the methods of our grandfathers.
– Canada has nob to carry her wheat as far as South Australia has.
– I saw wheat carried 1,000 miles in Canada.
– .Look at our distance from our market - England.
– The very fact that we are further away from our market should be an inducement to us to adopt the most economical way of handling wheat. All the members of the Parliamentary party, which visited Canada last year, had ample opportunities for getting information, and I think the testimony given by Sir Robert Borden, the Prime Minister of Canada, accurately represents the opinion of all the other men interested’ in the wheat trade. In the present, measure it is proposed to provide silos for 50,000,000 bushels, and to build elevators with a capacity of only from 25.000 to 50,000 bushels: and perhaps, as our trade is so much smaller than that of Canada, these will be large enough. It is quite possible that under normal conditions this will be sufficient for a number of years to come, because I noticed that Montreal, which is claimed to be the largest wheat port in the world, had only three big elevators - one controlled by the Harbor Commission, and the other two by the Grand Trunk Railway - and that these elevators had a total capacity of 8,000,000 bushels. I do not know if it is wise .to build elevators with a small bushel capacity; but, if so, it seems strange that in Canada, where the wheat merchants ought to know their business, the smallest elevator I saw was at Quebec, and it had a capacity of 1,000,000 bushels. In my opinion, as far as the principle of bulkhandling is concerned, we may be quite safe in adopting the Government proposal, because we will simply b« following the precedent of all the other great wheat-producing countries of the world. During my visit to Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Calgary, and Winnipeg, I was assured that the cost of handling wheat in bulk at the port of shipment was only 1 cent per bushel. I am not in a position to say what the cost is in Australia under the bagging system, but I am quite sure that it must be much more expensive than the Canadian method, and, moreover, the work is arduous and the men engaged in it are properly entitled to good wages. In Canada, all the latest methods for handling the wheat have been adopted. The grain is taken from the harvester in the field, put into a box waggon and carried to the railway station, and by simply pulling. a bolt it is dumped into bins. “Upon arrival at the port of shipment, pneumatic pumps are attached to the railway waggons, and the grain is pumped straight into the vessel’s hold at the rate of from 10,000 to 12,000 bushels per hour, so that a vessel mav be fully loaded in a very short time.
– But the grain has to be bagged twice, once upon the farm, and again to the mill.
– It was not bagged during any of the operations I have described, anyhow, though I am unable to say if it has to be bagged on arrival in England.
During my visit to Canada I showed to a number of gentlemen a photograph which I had of a great wheat stack at Fremantle, and invariably they came to the conclusion that it was a photograph of sand-bags ready to be sent away to the war. They had no idea that our wheat was handled in this way. In the face of the experience of every big wheatproducing country in the world, we shall be quite justified in adopting the silo or elevator system for the handling of our grain.
The mice plague and the weevil pest have combined to force “this matter under our attention lately, and I might inform the Senate that only the other day the New South Wales farmers in conference carried a resolution approving of the bulk handling- system as well as of the Wheat Pool. I cannot conceive that any body of men, who in the past have been robbed of a great deal of the fruits of their labour by the competitive system, should ever revert to the old method for the disposal of their produce. For the first time in the history of Australia the marketing of our wheat has been placed upon a sensible basis, under which the producers are assured of a fair return, and I cannot imagine that they will readily go back to the old system. In view of the probable developments of the wheat trade, these silos will be required for the safe storage of wheat so that it may be marketed at the most opportune time; and the fact that there has been so much destruction by mice of late is sufficient to warrant the construction of silos. If, however, I thought that the farming community would revert to the old competitive method for the disposal of their produce, and allow themselves to be used by those who are able to corner the wheat market for their own advantage, and to the disadvantage of the farmers, I do not know that I would support the measure now before the Senate. This is a most important industry, and it is essential we should follow the example set us by the United States of America, Canada, Russia, and all the other big wheatproducing countries of the world. Wheatgrowing and wool production are together bringing millions of pounds into Australia, and it is important, therefore, we should give these industries our very best attention, because for many years after the war our wheat will be very much required by Great Britain, France, Italy, and other allied belligerent Powers. According to the best authorities in the wheat trade, there will be a splendid market for many years to come.
I hope that this measure is intended merely as the first instalment of the bulkhandling system, and that before long we will install the necessary machinery at all our principal wheat centres for the handling of our wheat in the cheapest manner. If this is done, we shall be able to release a large number of workmen from what is at present an arduous occupation, and to find more congenial employment for them in other directions. We all remember the outcry made some years ago against the big wheat sack, and I think Mr. Chapman is justly entitled to all the credithe received for the introduction of the 200-lb. bag; but I would say, let us do away altogether with the bagging system, and, for the future, handle our grain by machinery.
Senator Colonel ROWELL (South Australia) [12.14]. - I can understand the anxiety of the Government with regard to the protection . of wheat at present stored in Australia, and I take it that the erection of silos is regarded as the first step in the introduction of the bulk handling system; but, so far as my own State is concerned, this system is objected to, I believe, by 90 per cent, of the people interested in the wheat trade. I do not think we have had sufficient information to demonstrate that bulk handling can be successfully employed for long-distance carrying. The weevil pest is the principal difficulty. The mice plague, from which we are now suffering, recurs only at intervals : but the weevil trouble is always present to a greater or less degree, and I do not think it has ever been proved that we can carry wheat in bulk from Australia to the Old Country without the cargoes being seriously affected by weevil. I remember, once, when weevil appeared in a cargo of wheat shipped to England, one of the leading merchants who made inquiries as to the cause assured me that it was due to the fact that the grain had been shipped in a somewhat green condition.
I have no objection to bulk handling and the erection of silos in those States which may wish to introduce the system; and if the Minister willgive me an assurance that he is prepared to accept two slight amendments which I have indicated, I shall not have much more to say on the subject. So far as South Australia is concerned, the people interested in the wheat trade will not agree to bulk handling for some years to come. I would like to know whether the Honorary Minister is prepared to accept the few slight amendments I have indicated, It would mean in our State that we could erect sheds with the money so advanced to protect the whole of our wheat. However, it seems that the Government are determined to go on with their own scheme, and I am not prepared to offer further opposition to the Bill.
– The question of temporary or permanent storage has arisen. I wish to make it quite clear that the silos proposed to be erected- can readily be adapted to the bulk handling system, which I believe the majority, if not all, of the States will adopt subsequently. Therefore, it-, will be an advantage to use the silo form of storage. I want to point out again that this storage is not necessary because of the mice. I believe that, as the result of our experience, we now have an effective means of dealing with mice. This wheat has been stored for nearly two years, and, unfortunately, we are not optimistic enough to believe that we are going to get it taken away. It is to prevent the old wheat from becoming weevily and consequently deteriorating in value to a considerable extent that we are so anxious to provide - silos. In my opinion, quite a considerable amount of additional temporary storage will have to-be found before we can get our wheat taken away. But that is no reason why we should waste money by erecting temporary storage. Suppose that the war were to conclude at the endof ‘ two or three years, what would be’ the value of the assets ? We would not get a twentieth part of their value then. Our desire is to lessen the cost, and we believe that the silos will return to us their full value. Suppose that the war should continue for five years, I have no hesitation in saying that the silos, under proper care, will not have depreciated by ½ per cent. Therefore, we shall have the full asset for another purpose.
– What would the silos be used. for, if not for wheat?
– The silos will be used for wheat. The facts as to the condition of our wheat are well known in the Old Country, and that has been very helpful to us in disposing of our products. If a report goes to the Old Country that the wheat we have here at the present time is depreciating, what hope shall we have of selling next year’s crop? To-day we have only one customer for our wheat. The British Government must buy our wheat for the Allies, otherwise we cannot sell it. If the news is conveyed to the British Government that the wheat we have already sold them is rapidly deteriorating, and that some of it will be of.’ no value to them, what a cheek we would have to ask them to buy our wheat in the future under such conditions ! Therefore, I appeal to honorable senators to take a large view of the question, and come into line with the rest of Australia in order to preserve the wheat we have sold to the Old Country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Subject to this Act, the Commission may -
Senator Colonel ROWELL (South Australia) [12.21]. - I move -
That the word “ temporary “ be left out of paragraph d.
The omission of this word will afford to those States which do not desire to have silos an opportunity of building structures for the storage of wheatr
.- I think that the representatives of South Australia ought to have a little co-operative meeting to see what it wants. This paragraph was put in the clause at the suggestion of a South Australian and . with the approval of the Prime Minister. We made this concession to South Australians, who evidently desired to do something in that direction.
– What about the ‘ Western Australians?
– I am pointing out that what South Australians in an-, other House fought for and won, South Australians in the Senate are attempting to destroy. It is a very sound proposal. In my opinion, as I said yesterday, one-third storage is not going to be sufficient for the protection of our wheat, and other additional storage, which may be of a lighter character, will, in selected places, have to be adopted on account of the difficulty of transporting the wheat. This paragraph simply enables the Commission to arrange with the Governments of the respective States for the erection of such other temporary structures as may be found necessary. We estimate that at the end of January or February next there- will be nearly 6,000,000 tons of wheat in the hands of the Pool. We per- ceive the position in regard to shipping. If it is apparent that the shipping difficulty will continue, and that we cannot transport wheat, this provision will enable us to call a conference of the States, and perhaps to arrange to spend another million on the erection of temporary storage, which subsequently would be of no use for wheat.- If such temporary storage were used for three or four years, it would become a second, or third, or fourth class asset. The State would receive little or no money for the material. That is really the difference between silos and temporary structures. The charge for a silo can be, extended over a period of fifty years.
– What is the charge likely to be?
– I believe that the charge to the farmer will be practically nothing for the first few years. The storage in the silos, which will be of permanent construction, will probably bo charged over the whole crop, and not merely over a third, because each farmer’s lot cannot be separated. 1 want to charge collectively the Australian, Pool with’ as much per bushel on all their wheat as will cover the interest and whatever depreciation may be decided upon as sound. Honorable senators know what the depreciation in value of the silos is likely to be. It practically means that we shall have little more to pay than the interest on the total cost. I have no hesitation in saying that it will be the lightest storage charge ever made in any part of the world.
– What will the construction be?
– The construction will be steel and concrete. There is not going to be any competition between the States.- Both materials will be standardised as to quantity and quality and, I believe, as to price.
– Do you draw a distinction betwen depreciation and amortization ?
– Both matters will be taken into consideration. It must be remembered that this is not going to be a permanent debt, but a debt to be met out of the earnings. This storage is to be provided with the object of preserving the products of the country. The only gain which the Government desire to get is a knowledge that they are help-‘ ing the country and the producers. We are merely acting as a co-operative company.
– The success of cooperative companies usually depends upon the management.
– This Bill will not create the management. In all probability the ultimate management will be taken over by the Wheat Board. Subsequently it is intended, should the pool system die out, that each State should assume charge of its own wheat, and take over the responsibility for the debt. This scheme is intended to cover the war period. I believe it is essential to the success of the Pool.
– When do you estimate the silos will be built?
– I do not know, but realizing that it is emergency work, the Commission, in combination with the States, will make the best efforts to erect the silos as rapidly as possible.
– You have the men available to build them?
– I am confident that there is not going to be a shortage of material, but I do not feel so confident as to the amount of labour available.
– The labour is available.
– It will be a happy combination then. I ask honorable senators not to accept the amendment, as it would involve practically a reorganization of the whole system.
Senator Colonel ROWELL (South Australia) [12.30]. - I understand the Minister to say that if the clause is left as it stands the Government will be prepared to advance money to the States for the erection of temporary structures.
– If the Commission recommends it the Government will certainly take it into consideration.
– It is my intention when we come to the next clause to propose the insertion after the word “ silos “ of the words “ or other structures,” so that the Commission may be in a position to grant money for the erection of storage other than silos. The Bill provides that money may be advanced for the erection of silos, but there is nothing to show that it may be advanced for the erection of other structures.
– The Commission will have no power to grant any money. It will have power only to recommend to the Government that money be granted.
Clause agreed to.
For the purpose of facilitating the construction and erection of silos in pursuance of this Act, the Commonwealth may, from time to time, advance to the States a sum not exceeding, in the whole, the sum of £2,850,000.
Senator Colonel ROWELL (South Australia) [12.33].- I move-
That after the word “ silos “ the words “ or other structures “ be inserted.
This clause does not give the Government power to advance money for the temporary structures that have been referred to, or’ for any purpose other than the erection of silos. I desire that the Government should have that power.
– The honorable senator desires to give the Government power to advance money to the States for the purpose of erecting temporary storage for wheat, but that is already provided for by paragraph d of clause 7, and the adoption of the amendment now submitted by the honorable senator would do nothing further to accomplish his object. I remind him that should his amendment be carried, it will have the effect of altering what is practically a contract between the Commonwealth and the States, and will make it necessary to return the measure to the House of Representatives. The matter is urgent, and we desire to go on with the work. I would like to say further that no power to advance money which may be given to . the Government under this Bill will compel them to advance a single penny for any purpose of which they do not approve.
.- Will the Minister in charge of the Bill say whether the design of the proposed silos is such that any particular person, firm, or company will possess the sole right to the construction of silos of ‘that design in Australia?
– No. One condition laid down is that no silo or machinery in connexion therewith can be adopted unless it is approved by the Commission. The object of this is to prevent any contract being drawn up in such a way as to give a preference to any one holding patent rights. I happen to have before me an advertisement published by the Victorian Government calling for tenders for the erection of silos, and this is one of the conditions laid down -
No plans or specifications will be accepted which restrict the design of any machinery or equipment of its manufacture, supply, or erection to any particular manufacturing company, or which will entail the use of any patented form or method of grain silo construction.
– That is what I wanted to get at. If any firm possesses patent rights to a design, which it would be best in the interests of ‘the country to adopt, and which would save money, the adoption of that design should not be prevented.
– I should, like to make the matter quite clear. Under the tender system, all firms, including those who have patent rights, will be able to tender. But in calling for tenders, we do not say that the silos must be constructed in accordance with a particular patent. To do so would make it certain that the work must be given to the holders of that patent. All persons are asked to submit tenders, and those possessing patents will have the same opportunity as others.
– The best design will not be debarred because it is patented.
– No; the endeavour will be to discover the best design.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10 and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 26th July, vide page 502).
Clause 6 -
There shall be aRepatriation Commission, to consist of seven members.
Upon which Senator Needham had moved -
That the word “ seven “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three.”
Senator Colonel ROWELL (South Australia) [12.40]. - In my opinion, the system proposed by the Government for carrying out the repatriation scheme is the right one. I have listened with attention to the debate upon this clause, and it has appeared to me that some honorable senators seem to forget that the practical working out of the scheme will be largely in the hands of the State Boards. The amendment proposes . the reduction of the number of members of the Repatriation Commission from seven to three. I think it is better that there should be a Commission of seven members, and that, there should be a representative of each State on the Commission. It may be somewhat) expensive to bring representatives from the different States to carry out the work of the Commission- but -it will be a council of advice to the Government, and I think that it would be better that each State should be represented upon it. The ablebodied amongst our returned soldiers will not require charity. What they will probably look for is to be replaced in the occupations which they followed before they went to the war. I agree that everything possible should be done for those who are wounded or mentally afflicted. In my view, a very small percentage of the men will be willing to go upon the land if they have not been on the land before. As a producer, and one who has worked on the land all his life, I think the best means to be adopted to settle returned soldiers on the land would be to place them on small dairy farms from which they might derive some return almost as soon as they started work. I intend to support the clause as it stands.
– During the early part of this discussion I intimated that I favoured the creation of a central Commission consisting of three paid men, rather than a Commission of seven, . who would act in an honorary capacity. When I made that statement, I had not heard the declaration of the Vice-President of the Executive Council on this question. Having listened attentively to what he said, I am now convinced that the functions of the central Commission will be very different from what I had anticipated. I was under the impression that that body would be responsible for giving effect to the repatriation scheme. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, however, has explained that it will merely be an advisory body called in to assist him in administering the scheme whenever he may require such assistance. In view of his statement, I am no longer prepared to support the creation of a central Commission of three members, nor can I favour the appointment of- paid members. In view of all the circumstances, I do not think that seven commissioners would be too many to appoint, and I am inclined to think that they should act in an honorary capacity. I am also satisfied, after mature reflection, that the Minister will be able to secure, in an honorary capacity, the services of persons whose services would not be available if they were to receive payment for them. I take it that the Commission will hold its meetings in Melbourne. That being so, I should be glad to see one of the leading business men of Australia appointed to it. Obviously he will require to be a man either from Sydney or Melbourne.
– Because the Minister would not have the same chance of getting the type of man whom I have in my mind from the more distant States. I would like to see appointed to this body not an accountant, or an ordinary business man, but a gentleman who is associated with one of the largest industries in the community. The services of such a man could not be permanently secured for any payment. It is extremely unlikely that that type of man would be prepared to leave either Brisbane or Perth to serve on this Commission in a paid capacity.
– Why cast any reflection on the small States?
– I have no intention of reflecting upon them. - I merely say that the type of man I have in my mind can be most readily secured either from New South Wales or Victoria. The proposal of the Government will afford the Vice-President of the Executive Council an opportunity of securing on this Commission the services of one of the ablest business men in Australia. A great deal has been said to the effect that there is too much red-tape about our Government Departments, and that they are not conducted on business lines. The Government proposal will enable the Minister who is in charge of repatriation matters to secure the services of one of the ablest business men in Australia in an honorary capacity. Senator Foll certainly delivered a very admirable speech on this question, and one which, I am sure, was of great assistance to honorable senators. However, I chiefly rose to put before the “Committee the reasons which have influenced me to reverse the vote that I had intended to cast upon this ma’tter.
– When progress was reported yesterday, I was referring to a suggestion made by -Senator Fairbairn that only the services of gentlemen acting in an honorary capacity, and influenced by patriotic motives, should be accepted on the central Commission which it is proposed to appoint. Under this Bill we are asked to determine the procedure to be adopted for the repatriation of our soldiers, of whom I hope at least 300,000 will return. Now it is proposed to appoint a Commission to assist in the administration of this scheme, and the necessity for appointing only business men to that body has been strongly stressed by Senator Thomas. He has affirmed that we should secure only the services of men who have made a success of their businesses, and who have established a great industry. By virtue of that circumstance, he claims that only such gentlemen are qualified to act on the Commission. I do not know how many businesses Senator Thomas has built up in Australia. I am not aware that he is at the head of any great business, but I do know that he is a member of this Parliament, and, in that capacity, is assisting to determine the destinies of Australia. He was elected, not because he has been a successful business man, but because he is possessed of a fund of common sense. Now, if men can be returned to the National Parliament who have not proved great successes as business men, surely it ought not to be impossible to find gentlemen who will be willing to assist the Minister in charge of this Bill to give effect to this repatriation scheme, who have not been successful business men.
– Would the honorable senator bar business men ?
– No. I am merely replying to a chorus of statements by honorable senators opposite since I submitted my amendment. They have pinned their faith to the appointment of only business men to this Commission. Whilst I would welcome the presence of such men there, I am not prepared to admit that they are the only persons qualified to act upon that body. We must not confine our search for men to assist the Government in restoring our returned soldiers to civilian life, to that particular section of the community. Ypsterday the Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that several business men had offered their services on the Commission. I understood him to say that he had been offered the services of the head of the greatest Labour organization in Australia.
– Does the honorable senator object to a representative of organized Labour being appointed to this body?
– I am not objecting at all. ‘ I merely desire to divert the Vice-President of the Executive Council from the conversation which he was enjoying with Senator Thomas.
– It was much more interesting than is the honorable senator’s matter.
– Then this Bill can be of no importance whatever, notwithstanding the statements made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council when moving its second reading. I imagine that any gentleman who is the head of a Labour organization will have quite enough to. do if he focusses his attention upon the affairs of that organization. Similarly, a successful business man will be sufficiently occupied in looking after the business which he has built up. It is not likely that he would allow the time that he devoted to this Commission to interfere with the success of his business, and to allow it to fall fnto decay.
SenatorFoll. - Others have done that already. I can quote two instances.
– I dare say that the honorable senator is able to quote many instances; but, at the same time, the banking balances of those individuals have increased along with their patriotic fervour.
– What industries have made money out of the war ?
– If I were to reply to that inquiry, I should be promptly called to order; but when the War-time Profits Taxation Bill comes before the Senate, I shall be happy to supply Senator de Largie with the information.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– I hope the Committee will disabuse its mind of the idea that the Commission can do successful work only if composed of men who have been successful in business. Whether the Commission consists of seven or three, I will welcome on it the best brains that can ,be obtained in Australia ; but there are in Australia men who have not been successful in building up big businesses, but are yet capable of carrying out this work. The Minister laid emphasis on the necessity of making the commissioners honorary; but for some time past there has been a Repatriation Committee, one of whose members has been acting in an honorary capacity to the extent of two guineas per day. That is more than £12 per week.
– Do you mean every day?
– I understand that it pans out, or did pan out, at two guineas every day.
– On the Repatriation Committee ? I should be very much obliged if you would give me the name privately.
– I do nob want to mention the name.
– I think you are hopelessly wrong.
– Will the Minister deny that that gentleman has been paid two’ guineas per day ?
– I Cannot deny that; but I can say that no gentleman down there has been getting two guineas every day.
– I accept the Minister’s statement, but the matter may be one for further inquiry.
– It will be.
– I am not making a definite assertion. I only say that I understand that such has been the custom.
– The members of that committee are allowed expenses, but that is only when they come from another State.
– To what amount 1
– I cannot say what their expenses are.
– But the point is that they are allowed expenses. If a Commission of seven is appointed, and the suggestion of honorable senators is adopted that there should be a man from each State, they will get expenses, and a very big expense indeed will be incurred under the cloak of “ honorary services “ - I had almost said honorariums. Let us be honest and say that so many men - seven, five, or three - shall be appointed; but that they shall be paid. I think they should be paid well. The work is too important to allow men to divide their time between it and their private occupations. They should centre their minds on it. The Minister said they would be engaged only in an advisory capacity, but the Bill is not definite in that regard. If. that is the intention of the Government, they should state it in the Bill in black and white.
We were told in the Governor-General’s Speech that it was the intention of the Government to appoint a Minister for Repatriation, which means creating another portfolio. That is not necessary. Senator Millen has so far conducted the work well, and I should be glad to .see him remain at the head of it. I know of no man who can conduct it better than he has done, but I see no necessity for creating another portfolio.
– That is rather curious. You are deadly opposed to all honorary members on the Commission, but you want a . Minister to work for nothing.
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that he is not working for nothing. He is too wide awake for that. He can also bring to his assistance, as a staff, officers from other branches of the Commonwealth Service. I think a few can be spared from different Departments. The Commission itself should be permanent, should be paid, and should not consist of so many as seven. We shall get more benefit from a Commission of that nature than from a casual one, as is suggested in the Bill. It is imperative that a returned soldier should be on the Commission.
– We do not object to that.
– I hope (he honorable senator does not, but some honorable senators suggested that there was no necessity for it’. Each State Board should also have a returned soldier on it. I submit the amendment in the sincere desire to assist the Minister to improve the Bill. 1
– I have not heard one sound argument why the Commissioners should be paid. It is very inadvisable to increase the number of paid officials, for I have, a horror of the paid bureaucracies that are springing up in the Commonwealth . One of the most serious dangers of a democratic community like this is that it cannot have its affairs run without men being paid. I am astonished at the source from which the amendment has emanated. We can find the very best examples of voluntarism and self-sacrificing work in the very movement ‘ that Senator Needham at present represents. It was built up by those who gave their time and money, and many of them their lives, for the Labour cause when it was on a voluntary basis ; and the curse of it, and this has brought it to its present position, is the number of paid bureaucracies that are running it in every State. The same applies to other institutions. We should limit the choice of the Minister to a very great extent if we agreed to the appointment of paid officials. There are at present ‘quite a large number of excellent men in every State well fitted to fill positions on the Commission, and also on the State Boards. Quite a number of them will be willing and pleased to give all their abilities to the work of looking after the affairs of returned soldiers, and I think they would do it in a much more humane and better spirit than would paid officials. From my own experience in many movements of a voluntary nature, I have found that where you have a good committee you will always get the best work done. I am anxious to see this great work of repatriation well carried out. At present, there is a great deal of empty sentiment and a great deal of fatherly talk about returned soldiers that is quite unnecessary. There is a great deal of gallery business at the present time, both in regard to returned soldiers and to the general public; and I am most anxious to see this important subject put on a permanent business basis. By that I do not mean a cold, commercial cent, per cent, basis, because I want to see it carried out with all the humane feeling that a man would naturally have towards returned soldiers.
– Would you object to a returned soldier being on the Commission ?
– Certainly not. The Minister has already expressed his willingness to include two returned soldiers. That is a very fair proportion on a commission of seven. Those two will be quite able to represent the feelings of the returned men, and the other five will be able to look after the affairs of the public, who, after all, are the main persons concerned. All the work that has been done voluntarily during the war has shown that this work can be done well on the same basis. I know that in -many instances voluntarism has been more or less a failure ; but in a case of this kind, with a definite work and a definite object, and with a limited number of men to deal with,’ there is no reason why it should not be a complete success. Throughout the Commonwealth it will be found that the institutions which have been best looked after are those which’ have a voluntary council or committee. The sooner we recognise that our country demands the best we can give it, whether we are paid for our services or not, the better it will be for the nation. If the Government stand firm in this matter, I am sure the clause will be carried as it stands by both Houses, and the Commission and State Boards will be constituted of business men with financial and organizing ability, who are only too willing to give their services voluntarily for the benefit of those who have gone forth from this country and sacrificed their all in its defence. I have seen so often the dangers involved in the appointment of paid officials that I shall enter my protest every time against any proposal to increase their numbers.
– Will you carry that right along in all the Departments?
– I shall carry it along wherever common sense tells me it is the right thing to do. You cannot lay down any hard-and-fast rule to apply everywhere, but we should try to get the volun tary services of the best men in the community to serve the State wherever possible. If we do that it will be for the welfare, not only of the returned soldiers, but of the Commonwealth.
– And civil servants, too. We shall not be able to pay them directly.
– They are getting quite strong enough. The voluntary system in this case will give the Minister a much wider field of choice, because there are dozens of men throughout the Commonwealth eminently suited for this work who would not take it if the positions were paid. They would not neglect their businesses to take the work on. As the Minister said, men of that kind could meet in the afternoons or evenings, and do the work in a business-like way, and do it, too, much more humanely than paid officials would. I have a dread of the paid official system, and would not have it mixed up with the returned soldiers. I quite understand the position that the representatives of the Labour party opposite take up; but I should like to appeal to Senator Needham and those associated with him not to press the paid business too much, and to look where they are at present. I think they will then recognise that the sooner we have the system worked by men who are willing to give their best to the community, the better it will for the Commonwealth.
: - I am sorry I was misunderstood by Senator Poll when I spoke on this subject yesterday afternoon. He represented me as saying that the three members of the Commission should be returned soldiers. I did not say anything of the sort, and I was very glad to find, on getting my Hansard proof this morning, that what I did say reached uie official reporter at the table. I find that he recorded exactly- what I said - that there were returned soldiers, to my knowledge, who were capable of undertaking these positions. I say that now. I had eight long weeks on the water when returning to Australia with a returned Colonel, who was a business man, and would suit Senator Thomas right up to the knocker. He carried on a big business himself, and would be able to take a position of this kind admirably. I have seen others, but I am not putting in a word for any particular person in making these remarks. I understand that one honorable senator said he would like to see two returned soldiers on the commission, and that the Minister had agreed to this course. That was the first I had heard of it. If returned soldiers are to be appointed, how are we going to get representation of the States? I want to see the Returned Soldiers Association represented, but I would not like that body to have a majority of representatives. I believe in having paid men, and if we can get the best men to pay them well. If it were not for payment of members I would not be here, because I could not afford to travel frequently from my State to the Seat of Government. I do not want to create paid positions, but my experience in the administration of the Commonwealth’s affairs is that the best results will be obtained by adopting this course. I represented the trade unions on one of these voluntary committees, so I know a little about the subject. I would rather see paid officials administering the fund, and believe it would be done better by them than by voluntary commissioners.
I do not want to say any more, except that I understood the figures I gave yesterday, as to the cost of distribution of patriotic funds, were correct, although I made ‘ a mistake when I spoke about a deputation, as the gathering was a conference, held in Melbourne. I read the report in a Sydney paper, which gave the names of those attending the conference. I am pleased now to know the figures were incorrect, but on my return to New South Wales I shall take an opportunity of getting them verified or denied by that paper, which is read by thousands of the working classes in the community.
.- I am in favour of. the amendment. The proposition, as I understand it, will mean the expenditure of millions of pounds, and the people are entitled to get the very best results possible from that expenditure. I know very well that we can get honorary workers to undertake almost any work - or rather they would attempt to do it. At one time this country was governed by honorary members of Parliament, but eventually the people discovered the wisdom of paying somebody to undertake this task and to hold them responsible. If we have honorary commissioners administering the affairs of this repatriation scheme-
– They will not be asked to administer it.
– Perhaps they will not be administering it in the sense of actually disbursing the money, but they will stand in the relation of an advisory board to the Department, which will be guided by their counsel; and in the last analysis the commission will really be responsible for what the country may get out of the expenditure. It is not fair to the people that an honorary board of three or seven gentlemen should have the handling of the many millions of pounds that will be deposited in the Repatriation Fund, and we could not expect them, as honorary commissioners, to do justice to their duties. On the other hand, if men are paid, and paid well, we shall have a right to expect their best services, and to claim the whole of their “time for the duties imposed upon them. Honorary commissioners will, in all probability, have business concerns of their own to look after, and if any one of them be called to account for his stewardship, he will be able to say, “ Well, I had my own business to attend to, and I could not be expected to give all my time to this scheme; I know mistakes have been made, but these could have been avoided if I had been able to devote the whole of my time to the duties.” In a matter like this we are all in a more or less uncharted sea, and we can only hope for the best possible results by obtaining the best men.
I am not particularly anxious that returned soldiers should have representation on the Commission - not that I do not think we could not get men of proved capacity among them. I do not think that at all. What I am concerned about is that we should get the best possible men for the position, and if returned soldiers are not directly represented they will be represented indirectly as members of ‘the Returned Soldiers Association, which body will take good care to place their views before the Minister responsible for the administration of the scheme. I urge the Minister to reconsider his decision, and not expect that honorary commissioners will be found to do this work satisfactorily.
We were reminded by an honorable senator who is not now in the chamber that the movement represented by members on this side of the Senate was itself largely built up by the honorary efforts of men who started our organization. We admit the truth of that; but, after all, it was only because there was no other course open, because at that time there was no money with which to pay these honorary workers in the inauguration of our movement, but the position was remedied directly funds became available. The Government is no more entitled than is any outside body to expect service on “the nod.” The country that expects work to be done for nothing will get results akin to the results of those who, in the past, did the legislative work of Australia for nothing. All these things seem to me to point very strongly to the unwisdom of the . proposition put forward in this clause. I hope that if the larger number is retained the Minister will reconsider the idea of expecting the commissionersto work for nothing. I trust that they will be paid, and paid well.
Question - That the word “ seven “ be left out (Senator Needham’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
. -I should like, sir, with your permission to place on record the fact that in the last division list I was paired with Senator Gardiner, but unfortunately I overlooked the pair until it was too late for me to withdraw from the chamber.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Appointment of commissioners).
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Aus shadowed other amendments which have been circulated amongst honorable members. I accept the last division as a test, of the feeling of the Committee, and do not intend to” submit such amendments, which would have been consequential if the last amendment had been carried. There is, however, an amendment to clause 10 which I may submit.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 -
The Commission may make recommendations to the Governor-General for regulations providing for the granting of assistance and benefits to Australian soldiers upon their discharge from service and to the children of deceased or. incapacitated soldiers, and may advise upon such matters as may be expedient for the purpose of giving effect to this Act.
Senator . Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [3.7]. - I move -
That the words “ children of deceased or incapacitated soldiers,’” lines 5 and 6, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ widow, children, or other dependants of deceased soldiers, or the wife, children, or other dependants of incapacitated soldiers.”
I submit this amendment in order that the provision may be made more explicit to the understanding of those who are vitally concerned in its enactment.
– I am not able to accept this amendment because if it were adopted it would carry the Bill very much beyond the compass of any reasonable repatriating measure. What the honorable senator asks the Committee to do is to say that by means of repatriation we shall look after these various classes of people -
Wife, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, stepson, stepdaughter, brother, . sister, half-brother, half-sister, adopted child, or mother-in-law.
These classes have nothing whatever to do with the principle of repatriation. If it is thought that the community owes some obligation to them the proper way to meet that case is by an amendment of the Pensions Act, which already makes provision for them. If that provision is not considered adequate enough, I suggest to Senator Bolton that he should move to get an increased pension allowance for them. I ask the honorable senator to recognise the difference between the work contemplated in this Bill and that work which is very properly carried out by means of the Pensions Office. For that reason I cannot accept the amendment. I am appalled already at the classes of work which will fall upon the shoulders of those who have to administer this measure. If they are also to be charged with looking after, not only the immediate, but very remote, dependants of the soldiers, it ‘will make the task simply impossible. It will complicate the scheme to such an extent that il will break down.
.- I intend to support the amendment. I do not think it is desirable that the law under which this system is to be established should be of a hard and fast character. I do not suppose that the repatriation trustees’ would entertain the idea of taking upon themselves the responsibility of repatriating tire mothers-in-law and distant relatives of soldiers who have served in the war. But I can foresee cases where it will be very necessary that they should have that .power under the law. There is no obligation on the part of trustees to extend to all these people the advantages of repatriation, but certainly the trustees should have the power under the parent Act which we are now considering to take into consideration certain cases of very great hardship. In my speech on the second reading I cited the case of a widow who sent four of her sons to the Front. One son has been killed ; two sons are already wounded, and another son is about to go into action. Surely if that woman should require assistance - and I have no doubt that she will - the trustees ought to have the power to say that she has rendered such services to the nation by the voluntary sacrifice of the sons, who were going to bring to her in her old age luxury and comfort, that she is deserving of some consideration other than the hard and fast pension which is allowed.
– No one objects to that, but is this the best Bill ?
– This Bill is before the Senate now. Without making it compulsory upon the trustees to extend any particular benefit to these classes ‘ of people, at the same time they should have the power to do so if the circumstances demand it. Hence, notwithstanding the strong protest from the Minister, I intend to support Senator Bolton in trying to extend the powers of the trustees to meet such cases as those which he has just mentioned.
– I intend to support the amendment. I cannot understand the explanation by the Minister. The clause reads -
The Commission may make recommendations to the Governor-General for regulations providing for the granting of assistance-
That only gives to the commissioners power to make regulations, which, of course, will have to be considered on their merits. It is not mandatory that the commissioners shall keep the whole of the dependants of soldiers for all time. We know that in the past mistakes have been made. America is still keeping the dependants of some soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
– I know that disability, but this clause does nob say that the trustees shall do so. It simply empowers the commissioners to make recommendations to the Governor-General for regulations so that they may grant assistance. Everybody agrees with Senator Bolton and myself that the widow has as much right to be considered as the children, or that the mother of children has as much right to be considered as the widow or the children. If it is a good thing to have the clause in the Bill it will be equally good to have it amended in the way which Senator Bolton desires. The adoption of the amendment would be no detriment to the Bill, and would not give rise to the grave results predicted by the Minister.
– I hope that the amendment will be carried. We have heard something about the necessity for humane treatment, and surely honorable senators will not overlook the case of the wife of a man who has laid down his life on the battlefield in defence of the Empire! Under the clause, as drafted, the wife is entirely ignored. If it be right that the children should be looked after under this scheme, it is surely right that the mother of those children should be looked after. Whilst the men are fighting the great battle for the defence of the Empire, their womenfolk are, in my opinion, fighting a much greater battle. They have to suffer anxiety and suspense. They dread the sight of a postman or a telegraph messenger lest he should be bringing to them a message conveying the sad tidings that husband, father, brother, or son has been killed “or wounded in action. I think that the Repatriation Commission should be charged with the work of looking after the mother of the soldier’s children as well as after the children themselves. The acceptance of the amendment would secure consideration for the other dependants of dead or incapacitated soldiers referred to by Senator Bolton, and it would be an improvement upon the Bill.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [3.18]. - The Vice-President of the Executive Council referred in a light and jocular manner to the genealogical tree of the dead or incapacitated soldier. The vein in which he has chosen to approach the subject does not indicate that he regards the purpose of the Bill in any very earnest spirit. If that is the Minister’s attitude upon this question of repatriation, it gives but poor promise of what ia likely to be done under the operation of the Bill. Many of the dependants of dead or incapacitated soldiers, and, possibly amongst them grandfathers, sisters, nieces, and others referred to, may be unable to earn a living for themselves, and may have been dependent on the earnings of the dead or incapacitated soldiers. The Minister’s jocularity is entirely uncalled for, and is not in good taste.
– I accept in a becoming spirit of humility the rebuke which has fallen from the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. I hope in future to profit by his lectures as to the proper deportment of a member of this Chamber. I should like honorable senators to bear in mind the possibility of creating very serious trouble if we do not lay down a clear line of demarcation between repatriation and pensions. No one can have any personal concern in this matter. I am as anxious as is any one else to treat in the most liberal way possible those who have rendered services of incalculable value to the country. If we are to consider individual cases we shall not establish the scheme on firm ground. It is necessary that we should adopt a definite principle. I have endeavoured to adhere to the principle that, in our repatriation scheme, we should deal with one sphere of work, and by means of pensions we should deal with another. If there is to be overlapping it will lead to endless complications. A pension is provided for the widow of a soldier killed at the Front, and if honorable senators think that it is quite insufficient, surely the common-sense proceeding is to increase the amount of the pension, and not to ask that another Department should be called into existence to supplement it. Between the War Pensions Act and this Bill every possible case for assistance will be met. My object in asking honorable senators to vote against the amendment is not to exclude from consideration the dependants of dead or incapacitated soldiers referred to by Senator Bolton, but to preserve the distinction between pensions and repatriation, to prevent the overlapping of work, and two Departments dealing with the same individuals.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [3.22]. - I have already said that, in my opinion, the matter of repatriation cannot be separated from the matters of pensions and amelioration. When the Repatriation Commission come to put this measure into operation they will certainly find that to be so. They will discover that this Bill will embrace pensions, amelioration, and repatriation.
.- I support the amendment moved by Senator Bolton, because, if the widow or other dependants of dead or incapacitated soldiers are forced to rely on the pensions granted them, in .many cases they will have to struggle along on a mere pittance. If they received assistance under the repatriation scheme they might be able to start in business on their own account just as would the returned soldier, and might be able later to flourish and enjoy some of the good things of life. I do not see why widows and other dependants of the soldiers should not receive as generous treatment as the soldiers themselves. I agree with Senator Needham- when he says that the biggest sacrifices made during the war are those made by the womenfolk. I think that the repatriation scheme should embrace ample provision for them. I hope that the amendment will be accepted.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . … 9
Question so -resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Board for each State to consist of seven members.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [3.28]. - I move -
That the word “ seven “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ five.”
The object of this amendment, is to reduce the number of members of the State Boards to five, who, I think, should be paid for the work they will have to do. The duties of the members of the boards will take up the whole of their time and attention if justice is to be done to them. The reasons I advanced as to the desirability of reducing the number of members to form the Repatriation Commission apply with equal force to the reduction of the number of members of the State Repatriation Boards, and to their payment.
– I do not propose to occupy the time of the Committee except to express just one view. This proposal is part of the scheme that is founded on an effort to combine the assistance of’ private citizens with an official Department. I admit that it is an experi ment, I admit that it is an innovation, but I ask the Committee to recognise that it is part of the scheme,, and that by passing this clause they will be giving an opportunity to that experiment to demonstrate whether it is a practicable one or not. There is no precedent to guide us in this matter. It may work out unsatisfactorily; on the other hand, it may not. It is an expedient which seeks to combine two desirable elements, and I appeal to honorable, senators to let that experiment demonstrate its worth by actual work.
– Is it the intention of the Government to pay the members of the State Boards ?
– Their services will be given in an honorary capacity ?
– Yes. As is usual with such boards, all their reasonable expenses will be met.
-I asked this question of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in order that I might know what to do with a projected amendment by Senator O’Keefe in clause 10. In view of the answer which has been given I shall not proceed with that amendment.
Senator Colonel ROWELL (South Australia) [3.33]. - To my mind, if itbe necessary for seven persons to be appointed to the central Commission, it is equally imperative that seven members shall be appointed to each State Board. These boards, I presume, will be composed of men who possess a knowledge of the land and of various trades. Senator Bolton has submitted a proposal to reduce the number of members of these boards from seven to five. But in view of the fact that seven members are to constitute the central Commission, and that the State Boards will not have less work to do, I shall support the Government on this occasion.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council has- stated that the members of the State boards will receive reasonable expenses. I think that they should be patriotic enough to forego expenses. Of course, men who have to travel to the Seat of Government should be reimbursed their out-of-pocket expenditure.
– Suppose that some person in New South Wales is appointed from the country ?
– If he is a good business man he will lose nothing by his appointment. I want these gentlemen to be patriotic. When I was speaking yesterday honorable senators opposite loudly proclaimed that the members of the central Commission should be patriotic, and should give their services for nothing. I want those honorable senators to be consistent. I would like to see the number of members of the State Boards reduced from seven to five.
– The honorable senator wishes to limit the opportunity for exhibiting patriotism.
– If the VicePresident of the Executive Council thinks that, by all means let us increase the number of members on these State Boards to twenty-five. At the present time there are men engaged in repatriation work who are rendering splendid service for nothing.
– Would the honorable senator expect a working man to travel from Broken Hill to attend meetings of a State Board without being reimbursed his expenses?
- -Senator de Largie need not worry on that point. There will be no working men upon these boards.
– The honorable senator can accept my assurance that there will be.
– If that be so, they will have to be paid if they come from any part of New South Wales. That was one of the arguments which I urged yesterday in favour of the appointment of paid men to the central Commission. Honorable senators opposite are facing both ways on this question. We cannot expect a working man to lose a week in coming from Broken Hill, or Sydney, without being paid for his services.
– ‘The members of the State Boards will get only their expenses.
– If these State boards arrange to sit at night-time, plenty of men will be found who are willing to serve upon them in an honorary capacity, but not otherwise.
– It appears to me that, owing to the application of motive-power to production, the people of this country are now able to produce, not merely sufficient for their own requirements, but sufficient to keep a large army in addition. The proposal now before the Committee is not one to repatriate returned soldiers, but to provide substantial positions for persons who are not prepared to come out into the open and battle for themselves. I venture to say that this is a proposal to foist upon the taxpayers a considerable number of men who would not give one moment of their time to any private citizen without being paid for it. Yet some honorable senators seriously expect them, in discharging the duties of the proposed State Boards, to give > their services gratuitously. Instead of the arrangement being an economical one, it appears to me to be an effort to foist a considerable number of men on the already overburdened taxpayers of this country. Apparently the Minister can do nothing, even of the most trivial character, without the aid of a board. He seems to have entirely lost all the vigour and vim which he possessed a few years ago. It is now proposed .that we shall have, not merely a central Commission, meeting in Melbourne, but a board sitting in each State. In addition, there will be a permanently paid staff to carry out the instructions of these boards. The position reminds me of a story I read in regard to a lot of flies hanging on to a cow in a meadow, and holding corroborees and Parliaments of their own, without doing any good or useful work. One day the cow Tolled over and crushed them. Similarly I think that the taxpayers of this country will one day roll over and crush this multiplicity of boards. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is possessed of more than sufficient ability to carry out this work unaided. He has done nothing else now for a considerable number ‘ of months. It must be remembered, too, that he will not be called upon to attend to the details of the scheme. He will have at his disposal a paid staff of clerks, both in Melbourne and in each of the
States, who will do that. Yet he wants a little army of seven commissioners to sit in Melbourne-
– Order! The question before the Chair is the constitution of the State Boards.
– I was merely making an incidental reference to the central Commission. The proposal now before us is not an. effort to repatriate returned soldiers, but to repatriate those who are well able to look after themselves. Nobody can tell me that these positions will be purely honorary.
– They would not be if the honorable senator had his way.
– No; each representative upon them would be paid a specific sum straight out. I am entirely opposed to these so-called honorary boards, because they are expensive and unsatisfactory. They are supposed to give their services gratis. Each member will probably get two or three guineas’ per day.
– They will not be paid fees at all.
– But their travelling expenses will be paid, and how much will they amount to? If the VicePresident of the Executive Council is determined to adopt the “go-slow” policy of the Industrial “Workers of the World, his proper course is to invite applications for the positions, and to appoint men who are capable of filling them. But there is no occasion for him to do that. The honorable’ gentleman is quite able to look after this matter himself. If he is not, he can appoint more men.
– There would be more flies to crush then.
– I am surprised that the cow does not roll over and crush some of the flies opposite to me. Nowadays, nothing can be done without the establishment of expensive boards. One ceases to wonder why the working man says that eight hours a day is too long to work, when he observes so many persons fastening themselves on to boards - so many parasites becoming attached to governmental institutions! If these men would only go out and take a hand with the plough, there would be no occasion for the working man to labour more than four hours per day.
– Order! Will the honorable senator connect his remarks with the proposal before the Chair to reduce the number of members of the State boards from seven to five?
– I am trying to point out to honorable senators opposite the danger of appointing board after board in this manner. If they do the farmers, who work long hours producing food for these parasites to eat, will say to themselves: - “What are they, anyhow? If they are not going to do any’ work we will cease working ourselves; we will put in only three or four hours a day, and let these men go out and find food for themselves.” Then these people will be in a position of the flies when the cow rolled over, and will be squashed out of existence.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [3.46]. - I know of a certain honorary board not a thousand miles from here, the whole of the work of which, by reason of the board being honorary, was thrown on the shoulders of the secretary, who was getting between £700 and f SOO a year, and the upshot was that he broke down utterly in health, and has been away from duty now for several months. The net result of the honorary system is that somebody else has to do the work, and the honorary people get the honour and glory of it.
.- I should like to support my colleague, Sena- i tor Bolton, on this occasion, but cannot see my way to do so. I look on the State Boards as being of even more importance than the Federal Commission. Senator Bolton desires to get the most efficient board possible, so as to safeguard the interests of the soldiers or their dependants in every possible way, but that cannot be done merely by appointing a salaried board, as is proved by the history of the closer settlement movement in all the States. That matter has been controlled and supervised by a salaried board in every State, and iu every case to date the system has absolutely failed to solve the problem of land settlement. Victoria has suffered as severely as any, and a Royal Commission was recently appointed to investigate its closer settlement policy. That was an honorary board, of which I was a member. I gave two solid years to inspecting every estate minutely, and taking evidence from every settler regarding his financial position and surroundings. The result was that in order to save the settlement of this country we had to write off a huge sum. We realized that it was better to do that, and save the settlers and make them contented, rather than load and crush them as in the past, The closer settlement policy of Victoria is to-day on a basis such as never existed before, and the settlers have some prospect of making a comfortable living, and a home for their families, which in the past many of them could not do. I can name men in this State, particularly Mr. Manifold, who would make splendid members of an honorary board. I could also name others of equal integrity who would rather submit to have their heads chopped off than deceive returned soldiers. If an honorary board is created of men of the capacity and integrity of Mr. Manifold, the future of these settlers can be safely left in their hands. If, however, the Government have to call for applications for paid positions, so many applications will be put in, and so much influence will be brought to’ bear” that valuable time will be lost, and men may be selected who have not had the necessary experience, although desirous of doing their best in the interest of the soldiers, and the whole business will fail. If we are going to follow a system that is likely to break down our closer settlement policy in the future, we shall be doing a great injustice to the future generations of this State. That is what I wish to avoid, and that is why I am not voting with my colleague on this occasion. If the boards are reduced to five we shall not get so many men with wide experience, and there is always the risk that illness may reduce the number of those who can attend to two or three.
Question- That the word “ seven “ proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 -
The Governor-General may appoint local committees within a State.
– I move-
That the words “ or Territory “ be inserted after the word “ State.”
– I support the amendment. At Canberra, we have an area of about 900 square miles of land, which up to date has not received the attention, in connexion with the proposal for repatriation, which I think it is entitled to. I have made application for, but have not yet received, a report from Mr. Allen, Fruit Inspector, New South Wales, or Mr. Wilkinson, the Commonwealth Analyst, as to the quality of the soil, which I believe is suitable for fruit-growing and other purposes. From my own personal knowledge of the country, I know it is in many respects as good as, and I have no doubt in some respects superior to, some of the. land that has already been bought.
Amendment agreed to.
-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [3.59]. - I move -
That the following words be added to subclause 1 : - “ Each of such committees shall consist of eight persons, half of whom shall be . returned soldiers within the meaning of this Act.”
As these local committees will have the responsibility, I presume, of preparing most of the cases for repatriation, returned soldiers should be represented on them, and although the Minister has said this will be done, I should like, in this instance, to have it set out in the Bill.
Senate adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 July 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170727_SENATE_7_82/>.