8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Millen) give honorable senators any information as to the arrangements made for the conduct of business next week? It will be Easter week, and I am sure honorable senators would like to know the intentions of the Government as to the order of business, in order that they may make their own arrangements for Easter.
– Bearing in mind the very heavy programme of work which has been outlined for this session, and that it is necessary to ask the co-operation of honorable senators if we are to get ahead with our work, we propose to ask the Senate to conclude the consideration of theRepatriation Bill on the eve of Good Friday. It is assumed that it will then be the desire of honorable senators to adjourn, in order that they may catch their trains for distant States, and it is proposed that the adjournment should be over the following week, which, as honorable senators are aware, will be broken up by certain holidays. That, I venture to say, should be conditioned by our getting theRepatriation Bill out of the way by Thursday night next.
– Does the Minister propose to deal with the War Gratuity Bill if it comes here from anotherplace?
– I am afraid that it is unlikely that we shall get the War Gratuity Bill from another place before Thursday next. If I may make a vague reference to another and unnameable place, I may suggest that it is the desire of the Government that, if the Senate concludes its deliberations on the Repatriation Bill by Thursday next, the consideration of the War Gratuity Bill in another place shall also be concluded by that time.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories whether his attention has been called to a statement by Mr. E. F. Russell, secretary to the Implement Workers Union, to the effect that severalartisans are leaving Australia for England, where £4 10s. per week is being paid for forty hours’ work? How do the Government propose to carry out their stated policy for the encouragement of immigration, in view of the fact that wages are higher and hours of labour shorter in Great Britain than they are in Australia?
– The honorable senator mentioned this matter, but I have been unable to obtain the paragraph containing the statement referred to. When I have had an opportunity to read it, I shallreply to the honorable senator’s question as early as possible.
Mr. McLachlan’s Report.
–I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that during the last Parliament the Government deputed Mr. McLachlan, the ex-Public Service Commissioner, to make a report on the Commonwealth Public Service. If so, has the report been received, and will the Minister lay it on the table of the Senate ?
– The Government did request Mr. McLachlan to prepare a report, as indicated by Senator Thomas. The report has been received, and is now being considered by the Government in connexion with proposals which they contemplate submitting to Parliament, as indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech. Until the Government have finally determined the exact nature of the propositions they will submit to Parliament, it is not thought desirable to publish the report.
– Can the Minister say approximately when the report referred to was received by the Government ?
– I am unable to answer that question off-hand.
Payments on South AustralianWheat.
SenatorGUTHRIE asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Government of the Commonwealth declines to , pay any further dividend on South Australian1916-17 - otherwise known as “B” - wheat; if so, why?
– The Commonwealth Government have not declined to make any further payment on the South Australian 1916-17 Pool. No request to arrange for such payment has been made by the South Australian Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
A promise has also been made to guarantee a minimum price for the 1921 and 1922 crops, but this price has not yet been fixed.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information will he obtained and the honorable senator informed as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 and 2. As a result of information received that certain Indians were obtaining gold through unusual channels in Sydney, a search was made of five Indians who were about to sail in the s.s.Roggeveen, for Java and Singapore. When questioned, the men denied having any gold in their possession, but, on being searched, each was found to be wearing crudely made armlets weighing 1 lb. and upwards, one man, in particular, having a weight of 4 lbs. 6 ozs. on the upper portion of the arm. The gold was then seized by the Customs officers and found to be of a value of nearly £900. The Minister of Customs, in view of the very serious nature of the offence and of the efforts which, it is known, others are making to illegally take gold out of Australia, ordered the confiscation of all the gold seized. There is no doubt that the Indians knew that they were contravening the law by their action.
It is believed that a considerable portion of the money used to purchase gold was earned by the Indians outside Australia.
Consideration is now being given to requests which have been made for the reduction of the penalty imposed.
The following paper was presented: -
Public Service Act. - Promotion of H. McHugh, Department of Home and Territories:
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to make provision for the administration and disposal of the funds of Australian Imperial Force canteens, and for other purposes.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [3.10]. - In moving
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I desire to say that honorable senators will recognise in it an old friend of last session. It is very largely a machinery measure, and, with the exception of one clause - to which I shall presently refer - no new principles are embodied in it. As honorable senators are aware, Commonwealth immigration laws have now been in operation for quite a number of years; but during the past four years many events have transpired which have served to disclose weaknesses in our immigration legislation. The object of this
Bill is to tighten up the existing machinery in that connexion, so as to enable the principal Act to be more effectively administered. The Department which has control of immigration was originally designated the Department of External Affairs, but its title was changed some time ago, and it is now known as the Department for Home and Territories. In this Bill, it is proposed to make the necessary amendment consequent upon that change in the principal Act, and also to omit the definition which is there given of “ the Minister.” It is also intended to clothe the Minister charged with administering the Act for the time being with power to prevent any person who has been deported from Australia from reentering it, and to order him to be redeported should he gain re-entry by means of fraud. Now, for quite a number of years there has been in existence a system under which permits are granted to certain aliens to remain in this country for a limited time. These permits were frequently issued to students from countries which form part and parcel of the British Empire. In this measure, it is proposed to exempt Indians for a specific period from the arbitrary conditions which apply to other persons who may wish to become permanent residents of Australia, but who are deemed to be undesirables. There is one provision in the Bill to which I desire to direct special attention. Proposed new section 8a reads -
After section eight of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “8a. -(1.) Where the Minister is satisfied that, within three years after the arrival in Australia of a person who was not born in Australia, that person -
has been convicted in Australia of a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer;
is living on the prostitution of others;
has become an inmate of an insane asylum or public charitable institution; or
is an anarchist or person who advocates the overthrow by force or violence of the established government of the Commonwealth or of any State, or of any other civilized country, or of all forms of law, or who is opposed to organized government, or who advocates the assassination of public officials or who advocatesor teaches the unlawful destruction of property, or who is a member of, or affiliated with, any organization which teaches any of the doctrines and practices specified in this paragraph, he may, by notice in writing, summon the person to appear before a Board within the time and in the manner prescribed, to show cause why he should not be deported from the Commonwealth. (2.) A Board appointed for the purposes of the last preceding sub-section shall consist of three members to be appointed by the Minister. (3.) The Chairman shall be a person who holds or has held the office of Judge, or Police, Stipendiary or Special Magistrate. (4.) (a) If the person fails, within the prescribed time,to show cause why he should not be deported, or
the Board recommends that he be deported from the Commonwealth, the Minister may make an order for his deportation, and he shall be deported accordingly. “(5.) Pending deportation, the person may be kept in such custody as the Minister directs.
That provision is largely based upon the principles which are laid down in the Illegal Associations Act which was passed by this Parliament some time ago.
– Before any trouble existed at Port Darwin that measure was submitted by me for the consideration of members of this Chamber. Under the proposed new section which I have just quoted, no deportation can take place without the accused person being first tried by a Board of Inquiry, one of whose members must be a judicial officer. These principles are not entirely new to Australia, and owing to conditions which arose out of the war they have been adopted, though in a much more drastic form, in the United States of America. Canada and New Zealand have also legislated upon similar lines, while South Africa contemplates doing so. In Great Britain the Secretary of State has been vested with power to prevent any alien or other person who is deemed undesirable from landing there without first obtaining a permit from the Minister. A good many cases have arisen in Australia during the war period which point to the necessity to our taking to ourselves all the powers that are requisite to adequately protect this country. The Bill also deals with the grouping of idiots and of persons suffering from dangerous diseases. The purpose of the measure is to clothe the Government with authority to exclude from the Commonwealth those races whom we do not desire to enter it. I take it that we. are all agreed as to the need for dealing drastically with persons suffering from dangerous diseases, so that really the only question we have to determine is whether we shall extend the powers conferred by the Bill to those individuals who believe in obtaining reforms by means of anarchy and violence. I feel sure that no serious objection will be raised to their exclusion from this country.
– All that the Bill will do has been done in the United States of America for some time.
– Yes, but in that country the provisions contained in this Bill have been adopted in a much more drastic form.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grant) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24th March (vide page 660), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I am sure the Senate is obliged to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) for his very excellent review of the work of his Department since its inception up to the present time. The figures quoted by the Minister and information given were most illuminating and valuable. It was not contemplated that the Act would never require amendment, and I do not suppose that this will be the only alteration of the measure found to be necessary. The work done by the Commonwealth Government for our returned soldiers is quite unparalleled, so far as I know, in the world Prior -to the recent great war, men who returned from the army to civil life, perhaps crippled and unable to look after themselves, had to shift as best they l could, without pensions or any other consideration. Apparently, that time has gone for ever. I remember that, after the South African war, Australian soldiers upon their return to Sydney were marched to the Victoria Barracks, received, perhaps, the money due to them, and were discharged. Many, indeed, are of the opinion that to this day they have not been paid all the money due to them, but that position of affairs, I trust, has gone for ever. The Government and Parliament, acting in full accord with the wishes of the people, launched this scheme to provide very considerable assistance to our returned men. I, for one, do not say that too much has been done for them; they can never be repaid for the services rendered to Australia.
We were told by the Minister that the total enlistments numbered 416,809, and embarkations 327,239. This was a very commendable performance for the Commonwealth; but, had it not been for the conflict caused by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) for reasons of his own in regard to the conscription issue, very many more would have enlisted and embarked for the Front. The conscription campaign, I believe, prevented a large number of men from offering their services.
– Possibly we got as many .men as could have been expected, in view of the attitude of your party.
– More men enlisted during the time the Labour party was in office than since then, and we got all the men under the voluntary system. I repeat that the effort made by the Prime Minister, for reasons best known to himself, and perhaps known also to the other members of the Ministry, to impose conscription upon the people, did not result in a single additional enlistment. On the contrary, in my judgment, it embittered the people and prevented many men who otherwise would have offered from doing so.
– The voluntary system was almost exhausted long before conscription was mentioned.
– And yet a con- siderable number enlisted afterwards. As a matter of fact, enlistments were reported right up to the last day of the war.
– Without any assistance from the honorable senator’s party.
– That statement is quite incorrect, though it has been repeated by honorable senators opposite on many occasions. The great bulk of the men who enlisted were members of trade unions and belonged to the Labour party.
– But they did not enlist with the advice of the honorable senator and his party.
– They had my advice and the assistance of the Labour party. It was members of the honorable senator’s party who, for reasons best known to themselves and without the slightest justification, divided the people into two hostile camps on the conscription issue. Only then was any opposition raised; but as I have already said, enlistments continued right up till the signing of the armistice, and a good many more would have offered but for the attempt to foist an objectionable system upon the people.
We all regret the enormous number of Australians dead in the war, 59,130. Our total of killed was about three times higher than was that of Belgium, and very much higher than that of the great American nation and of Canada. The part taken by Australia in the war, under the voluntary system, was creditable from every stand-point.
In the course of his remarks yesterday the Minister endeavoured to show that the work of demobilization was immensely accelerated by the presence of Senator Pearce in England. I do not know what Senator Pearce did, but I understand the task of demobilization was handed over to General Monash, and as the Government had control of practically all the shipping available, I am not prepared to subscribe to the view that the work was performed with- any extraordinary celerity. Probably it was carried out in just the ordinary manner. Perhaps it. could have been a little more expeditious, and, on the other hand, it might have been a little slower. We have been told that, even at the present time, there are 1,768 men still abroad. What they are doing I do not know, but I have been informed that a considerable number are absent without leave, though I may not have been correctly informed on this point. Whatever may be the reason for the delay, we would all be pleased to see them return to Australia as soon as possible.
The Minister has complained that in New South Wales only 18.3 per cent, of the men employed on railway construction work are returned soldiers.
– Railway construction work financed by the Commonwealth Government.
– Yes, that is so, and I may point out that the policy of tho New South Wales National Government is supposed to be preference to returned sol diers. They did not intend to give effect to such a policy. As a matter of fact, I do not think the returned men are particularly anxious to engage in railway construction work. Of all occupations available to men at the present time, there are few more arduous than railway construction work, and it would not be surprising to me if a considerable number of returned men failed to apply for work of that character. The Minister has not submitted particulars of the percentages in South Australia, Western Australia, or in Victoria, which may be more or less. He has also failed to submit particulars concerning the percentage in Queensland, and has dealt only with the National Government of New South Wales, which has been financed by the Commonwealth Government, and which has failed to show preference to returned soldiers. We cannot expect such, a Government to show much consideration to these men. If any really good positions are available in that State, the Government do not even consider applications from returned soldiers. The other day the position of Chairman of the Public Service Board, carrying a salary of £2,500 per year, became vacant, and returned men did not have an opportunity of submitting applications, whilst a man who had never been near the’ front was selected to the office. Notwithstanding the boasting of preference to returned soldiers, when the position of Agent-General- of New South Wales became vacant, returned soldiers were not nonsuited, and the position was given to Mr. D. R. Hall, one of Mr. Holman’s colleagues and friends. I do not know whether that gentleman is competent to fill the position, but I know that there are thousands of returned men quite as capable of performing the duties attaching to that office, whatever they are, as is Mr. Hall. Returned soldiers never had an opportunity of applying for the position, and I do not think that they even raised their voice in protest against the appointment. Only the other day the Millions Club, an intensely patriotic body, desired to obtain the services of a competent secretary, who would be able to waylay and direct the attendance at the Club of any person of note who might come to that State. I suppose there are no more demonstrative and loyal men than the members of the Millions Club, but, although a; number of competent men who had been abroad to fight for their country applied for the position, they were turned down to make room for the late private secretary to a Premier of that State. I have quoted three glaring cases where preference to returned men was entirely ignored. Notwithstanding this, the Minister complained that only 18.3 per cent, of discharged soldiers are employed in railway construction work in that State. Perhaps the most startling instance of inactivity in this direction is that during the recent New South Wales State elections in the Cootamundra district we witnessed the spectacle of the Premier of the State contesting a vacancy with a returned soldier, which, I suppose, was a perfectly fair thing to do, but an arrangement was made whereby the Premier, Mr. Holman, was to receive the No. 1 votes, and the returned soldier the No. 2 votes.
– Can the honorable senator inform me what bearing this has on repatriation ?
– The Minister has’ complained of the small percentage of returned men engaged on railway construction work .in New South Wales, and has stressed the point that preference has not been shown to discharged soldiers. I am supplementing that statement, and pointing out that the principle has not been recognised by others.
– I had overlooked the fact that the honorable senator “was discussing the New South Wales election, but, now my attention has been called to the matter, I may say that he is npt entitled to discuss that question on the second reading of a Repatriation Bill.
– Do I understand that that is your ruling, Mr. President?
– Yes; the matter is irrelevant.
– Under those circumstances, I shall not proceed further in that direction.
I desire to make some observations in connexion with the war service homes. When the War Service Homes Bill was before this Chamber I followed its provisions very closely, and favoured an unlimited sum of money being placed at the disposal of the Minister.
– The provisions of that measure did not place one penny at my disposal.
– At any rate the Minister has had the use of it.
– Not by the passing of that Bill.
– The money was made available, and a few millions have been spent. Parliament placed sufficient money at the disposal of the Minister to enable him to proceed with the erection of homes. It is easy to be wise after the event; but I think -that a mistake was made, particularly in view of the increasing cost of building material, in that prompt steps were not taken when the Bill was passed in December, 1918, to proceed at once with the erection of homes. We find to-day, notwithstanding the fact that we have a Commissioner, and possibly a Deputy-Commissioner, in this State, and Deputies in the other States, that, according to the Minister’s statement, only 152 houses erected by the Commissioner are in occupation. That is not a very good performance considering the resources placed at the disposal of the Minister. We are informed that there are 1,255 in course of erection and 681 for which contracts have been. let. Tenders have been called for an additional 3,703, and although this indicates some progress, the number of houses completed and ‘occupied is very small. If more can be done to accelerate the construction of homes it is the duty of the Minister or the Commissioner to expedite the work in every way. I no.tice : from the speech delivered by the Minister for Repatriation, copies of which he has been good enough to supply to honorable senators, that it was intended when the Commission was appointed to direct particular attention to the erection of houses on the group system. Permission was also given to, the Commissioner to purchase houses already built. I am not sure whether I have correctly followed the figures supplied by the Minister, but if I have it would appear that some 3,607 houses already erected have been purchased by the Commissioner. If that is so, I feel certain it was never contemplated by the Senate, and certainly not by me, that the Commissioner should exercise such power, except in very urgent cases. I believe it was contemplated that the Commission should erect new houses, and thus increase the number available for occupation, but the total number of new houses erected by the Commissioner and under the direction of the Commonwealth Bank to date is only 152, so that apparently what has been done is to purchase 3,455 houses already built. That line of action should be discontinued at the earliest possible moment, and the Commissioner should be directed to expend all his energies and all the energies of his staff, not in purchasing houses or paying off mortgages, but in erecting new houses. The difficulty of securing housing accommodation to-day, especially in the large cities of the Commonwealth, is enormous. Many women have to roam around day after day and month after month in an endeavour to secure homes, and their numbers Are increasing every w,eek. When the number of men coming back is taken into consideration the relief given by the Commissioner is infinitesimal, and his efforts in this direction should, if possible, be hastened. The difficulty of securing houses is increasing every day. Premiums are being given, and extortionate rents are being demanded, and must be paid. It is quite common for two or even more families to have to occupy a cottage or house intended only for one.
– Will the honorable senator show how we can get bricks when in consequence of the strike preventing the supply of coal all the brick-yard.s are shut up?
– What does it matter whether they build or buy houses so long as the soldier gets his home ?
– It makes a very great difference whether you increase the number of houses or not. I do not know any returned men, nor do I believe that there are many of them, who would desire the Commissioner to purchase houses for them and turn the other tenants out. There may be some returned men of that type, but I am sure their number is very limited. What the returned men want is to- get new houses of their own built at the earliest possible moment, and not to purchase houses already built. I should imagine that many of these bargains are not too good.
– Please do not pass away from my question.
– I have not forgotten it. I shall come back to it, and show the honorable senator how houses can be built cheaply. I shall then expect him to have the courage of his convictions, and stand up to the problem.
– I want you to have the courage to answer my question.
– The strike is not on now.
– It was on for months. We are now getting all the bricks the brick-yards are turning out, and they are insufficient.
– The strike was a very small one. The maritime strike was not of very long duration, and the supply of coal was not very long kept back. ‘ All the brick-yards, so far as I know, are now working full time.
– Industries were paralyzed for more than half of last year because of the seamen’s and engineers’ strikes.
– They were paralyzed for some little time.
– For six months in the year.
– That is some time, certainly. I should imagine that the construction of houses singly should be much more costly than their construction in groups. Personally 1 favour the idea that returned men should as soon as possible forget that they went to the war, and realize that they are back again as citizens. I, therefore, do not like the idea of grouping them into small semi-villages of their own. I very much prefer that they should have houses built amongst their friends and in the localities where they are known. Even if it is more costly, as of course it is, to build houses in that way than to build them in groups, we ought not to endeavour to segregate these men from the rest of the community.
I understand that some objection has been raised in .certain quarters to arrangements made in accordance with an agreement tabled in this Chamber with the Commonwealth Bank and also to the payment of 3£ per cent, to the Bank’s architects. That may or may not be too much. Five per cent, is quite a common thing for architects to charge for supplying plans and specifications and for supervision, and I believe that recently, in accordance with the upward trend of affairs, they have increased their price to 6 per cent. Many, if not all, of the houses erected by the
Commonwealth Bank were erected as individual structures, and their construction required to be supervised. Although a charge of £24 or £25 for .each house may seem at first sight a fairly large sum, it must not be forgotten that such a house will take from two to three months to build, and require several visits from some one on behalf of the architect, that specifications cost a little, and that the cost of the office staff must be taken into consideration. I do not .know, therefore, that £24 or £25 extra for a house is too much in the circumstances. When, however, the houses are erected in groups, the cost should be very much less. I learn from, remarks made by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) that it has been decided to terminate the agreement with the Commonwealth Bank, and in future to leave the whole work of construction under the direct control of the Commissioner. It is inevitable, if the requirements of the soldiers are to be met in the way in which it was intended by the Commonwealth Bank to meet them - that is, that each house should be constructed upon land purchased’ by the soldier himself, or which he may have held, and that they should be built singly in different localities - that the Commissioner will not be able to carry out their construction at the same rate as he has been able to show under the group system. We may, therefore, fully expect that the cost will be considerably advanced, and probably the £100 mentioned by the Minister will be about sufficient to meet the added cost - at least for a time. The sum of £800, including the cost of land, is fairly substantial for an ordinary workman in this country to have to pay, or begin to pay, for a home. A man earning £4 or £5 a week, with a wife and small family to keep, if he takes on the operation of paying for a £800 house, will be fairly old before the purchase is completed, if it ever is completed.
– He might have to pay more as rent, and never have any title to the house he occupied.
– That is quite true, but still my statement that there will be a millstone around the returned soldier’s neck for the balance of his life is quite correct. I understand that it is proposed that ho should be able to complete the purchase of his house in something like thirty-seven years. I do not know how much he will be required to pay per week, but when rates, taxes, and repairs due to depreciation are taken into consideration, I believe I am right in saying that it will take him practically the whole of his life to complete the purchase of his home.
– What rental would such a man be likely to pay per week for a rented house ?
– Possibly £1 per week.
– Then for less than £1 per week under the repatriation scheme the returned’ soldier will be gradually acquiring the ownership of his house.
– There is .a good deal to be said in favour of the scheme, but the task in front of the returned soldier will certainly be a very formidable one.
– In the one case he would pay rent and secure nothing but the occupancy of a house, but, in the other, he would make a payment which would be less than rent, and would gradually secure the ownership of his home.
– I am merely suggesting that it will take the returned soldier a very long time to secure the ownership of his home under this scheme. E have noticed that the War Service Homes Commissioner has informed the Minister for Repatriation that tenders were invited for the construction of 64 houses at one place, and that a tender to build them at £654 each was received and turned down. The Commissioner estimates that he can build those houses for £527 each, representing a saving of £94 on each house. Tenders were invited also for 150 houses at Carnegie, and a tender was received to build them for £791 each. The Commissioner estimates that he can build those houses for £597 each, representing a saving of £194 on each house. That is a very substantial reduction indeed, but I see no reason why the Commissioner should not be able to make such a .reduction. With a sufficient supply of money, and his credit good, he will be able to buy largely the materials he requires, and will be able to keep a staff of men continually employed. He should be able to carry out the work of construction cheaply, especially when he will be building on the group system and the day labour system. The Minister for Repatriation does not believe in the day labour system, aud has never advocated it, but I am glad that he has been forced to admit that under the control of the War Service Homes Commissioner it will be found very much more economical than is the contract system. I hope that the Commissioner will not be deceived in his hope to carry out the building of those homes at a lower cost than that estimated by those who submitted tenders for their construction.
The Minister has been very silent, as he always is, on the question of how much the returned soldier is to be asked to pay for his land. I should like some information on that point. I have remarked on one or two occasions before, that it appears to me to be an extraordinary thing that when the men who left this country - which honorable senators, speaking loosely, characterize as “our own” - return to Australia, instead of being presented with a small block of land free, they are required to pay, probably, £200 for land.
– No. The value of the land is included in the £700 limit.
– How much will the land alone cost?
– I am speaking now by-and-large, but the average price per allotment will .possibly not exceed £70.
– When the soldier, having fought for Australia, comes back to this country with its area of 3,000,000 square miles, he is to be asked to hand up £75 before he can secure a small site on which to build a home.
– Can the honorable senator show how he is to get the land cheaper than we propose?
– I can show the Minister exactly how it could be done. If he has any regard for the returned soldier, is prepared to do the right thing, and will face some little public opposition, I shall back him up. All that he has to do is to induce the Government to bring down a measure to impose a straight-out flat rate-
– Order! On the motion which was discussed last night, the honorable senator might have dealt with the matter to which he now desires to refer to his heart’s content, but he cannot, discuss it on this Bill.
– I think that it is unnecessary that I should do so, because the Minister for Repatriation knows exactly what I was going to say. If the suggestion which I am unable to voice: were adopted and acted upon by the Government, the returned soldiers would not be required to pay SO large a sum for their land. Some people may not regard £75 as a large sum, but for those who have nothing, and. particularly for those starting in life, it is a substantial amount, and the Government might very well relieve the returned soldiers of the obligation to pay it.
When they come to deal with the question of the increase in the cost of building materials the Government are faced by a different proposition. I understand that in another place action is proposed which will still further enormously increase the cost of galvanized iron. The cost of timber, bricks, and, indeed, all building material has advanced considerably.
– What proposal does the honorable senator refer to as likely to increase the cost of building materials?
– The passing of the new Tariff Bill.
– The honorable senator believes that a Tariff makes things dearer ?
– I do indeed, and I am sure that Senator Millen is of thesame opinion.
– Order ! The honorably senator is not entitled to discuss the Tariff on this Bill.
– I am not discussing the Tariff. I am merely making an incidental reference to it.
In the course of his remarks the Minister for Repatriation expressed surprise that Australian boys have evinced so little desire to become either bricklayers or plasterers. It is no surprise to me, because, with perhaps the exception of the work of quarrymen, of all branches of the building trade the work of plasterers and bricklayers is, perhaps, the hardest.
– What about the chap who carries the hod ?
– He is a labourer, and I do not know that he works any harder than does the bricklayer. There is very little hod-carrying now. The work is largely done by lifts operated by machinery. It is said that the bricklayer receives a wage of £1 per day, but that is by no means a high wage when we know’ that in the United States of America men receive as much as 5s. per hour. The bricklayer is exposed to all weathers, and very often has to wait for bricks or because the carpenters on a job are behind with their work. It does not follow that because his wages are fixed at £1 per day he earns £6 per week. Very often the wages of a bricklayer will not amount to more than £4 per week, and his occupation is a very trying one. The best test of the nature of any kind of work is the number of people anxious to engage in it. If a good position is vacant a very great number of people will apply for it, but when bricklayers are advertised for it is often found hard to get them, especially at the present time. That is the reason why Australian boys refuse to engage in that business. The same thing may be said, perhaps with greater force, about the work of the plasterer. It does hot surprise me in the slightest degree that Australian boys should be reluctant to engage in either of these trades.
– That is an accusation of laziness against Australian youths.
– It is not a charge of laziness against Australian youths, but au indication of the unpleasant nature of the trades referred to. I would not say for a moment that Australian youths are lazy, but they object to this particular’ line of business because of the nature of the work.
A complaint has been made that bricklayers are refusing to work for more than forty-four hours per week. That is quito long enough for a bricklayer to work, and I am surprised that men engaged in that trade have been content to work for fortyeight hours per week for so many years. There would be no occasion for men to work so many hours per week in this country if a few more people did a little bit of work now and then. I was reading the other day a speech made by the late Sir Henry Parkes when the stonemasons of Sydney determined to reduce their hours of labour from ten to eight hours per day. It was then predicted that their action would result in chaos, ruin, and very many other terrible things, but the hours were reduced to eight per day, and the sun rose and the rain fell just as usual. Later on, when the stonemasons’ hours were further reduced to forty-four per week, which the bricklayers have now also secured, things went on just as well as ever. If the War Service Homes Commissioner and the Minister for Repatriation imagine that the bricklayers will be induced .to work for more than forty-four hours per week, let me tell them that they may abandon the idea altogether. Forty-four hours per week is about 8£ per day for five days per week. It is long enough for any man to work at such a trade. I personally am surprised that the bricklayers do not demand eight hours per day and only five working days per week.
– Order! This is not an industrial measure, and I must ask the honorable senator not to deal at length with the matter.
– I wish to make it clear that there is no hope that the bricklayers will undertake to work longer hours.
– That is not suggested in any way by the Bill. The honorable senator’s remarks might be in order if he were discussing industrial matters, but they are not in order in the debate on this Bill.
– The Minister in charge of the Bill referred to the matter, and gave as one of the reasons why the cost of soldiers’ homes might be increased the failure of the bricklayers to work more than forty-four hours per week. That is. quite long enough. The hours might very well be shorter.
To my mind, the extension of vocational training in the way that was outlined by the Minister embodies a very good idea. I have taken the trouble to visit a number of vocational training schools, and there I found that the students were chiefly engaged in making articles of no particular value. Profiting by experience, the Commissioner has now decided to train a limited number of boys not in the schools, but where they can most speedily become efficient, namely, right on the jobs. That is what the employers have been doing from time immemorial. It is the only way in which lads can be efficiently trained. So long as the Commissioner keeps within reasonable bounds, his action in this connexion is entirely commendable, and should, I think, be extended to other trades than bricklaying. Obviously, he will have a lot of work to do in the future, and it is ten times better that efficiency should be developed amongst the lads by practical experience on the job than that they should attempt to acquire it in the training schools.
– The trade unions insist upon the lads so employed being limited to 1 per cent, of the workmen engaged, and the Department is observing this limitation.
– The trade unions are quite right in insisting upon such a limitation. But the Commissioner might employ a number of lads in the way I have suggested-
– I understand that he is right up to the trade unions’ limit now.
– Consequently he cannot do what Senator Grant is asking him to do.
– The Commissioner is .already doing it, and he is acting in accordance with the desire of the trade unions concerned. I did not suggest that he should attempt to train more lads than is permitted under the various awards, but I do say that practical experience on the job is the only way in which lads can obtain a thorough knowledge of their trades.
I would like the Commissioner to pay a good deal more attention than he has done to the land we possess at Canberra. There are great possibilities there; but, as far as I can ascertain, he has not yet built any houses upon the site for the Federal Capital. There . a returned soldier would not be required to pay £75 for a microscopic allotment, but would probably be able to rent an acre for ls. per year.
– What would a returned soldier do for a living there?
– While houses were in course of erection he would find employment in building them. If he went there now he would probably secure an acre of land for an annual rental of ls., which is quite enough for any returned man to pay. Indeed, it is the maximum that any individual who fought for Australia should be called upon to pay. I would like the Commissioner to devote some attention to the erection of houses at Canberra.
– It is a wonder that the honorable senator does not suggest their erection in the Northern Territory.
– I am not so sure that something should not be done there. Doubtless many persons would be only too glad to get possession of portions of the Northern Territory. I am- not one of those who imagine that the Territory is the barren and inhospitable waste which some people would have us believe.
This is a short measure, containing only some sixty clauses. The Government propose to repeal the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1917-18 and the War Pensions Act 1914-16, and this measure is intended to replace those Statutes. Now, we all know that the professed policy of the Government is the granting of preference to returned soldiers. Here is an opportunity for them to give effect to that policy. Let them embody it in this Bill. It provides for the appointment of a paid Commission, which, I suppose, will relieve the Minister of all trouble in connexion with the administration of his Department. The Commissioners are to be appointed for a period of five years, and as the measure deals exclusively with returned soldiers, it would be only the correct thing to provide that all of them shall be returned men.
– The returned soldiers are to have special representation upon the Commission.
– It is true that provision is made in the Bill for a recognised body of returned soldiers to make a recommendation to the Minister, so that later on the Governor-General may appoint a person from that body. But what about the Chairman and the third member of the Commission? What have Senator Bolton and other returned soldiers to say about that?
– The Central Executive of the Returned Soldiers’ Association agreed in conference to proportionate representation on the Commission. They speak for the soldiers, and they heartily approve of the proposal contained in the measure.
– The Bill does not say so. It merely provides for the appointment of one of the nominees of the Returned Soldiers’ Association. It ought to be the policy of the Government to extend a preference to returned men, not merely in connexion with jobs carrying a salary of £5 or £6 a week, but in connexion with the good jobs. Here is a Commission which is to be appointed for five years, and I hold that all its members should be returned men.
– I do not think that the soldiers themselves would ask for that. Besides they have a personal interest in this matter.
– The honorable senator was prepared to trust his destinies to them completely when they left our shores. “Why not trust ourselves to them now that they have come back to us?
– But we are dealing with a trust fund for which Parliament is responsible.
– There is nothing more important than the defence of the country. Our soldiers were good enough to undertake the job, but when it comes to a question of handling a few pounds, some honorable senators hesitate to trust them.
– The honorable senator himself did his best to keep a returned soldier from entering the Senate.
– That is not so. There are two or three returned men in the chamber. But I do not think that any returned soldier wishes to claim an exclusive right to any position.
– Yet the honorable senator is suggesting that now.
– No. An elective position is entirely different. Here are three offices at the disposal of the Government. If the professions of Ministers are sincere, why should not those positions be filled by returned soldiers?
– We propose to create a Commission to deal with questions as between the taxpayers and the soldiers, and the honorable senator wishes to give returned soldiers the whole of the positions upon it.
– Most certainly I do.
– The honorable senator knows that he is talking nonsense. No intelligent soldier will take in that flapdoodle.
– I am not indulging in flapdoodle. I leave that to the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator is tickling the ears of the soldiers - that is all.
– Nothing of the sort.
– Of the officers in the Repatriation Department, 98$ per cent, are returned soldiers.
– But it is proposed to give our returned soldiers only 33 per cent, of the representation upon the Repatriation Commission. To be consistent, Senator Fairbairn ought to advocate that they should get 98$ per cent, of the representation upon that body.
– There is nothing in the Bill to say that they will not.
– And there is nothing in it to say that they will.
Then there are State Boards to be appointed. These are each to consist of three members, who are to have a tenure of only two years. Here, again, the returned soldiers are ignored up to a certain point. They are to have only one-third of the representation upon these boards. Why not give them the full representation to which they are entitled? If 98$ per cent, of representation is a good thing to accord them when the positions are only of fair importance, surely it ought to be a good thing when the positions are of really first-class importance. Returned soldiers should have exclusive representation upon this Commission and the Boards.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Extension of ‘time granted, on motion by Senator Pearce.
– I have to thank the Senate for the courtesy of allowing me additional time within ‘which to conclude my remarks. I notice it is not proposed to bring the employees of the Boards under the provisions of the Public Service Act. I should like to know why, and also whether it is intended to offer the whole of the positions to reburned men or not. Are the Government prepared to go as far as in the case of the Repatriation Department, in which, according to Senator Fairbairn, 98$ per cent, of the employees are returned soldiers? I hope, when the Bill is in Committee, that action will be taken to bring the employees under the provisions of the Public Service Act.
Special magistrates are also to be appointed. Here, again, Senator Bolton, nothing is said about returned men.
– The honorable senator must not address Senator Bolton directly. He must- address the Chair.
– Then, Mr. President, I must say that I am surprised that no mention is made of returned soldiers occupying the position of special magistrates.
I am glad that pensions are to be substantially increased, but I am not sure whether it will be wise, particularly in the smaller States, to create a new pensions department to deal exclusively with members of the Australian Imperial Force and their dependants. Up to the present, I have heard of no complaints of inefficiency in regard to the existing pensions department, so I should “like to hear more from the Minister with reference to this proposal. It would seem to be extraordinary, for instance, to create a new department in a State like Tasmania. The necessary machinery is already in existence in the different States, and I understand it is working quite efficiently. It is probable that, as time goes on, further increases in the amount of the pensions will have to be made in order to meet the higher cost of living; and I am pleased, also, to know that pensions are to be paid in advance.
It appears to be the intention of the Government to continue the existence of the Local Committees, members of which are not paid for their services, so I suppose returned men will have a complete monopoly of those functions.
– For the most part, the Local Committees consist of people, including women, who belonged to the various patriotic committees. They have been making sacrifices right throughout the war.
– My experience, which I admit is not considerable, led me to believe that they consisted mostly of returned men; but I take it that, if the facts are otherwise, those who comprise the Committees are directly connected with returned soldiers. Before the measure is finalized, we should be quite satisfied that it is necessary to create a new department’ for the payment of the pensions, because this will mean additional expenditure.
I notice that munition workers are not provided for in the Bill. This, I think, is a mistake. Some consideration should be shown to these men.
– They come under the housing scheme.
– But not under the pensions scheme, and I remind the Senate that munition workers did take some risk. Men who enlisted for active service but did not get to the Front, were not exposed to any greater risk than munition workers were, but still they come under the provisions of this measure. Munition workers and their wives and families made substantial sacrifices, in many instances, and should be included in the Bill. Another class not mentioned is the wives and dependants of those members of the Australian Imperial Force who, while abroad, had the misfortune to come into conflict with the military authorities, and, in consequence, are serving long terms of imprisonment. Some of these dependants are in precarious circumstances, so I hope that, in Committee, a proposal to extend the provisions of the Bill to them will receive favorable consideration. There are many other matters to which I should like to refer, but I shall take advantage of the opportunity when the Bill is in Committee to endeavour to incorporate my ideas in the measure.
.- It is not my intention to delay the Senate, but I wish to express my entire approval of the measure, inasmuch as it consolidates in a practical form the work that has been placed upon the people of Australia as a consequence of the great war. My chief purpose in addressing the Senate is to congratulate the Repatriation Department upon the magnificent results achieved up to the present. I do not suppose that any Department set up in any country in the world has been subjected to the same amount of criticism, and perhaps has been responsible for more disappointment, than the Department of Repatriation. Many people expected so much that they have been disappointed, being amenable to the misrepresentation and mental poison administered to them by opponents of the Government. I congratulate the Minister (Senator Millen) particularly upon his administration of the Department. It must be remembered that for such a Department no precedent was to be found in any part of the world. The Minister had to create it and evolve a scheme, and, I suppose, it represents the largest undertaking that this country has yet embarked upon.
It was not my intention, to refer to matters associated with the organization of the Australian Imperial Force, and I would not now do so were it not for the fact that Senator Grant still persists in misrepresenting the true situation in which we found ourselves during the terrible crisis of the war. I feel now as I always have, and would have felt if we had had compulsory service in Australia, that nothing we can do will be too good for the men who offered their lives to keep Australia free,. The statement’ made by Senator Grant to the effect that the late Government, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in particular, were largely responsible for the failure of voluntary recruiting is absolutely without foundation. It was ray privilege to hold a responsible position in one State of the Commonwealth when war was declared by Great Britain, and to appoint in that State a War Council, which subsequently undertook the responsibility of obtaining voluntary recruits. That council represented all shades of social and political thought, and left nothing undone to insure greater success in the augmentation of our Forces. The Tasmanian War Council had the cooperation of a very large number of influential people throughout the State, and every effort was made to induce the eligible young men to offer their services in the defence of the Empire. No mention was ever made of compulsory service, and every one who attended the meetings of that council, and who co-operated in its work, expressed the hope that Australia would do as much by voluntary effort as any other part of the British Empire. But there came a time when the efforts of this council and other bodies began to exhaust the ranks pf .volunteers. The Commonwealth had enlisted approximately 300,000 men, and more recruits were not coming forward in adequate numbers. It was then, and not until then, that the Prime Minister, speaking on behalf of members of his party, and fully seized with the requirements of the Empire, and the needs of the men at the Front, introduced for the consideration of the people of Australia the Question of compulsory service. Senator Grant said that had it not been for the action of the Prime Minister and the then Government a larger number of volunteers would have been obtained. The honorable senator has no foundation for such a statement, as every effort was made to secure volunteers before compulsion was ever considered.
The repatriating of these men is in some way a reward for the great service they have rendered to Australia, . and has been undertaken and carried out in a manner which must excite our admiration, and certainly the admiration of all other countries. I feel sure that I am uttering an unchallengeable statement when I say that no other country, either in the late or in any other war, has done as much for her soldiers as we have. We did all that was humanly possible for them while they were fighting. It has been said by our opponents that the fighting men were paid only 6s. a day; but those who comment on the remuneration granted must remember that they were paid that rate for seven days per week, and were supplied with clothing and the necessary keep. I do not say for one moment that it was one penny too much, but the rate was as high as the country could afford, and, in practice, was a good deal more than has been represented by our opponents. These men have now returned to Australia, and we have to consider how we can best reestablish them in civil life. I have repeatedly stated that no country can adequately reward by any monetary payment the man who offers his life in the defence of his country. There is something more important than a monetary payment due to those men. They have the gratitude and heart-felt thanks of every citizen of the Commonwealth for the courageous and self-sacrificing efforts they displayed in a noble cause.
There are other matters to which the Government might give consideration, and one is whether it would not be practicable and equitable to call upon those eligible men who did not offer their services to contribute something (towards the repatriation of those who went abroad. Honorable senators will recall that during the last Parliament a Bill was passed providing for the .imposition of a tax on eligible men who did not enlist. That tax was never levied. I did not support that measure with any great feeling 6f enthusiasm, as I felt it was a step in the direction of economic conscription. I believe in conscription when we have to fight, but I do not favour a measure to penalize those who did not offer their services voluntarily. The impost levied by such a tax would be a small thing to the wealthy men ; but a serious matter, perhaps, to those who were less favourably situated. ‘ Now the war is over it would be reasonable for the Government to consider whether such a tax should not be levied on those who did not enlist, and who have been protected by the efforts of others. ‘
The War Service Homes Department might have gone a little further - it has certainly done well by the judicious purchase of material for the erection of homes - and established its own factories for the production of the material required. The Department should have had its own saw mills, brick kilns, and cement works to enable it to provide the necessary material to construct houses. There are many places - I know there are some in the State I represent - where an unlimited supply of material is available in concentrated areas for the manufacture of all the cement that Australia is likely to require. The establishment of such undertakings would have been warranted, as there is no dearth of material, and it would have enabled the Department to construct homes much cheaper than it is doing at present. However, we cannot get everything we desire, and the fact that the Department is actually building houses at approximately £100 less than the price at which builders are prepared to tender is proof that good work is being done in the interests of the men. A great deal more has yet to be done, and it may not be too late for the Commissioner to consider whether it is not desirable to engage in the actual production of these materials. I heartily support the Bill, and congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) and the Department on the excellent work that has been accomplished.
– The absence of any member of the Opposition from the chamber during the second reading debate on this Bill is an indication, I take it, that the Bill itself generally meets with, their approval. At all events, whether the Opposition is present or -not, honorable senators who are here for the next three years will, I am sure, endeavour to discharge their duty in reviewing all legislation placed before this Chamber, and we shall review this Bill in such a way as will make it the most workable, the. most generous, and the most fair proposal in connexion with all the promises we have made to the soldiers. I want particularly to congratulate the Leader of the Government in this Chamber (Senator Millen) upon the very able and lucid speech he made in moving the second reading. There were many satisfactory features in his elucidation of the measure - features that in many directions should be publicly known and spread broadcast throughout Australia, as I believe he fairly met the sometimes very harsh criticism that has been levelled against his Department. We can all go back about two’ and a-half years, to the time when the first Repatriation Bill was placed before this Chamber, and remember the groping, that every honorable member did! in connexion with the problem. That problem was a’ new one, for which the world’ gave us no precedent, and the scheme had to be built up from the foundations.
I take it that this Bill is practically a consolidation of the activities of the governmental Departments as regards the repatriation and future treatment of soldiers, and is the result of the vast experience that must necessarily have come the way of the Minister in charge of repatriation. The Bill deals with the appointment of paid Commissioners to carry oh the work. That phase of repatriation was brought before the Senate some time ago by Senator Bolton’, and I am glad the Minister has recognised that this is the right direction in which to travel, and that repatriation will be placed in the future in charge of a Board of Commissioners instead’ of being entirely the responsibility of the Minister himself. It also provides for the continuance of the activities of the War Service Homes Department, which will probably be active some years hence, when the practical duties of the Repatriation Commissioners, so far as repatriation itself is concerned, will have been finished. It also places under the Repatriation Department the task of paying pensions. I look upon the Bill certainly not as a new Bill, but as a consolidation and amendment of the position, as a result of the experience of the last two years.
A most satisfactory statement with regard to the expenditure on repatriation was (placed before us by the Minister, who told us that the sustenance that had been allowed for the 250,000 soldiers that his Department had cared for had not averaged more than £8 per head. I am moat agreeably surprised at the smallness of that average, in view of the liberality with which some of the returned soldiers have beau treated by the Department.
– It shows the wonderful absorbing power of the Commonwealth.
– It does. I entirely agree with the policy laid down by the Department, that six months’ sustenance shall be the maximum to be paid to any soldier. As Senator Pearce has observed, the figures show not only the wonderful absorbing power of the Commonwealth just now so far as work and employment are concerned, but also that by far the vast majority, of that quarter -million of returned men have not even attempted to sponge in any way upon the Department, and make too free with’ the liberal terms which the officers have been clothed with power to give. The average payment of £8 per’ head to 250,000 soldiers obviously means that we have up to date paid £2,000,000 in sustenance. The Minister also gave figures which showed that the amount allotted for vocational training will be in the region of £2,000.000. He also quoted figures showing the cost of administration of the Department, and these were certainly not excessive. I cannot reconcile them with his statement that the placing of the soldiers has cost 7s. Id. per head on the average throughout the Commonwealth. The figures he gave us regarding the whole cost of administration of the scheme up to now were under £400,000, which is under 4 per cent, of the total amount that has been handled by the Department. With £2,000,000” as the cost of sustenance and £2,000,000 as the cost - past, present, and future - of vocational training, and adding another £1,000,000 for incidental and administrative expenses, we arrive at a total of £5,000,000, representing the cost of the Repatriation Department to the taxpayers of Australia to date- on, shall I say, a wasting asset? Remembering what we thought we were up against in connexion with demobilization, the length of time it would take to bring the soldiers back, and the many perhaps harassing, “and certainly complicated, problems with which we expected to be faced, it is a matter of very great congratulation indeed to the Ministers concerned, and to the Government; and to the soldiers, that the wasting asset of repatriation up-to-date has. not cost more than £5,000,000, while included in the results of that expenditure will be the, completed training of many thousands of the’ returned soldiers in various trades; because we are assured that we shall turn out many thousands of trained artisans and tradesmen for that expenditure.
– That will not include the cost of bringing the men from England.
– No, that is a military matter. I am speaking now exclusively of repatriation on the lines of the Minister’s speech, because the Minister said that repatriation meant the replacing of the soldiers in civilian life.
– It does include the repatriation pf wives and children and dependants of soldiers.
– Then my honorable friend has drawn attention to another benefit to Australia secured by the expenditure of that £5,000,000.
We have spent another £5,000,000 on loans and homes. I was particularly struck by the Minister’s statement that the arrears of repayments of those loans were practically negligible. If the administration of the Department and the prosperity of the soldiers continue in this ratio, even if we build 25,000 war service homes, the cost will, in effect, be only a loan from the Commonwealth to the soldiers, and will be an asset that we shall some day get back in cash. I should, therefore, like to draw the attention of the Senate and the people to “ the fact that repatriation, up to now, with its back admittedly broken, has not cost the vast sums of money that some persons feared it would. The credit of this is largely due to the soldiers themselves, and I hope that the duties of the paid Commissioners for repatriation will become lighter and lighter, and practically taper off, so that their work will be largely concentrated upon the question of the pensions that are being rightly paid to those who have suffered in health through illness or mutilation, and are not yet normal.
I have had some experience of the working of the Repatriation Department, and that experience in New South Wales, I may say unhesitatingly, has been of the very best. Most of us from time to time see returned soldiers with grievances. One came to me’ the other day to ask me to get him into the vocational training school. As a rule, I try to sift things before bothering Ministers or Departments with the troubles’ of the many people of Australia ; but this man had received six months’ sustenance allowance, and I suppose he wanted to continue swinging the lead. ‘ At all events, my view was that it was not the time to start vocational training after you have received six months’ sustenance allowance. The time to start it is when you return and look around to see what you are going to do. I, therefore, refused in the circumstances, and, I” think, wisely, to help a man of that
Sort. Another man came to me and said, “ I cannot do any good with the Repatriation Department. Lend me money to buy a suit of clothes, because I am broke.” I found that that man also had taken the fullest advantage of the many privileges and payments provided for returned soldiers. I am afraid that he would be one of the men who, if cash were given to him instead of bonds, by Way of gratuity, would not be very much better off a month after receiving his gratuity. I was struck very much by another personal experience about six months ago. A returned young Anzac came to me with his father and mother and said that the Repatriation Department was not giving him a fair deal. He had been away for four years, had been wounded, and wanted to get into a business, and a cruel, callous, red-tape’. Department would not assist him in any shape or form. I made some inquiries, and found that the refusal to assist him was because he wanted to get into a business in which he had not been previously engaged and knew nothing about. He was lip against the regulations that designedly prevented the Department frittering away the money of the country on experiments. My heart was touched, and I advanced the necessary money to help this man. I thought I was doing right and that the Repatriation Department was wrong. The sequel is that this young man failed. I got 15s. in the £1, and was lucky to get that, and I believe that I did this man the worst service I could have done him by lending him the money. I give this illustration to show that there are some regulations of the Repatriation Department that are rightly designed to prevent returned soldiers doing foolish things. Another illustration may be given, which I think is creditable in every way to the working of the Department in Sydney. There is necessarily some little want of co-ordination amongst the various offices concerned in looking after the wants of the returned soldiers. Two men bought land in the Wyong District of New South Wales, and they wanted a loan of £10 each for tools. They said, in effect, that they had been weeks trying to get the money, and that the Repatriation Department was cruel, callous, and unjust. They first approached a member of the State Parliament, who sent a letter to a member of the Federal Parliament. The Federal member happened to bc absent, and the letter was sent on to me by bearer. I thought the request of these men a fair one, and well within the rules of the Department. I rang up the necessary authorities, and got in touch with the right official at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I gave the returned soldiers my card of introduction, and told them to come back at 5 O’clock if their wants were not satisfied, and I should then look into the matter further. I have not seen them from that day to this. I think that this indicates that their only trouble was that they did not get to the right official, and perhaps in Sydney - and I say this in all kindliness - there may be a little lack of co-ordination amongst the various offices of the Repatriation Department. Soldiers are sometimes short in stating their wants, and the Inquiry Office in Sydney might perhaps be improved, so as to facilitate the drafting of returned soldiers to the particular offices of the Department concerned with the business about which they apply.
We have heard this afternoon something about preference to soldiers. I think that the law recently passed in New South Wales makes the qualification, “ other things being equal.” I should like to say to Senator Grant that, if his argument were followed to a logical conclusion, the Prime Minister should resign in favour, possibly, of Mr. McGrath, the President of the Senate should resign in favour of a soldier senator, and, to be consistent, other things being equal, Senator Grant should have resigned in favour of a returned soldier. I do not think that in the honorable senator’s case other thing3 would be equal, because there has been no more eloquent or able advocate of the singletax in this Chamber since I have been here. It is quite clear, however, that the honorable senator’s argument may be re?duced to an absurdity. The soldiers themselves do not claim’ that they can fill every position as well as all the m«n who hold them. One of the principles which we must try to carry out publicly and privately in the Commonwealth is the principle of efficiency, and I stand for the principle of preference to soldiers for vacant situations, “ other things being equal.”
I point out that in connexion with the proposals under this Bill, and under the War Gratuity Bill now before another place, those brave soldiers who have fought not only for Australia, but for their own families, hearths, and homes, as well as for ours, are being treated better than any soldiers of any of the Allied Armies engaged in the great war. That is a point I wish to make, and from personal knowledge I say that by far the great majority of those brave men who have come back from the war acknowledge that the National Government have given, and are giving, the soldiers a fair deal, and they are perfectly satisfied. Honorable senators may be surprised to learn that at the recent election in New South Wales, in connexion with the controversy as to whether the war gratuity should be paid in bonds or in cash, there were a very great many decent, right-thinking men who said .that the Government ought not to pay in cash, and that the soldiers ought to be satisfied, as the great majority of them were, with the promise of the payment of the gratuity in bonds. Under the War Gratuity Bill we shall be placing on the Commonwealth an obligation to the. extent of-
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Senator Shannon). - I ask the honorable senator not to discuss the War Gratuity Bill.
– If you, sir, will bear with me, I am giving an illustration as to the bearing of that Bill on the subjectmatter now under consideration in the Senate.
The ACTING PRESIDENT. - The honorable senator will be quite in order in making a passing reference to the Bill, but he will not be in order in discussing it.
– In connexion with a Bill which is now before another place, it must not be forgotten that it proposes to impose on the taxpayers of the Commonwealth the obligation to find a sum in round figures of £28,000,000 for our returned- soldiers, in addition to all the benefits they are getting under the Repatriation Act. I hope that the effect will be to lighten the obligations of the Repatriation Department. When that Bill is in Committee it may be that we shall find some means whereby the Department will be in a position to cash tha gratuity bonds if, in the opinion of its officers, it is satisfied that to do so would be to the commercial advantage and advancement of the returned soldiers. In any case, I think that an interlocking arrangement may possibly be found in the future under which the owner of gratuity bonds will be able to work in with the Repatriation Department, and, at the same time, advance his own interests and lighten the load of the Department.
I do not desire to make further extended remarks on the subject under review at this juncture. While the difficulties to be overcome have been great, and the. Minister and every one giving attention to the subject must have been largely groping in the dark, we can congratulate ourselves not only upon the speedy solution df the pro-. blem that we- see looming ahead nf us, but upon its economic solution. I do not regard money spent by way of loan for the development of our interior in placing soldiers on the land, or in the construction of war service homes, as wastingassets. The expenditure is in both cases of value not only to the returned soldier, but to the community as a whole. It is all working in the direction of development, and of meeting the urgent want of homes for the people. Therefore, the proposals under this Bill will have my very hearty support. The Committee stage is recognised as the stage at which detailed alterations of a measure can be made. I see nothing in the Bill which calls for radical alteration. I believe that it will be received not only by this Chamber and this Parliament, but by the soldiers and the people of Australia generally, as a fulfilment of the promises made to the brave men who went across the water.
The Minister for Repatriation has placed before the Senate a very clear and concise record to date of the achievements of his Department. I find no fault with it at all. On the contrary, I think that every one concerned, in view of the fact that so much had to be achieved in so short a time, is to be congratulated in respect of what has been done in connexion with this most difficult -and complicated subject.
.- My remarks on this Bill, in accordance with my usual custom, will be brief. As one connected with returned soldiers organizations in Queensland for some time, I should be failing in my duty if I did not take advantage of this opportunity to express my appreciation of the manner in which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has conducted his Department since its inception. I venture to say that long after the honorable senator has passed away, and we trust thatthat will not be for many years to come, his work for repatriation will stand as a monument to him. There are in Australia to-day many men and many families who are happier as” a result of the careful, tactful, and sympathetic manner in which Senator Millen has administered his Department.
As Senator Pratten has mentioned, pro.bably every member of the Senate has on numerous occasions had cases brought under his notice where returned soldiers have not been quite satisfied that they have been given a fair deal by the Repatriation Department. During the period that I have occupied a seat in this Chamber my surprise has been that the number of complaints which have reached me has been so small, especially when I recollect the magnitude of the task undertaken by the Minister and the absence of any precedent to guide him. It must also be remembered that a dissatisfied applicant makes far more noise than do ninety-nine satisfied men. We have all noticed the almost indecent haste exhibited by certain persons to rush into print concerning the alleged shortcomings of the Department. We know, too, that the newspapers are always ready to voice any complaints which are made, but are scarcely generous enough to mention the exceedingly good work which has been done by the Department. Senator Millen is to be congratulated upon the results of his labours, and I sincerely trust that he will be spared in health to see through the job which he has so ably commenced. I can assure honorable senators that there were many anxious hearts amongst the returned soldiers when it was rumoured prior to the last elections that he might wish to resign his present portfolio.
I now come to the proposed creation of a paid Commission. I was one of those who, when the principal Act was under review in this Chamber, supported the appointment of honorary Commissioners. Upon that occasion Senator Bolton submitted an amendment to the effect that paid Commissioners should be appointed. In speaking upon the amendment, I stated that on account of the good work done by honorary Commissioners I would support the proposal of the Government, but I added that if honorary Commissioners did not give satisfaction I would vote for the appointment of a paid Commission. Obviously the Government now think it is necessary to appoint salaried Commissioner’s, but I doubt whether even the Minister himself will suggest that honorary Commissioners have not done excellent work during their term of office. The members of the State Board of Queensland have clone everything possible for the benefit of our returned soldiers.
– The Shipping Board was an honorary Board right throughout the war.
– Now that paid State Boards are to bo appointed, I hope that they will be vested with greater powers than they have possessed in the past. I know that in a few cases it has been thought that too much power .has been vested in the administration in Melbourne.
– The same complaint is made from portions of Queensland. There, some people think that too much power is vested in the administration in Brisbane.
– If the Minister can see his way clear to confer greater powers upon the State Boards, whose members are naturally more fully conversant with local conditions than are the Melbourne executive, I think he will be acting wisely.
Senator Grant and Senator Pratten have referred to the question of extending a preference to returned soldiers. To my mind, this subject has been more or less prostituted by certain persons and Governments. Upon numerous occasions when there has been a position to be filled in a Department at £2 or £3 per week a returned soldier has been appointed. I am referring more particularly to the action of State Governments in this connexion.
– The same thing ob- ‘ tains in the Commonwealth. In the Shipping Department there is not a returned soldier to be found.
– The honorable senator will, I hope, deal with that matter. The returned soldier has received a preference whenever the appointment ‘has been worth only £2 oi £3 per week, but no haste has been exhibited to give him a preference when the job has been worth £1,000 a year. Only a little time ago the office of Lieutenant-Governor of Queensland became vacant. Yet, despite the professed policy of the Government of that State to extend a preference to returned soldiers, a returned man was not appointed to the office.
– What about the shipping master in Brisbane who gave his seat away to Ryan 1
– There were certain political reasons underlying that appointment.
– He is a returned soldier.
– He is not.
– I fail to see how he can be a returned soldier, seeing that he never left our shores.
– He was away from Australia.
– Never in his life.
– There are many people who shout for the extension of preference to returned soldiers, but who, when party politics are involved, relegate that principle to second place. If the Queensland Government had been sincere in its professed desire to give effect to that policy, why did they not appoint a returned soldier to the position, of Lieutenant-Governor ?
– Is there a returned soldier who is qualified to fill the position?
– Judging by the present occupant, I have no hesitation in saying that there are hundreds and thousands of men in the Australian Imperial Force who were competent to fill the position.
– ls it not necessary that the Lieutenant-Governor should first become the Chief Justice of a State?
– No. The gentleman who was appointed to the position was formerly Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, :and never held any judicial office. I believe that there were in the ranks of the Australian Imperial Force men who were capable of filling any job in Australia. But preference is granted to them only when the appointment is worth £2 or £3 per week. When there is a first class position carrying a first class salary to be filled, somebody else - some curly-headed boy - usually gets it. I could, if I chose, cite a number of responsible positions in regard to which the claims of the soldiers have been overlooked in the interests of political favorites, or somebody else. Senator Grant claims that the whole of the members of the paid Commission to be appointed under this Bill should be returned soldiers. But what did he do when our soldiers overseas were so urgently in need of reinforcements ? Did he exhibit any anxiety to relieve the position in which they found themselves?
– The honorable senator never heard me utter a word against sending them reinforcements.
– The , reason why Senator Grant exhibits such indecent haste to do something for our soldiers is that they are now back with us, and that they possess votes which count. The returned men showed by the votes they recorded at the recent election exactly what they thought of Senator Grant and his party. To me it appears hypocritical for the honorable senator and his party, who were associated with the resolutions of the Perth Labour Conference regarding the restoration of peace, to stand up and plead that the Government should .give, the three positions on the Commission to returned soldiers. Why did the honorable senator not display some anxiety to do more for these men. when he had an opportunity to do it?
I come now to the member of the Commission who is to be appointed on the recommendation of “ a duly authenticated organization “ representing the returned soldiers in Australia. In some of the States there are more than one such organization, but I take it that the particular body referred to in this Bill is the Imperial Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, which is nonpolitical and non-sectarian in character - an organization which has done a very great deal of good for our returned men. The measure provides that this organization shall submit to the Government the names pf three men, and from those names the Government shall select the man whom they prefer. I imagine that it would be far more satisfactory if the Government afforded the league an opportunity of appointing the man whom it desired to the Commission. There is no doubt in my mind that before any names are submitted to the Government a ballot will be taken amongst the members of the Imperial Returned Sailors and Soldiers League. That ballot will probably disclose that one nominee has a substantial majority over the others. But under the method which is prescribed in this Bill the Government may appoint the man who was third on the poll, and who is not preferred by a majority of the members of the league. I ask the Minister to reconsider the position in the light of what I have stated. If my suggestion be adopted, I feel sure that it will give a greater measure of satisfaction to the members of the league than they will otherwise experience. I have already remarked that in one or two of the States there is more than one soldiers’ organization. It will be for the Government to say which league they recognise, but I think that the only powerful organization is the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, which is a non-political body.
Referring now to the housing scheme, I may say that some time ago two or three soldiers who were desirous of starting in the saw-milling business in Queensland endeavoured to secure contracts from the Deputy Controller, ‘but in spite 4 of numerous requests they were unsuccessful because the State Department had purchased the whole output of the Queensland Pine Company for a number of years, and, consequently, all requirements were provided for. These men told me definitely, and I have no reason to doubt what they said, that, if they were given the opportunity, they were in a position to supply in small quantities timber at a cheaper rate than is now paid by the Department. Unfortunately, the contract with the company mentioned has been finalized, and they have no chance of securing business. In a matter like this we have every right to expect sympathetic administration.
Then there is the matter of men being required to appear before the State Boards in support of applications. In some instances, due perhaps to nervousness, shell shock, or injuries received on the field, they are not able to present all the facts of their cases in a satisfactory manner. It is, therefore, a reasonable request that they should have the right to get somebody to appear with them.
– Not only have we no objection to that course, but we have endeavoured to create the necessary machinery. A committee was formed in Brisbane, but the soldiers would not take advantage of it. They preferred to put their own cases.
– No doubt, the majority would prefer to state their own case, but I have been assured by a gentleman who has taken a prominent part in promoting the welfare, of soldiers in Queensland that an application which he made to appear on behalf of certain soldiers was turned down. ‘ I can show the Minister a letter from the Deputy Controller in Queensland declining to allow any one to appear before the Board for one particular soldier.
– If the honorable senator will supply me with the particulars I will be obliged.
– I shall be ^pleased to ‘ comply with the Minister’s request, because I can assure him that any criticism of mine is intended to help rather than to hinder the work of the Department.
In the course of his speech yesterday the Minister stated that certain State Governments were not fulfilling their promises to give preference to returned soldiers on railway construction works, and I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he intended to take some action in the matter. Some State Governments, including probably Queensland, are so much in the hands of outside executives that they are not able to give effect to the principle of preference to returned soldiers, but I hope the Minister will see that the regulation in regard to this particular matter is respected.
Then there is the position of the theological students, which I mentioned by way of interjection when the Minister was speaking yesterday. I understand the regulations provide that if students are under twenty years of age they will not be eligible for assistance to complete their studies.
– If they had commenced their studies before they enlisted the Department will grant them assistance irrespective of age.
– The action of the Department is evidently at variance with the Minister’s intention, and this matter having been brought under my notice, I shall submit it to the Minister in order that any misunderstanding may be thoroughly cleared up.
I desire now to show how, during the recent election, the Official Labour party endeavoured to secure support from the returned soldiers, and I have no doubt that what I am about to read - it is portion of an election pamphlet - will be of interest to Senator Grant -
For election purposes, Official Labour proclaims its desire to give returned soldiers “ a fair deal.” The hypocrisy of this talk can be judged from the following report of a deputation which waited on Mr. Fihelly, Official Labour’s Minister for Railways in Queensland, on 19th November, 1919: -
Captain Gabbett, of the Returned Soldiers’ Employment Committee, complained that men who were absolute disloyalists were taken on in preference to returned soldiers. He said that one of the men who had been sentenced to three months’ imprisonment had been reemployed.
Mr. Fihelly.; Quite right.
Captain Gabbett. - I ask for preference for returned soldiers, and especially for an Australian over a Russian employed by the Railways Department.
Mr. Fihelly. ; The Russian will stay there.
On 11th February, 1919, the President of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council (Mr. E. F. Russell), who is now contesting the Echuca seat for Official Labour, said his executive “ declined to admit the right of returned soldiers to preference in employment over eligibles.”
– From what paper are you quoting?
– I have no desire to drag party politics into this debate at all, but when Senator Grant stands up and criticises the administration of the Repatriation Department, as he did this afternoon, he should remember these things, and put his own house in order first.
. When the original Bill was before the Senate I had some doubt as to thefuture in view of the very great difficulties confronting the Minister; but it is gratifying now to know that, with the help which, he frankly confesses, he has. received from all thosewho are interested in the scheme, the Department has. achieved a very large measure of success. When introducing the first Repatriation Bill the Minister reminded honorable senators that he had to sail an uncharted sea, with no precedent anywhere in the world to guide him. The success which has been achieved will, therefore, stand as a monument to his industry and ability. It is most satisfactory to know that the work of the Department is being carried on so economically and efficiently. The large percentage of men who, by means of the repatriation scheme, have been returned to civil life is, I think, a tribute to the administration, especially when one remembers that the Minister has been dealing with so many men who were suffering all the unusual temperamental disabilities attributable to warfare experiences. When General Sir William Birdwood was replying to an official welcome in the Adelaide Town Hall a few weeks ago he pleaded with the people of Australia to remember that a large number of our returned soldiers were not in a normal state of mind, and might fall again and again ; but if treated with patience and forbearance they would ultimately prove to be good citizens again. The Minister, in his administration of the scheme, has brought a great deal of patience to bear, and has given much careful thought to the work of his. Department. I listened attentively to his speech yesterday, I have compared the Bill now before the Senate with the original Act to see in what respect the latter is to be amended, and I have come to the conclusion that it is about as perfect as we can reasonably expect it to be. Questions will, of course, crop up. There is, for instance, the suggestion that the Commissioners should be paid officials. Probably this view is the right one. It is likely that, so far as State Boards are concerned, we shall in future cease certain of those activities which helped to keep the public in close sympathy with the Minister. Honorary officers have been called upon to perform an arduous service, but there has been some recompense for their efforts. They have been brought into close personal contact with soldiers, and have been able to realise the many difficulties with: which they have been confronted. The personal sympathy and assistance given has been greatly appreciated, and has been the means of facilitating the work in many directions. In times past a discharged soldier has been looked upon as an incubus on society, but I trust that Australia will never regard those brave men who went to fight our battles as a charge upon the State. It is our duty to see that their splendid services are always fully and freely recognised. . Whatever the burden on the Commonwealth is to be, it is one that it should bear cheerfully.
Reference has been made to the construction of soldiers’ homes under the direction of the War Service Homes Commissioner. I live in a little suburb near Adelaide, where a large number of these houses are built, and during the period of construction I frequently visited them to see how the work was being carried on, and what conveniences were being supplied. On one occasion Senator Gardiner stated that not one home had been “built, and I told him then that I could take him to a suburb near Adelaide where there was a whole street of them. I am in a position to say that the homes that are being erected by the Commission are not mere shacks or in any way a disgrace to the Department, but are in every way comfortable, well equipped, and a credit to those who are responsible for their erection. Frequently single instances of failures or mistakes are seized upon and used as a means of condemning a system or department. If photographs or plans of the buildings being erected for soldiers could be placed before honorable senators who are taking exception to what has been done, I am sure they would be con vinced that there was no foundation for opposition.
I do not think there is any occasion to prolong the debate on the second reading of this measure, because, after all, it is largely machinery in character, and diverts very little from the provisions of the principal Act. The main departure from existing legislation is in the direction of substituting paid for honorary officers, and’ I hope that when the change is made every effort will be made under the new arrangement to sympathetically handle the work as has been the practice in the past. A good deal of sympathy was shown by the honorary officers of such charitable organizations at the Red Cross Society, and when the question of subscriptions was. under consideration the Minister for Repatriation was particularly anxious that nothing should be done to stifle the manifestation of a charitable spirit. When the Bill is in Committee we shall have an opportunity of dealing with its provisions in’ detail, and it is my intention to suggest some minor amendments.
– I do not think that I need detain the Senate at any length in view of the extremely generous reception accorded to this measure. I should like, however, to express my appreciation of the many kind references made in’ the course of the debate to my efforts and those of the departmental officers, which I am sure are fully ‘ appreciated, not only by me, but by those with whom I have been associated.
There are only one or tWO points on which it is at all desirable or necessary to comment. In the first place, I would like to express a profound sense of disappointment in failing to get that measure of assistance and relief which T thought Senator Grant was about to give the Housing Commissioner by showing how we could obtain bricks from brickyards that were not working. I specifically put the- question to him, but he resumed his seat without giving me an answer.
– Start brickworks of your own.
– If we “ had had. brickyards, they would have been rendered idle by the absence of coal. It would not matter- whether supplies were being obtained from State or privately-owned brickyards if coal was not available to operate them. It is still open for Senator Grant to tell the Housing Commissioner how he can obtain bricks from yards which have been denied coal sup- plies.
– ‘Build the houses of stone.
– That is all very well in districts where stone is obtainable locally, but does Senator Grant think that we could afford to haul stone long distances and still construct houses’ for £700 ? It is foolish to suggest that we should build houses of stone, because, even if we had the stone, there would not be sufficient masons to cut it.
Passing from that point, I desire to refer to one or two points raised by Senator Poll. He mentioned the question of the Sailors and Soldiers League’s nomination to the Commission. I do not know whether he quite understands the proposal, and if he does not, I do not blame him. Assurance hae been given to the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League that they were free to nominate three Commissioners, or rather to submit a panel of three, and the Government would undertake to accept the first ‘nomination, assuming, of course, that the league submits the names of suitable men. But I expect the Government to have the right of veto, because the Commission is not to merely determine what benefits are to be available to soldiers, or to deal with applications, but is charged with the responsibility of administering a Department.
– The same right would apply if only one name were submitted.
– Yes. There would be the same right of veto, and the Government must have that right, ,as these gentlemen -will be appointed as members of a body controlling an important spending Department.
– Why not ask for one with the right of veto ? You might not be prepared to accept either of the three.
– That is quite true; but we lessen the chance of veto if we have three to select from. It seems that what has been done is a fair compromise, and avoids the Government being placed in the position of turning down a single nominee. The arrangement has been discussed with the soldiers, and appears to be acceptable.
– What league ‘ do you recognise?
– The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia.
– And no others?
– No. There could be only one organization recognised- for this purpose.
– There are many organizations of returned soldiers.
– Yes. There is the Soldiers and Citizens’ party of New South Wales, and many ‘ other such bodies ; but I hardly think they can claim to be representative organizations.
– Is the Minister satisfied that this league represents the bulk of the soldiers?
– Yes. Whatever its strength may be, it is certainly the most representative body in existence.
Senator Foll referred to three soldiers who were unable to secure contracts from the Deputy Commissioner because the whole output of pine had been purchased by the Queensland State Department. I do not pretend to know the details of such cases, more particularly as the whole matter is really under the control of the Commissioner. I wish to stress, the point that when Parliament placed the Department under the control of an independent Commissioner, the Minister would not know as. much of the working of the Department as he otherwise would. Under such circumstances, the Minister would not share the same responsibility in what was being done, and would be concerned only in questions of policy. Personally, I am not prepared, and I decline, to accept full responsibility for matters which are in the hands of a Commission, and not directly under Ministerial control. I do not believe, for a moment, that the Housing Commissioner has completed contracts that would prevent soldiers from selling supplies. The Housing Commissioner is scouring Australia for material, and if such men have it to sell at a satisfactory price, I feel sure that the Commissioner will be pre-‘ pared to purchase.
I feel sure that Senator Foll was under a misapprehension when he said that he felt certain that the change from honorary to paid officers was to be taken as an indication that the Government were dissatisfied with the existing Board. I endeavoured to make it clear yesterday, that the Government had nothing hut the’ highest praise for the Board, -which was about to be supplanted by paid officers. Even if I were unrestricted in the use of language, I do not, think I could adequately express our appreciation of the services these men have rendered to the soldiers and to the Commonwealth; and, personally, I wish to extend to them my gratitude for the unselfish and highly satisfactory manner in which they have handled their important work. I desire to say, quite frankly, that I do not think the new Commission, apart from its administrative functions, will discharge the duties now performed by the honorary Commission in a better way, or with a greater measure of success. The soldiers have expressed a very strong desire in favour of the appointment of a paid body, on which they shall have direct representation, and surely their views should be considered. They are the most directly interested of any section of the community, and have submitted reasons in support of a change. It seems that by substituting a new body, even if we do not secure better results, we shall be imparting to the minds of the soldiers confidence in the administration; and if we do that, we shall have achieved something. For that reason, whilst not expecting any better results to be obtained by the new body, if it insures the confidence and support of the soldiers themselves, and gives them a measure of satisfaction and confidence in the controlling authority’ that will be so much to the good;
Other matters touched on can be dealt with more conveniently in Committee. I express again my great appreciation of the kindly note which has been sounded in the discussion of the second’ reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a. second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause S -
– -This is the point where an expression of opinion should be obtained from the Committee as to whether they are prepared to give preference to returned soldiers on the Commission or not. We hear a great deal about preference to returned soldiers, both in this chamber and elsewhere. Here are three positions, not in railway cuttings or other places, where the work is worth a few pounds a week, but permanent, and of a first-class nature. The appointments will not only be for five years, but will insure re-appointment for a further term if the holders are suitable. I understand that the work of the Repatriation Department will last for- a considerable number of years. Many men who have returned from the Front are finding it somewhat difficult to get back into civil life again; many of them are absolutely competent to discharge the duties of these positions, and if the Government are not prepared to fill them all with returned men, they should for ever remain silent about preference to returned soldiers. To give men preference on jobs where they can get work anyhow is no preference. I appeal to those honorable senators who are themselves returned soldiers to declare that in particular the goo.d jobs available under this measure should be appropriated by returned men. With that object in view, I move -
That after the word “members” (line 2). the words “ who are returned A.I.F. men “ be inserted.
– What about the sailors %
– I take that wording to include sailors. The amendment will give the . Committee an. opportunity of saying whether they are satisfied with one-third of the representation going to returned men, or whether they will insist upon the whole representation being given to those who fought for Australia. Under this clause even the one member to be nominated by the returned soldiers has to be appointed by the Government. I do not know whether the returned men themselves ask for the whole three positions. Some do. The Government and some of their supporters are never tired of informing us that they are in favour of preference to returned men. Here, then, is an opportunity for them to give a practical demonstration of the faith that is in them. I move the amendment for the purpose of ascertaining’ whether the Government is genuine or otherwise inits protestations in that regard.
– It does not follow that the other two Commissioners will not be returned soldiers. All the Bill says is that one of the Commissioners must be a nominee of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League. It will be quite open to the Government, if they choose, to appoint two other returned soldiers. I take it that the nominee of the league will be a returned soldier. I support what the Government suggest.
– While Senator Thomas is quite right, I would point out how extremely unwise it would be to compel the Government to select returned soldiers for the other two positions. If these Commissioners were merely to perform the legislative functions now discharged by the present Commission, and to decide what benefits were to be given, and to hear appeals from the men, something might be said in favour of giving the returned soldiers the right to nominate the whole three. But when we have to select men with some business knowledge to control a big department, the Government is bound to look for men with special qualifications for the positions.
– You can get them among the returned soldiers.
– It is possible that we can, but it is idle to suppose that all the best men for all the jobs in the community were members of the Australian Imperial Force. That is the position the honorable senator would have me take up. The Government’s policy has been c learly stated. Knowing that policy, and having given the soldiers the right to nominate one man, it is only a matter of wisdom and common sense to say that, so far as the other two are concerned, the Government should be left untrammelled to select those with special qualifications for the job.
– So far from giving the Government a wider choice, the amendment will give it a more limited one. I do not question that the returned soldiers are very able, men, but the clause is even more liberal than the returned men themselves asked for. They wanted one-fourth of the representation, and the Bill gives them one-third, nor is there anything in the clause to prohibit the Government from appointing returned soldiers to the other positions if they find suitable men in their ranks. Senator Grant’s amendment, if carried, will circumscribe and fetter the Government rather than give them the wide choice they now have among all those, returned soldiers or otherwise, with special abilities for the positions.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 -
The members of the Commission shall receive such remuneration as the GovernorGeneral determines.
– I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) to indicate what is in the mind of the Government regarding the salary to be paid, so that we may know something of the status the Commissioners will have. From the tenor of the Bill, the work to be done will be very important. I do not ask that the amount of salary should be fixed in the Bill, but we should have some idea of what the Government consider will be the status occupied by those appointed.
.- I recognise the entire reasonableness of the request, but do not think Ican supply the information as definitely as the honorable senator would like. The positions are important, and will require merit and ability of no mean order, in addition to the right personality and temperament. The Government feel that they would not be likely to attract suitable men if the remuneration were not reasonably adequate for the services required. I am not in a position to say more than that the idea of the Government is to make the salary a reasonable and comfortable one for the job to be performed. I may be able to give the honorable senator a little more definite information before the Bill leaves this Chamber, and shall endeavour to do so.
– The Minister for Repatriation will also remember that this Commission will he charged with the administration of war pensions. These already amount to between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 a year, and the pension list may not yet be complete. The Commission will be charged with the responsibility of spending the taxpayers’ money, and an incompetent Commission might possibly carry Australia in the direction in which the United States of America were carried after the Civil War, and commit us to never-ending pensions. I join with Senator Senior in impressing upon the Minister that these are extremely important positions. We must get efficiency, and to secure it should provide adequate remuneration for the Commissioners. I trust that in deciding what would be adequate payment, a comparison will be made, not with salaries paid in what I consider the illpaid Commonwealth public service, but with the remuneration given to competent men occupying positions of similar responsibility in commercial life outside the public service.
– Perhaps, without mentioning a particular sum, it is not possible to show how far I am in agreement with the standard of payment that is in the minds of Senators Senior and Pratten, but honorable senators may get some idea of my thought in the matter when I say that I have always held that the Commonwealth pays insufficient salaries to its chief executive officers. To my mind it is quite an absurdity that the chief executive officer of the Treasury, for instance, should be paid a salary that would be laughed at by a third-rate or fourth-rate inspector of a financial institution outside. On the other hand, mention has been made outside of salaries for these positions running into thousands of pounds, and, in my opinion, we would not be justified in going to those lofty heights. When Senator Pratten refers to pensions, I direct attention to the fact that the bulk of the pensions have already been determined, and the work remaining to be done in future will largely be the practically automatic payment of pensions decided upon and periodic reviews of certain pensions.
– Are there not many temporary pensions being paid ?
– Yes, and they have to be reviewed; but the basis of the review has already been laid down. If the Pensions Department has done good work, it is inevitable that day after day it must become more of a routine character. I do not mean to say that the Com missioners under this measure will not require to be men of considerable business capacity, but it will be admitted that when the foundation has been laid, the task of continuing the work is certain to be much easier than if the foundation had yet to be constructed. That principle applies also to the work of the Repatriation Department. I shall endeavour, if possible, later on, to give honorable senators some indication of what the Government regard as adequate remuneration for those who will fill these positions.
Clause agreed to
Clause 10 -
– I move -
That after the word ‘* years “ the words “and shall be eligible for re-appointmcnt “ be inserted.
Honorable senators will not need any explanatory remarks as to the reason for such an amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.36 to8 p.m.
.- I move -
That a return be laid on the table of the Senate showing the Royal Commissions appointed since5th May, 1917, the personnel of each, and the total cost of each to date.
In view of the fact that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has promised to supply the information which I seek, I do not propose to discuss this motion at length. When that information is forthcoming I shall probably have more to say upon it. At the present juncture, however, I shall content myself by impressing upon the Government the desirableness of appointing to future Royal Commissions only members of Parliament who are responsible to the people. It is not in the interest of economy that Ministers should go outside of the Commonwealth Legislature in the appointment of these Commissions. When the cost of outside Commissions which have been appointed is forthcoming, it will be found that parliamentary Commissions have involved considerably less expenditure, while at the same time they have proved much more
– I merely wish to say that the return which Senator Foll desires will be prepared as early as possible and made available to honorable senators. My only reason for calling “ Not formal “ to the motion at an earlier stage of our proceedings to-day was that I was not then aware whether there was any objection to the return being tabled at the present juncture. I have since ascertained that there is no objection, and consequently, it will be forthcoming.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Debate resumed, vide page 811) :
Clause 11 -
The Commission may exercise such powers, and shall perform such duties, as are conferred upon it by this Act, or as are prescribed.
– I take strong exception to the words “or as are prescribed “ at the end of sub-clause 1 of this clause. I find that there are far more statutory rules and regulations framed under our various Acts of Parliament than there are sections in those Acts. These regulations are scarcely seen by members of the Legislature, who certainly are afforded no adequate opportunity for perusing and criticising them. I do hope that for the honour of Parliament we shall call a halt to this kind of thing. We are here to do legislative work, and piles of regulations are laid upon the table of the Senate when it is impossible for us to go through them and appreciate their effect. To all intents and purposes they are of a legislative character, and as such should be embodied in our Statutes. Bills presented to us should be so framed as to obviate the present practice. The regulations of which I speak are compiled principally by Ministers and officers of the various Departments. I hold that all legislative proposals should ‘be submitted to this Parliament for consideration. It cannot be said that when regulations are merely laid upon the table of the Senate we have a fair opportunity of criticising them.
– I have no objection to the deletion of the words to which the honorable senator has directed attention.
– Would not their deletion handicap the Minister ?
– Doubtless it would have that effect.
– I admit that there are regulations which are necessary, but I recognise that a good many of our statutory rules should come directly under the supervision of Parliament itself.
– I share, as I am sure the Committee generally does, the view which has been expressed by Senator Senior that, as far as possible, Parliament should set out in the various Bills which come before it what it wishes to be done. The only purpose of the words “ or as are prescribed,” seeing that they follow the express stipulation that the” Commission shall exercise such powers and perform such duties as are conferred by this Act, is to leave some possibility of it picking up anything which may have been overlooked. But if such an oversight occurs it will still be possible for the Minister to again approach the Senate, with a proposal to remedy it. I do not wish to move for the deletion of the words in question, but I share Senator Senior’s views so much that if the Committee desire it I am quite willing to agree to their omission.
– This clause proposes legislation by regulation instead of by Act of Parliament. The same practice has been followed in our Navigation Act. Out of 458 sections in that Act, 300 of them are subject to conditions “which may be prescribed.”
– How many sections have been proclaimed? _ Senator GUTHRIE. - Fifty-two sections and two schedules. Since the Act was proclaimed, the operation of certain provisions in it have been suspended.. That was a most scandalous act on the part of the Government. Their reasons for suspending the operation of those provisions, I do not know. Parliament passed the Act . subject to conditions which were “ to be prescribed.” Then the Government washed their hands of the entire business, and practically said, “We will not give effect to it.” They afterwards appointed officials under an Act which was not in force. They appointed a Director of Navigation.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss the Navigation Act.
– I am discussing the regulations under that Act.
– The honorable senator will be quite in order in making an incidental reference to the Navigation Act.
– Moreover, a Secretary of the Navigation Department has been appointed. The Government had no authority to make these appointments, except under regulations such as T am now discussing. This Parliament has no right to enact legislation which is subject to conditions “to be prescribed.” I know perfectly well that when statutory rules and’ regulations are presented to Parliament we have the power to disallow them. But we are not afforded an opportunity of doing so. For a period of four months this Parliament was virtually dissolved, and during; that time- 109 regulations were framed, which we had no opportunity Qf disallowing. I am not going to agree to any proposal to include in this Bill a provision by which it will be subject to conditions “to be prescribed.” I shall vote against the Government, because there is nothing definite in the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
.- I would like to again bring forward the matter which I mentioned earlier in this discussion, namely, the method proposed to be followed in connexion with the appointment of one of the nominees of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League to the Commission. I pointed out then that the candidates for a position upon that body would probably be balloted for by members of the league. I stressed the fact that out of a number of candidates one man might receive a large majority of the votes recorded. But despite that circumstance, the Government might, select from those candidates the man who was lowest on the poll. Although he would be a representative of the returned soldiers he would not be the person who was preferred by a majority of them. I ask the Minister, therefore, to delegate to each State branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League the power to recommend the appointment of the man whom they desire to have as their representative on the State Board. Instead of being required to submit three names to the Minister, the league should have the right . to select the person who shall represent them on the Board. Otherwise the nominee chosen by the Government may not represent the majority of the men.
.- I move-
That after the word “ persons,” line 4, the words “-two of whom were members of the A.I.F.” be inserted.
At an earlier stage in the debate, when the appointment of the Commissioner was under consideration, I endeavoured, but’ without success, to secure acceptance of the principle that the position should bo given to a returned soldier. Under this clause, it is proposed to appoint a Board for each State, and I remind members of the Committee that the positions are worth having - not like a job in a railway cutting, or on a microscopic poultry farm - and I feel satisfied that at least two .persons with the requisite knowledge and experience to satisfactorily discharge the duties may be found from among the 500,000 men ‘who enlisted for service abroad during the war. The Government have never tired of their professions in the matter of preference to returned men, -but on this very issue, Senator Poll, as one of the representatives of returned soldiers in Queensland, has refused to support me.
– I did not.
– When I called for a division, the honorable senator did not support me.
– I was not in the chamber.
– The honorable senator should have been in the chamber. I maintain that returned soldiers should have the right to at least two- of the positions on each State Board.
– It is quite likely that two of the positions will be filled by returned- soldiers.
– There is no reason why this principle should not be inserted in the clause. We now have an opportunity to make it mandatory on the part of the Government to give two of these positions to ex-members of the A.I.F., because, whether they are paid ‘ salaries or fees, the positions will be very much better than thousands of others which are offered to returned soldiers. Night watchmen, who get only a nominal salary, are given preference, so why should not preference be given to returned soldiers in connexion with the State Boards?
– And yet you said that the men should not go to the war at all.
– I said, nothing of the. kind. The statement made by the honorable senator is quite inaccurate; it is not founded upon fact; if is an/ hallucination. I would -have no hesitation in filling all the positions on the State Boards with returned men, because, to all intents and purposes, they are out of the A.I.F., and may now be regarded as ordinary citizens.
, - Two very reasonable proposals have been made for the consideration of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen). With regard to Senator Foil’s suggestion, the clause as it stands does imply distrust of the Returned Soldiers League, members of which are to be asked to nominate, not select, three members,- because the person chosen by the Government from these nominees .might not be the most suitable. The league should be trusted completely. Senator Grant’s amendment is also perfectly fair. The duties of * the State Boards are not very clearly defined. They are mentioned in a subsequent clause, which, of course, I am not allowed to refer to, except by way of illustration. It is stated that the Boardsshall exercise such powers as are defined in the Act, or which may be given to them by proclamation. I have looked very carefully through the Act to ascertain what these powers are, and find they are to be defined under some regulation hereinafter to be framed. The duties, in the main, will be advisory, I understand, and not administrative.
– By no means.
– Will they be administrative?
– No; but the State Boards will determine the applications, submitted to them. Their functions will be of a semi-judicial character.
– Will their decisions be final ?
– In the majority of cases, yes.
– The information given by the Minister illustrates the disadvantage honorable senators are under in being asked to consider the composition’ of the State Boards without information as to the particular duties of the members.
– When introducing the Bill, I told the Senate what the duties of the Board would be.
– It would, I think, be much .more satisfactory if we had the regulations before us, so that we could study them in relation to the Bill. The measure is in the interests of returned soldiers, and representatives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League on the State Boards should be in a better position than outside persons to understand the particular problems of returned soldiers. I think, therefore, that at least two members of each Board should be returned men. Senator Grant suggests that the three positions should be given to returned soldiers. That would not be unreasonable, as the Government would have control of the funds, and could see that the money was not squandered.
– In regard to the point raised by Senator Poll, when I said I dealt with that matter in my second-reading speech I overlooked the fact . that he had then left the chamber. I would point out that the Bill is the result of an agreement between the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League and the Government, and to that extent it may be said to carry its approval so far as such a body is in a position to express a composite opinion. It was not done with any expression of distrust, but it was felt that while a popular man might have been selected, he might be one who, in the opinion of the Government, was not fit for the position. We are giving great powers to the Commission; it will have to deal with large sums of Government money, and it seems only right that the Government responsible for the work should be satisfied that the persons placed in position are qualified for the duties they are to perform. An arrangement has been made whereby the league is to submit a panel of three, and the Government have undertaken to consider the nominations in the order in which they are submitted ; and on the assumption that the league puts forward suitable men that course will be followed. It still leaves to the Government the opportunity of saying that for certain reasons they cannot accept the nomination of the first one, in which case they will revert to the second.
– You need not accept either.
– That might happen. The league will be asked to submit their panel, but I do not think, from the unofficial information I have received, that there is likely to be any trouble, as the probable nominees appear to be suitable persons. I ask the Senate to leave that portion of the Bill alone. ‘
In regard to the hypocritical suggestions of Senator Grant, I would like to know how long he has been such a keen advocate of the interests of the returned soldiers. He makes it appear that the only purpose in his life is to secure preference to returned men. How are his organizations carrying out that policy in filling vacancies in industrial unions 1 When secretaries and other officials are to be appointed, has preference always been shown to returned soldiers?
– What about the Millions Club, which consists of the Minister’s friends ?
– I am dealing with industrial organizations, and I’ invite the honorable senator to show a single instance where a vacancy such as I have mentioned has been filled by a returned soldier. It is an easy matter to come here and mouth these sentiments on behalf of returned soldiers, but when it comes to filling vacancies in industrial unions the honorable senator has not said one word on behalf of returned soldiers, or made any endeavour to give effect to the policy which he expects the Govern-‘ ment to follow. When the honorable senator comes here and attempts to reflect upon the sincerity of the Government, he must realize that he is dealing with a Department employing 99 per cent, of returned men on its staff, and surely that is the best certificate that I can offer. I invite Senator Grant to compare this position with what he has done in placing returned men in official positions. Some time ago the Senate passed a Bill to provide war service homes, and a returned soldier was appointed to the Commission controlling that work. I can easily prove that the Government have always been genuinely desirous of carrying out a policy of preference to1 returned soldiers. Senator Grant has at times stressed the value of experience, and has said that the best men available should always be selected. The Government have done this, not only in this Department, but in others. I ask Senator Grant to realize that this is not ah instance where we can bestow a benefit on only one or two individuals, but that we are appointing a Commission and State Boards to deal with the interests of 250,000 men. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment of Senator Grant, and I also express the hope that Senator Foll will be prepared to accept my explanation and not proceed with his amendment.
.- I accept the Minister’s statement of the position, and consider his explanation a reasonable one. I desire’ to know, if, when this Bill was being discussed between the Government and the representatives of the Soldiers Association, the association was satisfied with the appointment of one member, leaving the selection of the other two in the hands of the Government 1
– This provision was arrived at after full discussion between the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), on behalf of the Government, and the executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League.
– The hypocrisy is altogether on the side of Senator Millen, Senator Foll, and the other honorable senators supporting them. ‘ There is no hypocrisy so far as I am concerned. I would not bother to ask for a withdrawal of the Minister’s remark, and although it is offensive, it does not apply to me. It is quite inaccurate, and I am now giving the Government an opportunity of demonstrating their genuineness in this matter. We have a returned soldier, such as Senator Foll, tied up to the Government in such a way that he is afraid to advocate that at least two returned men should be placed in these positions.
– I am quite prepared to leave the business of returned soldiers in their hands.
– So am I. But the honorable senator is not prepared to vote in such a way as to enable soldiers to have preference, and that at least two of the positions shall be given to members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League. According to the Minister it would appear that it is almost a certainty that two or three returned men would secure these positions, and if that is the case, why is it not embodied in the Bill ? It is not unreasonable to assume that the three Commissioners will not be selected from the ranks of returned soldiers, but surely we are justified in asking that at least two of the members of the State Boards, who are to be appointed for only two years, but who will be eligible for re-appointment, shall be selected from those who have seen service abroad.
In regard to the positions filled by Labour organizations, I do not think that returned men have not had every consideration. I know that some of the officers in the Australian Labour party are re turned men, and that they secured their positions mainly because they had seen active service. When the Millions Club wanted a secretary, what did it do? Did it select a returned man to fill the position ? When Mr. Holman was contesting the seat in Cootamundra, what did he do? He insisted upon the first preference being given to him, and the second bo Mr. Darcy, who was a returned man. This is the sort of preference that the Leader of the National party in New South Wales bestows on service men.
– Why did not the Labour party select a returned man as Lieutenant-Governor in Queensland ?
– I suppose because it happened that the Chief Justice at the time was not a returned soldier. Let me inform honorable senators that the prospect of having a Governor appointed by the Imperial authorities has gone for ever, so far as Queensland is concerned, as the next appointment will be made by the State Government.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing that matter. He may make a passing reference to it, but nothing more.
– It must be hurtful and annoying to these jingoists when they realize that a Labour man is LieutenantGovernor in Queensland. Things are going on just the same. A good deal was said when a Labour man was appointed Lord Mayor of Sydney, but nothing has happened,- and, doubtless, when His- Royal Highness the Prince of Wales arrives, he will be received in the usual old way. I have shown the hypocrisy of Senator Millen, and have clearly demonstrated his bogus loyalty. Hypocrisy has been shown by the Minister, and his replica in Senator Foll is a poor one. We are only asking that two of the men to be appointed to thesenice little billets shall be returned men,, and this is the time for the Government to give a genuine and unequivocal demonstration of their policy of preference. Returned soldiers do not want such miserable and contemptible jobs as that of a watchman. They do not want preference for jobs that any one can get. They do not want miserable and paltry positions on poultry farms where a man canscarcely make a living;’ they are tired of that sort of business. It is hypocritical on the part of the Minister and those supporting him to act in this manner.
– Is the honorable senator in order in saying that those who are supporting the Ministry are hypocrites ?
– I understand the word was used in a very broad sense.
– I regard it as offensive, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– If the honorable senator considers it offensive I ask Senator Grant to withdraw it.
– In deference to the wish of the Committee, I withdraw.
– On the point of order. Is the Minister also to be asked to withdraw the same expression ?
– The time has passed for that.
– I am quite sincere in this matter, and say that unless the Government are prepared to incorporate the amendment I have moved, they must stand before the people of this country and before the returned soldiers as hypocrites of the first order.
– I ask the honorable senator not to use that word, as it has already been objected to.
– The Minister only can use it.
– Order !
– If it is offensive I withdraw it. In any case I ask the Senate to support the amendment moved by me, and seconded by Senator O’Loghlin.
.- If the soldiers of this country desired anybody to take up their case, I think the last man they would select would be Senator Grant. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has pointed out that the Bill has been drafted after negotiation between the soldiers’ representatives and the Government, and if the soldiers, through- their organization, are satisfied that the Bill is giving them a fair deal, I am prepared to let it stand at that.
– Then why did the honorable senator raise the objection ?
– I asked the Minister the position in regard to the three men,and pointed out that I thought it desirable that only one, should be selected. The Minister very courteously explained that it was at the request of the central executive that three names were to be submitted. I am sure that if the returned soldiers wanted their case brought up here Senator Grant would be the very last they would approach, because my opinion of the honorable senator is that he should hide his face in shame every time he sees a returned soldier.
– I should have been glad if Senator Grant had been able to tell the Com- ‘mittee that he was moving his amendment as the result of a conference, or even a conversation, with’ the executive of the Returned Soldiers Association, or. with any number. of responsible members of that organization, but he carefully refrained from saying that he was taking action at the request of even one returned man. I have had the privilege of discussing ‘ the probable appointments to the State Board, not with the executive of the Returned Soldiers Association in South Australia, or with any official part of that association, but with many prominent members of it. Although we had not seen the Bill, some provision of this sore was expected, and the returned soldiers were in a position to discuss it. So far as my conversation with them goes, the returned soldiers in South Australia will be perfectly satisfied to have one member of their organization on the State Board. It was suggested to me in conversation that a member of the Fathers Association might very well be appointed by the Government, and no one has a better right, except the returned soldiers themselves. Such an appointment would be very acceptable to the returned soldiers; but, after discussing the question with some of them individually, I can assure the Committee that they are quite satisfied to have que member on the Board. If the Government choose to appoint more than one, there is nothing in the clause to prevent them. If two suitable men are nominated by the Returned Soldiers Association it is quite within the hounds of possibility that the Government may appoint both. I am not going to refer to hypocrites, but if the term applies to any one, it would apply to those gentlemen who to-day areso keen in showing their interest for the returned soldiers. The soldiers are back here, or nearly all of them who will ever come back are, and the gentlemen who- are bo busy trying to persuade them that they are their friends to-day did very little for them when they wanted help most badly. The time the soldiers wanted assistance was when they were fighting with their backs to the wall. History shows the action taken at that time by those who ‘now profess to be their friends. When we knew that thousands of our soldiers were behind barbed wire entanglements in Germany suffering * all the brutalities that the Germans could inflict upon them those gentlemen were “ raising Cain “ generally in this Parliament on behalf of the imprisoned Industrial Workers of the World men - the would-be murderers, who were properly behind prison bars for their crimes. They were pleading in the Senate for men of the Freeman type, while thousands of their fellow countrymen were behind barbed wire in Germany : yet not a word did they utter to raise help to release our men and to end the war. Now that the soldiers are back, with their votes and influence, in Australia, those gentlemen are appealing to them in a contemptible way, trying to belittle the Government and other men who did so much for the. soldiers during the period of the war. The amendment is nothing but a piece’ of camouflage, put up to deceive the returned soldiers. It will not deceive them, because their memory is too good. The Government, and particularly the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), have done more and better work for the soldiers while they were fighting overseas, and since they have come back, than has been done by any other man in Australia. The statement made by the Minister yesterday is a clear vindication of the administration of the Repatriation Department. I am satisfied that every soldier who reads it will agree that, whatever the imperfections of the scheme may have; been, and whatever mistakes the Department has made, the Minister started out to make it a perfect scheme, and the Bill has been framed on the experience gained in the working of the scheme from its- inception up to the present time. It has been framed in collaboration with the returned soldiers. If they had wanted three men on each State Board they would have asked for them, and I am sure the Minister would have listened very sympathetically to them. I am confident that the Committee is not going to be tripped up by a paltry attempt of this sort to discredit the men who did so much for the soldiers during the war. The Committee will take no notice of this move, which will be made, not only here, but elsewhere, in a determined effort to mislead the returned soldier and to show him where his friends are to-day. I want to remind the returned soldiers and every one else that, when they wanted help, those gentlemen were very backward in giving it. Now that the soldiers are here, and able to look after themselves, I am confident that they will be satisfied with the Bill as introduced by the Minister.
– Senator Newland has repeatedremarks to which I have listened a considerable number of times. I would remind him that the number of. enlistments from Australia under the voluntary system when a Labour Government held the reins of office far exceeded those which took place after the advent of the present Government to power. I say, without fear of successful contradiction, that the main reason for the falling-off in recruiting was the action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his friends, who determined, but quite unsuccessfully, to foist conscription upon the people. No one knows it better than Senator Newland does, and no one knows better than he that the great bulk of those who went from this country to fight were, as is always the case, the working people of this country. The number of union men who left this country to fight for it was greater-
– The credit is theirs, not yours.
– It is not the honorable senator’s, because he never attempted or intended to go away to fight for Australia. He is of the Holman-Hall type, and took good care to remain safely ensconced here. One gets tired of hearing the continuous misrepresentation of facts, even by Senator Newland.
– You did not go.
– I did not, neither did the honorable senator. If he had gone the war would not have lasted as long as it did. This amendment gives an opportunity to put these bogus patriots, these bogus soldiers’ supporters, to the test.
– The matter was put to the test on the 13th December, and the soldiers told you what they thought of you.
– Had the soldiers and other electors in New South Wales been backed up by the people of the other States, they would certainly have displaced the present Government. The honorable senator need not imagine, because we had 175,000 informal votes, owing to the measure which he and his Government bludgeoned through the Senate, that he can repeat that performance every time. There was an election in New South Wales the other day, and despite all the villainous misrepresentations of the honorable senator who opposed the Labour party, I am about correct in saying that the working people of New South Wales, as against the parasites, will have a majority on the Treasury bench of the State when the final figures go up. This is an opportunity for these flag-flappers, these men who never did anything tangible towards winning the war, to show their bona fides.
– I object to being called a flag-flapper. I think I did a little towards the war.
– How far did the honorable senator go?
– I went a long way.
– If an honorable senator objects to the expression, it must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it so far as Senator Rowell is concerned.
– I also object to it.
– I withdraw it also in the honorable senator’s case. I have moved the amendment because I believe in it. It gives the Government and their supporters an opportunity to make a practical exhibition of the belief which they say is in them. Unless they vote for it they can be written down as men who are not what they profess to be.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted (Senator Grant’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Offices - how vacated).
– I invite the attention of the Minister to sub-clause 3 of this clause. It will be seen that in the first sub-clause provision is made for the vacation of his office by a commissioner or member of a Board if he engages during his term of office in any employment outside the duties of his office; and, further, under paragraph c of sub-clause 2, if he becomes in any way concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Commission’, or claims to be entitled to participate in the profits thereof, or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom. The penalty under these sub-clauses is loss of office, but by sub-clause 3 it is provided that-
If a commissioner or an acting commissioner or a member of the Board becomes in any way concerned or interested in any such contract or agreement, or in any way participates or claims as aforesaid, he shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
That is a very much more severe penalty. I am entirely in accord with the main purpose of the clause, but the Minister may know that there have been decisions to the effect that a member of a Board or council, or similar body is interested in a contract let by the body of which he is a member, if he is merely a shareholder of a company successful in securing the contract. Obviously it is not the intention under this Bill that subclause 3 of clause 17 should cover an interest of that character. ‘ There is a form of words used in some of our Statutes, which I do not at present recall, exempting that character of interest from penalty. I suggest that before the Bill leaves the Committee the Minister should invite his officers to look up other legislation dealing with this subject, so as to secure the insertion of a form of words which will exempt from the penalty a member of a Commission or Board under the Bill who has merely the perfectly legitimate interest of a shareholder in a company carrying out a contract under the measure.
– - I am very glad to find that Senator Keating takes no exception to the very heavy penalty provided by this clause when it is clear that an offence has been committed, because it must not be forgotten that these commissioners will be intrusted with considerable opportunities of spending money or making contracts. It is desirable, in the circumstances, that a heavy penalty should be provided for where a commissioner or member of a Board under the Bill has openly and wilfully contravened’ this clause. I quite agree with the honorable senator that an interest merely as a shareholder in a company should 110t render a commissioner or member of a Board liable to penalties under the clause, and if honorable senators are agreeable, I shall ask for the .postponement of the clause to enable the point raised by Senator Keating to be given consideration.
Clauses 18 to 20 agreed to.
– This clause debars employees of the Commission or Boards under the Bill from. the benefits of the Public Service Act. The measure is likely to continue in operation for a considerable number of years, and as the number of officers employed by the Commission and the various Boards will be fairly large, I have been wondering why it is proposed to exempt them from “the provisions of the Public Service Act. There may be good reasons for the exemption which do not appear to me, but I should like to know what those reasons are.
– Honorable senators may remember that, when the original measure was introduced, a ‘ discussion took place upon a similar provision, and the reason I then submitted for not including the staff of the Repatriation Department under the Public Service Act was indorsed by the Senate. The reason was that if the members of the staff were appointed under the Public Service Act they would become appointees for life : but it was reasonable to assume that the Repatriation Department, beginning in a small way, would expand, and that later, as its work became less, there would be a necessity for greatly reducing the staff. If members/ of the staff were appointed for life, the country would then be confronted with the obligation of carrying them on indefinitely after the work for which they had been appointed was completed, or compensating them for retirement. The Senate, in dealing with the original measure, conceded the force of that argument, and I ask honorable senators to do- so now.
– I notice that there is no provision in the clause to give effect to the principle of preference to returned soldiers in the appointment of officers. I have no doubt that, so long as the present Government remain in power, that principle will be given effect “to, but there may be dark days ahead for Australia when a party of which Senators Grant and O’Loghlin will be members, may be returned to power, and, in the circumstances, I think it would be better to insert in this clause some provision to give effect to the principle of preference to returned soldiers.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales - Minister for Repatriation) (9.12]. - Having heard the point raised by Senator Foll, I have asked the draftsman to prepare a suitable form of words to give effect to his suggestion. I have already informed the Committee that 99 per cent, of the staff of the Repatriation Department are returned soldiers, but I have no objection fo an amendment stipulating that, other things being equal, preference shall be given to returned soldiers in these appointments. Of the 1 per cent, of the existing staff who are not returned soldiers, I believe that not even> the most militant advocate of preference to returned soldiers would take any exception to them. I shall have the clause postponed to allow of the preparation of an amendment which Senator Foll may move later to give effect to his suggestion.
Clause 22 -
In this part of this Act, unless the contrary intention appears . . . “Member of the Forces “ means a member of the Commonwealth Naval or Military Forces enlisted or appointed for or employed on active service outside Australia or employed on a ship of war or enlisted or appointed for service in connexion with naval or military preparations or operations, and includes a member of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Service who is accepted or appointed by the DirectorGeneral of Medical Services for service outside Australia.
– I am going to ask the Committee to approve of a re-casting of the definition of “ Member of the Forces,” which will not alter the definition in the Bill in sense or substance, but will express with greater clarity, and in a categorical way, obvious even to the casual reader, who will be included under the definition. I move -
That the definition of “Member of the Forces” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof - “ Member of the Forces “ means a person who during the present war was -
Naval or Military Forces enlisted or appointed for or employed on active service outside Australia or employed on a ship of war;
Similar words are contained in the existing Act, but instead of running them all into one paragraph, on the present occasion, we have, for the purpose of clarity, embodied them in three paragraphs.
– I ask the Minister if the form of words adopted in the amendment does not necessarily cover munition workers ?
– No. It does not include munition workers.
– They were appointed under military command.
– They were simply under civil contract with the Defence Department-
– They were never enlisted.
– They may not have been enlisted, but they were appointed in connexion with military preparations.
– They were not appointed.
– I accept the assurance of the Minister. I merely desired to ascertain what is the exact position.
– The inclusion of munition workers in this clause appears to me to be a very fair thing. It is quite true that they were not enlisted, and that, in the strict sense of the term, they could not be regarded as military men. At the same time, they went abroad, and in so doing encountered danger. They incurred a great risk in voyaging to Great Britain. I do not know whether any of them were submarined, and actually lost their lives in that way; but although the men who went to Great Britain to engage in the manufacture of munitions did not shoulder as great an obligation as did those who enlisted, they went there under contract with the Government, they remained there for a considerable time, and there can be no doubt as to the value of their work. It seems, therefore, only a fair thing that they should be brought within the scope of this clause. In order to test the opinion of the Committee upon the matter, I shall, when Senator Milieu’s amendment has been disposed of, move a further amendment to add a new sub-clause, which will read “ or who had been engaged abroad in the manufacture of munitions.”
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new paragraph be inserted : - “(d) or who had been engaged abroad in the manufacture of munitions.”
I know there is a difference of opinion as to whether those who engaged as munition workers ought to participate in the benefits conferred by this clause; but, having regard to the value of the services which they rendered, to the risk which they incurred, and to the satisfactory termination of the war, I submit that they ought not to be denied its .advantages. It must be remembered that .whilst these men were absent from Australia, the Commonwealth paid their wives separation allowances just as it paid similar allowances to the dependants of members of the Australian Imperial Force. They were treated in. exactly the same way as were members of the Army.
– Oh, no. The munition workers got their wages from their private employers, whereas the soldiers were paid by the Government.
– But the Government paid separation allowances to the wives of munition workers.
– We supplemented their pay in certain circumstances.
– I know of cases in which the usual separation allowances were paid.
– Under altogether different conditions.
– But the amount of cash which they received was just the same as that which was paid to the dependants of the Australian Imperial Force. Why, then, should these men be deprived of the benefits which it is proposed to confer upon members of that body? The exemption does not seem to be a reasonable one. The duties performed by a munition worker were just as valuable as those performed by a soldier.
– But the munition workers received better pay. I know of some who earned £10 and £12 per week.
– And they incurred less risk.
– They’ took a very considerable risk. In view of the fact that Ave paid their wives separation allowances during their absence we ought not, now that the war is over, to treat them in a niggardly fashion.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Grant, and I am rather surprised to learn that the clause does not apply to munition workers: T was certainly under the impression that they came within the scope of the words “appointed for service in connexion with naval or military preparations or operations.”
– Those words are not new to this Bill. They are to be found in the existing Act.
– It cannot be urged on the present occasion, as it was on a former occasion, that the munition workers are satisfied with their treatment under the Repatriation Act. I have attended meetings at which they have stressed their grievances. The work of a munition operative was just as important as was that of a man in the firing line. The latter could not fight if he were not supplied with the necessary munitions. Moreover, many munition workers offered their services in the firing line, but the authorities refused to enlist them on the ground that the work in which they were engaged was more valuable to the army than their servic.es would be in ‘ the fighting line. Whilst in London I met men from the Islington Workshops in South Australia who told me that on one or two occasions they had endeavored to enlist, but their services had. been declined for the reason I have stated. We all know that during the war many munition factories were either blown up or destroyed by fire, and that the work performed by the men in those establishments was of an exceedingly dangerous character. I fail to see, therefore, why they should not be entitled to the benefits bestowed by £his clause.
.- I shall support the amendment. On previous occasions the Minister for Repatriation, has not been able to see eye to eye with me on this subject, but I may point out that the Imperial authorities have found it necessary to place their munition workers in practically the same category as their fighting forces. Reference has been made to the high wages earned by munition workers during the war, but it must be remembered that they had to meet the greatly increased cost of living, so that while some may have earned £8 and £9 per week, there was often very little left after they had kept themselves, whereas soldiers in the trenches were in a vastly different position. A large number of these men would have gone to the Front as soldiers, but not being eligible, they did the next best thing, by offering their services for munition work, and many of them upon their return to Australia have found themselves in a sorry .plight through unemployment. I trust the Minister will see his way clear to accept the amendment.
– I regret that I cannot accept the amendment. It is easy for honorable gentlemen who are not charged with the responsibility of administering the Act to try and widen it so as to include other sections of the community. But we must consider our obligations. Australia has taken upon its shoulders a very heavyburden indeed in making provision for the men who deserve it, namely, the fightjug forces during the war. I readily admit that munition workers rendered an exceedingly useful service to the nation, and if the question of finance did not intrude, I should readily accept the amendment; but, as I have already pointed out, we must fully consider the financial aspect of the proposal. It is said that the munition workers ran a considerable risk during the voyage to England. Undoubtedly they did, but so did the soldiers, and I point out that the risk to munition .workers practically ceased when they reached England, whereas the soldiers’ risk only really commenced. It is also said that their work was as important as that of the soldiers in the firing line. I might say the same of the man who stayed at home to grow wheat. Indeed, at one time it was urged that1 it was more important for a man to stay at home and grow wheat than to offer his services in the fighting line. But no one will contend that’ because a man stayed at home to grow wheat, because it was necessary to provide food for the armies in the field and the munition workers in Great Britain, those who did that important work should now be entitled to the benefits of this measure.
– Very far fetched !
– It is necessary to employ a far-fetched illustration in order that the position may sink into the minds of some honorable gentlemen. There is an absolute parallel. Without wheat, neither the munition worker nor the army in the field could have lived, but there is a great distinction between the man who produced the food supplies necessary for the maintenance of the army and the man in the firing line, and the Government has thought it only fair and just to draw the line at the man in the fighting forces. Let me point out also that munition workers were not in the Government service in any sense of the word. They did not enlist. They made private contracts with private employers in England, and the Defence Department only came into the business as agent for British firms, in order to see that the contracts were fair and just, and that they were faithfully carried out. These men also were not receiving 5s. or 6s. a day, the pay allotted to our soldiers. They were making, many of them, up to £12 per week, much better wages, in spite of the high cost, of living, than they could have earned in Australia. I observe that Senator Senior shakes his head. It is an incontrovertible fact that many munition workers earned very high wages indeed.
– Not as a general rule.
– They earned more than was possible in Australia at that time. In all the iron and metal trades wages were extraordinarily high, and skilled workmen made big money.
– Munition workers’ wages were 9d. an hour.
– But they earned big wages at overtime rates. If money were no object I would willingly include in the provision of this measure munition workers, as well as anybody else who took part in war work, but clearly there is some point at which one must draw the line, and the Government has thought it proper to draw the line between men who. were in the actual fighting forces and those who were accessories.
– I am at a loss to understand why the Minister cannot accept the amendment. He seems to stress too much the financial aspect of the proposal. It would be interesting to know how many munition workers went from Australia.
– About 5,000 munition and war workers.
– The object of the measure is not to benefit every one of the 5,000, but to provide for benefits in the case of death or incapacity due to any occurrence or happening during the period of employment, and therefore only a small percentage of the munition workers would be entitled’ to take advantage of this provision. In a later clause of the Bill there is provision for assistance and benefits other than pensions, and I take it only a small percentage of munition workers’ dependants would be included. The question of finance is not so great, and in a measure like this we should not institute any fine comparisons or contrasts between the soldiers in the trenches and munition workers whose duty it was to provide material for the army in the field. Then as to the danger,’ there was more risk in munition work than during the voyage to England. When, as a member of the Parliamentary party, I journeyed to the Old Country, during the war period, I visited some munition works, and in more than one establishment was shown places which had been marked to indicate where bombs from German raiding aeroplanes had’ fallen. Besides this, the nature of their occupation, and the speed at which it was necessary to work to keep up supplies, involved a considerable amount of danger, and as Senator O’Loghlin has remarked, quite a number of munition factories were blown up in Great Britain and elsewhere.
– If this amendment is accepted, how can we logically exclude the seamen of the mercantile marine ?
– The munition workers went directly from their civil occupations in Australia to take up special work in Great Britain, in order to provide the armies in the field with the means of carrying on the war. On previous occasions I have referred to the earnings of some of these munition workers. A young man who went from Launceston put up a marvellous’ record’. Indeed, the figures were so startling that his father could scarcely get people to credit the statement, but through the courtesy of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who had the figures, we were able to confirm the information that this young man, who previously had been employed in one of the engineering works in Launceston, earned from £12 to £13 per week, and in one week his wages totalled over £19. Moreover, some of the munition workers, by their skilland ability, reflected great credit on their native land in competition with British workmen, but upon their return to Australia have not been able to get back to employment, although the Commonwealth has embarked’ upon certain military construction works. We might, without any great financial risk, include munition workers in the benefits of the Bill, as only a small percentage of them would come under its provisions.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Grant’s amendment) be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 23 -
Upon the death or incapacity of any member of the Forces whose death or incapacity -
results or has resulted from any occurrence happening during the period he was a member of the Forces;
does not arise from self-inflicted injuries; and
does not arise from, or from any occurrence happening during the commission of, any breach of discipline by the member, the Commonwealth shall, subject to this Act, be liable to pay to the member or his dependants, or both, as the case may be, pensions in accordance with this Act : . . . .
– In conformity with the plan adopted in connexion with a previous clause of recasting it in proper form, and to secure better phrasing and greater clarity, I am going to ask the Committee to substitute the form which I propose reading for that in the clause. I shall not ask the Committee to come to a decision on the matter to-night, and will have printed copies available to-morrow, so that honorable senators may more closely scrutinize the amendment. I therefore move -
That all the words from “Upon” (line 1) to “member” (line 12) be deleted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ Upon the death or incapacity - (a.) of any person to whom paragraph (a) . or’ (b) of the definition of ‘ Member of the Forces ‘ applies, whose death or incapacity -
results or has resulted from any occurrence happening during the period he was a member of the Forces;
does not arise from intentionally self-inflicted injuries; and (in) does not arise from, or from any occurrence happening during the commission of, any breach of discipline by the member; and
of any person to whom paragraph (c) of the definition of ‘ Member of the Forces’ applies, whose death or incapacity results or has resulted from his employment in connexion with naval or military preparations or operations.”
With the concurrence of the Committee I propose moving that progress be reported at this stage.
Importation op Quinine into Papua.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Government the fact that an ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. is charged on quinine imported into Papua. As this drug is absolutely essential for the residents on that island owing to the climatic conditions, I think it is only reasonable for the Government to allow this drug to be imported free of duty. In many other countries quinine is imported free of charge, and is also distributed gratuitously. Under the present administration in Papua it is not distributed, but a duty of 10 per cent. is imposed on all quinine imported into that Territory.
– In any form?
– Yes, I made inquiries, and have ascertained that the position is as I have stated. Honorable senators doubtless realize that in Papua this drug is absolutely essential to life, and I ask the Government to make in quiries with a view to seeing if it cannot be placed on a free list.
– I shall place the honorable senator’s suggestion before my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 March 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200325_senate_8_91/>.