8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if it is the intention of the Government to provide a superannuation scheme for the Commonwealth Public Service.
– The Government have at present under consideration a Bill for the purpose, and will ask Parliament to consider it shortly after it. re-assembles early in next year.
The following papers were presented: -
Basic Wage: Report of Royal Commission, together with Memorandum by Mr. Commissioner Piddington, and Memorandum by Mr. Commissioner Keep and Mr. Commissioner Gilfillan in. connexion therewith.
Censusand Statistics Act. - Regulations amended.- Statutory Rules’ 1920; No. 221.
Norfolk Island.- Ordinance No. . 3 of 1920.- Census.
Railways Act -
By-law No. 17.
By-law No. 18.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired in New South Wales at Armidale, Leichhardt, Mascot, Neutral Bay, North Wagga Wagga, Ryde, Willoughby, Yass.
Application torural Industries.
askedthe Leader of the Government in theSenate, upon notice -
What is the intention of the Government in the matter of applying the basic wage idea to the rural industries. In other words, will the Government agree to fixing the price of an ounce of gold, a bushel of wheat, a pound of butter, and a case of fruit, in order to enable the producers of those commodities to pay a basic wage and leave a living wage to themselves ?
– The Government propose to consider the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the basic wage which has just been presented, and in doing so will have regard to the interests of the primary producers. As the articles referred to in the honorable senators’ question are primary products which depend largely for their value on overseas market, the Government will do all that it can to assist those who produce them by getting payable and remunerative prices.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Can the Government give the Senate any idea as to when effect will be given to the “ mandate “ with regard to the islands in the South Pacific?
-We cannot give thb information at present.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time:
Bill returned from theHouse of’ Representatives, with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing and Sessionsal Orders be suspended as would prevent the message being at once considered and all. consequent action taken.
Motion (by Senator de Largie) agreed! to-
That the time for bringing up the report of the Committee be extended to 31st May, 1921.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 2 of the principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1) the words “ but so that the indebtedness cf the Commonwealth to the Commonwealth Bank under this Act shall not at any time exceed £1,000,000.”
.- This is a very short Bill, but certain things have happened in this country in connexion with the control and distribution of sugar, which I hope may be remedied under its operation. One of the disabilities under which the people of the Commonwealth havelaboured during the past three years has been the totally inadequate supplies of sugar that were available for household requirements.
-brockman. - Particularly in those States which are far removed from the central Government.
– Yes. I have, however, no desire to emphasize the particular needs of my own State. The difficulties encountered there have been common to all the States of the Commonwealth. To a large number of people who wished to follow their frugal custom of making jam last year, supplies were not obtainable. Indeed, many householders were quite unable to secure sufficient sugar for their own immediate requirements. The Government ought to have been alive to the importance of preventing the rotting of fruit, simply because there was not sufficient sugar to enable thrifty housewives to convert it into jam. I hope that what has happened during the past three years will not be repeated the coming year. I trust that the Government will see that sufficient supplies are forthcoming to prevent the positive waste which occurred during the years that I have indicated.
.- I desire to direct attention to a legitimate grievance under which storekeepers in certain parts of Tasmania are labouring owing to the method which is adopted in the distribution of sugar. I understand that, in the State which I have the honour to represent, certain ports have been proclaimed at which sugar is procurable at scheduled rates. But no person residing elsewhere is permitted to enjoy this privilege. I know that Colonel Bell, who represents the electoral division of Darwin in another place, has received a communication from storekeepers in Ulverstone, who are suffering a serious disability as compared with storekeepers in places like Devonport and Burnie. If there be either ab Burnie or Devonport a forwarding agent who is willing to accept delivery of consignments of sugar for persons resident in Ulverstone, Stanley, and other parts of Tasmania, I fail to perceive any reason why it should not be delivered to him under similar conditions to those which govern its delivery to storekeepers in the ports which I have mentioned. I trust that this anomaly will be removed without further delay.
– In dealing with this Bill, I desire to touch upon only two points. The first, has already been dealt with by Senator Earle - I refer to the discrimination which is being exhibited in the distribution of sugar. In Adelaide, at the present time, storekeepers are advertising that they are prepared to supply an unlimited quantity of sugar to purchasers, provided that the latter buy all their goods there. Yet the members of the South Australian Cooperative Society cannot obtain more than 2 lbs. of sugar each per week.
– It would be interesting to know who are the storekeepers who are willing to supply unlimited quantities of sugar.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE.I will show the honorable senator their advertisement in the Advertiser.
– That means nothing. If the honorable senator went to their stores, he would find that they were sold out of sugar.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE.They are making a public announcement of the fact to which I have referred, and they are paying for their advertisements.
The other matter to which I wish to direct attention is that the Department which has charge of the importation of sugar has been acting in an absolutely illegal manner. The law provides that no bags weighing more than 200 lbs. shall be handled (upon our wharfs or in our stores. Yet last year cargoes were received from Batavia and the West Indies in bags considerably in excess of that weight. As a result, we had strikes. Can we expect anything else when our Statute law is broken by the Government, as the importers of sugar?
– What can they do? Would the honorable senator send the sugar back to Cuba to have it rebagged ?
– According to this morning’s papers, one ship has left Port Adelaide with 4,000 tons of sugar on board, because the wharf labourers there have declined to handle it owing to the excessive weight of the bags. That sugar is being brought to Melbourne. It comes from Batavia. The purchasers of that cargo should have seen that our Statute law was observed, and that the sugar was brought here in 200-lb. bags.
– Suppose that the people at Batavia refused to put it in 200-lb. bags? (Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE. - Certain people are responsible for refining that sugar, and they know that nc bags of more than 200 lbs. weight can be handled on our wharfs.
– Why are we sending out bales of wool which weigh 600 Iba.?
– Bales of wool have not to be handled in the way that bags of sugar are handled. As the result of a long experience of handling bagged stuff, I do not hesitate to say that 200 lbs. is quite enough for any man to handle. Those who are responsible for bringing this sugar to Australia have broken the Statute law of this country. A wharf labourer who did that would he prosecuted. The civil servant who is responsible for having ordered this sugar, knowing that it would arrive in 220-lib. bags, has broken the law. (Senator Foll. - Who loaded the sugar at the other end?
– The Government are responsible for the loading. We talk about strikes taking place. This is one of the things which has caused a strike. I trust that in all future shipments of sugar, either from Queensland or Batavia, not more than 200-lb. bags will be used.
– All the Queensland .sugar comes down here in 160-lb. ^Senator R. ‘STORRIE GUTHRIE. - That is because the Queensland people cannot help it. If they could, they would send it down here in 300-lb. bags.
– Order! The discussion upon this clause must not be allowed to wander over too wide a range. I would remind the honorable senator that the marginal note of the clause is “Removal of limit of amount of overdraft.”
– Then I shall not agree to the removal of the limit of the overdraft if sugar is to be brought down here in 220-lb. bags. When Parliament sanctioned the proposal that a 200-lb. bag should be the maximum bag used upon our wharfs, there was not a single honorable senator who raised his voice in opposition to it. It was agreed that the men working on the wharfs should not handle bags containing more than 200 lbs., and in the case of wheat the actual weight was approximately 180 lbs.
– Did the Port Adelaide wharf labourers refuse to handle the sugar ?
– They discharged 1,100 tons, and then decided not to handle any more. The result was that 4,000 tons were brought on to Melbourne. The matter is one which should have the immediate attention of the Government.
.- I desire to. support the remarks of Senator Lynch regarding the difficulties experienced by housewives during the past season in getting supplies of sugar for jam making. That difficulty was not confined to Tasmania, but was experienced) throughout the whole Commonwealth. The fruitgrowing season is on us- now,, as the small fruits are already coming in, and it is essential in the interests of the people that housewives should be able to obtain the necessary supplies in order lo» make jam and preserve fruit. Last year in Tasmania a great deal of the fruit grown in the north-western portion of: Tasmania and on the West Coast could not be utilized for domestic jam making” owing to the shortage, but ample supplies were available to the jam manufacturers who had sufficient for their requirements and some to spare. The experience of housewives in Tasmania was commons throughout the Commonwealth; the result was that jam making at home had to be abandoned, and housewives had to rely upon the output of the factories.
– How does the honorable senator account for the increased consumption if there was a shortage, as he suggests?
– Jam manufacturers were producing more because the housewives were prevented from meeting their requirements by making it at home. There is never any fear of over production, because we can always dispose of our surplus in overseas markets at a; good price.
– Is the honorable senator raising a protest against manufacturers receiving sufficient to keep their plants in operation?
– I am not doing anything of the kind, and it is unfair of the honorable senator to attempt to place such words in my mouth. We donot want a recurrence of what happened last year, and I indorse all that Senator Lynch has said.
In regard to the matter) mentioned by Senator Earle, it is perfectly correct that the business people in certain parts of Tasmania are justified in entering a protest because of their inability to secure a concession, which is applicable to parts of Tasmania in close proximity to> their own towns, on sugar brought from the mainland. Senator Earle’ s statement was not altogether correct, as something has already been done in this matter. T do not. want the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to cause the Department to make inquiries when an assurance has already been given that something will be done.
– The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) made a complaint to-day.
– Perhaps so, but that gentleman happened tobe in my company when we waited upon the Minister ten days ago The outcome of that visit was that a weeks ago I was able to send a letter to the Warden of that district in which the following paragraph appears : -
After going into the matter fully with the Minister, I now have to advise you that the course for the storekeepers of your town to adopt is that, when ordering sugar from Melbourne, you should have it consigned in the name of the consignee to Burnie or Pevonport, as the case may be, arranging at the same time for one of the carters, who act as forwarding agents, to forward the sugar by rail to Ulverstone. If this is done, the concession will apply.
– The honorable senator does not object to Senator Earle raising the matter.
– It is all right if it is true.
– I do not object to the matter being raised, but I believe when an honorable senator has information in his possession, as I have, he should disclose it. I have raised no objection to Senator Earle bringing the matter forward, and I am glad to have his co-operation. Senator J. D. Millen should not suggest that I resent Senator Earle bringing the matter forward, and I think it would be better if the honorable senator’s interjections of that character were less frequent.
– Cannot Tasmania produce her own sugar?
– I hope the day will come when we shall not have to depend on the Queensland output, which, unfortunately, is a diminishing quantity. If such is the case, Tasmania will have to come to the rescue, as she has done in the past when the larger States have failed to meet our requirements. I trust the Minister will make a special effort to see that the necessary quantity of sugar is available, so that housewives will be able to manufacture their own jam.
– Senator R. S. Guthrie is not correct in saying that any Statute law is being broken by the fact that bags containing more than 200 lbs. are coming into the Common-: wealth. What was done was by proclamation, and it aimed principally at the export of wheat in bags. It is obvious that we cannot by proclamation in Australia control the practice in another, country. We cannot say to the Dutch in Batavia that they must not load sugar in bags containing more than 200 lbs., and if they decide to do so, we have to purchase the sugar in the bags ordinarily used. What is provided is that where a bag exceeds 200 lbs. in weight, two men are allowed to handle it. The wharf labourers had the remedy in their own hands, and should have taken advantage of that provision. In any case, I can assure the honorable senator representing South Australia that if there is any desire on the part of that State to turn away sugar, there are other States willing to accept it.
– The Department knew that it would not be handled in bags containing more than 200 lbs.
– As regards the scarcity of sugar, it is significant that, whilst there has been an outcry concerning an alleged shortage of sugar, the consumption last year in the Commonwealth was a record. There was more sugar made available last year than during any period the Commonwealth has been handling it.
– The two things can happen side by side.
– That may be, but it only goes to show that there was an abnormal demand, and more sugar supplied by those handling the position than was ever supplied before. It must also be remembered that there was a shortage in the sugar crop of Queensland, owing, not as Senator Payne seems to think, to any falling off in the cultivation, but to climatic conditions, principally frosts, over which no humanbeing had any control. Like other honorable senators, I have been a suppliant at the feet of the Minister for Trade and Customs, at the request of hungry constituents in Western Australia, who like to make jam, and have - received from the Minister a letter, as no doubt other honorable senators have, in which he tells me that there will be ample supplies of sugar during the forthcoming jam season, both for the jam factories and for human consumption. I am very glad to be able to say, therefore, that that position is being met. As to Senator Earle’s point, that also has cropped up in other States. We had the same difficulty in Western Australia with regard to the port of Albany, and I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), having had representations made to him from various parts of the Commonwealth regarding the same disability, has now made arrangements by which the difficulty can be obviated.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
First schedule agreed to.
The Parliament (Proposed vote £48,739), and the Prime Minister’s Department (Proposed vote £304,452) agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £1,109,899.
.- We cannot discuss too often the expenditure of approximately three-quarters of a million pounds per year on the maternity bonus. Some time ago, in a discussion in this Chamber, I said that I did not think this amount of money was being expended to the best advantage of Australia. It has been pointed out time and again, as the result of an investigation made some time previously, that the bonus is claimed in the case of about 99 per cent. of the births in the Commonwealth. I am quite sure that that was not the intention of Parliament when this system of legislation was agreed upon. The object at that time was to help mothers in indigent circumstances to provide necessaries and to lighten their hurden in the most serious crisis of their lives, and so assist them in the care and attention whichshould be given to all young Australians. It is a well-known fact that a very large portion of the money which, under the present law, is rightly claimed, is spent on all kinds of luxuries, and even, if I may use the expression, recklessly. If the Government were to adopt a system now established in parts of Australia, particularly in Tasmania, where maternity clinics or baby clinics are in operation, and trained bush nursing associations are working, and if they were to co-operate with the State Governments for the encouragement of these organizations and the establishment of similar organizations in all parts of Australia, a very much greater return would be secured by the nation from the expenditure of this money. In the Argus the other day, I noticed a statement to the effect that since the inauguration of the maternity bonus the sum of over £4,500,000 had been expended, and that the amount for the last financial year for which we have a return was £630,000. I feel sure that the object which Parliament had in view when this principle was indorsed has not been achieved. In Hobart there is an organization known as the Child’s Welfare Association, under which mothers and prospective mothers obtain assistance. On certain days of each week they are entitled to attend medical men’s offices and to receive advice, or they may bring their babies to the clinics for examination and information as to their care and feeding. In addition to this, a staff of trained nurses makes periodical visits to the homes of these mothers to give further valuable advice concerning the general care of babies. If this system were adopted throughout Australia, I am sure that a great deal of good would result. There is no doubt that every child born to Australia is a valuable asset to the nation ; but we require not only an improved birth-rate, but some scheme to guarantee the proper care of children, so as . to insure a healthier manhood and womanhood. From a national stand-point, it is just as important to see to the proper care of children as it is to encourage maternity. The proposal I have in mind, if adopted, would not result in any saving from the point of view of the Federal Treasurer, because the money at presentallocated for the maternity bonus would be expended in the care and general well-being of the child. The organization to which’ I refer also gives a considerable amount of attention to the question of a pure milk- supply. Depots have been established in Hobart, and if mothers can, they are expected to pay for the milk, but to the poor it is supplied free. I am impressing on the Government the importance of doing something in this direction with the £600,000 at present being expended on the maternity bonus.
– In some of the States you will find that it” is nothing more than an order on the mother for the doctor or nurse.
– That is so. Some parents invest the bonus in Tattersalls, some place the sum in a Savings Bank to the credit of the child, while others break a bottle or two of champagne to celebrate the event. I know what is being done, and I say that if the system which I suggest were adopted, the Commonwealth would be all the better for it. Of course, the wealthy people then would not bother about calling in a trained district nurse, or visiting a baby clinic. They would make their own arrangements. If the Government were to subsidize, say by £1 for £1, the amount expended by any community in the establishment of a bush nursing scheme and baby and maternity clinics, the amount at present being expended on the maternity bonus might be doubled, but there would be a four-fold return to the Commonwealth in the shape of a healthier manhood and womanhood.
– There is just one item to which I should like to refer, and that is the position with regard to the Taxation Office. It seems to me that something might be done to bring about a uniform system between the Federal and State Governments. At present, the procedure is most costly.
– An effort has been made in that direction already.
– I am aware of that, and I think the time is ripe for some more definite action. Amalgamation would surely mean economy and efficiency ; and if we stand for that the Taxation Department is one in which this can very well be exemplified. I have been connected with companies for a considerable period, and I know that. sometimes an extra clerk is required to prepare income tax returns for employees. If the Federal authorities were anxious to do something, surely we could do away with the existing anomaly. I think, also, that if an arrangement could be made for the collection of taxation fortnightly from a certain class of taxpayers, there would be a very material increase in the receipts. At present, when their income is approaching the exemption limit fixed by the Act, these people either resign and go away from the district, or re-enter employment under a different name. In this way they dodge a great deal of taxation. If some modus vivendi could be found to secure uniformity, I -am satisfied that it would make for efficiency and economy, as well as largely increase the amount received by the Taxation Department.
– I should like to indorse the remarks made by Senator Earle. There is not the slightest doubt that the maternity bonus does not do the good it was expected to do, and that sometimes the money is spent very foolishly. I mix a good deal with people who are connected with philanthropic enterprises, and I know that, to a great extent, they condemn the indiscriminate payment of the ‘baby bonus. “We are all agreed that in some cases it is required; but I think there should be some limit of income. I mean that persons whose income is above a certain amount should be required to make “their own arrangements.
– I do not like that idea at all.
– Well, it is the proposal that commends itself to me. Would the ‘honorable senator favour doing away with the bonus altogether?
– I would do away with the present system, and give rich and poor alike an opportunity to go to clinics, if they chose to do so.
– I do not think that scheme would work very well. I (believe that in certain cases the ‘bonus is undoubtedly required, because the poorer people have not the wherewithal to meet the calls upon a household at such times Senator Earle is quite correct in saying that in many’ instances the maternity allowance is not required for the purpose for which it is paid. A great economy mightbe made in connexion with the maternity allowance, and the money saved might be better expended in other directions.
I should like to give the Committee a few figures to show that we require everv penny we can save, and that every penny we spend must be spent to the best possible advantage. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) expects to get through this year with a surplus of £239,545.
– That was before he learned what the basic wage was to be.
– Yes, when he delivered his Financial Statement. We have to remember that he started the year with an amount of £5,747,423, that was carried forward from the previous year. It will be seen that these figures show that really the actual deficit on the year’s receipts and expenditure will amount to. £5,507,878. That is the amount which we shall have to find next year. Again,on lookingthrough the figures, I find that next year we shall not have the benefit of the revenue derived from the war-time profits tax, which produces £4,000,000. If these amounts are taken together, it will be seen that we shall really be short next year to the extent of £9,507,878. That is a matter for very grave consideration, especially when we have regard to the fact that the income tax is approaching the sterile period. The total income taxation of the Commonwealth now produces a revenue of £15,000,000, and I have shown that next year we shall have to defray from revenue, in excess of what will be paid this year, more than half of the total revenue at present derived from the income tax. These figures indicate how very careful we must be in regard to expenditure if we are to continue to pay old-age pensions and other benefits provided for the necessitous amongst us.
We have tremendous liabilities to meet. For instance, for returned soldiers we have to find £38,606,519. On War Service Homes, we have to spend this year £6,175,000.
– We shall get a lot of that money back.
– That is so, but that is notthe point. The question is, how are we to find the money. There is a limit to the amount we can borrow. We have agreed to a works loan, amounting to £4,368,444. In providing- the war gratuity to returned soldiers, we have paid so far £3,092,509, and we have yet to find for this purpose alone nearly £27,000,000. These figures indicate the necessity for the strictest economy. As has been suggested, we should make every effort to bring about the amalgamationof State and Commonwealth Departments. We have a Committee sitting at the present time composed of the chief officers of the Commonwealth and of the States, considering the amalgamation of the Taxation Departments, and I hope that the necessity for this amalgamation will be pressed upon the Government. The same course must be followed for the amalgamation, of the Electoral Departments of the Commonwealth and of the States. I have no doubt that, if we put our shoulders to the work, we can easily do something in this direction.
Honorable senators should bear in mind that, before the end of 1925, the State Governments will be called upon to renew loans to the extent of over £133,000,000. Before the end of the same year, the Commonwealth will be called upon to renew loans to the extent of £123,000,000. That is to say, that the people of Australia, before the end of 1925, must renew no less than £256,500,000 of loan money. I know something of financial matters, and say that we shall have the greatest possible difficulty it finding this enormous sum. It behoves us in the circumstances to. show that we really mean business, and to determine that we will not create a fresh Department of the Public Service, however necessary it may appear to be; that we will not run a railway up through the centre of Australia over a desert, and will not undertake any public work that will not pay right away. We need to show our creditors and the people, to whom we must look to renew our loans, that we are determined to do all that we possibly can to put our housein order. We have been continually creating fresh Departments, and there is a proposal on the businesspaper of another place at the present time for the establishment of a Commerce Court. We can do very well without that, and we must learn to do without many things. If we had an abundance of money we might go in for these luxuries ; but we cannot afford .them in our present financial circumstances.
I should like to make a suggestion with respect to the renewal of our loans. I see that Mr. Austen Chamberlain, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, .said recently that the Old Country would welcome long-dated loans. The ‘trouble with. long-dated loans is that they would probably involve the payment of a high sate of interest for a, long term of years. That” should be avoided if we can possibly help it, .and I make the suggestion that we should try to overcome the difficulty by arranging for a long-dated loan which would meet the requirements of those in the Old Country who would lend the money, and at the same time make provision for a re-adjustment of the interest charge in five-year periods. I think that that would be found to be a great help. The price of money will come down in the course of time, and if such a suggestion were adopted, the Commonwealth would be in a position to take advantage of a reduction in the price of money. The proposal would be off advantage from another point of view, and that is that a. loan borrowed on such terms would be likely always to remain at about par.
– How would the honorable senator adjust the rate of interest?
– By the Stock Exchange quotations of the day. . The Stock Exchange quotations are well known, and could be verified by an appeal to the chairman of the Stock Exchange in London, or, in the case of the loan being locally floated, the Stock Exchanges of Australia.
– Can the honorable senator give us an instance of a loan floated on such terms ?
– No, I have never .heard of one. It is my own idea ; but I think it would have very great advantages. I should like the Government to sound the financial authorities upon it. I think it would certainly have the advantage that a loan floated on such terms would be always redeemable’ at about par. If we float a loan now, even at 6 per cent. , as the Government did the other day, the debentures - immediately fail in value:; but if it were known that interest on the loan would be re-adjusted from time to time, it would be far more likely that the debentures would remain at about par. This would mean that a man who invested his money in such a loan might, if he required to do so, sell his stock, and probably obtain the full amount of money he invested. This idea occurred to nae in considering how on earth we are to renew loans to the extent of £256,500,000 before the end of 19’25. I think that the Commonwealth must bear not only its own financial burden in this connexion, but also the burden of the States. I should like very much to see one borrower for the Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth Government. ‘The disadvantages inseparable from the present system, with the States competing with the Commonwealth in the money market, must be apparent to every one. Repeated efforts have beer made in this direction, but so far without success. Still, I am sure that, before long, the States will be driven into the arms of the Commonwealth, when it is necessary for them to borrow money, -and the ‘Commonwealth will have bo do the whole of the financial work We must then take into consideration the probability that the Commonwealth will have to undertake the work of renewing, not only its loans, but the loans of the States as well. I think that the suggestion I have made in this connexion is worthy of consideration.
It is very clear that we must do all we can to curtail expenditure if we are bo inspire confidence in those to whom we must look to obtain funds. If they learn that Australia is running its affairs on business lines, they may be induced bo bake up our loans or to renew them, but they will scarcely do so if we are continually launching out into fresh expenditure upon new schemes. The establishment of a uniform railway gauge, for instance, is certainly most desirable, but we have not £40,000,000 to spend on this work ab the present time. These are schemes bo be carried out in good times. There is a proposal for a’ Northern Territory railway of some 60 miles in length, which, I have been told by a gentleman who has been over the route, will not when constructed, pay for axle grease. We cannot go in for expenditure of that sort. I suppose that it would cost £10,000,000 to build the North-South railway ; and how are . we to obtain the money for that purpose? Are we going to repudiate our obligations to the returned soldiers in order to find the money ?
– We could get the money for the construction of the line on the land -grant system at the present time.
– If we could do that, we would not be called upon to borrow the money. I am doubtful whether we could get the line constructed on the land-grant system, but the difficulty would certainly be overcome if we could have it constructed on the system under which the CanadianPacific railway was built, by persons who carried out the undertaking on business lines and without fads, and settled people alone: the railway at the same time. The Government will have a little leisure at the close of this week.
– We have only an election on our hands.
– The honorable senator is used to that. I must say that I sympathize with Ministers. How they get through all their work is quite beyond me. They have not only to run great industrial enterprises, but they have to keep Parliament going, to rush away whenever an election takes place, and to every entertainment and function that occurs. I think they should take a little spell. They should sit on the boxseat and drive the coach for a while, instead of trying to get down among the horses to lug it along. That should be, to a greater extent than it is, the work of the rank and file of members of this Parliament.
The Old Country is our chief creditor, and we should show the people there that we are determined to face the financial situation. We should amalgamate State and Commonwealth Departments, and should determine not to establish fresh Departments. We might thus establish such a reputation as that, we will say, of the State of Victoria.
– Why not say Queensland?
– I cannot adopt that suggestion. I am afraid that Queensland is the bad boy of the financial world at the present time.
– The honorable senator should not forget that Queensland is showing a surplus this year.
– But at what cost to the poor taxpayers.
– That is another question.
– Any one might show a surplus on those lines.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap). The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– With regard to the point raised by Senator Earle in connexion with the maternity allowance, I think that all will agree that the motive for its establishment was an excellent one, but even its most enthusiastic supporters, of whom I am one, must admit that experience has shown that some of the money so expended might be spent to beter advantage in other directions. But that sum of £600,000 which is now an endowment for maternity might continue to be expended upon other lines with very much better results. That feeling is in the minds of members of the Government, and we shall consider whether by the adoption of some other method the expenditure of the same amount cannot achieve those results.
In regard to the remarks of Senator J. D. Millen concerning the co-ordination of Federal and State Taxation Departments,I am inclined to think that he and other honorable senators might very well direct their criticism at the State Governments. It is fairly obvious that if there is to be co-ordination between the Federal and State Taxation Departments, the result cannot be achieved by the elimination of the Federal authority as the collecting agency, because we should then still have six State collecting agencies’.
– Oh, keep the Federal agency.
– That is the lion in the path. The States will not agree to that proposal.
– Will not Tasmania agree to it ?
– I do notthink that any State will agree to it.
– Cannot we have a joint taxation agency just as we have a joint Murray River Waters Commission ?
– But the honorable senator has just enjoined us not to establish any new Department. There is, however, a good deal to be said in favour of setting up a Taxation Department which shall be representative of both the Commonwealth and States.
– Each State considers that its own Taxation Department is more experienced than is the Federal Taxation Department.
– It is not a question of which authority is the more experienced, but one of having two sets of collectors.
– Have the Federal authorities approached the States upon the matter?
– Yes. There have been several Conferences upon it. There is already in existence a Committee consisting of representatives of the Federal Treasury and of officials of the State Taxation Departments, which is endeavouring to achieve some modus vivendi. I take it that the Taxation Commission, which is now sitting, will also have the matter brought before it, and that probably! it will make some recommendation in regard to it. My colleague (Senator Russell) has just informed me that we have included in our taxation measures provision for taking over the State Taxation Departments. I was not aware of that.
Let me give a practical instance of the neglect of the State authorities to co-operate with the Commonwealth. It is a case in which their sovereign powers would not have been affected in the slightest degree. When Mr. Hughes was in England in 1916 I was Acting Prime Minister, and in that capacity I attended a Premiers’ Conference in Adelaide. Some time before it met I., asked the Commonwealth Departments to suggest some means by which we could eliminate expenditure by means of an agreement with the States. One proposition which was put up to me, and which commended itself to my judgment, was that, instead of having seven sets of officials in Australia engaged in collecting statistics - in many instances the same statistics - and in printing them over and over again, we should have only one set of officials, and that that set should represent the Commonwealth. We offered, in case we were not at present collecting some statistics which the States thought it necessary to procure, to undertake their collection also. We further stated that if any State desired any portion of the3e statistics to be printed separately for use in that State, we would undertake to do that, too. I attended the Conference and submitted my proposition, which was unanimously adopted. But effect has never been given to it. Several Regis trars of Statistics have since died, affording the States a splendid opportunity for bringing about this reform. ‘
– Who should make the next move?
– The States. But they have appointed other Registrars to continue the old system. As a matter of fact, the Premiers went back to their States, and to give effect to my scheme they called a Conference of State Registrars of Statistics, who were asked to recommend a means by which they themselves could1 be abolished. Of course, they did not recommend it. They quietly pigeon-holed the proposal, and it has remained there to this day.
Let me give another instance of State co-operation with the Commowealth in regard to the co-ordination of our electoral rolls. When Senator Keating was Minister for Home Affairs a Bill was passed through this Parliament which afforded an opportunity for the States and the Commonwealth to adopt a uniform roll. That legislation has been in operation since 1908. As evidence that the reform is a practical one, I may mention that one State has availed itself of it - I refer to Tasmania, where it has been found to work admirably. But since 1908 every other State has had an opportunity to avail itself of a uniform,’ roll, and thereby effect a saving, but has neglected to do so. In these two directions the Commonwealth has done all that it can to effect economies, but without receiving any encouragement whatever from the States except in the isolated case to which I have referred.
This afternoon Senator Fairbairn has made a very interesting suggestion concerning the serious problem which will confront Australia during the next few years. Coming as it does after the hint which was recently thrown out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Austin Chamberlain) to the effect that there might be an opening upon the English market for long-dated Australian loans, the suggestion of the honorable senator is worthy of consideration by the Treasury and by the financial authorities of the Commonwealth. It must be obvious to a neophyte in finance that, with’ the high rate of interest which obtains today, and which, in the light of all other post-war periods, is likely to continue until normal conditions are re-established, it is extremely undesirable that we should go upon the money market and convert our war loans into long-dated loans. Consequently, it is well worth, considering whether it is not practicable to secure a long-dated loan at an adjustable rate of interest. I see no reason why this should not be done, and if it were done, it would remove the greatest objection attaching to sUch a loan.
Coming to the other point mentioned by Senator Fairbairn, it is obvious that the Commonwealth will be looked to more abd more in the future as the chief factor in the world’s money market. To the extent that this is so - and the war has made it so - its reputation and its credit will be impaired by the intrusion in that market of the State Governments, especially when they come forward with propositions to borrow money at rates of interest which, if they have to be attached to . our conversion loans, including our war loans, will materially increase the interest bill which must be paid by Australia outside of Australia. If a recognition of these facts does not bring the various State Governments to their senses the stern conditions of the money market will inevitably do so. I shall certainly bring the suggestion of Senator Fairbairn under the notice of my colleague, the Treasurer.
– In looking through the votes for the various Departments one cannot fail to be struck by the steady increase in our expenditure. Glancing particularly at the Department which is now under review, there is scarcely a sub-Department which does not show an increase. In the main Departments, such as the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department of the Navy, and the Defence Department, the increase amounts to as much as 50 per cent, over the expenditure of last year. I have read the Treasurer’s remarks in justification of the( amount expended by the Government in collecting Federal taxation.- While I am not in a position to quote what it has cost the States to finance’ their taxation Departments, the fact remains that an increase of 40 per cent.- in the estimated expenditure of that Department for the current year, as compared with the actual expenditure for last year, calls for explanation. Then, in respect to the item “ refunds of revenue “ which, like charity, covers a multitude of sins, I note that the estimated expenditure for the present financial year is £750,000, al though the amount voted last year was only £350,000. ‘ While the Commonwealth Government are having, if not a financial saturnalia, at least a very good time financially, many of the States are at their wits’ end in their endeavor to make the State ledgers balance. It is very necessary that we should be. in a position to say that every £1 expended by the Commonwealth Government is justified. The total estimated expenditure upon the Treasury Department for this year is £180,000 in excess of the vote for last year - an increase of 20 per cent. If we wish to outrun the constable, therefore, we merely require to continue that for five years in order to double our expenditure upon this Department alone. The Treasury is, of course, a Department which is not saddled with very onerous forms of expenditure. It is a Department that merely controls other Departments, “and is not a spending branch such as the Works and Railways, Defence, and Navy Departments are. The increased expenditure of 20 per cent, requires some explanation, so that we may be armed with a justification that the money which is raised in the Federal sphere is being expended economically. While we, in the Federal arena, are. having a good time financially, without any deficits, we have to remember that some States have even thought of funding their deficits. The States that have responsibilities, in common with our own, are in a bad way. I mention this matter to enable the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to explain why the cost this year i3 being increased by 20 per cent.
.- The matter is easily explained. The Taxation Branch, as honorable senators are aware, was regarded in the early stages of the war as being somewhat temporary in character, because it was not expected that all of the taxes imposed would be maintained for any length of time. But it . has been found necessary to make certain of these taxes practically permanent, which, of course, has increased the expenditure. When new taxa- tion was first imposed temporary officers were appointed, but these posts have been filled to some extent by permanent officers. The number of permanent officers last year was 1,392, and this year it is 1,471. The vote for temporary assistance last year was £120,263, and this year it is £61,370. That is to say, there has been an increase in the number on the permanent staff, and a reduction on the temporary staff, approximating, in cost, over £50,000 a year. There is also an in- crease due to the expansion of this Department, and to the increases in salaries, _ which, of course, affects other Departments. Arbitration Court awards have been responsible for the pay bill of the Commonwealth Service being increased by £750,000. The permanent positions account ‘for an expenditure of £19,040, and the statutory increases to officers amount to £5,554. The increases in consequence of bonuses awarded by the Arbitration Court amount to £13,512 in this branch alone.
– Does the increase in the cost of temporary assistance apply solely to the Taxation Department?
– I am referring to the Taxation Department. The estimated expenditure this year is £61,370.
– How is the total increase accounted for ?
– The permanent positions account for £19,040, the statutory increases to officers amount to £5,554, and the bonuses granted by the Arbitration Court are responsible for £13,512. Then there is a further amount made up of a large number of smaller items, including the purchase of material, which, of course, has increased in price, and which total £16,042.
– It has been interesting to hear the explanation of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) concerning the increased expenditure. Too much importance cannot be attached to this matter, especially in regard to the necessity - in the Minister’s opinion - for the States and Commonwealth to co-ordinate as far as possible, in the collection of taxation, electoral matters, and statistics. If publicity is given to the opinions expressed by the Minister, and indorsed by honorable senators, the people in the various States of the Commonwealth will take notice of his utterances. When the position is realized. I believe that pressure will be brought to bear upon State members in order that definite action may be taken to arrive at a satisfactory understanding.. The people in every State of the Commonwealth are protesting against the excessive expenditure by Federal and State Governments, and one cannot wonder when one notices the enormous increases that are shown in Federal and State Budgets from year to year. Consequently, I trust that an effort will be made by Federal members to get into touch with State representatives in connexion with the amalgamation of some of our Departments. In Tasmania, we led the way by adopting a uniform roll for Federal and State electorates, and by doing so saved the State a good deal of money. I cannot understand why similar attempts have not been made by the States in* connexion with the Taxation and Statistical Departments. The Minister correctly stated this afternoon that the Commonwealth staff could easily collect all statistics necessary for Commonwealth and State purposes. I listened with interest to the Minister’s explanation in regard to the increased expenditure in the Taxation Department as shown in the Estimates, and one cannot refrain from expressing the opinion that the inflation of the Public Service to a great degree - which in my opinion is not warranted - is responsible for the position we are in to-day. I have a great deal of respect for the Public Service; but I desire to see it absolutely efficient, and giving the best possible service for the money that is being expended. At the same time, it must be patent to every one that if the Service is unnecessarily inflated, the financial result must be disastrous to the Commonwealth. The Minister has pointed out that last year a large sum was expended in temporary assistance, and he gave that as an explanation for the increased expenditure in the Taxation Department. He mentioned that £120,263 had been expended on temporary assistance last year, and that £61,370 would be spent this year, and consequently there will be a saving in that connexion of, approximately, £58,000. When we look at the total expenditure in the Taxation Office this year as compared with last year, we find that £139.000 more is being spent, so that after allowing for the £58,000 saved-
– That is not so.
– No. I find I am incorrect, as I was taking the vote and not the expenditure. Based on the actual figures the difference, with the exception of £9,000, was practically absorbed. In hurriedly glancing through the totals I had taken the vote instead of the expenditure, which last year was £72,000 more than estimated. That was brought about by the payment of increased salaries during the current year in consequence of new arrangements and Arbitration awards.
Reference has been made this afternoon to the expenditure we arc incurring year by year in connexion with the maternity bonus. I stated a little while ago in this Chamber that I would not let an opportunity pass without offering a protest against the payment of the maternity bonus under the present system. I desire to refer to one phase of the question which I have not mentioned before. The maternity bonus was originally introduced with the idea of materially assisting mothers at a critical period in their life, and preventing infantile mortality. I had been hopeful that the payment of the maternity bonus would have been the means of preventing mortality, but the latest statistics available show that New Zealand, which is the nearest country with which a comparison can be instituted, has a very much lower death rate than Australia has. Why should that be so?
– It is due to the temperature. The summer season in Australia is responsible for the heavy death rate. .
– Of course, New Zealand has not the high temperatures that’ we have in the northern portions of Australia. But New Zealand has varying temperatures, and there does not seem to be any justification for the dif-
Iference. The death rate of infants in New Zealand is 48 per 1,000, and in Australia 69 per 1,000.
– The heat in such places as Dubbo, Bourke, and Cobar is tremendous.
– Of course it is, but we have to remember that the bulk of the population is not to be found in those localities.
– There is a large population in Dubbo.
– That is a single instance; ‘but we have to’ consider it on averages, and the infantile mortality cannot bc justified because of the difference in climate.
– An instructive booklet has just been issued by the Bureau of Tropical Diseases. If the. honorable senator will peruse that publication the position will be explained to some extent.
– I have not analyzed the position closely in each State, but I cannot accept the suggestion that the difference in climate is responsible for such a marked difference in the death rate.
Reference has been made by Senator Earle to the necessity of establishing clinics to preserve infant life. These clinics are in operation in different parts of the Commonwealth, and the one in Tasmania has been doing very valuable work for some time.
– How would that apply in the far back country? .
– It can be made to apply, and is made to apply in some countries. This is more a State than a Commonwealth matter, but at the same time the Commonwealth can assist the States in this direction, because, after all, anything that is prejudicial to the life of a State is prejudicial also to the life of the Commonwealth. I cannot see why there should be any insuperable difficulties in the way of the establishment of clinics that would even reach the outback settlers. Bush nursing associations have been in vogue for many years. I take it that we should not find a larger infantile death-rate among the settlers in the sparsely-populated parts of Australia than in the cities.
– Yes, the figures dp show that. For instance, in the State of Queensland the district round the Gulf of Carpentaria, and also the Western District, have a very high child deathrate.
– I can understand that, because the Minister is picking out one of the worst parts of the Commonwealth. I agree with the Minister that if we look at the question from the point of view of the preservation pf the children born to us, and the necessity for increasing our population, it is not wise to contemplate reducing the expenditure now being incurred on the maternity bonus, but I hope the Minister will agree with me that the continuance of the bonus on the same lines as have been followed since it first came into operation is simply ridiculous. It may be possible to gain a greater advantage to the Commonwealth, by increasing the amount of bonus in cases where more is needed to assist mother and child, but the continuance of a policy which pays a fivepound note to people who are well off, and have no need of financial assistance, seems to be absolutely ridiculous and unjustifiable. I am glad the Minister has promised that during the adjournment the Government will look into the matter. I hope the result qf their deliberations will be to utilize some of the money which we are spending to-day on the maternity bonus in a much more scientific and useful way. I am certain that there must be a fairly large percentage of cases where the money is now paid and where there is no need of financial assistance to insure the best of attention to both mother and child. I am pleased to know that the Minister has this matter at heart, and that he and the other members of the Government intend to do what ‘they can to bring about a revision of the existing policy.
– I wish to correct some figures which I quoted just now. I took the- wrong page, and did not give the correct number of permanent employees in 1919-20. The number was 1,565. The number provided for this year is 1,656, showing an increase of 91, whereas the figures I quoted showed an increase of only 79.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Attorney-General’s Department (Proposed vote, £86,273) agreed to.
Department of Home and Territories.
Proposed vote, £928,175.
– This Department, in common with preceding ones, shows an expenditure which has a tendency to bound upward. There are some increases which I thoroughly welcome, as showing the development and progress of the Commonwealth. For instance, the Meteorological Branch, one of the most useful activities of the Government, shows an increase of expenditure which is fully warranted, and the Lands and Surveys Branch, which has to do with apportioning the lands in the different Territories under the control of the Government, also shows an increase, but not nearly so much as I should like to see. In this Branch we have an unfailing barometer indicating how the country is being settled; but so slight an increase in the expenditure on the Branch as the amount of about £4,000 shown here goes to prove that land settlement is not increasing by any means at the rate that I should like. There are also in the schedule of this Department statutory items, such as Northern Territory, general services, and interest and sinking fund, that cannot be reduced. Still, the outstanding fact remains that the proposed vote for the current financial -year shows an increase of about 50 per cent, on the vote for last year. If we go on at this rate, the expenditure of the Department will be doubled in another year. That, of course, may be justifiable, but it should be explained. Any increase on meteorology and lands and surveys to meet the requirements of intending settlers going out into Federal Territory is thoroughly warranted ; but the increase in the other branches of the Department calls for some justification by the Minister. I merely point out, in a spirit of critical friendship, the big expenditure on this Department alone, amounting, as it does, to an increase of practically 50 per cent, upon last year’s vote.
.- I draw attention to tha fact that there is an increase of almost one-third in the miscellaneous expenditure in connexion with the Federal Capital Territory. There is also an increase in the expenditure on the Northern Territory. We should have a statement from the Minister justifying the additional expenditure on the Northern Territory, in view of the loss that we incur year by year in the administration of its affairs. We are committed, of course, to certain expenditure there, and must meet it. There is a very large interest bill that must be paid year by year, and it is of no use to cavil at -it. But unless we have some reasonable grounds for assuming that we are to receive a better return from that portion of the Commonwealth than we have had in the past, no additional expenditure on the ordinary, administration of affairs in the Northern Territory is justifiable. There should rather be a decrease in the annual cost of its upkeep, until some scheme is formulated which will be productive of revenue to the Treasury from that portion of tie Commonwealth. I hope the Minister will be in a position to explain how he justifies additional expenditure for ordinary administrative, purposes in the Northern Territory.
I find, on reference to “Miscellaneous” in this Department, that two new items account for a very large proportion of the total increase. One is the census, which is estimated to cost £150,000 this year. Us it absolutely essential to incur that expenditure, in view of the heavy financial strain with which we are now faced? Is it imperative to incur a huge expenditure of £150,000 in order to keep up a custom which, I know, is observed by all civilized countries, at this exceptional period? It appears to me that at times we might well postpone the keeping up of that custom if it involves such an enormous cost, until we are in a better position to pay for it. I should like an explanation on that point, in view of the financial stress which is referred to every time the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) rises to speak in his place in Parliament. The other large item is an amount of £100,000 for immigration. I am not going to cavil at that proposal. I said the other day that if an adequate scheme could be devised which would insure our getting the right class of people to come to Australia, I would support a much larger expenditure than even £100,000, which I do not think will go very far. Still, it is something, and I hope it is the beginning of an expenditure which will be absolutely reproductive to the Commonwealth in the highest sense of the term.
.- Had Senator Payne not done so, I intended to refer to the amount of money being expended on the Northern Territory. A large sum is now being spent on paying the fares of people to come away from there, so that we can hardly claim that that money is being used to develop the Territory.
– I believe those people are among the principal exports of the Territory..
– I understand that they are the largest proportion of its exports at the present time. There is in Darwin a plant owned by Vestey Brothers, which cost something like £1,000,000 to erect. It is standing idle, producing nothing, and providing no employment. For a number of years after that firm began to work in the Territory they fought against adverse conditions, and received no encouragement from anybody to continue their operations there. They could not even get a small sum from the Government to have the wharf fixed up to facilitate loading and unloading. Still, appeals are made to the people upon every hand to put their money into the Northern Territory, and other parts of the Commonwealth. This Company put a huge sum of money into the Northern Territory - far more than they are ever likely to get out of it - and received practically no encouragement. What a one-sided, cock-eyed policy is proposed by the Government now, if they are going to do what we are led to believe that they intend to do. On the one hand, we are paying the steamer fares of people to come away from the northern end of the Territory, and on the other, the Government are asking us to provide money to poke a railway into the southern end of it. Nothing is being done at present in the Territory that will justify us in indorsing the Government’s actions. Could not the Government make some overtures to Vestey Brothers to set the wheels of their industry going again ? Not long ago the Mount Morgan district in Queensland was faced with disaster because, owing to a certain chain of circumstances, the Mount Morgan Mine was going to close down, but as the result of prompt action on the part of the Queensland Government, who fixed up a contract, I believe, with regard to copper, the mine was restarted, and is still in operation. A similar state of affairs exists as regards this big meat industry in the Northern Territory. If the Territory is ever to become anything but a sink for pouring good money into, we must do something practical -to’ develop it.
– Build the NorthSouth railway.
– That is all that Senator Wilson cares .about. Shoot the line through, he says, and the Territory will be developed. What encouragement did he give to this firm, that spent over £1,000,000 in the Territory? But, of course, the honorable senator was not here then, so I suppose he must be acquitted of any responsibility.
– I was just wondering what you did to help this firm.
– What drove them out, anyway?
– A chain of unfortunate circumstances. But it is impossible to point to one act performed by the Government to encourage the firm to stay in the Northern Territory. This is an impossible position for the Government to take up, and I urge them to do something to get the wheels of industry going again, so that, instead of people pouring out of the Territory, they may be induced (to go there And remain there. Administrative charges do not decrease - they continue; but, unfortunately, revenue decreases, and at present people are leaving the country as fast as ships can carry them away. Notwithstanding this, honorable senators from South Australia are trying to persuade us that the Territory is a kind of Garden ot Eden.
– But what is it that Vestey Brothers are up against ?
– Labour conditions.
– Then what can the Federal Government do to remedy that trouble ?
– Vestey Brothers make no complaint about the labour conditions. They assert that they can get good work done by the labour available there.
– The Minister is quite right. Vestey Brothers stated that as the result of the policy they had adopted of making contracts with the different unions, they were able to dispense with the services of an arbitrator. But somer thing should have been done to improve the shipping facilities at the wharfs.
– The trouble was bigger than that. They could not get boats.
– Was it not the difficulty of getting communication with civilization ?
– I say no; but if the Government will run a line through Camooweal and thus connect Darwin with the Queensland country they will do something practical to develop the Territory. They will not do it by shooting a line up from South Australia.
– Do not be parochial.
– I am looking at this question from a broad Australian point of view. Had not Senator Wilson raised this question I would not have mentioned it at all, but when he asks what is the broad Australian policy for the Territory, I give it to him - “ Build a line through Camooweal.” I again urge the Government to approach Vestey Brothers to see if a contract can be arranged so that the industry can be re-started, and revenue, instead of declining, may increase.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [4.55]. - In reply to Senator Lynch, I may state that the apparent increase in the vote for the Meteorological Branch is capable of explanation. Ever since the transfer of this Branch from the State Governments, the cost of all telegrams, about £528,001, has been borne by the Postal Department, but as the Postal Department is a commerical undertaking, it is thought that it should no longer be called upon to perform this service for nothing. I hold the view that all Government Departments should pay for services rendered, and in future the telegrams in connexion with the Meteorological Branch will be charged to the Home and Territories Department, instead of being debited to the Postal Department. The other increases mentioned are due principally to two awards, and a third in the form of a war bonus, so that the increases are statutory and automatic. Taking the Department as a whole, the normal expenditure is really £3,008 less. Of course, honorable senators recognise that certain difficulties are being encountered in dealing with some officers, but we hope to have all these troubles smoothed out at an early date. These remarks also apply to the point raised by Senator Payne. Senator Foll, I think, had something to say about a “ cockeyed “ Government.
– No. I referred to the Government’s cock-eyed policy.
- Senator Foll is altogether on the wrong track with regard to Vestey Brothers’ trouble. I have had a good deal of association with the firm through the control of shipping, and I know that scarcity of shipping was their principal trouble. Time after time, we would have given almost any money to secure a boat for them, not only in Australia or Great Britain, but anywhere in the world.
– Can you get vessels now ?
– Vestey Brothers, I think, are as well informed upon this particular matter as anybody else. We could not get refrigerating space at the present time. In fairness to Vestey Brothers, I have to say that they have not had a fair deal. Sometimes portions of essential machinery could not be obtained for over six months, and as honorable senators know, a business run on a big capital like their meat works cannot be worked in this way. I have as much faith in the Northern Territory as ever I had, and I know that Vestey Brothers have only closed down temporarily. Their stoppage is not due to any labour trouble. Mr. Vestey’s representative has assured me on this point. The handling charges are cheaper there than in any other country in the world, but unfortunately they have been called upon to pay 300 per cent, and 400 per cent, above normal prices for vessels with refrigerating apace, and in addition they had to pay four times as much for coal as was charged elsewhere. I am hopeful, however, that the shipping position will soon improve, and I am glad to report that the position with regard to wheat ships is nearly 25 per cent, easier than it was a month ago. Unfortunately, wheat ships are not suitable for meat cargoes because refrigerating space is essential for the latter, and at _ present all ships with refrigerating space have been requisitioned and allotted by the British Government.
– Will you give Vestey Brothers a chance of finding ships in any other part of the world?
– Yes, we should be glad to help them. They have a perfectly free hand in the matter of chartering ships, but, as I have said, the British Government have requisitioned all the refrigerating space within the British Empire. I am still optimistic about the Northern Territory, and I believe the industry established by Vestey Brothers has a big future. The Government will be willing at all times to co operate in schemes for the development of the Northern Territory.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department or Defence (MILITARY) Proposed vote, £1,550,000.
– I should just like to make a few remarks on the introduction of these Estimates, and present to honorable senators a comparison between the expenditure of 1913-14 and the proposals for the present year. In 1913-14, the last normal year before the, war, the Defence expenditure was £2,644,392, and the expenditure as set out in these’ Estimates is £3,250,000, showing an apparent increase of £605,608. But I would draw the attention “of the Committee bo the fact that the depreciation in the purchasing power of the sovereign is a factor that has an extremely important bearing upon any comparison of expenditure. According to figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician in June of this year, the sum of 35s. 4d. is now required bo purchase that which in 1914 could have been provided for at 22s. lOd. On the basis of the relative value of the sovereign, the expenditure this year would, be £4,092,000. Honorable senators, I know, are favorable to this expenditure, and when criticism concerning the alleged increase in Defence expenditure is indulged in, I would ask them to quote these figures.
– You mean that the sovereign is worth no more to the Treasurer than to the ordinary individual ?
– Yes, it is worth no more to the Treasurer than bo the man in the street. Taking the reduced power of the sovereign into consideration, we are not spending as much relatively on the Defence Department this year as we did in 1914.
– That is in reference to commodities, but are we getting the same service?
– We are doing more with the money this year if that is what the honorable senator means. In 1913-14 we trained only 54,051 of the Citizen Forces, whereas this year, with the expenditure provided, we propose to train 108,000 of the Citizen Forces, or nearly double the number - although for a less period - than we trained for the same expenditure in 1913-14. I think, it well that these facts should -be known at a time when there is a good ideal of loose talk about increases in Defence expenditure without any examination of the actual facts.
In connexion with training it is proposed that the whole of the Citizen Forces shall be assembled for eight days’ home training, except that the 1902 quota shall be assembled for eight days’ camp and four days’ home training. It may be asked what is the value of eight days’ home training, and I say that from a military point of view it is not of much value. Ite value is due to the fact that so far as home training is concerned our organization has been in a state of suspense during the war, and it is desirable, because next year we propose tq resume universal training on a scale that will havea military value, that we should get the machine into operation. In order to do that and have something more than a paper organization it is necessary that those who are liable for training should be assembled for eight days’ home training. This will enable the officers of the various units, scattered throughout the country, to get into touch with the men.
– Will that include any time in camp?
– There will be no camp. It will be isolated training, halfday training, and, perhaps, night training.
– I was referring particularly to the 1902 quota.
– They will have eight days’ camp training. There will be one day going into camp and one day coming out of camp, but there will be a . certain amount of training even in that. Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow will tell us that transport is a very essential item of military training, and there will be a considerable amount of training given in taking men into camp, getting them to shake-down there, and breaking camp later on.
There is one qualification in regard to the eight days’ home training that I should mention. The proposals of the Government in respect to the duration of training in each year have yet to be brought before; Parliament.. The present proposal has yet to be embodied in a Bill, and hae not so far received the approval of the Government. It is a proposal for ten weeks’ training in the first year in which citizens become liable to military training. That proposal has yet to receive the approval of Cabinet, and to be submitted to Parliament. It is proposed that in the three subsequent years the requirements shall be those of the Act at present in force. The ultimate effect will be that in four years we shall do what was previously done in eightyears, and the men will be trained for 118 days, under the new proposal, as against 112 days under the old system.
My reason for sketching this proposal is that it has an important effect on the proposal for this year. Honorable senators will remember that persons liable to training in. the Citizen Forces must subject themselves to that training until they are twenty -five years of age. It is obvious, therefore, that if the proposals put forward are approved by the Government and adopted by Parliament, there are four quotas of men who are now twenty-one to twenty-four years of age who will not again be called into camp for training. If we were to have eight days’ training for those four quotas this year, there would certainly be a demand that they should be equipped with uniforms. It would be extremely wasteful to issue uniforms to men for eight days’ home training, who would never be going into camp, at a cost, probably, of £100,000. At the same time it is necessary to establish touch with the Force in order that, should war come, they may be embodied in the organization, and may be called up for service. The Government is accordingly only demanding of three of these older quotas that they shall assemble twice during the year for administrative purposes. Such quotas will not be issued with uniforms. In regard to the 1899 quota, and the other quotas who will subsequently bo assembled for training in each year until they have reached the age when they’ will be subject no longer to military training, it will be necessary to supply them with uniforms, and they will do their eight days’ home training this year, and in the following years be called up so long as their liability continues.
What the Government are aiming at in their defence proposals is to embody the experience of the war. The war has taught us three important lessons very clearly. First of all that it is essential that we should have a competent and efficient staff of well-trained officers. Secondly, that we must have in the country the means of providing equipment and munitions for our troops. Equipment . and munitions cannot be improvised, nor can they be supplied at short- notice. We cannot provide munitions .’thiess we have previously built up an organization specially trained in the ; production- of that class of equipment, because it ;is entirely different from the ; Work ordinarily turned out by engineering worts and factories for peaceful avo- cations. ^
The Government, in these proposals, are putting down expenditure to provide, first of all, for an efficient staff. We have in Australia to-day, not, only in the Permanent Forces, but in the Citizen
Forces, a. staff of officers, who are as efficient as . any . to be found in any ‘ other * ‘country in the world. We shall be able po ‘reap the result of their experience by “commencing this year to pass on that experience by instruction from the officers who have gained it to the junior officers who will eventually take their place. We shall commence instruction both by the Permanent Instructional Staff and by Citizen officers, as opportunity arisen and money is available, to enable us to maintain the high standard of efficiency that Australian officers of the Permanent and Citizen Forces attained in 1918 as the result of their experience in the war.
As regards munitions, we propose that we should commence now to build up a munition supply branch in Australia, which would have in it experts who would be able to utilize the manufacturing plants of this country for the production of war material, if war should come. We do not propose to establish a number of huge Defence factories for the production of war material, but to establish in peace time what may be called a brain centre - such as had to be built up in the United Kingdom after the war broke out - so that even in peace time we may be in a position to ascertain what factories in Australia may be utilized for war production if required, and especially what plants may be used for fuse-making, machine-gun making, and. things of that kind. It is obvious that a factory established for the manufacture of pianos or gramophones is not equipped for the manufacture of fuses. We shall require to know what engineering plants in Australia may be utilized should the necessity arise for the production of these special munition equipments.
I have itemized two important requirements, but there is a third - the training of the men. We civilians before the war would have put these three requirements in the reverse order of importance. In our defence experience in Australia, we did put them in the reverse order, and paid most attention to the training of men and the least attention to the training of an efficient staff and a supply of munitions. So that when the war came, whilst we had some officers who were more or less efficient, we could not say that we had a staff efficient for war purposes, and we had to borrow staff officers from the British Army, and our officers had to learn from their experience in the bitter school of war. Our munition supply was practically non-existent, and we imported our munitions from overseas. We had expended a great deal of money on training, which we found to be more or less valueless. As a result of their war experience, the citizen soldier, as well as the permanent soldier, tells us to-day that we should put these requirements in the reverse order of importance - an efficient and capable staff, a munition supply, and then the training of men. We find, not merely for financial reasons, but also because we are not yet sufficiently organized, that it is difficult to take over the greater part of the training we should like to do, and we must postpone it until the next financial year, making our preparations this year to get our defence organization complete throughout Australia, so as to be able to take over whatever extended form of military training Parliament may subsequently approve.
I might be asked why we should make provision to concentrate training in one year. My reply to that is that honorable senators have probably visited a number of Australian Imperial Force training camps throughout Australia, and possibly some visited training camps overseas, and they will know that what was done in those camps was not so much drill on the old barrack-square parade system, as it was individual training of the individual soldier.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– Can I move that the Minister for Defence have leave to continue his speech ?
– No, but if another honorable senator makes a few .remarks the Minister may speak again.
– I feel that the statement which the Minister for Defence is making is so interesting and bo useful that honorable senators would be glad to have him complete it.
– As the Standing Orders have been complied with, I may resume what I desire to say. I am grateful to Senator Foll for giving me the opportunity to continue. I was saying that the soldier of to-day, whether Citizen soldier or Permanent Force man, takes the view that what is required is individual training of, the individual soldier. They contend that the minimum time in which that can be carried out is ten weeks, and they would like the time extended if possible. The idea is to take the soldier when he passes into the Citizen Forces, and give him individual training in all that is necessary for the arm to which he is to belong. We have to remember that if war should come we must have an efficient staff, and we cannot secure an efficient staff by giving the members of our staff only theoretical training. Our staff officers must at some time be brought into actual contact with and handle organized units. If all the training were to be individual training, the officers who would have to take command of units would never get into touch with their men. I have said that there will be camps of training, and in these the soldiers will form part of an organized military unit, and officers who have been through theoretical schools of instruction, staff rides, &c, will then have an opportunity of commanding and training in peace the men whom subsequently they would have to lead in war, if- war should, unfortunately, come, upon as.
That is a rough sketch of what these Estimates are leading.up to.. I. am happy to be able to- say that, effect can be given to this policy with very little-, if any increase upon the Estimates of the present year, because it ‘is not proposed either this -year or next to obtain all the munition supplies that w& regard as essen tial to the safety of Australia. We intend rather to extend the expenditure upon those supplies over a period of years. In doing that, we recognise that we shall be taking a risk, but we think it is a legitimate risk. By adopting the course which I have outlined, we shall be able to keep our defence expenditure at an amount not very much greater than the expenditure for the current year. In asking the Committee to agree to these Estimates, I desire to make it quite clear that I am not asking them to agree to the ten weeks training period, or to anything else to which the Government are leading up. It is only fair, however, to intimate that these Estimates are not without some relation to what is to come. They have been thought out upon the lines which I have indicated, and they provide for the beginning of a connected policy which will cover .a period of years, and which has a definite end in view. That end is the formation and maintenance of five infantry and two light horse divisions, with the necessary divisional troops, capable in time of war of being organized and placed in the field at relatively short notice, and of being supplied with munitions from the country in which they have to operate, thus making them independent, so far as that is possible, of overseas supplies, if, unfortunately, war should come upon our country.
.- The Committee is indebted to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) for his explanation of the future Defence policy of the Commonwealth. I take it, however, that it is not intended to alter the age at which- our boys shall commence (their compulsory military training.
– No. The cadet training will be from fourteen to eighteen years of. age.
Senator - FOLL. - My own opinion is that until a lad has reached the age of eighteen years he should be subjected bo very little military training. Up till that period his training should’ be- devoted chiefly to gymnastic work.
– That is the intention.
– It is quite a common thing, to see lads of fourteen, fifteen, . and -sixteen years of age marching in the sun upon a hot day, and being taught how to salute by numbers. But, in view of the fact that a lad - unless he be abnormally developed - is not a great asset to his country until he is at least eighteen years of age, the bulk of his training until he reaches that age should be devoted to gymnastic work. The authorities should also do all that is possible to safeguard his health. If that course be followed, when the time comes for him to enter our Citizen Forces he will be more readily able to grasp the duties which will then devolve upon him. Under the existing system there is too much military training imposed upon him from the word go.”
In connexion with the scheme which has been outlined by the Minister, I hope that the services of officers who distinguished themselves during the war will be utilized to the full. The Senate should be very proud of the fact that it contains six or seven men who, during the war, rose to very high rank, and greatly distinguished themselves in the field. But the services of how many men of this class have been utilized by the Defence Department ? In what way have the great abilities of Sir John Monash been utilized ?
– He has been one of the Minister’s advisers upon this question. He was a member of the Conference which advised us.
– I am very pleased to hear that. I can assure the Minister that I have been informed by the man in the street that General Sir John Monash has been practically put upon the shelf.
– The report of the Conference was published in the press, and his name was associated with it.
– But statements have been broadcast that he has been thrust upon one side, and that his great abilities have not been utilized to the extent that they might have been. I frankly admit that I am a hero worshipper of him. Anybody who will take the trouble to look through the records of the Australian Imperial Force will be forced to the conclusion that our troops never did better work than when they were commanded by him. I am very glad to learn that advantage is to be taken to the full of his very great experience and attainments. I regard Sir John Monash as an invaluable asset, so far as our Military Forces are concerned. Then there are other officers who distinguished themselves during the war, but whose services are not being availed of to the fullest possible extent. In this connexion I may mention General Rosenthal, who was regarded as great an authority upon artillery work as any officer associated with the Australian Imperial Force. The services of such men should be utilized to the full, notwithstanding that prior to the war they were merely attached to our Citizen Forces.
I now desire to say a few words concerning the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. Speaking in another place a few evenings ago, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) stated that the rifles being turned out by this factory were costing something like £13 each. To my mind, that is an excessive amount compared with the cost at what rifles are being manufactured in England.
– What are they costing there?
– According to the last figures which reached me, the price is in the neighbourhood of £5.
– Oh, no.
– I would like to know how the rifles, which are being manufactured by the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, compare, from the standpoint of price, with those being manufactured overseas, especially in view of the fact that the wages being paid to artisans overseas exceed those being paid to the operatives in our own Small Arms Factory. I should be glad, too, if the Minister would make a statement showing the percentage of rejects amongst the rifles produced by that factory, and also the quality of the work which is being done there generally. . Information of that sort would be of great use to the public.
The Minister might also tell us the extent to which members of the Australian Imperial Force are enlisting in the National Reserve, which was established a short time ago, and whether the enlistments in that reserve are deemed to be satisfactory.
– In reply to the remarks which have been made concerning the training of our cadets, I” desire to say that when a lad of fourteen years of age commences his training it is chiefly in the nature of physical drill. Of course, a certain amount of elementary military training is necessary to enable him to get the full benefit of that drill. That elementary military training, however, is only such as is calculated to inculcate in him the habit of discipline. Not until he is seventeen years of age does he begin any extended military training to fit him for our Citizen Forces.
Reference has been made to the need for utilizing to the full the services of distinguished officers of the Australian Imperial Force. Obviously, we have been unable to make use of those officers up to the present, for the simple reason that we have had nothing upon which we could use them. But now that we are laying down a Defence policy for Australia, the officers of the units that we propose to establish will be Australian Imperial Force officers. In drafting our Defence policy, the Government did not rely merely upon the advice of permanent officers, but called to their counsels three citizen officers, of whom General Monash was one.
Concerning what has been said of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, I merely wish to say that that factory is turning out a very efficient rifle. We had ittested during the war, and quite recently we sent twelve rifles to the RoyalEnfield Factory in England in order that they might be tested and compared with the British service rifle there. The report which I have received of that testing is of the most favorable character. The only criticism which it contains is directed to some minor parts of the rifle, which are not of any real importance. These twelve rifles were picked quite haphazard out of a number of others that were manufactured at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. The report is very promising. We have not yet received any information as to the present cost of manufacturing the service rifles in the United Kingdom. We have, however, one way by which we can test it. We are turning out long barrels at Lithgow for the rifle clubs at 30s. each, and before commencing to manufacture them we cabled to the High Commissioner in London, asking at what price he could obtain them in England. He replied that they could be purchased at 35s. each, so it is obvious that if we can manufacture the barrels 5s. cheaper than they can be obtained from overseas, the probability is that the same comparative cost will apply to the other component parts of the rifle. If we obtained the cost of the British service rifle we would find that it approximated £13 instead of £6 5s., which was the pre-war price.
About 40,000 members of the Australian Imperial Force have enlisted in the Army Reserve, and we intend utilizing them as a basis for the new force. Enlistments in the Citizen Forces will have the benefit of their experience during the war, and we intend using them as a basis on which to build up the Army Reserve.
– Will they enlist under the rank they held or commence with the rank of private?
– They will enlist at not less than their old rank, and we shall probably find it necessary to appoint anumber of privates as non-commissioned officers. Of course, instances may occur where there are no vacancies, and men may be asked to temporarily take some minor commandbecause no senior command is available.
– Will not that arrangement prejudice the rights of the younger men?
– No, these commands are only held for a term, and the officer is then passed on to the unattached list.
Senator Sir THOMAS GLASGOW (Queensland) [5.38]. - I listened with great interest to the remarks of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and I am sure honorable senators realize that the Department is fortunate in having at its head one who held that position during the whole period of the war. His experience will also be useful to various staff and commanding officers who have been selected to assist the Government in launching their new scheme. In framing the Defence proposals, I am sure the Minister for Defence has taken advantage of the knowledge and experience of the senior officers of the Australian Imperial Force and also of the staff officers.
The Minister is quite right when he says that in no partofthe world could we obtain better or more experienced officers than Sir HarryChauvel, who wasin command in Palestine, Sir John Monash, who had command, at the last, of the.Australian ArmyCorps, andSir Brudenell White, who occupied various positions as staff officer fromthetime he was senior staffofficerof the First Australian Division until he was chief of staff to General Birdwood with the Fifth Army. These officers had experience inhandlingtroops in the field. Duringthe period of the war,, apart from handling the men, theyhad to pay attention totheir training, and they have the knowledgeand experiencewhich wasgained in organizingand training them before they actually went into the field. If we go back tothe beginning of the war, we find that the difficulty we had to face was not altogether mobilization;that we also had to organize. We had no permanent organization, as we had nothing beyond the ordinary Militia battalions and brigades. With the assistance of a hard-worked staff, a force was equipped and clothed in aboutsixweeks. It left Australia in about eight weeks, and arrived in Egypt at the end of December. When there it took something like four months to train the men. Notwithstanding the keenness of the men, and the enthusiasm of the officers - I am sure the. General Staff of the First Division was as fine a staff as I saw with any Division in France - it took four months to train those troops. It will take a long time to train men, and we cannot afford to do the work in a sketchy way. I hope that the scheme laid down by the Minister will meet with general approval. Experience gained during the war proved conclusively that to give individual training it required fourteen weeks fromthe time the men arrived in England until they could be drafted into units in the field. The training the men received took them as far asplatoon training and minor tactics. They weresent to the Front in small numbers, but they immediately became very efficient, because they were drafted into the old units and placed beside experienced soldiers. If men are expected to defend the Commonwealth, they should be given effective training, and that cannot be done in a short time.
Probablythere arepersons in the communitywhowillsaythat the deience proposals of theGovernment, ifgiveneffect to,will cause some trouble., butifwe aregoing to defendthe Commonwealth,we must be prepared to makesacrifices. The boyswill havetomakea sacrifice bygiving up tenweeks in thefirst yearand two weeks during each ofthenext three years. The employer mustalsomakeit convenient forthe boys to get away. The defence of the country calls for sacrifices from everyone, sand it is only fair to expect every one todo his best, particularly when there isalways the risk ofour being placed aft the mercy of a foreign Power. It isverytrying to attempt to handlemen, even without pushing them into action, until theyarethoroughly trained and organized.
I understand that theGovernment do not intend tobring the new defencescheme into operation until next year.
– That is so.
SenatorSir THOMAS GLASGOW. - The Commonwealth is sparsely populated, and in the matter of defence we must consider theabsolute necessityof bringing new settlers to Australia. We should have a vigorous immigration policy,Seeingthat theCommonwealth is so thinly populated, and that we are no greatdistance from Eastern countries, where people are fighting for elbowroom. I do not think we haveany moralright to retain this great Commonwealth if we cannot people it, and the obligation is upon us to do so. We have 12,000 milesof coast line, and I do not see how we can defend this country unless we have sufficient population. I trust that the Government will launch a vigorous immigration policy which will not only be the means of increasing production, but will also be of material assistance from a defence point of view.
Before thewar there were a certain number of officers - the Minister knows this to be a fact - who were absolutely inefficient, and I trust that machinery will be provided so that officers who are inefficient, and therefore useless, will be dispensed with. It is the responsibility of the senior officer to see that an officer who is not pulling his weight is dispensed with. It is scandalous that staff officers are allowed to remain in the service when they are not worth their salt. We should not have to wait until we are embroiled in a war before we ascertain whether men who are placed in. positions ofr trust are efficient, and able to carry out the responsibilities placed upon them.
I would like the Minister for Defence to explain whether the work of the boys attending the Military College is reported on periodically. If they are not likely to prove suitable officers they should be notified’ and discharged from the College.
– That is done.
– That is only right, because if a lad does not possess the necessary qualifications, he should be notified, and thus allowed to make a start in some other walk in life.
– There is a Board which examines the record of the cadets each year. A number have been diecharged.
Senator Sir THOMAS GLASGOW.Have any been dealt with recently ?
– One or two are discharged each year; but we do not, of course, advertise their names.
Senator Sir THOMAS GLASGOW.It is useless to keep a boy at the College for several years, and then inform him that he does not possess the necessary qualifications to enable him to become a good officer. It is not only a matter of education, but one of knowing something of the world, and how to handle men. I would also like to ascertain if it is intended that the graduates from the Military College should have service abroad, say in India or in England, to enable them to obtain experience in controlling men.
– There is one lot abroad at present, and another batch will be leaving for India in December.
Senator Sir THOMAS GLASGOW.It is very essential that graduates should be sent to other countries to enable them to gain experience on the lines I have indicated, because it is impossible for a staff officer to conduct operations successfully unless he has associated with him men of experience. I would not have a staff officer under me unless he had served in the front line; because one who ‘has. so served is conversant with the conditions of the service, and is more sympathetic in his treatment of the men.
I have heard it said that the morals of boys will suffer if they go into military camps, but that is absolutely wrong. I suppose I had between 30,000 and 40,000 men under me, yet during the five years that I was away at the war I had only twocases brought before me where men of the Australian Forces had in any way interfered with women, and on making inquiry into those cases I found that the men were not altogether to blame. From my experience of these men, and from my experience of camps, I am sure that the boys, if they went into camp, would not suffer morally in any way. The advantage of a camp is that boys in all walks of life are brought together, and learn to appreciate one another, and I find that they are always charitable to one another. I strongly resent people trying to damage the Military Forces by using that argument in an endeavour to play upon the feelings of the parents. It is not a fact that the camps are a moral danger. Any commanding officer will make it his duty to consider the physical and mental well-being of the men, and will always provide recreation for them during the period when they are not at their own work. That is one of the responsibilities of a commanding officer.
– I quite agree with what Senator Glasgow has said. It appears to me that the services of some of the officers who were away at the Front, and who did excellent work, are not being used to the fullest possible extent. I realize the Minister’s difficulties. I know what he is up against. He has in the service men who should not be there. I quite agree with Senator Glasgow that we have in the service to-day men who have no right to be there, because they are past the useful stage. We have young men available who are capable of doing their work, and whose training has cost a lot of money. I refer to the Duntroon boys, who are second to none in the world. They have done their training, and proved their value in the field. Of course, I know the Minister is up against a big problem. He has old men in the service who should go out, and, no doubt, the reason they are not put out is a sympathetic one. People sympathize with them because we have no pension scheme by which they can benefit. We have put out excellent old men - who rightly were retired because they were past the useful stage - and I knowof cases of officers among them who, after thirty and forty years’ service, actually have to draw the oldage pension. That is a wrong and pitiable state of affairs. It is a bad state of things if this country cannot afford to superannuate those men when they have done good and useful work, and it is having a bad effect on the Duntroon boys, who are now very dissatisfied because they cannot get their promotion. Any one who says they are well paid is making a mistake. They are by no means too well paid. They have held good positions in the field, and it is a fact that some of the senior officers who are now holding high positions here have not done anything like the work at the Front that these young fellows have done. Some of those senior officers have never bean to the Front. I am told that nineteen of the Duntroon boys want to retire from the service, but under the conditions under which they signed on they cannot do so. The sooner we pass a superannuation scheme and get rid of those men who are past the useful stage, the better it will be for the service, and it should be a great help to the Minister for Defence in bringing forward his scheme, which, I think, is an excellent one. I agree with Senator Glasgow that there are a lot of officers whom we should get rid of “ quick and lively.”
– In view of the approval of the two officers who have just spoken, and who are my seniors in the service, and in view of the general approval by the senior officers of the Australian Imperial Force, I have some hesitation in criticising the proposed scheme of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), but I doubt whether the expectations, which seem to be based on the proposed ten or twelve weeks’ training of recruits, will be realized. At the beginning of the training for the Australian Imperial Force, instructions were issued that only trained men who had previously been in the Forces should be accepted. Part of my duty was to form a battalion from the northern districts of Victoria, where there had. been practically no Militia Force in existence. Trained men were scarce, and I early found a difficulty in accepting recruits who had had anything more than a fictional training in the Militia. We went so far as to accept men who said that they had had some training in the Junior Cadets in the State schools, taking that as sufficient ground for enlisting them as trained men. When General McCay discovered this, he suddenly came down upon us and ordered us to discharge all those men who had not been genuine membersof some Militia Force. As that would have meant sacrificing three-fourths of my command, amongst them the best men in it, I strongly objected, and put up to him the proposition that, if he would allow me to continue the training of these men for three weeks, and then inspect them again, I would discharge any man on the spot whom he could pick out as not having had previous training. At theend of three weeks he inspected my battalion, and could not pick out one man from another as not having had previous training in the Forces.
– Was it because they were all so good or all sobad ?
– It was because they were all so good. He then asked, me, “ What is the use of our compulsory military training, sincp you can turn out in three weeks men who have had practically no previous training in as good, state as those who have been through theMilitia Forces? “ I retorted, “ The reason I can do that is because the compulsory military service has furnished me with trained officers and noncommissioned officers who can lick the recruits into shape in a very short space of time.”
– You would not call those men recruits at the end of three weeks ?
– They were recruitsatthe start.
– You would not call them fit for service?
– I would be prepared to take them into the field, and they would give a very good account of themselves, although they would not have reached the pitch of efficiency that our men in the Australian Imperial Forcehad reached at the end of the war.
– On Gallipoli men were shown how to loadand unload their rifles, and put into the trenches the same night.
– That, I know, was the case; but those men were not trained in the battalions. They were left to something like the same system that will be in vogue in the proposed camps. They were left to the tender mercies of the sergeant-majors and staff officers of various sorts to train, while we were engaged in training thebattalions. Undoubtedly men arrived on Gallipoli in the early reinforcements who did not even know the parts of a rifle. There is an old story that a man was asked if he had his rifle loaded, and replied that he had “ five in. thetin box and one in the funnel.” That was a man who had been trained in the camps under the sergeantmajors ; and I understand that that is the kind of system that must necessarily be employed here. It will be impossible, for instance, to ask Citizen Force officers to go into a camp with the men. who wall ultimately come under their command for three months every year and “ lick them into shape.” They must necessarily be drafted in like a lot of steers, and be put through under men who will not be under the same personal necessity, or have the same personal duty, to train them., and see that they are efficient, as would be the case if the men were under the jurisdiction of their own officers. In the beginning, in the training camps in England, where officers of various kinds were sent over, no good progress was made, and ultimately the battalion commanders were asked to detail specially selected officers to go over there for three or four months at a time. These officers were told that the men whom they “ licked into shape “ would come under their own commands when they went to France, and it was then, and then only, that we began to get really good results. That was when the men were trained under officers who would subsequently command them in the field, and belong to the same battalion.
SenatorPearce. - What period of time were they in the training camps in England before being permitted to go to France ?
– Fourteen weeks, as a rule.
– That would indicate that the authorities did not think three weeks sufficient.
– No, but those men were trained up to a pitch of efficiency to equal in the main that of the men already in the field. It is proposed that the boys here shall go into camp in their eighteenth year for some three months’ training. The training which they get there will not in any wise fit them to take their places at once in the ranks. A man may go back into an office or a bank and neglect his physical training afterwards, and be totally unfit at the end of his second or third year to take his place in the ranks, notwithstanding the training he has had during his twelve weeks in camp in his first year of service. Notwithstanding that this scheme has been approved by my seniors, I think far more substantial results would be obtained by directing special attention to the training of commissioned and noncommissioned officers, with the idea of those officers putting recruits through a very intensive form of training when they do come into the battalion. That would be preferable to a training which would take place in the main under non-commissioned officers, who, however efficient and keen they might be, would not feel themselves under the same obligation as the officers in a battalion under whom the men would have to fight, because on the men’s good behaviour in the field their own lives and the lives of the whole battalion must necessarily depend.
– Is not your criticism met by the fact that in the next year the recruit goes under his officers in the sixteen days’ camp?
– Quite so; but the spending of the necessary money on the training during the first year will deprive the Minister of an opportunity of training the officers and non-commissioned officers of the CitizenForces to the high degree of efficiency which they might otherwise attain. Probably there would be, under the scheme I suggest, a saving of money into the bargain, which, under the system proposed by the Minister, would be to some extent wasted.
– Would not the early training be useful physically?
– As an endeavour bo train the men for taking their places in the marches, and so on, it would be absolutely wasted, because in a month’s time a man becomes soft again. With regard to the technical knowledge in the handling of bombs, &c, some training is, of course, necessary; but we have to bear in mind also the fact that weapons of war are constantly changing, and that whilst a man might be trained in the handling of a Mills’ bomb, a little later a Jones’ bomb or some other bomb might come into use, and he would have to be put through the same course of training as if he had never seen a bomb before. Our officers and non-commissioned officers should be so trained as to be ready to adopt and become accustomed to any new weapon of warfare. This is why I emphasize the necessity for the efficient training of our officers and noncommissioned officers.
I was glad to hear Senator Glasgow speak of the moral effect of training in the A.I.F.,, and perhaps I may be permitted to tell a little story that has a bearing upon this matter. “When we were in France during the winter of 1918, there came a period of cold weather, with the snow on the ground. Our men began to help themselves rather freely to the timber that was growing in the locality. The people were incensed, but the cure of the village, when speaking at a service one Sunday morning, soundly rated the inhabitants for their action in complaining about the conduct of my men. He said : “ I want you to remember that the Australians have come to France from a warm climate, over 10,000 miles away. They have been living amongst you for three weeks, and you know that if your own troops, from Paris had been here, your women-kind would not have been so safe as they have been amongst the Australians, who have treated them with the utmost courtesy and honour. It is a disgrace that you should now harass their commanding officer with complaints that they have stolen a bit of wood.” That incident, I think, speaks volumes for the behaviour of members of the A.I.F. in France.
Another matter which I desire to emphasize is the necessity to put down with a firm hand any suspicion of favoritism or cliquism which is said to exist in the Defence Department. I do not know whether it does exist, but certainly there was more than a suspicion of it overseas.
I have known of officers who desired to bring their cases before the Minister, as they were entitled’ to do if they felt that they were being unjustly treated,, being told that if they appealed over the head of the then corps commander, they would be removed from their, command, and would not be employed again. I protest against this state of affairs, and if it exists in the peace Army of theCommonwealth I urge the Minister toroot it out, because nothing is more likely to imperil the success and efficiency of our Forces than a belief that such things are allowed to exist. Any complaints with regard to this matter should bec thoroughly investigated!
I regret the necessity to spend such as large sum of money on defence, which means, of course, non-productive expenditure, but in the present state of the world’s affairs I see no possibility of avoiding it. For that reason,’ and subject to the criticisms I have made, I approve of the attempt of the Government to cope with the situation.
– It is rather pleasing to knowthat honorable senators who have bac? actual experience of warfare have contributed to the discussion of the Defence Estimates. The one thing that stands out as the consensus of opinion on their part is that this country must have a compulsory system of defence as opposed to that other system, advocated by a responsible political party, that each man should have the right to please himself as to how he is to set about defending this country. It is satisfactory to those who, during the war, endeavoured in a humble way to support the men who were fighting for this country, that the leaders of those men should now come forward, with the laurels of victory on their brows, so to speak, and declare their unalterable opinion that the youth of this country should be compulsorily trained for its defence: That, I think, is an effective reply to those who* have changed their minds within recent years, and who would now have us take the downward course. I have never ha<$ any regrets concerning my own views o» this subject. I have never changed my mind.. As time goes on we must realize more than ever that if” there is one country in the world that needs compulsions in the matter of preparing for its defence, that country is Australia. Here we are, a country in an isolated geographical position, with an immense coastline of 12,000 miles to protect, and which if not protected offers many vulnerable points to a possible enemy. We could draw a line from Norway along the European coast, through the Mediterranean , down the Red Sea, and across to Calcutta before we exhausted the distance involved in the task in front of this small population of Australia of defending our coastline. As one who has lived under other skies, I realize that this is the only country in which I can expand my lungsin the air df freedom, without let or hindrance; this is the country that offers to its people a priceless heritage of liberty. Bearing this fact in mind, we can, I think, say, without fear of contradiction, that the Defence Estimates do not err on the side of liberality. The total military and naval expenditure out of revenue is a little over £3,700,000 - a sum about equal to our expenditure in 1916-17. In prewar days Britain’s expenditure was about 30s. per head of population, as compared with about 23s. per head in Australia. It is right that I should call attention to this gross inequality in the burden upon the people of the Motherland in comparison with that carried by us in this young and prosperous country. We would not be in the enjoyment of our present security but for the mantle of protection thrown over us by the Imperial power. Our safety lies in the maintenance of the Imperial connexion. I am pleased that the Minister has come down with a scheme that offers a tolerably safe standard of national protection in keeping with the economic conditions of the country. We must pay heed to the testimony given to us this afternoon by those who nave experienced the grim vicissitudes of war, as to the necessity of a trained against an untrained Army. Unless men have the rudiments of training, and know what is in front of them they are more or less a mob. A better illustration of this could not be furnished than by what happened in the early stages of the war. There was the “ Contemptible Little Army “ of Britain. A better body of men never faced a foe. We can contrast its achievements with the debacle that overtook another Army.
– Are you advocating a regular Army?
– Certainly not. I am merely emphasizing the difference be-, tween an Army properly trained and one imperfectly trained. If we have a system that aims at a perfectly trained Army, we shall know that we are aimingin the right direction, although to maintain it may involve an appreciable inroad on ‘ the economic resources of thecountry. I am prepared to support such a system. I agree with previous speakers that this is a matter in connexion with which all sections of the community are bound to make sacrifices. If they will not do so, it is up to us, as the party seeking to be the governing power in the Commonwealth, to relinquish office if we are not ready to apply the power of compulsion to make all sections bear an equal share in this business. If it comesto compulsion, I am prepared to support the Government in providing an adequate defence for the country, for I believe there are certain sections of the people of this country to whom compulsion must be applied before our object can be consummated. I am pleased that the Defence Estimates have been so well received, and to know that honorable - senators, who have had practical experience of military operations, have commended the system proposed.
Proposed, vote agreed to.
Department, of Navy.
Proposed vote, £2,279,238.
– We have manymembers of the Senate who have seen, service abroad, and know something of the conditions of the Military Forces, but there is no member of this Chamber who can give us any information about the Navy. On visiting Geelong yesterday I was- absolutely astounded to find that there is a submarine base established there, and that there were a couple- - of destroyers, six submarines, and 500” men there. In Adelaide, I believe, we have twenty men, and in Western Australia there is even a smaller number of men stationed. I think that arrangements might be made to haveour Naval Forces, distributed around the 12,000 miles of coast line towhich Senator Lynch has just referred, instead of practically the whole of ourNaval Forces being concentrated in Melbourne and Geelong. I do not know- what is being done at the Henderson..
Naval Base, and I think nobody else knows. Personally,I believe that the Navy Department has gone to the dogs. Admiral Cresswell has resigned, and Admiral Clarkson has been sent over to the Shipping Department, although I understand that all shipping work is being done by the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. I ask that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) should give some consideration to the advisability of having our Naval Forces distributed over the coast line ofAustralia.
– I understand that, from a defence point of view, there is no necessity to distribute the various naval vessels around the coast of Australia. There is certainly a great saving in expenditure if we can lessen the number of shore establishments that have to be kept up to support the Navy. If the submarines were distributed around the coast of Australia, we should require to establish depots providing shore accommodation for them at every place at which they were stationed, and I remind honorable senators that special accommodation would be required.
– What special accommodation is there at Geelong?
– I believe that it is better that our naval vessels should be concentrated at what are considered strategic points, and that is the policy adopted by the Navy Department. However. I shall bring Senator Guthrie’s remarks under the notice of the Minister for the Navy.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Navy and Defence (Air services) (Proposed vote. £305,833, and
Department of Trade and Customs (Proposed vote, £727,251), agreed to.
Department of Works and Railways.
Proposed vote, £750,304.
– Some time ago a force was assembled at Port Augusta for railway construction. Men came there with their families from a distance of 300 miles, and they were all at once given notice to clear out. So far as I can learn, there is not a member of the train crews employed on the Kalgoorlie toPort Augusta Railway who is not a
Western Australian. A South Australian is not given a show for employment on that line. There is not a single engine-driver, conductor, or guard on the line who is a South Australian.
– Serve them right.
Senator R. STORRIE GUTHRIE. Why? Can the honorable senator give any reason. This, it should be remembered, is a Commonwealth railway, and men residing at this end of the line should have an equal chance with Western Australians for employment upon it. Perhaps the Assistant Minister (Senator Russell) can explain why it is that every man employed on this railway has his home at Kalgoorlie, and is a Western Australian.
.- I noticethat there is a very considerable increase in the vote for this Department, amounting to £103,313, and one very large increase of £74,896 is put down for works and buildings. I should like some information from the Minister as to how the increased vote is made up.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £6,352,936.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the position of a number of returned soldiers who are temporarily employed in his Department in Queensland. I have been in communication with members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League, who have a branch in the Public Se rvice at Brisbane, and they have submitted to me the following memorandum -
There are between thirty and forty returned men temporarily employed in this Department at Brisbane alone. Of this number there are about fifteen employed as postmen, about the same number employedas assistants. The period they have been employed is from three years down to six months. The majority have been employed for over two years temporarily in permanent positions rendered vacant by permanent officers having left the Service, been transferred to other Departments, and also by those that answered the “call,” but paid their last sacrifice on the battlefield.
The majority of these men are married, and have a family tokeep. Our rateof pay is 11s. 8d. per day for both married and single men over the age of twenty-five years, and 10s. 9d. for married or single men under the age of twenty-five years. Until some six months ago, we were under a system of six months’ employment, and if, in the opinion of the Deputy Postmaster-General, our past services were satisfactory, we were granted an extension of six months, but within the last six weeks this six months’ extension has been rescinded, and we are now only given a three months’ extension, and when these three months expire, we have no assurance as to whether our services will be any longer required.
This is of seme great concern to us, because the majority of these men are suffering from some war disability that will not allow him to take up his pre-war job. Tt is a shame and a sham to find returned sailors and soldiers being temporarily employed for so many years in vacant permanent positions with what is known to us as a starvation pay.
It is deplorable to know that, after so many years as faithful and competent officers to the public, we may have to yet look for our daily bread through some other avenue of life. We may say that the time is long overdue where thi Commonwealth Government should extend to us the opportunity of becoming permanent officers. If they find that our services of six mouths and over has not been a sufficient test of our ability and efficiency to hold a permanent position, then they should (if their laudable and long-praised patriotic sympathy has not waned), give us the opportunity to become permanent officers, bo that we may yet prove to them that, as good a soldier as we have been to the Empire, we will yet prove as good a citizen.
To those that this may concern, we ask you to give our case your most sympathetic and patriotic attention. We are only asking for justice as returned soldiers, and when you are helping the returned soldier to get justice, you are assisting him to better his life, and to become, like you, a fellow citizen.
Apart from the fact that the appointment of these men to permanent positions would be a distinct benefit to them, it must be admitted that it would also be more satisfactory to the heads of the Department. Departmental heads are always anxious to have as many permanent, and as few temporary, employees as possible. For that reason, I urge upon the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) the wisdom of appointing these returned soldiers to permanent positions both in their own interests and in the interests of the Department.
– There is one phase of the administration of this Department to which I have previously referred, and which I now desire to emphasize. It relates to the carriage of mails in country districts. One of the big questions confronting Australia today is that of decentralization. It is our duty to do all that we can to induce people to remain in rural areas instead of flocking into our cities for the greater social advantages which are there obtainable. Now the best inducement which we can offer them is the provision of uptodate post and telegraphic facilities. In this connexion, I have previously referred to what I regard as false economy on the part of the Government. There are districts in Tasmania which formerly had two mails daily, and in which the service has now been reduced to one, thereby subjecting the inhabitants to very great disadvantage. The estimates for the current year provide for an expenditure of nearly £2,000 more than was voted last year for the carriage of inland mails, but I doubt whether that will be sufficient to permit of the carrying out of a liberal mail service in our country districts. I would earnestly impress upon the Government the necessity for making the conditions of life of country residents approach more nearly those which prevail in our cities.
I come now to the contract between the Union Steamship Company and the Commonwealth Government in regard to the carriage of mails between the mainland and Tasmania. When this contract was entered into a short time before the outbreak of war it was agreed that the Union Company would place upon the service a sister ship to the Loongana. I can quite understand that it is impossible for the company to comply with the condition during the war period. I am assured that this second vessel was really built, but that it was commandeered for transport purposes. I am also informed that she has since been refitted for passenger traffic across the Straits. But the war has now terminated for a very considerable time, and’ passengers to and from Tasmania are naturally looking forward with some eagerness to the arrival of this second ship, because it is impossible to keep a vessel like the Loongana which, during the summer season, runs three trips each way weekly, frequently over rough seas, in proper order. Notwithstanding the best efforts of her officers, it is impossible to provide reasonable accommodation for passengers.
– The company gets enough from them.
– The company is well paid, and, now that the war is over, it is time that. the Government insisted upon it carrying but its contract by placing a second wessel upon :the ^Berwice nmmediately.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) Vice-
Presiden’t of ‘the Executive ;Council’:) [8.10].– ‘In lihe letter which was read Hay Senator Foll “the writer seemed to imply that -some -special restriction was ^being imposeS upon returned soldiers, which militated against them obtaining ‘permanent positions in our Public ‘Service.
That is not the case. Whenever vacancies arise in ‘that Service, in the- examination of candidates to ‘fill these vacancies, returned soldiers are given a distinct preference. If the vacant office is one the filling of which requires no special skill, there is little difficulty in returned sol- diers passing the requisite examination. But in cases in which skill is required the soldiers are not subjected to the ordinary -examination. Instead, generous conces- -sions are made to them with a view to making the examination easier. I will bring the matter under the notice of the’ Minister. At the same time ‘I am -sure that the facts are not as stated in the letter read by Senator Foll, because the
Government have, not once or twice, but upon twenty different occasions, reviewed our Public Service Act for the purpose of -insuring that our returned soldiers shall receive the treatment which was promised them when the war was in progress. ,
In regard to the remarks of Senator Earle he may rest his soul in peace, because I can assure him that the second -vessel to which ho has referred, will be -engaged in the Tasmanian service within a very brief period. At the present time we are making inquiries with a view to getting a boat equal, if not superior, to the Loongana placed upon that service at the earliest possible moment.-
Proposed vote agreed to. War Service payable out of revenue -(Proposed vote, ?i0,695,455) agreed to. Preamble and title agreed to. Bill reported without request; report adopted.
.- I move - That this Bill be now read a second lime.
I doubt if there are many Bills, the -second reading of which I could move with greater pleasure ‘than this ‘One, or Chat there are many that could receive a .greater ^welcome from honorable senators. 1 do not need .to go -into detailst concerning ‘the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, .because this measure amends , it in only one ‘particular, and that is by increasing the income limit in the case of blind pensioners. The present Act provides that a pensioner’s income, together with his pension, shall not exceed ?65 per annum, or ’25s. per week. In other words, a pensioner may earn up to 10s. per week without affecting his pension, but if he exceeds that amount a corresponding reduction must be made in the pension. This applies to blind pensioners as well as to all other pensioners. It has long been urged by honorable , senators and others that the blind should be treated on a different basis from others and encouraged as much as possible. The ordinary invalid pensioner, by virtue of his incapacity, is able ito earn only a small amount, ‘but it is well known ‘that blind persons may be trained to such an extent that their earnings may be fairly considerable. There are instances in which they are able to earn up to ?2 and ?2 10s. per week. The present Act actually penalizes a blind pensioner who earns more than 10s. per week, because when . one earns more his -pension is reduced. ‘ The Bill does not increase the amount of pension, but it increases the limit of income and pension together from 25s. to ?4 5s. per week. A blind person and his wife can earn a total income of ?3 10s. per week, and the man can also receive a pension of 15s. per week. The amount of ?4 5s. has been adopted because it represents the basic wage in New South Wales for a man, his wife, and family. If at any time a basic wage is declared by the Commonwealth, this Bill is so drafted that such basic wage when declared will form the rate upon which the i pension will operate. I feel sure that this measure will- receive the whole-hearted support of the Senate.
.- I rise with much pleasure to support the second reading of this Bill, because I know that in a number of humble homes in Australia considerable happiness will be caused by its passage. I have had a good deal of communication with the blind people in Tasmania, and have also had the opportunity at different periods of visiting the institutions where they are trained in certain industries, such as broom and mat making, the manufacture of chairs, and other useful articles. It is remarkable how proficient they become in this particular kind of work. As the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has pointed out, the Act which we are now amending really prevented blind workers extending their energies, and thus allowing them to produce and earn more. It was really encouraging a go-slow policy, and inducing the blind people to do only a small proportion of the work they were capable of performing, otherwise they would be penalized by receiving a reduced pension. Honorable senators are aware that a person who has lost his sight has to suffer great hardships. There is no possibility of malingering, and I feel sure that every honorable senator will regard this Bill as an endeavour to mete out justice to those unfortunate people who have lost their sight.
I regret that Senator Gardiner is” not present, because I desire to refer to the treatment I received at his hands on the 5th September, 1917, when I endeavoured to effect this reform. The Old-age and Invalid Pensions Bill was before the Senate, and I endeavoured to amend the clause dealing with blind pensioners to enable them to earn up to £2 2s. per week. Although Senator Gardiner supported my amendment, he delivered a very scathing speech, in which he condemned me for having moved it. Although he approved of what I did, he did his utmost to induce other honorable senators to oppose it. I mention this simply because a Tasmanian paper which supports his party has been making considerable capital out of the fact that on that occasion the whole of the party then behind Senator Gardiner voted for my amendment, while the members of the National party opposed it, with the result that it was defeated. There was not an honorable senator on that occasion who fi id more to effectively defeat my amendment than did Senator Gardiner. I trust the newspaper which made so much of the fact that he voted with me on that occasion will at least acknowledge that he advised every one else to vote against him. I welcome this Bill, and I trust it will have the unanimous support of the Senate
– I suppose that, as the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) stated in moving the second reading of the Bill, it is seldom the privilege of a Minister to introduce a measure which is more likely to meet with the general approval of a composite body than this one i3. I feel jure the measure will have a speedy passage, and that it will meet with the support of every honorable senator.
For the last few weeks I have been somewhat uneasy concerning the introduction of this Bill, and I was beginning to doubt if it would be passed before the session closed. I had received an assurance from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), and other Ministers that something would be done before the Parliament adjourned, and I was naturally becoming rather anxious. It wa3, therefore, with feelings of extreme pleasure that I noticed that the Bill had been introduced in another place; and I feel confident that before many minutes have elapsed it will have been passed by the Senate. I am. glad to note that there is no discrimination in the Bill between the inmates of institutions and those living outside. The blind are very sensitive in many respects, and they have felt for a considerable time that they have not received the consideration to which they are entitled at the hands of those more fortunate people who possess all their faculties. The cost of living has been mounting higher and higher, and the blind people have been looking to this Government for some measure of relief. I am sure that in the heart of every blind person in Australia to-day there will be a feeling of intense gratitude and satisfaction when they learn that the law has been amended in this direction. I am sure there will be a strong determination on the part of these unfortunate people to do even more than they have done in the past; and I know they will be under a debt of gratitude to the Government for having afforded them this relief. On their behalf I feel it is my duty to congratulate the ‘Government upon carrying out their promise, and, as one who has ‘been closely associated with them and their institutions, I desire to express my thanks. I give the measure my full support, because I feel sure that it will do much to improve the conditions of those unfortunate people who have to go through life in darkness.
– I welcome the -introduction of this Bill, particularly because it gives a number of persons who have been deprived of sight the opportunity of utilizing what other powers they possess in increasing their earnings. It is somewhat of an anomaly that there should be any -barrier, considering the ‘many disadvantages they suffer and the many deprivations they have to endure, to prevent their earnings being increased. By the passage of this Bill the barrier will be removed, and I believe the measure will prove an incentive to industry. I am also hopeful that it will not only lead to increased activity on the part of those who are inmates of institutions, but that it will be the means of inducing blind persons outside to take up some simple form of work, and thus enable them to provide additional comforts in their homes. Some honorable senators may say that this measure is considerably overdue; but I know there are reasons which prevented its introduction earlier, particularly as there are others who may consider that they have similar claims. I am sure the measure will be welcome, as it does not entail any increased expenditure on the part of the Government in supporting the blind.
– Yes, it does.
– To what extent ?
– Fifteen thousand pounds. It will make a number of blind persons eligible for pensions who cannot now participate.
– I thought the measure dealt only with those now receiving pensions, and would permit them to increase their earnings.
– The Treasurer estimates an additional expenditure of £15,000, but I do not think it will be as much as that.
– Looking at the matter from an economic stand-point, the amendment of the law will be beneficial, because at will enable others to put more energy into their work, and it should be an incentive rather than a deterrent. For that reason, the Bill commends itself to the Senate. But looming up, there is another point upon which I think we should have some information. In clause 3 there is provision with regard to the earnings as declared by any Act, or by any authority constituted under an Act, to be a basic wage. Seeing that the question of the basic wage will really be determined by the States, will there be any differentiation between one State and another, so far as blind pensioners are concerned, or will they be all on a common level?
– Where an Act is referred to in the Bill, it means the Commonwealth Statute*
– Then, in that case, the Minister will need to explain the clause a little further. If there is any difficulty in the way, I hope it will soon be cleared up. Otherwise, I see no reason why the measure should not pass, and I am sure it will be welcomed by those unfortunate people who have been deprived of their sight.
.- I heartily indorse every word that has been uttered by honorable senators who have preceded me as to the welcome which this measure will receive from those in whose behalf it has been introduced. For some years I have been brought closely in touch with a great many blind operatives in Tasmania, who are receiving their tuition in the excellent institutions of that State, as well as a number employed in various avocations that the blind follow. As Senator Senior has pointed out, this Bill will be an incentive to them to become more industrious, because they will know that their pension allowance will not be reduced by reason of any extra efforts on their part. There is another section of the blind to whom the Bill will bring relief. I refer to « those who, by reason of age, are precluded from following any industrial occupation, and who, before they were deprived of sight, were able to save a few pounds for a rainy day. I have in mind the case of a woman who has been blind for some years, .and whose total assets are represented by £80 in cash, which she had accumulated by much thrift before she became blind. The fact that she had this amount of capital has precluded her from obtaining the full amount of the pension allowance hitherto. Consequently, her capital has been dwindling gradually month by month, and there was every prospect that in a short space of. time it would have been entirely dissipated. I have no doubt that there are many others in the same position throughout Australia, and this fact, perhaps, explains the Minister’s statement that the Bill will represent an increased expenditure of £15,000, because the ownership of either property or cash will not shut them out from the full enjoyment of pension rights, unless, of course, the revenue they receive from the investment of their capital, together with the pension allowance, amounts to more than £221 per annum.
– That is income, not necessarily earnings.
– I am referring to the deductions being made under existing legislation in respect of blind pensioners who happen to have a little capital, a certain deduction being made from the pension allowance for every £10 owned by them. Is not that the case?
– Then this Bill will be a welcome relief to blind pensioners in that position. I feel sure, also, that the whole of the taxpayers will be glad to know that the Government have decided to give further relief to this deserving section: of the community.
– With the previous speakers, I am glad that the Bill has been introduced, but I should like to point out that, under clause 3, it is proposed to increase the income, which will be a composite amount representing pension and earnings, from £65 to £110 10s. per annum in the case of certain persons, whereas in the case of a married couple the composite amount will be increased to £221, or £4 5s. per week.
– A single pensioner would have a right to the same amount.
– It appears to me that, if the intention is to give the individual blind person the full basic wage, he will need much more than that.
– Iomitted to mention that the Act will be brought into force by proclamation, and that it is proposed to proclaim it not later than the 13th of January, 1921, which is the first pension day in the new year, but it will be proclaimed earlier if the machinery can be got ready in. time. There need be no difficulty about the point raised by Senator Senior if the honorable senator will simply bear in mind that wherever reference is made to an Act it means a Commonwealth Act, and not the Act of a State. The honorable senator says that there is no Act under which we declare a basic rate of wage. I would remind him that there is. Under the Public Service Act, or its regulations, we declare that no person over the age of twenty-one shall be paid a lesser rate of wage than £126 per year, and when the Government take action, as they have indicated they propose to do, to increase the basic rate of wage, they will do so by means of an amendment of the Public Service Act or its regulations. In this Bill, the Government have adopted a basic rate of wage of £4 5s. for the Commonwealth. It may be that the Government will declare the rate to be £4 5s. in one State, £4 2s. 6d. in another, and £4 in another. If so, the basic rate under this Bill will be changed in exactly the same manner, up or down, because the basic rate will be determined by the purchasing power of the sovereign. I think Senator Lynch has been somewhat confused by omitting to recognise that under the Bill there is only one pensioner, and that the fact that a blind man. happens to be married will not constitute his wife a pensioner. He is a pensioner because he is. blind..
– Suppose both are blind ?
– Then there will be two pensioners. A pensioner, whether married or single, would be entitled to claim the rate laid down in this Bill. The Act provides that if a married man, his wife, or both, have an income of a certain amount, the pension shall be reduced accordingly. This Bill does not alter that principle, but whereas under the Act the joint income of a man and his wife could not exceed £2 10s. without involving a reduction of the pension, under this Bill a single income with the pension may go up to £4 5s.
– The Bill does not ‘ provide that the income of a married couple, if “both are blind, can go up to £9.
– I am not sure whether in such a case both could claim the full pension. In the case mentioned by Senator Lynch, a married man would be iu exactly the same position as a single man if he were blind, and whatever his income or. that of his wife might be, he would be entitled to earn, under this Bill, up to ‘£4 5s. per week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section . 24 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 190S-1&19 is amended by inserting at the end of sub-section (1) thereof the following provisos: - “ Provided that in the case of a permanently blind person who is qualified under this Act to receive a pension, the amount of pension may be at such a rate (not exceeding Thirtynine pounds per annum) as will make the income of the pensioner and of the pensioner’s wife (or husband), together with the pension, equal to an amount not exceeding Two hundred and twenty-one pounds per annum or such other amount as is declared by any Act, or by any authority constituted under an Act, to be a basic wage for the portion of the Commonwealth in which the pensioner resides. . . .
– Under- the first proviso of . this clause it is set out that the limit to which the income of a blind person can go is not to exceed £221 per annum “ or such other amount as may be declared by an Act,” and so on. The Minister has explained that the reference is to ah Act of the Commonwealth Parliament. I want to know from the honorable senator which amount would prevail in the event of an Act of ,the Commonwealth fixing the basic wage at £100.
– In that case the basic wage of £100 would prevail.
– That would be cutting things very close to the bone, and would certainly not be the intention of the Senate. The clause, in my opinion, requires alteration, if it is to give effect to the intention of honorable senators. I suggest that the proviso should be amended to read - equal to an amount not exceeding f221 per annum or such other amount as is declared by any Act or by any authority constituted under an Act to be a basic wage for the portion of the Commonwealth in which the pensioner resides, whichever is the greater.
.- The honorable senator must bear in mind that if an Act is passed reducing the basic wage to £100, as he suggests, the Commonwealth Parliament will have assented to it, and before doing so must have been satisfied that that amount represented a sufficient basic wage.
– For two people?
– Yes. No such basic wage would, of course, be fixed by this- Parliament. But if, for the sake of argument, there were a tremendous reduction in the cost of living, and this Parliament were satisfied that £100 per annum would be a sufficient basic wage, what objection could be offered to fixing that amount? Parliament may decide that it is not the proper authority to fix a basic wage, and may set up a Court for the purpose. If it does so, it will have confidence that the Court will do justice. It is well known that a basic wage is such a wage as will be sufficient to keep a man, wife and three children in the standard of comfort in which civilized beings ought to live. Senator Lynch could have no objection to the blind being asked to be satisfied with that standard.
– The clause makes provision for the reduction of the amount to extinction, but no provision for its increase beyond £221 per annum.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong there. The £221 is not an arbitrary amount. If a Commonwealth Act or any authority under a Commonwealth Act declares that the cost of living is such that £4 5s. or £4 10s. or £5 should be regarded as a basic wage, that amount will automatically apply to the incomes of blind persons under this Bill.
– If that is the case, it is all right. But I should like to know what is the meaning of the words “ not exceeding.”
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted. ‘ .
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments).
Clause 3 -
Section 3 of the principal Act is amended -
House of Representatives’ Amendment. -
Omit “ is opposed to “ and insert “ advocates the abolition of “.
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
Honorable senators who are not newcomers amongst us will remember that the Senate passed an Immigration Bill some time ago. Under the cooling influence of time, the Government decided to modify the. measure in some respects, and they therefore propose to accept the amendments made by the House of Representatives. The war has now been over for same time, and, looking buck, we have considered that we made a mistake in providing in the Bill as it left , the Senatethat any person should be considered a prohibited immigrant who “ is opposed to organized government.” We have recognised that the intention really is to prevent the entry into Australia of any person who “ advocates the abolition of organized government.” The House of Representatives has made an amendment to that effect in. the Bill, which makes it quite clear that it is the out-and-out anarchist, who would have no organized government at all, that we desire should not be allowed to enter this country. Two other amendments consequential upon this have been made by the House of Representatives in this clause.
Article 122 of the Treaty of Peace with Germany provides that a Government exercising authority over captured German Territories may make such provision es it thinks fit in regard to the repatriation therefrom of German nationals. This article would have application, for instance, in the island of Nauru, and to the late German New Guinea; and it gives the Commonwealth the power to permit German nationals to remain in those Territories, or to do what it is likely will be done, and that is, to ask them to return to Germany. The House of Representatives has made an amendment in clause 7 of the Bill to give effect to this article of the Treaty of Peace.
Motion agreed to.
Remaining amendments in clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Deportation of certain persons).
Souse of Representatives’ Amendment - At end of clause add the following: - “ 8b. - (1) A national of anycountrywho, in pursuance of any treaty to which the Commonwealth is a party, is liable to be returned to that country, may be deported from the Commonwealth to that country pursuant to any order of the Minister.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– This amendment will confer very sweeping powers upon the Government of the day. I should like to know upon what action by a foreign national the Minister would order his or her deportation from the Commonwealth. We have merely been told that if the Minister chooses to issue an order for the deportation of any national of what was formerly an enemy country, that will be sufficient.
– I cannot off-hand repeat the conditions which govern this matter; but they are clearly set out in the Treaty of Peace between the Commonwealth and Germany.
– Would not the position be made clearer if the clause stated the acts of which any foreign national must be guilty before he can be deported ?
– Those acts are plainly enumerated in the Treaty of Peace with Germany. The only persons who will be affected by this amendment are Germans in Rabaul, and other parts of what was formerly German New Guinea. They chiefly comprise German planters, who will be deported. This provision will empower the Minister to give effect to the Peace Treaty between the Commonwealth and former enemy countries. In most cases we have taken over the property of German planters and storekeepers in this mandated Territory, and there is a general desire on the part of the people of Australia that these persons shall he returned to Germany.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 9.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 November 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19201124_senate_8_94/>.