7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Base Hospitals 4437
Wednesday, 8 May
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers Were presented: -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911. - Award of Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court on plaint submitted by Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers Association -
Further variation, dated 28th March, 1918, and other documents, in connexion with application to vary made by the Acting Public Service Commissioner.
Further variation, dated 28th March, 1918, and other documents, in connexion with application to vary made by the Association.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905. -Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 106.
Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1917. - Promotions, Department of the Treasury - A. W. E. Fewster, B. K. McDonald, and C. R. Burdeu.
Commonwealth Railways Act 1917. - By-Law No. 4.
Defence: Proposals of the Government for Home Defence of Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Defence, without notice, whether it is the intention of the Government to submit to the Public Works Committee the whole proposal covering the resumption of land and the erection thereon of new ordnance stores in Sydney?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
– Arising out of the answer to my question, let me say that I shall give notice of it, but I ask the Minister to say whether he has heard the grave rumours that have been circulated regarding this proposal?
– I have heard no rumours.
– Senator Gardiner might state the rumours.
– That is just what I do not wish to do. I want the matter investigated by the Public Works Committee.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
When did the rule placing wardsmaids in Base Hospitals on “ rations “ come into operation?
– The answer is -
From the inception of the system of the appointment of wardsmaids, viz., 12th January, 1917.
Debate resumed from 3rd May, 1918 (vide page 4386), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill Be now read a second time.
– It is not my intention to detain the Senate for any length of time in discussing this measure, but I think it . desirable to direct attention to one or two remarks which were made in another place when the Bill was being considered there. There seems to be a great. deal of misconception with respect to the lands ceded to the Commonwealth in Western Australia in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway. I think it right that some erroneous impressions disclosed in another place with respect to what the Government of Western Australia have done in this matter should be corrected here. In accordance with the promise made, the lands on the Western Australian section of the line have been handed over to the Commonwealth by the Government of Western Australia for railway purposes - -
– Without compensation ?
– Yes, without compensation, and without any cost whatever to the Commonwealth Government.
– The South Australian Government have done the same thing, have they not?
– No ; the only claims made for compensation, and which have led to the introduction of this Bill, are claims made in respect of lands on the South Australian section of the railway.
– Not by the South Australian Government.
– And not for the lands, but for water rights.
– I understand that claims for compensation have been made in respect of water rights on lands in South Australia -traversed by the railway. In my opinion, and in the opinio”n of most people who have given the matter any attention, the claims made in respect of the South Australian land, in view of the amount of compensation asked for, are positively ridiculous. My purpose in speaking on the second reading of the Bill is to remove any doubt that might exist in the minds of the public as to such claims coming from Western Australia.. The Western Australian Government and people have carried out their part of the contract by handing over the lands required for railway purposes along the line in that State without any claim whatever for compensation for water rights or anything else.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Where any land held under a lease is required by the Commissioner for the purposes of the railway the Commissioner may,- by notice an the Gazette, specify the part or parts of the land included in the lease which are required, and thereupon the lease shall be deemed to be determined so far as the land so specified is concerned and the land so specified shall be deemed to be vested in the Commissioner.
.- - Is there any provision in the Bill by which, on a land-owner applying for compensation for alleged damage to his property by the railway, the Court may, if it finds that the railway has benefited instead of deteriorating his property, order him to pay to the Commonwealth the value of the improvement?
“3.12]. - So far we have had certain Lands Acquisition Acts which provide for three methods of settling disputes. In the .case of this railway, legal proceedings have been taken against the Commonwealth by land-holders in one or two instances, and the Government do not desire by means of this BiH, nor would it be proper, to interfere with proceedings that are now before the Court. The object of the Bill is to simplify the procedure in regard to the acquisition of land, and bring all claims for compensation with regard to lands adjoining the rail- way, for a quarter of a mile on each side, under one simple heading. Either a mutual agreement may be made between the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and the lessee of the land, or the lessee may appeal to ,the High Court. On the South Australian side, from Port Augusta to Tarcoola, a distance of about 280 miles, the line runs practically through pastoral leases held from the State of South Australia. Lessees are allowed six months in which to apply, for compensation. If within that time no application is made their right to compensation ceases.
– Six months from when?
– From the date of proclamation, which, I take it, will be within a few days after this Bill is passed. If a claim is made’ the amount may be mutually determined on, as I have already stated, or if the lessee refuses to accept the amount offered, a Judge of the High Court will determine the claim. If the High Court finds, and this is Senator Gardiner’s point, that the railway has added to the value” of the land rather than decreased it, the Court will have power to order the claimant to pay compensation to the Commonwealth for the added increment.
– The Minister mentioned that certain claims were already before the Court. Will that fact debar the Government from making a counter claim for betterment in those cases ? Supposing the claim by the lessee is outrageous, will the fact that the lessee has moved first debar the Government from making a claim ou him for adding to the value of his land? That point should be thoroughly cleared up. I quite agree that where a claim is before the Court, the Court should settle it, but I do not see why the . Crown should be- statute-barred from proceeding against the claimant where such a course is justified. We have had horrible scandals in the past over many of the railway construction contracts, and we do not desire a repetition of them in connexion with this line. I do not want this measure to take away any of the rights of men who may wish to go to Court to claim compensation, but I understand that’ some of the claims are outrageous, and I should like the Govern- ment to have an equal right, if the railway improves a man’s property, to recover from him the value of the improvement, even though he has. already applied for compensation in the opposite direction.
– I have not an exact record of the number of claims that have been put in already, but I understand there are only one or two of them.
– But they are big ones.
– I do not know whether that is so. Up to the present certain laws have been in operation, including the Commonwealth Lands Acquisition Act and certain South Australian Acts. Whatever has been done lias been done under the law, but this Bill was introduced because the weakness of the existing law was recognised. It is undesirable, when a citizen has honestly taken certain action under existing laws, for Parliament to pass retrospective legislation affecting him. When the Bill becomes law, a proclamation will probably be issued within a few days to take over the whole of the lands that are not involved, but it would not be right for Parliament to practically remove from the hands of the. Court the one or two cases where proceedings have already been begun. The existing law is not unsound, and I believe justice will be done in those cases, but we believe it is cumbrous and would lead to much litigation unless it were simplified. The “ Bill supersedes what has been done in the past and simplifies future proceedings.
.- If, in this 1,100 miles of railway, only one or two cases have already been started and all the rest of the cases are to come under this measure, surely it is not asking too much to . demand that this measure should be made to cover every case. If it is objected that certain claims have already been put in, the reply is that this is the first opportunity that Parliament has had to deal with the matter. I voted for the construction of the railway on the clear understanding that the Commonwealth was to be given the land to a considerable distance on each side of the line. If now we are up against certain claims which will involve the Commonwealth in heavy law costs, even should the Commonwealth be successful, it is quite fair on this, the first occasion on which wo have been called on to deal with the matter, for the Committee to make the position perfectly clear to all land-holders along the line. We should provide that in every case of claim for compensation, wherever the Court finds that the land has been benefited and not damaged, theCourt should have the right to award the Commonwealth an amount equal to the benefit. In doing so we should not be taking any privileges from the land-owner. We are not saying that he cannot go to Court with a claim for compensation. We simply tell him that if he does go to Court and the Court finds he has benefited, he shall be liable to pay the Commonwealth in proportion to the amount by which he has benefited, just in the same way as he would ask the Commonwealth, if he had suffered loss, to make good the amount of the loss. The thing will cut both ways. We should make the Bill apply to all leaseholders and freeholders whose land” the line passes through. They will then go into Court on the clear understanding that if they make a claim for imaginary damages, and the Court finds that, instead of having suffered loss, a landowner has benefited by the construction of the railway, he should be required to recoup the difference to the Commonwealth Government. All leaseholders,, whether they have entered claims or not, should be on absolutely the same footing. . This is quite different from passing a law to interfere with existing privileges.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania) [3.21J. - I listened to what the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) had to say in reply to Senator Fairbairn, and it seemed to me that he went alT around the subject and did not touch the issue raised. I take Senator Fairbairn’s view to be that we purport in this Bill to give compensation to leaseholders who may have suffered by the ‘construction of the railway, and purport at the same time to give to the Commonwealth betterment where there has been enhancement in value, and that the question is whether, so far as claims now pending are concerned, the Commonwealth will be entitled to betterment if enhancement im. proved.
– That is the question exactly.
– I see nothing in the Bill dealing with this phase of the subject at all.
– Why not insert a provision ?
– In the debates in another place it was laid down that pending proceedings were not to be affected by this Bill.
– And did I not state that distinctly ?
– Yes, but Senator Fairbairn has asked another question.
– We decided not to take pending cases out of the hands of the Court.
– It is quite right that a .leaseholder’s claim for compensation should not be affected, but the point is : Are Commonwealth rights to betterment to be affected ?
– They will remain under the existing law.
– But I see no such provision.
– This Bill will not come into operation until certain lands have been proclaimed. A proclamation will be .issued in respect of such lands other than those in connexion with which claims are now before the Court.
– But the Minister’s reply does not answer the question raised by Senator Fairbairn. Pending proceedings are to be protected so far as leaseholders are concerned, but ‘are they to be protected so far as the Commonwealth is concerned ?
– No permanent survey had been made when the Bill for the construction of the railway was carried in 1911, but there was an agreement that the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia should grant to the Commonwealth a strip of land a quarter of a mile wide on each side of the line. In pursuance of this agreement Acts were passed through both State Legislatures, but the land was not transferred to the Commonwealth, because at that time we had only flying surveys made, and, as honorable senators are aware, railway construction sometimes deviates considerably from the route fixed by surveys. Consequently, no correct plan could be drawn of the land to be granted to the Commonwealth on each side of the railway; but now that the line has been completed, plans have been so drawn, and we want to effect a transfer from the States to the Commonwealth, so that the land may be vested in the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. In the meantime, claims - some of them ridiculous - have been sent in by lessees on the South Australian side for compensation, and the Government desire to be in a position to deal more effectively with the land to be vested in the Railways Commissioner. The claims now pending may be decided under the South Australian law, or they may come under what is known as the Commonwealth Lands Acquisition Act. We say it would be unwise for the Commonwealth to intercept proceedings now pending under the existing law, but that, having been “bitten” in one or ‘two individual cases, it is desirable that the law concerning the land to be proclaimed shall be uniform. It is proposed, therefore, that lessees demanding compensation must make application within six months, and if at the end of six months they are not able to agree with the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner as to the amount of compensation, the case will then go before a Judge of the High Court, whose decision shall be final. There is, however, provision in such cases that if the Court decides that, instead of having suffered damage, the lessee has had enhanced value given to his leasehold, he will be required to pay to the Commonwealth the amount of such increase. The Government do not deem it wise to step into the Court and practically take possession of matters now before a judicial tribunal. Governmental powers, apart from anything which may be done by Acts of Parliament, are limited in this direction, and it is undesirable that this line of action should be followed.
– It has been done before.
– Then is the honorable senator prepared to adopt that course as a general principle?
– No. I opposed it from the seat now occupied by Senator Needham.
– I am somewhat reluctant to prolong discussion on this clause, but it seems to me that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) is endeavouring to cloud the issue. We are not proposing to alter the conditions under which cases now before the Court shall be decided. We simply say that if people make application for damages, and can prove their claims, they will get the full amount. That would not apply unless damage was done to their property.1 It is the business of this Parliament to protect the interests of the Commonwealth, and of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. Surely, therefore, we could insert a clause, or an amendment to what the Bill already provides, that if it is found that, instead of damage there has been benefit to the owner, there should be no compunction with respect to the party concerned having to pay the penalty. It is a very fine principle to introduce into such legislation as this. The Minister has not caught the real point.
– I have caught the point. I have no desire to limit our rights under the Bill at all. “
– Why not accept an amendment which will not interfere with any application for compensation? If there are applicants who may find their lands improved rather than damaged, and if they have already initiated an endeavour to get something to which they are not entitled, then, while they may think they are the victims of injustice, we should remember that it is our duty to give justice to the people of Australia. We ask that the two cases which have already been started shall be put upon the same footing as that of any other land-holder who may claim hereafter. I have sympathy for a landholder who has possibly suffered damage but who has said, “ This railway, while actually doing my land and prospects some amount of immediate harm, will, on the whole, benefit me; and, in the general interest, therefore, I will let the matter’ of compensation go.”
– He would be wise to let it go, if he knows that the railway is benefiting him.
– Take the case of a man who, in a genuine, publicspirited manner, allows his possibly just claim to go. Of course, I cannot see, personally, how it would be possible for a railway to damage grazing property. We were told, when this Bill originally came before us, that the Commonwealth had been given a quarter, of a mile on each side of the railway. If there is any case for compensation, therefore, it should not concern us.
– They are claiming for water rights which have been taken from them.
– I do not care what the claim is. There was a clear statement, at the time I voted for the Bill originally, that the Commonwealth Government would be given a quarter of a mile on each side.
– They have gone outside the quarter-mile for their water purposes in some cases.
– Then, that is a different matter ; and if the railway has injured more than it has benefited them, their claim has weight. But we want to look out for the greedy litigant. Such parties should always be exposed, and their opportunities should be by legislation cut down to the limit. Is it not a fair principle to say, when dealing with a big subject such as this, that any applicant, if he fails to prove damage, shall lose; while, if he succeeds in proving damage, he shall win ? And, if the Commonwealth can prove that an applicant is benefiting as the result of the building of the line, he should certainly not be in a position to secure compensation. I would like the Government to introduce the betterment principle. That would not only affect the man through whose land the line has passed, but all owners would be brought in where it could be shown that they had benefited. That would help to make the railway pay.
– I think Senator Gardiner and I are in perfect agreement. I certainly agree with a great deal of what he says; but there is a little misunderstanding, for which. I may be personally responsible. There are no limitations in the Bill in regard to what Senator Gardiner has put forward. The point is that a proclamation has been issued. After hearing the debate, however, and noting that honorable senators are of opinion that we should take these two cases, despite that they are now before the Court, I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister responsible, and suggest that the litigants concerned be treated in the same manner as all other applicants for compensation. But there are no limitations to the betterment principle in this Bill. That will be dealt with by proclamation. I undertake to report - if it be so - that it is the desire of the Senate that all applicants shall be treated alike.
– It would be very much better if clause 4 were amended, to state distinctly what the Minister has just enunciated. It is all very well to make representations in a verbal way, but if we insert an amendment, we shall know where we are.
– If you can show me one word to make that clause wider, I will accept it.
– That could be done by adding the words, “ and the provisions of this section shall apply to any claims now before the Court.”
– It is already in this Bill - “where any land held under lease is required.”
– That does not specifically deal with the cases at all.
– It. deals with all land where it says “ any land.” It provides for all land of any description within half-a-mile on each side of the railway.
– Does it provide, “ and which has been acquired “ ? You have not those words.
– I move-
That the following words be added, “and the provisions of this section shall apply where claims have already been made for compensation.”
It must be remembered that at the present time the Commonwealth owns four railways, all of which are being conducted at a substantial loss. The return furnished only a few days ago by the Minister in charge of this Department showed that on the Northern Territory railways, the Queanbeyan to Canberra railway, and the Oodnadatta railway, a very large annual loss is being incurred. The loss on the east- west line will probably amount to £250,000 a year. In these circumstances, it ought to be our aim to see that no unnecessary outgoings are allowed. To my mind,the, value of the land between Port Augusta and Tarcoola has been very greatly enhanced by the construction of the transcontinental line. I am of opinion that in every case the land-holders in that locality have derived a considerable benefit. The Government of Western Australia have generously given the Commonwealth a strip of land, a quarter of a mile wide, on either side of the railway from the South Australian border to Kalgoorlie. Consequently, this Bill can apply only to lands between Tareoola and Port Augusta. I repeat that the construction of this line has immensely added to the value of these lands, and will continue to do so. Personally, I do not believe in the betterment principle, which the . Government ‘ have adopted in this Bill. It is entirely unsatisfactory to me. I should like to see a flat rate levied upon land values, in proportion to advantages received, so that all interested persons would be obliged! to pay it.
– I was particularly impressed by the speech of SenatorFairbairn, and also by the Minister’s reply to it and to the criticism of Senator Gardiner. The Minister stated that if we could suggest an amendment to the clause which would include the two cases now before the Court, he would be prepared to accept it. Consequently, I wish to move -
That after the word “ required,” the words- “ or has been acquired “ be inserted.
The amendment, if adopted, will meet the wishes of Senator Fairbairn.
– No. This clause does not deal with compensation at all.
– The Minister asked honorable members to suggest an amendment which would cover the two cases now before the Court.
– I did not.
– This land has been acquired-
– The clause we are now considering deals only with the gazetting and the vesting of the land.
– But there may be in it some governing words which can be followed in dealing with the question of compensation.
– The amendment is not applicable to this clause, because no land has yet been acquired. We have only had a permissive occupancy. The land has not yet been transferred. This Bill is to permit of the transfer of lands’, from the States to the Commonwealth. But no land has yet been acquired by the Commonwealth.
– In that case I will not press the amendment.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria-Vice- - This Bill seeks to impose no such limitations such as Senator Grant has advocated. But the Minister who was in charge of the measure in the other Chamber stated that, in regard to the two cases now before the Court, no proclamation will be issued. I have promised to ask him to reconsider that matter, and to practically remove from the law Court the cases now before it, and to apply to them a retrospective Act of Parliament. But no words can widen the clause we are now considering, which embraces all the land that we desire to transfer under any conditions. If it be possible to bring the land-owners, whose cases have been mentioned to-day, under the provisions of this Bill, I shall be glad to do so.
– I am not at all satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister, and, consequently, I intend to adhere to my. amendment.
– I want to remind Senator Grant that the clause now under consideration deals merely with the transfer of these lands from the States of South Australia and Western Australia to the Commonwealth. The honorable senator is himself enthusiastically in favour of that transfer, and I appeal to him to withdraw his amendment. When we get possession of these lands under this measure, we can subsequently do as we please with them by other Acts of this Parliament.
– It is possible that my amendment might be more conveniently moved upon a later clause of the Bill. Perhaps it would be better if I moved it in connexion with clause 13, but if I find it cannot be introduced there I shall ask for the , recommittal of the Bill in order that it shall be made clear that persons who have already made claims for compensation in respect of these lands shall come under the provisions of this measure. For the time being I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 12 agreed to.
Where any claim for ‘ compensation has been referred to the arbitrator in accordance with this Act, and the arbitrator find3 that the enhancement in value of the remainder, of the lands included in the lease, arising by reason of the construction of the railway, exceeds the compensation payable under this Act, the arbitrator may order the claimant to pay to the Commissioner the amount by which the enhancement exceeds the compensation.
– Although I suppose we are all opposed to retrospective legislation, it seems to rae that it is not possible to regard such a proposal as I make in connexion with this Bill as legislation of a retrospective character. I move -
That after the word “ compensation “, line 1, the words “ has been cited or “ be inserted.
– That will leave out all the claims that have not been cited.
– No; it will have the effect of bringing the cases now before the Court under the operation of this clause.
– Whilst it will affect the two cases that have been cited, it will not affect any one of the ninety-nine cases that have not been cited.
– Surely the Minister can remedy that by a further amendment of the clause.
– I am satisfied with the clause as it stands.
– I do not know the particulars of the two cases that have been referred to, but I am satisfied that the properties concerned have been considerably enhanced in value by the construction of the railway, and will be enhanced in value by the expenditure of the Commonwealth in maintaining and working it, and I have no desire that that enhancement in value shall go either to the owners of these lands or to the South Australian Government. If the Minister can suggest a better amendment than that which I have moved to cover claims already made for compensation, I shall be prepared to accept it. If the two claims which have been referred to are dealt with by the Court, it is possible that the claimants may secure damages against the Commonwealth Government, though their land.s may have been enhanced in value to an amount in excess of their claims for compensation.
– I fully indorse the principle that any person whose land has been enhanced in value by the construction of a railway should compensate the people who find the taxation to meet the expenditure upon the railway, but that is not the point at issue in connexion with this particular clause. Senator Grant’s amendment would compel the Minister to take the two cases which have -been referred to, and which are before the Court, out of the hands of the Court, in order to apply to them the betterment principle. It should not be forgotten that the claimants in these cases have acted honestly under the law, and their claims will be determined under the Lands Acquisition Act of 1911, which provides for a mutual arrangement between the claimant and the Minister, failing that, a determination by a magistrate, and, failing that, an appeal to the High Court. I believe that we were wrong when we did not take the course proposed by this Bill in dealing with the Lands Acquisition Act of 1911, but the fact remains that the cases which have been cited have to he decided under the existing law. It will be agreed that it would be a very serious departure for any Democracy, by the passing of an Act of Parliament, to invade a Court of law, and take cases referred to it out of its hands. We might lose £5,000 or £10,000 in connexion with these cases, but that would be nothing compared to the gravity of such a violation of a Court of law as Senator Grant proposes. When a man, who believes that he is entitled to compensation, has made an appeal to a Court of law, surely we are not going by our legislation to take his case out of the hands of the Court. On the principle of the assessment, I am with honorable senators. I believe it is sound, and that there is no answer to it ; but I would point out to honorable senators that the possible saving to the Commonwealth in the one or two cases involved would be too great a price to pay for the purity of our Courts of Justice. I, therefore, ask honorable senators to vote, not on the question of the betterment principle, but on the question whether it is right to take out of the Court one or two cases that are now before it and bring them under this Bill.
. - I do not see that we can amend the clause, which, as it stands, apparently embraces every case. According to Senator Russell, the Minister in charge of the Bill in another place said that when he issued the proclamation bringing the clause into force he intended to exempt the two cases now before the Court. We ought to accept the Minister’s assurance that he will do all he can to give effect to the feeling of the Senate that those two cases should not be exempt. It would be disastrous, as he says, to inter fere with proceedings that are before the Court; but those proceedings appear to me to be in the nature of an action to recover damages from the Government. I do not think the betterment system has been before the Court at all.
– If a case was pending in Court between the Australian Workers Union and the Pastoralists Union, how would you like an amendment of the Arbitration Act to be introduced? Would it be fair?
– The betterment question is not pending before the Court. That is a question which we are bringing in now. If the position is as Senator Russell puts it, I have no more to say; but I feel that we should not be interfering in any Court proceedings. I do not see why anybody should be exempted from a proclamation bringing clause 13 into effect, simply because he happens to be suing the Government for something else. I trust Senator Russell will bring the feeling of the Senate on this matter strongly before the Minister in another place, in order that no one may be exempted from the operation of clause 13.
.- With the Minister, I feel strongly that it would be unjust for Parliament to interfere with cases that are sub judice.
– I quite agree, but I understand that these cases are not.
– If they are not, then they come under the operation of the proclamation which is to be issued. If the cases are sub judice, it would be an evil action on the part of Parliament to enact a law giving the Government something which it could not get under the existing law.
– I have only to withdraw this Bill, and every one of the cases will come under the existing law.
– ! understand that that would be the State law. The Government say that, under the present law, the Commonwealth cannot get justice in dealing with claims for compensation for injury sustained through the construction of the railway. Hence this Bill is being placed on the statute-book. But the fault rests with the Administration of the day that such a law was not in existence before any such claims could possibly be made. As that Administration neglected to pass a law which the present Administration find necessary, the Commonwealth must suffer the loss. I am not particularlykeen on the principle of exchange of the betterment for the injury of land through the construction of a railway, because it cannot be made equitable on all the parties concerned. If a ‘railway is constructed through a man’s estate, it will be of no use to him if there are no stations on his estate. If he had a- station on it, three or four other land-owners whose land was not interfered with by the railway would receive the same betterment, and yet go scot free. The only way in which the State can equitably and fairly get compensation for the betterment of the land is by the unimproved land tax.
– With no graduations or exemptions?
– That is a question which would have to be considered in the light of the interests of the nation and of the industry the land-owners are following. The Minister said the principle of exchange was . unchallengeable. It is not, particularly where there are small holdings. One man’s property may be seriously injured by the construction of the railway, and the same property may be enhanced in value, so the two things about balance, but a dozen other landowners may have their land increased in value from 10 to 30 per cent., and contribute absolutely nothing towards the cost of construction. I am inclined, in all the circumstances, to vote for the Bill as it stands. It is a pity if one or two cases have got in early, but we have no right to enact a law now* to make ultra vires the law under which those proceedings were instituted. ^
– We are not proposing anything of the kind.
– We are. If we bring certain cases now sub judice under a Bill which is not yet law, people will never know where they are from day to day.
– We are not taking from them their right to claim damages.
– We are.
– Not at all. That is what I cannot understand.
– We are allowing those people to make a claim for damages, but we are also saying to them that if the improvement of their estate is greater than the damage assessed, they shall pay to instead of receiving from the Commonwealth.
– That is quite right. It is a really good idea.
– If it is so sound, what about those persons who” receive equal benefits from the construction of the railway but suffer no direct damage for which they can claim compensation ? If we so amend the Bill as to- include the cases now before the Court we shall create a very serious precedent which I am not inclined to vote for, although I regret that one or two persons have been given the opportunity to escape a law which will ultimately apply to every’ one else concerned.
– Senator Earle’s remarks have a tendency to cloud the real issue. It is not proposed to prevent any land-owner securing damages for injury suffered by him through the construction of the railway. This Chamber, and, in fact,, all Australian Parliaments, have always been far too mealy-mouthed with the Fairbairns and other land-owners of this country. Land-sharking and land monopoly is the most ancient and most revered industry _ in the Commonwealth.
– I am fighting with you to-day.
– I do not quite care about the honorable senator’s attitude. The test of his sincerity will come when the amendment goes to a division. All we ask is that, if it is shown that instead of the land-owner having suffered damage, the remainder of his estate has been greatly enhanced in value, he shall hand over to the Commonwealth the added value given to his land by the expenditure of borrowed money by the Commonwealth. Senator Earle believes that that is the right thing to do, because he is in favour of . the betterment principle, but because this is only a little piecemeal business he proceeds to cloud the issue. I realize that other leaseholders, whose holdings are almost adjacent to the strip of land a quarter of a mile on each side of the railway, might also have their holdings enhanced in value, and that, under this Bill, they would not be called upon to pay anything at all. We are not dealing with them at present, but I hope that later, when Parliament is confronted with the necessity of getting more revenue by taxation, the land-holders of Australia will be dealt with in a much more equitable manner than has been the case in the past. No injury would be done to anybody by the proposal mow before the Committee. lt appears that certain leaseholders realized there was a chance to get damages from the Commonwealth without the prospect of suffering loss themselves, so they decided to make claims under the existing law, with the result that the Government, realizing the inequitable nature of existing legislation, have asked for authority to proclaim all land along the railway line on the South Australian side, excepting those lands in respect of which two claims are already before the Court. This legislation is not distinctly retrospective in character. There is no proposal to’ rob anybody. The object is to prevent somebody else from, possibly, robbing the Commonwealth, and, in submitting my amendment to secure justice for the Commonwealth Government, I claim the support of Senator Fairbairn, as a fairminded land-owner.
– I am sorry I cannot agree with Senator Earle. As Senator Grant has put it, there is no intention to interfere in any way with the two cases referred to. The Government have brought forward a fresh principle in legislation, and affirm that, in cases where there has been enhancement in value, the land-holders shouldpay some small amount ‘ to the revenue. I hope it will not be very much, because I think we owe a deep debt of gratitude to those men who have gone out into- the wilderness and taken up holdings. We have nothing whatever to do with the cases before the Court. They will be settled without any interference by the Commonwealth Government. Why should’ two people, because they happen to have cases before the Court, be exempt? If a man were charged with cattle stealing, would the Government fail to take .action simply because his case happened to be before a Court? In regard to this betterment principle, why should the measure we are now considering constitute a bar to the Crown asking those then who have lodged claims to share with other landholders in any payments .that may be due to the Crown?
– Their land will be acquired in the same manner as other land has been acquired since the establishment of the Commonwealth.
– So long as they are not to be treated differently from any one else, I shall be satisfied. I am sorry I cannot vote for Senator Grant’s amendment, because I do not think ifc deals with the cases referred to at all. Ifr by proclamation, it is provided that the betterment principle is not to be applied to these two cases, they will, I think, be improperly exempted from the operation of the clause, which I regard as perfectly fair.
– I think the landownerscan be trusted at all times to see that they do not suffer damage without an appeal to the Court. If I thought that I wasplacing any obstacle in the way of any man getting a fair deal, I would not vote for the amendment. I am in a position different from that occupied by Senator Earle, and I can quite understand that he should be perfectly logical in his attitude. But I stand as the trustee of the people of the Commonwealth, and am not here to argue the case of any individual as against the Commonwealth, but to see that both the Commonwealth and the individual get a -fair deal.
– These people took proceedings under the Commonwealth law which the honorable senator helped to pass.
– Exactly, and the only handicap sought to be imposed on them is that, having asserted that certain damages have been suffered, they will be required to prove their case; and if on the other hand it is shown that there has been an enhancement, they will be called upon to pay something. In these circumstances we would willingly put up with a loss on the railway for some years to come, because there is a corresponding advantage in having Australia linked up by railways for defence purposes. Senator Earle argues that some injustice may be done to one individual by the amendment. There are only two cases, and I want to say that I would be with him if the amendment would prevent any man from ready access to the Courts, or if it placed any obstacle in the way of judgment being secured for damages done. But I can see no reason to anticipate injustice by a law of this kind. The Commonwealth is not claiming compensation for increased values caused by the construction of the railway. I think, however, we are neglecting our duty to the people in not making such claims, because if we could add some revenue from this source to the earnings of the railway we would not see our deficits increasing from year to year; but on the other hand we might almost expect the line to be profitable from the beginning. I did not contemplate submitting an amendment, but Senator Grant is evidently keener than I am in dealing with Government proposals, and perhaps he has a greater capacity for estimating what honorable senators will do under certain conditions.. I am now inclined to support the amendment, because the principle is big enough for which to put up a fight.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted1- put. The Committee divided’.
Ayes. . . . . . . 8
Noes . . . . . . 13
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 to 16 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 3rd May (vide page 4398), on motion by Senator Mil- len-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) on his exceedingly interesting and comprehensive speech in introducing the measure. I quite subscribe to his sentiments that this is not a party matter in any sense of the word. The Minister said in his introduction that the question of repatriation presented very many difficult problems, since it was so ill-defined. He pointed out, indeed, that there were innumerable problems within the main problem. There were, he also indicated, a variety of definitions of the word “repatriation.” In the public mind, however, there was but the one main principle, and upon that we are all agreed. The word “ repatriation ‘ ‘ covers so many meanings that it is almost impossible to give it the one exact definition, but the people look upon it as indicating the great basic principle that to those who have offered themselves on the altar of their country, and who have returned, Australia owes a great debt of gratitude, which will be, and must be, paid without demur. Every man who has considered the enormous task of replacing our troops in civil life, and in positions equivalent to those they formerly held, will agree, first, that no soldier who has been incapacitated should be worse offthan prior to his enlistment. That being agreed upon we accept a huge responsibility and face an enormous expenditure.
The Minister made a candid admission that Australia has been wanting in her duty to the returned men. That was true as well as candid. I refer to the fact that a large number of employers have been lacking in their duty. When our boys left, there were declarations on the part of . thousands of employers, among the cheers and farewells, that the places of the soldiers would be kept open for them. Unhappily those promises have been in many instances broken. The Government are not to blame, but we hope that steps, such as the Minister indicated,will be taken to remedy the matter of broken pledges. Senator Millen mentioned that in Canada repatriation is dealt with by two Ministers, and he rightly took to himself some credit for the manner in which he has covered the subject, unaided Ministerially. We, for’ our part, should see that the honorable gentleman administering this Department shall have at least our sympathy.
The principle is agreed to by the Australian people that any measure for reestablishing our fighting men shall be such that they shall not suffer pecuniary loss in comparison to their former status; nor, in fact, that they shall be called upon to accept less than a living wage. That must be retained as the one great point in agreement. The living wage should conform to the standard declared by the
Courts of Arbitration or the Wages Boards for the localities in which the repatriated, men are employed. Senator Millen referred to employment in the Afforestation Branch. There will be large numbers returning who will be particularly suited to that class of work - such as those who, formerly, were engaged in mining pursuits. Ordinarily, miners are inclined in their later years to take up occupations on the land. As an outcome of their years underground they appreciate working in the open. I, therefore, look forward to seeing very many former miners seeking employment under the repatriation scheme where they may be in the open air. The important subject of afforestation will probably suit them admirably; that is, so long as the conditions are made properly worth their while.
We must never forget the cases of those who will not be in a position to earn a living wage. The Minister will find every honorable senator in full agreement that it would be far better, rather than permitting them to live in. idleness upon the Government payment, to supplement such pay by earnings from whatever light occupations they can be taught to undertake.
There are many points of great interest throughout Senator Millen’s comprehensive speech. It is one, indeed, which I have read, not once, but many times, because of the absorbing nature of its contents. An important phase was that dealing with the proposition to place in a colony men who, to quote the Minister, are “ more or less crippled.” That is one of the Minister’s “ uncharted seas,” which he graphically pictured. It will be purely an experiment. Whatever is done may have to be undone, or drastically remedied in a very little while. I am inclined to believe that it would be a good thing to give it a trial in suitable spots. I believe the outcome of establishing such a colony would be successful. Such men would be the better placed for taking advantage of the instruction provided in order that the cripples might be able to earn something in addition to the Government payment. I am inclined to believe that we should try that experiment.
– Would it not be much better to have them mixed up with the general population?
– That is purely a matter of opinion. In a general way. I believe that the experiment of grouping together in colonies these more or less crippled soldiers is one which is well worth trying. I think that a saving of expenditure would be effected in that way, although I confess that circumstance does not weigh with me as much as do other considerations. If the experiment were found to be unsatisfactory, it would be quite an easy matter to adopt the other system.
– Is the honorable senator referring to men who may be settled upon the land?
– No. I am speaking of men who are more or less crippled, and for whom something must be done in the way of making them efficient in various occupations. My own idea is that it would be much better to establish colonies for many of these men. The Minister’s speech, I am glad to say, was a very comprehensive one, and I welcome this Bill as an honest attempt to deal with the greatest problem that has ever confronted Australia. Our task is to restore to civil life those men who have risked so - much for their country. Everybody will- admit that these individuals ought not to be penalized simply because they had sufficient courage to “do their bit “ in defence of Australia and of the Empire. Whatever may be the cost involved in our repatriation scheme, the generous people of this country will be glad to pay it
-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [4.54]. - I listened with very great interest to the exhaustive speech by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) in introducing this Bill. Although I do not agree with many of the chief principles embodied in it, I confess that the Minister’s comprehensive statement evidenced that he had bestowed a very great deal of thought upon his exceedingly difficult task. It showed that all phases of the problem had been carefully considered. Except in one particular, the simile which he employed of “an amateur crew navigating the ship Repatriation through an uncharted sea “ may be regarded as a perfectly ‘accurate one. That exception is that the skipper of the vessel cannot, by any means, be regarded as an amateur.
– We are all amateurs at this job.
-Colonel BOLTON. - In preparing regulations dealing with repatriation, the honorable gentleman has brought his large experience to bear in the direction of window-dressing them in a way which, is calculated to command the approval of the uninitiated public. I am not prepared just now to offer any lengthy criticism of the Bill. The association with which I have the honour to be” connected is pledged to assist the Minister to its utmost in his very difficult undertaking, and I am glad to learn from the regulationswhich have been prepared that he has now adopted one or two suggestions which were made by that body last year. For instance, I note that he has provided formuch more generous treatment of soldiers’ dependants than obtained formerly. I am pleased to observe that he has also recognised, though somewhat tardily, that the question of pensions is inseparable from that of repatriation. I yet hope to see adopted many more of the’ amendments’ which I outlined last year. My difficulty with the Minister is that he does not appear to want any help.
– I want help, but I want constructive criticism.
– The Minister cuts his own track through the tangled skein, regardless of what may be the experience of others who have devoted a great deal of time to this question. Some fifteen months ago, at a congress of returned soldiers which was held in Sydney, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) delivered an address, in which he stated definitely that repatriation was a very difficult problem - that it was not a business undertaking, but a work which could not be carried out’ by bowelless officialdom. He also affirmed that it was a task which required sympathetic understanding and administration. He added that the returned soldiers themselves should have much to say and much to do with this great undertaking. My complaint is that returned soldiers have not had much to say or much to do with this scheme of repatriation, which affects them more than it does anybody else. I am perfectly satisfied that the Minister is anxious to do what is right, and I admit that the regulations and the Act provide for all reasonable requirements. But a difficulty arises from the administration of the regulations.
While the Minister was speaking the other day I made a very pertinent interjection. I asked him how the appointments to his staff were made, and whether applications had been called for them. Obviously, the success of this scheme depends entirely upon the officials who are intrusted with its administration. Yet Senator Millen stated that he himself had appointed those officials. I ask honorable senators whether it is possible for him to have brought to bear that experience which he ought to have possessed in the making of those appointments ?
– What is the honorable member’s suggestion ?
– The Returned Soldiers’ Association offered a suggestion to the honorable gentleman last year, but it was not accepted.
– What was it?
.- The association which I represent is organized throughout Australia, and there is no body betterable to form a judgment as to the capacity of a returned soldier to efficiently discharge the administrative work of the Department than it is. It merely asked the Minister’s permission to submit to him a list of those who were eligible for this work.
– Pardonme, the association claimed the right to nominate men.
– To nominate for the Minister’s consideration.
– A little more than that.
– I say, without hesitation, that the honorable gentleman has experienced difficulties by reason of the fact that he himself had appointed returned soldiers to various positions in the absence of recommendations by the Returned Soldiers’ Associa-‘ tion, which would have been of great value. Thus failure has been invited in certain instances. Of course, I realize the Minister’s difficulty, and our organization has been specially created to help him. But my difficulty is that he does not want help.
It must be admitted that, on the face of it, the regulation providing for sustenance for married and single returned soldiers is most generous and most liberal, and must command the approval and satisfaction of all concerned. But I ask honorable senators to consider what happens when this regulation is put into practice. A single man, a returned soldier, is out of work, andhe says, “‘Here is a regulation which declares that while I am out of work I am to receive £2 2s. per week sustenance.” He goes down to the Repatriation Office to make Inquiries on the subject, and he is told that he must register his name as an applicant for employment, and if the Government are unable to supply him with work they will give him the £2 2s. per week susten- ence. But it. takes the officials some time to arrive at a decision, since they have to make inquiries, and obtain par- ticulars concerning the applicant. That seems to. me to be putting the cart before the horse. If a returned soldier, single or married, is hard up and is honestly looking for work, the first thing the Government should do, if the assistance promised is to be of any value to him, is to put the money in his hands, if he has aclaim to it, and then look for work for him.
– Is not that just what they do? The only thing they ask is that the man’s claim to the sustenance shall be demonstrated.
.-They ask him first of all to apply for work, and they waste time in looking for work for him before they give him the £2 2s. per week.
– The only time occupied is in demonstrating that the applicant is a discharged soldier, and is what he pretends to be.
– Individual cases have come under my notice, and men have complained to me that they have gone down to the Repatriation Office day after day, and have waited there for many hours without getting any satisfaction, and that it may be a week before they learn whether they are to be given a job or to receive any sustenance. In the meantime some of these men require assistance to enable them to purchase the necessaries of life for themselves or their wives and families. If the gift of sustenance is to be of any use to these men itshould be given to them when they most need it, and they should not “be kept hanging around the Repatriation Office expecting it.
The Minister made some references to the proposal for the settlement of returned soldiers upon the land, and I think he put it very mildly indeed when he said that he was not satisfied with results so far. I have ample evidence to show that there seems to be no settled policy or method of dealing with this question. There is in every one of the States chaos, to a greater or lesser extent, in connexion with it. It must be considered from two points of view. First of all, I would say that unless the Federal Parliament is prepared to accept the financial responsibility of the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, and also the responsibility of administering the proposal, instead of placing the administration in the hands of a third party,, little satisfaction can. be expected. I know that during the consideration of the original measure the Minister explained that arrangements in connexion with this phase of the work of repatriation were made with the State Governments because they could make use of the machinery of their Lands Departments, and they would be able to overcome the difficulties arising from the varying provisions of land legislation in the different States. This difficulty could, however, only apply in cases where Crown lands are being dealt with for the settlement of returned soldiers. It could not apply to Government resumptions of private property for the purpose. Generally speaking, Crown lands are of such a character that we can scarcely ask the returned soldiers of to-day to take them up for settlement. It must be remembered that no man leaves the battlefield to-day unless he is incapacitated. It is reasonable to assume that a man who is incapacitated for military service will’ not be very fit, either physically or mentally, to take the laborious responsibilities and work necessarily associated with settlement on Crown lands. There will come a time, we hope, when many hundreds and thousands of men, returning at the conclusion of the war, will be quite able, physically and mentally, to undertake such pioneering work. In the meantime, the men with whom we have to deal are returned soldiers who are incapacitated to a greater or less extent, and it is possible only by offering to these men the most liberal terms that we can expect that even a very small percentage of them will ever be able to make a living on the land. So far as I can understand, the conditions proposed for the settlement of returned soldiers on the land are not such as would induce even a small percentage of the men returning to-day to avail themselves of this means of repatriation. Honorable senators, no doubt, will have read a letter which appeared in the Argus a day or two ago, in which the statement was made that a returned soldier, who ‘had been settled on a piece of land for the last two years, raised last year a crop of 80 tons of potatoes, for which he received scarcely enough to pay for the bags. There is not much encouragement to returned soldiers to go on the land under those conditions.
The complicated course which the returned soldier is asked to follow in order to discover whether he can obtain land for settlement or not, is astounding, and, to use a phrase which was used here a little time ago, is almost paralyzing. I have a letter from a returned soldier dealing with this subject. I saw this man, who is a clean, wholesome, energetic chap, anxious to do something, and that he should not be a burden on the State. Here are the difficulties with which he was faced. These are facts, and I invite the attention- of the Minister for Repatriation to them, in order that he may, realize what men, who are perfectly sincere and real triers, have to go through to secure land. This man writes to me as follows : -
I returned from active service in March, 1917. I have had two and a half years abroad in this war, and was through the Anglo-Boer war.
– Is this a case that occurred in Victoria?
.- Yes. The writer continues -
I have been used to farming all my life, and I know the game in all its’ branches. I obtained a qualification certificate from the Closer Settlement ‘Board, and had a lot of difficulty to get near the heads. It took me four days waiting before I could see any of the officials of the Board. In the end, I had to wait outside the door until 0 o’clock at night. I posted myself as a sentry, and watched the door until the officers came out. I then got the qualification certificate. That was in March, but I have not been able to get any land yet. I have been all over Victoria looking for land, and. I could get no satisfaction until I called on the General Secretary of the Central Council of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. I could not find any one that could, or would, try to help me, and I got some information then how to proceed, but I did not get any nearer the land that I wanted. I am rather disgusted now, and it seems all they want me to do is to spend all my money looking for land and then put up a swag and go out and. get a job from another farmer. I do not see that I should be expected to do that. I hear all the talk about settling returned soldiers. Well, sir, if they settle many more in the way they have me, the gaols and lunatic asylums will be their main settlement. Therefore, although I do not intend to worry any more about land, I am sending you this letter to ask. you to try and save others being fooled as I have been. All this talk about settlingreturned soldiers on the land should be devoted to settling them under the land. It is a joke, and I am sick of that sort of joking. I have had quite enough of it. The only land I have ever owned is that which I have thrown over my shoulder on a shovel, and all I ever seem likely to get is an area of 6 x 2, and I have thousands of mates that got that in Egypt and Gallipoli. Their ghosts walk in the night like the “Angels of Mons,” calling out for land to live on. I am representing the ghosts of our dead mates, and we want land, and good land. We have fought for it. Will you help us to get it?
That letter will give honorable senators some idea of the difficulties which confront returned men anxious to do something in securing land for settlement. It shows quite clearly that the Minister’s statement that the results of the land settlement proposals have not been satisfactory was a very mild statement indeed. The honorable senator has promised to have a conference called to deal with this question, and I ask that there should be at that conference not only Ministers of the different States, but some practical men who have been looking for land, and who can let the conference know what their experience has been. That experience might be a guide as towhat should be done to remedy the present unsatisfactory, unjust, and unfair situation in connexion with the land settlement proposals.
Another man who writes to me to-day explains that with every change of Government in a State there appears to be a change of policy in connexion with the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. ‘ The writer of this letter is a discharged soldier, whose incapacity is of such a character that his doctors have ordered that he should have some kind of light outdoor employment. This man has a certificate from Mr. Hawkins, who was recently a poultry expert in the employ of the Victorian Government. He has been trying to obtain 5 acres of land for a poultry farm, and has been unable to get it. He says that the present State Government of Victoria will not arrange for land settlement upon an area of less than 10 acres. It seems quite absurd that a returned soldier possessing the necessary qualifications and experience, and desiring 5 acres of land for a poultry farm, should be unable to get it.
– Why does the Victorian Government decline to settle men on a lesser area than 10 acres?
.- That I am unable to say. The writer of this letter says -
The experience of many men is that under the present conditions it means months of patient waiting, and then often disappointment. The present policy of leaving land settlement of soldiers in the hands of State Boards is wrong. As the Commonwealth finds the money, it also should assume the responsibility of settlement. Hie policy of the State Boards varies with the different Ministries, and ‘So thc men are at the mercy of newfangled ideas that come with the change. The present avowed policy of the Victorian Settlement Board is not to settle soldiers on small areas, namely, under 10 acres. There is, therefore, to be no suburban settlement. Poultry as a proposition for returned men is “ cut out.” A large number of men have returned broken in health, and poultry farming, coupled with the small industries, has been recommended to the men by the military doctors. Yet, even when a man is well recommended by experts, and has a good knowledge of the business, he cannot secure a holding.
That shows, in some measure, the difficulties which honest triers- are meeting in their desire to settle upon the land. The Minister for Repatriation should demand and accept more responsibility in regard to the administration of the land policy.
Another important question is the treatment of the wives and families of soldiers who are fighting at the Front. Many most distressing cases have been brought under my notice; one of a married woman with five children, <whose husband has been fighting at the Front for two years. So long as fortune favoured her, and she had good health, she was just able to scrape along on the separation allowance and the allowance made by her husband. One of my officials only last Saturday paid a visit to her house, and found that she was. laid up in bed, and had been so for some time. She had to pay doctor’s fees and get medicine. She had applied to the various charitable institutions’ for ‘ assistance, and was. unable to secure it.
This official was so affected bv the conditions he found there that he went straight away and spent 17s. out of his own pocket to buy medical comforts and medicines for her. That sort of thing should not exist. They tell me that there are the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic Fund and the War Councils in the various States, whose functions are the amelioration of the conditions of such people, and I invite the attention of the Government to the state of things referred to in the letters I have in my hand, so that they may take a more direct, interest in, and, if need be, a more direct control over, these amelioration funds. There is much’ talk nowadays of organized effort in business and other directions, and surely no subject demanda the sympathy, and even the duty in organized effort, of the community more than the needs of the wives and children of soldiers who are away fighting for us to-day. This aspect of the situation also is very serious from the recruiting point of view, and I again invite the attention of the Government to the functions of the War Councils and the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic. Fund in dealing with such cases.
– I take this measure to be an effort to clothe the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) with powers which, he finds to be necessary, in addition to those given to him by the principal Act; but I by no means expect it to be the final legislative effort in this direction. The Repatriation Department is a new one, and has been confronted with an immense amount of work, to which all its officers are almost entire strangers. I, therefore, do not expect them to give entire, satisfaction either to themselves or to the men with whom they are dealing; but we must remember that in olden times soldiers returned from the wars were frequently very harshly dealt with, and many of them had to beg their living, after having fought for their country. I am told that many of those who went from Australia to the .South African war have not yet received payment in respect of claims that many of them made; but that war has passed into history. We are now making an effort to deal satisfactorily with those who have returned, and those who will return, from the present Euro- pean war. I have read the lengthy and comprehensive address of the Minister for Repatriation, who, so far as I can see, has covered the ground up to the present in a fairly satisfactory way. As, however, the war will probably last for a number of years yet, we may expect that many more men will go, and that the number of returned men will increase from week to week, so that fresh problems will present themselves, and fresh efforts will have to be made to meet them.
I was rather glad to hear Senator Bolton recite the difficulties that confronted a returned soldier in his efforts to secure a small piece of land in Victoria. I have more than once commented on that question in this chamber, and hope later on to have Senator Bolton’s support for proposals, not perhaps embodied in this Bill, but that may be necessary to make land available for those who have fought for Australia. But for the fact that men, including those who have left Australia, have been prepared to take up arms in defence of .the British Empire, we should have no British Empire today, and probably Germany would be in possession of the whole of our Dominions. It is, therefore, only to those who have taken up .arms ‘and gone abroad that any credit of a practical character is due, and we should be determined that, when they return, if they want a small share of Australia to live on and produce wealth from for themselves and. their families, ample opportunities shall be made for them to secure it. The case quoted by Senator Bolton is typical of many that show clearly and distinctly the almost impossibility of securing’ even a limited number of acres in the whole of the Commonwealth suitable for a returned soldier.
– “Whilst you and Senator Bolton agree as to the existence of the evil, do you agree as to the remedy to apply?
– I am afraid that Senator Bolton does not yet understand the question in the way that Senator Millen does. Senator Millen understands it thoroughly, but he is tied up with the so-called National party. If he were free to express his opinions he would stand up in this chamber-
– But he has been free.
– He is not free now. He has to obey the Caucus of the Liberal party, and make no comments on this vital question. He has to acquiesce tacitly in the fact that a returned soldier is unable, in the whole State of Victoria, to secure a few acres of land whereon to start a poultry farm, or engage in small farming operations. I hope, now that the question has been brought before Senator Bolton in this concrete fashion, the fact that a man who has gone to fight for Australia cannot secure a single yard of Australia when he comes back will sink into his mind, and compel him to inquire the reason. I trust, also, that when he finds the true remedy, he will not be like Senator Millen - afraid to express it. A man who has gone to the Front and fought, like Senator Bolton, is a courageous man, and ought not to be tied down by the shackles of the Liberal Caucus. He should be game to express his opinions. When he has studied the question, and is as well informed on it as Senator Millen is, I hope Senator Bolton will open out, and tell the Senate what is necessary to bring the land into use. In order that he may not forget, I may tell him now that a measure of straightout land value taxation will do it.
I recognise that the Minister has a very difficult duty to perform. More than 50,000 men have already returned, every one of whom was militarily unfit. All of them have had, in a certain way, to go through the Repatriation Department, and some 26,000 of them have had to be helped either by the Department or by some of the other bodies which are endeavouring to assist those who return. Those figures should give us some idea of the work the Department has been called upon, and will be called upon, to perform. I understand that already the Department has expended about £328,000, and the other associations approximately £1,000,000. The amount the Departmenthas spent, however, is only a trifle compared with what it must ultimately spend. I hope the Department will deal with these men in the most lenient fashion. If they are sent to employment, and fail to keep their jobs, I trust the Department will not hesitate to reinstate them on the pay sheets until they secure other employment. The position of the man who won’t work, or is determined to go slow, is entirely different from that of the man who has returned incapacitated. The latter may think he is fit to work, but may collapse the moment he begins to do something useful. A man of that kind should be taken back again and again, and given every possible encouragement by the Repatriation Committee.
– A man in that condition should not be asked to work.
– Some of them think they can work, and will insist on going to work, just as boys at school break their hearts to get away to work when they should be kept at school. It will be found that many of these men will insist on beginning work before they are really fit to do it, and they should be dealt with in the most lenient manner by the Repatriation Committee or the Minister in charge of the Department.
I expect the officering of the Department will cost an immense amount of money, but we should not begrudge this expenditure. I intend at a later stage to ask for a return giving the names of those who are already employed on the staffs of the various State Committees, their remuneration, and so on. because I think we ought to have this -information at an early date, and we ought to be told very frequently how we are standing financially with regard to our repatriation scheme. I have every confidence that the Department will be administered in the best interests of those who return.
I am glad to know that an attempt is to be made to deal with the position of apprentices upon their return from the Front. A considerable number of young men who had not completed their apprenticeship when they volunteered for active service will be over the age of twentyone years when they return. They can scarcely be regarded as apprentices, but I Understand it is the intention of the Minister to provide that when these men obtain employment they will have access to technical schools, and if unable to earn the recognised union wage, to pay them the difference between that amount and the sum they earn. . If this is done it will go a long way towards getting over the difficulty created when they severed their apprenticeship. It cannot be expected that an employer, who secures his contracts in competition with other employers, and has to run his business in competition with others, should be re quired to pay returned apprentices the full journeymen’s’ wages, when he could not get in return the full value of a journeyman’s skill. If, in addition to paying apprentices the difference between the amount they earn and the recognised union wage, the Government also provide technical establishments for their instruction, we may expect the men soon to become competent tradesmen, and that the general scheme will be more satisfactory in its operation.
I am not quite sure what the Minister proposes to do with regard to men who may be physically incapable of earning the standard wage,, but I understand that it has been suggested that workshops of a semi-national character should be established for their employment, and that suitable provision should be made for married men with obligations, so that they will receive the difference between the amount they earn and the standard wages. This ought tobe done.
– It will be done.
– It will be difficult to decide whether it will be wise to keep these men by themselves or whether they should be permitted to live amongst the ordinary citizens of the Commonwealth. I understand there has been some suggestion of segregating them from the rest of the community, but I hope this will be done only in a limited way, because I do not believe in segregating one section of the community from any other section.
– That is hardly the correct term. The question was whether we should establish something in the nature of a garden suburb, or whether, in erecting workshops, we should allow them to live where they liked.
– I realize that the segregation of workmen who are incapacitated in, one garden suburb may have many advantages, but I do not like the idea, and I hope the Minister will give this matter very careful attention before coming to a decision.
Another serious difficulty which confronts not only returned soldiers but the men who have been on the spot all the time is the enormous amount of rent they are called upon to pay for inferior house accommodation. The fact that a man has to pay 15s. to £1 a week for an ordinary house raises an almost impassable barrier, not only for the returned soldier, but for the ordinary citizen ; and I should like the Minister for Repatriation to take this matter in hand in a very drastic fashion. It would he quite easy, if we had Unification, and if the Commonwealth owned and were administering the lands of Australia, to makeprovision for our returned soldiers; hut, at the present time, the States own all the land, and, to my mind, they are not doing as much in the direction of providing homes for soldiers as might he expected of them. I am not of the opinion that we should settle every man upon the land; but every man must have some kind of a home to live in, and while it is desirable to provide for those, who are prepared to go upon the land and engage in primary occupations, it is equally desirable to see that housing facilities are available for those who prefer to live in the cities and towns of Australia. The Repatriation Committee, in my opinion, has not so far done anything of a tangible nature in this direction. The various States are doing something, and voluntary workers in many districts are lending valuable assistance; but all their efforts will not solve this problem in a satisfactory manner. I have heard that the Government contemplate the construction of a large number of houses of a standardized design on Federal property, and I point out that it would be easy for the Government, if they could induce the States to provide them with the necessary land in suitable localities, to put this work in hand. It is very unsatisfactory for a man to learn that, after having secured employment, he is obliged to pay a large amount, out of his salary as rent for the house he is occupying. The Minister knows, as well as we do, the extreme difficulty which confronts the ordinary worker in obtaining house accommodation. This difficulty is much greater in the case of the returned soldier, who, in some cases, has almost forgotten how to ask for a job, and so it will take him a long time to get back to his old position in civil life. If, by departmental action, he can be assisted in this direction, much good will be done. I believe that it is proposed to set aside 100 sites for soldiers’ homes near Sydney, and that the authorities there expect to get the work done by voluntary labour. I have not the least doubt that ultimately they will succeed, but if the money at the disposal of the Repatriation Committee could be employed in this way, and if they could put on competent men, in charge of foremen, to build houses of a standardized design, the difficulty would be solved much more satisfactorily and expeditiously. High rents are causing two families, and in some cases three families, to occupy one house. I know of one case where twentyone people are living in a five or six roomed house.
– Where ?
– In Trafalgar-street, Annandale. That is not, perhaps, typical of the actual conditions, but I know that has been done in order to escape the payment of high rents. If the Repatriation Department could acquire, land from the States, and decide upon a standardized villa design that could’ be built in the cheapest and most ‘ expeditious manner, employment could he provided and homes rapidly built for our returned soldiers. Although voluntary aid has done very much in this direction, we should not rely upon it exclusively. The Minister for Repatriation should get on the job himself. I hope he will take my remarks in good part, and endeavour to induce the various State Governments to set aside land, not necessarily for farming, but suitable for building purposes. Many people conclude that, when land is required, it is wanted for farming purposes; but a lot of people have no desire at all to go upon the land, though they may want land for home building. There are tens of thousands of vacant blocks in the metropolitan areas throughout Australia, and if some of this land were placed at the disposal of the Repatriation Committee, that body could profitably employ some portion of the money available in the erection of cheap standardized homes for our returned soldiers. It would not be necessary to build homes for all our returned men, because many of them will return to the homes which they formerly occupied. But many will not get back, and for those it will be well to at once take the matter in hand and build homes for them .
– In closing the debate I desire to express appreciation of the generally sympathetic response accorded by honorable senators, not so much to the simple Bill itself as to the general review of the activities of the Department which I had the honour to place before the Chamber. I appreciate those remarks, because I accept them as evidence on the part of honorable senators, first, of their recognition that the task has its difficulties ; and, second, of their wish, so far as they can do so, to assist those who, like myself, are attempting to solve the many problems with which the -whole subject bristles. I have never pretended that any proposals which I have submitted here could be taken as finally conclusive. The very first time I spoke on the matter in. this Chamber I pointed out that we must be prepared to shape our course to-day by the experience of yesterday, and must be ready to modify, or even to reverse, any steps already taken. I have approached the matter at this present stage in that same open spirit. I trust that ,it will not be taken as an occasion for shame if I should have to tell the Senate that the course which I urged yesterday must be abandoned to-day. Hardly a day passes during which some fresh set of circumstances does not cause me to review a judgment that I had formed but a little while before. It is only in the determination to profit by experience that we can hope ultimately to arrive at some such scheme as will approximate to that which we all desire, namely, the best possible establishment of our returned soldiers in civil life again.
Senator McDougall referred to the advisability of establishing new industries. So also did Senator Pratten. I quite agree not only as to the desirableness, but the necessity, of establishing certain new industries, to find employment for various classes of our returned soldiers. It is comparatively easy, however, to express approval of a general proposition of that nature, but it is much more difficult to determine what the new industry shall be. Last week I pointed out to the Senate one of the difficulties in this respect, that when seeking for a new industry it was not easy to find any one who could advise in an expert and detailed capacity regarding it. Being an unknown industry in Australia, there was no one who could tell anything actually necessary about it. In inaugurating an industry one needs something more than general advice; one needs the assistance of competent knowledge and . experience upon every detail, such as the class of machinery, the capital involved, the amount of labour in proportion to capital, the output, and all the hundred and one items of fact antecedent to successful establishment. Such expert advice I should feel bound to secure be- fore I could be justified in spending public money upon a new industry, and invite our soldiers to participate therein.
– You have had three years in which to inquire. Look back at the speeches of your colleague, Senator Pearce.
– I am pleased that the honorable senator shows a wise inclination to take notice of remarks of my colleague; but I point out that the. honorable senator himself has also had three years. I invite him to give me sufficient working details of any single new industry.
– I invite Senator Pearce to repeat his speech of three years ago.
– Those general remarks are interesting, but do not help us one hit.
– I am not blaming you at all.
– The honorable gentleman could not. I have endeavoured to make myself sufficiently familiar with certain industries. I have made progress in obtaining useful information. In some directions I have been obliged to seek that information abroad; but I ask the Senate to recognise that it would- be a fatal mistake to establish some new industry and cause the soldiers to spend, perhaps, three or four years in acquiring skill therein, and then to find that it was totally unsuitable. Apart from the financial loss, there would be serious injury to the soldier himself, if only in the waste of time. I am very much in earnest in trying to discover new industries, and shall appreciate the action of any citizen, either inside or outside of Parliament, who may he able to furnish information which would put me on the right track.
Senator Bolton expressed the opinion that I was not disposed to accept help;, that I had developed too pronounced a tendency to carve out my own course, and follow it alone. I am not. aware of that. There are, however, responsibilities on my shoulders; and,, after having obtained information^ from those best equipped to adviseme, I. have thereafter been compelled toaccept the responsibility of coming to a. decision for myself. And I shall neverhesitate to continue to do so. The Honor- - able senator referred to the Association^ which he represents, and expressed the desire of that very closely interested body to help me in every way possible. But my trouble with those professing willing-, ness to help me is that they, by their offers, mean that I must do what they want, and that if I do not, they then say that I do not want their help. My trouble is that among the many worthy parties advising me no two are in agreement; and among them all I have had to take the responsibility of attempting to give effect to the best among the advice tendered.
Senator Bolton referred to the offer of his Association to advise me as to the appointments to be made to the staff of the Department. It did more than that. It practically asked for the right to nominate the officers. There was only one possible answer to such a request, and any man with a knowledge of what is implied by the term parliamentary responsibility will know what that answer must be. I had to take the responsibility of making those appointments. The Returned Soldiers Association was equally free with everybody else to submit the names of candidates whom it thought suitable. But it was for me, and for nobody else, to take the responsibility of appointment. I could not transfer that to the Returned Soldiers Association. Now that body, speaking through its president, states that I do not want help, because I was not prepared to hand over to it the responsibility which Parliament had conferred on me. I hope that Senator Bolton will reconsider his attitude, and recognise that there was most certainly no option in the matter. No man would be worthy of Ministerial office if he were to allow an outside body to make appointments after this manner.
– Nominations, but not the appointments.
– The correspondence was capable of only one construction, and that was that the Association should have the right to say what men were to be employed in the Department.
– Are the men who were appointed returned soldiers ?
– As I said last week, 90 per cent, of them are returned soldiers. And of the other 10 per cent., some are officers who have been borrowed for brief periods from various public De partments. Shortly, they will go back. In addition, there were other officers who had been employed by the State War Councils prior to the advent of the Department, and it was an advantage to us, in taking over the work, to secure their experienced services.
I am anxious that Senator Bolton should understand my attitude, as he speaks for a body of men who are vitally concerned, He referred to the land question, and said the Commonwealth should take over that sphere of repatriation work from the State Governments. Suppose I listen to that advice, and say, “ Yes, the president of the Returned Soldiers Association urges me to do this.” I have no sooner met that honorable senator’s desire than I find myself confronted by Senator Pratten, who says that is the very thing I ought not to do.
– He knows nothing about land.
– I agree with Senator Pratten that it would be extremely undesirable to create a Lands Department of our own, but that we should leave it to the various State Lands Departments. Senator Bolton, however, takes the opposite point of view.
– And very’ definitely, too.
– Just so, and Senator Pratten, who is also always definite, holds equally strong views. It is between such a clash of opinion that I must take the responsibility, whether I like it or not, of coming to a decision - knowing all the time that, whichever way I decide, I must fail to meet the wishes of some of x my would-be helpers and critics. That does not mean, however, that I am not looking for help. I am. I have both Senator Bolton and Senator Pratten desiring to help me on this land question. I cannot please both, much as I should like. to.
Senator Grant referred to the absence of a housing scheme from the regulations which have so far been issued, and he expressed the fervent hope that the matter would be considered by the Commission. I remind the honorable senator, who is generally a very careful follower of the debates, that, in introducing the Bill last week, I specifically referred to this very phase of the subject as one which was now under consideration. I remarked that the Commission was trying to evolve a housing scheme, but that it was1 very complicated, and was- beset with so many difficulties that the Commission, rather than wait until the solution of the problem, had thought it better to issue that instalment of the regulations which is now out rather than delay until it had completed all its work. Prom time to time it will be necessary for the Commission to consider other questions, and from my experience of the gentlemen with whom I am fortunate enough to be associated, it will not be want of labour or sympathetic consideration if they find themselves unable to approach any phase of the problem without the confident hope of arriving at a satisfactory solution.
– Have you appointed labour agents to find employment for soldiers; and, if so, how many?
– We have a staff of men - not a very big one. I am expecting, however, that it will be able to bring employers who are seeking labour into touch with returned men who are looking for work. Quite a number of’ expedients are being adopted to meet that difficulty. One of the biggest means of assistance in that, direction would be if the employers themselves could be got into the habit, when needing men, of immediately getting into touch with the Department. I urge upon every employer the desirableness of regarding it as one of the rules of his establishment that, whenever additional assistance is required, he should immediately ‘ring up the Repatriation Department.
– Let us make it mandatory by putting it in the Bill.
– The honorable senator has a great belief in legislation. But all the legislation in the world is not worth anything in a matter of this kind. What is worth something is the cordial co-operation of the employers themselves. I believe that the matter needs only to be impressed on their minds for that co-operation to be secured. It is a little thing, which may escape the notice, of busy men. We should endeavour to create amongst the general community a feeling that it should be a point of honour to ring up the Repatriation Department whenever anybody knows of a vacancy, actual or possible, with a view to filling it. That would be the most effective labour organization we could have* I shall look to honorable senators to stress that matter whenever, in moving about; they have an opportunity to do so.
– Does the Minister find that the promises made by employers to reinstate men upon their return to this country are being fulfilled?
– It is impossible to answer that question definitely, because we have no record of the promises made. But the vast majority of the employers are honouring their promises, both in the letter and in the spirit. It would be idle to assert that there” have not been cases in which, from one cause or another, those promises have not been kept. But we find that most employers are respecting their promises ‘both in the spirit and in the letter. By that I mean to say that where a man to whom they promised reinstatement on his return has not been able to take up his duties, many firms have said, “We will take another returned soldier in his stead.” As a matter of fact, many employers are taking injured soldiers into their employ, and are finding them work to do other than that on which they were formerly engaged. I am not saying that the wings are sprouting from the shoulders of every employer, but, generally .speaking, what I have just stated has been my experience.
– The proof will be found in the number of complaints made. Is the Minister getting many complaints of breaches of pledges on the part of employers ?
– I am receiving any number of assertions, but the investigations which we have made induce me to say that the number of cases in which there is justifiable complaint is very few indeed. Just one word more, and I shall have finished. I ask honorable senators to read, not merely their own speeches - of course we all do that, as a matter of penance for having made them - but the whole of the speeches delivered during this short debate, with a view to seeing, notwithstanding the expressed desire on the part of everybody to help the Department, how much, or how little, there is in them by way of real constructive or practical suggestion.
– I suggested that the Tariff should be dealt with.
– Yes. The honorable, senator suggested that, knowing perfectly well that even if we addressed ourselves to the Tariff at once, it would take months, and possibly years, before it could he effective in creating employment for our returned soldiers.
– If we do not start dealing with the matter, we shall never finish dealing with it.
– But in the meantime it is a case of “ Live horse, grass will grow.”
– I suggested the building of homes.
– We might build a dozen homes for a man, but they would not keep him alive.
– But the building of a home will obviate the necessity for his paying rent.
– The mere building of houses will not solve the housing problem. When we talk of houses for possibly 200,000 or 300,000 men, the questions which arise demand very careful consideration. In his irresponsible way, Senator Grant would probably say that he would build a house for each soldier, and give it to him.
-i would not mind doing that.
– Iventure to say that, if we did that, it would not be many months before 90 per cent. of the houses would belong to other than returned soldiers. What happens to-day with the steady flow of the industrial population in Australia? The electoral officers have shown us that over one-third of the residents in a given suburb change their residence in the course of a few months. Why? Because the men find that their work calls them elsewhere. Are we going to prohibit a soldier from transferring his residence when his work calls him away?
– We cannot prevent that.
– Within a few months, I repeat, the vast majority of these cottages would be in the hands of other than the original holders. All these things have to be thought out. I am hopeful of evolving a scheme which will be liberal to the returned soldier, and which, at thesame time, will : be based on sound principles - a scheme for which I confidently ask Parliament to find the money.
In conclusion I have merely to intimate that in Committee I shall be only too glad to receive any suggestions which will tend towards the improvement of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Amendment of Section 8).
– A considerable number of men have left Australia as munition workers, and, in many cases, their wives desire to join them in Great Britain. I should like to know from the Minister whether, under this clause, it will be permissible to assist these wives to accomplish their desire.
– The munition workers are not covered by this Bill. They are not included in the list of beneficiaries. But, apart from that circumstance, I would point out to the honorable senator that, no matter how strong may be the desire of a wife to join her husband in England to-day, it is almost impossible for her to get there. The reason is to be found in the submarine menace, the natural disinclination of the authorities to sanction the passage of women through the danger zone, and also the difficulty of getting shipping to carry them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Amendment of Section 12).
– I am rather pleased to see the proposal in this clause to omit the words “ Governor-General “ wherever occurring, with a view to inserting the word “ Minister “ in lieu thereof. At the same time, I shall be glad if the Minister will explain the reason for the proposed alteration.
– The reason for the amendment to which the honorable senator has directed attention is a very simple one. By retaining the words “ Governor-General,” we should be obliged to gazette every point connected with, this scheme. As possibly there are several hundreds of these Committees throughout Australia, it appears to be quite unnecessary to plaster the Commonwealth Gazette with the long listthat would be necessary in the absence of the alteration which is now proposed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
After section 13 of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - “13a. - (1) The Governor-General may arrange with the Governor in Council of any State for the performance by an officer of the Public Service of the State for the Government of the Commonwealth of any work or services required to be performed under this Act.
– I should like to know why this clause is not to be brought into harmony with the preceding one. Would it not be well to substitute the word “ Minister” for “ Governor-General “ ?
– This clause provides for a compact between two Governments by which are secured the rights of an employee of a State Government who may be temporarily transferred to the Repatriation Department. We have obtained the services of one or two State officers for temporary periods. That involves the making of an agreement between the Governor-General in Council and another State or sovereign Government.
– Why do not the two classes harmonize ?
– No single Minister can make a contract with another Government. These contracts have to be made between Government and Government - that is to say, by the Executive Council, which is the Governor-General in Council in the case of the Commonwealth and the Governor in Council in the case of a State.
– Why make the alteration in one section and not in the other ?
– Because if the alteration were not made in the previous section, it would have involved the gazetting of hundreds of names, and it was considered desirable to avoid that if possible.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Improper use of gifts or loans).
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) of £100 provided for under this clause. Does the Minister not think that that is too high a penalty for any offence that is likely to be committed under the clause?
– Under the Acts Interpretation Act, wherever a penalty is set out in this form it is always the maximum penalty that can be imposed for an offence against the provision. It will be within the competence and discretion of a Court hearing a case, under the clause, to fix the penalty at any amount it pleases below that expressed. I am not wedded to the fine of £100 as a maximum penalty, but cases have arisen which justify me in asking the Committee to impose a fairly substantial penalty. Attempts have been made to commit absolute fraud. Whilst we have every desire to deal generously and sympathetically with returned soldiers, we should not leave the door open to deliberate frauds. In the cases I have in mind, it was not always the returned soldier who was involved, but some business people also, who, if they did not actually conspire with the soldier, contributed to the frauds attempted. I am not greatly concerned whether the penalty is £100 or £50, but some substantial penalty should be provided for as a deterrent to the commission of fraud.
– A person may commit a fraud, and may not be in possession of £100. How is the penalty to be enforced in such a case?
– Suppose the fine was not £100, but1s.
– The offender may not have1s. ; how is the fine to be recovered ?
– That is a difficulty which applies to all our Acts.
Commonwealth Boards, Committees, etc. - Unemployed at Lithgow.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to take advantage of the motion to reply to a question raised by Senator Pratten with respect to the names of the persons constituting the various Committees and
Boards charged with the control of the industrial matters for the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister’s Department has supplied the following reply to the honorable senator: -
With reference to the remarks by Senator Pratten in the Senate on the 2nd inst. regarding the return of the Boards, Committees, &c., under Commonwealth Government control, I desire to inform you that Mr.F. W. Hughes had resigned from the Central Wool Committee prior to the preparation of the return, and notification of his resignation appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette, No. 64, of the 2nd May.
– That was after the Minister made his reply.
– It was prior to the preparation of the return.
– Then the return must have been prepared last Thursday.
– I have no information on the subject beyond what is supplied in this answer. It continues -
When the first step was taken to secure the information sought by Senator Pratten, it was inadvertently overlooked that the occupations of the members of the Boards were desired. This was noticed later, but, in view of the urgent request for the return, it was not thought advisable that its presentation be delayed while the additional particulars were being obtained, especially as in the majority of cases the members were Commonwealth Government officials. The further information has since been obtained, and will be included in therevised return, which is in course of preparation, and is practically completed.
.- I ask the Minister for Defence to consider the position of the men who are at the present time unemployed at Lithgow. They were employed at the Small Arms Factory there, but there are now about 500 of them unemployed. They have been ten weeks out of work, they are not on strike, and a number of them have invested their little savings in the war loans. I trust that the Minister will do something to provide them with work.
– In connexion with the revised return which is being prepared in answer to my question, I ask the Minister for Defence to note the fact that there are Boards in existence not included in the list already supplied which ought to be added to it. I hope that the Minister will go into the matter fully.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 May 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19180508_SENATE_7_84/>.