8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of a motion which has been submitted in another place, I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Thursday next.
If that motion is carried, I shall follow it with another for the adjournment of the Senate.
– I should like to know why it is proposed that we should meet again on Thursday next. If it is likely that the vote of censure which isbeing discussed in another place will have been dealt with by Wednesday next, and we can go on with business in the Senate on the Thursday, well and good; but if there is no chance that we shall be able to go on with business here on Thursday next, we might as well adjourn now until Thursday week, because it will be rather hard lines to bring honorable senators from New South Wales and South Australia on Thursday next merely to learn that it will be necessary for the Senate to adjourn again.
– The question raised by Senator Thomas is one which necessarily interests honorable senators, and one to which I have given some thought. But it is not possible for mo or for any one else to say that the state of public business in another place will be such as to afford us an opportunity to proceed with our work next week. However, on its merits, I should say that the motion which has been tabled in another place ought to be disposed of in ample time to enable us to pick up our work on Thursday next. On the other hand, in view of the known proclivities of institutions established for the purpose of debate, the business now under consideration in another place may not be concluded within that period. I submit to Senator Thomas that, even though we should inconvenience ourselves, it is better that we should be awaiting business than that business should be awaiting us.
– I understand that it isnecessary to pass a Supply Bill within a certain time.
– What is the latest date to which that may be postponed?
– I think that the Supply already provided for will run out onthe 16th or 17th of this month. The Senate has very rightly displayed a strong desire to have a reasonable opportunity to discuss Supply Bills, and if we adjourn over next week, it is possible that the next Supply Hill will come before this Chamber with an intimation that it is wanted immediately. I desire to avoid that if I can. I suggest to Senator Thomas that he should allow the motion to go, and, if on Wednesday next I find, from what is transpiring in another place, that I shall be under the necessity of moving a further adjournment of the Senate on Thursday next, I have no doubt that I can arrange with honorable senators residing in Melbourne to provide a quorum on that day to carry a motion for a further adjournment, and advise senators living in distant States by wire of what has taken place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Price of Bread in Great Britain and in Australia - Appeal to Civil Courts from: Decisions of Courts Martial.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I quite appreciate the reasons for the proposed adjournment of the Senate; but, as I may not come over from New South Wales on Thursday next merely for the pleasure of going back again on the Friday, I propose to take this opportunity to ask one or two questions. I ask my first question because of the manner in which the Minister for Defence and Senator Millen denounced me for saying that bread is cheaper in Great Britain at the present time than it is in Australia. This is my question -
Has the Leader of the Government had his attention drawn to the following statement, which appears in the Age of this morning: -
GREAT BRITAIN’S FOOD.
London, 28th February.
The Government has decided to continue the Food Ministry for a farther period of five years.
The bread subsidy is to be continued, but it will ‘be restricted to £50,000,000. The excess of the subsidy will be defrayed by raising the price of the 4-lb. loaf shortly from 9½d. to1s.?
I found myself abused by Senator Millen and contradicted by Senator Pearce when I asserted that bread at’ present was cheaper in Britain than it is here. That is whyI desire to know from Senator
Millen whether his attention has been drawn to the statement I have quoted 1 Senator de Largie. - Who pays the subsidy ?
– I do not desire to enter into a lengthy discussion, in view of what is happening in another place. The point I make is that quite a severe attack was made upon my reputation for veracity because yesterday I asserted that bread is cheaper at the present time in Great Britain than it is in Australia.
– But sugar is a great deal dearer in Great Britain.
– I am very glad that my honorable friends opposite shift from bread to sugar. I suppose that later on they will shift from sugar to something else. I am glad that sugar is cheaper here than it is in Great Britain.’ The Senate will not meet for another week, and here we have two Ministers, who speak with the responsibility which their office carries, who have almost given me the lie direct because upon the information before me I asserted that at the present time bread is cheaper in Great Britain than in Australia. I do not attach much reliance to the Age, but upon this occasion the statement I have quoted from the Age is one which I read in another paper some time ago in almost identical terms, and I was so satisfied with that source of information that I based upon it the statement which both Ministers flatly contradicted. As I may repeat my question again when the Senate next meets, I ask that, in the meantime, Senator Millen should make inquiries as to what the price of bread is at the present time in Great Britain.
– Was it not contended that the price of bread was kept down in Great Britain by the expenditure of £86,000,000 by the British Government in the shape of a subsidy ?
– And they propose to spend . £56,000,000 more to keep the price down to1s. for the 4-lb. loaf.
– That is a most desirable thing for them to do. I think that Senator de Largie will remember that many weeks ago in this chamber I suggested the adoption of the same course here to keep up the price obtained by Australian farmers for their wheat. Two Ministers have tried to dispute my statement by saying point-blank that it was untrue, or, to be within the bounds of parliamentary language, that it was incorrect, and the very next day a reputable journal in Melbourne publishes a statement showing that bread is cheaper in London than in Sydney at the present time to the extent of at least 3d. for the 4-lb. loaf. I think it is important that that should be placed on record.
– It is also important that the honorable senator’s varying opinion of the Age should be placed on record.
– I have never hesitated to express my opinion of the Age. So far as the press is concerned, I have lived politically without the support of any branch of it.
– What about the Worker ?
– Even without the support of the Worker.
I wish to get some information also upon another matter which may be regarded as serious by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). I hope he will pardon me for bringing the matter up at this juncture, in view of the adjournment proposed and the possibility that I may not be present when the Senate meets on Thursday next. I desire to ask the honorable senator whether soldiers who have been convicted by a court martial in Great Britain have an opportunity on returning to Australia of appealing to a civil Court against the military sentences passed upon them?
I assert that there are men coming back to this country who have been convicted undercircumstances which, if their version is to be believed, are regrettable. I do not pose as an authority upon the subject, but I understand that in Britain when the war ceases a soldier may appeal to a civil Court against the decision of a military tribunal. As I intend to put the facts which have been supplied to me before the Minister for Defence, I shall not make a public statement upon them at this stage. I have information of a most heart-rending case of a man who won three or four different distinctions, who states that he was robbed of his decorations at a trial which was most unfair and unjust. If any man is in gaol as the result of sentences by these military tribunals, and if there is an opportunity of an appeal to a civil Court in order to vindicate his character, he should now be given the chance. In ; a letter dealing with this particular case, counsel, a prominent K.C of London, said that if the man remained in Great Britain he would, when the war was over, have the right of appeal to the civil Courts, and added that he was quite prepared to take up the case. We have the British precedent, and I ask the Minister for Defence to do something to secure the same rights for these men in Australia.
– Dealing with the last subject first, I may say that the positions in England and Australia are not analogous, for this reason: The British Army was raised in England, and all the material witnesses to any prosecution are, therefore, readily available in the Mother Country, which is of comparatively small area. Australia, on the other hand, is a country of vast distances, and members of the Australian Imperial Force are now dispersed practically to the four corners of the earth. Some of them obtained their discharges in the United Kingdom, and some, at present, are in the United States of America. But we have adopted a practice which is, in all essentials, the equivalent of the British procedure. For minor offences we have a tribunal presidedoverby a Police Magistrate - in Victoria, Mr. Cohen - assisted by a returned officer and another officer with a knowledge of military law. All the evidence taken at the court martial is reviewed by this tribunal, which makes recommendations as to whether, in its opinion, the sentence should be wiped out or a remission granted.
– Does the accused appear before that tribunal ?
– The papers are available. Whilst the accused might be brought before the tribunal, witnesses could not be produced, except at very great expense and considerable loss of time. In some cases the sentence would probably havebeen served before the necessary witnesses could be obtained. For the more serious cases, the papers are sent up to the Attorney-General’s Department, and we obtain the advice of the Crown Solicitor as to whether there is . any justification for a mitigation of the sentences. This procedure differs from that in Great Britain only for the reason that, owing to the vast distances in this country, it is impossible tore-assemble witnesses in order to have a re-trial. There have already been many remissions and mitigations of sentences as the result of recommendations by this tribunal. If Senator Gardiner will furnish me with particulars of the case he mentioned, I will see that it is placed before the tribunal, if this has not already been done.
– Why not remit all sentences?
– Because many arc for criminal offences. Practically no soldiers are now undergoing sentence for military offences. Those who are serving terms of imprisonment have been found guilty of criminal offences. In one case I know of a prisoner committed a brutal assault on a fellow soldier. Many other sentences are for robbery from fellow soldiers, which is a criminal offence.
– The case I mentioned is one of conspiracy, but on the statement of the prisoner it looks like a conspiracy against him.
– I shall be glad if the honorable senator will send particulars of the case to me, so that it may be. reviewed by one or other of the tribunals.
– I shall do so.
– I come now to the other question raised by Senator Gardiner as the result of my interjection during his remarks yesterday on the AddressinReply. I have come to the conclusion that one is foolish to interject; because the man on his feet always has the tremendous advantage that the interjector has no chance of an explanation. I admit at once that, as my interjection stands in Hansard, it would appear that I had no case at all when I asserted that bread was twice as dear in England as in Australia, and so I desire to make my position clear. As honorable senators are aware,I have recently returned from England, and when Senator Gardiner was trying to establish his case that bread was dearer in Australia than Great Britain, I felt sure I was right in my interjection, because I was speaking from my own knowledge and as one who had recently been housekeeping in England. I said that, from my own experience, bread was twice as dear in the Mother
Country as in Australia, but not being the treasurer of the family, I now find that I was slightly in error. I shall, therefore, give the facts as they have been reviewed by one who is the treasurer of the family, and honorable senators will see that there was sufficient justification, on general lines, for my interjection. When we left Australia in January, 1917, we were paying 7d. per 4-lb. loaf, and when we arrived in the United Kingdom and set up housekeeping there we paid 10½d., but there was a vast difference in quality, the loaf in England appearing to be about three-quarters potatoes or some stodgy substance. We left England in September, 1919, at which time we were paying, in Golder’s Green, a suburb of London,1s. per 4-lb. loaf, and when we arrived in Australia, in October last, we paid 9d. To-day the rate in St. Kilda, where I am residing, is11d. per 4-lb. loaf cash. I may add that it would appear that our departure from England was well timed, as my wife informs me that on the week we left notification was sent out by our baker that the following week’s bread would be 15d. per 4-lb. loaf. I am prepared rather to trust my wife’s housekeeping bills than the cable news with respect to the bread prices in England, and I feel sure honorable senators will agree that my statement as to the price of bread in the Mother Country, taking it by and large, was not far out.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200304_senate_8_91/>.