6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr, Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HANNAM” presented a petition from Messrs. Joseph Nathan and Company Limited, merchants, of New Zealand, praying that Glaxo might be admitted duty free as an infants’ food.
Petition received, and read.
– There is a good deal in the objection of the honorable member. I have on several occasions drawn the attention of the House to the fact that it is impossible for me, when a petition is presented, as this has been, and the motion made that it be read, to know what it contains. I can only be informed of its contents by hearing it read, and thus any objection based on the ground of impropriety in its wording comes too late. Much of what has been read by the Clerk seems merely advertisement, and a great deal of time has been occupied in the reading of lie petition. I repeat the suggestion that honorable members who have petitions to present should consult me regarding them before presenting them, so that I may have an opportunity to decide in advance whether they are in order and unobjectionable.
– As a personal explanation, let me say that in presenting the petition it did not enter into my mind to give an advertisement to the commo’dity which forms its subject-matter^ The petition follows on action taken by the petitioners, who ask for the redress of what they consider an injustice done to them by the Customs Department. Glaxo is purely an Australasian product, and is the only infants’ food on which at present an import duty is charged. Therefore, its manufacturers have reason to think that they are suffering a Teal injustice.
– Is the Minister of External Affairs in a position to give me a reply to a question asked yesterday concerning the embargo placed on the exportation of stock from Queensland to New South Wales?
– There have been several cases before the Courts arising out of the embargo mentioned. One was Munro v. State of Queensland. This action was settled by the parties. The Commonwealth was not an intervenant in the case. Another case - Duncan v. State of Queensland - came on for- trial in Brisbane on 28th July, 1916, and the Commonwealth obtained leave to intervene. By agreement between the parties, the trial was adjourned, and it is expected that the case will be listed for trial in Melbourne, before a Justice of the High Court on Monday next. In the. BaseCommonwealth ‘ v. Queensland - as I stated yesterday, a writ has been issued by the Commonwealth to enjoin the State of Queensland from violating section 92 of the Constitution. A statement of claim has not yet, however, been .filed.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs why he has cancelled the preference to the members of the Australian Building Industry Employees Union which they enjoyed during his predecessor’s term of office!
– I did not desire to have any spiritual trouble in this matter, and thought I would allow the unions to settle the matter as between themselves. It is not my business, as a Minister, to settle disputes aa between unions, and I therefore referred this matter to the Trades and Labour Council, Brisbane.
Resignation of the Hon. F. G. Tudor.
– I desire to announce that the Hon. Frank Gwynne Tudor has resigned his portfolio. No appointment to the office so vacated has yet been made.
Correspondence with Shipping Companies.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the file of correspondence in connexion with the negotiations between the shipping brokers representing the Government and the shipping companies on the subject of the arrangement of the wheat freight from Australia to Great Britain?
– I do not know that there is any correspondence; but if there is, I shall be verv glad to make it available. I shall refer the matter to the Wheat Board. The honorable member must realize that I have not attended a meeting of that Board for some months.
– Will’ the Minister of Home Affairs supplement the file of papers in connexion with the Federal Capital laid upon the table of the House, at an early part of the present session, with any other papers that may have come to light since that file was prepared ?
– Yes. The honorable member mentioned this subject to me, and I now lay on the table of the House a paper presented to the Royal Commission bv the Postmaster-General on Tuesday last.
– I should like to explain that I misunderstood the honorable member for Wentworth when he spoke to me this morning regarding this matter. I thought he desired merely that the one paper to which I have referred should be laid on the table. The Postmaster-General tells me that there are fifty.
– I think the Minister should present the whole of them.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that a German,, either naturalized or not, has recently been appointed as a meat inspector at one of the Queensland ports T
– I cannot Bay. I shall make inquiries, and acquaint the honorable member and the House with the result. Can the honorable member supply me with any particulars?
– Having regard to the broken promises that were made to find work for the soldiers who volunteered and went to the Cape during the Boer War. does the Prime Minister consider that 10s. a day is too much to pay the men who are making the supreme sacrifice
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the asking of a question.
– I merely desire to know whether the Prime Minister considers that 10s. a day is too much to pay the men who are making the supreme sacrifice of laying down their lives for their country?
– I do not know what I can say to the honorable member. If it is merely an expression of opinion that he desires, I think that nothing would be too much to pay these men. We cannot measure a man’s life in shillings or pounds. The question is whether there are enough men to fight for the country. -
– Since replying to my question yesterday in regard to leave for soldiers, taken into Seymour Camp from the other States, has the Minister for the Navy seen the Minister of Defence on the subject; and, if so, is he prepared to make a statement ?
– I hope to have an answer to-morrow morning.
Pointing of Judge Eagleson’s Report
– When does the Minister of Home Affairs intend to move that the report presented by Judge Eagleson on the Gilchrist charges be printed?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question.
– In view of the answer given by the Minister of Home Affairs to the honorable member for Hindmarsh a little while ago, I should like to know whether there is any feeling of hesitancy on his part as to taking the usual course of moving that such a document as the report presented by Judge Eagleson should be printed?
– That is a matter for the Attorney-General, not for me.
– I think the report ought to be printed.
– Oh, yes! I am going to move to-morrow that it be printed.
– When does the Minister for the Navy intend to lay on the table of the House the papers relating to the acquisition of the Shaw wireless undertaking ?
-I am awaiting the arrival of a certain document from the Crown Law officers. When the file is complete I shall lay it on the table.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the exact position in regard to local funds that have been raised with a view to helping soldiers after their return ? Is it the intention of the recently-issued proclamation to prevent these funds being used locally, and must they be pooled under the Government’s repatriation scheme?
– That is a matter which the trustees of theRepatriation Fund, with the Government, will consider. I may, however, make this public announcement: that any funds collected for the purpose which the honorable member has just mentioned, or for any other patriotic purpose, will be considered in the light of a set-off against any taxation that may be levied for such general purpose. As to the general question, I must look into it to see how far the local control of local funds may be safely permitted.
– Will the amounts voluntarily contributed to theRepatriation Fund be deducted from the amount of taxable income, or from the amount of taxation ?
– Let me make this matter quite clear. There are two distinct things. The first is a tax, or a fund, let us say, no matter how recruited - whether from voluntary or compulsory donations - specially for the purpose and, to use a generic term, earmarked for the repatriation of soldiers. Then there is the general body of taxation, out of which all expenses of the Government, including those of the war, so far as income can defray them, are to be defrayed. In regard to the Repatriation Fund or tax, the actual amount given to the tax or fund will be deducted from the amount of any tax; but in regard to taxation generally, the amount of donations to any patriotic fund will be deducted from the assessable income.
– In Tuesday’s issue of one of the Sydney evening newspapers it was stated that a great deal of correspondence had been received for and against conscription, but that they were prohibited by the Government from publishing it. Seeing that organizations are scattering literature on tie subject all over the country, I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is intended to prohibit newspapers from publishing comments upon the question?
– Do you mean during the campaign ?
– No ; now.
– There are no restrictions now, other than those I mentioned in the House yesterday. That is to say, every man and every newspaper is allowed, by word of mouth or through the press, to express opinions freely for and against conscription - as it is called - for and against the Government’s proposals. Every one is allowed full licence to say what he lists, but he must not invite any one to commit a breach of the law of the land ; must not induce people not to volunteer ; and must not use language insulting to the Empire or its Allies.
– Can the Minister for the Navy give the House any information as to the steps being taken at Lithgow to accommodate the hands now working there on the manufacture of arms?
– That matter is under the consideration of the Government, and the Minister of Defence is dealing with it as rapidly as possible.
– Can the Minister of External Affairs give the House any information in regard to the tinfields at Marranboy, Northern Territory, for which machinery was provided two years ago?
– The latest reports from Marranboy show that good progress is being made there. I think that some honorable members of another place, when recently in the district, were greatly impressed with the work that is being done there. If the right honorable gentleman would like to see the latest official reports from the Inspector of Mines, I shall have great pleasure in submitting them to him.
– Will the Minister for the Navy deny or confirm the rumour that certain contractors are to be prosecuted for corruption in connexion with the fitting up of the troopships prior to that work being taken over by the Navy Department ?
– It is a fact that a certain firm in Melbourne is to be prosecuted, or is being prosecuted, because of alleged wrongful obtaining of money from the Navy Department.
Mb. Day’s .Report
– Have instructions . been given for the printing of the reportby Mr.. Day, who examined the southern portion of the Northern Territory ? If not. will the Minister have the report printed ?
– .The report by Mr. Day was a very valuable one, but I am not Quite sure whether it would be of much use to honorable members, or the public, unless we are able to reproduce the map which accompanied it, and which is very complete. However, I shall look into the matter, and if it be feasible and practicable, the report shall be printed.
– As no dispute exists between the Australian Building Industry Employees Union and any other union in Brisbane, and as this union enjoys preference from the State Government, will the Minister of Home Affairs state why the officers of his Department, although anxious to offer employment to the members of the union, are not permitted to do so?
– That is not in. accordance with the information at my disposal. My information is that there is a dispute between this union and other unions at Brisbane; and I cannot be an umpire to decide the battles between unions. They ought to be Christians and settle those matters themselves.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s announcement that there is now no Minister of Trade and Customs, is it intended bv the Government to allow the Tariff to die?
-I musk ask the honorable member to put that question when there is a Minister of Trade and Customs here to answer it.
– When is it intended to proceed with the erection of the postoffice so long promised for Wynnum?
– I must ask the honorable member to give notice of the question. I cannot carry in my mind every proposed work, and I will not give replies unless I am sure of what I am saying.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
Defence Department Employees - Pay of Government Officials - Returned Soldiers: Reinstatement in Employment, Maintenance, and Medical Treatment.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
How many men eligible to go to the front are employed in the Defence Department, Melbourne, including all those who are teaching and training enlisted soldiers -
– The particulars desired are being prepared, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If ho will cause the names of all employerswho fail to reinstate returned soldiers in their former positions, without loss of seniority, tobe placed in a prominent place in the postoffices in the towns and cities of Australiswhere such employers show such lack of patriotism?
– The policy of the Government, on this and all other matters affecting the duties of employees and all other citizens will be announced at an early date.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Scrutineers in Europe - Soldiers’ Right of Speech.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In order to prevent misunderstanding, will he request, by cable, the English Labour party to appoint scrutineers to act on behalf of the Labour party of Australia when the vote of the Australian soldiers concerning conscription is taken in England and at the front?
– It is not considered either necessary or advisable to do so. It would be quite impracticable to have scrutineers present at the voting abroad before authorized witnesses. The voting will take place throughout a period of approximately six weeks, and at such times as may be most convenient to those concerned.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether facilities will be given to soldiers or returned soldiers to give their opinion against conscription on the public platform or in other places?
– The following new instruction was issued by the Minister of Defence on8th September, 1916: -
Instructions are to be issued that all members of the Australian Imperial Force in Australia, and those who may be enlisted in the Citizen Force under Part IV. of the Defence Act. are to be given permission to wear plain clothes when on leave in order that they may, if they so desire, take part in political meetings or the referendum campaign.
When not on duty, and in plain clothes, they will have the same right to take part in meetings as ordinary citizens. Whilst in or adjacent to camps or training depots, however, whether in plain clothes or uniform, soldiers are not to be permitted to publicly discuss political matters, nor are leaflets or pamphlets of a political nature allowed to be distributed. Speeches and addresses of a political nature likewise are forbidden in military establishments.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the expense of the referendum (about £50,000), will he so arrange that, in addition to the question of conscription, the six referenda questions; also the question that the Federal franchise be incorporated in the Commonwealth Constitution: and also that the question of the referendum and initiative being incorporated in the Constitution, be submitted for approval to the vote of the citizens of Australia?
– It is not considered advisable to do so.
Estimated and Actual Expenditure
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– I shall obtain the information and lay it upon the table of the House in the form of a return.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
What are total numbers of our -
– The particulars desired by the honorable member are as follow : -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Has he yet revoked the licence granted last year to Harry Woolf Shmith, George Richard
Rich Nicholas, Charles Shmith, Alfred Michael Nicholas, and Joseph Wilhelm Broady, to manufacture a well-known composite drug under the German trade name “ Aspirin “ ?
– No such licence has been granted. A licence “was granted to Harry Woolf Shmith and George Richard Rich Nicholas, but was revoked so far as Harry Woolf Shmith is concerned on account of his failure to lodge the necessary security ; it is, however, still in force as regards George Richard Rich Nicholas.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– This information is confidential, but will be furnished to the honorable member privately.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the fact that enemy aliens in Australia will not be accepted for enlistment in the Defence Force, he will introduce legislation to impose a super tax on all aliens, naturalized or otherwise, residing in Australia with a view to augmenting the war fund?
– The matter will receive consideration.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - resolved in the negative.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- Prime
Minister and Attorney-General) [3.7]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill for an Act to enable the people to express their opinion as to the advisableness of extending the power which the Government now has over citizens for military service within the Commonwealth to service outside the Commonwealth. I do not propose to touch upon the merits of that question, but to confine my remarks exclusively to the details of this Bill, which provides the machinery necessary for a referendum of the people. The Bill is very short, and in essentials repeats the provisions of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-15. I shall direct the attention of honorable members to those clauses which in my opinion are material, and then leave honorable members to make such observations as they may think fit. Provision is made whereby the issue of the writ is not to be affected by the fact that the Bill shall not have become law on the date of such issue. The writ has to be returned within sixty days. Clause 5 sets forth the question to be submitted to the people, which is couched in the following terms : -
Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this war, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth? .
Persons who are eligible to vote at ordinary elections or at referenda will be entitled to vote at this referendum, with the exception of -
In other words, naturalized enemy subjects will not be allowed to vote. Provision is made in clause 9 to give the Returning Officer power to put to those persons about whom he has some doubt the following question: -
Are you a naturalized British subject who wasborn in any country which forms part of the territory of any country with which Great Britain is now at war?
If he is not satisfied with the answer he will put the challenged vote into a separate urn, where it will be subjected to separate scrutiny. Provision is made in the Bill enabling regulations to be made to deal with special cases, which I hope shall not arise, where there are such large numbers of enemy subjects in any particular district as to render it desirable to proclaim that district. All persons of enemy origin in a proclaimed districtwill be liable to challenge. On the other hand, all Australian soldiers over the age of twenty-one, whether in England or France, or wherever they may be, will be allowed to vote, and provision has already been made to enable them to do so. They will be able to vote from the 1st October to the 28th of the same month. As we all know, soldiers take their turn of duty in the front trenches, and by this arrangement all will be afforded an opportunity to vote. Practically all who are physically fit will be able to do so.
– Most of the men can vote before they leave, or when they arrive at their destination. The number of persons who will be, as it were, in suspense, neither in one place nor in another, and not covered by the month’s grace, will be practically negligible. Those denied the opportunity of voting on land will be given the opportunity of doing so on board ship.
– What about the crews of transports?
– I believe that, under the law as it stands, any person who is able to say that he will be absent from the Commonwealth on the date of the election can vote, but if the ordinary law does not meet the case of Australian citizens who are members of the crews of transports, I shall make provision in thi.3 Bill in order to enable them to vote. The special provision in this Bill applies only to Australian soldiers, who are defined as follows : - “ Member of the Forces “ means a member of the Commonwealth Naval or Military Forces employed on active service outside Australia or employed on a ship of war, and includes a member of the Army Medical Corps Nursing Service who is accepted or appointed by the Director-General of Medical Services for service outside Australia.
– Has any provision been made to enable the large number of Australians in the Imperial Army to vote ?
– No; I cannot say whether that number is considerable or not. Only members of the Commonwealth Naval or Military Forces can exercise a vote at this referendum. As in this matter time is the essence of the contract, .the length of the debate on this Bill must be limited. It will be necessary for the House to adjourn in order to give honorable members the opportunity of putting their views before the electors, and as a month is little enough time to enable them to do so, it follows that Parliament must adjourn at least by the end of this month. We have, therefore, only about a fortnight in which to do the work that has to be done to pas3 the Bill. For that reason, I hope that the measure will pass all its stages in this House this week. I think that I ought to say that the Government regard the measure as vital to their policy. The statement carries its own meaning on the face of it. Ministers regard the Bill as a vital part of their policy, and in that spirit I submit it to the House.
.- I. do not rise prepared to speak at any great length in opposition to the Bill, and I do not propose to do so. My views on the subject are fairly well known. They have been expressed before in anticipation of the measure, and opportunities will be afforded me to express them again when the question is. before the people. I am not surprised that, as the result of this grave and gross breach of faith on the part of the Prime Minister, his Government is already beginning to crumble. Indeed. I would have been surprised had it remained united, in the circumstances. Apparently, it was thought that, because it was determined to take a referendum on this subject, those who were adherents of the Labour party, and exponents of the Labour policy, would be bound to support this Bill ; but we shall not proceed very far before we see that many strong Labour men in this House, and men who for years have been advocating the initiative and referendum, are not in the least deceived by the misuse - to use a mild word - of a. democratic instrument for an undemocratic purpose. My attitude is not only to vote against the iniquitous proposal to coerce all free Australian citizens, but also to oppose whole-heartedly every step, however well conceived for the purpose of disarming criticism, which is designed for that ulterior and objectionable object. For that reason, I opposed the granting of leave for the introduction of this Bill, and I opposed the first reading of the measure. Now I oppose the second reading, and I shall oppose the Bill at every stage. No glowing periods uttered by the Prime Minister, no phrases however well selected or picturesquely delivered, no appeals however emphatic, can blot out the essential facts connected with this Bill. They are, first, that it is a departure of the gravest character from the Prime Minister’s plighted word, and, secondly, that an unexampled act of oppression and coercion is proposed to be exercised against the hitherto free citizens of this Commonwealth.
– They would not be free for long if they were all like the honorable member.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Even the ranks of Tuscany do not forbear to cheer.
– They are not cheering the honorable member.
– May I make another quotation -
Nor honeyed lines of rhyme
Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime.
My right honorable friend who leads the House is well supported by the Opposition.
– Although we have not been consulted in any way regarding this proposal.
– The Prime Minister was sure of the support of the Opposition as soon as he adopted its policy. We have heard of compulsion and of conscription in many countries. Conscription was proposed, and in a measure adopted, in America, but it was a failure there. That great Democrat, Abraham Lincoln, applied it to his own country when in a state of civil war, and for service within the limits of that country, but even in that case it was a. failure.
Mr.- Hughes. - At any rate, he won the war.
– He won tlie war for freedom. Is that to be called a failure ?
– He won the war with the patriotic support of free American citizens.
– And the force of numbers.
– Conscription has been applied in France, and one of the greatest industrialists who has spoken for industrial France issued a momentous pronouncement upon its baneful effects upon the working classes of that country. That document was censored and suppressed by a Labour Government in Australia. Conscription has succeeded in serving the special interests of Prussia. It has also served the military autocracy of Russia. But it has never served the German people, nor the Russian people, nor the French people as a whole, and never, in any part of the world, has any one ventured to apply it under conditions which compel men to travel 12,000 miles across the sea to fight. It remained for a Labour Prime Minister to introduce and commend to Parliament the most iniquitous form of conscription that has ever been proposed in the world.
– To maintain our liberties, which the honorable member would s3,acrific 6
– The honorable member for Wide Bay sits comfortably in his seat and says that his liberty must be maintained. By what means? Mr. Corser. - By the help of his own flesh and blood, and that of others.
– He proposes to put a strangle-hold on the free ‘ sons of Australia.
– It would not hurt the honorable member to have to serve.
– I can see that there is to be a heated debate, and I warn honorable members that I intend to stop all interjections. I ask them to assist me in maintaining order.
– I have already said that I. do not propose at this time - rising, as I have done, without a note and without a thought of preparation for any speech to-day - to speak at length but I must register my views about the measure. I have said, that I am not in the least attracted by the proposal to take a referendum. I want this Government to understand - so far as the remnant of it. are capable of being regarded as a Government - that it has always been recognised that there are questions upon which a majority, however large, has no right to coerce a minority, however small. I wish them to understand that when they say, “ We shall issue a proclamation,” the issue of the proposed proclamation, though not in my opinion a violation of the letter of the law, is a violation of its spirit. That proclamation ia designed for tlie yarding up of certain sections of Australians, . and then for the taking of the vote of others who have no intention of serving in any way, unless it be by munificent gifts out of their superfluity, not out of their necessity. To take a vote of that kind, a vote of the whole people of Australia, to deal with the bodies of a certain limited section of the people of this country, that is not what I understand by a fair referendum, and I do not feel myself either as a Labourite or as a man, in any way called upon to support the proposal. I shall not support it. This Government should try to realize at once that its policy is foredoomed to failure, that it is driving the country to disaster, chaos, confusion, loss, and, probably, bloodshed.
– Does the honorable member invite that?
– No. I warn the right honorable gentleman of it.
– The honorable member not only invites it, but incites it. He, a lover of peace, incites bloodshed !
– The stifling of the press, the gagging of men so that they may not say what they wish to say, even about the right honorable gentleman himself, what will it avail him when the pentup forces are let loose ? There is suppression and misrepresentation on every side to serve the interests of so-called military necessity. Let him not tell me that I am inviting or inciting bloodshed.
– That is what the honorable member is doing. He cannot deny it.
– He is doing it deliberately.
– I do deny it. I tell the honorable member for Flinders that, whenever a proposal has been before this House for the freeing or enlarging of the powers of the Commonwealth, his answer has been, “ I shall not vote for it, because I do not trust the members of the Labour party.” If he would not trust them in such matters, how dare he to trust them with the lives of the people of this Commonwealth? Are not the lives of the people of greater importance than the interests which the honorable and learned member says he dares not to trust to the party now led by the Prime Minister? The time has gone by. for being cowed or brow-beaten by his sham indignation. He worked coercion upon his Parliament, and upon the country, in days gone by, but he cannot do it now. The people of this Commonwealth will speak, and the honorable members of this House will speak, in spite of his views and his profound and solemn utterances. The proposal of the Government U bound to fail upon moral and upon practical grounds.
It will fail because it is impossible to carry it into effect, because the prodigal draft that it is proposed to make on the manhood of Australia is far greater than can be borne. At the dictation of others, whose fervour has always outrun their discretion, the country has been pledged in a way in which they had no right to pledge it. They had no mandate to pledge the country.
– Indeed, they had.
– They have pledged this country to send -division upon division.
– Hear, hear ! “ The last man and the last shilling.”
– The country manfully responded to the appeals made to it; but so many divisions have now been created that thev cannot be maintained upon the terms laid down in the Prime Minister’s proposal. The sooner he realizes that, the better it will be for the fair name of this country. But what is he doing ? The country has earned a great name throughout the world.
– Not many of the honorable member’s sort have helped to earn it.
– For its splendid assistance in connexion with this war, it has earned a great name.
– Which the honorable member is now besmirching.
– Besmirching ! The honorable member, who from a safe position a few months back was truckling with treason, talks to me about besmirching the name of this country. This honorable member never dared to do the right if he thought it would endanger his political safety - this honorable member who has enjoyed the soft places that politics was able to give him without sacrificing anything but principle - talks to me about besmirching ,the name of Australia! Let him talk. The supporters of conscription have set themselves a task which they cannot perform. They are proposing to make upon the people of the Commonwealth a draft which they cannot bear. Although we were told a little while back that a referendum of the people on proposed alterations of the Constitution could not be taken because it would create strife and ill-feeling, they propose now to throw this country into the vortex of a struggle more acrimonious and bitter than any that has ever hap- pened in the history of Australia. And eventually, if this referendum is rejected, as I believe it will be, we shall be held up to tlie rest of the world as a nation that refused to do its duty. That is what will be said of us, notwithstanding the magnificent efforts made by this country, the glowing reputation now enjoyed by it, and the magnificent results achieved by it. Because .the willing horse has been flogged, and because the burden upon the horse has been doubled instead of lightened, we will be told that this country has failed in its duty. It will not have failed. It will have done better, having regard to its geographical position, than any other part of the Empire. Having regard to the distance we are from the conflict, the expenditure that is involved in sending our soldiers abroad, and having regard also to our limited population, if justice is done to Australia by those who speak for her, it will have to be admitted that she has done brilliantly. I wish to say in conclusion that the Prime Minister can push’ on. No doubt he will. He said that he was going to follow the light, and that he was going to do his duty. No doubt he will follow that light and do his duty as he sees it. There was never a tyrannical act in history that was not clone under the supposed sanction of duty. There was never even a Cromwell spitting babes upon the bayonets of his soldiers who was not prepared to argue that he was acting from the highest sense of duty. There was never a persecution in our own or any other country but those engaged in it were ready to claim that they were the apostles of duty, and that they were bound to be oppressors that right might be done. I warn the Prime Minister that when he proposes to lay violent hands upon the people who are cheerfully and gladly doing their duty, no appeal to duty will save him ultimately from the opprobrium of this country. I shall have further opportunities, I hope, of discussing this Bill. I have nothing more to say on this reading of it. Prom the point of view of j principle, the Prime Minister is doing violence to his own promises, as well as to the better sense of the people of this country, and even from the point of view of expediency, which in a matter of this kind is a very poor thing to appeal to, h« is- bound to fail.
– I rise for the purpose of making only a few observations. We have listened to the honorable member for Batman while he has made one of his customary speeches, and I venture to say that the House will pursue its even tenor, notwithstanding his violent and outrageous outburst. One wonders what is the mental attitude of a man who declares that Abraham Lincoln, who won the war for freedom in America by the conscription of men, failed. There never was a more glorious failure in history. May we have more failures of the kind ! I have risen, however, for the purpose of making a reply to one only of the statements made by the honorable member. He has said that the Prime Minister has no mandate to do what he is setting out to do, and that he is violating his promises to the people. Let us see if that is so. I have in my hand the Labour manifesto issued at the last general election, and signed by Andrew Fisher and David Watkins. Here is what I read in it -
As regards the attitude of Labour towards war, that is easily stated. . . War is one of the greatest realities of life, and it must be faced. Our interests and our very existence are bound up with those of the Empire. In time of war half measures are worse than none. If returned with a majority, we shall pursue with the utmost vigour and determination every course necessary for the defence of the Commonwealth and the Empire in any and every contingency. Regarding, as we do, such a policy as the first duty of Government at this juncture, the electors may give their support to the Labour party with the utmost confidence.
Those were’ the sentiments subscribed to by the honorable member for Batman himself at the last election, and on the strength of which he sits on the Government side of the House instead of in opposition. On the strength of having subscribed to those sentiments he has supported the present Government for two years of its political existence. Here is the time of emergency. Now is the time for ‘the vigour and determination which the honorable member promised the electors he would exert. And we have just listened to his statement as to the way in which he would exert himself.
– I am not at all hilarious with, regard to this question, and I do not intend to vent any spleen on those who differ from me. I am an anticonscriptionist, and I refuse to support the initiation of a Bill that will give an opportunity for conscription. I am one of those who desire to see the war brought to a successful issue by the Allies, and yet I am against conscription. I am among those who recognise that if Prussianism rises victorious from this war, then Democracy must be damned. At the same time, I recognise that it would be just as well for Prussianism to rise victorious from this war as for the Democracy of the world at the end of the war to be in the hands of the plutocrats to a greater extent than ever before. My opinion is that Democracy will not tolerate conscription, and that conscription is unnecessary to win this war.
– It was necessary in England.
– Let me quote on that subject an extract from a magazine which cannot be said to be a supporter of Labour. I refer to Stead’s Review. In an article at page 332 of the May issue, it says -
By a majority of 326 to 36 in a House of C70 members the British Parliament decided in favour of universal conscription. As, according to Mr. Asquith, Great Britain has no less than 5,000,000 men under arms, it is difficult to see how conscription will put any more soldiers in the field. Conscription will, however, enable the Government to organize the entire nation far more effectively, for all workers .of fighting age will be under military control. The suggestion has already been made that miners should work for ten hours instead of eight, in order to make good the shortage of coal. Under present conditions, that would be quite impossible, but under the conditions brought ‘ in by conscription it should be quite feasible. Great Britain has shown her absolute determination to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour. So radical a departure from her traditional national policy is a splendid indication of her intention to fight on until victory is hers.
If this war is to be won only by making men work longer hours than they have in the past it is time for the workers to consider whether they might not just as well be under Prussianism. While we are told that it is essential that the coal-miners in England, as well as those engaged in other industrial occupations, should work longer hours, the capitalists of Britain are piling up their enormous profits. What is the situation in Great Britain to-day? All the Government have to do is to ask for a loan of £500,000,000, and they can get it. Six months later they can obtain another ban of £500,000,000. The money represents the profits of the exploiters in the Old Country. At the end of the war we shall be in pawn to the British patriots who run the whole of the Army and Navy sources of supply in England. I dare anybody to refute what I say, when I utter a warning to the Government and dare the Prime Minister to recruit his volunteer army with conscripts. If he attempts to recruit our volunteer army at the front with conscripts from Australia there will be nothing but turmoil and strife in the Australian Army. There are many men here who, like myself, have had experience of the military. I was born in the British Army; and I have heard the taunts of the freely enlisted men against men who were forced into the- militia. When drafts have arrived in India I have heard the taunts of the freely enlisted men against the men who had enlisted because the factories were closed “down and they could get no other employment. The Prime Minister says that we have to fill up the blanks in the Army at the front; but if the honorable gentleman does have conscription, let him form new battalions of conscripts, and keep them as far as he possibly can from the volunteers. I am speaking from experience; and if there is a man here who cannot realize what I mean, he has not given the matter due consideration. We understand that Britain requires further aid from Australia; and I believe it. But I believe that the recruiting up to the present of 5.000 or 6,000 a month, meaning about 80,000 in the next twelve months, is as much as we can afford of the manhood of Australia. The great mistake was made when we made our last offer of 50,000 men. If we cannot keep up the recruiting for men at the front, let us candidly admit the fact - that would be the most manly course to pursue. We are in a different position altogether from the position of the people in Great Britain and France. We are 12,000 miles away from the seat of war, and the cost of sending men there from Australia is four times per man that of sending men from England and France. In England and France they are as many minutes from the seat of war as we are days. I say again that this war has to be carried to a successful issue; but if we are asked to do more than we can, it is not fair. Before we are asked to do more I would say to the British Government: “Do your share,” for up to tlie present they have not done it. The British Government knew that this was a question of men, and of munitions and money as much as of men. They knew it was an economic question as well as a question of men; and yet they have hardly attempted to grapple with the economic situation. When the war started the British Government did two things which were commendable. They stopped a financial crisis by closing the banks for a certain time and instituting a note issue. That was good, and it had its effect. Then they commandeered the railways of England; and that also was good, and had its effect. But they let those robbers - the shipping kings, the coal barons, the great iron-masters, the timber men, the food suppliers, and even the medicine suppliers do as they liked. Medicines were cornered and sold at a profit of 1,000 per cent, by these damned scoundrels, just as everything else was cornered iri. order to raise the prices at the front. Yet these people talk, of patriotism ! Ask the coal barons where their patriotism is. It is estimated that to-day they are charging the Government 5s. to 12s. per ton more for coal than they ought to, and the people of Britain aTe being charged up to 18s. per ton more; and still we hear this talk about patriotism - still they ask us here in Australia to send onn- men, spend our money, .and hand ourselves over to them, while we, as a dependency of England, are tied up and trammelled by our* financial and industrial relations with the Old Country. What is to take place when the war is over ? I have no love for the Prussian ; we know that in Prussia we have tlie most vivid personification -of militarism the world ever saw-; but we have iu England to-day a section of financial and industrial men whom even tlie British Government cannot compel to separate their interests from Germany. Even now, after the prosecution of this war for over two years, there have repeatedly been found men of great -financial strength and industrial power who are still trafficking with tlie enemy and making enormous fortunes.
– What has this to do with the question?
– It has this to do with the question : Let the British Government do their share before they ask us to hand over the manhood of Australia to be maimed and killed - before we are doomed to insolvency, which must ensue after the war if we incur these enormous liabilities. Candidly, I would just as soon go down and trust myself to the hands of “ Kaiser Bill “ as I would trust myself to the financial and industrial magnates of Great Britain - there is no difference. We of the Labour movement know that for centuries we have been trying to take away from those magnates the power they have; and, even if we win the war, there will remain such a load of debt that the workers will have to suffer more in the future than in the past. In passing, may I refer to rather a good article by Professor Berry which appeared in last Saturday -evening’s Herald. Professor Berry, in that article, said that after the war -
Capital will be scarce and labour plentiful. Therefore wages will be low, rents high, food dear, and unemployment plentiful.
That, I believe, is correct. After the prosecution of the war to a successful issue - for which I still hope - we shall be handed over wholly and solely to the financiers of the world, many of whom will be Britons with German tendencies, and over whom we have no control. We never- vet have been able to make Parliament deal effectively with these men. Whenever trouble comes, the lowly are always the sufferers - they have been in the past, and will be so still. If the British Government had been serious, what would they have done ? They would have commandeered every ship, every metal product, every piece of timber essential to the carrying on of the war, and also every part of the food supply. Look at the Shipping Combine of England! What is taking place during the war? The British Government, in this connexion, have not done the fair thing to Australia. We in Australia have done marvellously, not only in this war, but in the South African War. It was then regarded as something wonderful that England should carry 200,000 men from the Home Country to South Africa, and keep them supplied with munitions and food. But we in Australia, with our small population, have done more during the present war than Great Britain did during the South African War. If the latter were a marvellous feat for Great Britain., how much more marvellous is it for us ? I have here a newspaper article referring to the fleet which I was pleased to learn that the Prime Minister had purchased for the use of Australia. In England today, there is an association or ring that regulates the movements of shipping. After the demands of the British Government for transport had been satisfied, that ring or association was left to work its own sweet will, and they have sent, and are sending, ships where the biggest profits are to be gained. Does that ring consider the needs of Australia ? We have millions and millions of tons of wheat lying here ; but does that ring consider our need for transport? Not a jot. If Australia is asked, or is expected without asking, to do its share in the war, surely to God we are justified in asking the British Government and the British shippers to do their fair share so far as we are concerned ? We have not received a plate to assist us in our ship-building operations here. Would it injure the British Government at the front, or would it injure the Navy of the Old Country, if the British Government were to release enough plates to enable us to carry on our small shipbuilding work here? Of course, not. The British Government are not treating us fairly in this respect. The shipping association or ring, if it intended to do the fair thing by Australia, would have released ships for our use without trying to make profits of 300 per cent. But no; like the horse-leech’s daughter their cry is “More, more, more”! In February of 1914 the shipping of England could be bought at a certain price; but after the war commenced what was the position? One old tub that had been mortgaged for about £2,000, and had been allowed to go because the full amount of the mortgage, £2,000, could not be paid, was, in January of 1115, sold for .£ 28, 000; and that was the third time the vessel had been sold. No wonder these men can invest money in the war funds when they get £28,000 for a ship not worth £2,000. Who is paying for all this? Who will be asked to pay the interest after the war? On’ the 5th of last month the *Age published an article from the Daily Chronicle, in which’ there was the following: -
To the rise in shipping values no end is yet apparent. Second-hand boats now fetch prices that would have been considered extravagant for new vessels a couple of years ago. Even very old craft command more than the original cost. Twelve months ago steamers were being sold at an average rate of £7 12s. per ton, but latterly sales have been on the basis of £20 12s. per ton - a jump of 171 per cent. Prices have ranged up to nearly £40 per ton for twoyearold ships, and even vessels thirty years old have fetched £27 per ton. The profits made on sales are so large that many of the boats have changed hands several times during the past couple of years. Thus one ten-year-old steamer, which was sold for £26,200 in 1914, was disposed of for £100,000 last year, and has lately been knocked down again for £140,000. Another vessel, twenty years of age, fetched £30,000 last August, £7S,000 last January, and has now realized £101,000. A third ship, built in 1891, which was priced at only £7,800 in 1912, sold for £21,000 last year, and yet again for £62,000 quite recently.
And so .the article went on. Not only in regard to shipping, but in regard to every commodity that is necessary to carry the war to a successful issue, these scoundrels have robbed the people of England, and the British Government have scarcely attempted any measures to stop them. The British Government knew how the railway transaction would operate from a financial point of view, and in regard to the men who are robbing the people certain Acts were introduced. But if the British Government had been’ serious, would they not have commandeered every ship in Britain ? Who should have get the enormous ship-owners’ profit, of which we have heard, amounting to 200 per cent, and 300 per cent, more than was acquired before the war? If the Government had collared the profit instead of allowing the private ship-owners to get it, would there have been any need for the enormous loans which have been placed on the market of Great Britain? Would there have been any scarcity of shipping in Australia, or anywhere else ? The Prime Minister knows that these people are taking advantage of the war to get an exorbitant profit. In Australia to-day we see women in thousands knitting socks and scarfs for the soldiers; God bless them for it! but when they go to the shop to purchase knitting needles they are required to pay an increase of 2,000 per cent., whilst the price of the wool with which they are to make the sock’s has been increased 200 and 300 per cent. The great woollen kings of England are making a profit of from 80 per cent, to 100 per cent, on the money they have invested, and they are asking us to put ourselves in pawn so that they may continue to pile up this illgotten wealth. I am not at all pleased that I find it necessary to make these remarks.
– We put ourselves in pawn; why did you not protest when we were doing it?
– I know we have. Britain has always allowed the exploitation of the people during war. The profitmongers have always been permitted to take advantage of the people. The war contractors amass fortunes. I remember a piece of doggerel that was much quoted when I was a youngster; it referred to a very well-dressed old lady walking in the street. The question was, “Who is she”? and the answer, “The army contractor’s only daughter, spending it now, spending it now.” And so it will be after this war; everybody but the army contractor will be poor. There is all this corruption, this extraction of the last farthing from the people for the rotten material that the contractor is supplying, and this underground engineering, and the peculiar little commissions that we are told are given. Some offenders have been sent to gaol, but thousands more ought to have shared that fate. I have here an extract from the London Times -
The Public Accounts Committee, in its report for 1914-15, criticises the extravagant payment for billeting soldiers, the waste of rations, and the large commissions to brokers. The navy deficit amounted to £51,751,000, and the army deficit to* £211,867,000. The Minister of Munitions effected substantial reductions in prices, despite the increased cost of labour and materials, by compelling contractors to supply statements of manufacturing costs, and in exercising requisitionary powers. The Committee regrets that the Admiralty did not possess a similar system before the war to break the contractors’ rings, lt is only now’ slowly introducing the system. The Government effected a saving of £3,000,000 annually on sandbags alone-
Would it be a, great stretch of imagination to say that there could have been a saving of £3,000,000,000 on all the commodities purchased during this war ?
The Army Council’s refusal to reconsider until the end of the war the system of paying the retired and active service money of retired officers rejoining the service involved a cost of £700,000 annually.
The British authorities are not prepared to reconsider the matter of doing justice to a certain class of men in connexion wit,11 which £700,000 annually was involved, and yet they allowed the contractors to rob the Empire of £3,000,000 an nually for sandbags alone. Another extract from the Times says -
In the course of his speech in the House of Commons to-day, Colonel Winston Churchill said: “The present optimism is not warranted by the facts. We must not treat the war as an emergency which can be met by makeshifts. All the nation’s resources should be devised and regulated, with a view to maintaining our war power at its absolute maximum for an indefinite period.” Colonel Churchill advocated bread and meat tickets, or meatless days. The Government should regulate the oversea supplies. The people were prepared to make any sacrifices to win; but they should not suffer through lack of grip or energy in dealing with private interests.
I, too, say that the Government ( Should not lack energy in dealing with private interests. Let the British Government say to us, “ We are prepared to so handle this question that the people of the Empire will not be at the mercy of the exploiters.” But they say to the people of Australia, “ We ask your assistance, and you have responded in flesh and blood “; but after the war, the men who return, and their descendants, are to have about their necks a mortgage they will be unable to remove, if a few people are to be allowed to amass their millions in this way during the conduct of the war.
– Have they not passed a war profits tax in England?
– Yes, and we have a proposal in Australia to take 50 per cent, of the war profits.
– In England they take 60 per cent.
– Even if we take 60 per cent., the position is no better. If I am allowed a free manipulation of prices so that I make 100 per cent. I can well afford to allow the Government to take 60 per cent., and if I am allowed to continue manipulating prices I will make 200 per cent, next year. I know that there are intricacies in taxation that have to be considered. I know that the measures which I desire adopted would bear hardly on many, and that there would require to be exceptions - in connexion with gold-mining for instance - but if the British Government and the Australian Government had realized the situation, and resolved to take all war profits, these scoundrels would not have so manipulated prices as to make such exorbitant sums of money. The taking of 60 per cent, or 75 per cent, by the Government will not prevent these men from making excessive profits; the more we take from them the higher the profits they will make. That is the present position from an economic stand-point; and when the British Government are as determined to win this war in the economic field as they are in the military arena, they may expect the people to do more, hut until then we are providing as many men as we can afford by sending forward another 72,000 or 80,000 in the next twelve months. I am confident that we are doing as much as we can financially, when we know that every day we are being robbed by the persons who are allowed to manipulate the financial world. Again, the difference between voluntaryism and conscription is very wide. To me it is marvellous that a man is expected to be a conscriptionist if he wishes to see the war brought to a successful issue. There are many reasons why conscription should not be introduced, and if the Prime Minister and those who are in favour of conscription think that it will be indorsed by an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia, they are likely to find themselves much mistaken. I agree with the honorable member for Batman that those who entertain such expectations will receive a shock. I may be asked why, if that is my belief, I do not allow the referendum to be taken without opposition. My answer is that I will not be a party to initiating anything in connexion with conscription. I could point out one thousand and one ways in which conscription, unattended by a comprehensive financial scheme, will bear hardly and unfairly upon the community. I can refer to cases amongst business people ; God knows they are not Labour supporters, although I may have a few personal friends amongst them. I know of three men in the one trade, and they are aged respectively 60, 35, and 28 years. Their’s are shops conducted single handed. If conscription is introduced, the two younger men will be taken, and the man who is over the military age will get their businesses, because they are not large enough to warrant the placing of anybody in charge of them. Of course, that man will vote for conscription every time ; it will pay him to do so. The same position obtains all through society.
– Is not the same thing taking place under voluntarism t
– Under voluntaryism, the men in circumstances such as I have described need not go to the front. If the Prime Minister will give due regard* . to all these unfortunate results that will attend conscription he will recognise thatcareful financing is necessary. The presentmethod of gathering in money for thecare of those who go to the front will not suffice, and I tell the Prime Minister that he ought to let the House know fully tha financial intentions of the Governmentbefore a vote is taken on this measure. I should think that honorable memberswould insist upon having that statement before adjourning for the referendum campaign. If the Prime Minister tellsthe people what is required to successfully finance this war, those ladies and gentlemen who are howling for conscription will tone down considerably. When they find that they have to pay the piper, as they should, for the men who are to be disadvantaged and unfairly treated, they will commence to wonder whether they should, be conscriptionists or not. I know of a man with two children, who was a great advocate of conscription. He thought there were enough single nien to provide the next 200,000 men required for thef front, but when I told him that he would be included in that 200,000, he changed his mind. There are thousands of hiskind in Australia. The man who cannot be conscripted is not playing the game fairly when he says that others ought tobe compulsorily sent to the front. I ad- mit that that contention is debatable. Honorable members may retort that if that argument holds good, the man whohas no land should not vote for a land tax, but life and taxes are two different things, and when a man who can sit snugly at home because he knows that he cannot be asked to go, and a woman who has no sons to send to the front and whose husband is too old for active service, vote for conscription, they are availing themselves of an opportunity of which they should not take advantage. Such a woman would be casting ‘a vote tosend away some other woman’s son- a child she has never borne and has never reared, and whose loss she would never realize. I say to her, “ Dare you vote for conscription unless you have something to give or have already _ given something!” I hear the younger women talking of conscription. I believe that many of them, if they were men, would be willing to volunteer, but I say to them, “ Seriously consider the position before you vote for conscription and say that a man shall go and defend you. Have you anything to give in return for that demand? “
– How many votes did you give to the poor devil who went Bo the front?
– The honorable member knows that I would give him all the franchise possible. I know that the honorable gentleman’s interjection is not personal. I know what he means by it. There is another phase of the question. Undoubtedly, under the voluntary system controlled by a Labour Minister, there have been thousands of cases of injustice in Australia. When I was speaking on this matter previously, and the honorable member for Balaclava pointed out that it was our own Government that were in power, and I replied that I would not trust them, the honorable member charged me with having uttered the biggest indictment any honorable member had ever uttered against his own Government. But I say the same to-day. Under circumstances over which Ministers may not have had control - though in some cases I know that they were under their control - we have had some most unfair things done, and, try as one could, no redress could be meted out. That has happened under voluntaryism. What may happen under conscription? When a man volunteers, he takes on the .liability willingly, and he has the opportunity of growling. Under the voluntary system we have been able to fight unfair treatment to some extent, because the authorities knew that if it became too glaring recruiting would be affected; but under conscription the military system, with its peculiar ramifications, could inflict on the soldier anything the authorities thought fit to inflict, because military officers are like the police, who will never admit that another policeman is wrong; likewise, unless it is forced from him, no military officer will admit that another has done wrong. That is the Prussian method, and, unfortunately, we have it permeating our military system in Australia to-day. Forty per cent, of the commissioned officers in our Expeditionary Forces have been appointed through favoritism. While officers of the Citizen
Forces for years, sergeant-majors and sergeants with ten, twelve, and fifteen years of military training, have gone to the front as privates and corporals, a lot of ninnies who did not know right turn from left turn got into the Officers’- School of Instruction and went away as full-blown captains. I could mention hundreds of cases. We have been able to ventilate the matter in the House, but otherwise the War Precautions Act prevented our dealing with this evil in the way it deserved.
– Every soldier has the right to appeal to the Minister.
– I have not been able to get any redress from the Minister. Take the case of Lieutenant-Colonel Mailer. I remember when he came from the Old Country as instructor. I am the son of an old artilleryman, and I have kept myself conversant with developments in artillery methods. I say that LieutenantColonel Mailer was “ the artillery officer of Australia,” but under a Labour Ministry they kept back his promotion for years, and put men over him who were not fit to wipe his boots, from a military, not counting an artillery, point of view. At last - I do not know why - they had to let him go, and he left as lieutenantcolonel of an artillery brigade three months ago. I have known young men in our Citizen Forces, fine soldiers, who were officers before they enlisted, who went away as .privates and have come back and gone away again as noncommissioned officers, yet they knew far more of soldiering than the officers over them. We have men kept at a paltry £156 a year to instruct others who receive £600 or’ £700 a year, and they are given no opportunity of improving their position. This happens under a Labour Government. If all this can happen under voluntaryism, I do not propose to trust conscription. I hope that during the campaign the anticonscriptionists will be given a fair deal. I like comfort, and I have no desire to grace the inside of a gaol. I intend to express my opinions rightly without abusing any one, and if the Prime Minister seeks to lock me up by utilizing some provision of the .War Precautions Act, then let him do so, but I implore him not to allow the Act to be administered as it Avas administered when he was away from Australia, because some very silly things were then allowed to be done. A magistrate was permitted to inflict a sentence of twelve months’ imprisonment, whereas a fine of 5s. would have amply met the case. The people were quietly incited to say certain things, and many have said them because they felt they would then be made martyrs. Could the remarks of a man in his cups after the hotels were closed be construed into disloyalty, justifying a sentence of twelve months’ imprisonment? When the War Precautions Bill was before the House the Minister assured me that it would be administered in a common-sense way, and only for war precautions. I did not think he would allow some old dunderhead of a magistrate to sentence a man to twelve months’ imprisonment where a fine of 5s. would meet the case. Yet this has happened under a Labour Government. Therefore, honorable members can see why I will not trust such a Government to administer conscription. I know that the position will be even worse. Finally, I say that Australia cannot afford to lose 210,000 of its best manhood in the next twelve months, for that is really what is proposed; it is simply a question of multiplication. In the matter of population Australia is not a concentrated nation such as is England or France. We have hundreds of thousands of men whose . callings are nomadic, and if we send away 210,000 men during the next twelve months the wool will rot on the backs of the sheep, and the wheat will be ungarnered. We cannot do the same in Australia’ as can be done in closely populated countries. Furthermore, each man we send away will cost us four times that of a soldier in the Old Country. As a nation we cannot afford it, especially when we are being so robbed by the great industrial and financial magnates in the Old World. In common with every man who is opposed to me on this question, I should regret the success of the Prussians in this particular fight, but I say, also, that it is due to us at this stage to consider if we cannot wrest from the power s-that-be in Great Britain better conditions for Australia than have been given to us, and insist that by legislation the authorities in the Old Country will prevent the amassing of great fortunes and sweep away the corruption of the war contractor. After the war work will be scarce, food dear, and wages low. I trust that provision will be made to meet those circumstances by reaching those men who during the war are making more millions than they would make during a century of peace. I think that the British Government should show their earnestness by effectively handling this question, and until they do so they cannot expect us to do more than we are doing. We are now doing more than they are doing, and they should not ask us to do more. My objection to conscription is that we cannot afford it in men or money.
– My remarks upon this subject will be brief. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat says that Australia cannot afford to send more men to the front. The question we have to ask ourselves is, Can the Empire, of which we form a part, afford to lose the war ? That is the issue that must be faced. Both sides admit that we cannot afford to lose the war. But if we are to win the war, how is it to be done? The Imperial authorities have made it perfectly clear that the war can be won only by sending more men to the front by a regular system of reinforcements. Recruiting Committees in Australia admit that the voluntary system of enlistment has failed. It has not met our requirements. There is then no alternative but compulsion. To get the necessary quota of recruits for the front we are thrown back on conscription. The Bill is a very simple one. It refers to the people this question -
Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, tlie same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this war, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth ?
Australia has adopted compulsory service for home defence, and, during the last election campaign, there was almost competition between the two political parties for the credit of having introduced that principle. Both parties are responsible for the present scheme of defence, and are pledged to maintain it. Now we are asked to sanction an appeal to the people for authority to extend the application of compulsion to the defence of the Commonwealth by service outside its borders. Compulsion is not an unknown principle with us. For years we have applied compulsion to military service for home defence, and our soldiers who are fighting on the fields of France are fighting for the home defence of Australia just as much as if they were fighting on Australian shores. Objections have been raised to the taking of a referendum, and to the extension of compulsory military service. Honorable members opposite all admit that the referendum is a plank of their political platform. But those who oppose the Bill say that they object to the taking of a referendum with a view to the conscription of human life. They forget that, although the members of every human society enjoy certain privileges, those privileges carry with them responsibilities. A man may not claim the benefits of the society in which he lives, and, when the existence of that society is threatened, decline to be bound by the will of the majority, -and declare himself an individualist. The principle of compulsion applies throughout our social life, in our municipal, State, and Federal Governments. “When a man becomes a member of any society, he thereby gives up part of his individual liberty. The surrender of some part of his individual liberty is the price he pays for the privileges of the society in which he lives. When that society is imperilled, it has a right to say to its members, “Our existence is at stake, and we call on you to sacrifice even your lives, if necessary, ‘ for its defence.” Those who oppose the Bill say that compulsory military service is undemocratic. But for some years past we have had compulsory military service as part of our defence law, and is there any evidence that Democracy has suffered thereby ? It is since the adoption of the principle of compulsory military service that Labour Governments have been returned to power. That surely does not show that the principle has interfered with democratic action. What is Democracy? The government of the people, for the people, by the people. Is it undemocratic to ask a people which possesses adult suffrage to express its collective will on a proposal to extend the scope of, compulsory military service for the preservation of the country? No class distinctions are to be made in regard to this service. The Bill is merely an appeal to the people to do what we can to save the Empire in its time of crisis. We have been warned to-day against the introduction of militarism. But Australia is a’ country possessing a . democratic form of government. The Cabinet ia responsible to the Parliament, and the Parliament is elected on a universal franchise, and is responsible to the people. Militarism canbe a menace only where there is an autocratic Government capable of using the military forces of the country against the rights, privileges, and liberties of the people. How could such a thing be done in Australia ? How can Australia’s liberties be endangered while she has a Parliament responsible to the people? It is to throw dust in the eyes of the electors to speak of the dangers of militarism in this connexion, as though we were governed by a czar, or by a monarch without constitutional limitations. The community at large has the fullest and most complete control of the Executive, and, that being so, there can be no danger of the abuse of military authority in the Commonwealth. The further objection has been urged that the extension of compulsory military service -is intended to undermine the industrial privileges possessed by the workers. That is a ridiculous suggestion. Compulsion is not to be applied to any particular section of the community. It is to be applied universally - to all possessing certain necessary qualifications. Those who oppose the Bill agree that the war must be won, and the question with which we have to deal is : How is it to be won ? The Government, with a full sense of responsibility, and informed by its communications with the Imperial authorities, tells us that conscription is necessary, and those who reject this proposal have cast upon them the serious responsibility of showing how we can fulfil our obligations to the Empire without conscription. I see no alternative but to support the Government. I hope that the appeal to the people may be successful; that Australia may be able to continue the splendid assistance that she has been giving to the Empire, and that thus we may win the victory over our enemies, and preserve the rights, liberties, and freedom which we cherish, but which are now in such deadly peril.
– I rise to support the Bill. There are one or two questions that every man has to put to himself in connexion with the present great world crisis. A question, that has to be asked by every Australian is this:
Is tlie war that is raging in Europe our war? Are we interested in it? That is a question of paramount importance. Were an attempt made to land troops on Australian shores, no doubt a large number of those who oppose the Referendum Rill, both inside and outside the House, would not hesitate to take up arms against the foe. Nor would they have qualms about the application of conscription under such circumstances . It has been said that tlie paltry number of men that Australia could contribute, even under conscription, would not appreciably affect the balance of parties in the present struggle. I am prepared to admit that a force of 250,000 men, or any such number, is not likely to be a decisive factor in the determination of the war. But, I have no hesitation in saying that our participation in the war is having a very marked moral effect on the allied nations. Moreover, it would not be the first time that a comparative handful of men, sent into action at tlie right moment, has saved a situation’. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports devoted the greater part of his remarks to a condemnation of the British Government for what it had left undone, and of the commercial burglars - men who have no soul. I am sorry to say that we have in Australia, as well as out of it, men who show at least great lack of patriotism. But if we followed the honorable member’s argument to its logical conclusion, when we found a burglar’ trying to enter our house we would not attempt to turn him out, because there were other burglars at large. It may be asked of me, “Why are you a conscriptionist?” Let me tell the House candidly why I am. For nearly two years I have had much to do with recruiting campaigns, and with the work of the War Council, and my experience has forced me to the conclusion that under the voluntary system there is no equality of sacrifice. I can take honorable members into street after street, and show them families, every son in which has gone to the front, whereas in the same streets there are families with more sons, not one of whom has volunteered. It is the inherent selfishness of human nature that has made me a conscriptionist. In connexion with this war there can be no half-way house.. We must be either for it or against it. I was sorry to hear from a young Australian a speech such as that made this afternoon by an honorable member. If others were to take up the attitude that he does, what would be the position? We have all taken part in send-offs to our brave boys who have gone to tlie front, and many of whom will never return. We have wished then* bon voyage and good luck, and when our men come back we shall have flags flying and much enthusiasm. And yet when we are asked by the British authorities, for the first time during this war, to send the requisite number of reinforcements some honorable members not only oppose conscription, but have actually done their damndest to block the voluntary principle. No one is more astonished than: I am, as a veteran in the industrial movement, that there should be any hostility to this proposal. I regret that it should be necessary to go to a referendum. I should have liked to see the nation standing together as one man on this occasion.. Let us lose this war, and what will, liecome of all our privileges? What will become of the very societies outside that threaten to expel me if I dare to vote for this Bill? Under German rule, would they have a chance of selecting Labour men to represent them in this Parliament? ‘What sort of privileges would they enjoy under German rule? As one long associated with the Labour movement, I would remind my honorable friends that every advantage we have secured - all that we enjoy to-day - has been obtained, not by voluntaryism, but by compulsion. Take, for instance, early closing. Did it succeed under the voluntary system ? Take preference to unionists. Was it successful under the voluntary system ? And why do we ask for preference to unionists ? Is it not because of the damnable selfishness of men who will take all they can get, yet will not contribute a farthing to the organizations to which they owe all they enjoy. It is the very same “ black-legs “ who today express a desire that the Allies shall be successful; but who do not care to risk their skins in helping to win the war. They want other men’s sons to go to the front, and they care very little whether those men come back or not, as long as they are safe. Another argument that we often hear is that the sons of wealthy men have not gone to thefront in anything like the same proportion that the sons of the workers have gone. Where could there be a better opportunity to make them go than this
Bill will afford ? I do not know whether the contention is true or not,, but I do know that many of our workers volunteered because of a different kind of compulsion. After the big drought there was a great dearth of labour, and many workers enlisted in order, so to speak, to keep the pot boiling. That is a kind of compulsion far more severe than that we are now -discussing. I recognise that this is not a time for speech making.
– It is a time to speak out.
– I am speaking out, and am taking the whole responsibility for my utterances. This is not a time for long speeches. We want to pass this measure as soon as possible, so that we may get on with the referendum and put our men in training. I know of nothing -worse than sending our boys to the front without sufficient training. Even if we were to debate this question in the House for the next six months, we should not -alter a single vote. Every vote is tied for or against the Bill. It has been said, “ It is all very well for you to support conscription. You will not have to go, because you are over the age.” I would to God I was under the age limit so that I could go. I had only two sons of fighting age, and both went to tile front. One of them will never return. But I would sooner see the whole of my blood relations wiped out than that they should suffer under German tyranny after this war. That is particularly my feeling in regard to the women folk. Does any one think that the song of hate in which the Germans indulge has greater application to England than it has to Australia ? Let there be no misapprehension on the subject. This war has to be won by the Allies. No patched-up peace will suit me. We have to beat the German tyrant to such an extent that we shall have peace for, at all events, several generations to come, and so that during that time the tyrant shall have no chance of shedding blood all over the world as it is being shed to-day. We are told that Australia has done enough, and that we “have done quite as much as other parts of the Empire. We have contributed a few men - the noblest of our race - and have spent a few pounds in helping to win this war. But look for a moment at Belgium. Consider, too, the position of France and Servia. Had there been one battle in Australia should we have heard any of the objections that are voiced to-day ? If a German warship had evaded our Navy and had shelled one or two of our cities, should we have heard to-day such talk as that in which some people outside are indulging? We have suffered practically nothing. Work is going on as usual. Not one building in Australia has been destroyed - not one civilian has been hurt - as the result of Zeppelin outrages, nor have we had any of our women ravished by the enemy. We have not done enough, and we shall not have done our share until we show that, if necessary, we are prepared, as Andrew Fisher said, to give the last man and the last shilling in order that we may win this war.
– It was with pleasure that I listened to the speech made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat - a speech made more important by reason of the honorable member’s frank confession that he had been unwillingly driven to the conclusion that conscription was the only course open to us at this juncture. He told us of his experience as a member of the War Council and otherwise which had forced him to that conclusion, and, in my opinion, we shouldnot ignore the operations of his mind which force of circumstances has brought about. I regret that the honorable member for Batman should have displayed so much heat in dealing with this subject. If his arguments and objections to conscription were at’ all equal to* the volume and noise of the shrieking in which he indulged, then truly we should have something to answer. But what makes this issue specially grave at the present time is the knowledge that we have the enemy within our gates; that we have men deliberately inciting the community to violence, and who, regardless of the interests of their country, are prepared to sacrifice it to the enemy. It is an appalling state of affairs, and we have to recognise that the enemy within our own gates is the enemy that must be immediately fought by Australia. We must recognise that this war is not yet won, and that, as part and parcel of the Empire, we must join with the Mother Country and hex Allies in winning it. The very safety of Australia is in peril. That that fact is not realized is obviously shown by the placid and complacent way in which we go about our business. True, some of our brave fellows from Australia have made the supreme sacrifice, but, apart from that, we have gone on with business as usual, and suffered no grave inconvenience by reason of the war itself. There has been no grave or direct sacrifice. The reason for this is that Australia is being defended at the various battle fronts. That is our good fortune, but this fact should intensify our obligation and make us more and more responsive. We must realize that the safety of Australia is involved, and that it is our duty, therefore, to put forward our maximum effort. There are two alternatives to be faced; one, to cravenly submit to defeat and to the sacrifice of our institutions and our privileges, and the other to fight this war to a triumphant victory. I venture to say that, if we know our own people, the latter is the attitude they are prepared to take; and it is what is demanded from us as a loyal community. Some honorable members opposite suggest that we have done enough. That is a most deplorable statement. It is true that we have played a part, and not an unimportant part - indeed, we have played a glorious part - but we dare not live on the reputation of the past. We realize that we have to continue to play that glorious part if this war is to be won. It has also been suggested that we have paid a certain contribution. To that it may be replied that we have made a contribution by no means equal in sacrifice, or otherwise, m proportion to that of the Mother Country. Our obligation to the Mother Country, as stated by the late Prime Minister, and repeated by the present Prime Minister, is our “ last man and last shilling.” Loyalty demands as much - our safety demands as much - and yet, if we examine what has actually been done, glorious as it is, we realize that we in Australia have contributed only about 23 per cent, of our men of military age, as against 43 per cent, contributed by the Mother Country. Under these circumstances, are we justified in endeavouring to throw greater and greater obligations and responsibilities on the Mother Country, as suggested by some of the preceding speakers ? She is doing her part ; indeed, what she has done during the last twelve or eighteen months simply staggers the imagination. Whether we view this from the stand-point of industrial development or in view of the utilization of the resources of the community - whether we consider the raising of a great and powerful army, or, above all, the maintenance of supremacy at sea - we realize that the Mother Country has more than done her part. We are supposed to do an equal part in proportion. We do not realize fully that everything we possess, and all the privileges that we enjoy in Australia, we owe to the Mother Country. But for the British Navy there would be no British Australia, as has been conclusively demonstrated during the present war. We cannot continue as part and parcel of the British Dominions, and of the Empire, unless that supremacy at sea is maintained, and unless the fundamental principle of the Navy to make the frontiers of the Empire the shores of the enemy is upheld firmly. That is the position we have to face; and, in view of the alternatives I have mentioned, we must come to a determination. Personally, I should have preferred to see conscription introduced in another way; but I withdraw any possible objection, and yield to the better judgment of the Government founded on their greater knowledge. I am anxious to see conscription, and the Government are anxious to see conscription ; and they have decided that the best means of securing it is by the proposals they make. I, for one, shall gladly tender to them all the aid and help in my power to carry those proposals into effect. It is idle to suggest, as is frequently done, that voluntaryism may still be relied on. The reply is that voluntaryism is absolutely exhausted; and no more complete proof of this can be found than that furnished by the Prime Minister, who has clearly shown its failure. I have the utmost admiration for voluntaryism, because I realize that it exhibits the purest patriotism. Voluntaryism has taken the best men of this community to fight for us at the various fronts ; and I rejoice to think that these men were so inspired with love of country, and anxiety to defend it, that there was no necessity to prompt them. But the daily papers themselves clearly demonstrate day by day that, after a lengthy trial, voluntaryism has failed. I regret that, in the later months, a humiliating system of sensational posters and appeals should have been resorted to in order to obtain recruits; but the fact only shows that every effort has been put forward in order to make voluntaryism successful. All this recruiting work has been going on for months, and it is now realized from the daily records that it cannot be relied on to furnish numbers sufficient to merely make up the wastage in our army at the front, to say nothing of supplying the “ last man and the last shilling.” That phrase means that we must not only make up the wastage, but be prepared for a further contribution of possibly one or more divisions. However, all the Government asks at the present time is that we shall endeavour to make good the wastage; and, as other speakers and writers have pointed out, our obligations to the men at the front cannot be denied. They must be helped, and their ranks filled up. If this movement meant the permanent introduction of militarism into this community, I, for one, should be amongst the strongest opponents of the suggestion. But the sole reason for the proposals now before us is the necessities of the war. Judging from the experience of other communities, it is essential, in order to secure a maximum effort, that conscription should be introduced. As the Prime Minister has said, we must put in every ounce of effort, and to that end experience has shown that conscription is necessary. When we say that conscription is necessary, we realize that the Mother Country, “which had infinitely greater difficulties than we had, has been obliged to resort to it; and we find conscription in both France and Russia. If we desire to do credit to ourselves and to the Empire - if we desire to do justice to our Allies, it is essential that, in order to put forth our maximum effort we must have recourse to the same system. Honorable members opposite cannot afford to ridicule the suggestion that Australia is not in peril at the present moment. A defeat of the British Navy, or a serious, military defeat, might mean the loss of Australia itself; and any such defeat would certainly be ike surest guarantee for the introduction of conscription and militarism in this country, because Australia would, in self-defence, have to become practically a.n armed camp. It seems to me absurd to contend that conscription is anti-democratic. The proposals of the Government are the most democratic proposals; conscription is the most democratic step that could be taken, because it means equality of sacrifice. This is proved bv its introduction and maintenance in France, the most demo cratic of communities; and there the system is a most rigid one. France, indeed, affords us an object lesson of what true sacrifice means. Never before has such devotion and sacrifice been shown bv a nation as has been shown in France during this war. This is not confined to the men, but it possesses every woman and every child in the community. This spirit of France may well be illustrated by an incident of which, no doubt, honorable members read the other day. In the French forces there is a great heavyweight boxer, Carpentier, and when he, the other day, received from America an offer of £5,000 for two boxing matches, he replied, “ I am fighting for France at present, and not for myself.” Carpentier, I believe, is now a sergeant in the aviation corps; and his refusal of such an offer shows the spirit of loyalty and devotion that possessed him, and should animate every man of the community in the present supreme crisis. The introduction of compulsion is spoken of in such terms as to lead one to think there is something novel in it for this community ; but it has been pointed out that we already have compulsion in many forms, and have, indeed, deliberately enacted it in our legislation. It is on our statute-book, if not with universal approval, at least without objection on the part of any section of the community worth noticing. All that the Bill asks the electors is: -
Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of the war, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?
In other words, are we prepared to defend Australia at the front, or are we prepared to defend Australia only within the shores of Australia ? The proposal is purely an extension of the existing law, and it is really beside the question to urge at this moment that compulsion is abhorrent to this community. Most honorable members nave, no doubt, read an excellent work by Oliver on the subject of Ordeal by Battle. In that book I came across this very appropriate passage -
A defensive force which will on no account cross the frontier is no defensive force at all, it is only a laughing stock.
Truer words were never spoken. If we are prepared to defend Australia within its shores, then, a fortiori, we should defend it abroad. That is all the Government ask us to do on this occasion. It will be truly a sorry day for Australia if it is to be humiliated by failing to do its duty in this regard. We rejoice at the appreciation of the splendid and imperishable record put up by our Australian soldiers. They were given an immense task in being asked to get astride the peninsula of Gallipoli. But they did everything that could have been expected of them. The magnificent reputation they gained in Gallipoli they have enhanced in the north of France. Their work at Fozzieres is one of the most glorious records in connexion with the war. That brilliant record already achieved, an appeal is now being made to the community to continue and further develop the heroic conduct of our troops. Shall it be said that we are so disloyal, and so unmindful of our own interests, that in the hour of need we failed the Mother Country, to whom we owe everything, and to whom our obligations cannot be measured? Is it to be said that when the people are appealed to on this occasion, the enemy within” our gates is so strong, disloyal, and seditious that our efforts to stand by the Mother Country and win this war will be defeated ?
– The Bill before the House introduces a principle that is not at all new to honorable members on this side, at any rate, and I congratulate members of. the Opposition, or most of them, on their recent conversion to the principle of the referendum. It is indeed a hopeful sign in this community that the gentlemen who all through their political history have shown a reluctance to trust the people by submitting a question of policy to them are now converted to that idea. I congratulate them on their improving political education, which I hope will continue.
– That is an insult.
– It is not meant as an insult, but as a most sincere compliment, because this conversion shows, after all, that it was merely political prejudice that hitherto prevented honorable members opposite from supporting that plank of the Labour party’s platform - the initiative and the referendum.
– How are you going to vote on your own platform?
– The platform I have signed is the platform I believe in. The principle I stand by to-day is the principle of the initiative and the referendum, which means that power shall be given to the people to initiate by petition certain legislation by calling on Parliament to give them an opportunity to decide a certain question. In this case, Parliament is itself the initiator, and I claim the same right here in regard to the initiation of a measure to be submitted to the people as I would claim outside if the initiation were in the hands of the people. “For instance, suppose a referendum were to be taken on the question of compulsory vaccination. There would be a number of people in favour of compulsory vaccination, who would create an agitation for the purpose of getting the matter referred to the people. In that case I would be perfectly justified in supporting the agitation or opposing it. If I believed in compulsory vaccination I would support, the agitation; if I did not believe in it I would oppose it. Likewise, because I am opposed to the conscription of human life, I oppose the initiation of a referendum on the subject. I ask honorable members to testify that my attitude on this matter has been perfectly consistent throughout. In July of last year I op- « posed the War Census Bill on the ground that it was providing machinery whereby we would be able to locate the single and available men of military age for war purposes. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Fisher) assured me that I was totally wrong; the Leader of the Opposition (the right honorable member for Parramatta) assured me that I was perfectly correct. The present Prime Minister, then the- Attorney-General, told me that I was absolutely wrong in supposing tha t the Bill would ever be used as a basis for conscription. The honorable member for Flinders told me then that if the Bill were not for the purpose of enabling us to find the men when we wanted them it was of no use and was certainly not a true War Census Bill. Now I have the melancholy satisfaction of knowing that the things which I predicted then have come to pass, and we are using that very War Census Act as a means of finding the men we require.
– That was tlie beginning of the conspiracy.
– It was. I call tuc attention of honorable members to the fact that on the 16th July, 1915, I addressed myself to this question from my place in this House. The present Prime Minister turned round to me and assured me that I had the conscription bee in my bonnet, and .that it was of no use trying to argue with me. A few minutes afterwards the honorable member for Swan spoke, and then the present Prime Minister rose and said, “ In no circumstances will I agree to send a man out of Australia to fight against his will.” At that time we had 100,000 men enrolled. Our boys at Gallipoli were having a bad time.
– “Our boys!” Your boys are skulking, like you are.
-Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I had hoped- that honorable gentlemen in this House would have been able to conduct a debate of this kind without descending to personal abuse. Personally, I have never during the whole of my speeches on this question made any dirty suggestion like that which emanated from the honorable member.
– “What suggestion did you make the other night about Mr. Strong?
– My remark about Mr. Strong was that if he had the right to say certain things for one side, I claimed an equal right to say the same things for the other side.
– You accused him of saying
– You accused him of saying most offensive things.
– I ask the honorable member for Perth to cease from interjecting, or I shall name him.
– In July of last year our boys at Gallipoli were having a bad time, and so were our Allies. The Germans had turned the Russians back, and were chasing them out of Warsaw, and we were beginning to count tremblingly the’ days that would be occupied by the Germans in reaching Petrograd. On the western front we were not even holding our own. The Germans and their allies were victorious on every front.
In those circumstances, with only 100,000 men enrolled in Australia, the present Prime Minister said that in no circumstances would he agree to send a man out of Australia to fight against his will. What is the position to-day? Australia has 270,000 men enrolled. Our arms are everywhere victorious. Our Allies are triumphant. The Central Powers are in difficulties ; they are far from being defeated, but the tide is on the turn, and everything is in our favour. In the improved circumstances, with three times the number of men at our disposal, and everything turning in our favour in Europe, the Prime Minister now says, “ We must have conscription, and I am prepared to force men to go outside Australia to fight.”
– Is not the real question whether we shall reinforce our own Australians?
– Quite so. The demand for men now is for reinforcements to back up the men at the front, and to assure them them that they shall have whatever support is necessary. Upon that point I assure the right honorable member that my attitude has been, and is now, that we cannot stop; we must see that those men are adequately supported.
– But you are not doing it.
– That is a matter of opinion. We have a right to differ as to the best way in which that shall be done. In June last I pointed out quite a number of ways in which, I was sure, recruiting could be improved. I refuse to admit that voluntary recruiting has failed. It is not keeping up to requirements. But why? Simply because of the obstacles put in its way, and mainly by the Defence Department. Honorable members may see in Hansard a number of obstacles to recruiting which I specified in detail. Some of them have been removed partially, and some are in course of removal. An advertisement appeared in the press yesterday inviting all men who had been rejected to present themselves again for medical inspection. Why ? Because the authorities are beginnng to see the truth of what was stated by Mr. Billson, M.L.A., a few’ days ago. Something like 70 and 80 per cent, of the men presenting themselves in Victoria have been rejected. Honorable members know that the average rejections during the course of the war have represented about 35 per cent, of the persons presenting themselves for enrolment. Do honorable members mean to tell me that 35 per cent, of the young manhood of Australia is medically unfit? I refuse to believe it. The Defence Department is now inviting those rejected men to come back, because it is realized that a number of rejections have been made on faulty grounds. One cannot help having the suspicion that many have been rejected in order to try to prove that recruiting is a failure, thus furnishing an argument for conscription. I have that suspicion. I have the furthersuspicion that very many members of recruiting committees are so prominently conscriptionist that it is hopeless for them to be successful recruiting agents. How can a conscriptionist be an active or honest recruiting agent ? The only honest recruiting agent is the anti-conscriptionist, because, being opposed to forcing men, if he tells them that they should go - as I believe it is their duty to do - he does everything possible to appeal to them and induce them to do so.
– The honorable member will not find many of that kidney in khaki.
– Plenty of them. The honorable member will get the shock of his life when he sees how the soldiers vote on this question. In June last, I said that the treatment of our soldiers in the camps in Australia in the early stages of the war, their treatment in Egypt, and the treatment of our returned soldiers, were the biggest influences against recruiting.
– Why did not the honorable member address his complaints to his Defence Minister?
– Have I not made myself a nuisance to the Minister of Defence over the matter? Did I not mention it last night ? Every returned soldier who has had the experience of which I complained,’ who has been left penniless and out of employment on his discharge, who has spent the whole of his miserable pension on doctors’ bills, and, is therefore, wholly dependent on his relatives, is to his circle of acquaintances an argument that is certainly not in favour of recruiting. I have letters from soldiers in the camps and overseas saying that if it were not for the War Precautions Act they could talk and give reasons why men should not go. My idea is to alter this condition of affairs, to make it easy to recruit, and to treat our returned soldiers well, so that each of them may be an active, honest recruiting agent, telling his mates to follow his example and not his precept only. The idea strongly held by honorable members opposite is that those who are anti-conscriptionists are absolutely indifferent to the welfare of the men at the front.
– And to tE’e welfare of the Commonwealth. We cannot fight for it here. We must go away to do that.
– I quite agree that the defence of Australia to-day is in Europe. I have never varied from my attitude; it may be a presumption, but I have strictly followed the course advocated by Mr. Asquith, Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Bryce, and other leaders of British thought - I can conceive of nothing more dangerous, detrimental, and disadvantageous in every respect to Australia than that Germany should win this war. I am prepared to do anything to prevent that catastrophe.
– Are you willing to fight?
– I am, but they will not take me.
– When did the honorable member give them the opportunity of refusing him ?
– From tlie beginning of the war I have carefully refrained from advertising my own willingness or inability to fight, and from making any reflection on others. I have my own load to carry, and I am doing it without squeaking. I have not asked any other honorable member his reason for not being at the front. It is not my fault that I am here to-night; I cannot help it; hut I take an active part, wherever I can, in regard to recruiting, and have never refused to address a recruiting meeting.
– The honorable member has not had many opportunities in his constituency.
– I hate had the pleasure of addressing quite a number of recruiting meetings, but I have not had many opportunities pf doing so in my own electorate. It was not until last week that I had an invitation to address a recruiting meeting in Brisbane. It may be merely a coincidence that I have political opponents on the recruiting committees there, but it probably occurred to them that I might have something to say on the matter, and they sent me the following telegram: - ‘
We holding monster recruiting rally Exhibition Hall, Wednesday night next. Could you please attend and deliver speech in support. If unable come, will you send us some message?
Here is my reply. It will give honorable members my attitude as it has been from the beginning of the war - and as it will be to the end. I wrote -
Kindly apologize for my absence Exhibition meeting. My message follows: - “Prussian militarism, the product of forty years’ unceasing organization, stands revealed in all its barbarism and frightfulness as the greatest menace to peace and good government in the world. The safety and welfare of Australia now and for years to come are contingent onthe overthrow of Prussianism through a decisive victory by the Allied forces. The heroic deeds of the Anzacs in Egypt, Gallipoli, and France have written a new and luminous page in Australian history, which it is our duty and opportunity to perpetuate. All considerations for the men at the front, and for the future of our country, unite in one high appeal ‘ Enlist now.’ For two years civilization trembled. Now, as we enter the third year of the war, apparently what is most needed is one good strong united push to complete the final crash of military domination. You have your opportunity to assist. Enlist now.”
No honorable member opposite could say anything more nor anything less.
– Yes ; but the honorable member goes further.
– I may have done so; but that is my attitude, and it is a perfectly correct attitude, with which no honorable member opposite can find fault. In my reply, I said nothing more than any honorable member could say, and nothing more than I ought to have said. It is not evidence of disloyalty on my part that I refuse to force men to go to do work which I think they ought to be appealed to to do, and which it ought to be made as easy as possible for them to do. I wish now to refer to the position of the Prime Minister. A little over twelve months ago he was solidly against conscription. Since then he has been to London, and he has come back in favour of conscription. But by a peculiar trick of political contortion he has decided to abandon his responsibility, and throw it on to the people. I maintain that if the Prime Minister thoroughly and conscientiously believes in the statements he has made publicly and in this House as to the seriousness of the position, and as to our duty to do the very utmost it is possible for us to do, and that conscription is the only way in which we can do it, he should have had the courage to come to the House and say, “ I want authority for conscription.”
– Would the honorable member have supported it?
– No; but that is no reason why the Prime Minister should not do what he thinks is right. If he thinks something is right, he would not decide to do it, or not to do it, according to whether I supported him or not. He bases his appeal for conscription on certain information which he gathered while he was in Europe, and he called together members of both Houses at a secret session, and laid before us certain special information, on the strength of which he believes that we should force men to go to the other side of the world and fight. If his information was sound, and if he believed in it - as I believe he does - his duty was clear, and the submission of it to the people is a subterfuge and unfair, because he is asking the public to decide on less information than he had before him when he refused to take the responsibility of giving a decision on the matter.
– Does the honorable member claim that the Prime Minister should have imposed conscription without a referendum ?
– Certainly. With all the additional information he had he should have stated his case here, declared his policy, and stood by it. Instead, he is now asking the people, with insufficient information, for he says that he is unable to disclose his information to the public, to do what he was not prepared to do, though possessing fuller information than the people have. It is a most unreasonable, illogical, and unfair position in which to place the people of Australia.
– If the honorable member and others on his side would have given the Prime Minister sufficient support, he could have imposed conscription with the support he would have got from this side.
– I am not responsible for the support that the Prime Minister has or lacks. I wish him joy of his newly-found friends.
– His loyal friends.
– I hope that the honorable member will not use that argument. This is not a question of loyalty or disloyalty. I do not accuse the honorable member for Wide Bay of disloyalty, even though he is here by a majority of German votes.
– Which I did not get.
– On a point of order, I ask if an observation of that kind is not distinctly offensive?
– It was in reply to an interjection.
– But this was the honorable member who was going to carry on the debate in a proper way.
– Order ! Interjections often necessitate some reply from the honorable member speaking. It is not fair for one honorable member to throw an insinuation across the chamber at another honorable member, and then take exception when that honorable member replies. I have repeatedly appealed to honorable members not to interject, but if they persist in interjecting they must submit to the consequences.
– The Government should have accepted the responsibility of their convictions, and not submitted this question for the decision of the people. There are some matters that may legitimately be deferred for the decision of the people, and on which it would be perfectly correct to follow that decision, but there are some things in life that are above majority decisions, some things that are held to be so sacred that no decision by a majority, however great, can give that majority the right to coerce the minority - suchthings as matters of conscience, questions of right or wrong, matters of life or death. History is dotted with the heroic deeds of men and women who have dared to defy majorities. Some of the most glorious pages of British history record the deaths of men who have sacrificed their lives rather than submit to the rule of a majority. Conscription of human life is not a fit subject for a referendum.
– That is a mere matter of opinion.
– I am only stating my own opinion. Did the honorable member think I was speaking for him? The statements I am making will appear under my name, and the honorable member will find that I am always prepared to stand by what I say. I am not one that fights and runs away to live to fight another day. I may be wrong, but until I am convinced I shall stand by what I say. The referendum will affect the people of this country more than any other question that we have yet had before us. There is not a home that will not be affected. There is not a man in the community from twenty-one to sixty who will not be affected by it. There is not a wife or child who will not be touched by it. We are going to lay sacrilegious hands on the most sacred tiling in those homes and those lives.
– Yet you say the Prime Minister should have done it without the authority of the people ?
– I say again, that if the Prime Minister thought conscription the proper thing to propose he should have stood to his convictions and brought it in. If the appeal finds favour with the people, and conscription is approved, I would ask honorable members opposite what hope they think they have of enforcing the law. There are, I suppose, over 2,500,000 electors. If 1,250,000 vote “No,” and 1,250,000, and, perhaps, a few more, vote” Yes,” how will the Government enforce compulsory military service on the large number of people who have recorded their votes against it ? The indications are plain that there will be a very serious and bitter division of opinion in the country, and there are men prepared to dare and challenge anything and everything in order to defeat conscription.
– Very few.
– The result of the referendum will show the honorable member whether there are few or many. My own solid impression is that the referendum will be defeated. If it is, Parliament will have placed itself in a most lamentable position. It will have deliberately appealed to the people for authority to do a certain thing, and if the people say “No”-
– But they will not.
– How do you know that?
– Because they are loyal.
– There, again, is the innuendo and suggestion of disloyalty. Does the honorable member mean to tell me that the loyalty of Australia will be at all affected by the result of the referendum ?
– The honour of Australia will be.
– It may be in the honorable member’s mind, but I believe the men of military age who for certain reasons have not gone, whether we agree with them or not, are just as loyal and patriotic as the men who have gone. I honour those who have- gone, and have repeatedly said that they have shown a magnificent example.
– But you also honour the men who have not gone ?
– I do not; but I say they have a perfect right to freedom of action, and to follow the judgment of their own consciences, and I refuse to be the means of compelling them either to stultify their consciences or .to become soldiers to prove their patriotism . If being in khaki is an evidence of patriotism, that is a position that even honorable < gentlemen on the other side would not agree with. There are militarists who are not military officers,, and there is, in sections of the civil community, as much militarism of the kind we want to crush as there is amongst the military community. The referendum, if carried, will introduce a system of coercion for which we can find no parallel in history. The population of Australia, in most cases, has come here with the distinct desire to get away from old-world traditions and customs. The majority of the men who have come to this country will tell of the conditions in the countries they came from, and they came here from all countries. Irishmen will tell of years of oppression and coercion, which they came here to escape from. Many Germans in Australia say, as the honorable member for Boothby did, that they came here to get away from German tyranny and oppression. There are others who came here in the early days to get away from British tyranny and oppression’. If we go back a few years in English history we find we- have nothing to be proud of. Tyranny in England was at one time- as great as that in Ger many. The only difference is that we have become more educated, and have progressed where the Germans have not. The Government propose to introduce, therefore, into this country the very things that men have sought to escape from by coming here. No other country 13 so held up in other countries as the ideal of a free Democracy as Australia is, because of our deliberate intention to be free from old-world traditions and customs. We are the admiration,, on that account, of the people of all the nations engaged in the present struggle. The hope of the people of Russia, France,, Germany, and other countries under conscription and military rule is not to continue under it, but to get away to the freer countries of the world where military rule and conscription are unknown. Do honorable members think the Russians, or French are proud of their conscription?
– They are.
– As a matter of actual fact, just before the war broke out, there was an agitation in France to reduce the term of military service, and Germany thought it had caught France napping in consequence. If Australia was in the same geographical position as France, with. France’s border-lines, or as Germany or Russia, with their borderlines, we should be compelled by force of circumstances to maintain a standing, army, as they do.
– And you and I would be in the firing line to-day.
– Undoubtedly, and that is why I approve of the compulsory sections of our Defence Act, but honorable members overlook the fact that the. French army is to-day doing, in defence of its country, nothing more than what, we should be doing if our country was attacked. Every man in France is rendering his service, and in a similar emergency every man in Australia would be equally doing his share. I am sure that every one of us- here would be ready to do his duty if Australia were invaded, just as every Frenchman is- nobly doing his duty in France to-day.
– And as our boys are doing to-day in- France.
– I am not anxious’ to take any reflected glory from- the boys who are doing their share. Some honorable gentlemen, well past the military age, of course,, who know that no danger will come to- them, talk about the craven. attitude of Australians who refuse to support the hoys who are protecting them. Let the boys have all the glory for the magnificent services they have rendered; but no one here should try to bathe in a reflected glory when he knows that he has done no active service for his country. My interest in the men at the front is not to detract from anything they have done, but, on the contrary, to magnify their services, and see that they are properly rewarded for them. I heard an interjection about compulsory service having been introduced in Great Britain. I am well aware that there is a military service law there to-day. Honorable members must admit that it was brought in in the face of very strong opposition, and that the people of the Mother Country were as resolutely opposed to it as a section of us here are opposed to its introduction in Australia. There was a strong and very effective agitation in England against the introduction of the Bill, but the Government was practically forced into the position of introducing it. If the people of Great Britain, so near, the seat of war, with so much more at stake than we have, and in so much more danger than we are, immediately, at any rate, so vigorously and so effectively opposed for a long while the introduction of the Bill, there must have been some good reason for their doing so. The Bill is now law, but it has not yet been thoroughly and properly enforced. Large sections of our fellow Britishers in the Mother Country have not been called up, and refuse to be called up.
– But they are rooting them out of their burrows.
– They are trying to do so; but the Imperial Government have not only been unable to fully enforce the Act, but have laid themselves open to most serious charges in their attempts to do so. Allow me to read extracts from a letter by a man who is very far from being either disloyal or unworthy. I refer to Dr. Clifford, one of the leading Baptist ministers, and a well-known character in the Old Country. He refers to the fact that the Bill was acceptable only because of the promises of consideration being given by the civil authorities to conscientious objectors. He says -
Men who did not, and do not, believe in conscription, as either necessary or effective from the military point of view, gave their vote for the Bill on the guarantee that Parliament was not setting up a Star Chamber or authorizing a return to religious persecution. Whatever may have been the case with individuals, the Military Service Act became law on the principle that conscience was not to be coerced by the State. That is undeniable fact.
But what has happened? What is happening every day throughout the land? Ghastly scandals have been reported in the House of Commons and in the press, and for one reported there are scores not known to the public. Day by day for weeks I have been receiving letters, concerning men who have been handed over to the “ military authorities,” shut up in cells, some damp and dark, put in “ irons,” badly fed, bullied, roughly handled, threatened with death, the bayonet placed against the heart; sentenced to solitary confinement for 70, 100, or 162 days, or for two years’ hard labour, or sent to France with the information that there are two ways of disposing of them there. . . . If, then, Parliament must enforce universal compulsion, though it does not show the nation the necessity for it, it ought to take the utmost care that its arrangement with regard to freedom from coercion for the conscience shall be faithfully carried out….. Some such arrangements as those are urgently required, not only to protect freedom of conscience, but also to recover British justice and fair play.
You talk about the introduction of military service into Great Britain. There you have the position which has been created so close to une seat of war as Great Britain is. Do you think that the conditions here in Australia will be any better ? I venture to suggest that the position will be much worse here. The people of Australia have such a love for freedom, and are so determined to resist coercion, that even if the referendum question were answered in the affirmative by a majority, at least 1,000,000 persons would defy the Government to ,put conscription into force.
– The honorable member should not encourage them to do. so.
– I am not encouraging them; I am merely facing the facts. Honorable gentlemen should be under no misapprehension as to the meaning of this proposal. The people of this community are as unable as those from whom they have sprung, the heroes of British history whose descendants they are, to tolerate conscription, and under these free skies you may be sure of their determination to die rather than sacrifice their principles.
– Notwithstanding Dr. Clifford’s protest against abuses - which does not touch the principle at issue - there are representative Labour members in the British Government, and Labourites thoroughly supporting that Government.
– There is only one Labour member in the British Government, Mr. Henderson.
– There are halfadozen in minor positions.
– Here, in Australia, there are Labour members, headed by the Prime Minister, who believe in conscription. I give them credit for sincerity in their attitude, and I hope that they will believe that I am sincere in mine.
– Labour members within the British Government are in sympathetic association with the bulk of the Labour party outside in regard to conscription.
– The right honorable member’s information differs from mine. It is well known that large sections of the workers in the Mother Country have declared themselves opposed to conscription.
– It is not well known.
– Only a small minority there is opposed to conscription.
– It is not merely a small minority. The miners, by an overwhelming majority, have declared against conscription, and the trade union congresses have recently taken up the attitude that I take up, that we have to win the war, and to find the men to do so, but that we ought to enlist men by proper and legitimate methods in accordance with British notions of fair play.
– They have agreed to the application of compulsion in order to get men.
– They have agreed to the putting into operation of the Military Service Act, but they objected strongly to it until the Imperial Government was compelled to honour its obligations towards married men.
– The honorable member should have told the House that Dr. Clifford supported the compulsion Bill.
– I have read Dr. Clifford’s statement that he supported the Bill, and that he and others did so on’ the strength of promises that were not kept. There is no expectation that they will be kept. Once the military authorities get power, civil authority is subverted. Have we not had an illustra tion of that here. We were told, when the War Precautions Bill was introduced, that we were secure in our civil rights ; that those rights would not be interfered with, and would not be abrogated. What is the position to-day? We have no civil rights.
– The War Precaution laws can be repealed whenever we wish’ to repeal them.
– And the sooner the better, because we are sacrificing everything for which our ancestors fought for ages. We have now no Habeas Corpus, no Bill of Rights, no Magna Charta.
– It was the Caucus that was responsible for that legislation.
– No; fourteen of us voted against it.
– Was the honorable member one?
– Whoever is responsible for these laws, Australia under them is being governed as autocratically as any country has ever been governed. One or two of the provisions of the Referendum Bill are rather interesting. Every soldier over the age of twenty-one is to be allowed to vote. That provision has my hearty approval. But the members of the Australian Imperial Force who are over the age of twenty-one years are not to be given the privilege of voting because they are over the age of twenty-one years, but because they have voluntarily become soldiers. Why are these men entitled to special consideration ? If the man who is twenty-one years of age is entitled to a vote because he has volunteered, every other man who has volunteered is similarly entitled to a vote, whether he be eighteen, nineteen, or twenty years of age. To restrict the right to vote to soldiers over twenty-one years of age is an insult to those under twenty-one years of age who are doing equally good and noble service.
– They cannot be enrolled.
– It would not be necessary to enroll them. All that would be necessary would be for them to prove that they were soldiers on active service. I say that the time has arrived in this country when every man who has accepted military service, and shown his readiness to risk his life for the sake of the country, should be given full citizen rights, and be permitted to vote at elections.
– - Would the honorable member extend the right to civilians under twenty-one years of age?
– Now that we have accepted for active military service lads of the age of eighteen years, I say that all of that age should have the right to vote. If a man is intelligent and patriotic enough to fight for his country, lie is entitled to vote for the election of its law-makers. The young ladies should also be allowed to vote at the age of eighteen years. Many of them are as wise and intelligent at that age as at the age of twenty-one years. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that our electoral legislation is being largely put aside by this Bill. I rejoice at the freedom which is to be given to the community in expressing its views on the matter under discussion. Clause 12 provides that persons residing in any Territory of the Commonwealth - Norfolk Island, Papua, the Northern Territory, and the Federal Capital Territory - who, if they lived in an electoral division, would be entitled to have their names on the electoral roll, shall be permitted to vote on the referendum as if they were enrolled. I do not disapprove of that provision; but it means that we shall have thousands of citizens whose names are not on the electoral roll exercising citizenship rights. Will honorable members be prepared, when the electoral law comes to be revised, to give all the men and women in the Territories of the Commonwealth who may be of full age the same electoral rights that other citizens of the Commonwealth who are enrolled possess ? I do not think so. But in the miserable effort to foist conscription on the country, every one who is likely to vote for the proposals of the Government is to be allowed to do so.
– And every one who will vote against them.
– In regard to questions, affecting the alteration of the Constitution,, only those who were enrolled would be permitted to vote, and it would be open to those who objected to their exercise of the franchise to ‘take means for removing their names from the roll.
– The Referendum Bill is the Bill of the honorable member’s party.
– But the right honorable member supports it. I do not object to the extension of the franchise. I shall support its extension as far as possible. Let the people be free to speak their will. I have always objected to the obstacles placed in the way of the popular expression of opinion. But I should like to know whether the provisions which we are now asked to adopt win be incorporated in the general electoral law. It is wonderful how circum-stances alter cases. Clause 7 provides that a naturalized British subject who has come from an enemy country shall not be allowed to vote at the proposed referendum. To that provision I do not object ; but I contrast the gay and easy way in which we denounce the Germans for tearing up their sacred treaties with the nonchalance with which we destroy the naturalization papers of citizens of the Commonwealth, and deprive them of their citizen rights. Many persons, of German and Austrian origin who have become citizens of the Commonwealth have come here moved oy the desire to escape conscription in their own countries, and more than any others would vote to keep Australia free from military domination.
– The honorable member would not speak in this way if he had done any recruiting work in some of the districts populated by Germans.
– I have no sympathy with the naturalized German who would be untrue to Australia. German residents of Australia owe this country a great deal, and I would not waste five minutes with one of them whose loyalty to the country was questionable. The only place for such men is behind barbed, wire. They can never repay Australia for the opportunities and the freedom which she has given them, and many naturalized foreigners appreciate their privileges. There are two such men in. this House, one on each side, who, I am sure, are as loyal Australians as any of our British-born citizens. By the Bill, electoral privileges and citizenship ‘ rights are abrogated. Men are deprived of their rights of citizenship, not for anything that they have done, but . because something has happened on the other side of the world. That is a peculiar action to take when the people are being asked to decide the national’ policy on a question like military service. I have no more to say, and shall finish as I began. We have to win the war. We can win it by being true to ourselves, and by being just and honest. Nations, like individuals, are great only by their moral qualities. Those who are afraid of German rule in Australia overlook the fact that Kaiser Bill has conquered this country without even coming near it.
– Will the honorable member tell us how to get 16,500 men per month ?
– Yes. There are in Australia to-day at least 100,000 men who have offered their services and have been rejected or refused.
-Would the honorable member send away the rejects?
– No. I would remind honorable members that, for instance, every member of the Australian Garrison Artillery has volunteered for service. The Minister of Defence, however, says that they are of more use here than they would be at the front. We have enough returned soldiers to fill every position in the Defence Force in Australia, and thus free the men who are willing and anxious to go to the front.
– How many would that represent ?
– From 30,000 to 40,000.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– The right honorable member is assuming that I am referring only to the Garrison Artillery, whereas I have in mind all men in the Defence Department. In the various instructional camps, in barracks, in the various branches of the Department, and including area officers, instructors, and the garrisons, throughout Australia we have at least 30,000 or 40,000 men who want to go to the front, and whose places could be better filled by returned soldiers than they are now in some cases.
– In South Australia we have only about ten area officers.
– There are some hundreds in the Commonwealth. One of the strongest objections to recruiting that we hear on the part of men of military age is that many permanent military officers have not gone to the front. By way of illustration, let me say that I went last week to the Altona camp, and that whilst I was chatting with some of the lads there one of them said, “Look at these officers here. They tell us to go to the front. Why do they not go?” The young man was a member of the Citizen Forces, and was referring to men whom the country has a right to expect to go, and who ought to be compelled to go, to the front, since they have been trained and maintained by the country to be prepared for such a time as this.
– Would the honorable member apply compulsion to them?
– They desire to go, but are not allowed to do so. It is of that I am complaining. The Minister of Defence said some time ago that instructions had been issued to these men either to volunteer or to show cause why they should not; yet hundreds of them have not gone to the front.
– The honorable member would compel them to go?
– They are the first men who ought to go, and their presence here is keeping others from going.
– There is practically not one man in the Defence Department who has not volunteered.
– I have already said that the Department has prevented them from going; but their presence here is not helping recruiting. The Leader of the Opposition is quite justified in asking where we are to get the men. Why cannot these men be allowed to go? Many of us who cannot go ourselves would do anything that is possible to assist in Australia. There are also returned soldiers eminently capable of filling any position in the service here.
– I have been in Parliament many years, but have never before heard an honorable member support a Government and at the same time so whole-heartedly condemn their administration. The honorable member has not a good word for the Government.
– What I am saying now is by no means new. I have given utterance to the same expressions during the last two years, both in this chamber and upstairs, as well as on the public platform and in written com- munications to the Minister of Defence. I have never heard of a Government every supporter of which could stand hehind every one of its administrative acts. The only alternative that the Leader of the Opposition can offer me is that I should support an Administration of which he is the head.
– No ; I do not wish the honorable member to support me.
– If I were to do that, then, as the honorable member for Adelaide says, I would be cutting my throat to save my life. I do not agree with everything the Postmaster-General does, but I believe he is better than any Postmaster-General who could be provided from the other side, and therefore I support him. The Government have to accept the responsibility for doing what they believe to be right, and when I find myself unable to support them I have my own conscience to satisfy and my own duty to perform. So far as this referendum Bill and conscription are concerned the Government are in no doubt as to my position. I am opposed to both. I am going to oppose the referendum and also conscription by voice and vote, because I believe the policy is a wrong one and will do to Australia one of the saddest, most dangerous, and most unfortunate things that could be done to a free country.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 745 p.m.
.- At first it was my intention not to speak upon this subject, because I had already decided to support whole-heartedly the Government proposals. This is not a time for long speeches, but a time for action, and the sooner we all make up our minds the better it will be for Australia. As far as I am aware, there has been no conference - as very often is the case with regard to important questions that arise - of members on this side of the House. At all” events, I have not attended any such conference, and, in view of that circumstance, it does appear a little strange that members on this side are on the present occasion unanimous in their desire to support the Government referendum proposals. The fact that we have had no conference clearly indicates that the members of the Liberal party have a very definite opinion concerning their duty and the manner in which they may best serve those who sent them here. They are all anxious to fulfil their promises to the Government to assist in every way possible to bring about the successful termination of this war. Honorable members on this side have expressed that opinion on many occasions in this House or elsewhere during the last two years, and they have always acted in accordance with their promises. This is not the time for the intrusion of party politics. We should all devote our entire attention to the solution of this great national difficulty, and, in such circumstances, the Prime Minister and his Government ‘ deserve the support of every well-wisher of Australia and of every well-wisher of the Empire. I believe the referendum will give an overwhelming majority in favour of the course marked out by the Prime Minister. Personally, I should have preferred that there would be no referendum. If the Government had been able to command the support of a majority of members in both Houses, I should have advocated .the passing of the Bill without a referendum, but the Prime Minister has told us in unmistakable language that the only other course open to the Government so as to get a majority in both Houses of Parliament in favour of the proposal to send more men to the front was by an election, by which he could only have meant a double dissolution. He would have had a majority in this House, but he has told us of the difficulties in another place. No member of this House, I suppose, is particularly anxious to have either a single or double dissolution, which would have taken several months, whereas if .the referendum be carried, as I feel sure it will, we will be able to keep up our quota of reinforcements much more quickly for a long time to come. The Prime Minister has appealed earnestly to members of this House, and to the people of Australia, to give the Government an opportunity of sending at the earliest moment more men to the front to help the Empire and our own fellow citizens who are calling for assistance. Now, what does this Bill do? After all, it merely seeks to extend the existing law in time of war within Australia and Papua, to operate beyond the limits of Australia, and I do not know why so much objection should be taken to this course at such a time. Of course, I could quite understand if we were not at war, and the Government proposed to send troops beyond Australia to other parts of the world. Parliament might quite properly say that such action should only be taken in a time of emergency, and at a time when the country was in danger. That emergency, in my opinion, has now arisen. No one can have any doubt that we are in terrible difficulty and danger. We have only to read the daily papers to see that from day to day there is a little gaining .and a little losing, and we have to realize that we have opposed to us a valiant and strong foe. There are brave men from Germany, Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria opposing our forces, and we would do well to remember that, though they are all conscripts, they are fighting with a vigour and tenacity not surpassed by any other soldiers engaged in this conflict. I am not here to advocate conscription in times of peace. My one desire is to support the Government in their effort to bring about compulsory service during this war, and there is no necessity for me to commit myself at the present time to anything further than that. I agree with the Government that there is dire need for every man we can spare to be sent to the front that we may be victorious in this struggle. The Prime Minister has told us that the Government have been asked bv the Mother Country to send more men. The Motherland had never done that before in our his.tory. so it is obvious that there is now a great need which never existed heretofore. The Mother Country is calling, and the Government of Australia are calling, for more men. We have been told that the voluntary enlistment is not sufficient to meet the necessities of the case, and our own boys, those brave young men whom we have sent over there, are calling to us to come and assist them. Surely at such a time we will not fail to respond to the appeal. Surely, in such circumstances, we will make every endeavour to comply with their urgent cry. I put the case, however, on other grounds also - on the ground of self-preservation, and on the ground of our duty to and our affection for, the Motherland. We must not forget that she gave us this country as a free gift to colonize and develop for Britons in this part of the world, a home for us and our kindred. Do not let us forget that this country was won for us by the. valour of our countrymen, not by ourselves, and that we owe to the Motherland all the privileges and the liberties we at present enjoy. It has come to us from the people of those little islands in the northern sea from which our forefathers came. Let us not forget, then, the appeal which has come to us from the Motherland for more men to be sent. Surely no one is in doubt as to what is our duty at the present time. There is no party in Australia on the subject of the war. I can say with all sincerity that during the time the war has been waged, the idea of party has never occurred to my mind. We need all the assistance which each can give the other, and even though we stand shoulder to shoulder and all pull together, we shall not be able to do all that we should like to do. We have had some speeches from honorable members opposite which I very much regret. I do not think that the occasion warranted such strong and outrageous language as was used in three of the speeches which we heard this afternoon.
– We heard one good speech.
– That is so. I must not omit a reference to it. I have to. thank the honorable member for Grey for his magnificent outburst of patriotic feeling, and the honorable sentiments to which he gave expression. They do him the utmost credit, suffering as he is from sad bereavements caused by this war. The three speeches to which I have referred were delivered by the honorable members for Batman, Brisbane, and Melbourne Ports. I am sorry for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, because I think that his sentiments and feelings are better than his speech would lead us to believe. It is an extraordinary thing that three honorable members supporting, and in close association with, the Government for years should make such venemous and hostile attacks upon that Government and upon their own leader. Their leader is no political friend of mine. He has always been politically opposed to me, but there can be no doubt but that he has devoted his life to the Labour party of Australia, and certainly deserves well from the members of that party.. In spite of this, we have heard three members of that party attack him in most opprobrious terms. It is doubtful whether even his honour would remain unscathed if we could believe -what those honorable members have said. I am verv glad to say that we do not believe it. The speeches to which I refer were not such as we should desire to hear in this House. They were narrow, parochial, intensely selfish, and unpatriotic. If “the honorable members who delivered them had any following in this House - and I am glad to say I do not believe they have - they have done their best to destroy the reputation and the position of the Prime Minister, and to defeat his high ideals and patriotic resolve to meet the present crisis. I do not intend to say more. I rose with the one object of saying publicly in this place that, having heard of the difficulties confronting us from the Prime Minister - the only means I had of judging them - I am satisfied that the right honorable gentleman, who throughout in this matter, in my opinion, has been most earnest and desirous of doing his very best, is taking now the best and speediest course open to him to meet the situation. I desire to tell him and his colleagues that I ani prepared to give him my wholehearted support in the splendid efforts they are now making to defend this country, and bring this terrible war to a victorious conclusion.
.- As one who has lectured on the question of the initiative and referendum since 1S90 in most of the States of Australia, I must say that I little thought that this splendid instrument for giving effect to the views of the people would be made use of in a matter like this. I have just left the Queen’s Hall, which is decorated with the portraits of the men we have considered great in the political life of the Commonwealth, and, looking into the face of Mr. Andrew Eisner, I could not help asking myself whether this Bill would have been introduced into this House had he retained the position which he resigned to his lieutenant. My conscience answers that Mr. Fisher would not have done so. It tells me that he would not have broken “faith with the people outside who made him. The great body of labouring people outside are the creators of the Labour party. They gave it its majority in this House, and it3 magnificent majority in the Senate. The party is being dominated by the strong personality of the present Prime Minister. The created thing is trying to dominate its creator. Such is the topsy-turvy of political life. I ‘ hope that from this time forth the Democracy outside, the creator of members of this Parliament, will refuse to permit them to carry on when they break away from the principles upon which they were elected. For the good work which the Prime Minister has done in the past, has he not received the highest reward in the gift of the people of any country? He, alone, in all the world, is the Prime Minister of a continent. Who placed him in that exalted position? Was it the party opposite? Certainly not, although the right honorable gentleman has all their cheers to-night. The people outside made him, and the Caucus elected him. Here we have the topsy-turvy of politics again. The Minister elected by the Caucus dominates the Caucus, and men are asked to keep silent when their conscience does not approve of silence. I never thought that the great Labour party would come to such a pass as this. I am sure that you, sir, with your fighting record in Queensland, never dreamt of such a result, and I know that I have your sympathy in what I am saying tonight. The Leader of the Opposition referred us to Abraham Lincoln and his approval of conscription in the United States of America, but he did not tell the House of the lives lost, the horrors borne, the crimes committed, and- the riots that took place in New York as a result of Lincoln’s action. He did not tell us of the deep, grim grief of Lincoln when he agreed to such a measure. Americans are ashamed of it, and it is passed over in the history of the country with a small paragraph. It served its purpose.
– It saved the Union and shortened the war.
– Sir Robert Best says that, but I do not believe it.
– It is an historical fact.
– I am acquainted with my honorable friend’s record as a Liberal leader. I remember that he can change his opinion on the shortest notice. The Leader of the Opposition quoted from a document which was sent round to every Labour member. I accept that; but I should have been better pleased if the honorable gentleman had gone fur- ther, and had quoted the definite statement which Mr. Fisher made -
The Labour party would never agree to conscription unless it was first made an election issue.
– Where does the honorable member get that?
– What is the honorable member quoting from?
– From a statement made by Mr. Andrew Fisher.
– In the manifesto from which I quoted ?
– I do not say. it was in the manifesto. I have no wish to misrepresent the Leader of the Opposition. I never willingly misrepresented any man; but the right honorable gentleman could have quoted this statement, because he might have obtained any number of copies of it.
– Mr. Fisher also said “ The last shilling and the last drop of blood.”
– “ The last shilling.” I like that, coming from the lips of the honorable member for Parkes. We have not received a farthing of the last shilling yet. It is only this party that will try to make certain people disgorge their unworthy profits. Quoting from Hansard of the 15th July, 1915, I find that the Prime Minister said -
This Bill is not for the purpose of conscription cither in Australia or abroad. In no circumstances would I agree to send men out of tins country to fight against their will. If the day over conies when men will not fight when their country is at death grips, it will be because the country is not worth fighting for.
I have not misquoted that utterance, and yet we have here the lash of conscription. We are going to yard men up as they were yarded in’ London only the other day. They were caught at a railway station, and put behind ropes, and 129 men who had offered their services were insulted in order to catch one who had not done so. The history of the Press Gang could suggest nothing worse. Honorable members who have studied the Press Gang will know that it would never have dared to go into a football field, yet the military authorities to-day have gone into a football field and rounded up 26 people, amongst whom they did not find one who had not offered his services. Was the lash abolished in the British Army ‘and Navy so long ago’ that we can forget it ? Is it not possible again, under the present Minister of Defence, who, with his rubberstamp activity, when any one of these gilt-spurred roosters tells him “ These are the regulations of the British Army,” is prepared to at once put his name to them ? Is the lash abolished in the British Army at the present moment ? The Irish party under Parnell did away with it as far as they could, but in war time the lash can be used at the present day. How different the position is in dealing with the question of the initiative and referendum when I turn to another Leader of the Labour party. I telegraphed my congratulations to Mr. Ryan, as the first Leader of a Labour party in Australia to carry a measure providing for the initiative and referendum. Who is it that has blocked out the words which, as plainly as one of the Ten Commandments, showed the initiative and referendum on the fighting platform of the Labour party ? It is the right honorable member who represents West Sydney, who occupies the highest position of any politician on God Almighty’s earth to-day. Wishing to save the expense of a referendum, which may cost £50,000, or even far more, I asked the right honorable gentleman a very simple question to-day. I wished to know whether the six questions which it was recently proposed to refer to the people by referendum could not be referred to them. The electors hold their fickle franchise by the permission of Parliament. Year after year I advocated that it should be set forth in the Constitution so that the people of Australia could not he robbed of the franchise without their own permission. In view of events in the past. I am sure that if the honorable member for Flinders were allowed to have his own way he would restrict the franchise still more than he has hitherto been inclined to do. Do honorable members forget how that honorable member, when Premier of Victoria, robbed every railway servant, every public official, every school teacher, every policeman, and every police magistrate, of his right to vote in their constituencies, by crowding them into one body? I have not often had to thanh the Legislative Council, but for their action in this connexion my thanks are due. When this foul and unworthy franchise proposal was finally brought before the Legislative Council of Victoria it was unanimously thrown out. But there is no doubt that if the honorable member for Minders spoke now as he thinks, he would say that, as Democracy has sent an overwhelming majority of Labour representatives to this Parliament, especially in the Senate, we ought to cripple the franchise by making the qualification a property one. I have always been in favour of the referendum and initiative being embodied in the Constitution; and, although I cannot possibly wonder at the answer I got from the Prime Minister, I certainly did expect a little more sympathetic one. However, the Prime Minister either had not time, did not care to, or would not give the answer that he might; and so much for his opinion of the referendum and initiative. The right honorable gentleman has signed the political platform which contains that plank, and yet we see the attitude he has taken up. Had the referendum and initiative been part of the Constitution, the people, of their own volition, could have moved, and a petition might have borne sufficient signatures to insure the question being put to the vote. This would have been much more acceptable than the measure now before- us, which devotes a noble act of political power, to an unworthy object. I regret to have to speak like this, but I do so with memories of the cursed system of conscription. There is not a nation in which it is in vogue that does not detest and loathe it. And who put this system on the people? The people by their vote.? I defy the Prime Minister or any honorable member to name a single country in which the system of conscription was ever instituted by the people’s vote.
– France 13 one.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. There is no country in the world in which conscription has been instituted by the popular vote. It was not instituted by the citizens of France, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, or any other country; and I do not think for one moment that the advanced thought of Australia will tolerate it. The newspapers will tell honorable members that a meeting over which I presided was attended by 5,000 people. One newspaper, however, sprang another 1,000, and, like Salem Scudder, in the Octoroon, I produce a photograph to show that the “ apparatus can’t lie.” That meeting was held on the 3rd September, and on the 10th, at another meeting, there were 40,000 to 50,000 present, though there is no record of the fact in the press. The Prime Minister may feel honoured in having the full support of his opponents and enemies, and the full support of a press -that has trodden upon us and our party for a score of years. If the right honorable gentleman can win under such circumstances, and call it a glorious victory, I hope to be always amongst the defeated ones. Just let us look at the numbers to see what men are really wanted at the front. Here I should like to say that I doubt if ever a man appeared on the political horizon of England who proved so beneficial as did our Prime Minister to advanced thought there. I do not know of a man, dead or alive, who has done more to shake up the old bones of Conservatism in the Old Country than did the Leader of this Government. There is no country in Europe, outside Turkey, which has not a more liberal franchise than England has to-day. As I said on a former occasion in this House, the present Prime Minister of the Empire had his name struck off the rolls because he lived in a house owned by his wife, and he had failed to arrange to become a lodger. What a lovely franchise ! I was robbed of my citizen rights for four years and a half. I lived with a family for three years, and moved across the road, and then, because the landlord would not repair the roof, we had to go further into the next street ; and three years’ residence did not entitle me to retain my vote. As to the men available, Russia, in Europe ‘alone, has a population of 143,000,000; the United Kingdom, 46,000,000; France, 40,000,000; Italy, 35,000,000; Belgium, 7,500,000; Portugal, 6,000,000 ; Servia, 4,500,000 ; Albania and Montenegro, about 1,500,000 between them, and these, without counting the innumerable posts of the British Empire tit Malta, Gibraltar, and so on, make a total of about 284,000,000. Now, Germany lias a population of 65,000,000, Austria 51,000,000, Bulgaria 4,000,000, Turkey 1,800,000, with further figures, making a total in the neighbourhood of 123,000,000. This shows more than two to one in. favour of those on the side of the Allies. In India we have 244,000,000; there are 72,000,000 in Japan, 72,000,000 in Asiatic Russia, and so on, while there is only Turkey, with 19,000,000, against us. Altogether we have about 703,000,000 with us, and only about 143,000,000 against us. Yet the cry is for little Australia to send more men. One Russian officer, who has passed quietly through Australia since the war began, asked why we here did not make warm clothing for the Russians, so that they might carry on a winter campaign. It is known that every Russian soldier goes to the front with simply the clothing in which he stands; and this Russian officer said that if we made them clothing they would emulate Napoleon when he crossed the Alps. The generals of that day described Napoleon as no general or soldier, or even a gentleman, but a savage, because he fought in winter. Russia, however, desires to fight in winter, and the way pointed out is the way in which we could help her. About fifty Russians can be landed at the front for the cost of one man from Australia; and the hardy fighting tribes of the Himalayas, with their few rupees a month, as against our £0 per man. Ten could be sent for one Australian. Then, again, Roumania, which has lately come into the fight, means an addition of 750,000 men who are inured to a climate which produces more centenarians than any other country in the world. These are hardy, splendidly trained men, with the rich red blood of tlie old Latin race in their veins. Is it all lies that we read in the morning newspapers, or are the Allied forces advancing? Are we being defeated and driven back? Is Paris in danger, and London likely to be taken? A French officer friend of mine who was in the Franco-Prussian war said, when the march to Paris was stopped, “ We are going to win.” No one wishes more than I do that we may win this war, and that the cursed Prussian cancer that destroyed the old” German States and the southern States may be destroyed, There is, however, a clause in this Bill that is a disgrace and a dishonour to the House. The proposers of this Bill are not content to wipe out all who were born in an enemy country, no matter how long they may have been naturalized, or what their lives may have been in this country ; in fact, the naturalization papers are torn up just as the Prussian brute tore up the treaty in regard to Belgium. It is further proposed, as though that were not bad enough, to punish the children of those men - children who are Australians as much as I am. I will not allow such an infamy to pass without challenge. My democracy was learnt from the Germans, and I have met amongst them men who, if they had their way, would have had no Kaiser or King alive to-day. They were men. of ‘48, who had made the grandfather of the present Kaiser fly from Berlin. Forty years later, in 1888, when one of these men returned to Germany from Australia, he was refused permission by that brute, Bismarck, to see the place where he was born. Now we are asked to say that the children of such men shall not have the rights of citizenship; and this is a disgrace and dishonour against which I must protest.
– That is not provided in tlie Bill.
– If the honorable member will look at clause 9, sub-clause 4, he will see that what I say is right. In that clause it is provided that the Bill shall apply to the son or daughter of any person who was born in any country or territory with which Great Britain is at war.
– Only if they are enrolled in a proclaimed area.
– No doubt there will be excuses for the * Sill, just as Adam made the woman an excuse.
– It might apply to any part of Australia.
– .But it must be prescribed.
– In Australia we possess a purer air and a better climate than the Old Land. Our people have more food and freer conditions, and yet some honorable members wish to send men from our shores as slaves.
– The honorable member wants to send cheap labour to fight forus. He has been advocating the sending of Russians and Indians to the front because their services can be obtained cheaply.
– The honorable member can support the enemy within our gates. I say that any man who increases rents during war time is an enemy of this country, and should be interned. Similarly, anybody who raises the price of foodstuffs is an enemy of Australia, and should be interned. I am glad to know that at least one financial company in this city has set a splendid example in this connexion. It was brought under my notice that the rents of a property purchased about six weeks ago had been increased by from 15 to 25 per cent. I went down and interviewed the chairman of directors of that company. He gave me a very lively reception, for which, however,I forgive him, because the next day he wrote me as follows : -
After thinking over the matter, I have decided to grant your request, and until the war is ended these rents shall not be raised.
I thank that gentleman for his action, as I shall do from every public platform from which I may speak. I am sorry that his good example has not been more generally followed. I come now to the question of war profits. I do not intend to speak of the profits of big concerns, but only of small enterprises. The following table of figures shows the increased profits made by the Shipping Ring: -
– Would it not be better for the honorable member to state the capital which is invested in those lines ? He is not acting justly by putting the position in theway that he is doing.
– The honorable member can ascertain the capital invested for himself.
– As an old banker, the honorable member knows, as I know, that he is not doing the proper thing.
– Then the honorable member knows what is false. How can I give what I have notgot? I have not the shipping register here. The honorable member can speak in his own way, and talk about sugar until doomsday, so far as I am concerned -
The total profits made by these companies before the war amounted to £2,306,700, and after the war had been in progress for a year to £5,235,640.
– To whom does the Moor line belong ?
– I cannot say. The capitalistic ship-owners’ profits in 1913 - that is during the year before the war - amounted to £20,000,000; but in 1916 they totalled £250.000,000, an increase as the result of the war of £230,000,000. We talk of taking 50 or 60 per cent. of war profits under the War Profits Taxation Bill. Let us see what the great Gladstone said. I quote from Talks with Mr. Gladstone, by the Honorable Lionel A. Tollemache -
Why, I ask, do we not take all these war profits ? It could easily be done. We could take the average profits of the three years prior to the war as a basis.
– Order ! The honorable member must recollect there is a Bill dealing with war profits taxation on the business-paper.
– One union- the Australian Workers Union - has sent 30,000 of its members to the front. To keep those members financial on the union books costs that organization £30,000 a year, and yet the charge is borne cheerfully. That is a record which cannot be surpassed. I come now to the price of foodstuffs. In this connexion I propose to read the opinion of the honorable member for Flinders, and of Mr. Starke. This is their opinion of the validity of the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to pass regulations fixing the prices of flour and bread -
The power of the Commonwealth to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of tlie Commonwealth with respect to the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States is not confined, in our opinion, to what is necessary for the conduct of naval and military operations for the purpose of defending the Commonwealth and States, but covers whatever else is necessary for the effective prosecution of a war, e.g., the support of the trade and credit of Australia and the Empire, and the crippling of the trade and credit of enemies of Australia and the Empire.- Cf. Moss v. Donohue, 21 A.L.R. 450.
Further, we are of opinion that the delegation of the power to the Executive Government of the Commonwealth to make regulations for securing the public safety and defence of the Commonwealth is a valid exercise of the legislative powers of tlie Commonwealth. - See War Precautions Act No. 39 of 1915; Bodge v. The Queen, 9 A.C. 117; Baxter v. Ah Wau, 8 CX.E. 626.
And further, we are of opinion that under some conditions the Parliament of the Commonwealth, or any body to which the Parliament had delegated its powers, might lawfully make laws or regulations fixing the maximum, prices at which foodstuffs could be sold in Australia, e.g., in tlie case of a blockade of Australia, or in the case of an invasion of Australia.
But the conditions mentioned in the public statement of Senator Pearce, namely, the arrangement for the shipment of wheat from Australia, to which the Commonwealth Government is a party, do not, in our opinion, warrant the proposed regulations fixing the maximum prices at which flour and bread can be_ lawfully sold in Australia.
We doubt if this arrangement is relevant to the consideration of the validity of the proposed regulations; but if it be, the arrangement is opposed to the validity of the regulations, for it appears that the regulations are not required for any naval or military purpose, but simply for the purpose of steadying prices in Australia owing to the existence of war.
Apart altogether from the arrangement for shipping wheat from Australia, we are of opinion that the proposed regulations cannot be justified under the conditions now existing in Australia. lt is notorious that the wheat harvest has been abundant in Australia, and that there is a large surplus for export. Wheat had advanced greatly in price owing to the war, and this advance reacts upon Australia, not because o£ any shortage, but because of the desire to export and obtain the high prices ruling n broad.
The Courts of Law are entitled, in our opinion, to take judicial notice of these social conditions.
And if these conditions are relevant, as we think they are, to a consideration of the validity of the proposed regulations, then the conclusion is, we think, inevitable that such regulations are for the purpose of steadying prices, and not for any purpose within the power to make laws with respect to the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and the States.
The regulations are, then, an abuse of power, and so an unauthorized act. - See S lattery v. Naylor, 13 Ap. Ca. 446; Widgee Council v. Bonney 4 C.L.R. 977.
The proposition that the validity of the exercise of a constitutional power must be considered with reference to the conditions under which it is exercised is somewhat novel, but” is necessary, we think, owing to the nature of the war power itself.
And we do not think that the opinion of the Commonwealth Government as to the existence of conditions justifying the proposed regulations conclusively bind the Courts of Law, though it is true that the Courts would be very slow to interfere with Acts or regulations which tlie Government considered necessary, or suggested in its regulations or orders as necessary for the public safety and defence of the Commonwealth and the States.
The present notorious conditions in Australia would, however, compel the Courts, in our opinion, to decide that the proposed regulations are at present in existing conditions beyond the powers of the Commonwealth, or of any body to which the Parliament had delegated its power.
The validity of the proposed regulations could be attacked in an action against the Commonwealth and its Attorney-General by any of the States or their respective AttorneysGeneral (see Attorney-General, New South Wales, v. Brewery Employees Union, 6 C.L.R. 469), or it could be attacked in any proceeding against an individual by the Commonwealth or its officers charging breaches of the proposed regulations.
The proposed regulations have not yet been framed, and our opinion assumes and is based upon tlie assumption that the regulations will simply fix a maximum price for flour and bread.
We should have preferred to advise upon an existing regulation, but as that course was deemed unnecessary, we have advised upon general principles and the assumption beforementioned.
– What does the Court say about that opinion?
– I do not know; let the honorable member ask it. I have already spoken of Englishmen being yarded up like cattle in the Old Country, in connexion with conscription. Here is the record in yesterday’s Age -
In pursuance of the policy of capturing “ slackers,” the military authorities raided the Marylebone Station yesterday. All men apparently of military age were passed through a barrier leading to a roped-off space, where three officers inspected their registration cards and other papers. Many were detained for 2) hours. Out of 130 arrests made, only one man was without a proper explanation. Forty-two men were arrested at a football match at Beading, but all were subsequently liberated.
Eighty arrests were made at a boxing tournament at Woolwich, but only one “ slacker “ was discovered.
In other words, 129 citizens were insulted, and were kept waiting for two and a half hours under this beautiful system of conscription. I have already spoken of flogging. That was partly abolished in the British Army in 1867. It was made a little easier in 1868, and was totally abolished in April, 1881. But what shall I say of the Navy ? In the Navy substitutes for flogging were announced in October, 1881. But I am informed that in war time the lash is still used. It seems to me that ministers of religion have turned down the Ten Commandments. We are told that if we break one commandment we break all. Because, I suppose, of a personal vendetta between the Lord Mayor and myself, I was never permitted to address a recruiting meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall. I was certainly asked to speak when the Prime Minister addressed a meeting splendidly packed. Women who could go to the Town Hall at 6 o’clock, and men who had time to idle, were able to wait for admission. The doors were never opened, but down below, where the soldiers were, persons in the know could pass into the hall in tens and twenties, so that by 6.30 the building was filled. Never have I seen a better packed meeting. Here is an instance of a commandment revised. In a cablegram it is stated -
The Archdeacon of Westminster declares that the killing of Germans is a divine act, and, therefore, the clergy should not be exempted from service.
Worse than that has been said by Archdeacon Hindley, and our old friend Mr. Worrall has not been in the background. No wonder these words were put by Tennyson into the mouth of a Pagan monarch -
I tremble at the Moslem and the sword;
I shudder at the Christian and the stake.
Such Christians as these! That Divine Being who was on earth 2,000 years ago, in the only act of bloodshed which my memory of his life retains, when one of those who were with Him cut off the ears of a man who came to arrest him, with his sacred fingers healed the wound, and said, “ All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword ! “ We shall hear whispers on the street corners, “ Be careful of Japan.” No statement that my ears have heard since the war began is half so bad as one made many years ago by the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese forces in the China-Japanese war. Nearly twenty years ago that leader said that - in the middle of the century in which we are now living Japan would be fighting Europe for the domination of the world.
-You are about to give the Censor a lot of work.
– Either the Censor in Melbourne is a very clever man, or the Censor in Sydney is a born idiot, because what is allowed to appear in Sydney cannot appear in Melbourne. The Victorian Censor will not allow to appear here caricatures that appear in Sydney. A witty writer in the Bulletin has said of one famous politician who objected to a caricature. “Why is it that the fool artist has made me a handsome man?” I do not think that the bitterest opponent of Mr. Hughes would say that the artists have made him a handsome man. Of course, to commence with, he is no beauty, but he is a strong man, and has intelligence if he chooses to use it. In this matter he has gone astray, and he will live to regret it. Baron Katsura, the Prime Minister of Japan, said -
Whether or not it is the destiny of Japan to be the leader of the East remains to be unfolded. But if ever that responsibility shall be hers, of one thing the world may be sure - she will not willingly retrace her steps, and she will at least endeavour to persuade the East to do what she has done herself, and more perfectly.
I know that some of our cities would have been blown to pieces if it had not been for the protection of the Japanese Fleet. The Australia is a splendid ship, but even she could not guard our coastline from Brisbane in the north to Perth in the west, and the remaining units of the Fleet would not have remained afloat for three hours before that powerful German fleet which sank a British Fleet off the coast of America, and was in turn sunk by a British Fleet of stronger tonnage. We must thank the Japanese. We know that they protected our transports which were conveying our soldiers across the sea, and that they enabled the Sydney to successfully deal with the Emden. On the other hand, what have the British people done to Japan ? Their actions are written in blood and infamy. Than the Opium War in
China no viler thing has been done to men and women. In Fifty Years of New Japan, by Count Okuma, the late Prime Minister of Japan, the author says that the British, Dutch, French, and American Fleets in the Straits of Shimonoseki blew a little town to pieces. What for? The guide-book says that the action was taken because of the death of a man named Richardson. The alleged cause was that one of the lords of Japan had fired on a British steamer. A heavy indemnity was exacted from this little country, of which the United States of America received no less than 800,000 dollars, equivalent to £160,000. When the American Government made inquiries into the matter, they found that the war was such an infamy that they returned the money to Japan, and now any one who travels to the port of Yokohama will see there a splendid breakwater on which the Japanese Government expended every penny of the refunded money as a monument to the amity between the two nations. In to-night’s Herald appears a message that Japan is lending Russia money, and that the loan opened and closed in the same morning, being privately subscribed twice over. I can point to treaties which England has broken, notably the treaty re Copenhagen, but I cannot place my fingers on a single treaty which Japan has broken, and much as I love our White Australia - I would give my life to-morrow in order to keep the flag of a White Australia flying - my lips must speak the truth of what I know our Allies have done for us. Russia could not have carried on this present war without the assistance she has had from Japan, nor could England have carried on without the aid of the United States of America. And though the Pacific Ocean may be some day under the domination of Japan, we, in the hour of need, must look to the United States of America as well as to the Homeland. I say it is idiotic to blame Japan; it is not fair to Japan, to an ally that has saved our cities from destruction and our soldiers from losing their lives in the perilous journey to Egypt. Therefore, I say, with all the knowledge I now possess, that I regret that the advice which I gave in 1905 in Flashlights on Japan and the East was not followed. At page 60 I said -
It is the business of the Commonwealth to begin forthwith to arm every man, to fence with the latest and most terrible scientific devices every port, to establish armouries and arsenals, to put its people in a position both to make and to wield arms, so that the whole may stand as one strong man, well armed, whenever the foe may seek to intrude. I said that, if the East fights the West, the West must combine, the French leading the Latins, Germany the Teutons, Russia the Slavs, and Great Britain and America the Anglo-Saxon races. I say again to-night, that it would be better for us to go to America cap-in-hand, than, perhaps, to bend some day in sackcloth and ashes under the yoke of an Eastern race. Therefore, whilst I hope that Prussia will be destroyed, I desire to retain every man in Australia. I desire the Government to concern themselves about the manufacture of arms and munitions. If that policy had been initiated in 1905 we should have saved for the Homeland an immense amount of money that has been paid to the United States of America for munitions. Australia would have supplied munitions and guns at cost price, and in time of trouble we should have been in a position to arm the soldiers whom we sent oversea. That would have been a commonsense and statesmanlike policy, instead of splitting and possibly smashing up the Labour party. That party may be smashed in this House, but it is like Antaeus, the legendary semi-deity, who every time he was felled to the earth rose up refreshed and stronger than ever. Those of us who vote against this Bill, which aims at using a splendid idea for an unworthy cause, will go back to our creators with our consciences at ease in the knowledge that we tried to carry out the pledges of our party. The Labour party did not spring up like a mushroom in the night, and it will not fade and die. It will come again. Personally, I would rather see a straight-out opponent like the right honorable member for Parramatta leading the House, than a man upon whose word I could not depend, a man who changes his opinion, and instead of consulting the party which made him, rushes off to the Lord Mayor and Mayors of the Commonwealth. In the history of Victoria there is another instance of the same thing. The late Sir James Patterson travelled throughout the State, and the municipalities welcomed him. There were dinners, suppers, and toasts, the press were helping him, and he scored a great success
The press also was helping him. But the day of reckoning came, and strong man, with great qualities, though he was, he had to find his way to the Opposition benches. And so I say that the Labour party, which has been fighting the daily press for twenty-six’ years, is still prepared to fight it. Luckily, though unfortunately for Australia, the majority of the people, at any rate- so far as Victoria is concerned, are in the largest cities, where the supporters of the Labour platform can meet, fight, and beat the press. The camera and the photograph cannot lie. It shows how many people attended the meeting held on Sunday. At the Guild Hall we had an audience that would have filled the floor of the Melbourne Town Hall, and was sufficient to fill a lower hall also, and three overflow meetings outside. We could have filled the Town Hall three times. In justice to the Lord Mayor re the Congress of Unions of Australia, I may say that he told us that we ought to have the use of the hall, and that he would give his vote to let us have it; I believe that he did so; but, at any rate, our request was refused. We had no earthly chance of getting it.
– I suppose that you wanted it for nothing.
– The honorable member is wrong again. Will he ever be right? I take advantage of the remaining time at my disposal to read perhaps the most important letter a man nas ever written. It was written by Herbert Spencer, advising Japan as to the course it should pursue, and contained the truth as he felt it and as he saw the light; but, as he feared that during his declining years its publication would inundate him with unpleasant epistles from his countrymen in England, he asked the Japanese Government not to publish it until after his death. This was the letter -
To Kentaro Kaneko. 26th August, 1802.
Your proposal to send translations of my’ two letters to Count Ito, the newly-appointed Prime Minister, is quite satisfactory. I .very willingly give my assent.
Respecting the further questions you ask, let me, in the first place, answer generally that the Japanese policy should, I think, be that of keeping Americans and Europeans as much as possible at arm’s length. In presence of the more powerful races, your position is one of chronic danger, and you should take every precaution to give as little foothold as possible to foreigners.
It seems to me that the only forms of intercourse which you may with advantage permit arc those which are indispensable for the exchange of commodities and exchange of ideas - importation and exportation of physical and mental products. No further privileges should be allowed to people of other races, and especially to people - of the more powerful races, than is absolutely needful for the achievement of these ends. Apparently you are proposing, by revision of the treaty powers with Europe and America, “ to open the whole empire to foreigners and foreign capital.” I regard this as a fatal policy. If you wish to see what is likely to happen, study the history of India. Once let one of the more powerful races gain a point d’appui, and there will inevitably, in course of time, grow up an aggressive policy , which will lead to collisions with the Japanese. These collisions will be represented as attacks by the Japanese which must be avenged; forces will be sent from America or Europe, as the case may be; a portion of territory will be seized and required to be made over as a foreign settlement, and from this there will grow eventually subjugation of the entire Japanese Empire. I believe that you will have great difficulty in avoiding this fate in any case; but you will make the process easy if you allow any privileges to foreigners beyond those which [ have indicated.
In pursuance of the advice thus generally indicated, I should say, in answer to your first question, that there should be, not only a prohibition to foreign persons to hold property in land, but also a refusal to give them leases, and a permission only to reside as annual tenants.
To the second question I should say decidedly, prohibit to foreigners the working of the mines owned or worked by Government. Here there would be obviously liable to arise grounds of difference between the Europeans or Americans who worked them and the Government, and these grounds of difference would immediately become grounds of quarrel, and would be followed by invocations to the English or American Governments or other Powers to send forces to insist on whatever the European workers claimed, for always the habit here and elsewhere among the civilized peoples is to believe what their agents or settlers abroad represent to them.
In the third place, in pursuance of the policy I have indicated, you ought also to keep the coasting trade in your own hands, and forbid foreigners to engage in it. This coasting trade is clearly not included in the requirements I have indicated as the sole one to he recognised - a requirement to facilitate exportation and importation of commodities. The distribution of commodities brought to Japan from other places may be properly left to the Japanese themselves, and should bc denied to foreigners, for the reason that, again, the various transactions involved would become so many doors open to quarrels and resulting aggressions.
To your remaining question, respecting the inter-marriage of foreigners and Japanese, which you say is “ now very much agitated among our scholars and politicians,” and which you say is “ one of the most difficult problems,” my reply is that, as rationally answered, there is no difficulty at all. lt should be positively forbidden, lt is not at root a question of social philosophy, lt is at root a question of biology. There is abundant proof alike furnished by the inter-marriages of human races and by the inter-breeding of ‘ animals, that when the varieties mingled diverge beyond a certain slightest degree, the result is invariably a bad one in the long run. I have myself been in the habit of looking at the evidence bearing on this matter for many years past, and my conviction is based upon numerous facts derived from numerous sources. This conviction I have within the last half-hour verified, for I happened to be staying in the country with a gentleman who is well known as an authority on horses, cattle, and sheep, and knows much respecting their interbreeding; and he has just, on inquiry, fully confirmed my belief that when, say, of different varieties of sheep, there is an inter-breeding of those which are widely unlike, the result, especially in the second generation, is a bad one - there arises an incalculable mixture of traits, and what may be called a chaotic constitution. And the same thing happens among human beings - the Eurasians in India, and the half-breeds in America, show this. The physiological basis of this experience appears to be that any one variety of creature in course of many generations acquires a certain constitutional adaptation to its particular form of life, and every other variety similarly acquires its own special adaptation. The consequence is that, if you mix the constitutions of two widely-divergent varieties, which have severally become adapted to widely-divergent modes of life, you get a constitution which is adapted to” the mode of life of neither - a constitution which will not work properly, because it is not fitted for any set of conditions whatever. By all means, therefore, peremptorily interdict marriages of Japanese with foreigners.
I have, for the reasons indicated, entirely approved of the regulations which have been established in America for restraining the Chinese immigration; and, had I the power, would restrict them to the smallest possible amount; my reasons for this decision being that one of two things must happen. If the Chinese, are allowed to settle extensively in
America, the)’ must -either, if they remain unmixed, form a subject race in the position, if not of slaves, yet of a class approaching to slaves; or, if they mix, they must form a bad hybrid. In either case, supposing the immigration to be large, immense social mischief must arise,’ and eventually social disorganization.
The same thing will happen if there should be any considerable mixture of the Europeans of American race with the Japanese.
You see, therefore, that my advice is strongly conservative in all directions; and I end ‘by saying, as I began-keep other, races at arm’s length as much as possible.
I give this advice in confidence. I wish that it should not transpire publicly, at any rate, during^ my life, for I do not desire to rouse the animosity of my fellow countrymen.
P.S. - Of course, when I say that I wish this advice to be in confidence, I do not interdict the communication of it to Count Ito, but rather wish that he should have the opportunity of taking it into consideration.
The Japanese Government kept their undertaking with this great man honorably, and did not publish the letter until after his death.
.- I am pleased that I have had the opportunity of listening to the speeches delivered in this chamber against compulsory service abroad. Through the newspapers I have had one or two faint glimpses of the somewhat remarkable attitude taken up by certain gentlemen who have seats in this House, but my wildest imagination did not enable me to form, in my mind, an accurate picture of the remarkable position they occupy in regard to this subjust until I heard them speak here. I wish to refer very briefly to what appeared to me to be some of their principal arguments. Of course, we have had to listen to the picturesque meandering of , the honorable member for Melbourne all round the subject. That is his usual way. I am not sufficiently fluent, nor have I the time to waste in attempting to follow him.
After listening’ to the speech of the honorable member for Batman, and observing his mental agitation when speaking, I was not able to indorse an opinion that I have heard expressed in regard to him, namely, that in reference to this matter he. is acting a part. It is. really a kind of obsession, the cue to which can be found in the unusually passionate outburst in which he referred to the Cromwellian outrages in Ireland. There may be in the mind of the honorable and learned member some’ inherited instinct of that kind which, if he follows it up with care, will land him exactly, in the opposite camp to that in which he is found, at the present time. Speaking as one with very great sympathy for. Ireland, and with a fairly good knowledge of the history of that country, I say, that she suffered under Cromwellism and other military outrages because she had .never at any time a Government that was in a position to levy effective defence against the invader. To-day the successor to Cromwellism in Ireland is Prussianism in Belgium; and if the honorable and learned member can be indignant as to what transpired 300 years ago in Ireland, he should be at least equally indignant in regard to similar atrocities that have been perpetrated, and are being perpetrated, in Europe to-day.
The speech of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports might very well have been an indictment of the administration of the Minister of Defence in regard to defence matters generally, but it was entirely wide of the present issue. The honorable member wished us to take up the attitude that, because through the machinations of British ship-owners, the Australian farmer is getting for his wheat 6d. a bushel less than he should get, Australia should put her hands in her pockets in regard to the war, and do no more than she has done. Because, owing to “ rigged “ markets, the old lady who sits in her home knitting stockings for her soldier boy at the front has to pay lOd. for her needles instead of 4d., the honorable member wishes us to say that we should leave her boy to fight unsupported, and perhaps to die at the front. I decline to follow such reasoning, and want to hear something much stronger, more logical, and more earnest in antagonism to these proposals than I have heard to-night before I alter my attitude on the question in the slightest degree.
I give the honorable member for Brisbane the credit of regarding his speech as perhaps the most reasoned from, the anticonscription side that I have listened to in this debate.
– Because you are both Scotch.
– -Let me tell the honorable member for Maribyrnong that my greatest objection to the honorable member’s speech was the accent in which he uttered it, but it is a consolation to me to remember that it is not often in these days that the cause of the slacker is advocated by a Scottish tongue. When the honorable member thinks of the possibility of his speech being read by his children with shame, and thinks of his ancestry, and of the sacrifices that Scotland has made in this war, he will realize that perhaps his tongue had been better occupied speaking words other than those he uttered here to-night. Two attempts at argument were made by him. The first was that we had no right to conscript human life. That is to say, that we had no right, as a National Parliament, to force men into the position of defending their country either at home or abroad. I know of no publicist of any standing who has ever written on this subject who has not insisted on the inherent and natural right of all representative Governments to levy the forces of the country in order to repel aggressive war. There is one modern school of politics that refuses to accept this teaching. The modern anarchist argues, as the honorable member for Brisbane did. in favour of the absolute independence of the individual from this form of coercion. He goes further, and argues against coercion in all shapes and forms. The argument of the honorable member for Brisbane to-night is, therefore, one to be found only in the mouths of anarchists; that is to say, in the mouth of individualism- run mad. That is a most remarkable position for the honorable member for Brisbane to find himself in - a member of a Socialist party, who has in this House advocated whole-hearted Socialism, but on this subject gives utterance to rank anarchy, the very antithesis of his avowed’ political convictions. His second observation was that he favours conscription for home defence, but opposes it for service abroad. I think I heard him say that if Australia was in the position of most European countries, conscription would be necessary, if not justified.
– I said we should be compelled by, circumstances to -adopt it.
– Would the honorable member, in such a position, regard a country as being compelled sometimes, by circumstances, to fight somewhat over its own borders? It is frequently a matter of military tactics and common sense to wage war, if possible, in the enemy’s country.
– I say more than that. I say the defence of Australia to-day is in France.
– There is no doubt about it; and if the defence of this country is being carried on in Flanders, or wherever else the Allies are attacking Germany, I fail to see how the honorable member can logically oppose compulsory service abroad, so far as Australia is concerned. He must see, as every one sees who has given any thought to the matter, that Australia in this war abroad is defending her territory, her hearths and homes, her women and children, just as much as if we had the hell of Belgium existing on our shores. Who in their senses would wish that Australian defence should remain inactive here until the horrors that have been perpetrated on the Continent were with us ? It is our obvious duty not to wait for that time, but to go out and fight the enemy elsewhere, and make it impossible for him to perpetrate those atrocities here’.
I have often noticed in Australia an attitude towards the war that I very much regret. Many people adopt the casual position of the disinterested onlooker of a generous frame of mind ; prepared to help the old Mother Country, but only to a certain extent. We know the kind of vain conceit that often affects young people. I think it sometimes affects young communities. I am afraid that amongst our rising generation it is almost an article of faith that Australians won the Boer war for Old England. Only the other day I read in one of our newspapers a statement by an Australian lieutenant at the front that Australian regiments were used to stiffen the British regiments ! Self-esteem is a very good thing so long as it does not run to seed, but I am afraid that in our attitude towards the war we are in some respects running to seed. I have said before in this House, and I would emphasize again, that we have more to lose if the war goes against us than even the Motherland has. In no possible circumstances would Great Britain be deprived of an acre of her immediate territory, or of her own Government, but if Germany won there is nothing more certain .than that Australia would become her prize, and that we should have a German Governor to deal with, and no Parliament of our own. It is sometimes suggested to the working man that, even if the Germans came here, he would, not be much worse off than he is to-day. With Australia under the control of an autocratic German Governor, it is not hard to realize what would happen to the working man here. The German Governor would ask, “ Shall we give these Australian swine-hounds better wages and better conditions of labour than dear old Fritz and Hans get in the Fatherland ? It is not to be thought of,” and straightaway Mr. Justice Higgins would be looking for another billet - one, I dare say, of a less worrying character than that which he at present holds. The trade unionist would also have to begin to puzzle out how he was going to get along on half the income that the extinct Arbitration Courts enabled him to enjoy. That is only one instance amongst many of .the probable condition of Australia under the heel of a Prussian Governor. I may be reminded that such a condition of things is not likely to happen to us now. I agree that we are reasonably safe from danger of invasion, but it is only because before we or the Motherland were ready, the conscripts of Russia and France and Belgium stood in the way of the common enemy. When we are denouncing the system of conscription and the conscript we- ought to remember how much of our safety we owe to the conscript- armies of our Allies. Are we content to sneak in behind them still 9 I do not think that is the spirit of Australia, or that Australia will be satisfied to do anything less than her full share. What is her full share ? If we have more to lose than the Mother Country we should be prepared to do, at least, as much. I am sorry that these comparisons are so seldom made, because they are instructive and suggestive. Australia has done less than Great Britain in the ratio of one to two if you consider only the Army, but in the ratio of only one to three if you consider the Army, the Navy, and the Auxiliary Forces as well. Is that our fair share? I do not think Australia will say that it is. It is true that we have done almost as much as Canada up to the present time, but we shall not have done so well if Canada carries out the obligations into which she has entered. Moreover, it is to be remembered that Australia has more at stake than Canada has. Canada is protected by the Monroe Doctrine from the possibility of having German or other enemies putting foot on her shores. We are not in the like position, and our danger being greater, our sacrifice should bo in proportion. We have done very much less than New Zealand had done up to the time when the Dominion introduced conscription. Surely a comparison between Australia and New Zealand is fair and proper. If we are to preserve our self-respect, we must keep level with the Dominion in our effort for the common cause.
– How many men has New Zealand sent away ?
– It is useless to attempt to give exact numbers, because the figures change every month. The official information is available to the honorable member, and I assure him that I am stating only the fact when ‘ I say that up to the time when New Zealand introduced conscription she had’ sent many more men to- the front, in proportion to population, than the Commonwealth had sent.
I come to another phase of this subject upon which I feel very strongly, and I regret that the Prime Minister is not present to hear the few observations that I have to make. I am sorry that he ‘‘has proposed to meet the difficulty with a referendum. I believe on principle in the referendum, but to have its proper effect the referendum must be worked under certain conditions that are not now present. The tendency of the referendum is always towards Conservatism. In those countries where it operates it is found that in the majority of cases its effect is not in the direction of change. I believe, therefore, in its application to the affairs of a country like this, which is subject to fits of experimental, rash, and illthoughtout legislation. The referendum would Have a good effect in imposing a check upon the Legislature. But I am strongly of opinion that the question of conscription should not now be put to the people in this way. The issue is one of which they are not fully seized. To a large extent it is of a technical nature, impossible for them to fully realize. But, above ali, a referendum now puts on the people responsibility which the Government should have accepted. I am not at all sure that we shall be able to obtain a majority in favour of compulsory military service abroad. There will be a great many influences working against that, influences which do not appear on the surface, and, among them, the sense of responsibility for the result of an affirmative vote. How many women will, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked this afternoon, accept responsibility for sending young men to the front, and, possibly, to their death 1 Many men even will hesitate to accept that responsibility ?
– The honorable member sees the point.
– My point is that a referendum should not be taken on this question at the present time. Before the war, when the minds of the people were perfectly open and unprejudiced, and not influenced by sentiment or fear, it would have been perfectly legitimate to refer this question to them. But to-day “I cannot see that we are going to get more than a bare majority of votes in favour of conscription, even if we work our hardest, and there is always -before my eyes the appalling possibility of the vote going against compulsion. In what position will Australia be then?
– She will be disgraced.
– The position is almost unthinkable. Because of this danger, I protest against the step that the Government proposes to take. It may be said that I should offer another proposal. I do so. The Prime Minister has thrown down a challenge to any one to suggest a better course than he has proposed. In my opinion, the proper course for him to have taken was to have introduced conscription by proclamation immediately on his return to this country. That was the psychological moment. The people, I believe, were then prepared to accept something of the kind, and were expecting it. Had the Prime Minister done what I suggest, I believe that he would have neutralized a great deal of the opposition which he is now meeting. His present opponents would have said, “Well, we have got it, and we must make’ the best of it.” The right honorable gentleman’s hesitation has strengthened and encouraged them. He had the power under the War Precautions Act to do what I suggest. It is to be remembered that that power was conferred on him by the two Houses of this Parliament.
– Not for that purpose.
– Power was given to his Government in a general and inde-finite way, it being left to them to determine how, and to what extent, it should be exercised.
– The Prime Minister said that it would be exercised very cautiously.
– It is merely quibbling to say that the power was not given for this purpose.
– Who says that it was not given ? But we know what promises were made.
– Every Government has to take -a certain amount of responsibility, especially in matters of administration. I contend that the introduction of this matter by proclamation would have been a proper exercise of administrative responsibility. The Government, had it chosen, could have introduced a Bill simultaneously with the issue of the proclamation. That Bill would have been passed by this House. We have a fairly shrewd idea as to what would have happened to it in another place. It might then have gone through this House a second time, and whatever might have been its ultimate fate in another place, we must not forget that the securing and training of these men who have to go to the front would have been proceeding all the time. If, in the last resort, it came to an appeal to the country - and I am afraid we shall have to go to the country after all this bother-
– That is the supreme sacrifice for the honorable member.
– I have gone to the country a few times more than has my honorable friend, and with quite as light a mind. I certainly shall go to the country with a lighter mind than I think he will have at the next election. I have but one other observation to make. Tt may be said that the course I have proposed is without precedent. I admit that it is. But this war is without precedent. The necessity of this country ‘is without precedent, and, therefore, none but a fool or a traitor would quibble about precedent at the present time. I feel very strongly that this course would have been the better one for the Government to take in order to achieve its object. It is not yet too late for the Government to adopt it. I put the proposal forward in good faith, and without any idea of party antagonism. If the Go;vernment should not feel free to accept it, then I am prepared to fall in behind them in regard to the present proposal, and to do all in my power to enable Australia to look the world in the face for all time, feeling that she has done the full measure of her duty.
.- I feel justified in making a brief contribution to this debate, inasmuch as I was the first to voice conscription on the floor of this House. During the debate on the War Census Bill, on 16th July of last year, I announced that I was a conscriptionist. I still am. On that occasion I expressed the view that the attitude adopted by the Government was not a courageous one, and that they had merely been nibbling at’ the matter. Subsequent events have amply substantiated my statement. I said further during the debate to which I have just referred that my desire was that the Government, instead of taking half measures, should go the whole way, and forthwith bring in a Conscription Bill. Even the Opposition at that time did not display much courage. I then ventured the opinion that -
Neither the Parliament as a whole nor members who sit on one side or the other have shown very much courage in dealing with the present situation.
– When did the honorable member make that speech 1
– On 16th July, 1915.
– That was during the present session, and it is not permissible to quote from the debates of the current session.
– My assertion that the Government was simply nibbling at the question has been proved to be true. I agree to some extent with the view expressed Dy the honorable member for Perth, that never in the history of this country was an autocrat more required than at the present time. I had hoped that when the Prime Minister returned to Australia he would do as had been suggested - that he would bring in a Conscription Bill straight away. The time was then ripe for such action. It is now over-ripe. The system so far followed in Australia cannot be described as a voluntary one. Under a truly voluntary system, men would be rushing to join the colours, and the recruiting offices would be besieged by men not merely willing, but anxious to join the ranks.
– So they have been.
– That is not so. Various appeals have been issued by the press, and’ men who have failed to volunteer have been described as wasters, shirkers, and slackers. Our young men have been appealed to on every handappealed to by means of picture-posters during the day and by illuminated signs at night. Some have been presented with white feathers.
– And others have been dismissed.
– Quite so. Some have been dismissed from their employment with the object of inducing them to join the ranks. Can such a system be described as a voluntary one? I certainly do not think so. Peripatetic recruiting committees have been touring the country with brass bands trying to induce men to volunteer. There is no semblance of voluntaryism about that. It has been practically a system of compulsion from beginning to end. Every device has been tried.
– Everything bar bird-lime.
– Something equally as effective as bird-lime might have been tried in the honorable member’s electorate. I contend that we have never had a truly voluntary system in. operation here. It was said by an honorable member yesterday that the voluntary system had never been given a fair chance in Australia. In view of all that has been done, one wonders what he would describe as giving it a fair chance. Appeals of all kinds have been made. Men have been cajoled on the one hand, and pressed on the other, and yet, as I predicted, there has been a slump in recruiting. My remark during the debate on the “War Census Bill that there would inevitably be a slump in recruiting was prophetic. I sometimes assume a prophetic role, and my prediction in this regard has certainly been verified. I predicted that at the commencement of the recruiting campaign there would be a rush that would embarrass the Department. That actually happened. The Defence authorities had neither the necessary uniforms nor the equipment with which to fit out the men who were going to the front. War was declared on the 4th August, and on the 7th the first contingent left Townsville for Papua. What response could have been more prompt or generous than that ? But it is a fact, I repeat, that many of those men were so poorly equipped that when they arrived some of them had to parade in their pyjamas. Honorable members can get this statement verified by officials of the Defence Department. That was voluntaryism in its purest and simplest form. At that time, the Defence Department was embarrassed by lack of equipment; to-day, the Department is equally embarrassed by lack of men- wanted to fill the gaps made in the ranks of our troops. I am aware that all sorts of reasons have been advanced why men should vote against conscription. At one time we were told that when England adopted conscription it would be time enough for us to do so. Well, England has adopted conscription, and yet in some quarters the same hostility is shown towards the proposal in Australia, though the excuse is now put in another form. At one time an honorable member said that he would not adopt conscription until the Legislative Council of Victoria had extended the franchise; to-day he shelters himself behind another excuse, and says he will not vote for conscription because the coal barons of England are charging more than they ought to for their coal. Other reasons of an equally weak and insufficient nature have been adduced. The real fact is that ‘ men opposed to conscription will find some excuse for their attitude. As the honorable member for Perth has suggested, underneath it all there is something else which it is difficult to fathom. I am not going to probe the depths myself, because I may be mistaken, but I have my own ideas about what is influencing some honorable members in their attitude towards conscription. Another honorable member, who is not present just now, has said that he will never support compulsion of any sort. Well, every individual member of this Parliament is under compulsion all the time, and society itself is based upon compulsion. When a child is born it must be registered. There is compulsion. At some stage later, as honorable members well know, that child must be vaccinated, though an honorable gentleman now occupying a seat on the Ministerial bench was fined £2 on one occasion because he failed to obey the law of this State. However, there again is the principle of compulsion. A little later on the child must be sent to school - more compulsion. Still later on, if a boy, he must be registered as a trainee-
– And join a union.
– As the honorable member for Denison has suggested, a little later on he must join a union if ha expects to get a decent job. Further on in life, after having served as a trainee, he must be registered as a member of the Citizen Forces, and when he reaches the statutory age he must be registered as an elector, and at election time, in our State, at any rate, he is compelled to vote. There, as honorable members see, is the principle of compulsion exercised all along the line. At some period of his life, also, a man may get married. This is ordered by society, and society must be obeyed.
– And when he dies he must be buried.
– Yes, when a man dies he must be buried, and if he has not led a good life here he must, so we are told, go to that place where the conditions are not so comfortable. More compulsion ! I was a member of this Parliament when we sent away the first Commonwealth contingent, and some of those who to-day are offering opposition to men leaving this country now did not then raise their voices in protest against such a course when men were wanted for South Africa. There were only five members of this chamber who did object to the despatch of the first Commonwealth contingent, and subsequent opinion to some extent appears to have indorsed the attitude they then adopted. We are now urged not to send men out of this country to fight, but in answer to that I would ask: Where else will they fight in the defence of this country except on foreign battle-fields ? Where is Australia now being defended, if not on foreign soil? What on earth will be the use of our democratic institutions if th6 Empire goes down in this struggle? God forbid that it should, but if it does, what will become of Australia? Where will be those members who are now sitting here and enjoying themselves to some extent? What will become of our trades halls and our unions? I affirm that everything we have enjoyed up to the present is based upon the strength of the Empire, and if the Empire goes down we go down with it. I have even heard it said that if we cannot get the men here we can get ten Russians to fight for us for what it would cost to send one of our own men.
– And Indians also.
– Yes, and Asiaticsthose to whom we refuse entrance into this country. It is suggested that we might get these men to fight for us. What a pathetic exhibition that would be for Australia. I am satisfied that compulsion is necessary, and I intend to support it by my voice and vote. We have heard a good deal about the evils of Prussian militarism, and have been told that men have left Germany in order to escape it. Well, if Prussian militarism has been severe on the people of Prussia, how much more severe would it be upon the people of a conquered country? The position in such circumstances would be intolerable. There would be only one thing to do, and that would be to commit suicide. I say quite seriously that it would be better for any man with a family to do as many others have done in those countries already subjugated by the enemy, namely, to put them in a closed chamber, and turn on the gas. Far better would it be for them to die thus than to fall into the hands of the enemy. Now, suppose we did not send more men to the front; suppose we left unfilled the gaps that have been caused in the ranks of our soldiers. What would happen then? Our battalions would become reduced, our men would be drafted into other units, and finally Australia would not be represented by one complete unit at the front. Of what avail, then, would be the glory of our men at Gallipoli and of the heroes of Anzac? Where to-day, it would be asked, are the men who so bravely shed their blood in the defence of the country? They are gone, and none have come to fill their places. It behoves every one of us to consider well what he ought to do. Some honorable members have pledged themselves here and outside with regard to the attitude they intend to take up. It is not too late for them to revoke those pledges in the interests, not merely of the Empire, but of civilization and humanity, and take up an attitude other than that which they have already adopted.
.- I do not wish to let this occasion pass by without combating, to some extent,, the expressions of opinion given by some honorable members on this side, though not behind the Government. I am absolutely behind the Government.
– For the first time for a lone while.
– Then so much the better for the Government, as it shows that they are getting nearer to the right line of thought. So far as I am concerned in. my relationship to the Government and to the Labour party, I may say that one of the chief factors which impelled me to identify myself with the party years ago »as that it stood for compulsory military training in Australia. I realized quite clearly then, as I still do, that a country that is not in a position to defend itself, and whose men are not trained to war, is a country that has a very short life ahead of it. We are not fitted to possess a territory unless we are prepared to defend it. I argue,, and logically also, that in so far as we have as a party placed a law on the statute-book which decrees that every one may be called to the colours for the defence of Australia, when the integrity of the country is challenged, that integrity must be maintained wherever it is challenged, whether it be here or abroad. As has been said truly by others: “To-day our frontiers are in France.” There is no escaping the logic of that. If the defence of Australia involves the sending of our men to’ France, I say that every one free to go while we are still in jeopardy should be ready to go, and those who are not free to go should be- quite willing to have their case submitted to the tribunal of their fellowmen to say whether or not they should enter the ranks, and when they should enter them. I put myself in the last category. I am quite prepared; to take my stand, and when I go I want those in my class to- go. I do- not think that a. man can do so much by mere example, as he can by utilizing whatever influence he may be able to exert in such a position as that which members of this House hold, in inducing a right line of thought to be followed in Australia. So far as I. am concerned, I wish to see Australia more in line than it is to-day before I leave its shores for the Army. I shall not hesitate to do my duty, even if it entails the sacrifice that is entailed upon men who have many ties. It would be useless to contend that the supplementing of Australia’s fighting ranks is essential to winning the war. I have heard many say that when it is they will consider the matter, and will be more disposed to favour universal service. That is, however, beside the question. Even if it saves a few thousand lives or renders the lives of those of our fellow countrymen in the trenches less arduous, it is as much our duty to supplement our ranks as if the issue of the war depended on more men going to the front. What position should we be left in if we were to depend on men of other lands fighting our battles for us? Some men go so far as to- say that we should engage mercenaries. That is what it amounts to when they talk of Russians, Indians, and others fighting our battles for us. I realize that it would be quite easily possible to get men of other countries to fight our battles. One does not need, to look very far to recognise that it is only a matter of making certain concessions, and we might obtain all the mercenaries we should want. We could get our battles fought for us if we were prepared to make the necessary concessions. But, apart from the deleterious effect which the adoption of such a course would have upon Australia, history tells us that the country that cannot fight its own battles does not long remain an independent country. One other point I wish to make bears intimately upon the question under discussion. I cannot for the life of me understand the attitude of members of this party who now say that they will not support the referendum proposal’ because it deals with the question of universal service. Whatever doubt may exist as to the right of the Government to send men out of the country , though I contend that the exercise of such a right would be quite logical in the defence of Australia, there cau be no doubt at all that the policy of this party is in favour of the referendum. The honorable member for Brisbane says that he favours it, but- it should be associated with the initiative, and that the initiative should be taken by the people. Because the Government are taking the initiative in this instance, the principle of the referendum is vitiated in the opinion of the honorable member. I confess that I cannot follow his reasoning. I do not think that any man could reconcile such an attitude. So far as- my reading of the> Labour platform is concerned, the principle of the referendum is not indissolubly associated with the initiative. Many of us have advocated the referendum at different times. I believe in it as a general principle, but I accept it to-day only as a compromise. I believe that there are times in the history of a nation when, it is not merely un- desirable to submit a question for the decision of the whole people, but when the whole of the people do not desire that the question should be submitted to them, and would prefer that it should be decided for them. When those charged with the safe conduct of a nation’s affairs are of necessity placed in possession of facts that cannot be widely disseminated, the people as a whole - and by that I mean the great majority of the people - may well prefer that those charged with the conduct of the country’s business should act on their own initiative and give them a lead. A number of people have recently said to me, “ Tf Mr. Hughes or the Government do not know what to do, how should we know what to tell them to do?” How can they know?
– What advice are they to take - that which the Prime Minister gave a fortnight ago, or that which he gives to-day ?
– I understand that a fortnight ago the Prime Minister was of the same mind as he is to-day. With respect to the remarks which he made some months ago, to the effect that he would not send any one out of Australia who was not willing to go, and had no intention to do so, the Prime Minister has been perfectly frank and honorable in admitting that he did say so on a previous occasion. But that was before he was fully seised of the facts which he has knowledge of to-day. It was before he had had his eyes ‘opened in ,a fearfully realistic way, before he had seen the horrors of the war, and realized to the full the awful danger in which the nation stands. That was before he had come to a recognition of the’ fact that, unless all went well with the Allies, the party which he has spent a life-time in building up, and which is the child of his own creation, would go down with the rest of the country, and that all the ideals and aspirations of which he had been an exponent would no longer find a place here. When he realized that, he, like a wise man, came to the conclusion that he has come to. On such an occasion, I say, with old Carlyle, that only a fool would not change his mind. J. do not consider that the Prime Minister has had a fair deal from his party at all. I have been surprised and pained at the vicious attacks that have been made upon him, and which are mot only unfair, but decidedly uncharitable and ungrateful.
– The honorable member has made some attacks on the Government himself I
– I have made some attacks or. the Government, and probably I shall attack the Government again. But when we are faced with a question such as I never thought to live to see arise - when the whole of our civilization is in the melting-pot - surely to ‘God we might sink the petty differences that disturbed us in times of peace. One might be led to think that peace was beginning to undermine the stamina of the race - that we were beginning to think that peace is the normal state, simply because we have enjoyed 100 years of it under the £egis of Great Britain and her mighty Wavy. We have enjoyed our peace, and have been contented and happy, and we have worked out our own salvation in our own way, not realizing to the full that our peace and happiness, and our liberty to say what we like and do what we like, were only rendered possible by the display of armed force at the other end of the world on our behalf. Now we are getting a taste of the normal life of humanity, which is a state of war, just as nature is “ red in tooth and claw.” Most .of us have been going along with our eyes shut, because we have not realized all that has gone to make possible the edifice we have builded here, particularly the economic edifice. Men say to-day that they will not have compulsion; but, as the last speaker said, compulsion is the key-note of those Democrats who would reform the world in their own way - and a very crude way it is. It is the key-note of their doctrine, and I say, as I said on the platform, that I will not have it imposed on me for a minute. If they think they can dictate to a man who realizes what the country is up against - who recognises the tremendous odds there are in the balance against us, and knows that all we have been fighting for and identified with if now being challenged - if they think the) can intimidate -such a man into renouncing the course he thinks he ought to follow, they never made a bigger mistake. I believe there are others here of the same mind as myself in this regard. As to the referendum, whatever objections may bi- taken to the intrinsic proposals of the Government, there can he no consistent objection to following the course now initiated as a compromise, and I accept it as a compromise, and only as such.
. -I have listened with a great deal of pleasure to the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie, as well as to those of the honorable member for Herbert, who preceded him. After hearing some of the speeches from the other side, one began to wonder whether we were within or outside the bounds of the British Dominions. Some of these speeches were such that no one would have expected to hear anywhere under the regis of the Union Jack. As one honorable member beside me remarks, this is the only place where such speeches would be permitted. “What astonishes us and many outside is why some of these men are not interned, because in no other part of the world would they have the liberty to so speak.
– The honorable member must not speak of other honorable members in that way.
– Then I shall go no further on that line. I merely wish to say that these men will not persuade the people of the country to vote for liberty which makes it possible for this sort of thing to happen in the Commonwealth. Surely there never was a greater exhibition of the freedom which has been won for us than what has happened here this afternoon. “We have those men telling us that there is nothing democratic worth fighting for - nothing for the people to uphold and maintain in the present crisis. No man, except one fit for a lunatic asylum, can fail to realize that the whole of our liberties are being put to the test at this moment. We hear a man who represents one of the large cities-
– The honorable member must not speak in that disrespectful tone of another honorable member.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. An honorable member who represents one of the big cities of this Commonwealth has risen in this House and told us about men who have dared death to uphold the rights of the minority. All honour to such men; but it is a different matter when a man is daring some one else’s death; and that i3 the position at which we have arrived. We have sent our boys to the front, and we know that the gaps in their ranks must be filled up. It would be a most dastardly thing to persuade men to go to the front as we have done, and to leave them in the lurch, as some honorable members seem prepared to do at the present time. To my mind, there could be nothing meaner or more cowardly. I hope that this House, from both sides, will make it plain to the country, and that the country will make it plain to the world, that we are not such poltroons as to falter at the real test. The honorable member for Brisbane has told us that he would be prepared to defend Australia. Well, he is called upon now to defend Australia. There are some of us who are frequently asked why we have not gone to the front; I have been asked the question on many occasions. And every one has a perfect right to ask such a question of a man within the military age. A man of military age, of course, has no right to speak here unless he has some reason for being here, and I may tell honorable members, for their own information, that within the first fortnight of the present Parliament I offered to go to the front, and was told to stay at home. Apart from that, I have always held - although I have broken the rule myself, or tried to - that we should not persuade married men with families to go to the front. We should send the single men, not only on sentimental grounds, but because of the financial burden which those who are left by the married must become to the Commonwealth.
– Finance ! That is good!
– Finance must play an important part in the war before it is over.
– You will know something about finance before the referendum is over !
– I think that the honorable member, with whom I have become pretty closely acquainted lately, will admit that I am prepared to do my little bit in the way of financial aid.
– Too true.
– The honorable member for Brisbane then proceeded to cast aspersions upon recruiting committees. He said he believed that some of those committees were actually anti-recruiting committees. Now, it seems to me that when patriotic men and women offer their services freely, and give of their best in the way that our men and women have done throughout Australia in connexion with these recruiting committees, it is rather hard that doubt should be cast upon their bona fides. I can assure the honorable member that some of the members of these bodies have grown tired of their work, because, when they’ went round telling eligibles that they must fill in their cards and say whether or not they were prepared to go to the front, some of these eligibles tore up their cards and cast them in the fire, and the Defence Department took no action. The result is that when members of recruiting committees interview these yoting men they are sneered at because the Government have never put into force the provisions of the law under the War Precautions Act. When the honorable member for Brisbane casts aspersions upon men who have done their duty to the utmost limit, it is time, I think, that his attention was directed to where the real trouble lies. There is another aspect of this question which appeals to me. We Australians are very ready to boast of what we have done. There is no doubt that we have reason to be proud of what we have done. We have sent to the front some of the best fighters the world has ever seen. But we have not sent such a great number of them. If anybody chooses to look at the cold figures he will see that we have done only moderately well so far as the despatch of troops is concerned. Here, in Australia, where we have the broad, open spaces which naturally breed soldiers we should have done relatively better than any other part of the Empire. But - as has been remarked by the honorable member for Macquarie - we have been living in a state of peace so long that we have come to regard it as the normal state of affairs. Yet here, in Australia, the majority of our people have always been in contact with the rough-and-ready ways of nature, and it has been driven home to us in the days of drought, of stress, of flood, and fire, that nature demands the survival of the fittest, and that constant vigilance is the price of life. If ever any country in the world should be fitted to send men to the war it is Australia. That we have sent some troops of the right sort is beyond question. But we are only now beginning to be put to the test. As the Leader of the Opposition stated yesterday, we have nothing to be proud of whilst we are giving of our surplus - we have only a right to be proud when we begin to give of our necessities. And it is only now that we are beginning to be asked to give of our necessities. We talk about the money that we have subscribed. I admit that we have done a good deal in connexion with the patriotic funds. But the honest fact is that most of the money with which we are carrying on the war was borrowed from the Old Country. As has been rightly remarked, we have very much more to lose as the result of this struggle than has the Old Country. Yet we turn to England to provide us with the sinews of war. Only a little while ago some honorable members opposite sneered at the mention of finance. But there can be no question that finance must play a tremendously important part in this war before it is finished. We, in Australia, have not a great deal to be proud of in connexion with what we have done in that direction. There is another matter associated with this war which should cause us to hang our heads in shame. What have we done in the way of producing munitions, and of providing our troops with those things which are essential to victory ?
– What did the honorable member expect us to do under the circumstances ?
– I expected that we should have done something more than we have done. I expected that at least we should have had our big steel factories and munition works manned by Britishers.
– Then the honorable member knows very little about the difficulties of establishing steel works.
– I know that we- have big steel works at Newcastle which have been turning out faulty shells that have had to be rejected because they had what is called “ghosts” in them. Is it any wonder that we experience difficulties of this sort when we know that some of the leading men in these works are foreigners and enemy subjects? I have told the Minister for Defence of th* real position in some of our munition works, and in other establishments which should be producing munitions. In one of these we have in leading positions which should be filled by Britishers whose partiotism is undoubted, one Austrian, one German, and one Dutchman.
– Where is that?
– At Newcastle. That is one of the evils which prejudice recruiting in the Commonwealth. The same sort of thing is to be found in many country districts. In those districts one can find many farmers who are not merely of German origin, but who are actually enemy subjects, some of whom are naturalized, whilst others are not. Similarly, enemy subjects are to be found in Melbourne and every city throughout the Commonwealth, carrying on their businesses just as they did before the war. How can we ask the young men of Australia to join the army as freely as we would like when we know that proper precautions are not being taken, nob merely to protect their relatives who are left behind, but to insure that their own billets are not filled by these aliens ? We have heard a good deal of complaint because the Prime Minister has seen fit to introduce a proposal to take a referendum on this question of conscription. I may say without the slightest hesitation that I do not believe in the referendum. I think that the Prime Minister should have brought in conscription through this Parliament, and should not have asked the people anything about it. The position now is that the advocates of conscription will enter upon the forthcoming fight with one hand tied behind their backs. We shall be like a man who can use only one hand while his opponent can use two.
– How is that?
– Because we know that there are many things which cannot be told to the public, whereas the opponents of conscription will use every possible weapon against it. They will stop at nothing, and we know all the time that we shall not be able to give the people a fair deal in this matter. The most honest way, and the way that would have been adopted by a strong man, and a strong Ministry, to bring about conscription, would have been to introduce it through this Parliament and without consulting the people. Some honorable members have complained that the Prime Minister left Australia an opponent of conscription and returned to us an ad vocate of it. What stronger argument could there be in favour of it? He saw the boys at the front; he saw the conditions operating throughout the various theatres of war; he saw what is being done in the great centres of the Empire and in our allied countries, and if there is any man in Australia competent to judge the position, surely it is the Prime Minister. The greatest argument that could be brought forward for conscription is the fact that a man who has spent his life in achieving the position at which we have arrived in; Australia should find it necessary to return to his country and go directly against those things which his party has been preaching for the last fifteen or twenty years; not because he sought to destroy what had been done, but because he saw that the only way in which we could maintain the integrity of this country, uphold the Empire, and be true to those boys we have sent to the front, and those mothers, daughters, sisters, and little ones they have left behind, was to put all our men and all our ammunition into an effort to win this great battle for the Empire.
– I shall not detain the House more than a few minutes. I have heard some very interesting statements from honorable members. The honorable member for Macquarie has told us that because the party to which he and I belong have the initiative and referendum on their platform, everything that comes along must be submitted to the people.
– I did not say that.
– I remember, a few years ago, when the present Opposition submitted to this House the only proposal for a referendum to be put to the people of Australia, every member of the Labour party opposed it, and fought not only against the referendum itself, but against a Bill for the purpose being brought into the House. The Prime Minister and I had the pleasure of piloting the Navigation Bill through this House. Sincehis return to Australia the Prime Minister has stated that he has “ seen the light,” and that he intends to follow it. Apparently he and I are looking at different lighthouses. I have not seen the light in the light-house he has seen. I candidly admit that I cannot bring myself to send men out of Australia to fight.
– Would the honorable member rather see the Empire go down)
– Any man who says that I desire to see the Empire go down does not know what he is talking about. No doubt, all sorts of motives .will be attributed to me for my action in leaving the Cabinet at this particular juncture. I have not been able to bring myself to send men out of Australia to fight. Some honorable members will say that most of those who are opposing conscription for service abroad nave done nothing towards assisting recruiting, but that cannot be said of me. I have done my best for recruiting, and will continue to do my best for it, independently of the action I am now taking. What has killed recruiting has been so much talk on both sides of conscription and anticonscription. Months ago I pointed out that there was no talk of conscription in July of last year, when about 30,000 recruits were gained in one month in this State alone, hut that directly there was talk of conscription, recruiting fell off. Those honorable mem-, hers who were members of recruiting committees know -the replies that were sent in. Honorable’ members have some ground for advocating conscription in claiming that there will be equality of sacrifice with regard to various localities. My electorate will not suffer much ; it has done its share; but I suppose that we will have to find equal numbers from all doctorates. That will be unfair to electorates in States that have already got their quota. If what has been done is considered, the country districts will be hit very hard compared with what they are doing in the way of recruiting. It is well known that in Victoria the population of the metropolitan district is smaller than that of the country districts, yet it has furnished about three-fifths of the recruits during, the last fortnight, according to the figures published in the Argus. It is the country that is lagging behind.
– The honorable member is’ wrong in that statement.
– These figures appear in the Argus - the journalistic Bible of the honorable member’s party. I owe nothing to the Melbourne newspapers. No doubt they will be saying something hard about me for my action.
– Country recruits are enrolled in the city.
– That is not so. When the country depots were opened there were more recruits from the metropolitan area.’
– Most of the country recruits enlist in Melbourne.
– But they are credited to the country. In to-day’s newspaper it will be seen .that while there were thirty recruits from the country there, were thirty-five from the metropolis. According to our electoral rolls, and taking the figures of the election of 1913, there are in the metropolitan area of Victoria 33,000. more females than males, but in the country area the position is reversed, yet there are fewer men volunteering from the country districts. This fact lends a very logical argument to those who advocate conscription that town workers should not be taken away while country workers are allowed to remain at home. I have taken the step of leaving the Ministry because I am not in favour of compelling men to fight outside Austrafia, and because I do not think it is a fair question to submit to the people. The section of the community conscription will affect is a very small one. Only those over twenty-one years of age will be compelled to serve, I would have preferred to remain in the Ministry to fight with the men with whom I have fought for years, but was unable to do so. In this community there are men growing up who hold the view that any person who differs in opinion from them is undemocratic. They claim to be democratic, but they will not allow any person to hold a different opinion. I am a Democrat who thinks that he is entitled to his own opinion, but that he must allow the same right to any other person. Apparently some people are not inclined to give that right to others.
– Unfortunately, your party does not believe in your doctrine. The pledge prevents it.
– That is not correct. If the statement were correct, why should I be sitting on the same side as the Prime Minister and be a member of the same party? . Some’ honorable members have argued that because a referendum is proposed we are bound to vote for it. Any honorable member who gives consideration to the matter must know that when the initiative and referendum are in operation the people have the right to initiate legislation upon any subject,, and only those who are in favour of such legislation sign the petition to Parliament. In this matter of conscription, Parliament is in the position of taking the initiative, and any person who does not favour conscription has a perfect right to vote against the initiatory proceedings. I am not in favour of this proposed referendum. The main question will he fought out on the platform. Numerous arguments have been advanced during this debate as to why we should vote against conscription, which, in my opinion, have nothing to do with the question. The fact that Great Britain has failed to legislate in regard to shipping should not prevent us from doing our share in this war. I rose only to make this brief statement, because I thought it fair to explain to the House my attitude on the question now under consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hannam) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160914_reps_6_79/>.