8th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Inquiry by Public Works Committee.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the evidence which is now being collected by the Public Works Committee, in connexion with the North-South Eailway, is costing anything. If so, in view of the necessity for economy and the overwhelming evidence already available, pointing to the impossibility of proceeding with the construction of the line by the North-South route, will the Government take steps to stop the farce of collecting more evidence on the subject? iSenator PEARCE. - I think, sir, that I should draw your attention to the fact that the honorable senator’s question contains an expression of opinion.
The PRE SIDENT. - I did not follow the honorable senator very closely, but it is not in order in asking questions to make statements or express opinions.
– A certain amount of expense is, of course, involved in connexion with any inquiry by a Committee of the Parliament. Witnesses have to be paid for attending meetings of the Committee. That rule applies to the inquiry to which the honorable senator’s question refers. I do not know on what grounds he bases his opinion of the evidence which has been given before the Public Works Committee.. All that we know of it is what has been reported by the press, and our experience of the press should have taught us that it is the practice of the newspapers in such cases to print only what suits them. I suggest to the honorable senator that we might leave the matter to the judgment of the Public Works Committee. We may assume that the members of the Committee will not allow time to be wasted or permit unnecessary expense to be incurred if they see no purpose in going on with the inquiry.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether, when he submits the policy of the Government for the development of the Northern Territory, honorable senators will be given an opportunity to discuss the question of railway communication with the Territory?!
– It is unlikely that the proposals of the Government will require legislation, because we have the power to issue Ordinances and most matters affecting the Northern Territory are dealt with in that way. Of course, the construction of a railway would not be authorized by the issue of an Ordinance, but the adoption of a land policy and such matters could be given effect by Ordinances. The statement of the intentions and policy of the Government for the development of the Northern Territory will be made when the Estimates are before the Senate, and the honorable senator will then have a full opportunity to discuss any question affecting the Northern Territory, including the railway policy.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the report appearing in the press, that the Government have opened up negotiations for reciprocal trade with Canada, is true?
– Yes. The negotiations are still proceeding.
The following papen were presented : -
High Court Procedure Act -Rule of Court - Dated 24th August, 1923.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired -
For Postal purposes - Spalding, South Australia.
For Quarantine purposes - Cape Pallarenda, Queensland.
New Guinea-Ordinances of 1923.
No 26 - Administrative Districts.
No. 27- Supply (No. 2) 1922-23.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the amount of arrears of income tax outstanding at the present date?
– The Treasurer supplies the following answer: - £3,125,763. That amount includes tax, the notices of assessment for which hove been issued during thepast month, and the time for payment of which has not therefore expired. It also includes tax, extension of time for payment of which has been granted.It ls not possible toState the totals of these two classes of amounts.
Naval Branch Report
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied -the following answer : - 1 and 2. On13th October,1921, a statement was issued bythe Minister lor the Navy explanatory of the Estimates, and this contained a review ofthe principal items of naval interestup to that date. This document (No. 146) was presented to Parliament and ordered to he printed on 13th October,1921. When the Defence Estimates for this year are under consideration a further statement will be made.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of a statement made by the Prime Minister on the 4th August last, that a reduction of the price of phosphates from Nauru and Ocean Island to the manufacturer of about 28s. per ton had been made, and in view of a statement appearing in a Tasmanian newspaper of 4th September that the retail price of superphosphates had been reduced only to the extent of 7s. 6d. per ton, will the Minister say when the users of superphosphates can expect a reduction in price proportionally equivalent to the reduction in the price of the phosphates to the manufacturer.
– The Prime Minis ter has supplied the following answer : -
Superphosphate is not manufactured in Tasmania, but only on the mainland, from where Tasmania has to draw its supplies. Consequently freight, handling, and distributing expenses have to be added to the mainland prices forsuperphosphates sold in Tasmania. On the mainland, reductions - following on the reduced price of the Nauru and Ocean Island raw material from 1st July last - have already come into force, as follows: -
Victoria, from £6 3s. to £5 10s. per ton; reduction, 13s.
South Australia, from £5 10s. to £4 6s. per ton; reduction, £1 4s. per ton.
As pointed out in the Commissioner for Australia’s recent booklet, Australian manufacturers had largestockson hand on the 1st July last at the dearer prices, consequently some time must elapse before the full benefit of the recent considerable reduction in the price of the Nauru and Ocean Island raw material is everywhere felt.
Bill read a third time.
– I wish, sir, to ask you a question concerning an incident which has just occurred. A question was given notice of by Senator Bakhap, and it duly appeared on the notice-paper. He based his question on one which had previously been asked by me concerning the durability of certain timbers for use as railway sleepers. Although the honorable senator’s question appeals on the noticepaper, and was called in itsorder by you, he refrained from asking it. I ask whether thehonorable senator was in order in doingso.
-Yes. I have no control over any question puton the noticepaper, except to see that it is in accordancewith the Standing Orders. Whether the honorable senator, having given notice of a question,exercises his right to ask itor refrain from asking it is a matter entirely within his control.
Bill read a third time.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I take it that if there is a general adhesion to the principle of this Bill, it will be agreed that it is rather one for consideration in Committee as to its terms. I therefore do not propose to make an elaborate explanation of the provisions of the Bill on the motion for the second reading. As regards its principles, honorable senators will remember that, as a result of the Washington Conference, it was found to be possible, without impairing the safety of the Commonwealth, to reduce our naval and military establishments. This has necessitated the retirement, voluntarily or otherwise, of a number of officers, and particularly military officers, as well as a number of non-commissioned officers and men. The military profession is unlike any other. It stands by itself. It requires considerable training, skill, and ability to insure proficiency, and yet that training and experience do not equip a man for practically any other avocation in life. It rather unfits him for other occupations. It is, therefore, a matter of serious consequence to officers who have been for the best part of their lives trained in and devoted to this service to be deprived of their occupation and thrown on the general labour market.
The Commonwealth has been somewhat parsimonious in the past in the provision it has made for ite naval and military establishments. Most countries,recognising the facts as I have stated them, have pension or superannuation systems as part of their navalor military organizations. Owing to what Iconsider a false idea in thiscommunity with respect to the need for such schemes, it has not beenpossible in the past to provide pensions or superannuation for our Naval or Military Forces. Speaking personally, I have had the painful task of retiring officers who have servedtheir country to the utmost of their ability, and who, owing to the paltry salaries paid to them during their period of service, and to the fact that we have no superannuation or pension scheme, received on retirement an amount which would not keep them for more than one or two years. They have had to look about for a means of livelihood, and I have had the painful experience later of witnessing the futile attempts which such men have made to find an occupation in which they could secure employment. The Government propose during this session to introduce a Superannuation Bill which will remove these disabilities.
– Did those retired men get any compensation ?
– Under the regulations it was possible for the Minister to approve of their receiving six months’ pay. That was practically a right that had accrued to them under the regulations for long-service furlough. The practice was that the Minister would bring up a proposal to the Cabinet to add another sixmonthsto an officer’s period of service,and in certain cases an extra twelve mouths. If Cabinet approved, those particular items had to go on the Estimates, or a Bill had to be presented, and after Parliament had given its approval those sums would be paid out, but sometimes months would elapse before the men received the payment. It was simply a dolethat kept the wolf from the door for the time being, but it did not give them an opportunity to start in any line of business.
On the present occasion, we are faced with the position that there are quite a large number of officers to be retired, some of whom are near the retiring age, and some of whom are just on the threshold of their military career. The Government have launched a scheme which, while not erring onthe side of liberality, is infinitely more liberal than anythingpreviously done for members of the Naval and Military Forces. It is proposed to give them a payment that will enable them to take up some occupation by which they may earn a living. The number of ‘officers and men in the Permanent Forces affectedby this Bill is 460, and there are also seventy on the civil staff. The number in the Naval Forces is not yet known, but it is comparatively small. Of the 460 in the Permanent Military Forces there are 85 officers and quartermasters, 180 warrant officers, and 195 officers and men.
There has been, some criticism as to the difference in the. amounts paid to the various officers, non-commissioned officers,’ and men; but I draw attention to the fact that the retiring age fixed under the military regulations is entirely different from that in the Public Service. There is a retiring age of sixty years in the Public Service, and retirement can be made compulsory at sixty-five years, but in the Military Forces the retiring age is determined by the rank the officer has reached at the time of retirement. It may be at the age of forty-eight years, and he may go on until sixty-two years of age, but only in the case of those who reach the highest rank would the retirement be at the same age as in the Public Service. In all other cases the military retiring age would be much earlier than in. the Public Service. That applies to the officers. In regard to the rank and file,’ quite a different principle is observed. The latter are engaged for short terms, and the first period, is five years. It has been the practice in the Department, if a man who has been engaged, say, as a gunner, has not during his five years’ service attained some promotion, not to re-engage him., but to fill his place by somebody else. The idea underlying that was to stimulate those in the ranks to qualify for promotion, and, if they did not do so, it resulted in a larger number of trained men in the community who would be available for service in time of emergency. As there were a large number of officers and men to be retired at. one time, it is obvious that there must be a retirement among all ranks in order to maintain the balance required for the efficient maintenance of the staff corps, because if we retired only the senior officers there would be a surplus of junior officers and a shortage of the more highly-paid officers.
There has been a criticism, that the policy of turning young officers away from the Duntroon College and taking in new students is a stupid one.
– It is a pity they have to be turned out.
– It certainly i9 a great loss to the community, bub if that course were not followed there would be a surplus of officers in the junior ranks.
– The training is not entirely lost.
– Undoubtedly not, because the training received at Duntroon is not merely a military one.. It is largely a University training, and equivalent to’ that given, for example, in the engineering course. It is only in the last two years that the training at Duntroon has been of a purely military nature. A young man who has gone through that College, and has served for four or five years as a non-commissioned officer, is fit to adapt himself to almost any occupation. If he has devoted himself solely to the military profession for four or five or even ten years he is not anything like so unfit for the battle of life outside as the man who has devoted the best twenty or thirty years of his life to a purely military occupation.
While it is proposed to pay a minimum amount of compensation it is based on the monthly pay for every year of service.’ Under such a scheme as this we have had to lay down general principles. A number of officers entered the service, before the Duntroon College was established, at different ages - some ‘at twenty and some at even thirty years of age - and they may have reached the same rank to-day, but they have had different periods of service, and that is how there are to be differing amounts of compensation in what appear to be like cas.es. On examination, however, it will be found that they are not like cases. Broadly, the lines we have adopted meet individual cases, and give substantial justice all round.
– On what principle was the selection made of those who had to retire ?
– It became obvious to the Service generally that this scheme was to be brought into existence, and it was known that there were some who looked upon their retirement as inevitable. There were others who, for various reasons, preferred to retire of their own accord rather than take the chance of being compulsorily retired. When the Minister issued his notification, quite a large number voluntarily retired, but in the senior ranks consideration was given to those who were- nearest to the retiring age.
Some comparison has been made, and probably will be made in this debate, of the rate of compensation to be paid by the Commonwealth as compared with that paid to similar officers in the Indian Army. Comparing the officer who has been sent to India and is being retired there, with a similar officer in Australia, I venture to say that the chance of the Australian officer in this young country, whose economic system has not been so fundamentally upset as has that of the United Kingdom, are ‘as two to one, apart altogether from the amount of compensation. That, I think, is some justification for the difference in the compensation allowed to Australian and Imperial officers. Having been associated with the Military Forces of the Commonwealth for several years, the duty of having to retire these men has been very painful to me. There has been an attempt to cultivate a mistaken idea in the community that military officers comprise a. class apart from the rest of us, and have sentiment apart from the community. I have not found that to be the case at all. I think these officers have endeavoured to discharge their duties in accordance with the sentiment of the Australian Democracy, and they have rendered good service to the country. The success of the universal training scheme was due to the loyalty, enthusiasm, and efficiency of the officers of our Staff Corps, many of whom are now being retired. The fact that the scheme was in existence when the war broke out, and hud commenced to function, assisted us materially in taking an effective part in the war. The war is past, and we are apt to forget some of its features too quickly. I hope that members of this community will not forget, when they talk contemptuously of “ brass hats,” that in the early stages of the war they were not so contemptuous. Then they were very much concerned about the paucity of “ brass hats.” “ Brass hat “ is a term which is generally applied contemptuously to the staff officer. It was my duty, as Minister for Defence, to approve of the recommendations made by General Bridges and other Australian Imperial Force commanders for appointments of staff officers. We had a Board, which at that time recommended who should command the various brigades formed in Australia. We followed the principle of appointing citizen officers to these commands, and I noticed that, whenever one officer was appointed, it would not be more than twelve hours afterwards before he would be at the barracks begging and praying that one of the “ brass hats,” one of the permanent officers, should be made his adjutant or right-hand man. Why? Because he knew the value of having as his assistant a professional officer, a man trained in the military business. It was the “Brass hats “ who, in the early stages of the war, helped to organize and train the Australian Imperial Force. The Duntroon officers also proved their worth in the war. General Birdwood, in a letter to me, said that every Duntroon officer who had left Australia had been worth his weight in gold. “ I have never,” he wrote, “ put a man into a job which he could not carry out, and I have tried them in all sorts of jobs.
We now propose to compensate the non-commissioned officers. If the staff officer is the brains of the army, the non-commissioned officer is the engine that makes the machine go. These men have rendered very valuable service to the community, and have been very hard-working and conscientious. I remember meeting one of them in the early days of universal military training. I was out for a walk one Saturday afternoon when I saw this sergeant-major drilling an unruly squad of boys, who had been roped in, for the first time in their lives, to do military training. He had a hard task, and after a time he gave them a rest. He did not know who 1 was, and I spoke to him. I said, “ How are you getting along with those boys, sergeant-major? “ He replied, “ Well, sir, we have had a two-hours’ parade, and I am expected in that time to give them what their parents ought to have given them in fifteen years - a little bit of discipline.” During the war these men played a very important part. They may not figure in the war histories by name, hut I venture to say that every officer of the Australian Imperial Force will give his meed of praise to the work done by the non-commissioned officers of our Permanent Forces. I have no hesitation in (recommending this Bill to the Senate, and 1 hope that with the establishment of a superannuation scheme no similar Bill will be required in the future. We. hope to make such provision so that when retirements are made these men will be kept from the hunger line, at any rate.
.- In the absence of Senator Gardiner, and as the Leader of his party for the time being (Senator MacDonald) has not seen fit to take part in the debate, I feel it incumbent upon me to make a few remarks. I think this Bill is a desirable one, although I feel that in its operation there will be certain anomalies which are always inseparable from every piece of legislation. It is beyond the power of nian to frame legislation which will work out with mathematical accuracy and equity to all men concerned. It is proposed to compensate those men who would in ordinary circumstances be still employed by the Defence Department, but for whom, through the temporary - I say “ temporary “ advisedly - fruits of the Washington Conference, there is now apparently no room in the Defence Department. Being called upon to retire and take up work in ordinary walks of life, and seeing that the nation is convenienced by their doing so, they must be given some form of compensation. As the Bill attempts to discharge an obligation to them it is fully warranted. There ls ample scope for criticism of this measure, as of every other.
The Minister (Senator Pearce) mentioned the tendency in this country to refer in somewhat deprecatory terms to an arm of defence colloquially known as “ Brass hats.” I deplore the use of that term very much, because those are the men who, I believe, in a great majority of cases, rose from the ranks. We know them in our own circle of acquaintances.
– It is a harmless name.
– But it does a lot of harm, and is used for sinister purposes. We are a Democracy, for what we are worth; and when we search out from amongst ourselves people to fight our battles for us, we must have some form of training and organization. We cannot send a mab of men to the field without discipline and leadership. When we pick men to do the training, and by sheer force of’ their own merit they become leaders of men, whether at the top point of command or in the lower ranks, there is no justification for designating them slightingly.I understand that over. 70 per cent. of the “brass hats” joined as rankers. We hear confounded demagogues in our political life to-day, when they are after votes or trying to sow dissension in the ranks of our military services, finding fault with 70 per cent. of the men who have been placed in positions of command by contemptuously calling them “Brass hats.” I know a draper in the western State who became a brigadier-general, and an architect who became a general. I deplore the fact that in a Democracy such as. ours there should be this constant, incontinent tendency on the part of these disturbers in our midst. I realize that there: is an ingredient of fear of militarism rightly implanted in. some of our military critics. This is because militarism, for centuries has been the willing tod of tyrants, who have used it to enforce their tyrannical demands and exactions. We are now, however, living in a different age - in a Democracy where tyrants have no place, unless we admit them voluntarily. Therefore, people who criticise militarism today, although they are living in the twentieth century, have their minds in the fifteenth century. It all goes to show the truth of the good old saying, “ Give a dog a bad name and it will stick to him.” I will tell honorable senators two stories to show that military men, as such, have not only been against war, but have given sounder advice than civilian leaders. In Sir Edward Butler’s biography, it is stated that he was called upon to advise whether military action should be taken in Ashanti and Natal. He and all his men at that time were entirely opposed to the prosecution of the war, but the civil sectionof the British Parliament pushed on towards war. The other instance I wish to mention relates to the occasion when the German scientists came out to this country and were the subject of so much discussion. I was told to-day by a Minister of a former Government that the military men in Australia insisted upon keeping the scientists in their place, but that he was prepared to extend to them all the courtesy which the Government were, as he thought, in duty bound to extend to them. While he received them, the military authorities said, “ Hold your hand. We advise you to treat these men as we intended they should be treated,, and keep them under the- closest surveillance.” What did time reveal? It revealed only too truly that the military men had wise heads on their shoulders, and. that the civil authority had not.
– The scientists were the guests of the Government, and one was found in possession of all the information about the first Australian Division.
– The military people were right, and the civil were wrong.
In regard to the lower ranks, I think a mistake was made when pensions were increasedon a. former occasion, and no corresponding increase was made in the lower and higher ranks of command. I hope there will be no trace of differentiation in this Bill in favour of thelower ranks and against the higher ranks. I object to that, because I believe that a pension should bear the same relationship right throughout the ranks to the pay awarded to to those ranks. If we are to place men in leading positions by virtue of merit we must pay them, and if we do not do that we may as welltake the straight path back to the caves whence we came. If we do not reward merit in the military or any other sphere we shall not be able to get suitable men to qualify for important positions, and it is an insane dictum or doctrine to suggest that those who burn the midnight oil in an endeavour to achieve success while others snore should not gain some advantage from additional effort. I object to such a suggestion definitely and positively, and those who propound such a doctrine are only paving the way to their own doom.
I hope that the Government will see that the civil section of the men about to retire will not be placed in. a more advantageous position than the men who will be retired from the service under ordinary circumstances. I do not know how public servants will fare under the proposed superannuation system, particularly those on the lower rung of the ladder, but I am relying upon the Government seeing that the civil section of the Defence Department shall not be placed either above or below those employees who must eventuallybe retired from the Public Service. I support the Bill.
SenatorDE LARGIE (Western Australia) [11.44] . - The principle upon which this Bill is based is one which every fair-minded person will subscribe to, because if wo take away the occupation of a man we must be prepared to do something for him. I was somewhat surprised at the indignation displayed by Senator Lynch concerning the harmless term of “brass hats” which has been applied to our military officers.
-It may be considered harmless by the honorable senator; but it has not been used in that sense.
– It has always been regarded as harmless amongst those with whom it originated. We know that it originated amongst the “ diggers.”
– It hasbeen “ put on “ to us by some of your “beautiful” friends.
– I have heard the honorable senator when serving in a military capacity referred to as one of the “brass hats,” and a few moments later designated by the same men as “Charlie,” and in so doing referring to him in the most eulogistic terms. I do not thinkfor a momentthat the term haa been used in a disrespectful or contemptuous manner, as such expressions are quite common in almost any walk of life.’ I can recall the time when the officers were referred to by members of theparty to which Senator Lynch once belonged as “gilt-spurred roosters.” That was quite a common term at the time, and I believe that Senator Lynch has also subscribed to it.I heard the term “ brass hats “ used in Prance during the war in any but a sneering or contemptuous manner, and in the service of the military it was generally applied to those holding positions of authority. The honorable senator will also remember a period in Kalgoorlie when the bosses were referred to as “silvertails,” and I am quite sure that no man in Kalgoorlie using theword had the slightest intention of casting a slur upon those to whom it was applied. I am sure that those who use the term “brass hats” do not wish to be disrespectful to our military officers. It is a harmlesscolloquialism.
– It is not the “ diggers “ only who use it.
– It originated with the “ diggers.” I am quite in favour of doing all we can for the “ brass hats “ and for other members of the Forces who have rendered such excellent service to their country. I support the Bill.
SenatorFAIRBAIRN (Victoria) [11.48]. - We are undera debt of gratitude to Senator Lynch for not allowing this measure to pass without some expression of appreciation of the valuable services performed by those men who are to be compulsorily retired. We all regret the circumstances which necessitate their retirement, because they rendered magnificent service to the Empire. Surelyour memories are not so short that we can forget all they have done. It is gratifying to realize that some slight consideration is to be shown them, and I believe that it is owing solely to the present financial situation that the compensation to be provided is not more substantial. A large number of men, particularly the professional soldiers, have given up their lives to this work, and many of those who are up in years are quite unfitted for the ordinary avocations of civil life. Those who have retired, voluntarily comprise the younger men, many of whom it is hoped will find suitable employment in other spheres. The Empire is deeply indebted to our officers and men for the self-sacrificing spirit they have displayed, and my only regret is that they cannot be more adequately compensated. I support the Bill.
– Senator Lynch seemed to be somewhat surprised! because I did not immediately rise to continue the debate on the second reading of this Bill. The measure has only just reached, my hands, and he could hardly expect me to enter into a discussion of its merits or demerits in such a way as to hold the attention of Senator Lynch, who is probably one of our most exacting senators. I did not intend to weary the Senate with mere words, and I shall never rise to discuss a Bill unless I have something pertinent to say. Whether I am the Acting Leader of a party of one, or the Deputy Leader of a party of two, I intend to pursue that course. From the discussion which has taken place it will have been noticed that honorable senators had very little to say concerning the details of the measure. Most of the time of the Senate has been occupied in giving praise to those brave men who have returned, and who are likely to receive some benefit in the form of compensation on their retirement from the service. I have nothing but praise to offer to the men who have seen service, because any man who offers his life on behalf of his country or in support of any principle in which he believes, is deserving of our commendation. My attitude on war, and that of the party to which I belong, is well known, and I think it is practically the same as that of the Radical and Labour parties in Great Britain today. I am surprised at Senator Lynch taking such strong exception to the term “brass hats,” which has been used by all sections of the community from time to time. I have read that interesting little publication known as Aussie, which was first producedat the Front, and from which I have gathered that the expression was used by the soldiers when referring to their officers. In the political or industrial sphere, men who receive orders usually refer to those who give orders by some such term. Fully fifteen years ago, and consequently long before the war, there were volunteer soldiers in this Chamber who were frequently referred to as “holiday soldiers.” One ex-senator who has now passed beyond this vale of tears was referred to as “ the hero of Chowder Bay,” and was looked upon as one of those brave gentlemen who delighted in showing what fine soldiers they were on Saturday afternoons.
– He was one of the finest men physically who ever sat in this Chamber.
– Yes, and one who could speak for twelve hours at a time without showing fatigue. If that man had seen service on the battlefield he would have shown that he possessed the pluck of the British race, and if he had been still living he would have figured among the beneficiaries under this measure. The term “brass hats “ is not hurled in any sneering way at men who went abroad and fought. Certainly, I would not use the expression in any such sense, although, as a matter of fact, I do not recall that I have uttered it at all. There is always a tendency to speak of men in high places in a rather slighting manner. I have sat in the Senate for about three months. I recently met a supporter of the Labour party, who asked my opinion of a certain State politician. Because I did not pass judgment in a manner satisfactory to my interrogator, he said, “ Oh, you are just another of these politicians ! “ The word “ politician “ is very often employed in a critical and derogatory sense. Among the soldier members of this Chamber there are men of very high rank and reputation. They have commanded such large numbers of men under conditions of active warfare that, upon that basis alone, they would have been famous in earlier history. After all, it has been more or less correctly asserted that “ brass hat “ is merely a term of endearment - an expression of light familiarity. It may be occasionally used in another sense, however, probably emanating from a kind of fear among the “ lower orders “ that the “ brass hats” stand for that type of militarism which the Allies were out to crash during the great war, and Senator Lynch has admitted that in earlier generations and in other countries the people feared the dominance of militarists.
I trust that in the apportionment of compensation under this Bill the rank and file will be given full consideration and fair play. The interests of the “ bottom dog “are often overlooked, or only partially safeguarded. Men in the ranks have a general feeling that their officers - those in authority over them everywhere - are inclined to pass them by, while paying inordinate attention to their own social equals. As a layman studying this measure, I would have preferred to see a schedule attached indicating the exact amounts of compensation which will be paid to every class, from the highest rank to the humblest private. As a general principle, there should be differentiation in favour of all those who saw active service.
– I am afraid that Senator MacDonald, in his effort to relieve certain persons elsewhere from the obloquy attaching to their use of the term “ brass hat” has rather seriously involved himself by his reference to the proletariat as the “lower orders.” I have not heard that term used for many years. The objection to the phrase “ brass hats “ is the manner of its use, and may be admirably summed up in the words of an old comic opera. - “ It wasn’t so much the thing he said as the nasty way he said it ! “
There is an important principle involved in the Bill, and I would not be consistent if I did not make special reference to it now. Speaking upon the AddressinReply, while I approved of the proposal of the Government to introduce a measure dealing with retirements from the Defence and Navy Departments, I expressed the hope that the authorities would deal as liberally as possible withall ranks, and that compensation would be paid with due regard to the basis employed in the British and Indian armies. However, I do not expect the Commonwealth authorities to’ go to the same lengths, because circumstances here are somewhat different. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has stated that the chances of a young nian upon retiring from the Forces would be in the proportion of two to one as compared with those of junior officers leaving the British or Indian armies. In my view, the proportion of opportunity is even greater. With respect to compensation, however, I may cite cases of the retirement of junior officers in the Indian Army who have seen five years’ service. The compensation paid to a subaltern of the Indian Army after five years’ service would amount to£1,225, while a captain with five years’ seniority, upon retiring, would receive £2,000. Under this Bill, a junior officer with five years to his credit will be retired on thebasis of one month’s pay for each year of service. If it were not for the inclusion of a six months’ minimum provision, he would receive compensation equivalent to pay for only five months. There is a vast disparity, therefore, between the circumstances of a junior officer in the Australian Forces and of a subaltern in the British or Indian armies. I understand that the Senate has not the right to amend this measure, since it is a financial Bill.
– That is notso. It will be competent for the Senate to make amendments in this Bill.
– I am glad to hear that, and may take an opportunity later to avail myself of the rights of this Chamber. I understood the Minister (Senator Pearce) to say that the reason why differentiation is shown between the oases of commissioned officers and of noncommissioned officers and privates is because the latter are engaged for short specific periods.
– But there is no differentiation.
– The difference arises in that the compensation is based on remuneration. Privates and noncommissioned officers are engaged either for three or five year periods, and they are bound to serve for their full terms; I desire to know how many privates and men of non-commissioned rank are about to be retired who have possibly four or five years yet to serve. These will be retired on a disadvantageous basis compared with commissioned officers. They have been engaged for periods of three years or five years, and the basis of their compensation should, in my opinion, be payment for the unexpired period of their term of service, because under military law they could not have broken their contract. Having engaged to serve three years or five years, they would be bound to do so. If any such men are being retired, the basis of their compensation under this Bill should, as I have said be payment for the unexpired portion of their term of service. I thought it right to refer to these matters of principle involved in the Bill on the motion for the second reading, and I may deal with them more in detail when the Bill is in Committee.
– As honorable senators are aware, I have devoted some time to this subject, and have indicated that I feel pretty strongly with regard to the matter. I listened to the debates on the measure in another place. I have studied the mental attitude of members of the Parliament generally on the question, and have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I could not succeed in securing any greater advantage for the military members of the Defence Department who are being retired under this scheme than is provided for in the Bill. I say that I have come to that conclusion very reluctantly, and even now I would try to do something in the matter if I thought I had any possibility of succeeding. I will refrain from taking any further very vigorous action, because I know, as a matter of fact, that quite a number of thei men who have been retired are waiting for the compensation proposed, and are in urgent need of the money. That is the factor which chiefly determines me now in refraining from any further strenuous effort to secure better compensation for these men, which I am satisfied they are entitled to. I speak of members of the military and not of the civil section who are being retired.
I have not devoted very much thought to the members of the civil section who are being retired. I regret that they are being placed on the same footing as military officers. The conditions that apply to the military men do not apply to civilians. If. there is a claim for any compensation at all for the military man, and, in my view, there is a very strong claim, it is based upon the fact that he is a highly-qualified professional man, whose training in his profession necessarily unfits him for any other occupation. That argument cannot be applied to civilians employed in the Defence Department. They are in very much the same position as other members of the general Public Service who may be retired. I fancy that the Government have created a very considerable hornets’ nest for themselves in treating civilians in the Defence Department who are being retired in a different way from the treatment accorded to retiring civilians who are members of other branches and Departments of the Public Service. I am not particularly concerned that the Government have decided to give them some compensation. I only say “ Good luck to them.”
I am concerned about the treatment that is being offered to military officers, and I very much regret that the compensation proposed for them under this Bill is not on a more generous scale. Honorable senators will have noticed in the Budget proposals of the Treasurer that provision is made for the relief of a number of taxpayers, and that relief, in a great measure, is to be given to taxpayers who do not particularly need it.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss the Budget.
– I do not propose to do sp. I merely wish to say, when it is stated that this country cannot afford to provide a sum greater than £300,000 for the purpose of compensating men who are being retired from the Defence Force, that I believe that if the relief proposed to be given under the Budget proposals of the Treasurer were restricted or hot provided for, a greater measure of justice might be done to a section of the community that deserves justice and generous treatment at the hands of this Parliament. Feeling sure, as I do, that there is not a possible chance of obtaining a greater measure of justice for these men who are being compul sorily retired from the only profession and occupation they know, and knowing, as I do, that a great many of them, by reason of their compulsory retirement, are in a state of actual financial want at the present time, I do not propose, by any action of mine, to delay the passage of the Bill.
– I rise in order that I may pay a short tribute to the worth and work of the men whom it is proposed to compensate under this Bill on their retirement from the Defence Force. I presume that it has been mainly owing to the provisions of the Washington Conference that we have been able to reduce our expenditure on defence by some millions sterling. There is no question in the circumstances that we can afford to adequately compensate all these men. I am only sorry that the Government have not made more generous provision for their compensation than is proposed in the measure under consideration. I can confirm the statement made by Senator Drake-Brockman. I have had communications from some of the retired men, who are hoping that relief will be granted to them as quickly as possible. I know that some of them are absolutely inwant at the present time. One man told me that the compensation which he would receive under the Bill would be something like £200. He saidthat his money is now going out and nothing is coming in, and if he received his compensation money he might put it into some business which would give him a return. I hope that the Bill will be carried. It has my hearty support, and I trust that it will not be long before the relief for which it provides will be granted to those who are in need of it.
.- I would like to say a word in appreciation of the services which have been rendered so effectively by the gentlemen for whom provision is being made under this Bill. I personally regret that the Government could not see their way to make the proposed scaleof compensation somewhat more liberal. We owe a debt to these men and to all the men who helped us in our time of stress. We have to realize the fact pointed out by Senator DrakeBrockman, that many of these men can follow no other occupation, because they gave their lives and services to the country in following the profession of a soldier. They did so in order that they might be able to come to our aid should a need for their services arise. The need did arise, and all these gentlemen covered themselves with honour in helping to defend the country and carry the war to a successful issue.
It has been suggested by one honorable senator that some discrimination should be made between men who took an active part in the war and those who remained in Australia. I hope that such a suggestion will not be entertained for a moment. Officers had to remain at home for the training of those who had to participate in active service. They did as good work at home as those who went to the war when they carried out effectively their duties of training the men who had to go to the Front.
– Every man could notbe in the firing line.
– That is so. Many of these men were very keen on going to the war, but were not allowed to do so, because it was realized that we could not unduly deplete our training staff in Australia. If we had done so, our soldiers could not have made the Tecord for this country that they did make. Many of the officers to whom I refer were so keen about going to the Front that they applied more than, once to be allowed to go, and were rebuked by the authorities for their continued applications. In view of the facts, I repeat that the suggestion to discriminate between these men and those who went on active service should not be entertained for a moment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Power to retire members of Defence Force).
– I should like to know the position of officers who were for a considerable time in the Defence Force, but who, since the war, have been occupying positions in other Government Departments. Will this Bill apply to them ? There are a number of men who were very useful officers during the war, and, on their return to Australia, the Government to some extent rewarded them for ti.eir services by giving them promotion in other Departments. Will they be in a position to take advantage of the provisions of this Bill?
.- This Bill will not apply to such officers. They have either been seconded temporarily, that is to say, lent to other Departments, or have been permanently transferred to those ‘Departments. The Bill refers only to permanent officers of the Defence Department who have now retired or have been retired. The officers to whom Senator de Largie refers have not been retired. They have merely been seconded to other Departments, and on the termination of their present temporary employment in those Departments, they will come back to. the Defence Department.
SenatorDE LARGIE (Western Australia) [12.27]. - I should like to follow up my questionby asking whether these officers who have been taken into other Departments, while still holding their military positions, will, if retired at a later period, be given the benefit of the provisions of this Bill?
– I am informed that there is only one such case as the honorable senator has referred to. The officer is still a member of the Defence Department and has been merely seconded whilst filling a position in another Department. If his services in that position were terminated he would, I presume, go back to the Defence Department. This Bill will have no future effect. It begins and ends with those who are being dealt with at the present time. The officer to whom Senator de Largie’s remarks apply will have on retirement to take his chance with other officers of the Public Service under the general superannuation scheme proposed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Upon the retirement or discharge, in pursuance of the last preceding section, of any member of the Permanent Naval, Military, or Air Forces, or of any employee holding on or before the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, a classified office in the Defence Department, who has not attained the age of sixty-five years, there shall be payable to him compensation in the proportion of one month’s pay for each year of service:
Provided that the amount payable to any member or employee under this section shall be not less than the equivalent of six months’ pay, and shall not exceed the equivalent of twelve months’ pay plus pay for the unexpired period of the service of the member or employee.
– Is the compensation to he granted to the civil members of the staff? Quite a number of men have been retired without receiving anything, although they have served their country well.
– In some cases the men have completed their full term of service, but in others they are being retired in the middle of their careers.
– When men are young they are fitted to take up other occupations, but it is very hard on old and faithful employees of the Government for them to he dismissed without a penny on reaching the retiring ago.
– I quite agree that some provision ought to be made for such officers, and the Government propose to do so under the Superannuation Bill. If a man has occupied a paid position in the Public Service until reaching the retiring age, he has presumably made some provision for his retirement. I quite agree that the Government should supplement such provision, and that is to be done under the Superannuation Bill that will probably be brought in within a few weeks.
– Some of the men I have in mind have put their cases to me. They have served their country well for the whole of their lives.
– We must draw the line somewhere.
– Yes; but Governments have been so long in drawing that line that many good and faithful public servants have gone out of the Service in a poverty-stricken condition. I am not against the present proposal, but I was hoping that some consideration would be shown in the cases to which I have referred.
– Are the words “who has not attained the age of sixty-five years “ intended to govern, as they would, according to the literal construction of the clause, both members of the Military
Forces and civil officers?
– No, it only applies to the civil officers.
– May I suggest that there is a great risk of doubt arising as to the construction of the clause?
– It could not have that effect, because a military officer cannot continue in the Service until he is sixty-five years of age.
– I intend to move that the word “ one ‘’ be left out, and the word “ two “ inserted, and that the word “ six “ be altered to “ twelve.” The result would be that the amount of compensation would be in the proportion of two months’ pay for each year of service, and it would mean that the minimum amount would not be less than the equivalent of twelve months’ pay. How far the country could afford that is a matter to be considered.
– We can afford to treat our soldiers well.
– It would be nothing like the amount that officers in the Indian Arm receive, nor anything like the sum paid to men retiring from the British Army. The payment would not be twice the amount contemplated by the Bill, because it would be governed by the concluding words that fix a maximum. All are agreed that Parliament should be as liberal as it can. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by leaving out the word “‘one” line 10, and inserting .the Word “ two V in lieu .thereof. .
– I like the light and airy way in which the honorable senator proposes to scatter hundreds of thousands of pounds about. His amendment, if agreed to, would mean an additional expenditure of considerably over £100,000. It has to be remembered that this Bill represents only a part of the financial proposals of the Government. It cannot be viewed as an entirely separate measure, and there is not the slightest chance of such an amendment being made in another place. The honorable senator is a little inconsistent in his attitude. When I remarked that an Australian officer on retiring had twice as good a chance as an officer in the Indian Army to take up another occupation owing to the better economic conditions obtaining in the Commonwealth, Senator Garling put the chances of the Australian as three to one. Yet he now proposes to practically double the amount of compensation. In many cases that would bring the payment above that received in the Indian Army.
– Why is provision not made for officers and men who fought to get better treatment than those who stayed behind ?
– There is a lot of humbug talked about this matter by those who play to the gallery. What is meant by the officers who fought? I know men who went away with the Australian. Imperial Force, but never saw a shot fired.
– That was not their fault.
– Neither was ,it their fault that some officers were kept to do work away from the firing line. If there were to be such a differentiation as the honorable senator suggests it would be necessary to distinguish between the men who went to the Front and those who were kept on military duty in England or Australia. The man who stayed at Horseferry-road would have to be compensated at a different rate from the man who went to France,’ and of those who served in France the men who went into the front line would have to be compensated at a different rate from those who remained at the base. I ask Senator Garling not to press his proposed amendment. It will delay the passage of the Bill, which we shall not be able to get back from another place for several weeks. The amendment has not one chance in a thousand of being accepted by the other place, but, if it is persisted in, it will prevent the men from receiving their money for some time.
– The Minister (Senator Pearce) has misunderstood me. I objected that the clerical division which remained behind in Australia is treated, I understand, in exactly the same way as those who went overseas to fight. So far from my raising a. popular cry, it is a very unpopular one. The popular cry comes from the man who stands up and pledges that everybody, whether a coldfooter who stayed in Australia or a man who fought overseas, should be treated alike. I donot say that the man who enlisted With theintentionofgoing overseas to fight shouldbe penalized, but there is nouse blinking the fact that men stayed at home who were eligible to go away. As an Australian and a Britisher who was not able to fightfor the Empire and humanity, I wish to pay a tribute of respect and thanks tothose who are being dealt with in this Bill. Ithink that theirloyal and long services ito their country, and their all-round wonderful efficiency, is not being recognisedasliberally as it deserves. I think, like Senator Garling, that the compensation is, in most cases, inadequate. When we come to consider the high efficiency of the Australian officers, from the generals at the top to ‘the subordinates at the bottom, and to ‘compare them with the officers of any other army, and when we bear in mind the fact that our officers are getting a little less than one-third of the allowance given toofficers inthe British Army, I think theGovernment cannotbe accused of extravagance. Iwish alsoto enter my protest against the use of the term “brass hats.” The officers who are called “ brass hats “ have proved themselves to be splendid and efficient men, and it is very ill-fitting for those who stayed at home, and even for some of the soldiers who went to the Front, to refer to them as “ brass hats.”
– I think every member of the Committee would be glad to support -the amendment suggested by Senator Garling. We all wish, not only to appear generous, butto be generous to those men who have done so much forus. At the same time itmust be remembered that we are here in the capacity of custodians of the public purse, and that we have to show some consideration for the taxpayers of Australia, whohave tofind the money. We also have to consider the proposals put forward in the ‘Budget, and to rememberthat if this proposed increase is agreed to very considerable re-adjustments will have to be made inthe whole financial programmeof the Government. Fault has been found with theGovernment in this Chamber, and particularly in another place, for the manner in which theseretiring allowances have been framed . In looking into this matter very carefully, it will be seenat once that it would be almost impossible fortheGovernment to adjust to a nicety the claims ofall -the man,boththose who went to the warand those who stayed athome., and to reward them justly,. I remember that for nearly two years I was constantly at loggerheads with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce)because so many men had come to me inSouth Australia, and wanted to go to the war. I came to Melbourne and interviewed the Minister on several occasions, and we nearly ‘fell out over the f actthatthese men wanted to go tothe war and were not permitted to. I wanted them to go, but ‘the Minister said their duty was in Australia, and that the Defence authorities insisted that theyshould remain here. If weare going to pick out for special consideration the men whoactually went to the war, then wemust place on the same level thosewho wanted to go but were not allowed to. To be precise in the matter we wouldhave to go farther, and give extracompensationto those who took a prominent pastin thewar.I am notasufficient authority on war matters to know which classofofficertook the greatest risk. We are told by some that it was the generals, by others the captains, by others the lieutenants, and by others the noncommissioned officers. We have been told that certain units, the machine-gun section, or “suicide brigade,” for instance, took greater risks than any one else.If we would be fair to the fine point of nicety suggested, we should single out every class of soldier, and pay him something according to the special risk he took. Theman whowent to London might have been struck by a bomb from the air. The man on a transport was liable ‘to be submarined at any hour of the day or night, and, although ‘he was not at the war, he took great risks-. As a matter of fact, it is quite impossible for the Defence authorities to regulate these payments to the nicety that some honorable senatorsdesire. There is another class of officer who must beconsidered - the man who would be due to retire in a few months, but who isnow being retired, and will be paid under the Bill more thanhe would receive if he had remained in theService until the end of his term.
– Thereare only one or twoof those.
SenatorNEWLAND . - It does not matter if there is only one. If we are going to do thebusiness to the fine point suggested we shallhave to consider him. It would be most unfair to say to this person that no matter what risk he had taken, or what splendid services he had rendered,his allowance wouldbe cut down because he would be going out of theService in the ordinary course of events in a few months. Every man who went to the war was prepared to take the risks incidental to it. To me the only just and fair method is to place all men on the same footing. Ifwetry to differentiate and separate them into different classes, it will cause no end of trouble. I regret that this Bill has been termed a “ vote-catching measure.” If I could be persuaded that ithad anything to do with votes I would vote to throw it out neck and crop. I do not think that this Senate, or any honorable senator, would lend himself for one moment to the passing of any legislation that could reasonably be called “ vote catching.” If we believe the Victorian press, everything thatthis Parliament does is forthe purpose of catching votes. There is no depthof degradation to which members of this Parliament have not descended, according to the press, and I say, thank God that the members of this Parliament care very little what the Melbourne press says about them !
– Especially when it has a German editor.
– The German editor is as bad as the other and the other is as bad as the German. If members of Parliament were not conscious that they are doing their duty fearlessly, and in the best interests of the community, and if they took any notice of what the Victorian press says,this Parliament would get to a low pitch indeed. The opinions ofthe Victorian press do not matter a snap of the thumb to members of thisParliament. It will be a bad day for us when we heed the wicked and libellous criticism of members of Parliament, from the leader down to the humblest of us. I repeat that we would all like to support Senator Garling in his proposed amendment, but I think that even Senator Garling, when he looks intothe matter fairly and squarely, and realizes the difficulties, dissatisfaction, andinjustice it would create, will realize the wisdom of not persisting in it, apart altogether from the impossibility of carrying it out. I think he will agree that the correct thing to do is to accept the
Bill as it has been introduced. I have no doubt that its provisions have been very carefullyconsidered, and thatthe basis of compensation or retiring allowancehas been carefully thought out.
– The Bill was all right until the other House dealt with it.
-My honorable and gallant friend means that the civil section should not be placed on the same footing as the active service section. There I disagree with him. There would be greatdifficulty in picking out the manwho wanted to go and was prevented from doing so. All those who went overseas took certain risks. It seems to me that this measure, although it is far from perfect, should be accepted.
– I do not think any of the civil section were prevented from going.
SenatorNEWLAND.- Yes, they were. Many menwanted to go out of the civil section and volunteer as members of the fighting units.
– The Government could not have stopped the civil servants, but it could stopthe military ones.
– The men would have had to resign their positions and take the chance of getting them back afterwards.
– Most of the men who were keen enough to want to get there, got there.
– Many ofthe men to whom I am referring had wives and families depending upon them. They felt that they should be permitted to go to the war without having to resign their positions. So far as I can judge from reading the criticism of the Bill in another place, it embodies as fair a way as it is possible to find of adjusting the retiring allowances.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– This clause may be regarded as the kernel off the measure, because it regulates the mode of compensation for all those officers, military and civil, who are about to be retired. It will be within the recollection of honorable senators that, when the Bill was before another place, especially in its introductory stages, it was in an altogether different formas to the compensation advantages.
Thos© in the higher ranks were to receive a certain allowance for each year of service, plus payment for the unexpired term of service, whilst those in the lower ranks were to receive allowances equivalent to two months’ salary, and so on. Whether it was because of persistent criticism elsewhere or not, I cannot say; but the Bill comes to us in an entirely different form. I think I am expressing the views of honorable senators when I say that it would have been more acceptable to this Chamber if it had reached us in its original form. Officers in the lower ranks are now on the same level as officers in the higher ranks. There is no distinction or differentiation, although, as was explained by the Minister (Senator Pearce), officers in the lower ranks have short periods of service to their credit, and in no instance are their opportunities in other walks of life so seriously interfered with by “Their retirement.
– Not in all cases.
– I am speaking broadly. It will be correct to say that if a military officer is retired at fortyeight years of age, and has to fight the battle of life again, he will have a very much more difficult row to hoe than men of younger ages; whereas men in subordinate ranks retired . at the end of five years’ service will be scarcely handicapped at all. Yet in this Bill we put all these men on the same plane, and so I feel obliged to say that men in the subordinate ranks are extremely lucky. The Bill, in consequence, is hardly fair to men in the higher ranks. It is a deviation from the cardinal principle that merit should get its reward. This prin ciple works no injury to the man who does not try, as he will always get the full reward applicable to his class. But it is a backward step to underrate the man who strives, while others play or waste their time. Again, it is unfair to elevate in this way officers who did not respond when the call for service resounded throughout the land, and place them in the same position as ether men who resolved to do something for their country in its hour of danger.
– There are very few in that class now.
– At all events, there was an outcry at the time that of all the Commonwealth Departments the Defence Department was the one in which, there was the largest number of slackers.
– I - think there were several explanations made at the time in regard to that complaint.
– I suppose the Minister will not say that some of those men are not in the Department still.
– I think they have all gone.
– Well, to that extent, the position may be more satisfactory. With the exception of a measure passed in 1911 to pay certain allowances to widows of men who were retired from the Public Service, there has been no attempt in the history of the Commonwealth to compensate public servants in the manner contemplated by this Bill. This fact again entitles me to say that these men who are threatened with retirement are mighty lucky. As a matter of fact, the Bill, in its present form, is nothing but a measure of convenience - a sop to Cerberus; and a confession by the Government that rather than stand up to their own measure they prefer to surrender to criticism, and pay the same compensation to even civilian employees, notwithstanding all that may follow in the wake of this policy. Whether the Government are prepared to stand up to all that it means or not, I am unable to say. If they intend to pay allowances to all public officers who may be retired in future, well and good. It may be said that similar provision will be made under the Superannuation Bill. It would be possible for the Government, unless they intend this Bill to be a precedent, to retire other officers without compensation, this year or next year. If they adopt my suggestion they will cut out altogether compensation to civilian employees, and absorb them: in some other Department of the Commonwealth Service. By paying to these officers certain specified retiring allowances, they are setting up a formula that they will have to stand to in future. I am emphasizing this in order to get the Government out of a hole, if possible, because officers who may be retired in the future may, by virtue of this measure, attempt to extract extraordinary retiring allowances from the Government.
– There has never been any retrenchment in the Commonwealth Public Service. No: nien have ever been put off as is now contemplated.
– Still, my answer is that the Government have power to retire any person without compensation, excepting only those who came over to the Commonwealth with the accrued rights of their State service.
– No. Officers retired will be entitled, in certain circumstances, to six months’ retiring allowance.
– That will be in the nature of long leave.
– Then the Government are entitled to retire officers without paying compensation if they have taken, their long leave previously.
– The honorable senator is fighting shadows. No Commonwealth Government has enforced a policy of retrenchment.
– I am pointing out that, in my opinion, the Government are taking a false step by placing all these officers on the same level in regard to retiring allowances, unless, ‘of course, they are prepared to deal with future retirements in the same manner.
– We have a scheme prepared under the Superannuation Bill.
– I hope that measure will soon become operative. In the meantime, the Government are, I fear, setting an example that may be their own undoing. My advice is to cut out the civil employees from the benefits of the measure. I understand that there are less than 100 civilians being retired, and surely it is possible to absorb that number in the general Public Service. My complaint in the matter is that we are, in this Bill, establishing a precedent which we may find it very difficult and inconvenient to live up to.
– The honorable senator has reached the limit of the time allowed him under the Standing Orders.
– I do not intend to press my request after what has been said in this Chamber, but I should like to reply to the Minister’s statement that I have put it forward in a “ light and airy fashion.” On the contrary, I have done so with a full sense of the responsibility involved, because I have felt that a most deserving body of men are not being dealt with under this Bill as we should deal with them. I do not charge the Government with being illiberal in this matter, because I know that they felt circumscribed by the thought that they could only devote a certain amount of money to this purpose. I know that in the past this Parliament has agreed in a light and’ airy fashion to the expenditure of large sums of money which the Commonwealth could ill afford to spend, but this is a case in which we would have been justified in going to the limit of our generosity. I would still be disposed to press my request were it not for the assurance of the Minister that there would not be the slightest chance that it would be accepted in another place. Another reason, however, for not pressing it is that persistence in the matter might in the circumstances be regarded as factious opposition, and would delay the payment of the compensation proposed by the Bill to those who are anxiously awaiting it. I mentioned on the second reading the case of privates and non-commissioned officers engaged under a contract necessitating their service for three years or five years. I was under the impression that, as under a civil contract, both parties to the contract under which these men are engaged would be bound to carry it out, but I have been informed that whilst the Crown could enforce the carrying out of the contract of service by the men, it reserves to itself the right to determine “their service at any time. In the circumstances, my remarks were based on wrong premises, and these men could not be dealt with under this Bill, as I thought they might be. I have a great deal of sympathy with Senator Lynch’s remarks in favour of differentiating between the civil and military members of the Defence Department who are being retired, but I recognise that there are two sides to the question. For the reasons I have stated, I ask leave to withdraw my request.
Request, by leave, withdrawn.
.- Following up the remarks made by Senator Lynch, -I express my regret that the Government could not see their way to submit a measure differentiating between the civil and military members of the Defence Department proposed to be compensated under this Bill on their retirement.
– The Government did introduce a measure differentiating between them, but another place would not accept it.
– We have to deal with the measure as we find it. There is no doubt that a man engaged for years, eveninhomeservice inthe military section of the Department, becomes to a greater or less extent unfitted for ordinary civil occupation. That cannot be said of those who have been engaged in civil occupations in the Department.
– They become practically as useless as the others for outside work.
– I do not think so. A man might be engaged in a clerical branch of the Defence Department for twenty years, and if we were to retire him it could not be contended that he would be unfitted for clerical employment outside the Public Service.
– Whilst many of these men have been engaged in the Department, the places in other Departments, which they might occupy, have been filled by returned soldiers, and we cannot displace them.
– I admit that that may apply to some of the civilian members of the Defence Department who are being retired. I am satisfied that this measure would have been more acceptable to honorable senators if it had discriminated between the civil and military members of the Defence Department. . I realize that some consideration should begiven to civil employees, whether in the Defence or any other Department, where their retirement is due to necessary retrenchment. I understand that such consideration is proposed to be given in the Public Service Superannuation Bill, which we hope to have before us shortly.
– It should be borne in mind that under this Bill we are dealing with persons retiring not only from our Military Force, but from our Naval Force. I have had a comparison submitted to me which shows that officers retired from the Royal Navy receive compensation which places them in a position of great advantage compared to that which officers retired from our Navy will occupy under the provisions of this Bill.
– How does the compensation proposed by the Bill compare with that given to officers of theRoyal Military Forces.
– I understand that the comparison would be the same in their case. I have been informed that officers retired from the Royal Navy receive a much greater amount of compensation in the form of gratuity, deferred pay, or some other form, than is proposed to be paid under this Bill to officers retiring from our Naval Force. I should like to have that matter cleared- up.
– There is a difference, and a very great difference, between the compensation proposed under this Bill and the compensation given on retirement to officers of theRoyal Navy. In the Royal Navy the minimum payment for the rank of sub-lieutenant is £500. That is the salary paid to an officer of that rank. A lieutenant on retirement receives gratuity amounting to from £350 to £700, plus an annual payment of from £82 10s. to £112 10s. These are generous provisions, and I am inclined to think they are over-generous. Under this Bill an officer of the Royal AustralianNavy will receive one month’s pay for each year of service, with a probable maximum of ten months’ pay, or from £300 to £400.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Compensation where person entitled to pension, &c.).
– I wish to learn from the Minister (Senator Pearce) whether this clause will have any effect in the case of a member retiring who had received a gratuity under the War Gratuity Act; I ask the question because’ the clause provides that there shall be deducted from the compensation payable to any member the amount of any compensation or special grant already paid to him in respect of any portion of the service in respect of which compensation is payable under the Bill. There can be no doubt that we have paid the war gratuity in respect of such service. If the Minister can give the Committee an assurance that the clause will not cover payments made under the War Gratuity Act, there will probably be no objection to it.
– The clause will not apply to payments under the War Gratuity Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Compensation paid under this Act shall not be liable to income tax under any law of the Commonwealth or a State.
- Can we pass an Act affecting the power of a State to impose income tax?
– Yes, in regard to Commonwealth payments.We had to adopt special legislation to make the salaries of Commonwealth officers subject to State income tax.
– The matter referred to by Senator Garling is one of some importance, because if my memory serves me aright there have been two conflicting judgments as to the operation of the taxation systems in the State andFederal spheres . One judgment was. to the effect that the emoluments of Federal officers are not taxable, and the other to the effect that they arc. I should like the Minister to satisfy the Committee that the allowances made under this Bill will not be subject to State taxation.
– The question was submitted to the Crown Solicitor, and he says that the clause will exempt these payments from State income tax.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 -
A person to whom compensation has been paid in pursuance of this Act shall not be appointed to any position under the Commonwealth untilhe has, if so required by the authority making the appointment, paid into the Treasury an amount equal to the compensation so paid to him, or such proportionate amount as that authority determines.
– I am not going to debate this clause, because I feel that my views with regard to it would not be accepted in another place. Still I cannot allow the clause to go without saying what I think of it. It will work very harshly in some cases. It is proposed that no person to whom compensation has been paid under this Bill shall in future be appointed to any position under the Commonwealth until he has reimbursed the Commonwealth the amount, or a proportionate amount, of the compensation he has received.
– That is not a hard and fast provision. The honorable senator will note the words “ if so required by the authorities making the appointment.”
– I consider that the clause might have been better worded, though pref erably I would have deleted it. It appears to me that it lays down the principle that before there-engagement of any of these men they should return the compensation paid them under this Bill. It would work harshly in regard to a man who took up a farm, for instance-, and failed in the venture because of unsuitability for the work, and after three or four years desired to get back to the Service.
– I am glad Senator Garling has brought this point forward. There is a possibility of another war occurring a few years hence, and the Government would then be glad to re-engage men trained at the Duntroon College. If the Minister can give an assurance that in such circumstances men would not be required to return part of their compensation, I am content to let the matter rest there. The Duntroon students have cost the country a good deal of money, and they would be very useful to the Defence authorities if their services were ever required again.
– Senator Garling is quite right an assuming that a person brought back to the Commonwealth Service might be. an acquisition to the authorities. The benefit would not necessarily be all on the side of the individual concerned. I hope the Minister (Senator Pearce) will give an unequivocal assurance as to the recoupment of this compensation. It is to be given because an officer leaves, the Service, and there the matter should end. As Senator Rowell has suggested, the Minister should give an ample and very firm declaration that the Government intend that the utmost consideration shall be shown to these officers. In fact, I would rather see the clause struck out altogether.
– One clause in the Bill is worth twice as much as an assurance from the Government. The Minister (Senator Pearce) could only give a personal assurance. When questions as to recoupment of compensation arise there may be some other Government in power. When the late war broke out the then Government requisitioned the services of many officers who had fought in the South African campaign.
– No; those officers volunteered.
– The Government made use of their services, because it was believed that they were more efficient than those who had not givenwar service. Some of the men who have been through the Duntroon College have had active service, and in theevent of another war the Government would turn to them for help. In the circumstances, it should be clearly understood that a bargain has been made with these public servants for past services, and there should be no reflection on future engagements. The clause leaves the matter to the discretion of the Government of the day. I do not suggest that the present Government are going out of power, but they are powerless to reflect their present feelings on any Government who may succeed them. I do not like the clause, because the question is left to the discretion of the Government.
– If it is the desire of honorable senators to pass the Bill, so that these officers may receive the money falling to them, it would be well not to have too much repetition of the same point. With all respect, I think honorable senators are under some misconception as to what this Bill really does. Senator Senior said that the compensation is a payment for services given, but it is nothing of the kind. It is compensation for taking away a period of service that the officers have not given. Their salaries are presumedto have been adequate payment for the services already rendered. The clause is framed to meet all oases. In one class of case there may be a comparatively young man. What has been taken away from him is of comparatively small consideration ; but within a year or two he may apply for and receive some lucrative Government appointment. The very fact that he is given such an appointment will take away the claim that he had for compensation, because he will have had his career returned to him.
– And the Government are going to bring him under the superannuation scheme by which he will receive further compensation later on.
– Yes. The other class of case is where a man is reappointed to the Service, but where the circumstances are such that it would be a hardship to take away any portion of his compensation. The measure will be administered fairly, but it is necessary for it to be of an elastic nature in order to meet all cases.
– I approve of the clause. When the Government decided to retire certain members of the Forces, practically everybody in the Service was given the opportunity to retire voluntarily. I thought that that was a mistake at the time, and I am still of the same opinion. The Government should have selected the men. to be retired, and should have retained the best officers in the Service. Some of those who have been retired will have to be re-engaged. Some of them knew that their services would be needed at no very distant date, and they realized that in retiring they were taking advantage of an opportunity to get a couple of hundred pounds out of the Government. The Government have very properly taken the stand that these men cannot have it both ways. They cannot expect to have the full benefit of the compensation as well as a new job in the Service. The matter should be left to the discretion of the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 12 agreedto.
Clause 13 -
Where any person entitled to payment of compensation under this Act dies before payment is made, the amount of the compensation bo payable shall not form part of the estate of the deceased, and shall not be claimable by the executor or administrator of the estate, but may be paid to the dependants of the deceased in such proportions and under such conditions as the Minister approves.
– I draw attention to the use of the word “ dependant.” I ask the Minister (Senator Pearce) to refer to the War Gratuity Act and see the meaning given there. This Bill does not say who are the dependants. The definition of “ dependant “ in the War Gratuity Act includes a stepmother. I had a case before me professionally in which a soldier, who was killed on. active service, left behind a brother and sister, and also a stepmother. The stepmother had not been a dependant of the soldier during his life-time, but the circumstances were such that the brother and sister were dependent to the extent that they looked to such assets as the soldier leftfor their support and comfort in life. Notwithstanding this, the Department paid a gratuity to the stepmother and not tothe brother and sister.
– The Minister can determine who are the dependants.
– I hope the Minister will realize that there is something in the suggestion that we should be careful that the right persons get the money.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 -
There shall be payable from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which to the necessary extent is hereby appropriated accordingly, the following payments : - .
Compensation payable under this Act;
pay in lieu of furlough payable to any member or employee who is retired or discharged in pursuance of this Act;
the cost of removal, where authorized by law, of personnel, families, and furniture of members or employees retired or discharged in pursuance of this Act; and
the pay of excess personnel of the Defence Force pending absorption, transfer, retirement, or discharge.
– Will the Minister agree to the striking out of the words, “ where authorized by law,” in paragraph c? That, at least, would not be over generous. It would cost very little for the Government to meet the cost of the removal of an officer, his family, and furniture.
[3.151. - There is no necessity to strike out those words, because the Defence regulations make provision for the removal of personnel and furniture.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
.- I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
I am very anxious that the Bill should be passed through all stages to-day, and it will be necessary to send a message to the other House before we rise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill which has been forced upon the Government by the relentless hand of circumstances. It has for its object the continuity of one of the most important industries in Australia. It is quite well known that the beef industry of Australia is of very considerable importance, inasmuch as it returns to this country annually in normal times, approximately, £2,000,000. There will probably be some contention as to the wisdom of the Government subsidizing an industry the products of which are priced so abnormally high in many of the capital cities of Australia. It may be contended by some honorable senators that because beef in the capital cities is selling at an abnormally high price, it is inconsistent with good government to assist in the export of beef from any other part of the Commonwealth; but I want to point out that whatever may be the cause of the high price of beef, the profits do not go into the pockets of the producer. The pastoralists who produce the beef, particularly in the States of Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory, are not only not in receipt of the high prices which it would be reasonable to expect in view of the retail prices, but are not being paid rates which will enable them to breed cattle profitably. If the beef industry is to be saved and continued in Australia, it becomes absolutely imperative that the Government should do something to assist it. The industry to-day is in a depressed condition, consequent upon accumulated stocks in England and stagnation in the markets abroad. There have been abnormal reductions in prices since February, 1922. The condition of the industry abroad is reflected upon conditions in Australia, thus adding to the local depression. Australian frozen beef at Smithfield Market, England, dropped in price as follows: - Hindquarters on the 28th January, 1921, were worth ll1/2d. per lb., while on the 2nd March, 1922, they were worth 4d. per lb., representing a drop of 71/2d. per lb. Forequarters on the 4th February, 1921, were worth81/2d., and on the 16th February, 1922, twelve months later, only23/4d. Honorable senators will see that the market for beef in England has absolutely collapsed.
– Has there been a corresponding drop in prices in this country?
– Not in the retail prices, but in the wholesale. I am . of opinion, and I have expressed it before, that the high price of this and other commodities in the cities of Australia is very largely due to the enormouscost of distribution. There is an enormous waste in the distribution, not only of meat but of other necessaries of life, and consequently there are inflated prices. The profits from these high prices are not going into the pockets of the growers. In northern Australia the prices now being realized for stock do not cover the cost of rearing the cattle. A few illustrations will demonstrate the position still existing in Queensland and the Northern Territory. Fourhundred bullocks were sold recently at £3 2s. 6d. per head, and they cost the pastoralist £4 15s. tobreed. After travelling from one station to another in the Territory, 2,500 bullocks brought only £2l0s. per head, although two and a half years ago the same pastoralist sold similar bullocks of similar ages in the same district for £12 per head. A mob of prime fat cows in the Winton district was sold a little over a month ago, 400, representing the pick of them, bringing 30s. per head. In another instance 1,000 cows, with 70 per cent. calves at foot, were offered for £1 per head, but found no buyer. In the Charleville district 1,000 cows, with calves given in, were sold about six weeks ago, and it is reported that the price realized was 7s. 6d. per head. Honorable senators will see that cattle are being sold practically for their hides.
– Will the proposed subsidy enable the grower of cattle to carry on ?
– Yes. Some stations are shooting aged cows to make room for their progeny, and pastoralists are taking the necessary steps to prevent the natural increase of their herds. For 100 fat bullocks averaging about 700 lbs., the price secured was £2 5s. per head. The loss on them was £155, and 200 younger bullocks of the same mob will have to be sacrificed at a greater loss or held until next year. Graziers cannot afford this. Rents and taxes are still unpaid, and the banks will not advance above 20 per cent. until the value of the stock improves. Some of the banks are already refusing to continue their advances. To save the Australian beef and cattle industry, the Government were forced to the assistance of the cattle-growers, many of whom are unable to obtain supplies owing to their credit having failed. The Commonwealth Government agreed to grant a subsidy, but not before freights had been reduced to the extent of1/4d. per lb., and subject to a further stipulation that the cost of the beef at the works should be reduced by an equivalent amount. “The actual subsidy which the vendor of the cattle will receive will be3/4d. per lb. on the beef actually sent into cool stores. The Minister, in conducting the negotiations for this subsidy, laid it down that not only should the Government advance1/4d. per lb., but that the shipping companies should reduce their freights by1/4d. per lb., and that the actual cost at the meat works should also be reduced by1/4d. per lb. I think that the shipping companies might make an effort to reduce freights still further. The reduction in price at the works is contributed to partly by the men working there and partly by the owners. Meetings of the men and the owners were held, and a mutual arrangement was made by which the cost of treating the beef was reduced by1/4d. per. lb. This fact, I think, should convince honorable senators, more readily perhaps’ than anything else, of the bona fides of the undertaking. The men realize that it is imperative that an effort should be made to keep the industry going, and they have shown that they are prepared to accept a reduction in wages equivalent to1/8d. per lb. on the beef treated. It is also proposed in the Northern Territory, where the meat works are not in operation, to subsidize the actual export of live cattle to the extent of 10s. per head. It was originally anticipated that about £250,000 would be required to pay this subsidy, but owing to drought conditions having been experienced in ‘ the southwestern parts of Queensland, it is now believed that £137,500 will be sufficient. It is estimated that about 132,000,000 lbs. of meat will be exported from about 220,000 head of cattle of an average weight of 600 lbs., and the distribution of the subsidy is expected to he on the following basis: - Queensland, 190,000 head; Western Australia, 23,000; North- era Territory, 1,500;New South Wales, 9,000; Victoria, 1,000. Payment will be made by the Collector of Customs in the variousStates, to whom claims for subsidy must be rendered, accompanied by a certificate from the Commonwealth Meat Inspector or officer of Customs. In certain circumstances certificates may be issued by a vendor to the effect that he has received an equivalent to the subsidy from the intending exporter. The object is to insure that the subsidy will go into the pocket of the grower, and not into the pocket of any dealer. There is a further provision that where there are no freezing works, and cattle are not exported on the hoof, the subsidy may be paid to those who slaughter solely for canning purposes. The same conditions as to seasonal limits will operate in connexion with the subsidy for canning, namely, the beef must be slaughtered before 31st October.
– Does the Minister know that canners can only use the forequarters and the brisket?
– In that case the subsidy will not be paid.
– Then there will be very little subsidy paid for canning.
– I am advised that this provision will be of considerable assistance in certain localities to pastor alists, who will be able to get their cattle slaughtered, canned, and exported in that form. It is intended to make the provisions of the measure as general as possible. I shall move to request the House of Representatives to amend the Bill in order to provide for what is known as the Eastern trade. It has been represented to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) that a number of the Manilla and Singapore contracts are likely to be affected by the Bill in its present form, and as it is very desirable that Australia should make an effort to retain and extend trade in the East, it is advisable to slightly amend the Bill to meet the situation. I understand it is not possible to export the whole of the. meat included in those contracts before the 31st December, the time limit fixed in the Bill for the payment of the subsidy, so it is proposed to allow that meat if slaughtered before 31st October to be exported up to and including 31st
March, thus permitting an extra three months for the fulfilment of the contracts. The underlying principle of the Bill is, I think, clearly understood by honorable senators, so it is not necessary for me to enlarge upon it. The idea is to keep alive an industry which is worth to Australia approximately £2,000,000 a year in normal times. Unless something is done at. once it will languish and possibly take many years to recover, because herds, once depleted, are not built up so readily as flocks. I commend the Bill to honorable senators, and hope it will have a speedy passage.
– As a representative of an important meat-producing State the Bill commends itself to me. When one bears in mind the terrific competition in London during the last year or two, one is forced to realize that, unless something is done at this end to help the beef industry in Australia, it will be very seriously injured. We know what happened in connexion with the wool industry. If some steps had not been taken to protect the interests of those engaged in that industry it would have suffered just as the beef industry is suffering at the. present time. The fact that the Bradford woollen manufacturers complained bitterly about Bawra only goes to show that the measure of protection then designed for the wool industry of Australia was certainly well timed and appropriate. Adverse conditions in a big pastoral State like Queensland are reflected at once in all the other States, and therefore I hope honorable senators will approach the consideration of this measure in no State partisan spirit. As a keen party man myself, and a keen State man, I know that this measure means a great deal to all those who are connected with the business. This fact has also been borne in upon the employees of this industry - although I may note in passing that certain Victorian members of this Chamber apparently are sublimely unconscious of the arrangements that have been made - for the highly organized, workers, as their contribution to the solution of the present difficult problem, recently consented to what amounts to a reduction in wages. When those employees in the meat industry, who are amongst thebest organized and most militant in the Common wealth, agree to such action, it is proof positive that the crisis is imminent and urgent. What I have said should convince honorable senators of the vital necessity for this Bill. It is not necessary that I should support it at length, or with great vehemence, because it is clear that unless some steps of this kind are taken the existence of the big meat-exporting industry of Australia will be imperilled.
A great deal of the trouble is due to the competition o? the Argentine meat industry in London. How far the American Beef Trust is at the back of this competition, I do not know. From what I can gather, meat from the Argentine has been dumped into London in the past year at very low prices, in the hope, no doubt, that those concerned will recover their losses, and a little more, when they have crushed out Australian competition. If they were able to do that, the Argentine meat producers and the American trust magnates behind them would have an easy row to hoe in London.
One of the chief causes which has made the introduction of a measure of this kind necessary is the low purchasing power of British workers at the present time. There are from 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 workers in Great Britain who are to a greater or lesser extent unemployed, and honorable senators will agree that that involves a vast reduction in their consuming power. Australian meat, as a consequence, is less in demand than it would otherwise be, and the stores during the past year have been pretty full. The Argentine meat has a decided advantage from the fact” that it is chilled, and not frozen. It can be transported to London much more quickly, and in a better condition, than even £he best of our Australian meat.
Another thing that militated against the sale of the Australian product is a fact which was discovered a little while ago, and in connexion with which un honorable member of another place had reason to visit London. It was found that no provision was made for the purchase of Australian meat in Imperial Army and Navy contracts. I believe that that has been remedied; but the fact that no such provision was made reflects seriously on the patriotism of the persons responsible for the drawing up of those contracts.
I do not propose to refer to the cost of beef in this country, though, as at present a resident of Melbourne, it appears to me that its cost is much higher than it ought to be to the general consumer.
– The grower does not get the advantage.
– That is so. There is great waste in distribution. The meat industry was for years floating along on a rising market, and was in a prosperous condition; but I do not think that proper attention was bestowed to the very necessary reduction of distribution ex.penses.
– That will not fully account for the enormous price charged for beef to the consumer.
– I believe that the middlemen get a great deal more out of the industry than they are entitled to, but that is an evil inherent in the capitalistic system.
I was told only to-day by a gentleman coming from the north of Queensland that’ if the cattle-raisers in the Gulf country, which is almost entirely devoted to the meat industry, do not get some relief, they will have .to go out of the industry. They have found that with the reduced price they have been getting each year for their meat in London it is impossible to raise cattle at a profit. Honorable senators who know the Gulf country will understand that cattle raised in that area have to travel 300 or 400 miles on the hoof to reach the nearest railways for transport to the ports, or to the south. During that long journey fat bullocks lose heavily in condition. It has been proposed, as a means to avoid this loss, that freezing works should be established on the Norman River. I believe it is intended to approach the Governments interested to secure the establishment of such works. This shows that those engaged in the industry realize that, apart from the proposals of this Bill, something extra is required to preserve it. The cattle-raisers of the Gulf country say that unless every means is taken advantage of to reduce expenditure in order to enable them to export beef at the lowest possible cost, they must go right out of the business, and that a great area of Queeusland which at present is mainly devoted to the raising of .cattle must remain practically unoccupied.
Honorable senators are aware that the meat works established at Darwin represented the principal industrial enterprise in the Northern Territory, and they know what has been the effect of the closing down of those works. It is said by many people that labour troubles led to the closing of the works, but they were not solely responsible. Mr. Staniforth Smith, on his way down from Darwin about twelve months ago, said that one serious trouble was the lack of shipping facilities, and another the fall in the price of meat. The closing down of the works at Darwin affords another reason for the passage of a measure such, as the Bill now before us; because it is a strong indication of the disaster threatening the meat works in Queensland and the southern States. I do not think that any member of the Senate can doubt the necessityfor the passing of a Bill of this kind any more than they could doubt the need for the establishment of “ Bawra “ to uphold the price of wool, despite the protests of British manufacturers. I think I need say no more on the subject, but if there is anything I can do to assist the speedy passage of the measure, I shall be prepared to do it.
Debate (on motion by Senatorde Largie) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220908_senate_8_100/>.