8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The Honorable Edward T. Mulcahy made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as a senator for Tasmania.
The following papers were presented : -
War-time Wealth Increases: Memoranda submitted by the Board of Inland Revenue to the Select Committee of the House of Commons. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Repatriation purposes at Victoria Park, Western Australia.
Public Service Act - Appointment of A. S. Robertson, Department of Works andRailways.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired for War Service Homes purposes at-
Newtown, Geelong, Victoria.
Customs . Act- Proclamation, dated 27th April, 1920, prohibiting exportation (except under certain conditions) of meat, and revoking proclamation of 2nd May, 1911, relating to the exportation of meat.
Senator Earle presented the Second General Report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts.
Deliveryof Mails by “ Ormonde.”
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Th e answers are -
The following Bills were (on the motion of Senator Millen) read a third time : -
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1917-18.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1918-19.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1917-18.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1918-19.
Bill (on motion by Senator Millen) read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with a message intimating that the House of Representatives did not insist upon its alternative amendment to which the Senate had disagreed, but had inserted a new alternative clause, 47a, with which it desired the concurrence of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
Clause 47a - (1) “ The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist soldiers by way of loan to the extent of pound for pound contributed by them in cash or war bonds, for the purpose of establishing industries on aco-operative basis, such industries to include the manufacture of boots, woollen goods and clothing, tanning, woolscouring, fellmongering (and kindred industries), saw-milling, and other enterprises.
House of Representatives’ Message. - That the alternative amendment to the amendment disagreed to by the Senate be not insisted on, but that in place thereof the following clause be inserted: - 47a. (1) The Commission shall, subject to the approval of the Minister, have power to assist Australian soldiers by way of loan, to an extent not exceeding one pound for each pound contributed by them in Treasury Bonds issued under section 13 of the War Gratuity Act 1920, or in cash, for the purpose of establishing cooperative businesses.
– I move -
That the new alternative amendment made by the House of Representatives be agreed to.
I desire, as briefly as possible, to remind honorable senators of the history of this matter. . In the form in which the Bill was submitted by the Government, no provision of this character was embodied in it. The other branch of the Legislature, however, inserted an amendment which provided, in a very crude and nebulous form, that advances might be made to assist soldiers to engage in co-operative enterprises. This Chamber rejected that proposal, and the other House then returned to us substantially the same proposal, but with a limitation upon the amount of the advances to be made - to a pound for pound contribution by the soldiers. The Senate again rejected that amendment upon my invitation. The Bill was once morereturned to the other House, which has now forwarded us this further proposal. I do not intend to discuss the soundness or otherwise of the underlying, principle of the alternative amendment. That was debated on a previous occasion, and I then acquainted the Committee with the views which I held regarding the proposal itself. But, as I have pointed out, it is obvious that when the two Houses are in conflict, there must be some give-and-take if any final agreement is to be reached. Whatever one may think of the original proposal, the amendment, as it now comes before us, contains many safeguards which are designed to meet the objections that were raised in this Chamber previously. Honorable senators will notice that in subclause 2 of the proposed new clause, the amount which may be advanced to any soldier applicant is limited to £150. In addition, in order to safeguard the finances of the Commonwealth, the clause provides that the total amount to be thus advanced shall not exceed £500,000. The new clause also deals with the right of any soldier to transfer his interest in any co-operative enterprise. Previously, there was no provision in this regard. It must be obvious to honorable senators that where the Government is advancing money to a soldier with a view to benefiting him, their object would be defeated if that soldier could immediately transfer his interest to a civilian. Provision has, therefore, been made under which he will not be able to transfer his interest, unless the transferee is an Australian soldier approved by the Commission, or unless, in the opinion of the Commission, there are special circumstances which render the transfer to a civilian desirable. That will enable a soldier to transfer his interest to an equally eligible soldier; but in cases where it is sought to transfer to a civilian, the Commission will sanction the adoption of that course only if the circumstances justify it. The new clause also imposes a prohibition against persons engaged in these co-operative enterprises giving a mortgage or other lien over their property, which will necessarily be the security that is held by the Commonwealth. Sub-clause 6 will enable the Commission at all times to have access to the books and premises of any business in respect of which a loan has been granted. If it discovers that anything is going on which is .detrimental to such business, it is empowered to insist on such alterations as it may deem lit in the circumstances. The new clause also limits the period within which applications for assistance may be lodged. These applications must be lodged within twelve months from the passing of the Bill, or twelve months from the discharge of the soldier, whichever may be the later period. Honorable senators will recognise: the necessity for that provision; if it were not inserted, in ten, fifteen, or twenty years an effort might be made to take advantage of this clause by lodging belated applications. Applicants must satisfy the Commission that they are qualified to carry on the business in which they desire to engage. They must also satisfy it that they have a reasonable prospect of making their enterprise a success. There is another prohibition in para-‘ graph d of sub-clause 7 to which I desire to direct special attention. It provides that men shall not be eligible to receive assistance to embark upon cooperative enterprises if, in the opinion of the Commission, they have been reasonably and satisfactorily assisted to reestablish themselves in civil life. That will prevent men who have been so assisted forsaking the calling in which they have been placed to embark upon some other line of business. Sub-clause 8 is a very important one. It defines what is meant by “ co-operative business.” It reads -
For the purposes of this section, “ cooperative business “ means a business which, subject to the rights of the Commission in respect of any loans granted for establishing the business, is owned by persons engaged therein.
That is- a very important provision, and in its absence it would be possible for soldiers who satisfactorily engage in a business to borrow money with which to start some other enterprise as a supplementary means of earning income from their investment. The sub-clause relating to regulations has also- been amended. When it was previously before this Chamber the Commission had power to frame regulations for the repayment of loans, but the provision in its amended form gives it power to make regulations covering the granting as well as the repayment of loans. Taking the alternative amendment collectively the provision has been robbed of much of its vagueness and some of the points to which objection was previously taken. I submit that if there is a disposition, as I believe there is, to test the co-operative principle, it can be done under, this clause without any great danger arising. Whether such cooperative undertakings will be a success or not will depend very largely upon the boys themselves, and upon the manner in which they form themselves into groups, and are mutually acceptable to one another. If men co-operate in such a way that they eliminate the discordant elements they will have a reasonable prospect of meeting with fair success. The keystone of the whole situation is the manner in which the men will be grouped, and the success or otherwise in co-operative undertakings under this provision will depend entirely upon the good fellowship of those concerned. Men must co-operate in spirit as well as in deed if they are to succeed as we desire. Whatever our original ideas may have been regarding the proposition in its original form, I want to stress the point very strongly that, unless we take up the impossible attitude when there is any disagreement, we must be prepared to compromise between the views of the members in another place and those expressed by honorable senators in this Chamber.
.- I agree with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) that this is a very different proposition from that previously submitted to the Senate. There is no doubt that there is every opportunity of proving whether co-operation under this scheme is likely to be successful or not. Under the alternative amendment made by another place the Commonwealth will be adequately protected, and I am prepared to support it.
– I had not the privilege of being in the Chamber when this controversy was first raised, but I desire to say that I was entirely in sympathy with those of my fellow senators who opposed the insertion of any such amendment in the Bill when it was before this Chamber. We have now before us an alternative amendment, consisting of nine subclauses, which purport to place an obligation on the Commonwealth to spend a further £500,000. Since this new Parliament met, in February last, we have been doing nothing but voting away money-
– Yes, and the honorable senator wants more for the Sydney telephonic service.
– Some of the money made on the Sydney telephone service has gone in directions that will not benefit the Commonwealth as much as it would if it were used in improving the Sydney telephonic system. This is one of the many directions in which money is being mishandled.
We have passed a War Gratuity Bill which, we have been told, will involve the Government in expenditure to the extent of £28,000,000 or £30,000,000. So far a? I can ascertain, every man who enlisted, and who spent three months in camp before he embarked for service abroad, will be entitled to a war gratuity from the time he left Australia until the signing of the Peace. Treaty at Versailles..
TheCHAIRMAN (Senator Shannon). - The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the War Gratuity Bill on the question before the Committee.
– I am quite a. *fait with your view, Mr. Chairman, as to what is right, but I am now dealing with the question offinance, and endeavouring to show the extent to which the Commonwealth is already involved. We have passed a Bill that will place anobligation upon the Commonwealth of,app roximately, £35,000,000, instead of £28,000,000 as we have been told. The Australian Soldiers Repatriation Bill, which has just passed this Chamber, imposes an obligation upon the taxpayers of . the Commonwealth of a further £30,000,000.
– There is a limit to this proposal.
– I am coming; to that point. I am not going to stand here and assist in voting away any further money in connexion with repatriation, war gratuities, or anything of that nature, because we have reached our limit-
– If it had not been for the soldiers who fought for us we would not be here to-day.
– Of course, I know that, but there is a limit, and I believe a great majority of the soldiers are with me.
– The soldiers do not want the country to be bankrupt.
– I am glad to have that interjection. So far as I can ascertain we have been fair to the soldiers, and a majority of them are re-absorbed in civil life, and are anxious to work for the good of Australia. We have to face the aftermath of war, and now, owing to the attitude of some faddists or factions in another place, we are being asked to sanction the payment of an additional £500,000.
– This is supported by the Economy party in another place.
– Exactly. Where are we to stop? We strain in the endeavour to save a few thousand pounds, we pay some of our employees less than a living wage, and yet we are prepared to throw away £500,000 in order to compromise on a principle to which I am opposed. I warn honorable senators that there is a reckoning for this sort of thing.
We have put through appropriations for war pensions and old-age and invalid pensions amounting in all to nearly £20,000,000 for two years; we Lave to build war service homes, and to settle soldiers on the land, and we have other obligations. How in the world we are going to meet them all I do not know, for when the Government come along with a proposal to help them in their finances, as for example the new wool scheme, that will ease matters so far as this Government are concerned, they find that everybody wants his pound of flesh, and nobody seems agreeable to make any sacrifices to help to meet the future with which we are faced. We know very well that wages and costs have gone up, ‘ and, whether we like it or not, we shall be faced in the coming August with a Budget that will be the biggest in the history of the Commonwealth, altogether outside of our war obligations. We are drifting on, and this is another drift that this Parliament evidently does not care about, so long as it can get through easily, and get th’e Prince’s visit over.
I will not stand here in my capacity as representing a great tax-paying .community such as New South Wales, and representing, also, the bulk of the returned soldiers, and agree to an amendment of this sort I shall give the reasons why I will net agree to it. I am not opposed to co-operation, but I am opposed to a co-operation which means that the Government are committed to give £1 for £1 to the extent of £500,000 to practically the residuum of the soldiers who are not settled. The amendment provides that it shall be within the discretion of the Repatriation Commission to advance £1 for £1 for co-operative enterprises entered into by the soldiers, but the very cream of the men who would be likely to make those co-operative enterprises successful, are specifically debarred, under the terms of this proposal, from participating. Paragraph d of sub-clause 7 specifically excludes applicants who have been reasonably and satisfactorily assisted to re-establish themselves in civil life.
– Do you not think that provision is absolutely necessary ?
– Yes, but if we thoroughly believe in a system of this sort, we should have put it into the original Repatriation Bill, and given every soldier a fair chance to help establish a cooperative industry. The very incidence of this amendment is that it can be taken advantage of only by soldiers who have not been satisfactorily settled or repatriated.
– By the Government, not by their own efforts.
– The amendment does not say “ by the Government.” The Minister for Repatriation some time ago, when introducing the Repatriation Bill to this Chamber, said that the back of the repatriation problem had been broken, and that by far the greater number of the soldiers had been settled and re-absorbed into civilian life. This proposal, to my mind, is a direct incentive to the agitators, the unemployable, and the residuum of that gallant Army of 250,000 men, to come along and give everybody trouble, to continue to make a milch cow of the Commonwealth Government, and’ live on the game. The sum of £500,000, at £150 per head, will help co-operation only to the- extent of 3,300 soldiers.
– There will be a great scramble for it.
– I shall come later to the question of the scramble. Do honorable senators think it is a fair thing, if 240,000 out of our 250,000 soldiers are satisfactorily settled and reabsorbed into civilian life, and there is an unemployable, agitating lot of 10,000 left, that those 10,000 should have the right, so far at least as 3,300 of them are concerned, to come to the Government, and by pressure, and pull, and agitation, and noise, get another halfmillion pounds out of the community? That is what the amendment means. How did this magnificent scheme originate?
– -From the Economy party. .
– Tes : and so far as I can gather from the discussions that have taken “.place elsewhere, it originated because certain .members of the Economy party want to revive some decadent country towns. The mover of the original amendment stated that all the money could be spent in his electorate, at Echuca and Shepparton. We know’, too, that there was a move on to revive some of the decadent industries of the Grampians. Are we, the representatives here of the States, going to put up with parish pump politics of that sort? Ought we not to take a broader view? Ought we not to remember that the Commonwealth is at present obliged to pay the States 25s. per head from its revenue, and that that money is part of the revenues expected by the various State Parliaments in order to carry out the necessary State services that we are sent here to safeguard? If we go on “ chucking “ our millions about like this, the very first thing that will be proposed after the Budget, perhaps by the Economy party, and certainly by the Unificationists, will be to cut down that State subsidy. If that proposal is made, I fail to see how we can avoid it.
We are building up trouble by passing amendments of this sort that have been put up, not with any real desire for cooperation, but with a possible desire - and, so far as Hansard shows, a confessed desire - to benefit country towns. Let us visualize some of the things that may happen under a scheme of this sort. Timber mills have been mentioned. I can imagine some o>ne saying, “ Oh ! yes. Come along to this dying country town; there is a great timber industry there.” Nothing will be said about the timber being cut out, but a magnificent prospectus will be prepared and issued, dwelling on the advance in the price of hardwoods, and the profits that can be made out of them. ‘The citizens promoting that scheme, perhaps with a very high view of the civic spirit, so far as their own locality is concerned, will have only one object in view, and that is to get as much Government money as possible spent in their towns, so as to resuscitate their declining glory. Perhaps there is another town on an old mining field, where all the shafts are full of water.
– Bendigo, for instance.
– Bendigo is far from being an abandoned mining field; it is the most attractive mining field in Victoria to-day, and the one with the greatest .potentialities. But there are plenty of abandoned mining fields in New South Wales and Victoria, with the shafts all full of water, and you can always get half-a-dozen old miners to make an affidavit that they left work on 2. 3, 4, or 5 oz. stone when the water came in. In this way a magnificent prospectus could be got up for some cooperative enterprise, with the help of the Government.
One of the wisest things done by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) was the insertion of that clause in the Repatriation Bill prohibiting any advance being made to soldiers who desire to enter into a business with which they had not been associated’ prior to going to the war.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired .
Extension of time granted, on motion by Senator Foll.
– The other day I read of a scheme for the establishment of Army and Navy Co-operative Stores in Sydney or Adelaide, with a capital of £750,000. That project alone would mop up nearly the whole of this £500,000.
– But that could not be included under this amendment.
– Why not? I see nothing in the amendment confining the help to be given by the Government to businesses of any sort. If half-a-dozen soldiers get together and organize charabanc services to the shop where the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) first sold books, they would have a right to come alone; to the Government for assistance, so long as they could prove to the Commissioner that the enterprise was likely to be profitable.
– And if they put their own money into it.
– Or, again, if half-a-dozen soldiers wanted to establish a house and land agency, they could approach the Government for assistance. If we have to pass the amendment, we should endeavour to confine the expenditure to industries that are likely to be productive, and of some benefit to the Commonwealth. I am surprised that my friends in another place did not see this point. It certainly would be to the advantage of the Commonwealth if five additional woollen establishments were set going -as a result of Government assistance on a co-operative basis so that if they failed utterly there would, at least, be something to snow for it ; and we want forty or -fifty more woollen factories, in order to make all the cloth for our own requirements, and thus do something to cheapen the cost of clothing.
The amendment is going to lead us into all sorts of trouble. We cannot see the end of it. It was said that only fools prophesy, and I arn going to be the fool in connexion with this proposal. I prophesy that before we are through with this business, we shall find that a lot of soldiers have lost their money, and w© shall have to wipe off our share of the liability as a bad debt. I believe that, if this amendment be accepted, members of Parliament will be approaching this or some future Government, pleading for some means whereby soldiers may be got out of trouble which we are now tempting them to get into under this amendment. I admit that, if we are going to have cooperation along the lines suggested in this amendment, we have a9 many safeguards as it is possible to get; but the Minister would strengthen the position if he would limit the expenditure to cooperative enterprises of a productive nature.
– If two propositions are put up, it would be difficult to say which is going to be the more profitable.
– I suggest that the Minister should so frame the regulations as to prevent expenditure upon any co-operative concern that is likely to interfere with the present means of distribution, or with decent tradesmen or agents. I want to safeguard the Commonwealth from indiscriminate expenditure, because, as the amendment stands, it will be possible for a group of soldiers to co-operate in any enterprise, and expect a Government subsidy, if they satisfy the Commission that they come within . the four corners of this amendment. I would heartily support cooperation along the lines I have suggested so that we may do something to create additional wealth. The amendment will not do that, and therefore I cannot support it. It is, in my view, altogether unnecessary, and as a representative of New South Wales I am going now to draw the line, because I am keeping in mind the aftermath, namely, the payments by the Commonwealth. The country is to be squeezed financially, anyhow, but we shall be squeezed absolutely dry if we go on like this. The amendment, I think, was forced on the Government by a faction in another place, and I shall not stand for any scheme that will jeopardize State finances.
.- I agree with Senator Pratten as to the need for carefully watching public ex penditure, but. I cannot share his fears so far as this amendment is concerned.. After listening to the Minister’s remarks, I think that anybody who reaps any benefit from this amendment will be n marvel. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), in the course of his remarks upon the Repatriation Bill some time ago, said that the back .of the repatriation problem had been broken, and that over 90 per cent, of the men had been practically settled. Therefore, they’ will be barred from participation in this scheme.
– That is not so. The amendment simply contains a prohibition against men who have been assisted to re-establish themselves in civil life. There are two conditions to be fulfilled. There is not only assistance, but that assistance must have been for their reestablishment.
– There aTe so many safeguards provided by the Bill that I think very few of our returned soldiers will derive any benefit from this proposal. As it is now before us, the amount which may be advanced by the Government under it is limited to £500,000. The Senate has reason to congratulate itself upon the action it has taken in connexion with this clause. When first it was presented to this Chamber from another place, it was very loosely worded,, and might have committed the Commonwealth, if it ha.d been accepted, to an expenditure of £15,000,000 or more, if the returned soldiers were prepared to invest their gratuity bonds and other, moneys in these co-operative concerns. The action- taken by the Senate should be a satisfactory answer to those who advocate that there should be only one legislative Chamber. A clause was passed in another place, consisting of seventy-five intellectual gentlemen, every one of whom might have been supposed to have sufficient intelligence - :-
– Order ! The honorable member is not permitted to reflect upon honorable members in another place.
– I am not reflecting upon them, though if I were to apply to them terms which would adequately express my thoughts they would have to be very drastic indeed. The clause sent to us from another place was, in the- first instance, so carelessly worded that it provided for no limitation of the assistance which might be granted to cooperative enterprises undertaken by returned soldiers. But in our great wisdom we returned that amendment. As a result, the clause was improved by a provision for advances in support of the proposed co-operative enterprises only on a basis of fi for every £1 invested by the co-operators. That was carried by a narrow majority in another place, and was sent here in the hope that the numbers would ‘be found to be in favour of it. But the Senate, with great wisdom, again returned the proposal, and by so doing rendered Australia an important service. I think that the amendment, as it is now before us, is much more carefully worded, and more adequately safeguards Commonwealth expenditure. I do not share the fears expressed by Senator Pratten as to what may be likely to happen if the proposal, in its present form, is agreed to, because I think that the Senate has now been able to secure sufficient safeguards to prevent extravagant or useless expenditure under the proposal.
– 1 had not an. opportunity to deal with this question before, because I was elsewhere. But I did not forget my public obligations, though I was not present in this chamber; and during the last few weeks I have spoken to many electors of my own State and to some electors of the other States, and, so far as I can gauge public opinion, the action taken -by the Senate in dealing with this matter meets with strong approval. I am sorry that we should be asked by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) to undo to-day what the Senate has done before.
– This is a very different clause from the one which was originally before us.
– The same principle, is continued in this clause. “We should consider what its history has been. I am in favour of strong Governments, and like a Government to tell quasisupporters what they really mean. The origination of this clause was a challenge to- the Government from quasisupporters, telling them that they had not done as much as they might have done for our returned soldiers.
– The Government are strong on one point, and that is in their opposition to proportional representation.
- Senator Thomas is a little mad on that subject, and I am sorry to have to say that his madness is not confined to that question.
– Senator Thomas may be mad, but others may be sorry about proportional representation.
– I have not the capacity to deal with two different questions at one time.
This proposal, originating in the way it did, was a challenge to the Government that they had not done as much as they should have done for our Australian soldiers. Australian sentiment is in favour of our being even more than generous to the returned soldiers; but I have met returned men who told me that, had they been in Parliament, they would have voted . against the war gratuity. They have said that they did not go to the Front for money, and did not like even to have it offered to them. Those are the men who will make the best Australian citizens, because they are men who think, and who are prepared to recognise the obligations of to-day and of the future falling on their fellow citizens which were so properly referred ‘to by Senator Pratten. Do honorable senators seriously think that we shall be acting in the interests of economy in agreeing to subsidize investments in these proposed co-operative enterprises on the basis of £1 for £1 ? The Commonwealth would have to take all the risk.. The advance asked for is put forward as a loan, but we know what it will mean in most cases. Where loans have been advanced for the land settlement of soldiers, the Government have the security of the land and the improvements which they will take care shall be made upon it, and they will also very often have stock and implements as further security. But under this proposal what guarantee, shall we have that returned soldiers investing in a co-operative enterprise will be possessed of the requisite ‘ business ability to make a success of it ? I do not mean to say that there are no instancesof flourishing co-operative businesses, but they are certainly very rare, and that. method of conducting business is not very generally adopted.
It is proposed, under the clause, to limit the expenditure under it to £500,000, and the amount to be advanced’ to an individual soldier to £150. But what honorable senator who considers the number of returned soldiers and their vast political power will deny that we shall later on be asked to increase these amounts ?
– If the proposal produces good results, and the principle of co’-operation is such a grand one, what matter ? If it does not, we can shut down on it.
– It is our duty, as members of the Senate, to criticise the proposal as business men, and some of us have had a lifetime of business experience,
– We need not at the same time laud the principle of cooperation.
– I am not doing so.
– I am aware of that, but other honorable senators have done so.
– If we agree to the proposal now, the Senate will be going back upon, itself.
I shall certainly vote with Senator Pratten if he divides the Committee on the clause. I think that Australia has done for our returned soldiers all that she could reasonably be expected to do. Twenty-eight million pounds is an enormous sum of money to be advanced by a population of 5,000,000, notwithstanding the richness of our territory. The resources of our territory are not being exploited and developed’ as they should be. It is strange that such a proposal as this should have come from the so-called “Economy” party. Why did not the Government tell them straightway to go to some very distant place? The Government should have told them that if they could not carry their own policy, they would not allow these people to force their policy upon, the country.
We are informed that the proposal is now safeguarded to such an extent that, like a chip in porridge, it will do neither good nor harm. But to let a proposal of this kind pass for such a negative reason as that is not worthy of the Senate. I am very sorry that the Government did not tell the authors of this mischievous proposal - because it is nothing else - that
Australia had done her duty by the Australian’ soldiers, and was prepared to go on doing it. I suppose that from 95 per cent, to 98 per cent, of our returned soldiers are stalwart men, possessed of <n spirit of manliness, and they will not expect this assistance. Those amongst them who are crippled are being well treated. While they were doing the fighting, to the credit of Australia be it said, no soldiers were better treated in the field, nor were any soldiers better treated on the way home, when they came home, or since they came home, by the provision that has been made for their future. Yet now we are asked, at the instance of a handful of men constituting a party, that should have been snuffed out when this proposal was made; ‘to accept a clause which challenges the Government, with not having done their duty.
– It must be amazing to us all to consider that this proposal originated with a member of a political party that has economy as its foremost plank. As Senator Pratten has very well pointed out, there is no economy about this proposal. We should seriously consider the position of Australia’s finances at the present time. As reported in the press, the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has made us acquainted with an alarming state of affairs. An increase in expenditure of over £7,000,000 has to be provided for, and at the present time direct taxation is enormous. We are deriving £10,500,000 from income tax alone. That is an alarming figure, and if the discussion upon this proposal in this Chamber does nothing else it may direct attention, to our serious financial position. _ I was very glad to hear Senator Pratten say that he would do his best to curtail expenditure, and in that he will certainly have my assistance. If we continue as we are doing at present our whole financial edifice will be brought down about our ears. We should recollect that Australia was exceptionally hard hit during the war. We never had the advantages enjoyed by other parts of the Empire. The Canadians obtained full war prices for all their products. The Old Country is reaping an enormous revenue from its war-time profits tax, and that, too, if they are followed out, on large profits which have actually been paid by Australia in the shape of freight and in other ways. India is doing remarkably well. South Africa is getting full prices for her products. But Australia, owing greatly to her isolated position, has been able to obtain not more than half the price for her commodities which she could have received had she been able to dispose of them in the open market. Now, when we might be able to take advantage of a fair market, we are faced with one of the worst droughts which Australia has ever experienced. Its effects will, no doubt, cause a vast shrinkage in our revenue from income taxation. I do not suppose that the State of New South Wales was ever in a worse plight than she is in at present. Whole districts have been absolutely denuded of stock, people are living from hand to mouth, and many who used to pay considerable sums in income tax are not now able to pay anything at all. Then Australia is very hard hit in another way - namely, by the rate of exchange. To-day, a resident in Canada can purchase a pound’s worth of goods in the Old Country for 16s. 5d., but if an Australian wishes to purchase goods of that value he has to pay 21s. for them. A similar position exists so far as India is concerned, where the rate of exchange is also against us. We are in the identical position of the countries to which I have alluded, but because we deal in sovereigns, instead of rupees, we are exceptionally hard ‘ hit.
– We would soonbe able to adjust that if trade were free.
SenatorFAIRBAIRN. - I doubt the accuracy of the honorable senator’s statement.
– What does Senator Pratten mean by “ free trade “ ?
– I mean that the rate of exchange would soon be adjusted if our exports were untrammelled by Government regulations.
SenatorFAIRBAIRN.- The exchange is entirely against Australia, and I yet hope to hear somebody explain why it is so. Only the other day the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) quoted figures to show that our exports enormously exceed our imports. That is precisely the position which Canada occupies. Yet the rate of exchange is entirely in her favour, and entirely against us. We may fairly reckon that we lose about 20 per cent. upon anything that we import from any other part of the world. In other words, we get only 16s. 5d. worth of goods for every £1 thus expended. Australia is, therefore, hit hard in every possible way. We have not received -anything like war prices for our commodities, and on top of all these disabilities we are experiencing one of the worst seasons on record.
– Have we not been told repeatedly that Australia is the cheapest country in the world to live in?
SenatorFAIRBAIRN. - Yes ; butI cannot go into that matter now.
I am scarcely willing to go to the length of rejecting the alternative new clause which has been forwarded to us by the other branch of the Legislature, and in which any advances made by the Commonwealth to our soldiers for co-operative enterprises appear to -be very well safeguarded. For example, every soldier who desires to embark upon a cooperative enterprise will be required to lodge his application within twelve months from the passing of this Bill, or within twelve months of his discharge, whichever event shall have last happened. Applicants will also be . obliged to satisfy the Commission that they are qualified to carry on the business in which they wish to engage. The Commission is further required to approve of the deed or articles of association entered into by the applicants, and the clause further provides that advances shall not be made to men who, in the opinion of the Commission, have been reasonably and satisfactorily assisted to re-establish themselves in civil life. These are very stringent provisions, and as there appears to be every prospect of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) remaining in this present office for twelve months, I am sure that he will administer them with due care and prudence.
– He has not a very enviable job.
SenatorFAIRBAIRN.- But he possesses great capacity for carrying out that job, and I do not think he will be likely to approve any “wild-cat” schemes, such as the establishment of saw-milling and other enterprises. We are quite safe, therefore,in allowing the alternative clause to pass.
At present our chief concern is how to get the revenue that is required from day to day. Under the proposal of another place, the Commonwealth will he safeguarded by the fi for £1 basis upon which these advances will be made. In the immediate future we must either borrow considerable sums of money or increase our income tax out of all reason. Personally, I am of opinion that the money required to carry out this particular scheme might very well be borrowed. The advances will not be in the nature of an absolute gift, as is the war gratuity, and the total amount involved may very well be added to loan’ account. If that be done, it will not be lost sight of, and the assets accumulating against it will be kept in view. In that way the difficult task of finding the annual revenue with which to meet our annual expenditure may be made easier. There are only two ways in which we may borrow money, namely, by compulsion or by paying the market rate of interest for it. In the past we have borrowed largely by threatening to use compulsion if the money was not forthcoming voluntarily. The result of that system has been that, directly loans have been floated, the value of the bonds in them has commenced to decline. However, I must not pursue that aspect of the matter. With the safeguards which are embodied in the alternative new clause, I think that we may very well come into line with the other Chamber.
– Very slowly, but inevitably, does wisdom justify even the most guileless of her children. It will be remembered that I advocated the waging of the war on lines of the most economical character, for the reason that I anticipated th& necessity of being generous to those who, I hoped, would prove to be the victors when th’ey returned from the scene of action. A good deal of opprobrium was levelled at me because of my opinions, but I survived that, and I am here now, not as a very enthusiastic advocate of the principle of co-operation, for I am not one of those who discover all kinds of beauties in the co-operative system, but who tremble when there is an opportunity to put it into practice.
When the amendment which the Senate rejected came to us from another place, I stated that, ordinarily, co-operation was not particularly suited to the genius of the British race. Nevertheless, in the hope that the principle of co’-operation would be given a trial in very satisfactory circumstances, I was one of the few honorable senators who voted for that amendment, although, in my opinion,” it was of too general a character and somewhat vague. The principle underlying co-operation is, however, very much better defined in the alternative new clause which we are now considering. Before the co-operative system can come into operation, those, who wish to engage in it must make a cash contribution which the Commonwealth will subsidize on the basis of £1 for £1. Then a time limit is imposed for the receipt of applications, there is a limit upon the amount which may be advanced to any individual soldier, and a further limitation as to the total liability of the Commonwealth. There is, therefore, quite a succession of safeguards embodied in the clause, and I think that the difficulty of a rich man entering the Kingdom of Heaven will be as nothing compared with the difficulty which will be experienced by an applicant under this, clause. Why, then, are honorable senators so fearful about it ? Whom is it proposed to assist? Young men. It is almost demonstrable without effort that those of our soldiers who are now capably engaging in civil life were the cream of the community. .During the progress of the war did we not constantly hear regret expressed that Australian production had been materially curtailed because of the absence overseas of more than a quarter of a million of our young men? These were the units who produced Australia’s wealth, directed, of course, by the brains of an older generation. It is these men whom it is proposed to assist, and not the withered relics of the manhood of the community.
– Like honorable senators.
– But what honorable senators lack in vigour they make up in their intellectuality and experience.
– I do not think it can be suggested that my honorable friend lacks vigour.
– I have not as much vigour as I would like in certain directions. I, too, am falling into the sere and yellow leaf. Under this clause we are not going to assist old and decrepit men, but young and’ active men. Is not that an argument in favour of the proposal?
– ;Those are the men who do not want assistance.
– Does not Senator Bolton think that he could put his finger on one or two enterprises in which he could be. successful if he were assisted to the extent of £1 for £1 ? Are there not many among us who think that we could stimulate productive industrial effort if we were assisted in the manner in which it is proposed to aid soldiers under this clause? But that kind of inducement is not held out to us. .
I am very pleased that the clause provides that applicants who have been reasonably and satisfactorily assisted to establish themselves in civil life shall not be eligible to receive the advance mentioned in it. By far the greater number of men repatriated, as has been stated by the Minister for Repatriation, have found their own billets, and have not been assisted in becoming re-established ‘ in. civil life. They have been the architects of their own fortunes. These men can see in Australian industrial life opportunities for taking greater advantage of the lucky occasions that sometimes arise in the commercial world. Ordinarily they would not be able to do this, but they will be able to by applying for assistance. Look at the succession of barriers they have to encounter! They have to seek the approval of the Commission and of the Minister, and after all the safeguards that have been provided in the alternative amendment have been complied with, they are to contribute pound for pound. After all the obligations and details have been complied with, the total commitment of the Commonwealth is £500,000. Will there be no successes? Honorable senators speak as though we were going t.o lose all that money. Are there not to be two, ten, a hundred or a thousand successes out of the total number who are entitled to apply?
– Is half-a-million going to cover the expense? What of supervision ?
– We are only committed to the expenditure of £500,000. I was in favour of waging the war with economy. We were not going to be parsimonious but liberal in our gifts to those who returned from .the Front. That was the policy for the nation to have undertaken. Australia paid its men on a more lavish scale than was attempted by any other country, and huge sums were expended for the services rendered by our men overseas. Are we now going to cavil at the expenditure lOt halfamillion in assisting these men who are compelled to contribute pound for pound? They are the veterans of our army, and are possessed, I hope, of those essentials to success - youth and health.
– The honorable senator is not suggesting that we are spending only half-a-million?
– The Minister for Repatriation knows that I do not mean that. This is a proposal to assist men who are prepared to invest their own cash.
Senator Pratten spoke of the enormity of the proposal and the possibility of these men applying for assistance in connexion with mining enterprises. All I can say is that men who are not as active and as vigorous as many returned soldiers are being assisted daily by State grants in regard to prospecting enterprises. The policy of subsidizing mining enterprises is still in existence throughout the Commonwealth, and is at present not ah obsolete practice in the State I assist in representing. It is all very well to talk of mining in the jocose terms used by Mark Twain, when he said that “ a mine was a hole in the ground generally owned by a liar.” Australia’s prosperity was very largely based in the early days on mining, and the city of Melbourne would not be what it is if it had not been for the rich gold discoveries that were made in this State. Where would Western Australia be but for its mining industry? The same remark applies with equal force to the other States. If it is legitimate for the States to subsidize elderly prospectors in connexion with mining, I do not see any reason why vigorous Australian soldiers should not be assisted in connexion with reasonably reliable ventures into which they are prepared to invest their own money. I resent the aspersion that there is anything particularly heinous in connexion with applications for assistance in regard to prospecting for minerals. Any Australian.’ productive industry may be legitimately embarked on by these men under the provisions of the proposed new clause.
Certain industries are specifically mentioned, and these would, I presume, include mining.
– They havebeen struck out.
– Yes, I believe I have made a mistake, as I was referring to an alternative amendment, which has not been insisted upon by another place. The proposed new clause, however, has for its object the establishing of co-operative businesses, and I suppose mining may be termed a business. If it is not a business, it is an enterprise, and civilization would not exist without mining; without it we would be going back to the stone age.
If I may be permitted to repeat myself, I must confess that I am not a very great believer in what might be termed “ half-a-dozen-men co-operation.” I do not believe that the genius of the British people lies in five or six people banding themselves together for prosecuting an enterprise. The Anglo-Saxon race has been successful, and its success is known the whole world over in connexion with its joint-stock enterprises. I am prepared to give this proposition a trial, particularly when it is to assist young men. There are many people associated with struggling enterprises who would be glad to be assisted on this basis.
-Such businesses are not conducted on a co-operative basis.
– If co-operation is likely to be successful with un-subsidized persons there is a greater prospect of success when it is undertaken by young men receiving Government support. If the venture commits us at the most to the expenditure of half-a-million and produces nothing but a succession of failures, the curtain has to be dropped on the principle of assisted co-operation, and the utterances of its apostles must be relegated to the lumber room of platform speeches.
– Can the honorable senator mention any industrial cooperative concern that has been a success?
– I admit that its successes have been very largely in connexion with distribution.
– But in production ?
– I am not conversant with the most modern development, but co-operation in regard to distributing enterprises has been successful in England for three-quarters of a century.
– Can the honorable senator mention one industrial productive concern conducted on a co-operative basis that has been a success in Australia?
– I cannot, for the simple reason that co-operation has not been particularly suited to the genius of the British people, and hardly any cooperative enterprises have been undertaken by the Anglo-Saxon people in Australia.
– There are many in “Western Australia.
– Were the men concerned actively engaged in connexion with such enterprises?
SenatorBAKHAP.- Will the honorable senator mention them ?
– In connexion with the timber trade there were several cooperative concerns which are all now non est.
– Were the actual shareholders working in connexion with those enterprises?
– Yes, and managing them.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Taking everything into consideration, although I am not a rabid supporter of the principle, I am prepared to assist on this occasion.
. -I must congratulate Senator Pratten on being able to produce a denser cloud than any that has overshadowed the Senate for some time. After lauding the soldier as we have been doing for some time, we. are beginning to laud ourselves by referring to the enormous amounts that have been granted to them. If there are any persons that we should take special care of, it isthose who are likely to be unsuccessful without our help.
– Is not the Bill framed with the object of helping them all?
– There are some who are always difficult to place, and with the experience these men have had - a fierce experience which most of us fortunately escaped - we must take special care of them, otherwise they will be held up as an example of what Australia has failed to do for its soldiers.
When the Bill was originally under discussion I was not in favour of the co-operative principle being embodied in its provisions, because I considered it out of place, but it is now included, and as the proposed new clause has its safeguards I intend to support it. If we are able to help those who may be regarded as difficult to place or unemployable, we should do so, as fully nine out of every ten of the men to be assisted under this scheme will undoubtedly be benefited. Some may fail, but it will not pay us as a Commonwealth if we do not protect those ‘men who did not hold back when they might have, and who did not count the cost. «
The clause limits the advance to each soldier to £150, and it does not provide that that amount shall be given to each man, although £150 is the maximum. There is also a limit to the. aggregate amount to be expended, If such a provision as this- were not included we would have been confronted with a difficulty in connexion with our repatriation scheme.
– Why did not the honorable senator raise that question when the Bill was under discussion in this chamber?
– When the Bill was in Committee I took an active interest in the debate on every clause.
– The honorable senator did not suggest co-operation.
– I took up my present attitude ‘because I believe that if a co-operative system is to be introduced it should be done by means of a separate Bill and not grafted on to a measure of this character.
There are many points still to be dealt with, and we shall be continually amending this particular provision, because it does not deal effectively with the whole question. When it first came to us it had! been illconsidered and hastily adopted in another place, and it was submitted to us in a crude form. It was returned to be amended, and, after all, it is only patched, and not properly amended at all. The safeguards that have been put into it seem to be as much as we could possibly expect in that direction, and I do not think we can put any others in; but it should be possible to include a provision defining the particular classes of trade to which the clause is to apply. It is .possible, as it stands now, for a group of soldiers who apply for assistance to engage in almost anything that may be foredoomed to failure. On the other hand, an enterprise such as the manufacture of woollen goods or of boots might be undertaken to produce articles that are needed here.
– Or to grow wheat.
– No, I should draw the line at that point.
The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), in introducing the clause this afternoon, suggested that success would depend largely upon the spirit of the men who united to form a co-operative body - their adaptability to work together, and their knowledge of the business they were undertaking. All those things must be taken into consideration. It seems to me that we have before us now only the inception of a scheme which we shall have to work out in detail’, in order to arrive at the particular industries that ought to he co-operatively undertaken. Senator de Largie asked if we knew of anything that was successfully undertaken in Australia in a co-operative way. The Farmers’ Co-operative Society has been successful in the handling and marketing of wheat throughout Australia.
– That is distribution. I referred only to production.
– I admit it; but, at the same time, that was an instance where men who possessed a common interest grouped themselves together to acquire advantages that they could not get otherwise. It is much more difficult to induce men with diversified interests to co-operate successfully. As an illustration, some years ago, when there was a slump in trade in South Australia, an attempt was made to start village settlements on the Murray. Ill-assorted men were drawn from all trades and conditions of life; but they were formed into what were practically co-operative and communistic settlements. The experiment turned out a dead failure; but the ultimate result was most successful, so far as South Australia was concerned, as a finger-post pointing out where others could succeed. The money that was lost in that undertaking turned out to be money well invested in pioneering work.
– That is not much satisfaction to the pioneers who failed.
– I grant that; but many men who were adapted to the business afterwards succeeded on the very land, under the same conditions, and in exactly similar circumstances. Some of them are realizing to-day a return of £100 per acre per annum from their crops.
This clause marks only a beginning; but I hope the aggregate cost will not exceed £500,000, because there is a danger in gathering individuals together in a promiscuous way to join in cooperative undertakings. Success in such cases is always doubtful. Still, we cannot very well reject the amendment as it has now come back to us. The only ground on which we could reject it with anything like consistency is that it is not in keeping with the remainder of the Bill, or comprised within the title of the Bill. It may be argued that it is foreign to the Bill.
– Then it must be out of order.
– It is any opinion, and I entertain it just as strongly to-day as I did at the beginning, that it should have been dealt with in an entirely separate measure. But it is better, from the prudential point of view, to accept the scheme as a clause in the Repatriation Bill than to challenge another place, and have a new Bill brought down defining exactly the extent of co-operation to be allowed, and possibly involving the Government in an expenditure, not of £500,000, but of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. It is better in the shape now proposed, because the aggregate liability is limited, and the individual advance is limited also. I am entirely in accord with the restrictions and safeguards which are now included. The crux of the position depends on who’ is to be the arbiter of these points. I can quite conceive that a gentleman who watched the finances of the Commonwealth as carefully as Senator Pratten would do would be the best man. He would see that the society that was given assistance was able to put down in valuable and possibly liquid assets something that was equivalent to a security for the Commonwealth. The success of tha scheme will entirely depend upon the> supervision, the proper assorting of themen, and their suitability to the work in which they are to engage.
– If you argue that experience in co-operative concerns would be a benefit, we should vote the whom £500,000 to Western Australia, where the people have had the most experience of co-operation.
– The honorable senator’s premises are unsound, and, therefore, I cannot accept his conclusions. Caro will have to be exercised in controlling: the scheme, in the selection of the men, in ascertaining their knowledge of the tradein which they are to engage, and their suitability for co-operation. With that reservation, I feel that we cannot reject the amendment. If we help and saveoven the residue of returned soldiers to whom Senator Pratten refers, we shall show the people of Australia and of theworld that we are not willing that oneman shall be neglected of all those who hard done so much for Australia.
.- It is my belief that the average Australian soldier will admit that the people and thi? Government of this country have appreciated his splendid service in the most generous and handsome manner. With the comprehensive scheme provided for i:i the Repatriation Act generally, it seem,:d to me that this amendment was entirelyunnecessary. It carries with it rather a. vicious principle. It provides a limited amount of £500,000, and is restricted to> a certain number of individuals. It may be said, roughly, that possibly 70,000 men are eligible to partake of the benefits proposed, but the limitation of the amount to be advanced to each individual, and of the total sum, restricts the benefits to a total of about 3,000 men. This is throwing an unenviable responsibility upon the Commissioners and the Minister who will have to administer the Act, and I am puzzled to know how they are going to decide which are the most likely to succeed, and the most worthy, among those 70,000 soldiers. Will the Minister for Repatriation state if the men who are receiving’ vocational training in his Department are eligible to partake of the benefits of the amendment?
– They are not ineligible, but the amendment does not say that they would be regarded as eligible. They would have to meet the conditions as to suitability and fitness.
– Men who have been vocationally trained together in certain lines may be usefully employed in that way. There are the copper and silver art industries, for instance. There is a very fine class in Ballarat for instruction in those industries, but the men will find some difficulty in applying what they have been taught to the earning of a living. A few df them, however, may be collectively in a position to start business in something taught- to them by the very Department under which they can gain this privilege. In that direction Hie scheme may be an advantage, but I do not see how it can be an advantage to the whole of the 70,000 men I have mentioned. The Repatriation Act generally should apply to all mcn on the same lines, and not to a few. That is the objection I have to the amendment; but, after all, in relation to what has been clone and is being done for the soldiers, we are really making much ado about nothing. It is a mere flea-bite. Notwithstanding the difficulties I have pointed out, I am going to support the amendment.
Senator PRATTEN (New South Wales) f4.4S]. - Before the amendment is passed, as it probably will be, judging by tha tenor of the speeches we have heard, would it be beyond the bounds of possibility to get some expression from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) of his view regarding the businesses which will be subsidized under it? I do not think it has been denied that it would be possible for soldiers, if they knew the business, and were otherwise eligible under the amendment, to form co-operative tea companies, or motor garage companies, or agency companies, or hundreds of things of that sort which would be of no earthly good to the people of the Commonwealth. On the other hand, if the policy of the Department under the regulations were that the Commonwealth, as a homogeneous whole, should get the maximum result in increased wealth from the expenditure of this money, the objections would to a great extent disappear. For instance, cooperation between returned soldiers for the pur pose of primary production of any sort would obviously be to the advantage of the Commonwealth, if the resulting increased production could not be obtained in any other way than by subsidizing those men fi for fi. The erection of additional factories, many of which are badly wanted, and even woollen or paper mills, which, I think, was stressed in another place, would be a distinct advantage. If half-a-dozen soldiers, expert in the business of paper-making, started in a small way, their enterprise obviously would be of some advantage to the Commonwealth, even if they failed and we Lost our money. I merely illustrate these industries as being among those on which this £500,000 should be spent. If the Minister would give some indication as to what i3 in his mind, I think it would guide us in our votes, and certainly it would guide the Commissioners in their actions.
– That is not the intention of the Act. The Commissioners will be charged with the duty of determining applications, subject to the concurrence of the Minister. ‘
– But if the Minister indicated now the lines on which he thought the expenditure might proceed, it would guide the Commissioners, and also save a great deal of trouble to the Government, Ministers, and members of Parliament, in connexion with some “ wild-cat “ schemes that might be projected under this amendment. , Sen!ator Bakhap. - The honorable senator does not want middlemen’s business?
– Yet they are among the most successful of co-operative concerns.
– That may be so, but they can be established by the soldiers without Government assistance. This f500,000 belongs to the taxpayers, who are entitled to get the best value for it. It would not he a good thing, for instance, to subsidize a co-operative tea company, which, if it were successful, by virtue, perhaps, of the subsidy, would probably displace somebody else already in the business. Increased production has been preached from the Prime
Minister (Mr. Hughes) down to the most modest member of this Parliament.
– Everybody is preaching it, but few are listening.
– I admit that; but, still, a good many people want to practise the policy ; and if we are to spend another £500,000, we should see to it that the soldiers who will handle this money do something to add to our production. But this sum, after all, will be distributed amongst about 3,300 soldiers, and as Senator Bolton has just pointed out, many thousands will be disappointed, and we may have applications from time to time for an extension of the principle. The amendment, I repeat, is going to lead us into all sorts of complications.
– It would be a good thing if the soldiers started a cooperative coal mine in New South Wales.
– It would be likely to be most unsatisfactory. I may tell my honorable friend that the history of industrial co-operation is one of unending failure. We cannot point to one successful indvistrial co-operative scheme in my own State. I do not shut my eyes to the fact that the soldier, good fighter as he is, is only human - neither better nor worse than other people in our community - and I do not think the Commonwealth is under any obligation whatever to sudsidize soldiers’ co-operative enterprises pound for pound. True cooperation does not look for subsidy from any one.
– Senator Pratten has addressed to me a very definite and pointed inquiry. He would like me to expound the policy which, if I remained a Minister, would be the one of which I approved. I point out, however, that upon the Commissioners will be thrown the duty of inquiring into proposals that may be made under this amendment, and submitting recommendations for the approval or veto of the Minister. The amendment itself is silent as to the character of the co-operative enterprises that may be established, and therefore it is quite clear that the intention of Parliament, if the amendment be adopted, is to throw open to co-operative enterprises the whole range of our commercial and industrial activities. So much is clear. But Senator Pratten doubts the wisdom of encouraging certain small businesses. In this matter, I am entirely with him. The bulk of the failures among the men who have been assisted into businesses have arisen in this way. One cannot walk down any suburban street of our cities without a feeling of surprise at the multiplicity of little businesses. Therefore, it can be of no advantage to the community to further multiply such establishments. But, on the other hand, success or failure in business has a definite relationship to the character of the man engaged in it, and so it is impossible to lay down any hardandfast rule upon this point. The Commissioners will judge each proposal on its merits, having regard, of course, to the adaptability of men for particular occupations. Outside this broad and general line, it is impossible to go. I may say, however, that if I happen to be Minister in six months’ time, I shall not be bound by anything I am saying now, because; as I have previously pointed out, in repatriation matters we are doing to-day what we learned from yesterday’s experience.Broadly, my view is that we should endeavour, as far as possible, to place men into civil life again in occupations which will produce something that was not in existence before; but while this might be laid down as a general principle, there may arise circumstances in which the Commissioners will approve of certain undertakings that at firstsight appear to be unnecessary. It will be more advantageous, I think, if we can direct the energies of our soldiers into productive enterprises rather than into distributing concerns ; but I do not want it to be thought that, in saying this, I hold that there should be a general prohibition against the establishment of distributing businesses. Frequently manufacturing and distributing concerns go hand-in-hand, and therefore we cannot lay down any hard-and-fast lines. We can. only trust that the Commissioners will be men of superhuman knowledge andgreat capacity, and that the Minister will not be an absolute fool.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time.
Right of Ministers to take Charge in Either House.
– I move -
I propose to occupy only a few minutes in advocacy of the motion, because it seems to me that no argument is needed to recommend it. The object is to request the Standing Orders Committees of the two Houses to frame new standing orders which will permit a Minister of one House attending in the other House and piloting, but not voting for, any measure of which he may have charge, through that Chamber. I -have been a member of both Houses of this Parliament, and in my judgment the Minister in charge of a Bill that concerns his own Department is in a better position to explain the measure, and secure its passage in the other branch of the Legislature, than a Minister who may be acting , for hun there. I have no desire to disparage any Minister in another place; but I venture the opinion that if the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) had been in charge of the Repatriation Bill in the other House, we should not have had the protracted debates on the messages that have passed between the two Houses during the past week or two. On the contrary, the Bill, I believe, would have passed the other Chamber more in conformity with the views of the Minister who introduced it into the Senate. The same remarks may apply to measures, and especially big financial proposals, coming to the Senate from the House of Representatives. The Treasurer, in my opinion . would be able to give a clearer explanation, and deal more effectively with the financial proposals of the Government than the Minister who represents him in this Chamber.
I remind honorable senators that in 1S94 a Royal Commission on Constitutional Reform, appointed by the Victorian Parliament, made an inquiry into this, among other questions. That Commission comprised Mr. (now Sir Robert) Best, Chairman; the late Sir
Graham Berry, the late Mr. Alfred Deakin, Mr. (now Mr. Justice) Isaacs, Sir Alexander Peacock, the late Mr. William Shiels, Mr. W. A. Trenwith,, and the late Sir George Turner, all very well known in the public life of Australia.In their report upon constitutional reform, they made the following recommendation : - i
Under the present parliamentary system, a Minister, who has most completely mastered every detail in connexion with a measure referring to his Department, may take charge of it only in the House in which he has a sent. He is unable to be present in the other Chamber to explain the Bill or to answer the numerous questions that may arise upon it. The Commission feel that public business will be greatly expedited and the time of Parliament greatly saved by enabling Ministers to sit and speak in either House. They therefore recommend that the present system he altered so as to give every Legislative Assembly Minister power to sit and speak in the Legislative Council in connexion with matters relating with his own Department, or on any Bill whereof he has charge, but not to vote there; and that similar privileges be given to Legislative Council Ministers with reference to the Assembly.
Although that resolution was earned, so far as I know the reform has not been adopted by the Parliament of Victoria. Still, in my opinion, the arguments in favour of it are good, and the Royal Commission to which I have referred unanimously agreed to recommend it.
I may say that as to France we are informed that -
Ministers are collectively responsible to the Chambers for the general policy of the Government, and individually for their personal acts. . . The French Ministry is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies, as the English is to the House of Commons, and resigns on a hostile vote on any matter of importance. . . . Ministers have a right to be present and keep in either Chamber, whether members of it or not.
In France, therefore, Ministers have the entrance to ‘both Chambers at request. They may be assisted for the discussion of a specific Bill by Commissioners named by decree of the President of the Republic. In Italy Ministers also have entrance to both Houses, and may be heard upon request. In the Netherlands Ministers have seats in both Houses, but they have only a deliberative voice unless they have been elected members of the House in which they sit. In Portugal, Ministers may attend in each House and discuss their proposals, but they do not vote, and cannot be present when the vote is taken unless they are peers or deputies. In Spain, also, Ministers may be senators or deputies, and may take part in the discussion in both legislative bodies, but vote only in the one to which they belong.
It will be seen, therefore, that I am not asking for something which is not done in any other place.
– It would not make it any worse if the honorable senator did.
– That is so. I quite admit that there is no reason why we should not originate such a reform. I nsk that Ministers should have the right which I suggest in respect only of their own Bills. I do not ask that a Minister with a seat in another place may come to the Senate chamber to pilot through a measure that will not be administered by his own Department. I am asking only that Ministers shall have the right to come here from the House of Representatives to pilot through the Senate measures of which they have had charge in another place.
Some persons have asked whether consistently we can do what I propose. I am not in a position to say whether the Constitution would absolutely prevent this being done. Whilst personally I hardly think that it would, I am not a lawyer, and, therefore, do not claim to pass an opinion on the subject. Some time ago I submitted a question to the AttorneyGeneral to discover whether there was any constitutional difficulty in the way of this reform, and the reply I received, and no doubt quite correctly, was that the Attorney-General did not give advice on legal questions asked in that way. The only way in which we can find out whether what I propose is constitutional is to pass the motion, ask the Standing Orders Committees to consider it, and if they are agreeable, to submit standing, orders to give it effect. The standing orders can then go before the AttorneyGeneral, and we can get his advice upon them.
– The honorable senator’s proposal is merely to submit the matter to the Standing Orders Committee.
– Yes, that is all I ask the Senate to do. I think the adoption of such standing orders would help us and save the time of a Minister in dealing with Bills. I am not breaking any particular confidence when I say that I remember that when a particular Bill came before the Senate from another place, and a certain part of it was under discussion, the arguments adduced here influenced the Minister in charge of the measure, and he confessed that, whilst he might be prepared to accept an amendment suggested, it was not his Bill, but that of another Minister, and without the consent of that Minister he hesitated to accept the amendment, and felt that he would have to proceed with the Bill as it was. We ail know that when a Government supports a particular measure a number of members of Parliament are willing to support it on that account.
I do not know of any arguments against my proposal; which, it seems to me, speaks for itself. I ask merely that the matter shall be referred to the Standing Orders Committees for consideration. They may either propose to the Senate the adoption of standing orders to give it effect or submit a report adverse to the proposal.
– I have much pleasure in seconding the motion so ably moved by Senator Thomas. I feel that it is unnecessary for me to enlarge on tha disability under which honorable senators and Ministers in this Chamber labour when Ministers are called upon to explain at the secondreading stage Bills which they have practically had no opportunity of considering. One of the strongest arguments which Senator Thomas used in support of the motion was his reference to the amendment of the Repatriation Bill, with which we have been dealing during the last few days. I venture to say that had Senator Millen been present in another place to explain, in the able way in which he can explain, his own Bills, he would have been able to convince honorable members there that they were wrong in the attitude they took up in connexion with their amendment of the Repatriation Bill. I remind honorable senators that at the end of last session, when Senator Millen was unfortunately away because of ill-health, and Senator Pearce was in England, the whole burden of submitting measures to the Senate was thrown upon the shoulders of Senator Russell. He was called upon to explain a number of Bills without having a sufficient opportunity to inform himself as to what they contained. He was given a task which no Minister should have been asked to perform. It must be apparent to every member of the Senate that Ministers here are often at a great disadvantage because the Minister in charge of a particular Department is not present in this Chamber to give information concerning details of measures which are to be administered by his Department. Senator Thomas has put forward weighty arguments in support of his motion. I second it. with pleasure, and ,hope that it will be carried.
– The motion submitted by Senator Thomas must commend itself to every thinking man. At the present time Parliament is apt to become merely a machine for the passing of certain measures, and we are apt to overlook the fact that the real business for which Parliament is constituted is to adequately discuss proposals for laws relating to the government of the country. In view of the multitude of matters with which a Minister has to deal, it is absolutely impossible for him to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the contents of every Bill he may be called upon to take charge of in the Senate. If there were no other reason in its favour than that it would lighten the burden which is at present, carried by Ministers, and provide the members of this Parliament with fuller information, the proposal submitted by Senator Thomas should be adopted. To me it seems strange that English-speaking people should have been’ so exceedingly slow to adopt what is obviously a common-sense practice.
– The British parliamentary system has always discriminated very clearly with regard to the function of review.
– The British Parliament has certainly had some traditions to maintain, and it appears to have concerned itself more with their maintenance than with the adoption of a desirable innovation. Under present conditions Ministers in this Chamber cannot be expected to become thoroughly conversant with the Bills that they have to pilot through it.
This afternoon we had an admirable illustration of the tactfulness and resource of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) in dealing with a new proposal which had been inserted in the Repatriation Bill at the instance of the House of Representatives. That honorable gentleman always exhibits such a masterly grip of the questions which he is called upon to handle that it is a pleasure to follow him. Similarly, we should find the Budget speech much more entertaining if we heard it from tHe lips of the Treasurer himself than we do when we read it in the pages of Hansard.
– The Treasurer frequently reads the Budget speech himself.
– But there are often interjections which serve to illuminate the subject upon which he is speaking. We are here as a deliberative body, whose duty it is to intelligently grasp certain things. Parliament does not exist for the benefit of parliamentarians, but for the purpose of doing its legislative work well. Of course, it may be urged’ by some that up to the present w© have got along very well without discarding old traditions. But to be original seems to be an inherent trait in the Australian character. It behoves us, therefore, to take a commonsense view of this matter, and to follow the practice which most commends itself to our mature judgment. I thank Senator Thomas for having brought this matter forward, and I can assure him of my cordial support. I shall not venture an opinion upon the constitutionality or otherwise of his .proposal. Personally, I cannot see that it transgresses our Constitution in any way, and I do not think there will be any dangers arising out of the innovation which are not present under the existing system. I believe that it would be better for the other branch of the Legislature to occasionally hear the wisdom of the Senate, expressed by a Minister from this Chamber, than for it to be continually spurning our work.
– I do not know that there is much to be added to the debate upon this proposal, but I think honorable senators will bear with me while I express my own views upon it, founded, as they are, upon an experience of parliamentary life which is becoming rather a .long one. I have spent a few years upon the Treasury benches, but many more years upon the other side of the chamber. It does seem to me that some such proposal as that which: we are now considering is more urgently required to-day than it has been at any time previously, because of the growing demands which are being made upon the time of Ministers. Senator Thomas, whilst affecting to speak of a confidential matter, merely stated something which is generally known. It is quite obvious that when a Minister receives a Bill from some Department other than his own, and an amendment is submitted which appeals to him as being a reasonable one, he is afraid to accept it, because he does not know the extent to which it may possibly destroy some other portion of the measure. But the Minister who was in charge of that Bill would know instantly whether such an amendment would be useful or destructive in its effect. I hope that honorable senators will not use against me at any future time the little confession which I am about to make. I have frequently received from the other branch of the Legislature, Bills which I have had to present to this Chamber. I have read the memorandum relating to their contents with fear and trembling, lest somebody might know something and put a question to me. Had the Minister who was in charge of the Bill been present to pilot it through this Chamber, that question would have been welcomed, and the information thus elicited would have been useful to the Senate. Take the case of the AttorneyGeneral, whose duty it is to deal with such important matters fis Arbitration Bills. Surely it would he an advantage to the Senate if our legal adviser, who has probably spent days in the preparation of those measures, could come here and expound their provisions to us. His deputy in this chamber can only pretend, at the most, to possess a casual and superficial acquaintance with them. Again, take the position of the Treasurer. How can one expect a Minister here - either my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who has had control of that Department in its busy days, or myself since I have been in charge of the Repatriation Department and the ‘housing scheme - to give to the Budget statement that close care and attention which the Treasurer himself necessarily bestows upon it? Yet, so far as this Chamber is. concerned, all his labour is wasted.
– Under the existing system, two Ministers are required to do one. Minister’s work.
– Similarly, it would be an advantage to the other House if, on defence matters, or matters relating to my own Department, Senator Pearce or myself could go down there and explain them. I do hope that nothing I am saying will be regarded as a reflection upon the way in which Ministers elsewhere discharge their important functions. I am sure that the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) himself would be the first to admit that the man who has built up a Bill brick by brick and wall by wall, so to speak, must necessarily be better informed of its purposes than a colleague who is merely called upon to take it up and undergo a process of cramming. For that reason I am cordially in favour of this proposal. The question has been raised as to why English-speaking people have not adopted this innovation. It seems to me that there are always two opposing characteristics in the British race. In one way the Britisher is daring, enterprising, and inclined to wander; but in respect of governmental institutions he is undoubtedly Conservative. That the people of Australia reveal a somewhat similar tendency is shown by their reluctance to alter our Constitution. But in this matter we have to take note of the changing conditions of out public life to-day, as compared with those which existed a few years ago.
– What is the constitutional aspect of this proposal?
– Fortunately for a large number of people in this country, I am not a lawyer. Speaking as a layman, I cannot see anything in our Constitution to prevent its adoption. To me it seems to involve merely an amendment of the Standing Orders of either House. When Senator Bolton interjected I was remarking that lie people of Australia have exhibited a reluctance to alter our Constitution. But, seeing that every day Governments in Australia and elsewhere are being called upon to discharge different duties and functions, and that there is crowding into our parliamentary life many -times the business that confronted us when I first entered Parliament, obviously there should be some method of simplifying our procedure. Senator Bakhap interjected a little while ago that, under our existing system, two Ministers were required to study the same Bill. I desire to correct him ‘by saying that only one Minister is required to study a Bill closely - his colleague probably possesses only a superficial knowledge of it, and is merely called upon to read off certain notes relating to it. I support the proposal with the fervent hope that another branch of the Legislature will disclose that wisdom which sometimes marks its proceedings by agreeing with the Senate upon this occasion.
– Towards the end of the year we. shall probably have to discuss Tariff matters very exhaustively. I do not think it is at all fair that Ministers here, should be called upon to deal with those matters in the way that they will be required to deal with them under the existing system. Obviously it would be an advantage for the Minister who is in charge of Tariff matters to come into this chamber and explain them. We all recognise that .the. measures dealt with in the Senate are handled by Ministers in a most able way. Our trouble is that sometimes amendments are inserted in Bills by another place, and we are obliged either to accept those amendments or to create a political crisis. We had an illustration of that kind this . afternoon. Without any disrespect whatever, I say that there are many occasions upon which, if the Minister who is in charge of a Department were also in charge of the Bill dealing with the matters of that Department in both chambers, our legislation would be more satisfactory, and would go through with much less debate, and prove to be a better finished article. I would particularly remind the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen) that in regard to Tariff and taxation questions^ - the hig questions that we shall have to face towards the end of the year - it would be a great advantage to the three very much over-worked Ministers in this chamber if they could have the assistance of the Ministers who are directly concerned in those matters.
– It is certainly my intention to support the motion, because it merely commits us to submitting the question to the Standing Orders Committee for investigation. If there is any constitutional difficulty in the way, I think it can very easily be obviated by the adoption of one of two methods which may be considered after we have heard the report of the Standing Orders Committee. It is, I understand, compatible in every way with parliamentary practice in a legislative Chamber such as this to give permission for any person to address honorable senators from the Bar of the Senate. It may seem, of course, somewhat undignified for a Minister of the Crown to appear at the Bar, but as the Speaker of the House of Representatives has to appear at the Bar of the House to receive his commission in the form of a Vice-Regal mandate, it does not appear unreasonable for a Minister to do the same.
There is, perhaps, another way in which we could avail ourselves of the services of a Minister representing the Government in another Chamber if we desired to do so. He could be permitted to address us under the system by which we extend a courtesy to a distinguished visitor, and perhaps if I am in error, Mr. President, in this regard, you will correct me. I believe it is competent for you, Mr. President, after announcing the arrival of a distinguished visitor, to order a chair to be placed at his disposal, and it is therefore quite conceivable that under such circumstances we might ask a Minister to address us at our invitation. I think Ministers could .be readily introduced “here by adopting that practice if there is any constitutional difficulty in the way. In the event of such a contingency as that mentioned by Senator Pratten, when we are likely to have an early discussion on such a vexed question as the Tariff, the Minister in charge of the measure, if the Senate so desires, could be invited to this Chamber and treated as a distinguished visitor, and thus assist us even in such a prosaic business as legislating. We might reasonably introduce this reform, which is not far-reaching in character, and which may be the means of expediting the passage of legislation.’ If we were to adopt either of the methods I have suggested, we could commence next week, if we so desired, and avail ourselves of the services of Ministers in another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Land in New Guinea - Visit of H.M.S. “Renown” to Hobart.
Question (by. Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– It is not my intention to delay the Senate for any time, but in justice to a Sydney gentleman I wish to give some information in connexion with a question I submitted to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) a few weeks, ago. I was approached by the New Guinea Soldiers’ Settlement Committee of Brisbane, which brought under my notice the fact that in an article published in a Papuan newspaper it was stated that a Mr. Sommerhoff, the managing director of the Standard Export and Import Company, of Sydney, was travelling to New Guinea for the purpose of acquiring land. It was stated in the article that Mr. Sommerhoff was in possession of credentials from the Commonwealth Government. As a result of the question I asked, I was informed ‘by the Minister for Repatriation that no land would be made available for settlement until such time as a mandate was received from the Imperial authorities, and that this gentleman held no credentials from the Commonwealth Government. In the Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald of Thursday, April 22, paragraphs appeared giving the reply of the Minister for Repatriation.” I have now received a letter from Mr. Sommerhoff, the gentleman referred to, and in justice to him I shall read the communication, which is as follows: -
Sydney, 12th May, 1920.
Federal Parliament, Melbourne.
Dear Sir, - My attention has been drawn to the attached paragraph marked “A”, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph on the 22nd ult. I presume that the Papuan Courier, owned by Mr “Wilkins, is the newspaper referred to by you. As you will see by reference to the Sydney Daily Telegraph files dated 2Sth ult., personal column, I went to the Islands in conjunction with my business, for the purpose of studying the local land laws, and also that I carried State credentials. I showed this paragraph to the editor (Mr. Wilkins) of the Papuan Courier on board the Morinda., also the accompanying credentials from the New South Wales Government. The statement that I had proceeded to New Guinea with a view to purchasing extensive properties is without foundation, and presumably Mr. Wilkins thought that the credentials referred to were from the Commonwealth Government, etc. For your benefit I might state that my object in visiting Papua and the late German New Guinea possessions was, inter aiia,, to study land and native questions. Of course, at the time I was on business bent in connexion with the Standard Export and Import Company, of which I am the managing director. The fact of Senator Millen’s statement in reply to your .question that I did not hold Government credentials has been the means of placing me in a very invidious position, and has led to numerous misunderstandings. As you are aware, unfortunately there is, comparatively speaking, only a small number, more especially in such distant parts as Papua and New Guinea, w.ho can distinguish between State credentials and Commonwealth ones, and as I naturally presented my State credentials during my visit to the Islands to various officials and business men, and as it became generally known that I carried same, there is every likelihood, in view of your question and Senator Millen’s reply thereto, of a doubt arising as to the authenticity of same. I have not the honour of knowing you personally, but as a -keen student of politics I, of course, know you by repute, and I therefore feel confident that you will assist me in every way to remove this erroneous impression. Might I suggest that you draw the attention of Senator Millen, and also publicly place before the Senate the above facts. By doing so you will bo conferring a special favour on me, and by such action you will help to stop the envious tongues of my business rivals. As these statements have appeared in the Sydney papers, and have already been widely brought before the notice of my competitors, I would ask you to see -that whatever action you may take on receipt of this letter is published in the Sydney newspapers. The attached clippings from the Sydney newspapers will explain themselves.
I feel that in justice to Mr. Sommerhoff I should quote that letter, because the whole misunderstanding arose as a result of the Soldiers Settlement Committee in Brisbane approaching me in connexion with an article which appeared in the Papuan Courier. I raised the question in the Senate, because I was anxious that when land is allotted in that Territory soldiers should have the first choice, but at the same time I have no desire to do this gentleman any harm. I have in my possession the State credentials to which he has referred, which were issued by the New South Wales Government, and were signed by the then Acting Premier, Sir George Fuller. I merely place these facts on record to enable the whole matter to be cleared up.
.— I desire to invoke the assistance of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) through his representative in the Senate, to deal somewhat further with a matter which may seem somewhat trivial, but one which is of great importance to Hobart. The people of Hobart are very proud of their harbor and their main pier, where there is a depth of 64 feet of water at low tide. The harbor is a most expansive and sheltered one, and the citizens of that capital are very disappointed to learn that the H.M.S. Renown, which is bringing H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to Australia, is not to berth at the pier, but is to anchor in the harbor. I know the Admiral in command of the vessel is the person who will decide whether the H.M.S. Renown will go alongside the pier or remain at the anchorage. I have received a message from the Marine .Board of Hobart, protesting against H.M.S. Renown remaining at the anchorage,- and the Minister for the Navy was good enough to place the communication before the proper authorities. I have now received from the Secretary for the Navy the following reply: -
The matter has already been referred to the Admiral of H.M.S. Renown, who, taking into consideration the size of the ship, her construction, possible bad weather, and the absence of tugs, has decided to anchor ofl instead of going alongside the pier.
It has now been officially announced that H.M.S. Renown is to berth alongside the new pier at Melbourne, and this naturally causes a great deal of jealousy - shall I say justifiable, jealousy - on the part of the Hobart people, who claim that they have, if not the best pier in Australia, certainly one without a rival. In view of these- circumstances, I ask the Government to make overtures to His Excellency the Admiral, and ask if he cannot arrange for the H.M.S. Renown to berth’ alongside the pier, where the vessel cannot possibly suffer damage, as there is ample water, and adequate protection from all weathers.
– In answer to the remarks of Senator Earle, I may say that, although I am indirectly representing the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), I happen to come into contact with many similar difficulties in connexion with the movements of H.M.S. Renown, and on all occasions’ we have communicated with the Naval authorities. For instance, the H.M.S. Renown is proceeding from Hobart to Albany instead of to Fremantle, and an endeavour was made to arrange for the vessel to call at the latter port, but I was informed by the Naval authorities that her movements were largely controlled, by the situation of oil depots and the carrying capacity of the ship. The H.M.S. Renown could proceed to Fremantle, but her prompt return could not be guaranteed owing to the absence of oil-fuel depots, which, -I hope, will soon be established in different parts of the Commonwealth. - I shall, however, bring the matter’ under the notice of the Minister for the Navy, as it is our desire to make arrangements that will be generally acceptable to a majority of the people.
– In regard to the matter raised by Senator Foll, I may state that when he introduced this matter he read a newspaper report to the effect that this gentleman had gone to. New Guinea for the purpose of acquiring land, and that he was in possession of Commonwealth credentials.
– That statement was published in the Papuan newspaper.
– I said at the time that the statements were incorrect, and the gentleman who has now written to Senator Foll should communicate with the newspaper which published an incorrect report. Might I suggest also, that, in regard to “putting the Daily Telegraph right,” Senator Foll should undertake the task of giving them the correct facts? I have seen the credential issued by theNew South Wales Government to this gentleman, and it appears to be quite in order. I know of no particular reasonwhy a State Government should not give a credential to one of its citizens going out, but it will occur to most people that it is a little curious that that gentleman should have carried a credential from a State Government, when a Commonwealth Government was in existence, and when he was going to visit a Territory which was distinctly under the control of the Commonwealth. I want Senator Foll to ask that gentleman if, before he obtained that State credential, he had not previously and fruitlessly applied for aCommon wealth credential?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at5.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 May 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200513_senate_8_92/>.