7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire, on behalf of 5,130 persons, residents of New South Wales, to present the following petition protesting against the extension of the entertainments tax to 3d. tickets-
– It is not necessary that the honorable senator should read the petition.
– I wish to read it, sir.
– The honorable senator cannot read the petition at this stage. The proper course for the honorable senator to follow is -to present the petition, and afterwards move that it be read, if he thinks that necessary. He must state whether it is vouched for by the Clerk, is respectfully worded, and ends with the usual prayer.
– The petition is certified to by the Clerk as in conformity with the Standing Orders, and ends with the words, “ And your petitioners will ever humbly pray.”
Petition received and read.
Rugs ‘-Supplied to Returned Soldiers. Senator BARNES.- I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he is aware that returned soldiers are being given rugs by the Repatriation Department made of wool, cotton, and shoddy, and manufactured in Switzerland?
– Arising out of the Minister’s reply, I ask him whether he will have inquiries made into the matter with a view to having the practice altered ?
– My first answer . was ‘* No” ; my second is “ Yob.”
The following papers were presented : - Australian Imperial Force - List of Members who have been granted Commissions - since 25th March, 1918. Customs Act 1901-1918- Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1918, No. 253. Defence Act 1903-1018. - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1918, No. 240. Public Service Act 1902-1917. - Regulations amended.- Statutory Rules 1918, No. 252.
Parliamentary Printing. The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens). - I desire, by permission of the Senate, to make a short statement regarding matters affecting the conduct of its business for the information of honorable senators. Towards the close of last month - to be exact, the communication was dated the 25th September’, 1918, although it did not reach me for some days later - I received’ the following letter from Mi. W. A. Watt, the Acting Prime Minister, addressed jointly to Mr. Speaker and myself : - Dear Sirs,
I desire to inform you that the Common wealth Government is taking steps to control the use of paper, and proposes to reduce consumption where possible in connexion with governmental activities.
In this connexion the following suggestions bare been submitted : -
The free issue of - Hansard to be curtailed, and strictly limited to a few absolutely necessary cases.
The daily notice-paper to contain only questions on notice, Government notices, and such notices as disagreement’ with the Speaker’s ruling, motions of no-confidence, and private members’ notices appearing the first time.
The Printing Committee to be asked to take urgently into consideration any further recommendations for curtailing the use of paper in connexion with the business of the House.
The question of such matters as reprints of members’ speeches to be reviewed. I shall be glad if these suggestions’ can receive early consideration.
That letter was jointly considered by Mr. . Speaker and myself, and was given the most sympathetic consideration, because, in common with every one else, we were aware of the growing ‘ shortage of paper and the difficulty of obtaining necessary supplies owing to lack of freight. We replied to that effect to the Acting Prime Minister. I desire now to inform honorable senators of what has been done in regard to the matter. Perhaps, if I refer to the last suggestion contained in the letter of the Acting Prime Minister first, it may shorten what I have to say. He suggests that the question of such matters as reprints of members’ speeches might be reviewed. In our reply, we pointed out- that this is a matter over which we have no control. It is entirely under the authority of the Commonwealth Treasurer, who controls the Governmentprinting.
– That is so; but the paper has to be used, and the issue of these reprints in the circumstances adds to the difficulties of the situation. However, it is a matter over which we have no control, and we informed the Acting Prime Minister accordingly.
In continuance of the efforts of the Presiding Officers to reduce, as far as practicable, the present cost of parliamentary printing, and. with special regard to the rapidly increasing cost and shortage of paper, a circular has been addressed, on behalf of Mr. Speaker and myself, to various recipients of the weekly issues of Hansard, with a view to ascertain whether, in the present circumstances, it is desired by them that the supply should be continued. Up to the present date, nearly 800 recipients have expressed their willingness that it should be discontinued, and the Government Printer has been instructed accordingly. By this means a saving of £500 per annum in the cost of printing alone has already been made, and it is likely that a considerable addition will be made to that amount. A much larger saving has been made by an alteration in the quality of the paper upon which Hansard is printed, the total amount saved by these two measures of economy being, approximately, £1,500. It will be recognised that this amount represents a considerable saving in the expenditure incidental to one Department of the Parliamentary Service. But although at the present time there is urgent and pressing need for economy in expenditure, . the need for economy in the use of paper is, for reasons with which honorable members are acquainted, at least equally important, and it is this latter consideration which has largely dictated the measures which the Presiding Officers have taken in regard to the circulation of Hansard. The supply of Hansard, at the instance of honorable members, is unaffected by these arrangements, and will be continued as hitherto unless honorable members desire otherwise. The official report of the proceedings of this Parliament is for the purpose, among others, of accurate public information, and is the only report which reaches the various States of the Commonwealth. It should be mentioned that its gratuitous circulation, unlike that of the State and other Parliaments - which has been largely automatic - is based entirely upon applications, and that there are at the present time almost 1,000 subscribers.
In addition, we have made efforts to cut down the notice-papers as far as possible, consistent with the due and efficient performance of the duties and business of Parliament. I now desire to bring publicly under the notice of the Printing Committee the wish of the Government, and the need, for economy, in so far as it is consistent with national and public efficiency, by curtailing the amount of printing ordered by them. I hope these arrangements will meet with the approval of honorable senators.
SenatorFOLL. - Are you aware, sir, that fifty printed copies of the Budget speech have been sent to each honorable senator? Can no economy be effected in that direction?
– I was not aware of the fact. I know I received a number of copies myself, but it is a matter over which I have no control, and I do not think I should be questioned regarding it.
– Is it proposed, sir, to cut out the supply of Hansard to schools of art and institutions of that kind ?
– The supply of Hansard has been discontinued to no one and no institution unless we were informed that there was no further need to continue it. It would be an absolute waste to continue to send Hansard to any individual or institution after it had been intimated to us that it was no longer required.
Newspaper Advertising Charges
asked the Min ister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the charge being made by the newspapers of Australia per inch for advertising the Seventh War Loan?
– Charges range from a minimum per inch of1s. 2d. to a maximum of 25s.
Case of Warrant Officer Corrigan - Commission Prior to Embarkation
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the Senate all the papers in connexion with the court martial of Warrant-Officer E. C. Corrigan, of Molonglo Camp, New South Wales?
– As the papers referred to in the question have relation to a German Prisoners’ Internment Camp it is .not considered advisable, for reasons of public policy, to lay them on the table of the Senate as requested.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer is given in the form of a return, which I will lay on the table of the Senate.
– Arising out of the answer, may I ask if that return includes commissions granted abroad, as well as those granted here?
– The return has been compiled in strict accordance with the honorable senator’s questions.
Imports of Dutiable Goods
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– As the answer is too lengthy to read, I lay it upon the table in the form of a return.
Purchasing Agents for Tin - Directorates of Metal Associations
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
The Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty. Ltd. is a purely private company, over the internal management ‘ of which the Commonwealth Government does not exercise control. I do not think an> good purpose would be served by making public this company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association and private agreements with its shareholders.
Development or Oil-fields.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Are any negotiations taking place with regard to the development and control of the Papuan oil-fields, and/or the erection of oil refineries in Australia by private corporations or individuals? If so, will the Government submit any proposed agreements to Parliament before they are finally dealt with?
– Negotiations incidental to tentative proposals or offers of two companies have taken place, but are not yet complete. The question of submission to Parliament will be considered later. i . H ‘-‘jj
Regulation of Freight
asked the Min ister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has anything been done in the way of sending a communication through the Spanish Consul expressive of appreciation of the action of a Spanish officer (Senor Susciato) on board a vessel captured by a German raider on which vessel Australian women taken on the s.s.Matunga had been placed, the Spanish officer having at great personal risk thrown overboard infernal machines which endangered the lives of the Australian women referred to?
– Representations have been made to the Imperial Government with a view, if the statement concerning the Spanish officer is found to be substantially correct, to consideration of the question of the acknowledgment of his act in an appropriate manner.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What action, if any, has been taken by the Government to prevent during the war the total disappearance from the English market of Australian apples?
– Owing to the action of the Government shipments of Australian apples were made to England each season until this year, when the shortage of shipping was responsible for the embargo. Goods shipped to England are those asked for by the British Government, and although the Commonwealth Government desires to ship its products, it cannot do more than place the position before the British Government, in whose hands alone the final decision rests. The question of including apples in any available freight will not be overlooked.
asked the Min ister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Bill received from the House of Representatives. Standing Orders suspended, and (on motion by Senator Millen) Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure is to make available the ordinary Supply for the Public Service and other needs. It deals with the issue and application of £4,537,700 for the purposes set forth in the schedule. This will provide for the period ending in the middle of January next. The amount is made up as follows: - Ordinary departmental expenditure, £2,619,715; war expenditure payable from revenue, £1,767,985 ; refunds of revenue, £150,000. The last-mentioned amount is required for refunds of income tax and war-time profits tax, which are expected to fall due within the next three months. Provision is included for increases of salaries only in cases where increments are automatic under the Act or regulations, or under Arbitration Court awards, and in these cases only where the increased salary will not exceed £200 per annum. Increments to salaries over £200 will await the passage of the Appropriation Bill. The amount included for war services is mainly for war pensions and the repatriation of soldiers.
Motion (by Senator Grant) negatived -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I protest against the passage of this measure with such haste. To vote a sum of £4,537,700 without having more than two or three sentences of information supplied is quite unreasonable.
– You have seen the Bill.
– I had not seen it until this moment.
– Iread it weeks ago. The honorable senator evidently does not look at his files.
– I have done so most carefully, and have only just been handed my copy. The Government should have placed the measure before the Senate some little time ago, at. least, and thus have given an opportunity for honorable senators to carefully look into the various details. What is being done in regard to the proposed construction of various works at Canberra? I learned from different sources that it was quite possible for the Government, at short notice, to erect fairly substantial houses for certain people who were supposed to have been sent to this country from abroad; but, so far, no provision has been made for ordinary Australian workmen who may be employed in the Capital Territory. What has been, or is to be, done in that regard ?
– Just now, when we hear so much of the possibility of peace with victory, some observations with respect to what the Mother Country has done since the war commenced, will be of interest to honorable members of the Senate.
– The honorable senator cannot make those remarks at this stage.
– Why not?
– Because of the rules of the Senate.
– I understood that on the second reading of the Supply Bill one could wander from Dan to Beersheba.
– Order! The honorable senator has missed his opportunity. Upon the first reading of a Supply Bill matters that are not relevant may be fully discussed, and at any length. After that, all discussion must be confined strictly do matters relevant to the Bill.
– With respect to the construction of houses for workmen in the Federal Territory, this Bill contains no item of that nature; which, however, will be dealt with under the Works Estimates. I hope to bring them before the Senate during the week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Issue and application of £4,537,700).
– Would it not be better to postpone consideration of the clause until the Committee has passed the items which constitute the amount set forth? That has been the practice hitherto, at all events since I have been a member of the Senate.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Divisions 1 to 12 (The Parliament), £10,525, agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £47,275.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Prime Minister a matter in connexion with the appraisement of wool. I have received the following letter, under date Perth, 17th September, 1918, f rom the member for Geraldton, Mr. J. C. WillCock, in the Western Australian Parliament : -
As promised, I am sending you these few lines re the appraisement of wool at Geraldton, which, I hope, you will be able to work in at the House when opportunity offers. Referring to wool appraisement it has been stated that the Imperial Government have given instructions to concentrate appraisements in as few places as possible. This procedure is entirely different to that of New Zealand, where there are about thirty centres, one of them appraising wool valued at only £1.000. In Geraldton, where it is proposed to abolish appraisement, £150,000 worth of wool was appraised last year. Geraldton is the centre of a large area of pastoral and sheep-farming country, and wool production is increasing very rapidly. You will see that there is a direct attempt to introduce centralization, and robbing outports of legitimate trade. Geraldton, besides being a port itself, is connected with the exporting centre of Fremantle by two railways, and if, by any chance, any particular class of wool is desired, it can be railed to Fremantle within twenty-four hours. The Government should have direct control of trade matters, but the Central Wool Committee appear to desire to have control of the trade and to direct where the trade of a country shall be done. Wool exporting firms (Dalgety & Co. and Elder, Smith, & Co.) are. satisfied with present arrangements. The wool-growers (most important of all) are also well satisfied. Accommodation has been provided, at heavy expense, to cater for expanding trade, and the trade should remain at centres where conveniences exist. “One thousand pounds has been spent at Geraldton in providing accommodation for appraising, and work involving the expense of hundreds of pounds is in progress to cope with this year’s clip, on the understanding that the appraisement would remain at Geraldton. One of the greatest problems of Australia is the centralization of population in large cities; but one cannot wonder, if trade is taken away in this arbitrary manner by direct Government interference, and work which has always been done in the country should be concentrated in the capitals of the States, by direction of Government officials; then the position will become worse instead of better. Why disturb conditions which have given satisfaction to every one concerned, for no other reason than to boost up the trade and benefit the vested interests of metropolitan areas?
In view of the fact that at Geraldton wool to the value of £150,000 was appraised last year, I ask the Minister to bring under the notice of the Government the question of reconsidering a de-termination which, I believe, has been arrived at, that after this year Geraldton will not be an appraising centre. If this decision has been come to at the request of the Imperial Government, as indicated in the letter, it appears that the system differs from that in operation in New Zealand, where centres may be established for the appraisement of wool to the value of only £1,000.
– In the Department of the Prime Minister we have an item referring to the Public Service Commissioner, and I desire to again raise the question of the position occupied by the Acting Commissioner. . He has been Acting Commissioner for, I think, nearly three years, and it is time that the Government appointed a Commissioner. Whether the Acting Commissioner should be appointed Commissioner or not, it is not for me to say. I am not speaking in advocacy of any man, but I have always taken the stand that a Department cannot be administered satisfactorily by an official who is only acting for the official head. Some time ago I raised’ this question also in connexion with the Defence Department, and I am glad to know that ; that Department is now administered, not by an Acting Secretary, but by a Secretary.
Like other honorable senators, I have received a letter from Wallace F. Henderson, who apparently has some complaint against the Postmaster-General. I have absolutely no sympathy with Mr. Wallace F. Henderson, but in his letter he states -
Another official wrote personally to the PostmasterGeneral, complaining that his increments of salary were withheld because he would not join the union. Mr. Webster replied personally in April and June, assuring this official that he (Mr. Webster) would personally interest himself, and insure the granting of the increments. Meanwhile, the official reply from the Deputy Postmaster-General notified the official that the increments could not be granted. The private letters from Mr. Webster, in this case, have been viewed by officials of this branch, and were produced as evidence by Mr. Henderson’s attorney, Mr. D. Levy, at the second inquiry.
Here is an, officer in the Postal Department who affirms that he wrote direct to the Postmaster-General complaining that his increments had been withheld. I do not quarrel with him for his action in that regard. I am not aware that any objection can be urged to it. I believe that any officer in a Department has a perfect right to communicate direct with his Minister if he believes that he is not being fairly treated. But bore it is alleged that the Postmaster-General, in replying to this officer, personally undertook to see that the increments were paid. If that be a fact, I hold that the PostmasterGeneral has committed a very serious breach of our Public Service Act. I desire to know whether, as a matter of fact, the Postmaster-General did what he is alleged to have done? I know that the Acting Public Service Commissioner is a very capable man, and I “take it that in his present capacity he would not do anything that he would not do if he were filling the office of Commissioner. The incident to which I have directed attention raises the question of whether the Government are speaking with two voices upon certain matters. The Postmaster-General has publicly affirmed his intention of dispensing with examinations for admission to our Public Service.
– Order! The honorable senator is now discussing the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– I am not. Here is an attempt made by the PostmasterGeneral to interfere with our Public Service Act, which is administered by the Acting Public Service Commissioner.
– So fong as the honorable senator confines his remarks to the Acting Public Service Commissioner he will be in order.
– I repeat that the Postmaster-General has declared his intention of doing away with examinations for admission to the Commonwealth Public Service. But, from a newspaper report which was recently published, I gather that the Acting Prime Minister, upon being asked whether he intended to interfere with our Public Service Act, replied, “ No.” In view of his answer, and of the declaration by the PostmasterGeneral, we have a right to know precisely where the Ministry stand. I repeat that an Acting Public Service Commissioner cannot be so strong in his office as can a Public Service Commissioner. I desire to know how long the Government intend to allow the existing state of things to continue, and when they propose to appoint a Public Service Commissioner?
– Tinder the heading of the Prime Minister’s Department, I take it that I am at liberty to discuss the Prime Minister’s actions abroad in relation to Australia and to this Parliament. As one who had an opportunity of seeing something of the inside of the Prime Minister’s campaign when he was previously in England, and one who has some knowledge of what has been transpiring in the Mother Country since the outbreak of the war-
– Order ! The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing that matter.
– I desire to express my fullest concurrence with the attitude of the Prime Minister.
– My duty is to give effect to our Standing Orders, and in my opinion the honorable senator will not be in order in discussing that matter upon this part of the Bill.
– Under the heading the “ Prime Minister’s Department “ there is an item of £3,000 for contingencies. That item probably includes payments for portion of the expenses of the Prime Minister’s mission to England. Certainly it includes payments to the Secretary of that Department, who accompanied the right honorable gentleman upon the occasion of his previous visit to the Old Country. Can I not connect this item of “ contingencies “ with the present mission of the Prime Minister abroad?
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the proposed vote. I rule that the speeches of the Prime Minister abroad have no relevance to the division which is now under consideration.
– The item of £3,000” for contingencies may cover part of the expenses of the present trip of the Prime Minister to the Old Country, and of the representation of Australia there.
– If the honorable senator will confine his remarks to the expenditure, he will be in order.
– ‘But this money is being paid to cover expenditure incurred to enable the Prime Minister to go to England and represent Australia there. The representation of Australia by the Prime Minister in England at the present time is, in my opinion, very fine, and I ask to be permitted to give the reasons why I think so. I can speak from personal knowledge, having had experience in England in 1915-16 of what is occurring in England to-day; and I want to say that it is a very good thing for Australia that the Prime Minister is now in the Old Country.
– If the honorable Senator can connect those remarks with the vote of £3,000 for contingencies, he will be in order.
– Interjections from the Chair.
– ‘Order ! The honorable senator must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I ask the honorable senator not to east any reflections upon the Chair.
– I rise to a point of order. You, sir, asked me to withdraw a remark which I made, and I withdrew it, and you immediately followed that up by asking that I should not oast reflections upon the Chair. You should not have said that when I withdrew the remark you called upon me to withdraw.
– I did not hear the honorable senator withdraw. If I had done so, I would not have carried the matter further. I am here to carry out the Standing Orders, and not vindictively. Honorable senators have placed *ne in this position to carry out the Standing Orders, and I shall try to enforce them.
– When you called upon me to withdraw my remarks, I did so, and you then followed my withdrawal up by telling me not to reflect upon the Chair.
– I am very sorry I did not hear the honorable senator’s withdrawal.
– I am very glad to have your apology, sir.
– As one who has personal knowledge of what the Prime Minister did in England on his last trip, and of what he is doing now, I should like to make a few remarks upon his representation of Australia in the Old Country. I hope to keep strictly within the Standing Orders by connecting my remarks with the vote for contingencies, because some of that money will probably be expended to meet expenses incurred in connexion with both the last and the present trips made by the Prime Minister.
When I was in England in 1915-16 there was a great feeling of depression in connexion with the entry of Bulgaria into the war, the ‘treachery of Greece, and the. evacuation of Gallipoli. There was also a considerable amount of dissatisfaction in connexion with what were regarded as sins of omission of the then British Government. I was a witness of the incoming and outgoing of the Hughes campaign. I saw something of what was going on in connexion with the stimulation that occurred throughout the Motherland consequent on. his visit, and I want to say that, in my opinion, the visit of the Prime Minister on the last occasion was one of the finest things that ever happened for the Mother Country, because of the way he stimulated Britishers in connexion with the carrying on of the war. Whatever may be said as to bow he was used by the newspapers, and whether those statements were right or wrong, in my opinion he prepared the ground in England for the Ministerial change- which brought in Mr. Lloyd George, and, consequently, Mr. William Morris Hughes has had a very large share in helping on the war to the present successful point.
With regard to his present trip, I must say that I feel that Australians should be under a’ very great debt of gratitude to the Prime Minister for bringing within the region of practical politics the Monroe doctrine of the South Pacific. The Senate unanimously affirmed, I think last year, that it is highly desirable that the enemy should not again secure a jumping-off place in the Pacific to threaten our safety.
– I think the honorable senator is going wide of the matters covered by the vote.
– I am addressing my remarks to the question of the Monroe doctrine of the Pacific, which the Prime Minister has enunciated during his present visit to the Old Country.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the vote under discussion.
– Has it nothing to do with the payment of money for secretaries accompanying the Prime Minister on his visit, and expenses incurred in connexion with the trip?
– I do not wish to unduly hamper honorable senators in the discussion of matters, but they should confine their remarks to the vote under consideration.
– I point out that the first item in the schedule of the Prime Minister’s Department is a vote of £2,000 for salaries, which I presume will cover the salaries of the secretaries of the Department, and other officers, and include that of the private secretary to the Prime Minister, now in England.
– It has nothing whatever to do with the South Pacific Islands.
– One of the things which the Prime Minister may achieve in the forthcoming peace negotiations may be that he will arrange that the Germans shall be ousted from the Pacific, and that alone would be a triumph for him on this visit to the Old Country;
– The money will be well spent.
– Yes, the money will be well spent. I am sorry that you, sir, and I cannot see eye to eye concerning what it is competent to discuss upon this vote.
– I do not wish to unduly hamper the honorable senator, but I cannot permit him to travel from Dan to Beersheba in discussing this vote-
– I am addressing myself to the present visit of the Prime Minister to the Old Country, to what he is doing, and to what he hopes to achieve; and connecting that with the expenditure of the money which must be paid as a result of his mission. We, apparently, are voting money now to cover the payment of expenses’ incurred in connexion with the Prime Minister’s trip; and if I cannot connect a reference to the Prime Minister’s mission with the vote to meet those expenses, I am at a loss to know to what vote I can link up . those references. I want to say that I am heart and soul with the Prime Minister in his enunciation of the Monroe doctrine of the South Pacific. He has brought that question within the region of practical’ politics.
– I ask the honorable senator not to discuss that matter on this vote.
– Can I not discuss what the Prime Minister is doing in England ?
– The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing that on this vote.
– I agree that money should be provided to enable a private secretary to accompany the Prime Minister to England, and that his fare and expenses of the trip should be paid, because the Prime Minister in England is doing much more for Australia than lie could do here just now. I consider that a personalty such as his greatly helps in England at the present time, and I believe that he will have a considerable influence in that country.
– Order !
– I am sorry that, apparently, I am out of order. I thought the remarks I wished to make were pertinent, and certainly appropriate just when negotiations are going on which may mean the end of the war, and will be important to Australia from every stand-point.
– The honorable senator has ample opportunities for that discussion.
– When ?
– There was an ample opportunity on the first reading of the Bill.
– Shall I be in order in discussing any of the phases of the Prime Minister’s visit to England on this schedule?
– Only in connexion with the purpose for which the money is provided.
– I have already pointed out that money is probably provided for the salary and expenses of the Prime Minister’s secretary.
– That is not provided for in this schedule.
– But the Minister for Repatriation cannot say definitely that it is not.
– I do say definitely that it is not.
– What items of expenditure are covered by the vote of £3,000 for contingencies?
– I can secure the particulars if the honorable senator wants them.
– What expenses are covered* by the vote of. £2,000 for salaries? Is not that vote to cover the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister and of officials who have to work in connexion with the Prime Minister’s communications ?
– I have already given the honorable senator one definite answer, and then he asks me another question.
– Order! I point out that the Minister for Repatriation is not compelled to answer questions at this stage.
– And certainly not when an honorable senator is on his feet.
– I understand that if I sit down I will not have another opportunity to say what I desire to say.
– The honorable senator can speak more than once to the question.
– I have been for some time a member of this Chamber, but I cannot recall any occasion upon which my word has been so delibe rately doubted as it has been on the present occasion. I regret that, because Senator Pratten is a colleague and a friend of mine. He asked a definite question, to which I gave a definite answer that no contingencies covered by the item to which he referred had reference to expenditure in connexion with the Prime Minister’s trip to England. ‘ That definite statement the honorable senator declined to accept. He then asked me to give details covered by the vote, and that I am prepared to do now. The vote covers cablegrams beyond the Commonwealth;, postage, office requisites (exclusive of writing paper) ; writing paper and envelopes (including cost of printing and embossing thereon) ; account records and printing ; travelling expenses of officials of the Department within Australia; incidental and petty cash expenditure; “ printing and distributing Commonwealth Gazette; printing and distributing Commonwealth Statutes to State Governments and others; temporary assistance; telephone calls, rents, repairs, and maintenance.
. - I think that there is some misunderstanding between the Minister for Repatriation and myself. I will, of course, at all times accept the honorable senator’s definite word. I did not understand his answer in the way he has put it now. I think I can connect the remarks I wish to make with the vote for cables beyond Australia. These cables are going to and fro between Ministers and the Prime Minister in England, and I should like a ruling from the Chairman as to whether I can connect my remarks with that vote. Can I offer some remarks with regard to the Prime Minister’s mission in England by linking them up with the vote for cables passing between Ministers here and the Prime Minister while he was in America and in England?
– Certainly not.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) be good enough to give details of the vote of £2,000 for salaries in the Prime Minister’s office? My object in asking is to know whether, included in the vote, there are any increases to officers in receipt of salaries of £500. or £600 a year.
– In moving the second reading, I announced that the only increases of salaries were those that were automatic under the .Public Service Act or regulations, and then only in regard to salaries not exceeding £200 per annum, while any increases in salaries over that amount would be submitted in the ordinary appropriation.
– It is indeed fortunate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is in England just now. There is very important work for him to do there, and that work will probably be done before his return. We are heaping up here an immensity of raw products-
– Probably it will be found that cables have been sent in connexion with the sale of copper and wheat, and that these have to come immediately under the notice of the Prime Minister for his personal attention. It is particularly important that a man of his calibre and character, and his well-known views about the carrying on of the war to victory, should be there to represent Australia. In connexion with what is going on, particularly just now, his personality will be of great assistance to the British Ministers. I would express my calm, considered, and deliberate opinion that, in spite of any foibles and weaknesses our Prime Minister may have, we should be heartily glad, as I am, that he is there. It is fortunate for Australia that he is.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing on this vote the question of what the Prime Minister is doing n England.
– I hope no cable will be sent to him in connexion with parliamentary duties here until a victorious peace has been achieved, a peace in which, I am sure,- he is going to take a prominent part, if not a part in the newspapers, a part in the councils of the Empire.
.- -Why does the item of £8,000 for the mail service to the Pacific Islands appear in this Department instead of in the Postmaster-General’s Department? It is an item for postal work. I cannot see why it is put in this place, but, of course, the explanation may be that my eyes, like those of Sam Weller, are rather “ limited in wision.”
– Senator Needham read a letter regarding the appraisement of wool. The matters raised in it have already formed the subject of discussion between him and representatives of the Ministry. I will see that that letter is placed, through the responsible Minister, before the Wool Committee. Senator Thomas raised a question which will command a good deal of sympathy both inside and outside of the Senate - that is, the desirability of an office being filled permanently, rather than by a gentleman who is there merely in an acting capacity. The Government have not lost sight of that aspect. Although the statement made by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in another place is quite correct, there are still certain phases of the Public Service which the Government have under consideration. The lapse of time requisite to give the subject that consideration has prevented the finalization of the appointment of the gentleman in question to the position referred to. In reply to Senator Senior, I would point out that originally these matters, being outside of Australia, were controlled by the Department of External Affairs. In the re-adjustment of departmental responsibilities, they were attached to the Prime Minister’s Department. That is why they appear in the Estimates for that Department.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 25 to 32 (Department of the Treasury), £116,620, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £15,580.
– Do the Government intend to maintain the .Commonwealth Police Force? Have they increased its numerical strength during the past twelve months, and is it a fact that the majority of the Commonwealth policemen are engaged on some duty or other in Queensland?
Senator MILLEN (New South WalesMinister for Repatriation) [4.13J. - I cannot say offhand whether the force has been increased within the last twelve months, but there have been no recent additions to it. Its continuance is a matter which the Government are now considering.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Home and Territories Department.
Proposed vote, £165,905.
– The following paragraph, concerning the Statistical Branch, appeared in. a recent issue of the Melbourne press: -
Sydney, Sunday. - “ A striking illustration of the extraordinary difference between State and Federal conceptions of the way of getting work done at its legitimate cost has recently come under my notice,” said the Premier (Mr. Holman) to-day. “In 1016-1917 a suggestion was on foot that the whole of the statistical work of the. Commonwealth should be concentrated in the hands of the Federal Bureau. This was subsequently abandoned, because the Commonwealth could not do the work nearly so economically as this State. In the Federal Estimates presented recently, £38,000 was set down to meet the expenses of the proposed transfer. The Commonwealth Treasury contemplates spending £19,000 on carrying out work hitherto done by the New South Wales office for £8,000, so that an increase of 240 per cent, would be the result of the transfer of the function from the State to the Commonwealth. This proportion seems to hold good in many such comparisons. Thus the income tax of the State is collected for just over 1 per cent, (actual cost, fi ls. per cent.) ; the income tax of the Commonwealth is collected at the rate of 2i per cent., which is £2 10s. per £100 collected.”
Such a statement by the Premier of New South Wales, if correct, is rather a serious reflection on the administration of the Federal Department. If it is not correct - and I believe and .sincerely trust it is not - I should like to see a public refutation given by the Commonwealth Minister under whose jurisdiction the branch in question comes. If statements of that kind are allowed to go abroad without contradiction by Federal Ministers, considerable misapprehension is likely to be caused among the general public. “Senator GRANT (New South Wales) [4.16], - Has anything been done to secure uniformity in State and Federal electoral rolls ? If nothing has been done in that direction, it is time definite steps were taken to insure that once a person’s name is enrolled either on the State or Federal list it shall remain there until it is legitimately removed. At present each of the States has an expensive Department for this work. I suppose they think they are fully justified in expending their money in that way. The Commonwealth has also a fairly extensive, if not an expensive, Department to carry out similar work. I am certain that if these Departments desired to economize by having a uniform roll, they could do so very quickly and effectively.
– It has been done for years in Tasmania in combination with the Commonwealth.
– Tasmania taxes every Australian 2s. per head if he desires to enter its territory. I believe each member of the French Mission will be required to pay 2s. for entering the port of Launceston, and that, if they come out the same way, they will have to pay another 2s. per head. That is rather a peculiar way of securing national revenue.
– The land tax would be a better way!
– The Tasmanian Government will take very good care not to interfere with the land-jobbers of their State.
– In Tasmania they are wise enough to do in conjunction with the Commonwealth in the matter of electoral rolls what the honorable senator is advocating for all Australia.
– The conditions in Tasmania are entirely different. The State has representation in both Houses of this Parliament far in excess of its numerical strength, with the result that it has been able to fix the boundaries definitely of each of the electoral divisions for the purpose of Federal representation, and of similar divisions for the election of a certain number of members to the local Parliament. It is, therefore, quite easy for Tasmania to secure uniformity in the arrangement of both the ‘State and Federal rolls. But the position in Victoria and New South Wales is entirely different. . There may be some difficulties in the way of securing such a degree of economy that once a person’s name is entered upon a ‘State roll it shall be automatically entered upon the Federal roll, and vice versa. But, so “far as I can ascertain, practically nothing has been done in this matter. We are told daily by the Commonwealth Government to economize along various lines, even to the avoidance of wasting a sheet of paper. Yet we see an extensive and expensive Department being run in each of the States, and an equally expensive and extensive Commonwealth Department. It is a situation which would not be tolerated by a respectable business firm. Such unnecessary duplication of work would be swiftly obviated.
The Commonwealth Government should take steps promptly to bring the defaulting States to a sense of the importance of seeing that the question is definitely fixed. The State electoral officers have made recommendations, which, if given effect to, would completely terminate the difficulty. It is a matter of grave concern, more especially with those men who are forced to move about the country in search of employment. It does not so greatly affect persons in permanent positions, or with fixed occupations; tout in the cases of men who move about, looking for employment, they never know whether their names are on or off the rolls. That should not be so.Of course, this Government can hardly be expected to give their time and attention to a question which a more up-to-date Government would do, yet I appeal to the Government to do something in this direction. They should either convene a conference of State electoral officers or insure, by some other means, that once a man’s name is on the roll it will stay there.
– I feel disposed to describe the remarks of the honorable senator who has just sat down as an exhibition of unctuous egotism.
– That is what a man gets for criticising Tasmania.
– I would not take up the cudgels on behalf of Tasmania whilst Senator Bakhap is present.
– He would soon get his back up !
– The honorable senator has just stated that this Government ought to take steps to bring those defaulting States into line in the matter of having one common electoral machine.
– I did not use the word “ defaulting.”
– I think that, on reference to the records, the honorable senator will find that he did.
– Anyhow, let it go.
– Upon this subject, will the honorable senator care to suggest what steps the Government can take to bring Mr. Ryan, the Premier of Queensland, into line in this matter? His is one of the “defaulting” States. If we took any steps to coerce Mr. Ryan, the honorable senator would describe it as an act of unwarranted tyranny.
– You have tried that once or twice, and with none too much success.
– And yet the honorable senator is pressing the Government to try again.
– You are not game enough to try it.
– Senator Grant has raised a point on Which there is really no difference of opinion, that is, as to the advisability of having one electoral roll.
– Then why do you not act?
– The Government have acted; and, to-day, we have before another branch of the Legislature a Bill which, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, brings us into line. But, of course, no one expects Senator Grant to know anything about that Bill. That would not be expected of him, even after the Bill had reached this Chamber. If there is any default, it is not with the Commonwealth Government.
– I rise to a point of order. , I assure Senator Millen that I have seen that Bill, and am quite acquainted with its contents.
– Order! That is not a point of order.
– Of course it is not a point of order. It is an extraordinary coincidence. But, if the honorable senator has some knowledge of that Bill, his action andhis remarks are still less excusable. Senator Grant stands in his place, knowing that the Government have taken steps to do what ought to be done, and yet he denounces the Government for not doing it.
– And why not do it?
– The Government have done so, and if the honorable senator’s friends elsewhere would try to reduce their deliberations to a reasonable period, there might be a chance of getting that measure before the Senate shortly.
Senator Foll has based certain remarks upon a newspaper statement by Mr. Holman with respect to the relative cost of work in the hands of the Commonwealth and in those of the States. As to the matter of the collection of statistics, that is one of those things which should be controlled by one authority in Australia; and, if there is to be only one authority, there can be no doubt which it should be - that is> the Commonwealth. A proposal was made to the State Governments to try and bring about centralization of authority for collecting these very necessary figures. The State with which Mr. Holman is associated has demurred to that. And, in view of Mr. Holman’s general attitude, I cannot assume that he is opposing it because of any inherent weakness in the proposition itself, but because of Mr. Holman’s manifest determination to fight for what are known as State rights.
– He is even worse than Mr. Ryan.
– No one could be worse than Mr. Ryan. But I am a little amused when I find that Mr. Holman, of all men in Australia, speaks of the work being done economically in New South Wales. Outside of New South Wales there may be some people who believe that things are economically carried on there, but there is none in New South Wales who will accept that. Mr. Holman would be better employed in answering criticisms directed against the extravagance of the Government carried on under his Premiership than in making statements of this kind. I cannot here deal with particular figures, which are generally based on assumptions and estimates, but one set of figures I propose to refer to. The .newspaper report of Mr. Holman’s remarks sets forth -
In the Federal Estimates presented recently, £38,000 was set down to meet the expenses of the proposed transfer.
Anybody, upon reading that, would assume that the £38,000 was an item of additional expenditure thrown upon the people of Australia. It was nothing of the kind. As the Federal authority, we are doing the work, and thus the States would be relieved of the necessity for paying the salaries to their present officers. So, that criticism by Mr. Holman is unfairly misleading. I hope that the common sense of the people will, sooner or later, lead them to see that, with regard to statistics and other matters of general concern, the authority should rest with the Commonwealth Gotvernment alone.
– Can the Minister explain why our parliamentary vote is out up into two sections ? In one portion there are set out the various parliamentary Estimates; and then, under the Department of Home and Territories, an item refers to “ conveyance of members of Parliament and others, £750.” Why should that vote appear under “ Home and Territories ‘ ‘ ? All votes dealing with the parliamentary Estimates should be under the parliamentary vote. . It would be, at any rate, convenient to have such votes dealt with by the officers of Parliament. The President and Mr. Speaker are, in my opinion, the heads of those Departments.
– The item to which the honorable senator directs attention is the amount for that portion of the year covering the travelling expenses of members of Parliament, and officers. There are two reasons why it is in its proper place: One is, that the Home and Territories Department really acts as an agent for all the other Government Departments. It makes contracts, it leases premises, and it buys land. Instead of each Department having to maintain, its own staff for such purposes, the Home and Territories Department performs whatever duties are necessary in that respect; and, among those duties, it makes contracts with the State railways.
– Could not the President and Mr. Speaker do so?
– Of course, they could ; but, surely, there is something to commend the. idea that there should be one Department doing certain classes of work for all the Departments. A similar situation arises with regard to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. If a question of law involves any Department, the latter refers to the Attorney-General’s Department for opinion. The President and Mr. Speaker would, in such circumstances, do the same. The Home and Territories Department deals, not only with contracts for conveyance of “members of Parliament over the railways, but also for the conveyance of the officials.
– The Minister is very ingenious, but he has not convinced me.
– I rarely rise in the hope of convincing any one. who may be determined not to be convinced. I am merely trying to state the position, and to point out that the Home and Territories Department’s special duty is to act as an agent for the other Departments in the manner I have just indicated.
– With respect to the item dealing with ‘ Advancement of the Study of Diseases in Tropical Australia,” an amount of £2,000 is set down “to be paid into Trust Fund.” Can the Minister state, approximately, the annual disbursements in connexion with that matter?
– The amount expended last year was £4,31)0 - the total amount of the appropriation.
– Is the expenditure of this money directed from Melbourne, or from the tropical parts of Australia?
– The honorable senator is probably aware that an arrangement was arrived at between the Imperial Government and the Commonwealth Government, and I think - but of this I am not quite sure - with the Queensland Government, by which the three parties, if there were three, and two, if there were two, should contribute an amount agreed upon each year for the purpose or carrying out this research work in tropical diseases. The money provided is paid into a trust fund, .and the administrative body sits in Melbourne. Dr. Cumpston, as a member of the Trust, is responsible for the correct disbursement of tie vote, but the doctor in Townsville has control of the purely scientific investigations.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales) 4.37].- There is an item of £26,600 or the rent of buildings, and I wish again to enter my protest against a continuance, on the part of the Federal Government, of the policy of renting from private owners buildings required for their own purposes. We have been told frequently by gentlemen representing the Government that it ought to be the aim of every citizen to secure his own home; but we find that for some inscrutable reason the Government, instead of building their own premises, persist in renting from other people. There may be an excuse for this practice in some cases, but on the other hand, it does not appear to me that there is any excuse at all in others. The Minister might, of course, answer that this policy is being pursued because we are contemplating the removal of the Commonwealth Parliament to Canberra, and to that extent I agree with him, although the prospect of removing to Canberra becomes more slender each, year. Included in the item are the following lines for the renting of buildings : - Prime Minister, £3,500; Treasurer, £3,500; Attorney-General, £1,500; Home and Territories, £3,000; Defence (Naval), £1,050; (Military), £4,000; Trade and Customs, £1,500; Quarantine, £350; Works and Railways, £500; Post and Telegraph, £7,000. I do not know where all these buildings are, but I presume some of them are not in Melbourne. Necessarily the Post and Telegraph buildings would not be in this city, but I think the Minister should give some information to the Committee.
The Government have failed miserably to control the steadily increased cost of building material. We have been assured that the price of galvanized iron waa fixed by regulation at £52 per ton, but this has been openly flouted right throughout Australia, as the Government left a loophole through which people are able to drive quite easily.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I ask if the honorable senator is in order in discussing the price of galvanized iron under the schedule?
– The honorable senator is perfectly in order in applying his remarks to new buildings.
– I anticipate that the Minister will inform us that, owing to the high price of building materials, it would not be profitable at the present’ time to engage in building operations; but I again point out that while the Government fixed the price of galvanized iron at £52 per ton, the regulation lias been openly flouted, the cost being anything between £80 and £90 a ton. If the Government really desire to fix the price, they could easily bring in another regulation prohibiting the sale of galvanized iron, under any circumstances, at a price beyond that fixed by the regulation. I know also that the price of timber has gone up to an extraordinary extent, in some cases the mills charging as much as ?2 10s. per 100 feet for what, before this Government came into office, they were asking only 14s. It cannot be advanced as an argument that the rental of Quarantine buildings, ?350, should continue because we are contemplating removing to Canberra, and I think the same may be said of many of the other items. The Committee are entitled to information, for it must be remembered that this schedule represents only a small portion of Supply for the year.
– What would you suggest ?
– I would suggest that, wherever possible, the Government should erect their own premises rather than rent from private owners. I see no difficulty in the way, and I hope the Minister will give some reason for a continuance of what appears to me to be a very undesirable practice.
– In the Home and Territories Department there is an item of ?7,000 for the development of oil-fields in Papua. I should like the Minister to inform the Committee whether this money has been expended, or whether it is proposed to be spent, and what portion of the year it covers?
– Senator Grant appears to have discovered a new cause of indignation in the practice of renting premises - a matter about which, hitherto, he has been silent.
– That is not so. The Minister is incorrect.
– Upon reflection, I think that probably I am wrong. There is hardly any subject upon which Senator Grant has been silent. The honorable gentleman knows both the practice and the reason for it. It is all very well for him to say that the Government should purchase all the properties they require; but, obviously, this would be foolish in connexion with a large number of buildings, the occupation of which is necessary for only a brief period’. Let me take one item in the list - the post-offices. Throughout the Commonwealth the Government are renting, upon quite advantageous terms, a large number of small premises, in connexion with which it. would be a very doubtful policy to build. Then there is another factor which compels the Government to rent. In the case of my own Department, the building of suitable premises would mean a delay of eight or ten, or perhaps twelve, months. Does the honorable gentleman say that the activities of this Department should be suspended whilst v.3 waited for a building? Time was an important factor, which, so far as I am concerned,, determined my line of action. I rented premises in order to get to work at once. But there are other reasons rendering it advantageous for the Government, as for private individuals in business, to rent the premises required. It has been the belief that eventually the Central Government would be transferred to Canberra, and to that extent it would not be desirable unduly to acquire premises which, if such transfer took place, would be thrown upon our hands.
Senator Pratten has asked a question with regard to an item of ?7,000 for the development of oil-fields in Papua. This vote is for the purpose of carrying on the work of investigation and exploration, and to put down some trial sinkings. It has no connexion with the question submitted by the honorable senator earlier in the day.
– And will the work go on?
– In some measure. I cannot give the details, but two bores are being proceeded with.
– The development of the oil-fields in Papua seems to have been one of the failures of many Federal Governments. So far as my memory serves me, we have been engaged in this work for six or seven years, and have spent between ?70,000 and ?80,000. I think the Government are adopting a perfectly correct course now ‘in taking into consideration the question whether it would not be better to lease at least a portion of the oilbearing country in Papua to private companies. I have also suggested in the proper quarter that it would be a good thing for the Commonwealth to acquire the control of the oil lands in the Portuguese portion of the Island of Timor, which is about twenty-four hours’ steam from Port Darwin. If that were done, we should then own, apart from the Dutch, the remainder of the oil belt outside the East Indies.
– Is that area controlled by a company?
– A company, which, is now moribund, had an oil concession in the Island of Timor; but only in relation to a small portion of it.
– ‘But oil has not yet been discovered there.
– Just as good indications of oil have been discovered in Timor, at a cost of much less than £50,000, as have been discovered in Papua. Of my own knowledge, I can say that it is likely that oil-bearing strata extends right along from Timor into New Guinea. It would, therefore, be a statesmanlike act for the Commonwealth to ascertain whether it cannot acquire oil rights over the Portuguese portion of the Island of Timor. because the question of oil supplies is becoming an increasingly important one to the industrial and shipping future of Australia. I exceedingly regret that the Commonwealth, over a period of some seven ot eight years, has not achieved better results than it has in Papua. At the same time, I welcome any proposal whereby British-controlled oil companies may take part in the development of the oil resources of Papua for the purpose of meeting the requirements of Australia. At the present time we are in the hands of outside companies. Every pint of kerosene and every quart of benzine consumed in the Commonwealth to-day are controlled by outside companies - companies which, although they are allied with us in the war, are by no means Australian. I understand, that certain proposals have also been made by purely Britishcontrolled companies for the erection of refineries in Australia - establishments which will refine the crude oil that is obtained from bores. I think that the Department should apply itself very -earnestly and quickly to the consideration ;of this problem. Its solution would add greatly to our national wealth, and would materially strengthen us by making us more self-contained. Indeed, this U one of the most important questions within the ambit of the functions of the Commonwealth Government. I hope that the Department will be exceedingly careful as to what leaseholds it grants to private enterprise, because these agreements must be made for the benefit of the public, as well a*3 of the individual. For that reason, I trust that Parliament will be consulted in con nexion with any agreement that may be proposed in regard to oil concessions in Papua. I wish God-speed to the action of the Government in the direction of developing those oil supplies. Up to the present, the oil control exercised by the Commonwealth in Papua has been . a failure. That is no particular fault of the present Government - it has been, partly, a legacy from previous Governments. But the Ministry now have an opportunity, in co-operation with big companies that are controlled by the British Government, of immediately developing our oil resources there. I hope that they will seize the opportunity in both hands, so that at no distant date, instead of importing oil, we shall be producing it ourselves. The oil is there, and I hope there will not be too much secrecy observed in regard to the arrangements which may be made concerning it. “Whatever arrangements are made with the companies or individuals who are interested, will, I trust, be for the benefit of the people as a whole.
– >We have been assured by Senator Pratten that “ the oil is there.”
– I take it he means that . it is in Papua. Senator Pratten told us that, of his own personal knowledge, there is an oil-bearing strata extending from Timor to Papua. But I look with grave suspicion upon any arrangement that may be made by the present Government in the matter of granting oil concessions in Papua to any private company.
– Why ?
– If a private company can produce the. oil there, why cannot the Government? Why should we make concessions to a private company after the Commonwealth has expended over £60,000 in prospecting for oil there? But if oil has been discovered in payable quantities in Papua, that information has not been5 conveyed to the public. The Government may’ be in possession of it, and Senator Pratten, as a member of the Caucus, may know something which is not available, to other honorable senators.. Senator Pratten. - Why does the honorable senator romance like that ? I’ did not say that oil in payable quantities- had been, found in Papua.
– The honorable senator distinctly said that ‘’ the oil was there.” From his remarks I gathered tha’t it was only necessary for arrangements to be made between the Government and certain British? companies to insure the production of oil in considerable quantities. If the oil is there, the Commonwealth can supply the money, the men,, and the machinery to produce it quite as economically and as quickly as can a private company. Why they have not done so, I cannot say. At this distance, it is hard to realize the difficulties which confront boring parties in Papua. But I am strongly opposed to the Government handing over to any private company the right to exploit the people of the Commonwealth by the sale of. oil which may be discovered in payable quantities there. I know that not only have indications of oil been found in Papua, but small quantities of oil have been brought to the surface. That being so, the Government should develop the oil fields themselves, not for the purpose of profit, but for the purpose of supplying the needs of the people of the Commonwealth.
– I listened with interest to the statement made by the Minister (Senator Millen) in replying to the question raised by Senator Grant as to the rental of premises by various Federal Departments. I know that this item recurs year after year, and I am not disposed to find fault with it. But I do think that the existing practice should be discontinued as far as it is possible to do so. I know that the Minister for Repatriation has himself taken a very wise stand in this connexion, by providing a permanent home for his Department. It is true” that at the present time that Department is paying rental for its head-quarters, but I am glad to know that that “condition will not continue for any long period. I wish to encourage the Government to build premises of their own, so that this tremendous item of rent shall entirely disappear from our expenditure. I am also anxious to see our Federal Departments housed in as central a portion of the city as possible. At the present time if an honorable senator wishes to interview an. officer in a particular Department, he has to scour the city until he finds that Department. It. would be a good investment for the Commonwealth to erect its own buildings at the earliest possible moment.
I wish now to say a word or two in regard to the Northern Territory. I notice in this Bill two items relating to the administrative work of the Territory. One reads, “ Administrative staff, - salaries £7,750 “ and the other “ Administrative staff, contingencies £12,000 “ - a total of nearly £20,000. I am not in a position to say what this expenditure represents. But I am concerned with the fact that up to the present no comprehensive developmental policy for the Territory has been put before this country. Year after year we continue to pour out money for the purpose of maintaining existing services, although there is no possibility of any of those services becoming remunerative. I urge upon the Government the desirableness of at once submitting, for our consideration, some comprehensive scheme for the development of the Northern Territory, in order that in the immediate future we may derive some revenue from it. Whether it be in the direction of establishing railway communication, or of providing for the conservation of artesian water supplies, some effort ought certainly to be made to exploit its tremendous possibilities. Items are brought forward in connexion with each Supply Bill, and honorable senators have no opportunity to learn, what the money is being expended for. I notice a proposed vote of £4,000 for gold-fields and mining contingencies, and in connexion with that vote I express the sincere hope that the Government will be generous in assisting mining development in the Northern Territory. The prospector there must take his life in his hands, and I trust that the Government will subsidize any man, or parties of men, who go out prospecting in the Territory as liberally as possible.
In connexion with the Federal Capital Territory, I find that all work has practically been stopped, and the money we have spent there is now lying idle. We are paying interest on a very large expenditure of money in the Federal Territory. There is some work still ‘being undertaken at Canberra that requires explanation. I was there a few weeks ago, and went over the whole qf the city site. I find that the roads which have been constructed have grass growing over them , , and that flood waters are washing them away. Many have been constructed miles from the centre where there is not likely to be any population for a very considerable time. To my mind, the money expended in this way has been, to a large extent, wasted. I find that there is a bridge in course of construction over the Molonglo River.
– A temporary bridge?
– So I was told, although no one at the Federal Capital seemed .to be able to give any information as to who was constructing it, or why it waa being constructed. I understand it is being constructed to carry a temporary railway over the Molonglo River.
– What for?
– I do not know. 1 am anxious to learn whether the Minister for- Repatriation is able to give the Committee any information concerning the construction of this very costly wooden bridge.
– A very substantial bridge, too.
– It is a very ubstantial bridge of its kind. From the information given us it would appear that it is being wrongly constructed, and it is anticipated that the first flood that comes down - and there are heavy floods in the Molonglo at times - will take this expensive structure away with it. We found that this bridge is not being constructed by the Works and Railways Department or by the Home and Territories Department. So far as we could gather it would appear that some generous citizen must be building this bridge at his own expense.
– Is it being constructed on Government land ?
– Yes, at the Federal Capital site, and no doubt some authority gave consent for the erection of the bridge. There is here evidence of the duplication of work by different Government Departments, and it would appear that money is being spent without the sanction of this Parliament. I may be wrong in thinking so, but I bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation so that he may be able to clear up some of the mists that surround works going on at the Federal Capital to-day. I urge the Government to re-commence, with all the energy and vigour they are capable of, the construction of the Federal Capital. I want the Federal Parliament to be transferred to
Canberra at the earliest possible moment. I am anxious to get there, and away from some influences that are operating in the larger cities, for various reasons. We are pledged to the construction of the Federal Capital, and it is nonsense to suggest that we cannot raise money for the purpose. We should have no difficulty in raising £500,000 or £1,000,000 a year, to be expended wisely and judiciously in the construction of the Capital.
– As it has been in the past.
– No; the point I wish particularly to make is that one Government Department should take control of affairs in the Federal Territory. In the past there have been two or three authorities controlling works carried .out at the Federal Capital, and we want that sort of thing discontinued. One Department should take over the construction of the Federal Capital, and the more quickly that work is proceeded with the better. It is very regrettable that the money already expended there should be practically wasted. There is a tremendous power plant and costly machinery provided there, sufficient for all the purposes of the Capital for a very long time to come; but at present it is necessary to operate .that expensive plant for not more than two or three hours per week. I am not finding fault with work that has already been done at the Federal Capital, but with the fact that work has been suspended there, and I ask the Government to go on with the work that lies to their hands in the Federal Territory. During the last few months the Government have been lectured very severely for wasteful and extravagant expenditure. There is neither waste nor extravagance in the carrying out of useful and necessary works. ‘ If the construction of the Federal Capital is gone on with systematically, no charge of waste and extravagance will rest upon any Government responsible for the work. The country must face this expenditure sooner or later, and there is no time like the present in view of the fact that money expended there in years gone by is now lying practically idle.
– Senator Newland raises two points, both of which are of considerable interest. He * has affirmed that the Federal Territory is under the control of two Departments, and has criticised that state of affairs. The honorable senator has been scarcely correct. The Federal Territory is under the control of the Home and Territories Department, but when it has work to do, that Department, in common with other Departments of the Government, calls in the aid of the Works Department.
– Is the Works Department controlling the construction of the bridge referred to?
– The honorable senator will permit me to deal with one thing at a time. That is all that I ever hope to do. We have had a great deal of criticism, which, I venture to say, was justified, in respect of various Departments building up within themselves subDepartments, to which they applied for special purposes. In order to avoid that, the present and other Federal Governments have endeavoured to concentrate in one Department works required by all the Government Departments. The present Government recently, as the result of an arrangement, withdrew from the Navy Department a good deal of work which that Department was carrying out with a special staff. The same thing happens at Canberra. The Home land Territories Department, having decided that certain works should be carried out, calls in the services of the Works Department.
With regard to the other matter referred to by Senator Newland, whilst I may sympathize with the view he has expressed, a sense of public duty compels me to place myself against him. I should like to see work proceeded with at Canberra.
– Can the Minister tell us anything about that bridge?
– The honorable senator will recognise that we are not now dealing with the Works Estimates, but when they come up for consideration I shall be able to give some details concerning that work. Whilst the Government sympathize with the view expressed by the honorable senator, and would like to see works proceeded with at the Federal Capital, they feel that, in view of the urgent need for money in other directions, either directly associated with or consequent upon the war, they would not be justified in proceeding with any extensive expenditure at the Federal Capi tal site at this juncture. For that reason they have decided to stop all works there, a3 far as possible, limiting expenditure to the completion of works already commenced or to what is necessary for their maintenance and upkeep. E re- ‘gret that the necessity has arisen for that policy, but I think that it is a policy which, in the circumstances, commends itself to the judgment of the Committee.
– In connexion with the proposed vote of £1,000 for the maintenance of nurseries, afforestation, and tree-planting at the Federal Capital, I should like to know whether any returned soldiers are employed in connexion with this work, and, if so, how many? Generally 1 should like to know how many returned soldiers are employed at Canberra. The soil in some parts of the Federal Territory is not suitable for agriculture, but it is suitable for other settlement, and I should like to know why advantage is not taken of the fact that we possess this Territory, and aTe in a position to make it available to returned men on the easiest possible terms. I noticed some time ago that some returned soldiers were obliged to pay Mr. Manifold £17 per acre for permission to grow potatoes in Australia, and it occurs to me that suitable land at Canberra might be made available for returned men at a nominal rent. Land in the Federal Territory might be made available, not only to returned soldiers, but to others. I feel sure that if the Federal Territory was properly handled it would be <a very much better paying proposition than it is. I suggest that the Government” might deal with Canberra in a much more satisfactory manner by making the land there available to those who may desire it at a nominal rental. That would be better than merely breeding rabbits there. We find that it is necessary now to expend a considerable sum of money each year upon the extermination of rabbits from that >area. It, is only about 1,000 square miles in extent, but, so far 1 >as I can learn, practically nothing is being done to promote settlement there. I am certain that if the Government take the matter in hand, they can do the work very quickly. I should like to know what is being done, or contemplated, in that ‘direction. I understood the Minister for Repatriation to say that steps were being taken to ascertain the quality of the soil at Canberra for fruitgrowing and other purposes, with a view to making areas available for returned soldiers and others; but, so far as I am able to ascertain, little, if anything, has been done.
There is an item of £250 for the maintenance of water supply and sewerage services. I understand that the proposed main sewer, about 3 miles in length, has been partly constructed, but that all construction on it has been abandoned for a long time. I am told that the shafts are partly full, and that the main barrel of the completed tunnel is full, of water; in fact, that the whole work is of no use whatever at present, although a great deal of expense was incurred in bringing it to its present state. Why is it now necessary to spend even £250 on work of that sort?
– Senator Grant referred to the possibility of utilizing Canberra land for the settlement of soldiers and others. He is evidently not aware that most, if not all, of the land suitable for settlement there is already under lease. Some of the leases terminate in from twelve to eighteen months, and others at longer periods. The honorable senator is quite correct in saying that some time ago I undertook to see what possibilities there were there for returned soldiers. I have done so, and the result is the information which I have just given. The first of the shortdated leases will not terminate, I believe, within twelve months, and then only very small and isolated portions will become available. The great bulk of the land is leased for longer periods; and obviously it is not desirable to buy out with compensation existing tenants holding leases with such comparatively short terms to run. I doubt whether much of the land will be suitable, in any case, for the returned men for whom holdings are being sought; that, however, is a matter for the experts.
The item of £250 is for operating expenses. I presume it covers working costs and maintenance charges on the water and sewerage systems already constructed. The Government have decided not to proceed with any other works at the Capital than the necessary completion of works already commenced, or the maintenance of those already constructed. No new work in that direction is contemplated.
.- I wish to support Senator Newland’s remarks about carrying on work in the> Federal Territory. On my visit, which took place some time ago, I came to the conclusion that it would be a wise policy for the Government to continue the work there as far as possible. One reason ist that it would preserve a great deal df the work already carried out, which if left would’ deteriorate and become useless, as any one who knows anything about public works will admit. My experience tells me that, otherwise, a great deal already done there will go to waste, and the money spent will be lost.
The . Government may have decided wisely, in view of public opinion, not to> spend much money on the Capital; but there is one way in which money could be well spent. As one who has had something to do with works, I believe it could, be spent there to practical and useful purpose in this way : The great majority of the men coming back want jobs. We must recognise and face the fact that they are not after land, but after jobs. The Government would act wisely in setting some money aside to go on with works already started there, so that they may become of some use to the country at an early date. There is plenty of work in the Territory that should be carried out in order to find these men work, and to fulfil the promise made by a previous Government that the Capital would be established at Canberra at the. earliest possible date. A great deal of money will be required for the repatriation scheme; but the Government can wisely expend money at the Capital in putting up buildings and going on with works, bringing the whole matter under some central authority.
I regret to hear from Senator Newland that money is being spent there under divided authority, and that no one seems to know why or how. I understood that some one had been put in charge as sole director.
– So he has.
– I am simply taking Senator Newland’s statement because he is a member of the Public Works Committee, and has been there recently. I was astounded to hear that divided control still existed, because there is no doubt that an immense amount of money has been absolutely wasted there through the various Departments fighting each other. I am pleased to receive the Minister’s assurance that the business is now under one director. The whole responsibility of seeing that the Federal Capital is constructed according to plan should rest with that director. Quite a number of public works can be carried on there with benefit to the Commonwealth Capital, the Government, and the men for whom we have to find jobs as they come back. If the work is taken in hand now, and the plan carried out with foresight, the men can be gradually drafted on- to the jobs as they come forward. I urge the Minister to see that inquiries are made as” to the necessary carrying out of the plan that has been settled for the Federal Capital and Territory. Estimates should be obtained showing the requirements now. and in the near future in the way of materials, so that the necessary buildings and other works may soon be put in hand.
Despite all the talk about the repatriation of returned soldiers, the fact remains that, as most of them really want jobs, the Government can wisely engage a large number of them in that quarter on their return. Many different kinds of mechanics have gone to the Front, and when then return their trades may not be able to absorb them immediately owing to the existing slackness in various directions, particularly in the building line. Men of ability, like those used to building work, could be drafted to the Capital. I urge the Minister to see if something cannot be done now to make preparations to absorb the men. Money spent in that way will be wisely spent, giving a good return to the Government and the country. With proper management and good foremen, the work there will be one of the best monuments that we could have. It will be a credit to the country and to the returned soldiers themselves as showing what our soldiers did when they came back after saving civilization in Europe. It is not a matter of sentiment, but of the practical carrying- out of an undertaking that will give full value in return.
– Any suggestion, from whatever quarter, to proceed with the erection of the necessary buildings at Canberra will be most strongly resented by those who are personally and financially interested in keeping the Capital in Melbourne. I doubt very much if any efforts will overcome that very strong opposition to the removal of ‘the Capital to Canberra. It was really understood by the major portion of the electors when they voted for Federation that the Capital would be moved definitely to Canberra within a limited number of years, ten years being the generally accepted term, and many were astounded to find that there was nothing to that effect in the Constitution.
I do not know that the adverse comments on the expenditure of public money there are fully justified. It may be true that a gravitation, scheme for the water supply to the city would be better than that installed on the Cotter ‘River, but I understand that advice taken at the time was in favour of the Cotter River scheme. It may or may riot be more costly than gravitation, but the scheme is there.
– A very fine scheme, too.
– It appears’ so to me. It may be a bit costly, or it may not be more costly than any system of gravitation would be.
The quality of the water is excellent, and the quantity, so far as I could ascertain, is ample, notwithstanding adverse comments upon it from time to time by ill-informed journals.
Extensive brick works have been erected capable of turning out many thousands of bricks per week. I do not know that these works have ever been fully utilized, and I am not quite satisfied that ‘the material on the spot is of the very best quality. ‘That, again, was a matter for the experts who handled the question, and they were satisfied that the brickworks were being erected in a proper position. They may be in quite a wrong position.
Efforts were made on more than one occasion to establish the Arsenal in or near Canberra, but both sites were found inferior to that since chosen*. ‘
The existing power-house was con’structed, not to supply the present requirements at Canberra,, but to supply current for much more extensive businesses. It is, therefore, quite possible that the power-house may be used only for a few hours per week or day, but surely it is much better to have there a power-house capable of supplying whatever current is necessary than to have to make additions from time to time.
A small railway has been constructed* from Queanbeyan, but that line is absolutely essential. Without it, it would be impossible to get the material on to the site; or, at any rate, it could only be conveyed with much greater difficulty. Recently a portion ‘of the railway between the terminus and the New South “Wales border has been completed, or is in course of completion. I understand that the earthworks are nearly completed, and that the metals are laid. What is required more than anything else at present is either to induce the New .South Wales Government to complete the few miles between Yass Junction and the Federal Capital site, or for the Commonwealth to enter into some arrangement with New South Wales and construct the work itself.
A considerable sum has been spent on a main outfall sewer, which is not only not in use, but, for that reason, has fallen into desuetude. I disagree with those who say we should not go on with the Capital. It was a definite understanding that the Capital would be constructed at Canberra as early as possible. .It is absurd to say that the Commonwealth is not in a position to finance a few millions more. It is easy for the Commonwealth, if it were desired, to get millions upon millions for any purpose required; and, if the Commonwealth needed a loan of £5,000,000 for the Capital to-morrow, it could be secured without difficulty. There is no justification for the unreasonable and unnecessary delay.
We are also informed that it is proposed to carry out very extensive works in the vicinity of the Capital site. That, surely, will be an additional reason why those buildings on the site should be proceeded with. I understand that the main thoroughfares are partly laid out, and that the design of Mr. Griffin is now being given effect to, in some degree. I am informed that Mr. Griffin is in charge of whatever work is in progress. I approve of that idea. It was a great mistake on the part of Mr. King O’Malley - I understand it was he - to do otherwise than go on with Mr. Griffin’s design. That has been a bone of contention, and may be responsible for placing some of the improvements in positions where they should not have been. But these are temporary and insignificant matters. I bc-‘ lieve that all the details have been carefully worked put, and are available. That being so, the Government ‘should bring down in their next Works Estimates a substantial sum to proceed with the erection of all necessary buildings at the Federal Capital site.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £284,360.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence- (‘Senator ‘Pearce) a question submitted to me by a returned soldier. If a man is killed in action, and has been buried in his blanket, is his next of kin charged with the price of the blanket? This may seem an extraordinary query; but I have not yet had a chance of submitting it direct to Senator Pearce.
In connexion with men who have enlisted in Western Australia, and who are no longer fit for active service, or for some service abroad, why has preference in the matter of return to Australia been given to members of the Australian Imperial Force from other States? I have been informed that Western Australian soldiers, who are no longer fit, are not being sent back, and that soldiers from other ‘States are being transported home. The categories referred to are B, 2, B, C2, and C3. A returned soldier who interviewed me was sent from France wounded, and went into hospital in Weymouth. He was there on the 26th February, 1918, and was due for Australia. Between that date and the date of his leaving, namely, 20th June, nine boats left Weymouth with men for Australia. One boat only, which was D7, hospital ship, took a. few Western Australian soldiers; and these were treatment cases. Upon the ship on which this soldier returned, namely, the transport Matitua, there were more than 600 wounded men. They were confined in a very narrow space, and were not allowed to go up on the top deck. They had scarcely any room to walk about and smoke. But on the top deck there were five full-blood horses, a blood mare, and a prize bull. Those animals monopolized the little deck , space which might have been made available for wounded men. The officers on board had their quarters, so had the returning nurses, and rightly so. But the complaint of the returned soldier was that those men, although they had fought in France and had been wounded in the service of their country, were granted inadequate space when all the room properly and reasonably available should have been provided for them, so that they might have a walk and a talk and a smoke. They had to sit on the hatches and snatch a smoke as they could.
Is it the custom to bring out upon our transport ships, with wounded men, fullblood horses, mares, and prize bulls? If there is room for such stock, surely room should be provided for our wounded men to have sufficient recreative space. I am informed, also, that, the food provided on the Matitua was not good, so far as the wounded men were concerned.”
– When did this boat arrive ?
– Some time in August, I believe; and I understand that Western Australia was the first port of call. My soldier informant states, “ The food was rotten. Irish stew, frozen bullock, liver and bacon.” He says that one of the returning wounded men offered £5 to anybody on board who could discover a bit of bacon. No man called for the £5 note. The bacon was not discoverable. He adds, “Frozen tripe - smell offensive.” Then he gives the menu for dinner : “ Stew again, nondescript. Thursday, roast mutton and alleged plum pudding. The same on Sunday. Teatime, bread and rank butter; alternate days, jam and cheese.” I bring this matter before the Minister merely for inquiry, because, if that is the condition of affairs, investigation may be well worth while. Our returned wounded men have undergone the rigours of warfare, and I understand it is the desire of the Government, and of the Department of Defence, to see that they are properly treated. If injustice has been done in this or any other case, I am confident it is not the fault of the Minister. When peace is declared we shall have numbers of ships bringing our men, back. We should prevent any recurrence of these things - that is, if they have occurred.
Another matter concerning the Department of Defence I should like to refer to, if I am in order. I was dealing with the question of the Irish internees at an earlier stage,- when I was informed that it came under the Department of Defence. I have been looking up the items, and can see scope for dealing with this matter only under items 78 and 79 - “General Contingencies, £7,500; General Services, £3,400.” These men, who were interned recently, were alleged to be members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and they were kept in durance vile for some time without being brought before a Judge or jury.
– I would like to know if the honorable senator is connecting his remarks with the Schedule.
– I was about to introduce this matter at an earlier stage, but I was informed by the Minister, for Repatriation (Senator Millen) that it could properly be discussed when we came to the Department of Defence.
– I cannot help that. I must ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the item b«fore the Chair.
– We are discussing the Department of Defence, and as these men were interned on the ipse dixit of the Minister for Defence, I will now ask the Minister, in order to put myself right before the Committee, was he responsible for the internment of these men? As the Minister for Defence is silent, I must presume his silence means assent.
– Do not presume anything of the kind.
– I understand the Minister for Defence did sign the warrant for the detention of these men, and that I now have an opportunity of discussing the matter on this item.
– Only so far as it refers to expenditure under the Minister for Defence.
– That is so, and I say it must have cost something to arrest and detain the men. I was wondering why they were not arrested prior to the last adjournment of Parliament. The evidence had to be in the possession of the Minister, and they were arrested a few days after the adjournment. If action had been taken before the adjournment, I venture to say that the men would not have been detained for so long a period without a trial. I think I will ba in order in referring to the evidence given by one officer of the Defence Department in connexion with the inquiry about the arrest and detention of these men. For the moment I cannot recall his name, but he informed the Royal Commissioner who conducted the inquiry that he was an officer of the Defence. Department and a member of the Australian Imperial Force Intelligence Branch. When questioned by Mr. Mack, one of the counsel appearing for the detained men, he said he had been to Dalton ‘s house - Dalton being one of the internees - and there saw a wooden cross with, upon it; the names of certain men, amongst ‘ them being the names of Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone. When Mr. “Mack, in crossexamination, asked him if he knew the occupations of the internees, he said, “Yes, they are civil servants.” “ How do you know?” asked Mr. Mack. “ I know they are civil servants, because they do not do any work.” When questioned further, and asked what he knew of Robert Emmet, this officer of the Defence Department said that Robert Emmet was killed in a motor car accident last November in Melbourne. When asked what he knew about Wolfe Tone, he informed the Court that Wo”lfe Tone had raised a rebellion in England in 1916. This intelligence officer from the Defence Department called to give evidence about the interned men, gave the Commissioner a new phase of Irish history. When Mr. Mack, following up his cross-examination, asked the witness if he knew that Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone had been dead for over 100 years, he confessed he was not aware of the fact. Now, I want to know from the Minister for Defence why these men were arrested in the first place, and why they were detained on the evidence of an officer of such intelligence as the man I refer to. But I can go on a little further in connexion with this matter. Another witness at the inquiry was Mr. Sainsbury, head of the Criminal Investigation Department of Victoria, who gave evidence about this very formidable, but very aged, Mr. Dalton. He said that in Mr. Dalton ‘s house he discovered a certain book, in which appeared a passage to the effect that the union between England and Ireland was the greatest Wot in English history. When questioned by Mr. Mack, this witness did not know whose words they were, but said they were supposed to be words used by Dalton. He was not aware of the fact that they were the words of William Ewart Gladstone, and not of. Dalton at all.
Now, I hold no brief for any man or woman in this country, whether English,. Irish, Scotch, or Welsh., who breaks its laws ; but I say that if any man has thepower to order the arrest and detention, without trial, of persons of British birth, we are getting back to the time prior to the French Revolution, the time of lettres de- cachet, and when one man in power could do as he liked. I want to say to the Minister - and not in any heat at all - that I followed these” cases very closely, and read all the evidence, and if the men were members of an association, call it what you like - the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Fenian movement, or any other designation - they were born and reared as subjects of the King, and it would’ have been better if they had been openly arrested, brought before a Judge and jury, and tried by the rules of evidence in open Court, leaving their fate then to be determined by the jury. But that was not done. The men were arrested and detained in custody on the pretext that they were dangerous to the. Empire in time of war. While I admit that it is right that alien subjects, should be taken hold of when discovered, surely some other treatment should be meted out to men of British birth ? I would have referred to the matter earlier in the session were it not for the fact that the subject was sub judice, but since then we have had the report of the Royal Commissioner, and I venture to say that any man who reads the evidence and the final address by counsel (Mr. Mack), with the interjections by the Royal Commissioner, must come to the conclusion that it was remarkable that a Judge, who acted as Royal Commissioner, should so continually interrupt Mr. Mack in his address on behalf of the accused men.
– Order! I think the honorable senator is getting a little wide of the items before the Chair.
– I am discussing the Defence Department.
– No; the honorable senator ‘is discussing the arrest and trial of. certain people.
– For which the Defence Department was responsible. But I shall not detain the Committee much longer on this subject. I say that while I would not like to think the Judge was biased, it was extraordinary that by his interjections he should have indicated so clearly the drift of his thoughts. I think this procedure was altogether wrong, and that’ the arrested men should have been brought before a Judge and a jury. If they had committed an offence against the laws of the land, what need was there for all this secrecy, and what need was there for the men to be “ cabin’d, cribb’ d, confin’d “ for weeks before an inquiry was held ? Why should they be deprived of their liberty without an open inquiry? I hold no brief for any mau or woman who violates the laws of this country ; but, even in time of war, we should mete o.ut to men of British birth different treatment from that which we accord to men of alien origin. For this reason I ask the Minister for Defence whether, even at this late hour, a new trial cannot be granted to these men before a Judge and a jury of their peers?
.- I desire to say a few words in regard to the supplies of wool which are being made available in Australia for Red Cross purposes. In answer to certain questions, we have been told that the Defence Department is holding up supplies of wool by the Australian mills - supplies which are necessary to meet local requirements. We know perfectly well that the knitting of socks for soldiers has been undertaken to a large extent by old people, who have cheerfully made very great sacrifices in this, connexion, and I think it would be well for the Minister to state precisely what restrictions have been placed on our woollen mills in regard to the supply of wool for Red Cross work.
Recently, by the courtesy of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), honorable senators were permitted to inspect the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong, where cloth is being manufactured of a better quality “than that with which any soldiers in the world, other than Australian, are clothed. Indeed, I do not think that any civilian in the Commonwealth is clothed in better material than is being turned out to-day at the Geelong Factory. Upon this matter I claim to speak with some authority, because I have been in the woollen business myself. Similar classes of material are being sold wholesale in Flinders-lane at 17s. 6d. and 20s. per yard. Yet that very cloth is being produced in the Commonwealth Woollen Mills for-68. 6d., 7s. 6d., and 8s. 6d. per yard. The best-quality cloth manufactured there could not be bought elsewhere for less than 25s. per yard. But for the operations of this factory, we would be paying twice or three times aa much for the cloth in question.
– We are paying it, all the same.
– We are not. The Factory can make a handsome profit, and can pay the best wages, by selling that cloth at 8s. 6d. per yard. If we were obliged to rely upon private factories to supply the requirements of our troops, we should be compelled to pay ‘three times that amount. The Department deserves credit, and the management and employees -of the Factory also deserve credit, for the fact that our soldiers are being supplied with cloth, the quality of which, cannot be excelled in any part of the world.
– If the honorable senator endeavours to purchase a suit of navy-blue cloth in Melbourne to-day, he will have to pay £8 8s. for it.
– The same quality material is being manufactured in the Commonwealth Woollen Mills at Geelong for 8s. 6d. per yard.
– I know that.
– I hope that the people will recognise it.
– I desire to know whether steps are being taken by the Government to so equip our wireless stations that they will be able, not only to receive, but to despatch, long-distance messages 1 Some time ago I read in the newspapers a report to the effect that one of our wireless stations had received messages from a very long distance, but was incapable of replying to them. In regard to the projected construction of naval store at Leichhardt, I desire to know whether the work has been abandoned, or whether it is to be carried out in the immediate future.
-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [6.13]. - I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) a matter which has been submitted to me in reference to a number of nurses who were sent abroad under British conditions and rates of pay. Now, if any section of the personnel of the Australian Forces in this war is entitled to generous treatment on the part of the authorities, it is that section of devoted women who have so faithfully served our soldiers in the capacity of nurses. I have here a statement by a number of nurses who consider they are suffering injustice, and 1 believe that their case has only to be stated to insure its receiving that prompt and sympathetic attention which it undoubtedly deserves. At the outbreak of the war, a large number of qualified nurses in the Commonwealth volunteered for service abroad - many more than were actually required; but just at that time an urgent cablegram was received from the British authorities intimating that they were very much in need of the services of qualified nurses, and asking if Australia could supply any who were willing to accept duty on the Queen Alexandra Nursing Staff. It was explained that their pay would be. less than that received by other Australian nurses, and that the conditions of their employment would not be so good; but these noble women, regarding’ their duty to their country as of first importance, eagerly volunteered to make the sacrifices demanded of them. As a result, 128 of them volunteered for service on this particular staff in Great Britain in order to help the Imperial Government out of a very serious difficulty. They received no pay or allowances during the voyage from Australia to London ; and, as a matter of fact, the members of the first ‘group who were called upon, travelled Home second class, and received somewhat indifferent treatment on the trip. On their arrival in London, they were met by a medical officer, who told them that they were to receive 15s. per day allowance for quarters until they were detailed for duty. After the first week, this allowance was reduced to 10s. per day, until they were equipped for service. Ten of these women had Australian uniforms, for which each was allowed the sum of £24 15s. The remainder, who did not possess Australian uniforms, were required bo purchase them in London at a cost of from £30 to £40 each. When they arrived in France, however, they were not permitted’ to wear these uniforms, as they were attached to the Queen Alexandra Nursing Staff. Moreover, they did not receive any pay from that body. For many weeks they absolutely lived on the charity of the British nursing staff associated with this particular organization. They write -
On June 9th, we began duty in France, but were not permitted to wear our Australian uniforms, and we received no salary, the authorities there contending that the Australian Government was responsible for us. As we were embarrassed by lank of funds, and no official uniform, and because we were living on the hospitality of the British sisters, we appealed to Colonel- to have our posi tion denned, but nearly two months went by without redress.
It seems to me a serious reflection on the administration of the authorities in the United Kingdom that there should have been no definite understanding in regard to the procedure which should be adopted in connexion with these nurses. They lived on the charity of the British nurses in France for weeks before anybody would recognise them.
– What date was that? ,
-Colonel BOLTON. - In 1915. Their salary was fixed at £40 a year. The victualling allowance was subsequently discontinued. After the matter was defined, and after these girls had been for many weeks without a penny in their pockets, they received £S 4s. 6d. per month, out of which they had to provide rations. In addition, they received a bonus of £7 10s. per annum. They say that ten months later some of them, when in England, undertook to ascertain the exact nature of the contract they had entered into, through the authorities here, with the Imperial authorities. They applied to an officer in London then in charge of medical services, and he told them that he knew nothing at all about the contract. Yet these nurses were sent by the Federal Government to the Old Country to meet an urgent demand. Then the girls sought the Imperial Matron-in-Chief, but they were unable to see this lady, and eventually they went to Mr. Fisher. After three months’ inquiry, they received a reply, in which it was stated that they could either renew their yearly contract, or obtain a passage to Australia through the Imperial Government. The whole situation seems to have been shrouded in mystery. These girls were drafted off to do certain important duties. They, undertook to make great sacrifices in order to perform an urgent service for the benefit of the Imperial Forces at war. In my opinion, every care should have been taken in the circumstances to see that they’ received, not merely consideration, but generous treatment. At the termination of their contract, they did not automatically become members of the Australian Army Nursing Service. “When their contract with the British authorities terminated, no one was responsible for them, and in the case of one particular nurse an unfortunate situation arose as the result of this. This nurse was taken ill in France a day or two after the termination of her contract. After she arrived in London, it was found that she was suffering from very acute appendicitis. -Will honorable senators believe that this girl had the greatest difficulty in the world in obtaining medical attention ? The British authorities said, “You are discharged. Your contract has terminated, and so we cannot do anything for you.” The Australian authorities said, “ We do not know you at all. You do not belong to the Australian Imperial Force.” Notwithstanding the medical advice that this girl should be operated upon within forty-eight hours, she had the greatest difficulty in getting any attention until finally the British MatroninChief took compassion upon her, and had her taken to a .hospital, where she was operated upon. Such a state of affairs should not have been possible, and it indicates a lamentable lack of proper administration by the military authorities in London.
Another question arising in connexion with the position of these, nurses is that of seniority. It was understood that when they accepted engagements for service with .the Imperial authorities these girls really became members of the Australian Imperial Force Nursing Service, and that on their return their seniority would date from the date of their acceptance by the authorities here for the nursing service required of them abroad.
– The honorable senator may not discuss that matter of seniority. It is not covered by the vote before the Chair.
– I am dealing, sir, with the general administration of the Department, so far as the treatment of these girls is concerned.
– Thu honorable senator will not be in order in discussing anything bearing upon the treatment of the* nurses referred to, but only the expenditure, so far as they are concerned.
– The passages provided for these girls on their return to Australia were very unsatisfactory. They say in their statement -
A proportion of us have for various reasons, financial, ill-health, or family troubles, returned to Australis, receiving no pay or travelling allowance en route.
– What is the honorablesenator’s authority for the information he is giving?
.- It is a paper signed by twelve of the nurses concerned. It seems to me that these nurses have good reason to complain that they should be asked to return to Australia without allowance or pay of any description from the time they left England until the time they arrived in Australia. When they arrive here, they find that they are regarded as practically new members of the nursing staff in Australia, junior, even, to all who joined in the year or two years during which they have been away. That is one of the ways in which they feel that they have been unjustly treated.
– In dealing with the points which have been raised by honorable senators, I wish, first of all, to refer to a matter mentioned by Senator Needham, which, though it may be new to the honorable senator, is not new to me. The statement to which he referred may only now have been brought under his notice, but it is one of the canards that were circulated at the time of the ‘ conscription referendum campaign. I refer to the statement that soldiers were buried in blankets on the field, and that the value of the blanket in which a soldier was buried was debited to his next of kin. That statement was widely circulated during the last conscription referendum campaign, and for a very obvious purpose. It was inquired into at the time, and was absolutely disproved. Not a single instance can be pointed to in which that was done.
– I did not make the assertion.
– The honorable senator did not comment on it. He simply repeated it, and the answer is most decidedly that it is not the case. With regard to. members of the Australian Imperial Force being returned in disproportionate numbers to the various States, Senator Needham has been informed that fewer men of classes B and 0 are being sent back to “Western Australia than are being sent back to the other States. This is a matter which is not determined by consideration of the States from which the men have come. It is determined by a medical Board, who have no knowledge of the States from which the soldiers come. It is quite .possible that some members of the Medical. Board, dealing with certain cases, may themselves be officers from Western Australia, but- what they have to determine is not whether a soldier appearing before them is a “Western Australian, a Queenslander, or has come from any other State, but whether, in view of the state of his health, he should be returned to Australia. This is determined by the medical, and not by the military, authorities. The men are returned as transport is available, and it may accidentally happen that a disproportionate number of men may be returned to one State by a particular ship, as compared with the number returned to another State. It may happen, also, that the ship available may have some effect in that direction.
– Could the nine boats have left within the period I mentioned ?
– Yes, that is quite possible.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– Senator Needham referred to the transport that brought back some 600 men, arriving about August. He gave the name as the Matitua, and said it was carrying as deck cargo a bull and some horses. He complained that this interfered with the troops getting exercise, and made the conditions on board the transport uncomfortable. The Defence Department have no control, except by way of representation, over the loading of ships in England. It is obvious’, in view of the shortage of shipping and the necessity of keeping Aus tralia supplied with her requirements, and providing cargo space to take away our produce, that it is wise to send, here as transports ships that will also carry a fair amount of cargo. The matter of the animals carried on board this ship was reported to the Department by a very worthy body in Western Australia, who have rendered most useful service; that is, the Hospitals Advisory Committee, of which the chairman is Mr. Foley, M.L.A. Their duties are to visit all the military hospitals and report to me direct on anything they may find lacking. They have done excellent service by personally going on board every transport which comes to Fremantle, moving amongst the men, ascertaining if they have any complaints, looking over all they can on board the ship, finding out about the food, and sending me reports on the results of their inspections.
– Are they allowed to go on board?
– They are authorized by me to go on board any transport. That committee to-day has sent me. a report on a steamer which recently arrived, and that report has reached me before the steamer has actually reached here, so we are given ample time to check the reports when the steamers do arrive.
– How long has the Committee been established?
– About two years in each State, but they have been inspecting the ships only during the last twelve months or so. They reported that the ship mentioned by Senator Needham was carrying a bull and some horses, and as the result of their report we at once made representations through the Navy Office to the Admiralty protesting against this practice. We now have the Admiralty’s promise that it will not be repeated. That matter has, therefore, already been dealt with, thanks to the report of the Hospitals Advisory Committee.
– Have the Defence Department the right to issue passes to go on board ships?
– The Navy Department have the right. We do not issue any passes, but we ask the Navy Department to consent to certain people going on board, and they have consented to the Hospitals Advisory Committee going on board transports on arrival.
I am not able to say from memory whether the committee reported any complaints about the food on the ship mentioned by Senator Needham. The committee have reported adversely in regard to the food on some transports, and those reports have been carefully inquired into. Owing to the serious shortage of shipping it is obvious that we cannot pick and” choose the kind of ship to bring our troops such a long distance. We have to take, the best we can get, and the food conditions are largely governed by the refrigerating space on the ship.
– Would that refer to the quality of the food ?
– Yes; where there is a restricted refrigerating space the food will deteriorate on a long voyage. In nearly every case where complaints have reached us we have traced them,” on investigation, to that cause. It is not that the food when put on board, was not equal in every respect to the food put on any other ship, but simply that the refrigerating space was not of the right kind for a long voyage, or not up to the standard. Therefore, towards the end of the voyage the food deteriorated, with consequent complaints by the men.
– What was done before refrigerating was introduced, when we had five months’ voyages in sailing ships ?
– In those days the food was not suitable for invalided soldiers. It was often salt “horse” and hard ship biscuits. We do not tolerate such food being given to invalided soldiers now. We have continually brought pressure to bear on the Admiralty, through the Secretary of State far the Colonies, to get the ships for transport work specially chosen in relation to refrigerating space, so as to secure good food right to the end of the voyage, and the Admiralty assure us that, so far as they can, consistent with the shortage of shipping, they are doing their best to meet our requirements in that regard.
– We have lost 8,000,000 tons of shipping.
– Those figures have only to be looked at to see that it is not an easy question to solve. I have no doubt the Admiralty are doing the best they can in a very difficult set of circumstances. I recall one ship, called the Feldt Marschall, captured from the Germans, that came out here. Many ships now carrying troops were, before the war, mere cargo carriers, or tramps. Accommodation has been improvised on them, and they have been- fitted up to the best of the ability of the engineers; but in their construction they were never intended for passenger service, and it is very difficult to make them suitable. I noticed that on this ship we had complaints after every voyage. When the ship came back the second time, the Hospital Advisory Committee in Western Australia having reported adversely on it, expressing the opinion that the fault lay in, the fitting up of the vessel, I issued an order to inform the Navy Office that we would not place a single soldier on that ship until it had been reconstructed. It was reconstructed, but (the same complaints recurred, due to the fact that the ship, by her construction, rolled tremendously, and was absolutely unsuitable for carrying passengers over a long voyage. We have now represented to the Admiralty that it is not a suitable ship for these long voyages, with the result that she has been taken off the Australian run altogether. I mention these facts to show that the question is not easy to deal with, and that the Department are fully alive to the necessity of doing the best they “can to keep a vigilant eye on the transport service, and ready and willing to correct any mistakes revealed to us by the reports we receive.
I do not know whether the complaints referred to by Senator Needham about the quality of food on the transport he spoke of were due to the same cause. If the honorable senator had given me the particulars before bringing them up in the Senate I should have investigated them. He cannot expect me to be able to put my finger on the particular ship when this is the first I have heard about complaints regarding the food on her. All I can say is that I do not remember having had either from the soldiers themselves, through members of Parliament, or from any of the committees that visit the ships, any complaint about the vessel in question, although the reports may be there, and I-may not remember them.
May I suggest to the honorable senator and others that when they receive complaints of that kind they should forward them to me for investigation before bringing them up in the Senate? I do this in all friendliness, and not in any offensive spirit or in a spirit of complaint, but simply because it is not wise to create the impression, which is not a true one, that the food conditions on our transports generally are bad. On the contrary, they are generally good. That is the testimony that I have had personally from members of this Parliament, who have been used to living well, and who have gone away in the ranks. They have written out to me to express their admiration of the food supplied on these voyages. I know, therefore, that bad food is the exception, and not the rule. When honorable senators hear of these instances I shall be glad if they will bring them under my notice. As in the case of the Feldt Marschall, the ship may be unsuitable, and the best we can do is to get it taken off. If honorable senators will take that course they will assist the Department and myself.
Senator Needham referred to the internees of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He wanted to know if I am personally responsible for their internment. I am a member of the Government that is responsible for their arrest and internment, and I take my share of the joint responsibility of the Government. The honorable senator also wanted to know why they were arrested, why they were interned, and why they were kept interned. I do not propose to discuss that question in this Committee. I simply invite the honorable senator to read the evidence given befoi e Mr. Justice Harvey.
– I read it - that is the reason I referred to it here.
– The honorable senator is just as capable as I am of making up his mind from that evidence whether the Government was justified in its action or not.
– Could you not have tried them by a jury of their peers ?
– I do” not propose to say anything more, on that question.
Senator Reid raised the matter of the wool for Red Cross purposes. On this I must again speak from memory. My recollection is that only a few of the woollen mills in Australia have the plant capable of turning out the particular kind of wool required for knitting purposes by the Red Cross. There has not been a sufficient quantity of that class of wool turned out here to meet local requirements, and the Government has been endeavouring to do its best to increase the local supply and obtain further sup plies from overseas. Amongst the mills turning out this class of wool for a considerable time is the Commonwealth Mill, of which Senator Reid spoke in such appreciative terms. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) was deputed by the Government to carry into effect the Government’s decision to itself import the wool, and make it available for the Red Cross, and I understand from him that, so far as he is aware, there is no shortage of that class of wool at present.
– Yes, but at a big price.
– It is not a speculative price, at any rate. The Government propose to import the wool and supply it to these people at actual cost price, so that there will be no profit. If Senator Reid knows of any society which is short of this wool, if he will get into touch with Senator Russell, the Minister will undertake to supply the body in question, at cost price. I am glad to have an expression of appreciation by Senator Reid of the work done by the Commonwealth Woollen Mill.
– Well deserved, too!
– I can substantiate what Senator Reid has said as to the fair price at which those woollen materials are being produced. We are manufacturing a tweed out of which we make the sac suits issued to soldiers upon discharge. Those are costing the Department about 30s. each - that is, for the material and to make them up. A master tailor giving evidence in Western Australia, in an arbitration case, stated that at the present price of similar tweed on the market, and for him to make it up, he could not supply the equivalent for £6.
asked me whether wireless stations are being equipped for sending out long-distance messages as well as for receiving them. I am not administering the Navy Department, but am representing the’ Minister for the Navy here. Therefore I will make a note of the question for the consideration of that Department.
With respect to the query as to the proposed Ordnance Stores at Leichhardt, I understand that it has been referred to the Public Works Committee for report.
– It has not.
– If not, then it is in this position, that before the Com.mittee can actually investigate we must have prepared the plans’ and specifications proposed to be put into operation; those are now in hand. I understood that the motion to refer the subject to the Works Committee had been carried; but I do know that the Works and Railways Department is preparing the requisite data.
– There was a notice in the Government Gazette announcing that the land was for sale.
– I have not heard of that. I do not think it can be right.
– I saw it.
– I know of no intention on the part of the Government to sell the land.
Senator Bolton put the case of certain nurses. These were not nurses who were enlisted for the Australian Imperial Force. They had offered their services for the Australian Imperial Force, but had not been appointed with the Australian Imperial Force. Just at this juncture we did not need them, but the British Government asked if we could send some nurses from Australia, to supplement their requirements. The matter was put to those nurses, together with all particulars. The Commonwealth Government did not send them against their will. They agreed to go, and to accept the conditions; and the sole obligation with the Commonwealth Government was to make necessary arrangements for medical examination and to place them on a steamer, after which our responsibility ceased and that of the War Office began These nurses went overseas some time in 1915. When they arrived in England certain difficulties arose - I am now informed by Senator Bolton - with respect to their treatment there. The honorable senator lays the blame on the Australian Imperial Force authorities overseas. I am inclined to think that if he looks back over the dates he will find that at the time of their arrival in England the Australian Imperial Force administration had not been set up in London. In the early stages of the war the Australian Imperial Force administration was in Egypt, and it continued so until well into 1915. Those nurses went to England in 1915, and at the time they arrived there all our work was being done in the High Commissioner’s Office; the administration of the Australian Imperial Force was still in Egypt. It is quite possible that there may have been some difficulty in getting any grievances, which the nurses may have had, redressed. But the conditions as to pay and allowances were all known to them before they accepted service with the War Office. The Australian Government was in no way responsible for those conditions. Senator Bolton has referred to the case of one nurse who had been discharged in England.
-Colonel Bolton. - The contract terminated.
– That, I .understand, is the case; and she subsequently became ill. The undertaking of the War Office, was that the nurses should be returned to Australia at the conclusion of their service. If the contract of the nurse in question was terminated in England, I think it could only have been for one reason : that it was her own request. Even if it had been terminated for misconduct, I feel sure the War Office would still have honoured its obligation to send the nurse back to Australia. Therefore, I reason that her discharge in England must have been at her own desire. The Australian authorities have always set their faces against encouraging any of our soldiers to take “their discharge in England. Some, however, have pressed strongly for that. We then make it a rule to give them their discharge only upon signing an undertaking relieving the Commonwealth Government of all claims in future.
– But that does not’ prevent them, later, from applying to my Department to bring them back here.
– The nurse in question took her discharge, and subsequently became ill. Senator Bolton said the War Office refused her hospital treatment.
-Colonel Bolton. - She did not take her discharge; her contract terminated, and she had to wait for some weeks until she could get passage on a boat.
– Then, I take it, she became ill while waiting for her steamer. I do not know the case; but, on Senator Bolton’s own showing, the War Office should .have looked after that nurse until she had embarked for Australia. Apparently, the War Office did not do so; but Senator Bolton cannot blame the Australian Imperial Force for that. “With respect to the honorable senator’s question as to seniority, that is determined by the rule of the service, which is, that a man takes, his seniority from the date of his entrance into the Australian Imperial Force. That applies generally to officers, men, and nurses, too; and in the case of anybody coming into the Australian Imperial Force from any other force, we have refused to recognise their seniority in the force from which they have come. That is only just. Otherwise, men in some other service, who have been with that service of their own free will, and have then come into our service, would be going over the heads of men who had enlisted and served throughout with our Force. That would not be right, and that is why we cannot recognise the seniority of the service of the nurses under the British War Office.
– You have done so in some cases.
– 1 do not know of any, and can only state that that is the general rule.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [8.26]. - I indorse what the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has said as to some of the difficulties that occur on transports arising from the inadequate and insufficient refrigerating accommodation on certain of the boats. I remember one boat on which I travelled back from Egypt. That was the Seans Bec, which, I understand, has since gone to the bottom, and that is not very much loss. Continual complaints were made by the men as to the quality of the foodFinally, a Board was appointed, of which I was chairman, to go into the whole matter. We found that the main cause of discontent among the troops was due to the utterly inadequate refrigerating apparatus. It may have served for the original purpose of this vessel, for she ‘ was an old coal boat. She had accommodation for carrying cattle, but very little accommodation for frozen meat.
I indorse what Senator Needham has said, not only with respect to the procedure concerning the Irish internees, but, generally, with regard to the fact that British subjects - Australian-born men - have been interned without knowing the accusation against them, and without receiving fair trial. The Min ister for Defence states, with respect to the Irish internees, that there was. ample reason for their internment, and that the evidence discloses that. But why should they not have been given fair trial before a Judge and jury ? That applies, not only to the Irish internees, but to the members of the Industrial Workers of the World also, and to others arrested and imprisoned without any charge being preferred against them. Last session I brought forward the case of a man named Moyle, who has since been released; but there was great difficulty in securing that result at every stage in the efforts made to do so. Even after the necessary bonds had been provided, the way was far from smooth. Originally, one of the bondsmen was not deemed satisfactory by the police. Then there was a delay of three weeks after the bonds had been accepted, before Moyle was set free. His sister-in-law went to Sydney, and continually had obstacles thrown in her way. She experienced difficulty even in seeing Moyle, and in getting any matters dealt with, with the object of securing his release. Indeed, had she not been a most determined and energetic lady, she might have experienced still more difficulty. With regard to the case of J. M. Scott, to whom I have already referred in the Senate, I shall have nothing further to say just now, since I have received a letter from the Minister in which an inquiry has been promised. I trust that this win not be unduly delayed. Scott knows of no reason why he has been sent to prison. He has written a book which has had wide circulation, and he has displayed considerable knowledge of finance.
The investigations into the Industrial
Workers of the World cases and the Irish Republican Brotherhood have added something to the gaiety of nations. Senator Needham has referred to a few aspects, and any one who reads the trials of the Irish internees will see how’ certain apparently very harmless initial letters or sentences in. letters written by those men, or found in their possession, were construed into some deep laid plot. It is all certainly very amusing. We find, for instance, that a recipe for a severe cold is construed into some formula for a fire-dope; that some harmless sentences and letters are made by the Crown Prosecutor to mean something not apparent to any on© but himself ; and that certain initial letters were construed in such a way as to indicate a very serious plot to upset the British Empire. The proceedings brought to light by this evidence were unique, but in the course of my reading I have come across certain other proceedings as related by a traveller many years ago that are so analogous that I propose to read them. Honorable senators will, I “think, see the analogy between the proceedings in the ancient kingdom and those to which I have just referred. The traveller says - “ In the kingdom of Tribnia, by the natives called Langdon, where I had sojourned some time in my travels, the bulk of the people consist in a manner wholly of discoverers, witnesses, informers, accusers, prosecutors, evidences, swearers, together with their several subservient and subaltern instruments, all under the colours, the conduct, and the pay of Ministers of State and their deputies. The plots, in that kingdom, are usually the workmanship of those persons who desire to raise their own characters of profound politicians, to restore new vigour to a crazy administration, to stifle or divert general discontents, to fill their coffers with forfeitures, and raise or sink the opinion of public credit, as either shall best answer their private advantage. It is first agreed and settled among them what suspected persons shall be accused of a plot; then, effectual care is taken to secure all their letters and papers, and put the owners in chains. These papers are delivered to a set of artists, very dexterous in finding out the mysterious meanings of words, syllables, and letters. For instance, they can discover a closestool to signify a privy council; a flock of geese, a Senate; a lame dog, an invader; the plague, a standing army; a buzzard, a Prime Minister; the gout, a high priest; a- gibbet, a Secretary of State; a chamber-pot, a committee of grandees; a sieve, a court lady; a broom, a revolution; a mouse-trap, an employment; a bottomless pit, a treasury; a sink, a court; a cap and bells, a favorite; ‘a broken reed, a Court of justice; an empty tun, a general; a running sore, the Administration. “ When this method fails, they have two others more effectual, which the learned among them call acrostics and anagrams. First, they can decipher all initial letters into political meanings. Thus N shall signify a plot; B, a regiment of horse; L a fleet at sea. Or, secondly, by transposing the letters of the alphabet in any suspected paper, they can lay open the deepest designs of a discontented party. So, for example, if I should say, in a letter to a friend, ‘Our brother Tom has just got the piles,’ a skilful decipherer would discover that the same letters which compose that sentence may be analyzed into the following words: - “Resist, … a plot is brought home, . . . the tour.’ And this is the anagrammatic method.”
That is the experience of a traveller, Lemuel Gulliver, whose works, I think, are to be found in every library in the world. Although his remarks relate to a kingdom which he visited over 200 years ago, I think they are appropriate to the attitude of the Administration with regard to these internees to-day.
It is interesting to note, in connexion with the Industrial Workers of the World cases and the Irish internees,- that notwithstanding statements we have heard circulated on no less authority than that of the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes) that German gold and German influence were rampant throughout this country, not the slightest vestige of anything of the sort has been discovered with regard to these plots. I think that we can claim that our country is free from anything of that sort, and those who make such an accusation ought to be ashamed of themselves.
T want now to ask the Minister for Defence if the Censors have received particular instructions that any remarks which are made with reference to Ireland - and which -are perfectly allowable in relation to every other country of the world - are to be censored. It is perfectly allowable for one to utter patriotic sentiments about people striking a blow for their own country. These sentiments would be applauded if applied to Belgium, Serbia, or Poland, but it appears that if they are applied to Ireland they are bo be censored.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [8.37]. - Arising out of the reply of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), I can give some information with regard to the representation of the Australian Imperial Force in London, because the twelve nurses concerned assert that General Williams waa in London, so that there must have been some Australian organization there. Then with, regard to the Commonwealth not having any responsibility, it seems to me that the nurses referred to were regarded as members of the Australian Army Nursing Staff, because directly on their return from London they were put on the roster of nurses in the staffs at Melbourne or Sydney, or wherever they landed. Nurses were sent from New Zealand under exactly the same conditions, and when it was found that they were being neglected, a New Zealand officer had the courage and initiative to take upon himself the responsibility of placing them on the staff of the New Zealand Military Forces in London, with the result that they were properly looked after. I think an Australian officer should not have failed to do his duty in this respect, but should have, done something for those girls in such distressful circumstances.
– I invite the attention of the Minister (Senator Pearce) to the vexed question of the dependants of soldiers who are alleged to have deserted. It appears to be the view of the Federal Government that it is the duty of the States to look after such dependants; but, on the other hand, the States claim it is the duty of the Federal Government, and between the two sets of authorities, the dependants are wondering where they stand. It would be wise, therefore, if the Minister could make a statement as to what is to be the ultimate fate of these people. My own opinion is that, as the Federal Government control the affairs of men who enlist, it is also their duty to attend to their dependants. Once a man enlists he is under the control of the Commonwealth Government, and when he reaches England he comes under the control of the Imperial authorities; but if any of these men neglect their duty, why should their wives and children or other dependants be punished ? It is not their fault. The responsibility should be shouldered definitely by some authority.
– Try that as a general proposition and see how it would work out.
– I presume the honorable senator means in time of peace:
– Right through life. If a man deserts his master, should he be paid?
– I am speaking now of a condition of war. When a man enlists he usually leaves some one in Australia dependent on him, and if he fails in his duty, why should the effect of his neglect be visited upon his dependants? The question is very important. I know that the Victorian Government has decided against accepting this responsibility. I believe Tasmania has done the same, and I am under the impression that in my own State the Government, if they have not . already determined on a course of action, are seriously considering the question. I am anxious, therefore, to know if the Federal Government intend to take the whole responsibility, or who is going to look after the dependants of those Australian soldiers who neglect their duty.
– Senator O’loghlin, unwittingly perhaps, but nevertheless truly, took the wrong perspective of the position with regard to the Irish internees, and he used a very unfortunate illustration when he talked about a blow for Ireland in the same way as a blow for Belgium, or a blow for Poland. I have read all the evidence that has been printed in connexion with the, inquiry made by a much esteemed Judge in New South. Wales, Mr. .Justice Harvey, and I think any impartial person, reading that evidence, must come to the conclusion that those men did no more mischief than they did, not for want of will, but for want of opportunity, and that they are hest where they are until the war is over. . They are misguided men, who have the sympathy of but a fraction of the people in Australia.
We have before us the Defence Estimates. They do not amount to very much in the aggregate, but they are for a Department charged with spending more money just now - money raised by loan - than, perhaps, all the other Departments put together. An amount has been spent directly by the military authorities in connexion with the war since it began, which aggregates some £180,000,000 or £190,000,000. In view of the possibility of the war coming to an early end, and that this may be the last occasion upon which honorable senators will be able to refer to the matter in dealing with a money Bill, I urge the Government to take into the gravest consideration the immediate cessation of all unnecessary expenditure. I remind the Minister for Defence that there must be a great many excrescences in connexion with military expenditure at the present time which, with the cessation of reinforcements, might be cut off. I remind him that when the war is over comparisons will and must be made between the way in which we have handled our money in the conduct of the war, and the way in which other Dominions have handled theirs. I ask him to remember that, not only through the Business Board dealing with the civilian side of the Defence Department, but also through his own action as head, not only of the civil, but of the military side as well, money can still flow out in a very large stream even after the war is ‘ over unless a very tight hand is kept upon the purse strings by the Minister in charge of the Department and responsible to Parliament. In making these general remarks 1 have in mind the possible early conclusion of the struggle in which we have been engaged for over four years. I have in mind also the very big amounts that are spent through the Defence Department. I feel sure that the Minister for Defence scarcely needs reminding how necessary it will be with the cessation of hostilities to put the pruning knife well into military expenditure which is no longer necessary.
– I have one or two remarks to make concerning a matter to which I have previously referred in this chamber. It will be within the recollection of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that two or three weeks ago I referred to a peculiar happening in connexion with the operation of the censorship in Hobart. A morning paper there known as the World, which happens to be a Labour journal, opposed to the Government, did not receive at the .same time as the Mercury, the other morning newspaper, which supports the Government, certain information which it was very important the public should know. The Minister gave us what, so far as he was concerned, was a reasonable explanation, and I frankly absolve him from any knowledge of favoritism in the matter. At1 the same time, what occurred was most remarkable, and the explanation of it was a very lame one, and certainly not satisfactory to the proprietors of the Labour paper, from whom Mr. Justice Harvey’s report in connexion with the Irish internees was withheld, though it was sent to the proprietors of the Mercury.
– Order ! I should like the honorable senator to tell me the item with which he connects his remarks.
– I connect them with the vote for the Defence Department in view of the fact that the censorship is operated under the control of that Department.
– We are dealing with the expenditure of money, and it appeared to me that the honorable senator was going a little wide of the question.
– I do not wish to dispute your ruling, sir, but it appears to me that the debate allowed so far has taken a pretty wide range, and if yon waited to hear what I have to say I think you would agree that it comes within the vote under consideration.
– I have no desire to unduly hamper the honorable senator.
– Strange to say, the newspaper that suffered the disability on the occasion to which T refer of getting its news a day later than the other Hobart morning newspaper, owing to a big blunder on the part of the censor, has since suffered an exactly similar disability, and in this case, again, the explanation offered is remarkably lame. The fault in this case may not be that of the censorship department, but it seems to be an unfortunate and peculiar coincidence.
– A coincidence that is becoming a habit.
– Just so. A telegram was sent from Victoria to the Mercury, in Hobart, and the day afterwards the same telegram was sent to the World. Inquiries were made, and the explanation given was that the gentleman who sent the telegram believed that the World, which recently took the place of another newspaper, the Daily Post, was an evening newspaper.
– Did the censor send the telegram referred to?
– I do not think so.
– Then how does the honorable senator connect the matter with the vote?
– It is remarkable that those who happen to be in charge of these matters should make these mistakes. No man who knows anything at all about the newspapers of the Commonwealth should’ be so ignorant as not to know that the World is a morning, and not an evening, newspaper.
– ‘How does the honorable senator connect this with the censor?
– This second occurrence may not be due to the fault of the censor, but it is the second occurrence of the same kind.
– Who . sent the telegram, and when was it sent?
– I would not be permitted to enlarge upon that. The correspondence has only just now been placed in my hands, and it appears that the telegram was sent by the secretary to the Governor-General, and I should not be at liberty to refer to it under the present vote. I direct attention to the remarkable fact that a second blunder of the same kind should have been made by another official of the Government. I ask the Minister for Defence to take greater care than perhaps he has been able to take in the past, owing to the enormous amount of work thrown upon his shoulders, that such mistakes shall not continually occur. It would toe a most unfortunate thing if the general public, who read the newspapers, received the impression that favoritism may be shown by any Government Department towards the proprietors of newspapers because they may happen to be for or against the Government.
I wish to say a word in connexion with the internees. Some weeks ago I asked the Minister for Defence a question concerning a man named Kiely, who was arrested on the north coast of Tasmania and removed from that State. In reply to a telegram I had sent, asking for information, the Minister for Defencewired me in Tasmania to the effect that the man Kiely was arrested under the WaT Precautions Act, as a precautionary measure. “When the Senate met a week or two later, I asked the Minister whether this man had been brought to trial in open Court, or whether it was intended to give him an open trial, and let him know the charge on which he was arrested. The Minister said that he would make further inquiries, and I could not, of course, expect him to be in possession of all the details of the case. To-day I received an official communication from the Defence Department, informing me that Kiely was at last to be given a trial in open Court. It seems to me to be a peculiar way of meting out justice, that an individual should be arrested by God knows whom, and taken God knows where, without, being given an opportunity to answer in open Court to the charge upon which he is arrested, until some two or three months after his arrest.
– What about Magna Charta?
– Magna Charta is dead. I hold no brief for the wild and foolish individuals who are guilty of disloyal utterances but I do say that, under our Statute law, quite irrespective of any powers which the Government may have, for the time being, under the War Pre cautions Act, the arm of the law is long enough to catch such people, and to secure to them the punishment they deserve. I say, further, that it is a sorry thing if we in Australia are to go back in such matters to the days of the secret-police system in Russia. Certain things have happened in Australia recently which, in the opinion of many people, are equal to anything we have read about as being done under the Russian secret-police system. Kiley’s case is typical of a number of cases, and if he said anything disloyal, his arrest was justified; but he should have been told the exact nature of the charge upon which he was arrested. He was not told the nature of the charge against him. He was removed from the north coast of Tasmania to Hobart, and then taken somewhere out of Tasmania, I do not know where, and I say that if that sort of thing is possible, it does not redound to the credit of Australia or of those in’ charge of our affairs. Such things should not be possible if we are to retain the name we have always enjoyed as lovers of freedom. This sort of case should be dealt with immediately. If men; make statements which justify their arrest and internment in that way, they should be given an opportunity as soon as possible to be confronted with their accusers. My information from an authentic source is that this man was only arrested on the ex parte statement of some other man in the hotel, who went outside and told a military official that the man had said something. The military official came in, and made inquiries, and heard different versions of the facts. A day or two afterwards the man was arrested on the order of the Military Commandant of Tasmania, who, no doubt, reported to the head office here, and was authorized by the Minister to take action. Why should the man be arrested on the statements of one or two persons, and not given an opportunity in open Court to answer the charges, and perhaps bring witnesses in his favour? He was arrested and taken out of Tasmania. “ I have to-day received an official communication from the Min- ister, because I brought the case up here, to the effect that his case is to be investigated, after two or three months have elapsed. It seems remarkable when a man’s liberty is taken from him that it should take the Department two or three months to discover whether the case deserved investigation. Anything the man said was said in a hotel on the north coast of Tasmania, and the facts should have been easily ascertainable. I am glad that at long last he is to “be given an opportunity of answering whatever charges are made against him. I should like to see every other individual arrested under the War Precautions Act given the same opportunity. The arm of the Federal law is long enough to grasp any man who breaks the law. No member or supporter’ of the party on this side of Parliament stands for disloyal utterances. No man would stand up in public and justify another man saying anything which would be a danger to Australia and the Empire in this time of crisis, but we do stand for common justice to every individual, whatever his name or nationality. So far as we can judge, this man’s case has not received that consideration that it deserved, especially when he is put away in a corner for some months until some officials in the Defence Department have time to inquire into the circumstances of his arrest. It is time the Minister looked into these matters. I am satisfied that the Minister does not stand for these things individually, but there is “ something rotten in the state of Denmark.” Some one has blundered when men can be deprived of their liberty at a moment’s notice without being given the chance that every individual should have of answering the charges made against him by his accusers.
– Senator Needham asked the attitude of the Government towards the dependants of soldiers who, as he put it, were alleged to be deserters. There is no question of allegation. It is a question of actual desertion with which we are dealing - men who are reported absent without leave, and whom all inquiries have failed to locate. A period of eighty days elapses after that before there is any stoppage of pay to the dependants. The question is still the subject of negotiation between the - Commonwealth and State Governments, and I am, therefore, unable to night to say what the decision will be, but in order that Senator Needham and others may not dismiss the question in the light and airy fashion the honorable senator adopted to-night, I would ask him to think over two questions.
– I did not dismiss the matter in a light and airy fashion.
– The honorable senator located the responsibility in a most light -and airy way. I would ask the honorable senator first what rate of pay he would continue to the wife and family of the deserter? Are they to receive the same rate of pay as the wife and family of a man who is still fighting and taking the risk of death? Secondly, how long doe’s he think that pay should continue? When a soldier who leaves his wife and dependants here, stays in the fighting line, and then returns to Australia, the moment his discharge arrives the pay to his wife and family ends. Therefore, the liability of the Commonwealth in that regard will end with the war. How long would the honorable senator continue to make payments to the wife and family of the deserter, seeing that we have no guarantee that the deserter will return at the end of the war? Are his wife and family to have conferred on them, through his act of desertion, a pension for all time? If the honorable senator will consider those two questions he will realize that the subject cannot be dismissed with the simple statement that the Commonwealth Government should undertake the responsibility.
Senator Pratten spoke of the advisability of beginning at once to investigate what expenditures can be cut off in the event of the speedy termination of the war. That view is being taken up by myself and’ the various branches of the Department at the present juncture, because we realize that with such a vast organization as we necessarily have, quick action may result in a saving of scores of thousands of pounds. To show that what I am saying is not a mere platitude, let me mention that we recognise that the present war situation enables us to make a readjustment of the military situation in Australia. We have had going now for some months a Commission of some of the best minds in the Department. With them is associated a member of the Business Board, although not always the same member. The Commission are going through the various military districts, inquiring into the establishments - clerical, general, and military - and wherever they see that the military situation is such that some things which were essential in the early stages of the war -as precautions are not now essential, they are recommending reductions and alterations in the staff. Already the Commission have been able to recommend reductions and changes in staffs that will mean a saving of scores of thousands of pounds to the Commonwealth. It is intended to continue the Commission, and we intend to continue also that line of investigation, so that as the circumstances change, and if the end of the war should come rapidly, as we hope it will, we shall have machinery “already created and available to indicate at once in what directions we can cease expenditure.
Senator O’Keefe again raised the case of the man Kiely. I take exactly the same attitude towards that as towards the case of all internees - that I decline to discuss them on the floor of Parliament.
– Then will the Minister give a member any private information?
– No; I cannot share my responsibility on these matters with any person outside the Government. I am afraid, from Senator O’Keefe’s remarks to-night, that he does not realize that this unpleasant duty is thrust upon Ministers generally, and on- myself as a member of the Government, by the fact that we are at war. We cannot argue about or deal with these things in the same way as in times of peace. During a time of war we take action which we would not dream of in times of peace. Senator O’Keefe’s criticism, and that of other honorable ‘senators who have discussed the question., applies to the conditions of war, and to the acts prompted by the fact that we are at war, principles applicable only in times of peace. Any nation that attempts to apply them in war time will find itself at a serious disadvantage with its enemy.
– Then, it comes to this: that any enemy of mine can make a charge against me to-morrow that I have said certain things, and I am powerless. I can be arrested and interned without being given an opportunity of being confronted with my accuser.
– The honorable senator must not put those words into my mouth. From my knowledge of each of these cases, what the honorable- senator alleges is not a fact. The honorable senator says that cases are not investigated. That is not a fact; they are investigated, but the honorable senator wishes to investigate them with the machinery we use in times of peace, although that machinery is not applicable in time of war.
– Then will the Minister say-
– I will say no more on the subject.
– - Will the’ man be given an opportunity, privately, before the Defence Department, of being confronted with the man who has accused him ?
– The honorable senator has already intimated that he received to-day a letter from me that that is going to be done.
– After three months I
– I do not propose to continue (his dialogue, because when I answer the honorable senator he at once shifts his ground.
As to the other matters which the honorable senator raised, let me quote to him one of his sentences. He asked me to take greater care that the mistakes that are continually occurring shall not happen in the future. The honorable senator has quoted only one mistake made by the Department. He hinted at some other vague case, and I asked him whether the telegram was sent by any official of the Defence Department. His reply was “ No.” The honorable senator cannot hold the Defence Department responsible for a mistake made by an official of some other Department.
– Perhaps you can give the explanation now.
– I cannot, because I know nothing of the circumstances. I only know that the honorable senator, after starting off on. a criticism of the censor, stated that the telegram was not sent by any official connected with the censor, and that the censor, apparently, had nothing to. do with it. The honorable senator is, therefore, not fair to the censor in quoting that as an instance of the mistakes which he says are continually occurring. I have fully explained the one case where a mistake occurred, and have reproved the officer for making it. Precautions have been taken to prevent a repetition.
– Has not the Minister received an explanation of the case which I brought up some weeks ago?
– 1 decline to hold myself responsible for an alleged mistake made by an official of another Department. 1 reminded the honorable senator that, in the other case, I, myself, corrected the mistake as soon as it came under my notice. I could not do more.
– You said you would make further inquiries. Now is the opportunity for you to make a statement.
– So far as I am concerned, that question is closed. I have done my duty, and have taken such action as will, in my opinion, prevent a repetition. I have reproved the officer who misled mc - as he said, unintentionally - but Senator O’Keefe has not proved his allegation that such cases are continually occurring.
– The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has described my references to the dependants of deserting soldiers as having been made in a light and airy fashion. I was serious. The question of dependants of deserting soldiers is, indeed, a serious matter. The Minister asked me, “ How long will it continue ? “ That was not necessary. I knew it could only continue for the duration of the war; but I inquired as to the position of dependants of deserting soldiers to-day. These people are in a worse case than being between the devil and the deep sea. The Federal Government will not give them anything. The State Governments will not shoulder the responsibility. According to the press, the Premier of Victoria (Mr. Lawson) yesterday referred the claims of dependants of a deserting soldier to the Ladies’ Benevolent Society. Consequently, they are to receive a charitable dole. The Minister says these men have deserted. We realize the difference between the position of men who have deserted and of those who are still fighting. But does the fault lie with the wife and children of the deserter? Surely some consideration should be given them. There are people in Australia to day who do not know whom to approach for sustenance. The Minister for Defence has said the question, is still under negotiation between Federal and State authorities. Meanwhile these dependants are suffering. It is the duty of the- Federal Government to provide for their sustenance.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3S6,470.
Senator PRATTEN (New South Wales; [9.21]. - A report has been recently presented to Parliament concerning the administration of naval affairs during the past two or three years. Is that report being printed for circulation amongst members of Parliament? I direct attention to the very grave derelictions of duty referred to in that report. I should like to peruse the document in detail.
– The report has been laid on the table of Parliament, together with the decisions of the Government upon the various recommendations of the Commission. That report will go before the Printing Committee, which body decides whether or not to recommend that it shall be printed. I take it as a matter of course that, with a document of such importance, it will be ordered to be printed, and that copies will shortly be circulated amongst honorable senators.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 100 to 114 (Department of Trade and Customs), £139,945, and Divisions 115 to 126 (Department of Works and Railways), £177,465, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,275,570.
. - Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in the Senate aware of the fact that a certain prescription has been sent round to honorable senators signed “ William Webster “ ? I desire to know if this prescription is the product of the Postmaster-General? If so, is ‘the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that the prescription was forwarded to members of Parliament in the official envelopes of the Postmaster-General’s Department ? What part of the Estimates before the Committee covers the cost of typing the hot-water prescription, and the cost of the envelopes, and of their distribution? Is this William Webster, poet, philosopher, and so on, the Postma’ster-General? Has an estimate of the cost been obtained with regard to the paper on which the prescription was typed, also of the cost of typing, and of the envelopes, and of their distribution?
– I have no knowledge,, but if opportunity affords later, I shall try to make inquiries.
– I hope the Minister is not dismissing this in a light and airy fashion. Can he give the information before the third-reading stage, or by to-morrow ?
– I promise to secure the information if possible.
– I have made a calculation as to the cost of the envelopes and of the paper on which the typing of the “ prescription “ has been done, and I figure it out at about ls. 3$d. - a cost which, if it has been accurately calculated, is less than that of the time the honorable senator has occupied in dealing with the subject. I am rather inclined to protest against the aspersions cast on the Postmaster-General.
– I cast no aspersions.
– So far as my experience is concerned, I can say that never have so few complaints been made with regard to the Postal Service - taking everything into consideration ‘ in these times. In connexion with the administration of the Post Office, outside of the Defence Department in war-time, this Department employs the greatest number of persons of any of the Federal Departments; and it has been drawn upon very heavily with respect to the war. A great many of the Post Office employees are in France; many others have been temporarily transferred to other Departments. Despite this, the Post Office is being conducted, comparatively speaking, in a more efficient manner than it was ever conducted before. I am speaking from personal experience. If there is a tele, gram delayed, it appears in “ cap. “ type in the papers. But that sort of “thing goes on all over the world. I do not. like to hear these light and airy remarks concerning the administration of such a great Department.
.- I wish to offer a few words of congratulation to the Postmaster-General upon the institute which was opened, I believe, yesterday. It is an institute which is likely to do great good in the Postal Service, by providing an opportunity of training to men to fit themselves for their duties in the Post Office. This should tend towards increasing their efficiency and therefore that of the Department.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,767,985.
– There is an item under the heading, “Under control of Department of Repatriation, repatriation of soldiers, £350,000.” The Committee is entitled to get from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) a clear and comprehensive statement of the work done in connexion with the repatriation of returned soldiers. It is frequently reported in the daily press that, nothwithstanding the bountiful resources of Australia and the immense sums of money at the disposal of the Repatriation Department, a considerable number of returned soldiers are unable to obtain -useful employment. I do not know to what extent these statements are true or otherwise; but I do think that the Minister should be able to give the Committee definite information as to how the money is being spent. I understand there is a large staff, running into some hundreds, in connexion with the repatriation establishment in Sydney, a similar staff in Brisbane, and presumably an equally large, if not a larger, staff in Melbourne. I do not for a moment imagine that all returned soldiers are employed in endeavouring to secure positions for other returned soldiers, but I believe a substantial number are so employed. I do not profess to have any detailed knowledge of the Department, but I would like to know the number of men who have secured employment through the Department, and how many there are on the books at the present moment. This information would be interesting to the people as well as to our soldiers, who will be encouraged if they know that they will have no difficulty in securing employment on their return.
– I should like some information on the item “ Repatriation of Soldiers, £350,000.” This seems a small sum, comparatively speaking, for the extended operations of the Repatriation Department.
– That is three months’ Supply.
– Under the Estimates for the Home and Territories Department, other Departments are charged rent for premises, but. this item does not appear in the Repatriation Department’s expenditure. I note, also, that in connexion with other Departments contingencies represent a substantial sum, but are not included under this heading. We should have a clear idea as to what the Department is spending. I think it is advisable that if one Department acts as the agent for another, the Department that occupies the premises should have the rent charged against it, so that when we are passing a vote we would know that it was the total amount for that particular Department.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [9.36]. - In view of the dissatisfaction that exists in several States concerning land settlement for returned soldiers, I think it would be advisable if the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) could say if the Government contemplate taking any action to place this question on a better basis.
.- I should like to know what is the actual’ position With regard to the question of supplying homes for soldiers. In my own State there was an arrangement whereby the local Lands Department granted assistance, and the Repatriation Department also helped financially, but I understand that, on account of certain difficulties that have arisen, this practice has been discontinued. Can the Minister say if there is any hope of this housing scheme being entered upon again so far as Queensland and the other States are concerned ?
– I am rather glad of the opportunity to give a few particulars of the activities of the Department with which I am associated, more particularly in view of the tendency to make general statements that the policy of the Department, in regard to the dis- ‘ charge of its duties, is not satisfactory. Senator Grant voiced some of those complaints when he made reference “to the large number of returned soldiers who are not able to obtain employment. I would suggest that the honorable senator, and, indeed, any member of the community, instead of accepting such statements at their face value and repeating them, should bring before me a few definite cases in order to give me an opportunity of seeing how far the complaints are justified. If they would do so, I would feel that they were helping me in the very great work intrusted to my hands.
Before I pass on, I would ask honorable senators to bear in mind that it is impossible for any Department to secure 100 per cent, of successes. Out of every 100 men with whom it deals there are bound to be some who, for one reason’ or another, are dissatisfied ; men who feel that they have not had that to which they are entitled. Honorable senators, in common with the rest of the community, always hear of those cases, though they do not hear of the very large number of men who have been satisfactorily established in civil life and are quite satisfied. In speaking of what the Department has done in the five months of its existence, I can assure honorable senators that, though I speak from memory, the figures are substantially correct. During that period, between 17,000 and 18,000 men have applied to the Department for employment, and of that number, approximately 16,000 have been placed in positions. I am entitled, also, to say that they have been satisfactorily placed by reason of the fact that not more than 5 per cent, have come back to us for re-employment.
– A very creditable record.
– It is, and it is one which I trust the Committee will say I am entitled to compliment the Department upon thus early in its career. There are 2,070 men still on our books awaiting employment. Whilst that is regrettable in itself, may I point out that 64,000 men have been discharged in Australia, and that the Department was required, not only to find employment for those men who have been discharged during the period of its existence, but also to deal with the very large number of men discharged during the previous three years. Those men represented an overdraft, which had to be overtaken, and if we bear that in mind it is, I think, an entirely encouraging result that out of 64,000 men who have been discharged from the Australian Imperial Force only a little over 2,000 are now on our books drawing sustenance allowance. In this number, I regret to have to state - although I know of no reason why the fact should be disguised - there are included men who, for some reason or other, it is very difficult indeed to place in employment. Some are the unfortunate victims of alcohol, so it would be impossible to send them out to positions, because we know they would naturally fail to hold a place. I am stressing upon the Department the fact that it would be foolish, in the interests of the returned men themselves, to send out men unless there is a reasonable chance that they could satisfactorily do the work intrusted to them, as employers would otherwise not care to appeal to the Department when they required further assistance.
– It may be that some of those who are the unfortunate victims of alcohol acquired the habit as the result of shell-shock.
– I am not saying anything about that aspect of the question, nor am I saying anything in condemnation of their weakness. I am merely stating the fact that included in the 2,000 on our books are men who have developed this habit. And I am only stating what everybody knows. The returned soldiers themselves recognise it. But while we have 2,000 men waiting for positions we have on our books over 1,000 positions waiting for men.
– Do you say that those 2,000 men are incapable on account of being addicted to alcohol ?
– -No; and I do not think any other member of the Committee took that view. What I said was that, included in the 2,000 men are some who, for the reason stated, we have been unable to place in positions.
– Do you mind saying what percentage of unemployment is due to alcohol.
– I am not able to say that. It is a very difficult question to decide, and I am not going to attempt to say exactly when a “man’s unfitness for work is due to alcohol. Indeed, I have heard some people say that it is very hard to know when a man is drunk. But there are other reasons why it is difficult to place these men in employment, because, included in their ranks are, some who before the war, or, possibly because of it. have’ become indisposed to steady work. They are all included in the 2,000 to whom I have referred, so if honorable senators make these deductions it will be seen that we have less than 2,000 suitable for work but for whom, so far, the’ Department has not found positions.
– And the Department is paying sustenance allowance to those men ?
– Yes; but it is not intended that they should remain in perpetuity on our books. I am contemplating making some provision by which those of them who are willing to make the effort will be given a chance to shake off the unfortunate habit.
I should like now to refer to another very important section of the Department’s activities. I refer to the vocational training of our returned soldiers. If a man finds, by reason of war injuries, that, he is not able to follow his pre-war occupation, the Department accepts the responsibility of training him for some occupation for which his incapacity will not prove a bar. I am very glad to say. as a result of our experience in this direction, and as the result of reports from England and France, that the percentage of men whom it is not possible to train to a sufficient extent in some new industry to enable them to support themselves will be very small indeed. The Department has so far dealt with 2.300 of these men in special technical classes provided for the purpose. Six hundred of them have completed their training, and I am pleased to be able to say that not five minutes was lost in finding a suitable position for every one of these men after he passed through his particular class. Our experience from the reports of their instructors, and from what, in my opinion, is of a much higher practical value, and that is the testimony of the employers into whose service they ultimately entered, is that these men have shown remarkable avidity and capacity for the new trades which they have undertaken. When they have been employed after passing through their technical classes, it is most satisfactory to find that, in the language of one employer, they not only receive the full wage paid in the industry, but earn every penny of it. In addition to the 600 who have completed their technical training, there are 1,700 trainees or students still attending the eighty technical classes which have so far been created. Provision is being made for the extension of these classes as the men return in greater numbers. An organization has been approved for creating in ten centres in. this State more classes if they are required. The whole plans for establishing classes in ten centres in Victoria are complete. It only requires the presentation of the men to undergo the training to immediately set these classes in motion.
In New South Wales technical education appears to have been less decentralized than in Victoria, and for other reasons the number of applicants for such training is less there than in Victoria. I was a little puzzled to know why it was that in New South Wales, with a larger number of returned men to deal with, there were fewer men seeking technical training than in Victoria. I came to the conclusion that the reason was that in New South Wales mei returning under a disability unfitting them to follow their pre-war occupations have the alternative of taking some other light work, or of undergoing technical training. If they undergo technical training they receive from the Department a sustenance allowance to the value, in the case of a single man. without dependants, of £2 2s. per week. But very often they are able to secure light employment for which they are suited at a higher wage, and they turn down the proposition to learn a trade in order to secure the immediate advantage of the higher wage. In Victoria it seems to me that employment is less easily obtainable than in New South Wales at the present moment for the men for whom these technical classes are being provided. I am justified in assuming that the difference between the labour market in New South Wales and Victoria is, as I have stated, and the fact also that, whilst in New South Wales there are more discharged men than in Victoria, there are fewer men on the sustenance roll in that State than there are here.
– There is a bigger expenditure of State loan moneys in New South Wales.
– That affects the labour market and makes the opportunities for employment more numerous there.
– Then the alleged extravagance of which we have heard to-day may be a fairly good thing after all.
– It does not follow that it is beneficial even to the workmen themselves that money should be foolishly expended. There are quite a number of other directions in which the Repatriation Department seeks to aid the returned soldier. I need hardly remind honorable senators of how general its operations are, but I may say that under all headings it has received 39,000 applications, and has approved of 30,000. I cannot from memory give details, but many of the balance have been withdrawn, or the needs of the applicants have been met in some other way, and, of course, a considerable number have been refused.
There is one small, though important, section of the returned -men -in regard to the claim which they make upon our sympathies and consideration. I refer to those who have come back so seriously incapacitated as to be unable to look forward to the prospect of ever being able to maintain themselves by their own efforts. For this unfortunate class hostelshave been provided in Sydney and Melbourne, and will be provided in the capital cities of the other States. These institutions, as I reminded the Senate when referring to this matter on a previous occasion, will1 be made, with the full concurrence of the people of this country, as comfortable as it is possible for them, to be made for those who may have to spend many years of their lives- within them.
A very important organization, for which provision is now being made, is that intended to look to the medical care of the returned soldier. Many of the men who come back may be discharged after passing through hospitals and convalescent homes as being apparently restored to health, but it is inevitable that in many cases there will be a recurrence of illness or incapacity arising from their injuries. It seemed to those responsible for devising our regulations that where a man suffers from a recurrence of his illness, though it may occur three, four, five, or even ten years hence, if it is due to war services we are as much bound to make provision for him then as we are to-day. Carrying out that policy, and remembering that our soldiers have been drawn from all districts, and will ultimately be dispersed through various districts of the Commonwealth, it was seen that it would be necessary to have local medical care available, since we could not require every discharged soldier to be brought for medical attention to the capital city of his State. I am now engaged in making arrangements with a medical officer in every locality in which we have formed a Local Committee, so that a returned soldier who needs medical help as the result of some after effects of his war services may go to a local medical man and receive the advice and treatment to which he is entitled at the expense of the Repatriation Department.
I have referred to the Local Committees, and I think I am safe in saying that to-day two-thirds of the populated portions of Australia are covered by these Local Committees. There has been more delay in connexion with this matter than I appreciate. But with all due respect to the gentlemen who in their several localities have taken a hand, in this work, I may be allowed to say that the blame for the delay does not rést, entirely with the Repatriation Department. It very often arises from some misconception of what we ask the people of the different localities to do. It not unfrequently arises from some little difference of local opinion as to the action which ought to be taken, and from some little local jealousies. These have been smoothed out to such an extent that we have now two-thirds of the populated portions of Australia covered by Local Committees, and the other one-third is in process of being so covered.
Senator Senior made some reference to the amount asked for in this Bill, and in this connexion I point out that this is only a three months’ Supply Bill, and, in addition to that, the only provision made here is for money spent directly by the Repatriation Department. There are two other items of expenditure which will be dealt with in other Bills. There is expenditure, for instance, in connexion with land settlement and with the forestry agreement made with two of the States, and which, we hope, will be made with the others. The land settlement of returned soldiers is carried out by the several State Governments through their Lands Departments, the Commonwealth Government assisting financially. The amount which the Commonwealth Government advances at the rate of £500 per settler is advanced to the States Governments by way of loan. The State authorities, through their agricultural banks and similar institutions, in turn advance the money to the returned soldier. As the money is lent by the States .and there is a guarantee of its redemption, the Commonwealth Government advance it to the States out of loan. This money, therefore, does not appear on the Estimates now before honorable senators. It will appear on the Loan Estimates, and the amount so provided is £1,500,000. In addition to that there will be found on the main Estimates a sum of £500,000 to provide similar advances to the State Governments for the purpose of carrying out forestry. The Commonwealth Government make these advances on the condition that the State Government will employ returned- soldiers in the work. The State Governments of New South Wales and Victoria have adopted the forestry agreement, and some 200 returned men are now employed in this work.
asked me what steps are being taken with regard to land settlement, and I assume from what he said that he wished to know in what way it was intended to hasten the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. I do not desire to stand here as the critic of the efforts of the Lands Ministers of the several States. I know their difficulties very well indeed. I hope they will not take it as anything in the way of captious criticism when I say that I am not at all satisfied with the rate at which the settlement of returned soldiers on the land is proceeding.
– The honorable senator knows how it could be facilitated.
– I think I do, and I have no doubt at all that Senator Grant could supply me with a certain remedy.
– If the honorable senator has any doubt, I can give him another address on the subject.
– Heaven forbid ! In reply to Senator Bolton I may say that I have invited the Ministers for Lands of the several States to meet me in conference here at the end of this mouth. At that conference I hope to submit certain specific proposals which the Lands Ministers of the States may adopt. Failing that, they may submit alternative proposals, but I am hopeful that out of the conference there -will come suggestions which will enable us to face tac problem of placing a larger number of returned soldiers on the land with greater confidence.
Senator Foll inquired as to proposals for the housing of returned soldiers. In the announcement of the intentions of the Government with respect to the business of the present session it was stated that the Government propose to bring before Parliament during the present sittings a Bill to provide facilities to enable returned married soldiers to obtain homes of their own. There is no reason why I should not indicate briefly what the Government proposal is. It will be a building society proposition, but with this marked difference between the repatriation proposal and that of an ordinary building society. An ordinary building society requires a deposit from any one to whom it advances money for the purpose of building a home. Under our scheme the returned soldier, married to-day or becoming married later on, who can give some evidence of ability to meet the weekly payments that will be required from him will be able to obtain an advance sufficient to build his home, without any deposit at all.
– How much per room will the rent be?
– That will depend on the cost of the house. I do not know of any more advantageous terms which are open to men to secure homes of their own, unless the Government were prepared to make them a gift of their homes straight away.
– Everything will depend on the rent to be charged.
– In purchasing a house on the Credit Foncier system it is not a matter of rent at all, but of interest on capital invested, and the interest to be charged under the Government proposal will not exceed 6 per cent. If Senator Grant can suggest any means by which we can provide houses for returned married soldiers- on more generous terms, I shall be glad to hear of it.
– I shall do it on the next Finance Bill.
– Then I hope that the next Finance Bill will be a long time coming forward.
I have hurriedly replied to the inquiries of honorable senators, and have referred to the major activities of the Repatriation Department. Before I sit down, may I say a word or two about the Department and the staff. Senator Grant referred to the creation of these new buildings and the employment of big staffs. Does the honorable senator expect that we can run this Department without expenditure?
– I do not.
– Is it possible to run a Department dealing with 39,000 applications without a staff ? I say that it is not, and, what is more, I do not intend to try to do it. It was impossible bo create any system of repatriation without adequate buildings, and without adequate staffs. We have created buildings, and if we have erred at all it has been on the side of insufficiency. If any error has been made it has been in underestimating the task with which we are confronted. Already in the two major offices built here and in Sydney, I can see evidences that we should have been better advised if we had added a little to the space available.
– They are pretty well crowded out in Brisbane also.
– We have not built there yet, but intend to do so. I propose in building in three other States to profit by our experience in Sydney and Melbourne, and to take the risk of putting on a little additional room rather than finding ourselves. crowded when we get to work there.
I need not offer anything in the nature of a defence for the number of men employed on the staff. I see no evidence, and I have sought the advice of business men, that we are over-staffed. So’ long as we are not, no ‘one is going to complain of the employment of a staff sufficiently numerous to deal with the applications as they present ‘themselves.
– Are not a very large proportion of the staff returned soldiers?
– Ninety-five per cent. I bear ready testimony to the enthusiasm of the staff for their work, and it is no reflection on them to say that in trying to create a staff in a few weeks, it was inevitable that sometimes misfits should occur. We are endeavouring in the light of experience to make rearrangements so as to place the men in the positions for which they appear to be most suited. The Department, however,- has had teething troubles, which to some extent have accounted for the mistakes which I readily admit have been made. ‘ No one is more anxious than I am to discover and remedy mistakes, and I take no exception to any honorable senator - indeed, I thank him for doing it - bringing forward any indication of weakness in the machinery, or inadequacy in the regulations.” Any suggestions they can make to give a more practical and effective turn to the work with which I am intrusted will always be welcomed.
, - Whilst I appreciate the somewhat lengthy reply given by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) to the questions I asked, his statement regarding housing accommodation for returned soldiers is, to me, very unsatisfactory. It is notorious, if we can believe the cables, that there is a great shortage of houses in Great Britain, and the same shortage exists everywhere throughout the .Commonwealth in comparison with population. The Minister has given no satisfactory indication that his Department intends to do anything adequate in this regard. Is is all very well to say. that the weekly payment of the interest on the capital sunk in the house is not rent, but in effect it amounts to the same thing. A long discussion took place in another Parliament recently, and some gentlemen who are members of the Million Club talked in a light and airy fashion of supplying houses at £500 or £600 each to ordinary working people. The man earning £3 10s. or £4 a week who is saddled with a house worth upwards of £600 with the quarterly payments and 5 per cent: or 6 per cent, on the quarterly rents, has a millstone round his neck which he will never be able to shake off. The Department should look around and find material and means to supply houses for returned soldiers at a very much lower figure. The Minister did not say in so many words that his Department is going to erect houses at that price, but I take it from his remarks that it will be about that, and that means a burden which is Entirely beyond the capacity of the average returned soldier to bear. It is up to the Government to find means of supplying house accommodation to returned men at a much cheaper price.
– How can we do it?
– I shall give the Minister advice on that subject on the next occasion. The item of “ War Pensions, £1,220,000,” appears in the Department. On more than one occasion since the outbreak of the war. the pensions have been slightly increased, and in view of the manner in which the cost of living “has gone up the Government ought, in the very near future, to consider whether the time is not opportune for a further increase in the pension rates. The item of £8,000 for Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Registries seems fairly substantial. Will the Minister state how much of the war loan, if any, is going in expenses of that character?
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has given us a great deal of valuable information on a subject which is important, not only in its direct bearing, but in its indirect bearing on another matter. The repatriation of the large number of men who have gone to the Front, and who we all hope will return, is, in itself, a colossal task, but the interim success of the repatriation scheme has a very marked bearing upon recruiting results. I have, therefore, much pleasure in saying that no Government Department ever instituted has so speedily achieved such a considerable measure of success as the Repatriation Department of the Commonwealth has done. I give that testimony most willingly. Some time ago I had the pleasure of hearing an interesting address delivered by the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture, who claimed that the results so far, while not uniformly successful, had been markedly so in Tasmania, and I believe that his claim on the whole was well founded.
I have risen to indicate to the Minister a direction in which action should be taken in the interests of the scheme of repatriation itself. It is judicious to give as much publicity to the efforts of the Department as possible, because one. of the means by which its value may be to some extent stultified is the existence of ignorance amongst the very men to benefit whom the Department was first created. It is valuable for the Australian Army to know that the Repatriation Department is being run. to the extent of 95 per cent, of its personnel by returned soldiers, that is, hy men. who have been the comrades in action of those who are still fighting. Ignorance about the operations of the Department should be dissipated to the fullest possible extent, because we still, want recruits. We all hope for an unconditional surrender on the’ part of Germany and its allies, but that may not take place; very soon. The German people and the authorities governing them may not have had brought home to them yet a full sense of defeat, and it may be necessary for the waT to be prosecuted with the utmost vigour for another year at least. lt is therefore essential that recruiting should be kept on, and I know of no means so effective to secure recruits as a full knowledge of the benefits that will be available to the soldier if he is fortunate enough to. escape the perils: of war. I would suggest to the Minister not to spare expense in giving publicity to what his Department is doing, and intends to do,’ with the machinery created for securing its objectives’.
There ia one direction in which it is desirable for the Minister to take immediate action. I have it on the best authority that there are individuals who make a studied attempt to sow dissension amongst the soldiers at tho first port in the Commonwealth at which the returning transports touch. They endeavour at the earliest available opportunity - and it is a very early opportunity, so far as Australia is concerned, because they pursue their nefarious activities at the. very first Australian port of call - to fill the minds of the soldiers with tha idea. that the Australian Government is not doing its duty by them, and is not even attempting to do it. This was never a party matter. I know of no one subject, on which both parties in this Parliament were more generous in. intention, and. action than in. the matter of repatriation. We’ all want to do the best we can for our returning; veterans. The machinery wes are setting- up, and the expenditure we are prepared to incur, constitute a colossal practical attempt to secure a definite laudable objective.
– What evidence hav<* you of that statement?
– We are told that ?350,000 is a mere item in connexion with our expenditure, on the subject. To repatriate- satisfactorily 300,000 men or more - and that number at least will have to be repatriated - means a tremendous expenditure of energy and money. Is. not this Legislature prepared to foot the bil] ? Is it not prepared to stimulate the Australian taxpayer to do so? ,
– Will the honorable senator say-
-(Senator Shannon)., - Order !
– Who are you making
– Order 1
– Making the charge against ?
– Order I 1 shall name the honorable senator if he does not obey the call of the- Chair.
– You can name me right away if you like.
-The honorable senator is distinctly out of order in disobeying the Chair. If he does, so I shall have to take other remedies. Does the honorable senator wish to withdraw from, the attitude he has. taken- up ?
– Withdraw what?.
– The honorable senator should withdraw his remark that, I -could do as I liked.
– What have I done-, or said ?
– I report Senator “Needham for disobeying the Chair.
– Withdraw! .
– But I have said nothing. What have I done?-
– The honorable senator disobeyed the Chair:
– In what way?
– By refusing to” maintain order, and by saying that I could do as I liked.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– The honorable senator has no right to argue with the Chair.. He should put himself right.
In the Senate:
The Chairman of Committees (Senator Shannon). - I have to report that,, while in Committee, Senator Needham was guilty’ of disobedience to. the1 Chair, in making interjections across the Chamber. I called him to order several times,’ and warned him, but he would not obey the Chair. I then said that I would. have to name him, and the honorable senator told me I could do as I liked. I again cautioned him, but he would riot withdraw, and I had to name him.
– The Chairman of Committees reports that Senator Needham continually disobeyed the Chair, and was, further, disrespectful to the Chair, and that, in consequence, he named the hon.orable senator. I will ask Senator Needham if he has any explanation to make, and, failing satisfactory explanation, to withdraw and apologize to the Chair for the conduct which has been complained of.
– In the course of Senator Bakhap’s address to the Committee, over which deliberation Senator Shannon presided, I interjected once. I was not called upon, but Senator Shannon called “Order!” “Order!” “Order!” He then said - addressing the Committee generally - “If honorable senators will not obey the Chair, I must name them.” I said, “ Name me, if you like.” He did so. I do not know what he named me for, but if I have done anything wrong I will withdraw what I did not say; and, if an apology is wanted, I will apologize to you, sir, and to the Chairman.
– All interjections are disorderly, .and should be discontinued by ‘honorable senators when requested to do so. Senator Needham apparently challenged the Chairman to name him, which is disrespectful to the Chair, and conduct that should not be indulged in. Senator Needham having admitted that? it is not for him to lay down the conditions of his withdrawal, which must be unreserved and absolute.
– I withdraw unreservedly.
– I<t is necessary to take steps in the interests of the repatriation scheme, and of recruiting, to counteract these pernicious and sinister attempts to belittle the operations of the Department.
– “Who made those charges?
– I will not quote my authority, although I believe the statement made to me is correct in every particular.
– Give us the author. That is what I got into trouble about just now.
– It was made to me by a Minister of the Crown.
– Who was the Minister ?
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) is probably aware whether or not these activities are in existence. If they are, their pernicious- effect must be combated at a very early date. The Department has achieved a notable measure of success; but I ask the Minister to give greater publicity than is the case at present to what is being done by the Department.
– It is to be regretted that Senator Bakhap should have made such statements without furnishing the Committee with some, evidence in support. Senator Bakhap has said that efforts of” a most pernicious nature were being made to get into touch with returned soldiers, and to endeavour to poison their minds against the efforts of the Government to successfully repatriate them. I innocently asked the honorable senator for his authority; but, instead of answering, he endeavoured to give a lecture.
– I will ask the permission of my informant to give his name.
– I do not doubt the accuracy of the statement as it has been repeated by Senator Bakhap; but I do not believe there is very much in’ its origin. The fact that the work of the Department has been fairly successful up to date shows that the pernicious nature of the propaganda must be more fancied than real.
There is an item of £175,000 under the heading “Under control of Department of” the Navy, trading vessels.” Presumably, that is in connexion with the ships purchased some time ago by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Are those ships still afloat? Are they being used mostly in connexion with the Australian trade, or by the British authorities for war purposes ?
.- Senator Bakhap stated that there were people in our midst who were endeavouring to make political capital out of the Repatriation Department, with a view, evidently, of belittling the National Government. Senator Grant immediately stated that he did not believe such statements were being made, and he asked for concrete proof. Senator Grant himself has been guilty of such conduct. While the Select Committee on Intoxicants, of which the honorable senator and myself are members, was pursuing inquiries in one of the capital cities, Senator Grant said to a witness, “Is it not a’ fact that, up to the present time, not one soldier has been repatriated by this Commonwealth National Government?” Those words appear in the printed evidence of the Committee, lt is evident by that question that, in addition to what Senator Bakhap has drawn attention to, there is a tendency on the part of some people in our midst to make political capital by belittling the Department which Senator Millen so ably controls.
.- It is a pity Senator Poll has not given the full facts relating to the incident he has quoted. J t is quite possible that I may have asked the question; but tho Department of . Repatriation has not been actively in being for more than, comparatively, a few months, and it is quite likely that at the time the question -was asked very few, if any, men had been repatriated. The idea of making political capital out of it never occurred to me, and I am somewhat surprised that such an impression should have been left on the mind of Senator Foll.
– Senator Grant has urged that owing to the increased cost of living the pension rate should be increased.’ I do not know whether he is aware of (he fact that it would not make any difference to the recipients of pensions whether the amounts were increased or decreased, for tho reason that the Repatriation Department undertakes, to make the income of any recipient of a pension up to a certain figure. If the pension were wiped out altogether the Repatriation Department would merely pa”y more in proportion than at present, so as to bring the amount received by the returned soldier up to the given figure.
Senator Bakhap has urged that an effort be made to secure greater publicity for the Repatriation Department. I appreciate what publicity would mean, not only to my Department, but to the interests of the soldiers themselves. If there is a lack of publicity, however, it is not the fault of the Department. From time to time it has given much fuller information to the press as to what is going on than I have .been able to provide tonight. Yet, if I judge correctly, the state- ments which I have just made were heard by honorable senators then for the first time, despite the fact that I have already given similar information in many places and in many speeches. And I have also given the same information to the press. With regard to the latter, it has been a matter of disappointment that the information has not been considered of sufficient importance by our leading journals to’ call forth from them any editorial comment. The one set of figures which I gave, namely, that the Department had placed 17,000 men satisfactorily in employment, and that there, wore so few remaining on its books, had an obvious public interest. I should have thought that the leading journals of the country would have regarded the information as worthy of some editorial comment.’ That such little notice has been given is not the fault of the Department, but a fact for which the press must take the responsibility. With regard to publicity in Europe - that is among the soldiers - I am glad to say that any deficiency which may have existed there is being steadily overcome. We have had literature sent to the Front, and in a communication I have been informed that General Birdwood had instructed .that the last pamphlet sent was to be issued in the orders of the day to the men under bis command. Judging by the copies I have received of three papers published in connexion with various soldiers’ camps - two in England and one in Egypt - the scheme is getting known; and, may I add, that in those soldiers’ papers there are more complimentary references to. the scheme than have appeared in the Australian press.
– The whole of the ‘ scheme is placed before every .soldier abroad.
– An endeavour is being made to do that.
Senator Bakhap referred to the trans ports returning to Australia. In connexion with this matter, I want to say that I am having” literature placed on each transport as it touches at Fremantle; and I propose, as soon as I canSecure men. qualified for the. position, to arrange for lecturers to board every troop-ship at Fremantle, and give lectures to the men. They will answer all questions put to them during the voyage of the vessel from fremantle to the eastern port. Honorable senators will agree, however, that before 1 can do this 1 must be quite satisfied that the officers selected have fullknowledge of thesubject, because hundreds of questions will be fired at them from the decks of the transports, and I must have sufficient confidence that theOfficer is armed at all points, otherwise some questions, submitted in all good faith, might lead to misleading answers, and cause dissatisfaction amongst the boys who are returning. I propose to appoint these lecturers as soon as . I can select officers suitable for that purpose.
-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria)[10.33]. - I should like the Minister to make some statement with regard to pensions being brought up to a living wage; and to know if the Government contemplate, in the near future, including the administration of the pensions in theduties of the Repatriation Department? And then with regard to hostels for incapacitated men, will the men receivea pensionas well as be given accommodation ?
– Answering the last questionfirst, I may say that themen will be in receipt of a pension of 30s. per week, and they will, of course, obtain accommodation at the hostel. ‘ If they are single men, permanently incapacitated, they will not receive more than the pension of 30s. per week ; but any dependants of incapacitated soldiers will be in receipt of a sustenance allowance. With regard to the administration of pensions, the Committee will remember that some time ago I announced that the Government intended to merge this function into that of the Repatriation Department. Officers of my Department are now conferring with officers of the Treasury as to the bestmeans of bringing thisabout, and when they have submitted the result of their deliberations, I hope it will not be long before we can effect the merging as indicated. I have no hesitation in saying that I should have done this before, but I had a hesitancy, until the gristle had hardened into the bone, about throwing upon my new Departmentany added responsibility.
Senator Grant raised the question of the Commonwealth ships. The amount set down in the ached ale is the amount necessary for their maintenance, and the revenue obtained from their use is paid into the ConsolidatedRevenue.
– But the point I raised was whether theships are being used by the CommonwealthGovernment or by the British Government.
– The Commonwealth vessels are in the same position as vessels privately owned. Theyhave been placed under the control of the British Admiralty.
Proposed vote agreed to. : Division 34 (Refunds of revenue), £150,000, agreed to.
Proposed clause 2 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request’; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181016_senate_7_86/>.