7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Employment on Kalgoorlie to Port August a Railway.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister forWorks and Railways whether he has any information to give me in answer to the question I asked last week about men seeking employment on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway having to produce their rejectionbadges?
-The Department has communicated with Western Australia in connexion with this matter, and is now awaiting a Teply. The moment it is receivedI shall be glad to supply it to the honorable senator.
The followingpapers were presented: -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911. - Award, dated 18th Hay, 1918, of Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and other documents, in connexion with plaint submitted by the General Division Officers’ Union of the Trade and Customs Department of Australia.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1918- - Land acquired at Brisbane, Queensland - For Customs purposes.
Public Service Act 1902-1917- Regulations amended.- Statutory Rules 1918, No. 134.
Enlistment of Minors - General Officer Commanding - Enlistment for Special Service - Sick Pay from Friendly Societies.
– (By leave).-My attention has been called to the report in Hansard of proceedings of Thursday, 23rd May, in which there is a reply given by myself to a question asked bySenator Fairbairn in connexion with the enlistment of minors without their parents’ consent. In reply to that question, I stated the decision of the Government on their reconsideration of the matter. Then
Senator Gardiner is reported to have asked the following question: ;
Arising out of the answer to Senator Fairbairn’s question, I ask whether it is the intention of the Government to send to the Front any young men of eighteen years of age who have already enlisted without their parents’ consent.
I am reported to have replied -
It is not only the intention to do so, but it has been the practice since the commencement of the war.
Obviously either Senator Gardiner’s question was not correctly reported, or I misunderstood its purport. I have consulted the Hansard authorities, and am informed that the question as attributed in the report to Senator Gardiner has not been altered by him. That being so, I must have misunderstood the question. What I understood Senator Gardiner to ask was whether it was the intention to continue the enlistment of men over the age of eighteen years with the consent of their parents. That is clear from my reply -
It is not only the intention to do so, but it has been the practice since the commencement of the war.
Honorable senators are aware that it bad not been the practice since the commencement of the war to send to the Front young men of eighteen years of age who enlisted without their parents’ consent. This is further borne out by the answer I gave to a question put by Senator Newland, in which I informed him, in connexion with the question raised by Senator Fairbairn, that it was the intention of the Government to make the alteration in the regulation retrospective. I make this explanation so that there shall ‘be no misunderstanding. My answer to Senator Gardiner’s question, which was put without notice, was given under the assumption that he was asking me whether the Government intended to continue the enlistment of men over eighteen years of age with the consent of their parents. That is why I replied that it was, and that it had been the practice since the war. began.
– This shows the evil of questions without notice.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
How many minors under nineteen have enlisted without the consent of their parents since the order allowing this to be done first came into force, and how many have since been discharged?
– Inquiries are being made, and the information willbe made available as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is there any truth in the rumour that General Birdwood will shortly be succeeded in the command of the Australian Military Forces in France by General Monash ?
– Certain negotiations re commands are proceeding. Until permission is received from authoritiesoverseas I am not able to make a statement.
asked the Minister for Defence; upon notice -
– I will have inquiries made and inform the honorablesenator as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. There is a special stiff employed in Base Records, for the purpose ofdealing with all applications for certificates in connexion with lodge payments. The information available is promptly furnished. Where any great length of time, has elapsed, and the records are incomplete, the Australian Imperial Force authorities in London are requested to forward the desired particulars.
As minor cases of sickness are not generally cabled, some time must necessarily elapse before the information in certain instances canarrive by mail. It has so happened that records have been lost in transit - the result of enemy action - in which case the particulars are also bte in coming to hand.
No effort is spared to reach finality in every case dealt with, and where unavoidable delay has occurred it has been the res.ult of one or other of the causes above stated.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he has received any information regarding the question I put to him on the subject of the increased price of Australian furniture timbers?
– The honorable senator asked the following question : -
The replies are - 1, 2, and 3. The Government have no information on the subject.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council what steps are necessary to be taken by those who desire to purchase damaged wheat? With whom should they communicate, and what is the procedure?
– All information in connexion with the matter will be supplied by Mr. Baker, manager of the Victorian Wheat Pool, in this city.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What is the total amount of fines levied and collected from soldiers in the Caulfield Hospital?
– Inquiries are being made, and the honorable senator will be informed as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he have printed for members’ information a catalogue of all the publications that have been prohibited from circulation in Australia under the war regulations?
– The course suggested by the honorable senator is not considered advisable.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
What are the names and occupations of the members of the Advisory Committees now existing in connexion with Commonwealth shipments of - (a) Wheat. (b)Rabbits, (c) Butter?
– The answer is-
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council why these Advisory Committees were not included in the list presented in reply to a previous question of mine ?
– I must ask the honorable senator to give notice of that question.
Report (No. 2) presented by Senator Barker.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 5th June (vide page 5470), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Minister said the Bill was simply to give authority to borrow at the best opportunity. Nobody can disagree with that; but the conditions under which the loan is to be floated are not set out. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) promised in another place that no more loans would be floated free of taxation; but yesterday the Minister gave us no definite promise on that point. He said he would not raise the question. It certainly should be raised during the passage of the Bill, and will have to be faced by the Government in their efforts to obtain money to carry on the war. They will have to impose on that interest the taxation necessary to raise revenue. In the last loan they gave borrowers the option of subscribing at 5 per cent. taxable or 4½ per cent. non-taxable interest. The Minister stated, in his second-reading speech on that occasion, that the persons who lent money to the Government would certainly suit their own convenience as to which method they would adopt of receiving their interest. I always understood it was not a matter of business, but a matter of patriotism, with those who were lending money to’ the Government for war purposes. They should lend their money to the Government in the way best calculated to assist the Government to finance its war obligations. In view of the heavy taxation bills we shall have to meet, and the extraordinary amount of loan indebtedness, both Federal and State, in Australia, something else will have to be done, because we cannot go on borrowing and then attempt to pay the money by appropriating part of the loan as a sinking fund. That is an unsound principle in all business transactions. The best principle we could adopt is that which has been adopted in America - to conscript the wealth of the wealthy. It would also be well for the Minister to give the Senate some idea of the amount of taxation, both Federal and State. There is a difference of £2,000,000 in the statement made by Mr. Watt in another place and that made by the Minister here regarding war loans from the Government of the United Kingdom. Probably that is due to some mistake in the printing.
The public debt of the Commonwealth, according to the Treasurer’s figures, stands as follows: -
The Commonwealth has also lent nearly £40,000,000 to the States, made up as follows : -
Though the States are liable for this debt, it is not likely they will be able to redeem it when it falls due, and therefore the Commonwealth will have to find the money.We are piling up an enormous debt. I am not objecting to it at the present time, because we must go on if we are to carry this war to a successful issue. We cannot go back, but it is time the Government took the advice of those financial experts who are warning them of the extraordinary amount of loan money that is being obtained, the interest upon which is free of taxation. It is time we found some other means of raising portion of this money. We are allowing trusts and combines to make vast sums out of the people during war-time, while at the same time we are borrowing to carry on the war. Those who are making 100 per cent. more than they were before the war are the people who, in my opinion, should be called upon to pay a greater share towards the cost of the war.
The public debt of the States on the 30th June, 1917, was estimated by the Commonwealth Treasurer to be -
Of this total £245,500,000 is owing to British lenders and £130,000,000 to Australian lenders, so over 50 per cent. of the interest will go out of the country. The position is that the Commonwealth owes £246,199,466, and the States owe £375,412,987. After deducting £12,000,000, included in both these amounts, which the Commonwealth borrowed for the States, we have a national debt of £609,612,933 as at 30th June, 1917, in the case of the States, and 30th April, 1918, in the case of the Commonwealth. But we are also informed that there is an amount of £39,750,000 which we owe to the Imperial Government, representing unpaid maintenance of Australian soldiers abroad. Therefore, taking this into consideration, we find that we have a Commonwealth public debt of about £286,000,000, and not £246,000,000, as stated by the Treasurer in another place. The interest charge on these debts at 30th June, 1917, is £14,314,563, and of this amount £9,382,2.97 is payable in London and £4,932,266 in Australia. It is time, therefore, that the Government took into consideration the question of making heavier levies upon those who are accumulating so much more wealth at the present time than they were before the war. In the last war loan, out of £43,000,000 subscribed, £37,000,000 was taken up at 4½ per cent., free from taxation, and only £6,000,000 was taken up at the rate of 5 per cent. without exemption from taxation, so it is clear we must find some other way of financing the war. I believe we should follow the example of America. The Government of that country are not afraid to tax wealth, because evidently they believe that a man who offers or gives his life to his country renders a greater service than a wealthy man who only lends portion of his money to carry on the war.
I .noticed in the press the other ‘day a report that a squatter who had put £100,000 into war loans at 4J per cent., free from taxation, was really getting a return of almost 10 per cent. He had given up his holding, and intended to live for the rest of his life on the people of this country. As he was passing down the street in a country town in his motor car, he was passed by a veteran battlescarred shearer, proud of his wounds, driving in his sulky on his way to fight again the battle of life as he had fought it before he went to the war. That is a comparison which should be impossible in this country. It should be impossible for it to be said that one man may offer his life, and perhaps come back maimed, while a wealthy man should escape merely by lending a portion of his money at a remunerative rate of interest. If Ave are to be consistent, each man in the community should do his full share. I think that every person with an income over a certain amount should be compelled to disgorge it to the Commonwealth. I am perfectly willing to give the little bit I have, but others should be obliged to do the same. One of the finest things I ever heard said was uttered by a soldier, who remarked that every man in this country should be on a soldier’s pay, and be compelled to live on it until the war was over. If, however, we put this proposal in front of some people, how they would squeal. In America, as I have already said, the Government are not afraid to tax the wealthy. John D. Rockefeller, with an income of £12,000,000, is called upon to pay income tax on excess war-time profits to the amount of £7,600,000; Andrew Carnegie, whose income is £2,000,000, pays £1,300,000; Henry Ford, with an income of £1,000,000, pays £600,000; and J. Pierpont Morgan, whose income is £700,000, pays £450,000. In that country, as in Australia, the rich are getting richer, and I urge that we should do something in the direction of conscripting wealth to help carry on the war, and cease borrowing as much as we can. Shipping companies, big commercial concerns and traders generally are making huge sums. Even Mr. Bonar Law admitted that during the wax he had made profits amounting to £3,847 in one year out of an investment of £8,000. That was during 1916, and he is one of the men in high places in England. Such things as those exist in Australia also. I trust the Government will attempt to do something in the direction I have indicated. If the war lasts until 1920 I do not know where we shall be. From all that I can read and reason, it is going to be a long war. If we have to beat the enemy down to his knees it will certainly take time; and, by 1920, Australia will be owing £400,000,000. Where are we going to find the money to pay the enormous interest bill upon that debt ? It will be an impossibility. When we realize the debts of the Commonwealth, and of the States, we are forced to the conclusion that, the only thing to do is to reduce national expenditure, so far as the collection of these loans, at any rate, is concerned. The only course open is for a strong, and fearless’ National Government to take control of the finances of the whole of Australia, Commonwealth and State. The only way available to us is to save the cost to-day of government in Australia - to reduce that item, which amounts, for every man, woman, and child, to 3s. a week for the privilege of being governed. The only way to meet the terrible bill of costs which will be presented to us after the war is to set straight out upon the course I have outlined.
I would like to see it stated in the Bill that the interest payable shall be taxed in the usual way. If men are going to give up their holdings, and their estates, and their business interests, and the like, and put their money into war loans, and live upon the interest for the rest of their lives, then the least that can be said of them is that they have not done what those have done who shouldered the rifle, and risked their lives at the Front.
– I call the attention of the Minister (Senator Millen) to one comparatively small point arising out of the Bill. Clause 3 states that the amount borrowed shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for war purposes. How does the Minister reconcile that with another Bill which has been before us, and which provides for the repurchase of war loan securities? Clause 3 of the measure under discussion is most explicit; it states that we can only use the money either for the expenses of the loan, or for war purposes. But the War Loan Securities Repurchase Bill provides that out of each amount borrowed, oneeighth of 1 per cent. shall be put into a special fund. I think there will be required another clause in the Bill we are discussing, so as to give the Minister power to deduct the one-eighth of 1 per cent. to be paid into the securities mentioned in the other measure.
– You question whether the term “ for war purposes “ would cover it?
Seuator FAIRBAIRN.- Yes. I think it is worth looking into.
– The War Loan Securities Repurchase Bill authorizes those payments out of any war loan moneys.
– But this would prevent it. Clause 3 sets out that the amount borrowed is to be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for war purposes. I think it would knock out the other Bill altogether if this became an Act.
Apart from that point, I desire to make little further reference to the measure. ‘We all know that we must have immense sums of money to carry on the war. The amount indicated, namely, £80,000,000, is absolutely necessary. I am glad that the power to borrow has not been limited to Australia. When we realize that the total liquid assets in the banks now, in the form of gold and notes, is only £54,000,000, it rather alarms us at a time when we are giving power to borrow £80,000,000. It is true that as this money is borrowed it will not be all raised at once. It will be circulated and will get into the banks again, so that we can carry on in that way. But this is a country which requires great capital expenditure. We are a young nation. We must build up means of communication, and spend money in all directions to make this land more fit for population - the all-necessary consideration. I am glad, for that reason alone, that it will be possible to borrow outside of Australia. I do not think we could go to Great Britain now; hut we could enter the markets of the United States of America, and thus secure money in other directions while not depleting capital reserves here.
Another reason why we should be glad to borrow in the United States of America is that where the treasure is there the heart is also. We want to see the great heart of the United States of America - a country so closely akin to us - beating warmly in its regard for Australia. It would inspire in us the greatest confidence if we realized that. America was taking a close interest in our concerns - if we could feel that America was looking upon Australia as a younger sister.
It is not my intention to reply to Senator McDougall, but I may say that I quite agree with him upon one point, namely, that we should retain the power to tax every conceivable form of property. The Government would be well advised in future to issue loans only with the right to tax them. But I doubt very much whether, if we limited the income which one could derive to such a sum as Senator McDougall has indicated, it would not cause more harm than good. Any drastic change of that sort brought about during the war would be apt to create panic and cause misery, which no one desires to see. The Labour party gave up the idea of conscripting wealth.. In the manifesto issued before the last elections the idea set forth was to take 1 per cent. of everybody’s wealth, but that proposal was forsaken. Mr. Tudor, in his election speech, said that on further consideration his party had come to the conclusion that the proposal would cause a great deal of unrest, turmoil, and distress in the community. I quite agree with that. It is all very well to say that everybody should live on a pittance; but I do not think, if the position were analyzed, it would be found that there is a very great difference between what people live upon in the various sections of the community. There are many ways in which a man spends his income which are of tremendous benefit to the community. In Australia there is very little of the outrageous extravagance which is so prominent in many other parts of the world. I do not agree with Senator McDougall when he says that, because Mr. Ford pays £600,000 a year by way of war profits taxation, he is doing a very great thing. I do not think that, relatively, he is doing anything like what is being done in Australia. Last year, I believe that his income was £12,000,000.
– Why, he manufactured 750,000 motor cars last year.
– I understand that his income is about £12,000,000 annually, and if he got off with the payment of only £600,000 by way of war profits taxation, I think that he did remarkably well. He would not escape with the payment of anything like that sum if he were resident in this country. But I rose particularly to call the attention of the Government to the apparent conflict between clause 3 of this Bill and the War Securities Repurchase Bill.
– I think that the figures quoted bv Senator McDougall must force upon us a sense of the responsibilities with which we are confronted in connexion with our national indebtedness, and must compel us to realize that we cannot too soon make an endeavour to meet those responsibilities. The facility with which this Parliament is to-day juggling with millions affords one an opportunity of instituting a few comparisons as to what the potentialities of Australia have been in this regard. It will be recollected by honorable senators that when it was estimated that the adoption of auniform railway gauge throughout the Commonwealth would involve an expenditure of about £37.000,000, the project was viewed as one which was quite outside our financial resources. The same remark is applicable to the proposal to construct the transcontinental railway from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin. Yet, under this Bill, and under previous War Loan Acts, Australia has raised, and is now spending, at the rate of £1,250,000 a week. Had we adopted a uniform railway gauge throughout the Commonwealth, or had we built the north-south transcontinental line, at least we should have got something for our money. But out of the expenditure incurred for war purposes, we shall get only the continued destruction of human life. Without desiring to reflect upon the honorable senator who preceded me, I wish to say that the number of wealthy persons in Australia who now recognise that in exempting from taxation investments in our war loan the Commonwealth is pursuing a wrong course, is very significant. In this connexion, I am reminded of a statement which I made the other day in reference to an address delivered by Sir John Grice at a meeting of the shareholders in the Bank of Australasia, which took place in Melbourne. At the time when he spoke, that institution had invested in our war loans no less than £12,000,000. which was therefore exempt from State and Federal income tax. Some interested persons may, not unnaturally, take the view, having got their own money into our Commonwealth War Loans, that it is not a safe or sound policy to continue to grant to subscriptions to those loans immunity from taxation. I know very well that in the early stages of the war the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) strongly held the view that any such provision must inevitably operate to the benefit of the large investor. I welcome the Bill which is now before us, because any loan moneys raised under its authority will be subject to taxation in the ordinary way.
I wish also to point out that New Zealand has already taken a very pronounced step towards the conscription of wealth, and I believe that a similar position will have to be taken up in Australia. Whileit is quite true that the manifesto circulated at the last election stated that a levy upon wealth would be an unsound policy to adopt, I would remind honorable senators that that manifesto did not emanate from the Labour movement, although it purported to speak for the Labour party. The huge financial responsibilities which at present face Australia make one wonder where our expenditure is going to end. When we realize that there has not been, nor is there to be, any genuine attempt made to economize, the significance of the position is brought home to us. We certainly hear a good deal of talk about economy, but we do not see any practical steps taken in that direction.
There is just one other phase of this Bill to which I desire to direct attention. About ten days ago I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer what amount of money had beeu credited to members of stock exchanges by way of commission or brokerage on subscriptions which had flowed through their offices into our war loans. I was informed that the amount reached £85,047. Now, no less than two years ago I adopted the attitude that the commission paid to stockbrokers in this connexion is absolutely unjustifiable. I desire to know whether this pernicious principle is to be continued under this Bill. To certain gentlemen it will doubtless appear that a sum of £85,047 is neither here nor there. But I have a keen recollection that upon the introduction of our first War Loan Bill Senator Russell definitely stated that every bank and post-office throughout the Commonwealth was prepared to undertake, for nothing, the work for which we pay brokers 5s. per cent. Where, then, is the justification for the payment of this commission ? Obviously there can be none. It is plain that brokers have been instrumental in obtaining large subscriptions to our war loans. But the real position is that, when a man intends investing largely in one of our war loans he naturally puts the business through a friend on the Stock Exchange in order that the latter may collect his commission of 5s. per cent. I repeat that this expenditure is unwarranted, seeing that every bank and post-office throughout the Commonwealth has been doing the work for nothing. The sum involved may be considered comparatively small. I understand that it represents £85,000 odd for a total of £34,000,000 obtained for the war loan fund. However, I contend that that money would have gone into the war loan fund without the exertions of these gentry. If that is not so, we might ask where the patriotism and loyalty of the people who held this money came in. I want to know whether the practice of paying these sums for brokerageis to continue. I consider it wrong and unjustifiable.
I should like to know, further, the date of the maturity of the loan now proposed. The date of maturity of the last loan was 1927, and of a previous loan 1925. I was one of those who considered that there should have been a greater interval than two years between the dates of maturity of those loans. But, upon further consideration of the question, I have come to the conclusion that the earlier the date of the maturing of all these war loans the better it will be for the financial position of Australia. I make this statement because Australia will have to carry on at the financial disadvantage imposed by the removal of £150,000,000 from the field of taxation up to’ 1925 and 1927. When those dates are reached, it will be reasonable to assume that we shall have in power a Government courageous enough, in renewing the loans, to force upon those who have invested in them liability to Commonwealth and State taxation upon the incomes derived from them, or, in the alternative, will propose a wealth levy, as suggested by Senator Fairbairn. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) to say whether the date of maturity of this proposed loan will be the same as that of the last loan - 1927. Will the prospectus provide for that?
– And for the rate of interest?
– What is the rate of interest to be?
– When the prospectus is being drawn up, thatwillbe determined.
– I think the Minister should give the Senate some information on the point.
– I cannot give it.
– Are we, then, to assume that we must pass this Bill, and permit the Treasurer to make what arrangements he pleases?
– Honorable senators are asked to do exactly what they have done on six previous occasions.
– But we have always had an assurance as to the rate of interest.
– I do not know that honorable senators have had that assurance.
– Yes, we have, because amendments were proposed in opposition to the rates suggested.
– Not on the occasion of the last Loan Bill.
– The Minister should recollect that honorable senators protested by voice and vote against a rate of 4½ per cent. free of Commonwealth and State taxation, and some advocated pre-war rates of interest. Surely that course would not have been followed if honorable senators had not been informed as to the rate of interest proposed.
– Honorable senators had the information then because, speaking from memory, I think the prospectus of the loan was out before the Bill waa discussed. It is impossible to tell the Senate now the details of the prospectus of this loan.
– Surely the Minister should be able to inform honorable senators as to what rate of interest will be charged on this loan.
– How can I do so until I know when it is to be floated ?
– Then, as a matter of fact, we are giving the Government a blank cheque?
– I wish that honorable senators were doing so.
– It amounts to that. That is what the Senate will be doing, without the information for which I ask.
– It will be doing what it has always done.
– No ; it has not always done this. We have had debates on the question of interest in this Chamber time after time.
– The honorable senator can discuss the same point now.
- Senator Fairbairn has touched upon what might occur under this Bill. Whether he has discussed the matter with members of the Government, or with the party opposite, I do not know, but his statement was certainly the first that honorable senators have heard of any probability of the flotation of the loan being extended to other countries. The honorable senator specifically mentioned the United States of America. He said it would be a good thing to have the United States of America interested financially in Australia. I believe that the intervention of the United States of America in the war will not, unfortunately lead to an early peace, unless the people of the different countries concerned take the matter into their own hands. I have long held the view that America having gone into the war, for the prosecution of which this Loan Bill is submitted, has naturally a very large amount of money at stake, and an early peace will not suit her. If the war should drag on for another twelve or eighteen months, the time might arrive when Japan will see her way clear to actively participate in the war, and so the thing will go on. If, as Senator Fairbairn suggests, it is intended to canvass the United States of America for contributions to this war loan, we are entitled to some announcement on the subject from the Leader of the Senate.
If the Government intend to continue the practice of allowing commission to stockbrokers on contributions to the proposed war loan, we should be. informed of the fact. Is the amount of £85,000 so. trifling as not to be worth taking into consideration? We should know what policy is to be adopted. I remind the Government that Senator Russell, in discussing the first War Loan Bill, informed us that every bank and post-office in the Commonwealth was prepared to do the work of canvassing for subscriptions to the loan for nothing. Yet we have paid stockbrokers over £85,000 for this work.
– I think I informed honorable senators that there was provision for a commission of 5s. per cent.
– I know that the honorable senator made the statement that every bank and post-office in the Commonwealth would do the work for nothing.
-i remembersaying that I thought the labourer worthy of his hire.
– I do not deny that the honorable senator said that provision was made for a commission of 5s. per cent., but he certainly did make the statement that every bank and post-office in the Commonwealth was prepared to do the work of canvassing for subscriptions to the loan for nothing. When that has been the position since the inception of these war loans, why should we pay these gilded gentry £85,000 in commission? It cannot be justified, and honorable senators should not tolerate the practice any longer if they wish the country to believe that there is anything in their professions of economy in dealing with the finances of Australia.
– I think this Bill affords me an excellent opportunity of pointing out to the Government a magnificent source of revenue which they., have so far very persistently neglected. It will be remembered that when the war census cardswere under consideration in the Senate an effort was made to extract from the people of Australia returns of their assets, and at the time it was understood that the Government contemplated the imposition of a wealth levy. Fortunately, that very erroneous idea of raising national revenue was abandoned, doubtless owing to the persistent efforts of honorable senators like myself. The present Government, apparently, have no intention whatever of resorting to that means of raising revenue.
– Nor has the party to which the honorable senator belongs.
– I am very glad to say that, owing to the teachings of Senator Millen many years ago, when he sowed the seeds of correct methods of taxation, and of other honorable senators who have since followed the course he then pursued, the idea of conscripting wealth has not been adopted by the Labour party or by the present Government. In raising these war loans, the present Government have followed precisely the lines laid down by the last Labour Government. While this method has operated fairly satisfactorily up to the present time, there is no reason why it should be continuously followed in the future.
I do not know how much it has Cost to obtain the loans that have so far been secured by the Commonwealths for war purposes. We are assured by Senator Ferricks that the brokers alone have been paid £85,000 for their services. I do not quite agree with the honorable senator that the amount which they brought into the loans would have been received without their assistance, because, although I do not know much about it, I imagine that many of these gentlemen would urge upon their clients the advisability of putting some of their surplus cash into the war loans, and they . were probably in -that manner responsible for the loan of many millions which would otherwise not have been secured by the Commonwealth.
– Then where would be their patriotism?
– I am sure I do not know. In addition to the £85,000 paid in brokerage commission there must have been an enormous amount of money expended by the Government for printing and advertising in connexion with the loan. think it is time we had a statement from the Government disclosing approximately what it has cost the country to float the loans which have, so far, been floated.
I should like to throw out a suggestion which, I think, must in the near future be adopted. I understand that the Government of New Zealand, finding that many wealthy people of that Dominion did not do their fair share in contributing to war loans, have notified them that they must subscribe something to war loans. The New Zealand Government have decided upon enforcing loans from people in that country who have money but are not prepared voluntarily to lend it. I think that is a perfectly legitimate course for any Government to pursue. I think that the Commonwealth Government, instead of spending public money in the payment of brokerage fees and unnecessary advertising and printing expenses, should give some consideration to the method proposed to be adopted by the Government of New Zealand in dealing with wealthy people who, up to the present time, have not lent any money to loans floated for the prosecution of the war.
A considerable number of people object to money being invested in our war loans at 4£ per cent, free of taxation. It does not appear to me that there is very much in that objection, because when a person puts money into a war loan at 4$ per cent, which he might invest otherwise at 7, 8, or 10 per cent., he is undoubtedly sacrificing a fairly substantial amount of cash.
– How do you ac- * count ‘for £36,000,000 being taken up at 4£ per cent, free of taxation, and only £7,000,000 at 5 per cent, subject to taxation, in the last loan?
– It is a pretty good sign that the people regarded the 4^ per cent, free of taxation as a better investment than the 5 per cent, subject to taxation. It must be obvious that if the Government have to pay 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, for money subject to taxation, the difference, between doing that and allowing war loans at 4$ per cent, to escape taxation is purely nominal. But the Government will be forced in the near future to take a leaf out of the book of the Dominion Government, and insist upon those who have so far not contributed anything doing so. The Government should be paying, more of the cost of the war from taxation. I do not fear any serious dislocation of the finances through that method being adopted, but if they continue to raise money as they are now doing, it is impossible to say what may happen. They should get on to the right track of raising money, taking into consideration the question of who are the real owners of Australia. When I hear Senator McDougall talking about “ this Australia of ours “ I sometimes wonder what he means.
– I own a bit of it.
– According to the war census returns, 71S,000 people in Australia own Australia, while the balance of the people, numbering about 4,250,000, own no land whatever. For any of those people to spread themselves out and talk about “ this lovely Australia of ours “ is a misuse of words, because it is not theirs at all.
– How many of the 4,000,000 are infants under the law, and cannot own land?
– I could not tell the honorable senator.
– Is it your ideal that every man should own a piece of land?
– My ideal is that every one should be a land-owner, and when landless people talk about this lovely country of theirs, they should be reminded that they are much the same as the British people, who are allowed to live in England, Scotland, and Ireland at the mercy of the local landlords. These extract about £250,000,000 from the Britishers every year for allowing them the privilege of living in Great Britain.
– I hope the honorable senator will connect these remarks with the subject of the Bill.
– The Government should take an early opportunity of considering whether the people of the Commonwealth ought not to pay more towards the cost of the war by direct taxation. The value of the lands of the Commonwealth has been estimated at £445,000,000. I am sure that is a very low estimate, and that if any one tried to purchase them, he would find they were worth three or four times that sum. If the Government desire to do the fair thing by the people of this country, they should at once review their direct taxation, and bring down a Bill, starting at £5,000, if they are afraid to go below that, calling on the owners of the Commonwealth to pay their proper share of the cost of the war. If the Government do that, they will do something useful and valuable, but up to date they have not done what they should. Take the repatriation business as an instance. Money has been borrowed to repatriate soldiers, but the Government have done practically nothing in that direction. We had a.n exhibition the other day of 500 or 600 soldiers returning here after having fought for this country, and being unable to find suitable employment. That is not to our credit as a Parliament, and it is no credit whatever to the Government. The Government borrow money for war and repatriation purposes, and are doing nothing but appoint Board after Board, Commission after Commission, and Committee after Committee, to eat up the money that has been borrowed. It is time that kind of thing came to a termination. When money is borrowed to repatriate soldiers, it ought to be recognised that many of the men do not desire to go into the country. They wish to live in the cities and suburbs, and if conditions in the country were made good, all those people who are strong and healthy and able to do strenuous work, would go out into the country, and leave the easier positions available for the returned men, so that it does not really matter whether the money is expended directly upon the returned soldiers or in securing employment for other people. Unless the Government do something to *open up the land no progress worthy of the name will be made. We cannot hope for the State Governments to do anything in that direction, because they are all dominated by Conservative Upper Houses, and in some instances by Conservative Lower Houses.
– Is this a Conservative Upper House?
– Unfortunately it isat the present time, but it is to be hoped that after the next election it will be- a good deal more democratic. To-day the Government have a complete majority in both Chambers, but are doing little or nothing to look after the returned soldiers. Complaints have been made about the. immense sums secured by certain people in the shape of war-time profits, and it has been suggested that those people should be called upon to contribute more to the revenue. But what is the use of compelling people who make huge profits from the public to hand back a percentage to the Government for revenue purposes if the robbery of the people is still to continue? If the people of Melbourne have continuously to pay ls. 4½d. or ls. 6d. per lb. for steak, what does it matter to them if the Government compel the dealers in meat to pay a heavy war-time profits tax ? The Government should se© that the price of meat is reduced.
– The honorable senator is becoming too discursive, and I must ask him to keep to the matter under discussion.
– I was showing that the taxation of war-time profits does not really strike at the root of the trouble.
– I hope the war-time profits tax will be repealed. It is checking all enterprise and crucifying the country.
– The annexation of unnecessary war-time profits is a clear indication that profiteering is still going on. I am sure it would be a pleasure to Senator Bakhap and most other honorable senators if such steps were taken as would prevent any profiteering—
– Order ! That is not the question before the Chair.
– It is up to the Government to bring down a measure insisting on the owners of Australia contributing towards the cost of the war in proportion to the value of the land they hold. It will give our existing loans greater stability than anything else could if we defrayed a substantial amount of the cost of the war from taxation.
– What is the annual rental value of all the unalienated land of Australia ?
– The total capital value is estimated at £445,000,000. It is quite a simple calculation for the honorable senator to work out the annual value for himself.
– A land tax of 6d. in the £1, which you advocate, would not pay Australia’s share in the war.
– A trifling tax of 3d. in the £1 even on present values would bring in about £6,000,000 per year. That would be a much more legitimate source of revenue than many of the channels into which the Government are going.
– That would be a tax without exemptions ?
– It would.
– Would that be the only tax ?
– I did not say so.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable senator not to pursue that subject.
– I hope the Government will give us a clear and definite statement about the rate of interest, and a straight-out answer to my question whether, if this loan is not a success, they will consider the advisableness of inducing those who have not yet subscribed to war loans to do so in proportion to their wealth. It is exceedingly unfair that people who can very well afford to do so should do nothing whatever, directly or indirectly, in connexion with the war, but invest their money in the most profitable directions to themselves, apart from war loans altogether. The Government would do well to take that question into consideration, and, if possible, compel them to do their share.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Authority to borrow £80,000,000).
should, if possible, give some idea, of the rate of interest to be fixed when the prospectus ie issued for the flotation of this loan of £80,000,000. During my second-reading speech, I also asked him if it was the intention of the Government to continue the practice of allowing a commission of 5s. per £100 on all subscriptions received through the offices of members of the Stock Exchange. It is unthinkable that the Government should come to Parliament with a proposal to borrow £80,000,000 without having given consideration to the terms on which it shall be issued. The Committee, I think, is entitled to know the rate of interest proposed.
– I had intended to reply to the remarks made by the honorable senator earlier in the debate; but, inadvertently, I missed my opportunity when the President put tha motion for the second reading. I offer this explanation to the honorable senator because I assure him that I had no intention of being discourteous. He says that it is unthinkable that the Government should submit this proposal for a loan of £80,000,000 without having considered the details upon which the loan shall be issued. Unthinkable or not, that is the position. The honorable senator himself, I think, must have overlooked the fact that all payments in respect of the last loan, which has only recently been floated, have not yet been received. Speaking from memory,. I think the instalments are not all due until the 1st July or the 1st August. As the honorable senator will, no doubt, remember, payments were spread over four or five months, and we are now only at about the middle of that period. Whether it appears strange or not, I tell him that, so far, the Cabinet has not considered the terms and details of the loan, which will undoubtedly require to be floated under the authority of this Bill. And the honorable senator will see that there is good reason for this if he will look a little more closely into the matter. It is impossible for any one to determine what it may be necessary to do in order to secure the money until the Government determine at what period the loan shall be floated. And even if we fix a definite date for the flotation of the loan, no one could predict exactly what will be the condition of the money market four or five months hence. I can assure the honorable senator, however, that the Government will endeavour to obtain the money on the most advantageous terms possible. The Government have already announced that they have no intention of following the practice adopted during the flotation of the last loan in one important particular, and it may be necessary, or desirable, to alter the terms of past loans in other directions. I can tell the honorable senator, without reservation, that the details of the loan have not yet been considered, and, therefore, it is impossible for me to give information on the point raised by him. I ask him to believe, however, that before the time comes for the flotation of the loan the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) will undoubtedly fortify himself with all the information obtainable from the best informed authorities, and that he will be buttressed by the Finance Committee recently appointed, which is now acting in association with the Treasury. The Committee may rest assured that every step will be taken to see that the money is obtained under the most favorable conditions for the taxpayers of this country.
– Is it the intention of the Government to confine applications to Australia, or do they intend to seek applications from abroad?
– That point waa raised by Senator Fairbairn. There is certainly no intention of attempting to float this loan outside of Australia.
– I thank the Minister for his information. It will be very interesting, indeed, to the people of Australia to watch the procedure of those who command the money market in the future, to see whether the rate of interest will go up. It has been contended, and, I think, on very good grounds, that 4½ per cent. has been a very inviting rate to those who had money to invest, especially those with large incomes, because to them the return has really been more in the vicinity of 7 per cent. than 4½ per cent. This has been proved actuarially. It will, therefore, be interesting to see if those who command the liquid assets, or the floating capital of the Commonwealth, intend to increase the rate of interest upon money which they will loan to the Commonwealth Government for war purposes. If this is done, their action will be worse than men who go on strike in war time for an increase of 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. in their wages, because in the latter , case action is dictated by sheer necessity. I fear it is possible there will be another increase in the rate of interest before the whole of the £80,000,000 has been issued; but if that is attempted, no. action on behalf of the Government could be too drastic to deal with those responsible for such a development.
..- It occurred to me that when the matter of interest was raised, there might be fairly sound reasons for the Government keeping silent, for I could easily conceive that the money market might be disturbed - it might go up or down - if it were publicly stated now that a certain rate of interest would be fixed in relation to a proposed new war loan, issued even at some distant date. It cannot be gainsaid that the speech made by Sir John Grice, who stated recently that the investment of money in our war loans represented a return of 7 per cent. to large investors, whilst small investors only received equal to 4½ per cent., has not had a very beneficial effect throughout Australia. I think, also, that the experience in the flotation of the last loan is a clear demonstration that 4½ per cent. free of income tax is very much preferred to a 5 per cent. issue subject to income tax, because about £37.000.000 was taken at 4½ per cent., while only about £6,000,000 was taken at 5 per cent. Under the circumstances, I can conceive that there might easily be a dearth of investors if the Government definitely stated that 5per cent., without exemption from taxation, would be the rate for the next loan - if the people were left absolutely free as to whether they should invest or not. I should like to remind the Committee that, during the appeal for the last war loan, an exmember of this Chamber - Mr. Justice Ewing, of Tasmania - went round with a tank and spoke vigorously in support of the loan. At one place he told the people that an investment of 4½ per cent. free of income tax, or 5 per cent. subject to income tax, was no patriotism at all, but merely sordid commercialism ; and that if he had his way there would be no more of it, because he would take the money from those who had it. I think that if a few more patriots of Australia spoke to the people in that way, possibly we would find the people subscribing more freely to our war loans, under the fear that if they did not willingly and readily come forward with money at 5 per cent., the chances were that they would have their money taken from them without the 5 per cent. interest. I have no particular objection to the Bill, or the proposal to keep the rate of interest down. I think, also, that we should confine the issue to Australia; and while £80,000,000 may appear to be a large sum, I think we can get it in Australia if we go about it in the right way.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Purpose for which money may be borrowed).
– Is the Minister (Senator Millen) able to tell the Committee whether the procedure of the past, in allowing a commission to members of the Stock Exchange, is to be reviewed by the Government in respect to flotations under the authority of this Bill ? I think the Committee is entitled to a statement on this point. There is also another question upon which I should like information at this stage. The clause states that the money shall be borrowed for war purposes ; and I should like to know from the Minister whether the utterances in America by that frantic little man holding the position of the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes) are indorsed by the Government; and, if not, whether they will take steps to advise him to be a little bit more discreet, because it is quite conceivable that such utterances may be embarrassing to the Imperial cause?
– What bearing has that upon this Bill ?
– We are asked to give the Government authority to raise a large sum of money, and I do not think the utterances of the Prime Minister in America will conduce to the security felt for Australia, or that ravings of this nature will make possible the early termination of the war.
– He has the opinion of the people of Australia behind him, anyway.
– I have always understood that Australia was not after the acquisition of additional territory in the Pacific, and I think the position may be complicated by the Prime Minister’s speeches in America. I do not think that Mr. Hughes is properly stating Australian sentiment on this subject.
– The honorable senator has made some remarks about the desirability of the Government taking steps to check indiscreet utterances. If any obligation of that nature rests upon the Government, I think action might be taken to check indiscreet utterances of persons within Australia. I venture to say that the Prime Minister’s remarks made in America lately will have the whole-hearted indorsement of the loyal section of people in this country. Now as for the matter which is applicable to the Bill. The honorable senator has asked me whether I can give any information with respect to one of the details - the question of commission . to members of the Stock Exchange.
– I want to know whether it will be reviewed.
– The whole of the details will be reviewed before the new prospectus is issued. The honorable senator must recognise that the review of one detail will necessarily have some relation to other details. I can tell him that the matter to which he refers, in common with others, will be closely reviewed by the Government prior to the issue of the prospectus.
Clause agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be added -
We have had a half-hearted promise from the Minister that the new loans would not be free from taxation. The only way to assure that is to state it in the Bill. Weare certainly of opinion that they should not be, and I have seen that view expressed by financial experts, who have made their opinions public through the Australian press. They say the principle is wrong, and warnings have been issued that eventually it will cause trouble. I would like honorable senators who know more about finance than I do to explain, if they can, how we are to oontinue under our load of taxation. If the war lasts much longer we shall be required to provide interest upon a debt of £400,000,000. And, if that huge interest bill upon our war indebtedness is to be taken from the industrial life of the country, we must secure an equivalent for it. That must be by compelling investors to pay Federal income tax. I am not worrying about payments of State income tax; but, at least, the people should be called upon to pay the Federal taxation.
Only a small section of the community has contributed to these loans. There are men who have made huge sums out of the war. I know of one millionaire whose name I have not seen among those who have subscribed to the loans; and I am told that he never gives anything, so far as the war is concerned, to help things on. My proposal will not alter that man’s determination not to assist his country, but it will compel those who are selling up their holdings to invest in war loan bonds to realize that they are not going to get 7½ and 10 per cent. interest. For that is what the rate would amount to. It would equal7½ per cent. if a man contributed £30,000; and I do not know what it would mean to an individual who had invested £100,000. The Minister has definitely said he will not agree to the insertion of the proposed new clause. Nevertheless, I desire to test the Committee upon it.
– The proposal of Senator McDougall is only an effort to clearly express what is a rapidly growing public opinion. The money invested in war loans already at 4½ per cent. will be free of interest up to about ten years after flotation; but at the termination of that period, presumably, they will have to be refloated, and will be subject to whatever legislation may then be in operation. The new clause proposed by Senator McDougall will meet with the approval of a very considerable section of the community. I support it for one reason. It will have the effect of reducing the number of subscribers. It will compel the Government to look to a new source of taxation; and the sooner that is brought about the better.
– I demur to the statement of Senator McDougall that the promise given by the Government was half-hearted. It was clear and definite, namely, that the recent loan would be the last floated free of Commonwealth taxation. That was as plain as possible. Under the circumstances, the honorable senator has used a termwhich was uncalled for. I am glad to see that by the new clause which the honorable senator has submitted he also is a sinner repentant, fleeing from the wrath to come. He is now approaching the correct and well-balanced view, which he did not always hold. I therefore welcome him to the ranks of sound financiers.
– There have been many changes, you know.
– That is so; but I ask the Committee whether it is necessary to include the new clause, seeing the Government have given their assurance in the matter. Surely it could he left at that.
– I am sorry if I have referred inaccurately to half-hearted promises of the Government; but I have seen no promises given in another place in a definite manner. I read a statement in the daily papers; but everything printed in the press is not accurate. It is for the reason that I desire to see the principlenot merely pronounced by the Government, but included in the Bill, that I have moved my new clause.
– I assure Senator McDougall that, with respect both to another place and this Chamber, he may see,according toHansard, that a definite statement was given by the Government that the recent loan would be the last tax-free loan issued. That must have escaped the notice of the honorable senator; but the definite statement has been made, both by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) and by myself, speaking as Leader of the Government here. I refer Senator McDougall to page 4837 of Hansard.
– And you now repeat it?
– I repeat it as a definite article of faith, that no future loan under the auspices of this Government, will be tax-free.
.- Will the interest upon the war loan bonds be subject to taxation, even if there is nothing in this Bill to express that it shall be? Would it not be a matter of law that it would be subject to taxation?
– I am not in a position to answer that now, as it involves a matter of law.
.- The Senate dealt with a Bill a few days ago, namely, the Inscribed Stock Bill, which had some application to this matter. In clause 5 we amended section 52a of the principal Act by adding the words, “ unless they are declared to be so liable by the prospectus relating to the loan in respect of which they are issued.” That dealswith stamp and other taxation. Then, in clause 6 of the same Bill, we amended section 52 b of the principal Act by adding the words, “ unless the interest is declared to be so liable by the prospectus relating to the loan on which the interest is payable.” In view of the fact that the Minister (Senator Millen) has told us that he cannot give details, or any information, as to how this loan will be floated until after the lapse of some months, when the matter is to be taken into consideration by the Government, it will be a reasonable safeguard to include the new clause.
There is no necessity for the continuation of the unsound policy of issuing war loans with interest free of taxation; but, while we may accept the Minister’s assurance, when we realize the many changes that havetaken place in the government of the Commonwealth during the past two years, it would be just as well to have any assurance of the Government for the time being definitely inserted in our legislation. The present Minister for Repatriation may not be leading the Government in the Senate, and the Acting Prime Minister may not be Treasurer of the Commonwealth, for much longer; and, while the assurances of those gentlemen may be acceptedin good faith, it is not sufficient to pass a Bill authorizing the raising of £80,000,000 without some such provision as Senator McDougall’s clause sets out. I have already indicated that, in view of the amendment which we have made to the principal Act, in passing the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Bill, there will be required in the prospectus of any future loan a stipulation upon this point at issue. The Minister has stated that he is not in a position to give us details.
– He has given them to us over and over again.
– No; the Minister has admitted that he is not in a position to give details of such matters as the prospectus, for the reason that they have not been discussed.
– Do. you not think that is a reasonable position?
– The Minister said he could not give us any information upon any one detail, and, in view of the application of our recent amendment to the Inscribed Stock Act, some stipulation should beplainly inserted in the measure before the Committee so as to safeguard the taxpayers. The Government cannot upon any sound ground object to its insertion. To accept Senator Millen ‘s assurance would place honorable senators in an invidious position. While we may trust his word, we may feel that we are not sufficiently looking after the interests of the Commonwealth in permitting the present Government so much latitude.
– We have already legislation on this point, passed during the last fortnight.
-Yes, I have just called attention to that during the temporary absence of the Minister. The amendments made in the Inscribed Stock Act expressly lay it down that a stipulation to the contrary must be made in the prospectus. But the Minister has told us that he has no details of the prospectus which is to-be put before the people. It is for that reason that the new clause is reasonable. I again say that, in view of the fact that Senator Millen has repeatedly made the statement that he is. not able to put forward any details of the prospectus to be placed before the public - for the good reason that Cabinet has not considered them - we should make a clear insertion in the Bill before us.
– But the Government have cousidered, and have decided on the one point that we are now discussing.
– You have the promise of the Government.
– Then what is the objection to inserting that promise in the Bill ? Cannot honorable senators conceive that, in view of market obligations, and due to other changes which may have a varying effect upon future Australian loans, it might be deemed imperative for the Government at some time to review the stipulation now given? That is quite possible. In these changing times, I am not prepared to charge any Government with a breach of confidence in that connexion, if there are only two alternatives before them - the getting of the money which it is imperative they should get, or failure in their attempt to obtain it. But we ought to endeavour adequately to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers by preventing investors in our war loans from demanding an unduly high rate of interest, with exemption from State and Federal income tax. Consequently the honest thing for the Government to do is eitherto accept the amendment proposed by Senator McDougall or to advance reasons for their opposition to it.
– I am not prepared to say that in the immediate future any great harm would result if the amendment were inserted in the Bill. But I can conceive of some remote period when possibly one of those reckless financial Governments, of which history occasionally provides a record, may return to power. Such a Government may, of course, seek to revive certain of these very bad practices of the past. But in view of the definite promise which I have given in connexion with this Bill, I think honorable senators will agree with me that the amendment is unnecessary. The question which we brave to consider is : Is it desirable, not for the purpose of shaping the prospectuses of the loans immediately in front of us, but those of loans raised subsequently and by some other Government, that we should legislate now ? I do submit that the Senate will have ample opportunity to obtain any additional security it may desire in this connexion before being asked to assent to any other Loan Bill. But the additional security now sought by Senator McDougall is, in the circumstances, unnecessary.
– The more the Minister explains the more I am determined to persist with my amendment that the new clause which I have submitted be inserted in the Bill. The honorable gentleman has said that it does not matter very much whether that clause be inserted or not. If that be so, why should it not be placed in the Bill ? I represent more than one-half of the electors in my State, and it will safeguard their interests if we provide that in future those who invest in our war loans shall not receive an unduly high rate of interest. I believe that the proposed new clause ought to be inserted in the Bill, and I intend to press it.
– But for the declaration of the Minister (Senator Millen) in regard to subjecting any loans raised under this Bill to income tax, I should have been inclined to vote for the amendment. But the promise made by the honorable gentleman is clear and definite, and I can quite conceive of the amendment proving somewhat embarrassing in certain circumstances. For in stance, it has been suggested during the course of this debate that the Commonwealth may yet raise money in the United States of America. In such circumstances there could be no thought of charging income tax upon the investments of persons abroad. It may be, too, that we shall have to raise loans in England or elsewhere. In view, therefore, of the definite promise given by the Minister, and of the indefinite state of the money market in the immediate future, I shall vote against the amendment. I feel sure that the people of Australia will be amply protected in the direction which Senator McDougall desires, and in the direction which, I believe, a majority of this Senate desires. There has been no quicker change brought about during the war than that which has come over public opinion regarding the unwisdom of exempting investments in our Commonwealth war loans from taxation. But, Beeing that the Government are charged with the responsibility of raising this money, it will be well to give them a free hand, and for honorable senators to accept the definite promise of the Minister that no further war loans will be raised in Australia which are not subject to taxation.
– I fail to understand the logic of Senator Pratten when he connects the definite statement of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) with the indefinite state of the money market iu the immediate future. The short amending Bill which we passed the other day provided that a certain stipulation must be embodied in the prospectuses of future war loans. In this connexion I desire to point out that the Senate has rarely, if ever, had an opportunity of reviewing one of those prospectuses. When our first war loan was about to be floated, the prospectus had actually been forwarded to the Inter-State newspapers before Parliament had dealt with the Bill authorizing the raising of the loan.
– And a large amount of money had already been received.
– We could not then insert the stipulation which was prescribed in the amending Bill that we passed the other day. I do not dispute the Minister’s assurance, but the reason advanced by Senator Pratten was an added one why the amendment proposed by Senator McDougall should he adopted.
– Cannot we meet that position by dealing with the rate of interest ?
– I know that the party opposite are not very favorably disposed to my idea of the rate of interest which should apply to investments in our war loans. Seeing that men who enlist for service abroad are prepared to travel 14,000 miles overseas to fight in the Allied cause, and possibly to make the supreme sacrifice, I hold most strongly that those who invest their money in our war loans should either lend that money to the Commonwealth free of interest, or, at most, should be content to accept the pre-war rate of interest. No valid argument has been advanced why the amendment should not be accepted. The Minister has merely stated that his assurance on the matter ought to be sufficient. But in view of the Ministerial changes which have occurred during the past eighteen months, the assurance of any individual Minister, in connexion with such a huge transaction as the raising of £S0,000,000 for war purposes, is not sufficient.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 5th June, vide page 5492) :
Clauses 2 to 6 and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Billbe now read a second time.
I do not know that it is necessary for me to make more than a formal statement in moving the second reading of this Bill. Honorable senators, by reference to the year to which the Bill applies, will understand the purpose of the measure. As in the case of all other Appropriation Bills, the schedule is divided into the various Departments responsible for the expenditure. Briefly, the purpose of the measure is to legalize that expenditure which has been made fromthe Treasurer’s Advance. From time to time, in order to meet the exigencies of the Public Service and public business, Parliament makes available to the Treasurer a lump sum, which is spent by him subject to parliamentary approval being obtained later on. The amount is spent on the authority of the Treasurer under the various headings under which the expenditure is now submitted for the formal approval of Parliament. The passing of this Bill will not mean an appropriation, except in the legal and technical sense, as Parliament has already appropriated the money in a lump sum, and it has since been spent. The object of this Bill is to submit to Parliament the expenditure under the various headings and items in connexion with which it has been incurred, and to ask Parliament to formally signify its approval thereof.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Defence Department : Arrangements for Reception of Returned Soldiers : Ministerial Reply to Criticism: Senator Pearce’s Record as Minister - Overpayments to Dependants of Soldiers - Stepmothers and War Pensions - Returned Soldiers : Case of Private Townsend - Return of Soldiers : Domestic Difficulty: Long Service -Light-ships.
– I should like to reply in some extended remarks to the personal attack made on me in the late hours of last evening by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). On a previous Supply Bill I was exercising the right of every honorable senator to criticise and ask questions, and it seems to me that the Minister for Defence deliberately went out of his way to be personally insulting. The question I raised last night was the delay that occurred in the landing of troops in Sydney on last Saturday morning. According to the morning newspapers of Monday last, there was a delay of aboutan hour and a half in the disembarkation of the troops, and there were tens of thousands of people waiting in the streets of Sydney to warmly welcome some 600 troops on their return. I suggested, and I submit that I was quit9 right in doing so, that this delay in Sydney, following delays that occurred in Melbourne, also in connexion with the landing of troops, raised in one’s mind a suspicion that the military authorities and the recruiting authorities were not working together in that harmonious way in which they should work in connexion with the welcoming of our soldiers on their return from the Front. I read my Hansard proofs this morning, and returned the report of my remarks on this matter without any alteration. I have failed to see from that report where I exceeded my just and sober rights as a member of the Senate in raising this question.
The Minister for Defence did not express his regret at the contretemps that occurred in Sydney last Saturday morning. He did not promise any investigation. He did not seem to care very much about the convenience or otherwise of the tens of thousands of people who were kept waiting about in the streets for nearly two hours owing to arrangements having gone wrong. Apparently, his reply to me took a personal turn, and I think I am right in assuming that all those sort of things to which I have referred were matters of indifference to him. He talked of quarantine and of the Navy. He asked me if I had ever heard of wireless, and spoke as if the delay were due to anything but a possible neglect on the part of the military authorities and the Department over which he presides. Might I say that, like the cuttlefish, the honorable senator clouded the issue altogether? He did not attempt to answer my question, or to pay me the courtesy due to every member of the Senate of saying that he would investigate a just cause of complaint. The Minister wrapped up the whole thing in words, and in personal insult and abuse, which I was surprised at, as coming from him, andI can only understand it by assuming that last night he was nervy, or in ill-health, neurotic, or hysterical.
I consider that the honorable senator’s reply was entirely beneath the dignity of a gentleman occupying the position which a Minister of the Crown occupies in Australia to-day. I feel sure that honorable senators will bear me out when I say that I have always endeavoured to be gentlemanly in debate. I submit, and my electors, at all events, will indorse the submission, that in connexion with the first public welcome that has taken place in Sydney to returning troops it was not a small matter that all the arrangements should go wrong, and that thousands of people should be kept waiting in the streets.
In reviewing the career of the Minister for Defence, and I submit I am quite right on this issue in doing so, I should like to ask him whether he remembers the stupid blunder that took place in calling up boys previous to the first conscription campaign ? Does the honorable senator remember that boys in blue dungarees were marching through the streets of Sydney ? That occurred by order of the Defence Department, and it was something which, I submit, had more than anything else to do with the “ No “ vote that was cast in New South Wales at the first conscription referendum - a vote which possibly has changed the history of Australia.
– If the boys had been in grey dungarees, does the honorable senator think that it would have made any difference ?
– I wish to pursue this matter step by step, and I do not want any irrelevant observations from my friend, Senator de Largie. I should like to pass the personal remarks made about me. I require no certificate of character as a business man from Senator Pearce. I will put my business record against his record in the Department of Defence. His references came with a very ill-grace from a person who has consistently refused the aid of business men until the last hour, when he was driven to it by public opinion, and, probably, by pressure from his colleagues. He now calls up business men to clear up the muddle in his Department.
I have already stated that I had not, to my recollection, exceeded the fair limitations of decent debate, and I am not to be brow-beaten, or bluffed, or blustered into any position by any Minister in the Senate. I was sent here by the electors of New South Wales. I represent the State of New South Wales, and at all times I shall feel it my duty to criticise fairly, reasonably, and decently anything that goes on in connexion with the government of Australia. I certainly shall not put up without reply with language such as was used to me last night by a Minister, who is thought, at all events by the people of New South Wales, to have failed in the position that he occupies.
– I question that.
– Let the honorable senator speak for Tasmania.
In examining the record of this Minister and those who are advising him, let me ask him does he forgetthat, even before the war, Sir Ian Hamilton most trenchantly condemned the Commonwealth military system, and repeatedly pointed out that military control, training, and fighting should be entirely separated from the business and financial side of the Department? Has he forgotten the reports that were made, I believe at his instigation, by Sir Robert McCheyne Anderson regarding the business side of the Department? Has he any recollection that early in the war many of the most capable business men in Australia offered their services, without pay, to go anywhere and do anything to aid the Defence Department in its great task? Does he remember that early in the war the associated accountants of Australia offered to place at the disposal of the Minister, in any capacity for the Commonwealth, the services of their members, without pay or reward, to go anywhere, in order to be, as they thought, of some value in checking accounts and saving public money? Had their services been accepted at that time, I submit that tens of thousands of pounds would have been saved that have gone in muddle, and waste, and fraud. Has he forgotten, too, the sneers he made when a successful attempt was persisted in to have a Commission of Inquiry at the Liverpool Camp ; an inquiry that subsequent events proved was fully justified and that made the political reputation of my friend, the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) ? He knows something about the unfair treatment meted out. to the Engineer officers who trained and passed their examinations in the Roseville School, at Sydney. He knows something about the breach of faith that was committed towards these men, and he knows, too, that ultimately they were given the option of being discharged or going away as sappers, after some of them had been trained for eighteen months, at a probable cost of £1,500 each to the country. May I ask him whether any instructions were given to the censor so that nothing should appear in the public press regarding that matter ?
I come now to the reports of the Royal Commission recently circulated amongst honorable senators. I need only read in that connexion some of the newspaper headings that appeared all over Australia, in the Nationalist as well as the Labour press. One was, “ The Waste and Bungle Department “ ; another, “ Evidence of Immense Losses “ ; another, “ Incompetence, Waste, and Bungling “ ; another, “A Scathing Report”; and another, “ How Millions Went.” I am sure we all remember that pitiful circular that the Minister sent around to all members complaining that the Commission did not throw any bouquets at him. The Minister, apparently, was very thin-skinned last night with regard to legitimate and fair observations, but in the matter of the Commission’s report he seems to me to have a hide as thick as a rhinoceros. Hanging on to his job ! So far as I can see, he has no conceptionof British Ministerial traditions. Had this occurred in the Old Country, no man would have held on as the Minister has held on, and his resignation would have been a matter of an early date. We have the example of Mr. Austen Chamberlain, Secretary of State for India, who was only remotely concerned with the Mesopotamia scandals and blunders, but he upheld the high constitutional tradition of what a Minister should do, and immediately resigned.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Commission’s report justified those press articles?
– Yes, certainly.
– Then you stand in a hopeless minority, because it did not.
– Let me point out to the honorable senator that there is one thing the Minister did - he hastened as quickly as he possibly could to carry out recommendations of the Commission in order to save his face.
I recall, too, the successful attempts that were made in Sydney to “ bludgeon “ free criticism in connexion with the treatment of interned enemy aliens not so long ago. I have other matters in connexion with the Defence Department that call for reply. The Department has initiated law proceedings in Sydney. In the case of Brown v. The Commonwealth, the claim was a perfectly legitimate one, and was acceded to by the Sydney officers of the Defence Department, but the Department set up a plea of “ not indebted “ ; the man got his verdict, and the Commonwealth fell in to the extent of about £100 in costs. In the case of Gooch v. The Commonwealth - a claim for wages - again this blundering Department fought the case, and fell in, and were let in for over £100 worth of costs. But the most remarkable case I have struck for a long time was heard only recently. As it is still sui judice, I shall not say much about it, except that it is a claim by the Defence Department that has been pushed through the Crown Law Offices into the Courts in Sydney - a claim for about £200 on a poor widow who has a stepson in the Imperial Reserve, fighting for us in France, and an only son fighting with the Australian Forces abroad. The Department briefed senior and junior counsel, and have already spent nearly £150 in the case in barristers’ fees alone. I feel strongly that some cork ought to be put in the neck of the bottle that is allowing the taxpayers’ money to go out in this way. The Defence Department, by its blundering and persistency and red tape, is, in Sydney, at all events, bringing Defence administration into very bad repute, and wasting hundreds of pounds of the taxpayers’ money in those three cases. Does the Minister remember anything about that Defence decree that went out a few weeks ago, regarding the enlistment of minors without the consent of their parents? I submit that the pressure of public opinion, and possibly the pressure of some of the Minister’s colleagues, have been too great for the militarists this time, and they have had to go back in their tracks and “ eat the leek.” It is only within the last week or two that we have heard of anything completely being done .in regard to clearing out eligibles in the Defence Department; men who draw the country’s pay and will not fight if they can help it. I am glad that this is at last being done after nearly four years of war. Another question I ask the Minister for an expression of opinion on is whether, in connexion with the mysterious aeroplanes that were thought to be about the coast of Australia a little while ago, and in regard to which we saw the same policy of “ hush, hush, the Germans will hear,” did these machines not come from our flying corps at Laverton ?
I would remind the Minister that recruiting has been greatly stimulated since it has been taken away from the control of the “ brass hats “ down at Victoria Barracks, and that, since Mr. Orchard has been in charge, there has been a great revival. That, I submit, is because this matter has been treated in a more humane, common-sense, business-like, and decent manner. We have heard, too, that the Defence Department say that 10,000 men have been sent overseas who were physically unfit. We have heard that explained by the Minister on the ground that the standards of recruiting in England and Australia are different. We have been told that, on this account, the Commonwealth will have to pay about £1,000,000 for those men’s salaries and wages and transit before they return to the Commonwealth and resume their civilian occupations. Sir Charles Wade, the Agent-General for “Kew South Wales, was reported in the cables published last night to have said -
I am afraid the medical examination hitherto in Australia has been of a haphazard nature. 1 saw a hundred men bundled back from a single transport.
I ask the Minister also to peruse the medical officer’s report in connexion with the return of troops on the Nestor about the last quarter of last year, -and will also ask him if he knows anything about what occurred in the early history of the war to one of the most eminent surgeons in Melbourne. That gentleman, who volunteered his services, and went abroad was, although so eminent in his profession, placed in charge of the measles cases in Egypt !
It is whistled by the man in the street that the Minister for Defence is run by his officers. It is common talk that the military people can do just as they like with him. We saw the general service order that has been promulgated, and heard that it was because of the wish of General Birdwood. With regard to all that goes on in the Defence Department, the Minister has, by -a deliberate statement made in the Senate, taken the full responsibility. Consequently, if these things are going on, and continue to go on, the Minister must take the full responsibility of aiding and abetting anything that the military authorities are trying to thrust on us. When we hear remarks in the Senate, such as were made last night, and have other things occurring here, such as have occurred’ during the past few weeks, I think we are approaching perilously near militarism in the Senate. But, so far as I am concerned, I shall exercise my full right of criticism. I am here in the interests of my constituency of New South Wales, and if I bring up what I consider to be a fair and reasonable complaint, if I place before any Minister a case for which I ask investigation, I expect to be treated with courtesy, and expect the matter to be dealt with. And if, after a request such as I made last night, any honorable senator is to be faced with, personal insults, then I say the man who does that sort of thing - in this case, the Minister for Defence - is being besmirched with a militarism that Australia will never stand. Governments have been brought down before now by weak administrators. The affairs of the Commonwealth to-day are very little more than matters of administration. I am hoping, as the result of the attention that Parliament is giving to various public affairs, that the administration of the Commonwealth will improve and improve as time goes on. I am hoping that the interests of the people will be conserved, and I say to the Minister that, so far as my State is concerned, criticisms of his administration, - which, in my opinion, are justly deserved, are still current. Public opinion has not been allayed, and if he is going on like this, a fair charge to make against him will be that fee is the Jonah of the National party. I regret that T have to use plain language.
I have not finished, by a long way, with the record of the present Minister for Defence; but I am hoping that in the future we shall have less militarism in the administration of what is the most important Department in the Commonwealth to-day, and that the Minister, instead of being nervy and bad-tempered, if honorable senators bring matters before him, will look at them in the fair way that is expected from a Minister of the Crown; that he will not proceed to further insult honorable senators when they ask reasonable questions and ask for investigation of any reasonable case. I have nothing further to say just now on this matter, except that I have taken the earliest opportunity available to resent what was said last night.
– I have no word of apology and none of excuse for anything I said last night. The honorable senator himself has remarked that any honorable senator has the right to make complaints about any Department of the Commonwealth, and has a right to expect from the Minister controlling any Department a courteous hearing of his complaint and a courteous reply. I have always endeavoured to follow that rule. But last night the honorable senator made no complaint. What the honorable senator did was to make a number of assertions and allegations, which he affirmed as truth, and for which he placed responsibility on the Defence Department.
But he asked no questions, nor did he ask me to ascertain if the Defence Department were responsible for the delay that occurred in the welcome of troops recently. The honorable senator, in the most insulting terms, charged the Defence Department with being responsible, and he said that he used no language to which exception could be taken. Has he struck out of Ilansard his allusion to “ brass hats,” and “incompetency,” “stupid,” and all the other adjectives with which he interlarded his references to the Defence Department last night? If not, they will appear in Hansard. He did not ask me to make any inquiry, because, according to him, no inquiry was necessary. He made allegations, and, I contend, made them in the most insulting and offensive fashion that he could find words in which to couch them.
This is not the first occasion on which Senator Pratten has gone out of his way to endeavour, by insinuation, to discredit me as a Minister, and to discredit the Department over which I preside. It has been a constant and growing practice of his, and I felt last night that he had added the last straw, and that it was up to me to deal with him in the only way, apparently, that he can appreciate being dealt with, and that was by taking off the gloves to him. I did so; and I consider I have rendered myself a service - if, indeed, I have not also rendered a service to the Senate and the country - because I find now that Senator Pratten, in his personal malignity towards me as a member of this party, and a Minister of this Government, is prepared to accept every tittle-tattle that comes to him. He said just now that the “ man in the street “ is talking. He is prepared, also,- to take the scareheads of every newspaper to support accusations against rr.e of Ministerial incompetency. If this is so, I repeat that, by my speech last night, I have rendered myself a good service in thus exposing his attitude, .because he has acknowledged, himself, that, in his pursuit of me and in his attempt to injure me politically, he’ is prepared to adopt the tactics to which I have referred. I do not propose to follow him. I propose to leave the matter there. Senator Pratten has acknowledged, himself, that many of the matters he referred to were the subject of newspaper headings, not merely the headings of newspapers supporting the party to which I belong, but the headings of Opposition newspapers as well. If any Minister is to be judged by such things as these, no Minister in the British Empire is going to escape. I know of none.
I shall only give two other illustrations of the honorable senator’s line of action, so that the Committee may know, and. Parliament and the country may know, the course he has decided upon. He said to-day that the first conscription referendum was defeated because of the calling up by the Defence Department of themen under the Defence Act. His insinuation was that the act was mine; that this course was taken by the Defence Department, under my orders. I do not know if the honorable senator is so ignorant of political history as to believe that. I got into trouble with him last night because I pointed out his ignorance in regard to departmental matters, including the control of shipping, wireless, and quarantine; and even at the risk of still further offending him, I must now charge him with being politically ignorant, otherwise he would know that the. calling up of the men was the decision of the then Government, and not the decision of the Minister for Defence.
– It was a wise decision for the anti-conscriptionists.
– Whether it was or not, Senator Ferricks and other honorable senators opposite know it was the decision of the Government.
– That is quite correct.
– And honorable senators opposite supported the Government at that time.
– They did not dispute it.
– Yes, we did.
– Senator Pratten also raked up a difference of opinion that occurred between him and me over the question of some officers or men attending the Officers’ School going up for commissions in the Engineers. I was not able to meet the honorable senator in his request, and to this day there is probably a difference of opinion as to whether his or my view was right. Under cover of that, the honorable senator throws out a hint, or insinuation, that some order was given to the press not to publish anything about it. I tell the honorable senator that if he insinuates I issued any such order, I give him the lie direct. I never gave any such order, nor am I aware to this day of any having been given.
– Will you swear that nobody in the Defence Department gave that order?
– What I am saying is that I never gave any such order, nor am I aware of any person in the Defence Department, or of any censor, having done so. I am not prepared to accept the honorable senator’s insinuation, because, after all, it was merely an insinuation. He did not have the courage to make the allegation direct. He asks, “Is it not a fact that the press were prevented from discussing this matter?”
I have quoted only these two instances out of a number of cases that he brought up, and I produce them as an illustration of what the honorable senator has seen fit to descend to in order to try and blacken my reputation. I am not going to follow him. I repeat that I do not regret one word of what I said last night, in view of the fact that it has drawn from the honorable senator a declaration of his true attitude towards me. I would far rather have dealings with a man I know to be an open enemy than with a false friend. From now onwards I shall know that the honorable senator is my political enemy, and that he will pursue me with an animus such as he has exhibited to-day, and he will descend to any tactics to blacken me and discredit me. When, therefore, I hear further representations from the honorable senator in the future, I shall know exactly what value to attach to them.
– I merely- wish to allude to one matter, and that is the Minister’s references to Hansard. The Minister for Defence, with his long parliamentary experience, has made insinuations with regard to Hansard which I at once rebut. I was particularly careful this morning, when reading my proofs of Hansard, to make no alteration whatsoever, and my remarks as they appear in the proof will appear in the volume. I think that disposes once and for all of the insinuation that I have had anything to do with altering Hansard, and that the whole of my remarks as they were made last night will not appear in Hansard. I ask honorable senators to read my speech side by side with the reply made by Senator Pearce, and, as fair-minded men, to say whether the Minister, in his hysteria or bad temper, was entitled to reply to me as he did. I throw back in the teeth of the Minister the insinuation he has made.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I ask what particular part of the schedule is under discussion, and has been under discussion for the past half -hour?
– The Department of Defence.
– It seems to me that, under cover of this schedule, we are washing some dirty political linen. Is it your ruling that this may be done?
– Order !
– If that is your ruling I shall remember it. Perhaps some day we may have some more of it.
– I throw back into the teeth of the Minister his implied threat with regard to any communications from me. I have never asked anything from him, nor wanted anything from him, and I hope that I never shall. I am here in the interests of the electors of New South Wales, and I know what they think about Senator Pearce. I know what they would say if he came back to them to seek re-election there. And I hope that in the course of my tenure in this Chamber - I have five years to look forward to - I shall always have the courage of my opinions, and shall say that black is black and not white. I am not here to uphold the muddles of the Minister for Defence, although he belongs to the party of which I have the honour of being a member, and I am not fearful of any revenge that the Minister might take.
.- Mr. Chairman- ‘
Several honorable senators interjecting,
– Order ! It is quite impossible for the Chair or for the reporters to hear what honorable senators desire to say.
– Absolutely, by your own voice, in my opinion.
– Order I It is not in order for the honorable senator to reflect upon the Chair.
– I am not reflecting on the Chair. I was just saying-
– Order ! The honorable senator (Senator Ferricks) will please take his seat. I ask Senator Needham to withdraw unreservedly the reflection which he has made upon theChair.
– Well, if you will withdraw that large sound of your voice, I will withdraw my reflection upon it.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in continuing to make such reflections upon the Chair.
– Well, I will withdraw my two reflections on the Chair* The Chair did not sing out.
– Order ! The honorable senator must unreservedly withdraw his reflection upon the Chairman of Committees.
– I made no reflection on the Chairman of Committees, and T withdraw any reflections that I made on the Chair.
– I have no desire to intervene in the little family quarrels that have been going on. I wish to bring before the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) an aspect of the general situation which has worked out most unjustly, and which has been operating against the success of enlistments pretty well for the past three years. I feel sure that honorable senators have had under their notice cases in which over-allotments have been given to dependants of soldiers at the Front, and as to which, after the money has been expended, the error has been discovered by the Defence Department, and a subtraction made from the pay of the soldier in question, so that the dependants have had to put up with a reduction of the allotment. Onecase that came under my personal notice was in respect to an application for separation allowance. I had .known the young man in question for many years, in the northern part of “Queensland. I saw him in Melbourne when he was passing through on his way to the Front, toward* the end of 1916. He had lunch with me at Parliament House, and, in the course of conversation, he mentioned that had it not been for the assurance of the enlisting officer that he would be able to secure for his widowed mother a separation allowance, it would have been impossible for him to have enlisted. His parents were
Belgians, but he was Australian-born. He said that despite that he felt the war with peculiar intensity, he considered that his first duty was to his mother. And he emphasized that but for the assurance of the enlisting authorities that she would receive a separation allowance, it would have been unjust, and, in fact, impossible for him to depart from Australia. The mother was paid the separation allowance between the date of the son’s enlistment, about the 1st May, 1916, until 30th September of that year - the date on which the lad left Australia. But from that day the separation allowance was cut off.
– Did he join the Australian Imperial Force?
– Yes ; as a member of the Mining Corps, a sapper. I am. not advancing the claim now with any idea of re-settlement. The mother was sixty-five years of age, and a partial cripple; but she filledin what time she had to spare as a teacher of music. She was an accomplished pianist, and if she could have secured enough pupils she might have been able to earn enough to carry on. However, matters in the little town in which she resided were not too prosperous, and the widow made only £15 15s. for the year by way of music fees. When it became known to the Defence Department that that money had been so earned by the mother the separation allowance was not only cut off, but a deduction was made of all that had been paid to her.
For about eighteen months I had the case under the notice of the Department, and I pressed for a refund. I thought that was perfectly fair in view of the fact that I had personally heard the young man’s assurance that the mother would receive separation allowance, and that it was upon that advice that he had enlisted. The deduction of the allowance remained in force until July 1, 1917, when the amended regulations came into operation. Altogether, however, it was a harsh case. I was pursuing my negotiations with the Defence Department meanwhile, and, though the sum involved was not great, it really amounted to a serious item with the little widow in Northern Queensland. But I eventually received a letter from her to the effect that” it did not matter now, since the young man had been killed in Belgium, and the Defence Department could have the money which it had wrongfully deducted.” It was really a sad case, and it is occurrences such as those that have detracted to a great extent from the enthusiasm which many Australians would have put into the matter of enlistment - that is, on the part of those who may have thought their duty lay that way. I felt the whole circumstances very much, and will confess that, had I been in the position to do so,I would have personally paid to the widow the difference which the Department had deducted.
I do not think the Minister was quite justified in what he said a few minutes ago to Senator Pratten. When I was a supporter of the Government of which Senator Pearce was then a member, he did not always meet honorable senators, with respect to any requests, in the spirit to which they were entitled. I remember having been snubbed by Senator Pearce on more than one occasion. I am not bitter about that. It is the kind of thing that might occur with any man who has the worry of administering an important Federal Department. But a Minister in such a position should endeavour to be as broadminded as possible, and realize that a subject which seems small to him may be very serious from the view-point of the honorable senator concerned, and of the people behind him. I felt, with respect to the case which I have just been citing, that it was indeed important, and it occurred to me that if I could have had a heart-to-heart talk with the Minister I might have impressed upon him the whole position, so that the attitude of his Department would have been, at any rate, less abrupt, even if it could have given me no more satisfaction. I could never get anything further than that “ the matter is under consideration.” It would have been better for the officials to have said straight out that the person in question was not due to receive separation allowance under the policy laid down by the Administration. But I received no reply until the lady informed raethat it did not matter now, since her son had beeu killed in Belgium, and had been buried beside his relatives. Such things as these make the administration of the Defence Department unpopular.
.- I have been frequently approached by persons in receipt of allowances onbehalf of their kin at the Front, and have noted quite a number of cases of overpayment. I do not know whether it is that the public are ignorant of what is required on their part. But in the instances to which I refer they have filled every form accurately. I know of one case where a woman was actually given two separation allowances. She said she had not made application for the two; but, after a time, it was discovered, and she had a sum subtracted from that which she was entitled to, in order to adjust the wrong payments. . Another woman, with a son at the Front, had her separation allowance reduced because it was discovered that she was in receipt of an oldage pension. That point, of course, has since been adjusted by an alteration of the policy of administration.
Another case which came under my notice a little while ago had to do with a step-mother. Her step-son had gone to the Front, and he has since been killed. The father had died, and the woman was left with two or three young children. She holds a doctor’s certificate that she is incapable of earning a living. She is in receipt of an invalid pension, but can get nothing in the way of a war pension. She is left with those little children, helpless, and she can get nothing more than the invalid pension to live upon. It appears that a step-mother is not entitled to a war pension; but it certainly makes a very hard case. The officials at Hobart to whom I submitted the particulars admitted that the circumstances were sad; but, while they were sympathetic, they could do nothing.
Another situation which is the cause of some trouble may be illustrated by the recital of certain facts that have come under my personal attention. Four or five months ago a Mrs. Townsend, living in the country in Tasmania, communicated with me. Her son, Private V. Townsend, had been very seriously wounded. She had written to the Department to ask that, if possible, her son should be returned, seeing that he would not be of any more use in the service. When she received no satisfactory answer she wrote to me. I took the matter up, and received the usual official reply - that my letter had come to hand, and would be attended to, and that I would be advised in due course. Some time after that I noticed in a list of wounded men who were returning to Australia the name of Private V. Townsend. I took it for granted that the Department, without giving me further information, had decided that this young man should be sent home. To my surprise, however, about three weeks later I received a letter signed by the Secretary of Defence, in which he said that, after very serious consideration, and having gone into the circumstances of the case, the Department could not see its way clear to send young Townsend back to Australia. I wrote to the mother at once, and asked if it was not a fact that the wounded man had already returned. Her reply indicated that on the day she received my letter her boy was not there, hut that he wa3 back home a day or two afterwards. He had landed in Australia very shortly after I had received the letter from the Department intimating that, after having given the matter serious consideration, it had decided that he could not be sent back.
– The honorable senator said at first that he got the letter three weeks after the man’s return.
– Oh, no. I said three weeks after the notification of his return appeared in the press.
– The honorable senator got the letter after the man came back.
– No. About three weeks after the notification appeared in the press that Private V. Townsend was to be returned amongst the wounded I received the letter from the Department stating that, after giving the matter serious consideration, it could not allow him to return.
– Where was he during the intervening three Aveeks, because the lists are not published until the vessels arrive in Australia.
– I cannot say. He arrived in Australia just about the time I received the letter from the Department, so that he must have left England a considerable time previously, and the newspapers must have received notification from the Department that he was amongst a group of returning soldiers.
– But we do not know who are coming back until they have actually arrived in Fremantle.
– That does not affect my point at all. My point is that the Department stated that, after giving the matter serious consideration, this young man could not be returned, and yet, when that letter was written, he was on his way back. These are the sort of things which give rise to feelings of distrust among the people. I do not blame the Minister (Senator Pearce) for it, but it would be wise if better supervision were exercised over matters of this kind. If we have men leaving England as wounded soldiers, and long after their departure we are told that they will not be allowed to return, a wrong impression is created in the minds of the people.
– That has happened in a number of cases.
– That circumstance makes the position worse. I hope we shall get better supervision, because this sort of thing does not improve the position in the eyes of the public.
– In regard to the complaints which have been made as to overpayment of separation allowances, I am not at all satisfied with what has happened in the past. I know that there have been some very hard cases in which overpayment has occurred. But everybody will admit that these cases have been gradually lessening, and that they are not very frequent to-day. They were somewhat frequent when separation allowance was first granted. During the course of his remarks Senator Ferricks made one statement which possibly furnishes an explanation of the case mentioned by him just now. Honorable senators will recollect that the conditions under which separation allowance is granted have been changed four times. Originally, the allowance was payable only to a wife while her husband remained in Australia. Subsequently its payment was extended to a wife after the soldier had left Australia, but it was still payable only to a wife. Later on, a further amendment was made, under which the allowance was paid to a mother if 3he could prove that she was totally dependent upon her son who had enlisted.
Still later, the law was again amended to permit of separation allowance being paid either to a wife or a mother in cases in which she was partly dependent upon her son, who had enlisted. What probably happened in the case mentioned by Senator Ferricks is that the woman may have obtained separation allowance during the period when a mother was not entitled to it unless she was totally dependent upon her son. Some person may have brought under the notice of the Defence Department the fact that this woman was not totally dependent upon her son.
– But the son could not have enlisted in the absence of an assurance from the military authorities that his mother would receive the allowance.
– Whatever the enlisting officer may have said, he could not guarantee more than that the allowance would be paid to the mother if she were totally dependent upon her son. However, I do not remember the particular case, and therefore I am not competent to deal with it. I do know, however, that in the early stages of the war, owing to the frequent changes that were made in the law, cases of over-payment of separation allowance were frequent. But now they are shrinking very rapidly, and, generally speaking, good work is being done by the pay office. Senator Guy has mentioned the case of a step-mother who applied for a war pension. He must know quite well that that is not a Defence Department matter, but a Treasury matter. War pensions are under the control of the Treasury. I would, therefore, suggest to the honorable senator, if he has not already done so, that he should represent the case in question to the Treasurer (Mr. Watt).
– It will entail the framing of a new regulation, I presume.
– I cannot say. While the honorable senator was speaking, in regard to the question of an application for the return of a soldier, Senator Keating interjected that there had been a number of cases of a character similar to that mentioned by him. That is quite possible. In the case of a soldier who is overseas, it must be remembered that he is not under our control at all. When a request is made to the Department for his return, that request is not referred to the authorities overseas. It is dealt with hera. An inquiry is made as to whether the circumstances of his family are such as to warrant the Department, in view of the shortage of reinforcements, bringing him back. The people overseas have no knowledge that that inquiry is going on. In this particular case the Commandant of Tasmania would first be asked to make a report as to the circumstances of the family. That report would come back to Melbourne, where a decision would be given upon it. A recommendation would be made by the Adjutant-General’s branch to the Minister, who would either approve or disapprove of it. In the case in question, the Minister apparently approved of a recommendation that the man should not be brought back. His secretary would thereupon write to Senator Guy informing him of that de- cision. The honorable senator must have got that letter within a few days of the publication in A ustralia of the list of returning soldiers, and of the arrival of the man in Fremantle, because, until a ship arrives in that port, we have noknowledge of who is on board her. Immediately she arrives there, a list of the names of those on board is sent over by wire to us.
– By wireless ?
– No, the Naval authorities will not permit the lists to be wirelessed to us, and for a very good reason. In the case of a ship which comes direct from Capetown we receive even less notice. “ In that event we get a list of the names of those on board only when the vessel arrives at the Heads. At the earliest opportunity afterwards that list is published in the press. Therefore it is quite conceivable that the Secretary to the Department would have no knowledge of the matter. Upon the very day that he was writing the letter to Senator Guy’“ the list of returning men may have been published. We cannot overcome that sst of circumstances, no matter how. close a supervision we may exercise. The only way in which it could be overcome would be by having the lists of names sent by’ wireless to us when the ship was three or four days from land, and that the Navy Department will not permit. There is fairly circumstantial evidence, I may add, that the capture of the Matunga by the German raider wasdue to the latter having caught a wirelessmessage to the effect that the former had left one of our ports upon a certain day. Honorable senators will recognise therefore that it is not a silly precaution which is being taken by the Naval authorities, but a perfectly wise one in the interestsof the men on board the transports.
.- I wish to say a word or two in “regard to the question of separation allowances. If a man who enlists has a mother who isentirely dependent upon him, she is entitled to the separation allowance. But suppose that, after that allowance has been granted, and after her son has leftAustralia, she accepts employment by means of which she earns a little money, will the separation allowance be immediately discontinued? ,
– Not at the present, time.
– I quite understand’ that, owing to the shortage of reinforcements, it is very difficult to get a man. brought back from the Front. But recently I had occasion to bring under thenotice of the Defence Department the case of a man who has two little children, and who since he left Australia has losthis wife. The result is that the children^ have been left in the care of aged grandparents, who are quite unable to look after them as they should be looked after. The person who brought this case undermy notice assured me that if the man is not permitted to return from the Fronthis children will be compelled to enter an orphanage. The name of the soldier isKeating, and I understand that he is at present employed in a field bakery in France. To my mind, a case of this character is worthy of the Minister’s personal consideration. But probably owing tothe stress of business he has not had it brought under his notice. It is possible that a number of letters, even though addressed to him personally, never reach the Minister for Defence. I bring this case before the Senate in order that theMinister may investigate it, and that, if possible, the man to whom I have referred may be returned, so that he can look after his two little children.
– I do not remember the particular case referred te* iby Senator Poll, but I may say that certain rules are laid down for guidance as to the class of cases in which men are returned. One reason for the return of men is serious domestic difficulty or financial hardship to the family. We have also taken the precaution that, before a decision is given in any one of these cases, it must be referred to the Minister or Assistant Minister for Defence. Owing to the pressure on my time, the Assistant Minister deals with the greater number of such cases, but every one of them must come before one of us for final review.
– I ask the Minister for Defence to say whether he will give consideration to the desirability or possibility of permitting men who have been three and a half years, or some specific period, at the Front to return to Australia on furlough ?
– We have given that suggestion frequent and long consideration. The difficulty is to say how we can give effect to it, in view of the circumstances at the Prout. To-day, withdwindling battalions, it is impossible to grant, that general leave to men with long service, which they so richly deserve. I should be a happy man if I could see my way to do it, but it is impossible, under present conditions, to make that leave general.
– I asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council last night a question in connexion with two lightships. I wished to know whether they had been constructed, and, if so, what was the cost. There was some question raised as between £10,000 and over £18,000. The Minister promised that a reply would be furnished me to-day. He expected that he would be in a position today to say whether the light-ships to which I referred were constructed, and if they were, what was their actual cost.
– I shall endeavour to obtain full information on the subject in time to give it on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, and, if not, to-morrow early.
Progress reported .
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read asecond time,
I have two objects in view. My first is to see that the amount of compensation given to a workman injured during his employment with the Commonwealth Government is such as will enable him to have half the wages he would have earned had he not been incapacitated. Paragraph1b of the first schedule of the Act of 1912 provides that the amount of compensation under the Act shall be -
Where total or partial incapacity for work results from the injury, a weekly payment during the incapacity not exceeding 50 per centum of the workman’s average weekly earnings during the previous twelve months, if he has been so long employed; but, if not, then for any less period during which he has been in the employment of the Commonwealth, such weekly payment not to exceed forty shillings.
I propose by this Bill to leave out; - during the previous twelve months, if he has been so long employed, but, if not, then for any less period during which he has been in the employment of the Commonwealth, such weekly payment not to exceed forty shillings. and insert the following in its place - if and when uninterrupted by absence from work due to illness, accident, or other cause.
I desire to make sure that, no matter how long the employee has been engaged in the service of the Commonwealth, if it is only for a day or even an hour, should he be either partially or totally incapacitated by an injury from following his employment, he shall get half the wages he would have earned had he not been so injured. There was, and perhaps still is, a defect in the Western Australian Workmen’s Compensation Act, because, under certain conditions, the injured workman does not get half the weekly wage he would have earned had he not been injured. A man working on the wharfs may be employed by Huddart Parker for a week, Mcllwraith, McEacharn for nine months, and Howard Smith for three or four days.In those last three or four days he may sustain iujury, incapacitating him for a considerable time, but under that State Act his compensation used to be assessed simply on the days he was employed by the last-named company. Our Act is not so bad in that regard, but still, under paragraph1b of the existing schedule, there is danger of such an assessment taking place. I propose also by this Bill to repeal paragraph 2 of the first schedule of the principal Act, and insert in its stead the following
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act as to the rate of compensation, compensation for the injuries mentioned hereunder shall be assessed in the manner hereinafter indicated, that is to say:
Then follows a table showing the nature of the injury, and the ratio of compensation to full compensation as for total incapacity, ranging from 100 per cent. for the loss of both eyes to 10 per cent. for complete deafness of one ear. That table is copied word for word from the fourth schedule of the Workmen’s Compensation Act of Victoria, 1914.I believe that Commonwealth legislation should be in advance of the times, but, in the case of the workmen’s compensation law we are lagging behind. I have often heard it said in other matters that if we, as a Commonwealth, set up a higher standard of wages for our employees, other people would have to follow our example. That is a good principle to adopt, and I contend that in workmen’s compensation legislation we should lead, and not follow. It is a well-known fact that if a man lose a thumb or little finger he is not so efficient in his work as he was before. A man who loses one eye is not so efficient as he used to be, and the Victorian Parliament apparently had a better knowledge of the subject than we had when they determined that the workmen should be compensated according to the value of the member, or portion of a member, that was lost. I commend the measure to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from this day, vide page 5599) :
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales-
Minister for Repatriation) [8.17]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
It was not found necessary during the year 1916-17 to depart materially from the Estimates as passed by Parliament, and it was possible, by a re-arrangement of various items, to obviate the necessity of asking Parliament for an additional appropriation. The Bill now before the Senate is merely to vary the original appropriation in a few cases in the manner indicated by the schedule.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday next.
Light-ships - Control of Liquor Traffic, Northern Territory - War-time Profits Tax - Race Meetings in Queensland: Tattersalls Club - Financial Measures : Disallowance.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [8.22]. - Yesterday I promised to supply certain information to Senator Needham in connexion with lighthouse steamers. The steamers are the Lady Loch, purchased from the Victorian Government at a cost of £9,500, the Governor Musgrave purchased from the South Australian Government for £5,500; and the Karaluah, purchased privately from the Hunter River Steamship Company for £17,000, or a total of £32,000.
– I am not yet satisfied that the Minister has given the information 1 desired. In the debate on one of the measures before the Senate yesterday I referred to the construction, not the purchase, of two light-ships. I pointed out to tho Minister that there was an item of £18,191, as against £10,000 for the construction of vessels, and I hope the Minister on the next day of sitting will give me the information I desired.
– We were given to understand that the steamers are in the course of construction. I know tenders were invited by the Department, and a contractor was asked to get out the plans, but was not paid. I accompanied a deputation to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) on this subject, and I think the Minister was surprised to know what was the position. I do not know whether the Department has yet paid for tho work, but up to that date nothing had been done in connexion with the construction of the steamers, except the drawing of plans, which cost the firm about £2,000.
.- I desire briefly to reply to some remarks that were made by Senator Needham last night when referring to statements of mine about the manner in which hotels aro conducted in the Northern Territory, though, I think, Senator Needham addressed himself more particularly to Senator Pratten. However, he certainly gave me to understand that, by my remarks, he considered I was laying a direct charge against some of the hotel employees, and suggested that honorable senators should not make charges against members of the Commonwealth Public Service. All I want to say is that if what I said last night could bo construed into a criticism of the Public Service, thenany criticism levelled against any Minister might likewise be regarded as a reflection upon officers in that particular Department. I had no intention whatever of reflecting upon any individuals. I was merely drawing attention to the state of affairs which exists in the Northern Territory, in the hope that the Government would take some steps to rectify the position.
– It was Senator Pratten who made charges against the employees, and my remarks were directed athim.
– I wish now to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer to the following article, which appeared in the Melbourne press, with regard to the war-time profits tax : -
Just prior to the outbreak of war. a young man wished to make a beginning in life as a grazier. With this object in view, be purchased an unimproved grazing farm in Queensland, and stocked it with several hundred breeding cows. Shortly after he had done this the war broke out. He volunteered for service, waa accepted, and saw service in Egypt and Gallipoli, from which latter placehe was invalided to England. After spending many months in the hospitals there, he was sent back to Australia and discharged as being unfit for further service. While he was away his attorneyspent several thousand pounds on improvement, such as ring-barking, clearing of prickly pear, conserving water, &c., with the result that a somewhat large overdraft with the bank was incurred. In addition to this, there was a mortgage of £1,500 that remained on the property when it was purchased. This fell duc last April, and though the man was perfectly justified in taking advantage of the moratorium in allowing the mortgage to remain, ho apparently was averse from taking any advantage in this way. So he borrowed further from the bank at 6½ per cent. to pay off the mortgage that was only carrying interest at 4½ per cent. Now he is in this position: He owes the bank several thousand pounds, and has no means of paying excepting by selling the young cattle he had bred. He hud no prewar profit, so if he sells any stock now, the Government will, under the pre-war profits tax, take 75 per cent., less 10 per cent., possibly of the amount put into the business. This would mean that if he sold, the amount that he would reduce his liability to the bank by would be merely nominal. The Government, under the war-time profits tax, would take the rest, and leave him without his cattle, and with still a heavy liability to the bank. He has grass at present, and is not bound to sell; but he is naturally anxious to reduce his liability while he can. He lives in a droughty country, and during his short occupancy of the country haa bad serious losses, and though the cattle are alive to-day, they may perish before tho wartime profits tax is off, and be a dead loss to every one. If, however, he were allowed to retain the proceeds of the cattle in the reduction of his liability to the bank, the cattle would be brought down to an assured climate in Victoria or southernRiverina, and fattened for the Victorian market, and eventually sold for probably from £20 to £24 a head, and some one would pay a big income tax on them. A buyer from the Victorian market is ready to do business, but cannot for the reasons above stated. Surely a man who has fought for his country, and whoso health has been much impaired in consequence is entitled to more generous treatment than this.
I ask that, in the interests of this soldier, the Minister shall make inquiries to see that hiscaseis satisfactorily dealt with.
Another matter to which I desire briefly to refer is that which I introduced last night with respect to proprietary racing in Queensland. I made further inquiries to-day, and am now informed that in the other States Tattersalls Club is classed as a non-proprietary racing concern, while in Queensland it is regarded as a proprietary club. I ask that the distinction be removed, and that the severe restriction which has been placed upon its racing days be done away with, for the reasons which I outlined last night, the most important of which are that Tattersall’s gives very largely out of its funds to charitable institutions, and that if any further reductions are to be made, they should be upon the dates granted to the proprietary racing concerns.
– Senator Russell just now omitted to give certain information which he had promised earlier in the day to Senator Needham. He has asked me, therefore, to supply it. It is in respect to light-ships. The information is that orders for four of those vessels were placed for construction at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The estimated cost is about £10,000 each. Two of the vessels have been completed, one of which has been placed in commission, And is at Breaksea Spit, Queensland. The remaining twoare practically completed.
With respect to the matters raised by Senator Foll, I shall place before the Treasurer, in whose Department the wartime profits taxation is administered, the case of the soldier referred to.
As to the honorable senator’s observations with Tespect to the restriction of racing in Queensland, and particularly concerning Tattersall’s Club, I shall bring that under the notice of the Minister for Defence to-morrow morning.
– The Minister promised to procure certain information as to an intimation from the Colonial Office regarding the disallowance of a certain financial measure.
– I have had that information by me during the day, intending to supply it to Senator Long; but I have not got it with me at the present moment. I shall let the honorable senator have it next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 8.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 June 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19180606_senate_7_85/>.