6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General, transmitting additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1915, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
– The Assistant Minister of Defence, in reply to a question which I asked yesterday, stated that he intended to send a barge with a dredge that is to be despatched to Western Australia. Will the honorable gentleman obtain the opinions of nautical men as to the reasonableness of making a steam hopper barge the escort of a dredge for such a journey ?
– Would the Minister like to cross the Bight in a barge 1
– Dredger No. 19, which is to be sent from Melbourne to Fremantle, will be accompanied by the steam hopper barge Leander, recently purchased from the Launceston Marine Board. This barge is a newly-built vessel of about 700 tons displacement, which can travel at the rate of nine knots an hour, and has steamed out from England. To insure the safety of those who will travel on the dredger the Government intends that the barge and dredger shall be accompanied from Melbourne to Adelaide by the Protector, and from Adelaide to Fremantle by the South Australian lighthouse steamer Musgrave; and every other measure that can be devised for the safety of both vessels will be taken.
– Will the Minister take warning by the fate of the Endeavour, and arrange that at least one of the vessels of this fleet shall be fitted with wireless?
– I shall bring the suggestion under the notice of the Minister and of the Naval Board, so that effect may be given to it, if possible.
Henderson Naval Base - Port Stephens
– “Will the Assistant Minister inform me whether the Government and Naval Board have considered Sir Maurice FitzMaurice’s final report and plans concerning the Henderson Naval Base? Have the complete general plans been adopted? What proportion of the work to be done is likely to be undertaken in the near future?
– The Naval Board and the Government have considered the report of Sir Maurice FitzMaurice, and the plans submitted by him, and have practically adopted his recommendations. We have commenced the initial work. We are now making preparations for basins to take destroyers and submarine vessels, and are beginning to prepare for the making of a basin for larger vessels, as well as for floating docks and breakwaters. Everything that can be done in pushing forward the initial stages of the work is being done.
– Did not Admiral Henderson recommend the making of a naval base at Port Stephens, and was not £5,000 placed on the Estimates for expenditure on the work? ‘ I ask the Assistant Minister if anything has been done at Port Stephens?
– The Minister visited Port Stephens during the recent adjournment, and has instructed that the amount placed on, the Estimates for expenditure there shall be expended, as far as practicable, during the current year. Work is going on at Port Stephens now.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral treat generously those mail contractors who are finding themselves in difficulty because of the action of the New
South Wales Railway Commissioners in curtailing the railway services of branch lines? Owing to the drought, many mail contractors are thus forced to make provision for fodder at very high rates, and with a railway service of only three days a week ‘their passenger space is taken up.
– The honorable member is going beyond the asking of a question.
– I ask if the Minister will give generous consideration to mail contractors who, owing to the curtailment of railway services in New South Wales, find themselves in difficulties which, I think, the honorable gentleman can remove, if he will.
– The honorable member must put his question, and not comment upon it.
– I am trying to keep within your ruling, sir.
– Then the honorable member is not succeeding very well.
– I am endeavouring to make the question intelligible, and my remarks are merely incidental. At any rate, will the Postmaster-General treat those contractors generously?
– I think I intimated yesterday that some action had been taken already to go as far as we really could go in the generous treatment, not only of those who suffer from curtailment of railway facilities, but also those mail contractors who carry on their work away from railways altogether.
– What action is that?
– The cases will have to be dealt with individually.
– Ib relief being afforded?
– Yes; as far as we can afford it.
– Has the Assistant Minister of Defence any objection to lay on the table a copy of the report as presented by Mr. Anderson, who was appointed to inquire into the contract system ?
– It is not the intention of the Minister to lay the whole of the report on the table, but he ‘has nu objection whatever to place on the table the recommendations of Mr. Anderson.
– Has the Assistant Minister of Defence seen a reported statement by Senator McDougall to the effect that the Brisbane is quite ready for launching? Will the Assistant Minister look through the file of the Baily Telegraph in order to see the reported statement of Senator McDougall, and inform the House whether it is correct?
– I have not seen the statement, but I shall look through the file and reply to the honorable member.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Assistant Minister of Defence to the fact that there was a sum placed on the Estimates for the provision of a sub-Naval Base in the district I represent. Can the Assistant Minister inform the House how much of the money provided has been spent, and whether it is intended to spend the balance during the financial year?
– I am sorry to say that there has not been much spent so far on the Naval Base referred to.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence inform the House when it is expected that the dredge and steam hopper-barge for Western Australia will leave Williamstown for Fremantle? Further, can the Assistant Minister tell us what is the capacity of the dredge?
– It is intended that the dredge and hopper-barge shall leave Melbourne for Western Australia next week. As to the capacity of the dredge, I shall endeavour to get the information for the honorable member.
– Has the Defence Department dealt finally with the case of Captain Brown, who was riddled, or said to have been riddled, with bullets by an over-zealous officer on board the Cerberus, and, if so, will the honorable gentleman kindly convey the decision of the Minister to myself and other honorable members who are interested in the case ?
– I shall have much pleasure in replying to the honorable member to-morrow.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Defence Department, with a desire to be generous towards the German subjects interned in New South Wales, is allowing them tt> move about over a radius of 2 or 3 miles at least? Having regard to the fact that the women and children of the State are a little nervous, will the Minister of Defence see whether Germany is extending the same generosity to English prisoners, so that we may have something like reciprocity between the countries?
– The quicker way to have a question of this kind settled would have been to address it to my colleague who represents the Minister of Defence. I may say, however, that I have had frequent conversations about this matter with both the Minister and the Assistant Minister, and the endeavour is to give the most favorable treatment to enemy subjects, on reciprocal lines. The honorable member shall have further information later on. We do not wish to embarrass or make it more inconvenient for enemy subjects under our control than is necessary for the safety of the country.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence inform us whether any action has been taken in regard to the proceeding of the censor which was stigmatized by the Judge during the recent trial of Mr. Snow, in Adelaide - I mean the action of the censor in regard to the correspondence of the gentleman I have named ?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs noticed that there is a shortage of butter in Victoria, and that, despite the fact, some 900 tons is coming from Queensland for export to Great Britain ? Will the honorable gentleman take steps to prevent this butter being exported ?
– I know that there is a shortage of butter in Victoria, and it has been brought under my notice that some 900 tons has been consigned for export. According to the decision of the High Court in the wheat case, the State Government have complete power to seize that butter, though I am not sure of the legal position. I know that, owing to the shortage of butter, some companies are taking steps to reimport butter that has been sent away.
– Will the As sistant Minister of Defence lay on the table of the House the regulations, if these have been finally decided on, relating to the compensation or other payments to the relatives of members of the Defence Forces who die in battle or in hospitalI Probably the information may be known to some already but,personally, I have no knowledge of it, and I should be glad to have it placed before the House in definite form, so that those interested may know exactly how they stand.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond a question.
– I shall have pleasure in complying with the honorable member’s request.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs noticed that the price of meat continues to rise, and that, nevertheless, meat is being exported? Is it the intention of the Government to prohibit the export of meat until the price falls to the internal consumer?
– The export of meat has been prohibited, and is prohibited at the present time, to every country except Great Britain. The Government have not seen fit to prohibit the export to the Old Country, nor in the case of one or two small contracts entered into prior to the war.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether his Government will take action to reduce the price of meat to consumers in this country by prohibiting its further exportation.
– It is not the intention of the Government to prohibit the export of meat to the Mother Country.
– Prior to Parliament being called upon to agree to the proposed vote of £1,000,000 in connexion with the Murray River Waters Scheme, will the Prime Minister consult the State Governmentso and the engineers of the States with a view to facilities being afforded honorable members to inspect some portions of this great stream with which we are to deal ?
– We shall always cheerfully afford facilities for honorable members to see any part of Australia. The scheme to which the honorable member for Maribyrnong has referred will be the outcome of an arrangement amounting to a contract made with the State Governments by my predecessor in office and endorsed by us in the name of the Commonwealth. Action cannot be taken upon it until the State Governments have introduced and passed the necessary enabling Bills. I shall be glad to afford every honorable member facilities to obtain firsthand information concerning the facts.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Fairy Meadow, New South Wales - For obtaining material for use in connexion with buildings in the Federal Territory and other places.
Hamilton, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Small Arms Factory - Report for period ended 30th June, 1913.
War, European - Diplomatic Correspondence published by the French Government.
– In view of the already inflated price of fodder, due to an ascertained shortage, I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether the system hitherto pursued by his Department in entering into open competition for fodder in the public markets will be discontinued, and an effort made to secure supplies outside?
– It is the duty of the Department of Defence to make for itself the best contracts possible. I may inform the honorable member, however, that only yesterday a large purchase of oats coming from America was made for the Department.
– I desire to ask the
Assistant Minister of Defence whether he is yet in a position to furnish the information for which I asked yesterday regarding the calling and occupations of those who have enlisted for active service oversea.
– I have conferred with the Minister of Defence, and am able now to state that he is having prepared a nominal roll, which will shortly be issued, and which he intends to send on to the Government Statistician in order that he may complete data such as that asked for. When complete, the information will be made a parliamentary paper.
Commonwealth Quarry at Mabibyb- nong.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Position of Mr. Baldock
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
– I move -
That we, the Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, direct and active allies of Russia in the present war, enjoying and appreciating as we do the blessings of Home Rule in Australia, convey our congratulations to His Imperial Majesty the Czar on his great promise to grant Home Rule to Poland, and we respectfully express the hope that a generous measure of Home Rule may be so granted to the people of Poland. The loyalty of the self-governing countries of the British Empire to the United Kingdom in this time of stress has proved to the world that the nations that stand are those that within themselves rule by love and trust, and not by fear; and this Parliament of Australia conveys its fraternal greetings to the people of Poland in the hope of the early realization of their ideals of a united nation.
I think it is the duty of the Australian Parliament to recognize any great act of statesmanship calculated to bring to the humanity of the world a freer life, better conditions, and a chance of happier living. This is not a party question. We have only to reflect upon the great blessings that we enjoy in this continent to feel at once that we ought not to withhold any sympathetic action calculated to extend like privileges to the people of other nations. The horrors of war can be understood only by those who have taken part in it. The literature of our race is illumined with statements by great soldiers - from Napoleon and Wellington to Kitchener and Lord Roberts - concerning the horrors of war. The men of opposing armies can have no possible enmity or desire for revenge. They stand confronting each other only because the order has been given, and, obedient to that order, they march on to the destruction of life. If God be God, then war is the most unholy profession in which the socalled sports of kings could be exercised. Behind every soldier there stand the women and children. It is they who suffer most of all; yet in the Old World they have no voice in the determination of whether or not there shall be war. I do not hesitate to say that if the referendum and initiative had been in force in Russia, Germany, Austria, England, and France, the present mighty conflict would never have occurred. Had the question been submitted to the people there undoubtedly would have been no war. I submit this motion in the full knowledge that the more highly educated the people and the freer the laws under which they live the greater is their chance of preventing the horrors of war. As far back as 1882 I attended in London a lecture given by an English captain, who had almost circumnavigated Asia, and who told his large audience that the statement at that time so often made as to Russian diplomacy being of a Machiavellian character was ridiculous in the extreme. The memory of that lecture had been long forgotten, but flashed into memory again when this terrible war broke out. I bring here for honorable members to see a map of Norway and Sweden. When the Russian army had crushed the Swedish forces, and the diplomatists were forming new boundaries between the two empires, Russia, which has always been held up as being the most sinuous in its policy and means of attaining its own ends, acted as foolishly as any nation possibly could. Honorable members will see by consulting the maps that if the boundary had been- carried to the Tornea River, Russia would have gained ample harbors to accommodate every navy in the wide world, and harbors which are open every day in the year; but the diplomatists of Russia allowed themselves to be fooled, so that the boundary was fixed at the Tana River. Even then, had the boundary been carried northwards to the North Cape, Russia would havegained good harborage all the year round. But that country’s diplomatists were hoodwinked to such an extent that the boundary was edged away until it was brought within 20 miles of the Varanger Fjord, with the result that Russia does not possess to-day one single harbor which is open to shipping all the year round. If Australia were without an open port, is there an honorable member of this House who would not try his utmost to secure for his country that advantage? Let honorable members imagine a nation of 150,000,000 people, possessing an enormous territory, but without one port which is workable year in and year out. What would we of the British race do if any country of ours were in the same position? We would fight to the last man and spend the last penny we could obtain on credit in order to rectify such a position. Honorable members may say that this is only a question of policy. I do not think it is. Members of this House and my constituents well know that I have little regard for kings, emperors, and czars. My opinion was early founded on the book of the holy prophet Samuel, and I have never heard logical reasons for changing it. But we know that the potentate who presides over the British race is so limited in power that the British monarchy is the best example of the kingly institution that is to be found in the world to-day. If I were asked what monarch in the last 100 years has shown the most advancement, I should say that he was the present Czar of Russia. Honorable members may have formed the opinion from their reading that the United States of America represents the acme of progress on the part df the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic race, for in that country 100,000,000 of English-speaking people are governed by laws which are based on Democracy - the only representative government of a republic that has existed for over 100 years. Yet, granted that the United States of America may have reached the apex of civilization, let me place before honorable members two contrasting pictures. On the one hand, the United States of America freed 4,000,000 slaves at a cost of £1,500,000,000 sterling, and also of 500,000 human lives in killed and wounded. But in freeing them from the old-time slavery, they left them in the position of wage slaves, frequently begging from the estates on which previously they had possessed recognised masters, and had founded homes. “On the cither hand, in the sixties of last century, one- Czar of Russia freed 21,000,000 serfs at a cost of only £300,000,000, which was paid to the nobles of Russia, and without the loss of one human life. Did Russia leave those former serf3 to become wage slaves ? No. Every family was settled on a piece of land of from 30 to 40 acres at a cost of 40s. per adult male, the land becoming the property of those families at the end of forty years. Families who had no male workers to operate the farms had the right of claiming 10 acres of the richest land without fee or cost. In this way, no fewer than 500,000 families were settled on some of the richestland in Russia. They were not obliged to live like ..the liberated slaves of the United States of America, for houses were built for them, farm implements were found, and seed was provided. That is the greatest act of manumission in the history of the world. In J. N. Larned’s History for Ready Reference, I find this’ paragraph in regard to serfdom and emancipation in Russia -
In the earliest period of Russian history the rural population was composed of three distinct classes. At the bottom of the scale stood the slaves, who were very numerous. Their numbers were continually augmented by prisoners of war, by freemen who voluntarily sold themselves as slaves, by insolvent debtors, and by certain categories of criminals.
Such were the slaves freed by the ukase of the Czar, and without the loss of a single life, and at a cost of £300,000,000, which was paid to the nobles. In that fact we have the explanation of why Russia to-day has more families settled on the land than all the countries of the world put together, exclusive of AustriaHungary. That was the first great evidence of the advancement of the human race in Russia. In regard to the present Czar, we have but to remember that in 1906, in the archdukedom of Finland, he gave his subjects a franchise as free and extended as that we enjoy in Australia. In fact, it is more advanced than our Australian franchise, for to-day there are sitting in the Finnish Parliament twenty-two women who have been elected to represent the people. Never in the history of the world had there been such an increase of voters as followed the granting of the Finnish Constitution. Prior to that date the Duchy of Finland had only 10,000 voters, but under the 1906 ukase of the Czar that number was increased to 1,500,000 - an increase equal, I think, to 15,000 per cent. I remember as a student in England in the early eighties that a great fuss was made when the voters of England were increased by about 1,400,000 in a population of 45,000,000. But Finland, with a little over 3,500,000 people, experienced an increase in its voters from 10,000 to 1,500,000 by one act. That is one great act of liberation which the present Czar has had the honour of doing for his people. The next is one that is unparalleled in the history of any nation. We have known that since this terrible war was declared £70,000,000 has been eliminated from the national receipts - £70,000,000 taken away , from tha country’s revenue to put down the excessive use of alcohol. I am one who, en this question, takes up the position that the Almighty never sent a curse on to this earth per se. No curse was ever sent as a curse in itself. It is the abuse f anything that makes it a curse; but we must admire the governing body of any nation who can accept, as Russia did, the ukase of the Czar sacrificing £70,000,000 sterling. Imagine that as a deficit in the revenue of the British Empire ! That is ‘ the second great act of the present Czar. The third and last of which I will speak is the definite promise that Poland shall have selfgovernment, and that the Jewish race - which in Russia has increased from 2,000,000 to 7,000,000, while the population of Ireland has decreased from 8,000,000 to a little over 4,000,000 - shall have greater justice meted out to it than it has had by the different Governments of the past. In the small democratic State of Switzerland the representatives of three nations - France, Germany, and Italy - live in love, unity, and friendship, and that end has been obtained simply because their laws are founded on justice. Their laws are founded on justice simply because the people are the dominant power, and can rule and make whatever laws they wish to obey. Therefore, in asking this House to accept this motion, I feel that I am not asking them to strain any political opinion. I am not asking them to do any injustice to any theory or idea that they may hold. I am merely asking them, on the simple score of humanity - that we, being blessed with a magnificient freedom, and knowing how in our Australia selfgovernment exists to such an extent that even the self-governing power of the States cannot be submerged into that of the Commonwealth - to recognise the greatness of this act on the part of a ruling monarch - even of a Czar.
.- The motion to which the honorable member has just given his adherence and support is one which members will find it very difficult to oppose; but it is one to which, I think, they will unitedly give their consideration with a desire to see if it cannot be improved. The Polish people are, as a matter of fact, the subjects of three great powers besides Russia. As the subjects of Prussia they have been suffering for years past under the malignant tyranny of Prussian bureaucracy, and they are, at the same time, subject to that polyglot power, the AustroHungarian Empire. This House would like to see the action of the Czar proposing to make the Poles a self-governing people brought to its full fructification and consummation by the inclusion of all Polish peoples under one self- governing autonomy. There is only one way of making this result possible, and that is by the success of the allied arms in this great struggle in which we are all involved. On that depends the freedom of Poland. By Poland I do not merely mean the small portion of the map of Europe set out within Russian boundaries, but all the country occupied by this. ancient civilized race, which was torn from them largely by the cunning and duplicity of a Prussian monarch. It is this great reorganization of a small and down-trodden people which I wish to see effected, and it is for this principle, and to give an expression on the part of this House to this principle, that I have risen to address myself to this debate. If my honorable friend will accept my suggestion, he will alter his motion to make it read from the eighth line as follows: -
And we respectfully express the hope that the triumphant issue of the war will guarantee n generous measure of Home Rule to the peoples of Poland as a whole…..
And so on. We must be extremely careful at a time like this to prevent the many cunning opponents of our country and our cause from having any opportunity to create unrest and disappointment in Russia itself. It can be sometimes made almost as offensive to congratulate a person for putting his house in order as to abuse him for not having done it earlier. For this reason I want to give this motion the complexion that I think the mover of it desires. As the honorable member for Melbourne accepts* my suggestions, I shall say no more than is necessary to express the hope that the motion may be speedily adopted.
– As I understand that the honorable member for Melbourne agrees to the amendment which the honorable member for Wentworth has suggested, I shall, with the pleasure of the House, put his motion as proposed to be amended.
– The amendments which the honorable member for Wentworth has submitted will make the motion more direct in its terms, and I think that they will remove the only cause of difference of opinion regarding its aim. I am sure that the only desire in the mind of the honorable member for Melbourne is to act upon- the reported edict of the Emperor of Russia that he would, if he had it within his power, grant to the Polish nation a measure of self-government equal to that which it possessed in its hey-day. Even those of us who are not intimately familiar with the history of Poland, know of the heroic struggles that the people of that country have made to maintain their unity and independence. The present position of Poland among the nations is one of the tragedies of Europe. A motion such as has been proposed - especially at the present moment - should be temperately worded, and I am glad that the House takes that view. The expression of opinion contained in the motion is in keeping with the situation that is found to obtain under the system of free government permitted throughout the British Empire. We can say now, as we said in regard to Home Rule for Ireland, that it is our experience that every extension of autonomy, made freely and without any restriction save such as may be necessary to prevent disintegration, has strengthened the power of the Empire as a whole, and has drawn its peoples closer to each other and to those of the Mother Country. One is tempted to deal at this juncture with the prospects of the European war, but I forbear. We hope that events will soon shape themselves for the distribution of the peoples of Europe on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne. I trust that the motion may be passed without dissent. I should like to hear the honorable member for Angas in regard to it, but except for his speech, I think we might pass it without discussion.
.- I question the wisdom of interfering in matters of this nature. As part of the British Empire, we enjoy all the advantages of self-government. The British system of government stands as an example to the nations of the world. It is becoming more and more obvious that the lighter the restrictions placed by a Central Government upon the component parts of an Empire, the stronger become the ties which unite the different portions of that Empire. We should do our best to impress this fact on the world at large, but I do not think that we should attempt any interference in their domestic concerns. We have shown our sym- pathy with the Belgians in a very practical way, and all who are involved in the present titanic struggle know that- the sympathy of right thinking people throughout the British Empire is with them. It does not need a resolution of this kind to prove that. The motion seems to me an attempt by a small individual to pat the big individual on the back. The Czar of Russia, after his splendid efforts for the welfare of his Empire in the restriction of the sale of liquor, stands so pre-eminently before the world that it is not necessary that we, the people of a comparatively new and small country, should go out of our way* to express our commendation of his conduct. I hope that wiser counsels will prevail, and that we shall not put in our spoke unnecessarily. If any good result could be accomplished, I would say go ahead; but that is not possible, and I think it mischievous to interfere in matters in which we have no concern.
.- I am loth to express disagreement in a debate which has been so harmoniously conducted, especially as I appreciate the tone in which the motion was moved. It is a motion that gives effect to the principles of the honorable member for Melbourne, and he has brought it forward put of the goodness of his heart. I quite agree with what he has said regarding the advantages of local self-government. I agree with him that it makes for greater strength of character, greater virility, and more substantial progress. I believe, too, that the self-government which has been accorded to the various parts of the British Empire has had the effect of bringing those parts more closely into unity by establishing a common interest. Had the people of Germany control over the Government of that country, the present cruel war which is desolating the nations of Europe would not have broken out. But I have always taken the stand that this Parliament has no right to interfere in matters which are not its immediate concern. The Governments of the older countries of the world are quite able to manage their own affairs. I feel sure that when peace comes, and the Allies confer, the wisdom of those engaged in the negotiations will bring it about that a measure of independence and personal responsibility, such as she so richly deserves, and for which she has been struggling for centuries, will be given to Poland. But it is a delicate thing for this Parliament to interfere with the concerns of other legislative bodies. That being my view, I oppose the motion. I have not discussed the merits of the situation to which it refers. We all know that it is because of the enjoyment of home government, and the right to manage our own affairs, that Australia has become the nation which it is. My objection to the motion is wholly that it is an attempt to make this Legislature interfere in a matter which is the concern of other legislative authorities. In my opinion, we steer a safe and proper course when we confine ourselves to legislating in the interests of the people of Australia, leaving it to the people of other nations to deal with their own concerns.
.- I had no intention of speaking to the motion until the Prime Minister suggested that I should say something regarding it. The honorable member for Melbourne seems to aim at congratulating the people of Poland on an assurance of the Czar, if “ assurance “ is the right word to use in relation to a statement by the head of that great power with which the British nation is associated in the present war. At all events, from my reading of Russian history, I regard the assurance given as nothing more than an expression of that feeling which has been manifest in recent years in connexion with the Russian peoples, and I think that what the honorable member really desires is that we should join in the felicitations that have been felt, if not expressed, by other parts of the Empire at the generous promise given by that great European power whose troops arc maintaining the highest traditions of humanity and heroism in eastern Europe, to the people of Poland, that the time is now opportune for the development of those principles of emancipation which began under Alexander II. in 1860. We must not ignore the tremendous trend of feeling in a democratic direction that has marked the Imperial policy of Russia since the latter part of the nineteenth century. I think we are entitled to refer to this trend, because it is not the outcome of the policy of any party in Russia, but of the great spirit of the country that is becoming manifest in the way of freedom. The difference between one country and another in this connexion is only, in my opinion, a matter of time. We have not to go very far back, even in our own history - although the trend of British policyhas always been in the direction of freedom - to find that even in ourselves there were features objectionable from the point of view of modern ideals. We cannot ignore the fact that in 1861 the Czar by a ukase, the issue of which rested entirely with himself, emancipated something like 21;000.000 people, and in doing so actually anticipated by a generation the agrarian legislation of western Europe. That step was in advance of anything that had been done in the British Empire up to that time, the agrarian legislation of the United Kingdom beginning something like twenty years later. We should not lo’se sight of the fact that in other respects Russia is a great nation - a fact of which, perhaps, we have not been as fully conscious as we should have been. In music, . in literature, and in many of the great humanities of life, Russia stands in the highest plane of modern advancement. The character of her music is eminently national, and so with her literature, and whatever may be said or the theories of Tolstoy, I have always looked on him as one of the great forces of the century. If we have not given expression to this view of Russia it is because the occasion has not arisen. I regard the motion as in no way an attempt to direct the course of the policy to be adopted in regard to Poland, because such a motion would have been lacking in taste. In international relations the voice has to be one of union, and if any suggestions are to be made they should not be made by means of motions of this kind, but communicated as friendly recommendations and suggestions through Ministers to the Imperial Government. Whatever is said or done should be through the central power, as voicing the sentiments of the Empire; and it would not be becoming to attempt in any way to direct the course of policy of a greatEuropean power with whom we are allied. Any such suggestion is not, in my opinion, necessary, for the great experience of the world shows what a blessing autonomy is, within proper limits, to any country; and by Russia the present time is regarded as opportune for that emancipation which has been the ardent desire of the people of Poland for many generations past. There can be no offence in the motion, but I think it would have been better had the Government, in consultation with the honorable member, considered the expediency of entering into communication with the Imperial Government, or of having the motion so worded that its true intent should be at once manifest to the ordinary reader - as nothing more than perhaps the expression of enthusiastic felicitation upon the fact that public assurance has been given by Russia that advantage will be taken of the end of the war to declare a still further .extension of the principles of democratic government.
– I do not wish to say anything that would wound the honorable member who has submitted this motion. I recognise the good spirit in which the proposal has been presented, but, personally, I think it is scarcely our place, particularly at this period, to pass a motion of the sort in this Parliament. I have not the slightest doubt that the Czar of Russia will honorably redeem his promise; and we all hope that the issue of the war will be such as to enable the Polish people once more to be united under one king - that Poland will be given that autonomy for which she has struggled through so many centuries.
– There is much of Poland in both Austria and Germany.
– Quite so; and we all hope that the whole Polish people will participate in the blessings of selfgovernment. It would then be quite competent for this Parliament, through the Imperial authorities, to convey our congratulations; but the present time seems to me altogether inopportune. The motion, as id were, is almost a reminder to the Czar of his promise.
– The promise has been given.
– I know; and I believe the promise will be fulfilled; but, at the same time, the motion does appear to me to be a reminder.
– I have spoken to friends who know the Russian Consul, and he is quite pleased at the idea.
– The wording of the motion itself conveys to my mind a suggestion of a reminder. Further, how are we to convey our felicitations to the people of Poland? Is there any means by which we can do so?
– Send our congratulations to the Czar.
– But the motion winds up- . . . this Parliament of Australia convoys its fraternal greetings to the peoples of Poland, in the hope of an early realization of their ideals of a united nation.
– If the motion is passed, it will reach the Polish people.
– I doubt if it is possible at this time to convey such a resolution to them. After all, when a Parliament of this importance passes a resolution, we desire to know that it will have some effect - that it will reach those to whom we wish to send a message. How are we going to send such a message?
– Ask the Russian Consul, and he will tell you.
– It could be conveyed to the Czar, but could it be conveyed to the Polish people?
– In any case where is the necessity for the words -
The loyalty of the self-governing countries of the British Empire to the United Kingdom in this time of stress has proved to the world that the nations that stand are those that, within themselves, rule by love and trust, and not by fear.
– That is true.
– It is true; but why should such words be used in a motion of this kind?
– If the honorable member can improve the motion, I shall be very glad.
– I do not wish to vote either for or against the motion, because I do not think that, at this time, it is in the best taste. If the honorable member persists with the motion, I suggest that he leave out the words I have just quoted, because, to my mind, if I may say so, they seem to be an excrescence. We, as part of the British Empire, and enjoying as we do the autonomy granted to us, are able in a special way to appreciate the benefits which autonomy gives - to appreciate the blessings which will fall to the Polish people when their hopes in this regard are realized; but I suggest again that the words to which I have called attention should be struck out.
.- While I am in entire sympathy with the point of view of the honorable member for Melbourne, I hardly think that the language employed in the motion is such that we can wish the Imperial Parliament, or even the Parliament of the Dominion of Australia, to send to the Czar. Especially do I suggest that the four words, “ and not by fear,” are scarcely such as are used in ordinary diplomatic communications between Governments; and these, at any rate, ought to be eliminated.
– The argument is that this is a negative statement.
– Further, the words imply that the Czar is governing Poland by fear; and that is not, I think, the kind of message that this Parliament would like to send forth.
– It is true.
– Whether the statement is true or not, is quite beside the issue, so far as this Parliament is concerned. These words convey the implication - an implication which I am sure the honorable member does not wish to convey - that the Russian Government are ruling Poland by fear.
– I think that the only desire of the honorable member is to emphasize the needof reform.
– No doubt. But if it is the intentionof the House to pass the motion, I think it would be wise to omit the four words I have mentioned.
– The motion would not be weakened by their omission.
– Very well. I am prepared to ask leave to omit them.
– Then I shall have little further to say. In ordinary diplomatic communications it is usual to be very careful not to employ language which might be regarded as an interference with the internal affairs of another country, and whilst we appreciate the Home Rule thatwe, in Australia, enjoy in common with all the dominions of the British Empire, we should be careful not to interfere with the internal affairs of another and allied empire. It seems to me that by retaining these words in the motion, we should be presuming on the fact that we were in alliance with Russia in the great historical struggle now going on, to usurp powers that we are not entitled to exercise. I am, therefore, glad that the honorable member for Melbourne is prepared to omit the words “ and not by fear.”
– I ask leave to omit the words “ and not by fear.”
Motion, by leave, further amended accordingly.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That we, the members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia - direct and active allies of Russia in the present war - enjoying and appreciating as we do the blessings of Home Rule in Australia, convey our congratulations to His Imperial Majesty the Czar on his great promise to grant Home Rule to Poland, and we respectfully express the hope that a triumphant issue of the war will guarantee a generous measure of Home Rule to the peoples of Poland as a whole. The loyalty of the self-governing countries of the British Empire to the United Kingdom in this time of stress has proved to the world that the nations that stand are those that within themselves rule by love and trust, and this Parliament of Australia conveys its fraternal greetings to the peoples of Poland in the hope of the early realisation of their ideals of a united nation.
.- I move -
That in order to increase the shooting efficiency of members of our trained Citizen Forces, after having passed through their period of compulsory training, shooting for certain periods of the year be made compulsory in connexion with our rifle club system; and that the Defence Department be instructed by this House to give effect to this policy, and to provide the necessary rifle ranges and shooting facilities for the purpose.
I am sure that every honorable member fully appreciates the wonderful way in which the Expeditionary Forces have been mobilized, trained, and sent oversea to assist the allied armies in the great .war now being waged. It is not my intention to speak at any length, but I do not think any one can give serious study to the question of rifle shooting without realizing at once that to have a community of properly trained marksmen is to have more than half your adult male population equipped as a defence force provided within your own country. Every one will applaud the manner in which the young men of Australia have enrolled and have attended their drills, with the result that we have in the making a citizen defence force which, so far as it has gone, will compare with that of any other country. But if there is one weak point in our citizen defence force system, it is to be found in the fact that insufficient attention has so far been given to rifle shooting. That, I believe, will be generally realized. I know that it is impossible to drill all our young men, and at the same time to make them efficient marksmen, during their early training years; but I believe that a good deal more could be done than is actually being achieved. The great body of rifle clubs in Australia could be pressed into the service, and would enormously assist and supplement our system of citizen defence as established by law. Under the law as it stands, every young man has to undergo naval or military training until he reaches the age of twenty-five years; but the facilities for shooting that should be afforded our young men during thatperiod of training are not always forthcoming. It is impossible to establish at once all over Australia open ranges on which every one of our citizen soldiers can gain sufficient rifle practice to make him efficient. But there is another means by which this may be secured. I refer to the establishment of miniature rifle ranges in every community, where citizen soldiers could be made efficient marksmen, and where, after their period of compulsory training had ceased, they might secure sufficient rifle practice to maintain their efficiency whilst they were young enough to engage, if necessary, as soldiers in the defence of the country. In this way the ground work of training, which our citizen soldiers receive during their period of compulsory service, might be broadened, continued, and perfected. Our object should be to make these men efficient marksmen, and to maintain their efficiency in that respect. In that way we should have a constant reserve, probably two or three times as large as the Citizen Forces, to defend the nation or to assist at any time in the defence of the Empire. In speaking thus I am not guided only by the result of my own observations. I am supported by no less an authority than Sir Ian Hamilton, who, with the exception of Lord Kitchener, is the greatest of all the military experts who have visited Australia. Sir Ian Hamilton formed a very high opinion of our Citizen Defence Forces, and said that we had the material necessary to produce what would be amongst the finest armies of the world.
Speaking as a trained soldier, he asserted that our rifle clubs offered a valuable second line of defence, and should be utilized more freely than at present. At page 14 of his report will be found the following statement: -
Rifle clubs constitute the only reserve for the Militia Forces. Every person accepted as a member is attested in the Reserve Forces. Members do no military training, but there is a certain proportion of old soldiers, regulars or militia, amongst them, and I have noticed that, when being assembled for inspection or to be addressed, they show themselves capable of performing the more elementary military movements.
In Australia we have 1,133 rifle clubs, comprising 47,500 members. Contrast these figures with those relating to Switzerland, where the rifle club movement is regarded as affording one of the best forms of recreation and exercise in the country, and where it has largely taken the place of other outdoor exercises such as are indulged in here. With a population of only little more than half that of the Commonwealth, Switzerland has 150,000 members of rifle clubs. All these riflemen are trained soldiers. While undergoing compulsory training, they have a certain amount of practice as riflemen, but on reaching the retiring age they continue to practise rifle shooting as members of rifle clubs. Having been brained to that form of exercise, they prefer it to other outdoor amusements. General Hamilton speaks of the citizen defence force movement in Australia as one of the finest embryo experiments of its kind in the world. He can see great possibilities ahead of Australia; but he says that the weak point of our defence system relates to musketry. At page 35 of his report he writes -
Every one is agreed upon the importance to an army of a high standard of musketry. Men may be able to ride well, to march long distances, to manoeuvre rapidly; all these accomplishments may only serve as a means of escaping, from the enemy unless they arc able to do credit to the wonderful modern magazine rifle they carry.
Consciousness of being a marksman is a great moral support in battle. The soldier who doubts whether he can hit the advancing foeman is twice as likely to run away as the soldier who knows he can break a bottle at 100 yards three shots out of four.
In a militia force, progressive training and economy of time are essential, and both these desiderata will be best served by giving the young idea a thoroughly sound grounding in musketry. From the moment a senior cadet first handles .a rifle, the serious business of his musketry training should be steadily kept in view.
At present the musketry instruction of the Senior Cadets can hardly be said to hit the: bull’s-eye plumb centre.
In his report Sir Ian Hamilton deals with the standards of musketry as he found them in Australia, and, coming to the question of shooting, writes -
Nature has done her best for the Australian in this matter of shooting. She has fitted him out with a keen vision, long limbs, and just the right sort of shooter’s nerve, tense, but controlled. Whence, then, these disappointingresults ?
The difficulty in regard to rifle shooting and the granting of facilities for proper practice, can be got over, he points out, by the establishment of miniature rifle ranges -
The importance of increasing full as well as miniature range accommodation is so obvious, that I do not here press the point. Neither miniature ranges nor ammunition used on them would cost very much, whereas the instruction imparted is of great value. Men thoroughly trained on a miniature range have surprisingly little to learn on the open ranges.
The course which we should follow, it will thus be seen, has been mapped out for us by one of the highest military authorities. The way is open to us, not only to train our citizen soldiery until they reach the age of twenty-five years, but to maintain their efficiency as riflemen after they have passed that age as first-class rifle shots, providing at little expense an efficient force which we can call upon at any time for the defence of the country. My proposal is that we should make it compulsory for the trained citizen soldiers, on reaching the age of twenty-five years, to assemble for a certain number of days in every year at rifle ranges provided for them, to undergo a course of musketry and keep themselves efficient in the use of the rifle. I believe that could be done at no great expense to the country. If this resolution were given effect to, it would mean that gradually no less than 80,000 of our citizen soldiers, after reaching the age of twenty-five years, would be compulsorily drafted into the rifle clubs. At the outset there would be involved an immediate expenditure of probably £10,000 on rifle ranges. Other expenditure on rifles and ammunition might amount to another £160,000 - a total of probably less than £200,000 for the first two years. The expenditure might be increased eventually to half a million pounds per annum, but even that sum would not be excessive if by its means we could maintain a great reserve force of efficient riflemen, so that practically the whole manhood of the community would be available for the defence of the country. I know that a policy of this kind cannot be brought into operation at once, but what we have to aim at is efficiency. We believe that we have laid down the foundations of a thorough and efficient military training of our young men up to the age of twenty-five years, but, as Sir Ian Hamilton has pointed out, the weak point about our Defence Forces is that they do not receive sufficient in:struction in rifle shooting. We must guard against the creation of a fine force of well-trained soldiers who are not efficient in marksmanship, which is the first essential in battle. I hope that the Defence Department will utilize the rifle clubs, and that it will endeavour to bring other clubs into being, and that the Government will provide on the next Estimates a sum sufficient to provide miniature and open rifle ranges throughout the Commonwealth. There has been no period in our history when the people of Australia would take more kindly to an extension of the rifle club movement and the making of themselves efficient in shooting. If that policy could be introduced we would be accomplishing much to make efficient soldiers of those who at present pass from our Citizen Forces at twentyfive years of age and receive no further training. I hope that the Defence Department will agree to so amend the Defence Act as to keep organized as members of rifle clubs the reserves who thus pass out of our Citizen Forces annually. That policy could be carried out at a moderate cost, which would be many times repaid by creating, within a comparatively few years, and maintaining the shooting efficiency of the whole manhood of Australia.
– The honorable member for- Wimmera has introduced this motion, no doubt with the best of motives, but I think that when he calmly considers the position in which Australia is placed to-day because of the assistance it is giving to the Empire and the Allies, he will see at once that a big proposition such as he has brought forward would be practically unworkable at this juncture.
– I do not expect the Government to inaugurate it in a year.
– Quite so; but tha honorable gentleman desires his motion to be carried, and such a resolution of this House would be an instruction to the Government to take steps to put this policy into operation. Representing the Defence Department in this Chamber, I am not able to divulge all the information I possess ; to do so would be unwise, and therefore I am restrained from saying what I should like to tell honorable members in order to convince them that this motion is not necessary at this juncture. At the same time, I do desire the honorable member to understand that the Government are not opposed to such a policy if it could be brought into operation. Indeed, we are sympathetic with it. We believe in efficient rifle shooting such as the honorable member desires, but the question must be looked at from every point of view, and I think it would be wise of the honorable member to defer the motion until the war is over, because the proposal contained in it could not be given effect to for some time to come. Honorable members must know that the Defence Department is taxed to its uttermost in the provision of munitions of war and equipment, and the creation of the proposed facilities for further training in rifle shooting cannot be thought of at this stage. The honorable member has proposed that this further training in marksmanship should be compulsory in conjunction with the rifle club system. Probably the honorable member is not aware that there are hundreds of rifle clubs which are outside the Defence areas.
– There are 47,000 rifle club members in Australia.
– But many of the clubs are outside the military areas established in connexion with the Citizen Forces.
– It is not compulsory for them to be associated with the Citizen Forces.
– No; and we cannot make it compulsory just now. We have not the material to do so. Therefore, although the honorable member’s intentions are to be applauded, and although the Government are in sympathy with his proposal, I think it would be unwise to carry a motion which could not be put into operation.
– Would you accept an amendment to bring the proposal into operation at the termination of the war?
– No. I think it would be better to leave the matter to be considered on its merits at a future date. I have consulted with the Minister of Defence. He offers no opposition to the policy advocated by the honorable member, but, at his request, I ask the mover to withdraw the motion, because of the embarrassment in which the Defence Department finds itself at the present time. I feel sure that the honorable member will accede to that request on the promise from me that, at some future date, his motion will receive, I hope, favorable consideration from the Government.
Mr. SAMPSON (Wimmera) [5.16J - I appreciate the manner in which the motion has been dealt with by the Minister, and I shall be very glad to accept his suggestion that the further consideration of the matter be deferred till a later date. I thank him for his sympathetic expressions, and I hope that the Government may feel disposed to embody in their policy the system I have outlined.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fenton) adjourned.
.- With reference to the notice of motion standing in my name, I wish to state that in view of the rapidly increasing number of Committees that are being appointed in this House, I desire to withdraw it. I shall direct my remarks to this question when the time comes for it to be dealt with upon the Estimates.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, for the better regulation of our export trade in perishable products, the Government should take steps to establish a Board, drawn from the primary producers interested in those lines of production, to assist the Minister in charge of the Commerce Act in framing regulations and other matters in connexion with the conduct of such export trade.
I had no idea that I would be called upon to move this resolution to-day ; but I can briefly outline what is in my mind, and give particulars on a future occasion. The object of the motion is to secure better regulation of our export trade in perishable products. At the present time the system we adopt is that ‘of having a. number of officers appointed by the Government who control to a very large extent our exports in perishable products, and who are constantly in consultation with the Minister of Trade and Customs. They advise him from time to time as tothe regulations which they think will best serve the interests of Australia, and of those engaged in production. I have noword to say against the gentlemen whohave acted in this capacity. I believe they have always honestly striven to dotheir best. My motion is aimed at drawing the people who are themselves engaged in producing what is of infinite value to this country into closer consultation with the Minister. If any one cares to go into the statistics as to the production of perishable products and observes the constant and steady increase that hastaken place in the course of many years - excepting when Australia has suffered from drought-
– It is now about £9,000,000.
– The Minister is somewhere about right, but the production is steadily going ahead. Since first we were able to send frozen produce to Europe there has been a long and steady increase in this trade with Great Britain, and it is impossible not to believe that as time goes on this trade must grow. If that great irrigation scheme along the valley of the Murray - of the possibilities of which we have, perhaps, little idea - is to be a. success, there must be a very largely increased outlet for our perishable products to other parts of the world than there is at the present time. It will not be possible for Australia to absorb the amount of perishable products it will ultimately be possible for her to produce in this valley of the Murray. We shall have an ever-increasing amount to deal with, and there will, consequently, be greater necessity for a closer and clearer understanding between those who are engaged in production and those who control the export trade. I was very much interested some time ago in learning of the method employed in Denmark for controlling the export of butter. Denmark is a very large producer of butter, and a very large proportion of her production is exported, principally to England. Through the courtesy of the High Commissioner for Australia, Sir George
Reid, I was given a translation of the latest law that governs the whole of the export trade in Denmark, and I was astonished to find that the basis upon which they work is that what amounts practically to legislative power is given to the people who are engaged in the industry to regulate and control it. A committee is formed from the various co-operative companies, in whose hands practically the whole export trade of Denmark is confined, and that committee is clothed with legislative power by the Government to control its own export trade. I cannot this afternoon, in the few moments given me, set before members clearly the whole of this legislation,, but as I think it will be of sufficient interest to a large number of members to have the information, and have my views as to how the principle can be applied to Australia with benefit to the producer, I will ask leave to continue my remarks on some’ future occasion.
– Will the honorable member say whether he proposes that the Government shall have a representative on the Board ?
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 12th November 1914 (vide page 584), of motion of Mr. McGrath-
That, in the opinion of this House, the Commonwealth should forthwith take over the inspection and effective control of produce passing from State to State.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 12th November, 1914 (vide page 599), on motion by Mr. Glynn -
That, with a view to securing, as far as possible, representation of parties in proportion to their strengths at the polls, the method of election by quota and transferable vote be adopted as the method of choosing senators.
.- I have no desire to say very much with reference to this matter, for the very simple reason that if honorable members will turn up the Hansard report of the previous portion of the session, they will find that I have already spoken on the matter at some length; -and I do not think that very much will be gained by repeating what I have already said. But it may not be out of place if I mention one or two points that I relied upon in replying to the speech of the honorable member for Angas. Many of those who share the opinions of that honorable gentleman do not really understand what the object of Parliament is. It is certainly a place for the representation of the people ; but common sense should guide the application of the principle upon which that representation is based. Extraordinary views have from time to time been propounded upon this subject, and I am afraid that many of those who discuss the matter discuss it superficially, without really understanding the real innovation and change they are advocating. I admit that the honorable member for Angas has taken a deep interest in this question for many years past, and I should be the last to apply the word “superficial” to anything he does; but there are, nevertheless, a very great number of people who do not really understand the significance of a proposal of this kind. The party with which I am associated is the most advanced, politically, at the present time, and I hope I share the opinions of those with whom I have been associated for a great number of year? on the question of a broad franchise. Let me call attention to the fundamental and vital objection to the proposal before the House. The Government of this community is in the hands of an Executive whose members have the confidence of a majority of the representatives of the people. That form of government exists throughout the British Empire in its self-governing portions. During long years the British people have acquired a larger measure of self-government than has any European nation, although European civilization generally has made great advances of late in matters of government. Our French brothers have a system of government which resembles our own, though it differs from it. I shall not speak of the Germans, but the once much-despised Russians, who are now our friends, have also a freer Constitution than they used to have. The prejudices of the British and Australians against theRussians have hitherto prevented our understanding of our present allies, and have kept us from doing them justice.
To-day, however, one can say what one could not have said before the present war, or what would not have been listened to had he said it - that Russia has never been the enemy of England. It is necessary, in dealing with questions of government, to understand the point of view of those affected. Government by the twoparty system has been in vogue in British communities for many years. Here, in this Parliament, there is on one side the Labour or Socialistic party - the name does not matter - the party of reform and advance, whose members have great faith in their country and believe it to be capable of very large development. What I say of the Labour party now could have been said thirty or forty years ago of the Radical party in England, of which we are the descendants and heirs-at-law. We must be careful that we do not cease to be the party of reform and progress. Opposed to us is the Conservative party, although its members have changed their name, the party which Mr. Disraeli described as the “ stupid party,” and to which might be applied the observation of Monsieur Thiers, that it “ forgot nothing and learnt nothing.” The members of that party from time to time get the support of the people, because whenever the party of advance has gone a certain length the country is inclined to cry “halt.” Our friends opposite believe in doing nothing, and they do it with remarkable ability. We must be careful not to act hurriedly in regard to the alteration of our system of government. When the party in power appeals to the constituency on a matter of policy, it is essential that the people shall be consulted regarding the broad, general lines of that policy, and have put before them the objections to it, though it is not within their capacity to deal with details.
– Then the Minister will be no party to the introduction of the initiative and referendum ?
– I am in favour of that. The proposal to which the right honorable member refers has nothing to do with the question under discussion. What is proposed is that we shall leave the beaten track, and establish a method for the election of senators which will enable every phase of thought to be represented. Phases of thought have no right to representation. Under the system proposed it would be easy for public men to play one little group against another, and progressive legislation would be impossible. The honorable member for Angas takes a philosophic view of this matter. He is loyal to the school of thought represented by the late John Stuart Mill and the philosophical radicals, who claimed for every individual the right to have his views represented. I do not agree with their theory of government, and I think that the people of Australia should not be encouraged to indorse it. Our Conservative friends have put forward this proposal hoping that they may thereby secure a majority in support of their views.
– It is the Minister who is conservative at the present time.
– I admit that I am not disposed to readily alter a system of government that has come to us from our fathers until it can be shown to be capable of improvement. I consider that the amendment now proposed would not improve our Constitution, and, therefore, I ask the House to reject it. The tendency of what is proposed would be to give representation to the holders of vague ideas. I have been in a minority, and may be so again; but I have always maintained that it is for those who are in that position to make themselves a majority. It is not for me to refer boastfully to the history of the- Labour party, but there are some of us here who founded the Labour movement something like twenty-five years ago. lt was only after we had pushed forward our views in season and out of season for many years that we won the confidence of the people, and obtained our present position. It is for the party opposite to do the same. I have always held the opinion that there is room for a Conservative party in Australia, and that if its members went on certain lines they would be in a position different from that which they hold to-day. Were effect given to the motion, vested interests, fads, and theories would find representation in Parliament. We should have here representatives of the liquor trade, who would care little what party was in power so long as their interests were served. We should have also representatives who would be prepared to vote for any party so long as it saw that the people had only cold water to drink, and plenty of it. There are, we know, sections of people in the community “with very pronounced religious opinions; but, however strong those sections may be, we have been able, under the present system, to form our Parliaments, and legislate on broad national lines. We are not split up into groups and prevented from following the historic methods of the Empire, which methods are based on a prominent phase of European civilization. A country always progresses on the lines on which, it has been reared - on the lines and traditions inherited from the forefathers of the people.
– This is admirable Conservatism.
– I do not care whether it is Conservatism or not; it is common sense.
– Hear, hear!
– Though I must say I never saw much common sense in Conservatism. The various groups of thought can be multiplied to any extent. For instance, there is the antivaccina.tionist section; and there is not the slightest doubt that if the system now proposed had been in operation twelve months ago, it would have been possible to have a compact body in this House who did not believe in our defence system. Let us be straight about the matter. Honorable members have had to stand up in various parts of the Commonwealth and defend our defence policy. However, such a state of affairs is prevented because of the fact that we conduct our public business on national lines. With proportional representation we should have all these sections represented here. What is the main object of this motion? It is said that we have no right to impute motives; but, according to Macaulay, when we find persons are going to gain by a change that they advocate, there is reason to be a little suspicious. I agree with Macaulay, and ask what is the object of this motion from a Conservative point of view? Cannot honorable5 members see how easy it would be to “dish” the Labour or the Radical party ? One group or section could be balanced and used against another; and, as an instance of what I am trying to convey, I point to the position in Italy. I can recollect how, when I was a small boy, and when the kingdom of Italy was created by the efforts of Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel, assisted by men from England and elsewhere, we all believed great things were in the future for that country. But those dreams have not been realized, simply for the reason that in Italy there have never been two strong parties, such as we find in British communities. There the groups have been played off one against the other, to the detriment of the country as a whole.
– Prior to the war, one of the most stable Governments in Europe for twenty-five years was that of Belgium, and there they had proportional representation.
– Of course a country may be regarded as remarkably stable simply because there is not a cabbagegarden revolution every week. If the honorable member means that in Italy there has been a corresponding growth and real progress, with the curbing of those who possess great wealth, I doubt it.
– My reading tells rae that Italy has done wonders for herself in the last thirty years.
– It all depends on what the honorable member means” by “wonders.” From one point of view, Germany may be said to have done wonders.
– I mean in material prosperity.
– It is possible that the wealth of the wealthy classes may be doubled or trebled, with only a slight improvement amongst the great masses of the people; but I question whether that is a development that is satisfactory. I am not contending that the present, or any, system of voting is perfect.
– Is there proportional representation in Italy J
– I do not say that there is. 1
– Then what is the point of the honorable gentleman’s remarks ?
– I am pointing out that the Italian Parliament is full of groups.
– Is the honorable member arguing that that is caused by the electoral system ?
– I do not say that it is; I am merely pointing out that Italy, instead of developing on similar lines to those followed by British communities, has developed groups; and I contend that the present proposal would be the means of creating groups in our Parliament.
– While the Minister is objecting to groups his party is enabling groups outside to move Parliament.
– A general remark of that character does not go very far. However, I spoke on this question some time ago, and no good is to be gained by repetition. I ask honorable members to realize that the alteration proposed would revolutionize our Parliament. I support everything of a progressive character - everything that means a better distribution of wealth and progress generally - and that great object, I contend, cannot be attained by the suggested alteration in our electoral system. I therefore ask the House to reject the motion.
.- 1 have listened to a good deal of what the Minister has had to say, but he has not convinced me that it would not be advisable to adopt this motion, the introduction of which would, in my opinion, result in a much better system of electing senators. I do not assert that proportional representation is a perfect system, but for electing groups of members it is, so far as I know, the best that has yet been devised. In Tasmania, the House of Assembly is elected on this plan, which is found to work out with mathematical exactitude.
– With what result?
– With the result that the views of the people are represented in the House after the election. Nothing the Minister has said has touched the argument that Parliament should be a reflex of the opinions of the country.
– Is it not?
– It is not at the present time, and the best proof of that is afforded in the figures of the last two or three Senate elections. If, in 1910, the proportional system had been in operation, we should have had, instead of eighteen senators of one political party, probably ten Labour senators and eight Liberal senators. A similar observation is equally true of the subsequent election ; and even after the double dissolution proportional representation would have resulted, in all probability, not in the return of thirty-one Labour senators and five Liberal senators, but, say, twenty Labour senators and sixteen Liberal senator’s. Seeing that the country is so equally divided between Liberal and
Labour supporters, it is only right that, after an election, Parliament should fairly represent the political thought of the times ; and the only system from which that may be expected is, so far as I know, proportional representation.
– Has it brought many parties into being in Tasmania ?
– No; it has not introduced any system of groups. Why? Simply because the public are divided at present into two great camps. And if the public were divided into four or five groups, why should they not have representation in proportion to their numbers? That would mean a Parliament which was something like a fair reflex of the political thought of the community. The mere fact of proportional representation, or of any other system, being in operation will not split the country up into groups, which, as a matter of fact, arises from different causes. In a Parliament which professes to legislate for the people every group of political thought should have its fair share of representation. If the system for which the honorable member for Angas contends be applied, we shall have in this Parliament a better state of affairs than at present exists. I am surprised at the attitude taken up by the Minister, who seems to regard as Conservatives those who desire to introduce into the electoral system a change which must tend to improve the parliamentary machine. Listening to the honorable gentleman, one would imagine his view to be that what was good enough for his grandfather is quite good enough for him. That is not the policy of the Liberal party. Every person professing Liberal views should be prepared to advocate reforms calculated to improve the condition of the people. I do not advocate a change merely for the sake of change; what I want are changes that will mean improvement, and I contend that the application of the proportional system of voting to the Senate would be an improvement upon that which now obtains. Only last year we had a general election at which the number of Liberal electors recording their votes was only slightly less than the number of Labour voters, yet thirty-one Labour candidates were returned to the Senate, while only five Liberal candidates secured election. The result of that election was absolutely farcical.
– The Liberal party were fortunate in securing the return of even five candidates.
– No doubt the honorable member thinks so. The position is farcical when a party which is only slightly smaller than another can secure practically no representation in the Senate. It will reflect no credit on the Parliament if it perpetuates a system under which such a result is possible.
– Does the honorable member think that the Senate would indorse this motion if we passed it ?
– The Senate did such peculiar things last year that I should not like to say what it might or might not do.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the actions of another place.
– Then I shall withdraw the remark and say that the Senate ought to indorse this motion.
– That the members of another place should commit political suicide, just as the Liberal party did last year?
– Why not commit political suicide if it is for the benefit of the country ?
– Would the honorable member do it?
– The question is not what I would do, but what we ought to expect of members of a supposedly superior House. The honorable member for Illawarra inquired just now what was the position in regard to the Legislative Council in Tasmania.
– What was the result of the application of this system to the Tasmanian Legislative Council ?
– The Legislative Council in Tasmania is elected, not on the proportional voting system, but on the preferential or contingent vote system with single electorates
– Why do not the Liberal party in Tasmania support the application of this system, if they believe in it, to the Legislative Council? ‘
– I cannot say why they have single electorates for the Upper House and group electorates for the Lower House in Tasmania; but that is the position. I have always supported the preferential or contingent vote’ system for the election of members of this House, and the proportional voting system for the
Senate, with group electorates. Such a system, I believe, would be the fairest to adopt, having regard only to the interests of the Commonwealth. I understand that honorable members opposite, at their own meetings, adopt the preferential voting system, although they would deny it to the electors of Australia.
– We have the exhaustive ballot.
– At all events, honorable members opposite, at their own meetings, adopt a far more intellectual system than that which’ they are prepared to give the electors of the Commonwealth. What is good enough for them should be good enough for the public.
– But this system is not practicable. It could not be applied to the Senate.
-The fact that the system has been in operation for some time in Tasmania and elsewhere is an answer to the honorable member’s interjection. Far be it from me to suggest that the Labour party desire the present system of election to the Common-, wealth Parliament to remain because it is more desirable from the point of view of their own party, or that they wish to remain in a rut. Not for one moment would I suggest that they view the matter in that light. I desire to give them credit for looking at this question from the stand-point of what is best in the in*terests of Australia, rather than what would best, suit their own personal welfare, and I am satisfied that if honorable members, opposite vote according to their * individual opinions this motion will be”’ carried.
– The motion is a most important one, and is well worthy of fair consideration. In theory, the system advocated by the honorable member for Angas must appeal to every one, but its application to the Senate would prove utterly impracticable. How long would it take to count the votes cast for Senate candidates for the representation of New South Wales? If it were necessary, as I believe it would be, to make 130 counts in order to reach finality, when would the result of the election be known?-
– Does the honorable member support this system in his own State ?
– No; I was not in the State Parliament. With New,
South Wales or Victoria polled as one electorate for the Senate under such a system as this, would the public be prepared to wait as long as would be necessary to ascertain the result? Who is going to say that the vote would be correctly counted under the process which would have to be followed ? Under the proportional system, even where there are groups of six, only the No. ] vote is of full value. An elector’s No. 2 vote may have only a proportional value to that of his No. 1 vote. Do honorable members realize that fact? If they do, they must recognise that the application of this system to Senate elections would not have the result that some claim for it. It would necessarily tend to the creation of little groups of electors. 1 contend that the system in force in Tasmania at the present time will ultimately play into the hands of small groups of electors. Speaking from memory, for the Commonwealth electorate of Denison, I have to secure about 9,000 votes to be returned; but for the State electorate of Denison, the candidate securing a little over 2,000 No. 1 votes is elected. In other words, if a small body of electors concentrates its No. I votes upon a particular candidate in an effort to get over the quota, so far as that one candidate is concerned, he must be returned.
– Why should he not be returned if the group of electors favouring his candidature is strong enough ?
– The system is all very well if the honorable member desires to create in the Australian Parliament a large number of small parties. Under it, we should have the Temperance party, the Orange party, the Catholic party, and various other bodies of electors represented in this Parliament. What does it matter whether the Labour party has a majority of two or of twenty-two in tlie Senate ? The only difference is’ that the work of the Government Whip in keeping the party together and securing a solid vote is made a little more difficult as its majority is decreased ; but while the two parties in Australia are so clearly defined, and as solid as they are at present, the application of the Hare system to the Senate elections can be of no value. It is claimed that under the Hare system every party secures fair representation. In practice that claim is not borne out. Where there are six candidates to be elected for a particular constituency, the man first in the count is returned, whilst another candidate who has almost reached the quota may yet be rejected. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the quota was 10,000, and that a Labour candidate secured 10,005, there might still be nearly 10,000 electors unrepresented.
– But the Hare system gives a better reflex of the will of the electors than does the present system.
– It certainly gives a better reflex of small groups or parties. But where there are two parties clearly defined, as they are in this Parliament, the system fails to accomplish that. The Leader of the Opposition asked me if I voted against the system in Tasmania. I admit candidly that I was in favour of it, because, theoretically, it was a beautiful system ; but I did not understand it - I did not know what it would lead to. The system enabled us, as a party, however, to increase by leaps and bounds, probably quicker than we should have done under any other system. But now it has brought us to a dead-lock; both parties are almost equally divided. Under the Hare system three Liberals and three Labour representatives will be returned for Denison; but at a by-election Labour will win. When a by-election occurred, it was found necessary to put up three candidates from each side, although only one member was required. The Liberals put forward a very popular gentleman, a good sportsman, thinking that their candidate would receive the votes of the sporting community. I have heard that the Labour candidate was marked No. 2 on a number of his ballot-papers, which helped the Labour candidate to win the seat. That is one of the results, of the system in practice. A party may desire to “ run the ticket,” but every one of the candidates will be catering for the No. 1 vote. I have heard that Mr. Ewing, the present leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, is the only gentleman who, at the general election, said from the platform that he wanted the No. 1 vote. All the other men said that they were on the party ticket, and they did not mind to whom the voter gave his first preference, so long as he voted for the party ticket. Of course the friends behind the scenes of each man said, “ Give Mr.- your No. 1.”
The result was that the popular man was again beaten. I recollect another instance of the same sort of thing. Mr. Samuel Sutton was one of the most popular men in Launceston, and everybody said that, as he was sure to be elected, it was not necessary to give him the No. 1 vote. They gave the other candidate the No. 1 vote, and the popular candidate was beaten.
– That is the effect of the low state of intelligence of those who misapply the system.
– But I understand that the honorable member desires to put something practicable before the House, and those electors to whose low state of intelligence he attributes the failure of the system are the very people who will be called upon to apply it if his motion is given effect to. I was saying that in Tasmania the parties have now reached a dead-lock.
– Simply because we have the party system in Australia, and nobody can convince me that we shall have in politics in this country any other party but the existing two. We have as an example the fate which overtook Colonel Cameron and other men who stood in Tasmania as Independents. The proportional system of voting fails when parties are so cohesive as they are to-day.
– Then why do you say that the system split the party into groups ?
– It does have that effect in the State elections of a small State like Tasmania. I ask for leave to continue my remarks on a future day.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7. 45 p.m.
Debate resumed from 14th April (vide page 2308), on motion by Mr.Fisher-
That the Ministerial statement read to the House by the Prime Minister on 14th April be printed.
– I have no intention whatever to-night to address myself to the document, . remarkable in many ways, submitted to the Chamber yesterday by the right honorable the Prime
Minister. It is, as I view it, essentially a war statement, and has little to do with matters not relating to the war. I do not propose to traverse its contents, for the position, as I understand it, is not changed from what it was when this Parliament met. The Empire was then at war; it is at war to-day. If there be a change at all, it is one which makes the gravity of the whole international situation appear more pronounced than ever before. All the proposals contained in this document are related to the war - strategic railways, Imperial loans, note issue, even the Commonwealth Bank by a tremendously laborious effort is made to be associated with the war. These subjects may be dealt with separately and at other times, if need be. I hope sincerely there may be no need to trouble the House with debate upon them at the present time. If I rightly judge the duty of this House and the duty of the country at the present time, it is to eschew all party considerations of any kind whatever, to vote war supplies, and deal with all matters relating to the vigorous conduct of the war, and then let the House close at the earliest moment until some further war considerations make it necessary to reassemble. That being my view, therefore, I do not propose to deal with controversial matters to any extent.
I note in this document - and I welcome it - a statement which indicates more clearly than has ever been indicated before in connexion with our treatment of this war the fact that it is our war - our war here in Australia -
We have held during a terrible winter an important portion of the French lines in the west. says the right honorable gentleman -
We have achieved considerable local successes in other parts of the world. We face the opening of spring with the highest hopes for success in this great struggle for freedom. Australiahas not been neglectful of her duty to the common cause.
I welcome that note with the greatest possible sincerity and cordiality. I do not know that we in Australia realize how much this war is ours. We were the first of all the Allies to take the enemy’s country from him in our own immediate neighbourhood. I wonder if we realize that we here have made active war upon Germany; shot down their men; taken their boats; sunk them in the bottom of the sea; taken their territory from them; destroyed their trade. If there be one portion of the Empire more than another with which Germany has an account to settle it is with this fair Australia. Consequently the note making common cause with the rest of the Empire and the rest of the Allies in the prosecution of this war is to me one of the most welcome contents of the Prime Minister’s speech, and I hope sincerely that it will lead the people outside to a firmer and closer realization of all this war means to Australia, and all that is in issue so far as our country is concerned. Surely other parts of tha Empire, realizing their own obligations in this war - if they decide to put away party controversy; if they decide only to consider matters relating to war preparations and war legislation and defence - if they agree between themselves in every other part of the world where our Allies are located, to eschew party controversy, we in Australia are not going to stand alone amongst them all in prosecuting a vigorous party propaganda ?
– Following your noble example.
– I do not understand the reference.
– You do not want to.
– If the honorable member will make himself a little more plain I will be glad to deal with his interjection. If his reference is to that offer which was made during the war by the Attorney-General on his own authority and responsibility, and since absolutely repudiated in this House by his leader-
– It does not matter; you missed your chance.
– Here is an evidence of that paltry spirit that I am protesting against. Losing one’s chance! What do all our chances mean from a party point of view alongside this brutal war? What does it matter about your puny programmes when all that we have, all that we reverence, all that belongs to us is at stake? Our very life, security, and safety are in the balance at the present time.
An Honorable Member. - Why did not you talk in that way. before ?
– I hope I have never spoken in any other strain. The honorable member, of course, is alluding to the fact that we did not resurrect the old Parliament, but he knows as well as I do, as well as the Attorney-General who made that proposition to us knows, that there was neither constitutional nor legal power ‘to recreate that Parliament.
– I made two suggestions. You had power to adopt one if not the other.
– Here is my honorable friend’s first suggestion -
In my opinion, speaking offhand without a copy of the Constitution by me, no such course is possible.
That is, the postponement of the elections.
The Constitution lays down certain conditions which the Electoral Act necessarily follows. These conditions prescribe certain intervals which must elapse from the time of the issue of the writs to their return. Parliament has been dissolved, the writs have been . issued, and they must be returned.
That is the honorable member’s statement on that occasion. He made other statements, but I am not quoting this for the purpose of showing any inconsistency on the part of the honorable member.
– That was not when I made the suggestion to the honorable member; that was long before.
– That was on the 3rd August.
– Was it after war had been declared ?
– War was declared on the 4th.
– That makes all the difference.
– Then the declaration of war alters the position.
– It alters the position according to you.
– Do not let us get into any controversy over this matter. I am going to quote a further statement by the honorable member -
It would not be a settlement of party differences, but a truce. Parliament, whether the old one recreated or a new one, would last only during the currency of the war, and thereafter as long as it was decided by mutual agreement, ‘and would only deal with the war and the consequences arising out of it.
Later on, speaking on this question, hesays -
We cannot have party warfare and united: action. We cannot go on the platform and denounce the Government and at the same time work with the Government. For the timebeing party has ceased to exist. With the most, miraculous celerity the din of partystrife has died down. The warring factions- have joined hands, and the gravestcrisis of our history is faced by a united people. On all hands it is agreed that there is no room for party fighting now.
– What did you say to that ?
– We said, if I remember rightly, that there was no power to recreate that Parliament, neither constitutionally nor legally.
– And you went on fighting ?
– The honorable member does us a grave injustice in saying we went on fighting. As a matter of fact, we were here with our hands tied behind our backs. The honorable member and his friends went on fighting bitterly and relentlessly.
– So far as I am concerned, that is not correct, and you knowit perfectly well. I never said one word for over sixteen days, and the Prime Minister did not speak for over three weeks.
– The honorable member denounced, with his bitter and forked tongue, everything that had been done in the Defence Department. Never did a man more surpass himself in bitterness than did the honorable member at that time. But why bring in these things? I am quoting the honorable member’s words here-
– I am perfectly satisfied if you will only quote your own.
– Then has it come to this: That my opinions have changed the honorable member’s? Something I have said has completely changed his attitude towards the gravest and greatest of all struggles. Surely the honorable member does not do himself justice !
– I only want you to read what you said to the offer that was made in all sincerity by me.
– Does what I said alter the situation one iota?
– No; it does not.
– That is the major consideration. The position to-day is as it was then; if possible, more- grave. If there was no room for party fighting then, there surely is no room for party scuffles to-day!
– There never ought to be room for party scuffles.
– I am glad to hear that statement from the honorable member. My honorable friend-, I pre sume, would not regard the referenda as of the nature of a party struggle at all.
– I should not call it a scuffle; I should call it a necessity.
– A party necessity - yes.
– No, a national necessity, according to your own AttorneyGeneral.
– Order !
– I hope that my honorable friend will keep to his statement. Speaking on behalf of those associated with me here, we are anxious to keep this session free from all party strife. Our attitude is what it has been all along. We want to get right behind this Government in the prosecution of this war. We must get the war over; settle it as it ought to be settled. When that has been done, we can resume our old party relations. But while this greatest of all struggles is in progress, we should swing into line with the rest of the Empire, and treat the matter as they treat it. That is what I am pleading for.
Let me read what the British Prime Minister said on the subject the other day. He was being asked to proceed with the Plural Voting Bill and other similar measures, just as my honorable friends are being prompted and prodded by some of the fiery spirits of the party which they lead. What Mr. Asquith said is worthy of being placed on record at this time-
To-day all our efforts and energies are concentrated upon the war, and we are all in absolute agreement that it behoves every man among us, here or elsewhere, by act of service, or, if that is impossible, in such other channels as may be open to him - and of these appropriate parliamentary criticism is not the least important - to subordinate every other interest to the one overmastering purpose.
It would not only be idle, but I think it would be offensive to the good sense of the nation to proceed at such a time with controversial legislation, or the more or less academic discussion of possible social and political reform.
Any one listening to some of these criticisms in this debate would not realize that a great war was being waged - that 6.000.000 of men were fighting each other to the death on what we, at any rate, believe - and we give our enemies the same credit for believing - to be a great and supreme issue. Every energy and every effort we, as individuals, or as a community, and, above all, this House of Commons, as trustees of the great traditions of the nation, possess ought to be brought to bear with a single mind and concentrated purpose - to achieve, glorious and successful, the end we have in view.
I tlo not believe there will be the faintest echo in the country of some of the complaints heard to-day of the necessary curtailments of the privileges of members to introduce motions and Bills.
That is a dignified protest against the importation of tlie element of partisanship into the considerations of the chamber. Mr. Bonar Law has spoken in the same spirit. He said -
At ordinary times the Opposition very reluctantly gives such powers into the hands of the Government; but the fact that the Government makes this claim itself implies that the Prime Minister has stated that our Government intends to act as the Government of France is acting, and as, I am pleased to see, the Government of the Dominion of Canada intends to act; and that is to treat this session as a war session, and so long as the war lasts not to introduce any controversial legislation. X intend to press this point, for it is well that no misunderstanding should arise. But after what the Prime Minister has said, and after the words by Lord Crewe yesterday, and for which, I am sure, the right honorable gentleman accepts responsibility, I think it is unnecessary to say more. Those words were, “ So far as the conduct of business is concerned, we do not propose to introduce any contentious business, but to confine ourselves entirely to such measures as are concerned one way or another with the prosecution of the war.” I entirely accept that declaration. There is nothing more to be said on the subject.
We have been told that in Canada, before the session opened, Sir Robert Borden assured Sir Wilfrid Laurier, in private conference, that the legislation to be brought down would be confined to war measures alone, and that it was hoped that party strife would be absent from the debates as it was during the earlier war session. I ask this Government whether it is to be the only one within the Empire which intends to proceed while a great war is in progress as if there were no war, amid party strife and contention.
If we read the newspapers aright, millions of men are to-day at death grips for the sake of the empires that they represent. This is not the time in which to bring forward ordinary social legislation. That can wait for a more favorable opportunity. Nothing will be lost by the postponement of its consideration to enable Parliament to devote itself exclusively to larger matters, and to leave the Government free in the exercise of its. executive functions and responsibilities to do what is needful for the vigorous prosecution of the war.
Many things will happen as the result of the present disturbance of which it might be well to take timelyconsideration. There will be revolution in many directions. We cannot continue to live on the past. Longfellow has said -
For Time will teach thee soon the truth. There are no birds in last year’s nest!
One lesson of the war that has already been borne in upon us is the lesson of preparation. We have heard a great deal of what has been done, but an outstanding fact is that Democracy does not seem productive of good war machinery. At any rate, we were fearfully unready when the war commenced. That is an answer to the taunt of the enemy that we had predatory designs on his possessions, and that he is fighting in self-defence. The British people, had they had predatory designs upon Germany, would have shown themselves but sorry fools for being as unprepared as they were for war. Britain’s state of unpreparedness is a complete and irrefutable answer to the charge of their opponents. Here in Australia we have had to move almost heaven and earth to send away 40,000 men within eight and a half months. It is not fair to criticize our baby war machine, and I shall not do so. With us, defence matters are in a state of transition. Our organization is immature, and will not mature for some years to come. We may congratulate ourselves that it has responded to the wish of the people as efficiently as it has done. But it does not, afford the greatest possible satisfaction to reflect that between eight and nine months have been required for the equipping and despatch of 40,000 men. We must go on to the very end of the struggle, sending away fully-prepared and equipped men, so that we may take a worthy and adequate part in the defence of the Empire. In times of peace those who advocate preparation are termed alarmists, fool conscriptionists, foes of liberty and peace. But on the Continent of Europe we are now reaping the harvest of our unpreparedness. Thousands of lives have been sacrificed, and scores of millions of pounds have been spent, which could have been saved by timely preparation for war. Had we been as ready as Germany, or even as some of our Allies, Germany would have crumpled up long before “this.
– There would have been no war.
– That is a better way of putting it. While nations continue as they are, and it is necessary that the peoples of the world shall live in armed camps so that they may live in security, it is true philosophy to prepare as best we may for all eventualities.
The war will mean practically a new era in human relationships. That is no exaggerated statement. Goethe, who saw the battle of Valmy in 1792, said -
From this place, and from this day forth, commences a new era in the world’s history, and you can all say that you were present at its birth.
Let us hope it may be an era of greater community and less strife, and therefore of greater efficiency and prosperity. There are many lessons to be learned from the war, and as a Tariff has been laid before Parliament, there is one that it may be pertinent to mention. We have gained much from the war, and we have lost much in consequence of it. I am not sure that the war has hurt us in Australia very much, speaking broadly and generally. I am not sure that so far it has hurt us at all in the aggregate. At any rate, the drought has hurt us infinitely more. Our contributions to the defence of the Empire have been relatively small. While Great Britain is spending £776,000,000 in one year, we shall spend only £13,000,000 or £14,000,000, even allowing for the additional £3,000,000 of which the Prime Minister has given notice. Were we contributing at the same rate as Great Britain, we should be spending during this financial year £86,000,000. Similarly, as Great Britain has an army of 3,000,000, we should, in proportion to population, provide an army of between 300,000 and 400,000. We have scarcely been affected by the war. Let us be thankful for that. But I believe that we are doing our best; we are under an obligation to continue to do more. There have been gains from the war. The prices of food stuffs have risen, and agriculturists in some parts of the world have benefited thereby.
– So they have in some parts of our own country.
– Not to any great extent, I think. I am hoping that the effect of this will be to attract people to the land after the war is over - a result so much desired and needed in the outlying portions of the Empire. It is an infinite pity, it seems to me, that, in a neighbouring State, when the agriculturist had an opportunity to recoup himself from the terrible drought that was afflicting him, somebody should step in and say, “You must suffer the drought; the ordinary market prices shall not regulate that of your product.”
– What about the gamblers in produce?
– I am not talking about gamblers, but about hardworking agriculturists, who deserve the sympathy and aid of the National Parliament. The consequence of the action taken is that, to-day, we read in the newspapers letters from men on , the land warning other people not to take up agriculture. I speak as the representative of a city constituency ; and I say that the one great overmastering problem that we have to solve in Australia is how to make the interior more attractive, and to remove the disparity between people in the cities and people in the country.
– Hear, hear! More land tax ! That is the thing !
– If a tax of 9d. and lOd. is not enough, the honorable member will see that there is only 2d. or 3d. more left of the economic rental. However, I shall leave these controversial matters. No matter what our fiscal views may be, or on which side of the House we sit, we are all hoping and trusting that the Empire, after the war is over, will, with all that vigour and pertinacity of which we know it to be capable when roused, seek to make it more self-contained than it is at present. We have had brought home to us our dependence for many of the things that enter into our domestic economy on that great country we are fighting to-day. And if this war only stimulates us to appropriate and readjust that trade, so that it may be secured for the Empire, it will not have been in vain in regard to a very vital matter. But if that is to be done - if the £237,000,000 of German -trade, or any considerable portion of it, is to be appropriated - the initiation and enterprise of the Empire must be roused.
– And yet you will not give another vote to increase the Tariff !
– I think the honorable member had better hold his tongue, seeing that he once said that he would not vote for the increase of another shilling in tlie Tariff. We have all learnt something from the war, have we not? I do not think that we shall get this trade or keep it by means of any Tariff, unless we make ourselves efficient to keep it; and that depends on our energy and initiative, which I believe are equal to those of any other country on the wide globe. However, I hope and believe that the Tariff arrangement will be such, when we come to its consideration, as will make it possible that the volume of trade between the Allies shall increase in the ratio of its decrease with enemy countries. With the resources of an Empire like ours there ought to be no excuse for our present complete dependence on other countries for the supply of war material. The desired result, however, cannot be brought about by one section of the community only; but, as I pointed out in an address in Sydney the other day, it must be accomplished by a great co-operative effort. Manufacturers and producers alone cannot do what is required, no matter what the Tariff may be. The Tariff may, or may not, help them, but of itself the Tariff cannot accomplish the desired end. This, as I say, will require a great co-operative effort, there must be more generous banking than there has been in many parts of the Empire up to date. Merchants and shipping people must come into the effort, and there must be good patent laws, with a good legal system. The workers, too, must come in and do their share of the business. There seems to be indicated one of those problems that Macaulay had in his mind when he spoke of none being for party but all for the State.
– Judging by the English press the shippers at Home are taking full advantage of the present position-
– I hear it, and I can only regret the fact. A shipper or capitalist, be he who he may or where he may, if he takes advantage of this war to levy toll on the people and exploit them, is in very essence an unpatriotic man.
– It is being done in Australia to-day.
– I express my opinion very plainly regarding such conduct. The Victorian Political Labour Council the other day decided that there was required international unity in order to abolish war. That is a big contract.’
International unity will, we hope, some day overcome the obstacles, prejudices, traditions, and causes of strife among the nations; but if international unity is needed amongst the workers of the world for the purpose of putting an end “to this fearful warfare, what about a little internal unity? What about a little internal fraternity and co-operation for the purpose of preventing that class strife which is so rampant in the community, and enabling both sides in the struggle to join hands to promote their mutual interests, and try to reap some of the benefits of this great fratricidal warfare?
Another matter that will come up for consideration is the rebuilding and repatriating, as we hope, of brave little Belgium, and also brave Poland. There will have to be a reconstitution of credit, finance, and industry. Then there is also the question of immigration, and its resumption so far as Australia is concerned - a very difficult and none the less necessary question, to be resolutely and patiently tackled by whoever has charm of the Executive of Australia when the war shall cease.
And we in Australia have our own local problems peculiar to ourselves that are already making their appearance on the horizon. These will need prompt and careful attention immediately the close of the war comes, and, indeed, before the close of the war. I was glad to see the statement of Mr. Harcourt in the newspaper this evening that it is the intention to consult the Dominions before peace is finally declared. It is a statement I had been expecting him to make. I could not conceive of any other course being adopted; but, equally,’ I have no sympathy whatever with any desire on the part of people at this end of the world, or anywhere else, to try to force a Conference at the present moment. It would, in my opinion, be most inopportune to have any Conference just now, except for one purpose. I can conceive that it might be possible to profitably confer on defence matters, but that need not entail the calling of a round-table Conference. If there be any defence problems on which we should like to exchange views with Lord Kitchener or with the British Government, why not send our Minister of Defence, or some other Minister, to England now? There is nothing to stop that being done;’ but to ask for a round-table Conference, when the war has reached only its present stage, seems to me to border on foolishness. The questions to be so decided are not yet shaped.
– The War Minister does not determine foreign policy.
– I have not spoken of foreign policy, but only of defence policy. I am well aware that the War Minister has little to do with foreign policy. I was about to say that there are some matters which will require a Conference later on, when the way is open.
– A Conference would be valuable now.
– There is a whole crop of questions regarding the Pacific which call for careful and resolute treatment. There is, for instance, the future control of our tropical Pacific Islands. These are a great responsibility for Australia, but one, I believe, that we shall be able to shoulder; indeed, we should be glad to have the opportunity of assuming any responsibility arising out of the acquirement of these islands, for, in my judgment, they should never have belonged to any other country but Australia. It is only defective statesmanship that has caused this trouble, heartburning, and anxiety, during these trying days. There are other problems connected with the New Hebrides, and so forth, which it will be opportune to discuss when the war shall be at an end. Moreover, I can conceive many subjects appropriate to an Empire Conference connected with our shipping laws, and the maintenance of a White Australia. Japan, too, has made some changes in the Pacific, and there may be questions of a diplomatic character arising which can only be settled around a table at the proper time. Some prominent journalists in the Old Country are saying that the British people desire no territorial acquisitions as the result of the war. That may be so, speaking broadly and generally, but I venture to say that we in Australia expect some little additions to our territorial possessions in the Pacific. Despite those gentlemen who write thus at the other end of the world, I want to know why Germany, having entered on this war in her bid for world power, should not, in all fairness and reason, if she be bea-ten, be deprived of her extra European possessions. Be that as it may, I hope that we in Australia’ will have a word or two to say on this matter. This is what I take to be our attitude regarding this question. We were not consulted as to the declaration of the war, and it was not possible that we should have been consulted. The whole situation arose so suddenly that we could not be consulted in reference to it. But we are told to-night that Mr. Lewis Harcourt hopes that it will be possible to consult us about the peace terms at the end of the war. Meantime we trust the Home Government absolutely. They have proved their right to be trusted. Never did a body of men conduct the affairs of a country with more ability and with greater devotion and patriotism than the members of the present British Government have done. We in this part of the world little know what their work has been. For the maintenance of that Fleet, keeping its silent watch and ward at sea, away out of sight of the British Isles, blockading Germany, and making it possible for our commerce to go on as usual, we are under a permanent obligation to these men. We are under an obligation to them for seeing to it that that Fleet is efficient and for the fact that we may. as Sir John Fisher put it a year or two ago, “sleep comfortably in our beds o’nights,” knowing, as he undoubtedly did at the time, that the Fleet was in a state of preparation and efficiency. Then there is the herculean task to which Lord Kitchener has set his hand : the creation of an army of 3,000,000 in the place of one of 240,000 regulars and 250,000 Territorials. There is also the mobilization of the finances at the other end of the world, not only for themselves, but to help us out here. Then there are all the attendant difficulties of these preparations - difficulties which crop up wherever workmen and capitalists are to be found; difficulties that are common to the” whole world; difficulties arising from the liquor trade, labour troubles, and such like matters. These men have proved themselves to be of sterling mettle in all they have done since the outbreak of war. I shall dismiss this subject with the further remark that I think it was infinitely unfortunate for that great journal, The Times, to make the attack which it did the other day on Mr. Lewis Harcourt.
The attack was entirely unwarranted, uncalled for, and ungenerous. I believe Mr. Lewis Harcourt to be as good a Colonial Secretary as any we have ever had. I do not know him personally, but I believe that he has done his duty faithfully with every sympathy for the Colonies and with every desire for their consolidation and prosperity.
The Westminster Gazette a few days ago stated that there were three possible issues to the war. It put the matter so succinctly that I quote -
There are three possible issues to this war -
One, that Germany will win, in which case we need talk no more about militarism, for she will do all the militarism for all the world.
The second, that there will be no conclusive result, in which case we shall merely carry forward the conditions of war into the conditions of peace, and be compelled, irrespective of all theories, to do from month to month and from year to year, what safety from a threatening foe requires.
The third, that the Allies will win it. and win it in such a way that Europe will be relieved from the nightmare of an armed truce.
I believe that the House is unanimously of opinion that that ought to be the only outcome of this war. Every man here, as well as every man outside, I think, believes that this war should not cease until we have made impossible a recurrence of it in our time. We have been told that we must be generous to Germany. We are told that we must not humiliate her. I, for one, express the hope here and now that she will suffer the humiliation of stepping from the position of a first class military power to that of a second-rate military power. The Allies cannot afford to do anything else with Germany after the display of force and aggression that we have seen in recent days. We must not humiliate the Germans, we are told ! But what do we do with a mad dogI Do we not shoot it ? And Germany, with her running amok as she has done lately, like a mad Mollah, murdering and raiding, mining and destroying, has shown clearly that her notions of war are in conflict with the civilization of Europe. She must therefore be humiliated and humiliated for the one reason that she is out to humiliate our Empire, to make us bite the dust, if she can possibly do so. No war would be worth waging which stopped short of smashing entirely the German war machine. But I fancy that, somehow or other, the British grit has got into that war machine; that it is going to get more and more into it, and so to interfere with its smoothness and celerity. We fight this battle - and it is this which makes us all united, determined, and resolute - for Home and Empire. We fight for honour and safety. We fight for the freedom of small nations and for the maintenance of public law in the international sphere. It was William Pitt who said long ago, “ Where law ends tyranny begins.” There must be an international law that will make it impossible for an aggressive band to suddenly plunge the whole of Europe into fratricidal strife such as we see proceeding at the present time. We fight, therefore, in the interests of peace, and to break up the world-power which Germany has set itself to possess. Above and beyond all, I hope, when this war is over, to see a psychology of peace instead of a psychology of war. Trace this war to its final causes, and you find that it began in the schoolrooms and other similar institutions of Germany, wherethe people were taught assiduously year by year that the State should be organized for war and that we stood in her way, and had to be destroyed in order that Germany might take her rightful place as a world-power. There must be a different teaching, otherwise these wars will never cease. And we should also remember as we gird our loins to the infinite task before us that -
Liberty’s in every blow,
Let us do or die.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the way in which he has conducted this debate. I agree with him wholly regarding what should be the attitude of the Parliament towards the war. If I am unable to agree with him that because of the war we shouldhave no parliamentary work to do, it is because, in my opinion, it is a mistaken notion of what our duty is at the present time. I think we shall be no less able to provide the fighting power necessary here, and elsewhere, if we carry on our ordinary avocations, including our parliamentary duties, than we should be if we were to retire altogether from parliamentary service, and simply await events. The position in a new country like Australia is different from that of an old and established country.
– Such, for instance, as Canada.
– Canada is a great Dominion, although, in my opinion, it is not a model one. It is enough for us to know that we are a progressive country. I think that, taking all in all, we are, perhaps, socially the most progressive in the world. We started long ago in directions upon which the Old World, now that it is in the death-grips with a great enemy, is setting out without any opportunity of discussing the merits of its actions, and the means by which it is to accomplish that which it seeks. We anticipated the people of the Old Land while it was yet day, and we ought not to halt while the way remains open to us. I have nothing further to say on this subject. My views upon it are well known to the Leader of the Opposition.
I am sorry that he saw fit to touch upon some early phases of the war, and the action taken by my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, and myself, in the matter of the elections. Prior to the outbreak of war, I made the clear and distinct statement at Colac on the 30th July - that communications from Europe were unsatisfactory, but that, after everything had been done that intelligence could suggest, and honour would permit, to avert a conflict, it would be our duty to follow the Mother Country in any action necessary to protect her honour, and that we would support her to our last man and our last shilling. On the same night, I think, the right honorable gentleman spoke at Horsham, where he expressed similar sentiments. I returned to Melbourne next day, and the Governor of the Bank met me there. I do not think he trespassed unduly when he conveyed to me the information that he had from a financial source that tne situation was exceedingly critical. He motored right away, I think, toBallarat to meet the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister.
– If he did, I did not see him.
– The right honorable gentleman intended to go on to Adelaide that night, and the Governor of the Bank went to Ballarat to see him.
– He did not see me.
– Very well. He went up there, and returned. I made certain communications, and waited in Melbourne until 4 p.m. on the following Monday, when the right honorable gentleman com municated with me by telephone. I expressed my regret that 1 could not go to his office to see him, as I was just leaving to catch the train for Benalla. By the 5 p.m. train a message from the right honorable gentleman, as Prime Minister, was forwarded to me as Leader of the Opposition. It told me of the critical situation, and of what the then Government proposed to do. As soon as I received that message, I wired to the right honorable member that, as Leader of the Opposition, independent of all other things, I should stand behind the Government in any action they thought necessary, regardless of whether or not I believed their policy was a good one.
– That is so.
– That was the position I took up, and in regard to all other matters I refrained from embarrassing the Government. A question was raised at the time, on which the present AttorneyGeneral expressed an opinion as to whether the elections should take place. I had proceeded into the Riverina electorate prior to that, and before I had even read in the press the opinion of the honorable member for West Sydney a statement had been made on behalf of the then Government by the honorable member for Flinders that it was impossible to postpone the elections. If, however, the Government had said that for war purposes such a postponement was necessary I was bound by my promise. It mattered not whether the party were for it or against it; had the Government said that such a course was necessary in the interests of the country I would have been compelled by my promise to stand behind the Government. I supported them in all they did; I kept my promise to them, and I hope I shall hear no more about my action on that occasion. My views were before the then Prime Minister in writing, and they were never qualified or departed from. I did think, however, that while I was all day in Melbourne, and in possession of information which was not known to others, I might have received the courtesy of a communication from the then Prime Minister.
– You did not let me know that you had any special information.
– I had no information except that to which I was entitled.
– The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank gave you information which he did not give to me.
– It is a pitiful evidence of the introspective minds of honorable members opposite that they should think that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank had anything to do with the matter to which I am referring. I arn speaking of information received from tha British Government.
– Received direct?
– Yes, direct.
– I confess I do not understand the right honorable gentleman.
– I could not give the honorable member any further information, nor would I give anybody else information, excepting the right honorable gentleman who was leading the Government. It could not be given to any one else in Australia, although an honorable member of this House did publicly state that it must be given.
– If you had important information of that kind, do you not think you should have let me know?
– Not when I had communicated to the right honorable gentleman that I was willing to be called into consultation with Ministers. No man in the position I then occupied would have had any right to make any suggestion to a Government who thought themselves competent to manage their own affairs. I have just one word to say about that painful episode in regard to other people going about the country and criticising the Government whilst they were engaged in dealing with war matters. I personally refrained, as far as possible, from any such tactics. I came back to the Conference in Melbourne willingly, cheerfully, and anxiously, and I was promised a walkover in my constituency.
– It was not .our fault that you did not get it.
– The most insidious, persistent, and gross misrepresentation was made by the Ministerial candidate in the Wide Bay electorate during the whole of that time, whilst a profession was made publicly that I was being allowed a walkover.
– The Liberal party have not got a machine like that of the
Labour party, and could not do as the honorable member’s party is able to do.
– I am not making a serious complaint of the opposition that was offered to me in that election, but I am making a rejoinder to the complaint of honorable members opposite that they were badly treated during that troublous time. I do not think it necessary to trespass further on the patience of the House in regard to this matter.
I am not in agreement with the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition in regard to tlie holding of an Imperial Conference. I have expressed to the Imperial Government as clearly as possible the views of my Government on this matter. I represented very clearly to the Home authorities that I thought nothing would have added more to the dignity and prestige of the .British Government and the British Empire than to show to the world that during the greatest war of history we could hold a Dominions Conference in London without any difficulty whatever. I do not agree with the statement made to the House of Commons by Mr. Harcourt yesterday, that if a Dominions Conference had been convened, it would have been necessary, to go into the smaller controversial matters at issue between the Mother Country and ourselves. I thought the Secretary of State for the Colonies would have recognised that small matter would have given place to that of great importance in a Conference at such a time. The Conference could have dealt with the essential questions at issue between the Dominions and the Mother Country, and the direct representatives of the Dominions would have heard from the Imperial authorities the actual facts of the position, and could have brought back to the Dominions a full knowledge of what had been done, and what was expected to be done this year and next year.
– Is there anything to prevent the Government sending a Minister to England now to get that information ?
– From my point of view there is everything to prevent that course being followed. It was the decision of the British Government, conveyed through the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that His Majesty’s Government did not desire the holding of a Do- minions Conference, and when that decision came to us I replied . in a private letter to Mr. Harcourt, portion of which he asked permission from me to quote - I cheerfully fall in with the decision not to hold a Conference this year, although I am unable to convince myself that the reasons for postponement arc sufficient. We have, however, a policy for this trouble which gets over all difficulties. When the King’s business does notfit in with our ideas we do not press them.
That is the policy of the present Government as regards not only the Conference, but every other matter. We shall put forward our views firmly and distinctly on all questions upon which we think we are entitled to speak, but if the Imperial Government tell us that what we have urged is not a policy which they can deal with at the present time we shall say no more.
In regard to territorial acquisitions in the Pacific Ocean, I would ask honorable members not to discuss that question at the present time. It will come up for consideration later on. In the meantime I am sure His Majesty’s Government will be careful that our position is not in any way compromised during the war, and that afterwards we shall probably have our right place in considering any policy that is to be adopted.
As to the business of the session, the Government will endeavour to meet the views of the Opposition as far as it possibly can, and I ask honorable members opposite to remember that, if we are unable to adopt all their views, if we have to submit a policy or proposals with which they do not agree, we are responsible for the carrying, out of our policy ; if we did not believe it to be the best thing to be done in the interests of the country we should not propose it. If we carry out our policy I do not think we shall be doing anything detrimental to the interests of Australia ; but, on behalf of my colleagues and the members of the party whom wo represent, I promise that we shall not embitter this session any more than is absolutely necessary in giving effect to our programme, and passing the measures which we think essential before Parliament is prorogued. On the contrary, we shall do everything possible to conduct our business smoothly and pleasantly under all circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned, at 9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 April 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150415_reps_6_76/>.