7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Prices Charged in Western Australia.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs if his attention has teen drawn to a telegram from Perth appearing in this morning’s Age stating that merchants of that city’ are protesting against the charges for butter which are being made by the Federal Butter Board, and claiming that the Melbourne parity for the last two or three consignments should obtain. If so, will the Minister take action to prevent the increased charges being made?
SenatorRUSSELL. - I have not had my attention drawn to the telegram referred to, but if the honorable senator will let roe have a copy of it I shall secure a reply for him at the earliest possible moment.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate if he has any recollection of a matter I brought under his notice which had special reference to an act of gallantry performed by a Spanish officer named Suseata on a vessel captured by the German raider Wolf, and on which there were women and children ? I understand that this officer’s gallant act has been recognised by the British Board of Trade, but seeing that there were Australian women and children indebted to his gallantry, I have asked whether the Government purpose taking any action to recognise it.
– My recollection of the matter is that, following upon the question submitted on the subject by the honorable senator, I informed him that the Government were then in communication with the Home authorities regarding the matter. As the honorable senator has again directed my attention to the matter, I shall ascertain what has been done.
– The British Board of Trade recognised this man’s gallantry by presenting him with a silver cup. I think that the Commonwealth Government might give him an inscribed watch, or something of the sort.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
Development of Oil Fields
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories if he will make available to the Senate any communications that have taken place between the
Commonwealth Government and the Imperial Government on the subject of the development of the oil fields of Papua?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s request underthe notice of the Minister for Home and Territories, and shall let him know the result later on.
Debate resumed from 26th June (vide page 10121), on motion by Senator Millen -
That the paper be printed.
– When the debate was adjourned last evening I was referringto the question of shipping. I asked the Minister if he could give the Senate some assurance that ships belonging to the Commonwealth would, when their existing contracts had been completed, be employed entirely in connexion with the Australian trade, either between the States or between Australia and other countries. I understood Senator Russell to reply that the ships are to be kept here, and I should like to know whether that reply refers to the Commonwealth line ofsteamers or, in addition,to steamers privately owned and at present under the control of the Government.
– The policy has to be determined. Owing to the fact that the ships are worth elsewhere four times their value on the Australian coast, it will be considered by the Government.
– Does the Minister refer to the Commonwealth line of steamers?
– To all ships.
– I do not think that the Minister is intentionally obscure, but it must be remembered that when the War Precautions Act is out of the way, the control by the Commonwealth Government of privately owned shipping will cease. I take it, therefore, that the Minister’s reply refers to ships entirely owned by the Commonwealth. Perhaps the Minister will say definitely whether that is so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Shannon). - Order! The Standing Orders are distinctly against the honorable senator seeking a reply to a question in the course of his speech.
– We havebeen allowed by most Presidents to slightly transgress the Standing Orders to enable an honorable senator to obtain a reply to a question by an interjection from a Minister with the object of shortening debate. However, I bow to your ruling, sir, and I take it that the Minister’s reply refers to all ships owned by the Commonwealth and over which the Government have absolute control. I understand that those ships are to be engaged in Australian trade.
– Does the honorable senator mean on the coast of Australia ?
– No; I mean on the coast of Australia - between State and State - and also in carrying Australian produce overseas and bringing cargo on the return voyage to Australia.
– That has always been done, except where boats have been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war purposes. That practice will be continued.
– The paragraph dealing with the matter in the Ministerial statement is somewhat vague, and leaves the impression that as bigger profits might be earned in other trading, the Government might consider the use of the Commonwealth steam-ships in other than Australian trade.
– No; the statement refers to privately owned boats under requisition.
– That is the reply I wanted. Owing to the lamentable scarcity of shipping between the mainland and Tasmania, trade with that State has been disorganized, its producers have been ruined, its consumers are compelled to pay even higher rates for articles of daily necessity than the high rates obtaining on the mainland. Representations on the subject were made by the Premier of Tasmania two or three weeks ago, but so far no reply ‘has been received. That is the usual thing, and I make the statement deliberately because the Acting Prime Minister took some weeks to reply to a most important business communication sent him by the Premier of Tasmania on behalf of the people of that State. The request was made that, as soon as two of the ships could be released, one should be employed upon the trade between the mainland and Hobart, and the other between the mainland and Launceston. I trust that, even now, the Government will pay some heed to the request. Yesterday evening, when referring to the Federal and State quarantine regulations, and to Tasmania having neglected to comply with the Federal quarantine officials’ requests, Senator Russell interjected, “ The Tasmanian Government have refused to allow troops to land from a clean transport.” I remarked that I was not aware of the incident.
– I do not think that the statement was correct.
– The point is that boats which were declared clean in West- . ern Australia, South Australia, and Victoria still had to undergo quarantine in Tasmania.
– I attended a large and united public meeting at Launceston; there were representatives of all parties present. Several motions were unanimously agreed to, the most important of which was to the effect that if a transport were clean, the Tasmanian quota on board should not be subjected to the additional and unnecessary risk of being sent into an infected port, but should be permitted to land direct on the northern coast of Tasmania.
– One of the troubles was that the boats were held up owing to the strike, and I refused to allow the soldiers to man them.
– This was before the strike.
– The seamen’s strike was over thequarantine conditions.
– But I am referring to the situation before the strike. Tasmania was a clean State. Thank God, we were free of the scourge!
– And it is too big a thing to be made a party issue.
– It has not been made a party issue.
– In some of the States it has been, anyhow.
– Not in Tasmania. The public meeting held at Launceston forwarded its resolutions through the State Premier. The people of the island State requested that returning Tasmanian soldiers on clean transports should not be compelled to go to the infected port of Melbourne, but should be permitted to land at the mouth of the Tamar, or even at Burnie - whichever was the more convenient port for the ship.
– That was done during the height of the influenza outbreak, by special consent of the British Admiralty. The boats’ came into Port Phillip, but did not touch land. They went on to Tasmania before being despatched to Sydney or Brisbane. There was no contact at Melbourne.
– That is a long while ago. I want to know why it has not been established as a continuous practice.
– I have held up a boat at the Heads, and picked up Tasmanians from at least, ten transports, so that they should not become contacts at the infected port of Melbourne.
– And they were taken to Hobart.
– Why, then, has the practice been discontinued? For months past, Tasmanians have been urging simple and reasonable requests. Senator Russell. - I did not permit one soldier to be landed in an infected State when that could be avoided.
– The fact remains that for months soldiers coming in on clean transports have been landed at the infected port of Melbourne, and have had to remain in this city for some weeks before being taken on to Tasmania.
I call attention to the remarkable lack of. courtesy to the Tasmanian people displayed by the Federal Government and departmental authorities. It is strange that communications of such importance as we have despatched through the Premier of Tasmania to the Acting Prime Minister should not have received even the courtesy of a reply. Can Senator Russell supply a reason for that?
Tasmania has been affronted.’ For at least a fortnight after the despatch of urgent telegrams no replies have been received either from the Acting Prime Minister or from the head of the Department concerned. Such things impress the people of Tasmania with the conviction that their State does not count, seeing that it is so small. Had the usual custom been followed, namely, that of having a Minister representing1 Tasmania in the Government, such affronts would not have been inflicted. Why is there not a Minister representing Tasmania in the Cabinet ? It has been an almost unbroken custom since the inauguration of Federation that every State should be given a direct voice in the counsels qf the Cabinet; that, indeed, has become almost a law. And so it should be, so long as Federation exists and we do not go for Unification. Just prior to the close of last year the Government deemed it necessary to remove a Tasmanian Minister from the Cabinet. Why was not his place filled by another Tasmanian? There is only one answer, and I hardly care to express it, because it seems so sordid. There are at least three honorable senators in this Chamber, any one of whom is well able and worthy .to represent Tasmania as a member of the Government. There are three Tasmanian members of the House of Representatives, two of whom are supporters of the Government, who have had Ministerial experience. Altogether, there are at least four Tasmanians in the Federal Parliament who are Government supporters and have held Ministerial office. Despite that fact, the Government deliberately refused to give a Tasmanian representative a place in their counsels, thus breaking through a custom which had hardened into almost law.
– It may have been a custom; it was not a rule.
– Does the honor- able senator admit that it is desirable?
– It is certainly desirable.
– The custom was _ departed from, with the result that the interests of Tasmania have suffered more severely at the hands of the present Government than in all our history since Federation. The reason is a sordid one. It can only be a matter of salary. There would be less money for the Ministers to divide among themselves if a new Minister were appointed to the vacancy from among the eligible Tasmanians. The Government have at least another year of life. Even at this late hour I appeal to them, in the interests of fair play, to appoint a Tasmanian to their ranks. If they did so, there would not then be any more Ministers than prior to the enforced retirement of Mr. Jensen. I understand that Admiral Clarkson is shipping controller, but that he, in his turn, is controlled by the Shipping Board, the members of which are all heavily interested in privatelyowned shipping.
– The Board is only advisory. Admiral Clarkson is the responsible individual.
– If the Board is only an advisory body, and if its functions do not extend to the control of the shipping, what is it wanted for?
– It cannot be regarded as impartial.
– Of course it cannot, because Admiral Clarkson is bound to take the advice of the Board; and as human nature is human nature, it is natural that, if private shipping interests comes into conflict with other interests, they will certainly receive first consideration.
– All Australian ships have been requisitioned; there are no private boats running now.
– I know that the whole of our vessels are under the control of Admiral Clarkson, but, as he has the assistance of the Advisory Board, what is the value of the Minister’s answer ?
– Australian ships are requisitioned at a certain price, and likewise British ships are requisitioned by the British Government. There is no private control to-day.
– Exactly. They are requisitioned at a certain price, and advice is given as regards fares and times of sailings.
– But whatever advice is given, the owners cannot increase their revenue by one penny.
– At all events, if the Advisory Board were not composed almostentirely of private shipping owners, there would be less uneasiness in the minds of the general public.
One paragraph in the Ministerial statement refers to the industrial unrest, and states that the seamen have, in fact, challenged the Government control. I stand to-day, as I have always stood, for the principle of arbitration, and I regret that this trouble was not referred to the Arbitration Court. I am also very pleased to know that the principle has found so many new recruits in Australia of late. Only a few months ago a section of the people, including strong supporters of the present Government in my own State, were doing their utmost to have the Arbitration Court abolished. They sent circulars to every Federal member requesting him to urge the Government to do away with the Court. These circulars were distributed in Tasmania on the eve of the State election, asking candidates if they were in favour of this course, and I believe a large number of Government supporters all over Australia were taking the same action.
– Senator de Largie’s interjection is absolute nonsense. Tin’s circular is on record, though I do not say that the section represented by Senator de Largie were responsible for it.
– No, nor any other section of the people in the State I come from, either.
– Senator de L argie speaks of his own State only. ‘ His information does not extend to other parts of the Commonwealth. I am speaking of what is an actual fact, because the printed circulars are in existence.
– But you included Western Australia in your statement.
– I said that I believed the same action was being taken in the other States.
– I think the fruit-growers were responsible for this movement.
– Yes; I understand the circular was issued by the Farmers and Producers Association of Tasmania, asking candidates for the State Parliament to work in conjunction with members of the same party in the Federal Parliament to bring about the removal of the Arbitration Court. As a matter of fact, one of Senator de Largie’s colleagues (Senator Earle), and, I believe, Mr. Laird Smith, attended the meeting in Launceston, and begged the association not’ to proceed along the lines indicated. I think that Senator Earle’s argument was that if the Arbitration Court were wiped out, the people of Australia would be driven into the arms of the extremists.
– I think their action had relation only to rural industries.
– Perhaps so; but why remove only one industry fromthe jurisdiction of the Court? But these gentlemen suddenly became silent, and, strange as it may appear, we now find that a number of them are converts to the system of arbitration, which I and every other member of the Federal Labour party have always stood for. I do not know what reason actuates the seamen in their refusal to have anything to do with the Court.
– Have they been urged by the Federal members to approach it.
– So far as I am concerned - and I speak only for myself - whenever I have come in contact with seamen, I have urged them to go to the Arbitration Court.
– But the seamen appear to be the slaves of some peculiar influence. They are all in favour of arbitration, and yet dare not go to the Court.
– I do not know why they refuse ; but I hope my honorable friend is not going to be a slave of the men who want to do away with that tribunal.
– The honorable senator knows my sentiments on that matter.
– There must be some strong reason to determine the seamen not to accept the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court; because I cannot believe that any large body of men would deliberately cut themselves off from their daily earnings and inflict misery upon their dependants unless they had pretty good reason.
– Of course, they have a good reason - direct action. It is no use the honorable senator humbugging. He knows it.
– Senator de Largie’s interjection is humbug, and he knows it, too.
– It is undeniably true.
– Senator de Largie comes from the same class as I do. I have not forgotten, if he has, that it is their desire to reach out for a little larger portion of the good things of life. Will anybody say that that is wrong? Will Senator de Largie or anybody else say that the seamen have not terrible grievances to be remedied?
– A special tribunal was set up to remedy them, but they would not accept it.
– I wish they had gone to that tribunal even although hitherto it has not given them all that they have asked for. God knows there have been too many obstacles in the way up to the present. It is the duty of the Government to make the path to the Arbitration Court as plain and smooth as possible. Lawyers ought to have been shut out of the Court altogether, for it has been as difficult for some of the organizations to get their cases heard as it is for a poor individual to get a case before the High Court of Australia.
– The Court certainly does want quickening up.
– I am glad to have that admission from the Minister, because I recognise that the Arbitration Court has conferred many benefits on the workers, and I believe they would be well advised to continue along constitutional lines for the redress of their grievances, especially as, within the past few weeks, there have been so many converts to the principle of arbitration.
– The seamen have not the excuse of delay now, because they wereput into the Court by the Government. They would not accept its jurisdiction.
– I am sorry they did not avail themselves of the opportunity. I really believe that the chief reason was that, in common with other organizations, they have become pretty well disgusted with the delays, as well as the expense, involved. No man who has gone down into the quarters which the seamen have to occupy can stand up on any platform in Australia and say that they have not grievances to be remedied. One’s blood almost boils sometimes when one enters their quarters, though I admit that of late years some improvement has been made.
– The improvements have been made in accordance with the Navigation Act.
– The Navigation Act has not been proclaimed yet, and consequently, ship-owners are not compelled to make the improvements.
– The conditions are miles ahead of those provided in my time.
– Still, they are rotten.
– No. I suppose this interjection will be recorded against me later on, but I do notcare whether it is or not. I say that the conditions are not to be compared with those provided in my time.
– But Senator Lynch will admit that there is room for vast improvement even now.
– I do not know. If the ships are fitted out in accordance with the provisions of the Navigation Act there is no room for improvement.
– The majority are not. Has the honorable senator seen the accommodation provided?
– I repeat that the Navigation Act has not been proclaimed yet; for some reason known only to the’ Government.
– The reason is known to you, as well as to the Government.
– I have always held that the Government had the power to have the Act proclaimed.
– Then why did you not insist upon that being done when you were behind the Government? This Act has been suspended for many years.
– I have not been behind any Government for the last three or four years, and the Navigation Act was passed only a short time before the outbreak of war. As. evidence of the fact that the conditions have not been sufficiently improved in some of the vessels, I remind the Senate that a few months ago there was a strike of firemen on the Loongana, and one of the men told me that he would not returnto work for three times the wages he had been getting if he had to face the same conditions on that vessel. I admit that she is probably a special ship, because she has been running at express speed all the time, so that perhaps the conditions under which her firemen work are worse than those which obtain on other vessels. Yet there was a general outcry against these men because they flouted the decision of the Arbitration Court.
– But the Loongana is not a new ship, and those conditions had existed for a long time without any complaints arising.
– I know perfectly well that it is very difficult to retain firemen on the Loongana.I am familiar with the conditions under which they have to work.
– The stokehold of the Loongana is not so very bad.
– Probably there are others which are very much worse.
– I do not consider the stokehold of the Loongana is a bad one at all. The vessel is well ventilated, anyhow.
– Those who are familiar with the ship will admit that the conditions under which its firemen work are susceptible of vast improvement.
Coming to the question of profiteering, I note that one paragraph in the Ministerial statement reads -
With the exemption of the control of a few commodities, respecting which contracts exist with the British Government, or financial obligations have been incurred by the Commonwealth, the Government has withdrawn the orders made under the Price Fixing Regulations, and has wound up the organization of the Prices Commissioners.
It was considered advisable to gradually release these restrictions, and thus allow trade and commerce to adapt itself to normal conditions, rather than continue this form of control to the date when our powers would automatically come to an abrupt termination.
It would have been better for the people of this country if those restrictions had been continued in respect of many articles of daily consumption. For example, immediately the Government removed the embargo on the export of leather the price of boots went up by 25 and even 50 per cent. As a result, the working man who had previously to pay 4s. 6d. to get his boots half-soled is now required to pay 6s.
– That is a matter which ought to be looked into.
– It ought to be more than looked into. Those who are guilty of this sort of profiteering, and who seek to make fortunes out of the necessities of the people at a time like the present, should almost be stood up against a wall and shot. No owner of a pound of leather in this country should have been allowed to export it until the people were able to purchase that commodity at a reasonable price. Yet the Government, with a full knowledge of what would happen, removed the embargo on the export of leather.
– The honorable senator’s own side was always howling for the repeal of war restrictions.
– The members of our party desired only the repeal of the War Precautions Act in regard to the censorship. If they howled at allthey howled for the retention of those powers which were designed to prevent profiteering. The direct result of the action of Mr. Massy Greene was an increase of up to 50per cent. in the price of an article which everybody has to use. As a consequence, the children of the poorer classes to-day are obliged to go barefooted. I know of one establishment in my own State which, prior to the removal of the embargo on leather, was filled almost to the roof with hides and leather. The owner of these articles seemed to be in possession of information as to the Government’s intention, and accordingly refused to sell a single hide or a solitary pound of leather to the bootmakers who required it. He openly proclaimed that he was holding for a higher price. When he was asked why he would not allow the bootmakers to have the leather they required he said that the embargo upon the export of leather would soon be removed, and that the moment it was removed the price of that article would go up..
– Is the honorable senator prepared to give that man’s name, because he ought to be held up to public obloquy ?
– Why should he be held up to public obloquy any more than another profiteer ?
– Because his is an explicit case which ought to be known.
– Dozens of similar cases could be cited. I do not blame him for his action any more than I blame the holder of another commodity who was guilty of the same practice. But I do blame the system.
– Let us know who he is.
– The embargo has been removed. Under the law, what action could be taken against him? He had as much right to make increased profits as had any other individual.
– The Government should have commandeered the material, and, should have paid a fair price for it.
– Undoubtedly . This is one concrete instance in which the action of the Government was of direct assistance to profiteering.
– The honorable senator has not yet given the man’s name.
– And I am not going to give it to the honorable senator publicly, although I am prepared to supply him with it privately.
– I want it for public use.
– Why select one man in this connexion any more than another? I suppose that this individual’s sin, grievous though it was, was a small one compared with that of many other profiteers engaged in the same line of business on the mainland.
I come now to the question of finance as outlined in the statement of Ministerial policy. The statement contains only a vague reference to it, hut we all know that one of the financial proposals of the Ministry, as set out in the newspapers a few months ago, is a reduction of the per capita allowance to the States. The Acting Prime Minister publicly announced that he intended to propose a reduction in the present allowance of 25s. annually, by 2s. 6d. per year for a period of six years, at the end of which time it would be permitted to remain at 10s. for a further period of five years, when it would be again subject to . review. I desire to point out that if the per capita allowance be reduced, Tasmania will be placed in a very serious financial position indeed. Not only is she dependent on that allowance, but for some years she has been in receipt of a special grant from the Commonwealth of £90,000 annually. That special grant will cease to operate in 1922, and unless she receives some consideration in lieu of it, if the per capita allowance be reduced in accordance with the scheme foreshadowed by the Government, her financial position will be greatly embarrassed. I intend to wait till I know the exact proposals of the Treasurer, but if they are as outlined by him in a speech which he delivered at the end of January last, I shall certainly be found opposing them.
I am very glad to note that the Government intends to introduce a new Tariff. I hope that it will be a scientific Tariff, which, while offering more encouragement to existing Australian industries, will seek to promote the creation of new industries. I am anxious to give that amount of protection to Australian industries which their importance demands, and I believe that such a Tariff as I have indicated will prove acceptable to a majority in both branches of the Legislature, and will constitute a great im provement upon our present Tariff. Unless we develop to the fullest extent the great natural resources of the country, we shall be up against serious financial trouble in the future.
– What about protecting the consumers and workmen ?
– I spoke of a “ scientific “ Tariff, by which term I mean a Tariff that will pay due attention to the needs of the consumers, and also of those who are engaged in the industries that receive protection. No other form of protection will command my support.
– The Ministerial statement which we are discussing is a very interesting one in many ways. The first paragraph in it affirms that, until the protracted deliberations of the Peace Conference were approaching finality, it was considered inadvisable to summon the Houses for the discussion of public business. I can only describe that statement by using the well-worn war word, “camouflage.” I do not think the deliberations of the Peace Conference were responsible for the long recess we have had - which has covered a period of well nigh six months. I say, without fear of contradiction, that had it not been necessary for the Government to obtain Supply in order to enable them to carry on the services of this country, we should not have been called together even now. There is an old saying that “ Needs must when the devil drives,” and the devil is driving the Government at this period of the year because of their need of money. They have spent public money to the limit of their authority in carrying on the public service, and it was only when they required further authority that they called Parliament together. It would have been better if Parliament had been called together earlier.
It is a pity that the Parliaments of any of the Allied countries should have been in recess during the sittings of the Peace Conference, and it is a still greater pity that the Parliaments of those countries have not been made aware of the proceedings at the Conference. Shortly after the outbreak of the world-war, we were told that one of the causes of the world being plunged into that awful abyss was secret diplomacy. We were assured that the days of secret diplomacy had ended. But they have not ended. The Peace Conference has continued secret diplomacy. T am sure that the members of this Parliament do not know, and I believe that the members of the Parliaments of the other Allied countries do not know, what the deliberations of the Big Four have been. The proceedings of the Conference have been conducted in secret. Agreements have been- made during the last four months under the old system of secret diplomacy. There is, it should be said, one exception in connexion with the proceedings of the Peace Conference. President Wilson did on one occasion throw aside the veil of secrecy hanging over its proceedings in connexion with the Italian demand for Fiume. That was the only break in the secret system. President Wilson did inform the world of what Italy was claiming. It was not because of the deliberations of the Peace Conference that this Parliament has been called together, but because the Government want ‘money, and they must come to this Par lament to get it.
We were told at the outbreak of the war that we entered it for one purpose, and for one purpose only - and that was to protect the rights of small nations. We were told that there was no idea of territorial conquest - small nations were ‘ to be given the right of selfdetermination, and the Allied countries did not in- tend to take any territory. Time has proved that such was not their intention, or, if it was, that it has not been carried out. There is a small nation I know of - not very far from England itself- that has not yet been given the right of selfdetermination. The blood of her sons has flowed and mingled on the- battlefields of France and Gallipoli with the blood of men from other Allied countries, but that small nation is to-day as far from securing the right of self-determination as it ever was. notwithstanding the fact that the world has been drenched in blood, as we have been told, in order that the right of self-determination should be preserved to small nations. It was thought that at the Peace Conference - which is still sitting - the claims of that land - I refer to Ireland - would have been put forward by representatives of the Allied nations. But that has not been done - there is no intention to do it, and that small nation is to-day as far from realizing its ambition as it ever has been.
– As a result Ireland is seething with discontent.
– To-day Ireland is more discontented under British rule” than ever she was before. No man dare say that her sons, Irish born and Irish bred, and the sons of Irish parents in every country of the Allied nations, did not respond to the call when the tocsin of war sounded. As I have said, their blood has flowed on the battlefields to. which I have referred. I therefore repeat that the promise of selfdetermination for -small nations has not been fulfilled, so far as one part of our Empire is concerned.
Another promise made u,Don our entry into the war was that no territorial conquest was intended by the Allied countries. Judging by telegrams which appear in the newspapers, and the scraps of information we are given as to the proceedings at the Peace Conference, it has been one continual battle for territorial conquest. Italy wanted Fiume. Japan wanted Shantung ; America stuck to her Monroe doctrine; Britain would not allow her foreign agreements to be interfered with by the League of Nations; and we have had mandatories of all kinds proposed. The only places about which there has been no question are the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Apparently no one wanted them. From what we can gather from the cables, there have been continual battles for territory at the Peace Conference. The .result of the Peace Treaty so far as Japan is concerned, in giving that country control of Shantung, has been to provide another Alsace-Lorraine difficulty for the future. The peop’e of Shantung were not permitted to determine for themselves whether they would come under Japanese rule or not, as they should have been in accordance with one of President Wilson’s fourteen points, to which Mr. Lloyd George agreed. They have been handed over to Japan.
So far as we in Australia are concerned, we have another matter to be anxious about, and this is the preservation of our White Australia policy. A fight was put up at the Peace Conference to preserve that policy, but a big fight was also put up against it, and to a great extent those opposed to our White Australia policy have won. Japan claimed racial equality,and although that has not been granted to its fullest extent, we are informed that before the Peace Conference assembled there was an agreement between the Government of that country and the Imperial Government that the Marshall and Caroline Islands were to be ceded to Japan. Why was not this Parliament informed of that? Is there any member of the Senate who will say that that is not a danger to Australia and a menace to our White Australia policy?
– I thought the honorable member’s party did not want annexations ?
– Those islands are on the other side of the Equator. So long as we get the previous German possessions on this side of the Equator I am satisfied.
– In answer to Senator Lynch, I may say that I am giving my own views now.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - The Equator would appear to be a line of defence.
– Yes, according to Senator Bakhap, it is a very strong line of defence.
– Why not include the Philippine Islands or Formosa, if you must go north of the Equator ?
– I say that in the agreement to which I have referred there is danger, and we shall need to be on the alert.
– We cannot carry our White Australia policy all over the world.
– Whether the agreement be right or wrong, and I believe it is wrong, this Parliament and the people of this country should have been apprised of it. This is one of the reasons why I say that even now, after all the blood that has been shed, we are not yet out of the woods. We were told . that this was to be the last war, but I am very much afraid that before another ten years are over our heads we shall be into another war, perhaps as big as that we have just come through.
I have to-day given notice of a motion in connexion with the cost of communications between the Government and three Ministers who are now in London. I wish to give my reason for desiring that information. It is a most remarkable thing that two of the leading members of the Government should have been absent in Great Britain for so long a period, and that a third should recently have been sent there. It must have cost a considerable amount of money to keep in direct contact with those Ministers in connexion with the doings of the Peace Conference and the other matters which they have in hand overseas. Furthermore, so far as the Peace Conference is concerned, I do not think that it was necessary that two Ministers should be sent to represent us at that Conference.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Shannon). - Did I understand the honorable senator to say that he has given notice of a motion on this subject ? If he has put a notice on the paper dealing with it, he is not in order in discussing it now.
– There is no such notice on the paper. The paper in which it will appear has not yet been printed.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I understand that the honorable senator has given notice of the motion. Senator NEEDHAM. - I venture to say that until my notice of motion is printed, I can give my reasons for submitting it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I am only taking the honorable senator’s word for it.
– You, sir, can take, my word for it, or leave it alone. My notice of motion is not before the Senate, and therefore is not the property of the Senate. I thought you knew the Standing Orders better.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order ! Senator Lynch. - No reflections on the Chair.
– It was not on the Chair I was reflecting, if I made any reflection at all. I say that it is quite right that Australia should be represented at the Peace Conference by the Prime Minister of the day, no matter who he may be. But I think that it is extra and unnecessary expense to the country to have at the same time another prominent member of the Government representing us there.
– There were two representatives from little New Zealand.
– I cannot speak for New Zealand. I am giving my opinion as to how Australia should have been represented.
In the Ministerial statement there is a great deal of window-dressing. The political window-dresser has been very busy, and has provided a very fair show. He must be a real political artist. If any honorable senator believes that all the legislative items enumerated are to become law before this Parliament expires, he must be an even more optimistic type of gentleman than the individual alluded to by Senator Gardiner yesterday. In paragraph 2 of the Ministerial announcement, the following information is provided -
It Will be noted with pleasure that the demobilization and return of our Armies is now proceeding, notwithstanding the inherent difficulties, swiftly and satisfactorily.
Up to 31st May, 1919, approximately 169,000 members of the Australian Imperial Force had returned to Australia; 3,300 had been discharged at their own request overseas; 18,000 were en route to Australia; leaving about 79.000 still to be repatriated. If the present shipping provision is maintained, all our troops, except the Depot and HeadQuarters Staffs, will have embarked for Australia by the end of next month.
The success which is attending this great task amply confirms the steps taken by the Government in placing the work in the hands of a responsible Minister in London.
There is no greater example of deliberate waste of public money than is provided by sending Home a responsible Minister in connexion with the demobilization of our troops. At the time of Senator Pearce’s departure from Australia, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) were both in London. In addition,
General Sir John Monash had been appointed Director-General of Demobilization. Further, there was the High Commissioner - not to mention his staff. Could not our troops have been swiftly and efficiently demobilized under the’ careful and able supervision of one man - and that man a proved fighting soldier - without requiring any Minister to be in London at all? Even if the DirectorGeneral of Demobilization had not been appointed, could not the High Commissioner have carried out the work? But the High Commissioner and his staff) in their costly Australia House, could not look after the return of our soldiers! Neither could the Prime Minister do so, nor the Minister for the Navy!’ The Director-General of Demobilization could not do so! The Minister for Defence had to be sent to London to demobilize the troops. Senator Pearce reached London on the 19 th March.
– And he has done good work while there. No demobilization in the world has been performed in a better way, perhaps.
– I asked yesterday for the date of. the departure of Senator Pearce, and the reply was that it was the 26th January last. I asked how many members of the Australian Imperial Force had returned to Australia at that date. The reply was, 96,854. I inquired how many were en route to Australia at that date, and was informed that the approximate total was 24,780. I desired to know the date of the arrival of Senator Pearce in London as Minister for Demobilization. It was given as the 19th March, 1919. I wanted to know how many members of the Australian Imperial Force had returned or were en route to Australia at that date, and I was furnished with the information that 121,634 had come back to Australia, and that 16,120 were en route, making a total of 137,754. On the 31st May, 169,000 of our troops had arrived in Australia, and 18,000 were on the way home. After all, therefore, Senator Pearce had been responsible for the return of only about 50,000 men to the end of last month. If we take the total of, 137,754 from the sum of the men who have been and are to be demobilized, we; ascertain that a little more than half had; either arrived in Australia or were on, their way back before the Minister reached England. I am not referring to Senator Pearce in any personal sense, good, bad, or indifferent.
– He has been Minisber for Defence during a victorious war, anyhow.
– I am not reflecting upon his capacity. But there was no need to send him Home to demobilize our troops.
– That was part and parcel of his duties.
– If that were so, he should have sailed for London immediately upon the declaration of the armistice. But before he got there nearly 140,000 of our troops had been demobilized. Senator de Largie says the Minister has done good work since reaching London. I differ from that view. While Senator Pearce was on his way to England as Minister for Demobilization, and during his stay in South Africa, Mr. Hughes was castigating the British Government for not giving sufficient ships to General Monash, in order to get our troops back expeditiously; and it was as the outcome of the persistent representations of Mr. Hughes, seconded by those of Sir John Monash, that extra ships were supplied, at the command of Mr. Lloyd George, by the head of the Shipping Board.
– Does not the honorable senator recognise that he is now saying something complimentary of the Prime Minister?
– I have not sunk to the level which Senator Millen insinuates. I have always given credit where credit was due. I admit that I have said something in praise of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. It is only buttressing my argument that there was no necessity to put this country to the cost of sending Senator Pearce to London. I asked yesterday for the cost of sending the Minister and his family toEngland, and the answer stated £275.
– It was up to him to have a holiday after the war.
– I want to leave that entirely out of the question. Senator Pearce was sent to London for one express purpose. Iquestion the accuracy of the total furnished by way of reply to my inquiry, namely, that the cost of sending Senator Pearce and his family Home was only £275. Shipping companies are charging very high rates for passages to London. No one can secure a first class passage, I should say, under £100.
– For £68.
– That is not so. A friend of mine who had to leave Melbourne for London paid £85 for a single fare.
– They are now booking for £68.
– I am speaking of the conditions ruling in January last. In Senator Pearce’s party there were six people, four of whom, I understand, were adults. Could they have been transported to London for £275? I call attention, also, to a statement in the press that it cost nearly £100 to establish an office on the ship for the Minister. That £100 could not have been included in the £275. I will certainly not accept those figures. There was no need to send Senator Pearce to London. If it were deemed necessary that, as the result of four and a half years’ strain of office as Minister for Defence, he ought to have a holiday, why should not that fact have been frankly stated? No man would have objected. But I object to Senator Pearce having been sent across the world for an absolutely unnecessary reason.
In connexion with demobilization, I may refer to another matter. I notice that the Prime Minister appointed Mr. Heitmann, M.P. for Kalgoorlie, inspector of troopships shortly after that gentleman’s arrival in London, and that he also appointed Lieutenant Burchell to look after men who desired to remain in England engaged in different occupations. Those appointments savour too much of favours to Government supporters. These gentlemen may have been eminently suited for the work, but I think it is quite likely that, out of the thousands of soldiers then in London, from France, two could have been found equally capable of discharging those duties. There would then have been some small recognition of work done by soldiers. I do not believe in giving these spoils, if they are spoils, to the gentlemen referred to. As a matter of fact, I am very much surprised, seeing the Prime Minister- was working in that direction, that Sir John Monash got his position. I am surprised that Lieutenant Burchell, or perhaps Mr. Ryan, M.L.A., did not get the post of Director-General of Demobilization.
– Do you suggest that there is any pay ‘attached to the positions you refer to?
– I am not speaking of pay at all; but I venture to say that these gentlemen are not doing the work without remuneration, nor could it be expected of them. To my mind, it is not the right thing to do.
I come now to another matter in connexion with repatriation. I remind the Minister that some time ago I had interviews, in Perth, with several returned soldiers who desired to embark in the fishing industry. They were anxious to get assistance from the State Board of Repatriation, in order to purchase boats to start fishing on the north-west coast and elsewhere. They were not successful in their application, but since then I have made representations to the Central Board, and I believe the matter is now under consideration. We could very well assist returned soldiers in this industry, because fish is dear, it is a very necessary food, and it is not within the reach of the working class section of our community. It is well known that, in Western Australia, at all events, a Ting defies competition, and therefore money could very well be spent to’ encourage our returned soldiers to enter into this business.
So far as I have gone, I have been condemnatory in my remarks; but I turn now to paragraph 6 of the Ministerial statement, and find that the Government have not yielded to the demands of theImperial Shipping Ring, which threatened to extinguish the competitioncreated by the Commonwealth line of steamers. I hope the Government will hold fast to their determination to increase their fleet, and engage not only in trade and commerce, but also in the carrying of our mails to and from Australia and round our coast-line. I compliment the Government on their determination to continue the Commonwealth line of steamers.
Paragraph 7 deals with the Naval Buses and the visit of Lord Jellicoe.. Right from the start I have condemned, the action of the Government in arbitrarily closing down work on the NavalBase at Fremantle. I described it as nothing more nor less than a political job, because that work was regarded by Admiral Henderson as the primary Base for Australia. The evidence taken by the Public Works Standing Committee also strengthened this opinion. Naval Wit,nesses before that Committee stated that they were in constant and recent touch with the Admiralty, and that the advice received was that the work should continue. But shortly after we presented our report the Government determined to close down the works and bring out an expert from Home to further report on the whole question of naval defence. This was needless expense. It. was not necessary to bring Lord Jellicoe nor anybody else to Australia, because, as I have shown, the naval authorities in Mel-, bourne were in constant touch with the Admiralty, who advised that the work should be continued.
– You are arguing that the naval conditions of 1919 are the same as 1911. ‘
– I am not arguing anything of the sort. I am speaking of the report of the inquiry held in 1918.
– By whom ? ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ 1
– The Public.’ Works Committee. I think we presented our report in May, and a couple of months later the Government closed down, because some members of this’ Parliament were preaching economy.
Since then they have brought out Lord Jellicoe and his staff to report on the whole subject.
– Suppose Lord Jellicoe makes some other recommendation?
– I do not know what Lord Jellicoe will do. I am only speaking of the evidence tendered by the naval experts of this country on oath before the Committee referred to.
In paragraph8 mention is made of Commonwealth expenditure and the work of the Royal Commission which has been inquiring into this subject. That Commission has been sitting for a long time now, but, so far, we have not heard the resultof their deliberations, though we have heard something about the Treasurer using some sort of meat axe on the Departments, in order to cut down expenditure.
– Who is going to be the chopping block?
– I am wondering.
Paragraph 11 of the Ministerial statement refers to the Navigation Act. I agree with Senator O’Keefe that, if this Act had been in operation to-day, it would have gone a long way to prevent the present unfortunate maritime dispute. Even now, if the Government proclaimed the measure, and brought in the necessary amendments subsequently, the situation would be greatly improved. I have said from the start that, in my opinion, the seamen were wrongly advised. They should have taken a ballot which, I believe, would have given a majority in favour of arbitration. But it is no use now speaking about things that have happened. The damage has been done, and I think the Government should not any longer continue their present attitude. They say, through the Acting Prime Minister, that the seamen have broken the laws and have challenged the Government, and, they having done th at, the Government will not now interfere.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable senator says, “Hear, hear!” We must remember, however, that ‘large numbers of innocent women and children are suffering acutely as the result of this dispute.
– The Arbitration Court is waiting for the men.
– That is all very well. What is the good of the Government maintaining this attitude? Surely some attempt might now be made to get the representatives of both sides together, with the Government as an intermediary?
– Does not the honorable senator think that if every Federal Labour member sent a letter, advising these men to go to the Arbitration Court, it would have some effect?
– I am not in a position to answer that question. I do not know if the seamen would accept the decision of the Arbitration Court. I am only giving my opinion as to what should have been done at the outset. Unfortunately, it was not done, and the problem now is to so arrange matters as to start the wheels of industry again. One means of achieving this object is to proclaim the Navigation Act or, at all events, that portion which deals with the manning scale and the conditions of labour on the ships. It is well known that the majority of the vessels trading on our coast to-day do not offer seamen the conditions they would be entitled to under the Navigation Act.
– Let them go back to work, and we will see if we cannot get the Government to do it to-morrow.
– The Government have said that, these men having defied the law, they do not intend now to interfere. But I can quote an instance of the Government themselves flouting the law in connexion with arbitration proceedings: I refer to the reduction from 12s. 6d. to11s. per day of the wages paid to temporary clerks in Perth. These men had their case pending before the Arbitration Court under the Public Service Arbitration Act when the Government reduced their wages by 1s. 6d. per day. If that was not a flouting of the law. I do not know what the word means. This reduction of1s. 6d. per day affected many returned soldiers who had served two or three years in France and at Gallipoli.
– Were not those men offered arbitration ?
– They had their case pending in the Arbitration Court.
– Were they not offered arbitration and did they not refuse it ?
– These men had their case before the Court, and whilst it was pending the Government defied the laws of this country by reducing their wages. They then attempted to break the strike by sending ten clerks from Melbourne to Perth to take the places of the strikers.
– How many were on strike ?
– Including men and women, there were something like 150 hands on strike.
– They must have been ten miracle-workers if they were able to take the places of 150 strikers.
– But they comprised only a portion of those who were to be sent to Perth. The Government intended to send more. These clerks went to Perth, but they never put their pens to paper. I was informed by a very high officer in the Prime Minister’s Department that it was the intention of the Government to break the strike. I met him one day and he asked me. “What about this strike?” I told him what I thought of it, and he then said, “We are going to break it. We intend to send men to Perth until it is broken.”
– The men should not have gone on strike at all.
– They went on strike because their wages were reduced whilst their case was pending in the Arbitration Court.
– Why did they not go on with their case ?
– I know what Senator Lynch would have done in similar circumstances. He would not have gone on with his case.
– We never went on strike whilst we had a case pending in the Court.
– Because the honorable senator’s wages were never reduced whilst he had a case pending in the Court.
– If those clerks would go back to work I offered, on behalf of the Government, to do everything possible to expedite a decision in their case, and to make the award of the Arbitration Court retrospective.
– But the Government reduced their wages whilst their case was pending in the Court.
– I deny that absolutely.
– The Minister for Repatriation may deny it, but the facts are against him.
– The facts are against the honorable senator’s statement.
– Then let the Minister disprove them.
– I will endeavour to do so.
– It will take the honorable gentleman all his time. I note that the Ministerial statement records the disappearance of the Price Fixing Regulations. In any circumstances they were of no use. The prices of commodities were continually rising notwithstanding those regulations. But there still remains the increased cost of living to be dealt with.
– What about the cost of dying ?
– I hope that it will be a long time before either the . honorable senator or myself dies. The world needs us both for a long while yet. Right at the root of the industrial unrest in Australia is the constant increase in the cost of living. We are not to be disillusioned by persons who would endeavour to persuade us that Australia is the only country in which industrial unrest obtains. All over the world similar conditions are apparent.
– How can we deal with it?
– If we enact laws to prevent men raising the prices of commodities to such an extent that they derive profits of from 40 per cent. to 50 per cent., we shall at least have taken one step towards the solution of the difficulty.
– Do not be quite sure of that.
– .Who is getting those profits ?
– My honorable friend knows perfectly well that in Australia to-day certain individuals are making exorbitant profits at the expense of the poorer classes of the community.
– You can buy goods cheaper here than you can in London.
– That may be so. But two wrongs do not make a right.
– I have bought boots here for 25s., whereas in London I had to pay 35s. for them.
– I know of plenty of families in which the childre’n are obliged to go bare-footed because of the price of boots. Moreover, the fathers of these children are unable to provide them with meat.
– I went bare-footed when I was a child, and it is the best thing I ever did.
– Perhaps the honorable senator had to do it. But that sort of thing should not obtain in Australia.
I come now to the detention of Paul Freeman. I say unhesitatingly that it is the duty of the Government to publish the nature of this man’s crime. When they have done that, they should immediately grant him a public trial. Nobody can justify the continued detention of Freeman without a charge being preferred against him and without giving him a public trial.
– The honorable senator might say that about a thousand men.
– I have always said it. No man or woman should be kept in durance .vile without being charged, and without being given a public trial.
I am glad to learn .that the Government intend to seriously tackle the question of the Tariff. It is extremely necessary that the present Tariff should be revised. Australia, like other .parts of the world, is about -to undergo a period of reconstruction. We have thousands of men returning from the battle-field, and we are faced with a huge public debt. We must estab lish industries to provide the money with which to pay interest upon the debt. We must become an exporting rather than an importing country. I have always been a pronounced Protectionist. I regret ‘that our Constitution does not permit of the benefits of Protection being extended alike to the worker and consumer. When the Tariff is submitted for our consideration, I intend to exert my best endeavours in the direction of insuring that the men and women who are engaged in protected industries, and also the consumers, shall receive fair consideration along with the manufacturer.
Sitting suspended, from 1 to 2.30 ‘p.m.
– As more than six months have elapsed since Parliament last met, and as many international and Australian events of importance have transpired during that time, it is quite natural that members of the Senate should feel inclined to unburden themselves of some opinions with regard to” those events, more particularly as at the present moment they are not likely to be accused of wasting time, since there are not very many matters immediately ready for our consideration. I shall trespass upon the consideration of honorable senators by making a few allusions to certain features of the Ministerial statement. I promise not to attempt to allude to every paragraph in it. because it is of considerable length, and were I to do so I would inflict upon honorable senators a speech mot of halfanhour,. or three-quarters of an hour, but of several hours in length.
Although as yet the position with regard to the signing of Peace seems to be somewhat indeterminate, I venture to hope that we shall have news of that happy consummation during the next few days. The world undoubtedly desires peace, although there is a good deal happening at the present time throughout the world that is not of a peaceful character. I, as an Australian, say that Australia has nothing to gain from a state of war, and that, in the interests of this country, the sooner peace comes the better. One of our own poets has said that we are the only nation “ from the womb of peace,” that is to say, we are the only people, so to speak, born in peace, and, therefore, we should hope that our future will be one of peaceful development rather than of war-like enterprise. Of course, we have lately placed ourselves in a very prominent position in the eyes of the world by the assistance which we have properly and rightly rendered to the Empire, because the cause of the Empire was the cause of liberty, democracy, and humanity.
Some reference is made in the statement to the League of Nations. Despite the criticism which has been, levelled at the present plan of the League of Nations, I hope that it will be consummated, because I believe that, imperfect though its present provisions may be, it will make for peace. Australia, I think, requires, above all, half a century of peaceful development. “With that, and the increase in population necessary to cope with our colossal and continental needs. I venture to say that the troubles of the outside ‘ world will not unduly affect the Australia of our posterity. If w.e are to have future wars, I do not think that Australia will be really safe until she has a population of at least 20,000,000 or 30,000,000..
– And we are doing nothing to bring that about.
– I am sorry to say that we are not doing a great deal. There must be a social and moral regeneration of our people before the population of Australia can be augmented to the degree I consider necessary.
– And a change in our policy.
– And, perhaps, a change in our policy, as the honorable senator suggests.
Mr. Hughes has done a great deal in directions which have my personal approval, and I am altogether in accord with the sentences in the Ministerial statement which acclaim the Prime Minister for the very great work he has effected in advancing Australia’s interests at the Peace Conference and in the European arena generally.
T have said that the League of Nations does not meet with all-round approval. It evidently does not meet with universal approval, even in America, the President of which country is held to be one of the great moving spirits in regard to the
League of Nations. But imperfect though the covenant in embryo may be, I believe it. w 11 be found singularly effective in securing for the world a period of peace which is vitally essential to the development of Australia. I know that human nature does not change very easily, and I do not agree to the dictum that any League can altogether prevent the possibility of future wars. I am inclined to be more severely practical in regard to that desirable objective. I believe the main factor in preventing future wars will be found to be the probable terrible destructiveness of war. When I read the other day that there were, about the time of the conclusion of the, armistice, 100 American balloons loaded with a terrible explosive or poison called Lewisite* invented by an American professor, which would practically extinguish all animal, vegetable, and insect life on the areas upon which it might be dropped, I said that, terrible though the explosive might be in its effect, the fact of its existence might, perhaps, bring about a state of peace and amity between nations more readily than would the proposed League of Nations itself. I believe that war, as we understand it, will not be eliminated from the world until the people of the world recognise that a small nation in possession of scientific knowledge, which may be the world’s common property, will be at le to destroy a large nation as readily as a large and aggressive nation might destroy a small one.
– A question of getting in first.
– Yes. If an Empire or nation with a large population is aware of the fact that the resources of civilization of an intensely destructive character are at the dsposal of a small community, as well as at its own disposal, then, in my opinion, aggression, and many of the. evils which have hitherto afflicted humanity, will probably have a period put to them.
I sincerely hope, as an Australian, and as a human being, that we shall have at least fifty years of peace. There will always be some talk of rivalry in trade, in art, and in everything else amongst different peoples, but I want to see the
Australian people develop into such a position that they will be securely in possession of their own continent and its adjacent Territories. Therefore, I welcome the League of Nations, and I hope that although its operation at first may be imperfect, and it may be found that it will not secure some of the objectives it is designed to secure, it will, nevertheless, contribute a potent influence for good, for progress, and for the welfare of humanity.
There is a very momentous paragraph in the Ministerial statement which, I am sure, other honorable senators have not passed without notice. It is indicative of a remarkable change in our Imperial system. Our Empire, as it at present exists, is very different from any other that has hitherto existed, and we are not going to have in the same sense many more Empires. A well-educated Japanese said to me before the war that he believed that the Japanese Empire and the British Empire would be the two last Empires, and that monarchy, because it was based in those Empires on decent order and proper lines, would probably survive in them long after it had ceased to exist as a governing force in other countries. So true was the prediction of that Japanese gentleman that we know that at the present moment the British Empire and the Japanese Empire are really the only two Empires nowin existence. Within the last few years we have seen the Brazilian Empire go; the war has resulted in the downfall of the German Empire and the Empire of Austro-Hungary, and has broken up the Russian Empire. We know that the Chinese Empire a few years ago became a Republic, and that the Turkish Empire exists only in name. At the present moment we are faced with the fact that the British Empire and the Japanese Empire are the only two that remain in existence, and probably they remain’ in existence because they are the fittest to do so.
– What about Spain ?
– Spain has ceased to be an Empire. Her orators have long lamented the extinction of the Spanish Empire, and we know that a few islands in the Atlantic constitute Spain’s only colonial dominions at the present time.
I have said that I will not touch upon all the paragraphs of the statement, but there is one to which I may allude. I intend to refer to it in a quite different spirit from that which animated my honorable friend Senator Needham. The statement seems to attribute very great credit to the Minister for Defence for the successful demobilization and transport of Australian troops overseas. Undoubtedly credit naturally attaches to Senator Pearce while he is Minister for Defence of the Commonwealth. Even had he remained in Melbourne credit for the successful organization would undoubtedly have accrued to him as Ministerial head of an important Department. I say that whatever criticism may be levelled at Senator Pearce, the fact remains that he was Minister for Defence practically for the whole duration of the great struggle which has terminated so successfully for our arms and for the cause of Democracy. I am not going to deny great credit to the honorable senator. His has been a great achievement, and I have no doubt that if he sees fit to desire it, the Imperial authorities will be prepared to make their acknowledgment in some way satisfactory to him and to all patriotic Australians. But I do not think that it is right to attribute the success of the demobilization scheme in a direct sense to Senator Pearce.
– The Ministerial statement does not do so. The honorable senator is not mentioned in it.
– That is so, but we are told that -
The success which is attending this great task amply confirms the steps taken by the Government in placing the work in the hands of a responsible Minister in London.
I assume that that is a reference to Senator Pearce.
– The honorable senator is quite right in his interpretation.
– Who is the responsible Minister referred to if he is not Senator Pearce ? Senator McDougall’s criticism in regard to the letter fails in regard to the spirit. I say that Senator Pearce, even if he had remained in Melbourne, would properly and naturally have some credit attributed to him as head of the Defence Department, but to say that the success of the work is largely due to the presence of a responsible Minister in London detracts, to my mind, from the very great credit due to the organizing capacity of Australian military representatives at the Front. It is well known that I thought that Senator Pearce’s place to secure successful demobilization was rather at this end than in Europe. I recognise that the stress and strain of his four years of war administration must have been something terrible. We all know the expenditure of nervous force sometimes consequent upon the representation of the people by merely the rank and file in Parliament, and I am quite prepared to believe that the stress of Senator Pearce’s four years of office as Minister for Defence must have been very great indeed. He was a successful War Minister, and I for one would have been prepared to accept the responsibility at any time of voting a sum of money to give him a holiday. I do not grudge the few pounds paid for his passage to the Old Country, but I say that his place was here, and not there, and the demobilization was proceeding satisfactorily, and would have continued to do so, if Senator Pearce had remained in Melbourne at the head of the Australian military administration.
– The honorable senator would have found several on this side ready to pay for a holiday for Senator Pearce.
– I am glad to hear that generousindorsement of the view I take of the matter.
– Senator Pearce has got his holiday, and you have dodged the responsibility for it.
– The responsibility here is being borne by the shoulders of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen). For the problems of demobilization are inferior to those of repatriation, and one factor is closely linked with the other. The absence of Senator Pearce has undoubtedly added to the great responsibilities of Senator Millen.
– How can the honorable senator argue that? Surely Senator Millen’s burden has not been increased because of Senator Pearce’s absence ?
– I shall not argue the matter in detail at this stage. I have the greatest respect for Senator Pearce’s capacity, and, after all, in time of war nothing succeeds like success ; he was Australia’s War Minister during the four and a half years of strife which have now terminated so gloriously for our arms.
Reverting to my statement that the British Empire is different from all other Empires, and illustrative of that fact, I shall read a brief paragraph from the Ministerial statement which indicates the greatest change that has ever taken place in the history of the outer Dominions of the Empire. It is as follows: -
At the request of the Imperial Government, Executive authority was conferred upon the Australian Ministers to sign the treaty on behalf of the Commonwealth, but the adoption or otherwise will be dependent onthe will of Parliament.
In other words, with Imperial consent and assistance, the Commonwealth has, in a diplomatic sense, been elevated to the status of an independent community. There is a lesson in this for all the peoples of our Empire. It has been said by a philosopher that immortality comes to those who are fit for it. Freedom comes to those who are fit for it. The bounds of freedom become ever wider in this Empire of ours. Why has the Mother Country consented to our elevation to an international diplomatic status ? It is because we were loyal to the Imperial ideal in the time of Imperial and democratic stress, when peril beset the whole of humanity. There are other people within the Empire who are striving to secure something approximating to the freedom which the Mother Country has given us almost without our asking for it; and they should know that that freedom may be had by being true to the Imperial ideal. There is a lesson for all men who desire to be nationally and racially . patriotic, namely, that they should beloyal to the Imperial ideal. One might say, “Seek not to traverse by-paths. Throw in your lot with all the peoples that make up this great Empire, and everything shall be added unto you.”
– What about a bit of loyalty to Australia?
– The best way in which one can be loyal to Australia is to be loyal for the next fifty or one hundred years to the Imperial ideal. In all else than sentiment Australia today is completely independent. Her representatives - partly because of their incisiveness and force of character, and partly because of the loyalty and courage of the Australian people - have joined in the counsels of the nations of the world. They have been accorded complete international status. What more could we ask ?
I am particularly well pleased with the facts and figures given in the Ministerial statement regarding repatriation. I have thought that the burden imposed on the shoulders of one man was rather too heavy, and that, with all respect for the great ability of the Minister for Repatriation, I felt that he had a tendency to too greatly centralize the administration of the Department. But whatever may be one’s opinions in that matter, a very great success has been achieved, considering the magnitude of the task. If Australia’s legislators do not expect or promise too much, but will attempt to do things in the spirit of our repatriation legislation and of the Department, on behalf of returned soldiers,, then we shall stand preeminent in the display of gratitude to those who have fought for us and our ideals. I hope Senator Millen will seriously consider the reduction of the burden now on his shoulders. I have marked with satisfaction the concession of greater powers to the local Repatriation Committees; and, remembering the capacity of the Australian people for self-government, if those committees were to have their powers even further extended I do not think that ill would result.
– There is only one step further, and that is to give them an open cheque book.
– I do not know that we can altogether do that.
– That is the only step which remains now.
– We have heard that there will be some devolution of the powers of the Minister to certain Commissioners. I do not think it would be undignified if the Minister were to put that into practice.
– I wish the honorable senator would be more definite. If the machinery of repatriation can be improved I am anxious to improve it. But to say that the whole business centres in my hands is to overlook that there is a Commission in existence.
– I know that many complaints, are made by a comparatively sma’.l .percentage of dissatisfied men. I have personal knowledge of the characters of hundreds of returned soldiers. A very large proportion of our men have been generous in their testimony concerning the benefits conferred through the medium of the Repatriation Department. The great trouble, however, is that a small minority are very querulous. A man may be an exceedingly good soldier and yet may not be altogether fitted for civilian life. Many men who were, perhaps, unemployable before the war, probably made excellent soldiers; but those same fellows, upon returning, are likely to retain their pre-war characteristics. I do not know that very much can be done for them. Their natural inclinations are probably too strong to be overcome by even the most beneficent administration. When the Minister refers to the subject of repatriation I trust that he will be clear in explaining his statement that no further’ devolution of powers upon the local repatriation committees can be granted unless they are to be handed an open cheque book.
– And each committee allowed to be a law unto itself.
– There are even circumstances in which those committees might well make laws for themselves. In some cases the committees are much more capable of advising with respect to the value of local land-
– The Department does not actually control land settlement.
– I am aware of that, but I hope the Minister will explain his remark that no further devolution of powers can be granted to the committees except to confer on them unlimited financial authority.
– The new powers granted to them began to operate only recently. The honorable senator is possibly thinking of complaints prior to the granting of those added powers.
– That may be so. The Minister, no doubt, will fully en- lighten honorable senators respecting the whole subject.
I desire to refer now to that paragraph of the Ministerial statement which reads -
Thu influenza epidemic in our midst has caused regrettable loss of life and widespread distress.
Then follows reference to quarantine, and to the health powers still retained by the States. Reference to the scourge cannot be too pointed. It has taken toll already of several thousands of Australia’s best citizens; and, in its immediate social effect, it is more disruptive even than the death of our gallant soldiers in battle. A young man goes away to the war. Probably he has not many direct dependants. His decease arouses keen mental grief in his relatives, but its social effect is not so great as that of the death from influenza of a young mother who leaves behind her, perhaps, three or four weak and helpless children. Any State, therefore, in order to protect its citizens, is justified in taking advantage of all that nature may have given it in the way of isolation. If the safety of a people is the supreme law, the lives of the people must be synonymous with the safety of the State. It is true that important health powers still reside with the States, although quarantine matters are in the hands of the Commonwealth, and by virtue of this important health power, certain States did certain things, with the best possible intention, of protecting the lives of their citizens. The State of Tasmania by no means defied the constitutional rights of this Government, but in pursuance of its health powers, provided for a seven days’ quarantine; and it appears that the Commonwealth officers thought this period excessive. It may be that Tasmania’s geographical isolation contributed to the happy result that has obtained up to the present, but as nothing succeeds like success in regard to fighting an epidemic as well as in a war, let me say that the Government of Tasmania has successfully combated the influenza epidemic, and up to the present has prevented it from getting into that State. According to the law of averages, if it had got into Tasmania it would have taken toll of the lives of at least 400 or 500 citizens, and I contend that it is much better for Tasmania, if we can commercialize such an important social question, to save those lives than to save £1,000,000, or to . prevent a couple of millions being added to the State debt. The Acting Prime Minister, very much to my disappointment, and instigated I know not how, threatened Tasmania with complete isolation if it did not fall in with the wishes of the Commonwealth Government in regard to the period of quarantine.
– The disease got into the West in spite of precautions.
– But there is land connexion with the West, and none with Tasmania, which is geographically isolated in this respect from the mainland, and no doubt the State Government took advantage of that fact. By virtue of a power which vests in the Acting Prime Minister only, because of the existence of the War Precautions Act, the State of Tasmania was threatened with complete shipping isolation if the local health regulations were not made to conform with those of the Commonwealth. We were told that shipping, which is under the control of the Shipping Board, would be withdrawn, and Tasmania left as it is at present, in a condition of isolation as regards the outside world, greater than has obtained for the last eighty years. The position to-day is worse than it was in the whaling days. I am one of those who strongly support this Government, who believe it is in the interests of the Commonwealth that this Government should be kept in office. But I say that the Acting Prime Minister must have been suffering from some temporary aberration of intellect, probably due to ill-health and stress of office, when he threatened the Tasmanian Government with the exercise of an authority invested in .him, not to fight a State Government that was successfully combating an epidemic, but for the purposes of war. I have promised to allude to this matter, and while I cordially support the Acting Prime Minister, and think he has done a great deal in the way of useful work since the reins of Government have been in his hands, I certainly deprecate most strongly his action in threatening Tasmania, with the withdrawal of shipping because the Government of that State, in its solicitude for the welfare of its people, did not think it wise to accede to the demands of the health authorities in regard to shortening the period of quarantine.
– But Tasmania was holding up ships for seven days when a shorter period of quarantine was being observed in other ports.
– Can it be expected that because Tasmania declined to accept the view of the Commonwealth authorities in regard to this vital matter, its people would view with equanimity a threat that shipping would be withdrawn? Tasmania is isolated and dependent upon shipping, whereas all the other States of the mainland have rail communication through the capital cities.
-Action was taken because your Governmentfailed to honour its agreement.
– Of all the Governments of the States I venture tosay that the Tasmanian Government is the least hostile in its attitude towards the Commonwealth.
– I hope the Minister will tell us how the Tasmanian Government failed to honour its agreement.
– They promised, in common with the other States, to hand over all quarantine’ matters to the Commonwealth Government, and “ broke away “ from it.
– On this subject I feel sure that it would be as well if the Minister read the telegrams from Mr. Lee, the State Premier,
– I have read the agreement, which is more important.
– I can only say that Tasmania is the least disposed of all the States to break away from any obligations entered into with the Commonwealth.
– The Tasmanian Government deliberately failed to honour an agreement into which, in conjunction with the other States, it had entered.
– That agreement was made when they instituted the first period of quarantine at the beginning of the outbreak. Only when the Commonwealth authorities sought to diminish that period did the Tasmanian Government, in its wisdom and solicitude for its people, decide to maintain the original period determined by the Commonwealth authorities’.
– But we were crying out for shipping in the West, and you were holding it up.
– As I have already pointed’ out, there was rail communication with Western Australia. I feel sure that the Tasmanian Government would not, and dare not, in the face of local public opinion, recede from the position they have taken up.
– That is absolutely correct.
– I venture to say further that one of the factors in securing such a substantial victory for the National Government of Tasmania at the recent general election was its determined attitude and solicitude for the health of its people.
There is one other matter which is exercising my mind, and to which I will make allusion before I resume my seat. Other subjects are only indicated in the Ministerial statement, and may be dealt with when they are particularizedand brought before us in the shape of Bills. In paragraph 11 of the Ministerial statement, the following appears: -
No doubt that is very trite, and very true. What are we going to do about it?
The seamen, who obtained increased wages and improved conditions under an award by the Commonwealth Court in January last, have struck, and thrown idle practically the whole of the Inter-State shipping. The Government intervened with the object of averting the disorganization of industry, but the seamen declined the mediation of the Court. The Government has, in order to conserve light and power for essential needs, imposed restrictions on the consumption of fuel.
I am not oneof those who, by a tactless observation, would intensify the acuteness of an already acute situation, but I will say that the Australian people, one of the latest of the world’s Democracies, will have to address themselves to an immediate consideration of what constitutes a State, what are its powers, and what should be the attitude of its Government, not only in times of industrial crisis, but on all occasions. I am afraid that a certain flabbiness has got into the minds of the Australian people, and into the minds of many Australian Governments, regarding the conception of a State. 1 6ay, without any hesitation, that if a citizen in a Democracy, or even in an Autocracy, wishes to go about his lawful employment, and if the State flabbily refrains from protecting him to the utmost extent of its power, then for that individual the State, to all intents and purposes, has ceased to exist - the community power is no longer available to him. In Australia, unfortunately, the community power has not been available, quite recently, for the protection of men- who wish to go about their lawful occasions. Does the State exist for men who wish to do something in the way of lawful employment, to keep the necessary services of the country going? If it fails to afford men this protection, it has no community value, and I say that this Government had better immediately address itself to the question of setting the wheels of industry going, of calling upon all well-disposed forces in this community to bring about a cessation of this industrial unrest. Nothing else is so necessary in the interests of Australia at this juncture. My colleagues, Senator Earle, Senator Mulcahy, Mr. Mcwilliams, and 1 came over yesterday in a vessel, which, because of this atmosphere of unrest, brought only a few passengers from Tasmania, after having taken home a number of returning troops. She came over, I was going to say, with her holds empty ; but they were not empty. The cargo in that vessel has been carried across the stormy seas of the Straits, and along the coast of Tasmania three or four times. What is the community coming to when such a condition of affairs as that is allowed to continue? We must ask ourselves some serious questions, and expect some stern answers. No Government is worthy of the name which does not at once grapple with the situation. Let it be settled once and for all. If these people who talk about direct action - who will not observe the dicta of Courts, set up really for their especial benefit - are a minority in the community, does the Government which must, in a Democracy, represent a majority, think it is doing its duty if it sits still and allows the industries of the country to be held up by a minority? They must be the minority, otherwise they would be content with the legislative power which they could control in this Parliament. This is one of the questions that must be asked and answered. Only this morning I was reading in one of the latest magazines a well authenticated article on the condition of Russia. I find there - and surely it is ludicrously ominous - that the names .of two of these Russians who are prominent in the socalled government of their country at the present time, are Lunatcharsky and Dementieff. More fitting names there could not be. But even these representatives of the Soviets have had to tell the workmen in Russia that strikes are a form of treason to the nation, and that they will have to be dealt with in a very stern manner. In a Democracy in which properly constituted Courts for the settlement of industrial disputes have been established, the industrialists are guilty of treason against the community if they fail to take advantage of them, and resort to direct action. Direct action will have to be met by direct action, and the Commonwealth and ite component parts - which are represented by, in many respects, sovereign Governments - must assert the community power of the State. If the arm of the State is at all times to be paralyzed by the acts of a comparatively small minority of its citizens, what is the use of the State? All this flabbiness will have to be shed, and the Government, in- . stead of waiting to see whether a strike will peter out, will have to take the situation in hand, and appeal to all the forces of the community to set the wheels of industry going, despite the men who are on strike, and who, after all, may prove to be merely so many flies upon the wheel. The working man has no enemy in me.
If I secure an overdraft of a few pounds from the bank I have to pay interest upon it. I have no shares in breweries or in banks. I can get sufficient for my needs without this auxiliary assistance. I am not the slave of any capitalist. I am here in the interests of the whole community, and I say that the rights and privileges of the community must be asserted forthwith.
– The honorable senator does not expect the Government to move, does he?
– I do. I call upon them to marshal the forces of the majority, seize this thing by the throat, and finish it once and for ever. If the seamen have a dispute, the constituted Courts of the country are open to them. To avail themselves of the weapon of the strike is another form of war. We want peace, and not war. When the war between nations has come to an end, shall we not put an end to our own civil wars ? If some persons are going to appeal to direct action, let the Government also resort to direct action. There is too much flabbiness exhibited in dealing with these matters. There are hundreds of thousands of men in Australia who are willing to carry on the services of the State if only they are assured of the proper protection by the exercise of the community power. But how can they be assured of that when we have weak-kneed Premiers who hesitate to do the right thing when it comes to the pinch, and whose loudmouthed professions of their intentions are not translated into action when the cris:s comes? I really rose to emphasize the spirit in which I regard this particular paragraph in the Ministerial statement, and I do say that I expect the Government, if they claim to represent a majority of the people of the community, to take such action as shall prove that the power of the majority must prevail.
– In the Ministerial statement of policy I fail to find any paragraph dealing with the position at Canberra. Some twenty years ago the people of Australia agreed to unite in an indissoluble
Federation, and amongst the other conditions to which they then subscribed was one that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth should be located in New South Wales, at a spot not less than 100 miles distant from Sydney. Up to the present moment, however, there has been no effort of a persistent character to give effect to that undertaking. Indeed, everything seems to be centred in Melbourne, with more determination day by day and week by week. We hear honorable senators continually quoting the Melbourne newspapers, as if those journals represented the whole of the Commonwealth. It is time that this kind of thing came to an end. At Canberra we have an area of country which in many ways cannot be surpassed. We have there a magnificent supply of water,, and an up-to-date ‘power house, whose services have not been utilized save in the smallest possible manner - in short, we have everything that is required to enable us to found the Capital of the Commonwealth. But up to the present time the influence of Melbourne has been more than sufficient to prevent thu pledge which was given to the people of Australia being duly honoured. We are now told that nothing can be done in this direction because of the aftermath of the war. Previously we were informed that nothing could be done on account of the war. But now we are assured that no steps oan be taken to establish the Commonwealth Parliament at Canberra until the entire cost of the war has been liquidated. If that be so, it would be better to forever abandon the idea of establishing the Capital there at all. I regret that it is almost impossible to extract from Ministers their intentions in regard to this matter. The acceptance of a plan for the parliamentary buildings at Canberra has been delayed under one pretext or another for quite a number of years, and so far as I can gather, nothing in this direction is contemplated for a long time to come. Yet, it does appear to me that no very great difficulty need be experienced in removing this Parliament to the Capital site. I find, upon looking through a list which has been prepared that more than a majority of its members are in favour of removing there at the earliest possible moment. I am further assured by a well-known Sydney architect, whose opinion can doubtless be confirmed by members of his profession in Melbourne, that for the nominal sum of, say, £150,000, all the buildings required to suitably accommodate the two branches of this Parliament and the GovernorGeneral can be erected within the brief period of nine months. Such a statement should surely receive consideration at the hands of the Government, and if it be found practicable to give effect to this idea, the time is surely long overdue for the transfer of the Seat of Government from Melbourne to Canberra. We have there an area of nearly 1,000 square miles, embracing large tracts of good country which could be made available to returned soldiers practically free of cost. Yet the Government have not yet settled a single returned man there. To my mind they are not dealing fairly with this Parliament by ignoring their obligations to establish the Seat of Government in New South Wales, and in the very near future they will find amongst their own supporters such a volume of indignation concerning their inaction that they will no longer be able to disregard it.
The Minister for Repatriation has placed before us from time to time a very considerable number of documents, in addition to which he has made very many speeches, elaborating the work of his Department. Yet we find that it is most difficult for men who are entitled to consideration at the hands of that Department, to. obtain redress of their grievances. I propose to quote one of these cases in order to show that there must be a considerable number of returned soldiers who are not getting a fair deal from the Repatriation Department. Some time ago an officer came to me and complained that he was unable, although he had been back in Australia some six or seven weeks, to secure the amount which was due to him for deferred pay. He was one of those men who was exceedingly anxious to get out of khaki into civilian attire, and to assist once more in the production of wealth. His deferred pay, I believe, amounted to between £60 and £70.
– Is not that a matter for the Defence Department?
– Probably the hon- orable senator is right; but the operations of the Defence and Repatriation Departments are very closely interwoven. This man was quite unable to obtain from the Department the deferred pay, to the amount of between £60 and £70, to which he was entitled. He was told that the money had bean placed to his credit in the Commonwealth Bank. He was informed at the Bank that the money had not been placed to his credit, and finally he asked me to take the matter in hand. Such matters should not have to be dealt with by members of Parliament. The Government Departments concerned - should so manage that such a man would be able to get satisfaction at the earliest possible moment. When this man failed to get satisfaction he asked me to take the matter up for him, and I did so. On one occasion, long after office hours, I finally got into communication with the general manager of the Commonwealth Bank. He asked to see the man, and I took him along with mc. Most of the employees of the Bank had gone home, and the general manager was running the concern almost on his own. We saw him, and papers were produced showing th,at this man was entitled to between £60 and £70. After a short period the manager of the Bank agreed to give the man a cheque for £60. He has not yet been able to collect the balance. This man had been away for four years fight- inc for Australia. Part of the time he was in Egypt, about the Suez Canal, up and down the ‘Holy Land from Dan to Beersheba, and, I think, also somewhere in Mesopotamia. During his absence his good wife lived in a tent. The-first thing the returned soldier had to do with his deferred pay when he got it was to pay it away to a local land jobber to secure the right to live on a small block of land in the bush. One would have thought that this man1 would be entitled to get some money from the Repatriaton Department to provide himself with a home; but nothing of the kind. The Department does not make provision for such a case. It would appear that prior to his enlistment he occupied a position as military instructor to the New Zealand Forces. That occupation was,of course, gone when the armistice was declared, and this man has been trying ever since to secure some financial assistance in order to go into business and build a small home. So far, he has been quite unable to get it. I wish to direct particular attention to a fact which 1 think represents a very grave reflection upon the general manager and the Governor, if not also upon the constitution, of the Commonwealth Bank. This man informs me that he recently waited upon the Commonwealth Bank authorities and asked them for a loan of £100. That is not a very large sum, and he was able to give fairly good security and the guarantee of a well-known land auctioneer in Sydney. In spite of this, the Commonwealth Bank, which was supposed to do such a great deal for the people of this country, absolutely refused to lend the nominal sum of £100 to this returned’ soldier. If the Commonwealth Bank is prepared to lend money without limitation to those who desire to gamble in the foodstuffs of the country, and to the exploiters of the country, to enable them to still further exploit the people, and will not lend a nominal sum in such a case as that I have mentioned, I say that - whether it involves a reversion to political influence or not - in my opinion, the Governor and the general manager of the Bank should be informed in unmistakable terms that such a policy as that must cease.
– They would cease to be bankers then.
– If the Commonwealth Bank refuses to lend a returned soldier who served formore than four years at the Front the nominal sum of £100 in order to assist him to get into a business, it is notperforming the functions we expected that it would perform. This is a very serious charge to bring against the Commonwealth Bank, and one which demands inquiry.
– It would be a fine bank if it were run on the lines suggested by the honorable senator, and would lend money to any one who came along.
-There is no reason why it should not lend money to a man who requires assistance to build a home.
– It would be a benevolent institution .
– No.; this man was prepared to pay interest, and the repayment of the loan would have been guaranteed by one of the best-known men in Sydney. It appears to me that it is against the policy of the Commonwealth Bank to lend money for such a purpose. I do not for a moment expect it to be a charitable institution, but I do say that a bank that is prepared to lend money to enable exploiters to still further exploit the people would be doing far better service to the country if it lent money to those who are prepared to go into business and to erect homes for themselves.
– Why did not this man take advantage of the facilities already existing in New South Wales for his purpose?
– So far as I know, he tried all round, and failed to secure a loan of even the nominal sum of £100.
– Facilities for building homes are provided by the Government of New South Wales.
– That is only an advertisement.
– No; it is a very practical scheme.
– What about building societies in Sydney?
– I want to know why the Commonwealth Bank, if it lends money for the purpose to which I have referred, should not be prepared to lend a small sum to this man? The security would be good enough. The land is there, the home would be there, and the repayment of the loan would be guaranteed by one of the best-known men in Sydney. The fact appears to be that it is against the practice and policy of the Bank to lend money for such a purpose, and, if that be so, the Governor of the Bank and the general manager should be informed that it is not carrying out one. of the functions for which the people thought it was established.
– The honorable senator is arguing on the question of policy.
– I say that the Bank should be prepared to give the people of this country a fair deal.
– This man should take advantage of facilities provided by the State Government.
– I do not know the facilities offered by the State Government of New South “Wales, but I do say that the Commonwealth Bank would be doing the right thing in lending money to men such as the returned soldier I have referred to. He is the very type of man Senator Bakhap approves of. He is prepared immediately to get into civilian clothes and employ himself in the production of wealth. Surely such men are the men we want. We are told every day through the press, in this Chamber, and elsewhere, that what we most need is more production, and yet the Commonwealth Bank, which belongs to the people, refuses to lend to a man of this type the nominal sum of £100 upon excellent security.
– Why load the functions of the Commonwealth Bank whilst facilities are provided by the State Government ?
– Why not extend the functions of the Commonwealth Bank to embrace operations of this kind? This man fought for Australia, and on his return had difficulty in securing his deferred pay. When he did secure it, he had to pay away the whole of it to a land jobber at Cronulla before he could secure a place upon which to begin the production of wealth.
– What wealth is he producing at Cronulla?
– He purposed engaging in what issupposed to be a very profitable undertaking, and one which has not been exploited to any extent in Australia’. He proposes to engage in the production of squabs. He is an expert in the business, as is also his wife, and though he wanted but a little assistance in cash from the Commonwealth Bank, it was refused him. I say that he has not been given a fair deal. His case is only typical of the way in which returned soldiers are dealt with.
Another case came under my notice some time ago, in which a returned man with a wife and a family of six was particularly anxious to secure a very small area of land in New South Wales - not one of the fabulously extensive estates we read of. He desired to secure a small area of acres. It was certainly in a state of high cultivation, well planted with fruit trees in good bearing. In his opinion, it would provide him and his family with a competent living. The owner of the block asked £800 for it. I am unable to say whether that price was too high, but this returned man was exceedingly anxious to engage immediately in a useful employment. So far as I know, he has failed to secure any land whatever in the whole State of New South Wales. Correspondence to an extraordinary extent has taken place with the Lands Department of New South Wales. Inspectors have been sent to visit the block, but, so far, finality has not been reached. That is not the way in which to assist in increasing the production of the Commonwealth. Here are two men whose cases have come under “my notice, who are desirable citizens exceedingly anxious to do something to increase the production of wealth in the Commonwealth, and they are blocked on the very threshold of their endeavour. I say that the Repatriation Department, the Lands Department of New South Wales, the Commonwealth Bank or some other institution of the kind should be in a position to give financial assistance in such cases. Yet, so far as I know, nothing has been done. It was in December last year, I think, that the Senate almost unanimously agreed to the passage of the War Service Homes Bill. I am not quite sure what amount of money was placed at the disposal of the authorities thereunder. My recollection, however, is that the sum was practically inexhaustible. Despite that, and although an official was put in charge at a salary of £1,500 a year, or about £30 per week, and was provided with State staffs and offices, about seven months have elapsed, and not one building has yet been erected in the Commonwealth under the Act. The fact does not reflect credit on the Government. They deserve the greatest censure for their failure to put the Statute into operation. If an unlimited supply of money were placed at the disposal of the building trades, and of the architects and contractors in the various Australian cities, there would be innumerable homes erected in much less time than seven months. A very large number of Australians who have been abroad for the past four years are now seeking homes. Probably many of those men were formerly engaged in building, or in the production of building materials. To-day, however, they cannot get homes for themselves. Instances have come under my notice where houses, suitable for the accommodation only of four or five people, have been occupied by twelve persons, and even more. This overcrowding is more accentuated to-day than at any other time in the history of the Commonwealth. I am not going to advocate that our people should be reduced to making their homes in tents. That kind of life may be all very well as a holiday at the beach; but, in view of the enormous shortage of housing accommodation, and realizing, as I do, that there are probably very many tents obtainable from the Defence Department to-day, I would like to see them made available, at nominal cost, at the earliest possible moment, for those who cannot secure homes and are not averse from temporarily residing in tents.
– We have no tents, or very few, in Australia to-day. But we have given them 5,000 blankets and 5,000 yards of flannel.
– I am glad to hear of that. The cost of material for clothing is almost beyond the purchasing capacity of many people. The Government should wake up and ask those officers who have been appointed under the housing scheme when they intend to earn their salaries. If a private employer had secured a man at £1,500 a year, and had provided him with expensive staffs and branch offices throughout the land, can one imagine that he would tolerate such absolute lack of result as exists to-day under the Commonwealth Act? How long is it to continue? One of the main reasons for the high cost of house build ing to-dayis the extraordinary price of building material. While the Government are professing to be anxious to do so much for returned men, they have done nothing to reduce the cost of building material. According to newspaper reports, it is proposed to build some thirty-five houses on 1 acre in one of the Melbourne suburbs.
– They are only intended for working men. What does it matter ?
– I do not know whether such structures will be in contravention of local building laws, but returned men and their wives and families must secure shelter somewhere: and if the Government are not prepared to use the money which Parliament has placed at their disposal, they had better make way for an authority which will get busy. In New South Wales, some time ago, the State Government announced that they were going to do wonders. They built only a comparatively few houses. Nearly all of the homes in that State have been erected by private enterprise. But the New South Wales Government at least did something. The Federal Government, with all its powers recently granted, and with all its money, will apparently do nothing.
I desire to refer briefly to what seems an unsatisfactory condition of affairs at the General Post Office in Sydney. I admit that the building was erected many years ago, and that it is probably of faulty design in certain respects. The fact remains that to-day there are hundreds of employees absent from duty on account of influenza - a condition of affairs due in large measure to the draughtiness and ill-ventilation of the building wherein they have to work. Among those employeeswho are seriously inconvenienced are the telegraphists. It has been laid down by Dr. Chisholm, one of the best-known medical men in Sydney, that for these men six hours is a very fair day’s work. The telegraphists begin their day, I understand, at 8.30 a.m. and cease at 3 o’clock. On two days in each week, however, they are required to remain until 6 p.m. About forty men are involved, and in view of the extremely trying nature of their work (here is an exceedingly unsatisfactory state of affairs. Many of them are breaking down under the strain. It would be far better to increase the staff. The extra amount of money paid in salary would be more than balanced by the saving in sick pay. Six hours daily are the full limit for any man to work as a telegraphist. In most instances six hours are too many.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the hours of work during the present epidemic, when so many men are away ?
– I am not. No doubt the situation is much -worse now, when the staff is short handed. The telegraphists are asked to work on two days in each week for eight and a half hours. It is too much. Added to the exceptional nature of their duties, they are closely packed together, which makes their task all the more trying. Accommodation is altogether insufficient, and yet it is a matter which could be easily remedied. Possibly the authorities are awaiting the return of men from the war. in order to replace them in their former jobs. I do not know that that is so : but, in any case, the position must be relieved.
Debate interrupted, and adjournment question put, under sessional order.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 June 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1919/19190627_senate_7_88/>.