7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Supply of Cornsacks
– Last week Senator Pratten asked some questions based upon paragraphs appearing in the newspapers referring. to the supply of cornsacks for Australia. I wish to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he is in a position now to -make the further statement on this question which he indicated that it was his intention to make?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
– Arising out of the answer to Senator Shannon’s question, may I ask. the Vice-President of the Executive Council when he will fulfil hia promise to make a further statement on this question to’ the Senate!
– The position is that I’ am waiting for a cable from’ India finalizing the matter. It may be along tomorrow, and, if not, the next day. I cannot give any more complete statement than I have already given on this .subject until that cable arrives.
– Arising out of the Minister’s answer, I may inform him that I do not intend to give notice of the question I asked, but I shall be prepared to make a statement on the matter myself if he does not. A fresh, statement on the subject appears in the newspapers o-day, and I ask the Minister whether he does not think it advisable that a’t the earliest possible moment he should set this matter right for the information of the people of Australia?
– Yes, I do. I know of nothing fresh in tHe statement that has been made’ beyond the assertion that we have not approached the jute millers direct. I may inform the Senate that the same person who purchases the sand bags for the Allies is purchasing the bags required for Australia, and that is the Indian Jute Controller.
– Referring to the question I put on the notice-paper in connexion with the membership of Committees, Pools, and Boards, dominated and controlled directly or indirectly by tire Government, I ask the Minister for Defence whether he will promise that that question will be fully and adequately replied to!
– I think that the question should have been addresed to me as representing the Prime Minister’s De- ‘partment. If the honorable senator will look at the answer given to his question he will see that those who gave it regarded it as a full and complete answer.
– Arising out of the Minister’s reply, let me say that the Minister for Defence, who answered the question yesterday,, made a promise to refer it back to the Prime Minister’s Department, and have the information sup-, plied in the answer added to. I - want to know whether that promise will be kept, whether the matter will be attended - to promptly, and the question fully replied to t
– The question has been fully replied to, and the honorable senator has been told of the action taken consequent upon his first question.
– Arising out of that reply, let me inform the Minister re- ‘ presenting the Prime Minister that there are two Boards or Committees, to my own personal knowledge-
– Order! The honorable senator cannot at this stage make a statement. He is offering information instead of asking for it.
– Then I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the Coal Board for New South “Wales and tho Butter Committee have been included in the reply to my question ?
– I can add nothing to the answer already given. A list was supplied with the assurance that the matter would be further considered, and a later statement made to the. Senate.
Enlistment of Youths 18 Years of Age - Proposed Scottish Brigade
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that ithas been decided to accept the enlistment of youths of eighteen years of age, without the consent of their parents?
– I ask the Minister far Defence, without notice, whether he is aware that a movement is in progress in New South Wales to establish an Australian Scottish Infantry Kilted Brigade? If so, in view of the present need for more men, will the Minister, without delay, give his consent to the formation of this brigade?
– In answer to the honorable senator’s question, I have to make the following statement of the attitude of the Government in this matter : -
The Government fully appreciates the pride of Australians of Scottish ancestry in the history and, traditions of the famous Highland regiments, and respects their desire for the perpetuation of those tradition’s amongst their descendants in the Dominions. The proposal to, form a Scottish regiment in Australia to assist in reinforcing the Australian Imperial Force cannot, however, be given effect to. The five Australian divisions now in the field are organized in brigades and battalions which have won for themselves by their courage and dogged endurance traditions which it is desired to cherish and perpetuate in Australia. Owing to severe fighting many of these battalions are sorely depleted, in numbers, and the pressing need is for recruits to fill up the gaps in existing battalions. If new battalions were formed on the basis suggested they would have to take the place in the existing brigades and division’s of the battalions referred to, and the Government feels that it cannot indorse such a proposal.
At the same time, appreciating the spirit of patriotism that has prompted the proposal, the Government will welcome the formation of units of reinforcements, and an assurance can be given to those of Scottish descent that if they enlist together, they will be trained together in Australia, sent oversea together, and, as far as military exigencies permit, will be kept together in the same unit. This course has already been followed with successful results in regard to the Riflemen’s Thousand and the Sportsmen’s Battalion. The Government is also prepared to extend this principle to other sections who are prepared to guarantee obtaining recruits on this basis, but it must be distinctly understood that the existing organization of the five Ausralian division’s will be retained.
It is not proposed at this juncture to make any alteration in the service dress, which has been demonstrated as suitable for all requirements as a result of three years’ experience in this war.
asked the Min ister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he give the names of the two newspapers who claimed £15s. per inch for advertising theSixth War Loan?
– The Treasurer will be glad if this question be postponed for a fortnight pending settlement of the claims.
asked the Minis- ter representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will legislative action be taken by the Government this session on thelines laid down in the Third Progress Report of theRoyal Commission on Defence with a view to the Commonwealth Public Servants employed in the Defence Department being deemed to be persons’ employed in a’ civil capacity for a purpose in connexion with the Defence Force within the meaning of section 63 of the Defence Act 1003-1917?
– The answer is “Yes.”
Travellingby Womenand Children
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
In view of certain precautionary measures which have been taken in connexion with Australian Inter-State shipping; does he not consider it advisable to put in force, after due notice given, those restrictions on the travelling of women and children which apply to shipping bound for oversea countries?
– The answer supplied by the Acting Minister for. the Navy is -
It is not considered’ necessary to put these restrictions in force.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to submit to the Public Works Committee the proposal for the building of new ordnance stores?
– The answer is “Yes.”
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th May, vide page 4460) :
Clauses 15 to 17 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 3rd May, vide page 4399) :
Clause 4 -
Section 39 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its “39.- (1) Subject to this section, a soldier shall be entitled to be discharged -
if voluntarily enlisted - upon the expiration of his period of enlistment;
if serving under Part IV. of this Act - when the time of war has ceased to exist; and
if serving under Part XII. of this Act - upon the expiration of the period during which he is by this Act required to serve. “ (2) A soldier who would, under paragraph a or. c of sub-section 1 of this section, be entitled to be discharged, shall not be entitled to be discharged -
so long as a proclamation issued under sub-section 3 of section 31 of this Act remains in force. . . . “ (3) When a soldier becomes entitled to be discharged he shall be discharged with all convenient speed, but until discharged he shall remain a member of the Defence Force.”
Section proposed to be repealed -
Any person who has enlisted as a member of the Defence Force shall be entitled to be discharged therefrom at the expiration of the period of service for which he engaged, unless such- expiration occurs in time of war, in which case he shall not be entitled to his. discharge until the war has ceased to exist.
.- When this Bill was under consideration on Friday last, I expressed my regret that, owing to a misunderstanding, we had been denied the opportunity of a second-reading debate upon it. It was the intention of some honorable senators to make a few general observations on the measure, and as this clause covers practically the whole question of militarism, I propose to address myself to an amendment of which I have given notice, and also to the general principles underlying the Bill. Although the measure is apparently a very modest and unobtrusive one, it seeks to vest in the military authorities of Australia a power over our soldiers who will return after the war which I am not prepared to concede them. Under it, the permanent staff will be givencontrol for an indefinite period over every officer and every man who returns to this country. Those officers who are now commanding here, and who know but little of the horrors of actual warfare, will thus be able by their advice to the Minister, and through his advice to the GovernorGeneral, to keep these men mobilized regardless of their desire to get out of the Army,, and to return to their civilian occupations. In other words, the military organization here will be practically able to maintain a standing army. I quite recognise that grave weight must be attached to the reasons advanced by the
Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) in moving the second reading of this Bill. I realize that owing to the exigencies of the war, and the developments of the past three years, it is impossible for us to keep to the . letter of the contract- which we made with our soldiers in the matter of allowing them, in all cases, to get out of the Military Forces within four months after the conclusion of the ‘conflict. I think that on Friday last I described this measure as one to authorize the breaking of our contract with the soldiers. The contract, which was made during the early stages of the. war, was that any man who enlisted did so for the full period of the struggle and for four months afterwards. I quite recognise that owing to the shortage of shipping, and the fact that the troops of other Dominions have to be considered, the whole of our soldiers at present overseas cannot return to Australia within four months of the conclusion of the war. We all agree that it would be extremely undesirable to demobilize the men in England or outside of Australia, and that a Bill is necessary to prevent that. I am not complaining.
– Then why talk of breaking contracts?
-Because, while the letter of the contract is that the men shall have the right to get out of the military four months after the war, its spirit is that as soon as the war is over, and they get back to Australia, they shall have the right to go back to their civilian employment. This Bill breaks the spirit of the contract. I have given notice of an amendment to clause 4, to add to paragraph b of sub-section 2 of proposed new section 39 the words, “unless and until he has returned to Australia after being on active service abroad.” The effect of that would be to make the second part of the proposed new section read in this way-
A soldier who would, under paragraph a orc of sub-section 1 of this section, be entitled’ to he discharged, shall not be entitled to be discharged in time of war, or so long as a proclamation issued under sub-section 3 of section 31 of this Act remains in force, unless and until he has returned to Australia after being on active service abroad.
– If you go so far as that, why debar him from being discharged in England?
– I should like, to see some provision in the Bill whereby a man who wished to be discharged in England, and could satisfy the authorities that he had money enough to get out here independently, and would be no charge on the Repatriation Department, could be so discharged, and see a little of the world, so that he might come back to Australia a better citizen thereby.
Unless the Senate sees fit to reject the Bill altogether, with the view to making other provisions, amongst which is the suggestion made by my honorable friend, there is very little that we can do beyond establishing . the right of the soldier when he returns to Australia to be discharged if he so wishes. The pivot of the Bill is that on a proclamation being issued by the Governor-General on the advice of the Minister for Defence, who would presumably act on the advice . of his military advisers, no soldier shall be discharged in Australia while such proclamation is in existence unless by consent of the military. The contract we have made with the soldiers is being broken, in the spirit, because they ought to have the right once peace is declared, and they have returned to Australia, to go back to their farms or businesses or billets, and that right should not be taken from them by any Act that this Parliament passes. My amendment, if carried, will give, the soldier the right to be discharged, and will not give the military any right to keep him in khaki once the war is over and he has returned.
It is most desirable, after the war, to take away from the Military Department any undue power. I, for one, will not stand one minute after the war is over for an extension of militarism in Australia.
– Very few will.
– I hope that is so. We are fighting to abolish militarism, and our hope is that militarism will be smashed for all time and put behind us as a result of thiswar. This Bill goes too far. It rightly provides to keep our soldiers intact and mobilized until they return to Australia, but the provision giving the military the right to keep them , in khaki once they have returned is quite wrong. I doubt whether, in certain circumstances, the soldiers themselves would consider themselves bound by an Act of Parliament such as this, inasmuch as they contracted to serve their country for the period of the war and four months afterwards. I very much doubt whether men, who had been kept in England for six months, and took another two or three months to come to Australia, would be satisfied, in spite of any GovernorGeneral’s proclamation, to remain in khaki if they wanted to return to their business or avocations. The Bill takes us too far in that direction, and imposes a risk of militarism on a community which is not going to have any of it. It will be possible for a military clique or autocracy - and after all, militarism is much the same all the world over - it will be possible for a military organization remaining in Australia, controlling these men who have beenabroad, to say they shall be kept in khaki, when it is clearly against the interests of the country to do so.
The Minister, in explaining the Bill, said, in effect, that one of the reasons why the provision was required was that, on account of the present position of the world, and the danger of international complications, we may require what in effect would be a standing army. I think he added that it might be desirable to keep one division intact. That is not the way to provide for meeting the international position after the war is over. We already have power on the statute-book to conscript practically every fit eligible male in. Australia for the defence of Australia within Australia, and it is not right or proper or fair to suggest that a division of these men, who may have been fighting strenuously for four years shall, willy nilly, once they return to Australia, be kept in khaki because international relations may be dangerous. We can meet that sort ofthing when it arises, and the nearest remedy to our hand is, as far as possible, to keep our contract with the soldiers in spirit and in letter. Our men are looking forward to coming home. We all know that, determined and willing as they may be to see the thing through, most of them, and most of us, and the whole world if it comes to that, are almost sick to death of war. If the Bill is passed, it will have a very bad effect on the men themselves. I want to make it clear that the military authorities should have no right whatever to keep men in the ranks, except by their own free will, after their return to Australia, and after peace is declared. If it is necessary that we keep a division intact, we should be able to get plentyof volunteers. I do not assume for one moment that all the men who return will be able to get back to their civilian occupations at once. I do not assume that all of them will be enthusiastic in their desire to get out of the Army; but I do say it should be laid down in an Act of Parliament that after a man has served his country, and after peace is declared, every man who wants to get out of the Army should have the right to do so.
– They may become a charge upon the State.
– It is the responsibility of the Government to bring down a Bill providing for this contingency.
I am not assuming, in my argument, that there will not be a good many men requiring assistance from the Repatriation Department, but , on the broad principle of militarism versus Democracy, I say that after peace is declared, and when our men tome back, if it is then considered necessary to have a standing Army, it should be composed of volunteers, and not the men who, after haying served their country, as our men are serving us, are practically conscripted by the authorities. I do not wish to burke the issue. I have always believed in universal military service, because I think that it is the only fair form of service. I am not speaking against militarism in Australia during the war. This is a necessity which we have to put up with; but I do declare that a Democracy such as we have in Australia will not stand, after the war, any form of military government, with its attendant repulsive features. I do not wish to pursue this topic very far, but the morning papers will give to those who are able, perhaps, to read between the lines, some idea of what is happening in England; In my opinion, many of the controversies that have been raised are practically the controversies of a military caste against democratic principles, and I hope, therefore, that the Minister will consider the advisability of giving returned soldiers, who want to get out of the Army, the right to do so.
– Has not the honorable senator received an assurance from the Minister that he will do that ?
– I have received an assurance from the Minister that he will put a certain time limit upon their detention in the ranks, the time limit being, I think, a few months; but I wish to assert the right of a soldier, assuming that he does not get back to Australia within four months after’ the conclusion of the war, to get out of khaki as soon’ as he likes, and not as soon as the Defence Department likes. That is the essence of the Bill.
I do not wish to stress this matter too far, but personally I am not prepared to trust militarism when peace is declared, because we have had too many evidences of an indifference to popular feeling, and an indifference to the rights of representative government. Militarism all the world over is repugnant and nauseous to democratic Australians. It appears to me that the Bill has not been considered from every stand-point. The principle contained in clause 4 is dangerous and repugnant, because it takes away the right of the soldier to be discharged as soon as he returns to Australia. It practically enables the military authorities to keep a soldier in khaki; to conscript him for as long as they like. I am not going to say that the Minister for Defence for the time being may not be a reasonable and a strong man. I am not going to say that there will not be a pressure of public opinion with regard to this matter ; but I do say that if we allow this clause to go through as it stands, we shall be placed in a dangerous position. We may have a new Parliament, a new Minister, perhaps a more dominant military caste in Australia than we have at the present time, and Parliament may not be in session. I say, therefore, that we have no right to keep these men a week, or even a day, longer in khaki and under military discipline, provided there is reasonable excuse for their getting out. I have spoken to a good many, returned men on this subject. They are quite clear as to what their contract was with the Government and the people of Australia. They realize, too, that they cannot all get back to Australia within four months after the conclusion of the war, owing to the shortage of shipping, and that, therefore, their demobilisation in Australia will be delayed somewhat; but they are under no misapprehension as to the position, and they expect to bo demobilized as soon as they return to Australia and after peace is declared. There is another clause in the Bill which, while it does not bear directly upon this matter, will- probably be a subject for discussion at a later stage. My amendment will take away from the Minister the right by proclamation, issued by the Governor-General, to keep any man in the Army if he does not wish to remain there.
The question has been raised as to what would happen should our soldiers be returned to Australia in numbers greater than can be handled by the Repatriation Department. I think that problem might be considered when it arises. At all events, I am not going to vote to keep in the Army against their will men who want no benefits from the Repatriation Department. Is it realized that probably one-half of our soldiers have been drawn from’ the land, from small . businesses, and from various positions in the community at much sacrifice to older men, and that -as soon as peace is declared they will be welcomed back to their old positions with open arms! I do not think it is realized to the extent that it should be that repatriation will probably not affect one-half of the Australian Army, and that plenty of work will be available in various industries and primary production.
– Order ! I do not wish to interrupt the honorable senator, but I point out that this clause is hardly concerned with the general subject of repatriation. Will he, therefore, confine himself to the matter before the Chair.
– .But the Minister, in his second-reading speech, referred to this as a reason why the clause should be passed. Surely I am in order, therefore, in dealing with the matter, and in presenting several sidelights upon the position.
I have ‘ dealt with the question of demobilization abroad. It will be admitted that it would be bad to discharge our troops in England. I am now dealing with the reasons’ which the’ Minister gave in advocacy of this clause - being the vital portion of the Bill. One of those reasons was that the Department might not be able to deal with the soldiers sufficiently quickly.
– Order ! The honorable senator is quite in order in making reference to that subject, but not in- discussing the Repatriation Bill.
– If I have been doing that, I apologize; but with regard to this issue, the Minister gave two reasons, asIhave indicated, why it may be necessary to keep the men under arms after their return to Australia, and after peace has been declared. One reason was that international conditions may be indefinite or dangerous, and that on that account it would be necessary to keep a division of the Army intact.
– Do you not think it would be?
– I am not prepared to guess what might happen; but any Parliament in this country at that time, if those conditions presented themselves, would patriotically realize what would be the proper thing to. do. I am. not prepared, however, to practically conscript those men for that reason.
Another reason which Senator Pearce gave was that the Repatriation Department might not be able quickly enough to deal with the men upon their return, and that it would be against public interest to discharge them until that could be done. I hope that half the Australian Army, at least, will return to their ordinary civilian occupations as soon as they can., They will not all be looking for sustenance and pensions, and the getting out of the Government as much as they can. Most of our Army will return, as did Cromwell’s soldiers, better men and better citizens for the experiences they have passed through. The arguments of the Minister certainly should be considered; but I am pleading for those who, upon their return, will desire to get back to their civilian work at the earliest possible opportunity ; for those men whose right to return to ‘their civil occupations should certainly not be at the discretion of the Defence Department. Clause 4 is extremely dangerous as it stands in that it puts much more power into the hands of the Defence authorities than most honorable senators would care to give them after the war. I will not stress militarism versus Democracy. A. great deal of what” is going on is repugnant to us, but we have to make the best of it. After the war, however, it is our responsibility to see that the contract with the soldiers is kept as far as possible. I move-
That the following words be added to paragraph 6 of sub-section 2 of proposed new section 39: - “unless and until he has returned to Australia after being on active service abroad.”
This will meet the view of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) as to keeping the men intact before their return to Australia, but it will give the right for them to be discharged on their return if they so desire.
– I scarcely recognise myself in the colours in which I have been painted by Senator Pratten. I had always looked on myself as being opposed to militarism and in favour of a citizen army. I have regarded myself as a Democrat ; but, seen through his spectacles, I am an autocrat, and a military autocrat at that - an autocrat in favour of a standing army, and absolutely opposed to everything in the interests of Democracy; in fact, that I am a person resembling the head of the German Empire, the Kaiser himself.
– Militarism is the same all the world over.
– The Kaiser could not have done anything more than you have done in regard to the censorship.
– If the honorable senator had a taste of the Kaiser’s censorship he would not be in the Reichstag, but would be along with Liebknecht and a few others. Senator Pratten has used some most extravagant language in his criticism of the Bill. He has spoken of breaking contracts. As to that, even if his amendment were carried,when, I take it, he would be willing to accept the Bill, the measure would still break a contract; so’ that, if there are any breaches, he would be a party tothem. That is, if he regards the attestation.paper as a contract. And it is one which^, we know, cannot be given effect to.
– The spirit of it could.
– It could not be given effect to. We know that. Senator Pratten admits it. He is not prepared to say that four months after thewar every Australian soldier should be discharged, no matter where he might be. That is the contract, and, unless we are going to break it, that is what we must do - whether our men be in Mesopotamia, Palestine, England, or elsewhere. That, of course, would be absurd, and most absurd of all in the interests of the soldiers themselves.
– If the soldier is here in Australia and wishes to leave the Army, will this Bill keep him in camp against his will?
– No, neither would he be kept there from another set of circumstances which I indicated when introducing the measure, namely, that the control of this Statute is not to be in the hands of the military, but with the Government of Australia. The Government have their responsibilities to this Parliament.
If it were the desire of the Government, owing to the advice of certain military men, that there should be kept a standing army under this Bill, the Government would still have to face their responsibilities to the Parliament and the people. And it would be a standing army by compulsion, because we should be keeping these men against their will. Senator Pratten says that we are living in a time of militarism in Australia. He has assumed that I am a sort of military monster. Let us consider what this- military monster is doing in this time of militarism. The Government are in power, and have in their hands the War Precautions Act, and are we doing those terrible things which the honorable senator prophesies that we should do after the war? To-day we want a Home Defence Force, and are inviting enlistment for the purpose. There are hundreds of men coming back to Australia, many of whom axe no doubt invalids, but a great number of whom are quite as fit as are those whom we are inviting to join the Home Defence Force. We could keep these men for the Home Defence Force, but we do not do so. Fourteen days after their arrival they are discharged. That is what militarism is doing in Australia ‘ to-day.
– Many of the men say that’ they are discharged too soon.
– Yes, that is the complaint in many .instances’. We do this for the reason that any Government, controlled by a democratic Parliament, would do it after the war, and that is because it is advisable that as early as possible the men should return to their civil avocations. It is recognised that the men who have gone overseas to fight have done their duty, and it is not right that they should be called upon on their return to do a duty here which may very well be done by those who have not gone overseas to fight. We can fairly assume that after the war no Government in power would exercise this power in order to create and maintain a standing army in Australia. Senator Pratten said so many things of an extraordinary character that I hesitate to discuss them all, but there are some which I cannot allow to go without a reference. In one instance the honorable senator deliberately, misrepresented a statement of mine. He stated that I had said that it might be desirable, to have a standing army in Australia after the war. I never said anything of the kind.
– It might be true, nevertheless.
– Senator Bakhap may think so, but I do not. We have the power under the Defence Act to provide for the efficient defence of the Commonwealth within Australia, and we should have that power after the war is brought to a close. What I did say was that it is impossible for US.,to say at what rate, or at what period, our men will return. It is quite feasible that a whole division of our troops might return to Australia within the same week. If Senator Pratten ‘« idea were given effect to, as soon as those men arrived they would have a right to their immediate discharge, and this would be after the war.
Let honorable senators consider what the conditions in Australia are going to be after the war. At present somewhere about £70,000,000 per annum is being spent on defence in Australia. Thousands of people in this country are working on defence material of all kinds. As soon as the war ends a great part of that expenditure will come to a full stop. What is going to be the effect upon our economic conditions ? It is going to be disastrous to pur economic conditions, and will bring about such a state of affairs as Australia has never yet seen dr had to face. With such a ‘condition of affairs confronting us Senator Pratten would immediately discharge the returning soldiers. I think that it was Senator Crawford who asked what Senator Pratten would do about it when we had to face such a condition of affairs, and the honorable senator replied that he would face that hurdle whenhe came to it. I say that when we are taking power to deal with this question we should take power to deal with that phase of it.
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting me now.
– I do not wish to do so.
– I was speaking about the inability of the Repatriation Department to deal with the men quickly enough.
– Quite so, and that is exactly what I am speaking about. I am pointing out that we cannot expect to be able to unload 20,000 men on the Repatriation Department and the labour market within a week. It is quite possible, with a convoy of ships coming together, that such a number of men might return in one week, and Senator Pratten says, “ Let them go; turn them on to the labour market.”
– I said nothing of the sort.
– There is a considerable body of opinion in this country that has publicly advocated that the returned soldier should be kept on the military pay-roll and under military discipline until we can find him work.
– And a very good idea, too.
– But Senator Pratten says, “Discharge himand let him go.” What we say is that there must be a period within which we may have time to make due provision for men returning, and be able to discharge them into the civil life of the community, and in such numbers that they can be absorbed.
– That is the main reason for this provision?
– That is the plain meaning and intention of it.
There is no intention under this Bill to sneak in a proposal for a standing army, as Senator Pratten would have the Committee believe. I gave that assurance when moving the second reading of the Bill. To show that I am in earnest in the matter, I am quite willing to put into the Bill an undertaking that within a reasonable time these men shall have their discharge if they wish. When we come to think of the enormous debt we are piling up, and the increasing difficulty of finding the money necessary tofinance the war, I ask honorable senators whether they believe that any Government would keep these men on the pay-roll if they could get rid of them with greater advantage to the men themselves and to the country? Of course, they would not. It is unthinkable. I did not dream that any one would suspect this or any subsequent Government of having any such intention. As Senator Pratten seems to suspect that this or some other Government might do what he has suggested, I amquite willing to put our intention into the Bill,but I cannot accept what Senator Pratten proposes to include in it.
– Is it notalready provided for in sub-section 3 of the proposed new section?
– I do not think that it is very definitely expressed there. That sub-section provides that when a soldier becomes entitled to be discharged he shall be discharged with all convenient speed, but there is a proclamation to be issued, and during the period of that proclamation the Government would have the right to hold the soldier. Senator Pratten’s argument is that under that proclamation, notwithstanding that it might be possible to place the men in their former employment or on their farms, and that they desired to beso placed, the Government would be so imbued with militarism that they would retain the men for the purpose of maintaining a standing army. That is not the intention of this Government, and, to give effect to the intention I expressed on the second reading, I am prepared to move the insertion, after sub-section 2 of the proposed new sub-section 39, of the following proviso: -
Provided that any member of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia in time of war, who returns to Australia after the cessation of the time of war, and while a. proclamation issued under sub-section 3 of section 31 of this Act remains in force, and who, after arrival at the port of final disembarkation in Australia, makes a written application to his Commanding Officer for his discharge, shall be entitled to be discharged within two months from the date of his making the application.
– Why make the period two months ?
– We might have 20,000 men arriving in one week, and the whole of them making application for immediate discharge. ‘ We require a sufficient period to enable the machinery of the Defence Department, with the cooperation of the Repatriation Department; to provide for the discharge of the men in such numbers, and in such orderly fashion, as to enable the two Departments to deal with them.
– Suppose a number of the soldiers had employment to go to directly after landing in Australia?
– We could discharge them in a week. We do not say that we will necessarily hold the soldiers for the two months.
– The Government would discharge them as rapidly as they possibly could ?
– Certainly. Under the amendment I propose, if a man upon arrival makes application for his discharge, the longest period during which we could hold him would be two months ; but, obviously, no Government, the members of which possessed common sense, would hold for two months a man who had a farm waiting for him, and who sought his immediate discharge. What object would any Government have in saying to such a man, “ You cannot be discharged now; you must wait for two months “ ? No Government would be so stupid as to say any such thing. They could not stand up against the public clamour that would arise if they did.
– A returned soldier would not ask for his discharge unless he had some employment to go to.
– Unfortunately, he might, and that is why we require some time to deal with the matter. The defect is not confined to soldiers, but we know that there are numbers of men who do not look to the future. Some of the returned soldiers may have become tired of militarism ; they may want to get out of khaki ; they may have a few pounds in their pockets, and may say, “Let us get out straight away.” Would it be in the best interests of the men that that should be allowed? I do not think that it would. The Government should have some little time within which they can make provision for the discharge of men. Two months is not too long a time, and is only half the time that it was intended to provide for in the attestation papers. There provision is made for engagement during the period of the war and for four months after. Though we did riot succeed in doing what we intended, honorable members must be aware that what was intended was that that period of four months should be after the men had returned to Australia. If Senator Pratten withdraws his amendment. I am prepared to move the amendment I have indicated. It will set out clearly the intention of the Government, and should remove any doubt or suspicion in the mind of any honorable senator that we propose under this Bill to sneak in a standing army.
– The amendment given notice of by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) does not appear to me to meet the situation. He does not propose to interfere with sub-section 2 of the proposed new sub-section 39, which provides that -
A soldier who would under paragraphs a or c of sub-section 1 of this section, be entitled to be discharged, shall not be entitled to be discharged -
so long as a proclamation issued under sub-section 3 of section 31 of this Act remains in force.
It is necessary, in my opinion, to delete this sub-section, and I think that subsection 3 of the proposed new section 31 should also be omitted. Our men enlisted for the period of the war and for four months thereafter. It does not matter what promises are made. It is well to be on the safe side and give the soldier the security he is entitled to. Notwithstanding all that the Minister for Defence has said, it is quite clear to me that the Bill, as it stands, or amended as he has suggested, will alter , the conditions upon which the soldiers were enlisted, and if, on their return, the proclamation by the Governor-General be still in operation they may, against their will, be retained in the Forces. I have a strong objection to retrospective legislation of any kind, and unquestionably this Bill breaks faith with the soldiers who have gone abroad. It is . proposed under the proposed new subsection 3 of section 31 to give the GovernorGeneral power by proclamation to retain the men in the Forces for an indefinite period after they return to Australia. So long as that provision, and paragraph b of sub-section 2 of proposed new section- 39 remain in the
Bill, I submit that even if the amendments outlined by Senator Pratten and the Minister for Defence be adopted, the Governor-General ‘ will still have power by proclamation to retain returned men in our Military Forces.
– No, because the proclamation must be subject to, and in conformity with, the Act, which will then contain the proviso suggested.
– The proposed new sub-section 3 of section 31 reads -
If the Governor-General by proclamation declares that by reason of the recent existence of a time of war it is necessary in the public interests that the Permanent Military Forces should bc maintained after the cessation of the time of war, Permanent Forces raised in time of war for purposes other. than those specified in sub-section 2 of this section may be maintained after the time of war and so long as that proclamation remains in force.
– That provision is intended to cover the period of demobilization, because some men will be receiving their discharges, while Australian soldiers are still in England waiting to return here. That proclamation will have to continue in force until the last batch of our soldiers has arrived in Australia from thu Old .Country.
– Nobody would imagine that the Government would dare go to the length of discharging men in England and leaving them stranded there.
– Does the honorable senator desire to demobilize them in Australia, and to leave them stranded here?
– No. Some provision for them is made in the Repatriation Act. My contention is that under this Bill in its present form, the GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation, retain returned soldiers in our military Forces for a longer period than that for which they enlisted. I admit that in ordinary circumstances the Government will be quite willing to discharge them as> soon as it is possible to do so. That being- the case, why should we incorporate in this measure a provision which will be strongly resented by the public, and which is calculated to create the belief that Ministers are taking to themselves the power to retain men in the Army for a longer term than that for which they enlisted ? I strongly urge them to abandon paragraph b of sub-section 2 of the proposed new section, and, if necessary, to recommit the Bill for the purpose of reconsidering proposed new sub-section 3 of section 31 of the principal Act. Of course, if the men are agreeable to remain in the Army f or a longer period than that for which they enlisted, no serious objection will be raised to the adoption of that course. I am of opinion that, whilst many of our soldiers who return to Australia will be anxious to get back into civilian life as speedily as possible, probably a greater number than we anticipate will be only too eager to remain in the military service of the country. We cannot fail to recognise that, when once we set the military machine going, it is not the easiest thing in the world to restore the soldiers under* its control” to civilian life.. I therefore move -
That paragraph b of sub-section 2 of proposed new section 39 be left out.
Later on I shall move for the recommittal of clause 3 of the Bill.
– Why did not the honorable senator wipe out the Bill on the motion of .its second reading? If he eliminates that provision there will be nothing left in the measure.
– The intention of the Bill is that men shall be retained in the Military Forces of the Commonwealth for a longer period than that for which they enlisted.
– In the interests of the men themselves.
– What is the use of saying that? There will be no objection to the adoption of that course if the men are willing to remain in the Forces for a longer period than that for which they enlisted.
– The four months - the period for which they enlisted after the war - will elapse whilst probably 100,000 men are still in England. Would the honorable senator have them dis-. charged there
– No. We cannot regard them as having finished with the war until after their return to Australia. No Government would be so unreasonable as to leave men stranded in England if they were able to secure their return to this country.
– The honorable senator had better read the amendment outlined by the Minister.
– The amendment, if adopted, will not remove from the GovernorGeneral the power which is vested in him under clause 3 of the Bill. Until that is done, I shall vote against the measure.
Amendments (by Senators Pratten and Grant), by leave, temporarily withdrawn.
– I move -
That in paragraph c of sub-section 1 of proposed now section 39, after the word “by,” the words “ section 125 of “ be inserted.
I understand that that is the section under which compulsory training is carried on.
– It is one of the sec.tions, but the whole of Part 12 deals with the compulsory training of our Citizen Forces.
– As the clause now stands, even those who are called up for compulsory training will have to be maintained under the proclamation by the Governor-General.
.- The reason why this particular provision has been embodied in the Bill is that some of our Citizen Forces have been called up for home service . during the war. For instance, there is the Garrison Artillery. In that branch of the service there is a certain number who come under the compulsory provisions of our Defence Act. For example, there are the guards at various stations. It may be necessary to retain some of them for a short period after the war. At present we could not do that. But, even if Senator Ferricks were to confine his amendment to section 125 of the Defence Act, he would not bring in the t whole of the provisions of Part 12 of that Act. That section is one of the provisions of Part 12 of the Act; but the whole of that part deals with the liability of citizens to compulsory military training. The particular provision which we are now discussing is intended to deal only with those soldiers who have been called up for home service during the war.
– :since the Minister has assured us that the purpose of the Bill is to deal with the demobilization of returned soldiers, I should like to know what application it has to our Reserve Forces. I notice that, under the clause dealing with the proposed amendment of section 41 of the principal Act, those Forces will also be brought under the proclamation
– No. If a man is serving under Part 12 of that Act, he will be entitled to his discharge “upon the expiration of the period during which he is by this Act required to serve.” That is to say, that this clause practically applies Part 12 of the Defence Act to those soldiers who have been called up in Australia for home service during the war.
– il think that the Minister will recognise that we may” well hesitate to accept his assurance as to the meaning of this Bill, seeing that on a former occasion, when the War Precautions Act was under consideration, we were given to understand that it would be utilized only in extreme cases having relation to military matters, and that the censorship would be put into operation only in cases in which it was deemed that ‘ publication might prove detrimental to the Allied cause. I do not think any honorable senator will contend that that assurance was carried out. While the Minister may in good faith give us his assurance in regard to this amending Bill, it is pretty hard for us to accept the guarantee of any temporary Minister. I was not suspicious, but rather doubtful, when he gave us the repeated assurance that this Bill and this clause had reference only to the demobilization of the returned men, because if that be so, why should a subsequent clause bring under the proclamation the men in the Reserve Force?
– It does not bring them under the proclamation.
– -Clause 6 does so. I was waiting for the Minister to give us some reason for undermining the whole fundamental principle of the Defence Act, because the power in proposed new sub-section 3 of section 31 as contained in clause 3 of the Bill has that effect. It is a most drastic change. I realize that to repatriate and place the returned men will be a big problem, and that in some instances it will take more than the four months stipulated in their contract, or even the two extra months offered by the Minister. We should be told in explicit language. what is behind the proposal. Senator Pratten’s amendment hardly meets my view of the seriousness of the situation. The way things are going on in Australia, and the public expressions of responsible men, might lead one to the conclusion that these soldiers may be maintained, organized, and kept at the Commonwealth expense for a long time before they reach Australia. The Government or the Defence authorities, in their wisdom, may decide that it would be a very good thing to plant a division or two of the Australian Imperial Force in the Pacific Islands, and maintain them there indefinitely. That is not a long stretch of imagination when we remember that on the eve of his departure from Australia with the Prime Minister, Mr. Joseph Cook said he was going abroad with the firm conviction that Australia was determined to retain the Pacific Island to the last gasp. Under the provisions of this Bill it would be possible for the authorities in Australia to maintain a standing, army in the Pacific Islands, although I do i.ot think. that would meet the views of the majority of the people of the Commonwealth.
Discharge in England would commend itself to no thinking person. We should all like to see our Australian soldiers back here, demobilized, and put into productivity as soon as possible, although we know it will be a big proposition.
– If some soldiers wished to stay in England, would not this amount to compulsory repatriation?
– I am not wholeheartedly in support of Senator. Pratten’s amendment, which does not go far enough for me.
– Would not this Bill compel them to return to Australia?
– It would have that effect.
– Does the honorable senator think that is desirable?
– No ; I would not force them. We no more want to conscript people into Australia than to conscript them out of it. My main objection to the Bill is that it will afford the Governor-General in Council another opportunity to do what is not in the best interests of Australia - that is, to mobilize men in our midst. All thinking persons, of whatever shade of politics, and whatever their views on conscription, admit that the calling-up on the one occasion when it was used in Australia had a very detrimental effect. Even ardent conscriptionists must admit that it most “ adversely affected the cause it was supposed to help.
The Minister stresses the danger, and I fully concur, of throwing men on the unemployed market in overwhelming numbers. That need not occur; but when the Minister was arguing for unlimited power for the military authorities in that regard he did not mention the danger to Australia of withholding such a large number of men from producing wealth.
– -They would not be producing wealth if they were unemployed.
– It is a mistake to imagine that our soldiers, when they return, especially those who are fit and well, will desire, or be the better for, too much piloting to work. Produce the work for them, and the men will find it, and do it themselves. That is the most practical way of bringing about successful repatriation. But the critical times ahead of us’ - and most people realize that critical times will be right on us with, the cessation of hostilities - will be tha occasion, not for withholding men from producing avenues, but for endeavouring to bring about increased production instead of depending on cheap coloured labour imports from other countries. A successful system of repatriation, launched on good lines, and with the whole-hearted sympathy of people of all shades of political thought, such as I believe the present endeavours command, should aim at putting men into producing or wealthcreating avenues as quickly as possible.
We have had too many experiences during the past three and three-quarter years of the danger of. giving too much power to any body of men, military or governmental. Our experiences under the War Precautions Act in that regard are ever recurring; so I think this is too much power to place in the hands of the Governor-General in Council. In discussing this important matter, we must leave the Governor-General out of it, realizing that, although he is mentioned, he is only a figurehead of the Government in power. I am constrained to confess, and regret, my belief that military dominance has had an effect on the Government in Australia since the outbreak of the war. Otherwise how is it that papers published in Great Britain, and sold in the streets of London six days a week, are prohibited from entering Australia? It is incidents of that sort that make me afraid to give unlimited power to the military authorities, or the Governor-General in Council. We have had far too many instances of men being put into gaol - men of enemy origin, or of enemy descent, and others-
– On a point of order, I ask your ruling whether, under cover of this clause, the honorable senator is entitled to discuss the censorship, the general administration of the War Precautions Act, the internment of men under the Unlawful Associations Act, and other subjects?
– The clause is very wide, and so is the amendment. The effect will be either to shorten or lengthen the period for which the men will be under military control; consequently everything that may happen under military control may well be discussed. Senator Pratten himself, in proposing his amendment, set us a pretty wide example.
– While the clause offers” a wide range of discussion, honorable senators will be out of order in discussing on it the whole gamut of the censorship and repatriation. I ask the honorable senator to confine himself as closely as possible to the Bill without going too far into other matters.
– I merely mentioned the other matters as dangers to be feared from giving the military or the Government too much power.
Military dominance in Australia has undergone a great slump since the defeat of the conscription campaign. If the military authorities had the power to maintain in Australia what would be, in effect, a standing army, that swaggerof theirs would be buttressed up a bit, but it would not be a good thing for Australia. The powers proposed in the Bill are unlimited, and I would impress on Senator Pearce, and the Committee generally; that the dominance of the military authority over the civil is, to a great extent, unpopul arizing the existing Defence Act. A huge number of men in Australia, who have never had, and never will have, political leanings towards the Labour party, were absolutely disgusted on the one occasion that section 60 was put into operation. I refer to the time of the general call-up. It should be remembered, that the period of retention of the soldiers is unlimited under the Bill, except so far as the Minister’s offer of two months is concerned, and the numbers to be retained are also unlimited. The men may not come back to Australia for some time after the cessation of hostilities. Are we to understand “that this Bill is preparatory to the cessation of hostilities ? Are we so near the long-hoped-for . time of peace that it is necessary now to prepare for such eventualities ? I cannot reconcile the Minister’s attitude in making provisions of this nature for the sole purpose, as he assures us, of demobilizing the returned men of the Australian Imperial Force, with his assertion last week that any person who spoke of peace was either suffering from mid-summer madness or was a traitor of the deepest dye. If peace, in the Minister’s opinion, is so far distant, why the necessity to lay down these precautions, . which he says are being taken in the interests only of the returned men who are coming back after peace has been proclaimed ? The Committee requires some enlightenment on that question. If. Ministers have that knowledge, we should be told whether . Senator Pearce was drawing the long bow last week or not. When we realize all the evils that may occur through giving this Government this unlimited power to put into execution at its own sweet will, it is enough to make us hesitate, because we have had innumerable , experiences of the exercise of arbitrary power by them. As the Minister assures “us that the Bill is brought before us only for the purpose of making provision for the returned men of the Australian Imperial Force, I ask him again why clause 6 refers to men in the Reserve’ Force ?
– Senator Ferricks sees some connexion between paragraph c of sub-section 1 of proposed new, section 39, and clause 6. Paragraph c deals with those who have been called up for home defence and come under the operation of Part XII. of the Defence Act, dealing with the Reserve Forces. Every Australian Imperial Force officer who comes back, and who is not in the Commonwealth Military Forces, goes on what- is called the reserve of officers, and becomes part of the reserve. We call up some of those officers for various duties, such for instance, as the officering of guards at the concentration camps. It is obvious that these camps will have to be maintained until arrangements are made for the disposal of prisoners of war, and therefore we shall have to retain the services of those officers. If -we do not make this provision every officer will be entitled, immediately peace is declared, to claim his discharge as a matter of right. The honorable senator will see, therefore, that there is no connexion between the amendment proposed in clause 6 and paragraph c. One deals entirely, with the Citizen Forces and the other is intended for the set of circumstances I have just referred to.
.- After the Minister’s first explanation I realized there was no connexion between paragraph c and clause 6, but the provision with regard to the reserve officers looks as if the Ministry were taking a steam hammer to crack a nut, because it is obvious that all the returned men will not readily be- absorbed in wealth-producing operations, and therefore many will be available for guard duty at these concentration camps. Is it necessary to bring the whole of the Reserve Forces under this proclamation to be issued at the will of the Governor-General ?
– But we will not be able to compel returned officers to undertake those duties
– That may be so, N but it is safe to assume there will be no lack of applicants for any officerships that may be vacant in Australia for home service duties. After our experience of what the military cult means we should be rather dubious about accepting the assurance of the Minister with regard to this matter. I remember a statement which appeared in that elaborate production, the Military Journal, issued some time ago from head-quarters in Melbourne, but which, the Minister for Defence tells us, has ceased publication on the ground of economy. It was stated in that journal that war time was the oasis in the desert of a soldier’s life; that a soldier only had to look for his own welfare and advancement through the occurrence of war; that the soldier who went into the profession of arms - I think that is how it was put - had no chance of promotion during peace, and that therefore they must be reconciled to the thought that war was their only chance of advancement.
– It also gives them a big chance of death.
– Yes, unfortunately, it does. We have to fear, however, if military dominance is allowed to continue in Australia, as has been the case during the last three years, that .. sooner or later these gentry may be the means of embroiling Australia in a war of its own. And they would do it. I venture to assert that if a referendum of the Australian military officers were taken, 95 per cent, of them would say that Australia should go to war to fight for the retention of the Pacific Islands.
– Does the honorable senator realize that before the war we had only 3,000 permanent military men - officers and all ranks combined?
– Then they appeared to exercise a big influence, or else the Minister for Defence is just as great an autocrat as the Kaiser, because in Germany the censorship was responsible for things no worse than have happened in Australia - such, for instance, as prohibiting the publication of a statement showing that a few lines had been excised by the censor. When I was in Sydney on a memorable occasion, in company with Mr. Hughes, the- Sydney Sun gave what purported to be a report of the proceedings.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I ask if the honorable senator is in order in discussing the censorship, which has nothing to do with the clause before the Committee?
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Chairman. I am not satisfied with -the proposal, and I think it is not too much for us to fear that this, or some Government that may evolve’ from it, might, some day, take the advice of their military authorities, and act on the lines I have indicated.
If this Bill were for the demobilization and repatriation of our soldiers only, not a single voice would be raised against it. The Minister states that it is, but we cannot accept his word, because he gave us a similar assurance concerning the War Precautions Act, the administration of which has since been directed against the Democracy of Australia.
– Then, no matter what the Minister said, the honorable senator would not be satisfied?
SenatorFERRICKS. - I could never accept the Minister’s assurance again in a matter like this, after what he said about the War Precautions Act, which, it was promised, would only be put into operation to meet the necessities arising out of the war situation.What would Parliament be doing in the event of any congestion arising as the result of the return to Australia of our soldiers in large numbers? Will Parliament be in perpetual recess, as has been the case practically since the outbreak of war? Will it continue its unenviable record of sitting for seven months, and being in recess for twenty-four months? Australia is pretty conveniently situated in regard to Inter-State communication, so that Parliament could be assembled within three days at the outside, now that Western Australia is connected with the eastern States by rail, and surely should any congestion be threatened it could be summoned to deal with the situation?
– There are a few thousand soldiers now who say they cannot get work, so is it not likely that the difficulty would be accentuated when they returned, in large numbers after the war?
– Then it is time that Senator Bakhap and those associated with him endeavoured to expedite the work of the Repatriation Department, about which we have heard so much, but which up to the present has produced such small results.
The procedure adopted by the Government since the outbreak of the war, and particularly in regard to the proclamation under section 60, has been such that the people are prepared to say that Parliament, and Parliament only, should be the instrument to take that responsibility. Personally, I would like to see the whole clause knocked out, and I shall certainly support Senator Pratten’s amendment. In view of the Minister’s explanation I do not wish to proceed with the amendment I have already submitted, but I have an amendment prior to that moved by Senator Pratten.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I now move-
That the word “ or “ in paragraph a of subsection 2 of proposed new section 39, be left out.
– SenatorGrant’s amendment seeks to delete the whole of paragraph b of subsection 2 of proposed new section 39. If that is done, it will have the same effect. The honorable senator’s amendment would then be consequential.
.- I should like to. put the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) right in connexion with the remarks he made following my speech to-day. I think, in the course of my argument, I said the Minister had stated in his second-reading speech that, in certain circumstances - if, for instance, the international atmosphere were hazy, complicated, or dangerous - it might be advisable to have a standing army in Australia. The Minister now has definitely repudiated having said anything about a standing army.
– I said that I was not. in favour of maintaining a standing army in Australia.
– Yes;but the Minister appeared to take, me to task for having based my argument upon his statement.
– What I said was that I objected to the honorable senator putting words into my mouth.
– Then I should like to read, for the information of honorable senators, what the Minister did say. While the Minister was speaking, I asked -
Is there any provision making it mandatory on the Minister to discharge a man if he wishes to return to his civil occupation?
The Minister, in his reply, said -
No, certainly not. And there is good reason why it should not be so.
– What is the honorable senator reading from?
– The Hansard debates of this session, page 4324.
– Then I will take your ruling, Mr.Chairman, on the question whether the honorable senator is in order in reading from the debates of this session ?
– The honorable senator will not be in order in reading from the Hansard debates of this session.
– Then, Mr. Chairman, I shall ask honorable senators to read the speech for themselves.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.49].- Ithink the explanation by the Minister of the. proposed amendments has cleared away any. difficulties.What Senator Pratten is anxious to do, and what we are all anxious to do, is to see that the contracts made with the soldiers who enlisted and went to the Front are respected) and that compulsory military service after the war is not imposed on them by any subterfuge. The impression has been created - and this feeling has been voiced by Senator Pratten - that in this Bill the Ministry are seeking power to keep intact the Military Forces of Australia after the war is over ; that, in fact, they are going to apply post-war conscription on those who have already served their country while not applying conscription to new Forces. I now understand from the Minister - and I think he made it clear when moving the second reading of the Bill - that this power is only sought to enable the authorities to deal with the men while they are being absorbed into civil life.
– But does not the honorable senator remember what the Minister said about the War Precautions Act?
– I realize that there might be a fear that an autocratic Ministry might attempt to misuse this power. But the provision that every soldier shall have the right of discharge within two months of his return should meet the difficulty raised by Senator Pratten, and prevent the possibility of any post-war conscription being applied for the maintenance of a standing army in Australia.
– Why not make it one month?
– That would be better, because I do not agree with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that it is necessary to protect the soldier against himself. No soldier would be likely to claim his discharge unless he ‘had his old or some other occupation to return to. It is going to be the other way about, namely, that the troops will desire to retain their military status and pay for a longer period than the authorities may be prepared to keep them. Really, there should be no need to extend the period beyond one month. That should be ample for the Department to deal with the men upon theirreturn.
– I have been chiefly concerned whether it was intended to keep the troops in camp against their will after their return. The amendment of the Minister meets my objection, but he would be well advised if he put it into the Bill, to the effect that any member of the Force may have his discharge on setting foot in Australia. We did not send our soldiers away with any impression that immediately on their return they would be in a position to re-occupy their former places. I voice no doubt or suspicion against the Minister. I was shocked, shamed, and surprised to hear Senator Pratten’s speech, wherein he spoke about the military in Australia. What absolute humbug it was to say that’ we are suffering under the heel of a roughshod military power!
– Senator Ferricks says that.
– Yes, and he is justified in saying so, because he has won his position in Parliament to fight that sort of thing, but the other honorable senator has secured his place here under its very wing. Senator Pratten talked absolute nonsense about our being under the heel of a military autocracy as bad as that of Germany.
– I do not think I mentioned Germany.
– Whether the honorable senator mentioned it or not, he conveyed, to my mind, that the military power was the same all the world over.
– I said “ militarism.” ‘
– For Senator Pratten to tell this Parliament and the people of Australia that we are under a military system whichis objectionable to us - well, I venture to say that the military system of Australia has not interfered with the civil rights of the community. What did interfere with those rights was that the majority of the electors returned the Government to power when it appealed on the question of its administration. I complain, not of the military, hut of the civilians - the people - in giving a wrong decision. Of course, they gave it under a misapprehen- sion. Will Senator Pratten tell us some of the occasions wherein the military have ridden roughshod over civil institutions? They are not interfering in any degree at all.
– I could give plenty of instances of military autocracy.
– What about the raid on Parliament?
– Nothing of the kind. Gentlemen whom the honorable senator helped to put in the position of responsibility - that is if he does not repudiate the actions of Parliament itself - gave the military the power to do what they did. The military did nothing as regards that raid on Parliament House, except what they were permitted to do by the authorities of the House itself.
– And what they were ordered to do.
– Exactly. Senator Pratten would never have been here but for the ‘ power behind the military party.
– Does he go to the Sydney Domain on Sundays and listen to some of the speeches there?
– Judging by his remarks, I should say, as a representative of New South Wales, that he is more likely to have been listening to the type of oratory along the Yarra-bank. In a world under arms, how can a Democracy live unless it be also under arms? I was reared a Christian and tried to live up to Christian doctrines. There was only one mistake, and that was that I was not brought up in such a manner that I could uphold those doctrines. I could not see myself turning the .other cheek. I am generally more ready with what is known as the “ cross-counter.” The doctrines of Christianity and of warfare cannot rank side by side A lot of people seem to be able to amalgamate them, but I cannot.
Where has the military rule of Australia ridden roughshod over us? If Senator Pearce sends the censor along to cut out a portion of what a man says upon a civil matter, it is not a military officer who has done that, lt is the civil authority; and yet Senator Pratten blames the military system for it. It is the civil system, constituted by the electors on the broadest based franchise the world has ever known. I am not going to complain of what that system is doing, nor will I saddle the military with the offences of civil government, and try to mislead the people into the belief that there is some monstrous military power among us. The power that is ruling this country, and which has made all the mistakes of the past twelve months or so, is the power acting under the authority of the people given at a general election. I, therefore, hope that Senator Pratten will not try to make more difficult the task of organizing -our military departments by raising against them an outcry about mistakes for which they are not responsible. There may be serious ground for complaint in what is being done within the military organization itself. And, by the way, it has been my experience that after an investigation of these complaints - and I ha’ve” gone to the Minister with some of them myself - they are found in .nine cases out of ten to contain nothing whatever. There has been no need to go to the Minister at all.
Senator Pratten stated, “ The whole world is tired of the war.” ‘ That may be so, but I do not think that this is the place to voice sentiments of that kind. When a man’s knees are knocking together and his nerves are all gone, that is not the time to let the other fellow know that he has merely to deliver a blow and his opponent will drop. I do not believe there is any war weakness in the world to-day.
– War weariness.
– They are much . the same thing. Are we not witnessing, rather than any weariness, a great burst of new energy on behalf of the cause of liberty - even greater than we have’ yet seen? Look at the efforts of the American nation in throwing its millions into Prance.
– A nation which recognises that conscription is not slavery.
– I shall not be drawn off upon that question, more than “to say that Australia under voluntarism has performed, proportionately, -a much greater feat. If any one desires to draw satisfaction from the fact that the Americans are going into it as conscripts, I can only say that it would be well for those favouring conscription not to talk quite so glibly, in view of the comparison of the deeds of voluntary Australians with those of any conscript army. There is no getting away from the truth that conscripts cannot be made to fight like the Australian volunteers.
-If there is fighting upon our own territory, Australia will have to be defended by conscripted Australians.
– They would volunteer to a man.
– I refuse to follow that line of argument, but will emphasize that Senator Pratten was illadvised to make such remarks at such a time. The whole of his speech would have been better left unsaid. He exhibited Senator Pearce as a military tyrant comparable with the Kaiser. That, is a hugely overdrawn picture.
-i did nothing of the kind. That was Senator Ferricks.
– Senator Ferricks had not spokenwhen the Minister replied, deprecating that the honorable senator had likened him to the Kaiser. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is not even a military officer. Had I been in his position I would have been at the head of the Military Forces wearing a uniform - a field marshal, if there is nothing better than that.
When the honorable senator referred to our men coming back, he said they would return as did Cromwell’s soldiers, better men and better citizens. I agree with him there. When I hear people talking about military autocracy, I can only say that I have great regard for that military autocracy of Cromwell, seeing that it gave to us the foundations of liberties which we still continue to enjoy. So far as British liberties are concerned, and we enjoy them here, the origin of many of them may be traced to the military power organized and controlled under Hampden, Pym, Cromwell, and other men to whom British liberty owes so much;
– To the military power ?
– Yes, to the military power. There are two sides to every question when changes are made. I say that so far as the military domination of this country is concerned, any force exercised here interfering with outside citizenship is the force of the civil power exercised by a civil Minister acquiring his authority from the whole of the people on a franchise broad-based on the people’s will. We should remember that here we speak in a responsible place. On Sunday I spoke in a responsible place, the Sydney Domain, where one gets a much better hearing and less interruption. I am sorry to have spoken at such length upon this question, and I should riot have done so but for the seriousness of Senator Pratten’s utterances. The honorable senator was, perhaps, thoughtlessly voicing opinions that he had not seriously considered, and opinions which I think ought to be refuted in this Chamber.
In the opinion of the Minister for Defence there may be something which makes the introduction of this Bill very necessary. I shall not propose any amendments upon it. It is not my place to’ tell the Minister and the members of the Government who are responsible for the returned soldiers, what they ought to include in this measure; but I do say that what we should make perfectly clear in this Bill is that the moment a soldier sets foot in Australia after having been away to fight for us, it should rest with him how long he shall continue in the Military Forces. The Minister considers the Bill necessary in order to keep the returned men in the Forces until they are. employed. That is one of the reasons for the introduction of the measure. Ourmenhave been sworn in for the duration of the war andfour months thereafter, and we should require some legislation if they were still in the Forces five months after the close of the war. If the Bill has been introduced in order that the men may be kept going until they are replaced in civil life, I still think that honorable senators and the Minister would be well advised not to permit even a suspicion to get abroad that the. men, when they return here, may be retained in the Forces for even one day against their will. Take the case of a man who returns in April, which is the ploughing season on his farm, and may have been neglected in his absence. He wants to put a crop in, and if he is not able to do so until June, he will lose the year’s crop. Take the case of a shearer landing here in August. If he were discharged at once he might be able to get a place in a shed which would secure to him the shearing of 3,000 or 4,000 sheep ; but if he is not discharged until September the board may be full, and he will have no chance of re-employment. I am not doubting that the Minister will give attention to cases of this kind, but what I want the Committee to do is to make it so clear that he who runs may read, that as soon as a returned soldier lands in Australia he may claim his freedom.
– At the same time giving the Government the right to continue to grant him military pay for three or four months, if he is willing to remain in the Forces.
– I would give the Government the right to continue the military pay to men so long as they remain in lie Forces of their own volition, and until the Government can place them in civil life. I think the Minister will find even now that he would be well advised if, instead of the amendment he has foreshadowed, he put before the Committee a proposal so clear that no one could misread it, that the day a returning soldier sets foot in Australia it shall rest with him whether he shall return to civil employment or not.
– Has not that been the practice up to the present?
– -Many complain that they are discharged too early.
– But no fit men have returned.
– I recognise that that has been the practice up to the present time, but honorable senators must realize that we are altering the conditions under which our men have enlisted. There is no question about that. I have read the Bill, and I want to say that I am in doubt now as to whether it is sufficiently clear upon the right of a returned soldier to claim demobilization as soon as he returns. I say that he should have that right. I believe that the Minister for Defence and every member of the Committee desire that that right should be conceded to our soldiers. If so, why should we not provide for it in this Bill ?
– The only difficulty is that we might have such a number of applications for discharge that it would not be wise to grant all at the same time. We want to be able to spread them over a period - a week or two, or a month or two.
– I recognise that no living man could deal with 20,000 applications for discharge in a day if they were to be dealt, with on their merits. I recognise that the caution and safety for which the Minister for Defence is renowned make these difficulties appear perhaps bigger to him than they do to people who have not given the same attention to the business, and are not so well posted. Still, the fact remains that by this Bill we are actually altering the conditions under which our men have enlisted. It may be that the proposal is to alter them to the advantage of the men. I am prepared to take the Minister’s word for that. At the same time, if it is possible under this measure for such a suspicion to arise as has been voiced by Senator Pratten, that there is some desire to retain the men for some military purpose, it is wise to avoid that suspicion.
– So long as in doing so we do not land ourselves in trouble of a more serious character.
– I can assure the Minister for Defence that I am not seeking to alter his opinion with a view to creating trouble. He must realize that one of his own supporters has voiced a suspicion that the proposed alteration of the conditions under which our men have enlisted is a dangerous alteration. I do not intend to vote for Senator Pratten’s amendment. But if this Bill is so expressed that a highly intelligent member of the Minister’s own party takes exception to it, and finds room for suspicion as to its intention, the Minister will be well’ advised to make it so clear that none of ns can misread it or read a suspicion into it if we wished to do so. The Minister desires to extend the time in order that the men may be kept on the military paysheet until they can be absorbed in civil employment. Senator . Pratten thinks that there is danger in the proposed extension, and if the measure is doubtful, now is- the time for us to deal with it so that even Senator Pratten will not be able to say that it will be possible, under this measure, for the iron heel of a military autocracy to be imposed upon us. Let me say that if the honorable senator had stripped his arguments of the catch-talk about military autocracy and the necessity for a measure in consonance with
Democracy, lie would have made out a better case.
Here is another point that I think it will be worth the while of the Minister to consider : We are living at a time when everything we do, even with the best intentions, may be misrepresented elsewhere
– That will happen anyhow.
-There is ali the more reason that we should take care that no soldier will say in England, and no soldier in France will have it whispered into his ear, that during his absence an alteration was made in the conditions under which he enlisted. That is very important. People whisper and create misgivings where there should be no misgivings, and they thus do a great deal of harm. I have heard people say, and I believe it is true, that our enemies keep a keen watch upon anything that might be calculated to create dissension in this country or a feeling against this country. If a supporter of the Government can read into this clause a suspicion that our soldiers may be kept in military employment against their will even a day after they land in- Australia, it is the duty of the Minister to alter the measure in such a way as to make it so clear that, even the most plausible whisperer, speaking to men thousands of miles away from here, will not be able to put a wrong construction upon the legislation we are passing. I hope the Minister will propose such an amendment as will make it sufficiently clear that each individual soldier returning to Australia may, when he sets foot on these shores, immediately demand his dismissal from the Forces.
– I freely and frankly give this undertaking on behalf of the Government: that if we can safely, in view of labour conditions and the state of the labour market, continue the present practice of discharging men within fifteen days after their arrival, we shall do so in all cases. I ask that we should have a period of two months in which to take necessary action. We may have as many as 20,000 men returning in one week, and we should have a period of at least two months within which to enable the Repatriation Department to make arrangements for the employment of men who have no farms or shearing employment awaiting them.
– Could not the Minister propose an amendment “providing that nothing in the Act shall prevent any soldier returning to civil employment ?
– -That is what I do provide for by the amendment I have indicated, which reads -
Provided that any member of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia in time of war, who returns to Australia after the cessation of the time of war, and while a proclamation issued under sub-section 3 of section 31 of this Act remains in force, and who, after arrival at the port of final disembarkation in Australia, makes a written application to hie commanding officer for his discharge, shall be entitled to be discharged within two months from the date of his making the application.
– That will mean less than two months.
– Yes; the maximum period will be two months.
– And the returned soldier may be discharged in a day?
– If this Bill constituted in a primary, or even secondary, sense an attempt on the part of the Administration to continue in Australia after the cessation of war a Military Force for military purposes by subterfuge, it would be indefensible. But, having received from the Minister an express undertaking that the measure is really a corollary of the repatriation scheme, and is intended to f acilitate the absorption of our returned soldiers into the ranks of the civilian population, I do not think any great exception can be taken to it. One honorable senator appears to think that the Bill will afford an opportunity for the creation of a standing army. I have no hesitation in saying that I do not see anything criminal, from the standpoint of the interests of Australia, in the creation of a standing army. Indeed, I am prepared to argue that the welfare of the people of this continent will in future demand the creation of such an army, and I believe that the nucleus of that army can be constituted from the ranks of our returned warriors.
– That would be voluntary enlistment upon their part.
– Yes; and I believe that we can get a fair percentage of them to enlist. There is just one phase of this matter that has not yet been touched’ upon. It does seem to me that, if satisfactory repatriation which will avoid the dislocation of the labour market is in view, it will be desirable to allow all returned soldiers who have homes here to at once return to them, with a view to reentering civilian life as soon as possible. No mention has been made of the fact that- 15 or 16 per cent, of the men comprising our Expeditionary .Forces are married, and it will be generally recognised that, after three or four years of war, it is desirable in the interests of the family life that these men shall be allowed to go to their homes as speedily as possible.
– At present, although we retain returned men for fourteen days after their arrival here, we allow them to go to their homes at once.
– It cannot .be too widely circulated that the intention of this measure is to repatriate returned soldiers in such a way that they will not suffer industrially, it is to be regretted that a measure of this description could not have been incorporated in the1 Repatriation Bill, but I suppose that certain legal formalities necessitated its being brought forward as an amendment to. our Defence Act. Despite what . Senator Ferricks has said to the contrary, I think that the Minister’s assurance merits our trust. He has informed . us that under this Bill it is not intended after the war to maintain a Military Force for military purposes, and I think we might judiciously let it be known everywhere that tlie intention of the measure is to facilitate the repatriation of our soldiers, and to enable them to find a satisfactory means of livelihood before they are thrown into the hurly-burly of Australian industrial life. In view of the explanation of the Minister, and notwithstanding that the proposal in the Bill may be represented as a form of conscription, I desire to express my complete satisfaction with the amendment which he has outlined. I do not think we need to be hypersensitive in regard to this matter. The intention, of the Administration is not to constitute a permanent military force under this Bill, and as the whole measure is a corollary to the Repatriation Bill, let us accept it as such, and pass it without further delay.
– I regret an apparent misunderstanding that has arisen in regard to what was really said by the Minister during his speech upon the second reading of this Bill. He then definitely stated that the international position may be such that on the return of our Forces from abroad it may be necessary to keep some of the divisions intact. Many of the arguments which I adduced were based upon that statement.
– The honorable senator omitted all reference to my subsequent qualifications of it.
– There were no qualifications to the statement made by the honorable gentleman; that, owing to the international position, it may be necessary, on the return of our Expeditionary Forces, to keep some divisions intact, pending the pleasure, of the GovernorGeneral in Council. What I wished to secure was practically what Senator Gardiner crystallized in his concluding remarks, namely, the right of every man who has served his country abroad to get out of the Military Forces, if he so desires, immediately upon his return to Australia. It has been recognised by the Minister himself that in the provision embodied in this clause there is something suggestive of an injustice to our returned soldiers, inasmuch as he has outlined an amendment which fixes a maximum period within which the returned soldier shall receive his discharge. I would urge upon him the desirableness of shortening that period to one month.
– The honorable senator may thus defeat the very object which he has in view.
– I quite realize that the difficulties attendant upon dumping thousands of men in Australia will be very acute, but I venture to say that there will be thousands amongst them who will desire to re-enter civilian life as soon as possible, and it would be very injudicious for the Government to keep them in khaki a moment longer than is necessary. We know that a soldier seeking his discharge has to apply to his , Commanding Officer, who, in turn, has to- send his application to somebody else, by whom it is probably forwarded to Melbourne, where it may lay on’ the table of another official for a few days before’ it receives consideration. I want to avoid that sort of thing. If a man desires to get to work immediately upon his return to Australia, he should have the right to do so. I have no apologies to make for anything I have said during the course of this debate, because I think we are all agreed that some limitation should be placed on the period during, which returned soldiers may be kept in khaki. That fact has been evidenced by the proposal of the Minister to limit that period to two months. I hope that he will consent to still further whittling it down to one month, I would remind him that there will probably be many men who, having cut adrift from all their previous environment, will elect to remain in the Army until something can be done for them. These men will not become the wards of the Minister for Repatriation until he is able to attend to them. But I do wish to appeal to the Government on behalf of those men who will be anxious to re-enter civilian life as soon as possible. If the period mentioned by the Minister be curtailed to one ‘ month it will probably constitute a fair compromise, and will represent the best that can be done both in. the interests of the soldier and of the country.
.- Let me give an instance of the unwisdom of still further limiting the period which I have indicated as that within which a returned soldier must be discharged to one month. I may say that my military advisers requested me to make that period four months. However, I have taken upon myself the responsibility of cutting it down to two months. There is one class of case in regard to which that period will be found to be extremely short. Unfortunately we. shall have returning to Australia, after the war, a large number of men who are afflicted with tubercular complaints. Now the peculiar feature about men afflicted with such complaints is that they always believe they are going to recover. We want to be able to keep them under our control until the Repatriation Department is able to provide proper establishments for their reception, and is ready to take themunder its care. I need scarcely point out that it is quite possible they may return in such numbers that the Defence authorities will not be able to provide them with sufficient accommodation. Consequently, it is in the interests of the men themselves that we should have at least two months in which to make the requisite provision. In the case of the ordinary soldier, however, it will be to the interests of the Government to get rid of him at once. We shall naturally be anxious to get him off the pay-roll as early as possible. In all the circumstances, I think that the limitation which I have suggested is a very reasonable one.
– TheMinister has avowed that, in the interests of the men themselves, he desires a period to be prescribed within which returned soldiers shall be entitled to their discharge. But I would remind him that he, above all others, should be extremely careful lest he should do anything which will in the slightest degree interfere with enlistments. Now, if we increase the period for which a soldier enlisted, obviously we are breaking faith with him. I submit that the Minister already possesses ample power under . subsection 3 of proposed new section 39, which reads -
When a soldier becomes entitled to be discharged, he shall be discharged with all convenient speed; but until discharged he shall remain a member of the Defence Force.’
That provision confers upon the Minister all the power that he requires. We do not wish to see men discharged the moment they arrive in Australia, unless they.have employment awaiting them, and are fit to be discharged. But I protest against the fixing of the period that is “proposed, on the ground that by so doing we shall be deliberately breaking faith with our soldiers by increasing the length of their service.
Amendment (by Senator Grant) again proposed -
That paragraph b of sub-section 2 of proposed new section 39 be left out.
– If the amendment, is carried, we might as well throw the Bill under the table. I cannot vote for it, because it would practically leave things where they are, and it is universally admitted that we must pass some legislation in order to keep the divisions intact until they return.
Question - That paragraph b of subsection 2 of proposed new section 39 be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That after paragraph b of sub-section 2 of proposed new section 39 the following proviso be inserted: - “Provided that any member of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia in time of war who returns to Australia after the cessation of the time of war, and while a proclamation issued under sub-section 3 of section 31 of this Act remains in force, and who after arrival at the port of his final disembarkation in Australia mates written application to his Commanding Officer for his discharge shall be entitled to be discharged within two months from the date of the making of the application.”
I give Senator Pratten the assurance that it is the intention of the Government to read that proviso, not that we shall keep the soldier for two months if we are satisfied that he has a home to go to, and means of livelihood, but that we shall discharge him at the earliest possible opportunity, within a few days of his arrival, if that is possible. That is the spirit in which” the Government propose to read the amendment.
– I am glad the Minister has proposed this amendment, which will largely meet the objections to the Bill as it stood. I accept, and the Senate ought to accept, the Minister’s frank assurance that it is the intention of the Government to discharge our men when they return, after peace is declared, within a few days, if they can show they have somewhere to go, and will not be a charge on the country. A period of one month was suggested, but it is as well to extend it to two months in some cases and some circumstances. In view of the Minister’s action, I do not intend to proceed with my amendment.
.- I am not much concerned whether the period is one or two months, but would point out that the cases of bad health referred to by Senator Pearce will be so numerous, the diseases so varied, and the question so serious, both to the soldiers and to the rest of Australia, that the Government should deal with them in a special measure. That is one of the grave issues we are up against. If a special clause can be added to this Bill, to deal with those cases, it would be wise to adopt it. If not, the Government would be well advised to meet them by special legislation.
– I painted out, when speaking on repatriation last week, that the Department was organizing means to receive the men of the class to which Senator Gardiner refers, but some period of grace is required in case ten or a dozen transports landed from 20,000 to 25,000 men within a week, and they were all discharged in that period. The Department could not handle those numbers in the time, although it could do so if they were spread over a month or two. Unless it created establishments and organizations much bigger than are required at normal times, the Department would break down under the strain.
– It is not mandatory to discharge all the men.
– Quite so, and the Minister asks for two months’ grace. An ‘ additional reason why honorable senators should grant that is that, until the creation of the new Repatriation Department and the launching of the present scheme, there was a very persistent demand in many quarters that the Defence Department should not discharge a single soldier until he was fitted to return to civil life or a place had been found for him.
– I voice that demand now.
– Instead of adopting that method, the Government have met the difficulty by creating a Repatriation Department. When a man is discharged, that Department will either give him a sustenance allowance or find him means to support himself. That brings about a radical difference in the situation. Before the new scheme came into operation, a man was under some inducement to delay applying for his discharge, because so long as he was an undischarged soldier he received military pay, and naturally was not as ready to apply for his discharge when he knew that to do so would leave him without payment, as he never will be when the repatriation scheme is in operation. He knows now that by getting his discharge from the military he can come on the repatriation pay-roll. This is an additional incentive to him to get his discharge at the earliest moment.
– You are assuming that every man who wants his discharge will become a charge on your Department.
– I am assuming that a very large number are going to get sustenance from my Department on applying for it. I am simply fighting for a chance for my Department. I want some reasonable sea-room to be provided, so I urge the Committee to accept the amendment, coupled with the Minister’s assurance, because it will give the Repatriation Department a little breathingtime if the men arrive in the numbers I have mentioned.
– Would you not agree that a soldier should be discharged within twenty-four hours of arrival if he did not become a charge on the Repatriation Department?
– If he did not, the Minister for Defence, myself, the Treasurer, and the taxpayer would all join in saying, “ Give him his discharge at the earliest possible moment.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section 41 of the principal Act is amended by inserting after the words “ time of war “ the words “ or except so long as a proclamation issued under sub-section 3 of section 31 of this Act remains in force.”
Section proposed to be amended -
Every soldier of the Reserve Forces may, except in time of war, claim his discharge before the expiration of the period of service for which he engaged on giving fourteen days’ notice in writing to his ‘ Commanding: Officer of his intention to claim his discharge.
– I cannot’ see the necessity for retaining under the operation of the proclamation the members of the Reserve Forces. Irrespective of those that may be referred to in the proclamation, the following military branches are organized and maintained by the Department: - Administrative and Instructional Staffs, Aviation, Survey, Army Service, Medical, Veterinary, Ordnance, Artillery, Engineers, and Submarine Mining Engineers. All returned men who will not be absorbed by the repatriation scheme will be available, and presumably willing, to take up guard duty at the Concentration Camps. If there is nothing more behind this Bill, it seems strange that it should be deemed necessary to bring the Reserve Forces within the scope of the proclamation, so as to prevent them from obtaining their discharge until the GovernorGeneral so orders. I do not see the necessity for clause 6 at all, and the Minister has not given us reasons for this provision. When the proposal to form the Reserve was first mentioned, I asked the Minister for Defence if members of the Reserve would be used in any industrial or domestic trouble, but up to the present he has not “ furnished an answer to my query. . The question whether returned soldiers, who are included in the stand-by corps, would be called upon to take any part in an industrial dispute to the detriment of organized labour has never been cleared up.
Quite recently, in Queensland, wo had an application of conscription through the instrumentality of the Military Forces. It appears that after the floods and cyclone in Mackay, men who were asked to do some clearing up and urgent removal of stores asked for what was considered an exorbitant rate of pay, and the two gentlemen who were sent up from Melbourne as Commissioners representing the Federal Government, in their report to the Prime Minister, boasted of the fact that they were able to get the work done by Cadets, who were undergoing military training, at the rate of 3s. per day. Thus, by means of compulsory military service, trainees were actually employed in an industrial trouble. I suppose that there is no more disagreeable work than the clearing up of debris after a flood, and if, in view of the nature of the work the men asked for a high rate of pay, that was their concern. If the work had “to be done for nothing, probably it would have been carried out by those very men. I do not think it was right to employ trainees at 3s. a day on that work. Without any explanatory statement from the Minister regarding the necessity for the all-embracing nature of the clause, I think there is some ground for our fears as to the manner in which this power may be employed in the future. The reasons given by the Minister for Defence were very brief. He said that officers would be required to control the guards at the Concentration Camps, and thatthey would be drawn from the Officers’ Reserve, but I think we will find many men imbued with a desire to continue a military career for some time, and probably they would only be too willing to take up the duties referred to. I shall vote against the clause, because I can see no necessity for it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Amendment of section 148).
– This, the last clause of the Bill, brings under review the practice of appointing officers in the Australian Permanent Forces. In section 148 of theprincipal Act it is laid down that no person who is not a graduate of the Military College shall be appointed an officer of the Permanent Forces, and the clause now before the Committee states that in time of war this provision shall not apply to officers of any Expeditionary Force raised for service outside the Commonwealth, and that it shall be retrospective. I think the section of the Act making it incumbent on an officer to be a graduate of the Military College should be altered, because, in my judgment, the best officers for our Permanent Forces will be those who have had actual experience in warfare.
– This clause includes them, does it not?
– No. The amendment only provides for their appointment in time of war: After the war, all the officers of our Expeditionary
Forces will be required to return to their civilian occupations, while our Permanent Forces will continue to be officered by Cadets and others who have gone through the Military College. The Australian Permanent Forces may become involved in another war. God forbid it ; but that might happen, and under the Act as it now stands the permanent officers would be drawn from those who have had no war experience at all.
– Will not the present officers be available ?
– No, because they will be disbanded.
– No, they will be included in the reserve of officers.
– As the Act stands they could not be appointed as officers in the Australian Permanent Forces unless they were graduates of the College.
– If Citizen Force officers, they will remain in the Citizen Forces; if they are not, they will go into the reserve of officers.
– So far as the Permanent Forces are concerned, no officers may be appointed unless they have been through the Military College. I do not wish to move an amendment to the clause. I am merely expressing the opinion that when an amendment of the Act was under review, this matter might have been considered. Perhaps it has been.
– I mentioned it on the second reading.
– It appears to me that the bestofficers we can secure for the Australian Permanent Military Forces are those who have had actual war experience, and not men who have graduated through the Military College.
– I point out that the permanent officers are really only the instructors of our Army. Ours is a Citizen Force, and it is commanded and led by citizen officers. The permanent officers are really the schoolmasters. They do not lead our Army. This scheme has been adopted as the result of careful investigation into our military system by Lord Kitchener, who advised that we should establish a Military College for the training of instructors. That College has been established, and each year it turns out a certain number of trained officers who are appointed to the. Instructional Staff and distributed throughout the country as instructors for our Citizen Force officers. These Citizen Force officers are the men who command our battalions and lead our armies in war. This question was debated when we were considering the last amending Defence Bill, because then it was proposed that officers who had served in this war should be eligible for appointment to our Permanent Forces, but I pointed out then that if this course were followed, we might as well wipe out the Military College for the time being, because if appointments were made from the Australian Imperial Force it would be impossible to know each year how many graduates would be required from the Military College. One Government might appoint Australian Imperial Force officers to every vacancy, and so the need for graduates would disappear, and as there would be no vacancies, we would virtually be breaking a contract entered into with the parents of students, that graduates would be appointed to’ the Instructional Staff. This special instruction in military science has been found to be necessary in all the armies of the world, and it was adopted in Australia on the advice of Lord Kitchener, our greatest soldier. The system is now in full working order, and it is quite satisfactory in its operation. I am glad to know that Senator Pratten does not intend to submit an amendment. As regards our citizen officers, who in this war have proved themselves to be leaders of men, they will be retained in the Reserves, and will continue to train and lead our battalions, so that if another war takes place- in five or ten years their services will be readily available.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Aus vernment inform honorable senators whether opportunities will be provided for dealing with private business, and disposing of a number of notices of motion, prior to the adjournment of Parliament?
– I desire to ask a similar question: whether the opportunity, if granted, would apply also to the notice of motion standing in my name, dealing with the report of the Senate Select Committee on Intoxicants?
– I understood, with regard to the Bill which has just passed through Committee, that the suspension of the Standing Orders was secured that the measure might be put through all its stages.
– I desired to have the report adopted, and to take the third reading to-morrow.
– In reply to the inquiries of Senators Needham and Thomas, I confirm what I had already privately conveyed to them, namely, that an opportunity will be given before the close of the session for the discussion of motions standing against honorable senators’ names.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate Committee on Intoxicants - cornsacks andjutecontract.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- Withrespect to the motion in the name of ‘Senator Thomas, dealing with the investigations of the Senate Committee on Intoxicants, I do not desire to anticipate the report, but when the Committee was appointed I drew attention to the waste of money likely to be incurred, in that the investigations were to be prosecuted in Hobart during the hot weather, and at Cairns in the cold season. I find now, however, that the Committee has not yet visited the chief city of Australia. Parties on both sides of the liquor question in Sydney have been led to believe that the Committee would make a visit, and they have put themselves to trouble and expense in preparing evidence. Now, it seems, they are not to have an opportunity on either side of stating their case.
– Is that the Prohibition Committee?
– I do not know the name, but I refer to both sides. As a matter of fact, I am standing between the two. The temperance people will not support me because I am a representative of Labour, and the followers of the licensed victuallers will not support me because I am against drink. At any rate, I am in an independent position. ‘ I am able to put the case impartially, and it seems wrong that when parties are prepared to represent their case in the chief centre of the Commonwealth the Committee should fail to secure such valuable information. I hope that before the report is finalized honorable senators upon the Committee will visit Sydney.
.- I should like the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) to evince a little more notice of certain questions put to him last week and this. I ask him to look carefully into the matter of the jute contract and the supply of cornsacks for Australian requirements. It is a vitally important question, upon which the Minister should place himself in the position of being able to make a statement when the Senate meets next week. There have been grave inaccuracies placed before the public in a portion of the press during the past week, which should be corrected at the earliest possible moment. I can only add that if Senator Russell cannot place the facts before the people I shall deem it my duty to bring them forward in some other form.
– The honorable senator seems to think that I am trying to suppress something. The fullest information has been given to the people through both Houses of the Federal Legislature, as far as I have been able to do so. A cablegram was sent to the Indian Government five days ago, asking for the final conclusion in connexion with the jute contract. The moment the reply is received I shall be able to tell what is the position in regard to jute for the whole of the season throughout Australia. Until then, I cannot say more than what I have done already. The moment that cablegram arrives, which will finalize the matter, Australia shall know the whole position within twenty-four hours. In regard to the criticism in the Age, I may say that after having carefully looked through the report this morning, Major Purcell’s complaint is that we did not get into direct contact with the millers of India.
– He says more than that.
– That is his concrete statement”. He points out that the British Government had a wonderful deal with the millers of India. The man who is the controller of jute in , India, who purchases all the sand-bags for the Allies in connexion with the war, and all the requirements for the Indian Government, is the identical person who is purchasing the cornsacks for Australia this year.
– Major Purcell says
Ave have been badly exploited by the Indian middlemen.
– I believe there was an unsatisfactory system there, but the Government tried to alter it twelve months ago. I am not able, however, to control the jute dealers in Calcutta. A year ago the Government of India declined to interfere with the normal conditions of trade. To-day they have agreed, because of the development of war necessities, but the agreement is limited to war conditions.
– Do you mean to tell us that this Government is impotent in that regard ?
– Yes, provided we get a refusal from the Indian and British Governments.
– Is this Government impotent altogether?
– Yes, in this matter. We cannot tell the jute millers of Calcutta to sell to us. We might carry 10,000 Bills here, but it would not enable us to purchase a sack in Calcutta without the consent of the Calcutta merchants. The Indian Government have made it clear to us that such items as cement bags, for example, are not necessities of war; neither are bran bags. The Allies do not purchase them.
– What representations have the Government made to the British Government?
– Full representations to the . British and’ Indian Governments in regard to the jute position in Australia. As I have indicated, I am now awaiting a cablegram from India, and so soon as that arrives the people shall be informed of the exact position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at6.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 May 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19180509_senate_7_84/>.