6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took . the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In the Age of this morning there is a report of the proceedings of yesterday, in which Mr. Higgs is stated to have said, “ Do you know that most of the banks will not let their employees marry unless they are getting £4 a week?” Then follows this statement : -
Mr. Fowler (W.A.). - And many clergymen are shareholders in those banks.
I am sorry to say that I was not in the House when the honorable member for Capricornia was speaking, and as I have enough sins of my own to answer for, I emphatically decline to be responsible for this interjection, which I did not make.
– Has the Prime Minister yet come to a decision in reference to my suggestion that it should be made illegal to sell in Australia, during the war, goods covered by an enemy trade mark, or trade description 1
– The Government have not dealt with the matter, but I am entirely in favour of some action of the kind. The sale of such goods should be stopped without action by the Government. It is, I think, against the law of the country.
– Is the Prime Min ister aware that the Treasury Department in Great Britain held a referendum of the business community on 26th August, 1914, while the war was in progress, on the question of extending the moratorium, and that 8,366 firms and banks and 6,000 members of the London Stock Exchange voted on the question ? Does the right honorable gentleman consider that public knowledge of these facts might act like the balm of Gilead to those timid souls who fear the taking of a referendum in Australia!
– It is public knowledge that the British Government took a referendum of merchants and others on the important matter referred to, and it was done with less fuss than we are promised here.
– The agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company having been published, is the Prime Minister now in a position to state whether it is intended to bring forward legislation to give ©Sect to a scheme for the distribution of sugar ?
– I think that it would be necessary to pass some measure to give financial authority.
– When is it proposed to introduce such a measure I
– Before we rise.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that very large wholesale businesses have recently changed hands, and have been acquired by persons operating in connexion with the Moat Trust ? If the honorable gentleman has not informationof that character, will he ascertain whether operators for the Meat Trust are purchasing wholesale meat businesses in Melbourne and Sydney?
– I have not heard of the transaction referred to, but I shall endeavour to ascertain the facts concerning it. Even if we knew that the Trust was in existence in Australia, and had boughtup every one of the wholesale meat businesses, this Parliament would be powerless to deal with it.
– As it is proposed to provide for the payment of the members of the Public Accounts Committee, will the Prime Minister consider the inadvisability of creating other paid Committees in the sense that every honorable mem ber of such would receive an addition to his parliamentary allowance ?
– It was the Government which the honorable member supported that created the Committee.
– That Government made ho provision for the payment of the members of the Committee.
– The members of the Committee are paid under the rules governing the payment of ordinary Parliamentary Committees, which are more embarrassing to the Treasurer than what is proposed, but I think that nothing will be seen of the Bill for some time.
Allotmentof Pay : Sale of Red Cross
Gifts: Light Employment for Discharged Soldiers: Liverpool Camp: Appointment of Persons of German Name and Parentage : Railway Passes: Travelling Kitchens and Motor Ambulances : Mentally Deranged Soldiers: Payment of Recruits
– Is the Minister aware that in cases in which allotments of pay to relatives have been made by soldiers, these relatives have often to travel considerable distances in order to get the money? Will he take into consideration the advisability of making the payments at the nearest post-office 1
– The request is reasonable, and I shall bring the suggestion under the notice of the Minister of Defence, so that effect may be given to it.
– What steps, if any, have been taken to inquire into the truth of the statements of returned wounded soldiers, in corroboration of what has already been said on the subject, to the effect that gifts made by the people of Australia to the Red Cross Society have been sold to the soldiers instead of being given to them ?
– The honorable member should bring at least one specific case under notice, so that an inquiry can be made into the facts.
– I am now in a position to give a very satisfactory answer to a question that was raised this afternoon regarding the alleged sale of Red Cross goods. Her Excellency Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, the President of the Red Cross Society, Australian Branch, has kindly made available the following cablegram, which she has received, in answer to inquiries respecting the sale of Red Cross goods, from His Excellency Sir Henry McMahon, the High Commissioner for Egypt : -
Inquiry made from all hospitals in Egypt, no instance known of sale of Red Cross goods. Soldiers are entitled to purchase goods from value 2s. up to 5s. per week in military hospitals. Probably some one has confused military administration with Red Cross.
Apparently, that is what has occurred.
– But how does that explain the presence of notes from the donors in the goods so purchased ?
– This, at all events, is the answer supplied.
– Have arrangements yet been made to provide light employment for returned good conduct soldiers who have been discharged as physically unfit for further active service ?
– The matter is under the consideration of the Government.
– Over a month has elapsed since Mr. Justice Rich, in an interim report, made certain recommendations regarding the latrines at the Liverpool encampment, which were approved by the Government, but nothing has yet been done to improve a condition of affairs that is a menace to the health of the troops. Will the Minister for the Navy, on his visit to Sydney this weekend, make a personal inspection of the camp, and instil some “hurry-up” into those responsible for the delay which has taken place ?
– I should like notice of the question, but I may say that I shall pay a visit to the camp this week-end, and shall bring the honorable member’s remarks under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– Will the Minister for the Navy state whether the Government intend to act upon the recommendation of Mr. Justice Rich, that it is improper and inexpedient, in time of war, to appoint to a position in connexion with the defences of the country, any person of German name and parentage?
- Mr. Justice Rich’s report will be duly considered by the Government.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform the House what is the practice of the Defence Department in
Queensland respecting the issue of free railway passes to members of recruiting camps who, while in camp, desire to visit their homes?
– I am given to understand that the State Governments haveconsented to issue a free railway pass to any soldier who desires to visit his home within -the State in which he is encamped, esepcially where he has the permission of the Camp Commandant to do so.
– I should like to ask the Minister for the Navy whether,in addition to the report that has been presented as a result of the Liverpool Camp Inquiry, a secret report was also presented*; to the Minister of Defence?
– I understand that all reports come through His Excellency the Governor-General. He is the first person to receive any report. A few days ago the right honorable the leader of the Opposition asked a question regarding the expenditure of the money subscribed for the purpose of providing travelling kitchens. The answer is that the kitchens subscribed! for up to the end of last year, and notintended for local use, have been shipped to Egypt. Those made in England and paid for . by private subscriptions, were delivered, it is understood, in Egypt, between April and June last. It cannot be definitely stated that all the kitchens are actually at the front, as their allocation for use in Egypt would be at the discretion of the General Officer Commanding. All the motor ambulances subscribed for up to the end of last year, and ordered in Australia, were sent to Egypt early this year. Any delay in the delivery of the motor ambulances ordered from the High Commissioner’s office would probably be due to the enormous demands existing in England for vehicles of this character for War Office purposes.
– May I ask the Minister for the Navy whether, in compiling the lists of returned soldiers suffering from temporary mental derangement owing to the stress of campaigning, he will see if it is not possible to find some other description than that of “ insane,” which seems to me to be both brutal and unnecessary -
– I think some other word might be used.
– The Minister for the Navy recently promised to consider the advisability of paying recruits from the date of their acceptance. In the case of many recruits the period of three or four weeks has now elapsed from the date of their acceptance to their being sworn in, and I should like to ask the Minister for the Navy if any decision has been arrived at as to the payment of these men during that interval ? Has the Government taken the matter into consideration, and is payment likely to be made?
– I promised the honorable member a few days ago that I would consult the Minister of Defence on the point he has raised. In nearly every case where recruits have been allowed to go back to their homes after the date of acceptance, permission has been given at the request of the recruits themselves.
– Some of them are going round from door to door, begging.
– The Minister of Defence informed me to-day that he has asked the Commandant in New -South Wales for a report in order that he may look into the matter.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether the holders of existing State securities will be exempt from payment of the Federal income tax ? If not, will the States, by arrangement with the Federal Government, be able to offer exemptions in regard to’ any future loan 1
– I have stated before that I think it is unadvisable for this Parliament to waive any of its power of taxation, seeing that it is responsible for all the expenditure incurred in the defence of this country and in the equipment of the Expeditionary Forces. ‘A constitutional question is involved in the point raised by the honorable member, and I feel that I am not competent to give an immediate answer to his question. I have suggested to the State Premiers that the subject might very well be discussed by them at the Conference which is shortly to take place.
– Action should be reciprocal . We should not tax them ; they should not tax us.
– As the representative of the Commonwealth, which alone is responsible for providing the funds requisite for the adequate defence of the coun try and for the equipment of our Expeditionary Forces, I decline to enter into any agreement that will have the effect of limiting our powers of taxation for war purposes.
– Was it on special advice that the Prime Minister inserted in the prospectus for the Commonwealth war loan the statement that the interest would be free, not only from Federal income tax, but also from State income tax? Will the Prime Minister say on what authority that statement . was made, or whether it may be assumed that the Commonwealth has the power to declare that the States shall not impose taxation upon war loan interest?
– The statement was inserted in the prospectus on the advice of the Attorney-General.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that certain State Governments have taken steps to prevent produce of various kinds passing from State to State other than by process of acquisition ? Will the Attorney-General say whether he considers the action of the States in this respect constitutional, and whether he proposes to take any steps to test its constitutionality in order to preserve the interests of the producers of the Commonwealth ?
– Speaking generally, I have no doubt, nor have I ever had any, that the States have no constitutional right to interfere with the free flow of trade between the States. The only circumstances under which such a right can arise is after the States have acquired the commodity in question. That is my opinion, and it furnishes an answer to the first two parts of the honorable member’s question; but when the honorable gentleman asks me what I propose to do, I confess that it is a question easier to ask than to answer. The States have at their disposal a weapon, sharp and efficient. If we say they shall not interfere, the States can acquire the commodity, and any prosecution which may be instituted by the Commonwealth at once becomes a farce. While the States have this rod, which they can hold over our heads, it appears to me that any attempt by the Commonwealth to enforce the provisions of the Constitution must be futile.
Royal Commission’s Report
– Will the Prime Minister state when the report of the Royal Commission on the New Hebrides mail contracts, together with the appendices, will be laid on the table of the House, and made available to members?
– The Clerk of the House informs me that the report is now being printed. It will be placed in the hands of honorable members as soon as we obtain it.
– I wish to ask the Attorney-General in what position the wheat charter agreement now stands, and whether he has been able to obtain the approval of the States ?
– As I informed the House yesterday, as soon as the State Ministers for Agriculture, with whom I am acting, have expressed their approval or disapproval of the proposal, I shall put it before the House.
– But the honorable gentleman said that he expected to reach finality yesterday.
– That expectation has not been realized. The gentlemen in question have not all answered my communication. Three of them have done so.
Mr. McC. Anderson’s Report.
– Has the Postmaster-
General read the recommendation made in Mr.. Anderson’s report in regard to the employment of Australian engineers in connexion with telephone work, and does he intend in the future to employ only Australian engineers, instead of importing men from Great Britain for such work?
– The policy of the Department is to employ Australian engineers.
– But it is not getting them.
– Because they are not available; the men have to be trained. I may be permitted to state that the work to which Mr. Anderson refers as having been done by engineers from abroad was carried out by Australian engineers. I do not think it is fair, in any case, to make comparisons, because both among the Australian and imported engineers in the service of the Department there are good men.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a recent utterance by the honorable member for Batman, which, amongst other things, reflects on the right honorable gentleman himself, since it suggests that in certain contingencies he should bo taken out and shot? If so, what does he propose to do with regard to these repeated utterances by the honorable member concerning our troops and recruiting generally ?
– I read a newspaper report of the honorable member’s speech, and my attention has also been drawn to it by a question in this Blouse. I do not hesitate to say that I deplore the utterance in question. I consider that it reflects on the honour of Australia generally, and that if it were believed by the people it would be degrading to the troops who are fighting our battles”. I am pleased that the honorable member for Batman is present. So far as any reference to myself is concerned, I recognise that I am a subject for public criticism, but it is a well-known axiom that our defenders in the Army may not reply to any such criticism. I decline to believe that there are walking about Melbourne people who would cut a throat for half-a-crown. I believe that the honorable member for Batman belongs to a learned profession, the members of which will accept a brief to prosecute a man for an offence, and move the Courts, which employ the police, to execute their orders, even to punishment by death and extraction of money from poor people. I think the honorable member’s remarks are a grave reflection on our defenders.
Sale of Liquor to Soldiers : Free Railway Passes : Delayed Official Reports from Gallipoli.
– What answer will the Minister for the Navy make to the following urgent telegram which I have received from Sydney : -
State Commandant has publicly stated if ho had his own way would close all liquor bars
Liverpool, and all bars to soldiers at six. Ask responsible Minister what- prevents Commandant having his way. Has local State Commandant made any recommendations regarding limitations supply liquor soldiers; if so, what action has been taken ?
– The closing of hotel bars in the State of New South Wales is a matter which comes under the control of the State Government. The other portion of the telegram I shall bring under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– In regard to free passes issued to troops visiting their homes prior to departure, will the Minister for the Navy give consideration to those cases in which recruits are trained in a military camp attached to a State other than that in which they reside ? That is the case with the northern rivers of New South Wales, which are included in the first military district, and, I think, also with Broken Hill and the Riverina, the men from those districts being sent to camps which are outside their own State. I ask the Minister if he will investigate those cases in order that men so situated may have the same facilities for reaching their home as recruits who enter camps within their own States?
– I shall be glad to bring that matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence. The suggestion is one that should receive consideration.
– I have received a letter from Adelaide, in which attention is called to the fact that the reports from Captain C. W. E. Bean are dated the 9th and 11th August, and only reached Adelaide on the 24th August, although some of the news contained in those reports had been published earlier in other correspondence. There is discontent amongst newspapers owing to the fact that some of them received the news later than others. Will the Postmaster-General make inquiries into this matter?
– I will have inquiries made. I do not know in what way the Postal Department is responsible.
– About a fortnight ago I informed the Minister for the Navy that complaints were being made to the effect that the regulations relating to the issue of free passes for troops who were on final leave prior to their departure for the front were not being given effect to in the State of New South Wales. The Minister promised to obtain information on the subject. Is he yet in a position to give a reply?
– Yes. Arrangements have been made through the courtesy of the Victorian Railway Commissioners for the removal of the State limitation in connexion with railway passes to troops who are on final leave. Members of the Australian Imperial Force on authorized final leave may now be franked on the railwaysto their homes, notwithstanding that their places of living may be in a State other than that in which they have been trained.
– Is the Minister of
Trade and Customs aware that the Victorian Government are considering the advisability of importing meat from Queensland ? Is it true also that certain exporters of meat in Victoria have been making representations to the Department with a view to exporting mutton from Victoria ?
– I am aware that the Victorian Government have been endeavouring to obtain meat from Queensland, and I have given them every assistance. Many applications have been made for permission to export both mutton and lamb from Australia. A Victorian exporter waited on me to-day to request permission to ship oversea some mutton which he was holding in another State. I declined to grant permission, in the same way as I have refused permission to others during the last six or eight weeks, unless the shipments were definitely on Imperial account. We know what quantity of meat the Imperial authorities require in the Mediterranean during the year. Although permission has been sought within the last two days for the export of 93,000 carcasses, no permit has been granted to anybody.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware of the fact that while he was negotiating for beef and mutton to be brought from Queensland to Victoria, 35,000 carcasses of frozen lamb were being hawked round Victoria, and could not be sold ?
– I did read a statement by a gentleman giving evidence at an inquiry that he held lamb which would take three and a half years to clear. At the present time, however, there is only about a week’s supply of frozen lamb in Victoria, so that this lamb has been consumed in a few weeks.
– Will the Postmaster-General make inquiry into the exorbitant charges made by his Department in New South Wales for the removal of telegraph poles a few yards, when such removal is necessitated by an alteration of the street alignment in certain municipalities?
– If the honorable member will furnish me with specific instances, I willbe glad to inquire into them.
Machine Guns : Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis : Payment of Recruits from New South Wales Public Service.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon, notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
In Mobilization Store Tables for the new armies lately received, the number of machine guns has been doubled, and units embarking from Australia in future will be equipped in accordance with the new scale.
Inquiries are being made to ascertain whether the brigades which have already embarked have been supplied with the extra guns or whether it is desired that they be supplied from Australia.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House as to -
The number of soldiers in the various camps in Australia who have contracted meningitis ?
The number of soldiers who have or have had meningitis, and have been vaccinated since they enlisted?
– The desired information will be obtained and laid on the table in the form of a return.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the shortage of grape spirit in the Commonwealth, some means can be adopted to overcome the difficulty in the interests of the vignerons concerned ?
– The trade is divided on the matter, and, as the law stands, there is no power to admit imported spirit for the fortification of wine at a reduced rate of duty.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. The action of Registrars is governed by Electoral Regulation 7(1).
The Divisional Returning Officers are charged with the responsibility of instituting prosecutions.
Divisional Returning Officers have been urged to press on with cases for non-enrolment in view of the forthcoming Referendums, and the attention of the public has been specially called by advertisement and through the news columns’ of the press throughout the Commonwealth to the requirements of the law.
Commonwealth of Australia.
Statement showing the number of prosecutions in each Division for non-enrolment during the half-year ended 30th June, 1915 : -
– I move -
That standing order No. 241 be suspended for this sitting of the House, and that on Order of the Day No. 1 being called on - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - Mr. Speaker do forthwith leave the chair.
In submitting this motion, I can only repeat what I said when giving notice of it. It is proposed to try to terminate the present sittings this day week, and to enable this to be done, it is suggested that we meet on Monday. I hope honorable members will agree to what is proposed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Spence) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the free transmission of postal matter relating to the war census.
Bill presented by Mr. Spence, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Spence) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an
Act to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902-1913.
Bill presented by Mr. Spence, and read a first time.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914, the following works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their report, viz. : -
Provision of Automatic Telephone Exchange, Sydney.
Provision of Automatic Telephone Exchange, Malvern, Victoria.
Provision of Automatic Telephone Exchange, Collingwood, Victoria.
I propose to submit plans, and to permit of that being done, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour to-day.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Debate resumed from 25th August (vide page 6120), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That a sum not exceeding Sixteen million one hundred and ninety-five thousand four hundred and sixty-nine pounds be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1916.
– I have no intention to delay the Committee for any great length of time, because I deem it our duty, particularly at this stage of the session, to make our remarks as concise as possible. I, with other honorable members, appreciate the great importance of the statement that has been made by the Treasurer, and I realize that, next to the war itself, no greater problem exists in Australia, or, for that matter, elsewhere throughout the Empire, than that of finance. So gravely important is this question, that, in connexion with it, no honorable member can shirk his responsibility ; and it is our duty to endeavour to grasp the difficulties involved, in order that we may assist towards its solution. I share the view already expressed that this should be essentially a non-party matter, and I am anxious to show no feeling whatever, but simply to give expression to the passing thoughts in my mind. I have deemed it my duty to closely look into the statement submitted, and I think I can put the matter almost in a nutshell. The Treasurer, so far as the ordinary services are concerned, anticipates an expenditure of £18,266,025. Our obligations to the States represent a sum of £6,200,000, and the special war expenditure is put down at £45,749,450, while, for new works in all Departments, the estimate is £3,827,629. Then it is proposed, out of loan expenditure, to do certain work in connexion with the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway to an amount of something like £3,000,000, making a total estimated expenditure of £77,043,104. The right honorable gentleman, having to advise the Committee as to the method by which he anticipates meeting that expenditure, proposes to rely on indirect taxation through Customs and Excise to the extent of about £15,000,000, and on direct taxation to an extent of about £6,453,000, made up of land tax, probate and succession duties, and income tax. He contemplates receiving £1,766,000 from the land tax, and though the returns from probate duties paid last year were not up to his expectation, owing to the disagreeable attitude of wealthy men, who would not die, he relies on them to bring in a revenue of £687,000 this year.
– The Treasurer may be correct in his estimate. Probate duties can never be properly estimated.
– This revenue is always an uncertain quantity; it is always a matter” of guesswork. The most important feature of the direct taxation is the new proposal for the imposition of an income tax which, it is contemplated, will bring in a revenue of about £4,000,000. What may be regarded as the direct aUd indirect domestic or local means of obtaining money with which to meet the year’s expenditure amount to £27,540,000, and the Treasurer proposes to resort to loans to the extent of about £49,000,000 in order to’ make up portion of the balance of his anticipated expenditure for the year. The first source from which he will derive this money is the Commonwealth loan of £20,000,000, now in process of flotation. For the first time in the history of Australia we are called upon to rely on our own resources for raising loans. Possibly it will prove to be a valuable and useful experience, for I am confident that the fervent patriotism of the people of Australia, of the rich as well as of the more humble in circumstances, will so respond that the loan will be a gigantic success, and when we learn the result of this flotation we shall be in a better position to see what will be our chances of resorting to a similar source for loan moneys required in the future. In addition to this £20,000,000, the Treasurer has a balance of £10,400,000 coming to him from the British loan, and he proposes to resort to the Australian Notes Fund for about £3,000,000 for new works. This is a doubtful means of providing money for our requirements, because, when we remember the vast sum which is already represented by the issue of our notes, approaching, so far as commitments are concerned, something like £46,000,000, we must realize that we are straining our resources very gravely in this respect. In addition to these sources that I have mentioned, there is still the sum of £16,103,104 to be provided for, the source of which has not yet been stated by the Treasurer. Altogether we have to face a deficit on the year’s transactions of about £53,000,000, to meet which we contemplate imposing an income tax estimated to produce £4,000,000, and raising £49,000,000 from loan sources. At this present juncture honorable members dare not be too critical. We are living in heroic times, when heroic measures are justified, and indeed necessary, for the purpose of dealing with extraordinary emergencies. We must prove ourselves equal to these emergencies, and the most ready means of dealing with them is to be found in raising loans to the extent of £49,000,000. Later on it will be the responsibility of this Parliament to deal more fully with this matter of raising loans. It will probably be found necessary to take into consideration the wisdom of establishing a system of annuities by which those who desire to provide for their old age may purchase annuities, and by which the Government will be able to secure what may be regarded as an inconvertible loan. This is a matter worthy of consideration, and many precedents can be quoted in its favour. In dealing with this great financial problem it will be essential to look at all the means at our disposal for the purpose of doing justice to Australia. The whole community looks to Parliament to give most thoughtful consideration, to the important issues confronting us, an*d I trust tha? honorable members will be found equal to their responsibilities in this connexion. One of the most important features to which we are expected to have regard is whether our departments and our ordinary public services are based on business and economic lines. We are not justified in asking the public to pay further taxation unless we satisfy them that we have given the utmost consideration and thoughtful care to the matter of carrying on our public services in this way. Some honorable members have already invited attention to the comparison between the actual expenditure for 1914-15 and the estimated expenditure for 1915-16. I also invite the attention of honorable members to the figures which have been placed before us. The total expenditure for 1914-15 from revenue and from loan was £25,434,121. The Treasurer estimates that it will be necessary to spend during the current year £24,466,000 on ordinary services, and £3,827,629 on new works, or a total for 1915-16 of £28,293,629 from revenue, or also taking into consideration the proposed expenditure from loan moneys, £31,293,000, as against an actual expenditure of £25,434,121 for 1914-15 from revenue and loan funds. This means an estimated increase in ordinary expenditure of £3,881,000, an estimated increase in new works expenditure of £1,157,393, and an estimated increase in loan expenditure of £821,115, or a total estimated increase of £5,859,508 over the actual expenditure for the year 1914-15. From this sum must be deducted about £1,300,000, the estimated interest on the war loan, and something like £500,000 for war pensions, or £1,800,000 altogether, leaving the net estimated increase for the current year at £4,000,000. It is perhaps a coincidence that £4,000,000 is the sum which it is proposed to raise by income taxation. It has been stated that income taxation is essentially war taxation, but on the figures I have given it is obvious that the income tax is to be imposed to meet the increasing expenditure. That is a very serious matter in these times. Economy is necessary; I do not mean by economy anything that would impair the effective conduct of our ordinary services and constructional policy, or would in any way discount efficiency. Mr. Anderson’s report on the Postal Department, which has been opportunely presented to Parliament, conclusively demonstrates the need for economy and business reform in the Public Service, and these things should be undertaken before the burdens of the people are increased. The £4,000,000 raised by income taxation should be ear-marked for war expenditure. The people will readily bear the burden of taxation if thev are convinced that it is necessary for the prosecution of the war ; but they will be consumed with resentment if they realize that they are being taxed because the cost of the Public Service is being unnecessarily increased. The pre-Budget statement that has been put before us contains no evidence of economy, notwithstanding the need for it, not only on the part of private individuals, but also on the part of the Government.
– It does not follow that all the money voted will be spent.
– That is so. Probably the expenditure will be less than the appropriation by at least £2,000,000, but taxation is proposed on the assumption that the whole appropriation will be spent.
– The knowledge that the whole appropriation will not be spent should remove the fear of extravagant administration.
– This Government claims that it is following in the ruts of its predecessors; but I would remind the Minister that the present exceptional times and period of financial stress demand economical administration. I was a member of a State Government during a grave financial crisis such as the present. The people then demanded the most rigid economy, and they expect from us now that we shall conscientiously bend all efforts towards that end.
– The retrenchment practised in Victoria drove thousands of persons out of the State.
– Victoria passed through a bad time, but the retrenchment policy which was carried out was demanded, and approved by the people. I do not suggest the starvation of the Public Services; that would be deplorable; but extravagance in administration is not justifiable. The Estimates might fairly be referred to the Public Accounts Committee, which is a body representing both political parties, and might well be allowed the services of Mr. Anderson, to enable it to make a thorough investigation, so that we could be assured that the Estimates have been framed on a business basis and without extravagance and that there is justification for increased taxation. In my opinion £2,000,000 could easily be saved, though I am not able to say arbitrarily what items should be curtailed. If such a saving were made, it would not be necessary to raise more than £2,000,000 by income taxation. I should be sorry to think that any section of the community would endeavour to shirk its responsibilities at the present time, but I think it was contemplated that the taxation of incomes would be confined almost completely to the States. It is not to be forgotten that income taxation discourages the investment of capital. That is not a mere ipse dixit or casual statement. It is our policy to establish factories throughout the length and breadth of the country. But if a British or foreign capitalist establishes a factory in Victoria, another in New South Wales, and others in other States, he has to pay taxation on his profits in each State separately, and in the Mother Country, and it is now proposed to compel him to pay income tax to the Commonwealth Government as well. All income derived in Australia by British residents or companies has to pay not only the income tax at Home but also State income tax. “Upon the top of all this we are now going to impose an excessively high Commonwealth income tax.
– Unification would prevent all that.
– That may be so; but we are not discussing Unification. We have deliberately laid down our policy of encouraging the introduction of capital to Australia. Every tax of this kind acts to some extent as a discouragement, and this excessive tax will be particularly effective in that direction. What I would therefore urge is that, instead of imposing a tax from which we hope to secure the sum of £4,000,000, we should be satisfied, under the existing financial exigencies, with £2,000,000, particularly when we bear in mind the heavy taxation imposed last session, when the land tax and probate duties were very largely increased. It is admitted by the Attorney-General himself that the tax to be imposed reaches the highwater mark, and, for the reasons I have stated, I think that in imposing it we shall be acting very unwisely. I know some honorable members will be disposed to say that this is the old bogy, but it is impossible to be mixed up with the business affairs of this community day after day without realizing what the effect of excessive taxation is likely to be. We all realize how necessary it is that capital should be invested in Australia for the purpose of encouraging every branch of industrial enterprise. All the capital coming to Australia from abroad adds to the wealth of the country, and it is undesirable, particularly during the present condition of crisis, that we should do anything to discourage the introduction of that capital. In seeking to justify this income tax, the Attorney-General laid down a number of wholesome principles upon which all sound schemes of taxation must rest. I’ listened to his enunciation of those principles with very great interest, and I hope they will be recognised as fundamental and vital by the members of the Attorney-General’s party, although there have been many voices of dissent. The Attorney-General was anxious that what he described as the “economic equilibrium “ should be disturbed as little as possible. The productivity of a country, he said, depends mainly upon the manner in which the available capital is used and the efficiency of the labour. He declared it to be a mistake to impose taxation upon wealth used in the production of more wealth, adding that the basic principle of the taxation Bill which he was then introducing was the taxation of the country’s surplus wealth as distinguished from capital. I commend the sentiments expressed by the AttorneyGeneral on that occasion, though I am disposed to think, after a comparison between the measure he introduced and the sentiments to which he gave expression, that we were only listening to a fine stroke of humour on the part of our humorous Attorney-General. I have closely examined that measure in order to see how these fine principles were being carried out, but I have not discovered the slightest evidence of them. If the AttorneyGeneral suggests for one moment that this income tax wilt; only affect the surplus wealth - what he called the “ margin of luxury “ - he will be. utterly mistaken. The capital that is going to be taxed will be the working capital of the community, which the Attorney-General himself said should not be taxed. I admit that taxation is necessary to a certain extent, but this taxation means the lessening of the country’s productivity in ratio to the amount of taxation that is imposed, for practically all the capital of Australia is working capital. We have not the advantage of those luxurious surpluses enjoyed in olderestablished communities. Our position as a young and growing industrial community is such that in the taxation scheme recently introduced we shall be deliberately taxing our working capital. That is the grave and serious aspect of the situation, an aspect that prompts me to urge strongly that that process of taxation should be applied in the lightest possible form.
– There is a very great difference between taxation, as in England on investments which are principally abroad, and on the capital invested in our primary industries.
– There is all the difference as between a debtor and a creditor country. A somewhat amusing feature of the Attorney-General’s declaration was his strong Free Trade speech delivered oblivious of the fact that he is a member of a Protectionist Government. He deplored the fact that in Australia indirect taxation has always borne to the whole a much larger percentage than in the United Kingdom. He complained of the large amount paid by the masses, chiefly in Customs and Excise. In order to justify his argument in favour of the proposed tax, he stated that in the United Kingdom direct taxation amounted to £4 10s. 5d. per head, and indirect taxation to £2 15s. 2d. per head, whereas Victoria imposed direct taxation to the amount of £3 13s. 9d. per head, and indirect taxation - as in all the other States - to the amount of £4 per head. The direct taxation in some of the other States is higher than in Victoria. But the Attorney-General forgot that the indirect taxation of the United Kingdom is a dead weight round the necks of the workers, having regard to the fierce labour competition that they have to meet from the rest of the world, whereas in Australia it is that very process of indirect taxation that purchases for the worker his employment. It is by this process of indirect taxation that he gets his Wages Boards, his Arbitration Courts, and all his other industrial tribunals - that, in short, he gets his good wages. The Attorney-General forgot the part indirect taxation has played in the establishment of something like 15,536 factories, employing 337,101 hands, and paying £33,606,087 annually in wages. He forgot the great factor it has been in the investment of something like £75,000,000 of capital in secondary industries.
– Surely the collection of the tax does not establish the industry ?
– No; but the system of indirect taxation at the Customs has been a very great factor in the establishment of our industries.
– We have £70,000,000 of imports all the same.
– We cannot ignore that fact, but my honorable friend forgets-
– Does the honorable member desire that more Customs taxation should be put on ?
– I am not dealing with that question at the present time. I am simply dealing with the AttorneyGeneral’s argument as a justification for the imposition of the income tax, that we are already too heavily taxed, and have always been too heavily taxed, in an indirect way. The same indirect taxation, by assisting in the establishment of the industries to which I have referred, means a yearly increase in the value of the material used to the extent of £65,153,286, and a total yearly output of the value of £161,560,763. In support of my statement that indirect taxation has assisted in procuring good wages for the worker, I would point, out that whereas in 1909 the average wage of the men and women employed in these factories was nearly £S3 per annum, in 1913 it was upwards of £104 per annum. It will thus be seen that the indirect taxation of which the Attorney-General complains has established great and valuable industries in Australia, has secured for our workers employment and good wages, and has also made us to a very substantial extent self-contained. To have a selfcontained Australia at the present time would be a matter for congratulation.
– But we are still a long way from that.
– Quite so; but we have made a big development in that direction, and indirect taxation has played an important part in enabling us to do so. T do not feel justified in further detaining the Committee by dealing with this matter; but when the Income Tax Bill is before the House I shall once more refer to it. I -would urge honorable members opposite - and I am speaking without the remotest party feeling, being actuated only by a desire to serve the public interest - to recognise that, for the reasons I have stated, the taxation proposed by the Government is excessive. If an additional £4,000,000 must be provided we can readily make savings to the extent of £2,000,000, and, instead of imposing the excessive income tax rates proposed, should so reduce them as to make the tax return something like £2,000,000 instead of £4,000,000 per annum as estimated.
.- I desire to take advantage of this opportunity to discuss the finances of the Commonwealth, more particularly as, owing to the urgency of our immediate conditions, we find it necessary to impose still greater burdens on the people. I have no doubt that those burdens, whatever they may be, will be willingly borne; but the most unfavorable feature of the situation is the fact that the Commonwealth and State Governments are going to continue to levy on the same people and in the same way. During this debate hints have been dropped as to Unification, and I have no hesitation in saying that “we at least need, and need very badly, a unification of the finances of Australia. That, to my mind, is the only sane course to pursue. I can well understand the critics dwelling upon the vital necessity for the Commonwealth and States arriving at a complete understanding as to how they should levy taxation on the people. Despite State divisions, we are one as a people and as a country. Our interests are identical, and obviously the only proper course to pursue is to bring about a clear-cut arrangement by which the public funds shall be contributed in a definite way, and adjusted in businesslike proportions to the needs of the. States and the Commonwealth. Under existing conditions, the one governing power does not know what the other is doing. T venture to say that the financial adviser to the Prime Minister is not thoroughly conversant with the situation of the States, or with the incidence of State taxation on incomes that we are now proposing heavily to levy upon. Unification of finance appeals to me more than does any other form of unification, not only because it is absolutely necessary, but because it is such as to attract the trained minds of the community. We should thus be more likely to secure that amicable working together which can be associated only with the best-trained minds. Say what you will, the average ordinary man will not work harmoniously with his fellow. Little differences arise, and that which was begun in amity generally ends in chaos. There is no such danger when big financial matters are being handled by men who thoroughly understand what they are doing, and who are well trained in business. In order to show how little we know what we are doing, and the extent to which we are in conflict with the States in respect of taxation, I wish to give the House a typical case, which clearly illustrates the situation that has to be faced by a number of property-owners in Australia today. It is unnecessary for me to say that I hold no brief for those who revel in great wealth. But, while that is so, I think it our duty to see that justice is done, and that when endeavouring to levy equitable taxation we do not impose it in such a way as to destroy the vital forces of the country, and to kill enterprise. The figures that I am about to quote have been thoroughly accredited to me, and are fully substantiated. They relate to a specific case in which rents are drawn from an Australian property and applied in England. The annual return by way of rents from a certain property in Sydnev is £3,906. The State land tax, now by Statute made the municipal tax, on that property is £356 17s. lOd. ; the municipal and other local rates amount to £618 14s. lOd. ; the Federal land tax to £914 18s. 7d.; the State income tax to £166 18s. lOd. ; and the Federal income tax, if the formula recently appearing in the Sydney press be correct - and I understand it is - will amount to £250. A total of £2,307 10s. Id. has thus to be paid by way of taxation, leaving the owner of the property £1,598 9s. lid. From that amount has to be deducted, in respect of insurance premiums, £158, leaving the propertyowner £1,440 9s. lid. out of his gross return of £3,906 per annum. That residue of £1,440 has to bear income tax in England, which is a substantial impost, and it is estimated that not more than £1,000 per annum will remain to the owner of the property. I can produce documentary evidence to show that all these figures are correct. It may be said that £1,000 per annum is enough for any man to live on, but that is hardly the point in question. We have to consider whether we are raising such a barrier in the way of those who would otherwise invest here as to considerably interfere with the development of Australia. Until we have a much better system of civilization than we at present enjoy, we must subscribe more or Jess to the conventions of the day, and they are that, before you can develop any particular line of industry, you must have capital. If the conditions are so harsh that capital is diverted, this country will suffer unless the Government are prepared to jump in and do all capitalistic work. That, in my opinion, the Government are not qualified to do, and the people are not yet educated up to such a thing. Hence, we must consider the situation as it exists, and not levy taxation in such a way as to make it unprofitable to invest or to undertake enterprises in Australia. Even a working man who wishes to start a little business on his own must have some capital, and is more or less a capitalist. The capital value of the property to which I have referred is something like £75,000, so that, after paying taxation, the owner has a return of less than 2 per cent. The Government have authoritatively laid it down that4½ per cent, is a fairreturn for those who have capital to invest. We are prepared to allow that rate of interest on our war loan, and to exempt it from all taxation. People who invest in that loan need have no business worry or trouble of any sort. They may secure their 4½ per cent, free from any of those charges which operate against the returns from ordinary business enterprises. That being so, it is fair to contend that our taxation should be so adjusted as to leave a return of, at least, 4½ per cent, to the owners of property.
– How does the honorable member meet the argument of the other side that this taxation will be passed on to the worker ?
– Here is a case where it cannot be passed on. I am dealing, not with statements by the Opposition, but with actual facts.
– They are one and the same thing.
– I should like to think that they were, but I am sorry to say that they are not. In the case to which I have been alluding the property has been producing very high rents, but these have . lately been reduced owing to the special times in which we are living. When one has a number of empty shops or offices, it is impossible to talk of securing high rents or of increasing rentals. Taxes of the kind now proposed by the Government cannot be passed on. Those who understand the principles of land taxation regard it as an axiom that such taxation cannot be effectively passed on as long as the land tax is sufficiently high to make it unprofitable to allow land to remain idle. Our proposed income tax partakes of that character, and, in so far as it does, is good. But there is a limit beyond which we cannot go, and it is hardly fair so to levy on those who are drawing incomes as to take from them, as in this case, practically 75 per cent, of their returns. I would emphasize the point that since we have set up the standard of 4½ per cent, as a fair return on capital invested, under circumstances which do away with all business worry and. trouble, we have a right to see that those who come under our taxation shall he allowed the same return from their property, instead of, as in this case, less than 2 per cent. The case to which I have referred is by no means singular. There are other aspects of the Income Tax Bill with which I shall deal later on, notably the provision relating to companies that sell large numbers of allotments or buildings in course of construction, and enter them on their books as if the transactions were complete, whereas they are made on a time-payment basis. Some provision will have to be made to meet such cases. Other general matters to which I desire to refer affect the expenditure of the money we are raising. Before dealing with these, however, I desire to support what the honorable member for Kooyong has said regarding the doubtful necessity for raising £4,000,000 by means of an income tax and for antedating the imposition of the tax when we need only some £2,000.000 to pay interest on the war loan. If the Prime Minister will tell us that some of the revenue to be raised from this tax is to be utilized as a sinking fund-
– It is proposed that the whole of it shall practically be swallowed up in the year’s expenditure.
– That is my objection. If it is proposed to apply any portion of it to a sinking fund, say a sinking fund of only 2½ per cent., then a good deal of my objection will disappear.
– I think that is the intention.
– If it is, it should be stated. We are told that this special tax is for the purpose of paying the interest on the war loan. As a matter of fact, it will more than doubly pay the interest, and unless it can be shown that a proportion of the taxation is to be utilized as a sinking fund, the taxation will require a good deal of justification. With regard to expenditure, I am of opinion that until we introduce into the official circles which now control the expenditure of public money, and especially into the Defence Department, some good buying ability, and some good business capacity - men who are not nurtured in red-tape - we shall wage this war at a disastrous cost. If an appeal had been made to the Chamber of Commerce or the Chamber of Manufactures to patriotically advise and supervise the purchase of certain goods for the Minister of Defence, they would, from a sense of honour, have done their best. And if they had not been actuated by that high sense of honour, the fact of a number of keen business men taking an interest in the matter would have provided us with a check one on the other. I know that goods have been paid for by the Government at prices 100 per cent, above the imported cost, despite the fact that the goods were bought on tender. If the Government had utilized the machinery which the Chamber of Commerce provides, they would have had the services of men who know at what price articles are imported. Had the Government asked the merchants to supply them at bedrock import prices, they would willingly have done so, and the country would have been saved a considerable sum of money. Unfortunately there has been too much conservatism displayed, and Ministers have relied too much on officials, who, although trained for war, have considered themselves specially endowed with business ability also, and have accepted an onerous duty, and discharged it presumably to the best of their ability. I do not question their good intentions, but their capacity for business affairs and for handling bulk lines is nil, and the consequence is that the tenderers put their heads together. Where they can privately make arrangements, they will get the best possible price out oi the Government, but had they been appealed to through a chamber having an official status, they would have given the Commonwealth a better deal, and the country would have been saved 100 per cent, on the goods which they have had to buy for defence purposes. Another matter is the supply of warm clothing for the troops during the coming winter. There is to-day an organization called the Sheep-skin Fund Committee, which is actuated entirely by patriotic motives, and I have been asked by those interested to suggest to the Government that they should continue the work which has been done up to date in a purely voluntary spirit, and insure that our men at the front are equipped with sheep-skin vests and basil pants, which are calculated to keep out almost any degree of cold. Samples of sheep-skin clothing are on view in the corridor.
– One would think the honorable member was a commercial traveller.
– I am as much a commercial traveller as I am a member of Parliament; without a knowledge of business a man is hardly fit to keep an eye on the affairs of this country. As a result of the charitable effort and the ingenuity employed in the production of sheep-skin clothing, the complete outfit, comprising cap, pants, vest, and gloves, can be produced for £1, and the Government might well set about utilizing the organization which has been brought into existence by these voluntary workers. The lady who has controlled this fund has put heart and soul, and a good deal of her money, into the work, and the Tesult is that some 20,000 sheep-skin vests have been forwarded to the troops in Flanders. Members of the Committee are now anxious that the Australian boys at Gallipoli, where the weather becomes extremely cold in winter, should be similarly equipped. If these sheepskin suits can be provided at a cost of £1 per head by utilizing the machinery and organization now in existence at a factory which is being maintained by private people, the Government cannot do better than take up this work at once. It is not necessary to obtain an official report on it, and then, perhaps, pay twice as much for the article. That is what invariably happens in connexion with Government Departments. Whilst I do not reflect on the integrity of the Defence officers, I say that a soldier is by nature unfitted to be a business man. That fact has been demonstrated over and over again, and it is time that the Government enlisted the aid of those who have proved their commercial ability. Another proposed expenditure is the now familiar suggestion to build a Small Arms Factory at Canberra. I have sufficient data to convince the Committee of the unwisdom at this stage of incurring a wasteful expenditure in order to gratify a whim to build a mythical paradise at a cost of something like £100,000, which, I estimate, will be the expenditure required to have the Factory removed from Lithgow to Canberra.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter at this stage.
– Before rising I took the trouble to make inquiries as to whether I could discuss all expenditure in Committee of Supply, and I was informed that I could do so.
– The honorable member cannot discuss any matter that is set down on the business-paper for future discussion.
– I did not understand that. I hope to have an opportunity later to deal more fully with this question.
– I desire, in the first place, to refer very briefly to a reply given by the Prime Minister to a question I asked today as to whether holders of State securities would be subject to Federal income tax, or whether prospective flotations by the States would be exempt from that taxation. The Prime Minister’s reply was not definite, but he said he was bound, as the representative of the National Government, which was charged with the supreme responsibility of the defence of Australia, to guard every portion of the area of taxation open to the Federal Government. While it is true that the National Parliament is responsible for defence, and that the Commonwealth Government are charged with the obligation of providing men, munitions, and money for the conduct of the war, yet, in a very vital sense, the States co-operate in the provision of that money, because it is the production and the industries of the States that must provide it. At this juncture finance is a very vital question to every State of the Common wealth. The pressure is as severe on the States as on the Commonwealth, and it is unfortunate that it should come at a time when a disastrous drought has made the position of the States extremely critical, apart from the demands which the war is making on the resources of the Commonwealth. We must remember also that the Commonwealth has been gradually trespassing on the preserves of the States, which have been left a very small margin indeed for extra taxation for necessary administrative purposes. The first encroachment by the National Parliament was the imposition of a land tax, which- was one of the direct sources of revenue on which the States very largely relied. Very soon an increase in the tax followed, and now we have the disheartening prospect opened up by the decision of the Adelaide Conference that another dose of land taxation, up to the limit of ls. in the £1, shall be administered. So that land taxation, which is one of the few sources from which the States obtained their revenue, has been pretty well exploited already by the Federal Government. The next Commonwealth impost was the probate and succession duties, and again the States were penalized. Their taxes were duplicated by a tax that is one of the most severe in the Commonwealth.
– It is the most severe in the world.
– The dual tax is the highest, but the incidence of the Federal tax is exceeded only in the State of Queensland, where it reaches, I think, 17-j per cent., though as to this I cannot speak with certainty. At any rate, there is one State in which the limit is higher than in the Federal arena; and when the Federal tax is added to the tax of that State, then, as I say, the dual taxation is the highest to be found in any part of the world.
– In Queensland the probate and succession duties amount to 21 per cent., and this, with the Federal duties of 15 per cent., means 36 per cent.
– In any one of the States the dual tax represents the severest to be found in any part of the world. Then we have recently had another increase in the Tariff, though that, of course, is hardly appropriate in this relation, because it is the reserved area of the Commonwealth. Having in view the dual form of taxation adopted hitherto, I am not sure that the Government would not have acted wisely if they had again gone to the Customs for some slight increase that would have been borne by every section of the community without distinction.
– The Government could get £2,000,000 more revenue in that way without reaching the peace standard of New Zealand.
– There is no doubt that the taxation could have been put in a form that would not have proved an excessive burden, and which would have been participated in by every section of the community to some extent. It is a very sound principle that in time of war everybody should be called upon to contribute, however little.
– The working classes contribute the great bulk of taxation both in times of peace and times of war.
– I shall show later on that the form of taxation proposed will probably press as heavily on the relatively poor, in the indirect effect of its incidence, as would a tax through the Customs House such as I have indicated. The proposed income tax will be a severe experience for the people of Australia, reaching, as it does, to 5s. in the £1 on certain incomes. I am quite of opinion that wealth ought to pay its full share, and possibly more than an even share; but if the taxation be excessive and unreasonable, it may have a reflex influence, which, if not disastrous, may prove very burdensome to the people. ¥e cannot regard Australia as a country in which there is any very large measure of surplus wealth. As some one interjected this afternoon, it is idle1 to judge the taxing conditions here as if they were similar to those obtaining in the Old Country. Why, the whole world may almost be said to be the debtor of the people at Home. There we find an enormous amount of taxable wealth, which, however, is somewhat differently placed from the wealth in this country, inasmuch as nearly all the latter is used as the working capital of the country. We have a few rich men, though not many; but even their wealth, if not directly by themselves, is indirectly, through the banks and other financial organizations, employed in the various avenues of production. No doubt wealth has to be taxed when necessity demands it, but if the taxation be unreasonable and unjust - if it goes beyond sound principles of administration - it simply withdraws capital from those avenues of production. As wealth is thus withdrawn,, the avenues of production must shrink; and we must not forget that it is production that has to pay the cost of this war. Instead of interfering with, or putting: any impediment in the way of, production, we ought to do everything that is humanly possible to increase it.
– The land tax has increased production.
– That is all rubbish. Some men who know mighty little about production may be of that opinion; but it is quite an erroneous one. In many cases the land tax is passed on ; indeed, it is passed on in more instances than otherwise. However, I do not wish to be drawn aside from the immediate question before us, because it is my desire to assist the Government to conclude our business by next Thursday. If the proposed income tax is not justified by existing conditions, then instead of assisting the Government in a time of financial stress, it will retard their efforts to find the wherewithal to meet the burdens that are being placed on the community. There is another point worthy of consideration. Is. this excessive income tax to be a war tax pure and simple? The people of Australia believe this to be the case, and are, therefore, content to swallow the dose uncomplainingly in order to provide for the prosecution of the war to a victorious conclusion. If it is not purely a war tax. - and the evidences contained in the statement of the Prime Minister go to show that it is not all to he appropriated for the purposes of war - we ought to be straight and let the people know exactly how much is for war and how much for the ordinary purposes of . government. If some portion of the revenue thus raised is to he diverted to meet the ordinary expenditure of the Government, we ought at once to assure the people of the country that the pruning knife is to be applied to the public expenditure, not by starving the services, but by checking the extravagant and shocking waste due to inexperience and incapacity in the management of our public affairs. I do mot advance this contention in any ‘spirit. of captious criticism, because it applies to all those who have had the administration in their hands from the beginning of Federation, no matter from which side of the House they have been selected. In this Parliament there are members of large administrative experience in the States, and it was to be expected that their administrative capacity would be such as to place the public Departments of this country, and the Service generally, on a sound basis. I know that this observation requires qualifying, because, up to the time that the operation of the Braddon section expired, the revenue of the National Parliament was relatively small, and when people have to handle only a small revenue they become a bit Scotch, and do not indulge in extravagance. When, however, the Braddon section ceased to operate, and the National Parliament inherited a windfall of extensive wealth, that wealth was. spent with almost unparalleled prodigality. Not only was the whole of the additional revenue spent, but, concurrently with the inheritance of the big legacy, the Government of the day cast about for revenue from taxation at a time when that step was altogether unjustifiable. The enormous influx of wealth consequent upon the handling of the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue, less the 25s. per capita, ought to ha.ve been sufficient to finance the National Parliament without resort to direct taxation. We have had extravagant and inefficient administration, and what has struck me during the six years I have been a member is that the House has never had a proper grip or control of the finances of the country. It has been exceedingly difficult for honorable members to- analyze the public expenditure. In spite of repeated demands, we have not been afforded that detailed information regarding public expenditure which is our right. It is the right of every individual member of the House to he placed in possession of such information, for otherwise he cannot faithfully discharge his responsibilities to the people who send him here. However, there have- recently been created a Public Works Committee and a Public- Accounts Committee, and I have hoped, and I continue to hope, that an analysis of the- public accounts and the oversight of public expenditure lay one of these Committees., will place this
House in a position to deal with the affairs of this country as we have never hitherto been .able to deal with them. I have, outside this Parliament, particularly during the last appeal to the country, told my constituents that waste, extravagance, and inefficiency in administration in all public Departments were responsible for upwards of £1,000,000 a year. That could be saved; but, taking into consideration all public expenditure, both from loan and from revenue funds, to-day I am convinced that an efficient system of administration would possibly be responsible for saving nearer £2,000,000 than £1,000,000. We have, for instance, the report of Mr. Anderson upon the Postal Department. It is no- revelation to me, or to many honorable members; but, nevertheless, it reveals a shocking condition of affairs, which is not to the credit of the National Parliament or the National Government. According to Mr. Anderson, inexperience and- incapacity, and the lack of ordinary business principles in the administration of the Post aud Telegraph Department alone are responsible for a wastage of £353,000 a year, which could be saved straight away by the adoption of more competent administration. Indeed, Mr. Anderson indicates that a larger amount could be saved. The honorable member for Gwydir, who for a time was chairman of the Postal Commission, which did a large amount of laborious work, and very good service, contends that Mr. Anderson’s report is practically, if not entirely, on the lines of the recommendations of that Commission, and that the weak spots in the Department were discovered and reported upon five years ago. Yet what was known to exist, and what was reported to be existing five years ago. and its existence has been now indorsed by Mr. Anderson, still remains.
– All- Governments that have been in office have ignored it.
– I do not know who unearthed Mr. Haldane, the accountant, or where he came from, but I d’o say that his reports, and particularly his-, last report, indicate that he has a very fine grip of the whole affairs of the Department. Possibly he has followed the evidence obtained by the Postal Commission!. At any rate, he indicated pretty well the extent of the improvements, and consequent economy, that should be secured, and that Mr. Anderson has laid down as desirable.
– Mr. Haldane was not in the Postal Service when the Postal Commission was sitting.
– I know that. I know when he took over the position, because I have read his reports, which indicate that he got on the track of the work done by the Postal Commis’sion and also right on the track of the revelations and subsequent proposals submitted by Mr. Anderson. Such a man as Mr. Haldane is invaluable. I wish we had a few more like him in all the Departments.
– Hear, hear; he is an excellent officer !
– Very great credit is due to him. Had he. been the head of a Department, he would possibly have been in a’ position to carry out reforms which it is out of the question for an officer who is practically in a subordinate capacity to institute. Mr. Anderson’s investigations into the Defence Department also have . revealed an amount of waste and extravagance that is simply appalling.
– I thought that his report was very apologetic.
– We have not the whole of Mr. Anderson’s report on the Defence Department. Possibly, in his original report to the Government, he may have put in a bit of ginger which does not appear in the portion submitted to the House. On the face of it, it is only a synopsis.
– Why did we not have the whole report?
– We are told, if not directly, at least by inference, that there may be sufficient military reasons why what is held in reserve should not be made public; but when the time comes when it will be seemly that the full report should come before us, we shall be a little inquistive as to its contents.
– I hope that there will be more ginger in it.
– Very likely there will be. It was the policy of the party now in Opposition when before the country to create in the Defence Department a commercial side to be charged with the business aspect as apart from the military work of the Department. There can be no more extravagant men, or no worse business men, than are to be found, as a rule, among those who’ wear gold lace. Taking them as a whole, they may be very fine men and very competent and efficient on the military side, but they are poor business men, and poor administrators. There are exceptions, but I am afraid we have not any of them in our Department. They are reckless in regard to expenditure. They exercise no caution or care in regard to the expenditure of public money. Last week the Prime Minister made a statement in regard to the Defence Department that was a straightout admission, not only of inefficiency, but also of something very much worse. When it was hinted that the Government should have two or three keen business men to take over the business side of the Department, the Prime Minister said that if keen business men had been at that work some patriotic people would be in gaol to-day.
– Hear, hear!
– Then it is a great pity that they are not in gaol. It indicates that there has been something tantamount to corruption in the Department.
– Some people got in behind the law who were prepared to poison the troops by sending them rotten food.
– Those people ought to be in gaol, and many others who have been playing on the inefficiency of the Department in order to scoop in big and unwarranted profits. I have no time for such people, especially in the time of national disaster. But the administration of the Defence Department has been unbusiness-like from top to bottom ; otherwise many of the little games that have been practised upon it would not have been possible. The Department has been engaged in purchases running into millions of pounds sterling, but there has been little or no application of business principles in the handling of such enormous transactions, and when we find that the Government have not employed in such a gigantic business an independent Board of the most capable commercial experts that could be found in the community there is a serious reflection upon their administration. If the Department were freed from red-tape, and if purchases were submitted to a Board of independent, competent, expert men, conducted on proper lines, corruption in the matter of public supplies would be next to impossible. We have been very fortunate indeed in that the instances of looseness of administration have not been worse. The Prime Minister has said over and over again that the States must practise economy, and that people in their private capacity must do so. I say to him, “Physician, heal thyself.” The Federal Parliament has not even attempted to practise economy. In fact, it has gone in the opposite, direction. For a Government to bring down Estimates with large increases over what sufficed twelve months ago does not look like an effort at practising economy in a time of great calamity. It is no encouragement to the people. It will not tend to stimulate their patriotism or assist in inducing contributions to the loan. It is about time that we insisted on immediate economy. We should insist on the Government reducing their expenditure to a point not greater than the amount needed last year. We need economy in every direction, but the National Parliament ought to lead in this matter. If the States have been prodigal in their expenditure - and they have been - the National Government has been prodigal too. There is not, however, much fear as regards the States in the future, because the National Government has first call on the revenues of the country, arid the stringent necessities of the moment will demand rigid care and economy, from which escape will be impossible. We need economy in the carrying out of public works, in regard to which at the present time day labour is employed, and control is exercised, not by our experienced professional officers, but by industrial organizations outside. In a time of stress like the present, this sort of thing must and will come to an end ; it will break down of its own weight. I do not think that in connexion with any public work has there been more scandalous incompetence, inefficiency, and waste of public money than prevailed during the first year in which the East-West railway was under construction. The waste ran into fabulous sums, although evidence of it could not be obtained to-day except by an investigation nf experienced engineers into every schedule of work done. The control of the work is now under an engineer of the highest experience, capacity, and character, who won a big reputation in the State of Queensland. He was often quoted as having constructed lines in Queensland under the day labour system more cheaply than they have been constructed under other systems elsewhere in Australia, but his first report to the Government showed that those lines were constructed, not under the day labour system, bat under the small contract or butty gang system, the day labour system being used only when the others could not be resorted to. To-day this engineer is bound by the cut-and-dried policy of his Government, or, perhaps, I should say, of industrial forces outside this Parliament. We shall never get efficiency in public works expenditure until day labour estimates have to run the gantlet of public competition. It is all very well to say that work is done by certain Departments more economically under the day labour system than it could be done under the contract system, but I challenge the submission of a single instance.
– What about the Teesdale Smith contract?
– I shall deal with that contract, if I have time. In it my honorable friend and others discovered something of a mare’s nest, and the fact that the present Minister of Home Affairs paid Mr. Teesdale Smith the full amount of his account without any deduction is conclusive proof that his work was satisfactory. The honorable member and some others are beginning to learn the truth in these matters. The estimates of public Departments cannot be accepted until they have run the gantlet of competition with those of public tenderers. Public competition is the only protection that the taxpayers have, and it is about time that they were considered. About twelve months ago Mr. Joseph Timms offered to complete the East-West railway for the sum of £2,000,000, trains to be running over the line within two years of the date of the signing of the contract. The offer was declined by the Government - I believe on the advice of the Engineer-in-Chief, who had to follow the policy of the Government, and resist the contract system in favour of the day labour system. The reasons given by the Engineer-in-Chief for the rejection of the offer have been published in the newspapers, and his report has been laid on the table. It was only recently that I could secure a reply from Mr. Timms. I am not here as his apologist, nor as the apologist of any contractor, but I have persistently advocated the submission of day labour estimates in competition with public tenders. If day labour estimates are lower than public tenders, and work can be done more cheaply by day labour than by contract, by all means adopt day labour; but every new proposal should be tested by calling for public tenders, otherwise the taxpayers’ interests are not properly considered. The following statement has been prepared by the quantity surveyor employed by Mr. Joseph Timms, with the latter’s authority: -
In framing his report, Mr. Bell assumed that Mr. Timms based his offer for completion of the east-west railway for £2,000,000 on Mr. Deane’s estimate of £4,045,645. Mr. Timms most decidedly did not take Mr. Deane’s estimate into consideration. As a practical man, with a thorough knowledge of the conditions of railway construction through similar country, both in South and Western Australia, and therefore fully alive to the difficulties to be encountered, he made his own estimate of costs, and offered to back his opinion by putting up a deposit of £50,000.
In addition to this deposit of £50,000, the Government, had the offer been accepted, would have held percentage payments which, considering the size of the job, would have equalled’ another £50,000, and would thus have had a guarantee of £100,000 in cash and the reputation of one of the most successful railway contractors in Australia -
Mr. Bell arrives at the conclusion that the value of the work usually let by contract would amount to only £830,000. Apparently Mr. Deane’s estimate, therefore, did not provide for a ballasted line. Mr. Timms, knowing that a fully-ballasted line was essential, provided for it in his estimate.
As the right honorable member for Swan has shown, the original estimate provided for a ballasted line. It is inconceivable that any one would think of constructing a main trunk line 1,000 miles in length without using ballast. To maintain the necessary speed the strongest road possible would be necessary. An unballasted line would not permit of a speed of more than 15 miles an hour.
– According to the original specification, the line was to be, not entirely, but partly, unballasted.
– I understand that the. line was to be ballasted but that it was not to be fully ballasted for its whole length.
– We have been told that it was not to be ballasted at all, but, as a matter of fact, a quarry has been opened, and a line made to it, in order that ballast may be obtained. Mr. Timms provided in his estimate for ballasting -
As the quantity of ballast required would be approximately 2,800,000 cubic yards, the cost of this must be added to Mr. Bell’s estimate of £830,000, admitting, for the sake of argument only, that such estimate is a fair one. The cost of this ballast placed in position would be not less than 7s. per cubic yard, or an additional cost to Mr. Bull’s estimate of £080,000, making the total cost of work usually let by contract, according to Mr. Bell, £1,810,000.
That the estimate of £830,000 is quite unreliable is proved by the fact that, in his deductions from the total costs for work other than usually let by contract, he includes rollingstock, £350,000. This evidently includes plant required both of a permanent and temporary character. It will be found that Mr. Timms’ offer includes the purchase of plant required for construction purposes at a valuation which would at least amount to £50,000. Again, on materials for bridges and culverts, £21,000 is deducted. Such expenditure is invariably borne by the contractor, and is provided for by Mr. Timms. Miscellaneous, £11,953, may mean anything or nothing. If it means unforeseen contingencies, it is, of course, the business of the contractor to provide for it, and it was taken into consideration in Mr. Timms’ figures.
Water supply accounts for £456,000. The contractor would, of course, have to provide for his own water supply, as did Mr. Teesdale Smith on his contract, and, therefore, Mr. Timms would have to provide a certain amount on the same account- knowing that the departmental methods of making provision for permanent supplies would be quite unreliable for construction purposes - as no attempt has been made to construct dams until the head of the road has passed the sources of supply, instead of being constructed ahead of the work.
It may, therefore, be assumed that, even if the work usually let by contract, according to Mr. Bell, amounted to £830,000, exclusive of ballasting, then Mr. Timms’ estimate of £2,000,000 for the completed road was, apparently, a correct one; and if Mr. Bell can carry out the whole of this work at Mr. Timms’ figure, he will have to be credited with equal executive and administrative ability. Whatever the line may cost above that sum will represent the loss to the country by the daylabour policy of construction. The line should now be sufficiently advanced for an approximately correct estimate to be made.
I want that to be placed on record, be cause the railway was, in the first instance, estimated to cost £4,050,000. A revision of wages has occurred since then, but I think there is very little difference.
– There has been an in crease in wages.
– There has been an increase from 200 or 300 miles out of Port Augusta to the interior, but that increase was contemplated under Mr. Timms. Whatever the increase, however, I am afraid that when the line is completed it will have cost nearer £6,000,000, possibly nearer £7,000,000, than the original estimate.
– Does the honorable member suggest that work should be stopped ?
– I suggest nothing of the kind. I only advocate the application of brains, both in this House and in the Department, so as to secure something like economy in the expenditure of public money.
.- May I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Wakefield as to the value of the report presented by Mr. McC. Anderson on postal -matters, though I regret that his report suggests no way of putting the house in order. In addition to this report, however, the Government have now before them the report of the Postal Commission presented some years ago, and also much criticism of the Post Office, and I hope that now they will make some serious effort to put the Department into a state of efficiency, and to save the enormous waste that has been going on from year to year. Up to a few years ago an item was placed on the Estimatesfor the purpose of encouraging inventions or suggestions that might improve the working of the Post Office, andI regret that that item no longer appears, notwithstanding that, during the whole of my parliamentary experience, not more than £4 was expended out of that vote in any one year. A big Department like the Post Office, employing many thousands of hands, must possess brains worth more than £4 a year, and I hope the Postmaster-General will reinstate the item to which I refer, and give more encouragement to the rank and file to make suggestions for improving the Department’s efficiency. . I do not complain of the ability shown by the men at the head of the Post Office, yet they do not know everything. They do not constitute the whole of the brains of the Department, and there must be many minor matters coming under the notice of the men in the ranks capable of considering improvements.
– We give rewards for suggestions now.
– How many rewards’ have been given lately?
– A good few.
– All I know is that boxes used to be placed in the various general post-offices for the purpose of receiving suggestions, which it was understood were to go direct to the fountainhead. Had I the time, I could point out where many suggestions for improvements made by subordinate officers have never seen the light of day because of the action of higher officials. I desire, also, to enter a most emphatic protest against the action of the Department of Home Affairs’ and the Government in applying the system of preference to unionists to the Electoral Department. The Government claim to have received a mandate from the people in favour of preference to unionists in Government employment generally; but I’ do not think that any one, even In hiswildest stretch of imagination, ever thought that this preference would be extended to the Electoral Department. We. have always prided ourselves upon the thought that our elections have been carried out on proper lines, and by nonpartisan officials. During our investigations, into electoral matters, I came to the conclusion that the electoral officers did their best to carry out the elections impartially.
– Would the honorable member give preference to returned soldiers in the Electoral Department?
– I would give returned soldiers all the preference possible. The brave men who have fought the battles of their country deserve more than I am afraid the Commonwealth will ever be able to give.
– Then the principle cannot be wrong.
– I would not grant them preference because they are unionists, but because they have fought for us. If they were impartial men, I would not hesitate for a moment to give them a preference in electoral employment.
– That does not affect the principle.
– In answer to a question some time ago, the Minister of Home Affairs told me that preference to unionists would be adopted in the appointment of temporary officers in the Electoral Department, who constitute 90 per cent, of all the employees in the Department. Temporary appointments, where they can be avoided, in any Department are always a mistake, but particularly are they a mistake in connexion with the Electoral Department. A good deal of the trouble and the chaos that has existed in the past has been the result of temporary employment, and I hope the Government will, as far as is possible, officer the Electoral Department with permanent men who will be able to operate the Department upon a system preferable to that which has hitherto prevailed. If, however, the system of granting preference to unionists is to be applied to this Department, the Government may, in the very near future, find itself charged- with having introduced the “ Tammany “ system, which has been most reprehensible in its effects elsewhere, to Australia.
– Can the honorable member state one case where preference to unionists has been granted in the Electoral Department?
– I am relying upon the information given by the Minister of Home Affairs, who told me that in future all appointments would be made on the basis of preference to unionists. I hope that before long the recommendation of the Commission on electoral matters will be carried out, and that, as far as possible, the administration of the Electoral Department will be removed from Ministerial control. Another Department that I think should be removed from Ministerial control is that of the Commonwealth Statistician. Notwithstanding the confidence I have in Mr. Knibbs as a good, strong, reliable Statistician, I am very much afraid that the Government have at times directed him to make returns according to order. This Parliament is indebted to Mr. Knibbs for the very valuable works that he has put before us from time to time, and I should like always to be able to think, as I do now, that those works are reliable, and that there has been no interference by the Government with their compilation. We shall feel more secure in this respect if Mr. Knibbs is entirely freed from Ministerial control. I was much interested in the reference made by the honorable member for Robertson to the horses now under the control of the Defence Department at Maribyrnong. I do not agree with all that he had to say with regard to them. They certainly would stand a little weeding out, but, on the whole, they are a very fine lot. The honorable member referred to the dual control exercised with regard to defence works. The fence, as described by him, was certainly a menace to the safety of thousands of horses at Maribynong, and I heard an officer say that he had to obtain permission from the Department of Home Affairs before he could do anything with it. If the Department of Home Affairs stands in the way in such a matter, it should get a move on, and take care that public property is not jeopardized by its indifference to the wants of the Defence Department. I propose to make a brief reference to the taxation proposals of the Government. By rigid economy, we might avoid any further taxation at the present time. The income tax, as proposed by the Government, in my opinion, is not justified; but, even if it is, the people of Australia, who will be called upon to pay it, and who, believing it to be a war tax, will cheerfully do so, are entitled to the assurance that strict economy is being observed, and that the expenditure of the money so raised will be strictly supervised. I am inclined to think that the income tax is not a war impost, but simply a tax to square the ledger, and that, apart altogether from the war expenditure, the ordinary expenditure of the Government will swallow up the whole of it, as well as the return from other taxation which has been foreshadowed. By the exercise of economy, a saving of millions could be effected. Let me refer to one or two items: The referenda, which will probably cost about £150,000, could very well stand over for a little while.
– That is an increased estimate.
– It is estimated that the cost of submitting to the people the Constitution Alteration Bills will be over £90,000. In addition to that, it is proposed to scatter broadcast a pamphlet setting out the reasons for and against the Government proposals, although they will probably not be read by more than 1 per cent, of the people.
– The cost of that pamphlet is included in the estimate of £90,000.
– That is not so. Most of our general elections cost up to £100,000, although no pamphlet or literature of any kind is circulated in connexion with them by the Government. The issuing of this pamphlet might very well be dispensed with. The people of Australia to-day, if they care to give any consideration at all to the referenda questions, are probably as conversant with them as they will choose to be before they vote. The public mind of Australia today, however, is not in a fit state to consider such questions. The people have quite enough to read and think over in these troublesome times without being asked to wade through a lot of arguments regarding the referenda proposals.
– They know all about them.
– Then the Government should dispense with this pamphlet, and so save something like £15,000. Some time ago, when the honorable member for Cook had’ a motion before the House in regard to the referenda proposals, I made a suggestion which, if adopted at the time, might have taken the place of the referenda for at least the period of the war. That suggestion was that the States should be asked to concede to the Commonwealth Parliament powers that would enable it, during the war, to control food supplies and the necessaries of life generally.
– Then the honorable member admits that food supplies ought to be controlled ?
– In time of war we have to do many things which we would not otherwise do. I admit that the public are being fleeced by middlemen and others, while the Government are standing by and doing nothing. My suggestion was a short cut to the absolute control of food supplies and the necessaries of life by the Commonwealth Parliament. The Government, however, had pinned their faith to the referenda proposals, and said they would have them or nothing. By the time that they are passed, and Bills under them are submitted to this Parliament, I hope that the war will have ended. The people, at all events, will have been bled severely owing to the inactivity of the Government and the do-nothing policy which has been characteristic of them during the last twelve months. Quite a number of charges have been made against middlemen. The honorable member for Illawarra recently said that they were exploiting the public, and I think there is a good deal of force in that statement. It is idle, however, to complain unless we do something, and I charge the Government with having done nothing to prevent the exploitation of the people during the last twelve months. At the same time, I do not charge them with having failed to attempt to do anything. When they have made such an attempt they have gone to the very people whom they have been blackguarding for the last twenty years. When they wanted money they went to the banking institutions and obtained from them a loan of £10,000,000 without interest: That was a very good deal. They went to the very institutions which for the last twenty years, to my knowledge, they have described as bloodsuckers. They appealed to them to help them out of their difficulty.
– The honorable member said the Labour Government had done nothing.
– I said they had attempted to do something, but had absolutely failed. In this instance they went to the banks and induced them to do what was wanted. When- they made a deal in sugar they asked that “ hydraheaded monster,” the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, to transact the whole business for them. They have told us that no money is needed ; that the Government have handed the whole thing over to the company, and are merely directing the business. I venture to say that before the sugar question is settled the Attorney-General will wish he had never heard of it, and that the public of Australia will rise in rebellion against what has been done by this Labour Government. Then, again, when they proposed to do something with regard to the shipment of wheat they went to the Shipping Combine - one of the most powerful rings in the world.
– Then the honorable member admits that there is a Shipping Combine ?
– Yes. I have had the honour of fighting it for the last twenty years, and in some respects have successfully fought it.
– The honorable member should receive the Victoria Cross.
– I am satisfied when I obtain some return for my labour. As a result of my action, the farmers of Australia were saved £70,000 per annum.
– The honorable member had very good assistance. He had the united dairymen of Australia behind him.
– I am thankful to them for their assistance, and to the press of Australia, particularly the Brisbane Courier, which helped us nobly in the fight against the combine. But for their assistance we should not have won through. I headed the movement, and was nobly assisted by those who were interested. The dairymen of Australia today are reaping the benefit. Their freights cannot be raised - no matter what combine may operate - until the expiration of the present mail contract. I come now to the manufacture of munitions. Although we have been at war for over twelve months, we have not produced a shell or a gun other than the rifles turned out by the Small Arms Factory. Private enterprise has been mobilized for six months-
– And has produced nothing.
– Because the Government have stood in the way. They have been waiting for a lead from the Government.
– How long have the specifications been here?
– The specifications that we have were received through a private firm.
– Have not those specifications to be submitted to the British War Office?
– Probably they have, and the Defence Department should submit them. It should have had the specifications.
– How does the honorable member know that they have not been submitted ?
– I only know that they have not been submitted to those who are waiting to start the manufacture of munitions, although fine offers have been made to the Government by owners of machinery to place the whole of their plants at their disposal for that manufacture. They have offered to place these plants under the absolute control of the Government, but no advantage has been taken of the offers. While they are talking about- removing the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow-
– The honorable member is on thin ice now.
– The construction of that Factory would occupy eighteen months, but there are private factories at the disposal of the Government at which the manufacture of small arms could be commenced to-morrow, if the Government so chose. One firm in Ipswich offered toput its factory at the disposal of the Government free of cost for the term of the war. It is only a small establishment, which would employ perhaps 100 or 200 men, but something could be produced there which would be helpful in the prosecution of the war. We must bear in mind, the remarks made recently by Sir John French that the war has now resolved itself into a contest between Krupp’s and Birmingham, and if the Allies are to succeed, we must help to do the work df Birmingham. We should be producinghalf a million pounds worth of munitions* per month in Australia, and we could do that if the Government would give private enterprise a lead in this matter. We have not a gun or a shell with which to defend ourselves if Australia were attacked, and the time has arrived when this matter must be tackled in earnest. So far, the Navy has been a very sure defence, but raids may be made on Australia, and we have not even a pop-gun with which to keep the enemy off. The whole of the Defence Department needs an overhaul. We ask men to go to the front and fight for the Empire for a miserable amount of 6s. per day.
– What troops in the world receive more ?
– I am prepared to admit that the Australian troops are the best paid in the world, but if we ask men to fit up transports for the conveyance of troops to the front, they insist on receiving 12s. per day, and a very handsome price for overtime. We are fighting against a well organized nation, whose soldiers fight in the ranks, or work in the factories for ls. 8d. per day. If men in Germany do not prove suitable in the factory they are sent to the front; their permission is not asked. There should be more adequate control over defence matters, while the Empire is in danger. When we see the Minister going cap in hand to the trade unions, and asking their permission to fit up transports, and when we know that, because the Minister would not fall in with the demands of the unions, troops were delayed in Melbourne for six weeks at the cost of the country, and probably with great loss of life amongst the others at the battle front, we have proof that something is radically wrong. The authorities should have power to instruct the workers to fit up transports. The time has arrived when we should have conscription.
– Are you game to advocate conscription on the platform ?
– I am prepared during the period of the war to advocate that system on any platform in Australia. I did so a few nights ago at Fitzroy, where another honorable member advocated a different policy, and I was cheered to the echo. Under the present system the best manhood of the country is being sacrificed, and the Government are being involved in enormous expense because they have not the power to act.
– You said a few moments ago that we have no rifles or munitions, and now you urge conscription.
– We require conscription not only in regard to men, but also in regard to munitions, and in order to enable us to organize our industrial forces. Another point which I wish to make is that no compensation is provided for dependant’s of the brave boys who are shot unless they make claims as paupers. The soldier dies, and is forgotten, but if a man is killed in any other occupation in Australia, his relatives are able to claim compensation under one or other of our statutes.
– Are we not paying pensions to our soldiers’ dependants?
– We are paying pensions to mothers, wives,, and children if they are declared dependants, or, in other words, paupers.
– The money lenders are asking a high rate of interest for their money.
– And the Government are playing into the hands of the money lenders by the terms they are offering for the war loan. They have raised the price of money 1 per cent., and if one asks for gold an extra 1 per cent, is charged. I propose now to call attention to a few leakages in the Defence Department as a result of the policy of the Government or the ineptitude of the officers responsible for the administration of Defence affairs. When I spoke of the Enoggera bread contract previously, I was not able to state the whole of the facts, and the Minister very carefully sidestepped me by saying that he had let the contract to a certain contractor because he employed unionists. I am now able, by means of information taken from the departmental file, to prove my case up to the hilt in regard to the gross political influence brought to bear on the Minister and the enormous extra cost which t the letting of this contract has entailed.
– Has not the other contractor got the contract now?
– Yes, and that proves that the Minister was not properly advised in the first place.
– The other firm has whitewashed its factory since.
– That contractor’s factory did not require whitewashing. It has the most up-to-date baking premises in Australia, but, after listening to the description of its employees given by the honorable member for Brisbane, one wonders why the troops did not revolt when asked to eat bread produced by a factory where, according to the honorable member, there were so many festering scabs. In proof of my statement that political influence was exercised, I desire to call attention to a telegram from the honorable member for Brisbane to the then Assistant Minister of Defence, Mr. Jensen, dated the 23rd January -
Shead only bread contractor employing union labour. Strongly urge favorable consideration his tender Enoggera Camp.
The Minister for the Navy attached a minute -
If the present contract is giving general satisfaction, there is no necessity for a change.
It is quite clear that at that period the Minister considered that the Automatic Baking Company, on its merits, deserved the contract, but he was prevailed upon to make the change, which has cost the Department a considerable amount of money. I asked for the departmental papers some three months ago, and, having at last obtained them, I discover that tenders were invited for a five months’ contract from 1st February. Tenders closed on 20th January. Major Mailer recommended that the tender of the Automatic Baking Company, of 13s. 3d. per 100 lbs. of bread, be accepted. The honorable member for Maranoa was the first to bring political influence to bear; and on that same date he wired the
Minister of Defence, Senator Pearce, as follows: -
Tender for bread closes to-day. Shead only tenderer employing union labour. - Page.
On the 23rd January the honorable member for Brisbane sent the- wire which I read a few moments ago; and the Superintendent of Contracts reported on the matter in the following terms: -
Bread, Schedule 1. - Three tenders have been received for this schedule, the lowest being that of the Automatic Bakeries, as shown hereunder -
H. McDougal, 15s. 7½d. per 100 lbs.
Shead, 15s.6d. per 100 lbs.
Automatic, 13s. 3d. per 100 lbs.
Attention is, however, drawn to the following facts : -
Two wires, attached, have been received, one from Mr. Page, M.H.R., and one from Mr. Finlayson, M.H.R., staging that Shead is the only tenderer employing union labour. The contract extends to the 30th of June next, and while the Automatic Bakeries guarantee delivery at fixed rate of 13s. 3d. per 100 lbs. for the whole period, W. Shead tenders 15s.6d. per 100 lbs., with the condition that (1) if flour remains at present price, he will supply at 15s.6d. per 100 lbs.; (2), if flour rises in price, he will charge1s. per 100 lbs. of bread for every £1 per ton rise in flour; (3) if flour falls in price, he will allow1s. per 100 lbs. of bread for every £1 per ton fall in flour.
I should like honorable members to pay special attention to the following, showing, as it does, the genuineness or otherwise of the desire of the Labour party to get the highest rates of wages they can for the workers -
The following statements have been made by the firms regarding rates of wages, &c, of employees: - Automatic Bakeries, 5s. per week above award; carters and others, Wages Board awards. W. Shead, wages, hours, and conditions, as per determination.
It will be seen that the question of wages did not enter into the matter so far as the Government were concerned, or otherwise they would have preferred to give the contract to the man who paid the highest. The Minister issued instructions, in the form of a minute, as follows: -
Re contract for broad. As information is to hand that W. Shead is the only tenderer employing union labour, he is to be informed that if he will reduce his price to 14s.6d. per 100 lbs., with conditions as to rise and fall of flour which he attaches, his tender will be accepted.
That was dated the 29th January, and it was replied to by the Military Commandant on the 30th -
Shead will not accept less than 15s., with condition regarding rise and fall. Pending receipt of your wire, it was imperative to arrange with present contractors at ratequoted.
I wish that the Minister for the Navy were here to follow me in my argument on this point, because there is something that needs clearing up.
– The honorable member knows, I think, that the Minister for the Navy has been compelled to go to Sydney,
– I was not aware of that fact; but, at any rate, the Minister of Defence is in Melbourne, and he might be able to hear what I say -
New tenderers subject to forty-eight hours* notice. This has been given him, and arrangements made with Automatic for supplies.. Please wire approval.
That was followed by a wire from Colonel Lee on 3rd February, as follows: -
G.414. - Reply requested my G.377, 30th ult., your W. 10185, Enoggera Camp supply bread contract.
On the same date the secretary of the Bakers Union wired to the Minister for the Navy as follows : -
Should Shead, only union tenderer, not receive contract Enoggera bread, several will be thrown out of employment. Many bakers idle here.
This secretary, and also the president of the union, are employees of Mr. Shead; but I shall deal with that matter later on. On the 4th February the Secretary of the Department wired to the Military Commandant, Brisbane, as follows: -
Your G.377. Minister directs acceptance Shead’s tender, bread Enoggera Camp, at 15s. per 100 lbs., with conditions regarding rise and fall. Any arrangements made with the Automatic Bakeries should accordingly be terminated.
It will be of -interest to take note of the date of that wire. The vouchers show that payments were made for bread as follows, though the figures I have been able to obtain are only for half the period : -
For the Reservists’ Camp the payments were as follows: -
It will be seen from the -vouchers thatfour days’ supply was paid for before the contract was completed. The Minister was parleying in order to get the contract reduced to 14s. 6d., but he accepted it at 15s., and actually paid for bread at 16s., four days’ supply, previous to the contract being approved by him on 4th February. This bread was paid for by cheque on 6th March. The fact that this man was apparently overpaid for bread which he did not supply lends colour to the other charges I suggested when putting a question to the Minister, that there were short weights. I believe I am credibly informed that 850 lbs. to 870 lbs. were supplied by Shead, who was credited with 1,000 lbs.; but when the responsible officer was approached on the matter, he said he had no time to deal with it, and asked his informant to put it into writing, so that it could be investigated. There is another way in which the Department has been “ bested “ by this contractor. His payments were based on the price of flour, and, in evidence given before the State Royal Commission on the Supply and Distribution of Wheat and Flour, at a sitting in Brisbane, it was shown that Shead had contracted for 376 tons of flour in February, and he asked the Commission that the pricecpaid should not be published, but he did not take the necessary precaution to close the mouths of other witnesses, so the manager of - the firm which had supplied the flour gave evidence to the effect that the contract was at 13s. 9d. per cwt., or £13 15s. per ton, for the 376 tons to provide for the contract with the Defence Department. Mr. Shead, however, included in his vouchers invoices for a few tons of flour which he had purchased at £17 10s., and the Department paid him on the basis of £17 10s. for flour which he really had bought for £13 15s.
– It is a swindle.
– It is daylight robbery.
– There ought to be a public inquiry into it.
– The Minister, after calling for tenders for bread for the troops, made an inquiry in regard to one contractor, but he went to the president and secretary of the Operative Bakers Union for his information. Those men are employed by Shead, who was the other tenderer, and consequently the Minister got his information about one contractor from the other, and it is only natural to suppose that a competing firm would not “boost” up the other fellow. The Minister, therefore, was guided in his action with regard to this contract by information which he received from a competitor, and the Minister gave Shead an immediate preference of 2s. 9d. per 100 lbs., with a prospective preference of 5s. 8d. The vouchers showed that this preference amounted to £635 up to the 15th April. This might appear a trivial matter to some honorable members on the Ministerial side, but when we are about to inflict on the public of Australia an additional burden of £4,000,000 in taxation, surely we cannot afford to fritter money away in any direction by giving £1,300 or £1,500 to a man simply because he is a unionist, and in order to bolster up the pet ideals of a political party. The documents show that, up to the 15th April, this contractor was paid £635 more than the figure at which the other people tendered, and from that date to the end of the contract the price was increased from 16s. to 18s., at least, and probably more than that, for I have not seen late documents. It is quite certain, at least, that he was overpaid to the extent of £1,270, and it is quite reasonable to suppose that he was actually overpaid £1 , 500 for his five months’ contract compared with the price given by the Automatic people.
– He has lost the contract, has he not?
– Yes. This only shows that the Government were ashamed at what had been done, or that they had not made proper inquiries in the first placewith regard to the other tenderer, because if the Automatic people are good enough to get the contract now, they were surely good enough to have been given the contract five months ago. There has been no change in the situation.
– Has there not? They accepted the principle of preference to unionists.
– Yes, they did, absolutely.
– Then that was the determining point.
– The Automatic people never refused to employ a unionist as long as I can remember, and the honorable member for Brisbane knows that quite well. Quite a number of unionists work in that establishment.
– There were no unionists, else why should there have been an objection 1
– The honorable member for Brisbane was so far astray in some of his remarks concerning Mr. Shead’s employees that I do not think I need reply to his interjections. For instance, he described one man as a “ scab,” as one who had “scabbed” during the tramway strike in 1912, whereas that man was working at the time in Booval.
– The honorable member is wrong in saving that I said that the man had “ scabbed.”
– The honorable member repeated the words of Mr. Millard, who did say so.
– I quoted from a letter
– The honorable member quoted from a letter written by Mr. Shead’s foreman. When we strip this gentleman of his “hifalutin” title of president of the Bakers Union, and get down to the fact that he is Mr. Shead’s foreman baker, we arrive at the value of Mr. Millard’s letter to the honorable member.
– The letter was not addressed to me.
– At any rate, whether the letter was addressed to him or not, the honorable member was acquainted with the facts before he read it. He knew that Millard was employed by Mr. Shead, and Millard’s signature, as president of the Bakers Union, is discounted considerably by the fact that Millard was in the employment of the firm most interested in the contract. If this were the only contract in which there was a leakage, one could pass it over with the remark that the Government were “got at “ by their supporters, and influenced to do something which was wrong, and of which they have repented, and for which they have tried to make amends since; but there are other contracts just as important which have not come to light. I maintain that an inquiry into the Defence Department would appal Australia in respect to the waste, extravagance, and leakages that are going on. On a previous occasion in this Chamber I referred to the fact that an additional price of 3s. 6d. per pair was being paid for the manufacture of trousers, but that charge was not investigated, though I was prepared to stand by the statement I made. When the war broke out, the s.s. Kanowna was chartered to proceed to Rabaul and some of the islands, and there was the stipulation in the contract that all provisions that were not consumed were to be taken over by the contractor on the return of the boat; but when the boat got back to Thursday Island many tons of foodstuffs were jettisoned, and again outside Moreton Bay they threw the rest overboard.
– Who did so?
– The ship’s people. I do not know who was responsible for this, but I do’ know that there was a provision in the contract that the contractor should take his foodstuffs back on the return of the boat.
– That was a roguish thing to do.
– It shows that there was corruption somewhere, and that these things should be probed to the bottom. In another case the Government paid the contractor £500 in order to cancel a contract. I am quite prepared to discuss these matters with the Minister, or to prove what I have said, should a proper and impartial inquiry be held; but there have been so many faked answers given to the charges of honorable members by those who are responsible that one hesitates to give names, unless he is assured that there will be a thorough inquiry into the matter which is brought forward. Whenever full inquiry has been made the Defence Department has come out very badly. There is a state of chaos in the Department. In Brisbane, in June last, the officers were unable to close their accounts, and were obliged to obtain the assistance of men from the State Government in order to balance their books on the 24th June and send their returns to Head-Quarters. The trouble in the Defence Department is that men who do not understand clerical work are given this kind of work to do. They are probably well-trained military men, but in the management of business affairs they are absolutely wanting. One other matter to which I wish to refer is the question of ascertaining the exact number of unemployed in Australia. I can hardly realize that the Commonwealth is in the bad plight that some honorable members on the Ministerial side would have us believe exists. With 100,000 men taken from the labour market is it possible that there . are so many people unemployed ? I would be sorry to learn that it is. I would be sorry to put any impediment in the way of these unemployed receiving help from the Government or from philanthropic individuals.
– How many men are there out of employment in Queensland in connexion with the meat trade ?
– Quite a number of butehers are now out of employment, and probably would be under any circumstances at this time of the year.
– Would it be safe to say that there are 3,000 out of employment?
– It may be safe to say so, but if the meat trade was handled as it should be handled, and not bungled as it is being bungled by the Federal Government, these men would probably be working.
– In what way have the Federal Government bungled ?
– The Minister of Trade and Customs and the Queensland Government have undertaken to do something of which they know nothing - that is, they have undertaken the task of supplying the general public with beef.
– What have I done! Prove the bunglinff. You think you know something about the matter, but you know nothing.
– I do not know that I have the time to prove bungling.
– Then why not be a man and withdraw your statement?
– I do not intend to withdraw my statement, and if the Minister wishes me to prove that he has bungled, I shall resume my remarks after the adjournment.
– About ten weeks ago the Minister of Trade and Customs gave to the press certain information that led the public of Victoria to believe that he had done something which was going to considerably reduce the price of meat to local consumers. He made his first mistake in giving publicity to the statement that he had done something to cheapen meat, which, up to the present time, the public have not realized. He obtained a lot of kudos out of the announcement, but, unfortunately, the public got no meat, and that, after all, appears to be the one thing which they are looking for. I understand that they are about to get 40 tons of boneless shins, a lot of cast-off stuff in Queensland, but that will find its way to the public, if it does at all, in the shape of sausages, so that the local demand for meat has not been met. I ask the Minister, if he is able to justify his attitude, if he was in earnest about giving to the public of Victoria cheap meat, inasmuch as he did not acquaint himself with the position of the meat trade in this State before he started. I am given to understand that certain exporting firms in ‘Victoria had in cold storage 35,000 or 40,000 carcasses of lamb, which they were not able to export. They were exporters only, not dealing with the local trade, and the Minister took no steps to release that meat to the public in this State. His answer to the honorable member for Wannon today clearly proves that he was not aware of the state of the meat trade here when he made the arrangement which he explained. He made an arrangement with the Queensland Government, who were a party to this deal, to violate the spirit, as well as the letter, of the Federal Constitution by prohibiting Inter-State trade in meat supplies.
– Do you say that I did that?
– I say that the Minister entered into an arrangement with the Queensland Government to commandeer the meat of that State.
– I did no such thing. The honorable member is absolutely inaccurate in his statement.
– It is part of the arrangement. Perhaps the Minister had no particular part to play in prohibiting the export of meat from Queensland, but he entered into an arrangement with its Government.
– Mr. Chairman, I pointed out to the honorable member that I entered into no arrangement. Surely he should take my statement !
– If the honorable member entered into no arrangement he did nothing, and he has been deceiving the public by telling them that he did something.
– It is a rule of Parliament that the assurance of an honorable member should be accepted at once.
– I accept the disclaimer most sincerely, but I point out that the Minister did nothing.
– Why did he get his photograph put in a newspaper here ?
– The Minister got his. photograph in a newspaper for promising the public 40 tons of shins. I do not know whether the shins have arrived here yet, but the public are to get them. If the Minister says he was no party to any arrangement - and, of course, I accept his assurance-
– I stated to-day that all I have done has been to prohibit the export of meat from Australia. I have not interfered with Inter-State trade in meat.
– Then the Minister has not supplied the Victorian public with meat)
– No, I cannot; I can prohibit meat from going outside Australia, but that is all.
– I take it, then, that the paragraph which appeared in the newspaper eight or ten weeks ago was only so much fooling of the Victorian people, and that they have not realized the fulfilment of their expectations. The honorable gentleman has relieved me of a good deal of anxiety. I did say that he bungled the business. If he has done nothing, he has bungled it about as successfully as he could possibly do.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
This is a Bill to amend section 13 of the Constitution Act, which provides for the rotation of senators, and which reads as follows : -
As soon as may be after the Senate first meets, and after each first meeting of the Senate following a dissolution thereof, the Senate shall divide the senators chosen for each State into two classes, as nearly equal in number as practicable; and the places of the senators of the first class shall become vacant at the expiration of three years, and the places of those of the second class at thu expiration of six years, from the beginning of their term of service; and afterwards the places of senators shall become vacant at the expiration of six years from the beginning of their term of service.
The election to fill vacant places shall be made, within one year before the places are to become vacant.
For the purposes of this section the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first day of July following the day of his election, except in the cases of the first election and of the election next after any dissolution of the Senate, when it shall be taken to begin on the first day of July preceding the day of his election.
The original provision of the Constitution was amended in 1906, the amendment being necessary to enable the election of senators to take place at periods convenient for the election of members to serve in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, where the amendment was proposed, the subject was discussed at some length, and from many standpoints; but in this Chamber the discussion was short, its report occupying only four or five pages of Ilansard. The honorable member for Darling Downs had charge of the Bill. In his speech in support of it, vol. xxxiv., page 5046, of the Parliamentary Debates, he dealt merely with the broad principles involved ; and ‘ the present Leader of the Opposition briefly gave his reasons for approving the proposal. The amendment, which was duly approved by the electors, served its purpose until the simultaneous dissolution of both Chambers last year. This has thrown the machinery provided for the simultaneous election of both Houses of the Parliament out of gear. The House of Representatives is elected to serve for a period of three years, though it has never yet sat for its full term ; and last Parliament was so brief that in the retrospect it seems almost a dream. This Parliament will expire by effluxion of time on the 8th October, 1917, but, under the Constitution, onehalf of the members of the Senate must present themselves for re-election on » date which will enable the new Senate to assemble on the 1st July, 1917. Therefore, the elections of senators and members of the House of Representatives, if they took place simultaneously, would have to be held in April or May, 1917. As that is not what the people expect, nor in accordance with the Constitution, it is proposed to extend the term of office of those senators who, as the law stands, must present themselves for election after three years, for two months. That will enable elections for both Chambers to be held after the House of Representatives has been in existence for nearly three years. If the dissolution of Parliament came by effluxion of time, the elections would have to be held at such a date as would enable the return of the writs to be made within 120 days from their issue, which, allowing for the requirements and practice of the electoral law, would be towards the end of September, 1917.
– If this Bill is carried; when will the term of the senators be deemed to have commenced ?
– On the 1st October.
– Will not those senators who must first retire be carried on to December ?
– Yes, until the 1st December, 1917.
– And the next term will go on to February ?
– Yes. Each term will be a period of three years and two months.
– And the full term for which a senator may sit will be six years and four months ?
– So that two full terms of the Senate will bring us round again to June.
– Two full terms ! We are not legislating for eternity ! I say that “ sufficient unto the day is the election thereof.”
– At any rate, this is progress.
– I have looked at this matter in every possible way. I admit that the Bill does not provide -for everything, but it does provide for a great deal. I intend to submit an amendment. I propose to insert after the word “vacant,” in clause 2, the words - and the term of service of senators elected at an election next after a dissolution of the
Senate shall be taken to begin on the day of thefirst meeting of the House of Representatives after the dissolution.
– That is all right.
– This amendment will not lengthen the legislative life of the Parliament by a day or an hour. It will not do anything for this House of Representatives,but will permit the election of both Houses to take place at the end of September, 1917. This Bill, if agreed to, will enable this House to sit for nearly its full tenure of three years from the date of its meeting.
– Not quite three years.
– No, but very nearly.
– So that, in substance, it would extend the life of the Parliament.
– No, it would not. I must quote from the honorable gentleman’s own speech, which I see hehas forgotten. When he introduced the first measure of this kind he said -
The desire of both Houses seems to be to hold the elections for the House of Representatives and for the Senate simultaneously.
I say that that is still the desire, not only of this House, but of the country. It is too much altogether to ask the House of Representatives always to sacrifice from six to eight months of its existence. The present honorable member for Kooyong emphasized this with great force when the proposed amendment introduced by his Government was before the Senate. I repeat that this Bill will not extend the legislative life of this Parliament by a day. But, for the first time, it will enable the triennial principle to operate. It will enable Parliament to live not quite, but very nearly, its full term. This, it has never yet been able to do. The Parliament of 1906 lived for two years and six months. In the last Parliament we had a short and feverish career of about fourteen months.
– Very feverish.
– The consequences of attempting to live our lives at that rapid rate are still pressing themselves very heavily upon very many gentlemen, some of whom are not even- here to express their entire contempt for the whole thing.
– “ Brief life was then our portion.”
– I want to say that, in my opinion, this Bill represents such an amendment of the Constitution as ought to be made. It is on all fours with the amendment introduced by the Deakin Government, of which the honorable members for Darling Downs and Kooyong were members. That amendment of the Constitution would have served the purpose of this Parliament very well had it not been for the double dissolution of both Houses last year. Because of that double dissolution, it is necessary to amend the Constitution again. This Bill will serve the purpose of fixing the elections for both Houses simultaneously at all times, except in the case of a penal dissolution of the House of Representatives. It may be said that, technically, we have no power to fix the date for an election of the Senate; but in practice we have, and it will not be disputed. I ask the House to accept the Bill without unnecessary debate.
– I do not pretend to enter into the merits of this question. I have not had time to look up the debate in connexion with the previous effort to rectify these undoubted anomalies: but my recollection of the measure then introduced is that it did not, as this Bill does, permanently add to the life of the Senate. That is the great distinction between the former Bill and that now under consideration. So that it cannot be said that the two measures are on all-fours. By merely shifting the dates this Bill provides for a continual progression.
– No, not a continual progression.
– The Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member did not make a complete job when they introduced their Bill.
– The AttorneyGeneral is not making a complete job of it. on this occasion, either, except in one way, and that is by adding permanently to the tenure of senators.
– Four months in six years.
– It will work out in the way I have indicated. The next election will be in October, 1917, and the succeeding election in December, three years later. A more unsuitable time than December could not be imagined for an election in Australia.
– There is nothing to prevent us going to the people earlier.
– Has my honorable friend ever heard of a case of an election of Parliament a day before the time appointed by the law and the Constitution for it?
– History is strewn with the sacrifices that legislators have made in that direction.
– But there are, apparently, to be no more sacrifices. Under this Bill, the sacrifices are done with, and henceforth the term “ privilege “ is to be substituted for “ sacrifice.” I shall not argue that point. Everything should be done to make the elections run simultaneously. That is a principle that should be adhered to as far as possible; but whether we should permanently add to the life of the Senate in order to do that is another question. We have before us the alternative of extending the life of the Senate, or of shortening the life of this House, in order to make their terms synchronize. This is not a perfect proposal from any point of. view. Any proposal which throws the general elections* into December may be seriously criticised, having regard to the interests of the people of Australia; and any proposal throwing a subsequent election into February is equally inappropriate, particularly as that is the time of the monsoonal rains in Queensland and some parts of New South Wales.
– Honorable members will then be able to get some knowledge of the country.
– I think we might get as accurate knowledge of the country without having to swim our way to that knowledge. This, however, is one of the natural consequences of the progressive dates such as those arranged for in the Attorney-General’s proposal. . I do not intend to debate the merits of this proposal. In ordinary times any attempt to make the elections synchronize as far as possible should receive the earnest and favorable consideration of the House ; but our position is that, at this period, we are against referenda, lock, stock, and barrel. Therefore, the attitude of members of the Opposition is quite clear. We are against this referendum proposal just as we are1 against other referenda proposals being submitted at the present time.
.- The framers of the Constitution, whilst doing their best to make a clear definition of what the term of Parliament should be, failed in their purpose, because they made the life of the Senate date back instead of forward. Consequently, from time to time Parliament has had to alter the Constitution for the purpose of bringing it into line with its real intention, which was that the House of Representatives should continue for three years. No Parliament with which I have been connected has had a life of three years, excepting after an amendment of the Constitution to secure the same. The framers of the Constitution did not claim perfection, otherwise they would not have provided for a means of amendment; but since they have provided a means of amending the Constitution where it is ineffective, it is the natural corollary of such provision that Parliament should have sufficient courage to exercise the power so as to bring the Constitution into accord with what its framers had in view. Had the honorable member for Darling Downs, when Minister of Home Affairs, recognised that, he could have done what we are now trying to do, when he framed the original amendment - he could have brought the lives of both Houses into line. Instead of doing this, he merely introduced an amendment dealing with the then prevailing conditions. The reason we are in our present position is that the honorable member for Darling Downs did not realize the limitations of his amendment. Now we are asking for constitutional authority to extend the life of this Parliament to the term provided for in the Constitution. No man can object to that; but, as the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition points out, there will be difficulties in the application of this amendment. It is not sufficiently elastic. It will not give Parliament power to fix its elections to take place at times convenient to everybody. Under this proposal each election will take place two months later in the year than the previous election.
– Four months.
– Elections in the middle of summer will be disagreeable, not only to members, but to the general public. In April we shall have the wet season in Queensland; and I want honor able members to realize that by this amendment we shall be creating disabilities that those of us who are here at the time will have cause to remember. Had the House the courage to do the right thing, it could so arrange matters that the elections would always take place in May, a season of the year that would be universally suitable; but, owing to the desire of members of the Opposition to make capital out of what is a necessity, this course, apparently, will not be pursued. Because honorable members opposite feel it incumbent upon them to oppose the other referenda proposals, they look upon this little amendment as another to be butchered upon all the platforms of the country. If the public understood what was required - if members of the Opposition would develop an inclination to tell the people what was right - there would be no hesitation about such an amendment as I have suggested, which would.be both effective and advantageous to both House and country. Since that cannot be, on account of the attitude of members of the Opposition, who are trying to make political capital out of the contemplated referenda proposals, we have to do the best we can.
– The Attorney-General was not quite correct when he stated that this Bill proposed to do substantially what was done by the House when it made the original alteration in the Constitution in 1907. The object of that alteration was simply to enable the general elections to take place in April or May, and it merely extended the term for six months for one period only to enable that object to be achieved. This is quite a different alteration, because, if it is carried, the term of senators, after the first six years are over, and if there is no double dissolution, will be permanently fixed at six years and four months. The life of the House of Representatives will, therefore, be nearer the full three years. That is, we shall be able to have the full three years from the date of our first meeting, and, instead of having to be dissolved, the House will possibly be able to expire by effluxion of time.
– I do not think it can last the full time.
– It may last the full time, or very near it; at any rate, several months longer than it does now, because, instead of our having to be dissolved earlier so as to enable our elections to take place within the six years, there will be a period of four months longer.
– Not for this House.
– Yes, as a consequence. In order to synchronize the elections, the life of our House must last longer. Instead of dissolving, it may possibly expire by effluxion of time.
– Your proposal lengthened the life of the Senate by six months.
– Only temporarily. The Government’s proposal extends it permanently to six years and four months. The Bill will of necessity, in practice, although not in theory, give this House a longer tenure than it enjoys under present conditions.
– It enables the purpose of the Constitution - triennial Parliaments - to be given effect to.
– That is my contention; and the elections will be at different dates each time as the years go on. Instead of every general election taking place in April or May - at a season which suits us best - it will take place in different months. That is a serious fault, which I take it that the honorable member for Gwydir has just emphasized.
– If the honorable member for Gwydir does not like the proposal, let him endeavour to amend it.
.- I cordially support the Bill. All this difficulty has been brought about by the double dissolution of last year. When it took place everybody knew that this difficulty would arise, and this Bill seems the easiest way out of it. This is supposed to be a triennial Parliament, but, with the exception of the third Parliament, we have never sat three years. The third Parliament ran out by effluxion of time, by reason of the last amendment made in the Constitution regarding the Senate elections.
– Yet, with all its vicissitudes, the terms of this Parliament have been longer than the average State term.
– That may be; but I do not want to follow the example of the States in anything, and certainly not in the length of the life of Parliament. We have always sacrificed the life of this House to bring the two elections together, and senators have never been sacrificed, but I see no reason why we should sacrifice the life of the House of Representatives. So far as the present House is concerned, in order to make its life fit in with the next election for the Senate, we should have to submit to a bigger sacrifice than has yet been made. We should have, practically to cut off nearly six months of its life. This House will not expire by effluxion of time until 8th October, but it would have to be dissolved in April in order to bring about an election simultaneously with an election of senators before the 30th June, 1917. I do not think we are called upon to do that. I fail to understand why the sacrifice should always be on the part of this House. All that it is now proposed to do is to extend the life of the Senate in order to give this House an opportunity to run its full term of three years as fixed by the people of Australia when they adopted the Constitution. It is perfectly true that, as the result of this alteration, our elections, instead of taking place at one fixed period of the year, will vary from time to time. It may be said that it will mean an election during the summer months, but in course of time we shall also get into the winter. I do not know that any particular period may be described as good, from a weather point of view, for the holding of an election. We may have a moderate summer, or, as we had last year, an exceptionally moderate winter. I should have been sorry to contest an election in my electorate last year if we had had anything like an ordinary wet winter. It seems to me useless, therefore, to suggest that any particular period of the year may be fixed upon as the most suitable, from a weather point of view, for election purposes. The monotony of holding our elections at a fixed period will be done away with, and there will probably be, on each occasion, an extension of two months. The Bill means that the Senate will be continued for a further period of four months. That extension is not material. It will not actually mean an extension of the life of the Parliament, for the elections will take place, as in the past, before senators’ term of office has expired. I think the proposal should be adopted as the best means of overcoming the difficulty, and of giving this House its full life of three years. I can understand the position of the Opposition. I do not think they object to this proposal, but they are opposed to the referendum on the Constitution Alteration Bills, and they realize that they would place themselves in a difficulty if they approved of this Bill, since they would have to justify the taking of a referendum next December. It seems to me, however, that they might very well say, “ While we do not believe in the proposal to take the referenda at the present time, it is absolutely necessary that this change should be made, and a referendum is justifiable in order that it may be carried into effect.” As it is, they show a little want of courage; they are afraid that if they approved of this Bill they would be twitted with having justified the expense of a referendum at the present time. No party feeling would be created by a referendum on this question, and I think that the House should approve of the Bill in order that the people may be able to express an opinion on the subject.
.- The objection that I have to offer to the Bill is that raised by the honorable member for Darling Downs. At the present time, the Ministry of the day can always fix the dissolution of the House of Representatives for a date that on the whole is best likely to secure a representative vote; but this continuous pushing forward of the time of the Senate elections would take away that discretion from the Executive.
– Senators who were elected at the top of the poll at the last election will have six years and four months of office, and that means that under this Bill an election will have to be held in the month of February. In respect of the next batch, four months would have to be added, and that would bring the date of election to May. The House of Representatives would have to be dissolved, so that the election for it would fit in with that for the Senate.
– But how does that take away the discretion of the Executive?
– The Government might dissolve the House of Representatives, but they could not alter the date of the expiration of the Senate; and by precipitating the dissolution of the House of Representatives they would throw out of gear the very machinery of this Bill. The Attorney-General may be able to show us in Committee how this difficulty can be overcome, but at present I cannot see any way out of it.
– The honorable member has to determine whether the present situation is right - whether it is right to confine the life of the House to two years and five or six months.
– The Attorney-General’s reasoning on that point is fairly correct. At present, the Government must dissolve the House of Representatives earlier, perhaps, than was contemplated.
– We are the representatives of the people, not the sport of circumstances.
– I accept the AttorneyGeneral’s reasoning on that point. The only objection to the Bills is that, in order to have the elections for the Senate at the same time as the elections for the House of Representatives, the House of Representatives must be dissolved at different periods, so that it will be impossible to fix the elections for a date that might best suit farmers and agriculturists generally. Under this Bill, the elections in some years will take place at most inconvenient periods. The only way to get over that difficulty would be to make such an alteration of the Constitution as, after a time, would bring us back to the state of affairs which prevailed before the last dissolution. If that were done, and the seats of senators became vacant as from 1st July, the electoral machinery would very seldom be thrown out of gear, because I do not think there are going to be many double dissolutions.
– Having tried it once, it will not be tried again.
– Having tried it once, with the result, as the Attorney-General has said, that we had a very short, but feverish, session, I do not think double dissolutions are likely to be of such frequency as to make it worth while to alter the Constitution in this way. I do not consider that the proposed alteration is called for. All that is necessary is to make such an alteration as would push forward the election for the Senate to the middle of the year, as was the case before the last dissolution.
.- Apart from the fact that this is a most inopportune time for taking a referendum, it seems to me that the arrangement for which the Bill provides is a most clumsy one. Under it, the first election for the
Senate would take place on the 1st December, 1917 ; the next on the 1st February, 1920; the next on 1st April, 1923; and the succeeding one on 1st June, 1926. It seems to me that the elections would be a movable feast, and that the House of Representatives would be kept dancing attendance upon the Senate in the desire that its elections should take place simultaneously with those for another place. The Attorney-General might have found a more convenient way of overcoming the difficulty. The arrangement embodied in the Bill is awkward, but the responsibility must rest with the Government. I am opposed altogether to the referenda being taken at the present time. The Opposition have already expressed their opinions on that subject. We have spoken and acted in the strongest possible way, feeling that in doing so we are not only giving expression to our own views, but that we have the people of the country with us. Opposed as I am bo the referenda proposals being submitted at the present time, I would like to do all that 1 can to prevent them being accepted by the electors, and shall, therefore, vote against the Bill. At the same time, I think that the object which the Government have in view might have been attained in a much simpler way and without the necessity of always compelling members of this Chamber to reduce the term for which they have been elected, in order to make their period of service expire coincidentally with that of senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Rotation of Senators).
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “and the term of service of senators elected at an election next after a dissolution of the Senate shall be taken to begin on the day of the first meeting of the House of Representatives after the dissolution.”
– I confess that I cannot quite see the pur-port of the amendment. It is a puzzle to me. I take it that under this proposal the six years and four months’ term of service of senators will be varied by the number of days that are occupied by the return of the writs for members of this House.
– But that will occur only after a double dissolution.
– I am aware of that.
– After a double dissolution the term of senators will commence on the day on which this House meets. Thus, senators cannot get a longer period of service than six years and four months.
.- I am sorry that my honorable friends opposite did not support a proposal which was put forward by me in this Chamber some time ago. In my opinion,- it would have operated far more satisfactorily than will this amendment. I would like to direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to the fact that the framers of our Constitution decided that the term of senators should extend over six years - just double that of the period for which honorable members of this House are elected. Now, the States have the control of the election of senators, and through their Executives. they may decide that honorable senators shall retain their seats for their full term, which, under this Bill, will be six years and four months. The House of Representatives, I repeat, is elected for only three years, In these circumstances, it will be possible for the State Executives - if they are not in accord with the Federal authorities - to say, “We will not allow our senators to go to election until the expiration of their full term.” What is to happen during the interregnum? One of my complaints against the system in vogue is that the general public are under the impression that their representatives in this Parliament receive £600 per annum. As a matter of fact they do not, because, at each election, just when they most require the money, they are deprived of several weeks of their parliamentary allowance. I would like to know whether the Attorney-General has thought of this matter - whether it has occurred to him that the members of this Chamber may be compelled to await re-election until the full period for which senators will be elected has expired? In my opinion, this trouble might have been overcome but for those illiberal members who belong to the Suicide Club - that club which brought about the double dissolution.
– It suited the honorable member all right.
– No, it did not. If honorable members opposite had accepted my proposal, fand had given effect to the will of the people by affirming that the members of this Parliament should . receive £600 a year until their successors were elected - the practice which is followed’ in Queensland and Western Australia - this difficulty would have been very largely overcome. I repeat that the States have control of the Senate elections.
– They have control of the issue of the writs, but they are not likely to do what the honorable member suggests.
– Of course, they may decide not to run counter to the wishes of this Chamber, but if the State Parliaments desired to compel senators to go before the people at a different time from that fixed for the elections for this House they could give effect to their wish, and we should have no power over them.
– I think that the point raised by the honorable member is covered by what I said upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill. Although theoretically the States have a right to fix the date for the Senate elections subject to the term for which senators are elected, as a matter of practice we have fixed the date, and shall continue to do so. The two months interregnum of which the honorable member spoke is absorbed by the elections.
– That means that it costs me an additional £20 for my election.
– That is, of course, a matter which cannot be discussed on this Bill.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate without
In Committee of Supply: Debate resumed from this day (vide page 6176).
.- The outstanding point which has been demonstrated in this debate is that, in the temporary Estimates of Expenditure for the year, there is no evidence whatever that the Government propose to economize. Honorable members have only to turn to the Treasurer’s figures to see that, notwithstanding the fact that the Government propose to raise £4,000,000 of additional taxation, they propose to spend the whole of that sum on the ordinary services for the year. Moreover, the revenue will not be within £750,000 of the expenditure on the ordinary services. During the life of this Parliament, we have imposed increased land taxation, and new probate duties, and the Government now propose to raise £4,000,000 by means of an income tax; but the fact is outstanding that the proposed expenditure on annual services will swallow up the whole of that extra taxation, and the Government propose to spend £750,000 in addition. I shall defer my further remarks on this subject until the Income Tax Bill is again before the House. I desire to refer again to the subject of nurses’ outfits, and to tell the Government what I believe has been proceeding, and is, to a great extent, continuing now. In the absence of the Minister for the Navy, I ask the Minister representing the Government to have a thorough investigation made, not by the officers of the Defence Department, who have been responsible for what has taken place, but by some outside authority; and if what I believe to be true is found to be so, those responsible should be immediately sent about their business. I believe that in the answers which have been furnished to the Minister in connexion with questions asked in this House, the Minister has been deliberately misled. The actual facts have been hidden from him, and a system has been in progress which has not only prevented the Minister from finding out really what was taking place, but has necessitated nurses leaving for the front paying for their equipment infinitely more than was necessary. When I brought this matter forward a little time ago, the Minister did make some inquiries, the immediate effect of which was that he added £6 to the amount which was allowed to the nurses for the purchase of their equipment. He also sent Colonel Fetherston to Sydney to inquire as to who was responsible for issuing the circular which was sent to the nurses. I venture to say, with all due respect, that the one person who, in all probability, would never find out who had issued the circular, was Colonel Fetherston. Some time ago,a question was asked in another place as to how the original allowance of £15 was made up, and the answer given by Senator Pearce was that an officer had estimated, after inquiry, that the cost of the outfit would be about £15, made up as follows : -
That was the answer put into the mouth of the Minister. When I made inquiries about the list, I ascertained two things: First, that the list did not comprise onethird of the things which the Department was asking the nurses to provide, one noticeable omission being the outdoor uniform, and I will endeavour to show why no outdoor uniform was mentioned; second, that the amounts set opposite the various items were infinitely more than the garments could be purchased for. I submitted this list to a friend in the wholesale softgoods trade, and he submitted the matter to a customer in the retail trade, with the result that I was furnished with an estimate showing that the goods which the officers said should cost £14 ought to be bought for £611s. That is to say, the estimate of the Defence authorities was so far out as to the cost of the garments that it should have been possible to purchase them for half the amount set out in the answer given by Senator Pearce in the Senate. A point I wish to emphasize is that Senator Pearce, in giving this answer, stated that it was made after inquiry ; but if all our Defence expenditure is based on similar inquiries, members can form some sort of an idea of what we are paying in excess of what we ought to pay. I venture to say that if for this particular list tenders were called, the Minister would find that these garments could be purchased for about £6 10s. A second point I desire to emphasize is that this answer was supplied to the Minister by a responsible officer - who, I presume, was an officer in Melbourne - with the full knowledge that it did not cover one-third of the actual articles which the nurses were asked to take with them on active service. I have the official list which was issued to the nurses at the time that this answer was given; and, though it is a long one, I think it ought to be read to the Committee, because I consider this one of the grossest cases that has come under our notice of the way in which the officers of the Department, or some of them, are absolutely fooling this Chamber as to what is going on there. In the answer to the Minister, eight items were cited, but the list I have contains, I do not know how many, including one grey serge dress, one grey serge cape, one bonnet and veil, one grey cloak, one pair grey gloves, one commonwealth brooch, two sets silver buttons - nine for indoor and nine for outdoor uniform; three grey zephyr dresses - and they say take four, as three are insufficient; four grey zephyr aprons, eight white linen face sheeting aprons, two shoulder capes - scarlet; one pair black boots, six collars, six pairs cuffs, four caps of white French organdie muslin ; may take one pair black gaiters, if desired ; six white linen arm badges, two cotton washing hats or one panama, one warm grey cap, knives, forks, spoons, cups, plates, serviettes and ring - all plainly marked ; sheets, towels, pillow slip’s, stretcher, deck chair, cabin trunk, suit case, hold-all, pillow, cushion, rugs, eiderdown and blankets, and good supply of underclothing for both summer and winter. These were the articles which the Department required nurses to take with them on active service; and yet the Minister, when he asks an officer for information to supply to Parliament, is given a list which does not cover one-third of the items, and asto the items that were given their values are inflated more than 50 per cent. After a good deal of trouble I have discovered how this original estimate of £15 for the nurses’ equipment was arrived at. For some years past - in fact, almost since the inception of the Commonwealth - there has been an Army Service Nursing Corps in existence. In times past the ladies who volunteered for this particular class of service in connexion with our Forces had a uniform which was stipulated for them ; and, it being a purely volunteer corps>, they had to provide their own uniform. What was- done was that sealed patterns of the uniform were deposited by the Defence authorities with, I believe, a firm in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and the other capital cities, respectively. The nurses had to obtain their uniforms at these particular establishments, because the firms had specialized in the articles. At the outbreak of the war, the first nurses who left Australia were all volunteers from this corps, and, as they had their uniforms, the original £15 was granted to them to meet expenditure in regard to other garments which they required. The amount would, I believe, have been enough to provide those garments, other than the outdoor uniform they had to take with them. Subsequent to the statement which I made to the House about this matter some time ago, Messrs. David Jones and Company, of Sydney, wrote a letter to the press, and 1 quote the following from une Argus -
As directors of David Jones Limited, tlie company concerned, we wish to make the following statement: -
That this company has had a contract for nurses’ costumes for nine years under Government seal.
That is the arrangement I have referred to, under which this voluntary corps of nurses originally got their uniforms -
Some two years ago the price was raised from five guineas to six guineas; this, of course, being prior to the outbreak of war.
Now I come to the important point of this firm’s statement -
Soon after the outbreak of war the Government representative saw a director of the company -
Honorable members will remember that it has been stated over and over again in the House by the Minister that no compulsion was brought to bear on the nurses to get their uniforms at any one particular place. Here, however, we have David Jones and Company saying that after the outbreak of the war a Government representative saw a director of the company, and adding - and the price was lowered to five and a half guineas, in view - of the number of costumes that were to be made.
I wish to ask the Minister who that Government representative was?
– At the same time inquiries should be made as to the dealings of those firms, who are all robbing the people.
– I shall show that the prices charged to the nurses were exorbitant. How came it that a Government representative waited on any firm and made an arrangement of the sort, in view of the statement by the Minister that the nurses were free to go where they liked?
– What is the use of talking ? You cannot get the Minister of Defence here.
– I am endeavouring to bring the matter under the notice of honorable members.
– It is only wasting time; nothing will be done.
– If the Government will not make inquiries, and ascertain who is responsible, we shall have to take some further steps. The whole affair warrants an inquiry - the fullest investigation. In view of statements that have been made over and over again in this House, the assumption is that the Minister of Defence has been deliberately misled. The letter of David Jones and Company contains this further statement -
Each nurse’s outfit is turned out as a costume to order, necessitating two fittings, and the material used is of high grade. At a later date the supply of material held by the company became exhausted, and the company had to pay a greatly increased price locally. Hie Department agreed to give another guinea for the costumes wherever the cost of the material warranted it. 1 ask the Minister in charge to pay particular attention to this; and I want to remind him that the Minister representing the Defence Department in this House stated over and over again that the nurses were free to go where they liked for their outfit. This letter from which I am quoting, and which David Jones and Company sent to the press, shows that a Government official waited upon them, representing that they would have to make a great number of uniforms, and arranged the price.
– Has the honorable member given that information to the Minister controlling the Department?
– I have; but nothing was done except to send Colonel Fetherston to Sydney to inquire who issued the circular. Colonel Fetherston was responsible for the whole of the arrangements.
– Was that circular issued to firms here? **
– I believe it was issued in Melbourne and Brisbane, and every other capital city. It appears that a private arrangement was- made by the head of the Army Medical Corps and the Principal Medical Officer with these firms; and that, although the Minister was saying in the House that the nurses were free to go where they liked for their costumes, the facts show that influence was brought upon them to go to these particular firms. Honorable members know that this is so, because a great number have had complaints about this trouble.
– Do you say that Colonel Fetherston is responsible for this?
– He is head of the Department, and is the responsible officer, though I do not say he made the arrangements with the firms. I am not in a position to say who did that, because I do not know; but, at all events, Colonel Fetherston ought to be held responsible by the Minister. I am informed that a Brisbane firm has been doing exactly the same thing.
– What is the name of the firm in Melbourne?
– There, again, I am not perfectly sure; but I understand that a Melbourne firm is also doing this business. David Jones and Company is the only firm of which I can speak with personal knowledge, although I have heard rumours that the same thing has been done in Melbourne and Brisbane. The point I want to make is that an official waited upon this Sydney firm, representing that they were to make a large number of costumes; and, as a consequence of that, influence was brought to bear upon the nurses to go to that place for their costumes. The Minister, admits that a circular was issued to the nurses in New “South Wales containing such an instruction, but it cannot be discovered who issued that circular.
– The Department ought to be able to find out.
– They are a very good firm.
– I admit that they are a good firm.
– That is no reason why they should go on robbing these girls.
– Is the honorable member quoting from their letter to the press?
– Yes; it appeared in . the Argus on 31st July. I have brought this letter under the notice of the Minister, but nothing has been done.
– It takes an earthquake to move the Department.
– Let me read again -
The Department agreed to give another guinea.
There was no attempt whatever to protect these ladies by having public tenders called for the outfits. All we have is this private arrangement by an officer of the Department agreeing to give David Jones and Company another guinea. And they got that guinea.. The letter continues -
The company is in a position to prove that the prices charged are barely sufficient to cover expenses.
I make this challenge to the Minister : Let him call for public tenders for these garments.
– Hear, hear!
– Let him call for tenders for these uniforms, which are all made to one pattern, and from the same material and in the same way; and if he cannot cut David Jones and Company’s price’ by 33 per cent, or 50 per cent., I shall be very much surprised.
Mr.West. - You do not know much about ladies’ costumes. If you had a wife and seven daughters you would be a better judge.
– I will admit the soft impeachment; but I would remind my honorable friend that these are not costumes at all : they are uniforms, and they are made to one pattern. They are all turned out in the same way. I have in my possession a letter from a reputable firm of this city offering to supply these uniforms at considerably less than the latest schedule issued by the Defence Department to the nurses.
– What is the name of the firm?
– This firm might have an opportunity of tendering, and for that reason I do not want to publish their name ; but I am willing to show the letter to the Minister. David Jones and Company’s letter states, further -
The price of a complete uniform, comprising out-door dress, bonnet, red cape, square, all included, is five and a half to six and a half guineas, according to the price of the material procurable.
– What about the size of the lady?
– That does not matter.
– I am beginning to think that you do not know much about the subject, after all.
– I have made extensive inquiries as to whether these uniforms can be procured, and the cost, and therefore I am speaking with some knowledge on the subject. David Jones and Company state, further -
Great-coats are supplied at from 69s. 6d. to 89s. 6d., according to the price of material.
The reason that the Defence Department, in the first place, endeavoured to get these uniforms from one firm in each place was that it was desired they should be of a uniform pattern.
– We do not want to have a piebald lot of nurses.
– The Department were quite right in endeavouring to get the uniforms from one source; but my complaint is that they endeavoured to do it in a round-about way, after trying to lead honorable members to believe that nurses could secure their uniforms where they chose, and without calling for public tenders - without attempting to protect the nurses from being charged twice as much as they ought to have been charged. I do not wish to labour the question to-night, but I do ask the Government to have a proper and thorough investigation into all the circumstances surrounding this matter.
– Why not have tenders called, and thus end the matter? No investigation would then be needed.
– What they have done is to issue a fresh list of equipment which the nurses must take with them. Items have been added to the old list, and many things have been taken from it; but for the very articles for which David Jones say they charge £11 6s. the nurses are only allowed £7 13s. 6d.
– Does the honorable member know who fixed the original allowance of £15 ?
– I have already mentioned how that came about. All the nurses who went away with the first contingent were members of the Army Nursing Corps, and had their uniforms, and they were allowed £15, so that they might get the other things which it was necessary to take away with them. I believe that it was sufficient to equip the first lot of nurses who went away, but the firms which had the sealed pattern uniform were those which were waited upon by a representative of the Defence authorities, and asked to continue making these uniforms, and between them - the departmental officer and the firms* - this price was fixed, which, I say, is grossly excessive. At the very outset the Department should have called for public tenders for the supply of these uniforms. In fact, this should be done now.
– I think that a full nurse’s uniform should be made in the Clothing Factory, in order to ascertain the exact cost.
– The cost arrived at in that way would probably be more than the cost of the uniforms made in outside establishments. I think that the method suggested by the honorable member was that which was followed in arriving at the allowance of £7 13s. 6d., and I believe that the Clothing, Factory is now turning out nurses’ uniforms; but, for all that, I ask the Minister to see if it is not possible to submit nurses’ equipment to public tender, and to do as New Zealand does - that is, give the nurses their uniforms free. Many of the nurses have had to pay anything from £40 to £52, according to where they have purchased their equipment. It is not the proper way in which to treat those ladies who are willing to take on this noble service, and leave Australia with our Expeditionary Forces.
– Their salaries are not very high.
– This matter merits investigation from top to bottom, in order to ascertain who was responsible for what was done, and also who has been responsible for the misleading answers that have been given over and over again to honorable members; and when the Minister has sheeted home the responsibility, the officer concerned should not remain in the Department another minute. I come now to the question of nurses’ pay. I understand that it was proposed to pay nurses 7s. a day, and to give them a mess allowance of 3s. 6d. a day where food was not provided ; but in order to give honorable members an idea of what is taking place I shall read a portion of a letter from one of the nurses who has returned in a hospital ship from Egypt. This letter proceeds -
The statement that we receive about £170 per annum means, in point of fact, that we receive £60 per annum as salary, and the balance of £113 per annum has gone to the caterer in Egypt.
Instead of receiving 3s. 6d. per day which the nurses believed was to be their mess allowance, they were allowed only 2s. 6d. when they got to Egypt; and, in the next place, the arrangements which were made with a caterer for their mess were such that their food cost them 5s. 6d. a day. Thus, their actual cash remuneration was cut down to £60 a year. Was that what the Minister intended ? I do not think it is what Parliament intended. We understood, when we were sending these nurses away, that we were paying them well. As a matter of fact, the New Zealand rates have been fixed as follows: - Matron in charge, £150 per annum; sisters, £120 per annum; nurses, £100 per annum. And the New Zealand nurses get those salaries, whereas the Australian nurses in Egypt have been receiving only £60 a year. I ask the Minister to have this matter also inquired into, in order to see who was responsible for making this arrangement with the caterer, which has resulted in the nurses losing the difference between 7s. a day and £60 a year, because that is what has happened. Some one, when the nurses got to Egypt - I suppose it was done in the same way as that in which the uniforms were arranged for - arranged with a . caterer to cater for their mess at 5s. 6d. a day. The Department should pay the caterer, and not leave it to the nurses to pay him ; yet this is how these girls have been treated. It is not just. Surely they are worthy of better treatment at the hands of this country. I have no desire to take up very much more time. I have put my case as briefly as I possibly could. I could have given very many more particulars. But I do think that I have clearly shown the necessity for holding a thorough investigation to fix the responsibility for the arrangements which were made on the shoulders of the proper officer, and see that he is suitably dealt with.
– How about the ladies dealing with him?
– That remark, I am afraid, is made very much in the spirit in which the ladies have been treated by the defence authorities. I am sorry to hear that suggestion come from a member of the House. In my opinion, the way in which the ladies have been treated is contemptible.
– Surely the medical men associated with the Defence Department ought to know how to treat those who are such valuable helpers to them.
– Unfortunately, they do not seem to have that knowledge.
– They seem to be messing up things generally.
– The honorable member seems to approve of that sort of conduct.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Maribyrnong does approve of such conduct. I believe that he agrees with me that the matter should be thoroughly investigated, and the responsibility for the wrong-doing placed on the proper shoulders, and I hope that it will be done.
I sincerely regret that the financial statement contains no evidence of a real desire to economize in any shape or form. Honorable members on the other side seem to think that this is a time when we should expand the public expenditure to the utmost extent, but I do not. I believe that we ought to rigidly economize. I do not mean to suggest for a moment that charges on the revenue, such as old-age pensions, should not receive from the House the same full consideration as they have always had. Those are matters in regard to which we have no right to practise economy; indeed, we cannot economize there. But there are many other items where economy is possible. I am sorry, too, that there is no indication of anything approaching to national organization to meet the emergencies of the existing situation. I believe that the time has come when national organization should be undertaken throughout the British Empire. Call it conscription, or whatever you like, in my opinion the time has come when we ought to call upon the men from one end of this country to the other to join the flag. I do not necessarily mean that they should join the flag to take up arms. What I mean is that every man should be prepared, under the direction of the State, to do what it believes he can do best to serve his country at the time. What are we doing in Australia? We are sending out of the country scores and scores of men whose services, I believe, would be of infinitely more value to Australia and the Empire in Australia. We are divorcing them from those services, and leaving in the country scores and scores of men who are not serving the nation in any particular way. I believe that the time has come when that sort of thing should cease. Recently I addressed a large number of public meetings in New South Wales. On nearly every platform I advocated this national service, and I can assure honorable members that my advocacy was greeted with the greatest applause from every audience which I had the honour to address. They all realized the necessity for instituting national service. I believe that if the Government would handle the question boldly they would find the great mass of the people behind them. I do not suppose for a moment that there are not some persons who would object.
– Are they not getting all the recruits they can handle?
– That is not the point.
– It is.
– To my mind the point is that we are not organizing the nation to get the best possible results, and many of those recruits, in my opinion, should not be taken. A case came under my notice the other day of a man who volunteered for active service, believing that it was his duty to do so. He came from a peculiarly skilled trade, and his enlistment threw idle a whole mill which was being worked practically twelve hours a day in making material for the Expeditionary Forces.
– The Department should not have accepted his services.
– In Melbourne I have been endeavouring, through the original contractors to the Department, to get another man to fill his place, and they tell me that such a man cannot be obtained in Australia. .
– They ought not to allow a man of that sort to be enlisted.
– That is the great difficulty. We are in this position, that if a man of that type walks down to the recruiting office, and he is physically fit, his offer is accepted.
– If they do not know differently.
– I believe that if every physically fit man were to walk out of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, go down to the recruiting office, and offer his services to the country, we are not in a position to send the men back to their job. It is high time, therefore, that the Government boldly tackled the whole question of national organization, root and branch.
– Yes; but I think that you are stretching it a point when you soy that men who left the Small Arms Factory could not be sent back.
– I do not think that the Department could make the men goback to their work.
– You cannot make any man go back to his work, but you need not accept his services.
– I venture to say that we cannot refuse to accept the men if they are physically fit.
– Oh, yes, we can.
– The recruiting officer might get a tip to turn the men down.
– The authorities can send men back from the camp.
– At any rate, under the voluntary system, we cannot get proper national organization; and I consider that the time has come when a different method should be adopted. I hope that, as a result of the census which is being taken, the Government will endeavour to organize the country, as far as possible, for the purposes of this war. We are not making that use of the census which we ought to make, and, to a very great extent, it will be a waste of money in that regard.
– We want to organize for more than the war - for after the war.
– That may be.
– Our industries are in a sad state of disorganization.
– There are a great many tilings to be considered; but the great question at the present moment is to win the war. It would be a calamity not only to Australia, but to the whole world, if Germany were to come out of the struggle stronger than she was before it began. It would mean that all the sorrow, sacrifice, and suffering would have to be endured again.
In my opinion, the time has come when the Government should tackle this question, and, above all, endeavour to put the finances in a proper condition. We are drifting along. Although, during the life of this Parliament, we have imposed practically £5,000,000 of additional taxation,, we propose to use the whole of that money, .and £750,000 not yet provided for, in meeting the ordinary expenditure of government. I include in this the interest on the war loan and the war pensions, which, from this time forward, will be recurring liabilities. I am not opposed to additional taxation at the present time, because I believe it to be necessary; but the revenue obtained from such taxation over and above what is needed .to meet the interest on the war loan and the war pensions should form a sinking fund to pay off the war loan. I do not think that any one will object to additional taxation at this juncture if its distribution is equitable, and the money is used for the prosecution of the war. But we have a right to object to additional taxation if the money is to be spent in meeting the ordinary liabilities of the Government, and increasing the various Government establishments. If we increase the annual expenditure of Australia to £28,000,000, we shall create vested interests which it will be almost impossible to destroy later. The Government have not exercised any originality in its taxation proposals. Something might have been done to tap the surplus wealth of the community - that spent on absolute luxuries. Only the other day, when passing a football-ground in Melbourne, 1 noticed that a vast crowd was attending the match. Personally. I do not think that sport of that character should continue at this time. The Government might very well impose an amusement tax, because money spent on amusements is money which the people have to spare over and above what is required to purchase the necessaries of life. An amusement tax would be easy to collect - it could be in the form of stamp duty - and would give a vast return if levied on tickets of admission to the boxing stadia, the race-courses, the picture shows, theatres, and other places of amusement.
– Is the honorable member aware that the Commonwealth hag no jurisdiction over race-courses ?
– This Parliament has the power to impose any form of taxation.
An amusement tax would be a direct tax on luxuries. I do not believe in taxing the necessaries of life, which should be as free as possible. The Government, unfortunately, propose to tax heavily money that is being used for the development of the country. Australia’s position differs greatly from that of Great Britain, whose wealthy people derive, perhaps, the major portion of their incomes from investments abroad. Great Britain, too, is fully developed, while we need, and are using, our surplus income in developing and opening up the country. The Government have recognised, in some measure, that money so used should not be heavily taxed, because it has imposed a flat rate on the undistributed profits of companies. If companies carry undistributed profits to reserves, and use the rooney in the development of their business, they are to be charged a flat rate of ls. 6d. in the £1. There are squatting families in Australia, and other families, who have floated their interests into companies. These companies employ their undistributed profits in the development of their properties, the improvement of their herds, and sp on; and are charged a fiat rate of ls. 6d. in the £1 on such undistributed profits. But individuals equally wealthy, doing the same thing, are not dealt with in the same way; and if very wealthy, are required to pay taxation at the rate of 5s. in the £1 on money that they are using for the development of their property. After a good season, the ordinary farmer does not spend the money he has earned. He uses the greater part of it to ‘ reduce his overdraft, to increase his cultivation, or to improve his stock. By taxing heavily income which is used for developmental purposes, the Government are reducing the means expended in opening up the country, which cannot be deemed to be a wise method of taxation.
– There is no tax that will not operate harshly in some cases.
– I am not speaking of the harshness of the taxation proposed by the Government.
– We cannot legislate to meet exceptional cases.
– I am not referring to exceptional cases. My point is that by far the greater proportion of the surplus income of the people of Australia is used, not in luxury, but in the development of the country. Many squatters and farmers received no income last year. Scores of them have fallen behind, and have been losing money for months. If in the following year a farmer has a really good wheat crop, from which he will earn £2,000, though he got behind to the extent of £750 last year, the “probability is that the family will live on about £250, they will pay off the debt of £750 incurred in the previous year, and will use the balance of the £2,000 in the development of their property, or by putting by a little nest-egg to meet a hard time in the future. By far the greater amount of the income of the people of Australia from year to year goes into the development of the country. If we take a large proportion of it from the people by taxation, to that extent we shall retard the development of the country. I do not mean to suggest that the Government should not have proposed an income tax if the money to be derived from it is to be used for war purposes, but I say that they are proposing to take from the people more than ought to be derived from that source, and to that extent will be trenching upon a vast sum of money which would otherwise be usefully employed in the development of the country. In order to emphasize the position I have endeavoured to put before the House, I move as an amendment to the motion -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
My object is to indicate that the Committee considers that the ordinary expenditure for the services of the year should be no more than that for the last financial year, so as to make available for war purposes the whole of the proposed new taxation.
.- I did not propose to take part in the debate, but certain matters have been referred to by the honorable member for Richmond, and I think that the Committee should hear the other side, that honorable members may know the extent to which the honorable member for Richmond has drawn upon his imagination.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment that the vote be reduced by £1.
– As a point of order, I should like to ask whether by speaking to the amendment I shall be precluded from speaking to the original motion ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member confines his re marks to the amendment before the Chair, after it has been disposed of he will be at liberty to address himself to the main question.
– That will satisfy me. When a move such as that just made by the honorable member for Richmond takes place, I become envious of the position of honorable “members on the other side, because, as a supporter of the Government, my lips are, to a certain extent, sealed, and I am not free to exercise what abilities I have in criticising their proposals. After dinner, and when the galleries are full, I always feel that it would be very pleasant to be a member of the Opposition. The object of the honorable member for Richmond is, of course, to defeat the income tax proposals of the Government, but when an Opposition opposes a Government proposal they should, at least, suggest something to take its place. Honorable members opposite have throughout this debate endeavoured to show that the taxation proposals of the Government are in excess of the requirements of the country. No Government who introduce taxation can expect to become popular. As a young man I once joined a league, one. of the main platforms of which was “ No taxation.” I thought that I was discovering quite a new idea, but since I have assumed the responsibility of a representative of the people I have learned that no Government can carry on the affairs of a country without the necessary financial resources. It should be remembered “ that an income tax can be levied only upon those who are in a position to pay it. If a country is prosperous, the revenue derived from ah income tax will be better than when it is not prosperous. The object of the taxation proposals of the Government is to enable us to pay the interest on the war loan, to continue public utilities during the war, and to stimulate the confidence of the people of this country. If the revenue is curtailed, the Government will have to reduce its staff. I remember when, during the lifetime of the Disraeli Government in England, in 1866, proposals were made by the Opposition to reduce taxation by taking . off the duty of 6d. per lb. on tea, and that of1d. per lb. on sugar. The cry was a popular one, and upon it the Gladstone Government came into power; but twelve months afterwards Gladstone was refused a hearing in his own constituency of Greenwich, for the simple reason that, having reduced its income, the Government had had to reduce its expenditure, and it began by reducing the employees at the Government dockyards. If honorable members opposite are anxious to follow a policy of that kind, they will not have the people of Australia with them. A taxation upon incomes is the only means by which the Government can tax the people of Australia. When the Labour party came into power in 1910, direct taxation was first introduced, but taxation of that kind was not required in 1913, because, when the Labour Government went out of office, they left a surplus of £2,600,000, which the succeeding Liberal Government transformed into a deficiency of £600,000.
– That is quite wrong.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has made a statement which, as has been pointed out to him, is wrong. Ought not the honorable member to admit his error. The Liberal Government did not eat up any surplus, but left behind a surplus of £1,200,000.
– I do not think there is any point of order in that.
– I can quite understand that it is disagreeable to honorable members opposite to hear the truth, but so many statements have been made about the extravagance of this Government and the possibility of further extravagance, that it is only right the people should know what burglars the late Government were. In his statement to the House the Prime Minister pointed out the necessity for this taxation. If the Government should find itself in the position of having too much revenue, which I do not think is likely, the surplus will go to the relief of future taxation; but as honorable members know, the proposed tax is necessary in order to pay interest on the loan of £20,000,000. No Government has a right to ask Parliament for a loan without making provision for the payment of interest, and though I hope this loan will be the only one required, it is evident from the statements that have been made that further loan moneys will be necessary. I believe every member of the House shares my view that the Government should maintain itself in a position to keep its employees going, and not have to discharge them on account of reduced revenue. The honorable member for Richmond spoke of a tax on luxuries. I am sometimes at a loss to understand what luxuries are. What is a luxury to one man is very often not a luxury to another. Men who would do away with sport and luxuries would stop the wheels of progress, because all these things give employment, and to stop them would make unemployment a serious factor. - 1 am sure the honorable member for Richmond does not want to do this, but the course of action he proposes would have that effect. Proposals for the buying of extra 1d. stamps simply mean fiddling with the question, and cannot be regarded as statesmanlike. I do not believe the honorable member is ‘ really in earnest in moving the amendment, which is simply an Opposition trick to get a vote against the Government, because I challenge the Opposition to give a vote against the main question. They dare not do so. The people recognise that in the present trying circumstances the income tax is a necessary form of taxation, and I hope the tax proposed by the Government will be sufficient to meet all contingencies. At any rate, the Government’s proposal shows that they have foresight and determination - qualities which a National Parliament expects its Government to possess. The honorable member for Richmond some time ago drew attention to the pay of nurses and difficulties which had occurred in the provision of their uniforms. Their pay is, perhaps, too small, but the £15 dress allowance seems fair for their requirements. If it was fixed at £25 some of the ladies would probably want still more. I would support a proposal that the Government should allow the nurses their uniforms in the same way as they do the ordinary soldiers. It was alleged that the nurses were told to procure their uniforms from certain business firms in Sydney. There is no more respected firm in that city than that of David Jones Limited.
– Why should they be allowed to rob the nurses?
– The present and past matrons of the Sydney Hospital admit that they have always told the nurses that David Jones Limited would make their uniforms. It appears that about ten years ago the firm were asked to quote a price, and that other firms were asked by the military authorities to quote prices. The firm did quote a price, and some time afterwards the material required underwent a rise in price, increasing the cost of some of the garments by 10s. When the war broke out, the officers of the Defence Department and the matron of the Sydney Hospital drew the firm’s attention to the fact that a large number of uniforms would be required to equip the nurses, and the firm agreed to reduce the cost of the £1 article to 10s. in view of the increased quantity they had to supply. The reason assigned for going to the matron and using their influence to secure the job of making the garments was that their material was in accordance with the regulations, and, as the nurses were very anxious to get their uniforms as soon as they qualified, it would be better for them to go to this company, which was always prepared to give special attention to the work, and suspend work on other orders in its favour. There would thus be no waiting, as a special staff was always kept for the purpose. All New South Wales members know that ladies delight to go to David Jones Limited, where they are always well served and well fitted, each dress receiving individual attention. I am asked to tell the Government that the firm court inquiry into the whole transaction. When the war broke out. David Jones Limited had not in stock a sufficient supply of this material. They sent a code message to England for fresh supplies, but were unable to obtain any, and had to purchase some locally at a greatly increased price.
– What a tale!
– The honorable member may know something about sheep and wool, but he knows very little about nurses’ uniforms. I have here a statement setting out the cost of the material and labour involved in making a nurse’s uniform, as well as the selling price, and the profit made by this firm. Various dates are given. On the 24th March, for instance, the cost of material used in making such uniforms was £1 19s. 9d. ; and the cost of labour £2 10s. 8d. ; or a total of £4 10s. 5d. The selling price was £5 15s. 6d., showing a profit of £1 5s. Id.
– Whose figures is the honorable member quoting?
– They are open to the closest examination by any one whom the Government may choose to appoint.
– The estimated profit ia a very mild one.
– In another case, the cost of making a nurse’s uniform, on 8th April, was - material, £1 19s. 8d. ; labour, £2 10s. 8d. ; while the selling price was £5 15s. 6d. ; showing a profit of £1 5s. 2d. Various other cases are quoted, and the return shows a gross profit of 22.7 per cent. Business people in Sydney express surprise at the attitude taken up by the Leader of the Opposition.
– He had good reason for his attitude if the charges made in Sydney were anything like those made in Melbourne for the supply of nurses’ uniforms.
– I have to admit that Messrs. David Jones Limited are not conducting a philanthropic institution. They are in business to make a profit; but. like most of the business people of Sydney, they are fairly generous. Citizens of New South Wales think that the Leader of the Opposition, before bringing this matter before the House, should have instituted some inquiry. Matron Gould and Matron Creal, who have been charged with using their influence to induce nurses to obtain their supplies from Messrs. David Jones Limited, take a deep interest in the nurses, and those who know them would never think of charging them with using their influence in such a way in order to secure a commission.
– I made no charge against them.
– They told the nurses to go to Messrs. David Jones Limited for their outfits because no other firm in Sydney could supply the necessary material. That firm, for ten years, has had a contract under seal with the Government to make such uniforms.
– Then they had made a monopoly in regard to the material.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member has just said that no other firm in Sydney could supply it.
– Supplies could not be obtained from England, and they had to pay greatly increased prices locally.
– Were not nurses called upon to pay £20 for an outfit?
– One nurse’s outfit cost £25.
– Nothing of the kind. The highest price paid for an outfit such as that for which the regulations provide was about £11 4s. Messrs. David Jones Limited court the fullest inquiry, and are prepared to place the whole of the books and documents in connexion with their business at the disposal of any one appointed by the Government to examine them.
– Why read out this tripe, when we know that the girls have been charged so much for their uniforms?
– The honorable member knows nothing about the matter.
– I do. I know that they have been fleeced by Messrs. David Jones Limited, in Sydney, and by Messrs. Ball and Welch, in Melbourne.
– Such statements should not be made unless there is some foundation for them. ‘ I am satisfied that the statements made by the honorable member for Richmond cannot be substantiated.
– The honorable member has satisfied himself that there has been a monopoly for ten years.
– The supply of these garments was open to competition.
– If the honorable member has been told that no nurse has been charged up to £25 and £30 for an outfit he has been told what is untrue.
– I am aware that nurses have given up to £40 for an outfit.
– They have been compelled to pay up to £30 for one, and they have been “fleeced.”
– I am very sorry that the honorable member should so far forget himself as to make a charge of that character. I have endeavoured to justify the statements which I have -made by quotations from the document which I hold in my hand. When honorable members make assertions without warrant, and refuse to accept proof in rebuttal of them, it is idle for me to attempt to convince them of their error. The members of the firm which has been attacked are citizens of New South Wales, whom everybody respects. I knew Dr. Sydney Jones many years ago. He is a gentleman who has rendered great service to the State from which I hail, in the matter of technical education, and he also assisted to bring about social reforms long before the Labour party became a power in politics. I would be unworthy of my position in this House if I did not invite the Government to institute the most searching inquiry into the transactions of his firm.
– It is a really charitable concern.
– When Miss Gould and others send nurses to that firm to obtain outfits they do so with the full knowledge that they will get value for their money in the shape of materials of the best quality. Nothing pleases a nurse better than to have a well-fitting costume which gives her a smart appearance. If any honorable member suspects that the nurses have been “ fleeced “ - as has been asserted - the Government ought to grant an inquiry into the matter. . £ hope that members of the Opposition will not press this question to a division, and’ thus make themselves appear ridiculous in the eyes of the people. If they wish to play a manly part, let them boldly attack the Government on their proposals.
Railway Carriage of Mails : Reduction of Services - The War: Speech by Mr. Brennan.
Motion (by Mr. Archibald) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to call attention to a matter of considerable importance to the people of this State. It has reference to our Postal Department. Owing to the determination of the Railways Commissioners, a very large number, of trains on country lines have recently been cancelled. As a result, our mail services are being seriously interfered with. To-day I attended a deputation to the Railways Commissioners, at which I ascertained that those gentlemen hold the view that it is their province to carry mails when trains run on country lines, but not otherwise. That attitude appears to open up a very serious position to many persons in Victoria. I should like to know what the Government propose to do to meet the special difficulties which have arisen. In many places to whichthere have previously been daily trains, only so many trains a week are now to be run. A large expenditure is being incurred in the city, and as a result thecountry is being called upon to suffer.
– We are suffering from the same sort of thing in New South Wales through the miserable Labour Government.
– I understand that that is so. This question is one of great importance to the people of Victoria, and I desire to know what the effect will be on the subsidiary mail services. Wherever these trains are running in the country districts they are met by contractors under the Postal Department, and if the mails are not conveyed to them by train their services fall through. I do not wish to see the interests of the contractors interfered with, and still less do I wish to see the interests of the people interfered with. One of the first essentials in country districts is that the mails shall be delivered regularly and in accordance with the service decided upon. Can the PostmasterGeneral state whether this matter has come under the notice of his Department? If so, what does he propose to do to meet the difficulties which have arisen !
– On the subject of mail services I wish to put a concrete case before the Postmaster-General, and to request him to depute an officer to make inquiry. On the Gheringhap-Maroona railway the Department went to a lot of trouble eighteen months ago to cancel the old mail service ‘ by0 coach, and to arrange for the mails to be carried by train. Now, I believe, the Railway Department intends to cut the train service down to three passenger trains per week, by which alone the mails will be carried. At the same time goods trains will be running through to Ararat over the same line, but will carry no mails. I ask the Minister if he will ascertain whether the goods trains cannot carry mails, so that people may have a daily service, which they have always been accustomed to ?
.- I wish to refer briefly to some criticisms passed upon me this afternoon by the Prime Minister in reply to a question asked by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition. I do not, of course, complain of criticism on the part of the Prime Minister. As a junior member of his party 1 have claimed, and exercised, the right from time to time to criticise the right honorable member, and, therefore, I acknowledge his right to criticise anything I may have said or done of a political or international character; but I do complain of his making animadver sions upon me on the strength of a newspaper report, without having first asked me whether the report was correct, or in any way sufficient to convey my views. For my part, I have never been willing to plead either guilty or not guilty to charges in newspaper reports. My own experience, and that of the party of which I am a member, is such that I would feel that I was belittling myself and my party if I felt under an obligation to canvass, deny, or question reports or editorial statements appearing in the press from time to time in condemnation or criticism df me. And I venture to remind the Prime Minister that this Labour party, of which he is now the distinguished head, has come into existence, not because of, but in spite of, the press. It has been the experience of members of the party that they have held their meetings on street corners and other difficult places in order to express their views in the face of a hostile press. I am proud to think that we have beaten down that reactionary influence, and it is to the organized effort of the Labour party, disregarding these objectionable and undemocratic influences that the right honorable gentleman owes his present exalted position. In regard to the meeting to which the Leader of the Opposition made reference, the right honorable gentleman having referred to repeated statements of mine, I should like to say that I have addressed, in connexion with this most disastrous war, two very large meetings, one of which was held in the heart of Melbourne and the other in the Town Hall of my own electorate, and it is significant that there was scarcely a word of dissent from anything I said. The explanation of that fact may be easy enough to those who hate and despise the policy of the Labour party. The explanation they would suggest, and which some correspondents of the press have suggested, is that those persons who listened to me are an inferior type of disloyal individuals, who, having no regard for their country, but, being dissatisfied with the economic conditions, are prepared to pander to any one who in turn will pander to them. But I do not think that is an explanation which will appeal to the Leader of the Labour party. He will admit that an audience almost filling the Fitzroy Town Hall and gathered at random by advertisement is likely to be fairly representative of the Democracy of this country, and it is a remarkable thing that it was only after a report of my remarks had appeared in the press, and certain correspondents had written to the papers, and editorial comment had been made on the address, that it seems to have excited any public ill-feeling. It so happens that, as a result of a fairly bitter experience, I had my speech reported verbatim. I do not intend to quote the speech verbatim to-night, but I shall read some passages from it, and make some comments upon what I then said, and still believe. I practically commenced my speech in these words -
I would be very sorry, at a time like this, when almost all of us are labouring under a certain nervous strain, when many of us are affected by the canker of cruel anxiety, when many of us, too, are suffering under the dull, dead weight of inconsolable grief - I would be very sorry indeed to take the platform merely for the purpose of criticism, merely for the purpose of recrimination; but, while that is so, I am one of those who believe that any man, and especially a public man, who is, to an extent, a trustee of public interest, and trustee, to put it on the baser ground, of public funds, who believes that he has something he ought to say, something which he ought to do, but abstains from saying it or doing it for fear that he might excite the passions of ill-balanced persons, or for fear that he might arouse the animosity of those to whom their ancient prejudice is their dearest possession, is unfaithful to his trust, and marks himself down as lacking in moral courage.
I further said, as the result of experience - and this was the basis on which the whole speech rested -
I warn anybody in this hall that they will wait in vain throughout this speech of mine to find any attack or any suggestion of anything other than the highest appreciation of the’e soldiers of ours in Australia or outside of Austral ia.
I need hardly remind you that it has been suggested, in regard to this speech, by some persons who were hostile to me in the first instance, mainly because I addressed a meeting under the auspices of the Socialist party on Sunday evening, that there was something offensive and disparaging in my remarks to the soldiers of the Empire and of this country. I repudiate that idea now, as I did then, and as I shall resolutely continue to do. t then went on to discuss the very live question of conscription or compulsory service; and I reminded my audience that from that very platform the honor- able member for Flinders, in addressing a recruiting meeting, had spoken on that question, which had become a question of present-day importance, by reason of the fact of a motion in another place. I claim the right to discuss such a question freely and frankly in my own electorate, before my own constituents. I spoke of young men of eighteen years who were enlisting, and said -
I take no pride in being associated with the policy. I repudiate the policy which makes the first lines of the country’s defence lads of eighteen years of age.
I repeated, almost in the very words used by the honorable member for Flinders himself, the opinion he had expressed in regard to the enlistment of very young men. Finally, in reference to the whole question of compulsory service, with which I cannot and will not agree, I made use of these words -
What right have I - where is the sanction, human or divine - what right has any man in the fulness of his manhood to cl-i.im an exemption under parliamentary privilege or any other privilege to say, “ You go forth and fight, and I will remain to make the laws; you give up your life and I will talk upon the platform”? What right have I, who value home and home ties and all that implies, to say to any mother who values her home, “ Give up your son &o fight for your country, our hearth and homes, and to fight for me, the politician and the law-maker”?
I put that as an argument against conscription. I then went on to discuss the question of what one worthy senator has called “moral conscription”; and from that I also dissented. I said that as I was opposed to conscription by law, I was also opposed to either economic or moral conscription - or, in other words, that I was against any undue influence being brought to bear against those who did not enlist as a conscientious duty. I wish to add that, as I said before I say now, I will not submit to dictation from a hostile press. However, when it comes to the Leader of my party deploring some utterances of mine, a very different set of conditions arise. I may say that, not only am I jealous of my good name with my party, but I am also jealous of my good name in the House. I respect the opinions of honorable members opposite; but I would like them to understand that if they are led by the reports in the- press, or by arguments and letters in the press, to believe that I have gone to these meetings for the purpose of winning cheap applause from any section of tha community, they very much mistake my purpose, and, if I may say so, my character. Everything that I have said in connexion with the war has been said under a sense of the public duty to frame views and express them to the people who have returned me. I should like the Bouse to understand my object. That can never be gathered from carefully selected extracts from my speech made by persons who are only too glad to place me in a false light. My main object was that set forth in the sentence which I quoted from the speech of Mr. Asquith, when he said -
If the peace of Europe can be preserved, and the present crisis safely passed by, our endeavour will bc to promote some arrangement to which Germany could be a party, by which she would bc assured that no aggressive or hostile policy would be pursued against her or her Allies by France, Russia, and ourselves, jointly or separately.
I quoted, later, a speech of Mr. Lloyd George, in which he said -
We are not fighting the German people.
I quoted the Leader of the Opposition from memory, commencing by saying - i would not for a moment say anything unpleasant of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr.Cook, as his son has been injured at the war.
But I put the view which the right honorable gentleman put recently, when speaking at a social function, as to whether the mass of the German people were supporting the German Government in the war. I quoted Mr. Lloyd George on the other Bide, and also Mr. Asquith, in support of what appeared to me to be the contrary view. The object I have always had in view seems to me to be a worthy one, whether it be achieved or not. I believe that, on the view which we take in regard to the opinion of the increasing masses of the German people, aa distinguished from the Prussian bureaucrats, will depend very much the duration of the war. I may, of course, be quite wrong; but when I see, as I have seen in some newspapers, that not less than 800 representative men of democratic unions have issued a strong indictment against the German Government and the Kaiser, and the Junkers, as I call them, who support him - when I see that men in the Reichstag itself have openly taken the risk of condemning their policy - I venture to form the opinion that if the Democracy in central Europe are making a concerted attack on Prussianism - it is more than possible that Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Asquith have some justification for their view. I believe, too, that if, on the other hand, we adopt the policy of German extermination, as it is sometimes called, it will greatly prolong the war. I have nothing more to say than that I realize that I am entirely in the hands of the House, which is the master of its own membership, in the first place at all events, though ultimately the country is the adjudicator. All I wish is that the House shall understand the object I have had in view. If honorable members think that I have been indiscreet, and had better have left things unsaid, that, of course, is a matter of opinion, and it is for them to say or do what they think proper. I cannot surrender the right to express ray opinions. I cannot think that we have arrived at that conditions of affairs in Australia when a’ section of the community, holding opinions, shall not be able to express them - that we have reached that stage when a section of the press shall dominate and stifle expression of opinion, especially when that section of- the press, after yeaTs of effort, have failed in their violent opposition to the Labour party. I have endeavoured to do my best in my position as a member of Parliament, and if I had been fully reported - I will not say fairly reported, because I do not expect that - I do not believe my leader would have made the observations which he did this afternoon.
– Until the complaint concerning country mails was brought under my notice I had not heard of the changes in Victoria. I regret to have to say that ‘ the contract entered into some seven or eight years ago with the Railways Commissioners is a most unsatisfactory one, and it is our intention to put an, end to it in a very short time. The charges are exorbitant, and the railways practically control our mails, especially on long distances, with the result that where they have reduced the train service from a daily to a tri- weekly schedule, mail contractors have to carry their mails accordingly, unless they have other business which enables them to keep up a daily service. On the question of carrying mails by goods trains, I want to point out that the Railways Commissioners are exempt from any liability or responsibility for mails so carried. However, I promise- to have an inquiry made into tho question, which has been submitted by the honorable member for Echuca, and the honorable member for Corangamite, with a view to ascertaining whether it is possible to make some arrangement.
– If the arrangement is as successful as in tho West, the people ought to. be well pleased.
– I think that the safety of the mails is the only difficulty involved; but, I would point out, that some people would not regard a triweekly mail service as a very great hardship, because they have to bc content with a weekly service. I have every sympathy with the country people, and I hope we shall be able to make some better arrangement for the carriage of mails.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 August 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150826_reps_6_78/>.