7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) produced a letter in which if was stated - that after a soldier came out of the Somme business his uniform was in a most deplorable state, andhe had to be supplied with a new uniform, for which he had to pay 30s. He further states that hundreds of others have had to do the same.
The honorable member desired that the matter be inquired into. I have been furnished with the following reply to my inquiry : -
It has been ascertained that the men on leaving the trenches are, wherever possible, sent to “bathing establishments, at which large staffs of women are employed cleaning, mending, and pressing uniforms and underclothing. The outer garments are handed to the attendants at the entrance to the baths, and are returned to the owner, together with clean underwear, before he leaves.
Prior to proceeding on leave from France to England, it has been a rule that all men should present themselves for inspection, and any uniform or clothing required to be replaced is issued free. If such articles are not available, the soldier receives an issue in London, and in such cases the value of the garment is temporarily entered as a debit in his pay-book, pending satisfactory report from the Inspecting Officer in France, after which the debit is deleted.
It was found necessary to introduce this system as it was found that unscrupulous per sons were obtaining issues in both France and England, and selling the articles in London and elsewhere.
As several complaints were received from soldiers who were apparently unacquainted with the procedure laid down, and who either failed to report for inspection prior to proceeding on leave to England, or did not understand that the entry in their pay-book on account of articles issued in England would be deleted on the production of satisfactory evidence in respect to the inability of the Ordnance Depot to make the issue in Fiance, representations were made to the Administrative Headquarters, London, with the result that advice has recently been received that arrangements were being made for the establishment of a depot in London, at which all unserviceable uniforms in possession of troops in England would be replaced, free of charge, provided, of course, that the damage is not considered to be due to wilful neglect.
– The honorable member for Melbourne asked for a statement showing the extent of the assistance granted to returned soldiers by the various Lands Departments, to the31st May last. I have been furnished with the following information on the subject: -
– I have received from a public man in Western’ Australia a telegram sayingthat there are many returned soldiers in the State who are not obtaining employment, and suggesting the appointment of a council. As this position is developing in all the States, will the Prime Minister give the matter urgent attention during the adjournment?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of the question, because it comes within the province of the Minister for Repatriation.
– The honorable member for Batman on Friday last referred to correspondence between Mr. Leslie Ogilvie, of Sydney, and the PostmasterGeneral, regarding the awards of the Court, which grants increased wages only to employees who are members of unions. I ask the Postmaster-General if any alteration has been made in the practice?
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 11 a.m.
Director of Design and Construction
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for
Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether he will give the following information to the House: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The information desired in regard to travelling expenses will require a little time to compile, and I will furnish it as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice-
In view of the extreme difficulty experienced by citizens in understanding the method of calculating the income tax, will he cause a ready reckoner to be supplied to members of the Senate and House of Representatives, so that they can without difficulty supply the required information to their constituents?
– Any member of the Senate or House or Representatives may obtain a copy of the Income Tax Ready Reckoner, free of cost, on application to the Acting Commissioner of Taxation. The cost of the Ready Reckoner is only 2s..
Debate resumed from the 8th August (vide page845), on motion by Mr. Groom) -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- While perhaps it may be an advantage not to proceed with the second reading of a Bill immediately after it has been introduced in order that honorable members may have the opportunity of considering the Minister’s speech, still such an interval has been allowed to elapse since the second reading of this Bill was moved by the Honorary Minister that honorable members who have been busily occupied with other matters are at a disadvantage in dealing with the measure now; they are not as fully in touch with it as they might have been had the debate been resumed at an earlier date. I have not the slightest doubt that the matter of getting our soldiers back into private life again on their return will prove to be one of the most difficult questions that any Government or any Department have had or will have to handle. We know that even a few months in camp will entirely change a man’s mode of life. How much more willhis mode of life be changed after he has faced the extraordinary conditions he encounters at the Front - more extraordinary than men have ever had previously to face?
I quite agree with the statement made by Senator Millen in another place that the responsibility for dealing fairly with our soldiers is one that rests on the whole community. No one in the community can be allowed to shirk that responsibility. One great difficulty we have in approaching this question lies in the fact that no nation has ever attempted to deal with this question. It was stated in a letter appearing in last Saturday’s Age that the British Government had repatriated the Boer prisoners after the South African war, but ithat effort was a comparatively small one compared with what will be needed from us when the whole of our men come back, because in that case the men had only to be taken back to their own country. I have no desire to reflect on the men who have already returned, but, owing to the circumstances of their cases, I do not think they are a fair sample.
For ‘the most part they are shattered in health, crippled or maimed, and it is more difficult to place them in employment than will be the case with men who return to us in the full vigour of their manhood. I hope that a great percentage of our 300,000 soldiers will return fit to go back to their former employment if they desire to do so. Some time ago the Melbourne Herald made an appeal to employers, asking how many firms were willing to re-employ those who had left their employment to enlist, and they published a list of firms who expressed their willingness to do so. I hope that the men who come back fit to take up their former occupations will be given every opportunity to return to the positions they left when they enlisted. It will be part of the work of the Repatriation Committees to see that men are given the opportunity to go back to their former trades and callings. The complaint raised this morning by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) that returned soldiers cannot be placed in positions in Western Australia applies to every other State. There is not a metropolitan member in ‘this House who cannot mention scores of cases of men who have returned, partially incapacitated or suffering from some infirmity, who cannot secure employment. Metropolitan members may be more easily accessible to these men than representatives of country electorates.-
– It is the same in the country.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) has 56,000 constituents, of whom about 4,000 or 5,000 have enlisted, and in all probability about 700 have already returned. The honorable member is readily accessible to them, as also to the men in the largest base hospital for Victoria, which is also in his electorate, and, I. have no doubt, has very many cases brought under his notice.
During the elections, and during the recruiting campaigns, every one promised these men that so far as we were able we would see that no individual who remained at home should shirk his responsibilities in the matter of dealing fairly with the man who went to fight for him. We know that in the past governments and communities have shirked their responsibilities to returned soldiers. .Those who know London are well aware of the treatment of the Balaclava heroes and of many other veterans of other wars, of how these men had to beg in the streets, or to seek assistance at workhouses; and any one who hasseen even £he outside of a workhouse when, casuals are endeavouring to obtain a night’s rest knows the horror with which/ such institutions are regarded.
We are doing no more than our plain duty in endeavouring to put every returned soldier in a fair position. The speech made by Senator Millen in another place was more illuminating than the Bill itself. The Bill is a mere matter of dry. bones, and it will be the work of the Repatriation Committees to put life intothose dry bones.
– That can be said of any Bill.
– This Bill leaves more to administration than any other measurethat I have seen.
– It could not be otherwise with a measure like this.
– I am nob saying that it could be. We are doing pioneering work in this connexion.- We are framing ameasure to control something that hasnever been done before, and, therefore, it must be largely a Bill that leaves a great deal to administration. That being so, it behoves us to be more careful than otherwise would be necessary.
– It was for that reasonthe Minister outlined the general schemeand pointed out that it must be elastic in its nature.
– I have already said that the speech gives more information than does the Bill, but we have to remember that a measure which leaves so much to administration throws a bigger responsibility upon Parliament in discussing it, to indicate to Ministers what ‘the desires of honorable members are. The mere wish of the Ministry ito adjourn this week and to close up Parliament for a few weeks is no reason for preventing the freest and fullest discussion of this measure iD order that we may inform the Government, particularly tie Minister in charge of repatriation, of what Parliament desires. My view is that there must be one supreme controlling body. There must be no division of authority, either in the collection of funds or in the placing of individuals, because if there are to be half-a-dozen organizations dealing with the returned soldier, and he can go from one to the other in seeking to obtain what he desires, the schema will be fatally prejudiced. There must be one controlling body, and if there exist other organizations dealing with the returned soldier, such, for instance, as that directed by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), they must work under the central authority. There must be no overlapping of functions, and no control independent of the Federal body. That seems to me to be one of the fundamental principles of any successful scheme.” The Bill provides for the appointment of a Federal Board of seven commissioners, of whom the Minister shall be chairman, and -State Boards, which will also be chosen by the Government. It is not stated whether the chairman of each State Board is to be a paid official, but in the absence of any provision to the contrary it must be supposed that all members of State Boards will act in an honorary capacity. The Minister indicated that the *personnel of the Boards will include a proportion of business men and returned soldiers. That is a wise provision. We ‘are promised by , tile Minister, in his speech in another place, an amendment of the Pensions Act. At the present time a pension continues for six months without’ alteration. At the end of that time it is reconsidered, and I think I am safe in saying that in nineteen cases out of twenty the revision has been in the nature of a reduction. That is no incentive .to a man to try to do his best. He will consider that if in the majority of cases the pension is decreased at the end of six months there is no need for him to try to fit himself for employment.
– Would not the natural tendency be for a man to be recovering at the end of six months?
– In cases where the invalidity has been worse at the end of the six months, increased . pensions have been given.
– That is so, but I think the proportion of reductions is what I have stated.
– In one case which came under my notice the pension was doubled. The honorable member will find that there is a disposition to treat the men fairly.
- Senator Millen indicated that the Pensions Act would be amended to provide that whatever pension was fixed at the end of the first six months should not be further reduced, and that there should be no alteration in the payment unless at the pensioner’s request.
– Does not the revision of a pension at the end of six months depend upon the report of the medical officer ?
– j believe it does. In an electioneering pamphlet, All for Australia, issued to the soldiers at the Front, a distinct promise was given on behalf of the National party that the war pension would be increased to £2 per week.
– Who made that promise?
– It was made in a paper circulated in behalf of the honorable member’s party.
– I can assure my honorable friend that I have never seen that paper.
– And I can assure the honorable member that the matter was never discussed by the party.
– That may be. It was an electioneering promise, and I wish to know whether the Government intend to honour it or to put it on the same footing as other statements made by them during the election.
– The honorable member must first prove that the National party made that statement.
– What authority was there for such a promise ?
– I suppose there was as much truth in it as in the statement of the honorable member’s party that the Nationalists intended to abolish the oldage pension.
– We never said that.
– I can show the statement to the honorable member.
– On some other occasion I shall be pleased to deal at length with the statements made by the Ministerial party during the last election. I casually mentioned the statement in regard to the war pensions because we were told that the War Pensions Act was to be amended, and I wish to know whether there is to be any alteration in accordance with the promise made to the men overseas.
– Repatriation is a nonparty question, and yet the honorable member is making a party speech.
– I am not. In connexion with the question of pensions, I wish to emphasize the point that the purchasing power of the money received by our soldiers has been materially reduced since the outbreak of war. It was agreed at the outset that they should receive 6s. per day, but at that time their dependants could purchase for 4s. 6d. goods that cost at least 6s. to-day. I wish, to know from the Government, therefore, whether they intend to increase, not only the pensions to soldiers and the repatriation allowance, but the pay of our men at the Front.
– Their cost of living has not increased.
– Yes, it has as far as parents and the wives and children they have left behind are concerned, the cost of living has materially increased.
– The separation, allowance has been liberalized in several respects.
– That was done some time ago.
– And it was liberalized again only a few weeks ago in respect of the allowance for children.
– And rightlyso. I suggest that the Government should consider the desirableness of still further liberalizing the separation allowance.
Coming to the proposal for a central Committee, I would remind the House that, so far, private contributions to the Repatriation Fund have not amounted to much more than £100,000 for the whole of Australia.
– I think the honorable member for Wannon (Mr, Rodgers) alone raised £40,000 in connexion with a district repatriation scheme.
– I was referring only to the contributions of citizens to the central fund. I am reminded that Senator Millen, in introducing this Bill in another place, said thatprivate contributions to the central fund amounted to £109,000. Of that amount Mr. Baillieu, a member of the Victorian State Government, contributed £25,000, or practically one-fourth of the whole. The Government have so far subsidized the central fund to the. extent of £250,000. When any new scheme is floated there are always a few enthusiasts who think it will be an easy matter to raise a million of money in connexion with it. Some time ago it was proposed that a Dreadnought should be presented to Great Britain by the citizens of Australia, and a fund of £2,000,000 was to be raised for the purpose. As a matter of fact, however, only £40,000 was raised throughout Australia, and the money was eventually handed over to the Duntroon College.
Disabled and partly disabled returned soldiers are to be taught various trades, and, doubtless, many will have such an opportunity for the first time. Care should be taken to teach the men such tirades as will enable them to make a good living. In my own electorate a start was made some time ago to teach returned soldiers toy-making. That is a very good thing in its way, but such a trade would not absorb very many returned soldiers. We ought to bend all our energies to the training of our men in trades from which they will get the best results.
– Can the honorable member say what is the value of toys imported into Australia?
– It is difficult! to get at the actual value, since, in the Customs returns, a great many fancy goods are included under the heading of “toys.” The imports represent a considerable sum, but I do not think toy-making in Australia would give employment to very many returned soldiers. I am very anxious that our men should be taught trades which will afford them plenty of scope. An excellent example has been set us overseas in connexion with the teaching of the blind. I observe that the Victorian Asylum for the Blind proposes to help some of our returned soldiers who, unhappily, have lost their sight, to acquire trades. Some of these men did not have an opportunity to enter St. Dunstan’s College, which was established in England by Sir Arthur Pearson, and which teaches various trades which cannot be acquired here. Massage, for instance, is one of the subjects taught ; there is no opportunity, I understand, for the blind to be taught that subject in Australia.
– I know that one or two blind people have been taught massage here.
– I am glad to hear it. I was interviewed recently by Sergeant Walsh, a blind soldier, who told me that, with the exception of those who lost their sight at Gallipoli, all blind Australian soldiers were taken to St. Dunstan’s College, where there was a wider field of training than is open to them here. Necessarily, such a college, dealing, as it does, with hundreds of cases, must have a larger staff and a wider range of subjects than we could hope for in Australia. Sergeant Walsh was anxious to return to England, in order that he might learn at St. Dunstan’s College an industry which he could not be taught here. He gave me a very interesting article on the scope of the -work of the college, which had been typed by a blind student who had received instruction in typewriting there.
While our sympathies go out to every maimed or crippled soldier, the case of the men who have lost their sight must specially appeal to us. We are anxious to do the best for the whole of our returned men, but the position of the blind calls for special effort on our part, and I trust that the whole of the Committees for which the Bill provides will be specially considerate in dealing with the disabilities of such men.
Another matter which will call for careful attention is the position of returned soldiers who were serving their apprenticeship to various trades and callings at the time that they enlisted. Many of these young men were about eighteen or nineteen years of age when they volunteered for active service. They will return two years or three years older than when they left, and it will be difficult for them to resume their apprenticeship at the exact point at which they left off. I have in mind the case of a youth who enlisted when he was eighteen and a half years of age. He was at the time apprenticed to the watchmaking trade. This youth, who had about two and a half years to serve, ‘ enlisted, and his employer promised that, if he were still in business on his return, he would be pleased to arrange for the apprenticeship to be resumed where it had left off.
– The youth could be employed as an improver.
– That all depends on what the determination in the trade is, though personally I do not think that in this trade there nas been a Wages Board decision in Victoria. At any rate, provision should be made to make up the full wage while an apprenticeship is being completed.
– That is the suggestion made by the Minister.
– I am glad to hear it. Of course, I know that in the carrying out of such a suggestion difficulties and dangers will be met. For instance, if the Repatriation Fund or. the Pension’ Fund is used in this way to make up the amount of wages, it may have the effect of reducing the wages of the other employees. Quite apart from the apprenticeship question, we have to consider journeymen who have returned from the
Front, quite unfit to continue their duties on active service, but quite physically fit to resume their ordinary vocations here, and employers, knowing that assistance is granted from the Repatriation or Pension Fund, might be tempted to reduce the wages paid by the amount of the grants made. To this, of course, I am quite opposed, believing that, if it were permitted, it would not only wreck the Repatriation scheme, but affect the industrial conditions which at present exist in Australia.
– Is it fair to suggest that employers would do that sort of thing?
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that it has already been done. I do not say for one moment thatall employers are likely to so treat their men, but we have known of cases where returned men have been refused the employment they were promised before they went away.
– In England, joint committees of employers and workmen decide how much of the trade union rules may be relaxed to meet cases of the kind.
– That may, or may not, be fair. We have been told that returned soldiers will be represented on the Com.mittees under this Bill, along with business men; but I suggest that, in addition, there be representative workers to see that a fair deal is given, so that the returned soldier, who is receiving a pension, will not be used as a lever to reduce wages.
– You may. depend upon it that the Committees will be fairly representative.
– I trust so, though, of course, the Committees being honorary difficulties will arise.
– I think you will find that the difficulties will be overcome.
– Quite so, but we should take the present opportunity to point out the possible difficulties, so that it may not be said subsequently that we did not make suggestions at the proper time.-
It has been contended that a number of our returned soldiers will go on’ the land, and I sincerely hope that that may be so. Many of them are originally from the country, and it might be thought thai they would elect to return there; but, unfortunately, it is probable that a large proportion will simply go to swell the city population.
– We are told this morning in the newspaper that 6,000 of them at home have married English lasses.
– But one of the officers also tells us through the press that a number of Australian girls followed the troops to England, and have been married to our men there. Whether that be true or not, we all know that for the last twelve months or more passports have been refused to women, even to the wives of wounded soldiers who desired to proceed to England to be near their husbands. As a , matter of fact, the wife of the Premier pf New South Wales had to take a passport to Colombo, and obtain a fresh one from that place to England, and there has been a little ill-feeling on that account. Some of the men who have married in England may settle there, but I think they will for the most part come home; at any rate, as an Australian who ha3 worked in the Old Country for a few years, I know that I was always anxious to return to the brighter sunshine, of Australia. If these men do return to Australia it may be presumed that! they will bring their wives with them.
In reference to returned men going on the land, I should like to read the following cutting from the Argus of the 12th instant: - ,
Sydney, Tuesday. - Last year, £7,000 was voted by Parliament to meet the cost of preparing farms on the Murrumbidgee irrigation areas for discharged soldiers, and to provide assistance to those soldiers on their blocks. This year, no such vote appears, and the Minister responsible informed Mr. Stuart Robertson, in the Legislative Assembly last evening, that the Government could not get the soldiers to settle on the blocks got ready for them. The Government had advertised the land, with men to give instruction in irrigation, but the Government could not get any soldiers to take thom off. The Government had also had a recruiting sergeant engaged in the work, but without result.
Here is a place in New South Wales where the land has been properly prepared for occupation, and yet, apparently, there has been practically not a single application for a block.
– Yanco has had a bad reputation lately.
– That is quite possible; but the incident discloses one of the pitfalls that the Commissioners under this Bill must avoid; and with a divided control there will be many such pitfalls.- We are told by the Minister that the scheme involves an expenditure of something like £60,000,000, but he at the same time spoke of a conference which had recommended an increase in the money granted from £500 to £750.- Though J am not very familiar with country life, I do not think that £750 will go very far in settling a man.
– The suggestion is to have closer settlement and smaller areas.
– In Australia we have not yet begun to think in terms of small areas. Possibly the time will come when we shall devote attention to more intensive cultural methods-
– This affords us a good opportunity to do so.
– To test the value of small holdings-
– Intensive cultural methods have got beyond the testing’ stage.
– I quite realize that. But in Australia we have not done much in that direction.
– Small areas are being cultivated in sugar country in Queensland, and in portions of Tasmania. Small areas have proved very successful.
– Yes, in that part of Tasmania which the Honorary Minister (Mr. Groom) and myself recently visited in connexion with an election there, I saw some settlements which had been created by small holdings. In introducing the Bill, the Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that we had not yet learned to go in for intensive culture in Australia. He also pointed out that here pig-raising has not become an industry of itself, but that it is merely an adjunct to the dairyfarming business.
– It is the only way in which it can be dealt with.
– There is a man not far from Melbourne who has made a fortune out of pig-raising.
– I am very glad to hear that, because, lite most of the people who used to wait upon me as deputations, I understood that the farmers were being ruined as the result of State legislation. I am delighted to learn that there is, at least, one man who has made a fortune out of pig-raising. If there is to be divided control in connexion with the repatriation of our soldiers, I very much fear that it will prove disastrous to the scheme. I know that there is a Bill dealing with the settlement of returned soldiers which is occupying the attention of the Victorian
Parliament at the present time, but I have not followed the debates upon it very closely. I do not know much in regard to its provisions.
– It is a Bill to validate the arrangements made between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth.
– If this Bill be passed in its present form, I do not know whether the State Boards will exercise any control in the matter of the purchase of land. But I do know that if one authority isobliged to find the money for this purpose, and another authority is empowered to expend it, extravagance will result.
– The Commonwealth will have to raise loans for the acquisition of land.
– If one authority is compelled to raise money for repatriation purposes, either by loan or otherwise, and the States are empowered to expend it, extravagance will be inevitable.
– The honorable member is getting upon sound ground now.
– When we are obliged to raise money out of revenue we are necessarily more careful of how it is expended than we should be if it were obtained from loan funds. The Minister estimates that this repatriation scheme will involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £60,000,000, but I believe that anybody who has gone into the matter will recognise that at least £100,000,000 will require to be expended before the scheme can be placed upon a sound basis. We have to recollect that many of the soldiers who will return to us are utterly inexperienced in the conditions of country life, and it will be necessary to teach’ them trades before positions can be found for them. I have met soldiers in Melbourne who have been invalided home, who are in a chronic state of mental depression, and who, physically, are nervous wrecks. One of them who was introduced to me said, “ I am full up. I have not a friend in Melbourne. I had some relatives in the country, but I do not know what has become of them, and though I have been done in ‘ I. intend to enlist under another name.” These men are in a morbid condition, and in dealing with them the greatest care will need to be exercised. I do not intend to say a word against that very excellent institution, the State War Council. ‘ I believe that it is doing its best under trying conditions. But undoubtedly it has inflicted hardship upon many returned soldiers-
– For the very reason that it has never had a scheme to administer.
– Many of the soldiers consider that there is too much red tape and circumlocution connected with it. If the State War Council could deal directly with the cases of returned soldiers, without reference to a higher authority, the position might be simplified. But we are not likely to secure less red tape by the creation of a. new Department. I recognise that this is a machinery Bill. We are creating the machine, but whether or not the machine will work smoothly, will not depend upon this Parliament, but upon the Department which will control it. It is .true that we shall have opportunities to raise questions of administration, but honorable members know perfectly well that it is very seldom that an opportunity arises to deal effectively with any Department. When once our soldiers get back to Australia - and the sooner they come back after victory has been achieved the better pleased we will be - we shall be confronted with a very serious problem. Up to the present about 30,000 men have been returned to Australia.
– There are 1,300 more arriving to-day.
– Unfortunately there is another 30,000 who will never return. But if we are to get back the remaining 240,000, the machinery provided for the operation of the Bill must be of the most perfect kind, or the whole scheme will break down.
– That shows how necessary it is to get the scheme launched as soon as we can.
– I admit that. No one can say that any member on this side has ever suggested that it should be postponed. I quite realize the necessity for getting the scheme into operation as soon as possible. We may consider that we have had some experience in dealing with .these matters, but I know of no matter in connexion with .which’ it may be necessary for us to unlearn more of what we have learned than this matter of dealing with our returned soldiers. We cannot say how the scheme will work out. I offer no objection to the Bill. While I admit that its provisions are elastic, I believe that the greatest care must be taken in the appointment of the Commission and Committees. I do not know for what length of time the Commissioners are to be appointed.
– They are to be appointed by the Governor-General in Council,, with the usual power of removal. Under subsection 4 of section 32 of the Acts Shortening Act, where we have the power to appoint, we have also the power to remove.
– I wish only to emphasize the fact that the greatest care must be taken in the appointment of the Commissioners, who will form the central Board, and also the various State Boards. We have had the advantage of a good explanation of the provisions of the Bill, though it was much shorter here than that given in the Senate. Senator Millen very kindly forwarded to every honorable member a copy of the speech he delivered in introducing the measure in . the Senate. It was an excellent speech; but it contained much that does not appear in the Bill. We are, in this matter, breaking new ground, and I am sure that we are all anxious to deal justly and fairly with the returned soldiers. Every honorable member of the House is animated by a desire to give the fairest of fair deals to the men who have risked everything for the country, and to see that on their return they are placed in at least as good a position as they -occupied before they went away. We must be careful to see that the expenditure of the £60,000,000, or any part of it, in connexion with the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, is not taken advantage of to inflate the price of land. Every one who has had parliamentary experience must be aware that directly a Government steps in as a buyer of land the price goes up. If a Government requires a piece of land for a post-office, it has, as a rule, to pay more for it than would be demanded of a private individual. If it is known that £20,000,000 is to be spent in the purchase of land for returned soldiers, the price of land will go up. I say that the people who will demand increased prices for land required for the settlement of returned soldiers will pot be doing a fair thing by the soldiers or by the country.
– Some are asking less for their land for this purpose than they would ask under other conditions.
– I am glad to hear that, I speak generally, and am not reflecting upon land-owners, as a class, any more than upon employers. Some employers are failing to make good the promises which they made to the men in their employment, that if they enlisted -their places would be open for thom when they came back. As one who has had many years experience in factories, I admit that, in some .cases, it- is impossible to reinstate a man m trie position which he held two or three years before. That difficulty will arise in Government as well as in private employment; but I hope that, in this matter, the Government will set a good example to private employers. Soon after the war began, the Government decided to postpone examinations and per- ‘manent appointments as far as possible, and in making promotions to consider the claims of those who have enlisted as well as of those who have remained here. Still, men who have not enlisted’, it may be for good reasons, whether in office, factory or workshop, will have obtained superior positions, because others have gone to the war. I do not denounce all manufacturers or employers in connexion with this matter, nor do I denounce all land-holders because of efforts made to secure higher prices for land ; but I do denounce those who will not honour their promise in one case, while in the other they ask more for their land than they ought to. I suppose that the State Boards will deal with this particular matter. Senator Millen has said that replies have been received from 40,000 men who are willing to go upon the land. If men enlisted from the country districts in the same proportion as from the towns, of the 300,000 who went to the war, not 40,000> but nearly 150,000 should have gone from the country.
– Many will be going back to their own lands.
– I am aware of that, but there should be more than 40,000 willing te go upon the land. The first duty of the State Committees will be to induce land-owners to make offers of land for repatriation purposes, so that the soldiers will not be called upon to pay inflated prices.
– That difficulty will hp. largely overcome by the compulsory . purchase power.
– While this is a machinery Bill, it contains no clause providing that the money is to be repaid, nor is there any clause in the Bill stating that the money is a gift. On the other hand, the whole of the discussion at conferences and other places has been on the lines that advances were to be made.
– The regulations will provide for that.
– I admit it; but I submit that one of the duties of the Board should be to consider the proportion of the advance that will be the soldier’s own. All the men who go on the land will not be fitted to make good there, and an incentive or ,reward should be given to those who do succeed in staying there. That could be done by making part of the advance their own property. I am speaking now more particularly with regard to the men who will go on the land, and the advance of .£750 that they will receive.
– Five hundred pounds.
- Senator Millen said in the latter part of his speech that a conference had recommended that that amount be increased by 50 per cent.
– That has not been agreed to.
– In any case that is not material to my argument. The men who go on the land should know that they will not have to repay the whole of the money - that is, that it will not hang round their neck like a mortgage, and that, if they make good, part of it will be their own. If that is done, the scheme is likely to be a greater success than if the men feel that they have to repay the whole of the advance.- I urge the Ministry to exercise the greatest care to see that all classes are fairly represented on the State Boards, because the whole of the returned men will not go upon the land. A great number will go back to their ordinary occupations in the cities and towns, and I ask the Government to see that the workers are represented on the different committees, so that they may insure that all the soldiers get a fair deal. It may be argued that some returned soldiers are to be members of these bodies, but it is easily possible that they may be men who were not workers when they went away, and I am anxious that the workers should be directly represented. Realizing the difficulties of the subject, and that what is before us is only the skeleton of a Bill, the whole movement necessarily depending upon administration for its success, I trust that our fondest expectations will be realized. One point that must be stressed is that while a great responsibility rests upon Parliament, there also rests upon every citizen in the community the responsibility of seeing that every soldier on his return is placed as far as possible in at least as good a position as he held before he went away to do the best he could, fighting for every one of us who remained in Australia.
.- I approach this subject with a full consciousness of the almost colossal task that the Government, and particularly the Minister, have in front of them in endeavouring to restore to citizen life from 300,000 to 400,000 men who for two or three years have been withdrawn’ from the ordinary life of their country, and have gone to fight for the freedom of their native land on foreign battlefields. The obligation rests upon every member of the House to do all he possibly can to assist the Government in general, and the Minister in particular, in making this scheme one that will open a new horizon for every man who returns. It would be most unworthy for any one to approach this question in a party spirit, or with the idea of seeking some party gain, and the Minister will recognise that he has had very generous treatment from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), whose speech showed throughout no trace of any captious desire to secure an advantage from a political point of view. In fact, the honorable member dealt generously with the measure. Australia has waited patiently for over two and a half years for a lead from the Government on the question of how the great work of repatriation should be undertaken. With a confident patience, it has waited upon this National Parliament, which gave a distinct. promise at the last election that a definite scheme would be evolved and placed before the country.
The Minister (Senator Millen) in charge of the measure in another place, who must be regarded as one of the most fit men in the Commonwealth to undertake this task, in a most able and eloquent speech put forward an excellent conception of the great subject of repatriation; but I am sorry to say that the country and Parliament have taken the speech for the scheme.- The only thing in the measure that can at all be said to approach a scheme is clause 8.
– If you- are going to read clause 8 read iti in the light of the amendments, including those relating to widows and children, that have been circulated by the Government.
– I was not referring particularly to that point. Clause 8, which is the very kernel of the measure, is all that) can b& said by the most liberal interpretation to be anything in the nature of a scheme contained in the Bill. It reads thus -
The Commission may make recommendations to the Governor-General for regulations providing for the granting of assistance and benefits to Australian soldiers upon their discharge from service, and to the children of deceased or incapacitated soldiers, and may advise upon such matters as may be expedient for the purpose of giving effect to this’ Act.
The Ministry have since added “ widows,” and I was surprised to find that they were not included in the measure originally. That clause is the only part of the Bill that appoints an .authority to create a scheme. All the rest of the Bill is mere machinery. Australia as a nation has been looking for a long time for a lead in this matter, and this Parliament has not given it.
At this stage I propose briefly to review what has been done in repatriation up till now. The first repatriation scheme attempted in this country was one with which I was personally associated. It was projected on a territorial basis; on the idea that it was the duty of the community, and, in particular, the duty of non-combatants in Australia to search their own consciences and do something for those who went out to fight for them. When that scheme was launched it aroused a magnificent public spirit in Australia; the people were ready to go into the market-place to yield up their gifts for the benefit of their defenders. The project was attended with splendid success until the Government of the day changed its mind and initiated the repatriation scheme represented by. a Bill introduced into Parliament in May, 1916, and entitled “ The Australian Soldiers Repatriation Fund Bill.” Under that measure the Government proposed to look to the community for the repatriation and settlement of our Australian soldiers; public contributions were to be supplemented by a parliamentary vote of £250,000. A Commission, in the nature of trustees, was appointed, but the proposal failed, as I think the present scheme will fail, because Parliament shirked its responsibility in not laying down the principles of repatriation. This Bill contains nothing that can be regarded as a basis for discussion by this House.
– Do you mean that the Bill should set out -details of the wholescheme?
– I had no intention of criticising the Bill without making other proposals. At that time we appointed trustees, many of whom weremembers of this Chamber and another place, responsible to the people ; but under the present scheme the authority, which should be the sacred duty of Parliament, alone, is to be delegated to a Minister and six gentlemen as yet unknown, and whoprobably will not be responsible to the people - may not, and probably will not, be members of either House of the National Legislature. I recognise the difficulties presented in framing a proposal of this nature, but I declare it to be wrong that Parliament should say it is unableto lay down its fundamental principles. From Parliament, in my judgment, should emanate the parent measure of repatriation.
– We have had between two and three years to consider it.
– In this great scheme we have, as our partners, the State Legislatures, which control the lands in this country, control employment, control many of its public activities, and control much more closely than does the National Parliament! the industries of Australia. I want it .to be made perfectly clear that any failure in repatriation in the past cannot be laid at the door of the present Minister or of this Government up to the stage at which this scheme has been introduced. There are two periods in repatriation : I regard the first as that marked by the passage of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Fund Bill; and, in order that honorable members may judge for themselves whether Parliament in evolving that scheme did right or wrong, I propose to indicate what has transpired during what I may regard as the first period of the repatriation movement. Up to the 12th September of this year there have been returned to Australia, and discharged, 1,106 officers and- 24,511 men, or a total of 25,617. As I have said, Parliament voted £250,000 under the 1916 Act, and also appealed to the country for voluntary contributions to the scheme, with the result that, in round figures, £100,000 was subscribed, though that appeal was very badly handled. The officer in charge of the Repatriation Department informs me that up to date only £130,000 approximately has been expended in repatriation. This sum represents less than £5 5s. per head for each discharged soldier.
– How do -you make that out? We are spending thousands of pounds every week in South Australia.
– The honorable mem-‘ ber’s .figures do not include contributions from patriotic funds.
- I am quoting figures supplied me by the Defence Department with reference t’o returned soldiers, and figures furnished by the Secretary of the Repatriation Department concerning the expenditure up to 12th September.
– A good number of the soldiers have repatriated themselves.
– The conclusion I have arrived at from these figures is either that the Government have overestimated the task of repatriation, that the curative period for returned soldiers is going to be long drawn out, or else that we are not doing our duty. I can assure the Minister in charge of the Bill that any criticism I may make will be prompted only by a desire to see that the best that Australia can do for the. soldier will be done. This Parliament must (have a clear conception of all that repatriation means. And now is the time when this important duty should be approached, that is, while our soldiers are fighting, and not when they come back and have been demobilized. The Australian soldier has made good in the eyes of the world, and a grateful country stands pledged to recognise his courage, valour, and patriotism by a scheme of repatriation which, will restore him to that place in the community which he left two or three years: ago.- This measure does not do that, but, on the contrary, Parliament proposes to pass on to a commission of gentlemen as yet unknown, excepting in the case of the Minister, a duty that solemnly belongs to it. Parliament must be the architect of this new national structure. It should lay down the plan, and then it may, if it wishes, contract out- its work to a commission.
– The honorable member’s time is passing and I would suggest that he give an outline of his scheme.
– I propose to do that. Surely the honorable member does not suggest that there is any personal feeling in a matter like this.
– Of course not.
– I intend to submit my proposals clearly and definitely. I have a sheaf of amendments, and what I propose is that a schedule shall be added to the Bill. The State Parliaments provided for a repatriation scheme before this parent Bill was framed. They did not wait upon the action of this Parliament, but they prepared a Bill for promoting land settlement, and I invite honorable members to read -its provisions. The State Parliaments faced the job. They did not enact a machinery Bill to authorize certain gentlemen to buy land, if they pleased, for the purpose of putting soldiers thereon; but they produced a scheme for land settlement, and it faces the responsibility which the States undertook, after conference with the National Parliament.
– That will be part of their duty under this Bill.
– Either the honorable member has not read the measure, or he is making a loose statement. if he will read the Bill he will find that no responsibility is placed on the States, and that all responsibility is placed on the Commissioners.
I have referred very briefly to the “No. 1 period of repatriation. Looking at the matter in the most generous way, I think that one may say that it has been a period of disappointment and. heartburning, due entirely to this Parliament not having provided a scheme, letting the soldiers know what was coming to them, and giving those in whose hands the administration was placed some basis on which to work. Under one heading of this scheme, the Minister for Repatriation puts down the expenditure on land settlement at £60,000,000. He anticipates that 40,000 returned soldiers will settle on the land, and that a holding will average in value £1,000, and require an expenditure of £500 for equipment, improvement, and stocking up, making a total of £60,000,000. Suppose that this ‘Bill were brought in by the
Opposition party. “Would any honorable member sitting behind the present Government be prepared to sign a blank cheque to hand over the question of repatriation to a Commission which the Opposition party might appoint? I have no doubt that the Government will take every possible precaution to select the ablest men in this country to administer their scheme. I think that they will neglect nothing in trying to secure the services of such men, but I submit that this Parliament is passing on the performance of a sacred pledge to the soldiers to certain gentlemen who may be in a position to override the Minister for Repatriation on a matter of policy. His representative here says that I am wrong there.
– I say that the policy must be adopted in regulations to be framed under the Act, and that the regulations will be made by the Governor-General in Council.
– The honorable Minister says, I take it, that we shall be quite safe in regard to this matter of repatriation, because the Executive Council will have to approve of the regulations, and Parliament need not vote any money unless it approves of them. That is the only control which we shall have over the Commission. I ask the Minister to consider what will be the effect of that arrangement? Does it mean that the question of repatriation can be solved in that way, or does it mean that the Government can create a deadlock by declining to ask this House to Vote the money, and by refusing to approve of proposed regulations? That will not solve the problem of repatriation. As one who took an active part in dealing with this matter for many months, I tell the Minister that in connexion with our scheme we were hamstrung because this Parliament did not have a scheme submitted for its consideration. When we were going full steam ahead the Federal Executive thought fit to issue a proclamation denying to us even the use of the word “ repatriation.” In other words, although the Government did not kill us straight out, they let us die gradually. We could not make a further appeal ; we could not complete and carry out our scheme. All that we could do, if we wished to act, was to administer the money we had in hand.
In the time he has had to handle this problem, no man in this country has acquired so clear a conception of a great subject as has the Minister for Repatriation. In this measure he invites the Australian public to co-operate with him, and rightly so, too. But on what lines does he give the invitation ? How can the public co-operate with the Minister on a measure in respect to which there is nothing before them? This is another proposal to administer a business measure by regulation. It will be a colossal system of patchwork. Here is a skeleton Bill, and if any gentleman comes here to find out what Australia is doing for her returned soldiers, he will be referred to a machinery Bill, and invited to look up all the regulations which have been issued under its provisions. Only in that way can he find out what we are doing for our returned soldiers. Neither the soldiers nor the community, nor, indeed, anybody else, will be able in a short space of time to learn where we stand on the question of repatriation. Is there one honorable member who follows every regulation which is issued by the Executive Council?
If the measure is passed in its present form, Parliament will be helpless as regards offering any suggestion in connexion with land settlement, because, under the arrangement made between the Commonwealth and the States, that question has passed altogether from the purview of this Parliament to that of the States.
– That is what I mentioned to the honorable member a few moments ago, and he said that I had not read the Bill.
– That was not the point, as the honorable’ member will see if he will be good enough to look up what he said. What is the position with regard to land settlement? Rightly or wrongly, an arrangement has been made under which the States deal with that question. Very well ; let us be honest and clear, and admit that this Parliament has passed on to some other bodies, so far as repatriation is concerned, the responsibility with regard to land settlement. The most voluminous comments here could not have the slightest influence on land settlement, because the measures to govern that aspect of the question have been passed by other Chambers without any reference to this
Parliament. The Minister for Repatriation made the position very clear in his second-reading speech, and I thought that he was going to follow on the lines he laid down then -
I confidently believe that there will be throughout Australia a general indorsement of the declaration which I now make - that the nature, extent, and duration of the work of repatriation require it to be accepted as a national responsibility, to insure the proper discharge of which must involve the direct action of the National Government itself. This Government accepts that responsibility, and I believe its doing so will command parliamentary and public approval.
In what way is that responsibility and that most clear and emphatic declaration borne out by this Bill? On the contrary^ already we have passed over to the States that portion of the repatriation scheme which involves the largest expenditure of public money, estimated by the Minister himself to be at least £60,000,000. The Minister asks for the co-operation of the whole community. He rightly recognises that the Commonwealth carries on no industry, and directs no activities, except public works and the Public Service, in which it can employ the soldier; it must, iu great measure, look to the States and to the community at large for co-operation. Can any one show me a basis in the Bill on which the community may co-operate with the Government?
I- wish to deal now with the question of finance. The Minister gave no indication in his speech of how the money is to be found for repatriation, nor is there any such indication in the Bill.
– .It is provided that £1,000,000 shall be provided out of revenue and £2,000,000 out of loan.
– But -should we not be informed whether the money is to be a gift or a loan? Should we not know the policy of the Government on the whole question of finance?
– It was announced in the Treasurer’s statement.
– From the Treasurer we have received only estimates. About £130,000 has been spent on repatriation, although £250,000 was voted by a previous Parliament, and £1,000,000 was on the Estimates. Is all the money to be used for repatriation to be borrowed by the Commonwealth for the States, to be repaid with interest by the soldier, and is the soldier, as a taxpayer, to contribute also to the interest on the loan? Is it proposed that the soldier shall borrow, say, £500 for equipment and £1,000 for land, and pay interest on the loan both directly as a borrower and indirectly as a taxpayer? I should have liked a clearer statement of the Government’s policy in this matter. There should be some indication of the ratio of expenditure from revenue to expenditure from loan. “We do not want the soldier, who has borne the burden of fighting our battles abroad, to have a heavy burden of taxation to -bear on his return. I recognise that money must be provided both out of revenue and from loan, because no country could tax itself heavily enough to provide sufficient out of revenue.
– The Prime Minister in,dicated that for land settlement money would be .provided from loan, and for other purposes from revenue.
– Of what use is it to refer to speeches like that when there is no definite statement of policy either in the Bill or in any compact between the Commonwealth and the States? Knowing how much time has been at the disposal of the Government to make up its mind on this, subject, I hoped for a definite policy. I supported the general policy of the Government at the last election, and have not since given any vote to embarrass it, but in the discussion of a measure like this, my obligation to the men who have fought for the country is greater than my obligation to the Government.
As to administration, I approve of the system under which there will be a Cen-. tral Commission, State Boards, and Local Committees. But the Bill should say what the work of the Committees is to be ; the members of the Committees should not have to grope in the dark as those interested in repatriation have been doing for many months past. At another stage I shall propose a vital amendment which will make my position clear. My suggestion is that we should, as I said before, be the architects of this national structure. We cannot provide for all the details of administration, but having settled the principles of the repatriation scheme, we must leave the administration of the measure to the Commission, and the Commission, in its turn, will deal with the State Boards and the Local Committees.
I regret that it is not proposed to make more use of the Local Committees. The one hope of success for the scheme lies in bringing home .the responsibility for the repatriation of the soldier to those living in the district from which he went, who knew him before he enlisted, and know his capabilities. They should sit round the table with him and arrange the line pf life in which he could best employ himself, and hold out to him, permanently, the hand of friendship. Under the Bill, however, the recommendations of the Local Committees may be turned down. They :are to have power to raise money for repatriation, and to spend such money in supplementing the Government grant. Now, if the members of the Committee are rightly selected, they will be well “balanced business men, drawn from the industries in each district, who, having made a success of their own business, will be capable of making a success of this scheme. But the Government seems to think that, although these men may be trusted under the Bill to raise money locally and to spend that money as they think best, they cannot be trusted to spend the money of the Government properly. How long will the members of the Local Committee continue their work if their recommendations are consistently 3turned down? Can the central authorities know the conditions better than they? The Government takes power to appoint the Local Committees, and, having selected suitable men, it should trust them. /The Central Commission and the State Boards cannot be better judges of the merits of any local « proposition than the Local Committees, which will be composed of public-spirited men, prepared to devote their time to helping countrymen who have done so much for them and for the Commonwealth. My experience has been that local Com. *mittees have more than justified our highest hopes. The men upon those Committees are earnest men, and since they have taken on the work their efforts have never flagged ; but they object to being kept so long in the dark as to what the nation intends to do, in the matter of repatriation.
Every one knows that a soldier comes back to Australia a changed man. His condition of life has changed. His health has changed. His outlook on life has ‘ changed. But the nation’s first duty is to concern itself in the effective repatriation of the relatives of the fallen soldiers. I am pleased that the Government have seen fib to include widows in their scheme, and I hope that the limitations imposed in regard to them will receive a very generous interpretation ; because, when a woman has sacrificed her husband, the rest of her life is a very dark period.
– The honorable member recognises that any assistance to widows under a repatriation scheme will be supplementary to any pensions.
– I recognise that, but I also recognise that if it had not been for the sacrifice, gallantry, and heroism of our women, we might be in the same position of degradation as Russia occupies to-day. So long as it is conducted on business lines, a repatriation scheme, no matter how generous it may be, will not weaken the nation; it will enrich it. What would weaken the nation would be any failure to make 300,000 men, who have stood outside the sphere of production for some time, fit once more to enter it again. We enrich the nation if we can make these men effective to re-enter that sphere of production.
Next to the repatriation of the relatives of the fallen men comes the important question of the restoration of the health of the man who is broken. The period that will elapse between a man’s return from the field of battle until he is once more able to enter civic life will be an anxious one, and will probably last longer than we may anticipate, but Parliament should be generous, even to a fault, to these men. It will depend upon the treatment that the soldier receives during that curative or restorative “period whether he ever becomes a truly effective man again. That is why I say that this is the most delicate period from the point of view of the nation, and most dangerous period from the point of view of the future life of the soldier. At this stage, I wish to say that Australia owes a great debt of gratitude to those noble women who have done so much to look after the returned men, by visiting the base hospitals, by meeting transports, and by caring for the maimed. These girls arid women are not in the employment of the nation, but they are inspired by a recognition of what the men have done. That is_ the spirit we want to see displayed in this country. Unfortunately, it has, to a great extent, owing to politics, melted away to give place to bitter party conflict.
– It has never been used to the extent that it should have been.
– It has not been com- mercialized. I have had the opportunity of probing feeling in this country, and I say that there is an unrecognised noble spirit abroad, but if any honorable member rose to speak of it, he would probably be ridiculed. There is still a wide field for voluntary effort. Every member of Parliament, every public man, and every public institution can take on the work of repatriation. It is the business side of the soldier’s life to which attention should be given, and officialdom is probably the least fitted, to attend to it.
While public activities may lay down the principles to be followed, they do not carry on the great industries of the country, primary or secondary.- It is only those who control the trade and commerce of the nation who possess the knowledge which will open up opportunities for the returned soldiers. A soldier is not repatriated by the giving of a financial dole, but) he may be by the opening up of new opportunities for him. . For that reason I agree with the Minister when he asks for the co-operation of the whole community, but I do object when he shows no basis in his Bill for the cooperation of the States or the community at large.
There has been a suggestion for the establishment of a national register, a record of the names of the men who have fought for their country. The principle is probably to be followed down by devolution to .the State Boards and the Local Committees. That is what we set out to do in our territorial scheme. First of all we endeavoured to get a register of all the men who enlisted from a particular district, and then a complete record was kept of those who fell in the fight, ‘ and of those who had returned and were discharged. Each Local Committee had sub-committees, such as a claims committee, a works committee, and a finance committee, and in that way we had a complete organization, not a mere skeleton which does not permeate to the country districts, such as we find in - this Bill. The States are doing their utmost in regard to land settlement; but before a soldier can be rergarded as eligible for repatriation he has to show, not that he has served his country or that he has a clean certificate of discharge, but that he is eligible for assistance, and three gentlemen decide as to his eligibility. Surely that should not be the case. Surely this. Parliament should set out who are eligible,, and who are not. Iti is done in the Pensions Act and in other measures ; why not in this Bill ?
Mr.- Heitmann. - The Bill must be fairly elastic.
– The Bill is so elastic that it defines nothing. The only clause that defines anything is clause 8, all the rest of the Bill being merely enabling machinery. Clause 8 is only definite in that it passes on the responsibility.
I would not have spoken at such length, or with so much warmth had it not” been for the fact that for over eighteen months I have had many experiences of applicantsfor assistance who have been turned down. I know that the War Councils have donetheir very best in the absence of a scheme. Mr. 0. Morrice Williams, the chairman of the Associated Banks, who is also chairman of the Central Repatriation Board, has approached the matter of repatriation with the utmost fervour. No one could have better intentions than he, or thosesitting with him on the Board, but the difficulty they have is that they have to become judges of the circumstancesof repatriation, and must exercise a purely personal discretion. If the Minister for Lands in a State Legislature can take the whole responsibility of land settlement from A to Z, why cannot we have a Bill dealing with every branch of repatriation? Why cannot we say : Institutions shall be established for vocational training - the Minister says it in his speech - provision shall be made for industrial organization, there shall be a maximum or a minimum amount allowed to any soldier? In no part of the Bill is there a minimum or a maximum fixed.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– I wish again to stress the fact that the Minister stated very clearly in another place that the State accepts the responsibility; and in doing so the Commonwealth will, I believe, command parliamentary and public approval. But the acceptance of that responsibility places upon the Government an obligation to give a clear exposition of its policy. The policy of repatriation which has been placed before the House and the country has not been outlined in the Bill. In an excellent speech the Minister took a most comprehensive view of the subject, and the consequence has been that the press and the country have mistaken the speech for the measure. The Australian soldier has played his part abroad, before the eyes of the whole world, in a way that was beyond all expected of him, and even after the. war has been raging for three years, he is to-day in the very forefront of General Haig’s latest big drive. If we are going to pass on to somebody else the responsibility which the Government, through its Minister, said belongs to this Parliament, without denning what that responsibility is, we are not keeping our pledge to the country or honouring the scrap of paper which subsists between us and the soldier. Not only have our soldiers fought abroad, but when they return maimed the Government use them as the medium of obtaining further recruits to maintain the strength of the battalions abroad.
– The returned soldier is not forced to do recruiting work.
– No ; but the Government use him as a medium of getting recruits because they .have failed to do that work in a more effective way. I hope, however, they will not fail in the matter of repatriation. I trust that we shall never see the spectacle of men who fought abroad going cap in hand to a qualifications committee and asking, “ Am I qualified for repatriation? “ I will be no party to repatriation as a dole. It is a right won by our soldiers on the battlefield, and should not be left to the whim, or caprice, or momentary frame of mind of a qualifications committee. Whatever we intend in the matter of repatriation we should state in this measure. I know that we are bound to have a proportion of failures. The history of land settlement in Australia is the history of partial failures. Even when men have some money of. their own, a proportion of them are not successful in business. We shall get those failures on the land. The country must be ready to acknowledge a proportion of failures; it must help to regenerate men who have been into a new world, who have looked into hell, and who have returned shaken in nerve and body, and in their outlook upon life.
We must be patient in restoring them tohealth and to the enjoyment of their new citizen life.
I come now to a subject which I had hoped could have been discussed on this Bill - the question of land settlement. I realize that its discussion in connexion with this measure would be useless. Our responsibilities in regard to land settlement have been passed over to other authorities, and measures dealing with the subject have been practically passed by the Legislatures of Victoria and Queensland. The Commonwealth has, however, undertaken all the financial responsibilities, in connexion with land settlement, and, in my opinion, some better measure of joint control should have been arranged between the States and the Commonwealth. In the scheme which has been adopted this Parliament will have no voice. Are we content that in these new measures new ground has been broken? My first objection is to the provision that a ‘ soldier taking up land and starting from scratch shall be obliged to immediately pay interest on his purchase money. Life on the land can offer to the returned soldier and his wife and children either a pleasant, healthy occupation with good prospects,- or it can be mere drudgery without any outlook. A man starting from scratch and commencing at once topay interest on all his purchase money cannot be successful.
– The South Australian law provides that in the first five years no rent shall be paid.
– That provision appeals to me, but the law is not the same in each State. I think ‘that under the Victorian measure the returned soldier must commence to pay interest increasing in rate after the first two years. The Commonwealth should say to the States, “ You have to recover from the soldier the interest on the money which has been advanced to him, but we desire that he shall have a clear run of five years free of interest, and we are prepared to arrange with you accordingly.” Failure on the land is principally in the early stages of settlement. I am very keen on land settlement, and I had some proposals to submit to this Parliament, but I realize that it is of no use submitting them in connexion with this Bill.
– Why not?
– What is the use of submitting them when legislation to deal with the land settlement of soldiers has already been passed in some of the State Parliaments and this Parliament proposes no land legislation? There should have been a concerted arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States, and definite lines of policy laid down. For instance, we should have provided that all money advanced to a soldier who starts from scratch in either business or on the land shall be free of interest for five years. Under the scheme which has been adopted the soldier settler becomes at once an interest payer, and then a general taxpayer, twice paying interest on the money which the country borrowed for his repatriation. That is not repatriation; it is merely a lending of money. I wish to see some general sacrifice on the part of noncombatants, the men who did not bear arms, but who .during the war continued their business avocations, and derived profits which, never in the history of Australia, had accrued to. industry. There is no form of taxation to which a soldier will not be a contributor.- All these conditions are limitations of a scheme of genuine repatriation, and which would have been obviated if we had adopted a system of far greater co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth.
For a long time I have held that the most favorable form of land settlement, having regard to the high prices of wool and meat, is stock farming, which would suit returned soldiers admirably. A man who goes into agriculture must understand every one of the several operations necessary to be performed on the farm. He must understand farming machinery, and the management of horseflesh.- As a wheat-grower he works from 5 in the morning till “ feed up” at 9 at night. That form of settlement is not ‘suitable for the man without experience, and who is gradually returning to health.- Stockfarming is different; in it there is no drudgery. All the operations associated with it can be performed without straining or twisting a. war-worn body.
– And there is no dead, capital for the greater part of the year.
– That is so. Suppose a man starts with 200 breeding ewes, half-a-dozen dairy cows, four breeding sows, and some poultry. The sheep will attend to their own increase. The ewes will require little attention. All the settler has to do is to milk half-a-dozen cows, and feed his pigs and poultry, and he is linked up at once with ready money. There is an immediate return from the cows, pigs, and poultry. With the breeding ewes he has the means of starting to pay . off his principal and interest. These operations do not involve the purchase of machinery and implements, which are an enormous tax on a beginner. If the estimate of the Minister be correct, 40,000 soldiers will go upon the land. That means that 40,000 homes will require to be established. At the present time all material for fencing and building is realizing high prices. I was amazed to read that the Victorian Minister for Lands (Mr. Hutchinson) stated, when introducing the State Repatriation Bill, that already he had received offers of 680 properties for sale. Those offers arise from the fact that the life of the man on the land has become a drudgery, or that he has so long remained a target for taxation and industrial assaults, that his occupation has become uncongenial; or it may be that there have been overpurchases of land, and some people wish to realize in order to avoid further possible heavy taxation. This Parliament would let the settler know where he was if we told him that from the day he commences on his holding he should be free of liability for interest for a fixed term, the interest being paid by those who remained at home, and did not go to the war.
In regard to the industrial side of repatriation, an opportunity is here afforded for the Commonwealth and the States, and particularly the Minister in charge of Repatriation, to become a pattern employer of labour, and particularly in reference to the returned soldier, who has played his part abroad. My belief is that the Minister for Repatriation should also be created Minister for Industry. The time has come for a practical linking-up system in respect to all our industries. We have established a Department of Science and Industry, and the natural corollary is that we should have a Minister to give point and direction to its activities. I should like, therefore, to see the Minister for. Repatriation, who will have to re-absorb into civil life these 300,000 returned soldiers, appointed also Minister for Industry.
In passing, I wish to express my appreciation of the provisions of clause 17 of the Bill, under which the Government have been good enough to leave us no longer in doubt as to the funds that were raised by private schemes prior to the Repatriation Bill. The clause vests those funds in our trustees, and we know now that we can go ahead. Let me tell the Minister that, although under the proclamation preventing the use of the word “ repatriation “ we have been held up, all our committees, like the general public of Australia, are watchfully standing at ease ready and waiting for the word “ go.” As soon as the Minister gives us the word we shall get a move on, and within our limits, at any rate, show that those who have already said they will undertake the repatriation of these soldiers will very generously supplement the great work that the Government are taking in hand.
With regard to the administration of this scheme by regulation, I desire again to say that we shall have, in respect of repatriation, a measure of patchwork. We shall not know where we are. With so much left to regulation, who can say where we shall be? We shall havethis machinery-law and the regulations under it. Will any one say that the soldiers abroad and their relatives at home will be able to keep pace with the printing machine in its issue of regulations? The Government should earnestly endeavour to more clearly define the scheme under which they are going to operate.
As one who has watched very closely the activities within Australia during wartime, I wish to say that those who have come together and have organized and administered patriotic funds have rendered a great service, not only to the soldiers at the Front, but to their relatives in this country. The fact that they have allayed the anxiety of parents with regard to the comfort of their sons abroad is worthy of the highest praise. It has been a magnificent work, and we should generously recognise those responsible for it. Go to the Red Cross organizations, to the Lord Mayors’ Bureaux, or to any of the other many excellent organizations, and you will see that they are sending thousands of packets of goods and comforts to our soldiers abroad. These people have done a great and generous work, and the Parliament has a right to generously recognise their services.
– And so with those who have undertaken the work of bringing the returning soldiers by motor from the steamers to the city.
– Quite so. It is all part and parcel of a great patriotic spirit that has been exercised in this country, in the most handsome way, by many who have been unable to take part in the work abroad.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall have finished in five minutes.
– I should like to move that the honorable member’s time be extended by a quarter of an hour.
Extension of time granted.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) for his consideration, which is in keeping with the handsome way in which he has treated the Government in dealing with this Bill. His speech showed that he desired only to see the right thing done on behalf of our returned soldiers. Had he desired, it would have been an easy matter for him to follow the example of certain people in some of the States who, in view of the near approach of the general elections, seem disposed to make it a “ bidding “ measure. I notice that the Victorian State Government have made their Repatriation Bill’ much widerthan our own. They bring within it soldiers from any part of the Empire.
– We have circulated an amendment to the same effect.
– I have not seen the amendment; but it would appear that the Government of the Commonwealth have come into line with the Victorian State Government in proposing to make provision for any soldier within the Empire - no matter where he may have fought, or where he may have enlisted - who desires to settle in Australia. That is a magnanimous decision, andI approve of it. The Victorian State Government, however, have gone even further, for, in respect of land settlement, it has extended the provisions of its Repatriation Bill to the orphan brother of a fallen soldier. I do not know whetherthe Federal Government propose to go any further; but my fear is that, if this Bill goes out in the form of a blank cheque, it will be made later on the basis of a “ bidding “ system by various Governments desiring to secure certain political support.
I hope that the Minister, in calling for the co-operation of the country, will show the people, and particularly those in control of the industries of Australia, just exactly how they can help. I am confident that they are only waiting to assist the Government. Many of our great institutions have made the most elaborate provisions for the return of their men. In some cases, they have made the most handsome provision for them, and many others are prepared to do the same. Unfortunately, however, this Bill does not show them any one direction in which they can co-operate with the Government. That, however, is a matter for administration, and the Government should at once show the community how it may co-operate with them.
Finally, I say that we cannot overdo the matter of repatriation, if we only open up to every soldier who comes home an opportunity to make his lot in life materially, if not physically, better than it was before. We have said that when these men come back their country will not forget them, and I hope that even up to the time of final demobilization this Government will show the men, when they land on our shores once more, that we have truly kept “ the home fires burning.”
– We have listened to two excellent speeches by the Leader of the. Opposition (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). They have approached the consideration of this great question in the proper spirit. To approach it otherwise - to make it amatter of party politics - would be to discredit this Parliament. It has been properly said that the responsibility in regard to repatriation is that of every man and woman in the community. It is, however, the especial responsibility of the Government and the Parliament. It behoves every honorable member to give to the question the most thoughtful attention and consideration, so that we may evolve a scheme that will be a credit to Australia.
I welcome the Bill, late though it is. As has been mentioned, upwards of 25,000 men have already returned. Many have returned ‘ in a condition of health which is in itself most deplorable. Many others have returned to suffer much disappointment by reason of the fact that there is no well-defined or permanent scheme on the statute-book for the purpose of comprehensively dealing with *heir cases. Although it is late in the day, therefore, I welcome the introduction of this measure. The subject of demobilization is a colossal one. The work of the Mother Country, particularly, will- be almost staggering ; but since she isso thoroughly accustomed to deal with gigantic problems, I am certain that she will dispose of this in the same comprehensive and effective way that she has dealt with others. With a relatively much smaller number of men to repatriate we should find the problem capable of being dealt with comprehensively and effectively, particularly having regard to our great and magnificent resources. I venture to think that we shall be wanting in initiation and resource if we are unable to do justice tothe men who have such claims upon us.
The one thing which, above all, may be relied upon to make a success of the repatriation efforts of this Parliament is the patriotic spirit which permeates the whole community.- It was illustrated in typical fashion by a recent occurrence. Senator Millen called a conference of delegates from various States and other patriotic movements, with the result that the most representative men from all the States in Australia met to confer and to discover the best means of co-ordinating the administration and control of the various funds for the amelioration and relief of soldiers, as well as the control of patriotic appeals generally. They did valuable work. A characteristic feature of the conference was the earnestness with which the members dealt with the several questions with the object of doing justice to our men, and to make most effective the various patriotic schemes of the several States.
Our problem is to provide for the training, the occupation, and the restoration to civil life of the brave Australian soldiers coming back to our shores. That is* the problem with which we have to deal, and I trust this Parliament will grapple with it with true earnestness. I am very .glad to see that the first proposal is to repeal the existing Australian Repatriation Trustees Act. I do not for one moment blame the men who were appointed a Board of control for the failure of that
Act. They did their work with every anxiety to do justice, hut the scheme was formulated without experience and conceived on too narrow a basis. While it is desirable that there should be a committee or body in supreme control of this work, yet the Act seemed to have the effect of seriously hampering, and, indeed, destroying all local effort. It was felt that the Board was too remote; it was not in immediate personal touch with the soldiers.- If I remember rightly, the various War Councils were not called together at any time for the purpose of considering the best means of working the Act. Then, above all, reliance was placed on private contributions for the purpose of repatriation, an idea that was at once resented by the community as altogether wrongly conceived. This is a great national responsibility, and the fact ought to be engrained in our very fibre, if we are to do justice. I pay my tribute to the glorious work and magnificent services which have been rendered by the various War Councils, Red Cross Societies, and Patriotic Committees, which have shown exactly that public spirit and determination necessary in a work of this kind.
No. man can have met returned soldiers, and conversed with them, without being filled with emotion; and, personally, I have had very painful experiences in this regard. No measure of repatriation can be just which fails to comprehensively and individually deal with men who are broken in health, whose nerves are shattered, and who seem to have almost lost their virility. We must get rid’ of the idea at once that a mere grant of land or gift of money is a performance by us of our obligations. We must ever bear in mind that each man is entitled to personal sympathy and individual attention - that every man who is maimed and broken in health must be nursed back to civil life and occupation. It is deplored that men have been discharged unfit for employment, being in a low state of health, and in a nervous condition, and thoroughly depressed in spirits. In such a state they have to be specially dealt with, for if they are left to go on their own . responsibility they drift from bad to worse; they must be nursed, and given special sympathy and attention. I welcome the suggestion made by Senator Millen, in introducing the Bill, that there shall be created curative insti- tutions. These institutions will have’ the responsibility, I submit, of dealing individually with each soldier, discovering his limitations, deciding what he is probably capable of performing, and of equipping each man for the battle of life. Nothing short of that will satisfy this House.
The subject of finance has been mentioned. The suggestion of the Government is that the necessary money shall be raised in part from loan and in part from revenue. No matter how we raise the money the suggestion means some contribution by the returned soldier himself. I submit that, in our legislation, our efforts should be to relieve the soldier as far as we possibly can, particularly from any -taxation or any burden in connexion with loans or contributions from the revenue, though, of course, this cannot be completely done.
– The honorable member means relief from income taxation, and so forth.
– Quite so; our anxiety must be to give relief to the soldier. These men have helped to save Australia, and they are entitled to our consideration. We are called upon to bear their burden, as they have already, so nobly and, well, borne ours.
If I understand the policy of the Government, it is that we shall discharge our duty to the soldiers, no matter what the cosh may be. If that is their policy, I am with them right up to the hilt. Our duty is to formulate and endeavour to perfect, so far as possible, a scheme of repatriation, and having done that on the most generous lines, it becomes a question of how the burden is to be borne by the community. Ib is quite true that almost untold millions have been mentioned in this regard. It is impossible for anybody to determine .what the scheme is going to cost. A wealth tax has been mentioned, and the suggestion was made that something like £3,000,000 per annum would be required over the first two or three years. On further reflection, this was found to be a mistake, and that it would be quite impossible to legitimately spend that amount. I recollect that when that proposal was made, my friend and partner, the Hon. Theodore Fink, who has given a close and enthusiastic attention to the subject, published a letter in which he estimated that the gross expenditure for the first year or two would be little over £500,000 per annum, and
Lis forecast has been more than verified. Of course, men are beginning to return more rapidly, and this means a larger expenditure.
Land settlement is probably the important and vital feature of the scheme. I hope that the experience of the various States in this regard will ever be borne in mind. It is futile to attempt to settle any of these men on unsuitable land, or in unsuitable localities. There are recognised essentials that must be borne in mind. First of all, the proper locality must be selected, and the soil must be good. Next, proper preparation must be made in the shape of a homestead to receive the soldier, and there must be decent roads. Further, no man must be placed on the land unless he has been trained, and such men must be under constant supervision and care, and every encouragement afforded them to make their selections their permanent homes. The all-important question is that of the terms on which these men are to be settled on the land. The fatal error must be avoided of permitting them to be overwhelmed with burdens at the beginning; they must be given a fair start. I protest against the dealings with our soldiers being conducted on hard and fast commercial lines, for these ought to be eliminated. They must have concessions, and either by way of lower valuations or the remission of purchase money, I lay it down as a fundamental principle that they are entitled to better terms than those afforded to the ordinary settler. Even so far as an ordinary settler is concerned, the land in some of the States is actually given to him, while in other States like my own the terms are so low, and so extended, as to make the purchase money merely nominal. In Western Australia, if I remember rightly, 160 acres, with a homestead, is given free; in Queensland, a leasehold is given for ninety-nine years at a peppercorn rent; in Canada, 160 acres is given free, with another 160 acres at 2 dol. per acre; in British Columbia free land is given, and on the Canadian Pacific line most generous and elaborate provision is made foi settlement on extended terms.
This brings me to the all-important question of land resumption. In all the States land has been resumed, though in some to a greater extent than in others.
As a member of the State Parliament, I had the honour to introduce the system of closer settlement in Victoria, and while, in connexion with this scheme, many successes are recorded, I am free to admit that there have also been failures. These failures were because of mistakes in regard to locality, and the excessive capital cost of the land.- The question, therefore, is as to the terms upon which this land shall be given to the soldiers.
– Are those the only reasons for the failures ?
– No ; but these are the outstanding causes of failure. Settlers who were overwhelmed with debt and responsibility could not possibly succeed, and the same result followed when inexperienced men were put on land.
– How would you get over the difficulty of inflated values?
– We know, as a matter of fact, that, when the Government comes into the market as a buyer, land booms in value ; but in regard to the settlement of our soldiers, no man should be at liberty to extort excessive purchase money. There are, of course, one or two ways in which this difficulty of inflating values can be overcome. One is that which was resorted to in New Zealand, where power was taken by the Government to resume land at the price at which it was valued by the taxpayer.
– Do you know the result of that? The principle had to be abandoned.
– So far as. I remember, the principle was resorted to with success in several cases, though, no doubt, mistakes were made. Probably the proper scheme would be the creation of expert valuation boards.
– With power to exercise the compulsory purchase, but at no greater values than those prevailing be-‘ fore the outbreak of the war.
– The honorable member largely anticipates me. As I say, no man should be .permitted to .make money at the expense of the soldier.
– It would not be at the expense of the soldier, but at the expense of the nation.
– But the .price to the soldier will be according to the price paid for the land, so that really it is at his expense in the long run. To fix the value of the land at a particular date, as has been adopted in one or two Acts of Parliament in regard to the Federal Territory, would be a useful provision. We need to safeguard the position to insure that excessive amounts by way of purchase money shall not be paid for land. The land-owners have the responsibility, together with ourselves, of repatriating these men, and whilst endeavouring to do justice to them we must not fail to see that justice is also done to the community. In all the States, land has been purchased for closer settlement. Something like £11,000,000 has been spent in this connexion. In Victoria alone £4,500,000 has been expended in the purchase of land at £7 10s. per acre; in New South Wales, £2,500,000 has been spent in acquiring land at £3 10s. per , acre; in Queensland under £2,000,000 has been expended in purchasing land at less than £3 per acre; in South Australia £1,750,000 has been spent in the purchase of land at less than £3 per acre; and in Western Australia land has been resumed for a little less than £1 per acre. I come now to what took place at the Premiers’ Conference with the Commonwealth Government.
– There seems to be a great difference between the prices paid for the land.
– There must necessarily be that. Personally I am in sympathy with many of the views that) have been expressed by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) in regard to this Bill. We all recognised that it is a skeleton or machinery measure but I confess that I was disappointed to discover that it does not embody any repatriation scheme that has been formulated by the Government. We had reason to hope that it would have done so. However, I am not going to quarrel -with the Government in this connexion, because I understand that their idea is first to create the machinery for the purpose, and afterwards in consultation with the Commonwealth and State Boards to formulate a scheme. They believe that by bringing experts together in that way they will be better able to secure a more comprehensive and effective scheme than they would otherwise be able to devise. But when once they have decided upon the scheme, I say unhesitatingly that Parliament should have an opportunity to discuss it fully, and that Parliament should have the responsibility for its acceptance. That is a very reasonable request to urge upon the Government.
– The procedure we are adopting is exactly that which has been adopted in England in dealing with disabled soldiers.
– I have already said that I am not going to quarrel with the Government’s method of dealing with this question. If they will formulate their scheme, and seekthe advice of this Parliament in its perfection, we shall get a more satisfactory scheme than we shall otherwise do.
– This is the place in which to settle the principles of the scheme.
– Yes. The Government should look to this Parliament to accept the responsibility for the scheme. I ask them to afford us an opportunity of assisting them in the perfecting of that scheme. I note that there have been several Premiers’ Conferences on this matter. The last gathering of the kind was held in January, 1917, when the question of the settlement of returned soldiers on the land was specially mentioned. Onthat occasion it was resolved - and the scheme accepted by the Government practically follows upon the same lines -
That this Committee recommends to the conference that the Commonwealth Government should agree to provide the necessary money on loan to the different States for the purpose of the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, such moneys to be advanced to soldiers for land settlement purposes on the terms and conditions of the following resolution of the conference held in Melbourne in February, 1916:- “ 9. That loans to soldiers for land settlement purposes, as provided by resolution 3, will be advanced at reasonable rates of interest, not exceeding 31/2 per cent, in the first year, increasing by1/2 per cent, each subsequent year to the full rate at which the money has been raised, plus working expenses; the difference between these rates and the cost to the Government of the money to be borne equally by the Commonwealth Government and the State Government.”
That being the scheme which seems to have been accepted by the Government, I have no hesitation in declaring that, in my judgment, it has been conceived upon entirely wrong lines. The. Government are evading the national responsibility which has been cast upon them and upon this Parliament to repatriate these men.
– The Minister in charge of repatriation himself made a very clear and admirable statement upon that point in his speech at the Conference.
– I claim that the repatriation and the settlement of our soldiers upon the land, is the responsibility of the National Government, and the scheme should not’ provide for that duality of control which was foreshadowed in the speech made by Senator Millen in another place. The whole community looks to this Parliament to do the work direct. Yet the Government propose to delegate this all-important question of settling our soldiers on the land to the States themselves. My view is that the Commonwealth Parliament should accept the whole responsibility. We should advance the money required direct to the soldiers, and we should dominate the various Boards appointed to give effect to the scheme. I think, moreover, that the Commonwealth Government should itself resume all the land that- may be necessary for the purpose. It may be suggested that there are large areas of Crown lands available in the States, and I may be asked whether we should resume those lands and pay for them. I am disposed to think, after consultation with various prominent members of the State Parliaments, that the several State Governments are quite prepared to hand over to the Commonwealth’ any suitable Crown lands that may be in their possession, if the Commonwealth will accept direct responsibility in this matter.
– Or, at any rate, enter an arrangement for joint control.
– I believe that the State Governments are prepared to hand over to the Commonwealth any suitable Crown lands that they may have for the purpose. I consider that other lands should be resumed by the Commonwealth Government. But I do not for one moment suggest that the co-operation of the States should not be secured in this connexion. They have all the machinery that is available in their various Lands Departments, and we should take the fullest advantage of that machinery. We may, I think, rely upon the hearty co-operation of the State Governments in this matter.
– If t,he States handle it as well aa they handled their closer settlement propositions, we should be better off without them.
– But while we may seek their co-operation, this Parliament should dominate the whole position. The scheme suggested by the Conference of State Premiers and representatives of the Commonwealth Government provides that a Board, consisting of a Minister from each State and a Commonwealth Minister, shall be constituted and known as the Soldiers’ Settlement Board of Australia. According to my judgment, that would be a fatal mistake. The Soldiers’ Settlement Board should be constituted of experts, and not politicians, and should be dominated by the Commonwealth. This Board should be constituted, not of Ministers who come and go, but of experts, whose special training will give them a strong position, and enable them to render valuable service. Under the scheme recommended by the Conference, the Board would be empowered to consider and make recommendations in reference to a large number of matters, including the maximum and minimum advances to be made to each settler, irrespective of land provision, the purposes for which advances may be made, i.e., whether to cover stock, seed, plant, and implements, as well as fixed improvements. I have already urged that the advances should be made direct by the Commonwealth, which should accept) the whole responsibility, but securing as much aid as possible from the States. I believe that where losses occur in connexion with the land settlement of our soldiers, arrangements could be made whereby those losses would be borne equally by the Commonwealth and the States.
– Queensland dissented from the recommendations of the Conference.
– Queensland dissented from the proposition which I have read, that a Board consisting of a Minister from each State and a Commonwealth Minister should be constituted and known as the Soldiers’ Settlement Board of Australia.
– Unfortunately, we are going to have seven Ministers of Repatriation.
– Yes. I ask the Honorary Minister (Mr. Groom) to seriously consider this question of duality of control. It will be a fatal mistake to adopt it.
– It will lead to chaos. -
– Yes. That is one of the reasons why I claim that after the Government have formulated a scheme of repatriation, this Parliament should be afforded an opportunity of discussing it, and should accept full, responsibility for it. Before leaving this phase of the question, I desire to urge upon the Government that, while exercising every care in the acquisition of suitable land at reasonable prices, if we are tlo make soldier settlement successful, we should be prepared to make a substantial remission to the soldier in the price at which the land is acquired. I would make a remission of even 25 per cent. Having secured the land from its owner at the best possible price, I would be prepared to make a remission to the soldier of 20 or 25 per cent, on that price. After all, that is a small consideration compared with the objective which we have in view, namely, the permanent restoration of these men to civil life.
– But ib might pay the soldier to sell out to somebody then.
– No. There would need to be proper safeguards adopted in that connexion.
– We cannot give a freehold and take it away at the same time.
– We can give it upon certain terms, and limit occupation to a certain period. I have very great sympathy with provisions securing permanent residence, which find an important place in Victorian land legislation.
– Making the soldiers slaves to their land.
– I do not think it can be said to be as bad a& that. Victorian Acts provide for residence for something like eight months in the year. If we make all these encouraging efforts on behalf of returned soldiers I venture to hope that they will be adequately rewarded.
Another resolution of the Conference to which I have referred suggests that where returned soldiers desire to privately purchase land, State Governments should make land valuers available for their assistance, and, further, that no claim for assistance on land privately purchased should be entertained until a Government valuator has reported upon the property.
These seem to me to be reasonable suggestions. Then I quote the following very important resolution: -
That it be a recommendation to the Prime Minister that returned soldiers, other than those qualified for a pension, be not discharged until they are certified physically fit to follow some occupation.
Great mistakes have already been unwittingly made in this connexion. I trust that in future no man will be discharged until there is proof that he is physically fit and qualified to take a place in the civil life of the community.
The scheme of the Bill provides for seven Commissioners constituting the Repatriation Commission, and for various State Boards and Local Committees. I have already stated my objection to the skeleton character of the Bill, and I express the hope that when the Government have formulated a .scheme they will submit it to Parliament for consideration. I approve of the proposal to appoint the Minister as President of the Repatriation Commission. That will at once create a link between the supreme body controlling repatriation and Parliament. We shall in this way be kept in close touch with what is being done, and may be in a position to assist in. the development of different schemes.
– I do not see any clause providing for what is to be done in the event of a deadlock between the Minister and the Repatriation Commission. I suppose that in such a case recommendations would not go up to the Executive. If they did go to the Executive without the Minister’s approval, what would be the consequence?
– A deadlock might occur between the Minister and the other members of the Repatriation Commission ; but the Government holds the key to the position, both in regard to finance and the cancellation of the Commission’s appointment. What I desire to specially mention in this regard is that the success of the Government scheme must largely ‘depend on the officers selected to carry it out. The Chief Executive Officer should be a man of outstanding ability, and should possess great powers of organization. I have been glad to hear the name of one gentleman mentioned for this office, who is well known to the Leader of the Opposition as well as to myself. I refer to Mr. Lockyer.
– As a legal man, can the honorable gentleman say whether under this Bill the Minister will be in a position to exercise a power of veto over the Repatriation Commission ?
– I have not studied the measure sufficiently to give an opinion on that point. While I approve of the Minister being President of the Repatriation Commission, I say that it is of the utmost importance that we should have a very able permanent head in charge of the work, and I have expressed approval of the mention of the name of Mr. Lockyer as one who would do justice to the position. The Chief Executive Officer in each State should also be a highly qualified man, with organizing power, force of character, and sympathy in administration. Sympathy in administration must play a very big part in dealing with this important question.
– We shall get that from the Local Committees if they are given the necessary power.
– The proposal to establish Local Committees is a very valuable one, not merely State Boards, but Committees in different districts. Recommendations from these Local Committees will be sent to the State Boards and forwardedby them to the Central Repatriation Commission. This should be of great value in the proper administration of the scheme-.
The Government have departed from some of ‘the recommendations of the conference of State and Commonwealth representatives. For instance, I direct attention to the following recommendation of the Conference: -
That the War Councils of the States shall be constituted Commonwealth bodies operating within broad lines of policy indicated from time to time by the Central Commonwealth Authority; that their staffs be responsible through the War Council to, and be paid by, the Central Commonwealth Authority.
– That is knocked out.
– Yes, and State Boards have been substituted.
– I think that is right, because they will be directly responsible to the Repatriation Commission.
– I should like to say that the gentlemen composing the State War Councils have addressed themselves to this particular work with splendid devotion. Whilst returned soldiers must be represented on the Repatriation Commission and also on the State Board-
– On all Boards.
– On all Boards, for that matter, I do hope that the experience gained by members of State War Councils will be taken the fullest advantage of. There are one or two very important matters with which Senator Millen did not, attempt to deal in the speech with which he introduced this measure. The Conference made these recommendations -
That it be the business of the Central Commonwealth Authority to devise a substantial uniform system dealing with returned soldiers and sailors, and the dependants of soldiers and sailors, on service, or of soldiers and sailors who have died as a result of service, in respect of -
Immediate Amelioration, i.e., the provision of means for meeting of immediate cash necessities. This either by supplementing military or naval pay before discharge, or by sustenance after discharge until employment or remunerative occupation can be found.
That all funds for purposes relating to the war be placed under the control of the Commonwealth Authority.
That the Commonwealth Authority be vested with power to control all appeals for funds for war purposes, and to prescribe the conditions governing the administration of all funds so raised.
There has been no attempt to deal with these recommendations in the scheme outlined by Senator Millen. They deal with very important duties, which at present are discharged by the State War Councils. In the circumstances it would appear that it is the intention of the Government, in addition to the State Boards, to appoint some special bodies to deal with amelioration and the control of funds.
– Under the Victorian Bill provision is made for a State Board, which will not be the same as the State Board created under this Bill.
– There seems to be a multiplication of Boards, but, in view of the omission to deal with the Conference recommendations, to which I have just referred, I think that, perhaps, the Government have not comprehended all the factors necessary to success.
I have paid my tribute to the fine work done by the different State War Councils. It should form a nucleus for the development? of the scheme contemplated by the Government. The State War Council in Victoria splits itself up into various committees, dealing with employment, vocational training, repatriation, amelioration, medical assistance to discharged soldiers, and war funds. The State War Councils receive reports from these various committees, upon which they take action. Speaking of the Victorian War Council, I may be allowed to say that their record in procuring employment for returned soldiers is most creditable. They have secured positions for 6,000 men within a very few months.
In regard to vocational training, I may say that they have done excellent work. The Educational Committee deals with vocational training, and returned men chosen by the Committee are learning wood-working, toy-making, boot-clicking, weaving, bookkeeping and accountancy, and a number ofother things. It is suggested that provision should be made for repatriation units dealing with -
Agricultural training; wool-classing training; trade training; clerical, bank, and municipal training; military training (special units in Permanent Forces) ; technical training; acquisition of small businesses.; farming (experienced men) ; shipping business training; mining business training; light occupations training (for permanently injured and disabled men) ; labour engagement unit (for experienced men ready to take up unskilled or skilled work of all kinds in the Public Service, or with private employers) ; any special units that may be necessary.
This vocational training is capable of indefinite expansion, and excellent work in this way is already being done by the State War Councils.
Speaking of the Victorian War Council, with the work of which I am more familiar than with that of the War Councils of other States, I understand that they have already spent £52,000 upon repatriation. As regards amelioration, honorable members can scarcely realize the necessity for some body immediately approachable to meet emergent claims on behalf of soldiers and their families.
– The first thing is to have the men restored to health.
– The curative institutions will do much in that direction. The Victorian War Council has spent £40,000 in giving immediate relief to various soldiers and their dependants. Nothing could be more degrading, or more demoralizing, than to permit soldiers to go about the streets appealing for aid to the people whom they’ meet. There are, of course, individual cases that it is almost impossible to deal with, but apart from them, meritorious cases of men and their dependants must not be ignored. There must be some institution immediately available for this purpose. There is in Victoria a War Funds Committee, which exercises control over all efforts to raise money for patriotic purposes, examines balance-sheets, and generally controls them. Then they have their Red Cross Fund, and the Red Cross Artificial Limbs Fund, while blind soldiers and war widows have been specially looked after. These form the nucleus of what can be comprehended within the scheme which has been developed by the Government. I hope what has been urged by those who have preceded me, and by myself, with regard to the scheme the Government are formulating will be borne in mind.
I deplore the suggestion that British soldiers should not be included in any scheme created by the Government or Parliament.
– They are to be included by an amendment.
– I am very glad to hear it. Our men and the British soldiers have fought side by side, and we are anxious to encourage the latter to come to our shores, and settle here’.
– Is it not part of the duty of the British people to repatriate them ?
– Certainly ; but we should welcome those who come to Australia. They have fought for the safety and honour of Australia in the same way as Australians have fought for the safety and honour of the British Empire. The Empire spirit should encourage them to settle here.
– If they have been domiciled Australians before enlistment, we treat them as if they were part of the Australian Army.
– I believe the British Government would be ready to extend the same consideration to any Australians who desired to settle in England. I congratulate the Government on the introduction of the measure, and would strongly urge on them the reconsideration of the question of land settlement, and of the proposed duality of control. I would impress on them again that in all things the Commonwealth must dominate. that this is a Commonwealth responsibility, and that the people of . Australia look to the National Government and Parliament to take the whole of it, and will not be satisfied with its delegation to the States. If they do so, We shall have some hope of formulating a scheme that will do justice, and be a credit, to Australia.
.- I hope what I have to say will reach the high plane of the remarks of the previous speakers. No party tinge should be brought into this question, and I can promise that nothing of that complexion will pass . my lips. It is the greatest and most momentous question, second only to that of winning the war, that Australia can face. We are the only continent which has its lands almost vacant of human beings. The other continents are either over populated, according to our ideas, or are tending in that direction. That is certainly the case with the continent of North America, where over 100,000,000 English speaking people are under the flag of our splendid Ally. I purpose to concentrate my remarket on the conservation of water as one. of the most important means of settling the soldiers, whom I hope we shall welcome back with open arms, and also the numerous members of the European races who will surely come to Australia when this deluge of murder that men call war is ended, and peace is made. No one can deny that the greatest argument that can be used to induce white people to come to Australia is the high pay our soldiers receive, and the magnificent efforts that this country has made, certainly with a huge continent to draw on, but with only 5,000,000 people. The English “Tommy” fighting as bravely as our boys, shoulder to shoulder with them, will say, “ I am going to get to that country which can pay its soldiers 6s. a day and give them the right of citizenship that only one person out of six in England possesses.” How much more will that appeal to the people of our Allies, who are fighting the battle of liberty with us ? I am glad to be able to congratulate the Government on the fact that in the amendments to be proposed to the Bill they are going to give to men of the British race, coming from any of the four little nations that form the United. Kingdom, the same rights as are to be given to our fellow Australians.
The conservation of water will lead to the extension of our primary industries; but let me point out what Japan, another of our splendid Allies, is doing in the way of secondary industries. Japan within the span of an ordinary life, not even extending to the allotted three score years and ten, has made such progress that she is prepared to launch this year ninetyseven steamers, with an aggregate tonnage of 400,000. Why cannot we make ships? We are 5,000,000 people, or only oneeleventh of the population of Japan, but would not every member be proud if we could launch even one-eleventh of the number of ships being launched by Japan, a nation that fifty or sixty years ago knew nothing about iron manufactures in that connexion ?
I have before me a contour map, with the following inscription: - “Prepared at the Central Weather Bureau, Melbourne, under the direction of H. A. Hunt, Commonwealth Meteorologist, by M. J. Kirton, from contours and data by Griffiths Taylor, D.Sc, E.E.G.S., Physiographer.” On it is shown the Murray River Basin, covering portions of Queensland, Hew South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. In that basin lies the safety and hope for the future of Australia. There is enough water falling from the clouds to keep, if properly conserved, a population equal to that of France and Germany combined in happiness and comfort. We have been most wasteful in that regard, and have not expended what we should in water conservation. The repatriation of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and sailors, and the settlement of many sturdy representatives of our Allies, is a problem not only of continental interest, but of Imperial significance. Amongst the men whose names stand out, like stars in a summer night, on the list of those who have helped to forward the work of water conservation and irrigation in this country are Alfred Deakin, Mr. McColl, father of ex-Senator McColl, and exSenator McColl himself, who, following the good teachings of his father, did great work in the attempt to bring before the citizens, not only of Victoria but of Australia, the magnificence of our resources if we only saved every drop of water that fell. The Age newspaper, in past years, directed by the splendid talent of its then great owner, the late Mr. David Syme, pressed the question very strongly, and the Argus, in a less degree, supported the movement. After this war is over, when we have to face the task of repatriating our soldiers and sailors, we must make the conservation of water the great question for Australia. Mr. Deakin asked us to think continentally on this subject, and others urged us to think Imperially. I care little for the choice of words, but we must consider it both Imperially and continentally, because we are fortunately placed as the only race that owns a continent ruled, broadly speaking, by the one set of laws, and inhabited by a people speaking . the one tongue. Our opportunities are great, and the responsibility placed on our shoulders to make the best use of the continent given into our charge is great in proportion. We should give the soldiers the greater privileges, for the honor they did to the country of their birth by offering to sacrifice their lives in its defence. We owe them everything we can do for them for fighting under the flag of liberty, not only for us, but for the whole world. It will be admitted that the war would have been won or lost, even if Australia had not existed, yet Australia, with its few thousand men - sent from its few millions of people - has done splendid work in the war. Here, within Australia, is a greater work ready to our hands, waiting to be done for humanity, than has been done even in this terrible conflict.
We can settle 500,000 men on the land or in various industries, if we carry out our promise to our own soldiers, and make good the invitation we gave, even previous to the war, to the people of white races to come here and settle. In order to be able to approach this question in its broadest aspect, I have obtained this contour map, through the kindness of Mr. Hunt, whom I take this opportunity of thanking for his invariable courtesy. A copy of this map is placed in front of the Town Hall, Melbourne, and I hope another will be placed in front of the Post Office, so that the citizens, passing by may see at a glance the immense possibilities of the Murray River Basin, and also of the Salt Lake Basin, of which the centre is Lake Eyre, in South Australia. That part some day, I believe, will be made a. magnificent source of fresh water supply, by saving and concentrating the rainfall. The Treasurer (Sir John Forrest), by a statesmanlike action, and with the assistance of that genius in hydraulic engineering (Mr. O’Connor), made it possible for the gold-fields of Western Australia to be supplied with water. I remind honorable members of that statue in Fremantle to his memory, which I compare to the statue of De Lesseps at the entrance of the Suez Canal, and if his end was enshrouded in pathos, may it not rivet his achievements on our memory ? The Treasurer has every reason to be proud of his association with that great undertaking in the interests of the WesternAustralian gold-fields, and I desire to see the same principle applied on a national scale for the repatriation of our soldiers.
We have been told that 40,000 of our fighting men desire to be settled on the land, and that the Government will make an advance of £500 for each soldier settler. This will represent a total of £20,000,000. But if it should be £100,000,000, or even £200,000,000, I would not care, provided we effectively settled the basin of the River Murray and its tributaries with a teeming population of prosperous settlers. We want to build more of such places as Leeton - that splendid garden city of New South Wales, the plans of which were drafted by that great architect, Mr. Griffin; we want to build more towns like Griffith - named after a New South Wales Minister - more Renmarks and more Milduras. Are honorable members aware that land at Mildura has reached a value, based on its returns, of £1,000 per acre? What is there to prevent land all along the Murray and its ‘tributaries from producing to the same extent? Australia to-day is a continent embroidered with coastal cities and settlements, with the exception of the far north and the north-west. Let us go into the interior, settle people in the River Murray basin, build there prosperous cities that will be the glory of this Commonwealth, and insure the success of those secondary industries known under the generic term of manufactures. This seems a policy eminently suited for our brave men who went to the Front to fight for their country. They have shown themselves to be possessed of the spirit of the pioneers, and it is fitting that their future life work should be in this sphere of activity. The rivalry of the future will be, not in the arts of war, but in the arts of peace, and progress will be made along the lines of commercial discoveries, making it possible to secure the maximum production from our land.
I desire to direct attention to the enormous waste being caused by the dredging system in some of our most fertile river valleys. Honorable members will, T know, appreciate the statement made by Professor N. S. Shaler, who, in his book Man and the Earth, astounded the world when he remarked on the tremendous waste caused by the rain washing the fertile soil of the ploughed ground to the brooks, to the rivers, and to the streams, there to be lost for ever. Whilst the waste from the soil washing to the sea is a slow, but sure, national calamity, it is negligible compared with the loss each year due to waste caused by lack of organized effort. In fact, if the workers were organized as a co-operative community, and taught the possible economies of work, there would be a saving of labour, besides which the cost of building dredges, operating a tremendous settling basin, and transporting the fertile soil back to the land from which it came, would be insignificant. Moreover, there would still be a surplus of labour more than sufficient to erect reservoirs in thousands, develop every water power in the country, and build and maintain enough wind engines to supply the heat, light, and power wants of mankind. I have no hesitation in saying that if Australia were organized in a scheme to assist our soldiers we would be able to insure the successful settlement of. the Murray Valley basin, which would become one of the most fertile areas in the world.
Let us look at the disposition of our population. In this respect Australia stands pre-eminently in the least desirable position of all the countries in the world. Melbourne contains 49 per cent, of the total population of Victoria, Sydney holds 41 per cent, of the people of New South Wales, Brisbane 24 per cent, pf the Queensland people, Adelaide 46.5 per cent, of South Australia’s population, Perth 3S per cent, of the people of Western Australia, Hobart 19 per cent, of all the people in Tasmania. Let us compare this with the percentage population in some of the principal cities of Europe. London contains 20 per cent, of the population of England, Brussels 8 per cent, of the Belgian population, Berlin contains only 3 per. cent, of the people in the mighty German Empire, Paris 7 per cent, of the people in France, Vienna 7 per cent, of the Austrian population, and Petrograd only 1.4 per cent, of the huge population of between 170,000,000 and 1S0,000,000 people comprising the Russian Empire.
The position in Australia cannot be regarded as healthy, and it should be our endeavour to make rural life as attractive as possible, so that this disparity between those engaged in rural pursuits and those employed in our secondary industries shall not be so marked in the future. In this respect Russia has accomplished wonderful results, for in Siberia she settled 21,000,000 serfs in rural occupations without the loss of a single life, and at a cost of only £300,000,000, the area allotted ito each family being between 30 and 40 acres. All country towns, as they were established, were supplied with all the necessary conveniences, including even the apothecary, the” blacksmith’s establishment, and the local hotel. 1 now ask honorable members to think of the result achieved in the highest epoch of the Anglo-Saxon race in America, where 4,000,000 slaves were freed at a cost of 500,000 human lives, and an expenditure of £1,500,000,000. This great civil war, moreover, did not settle one single family on the soil, but merely changed the status of the people from slavedom to that of wagedom, under which frequently they were obliged to beg from the farms or estates on which they had been reared.
Let us try ‘to emulate the noble example set to us by Russia, and let us see that the treatment meted out to our soldiers will be different from that experienced by them at the close of the South African war. The Government of the day promised that returned soldiers would be looked after, money was subscribed for that purpose, but the promise was vilely broken, and even now I understand there is in hand a sum of between £30,000 and £40,000 which should have been expended on the wives and children of those who suffered during that war. I was opposed to that war, and though I was called a pro-Boer, and gloried in it, I never dreamed that Great Britain, when she had her enemy helpless at her feet, would extend to them a greater freedom than they had ever enjoyed. The fruits of that policy are seen in the present war, in which a grateful people is now fighting on England’s side for the liberties of the world. The
Boers of South Africa have shown that they deserve to he trusted, and have written a glorious page in the annals of Great Britain. The promises made to our soldiers were not honoured when they returned from South’ Africa, but one man (Sir John Madden), to his honour, protested publicly against the violation of that undertaking. The promise in regard to the repatriation of our soldiers in this war is not a pledge by the Commonwealth Government only, but a pledge given by the whole of the States, and it is our duty to honour it. One is tempted to think that the soldiers after their free life at the Front, will not care for a “ cribb’d, cabin’d and confin’d “ life in the cities. Men have come back, and, to the honour of their employers, they were given their old positions, but they could not stay here. As soon as they felt the rich red blood pulsing in their veins, they went and volunteered again. They said, “When we return, we must go on the land; we must have a wider life than we had here previously.”
The problem of making large areas within Australia immune from drought is a difficult one, because of the scarcity of water supply. If we take an area which includes portions of four States, say, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and which is known as the Murray Basin, we find the Murray, the Darling, the Murrumbidgee, and all their tributaries flowing through it.
That is shown in detail on the map to which I have referred. But nothing can really show the eye or prove to the brain of man the splendid opportunities we have in the Murray Basin. Take the area from the Burrinjuck to the Darling, with all its tributaries, going away into Queensland on a level with Bundaberg, and coming back to the Murray. It has been proved by actual gaugings that only onesixteenth of the water which goes into the Murray reaches the sea. What becomes of the balance? It must go somewhere. It is ‘percolating into the depths of Australia, and our duty is to try to save the water which Is now lost.
The rivers I have mentioned constitute Australia’s largest arterial system. I find that in this area, there are 7,400,000 acres of irrigable land, which it is the duty of the States and the Commonwealth to utilize efficiently by conserving and distributing the waters. The Commonwealth has already voted the sum of £1,000,000 for this purpose. Here let me quote from the report of the Inter-State Royal Commission on the River Murray in 1902.
Referring to a report to President Roosevelt on this very subject, the Commission say, on page 28 -
The Secretary of the Interior, in his report to the President, of November, 1901, said, “In my report for 1900, attention was drawn to the importance of providing, through wise administration, for the creation of homes for millions of people upon the arid but fertile public lands.”
It is an ascertained fact that arid lands become the most fertile once water is supplied. In Egypt, for instance, one sees life on one side where water is supplied to the land, and absolute death on the other side where the sands of the desert are not supplied with water. “ There is no function within the power of the Government higher than that of making possible the creation of prosperous homes.” In his speech at Minneapolis, Mr. Roosevelt , said, “ Throughout our country, the success of the home maker has been but another name for the up building of the nation.” President Roosevelt, in his message to Congress, delivered 3rd December, 1901, made some statements that well deserve quoting. He said, “ In the arid region, it is water, and not land, which measures production. The western half of the United States would sustain a population greater than that of our whole country to-day if the waters that now run to waste were’ saved and used for irrigation. Great storage works ore necessary to equalize the flow of streams, and to save the flood waters. Their construction has been shown to be an undertaking too vast for private effort. Nor can it be best accomplished by the individual States acting alone. Far-reaching Inter-State problems are involved, and the resources of single States would often be inadequate. It is properly a national function, at least in some of its features. It is as right for the National Government to make the streams and rivers of the arid region useful by engineering works of water storage as to make useful the rivers and harbors of the humid region by engineering of another kind. The reclamation and settlement of the arid lands will enrich every portion of our country. It would be unwise to begin by doing too much, for a great deal will doubtless be learned both as to what can and what cannot be safely attempted, by the early efforts, which must of necessity be partly experimental in character. No reservoir or canal should ever be built to satisfy selfish, personal, or local interests, but only in accordance with the advice of trained experts, after long investigation has shown the locality where all the conditions combine to make the work most needed, and fraught with the greatest usefulness to the community as a whole. There should be no extravagance, and the believers in the need of irrigation will most benefit their cause by seeing to it that it is free from the least taint of excessive or reckless expenditure of public money.”
That quotation will justify the appointment of our Inter-State Commission, so as to have the work carried out by a central body comprising the best brains we can obtain in order to get the benefits of Scientific thought and work.
There are a number of catchments “ within the Murray Basin which have been investigated by the hydraulic engineer - one at Burrinjuck is approaching completion, and already provides for the Murrumbidgee main canal to irrigate the settlements at Leeton and Griffith. All students of the water question are pleased to note that the work being done at these two settlements by the New South Wales Government is likely to be a great success ; and that a number of soldiers could be settled on these blocks. When this canal is enlarged as proposed, it will supply 200,000 acres, and when the areas are fully settled, they will accommodate 100,000 people.
When the areas are fully settled it is estimated that there will be nearly 6,000 farms and 100,000 people. With the aid of irrigation the soils and climate of these areas are suitable for the production of apricots, peaches, nectarines, prunes, pears, plums, almonds, melons, cantaloups, and all kinds of citrus fruits, also wine and table grapes, raisins, sultanas, figs, olives, and most varieties of vegetables. There is every probability that the cultivation of such fruits as the apple and the walnut will be attended with success. Other products include wheat and. oats, hay, maize, lucerne, and fodder crops, such as sorghum, maize, and millet. Dairying, pig-raising, mixed farming, and ostrich farming are already being successfully undertaken by settlers in the areas.
The Mumimbidgee Irrigation Act, passed in December, 1910, constituted a Trust for the administration of the scheme, and provided the necessary authority for the acquisition of land, construction of improvements, levying rates, and generally for administering the irrigation areas and work. This Act was repealed in December, 1912, and the whole scheme is now under the control of the -Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission.
The lands acquired for irrigation under the provisions of the Act include the North Yanco Estate, the Gogeldrie holding, and various f holdings in the Brobenah and Mirrool Creek districts - the total area resumed to 30th June, 1915, being about 322,000 acres, at an estimated cost of £865,585.
The first area made available for settlement was in the vicinity of Yanco Siding, on the
Hay railway line. The second, which is situated on the northern side of the Mirrool Creek, will be served by an extension of the railway from Barellan, which is now practically completed.
Farms have been made available varying in size from 2 acres to .200 acres. The smaller farms - 2 acres to 15 acres - are intended for the farm labourer, the vegetable grower, the small orchardist, and, in some cases, the business nian of the adjoining towns. The “ water right “ or number of “ acre- feet “ of water allotted to each holding is definitely specified when a sub-division is notified. An “ acre foot “ means such a quantity of water, 12 inches deep, as would cover an area of one acre. The cost of water is 5s. per acre foot, and additional . water may be obtained at a similar rate. The 50-acrc f arm is the largest “ all-irrigable “ unit, but to suit the requirements of dairymen and other stock farmers, blocks of larger areas are being made available. These comprise non-irrigable or “ dry “ areas, iri addition to the irrigable portion to which is attached a statutory water right. Some of these mixed farms are 200 acres or upwards in extent.
Areas of non-irrigable or “ dry “ lands are made available for the depasturing of stock, or for wheat growing, and these will be leased either as additional holdings for the individual, or, in some cases, as commons for the joint use of groups of settlers.
The conditions for the disposal of irrigation blocks are contained in the Crown Lands Consolidation Act of 1913, and the Crown Lands and Irrigation (Amendment) Act of 1914. Any male over the age of sixteen years, or female over eighteen years (other than a married woman not living apart from her husband under decree of judicial separation), or two or more such persons jointly, may apply for a farm or block. A married woman, not judicially separated from her husband, may, however; if she be not subject to any other statutory -disqualification::, (a) acquire by way of transfer, with the consent of the Minister, out nf her own moneys, a lease within an irrigation area; (6) continue to hold a lease which she held before, her marriage; (o) hold a lease which may devolve on her by will or intestacy of a deceased person. The tenure is perpetual leasehold.
The improvement conditions attached to the farm holdings include fencing, planting of trees for windbreaks, construction of dwellings, destruction of noxious plants, and the cultivation if a specified area in each year.
The assistance granted to settlers is both practical and liberal. Aid is given in connexion with the erection of homesteads, barns, and outbuildings, the degree of assistance varying according to the size of the holding. Eepayments for assistance in this direction may be spread over twelve years. Assistance is also granted for the construction of head ditches, grading, and also such agricultural work as is necessary thereto, and, up to a limit varying with the size of the block, the cost is repayable on terms; repayments for this form of assistance may bo spread over a period of ten yeaTS. Fencing posts are available for purchase on ten years’ terms. Fruit trees and vinos may be purchased from the Government Nursery. The terms of repayment for these have been determined, having regard to the period which will elapse beforethe settler obtains revenue from his orchard work. Lucerne seed is supplied during a settlor’s first planting season on terms, to a maximum value of £10, according to the settler’s requirements, and limited assistance is also given in connexion with the purchase of horses for farm work. A settler who may adopt dairying as a “ pot-boiler,” whilst fruit trees or vines are coming into bearing, or as a permanent revenue producer, is assisted in the purchase of dairy stock. The amount of help given depends, inter alia, on the quantity of planted feed a settler has in sight. A deposit is payable in respect of each cow purchased, the payment of the balance being by monthly instalments spread over two years. Pedigree bulls may be leased. Machinery and implements may be hired up to the limit of the Commissioner’s plant. The Government Savings Bank Commissioners have statutory power to make loans upon mortgage of irrigation farm leases; many settlers have already obtained help from the hank. The actual terms on which assistance is granted by the Commission are subject to alteration as may be deemed necessary, but the information given above outlines the system at present adopted. Concessions in railway fares and freights are made on the New South Wales railways to bona fide applicants for land. The annual charge for water (5s. per acre foot) is reduced to one-half for the first year, and is then increased yearly by sixpence per acre foot, so that a settler is not required to pay the full charge until he is in the sixth year of occupation.
Townships have been established at centres of the Yanco and Mirrool areas; the Commissioner is empowered to construct streets, and to provide water supply, sanitary and other services.
A butter factory, equipped with the. latest plant and with the capacity for dealing with the product of 10,000 cows, has been established. Cash payments are there made monthly for cream supplied by the settlers, who are thus assured of an immediate and regular income, and placed in the position to turn their attention to other forms of farming, if they so desire. A vegetable and fruit canning factory has also been provided, at which vegetables and fruits grown by the settlers are purchased from them. ‘ A bacon factory and abattoirs also have been erected, and although their operations are at the present time being confined to slaughtering for the butchers operating in the district, and bacon curing, they may, as the settlement develops, be extended to include also the chilling of fat lambs for the local or export market. It is felt that for some years to come the plant will be capable of dealing not only with the pigs produced on the settlement, but with considerable numbers from districts in the Riverina outside the irrigation areas.
The Mirrool settlement being situated over 30 miles from Leeton, settlers carrying on dairying there have been under great disadvantages owing to the difficulty attending the transport of cream. To obviate this, a small cheese factory has been opened at Mirrool. Experiments already carried out have proved that a good marketable cheese can be produced on the irrigation areas. As an adjunct to the canning factory, a pulping plant also has been installed at Mirrool, the idea being to forward the pulp to the central cannery for working up during the slack season.
One of the most important departmental undertakings on the irrigation areas is undoubtedly the State Nursery. For some years past the Leeton Nursery has been supplying trees to settlers, and this year a second nursery is being established at Mirrool. Every effort is made to supply only the very best trees, free from disease, and, to insure this, as much use as possible is being made of budding wood from proven trees in the Leeton Nursery, and at the Yanco Experiment Farm.
A State Experiment Farm and an Official Vegetable Experiment Plot are in operation, and various commercial crops are also tested on settlers’ farms as to their suitability for local cultivation. The methods of treatment and the marketing of the different products are being investigated, and the experience thus gained is at the disposal of settlers, free information and instruction being afforded by the Government officials on all agricultural matters and irrigation methods.. An electric powerhouse has been erected near Yanco Siding; electric light and power are supplied to the business people, and are available for settlers when the number of applicants warrants the connexions being made.
On the 31st December, 1915, 881 farms were held, representing a total area of 40,546 acres. The revenue payable by these farms for rent and water rates is £28,147.
In addition, 118 township and village blocks are in occupation, the annualrentals for which aggregate £1,071, while 272 miles of roads, 305 miles of reticulation channels and 217 miles of drains have been constructed. In the matter of cultivation, the following particulars indicate the extent of the work performed by the settlers: - One thousand two hundred acres under stone fruits, 225 under vines, 327 under citrus fruits, 2,210 under lucerne, 10,350 under other fodder crops, and 450 acres under vegetables. The estimated population of the irrigation area is about 5,000 persons, and the production this season is estimated at a gross value of £100,000.
The construction of the proposed Murrumhidgee southern main canal, which will be fed by waters collected at Burrinjuck Reservoir, and the construction at the head waters of the Murray of two or more storages for impounding the winter rains, and then distributing them along the proposed Murray main canal, would irrigate the lands in Southern Riverina. According to Mr.Elwood Mead, the great authority whom we borrowed from America, 300,000 families could be settled on the land irrigated from the Burrinjuck Reservoir, when the latter is completed.
Another recommendation is to provide from the Murray storage watersto augment the Goulburn Weir by a canal running from the Murray to the weir. The Victorian Government are now enlarging the cubic capacity of the Waranga Reservoir, and eventually water will gravitate therefrom to the town of Brim, in the Northern Wimmera. This water supply, when completed, will provide for closer settlement and limited irrigation. There are other schemes, such as the Tooleybuc proposal for tapping the Murray a few miles north of Swan Hill, and watering the greater portion of the Mallee. This Tooleybuc proposal would provide water for stock and domestic purposes, but not for irrigation. Some years ago it was advocated boring the Mallee to augment the water supply, and there can be no doubt most of the Mallee can be watered from the sub-artesian supply of the hydraulic grade. As far as the Darling is concerned, irrigation can only be accomplished by pumping, and at best would be only limited. This river should be locked, and every drop of the flood water accounted for, and the surplus diverted to fill the many lakes which lie between Wilcannia and Wentworth. The following catchments have been explored at the head waters of the Lachlan : -The head waters of the Macquarie, the head waters of the Hunter, Namoi, and the Peel Rivers; but there are many other catchments in the mountain ranges still to be investigated, particularly at the sources of streams in the humid areas, where the rainfall is 30 inches and upwards. The diversion of waters where the rainfall is from 30 inches to 40 inches or over to streams conveying water to areas where the rainfall is 15 inches, appears to me to be an imperative necessity for the complete population of the Murray Basin; but these mountain reservoirs are not within the present scope of practicability. I merely point out the possibility, in my anxiety to show that every drop of water that falls in Australia should be accounted for. It might interest honorable members to know that of all the rain which falls in the Murray Basin which is collected in the catchment and flows along the river courses, only one-sixteenth of it reaches the Southern Ocean. This is proved by gauging at tie Murray mouths. Consequently, fifteen-sixteenths of the Murray Basin rainfall goes somewhere, and the question is, where? When the engineers tested two sites at Dora Dora and Wagra, the diamond drill proved that solid rock could only be obtained at Dora Dora 144 feet from the surface, and 205 feet at Wagra, showing the possibilities of percolation of the waters there to feed subterranean channels for some sub-artesian or even artesian supplies. The great Australian Artesian Basin has a greater area than the Murray Basin, which is as large as France and Spain combined. In other words, the great Australian Artesian Basin measures 569,000 square miles. It is the greatest artesian basin in the world, and has been tapped by thousands of bores. Queensland members know of its great potentialities.
– Near Walgett, they sank through more than 1,200 feet before striking the rock.
Dr. MALONEY.That, possibly, is the greatest proved depth of soil in the world. I have touched lightly on what, next to the settlement of this war and the securing of peace, is the most important matter that we have to consider. Terrible as the present deluge of blood is, it would be a bagatelle to that which would occur if ever there were a contest between the East and the West. In my opinion, the race which ultimately holds this continent - which at present is almost barren of population - will, whatever may be its colour, dominate the world. Europe and America are subject to the white races; and Asia, the largest continent in the world, as well as Africa, is dominated by men of coloured races. Australia is the last heritage on this rock that we call the earth, of the teeming millions that are to come. Who can look into the future and say what race will, in the long run, hold Australia ? Who can say what is in the lap of the gods so far as this country is concerned? When the Homeland called to her children for help in this, the greatest war the world has ever seen, she did not call in vain, and Australia was not found lacking. This country, to its eternal honour, has done more than Canada, more than South Africa, and more than Hew Zealand; but, great as have been her achievements in war, how much greater will be her honour if, when peace comes again, she can hold out her arms in wide welcome to the inhabitants of the four little Kingdoms which, like a four-leaved shamrock, decorate the Northern Sea ; and how much greater shall we be in the future if we welcome them, not only in thousands, but ultimately in millions, and settle them on the fertile Murray River basin, which, when tapped by the genius of man, will support huge populations. There are reservoirs beneath this Australian soil of ours far greater than man could build, with walls thicker than the genius of man has ever conceived, and in them, are stored immense quantities of water. Some scientists have thought that the immense mountains of India form a catchment area for water which percolates through- strata underlying the Indian Ocean, until it reappears in Australia. I understand that this opinion is beginning to be modified, but it is worthy of mention. It may be that the genius of the white race inhabiting Australia will, in the future, make use of the snow and ice that now lies unused on the top of the high mountains in Papua, and, bringing it under the sea which separates this country from New Guinea, and has a depth of only from 40 to 60 feet, will make it available for the irrigation of our dry country. That, as an engineering achievement, would be as great in comparison with anything that has yet been attempted, as was the conveying of water to the gold-fields of Western Australia over a distance of 400 miles, greater than anything previously attempted. It may be, too, that, by a breach in the low ridge below the depression -known as the Gulf of Carpentaria, water will be brought into Lake Eyre, which, at present, like all lakes from which there is no outlet, is salt. Future Australians may see the centre of this country in a condition similar to that in which, according to Professor Spencer, the natives of Australia once behold it, with trees growing again on the margin of the lake, and large animals - the existence of which in former times is proved by their fossil remains - inhabiting country that now is mostly arid, except when the winter rains fill the depressions.
.- I welcome the Bill, and am sorry that Parliament has not been able to consider it earlier, so that the repatriation scheme might be nearer adoption. Splendid attempts at repatriation were made in the beginning by honorable members of this
House, and certain private’ individuals, and these were supplemented by a parliamentary appropriation of £250,000; but it soon became apparent that the question was too big for private control. While some districts might provide well for the returned men whom they had sent to the war, in others, returned soldiers would not be so well treated; and, to secure that all returned men shall be on an equal footing in this matter, repatriation has been taken up by the nation. This is an extremely, wide and complex matter, which can be dealt with adequately only by the National Parliament. The scheme is one of which the country should be proud; and I trust that the result may equal our fondest hopes. We are considering a unique proposal, nothing of the kind having been attempted before. It was said after the’ South African war that the promises made to those who had gone to represent Australia were not fulfilled, and it is the determination of our people that that shall not be said after this war. It may not be possible to do all that we . wish to do, but the country should do all that it can for those who, at the risk of life and limb, have maintained our national safety. I do not agree with those who take exception to the Bill because the Government scheme of repatriation is not outlined on its face.- I do not see how it it possible to lav down a definite scheme in a matter which is so varied, which is likely to have so many new phases from time to time, and of which we have very little practical knowledge. It must be left to .administration - earnest, clever, and, above all, sympathetic. It will take Ministers all their time to find a man with sufficient ability and qualifications to carry out their scheme and administer it as it should be administered. The Government propose to have a Central Commission of seven members, with a Commonwealth Minister as chairman; a Board of seven members in each State, and district committees, which will be intrusted with work in certain localities. The members of these Boards will do their work voluntarily, and where possible, returned soldiers will be appointed. The scheme seems to me to be about as good as can be expected at the present time. The speech delivered by Senator Millen in outlining the scheme shows that a great deal of attention, intelligence, and sympathy has already been brought to bear upon it.
The object of this Bill is to restore our returned, soldiers, wherever possible, to the positions they previously held in civil life, and various schemes are outlined whereby men who have been disabled and are not able to perform the work in which they were previously engaged may be set up in such a way as to enable them to earn their living in other callings. This is very necessary, because if our returned soldiers are not able to follow occupations they will be compelled to live on their pensions, and in this way will not be such a valuable asset to the country as they would be if they are able to pursue some calling. Senator Millen has proposed various means by which our soldiers, when they return, may be rendered capable of following different occupations - for instance, curative workshops, which will be attached to hospitals, and artificial limb factories. There will also be an attempt to establish industries not already fully in operation in Australia, for which there should be plenty of scope.. An attempt will be made to establish a system of what is called reserve employment - that is to say, men will be employed at some occupation which will keep them going until they find something . at which they wish to settle down permanently. Forestry work and employment on the Murray River locking scheme are suggested as good stop-gaps in this connexion. But at this juncture we cannot expect any further details than Senator Millen has outlined in his speech.
While I do not agree with all that I have heard in the chamber to-day in respect to land- settlement, I hope that the Commonwealth will be able to get some guarantee that when the States choose the land it will be suitable for the men for whom it is intended, and that great care will be taken to see that the men chosen to settle on the land will be suitable for work upon it.
– We can express a pious hope, but we can do nothing more.
– There will be a good chance of making the returned soldiers suitable for land settlement, because training schools are to be established, to the cost of which the Commonwealth and the States are to contribute equally. If a man wishes to become an orchardist and does rot know anything about) fruit growing he can attend a training school until he is fit to run an orchard. If a man is not sufficiently expert at agricultural work, he can attend a training school and be taught farming. Many of our returned soldiers have had little to do with work on the land, but it will be hard to. keep them off it if they desire to become farmers. Their interests, as well as those of the Stale, will be better conserved, if they are compelled to go into training schools to learn the business of farming before they actually launch out for themselves. Provision is made for this in the Bill. The matter of dealing with the land should be left in the hands of the States, so long as we are guaranteed that suitable land will be obtained for the men, and that great care will be taken to see that the men are fitted for the occupation in which they are to engage. If this is done the scheme should be attended with success.
– The great disadvantage is that uniformity will not be secured. We should have passed our measure first, and then the States could have passed similar legislation.
– It is hard to arrive at uniformity, or to lay down a hard and fast rule, when dealing with such a complex matter. We must feel our way as we go along. If this scheme is to be successful, it will be achieved by elasticity rather than by rigidity in the Statute under which it is administered. Elasticity will enable the administration to adapt itself to new phases as they arise from day to day and from week to week. It will be a long time before all the men will be returned to our shores, and we shall learn from day to day how best to adapt the scheme to cases which have to be met. To lay down hard and fast lines and say that the men must conform to this or must conform to that would be like sending- a man to a tailor and allowing the latter to make the man fit the suit instead of compelling him to make the suit fit the man. Failure is likely to follow the laying down of hard and fast lines. We must meet circumstances as they arise. So long as the State authorities work earnestly and sympathetically with us in this matter, we should leave as much as we can to them, because they have the necessary machinery already in existence for dealing with land matters. In any case, the repatriation of our soldiers is as much the business of the States .as it is the business of the
Commonwealth. It is the duty of the whole community to see that repatriation is a success, not only in order to make reparation to those men who have taken such great risks on our behalf, but also because the more soldiers that are reestablished and become prosperous in good positions in civil life the better asset they will be to the community. Whatever the land settlement scheme will cost, the country will get its money back.
– Some of the land speculators will get the most of it.
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment or two. If we stimulate production, we shall secure a return for the money we put into the land. If we find blocks suitable for the men to go on, and if the men are actually able to pay for them in time, it will be so much the better for them and so much the better for the community, but it will be the duty not only of the Commonwealth Government, but also of the State Governments and of every individual in the community, to see that that end is attained.
While the matter of repatriation has been taken out of private hands, the Government still desire that private work shall be continued, in order to supplement the Government activities. The extension of the scheme to Local Committees should stimulate local interest in repatriation work, and may induce many private people to help in anything the Government may do. At any rate there is nothing in the Bill to prevent this except, perhaps, that the Government require that the money raised in any particular district must not be spent on particular men in the district, but must be fairly spread over the returned soldiers belonging to that district. That seems to me to be a fair proposition.
The honorable member for Melbourne Port’s (Mr. Mathews) has interjected that land speculators will do well out of this land settlement scheme. If we have not learned anything from previous schemes that have been attempted in the various States, his statement will be only too true; but surely we have learned from the various inquiries and commissions that have sat in connexion with land schemes in Australia sufficient to avoid the pitfalls and dangers that beset the path of a Government which goes out to buy land.
I believe that those dangers can be avoided if due care is taken. As soon as the Government agents go to work with a large amount of money for the purchase of land in any district up will go the price of land. We cannot expect the returned soldiers to go upon the land, no matter how good it is, if it is overburdened with capital charges from the start. They must be given a reasonable .prospect of making a success of their business.
An important feature of the scheme are the proposals for dealing with apprentices. Many men, who had served a portion of their apprenticeship before they left for the Front, are incapacitated for further following that occupation on their return. It will be a very difficult problem to fit such men for some other occupation at which they can be expected to make a living. It will be an extremely sad state of affairs if men who could have learnt an occupation by which to supplement their pensions are left to idle about with no income but the small amount they receive from the Government. The Minister is seriously striving to avoid that undesirable consequence, and I hope he will succeed. Another problem relates to the apprentice who, having discontinued his apprenticeship in order to go to the war, desires to resume practically at the point he would have reached had he remained constantly in his position. Yet he is not skilful enough at his trade to earn the money he would have been receiving in the ordinary course of events. The Government propose to make good the difference between what the man was earning before he went to the Front, and what he would have been earning had his apprenticeship been continuous. That proposal is all right so far as it goes, but it will require to be operated with great care. Mr. Hart, of the Workingmen’s College, points out that there will be a danger, unless the apprentice receives sound training at a technical school, or some other institution of the kind, of doing. both him and the country an injury. He may be content to draw the money which the Government will pay him, and not attempt to make himself efficient, whereas if he were properly handled he could be developed into a fully qualified craftsman. I hope the Government will give consideration to Mr. Hart’s advice. The Leader of the Opposition expressed a fear that the employers will take advantage of this provision in order to interfere with’ industrial conditions, and he stated that some employers are attempting to do that now. If that is so, I hope that some means1 of restraining or punishing such employers will be found.
In regard to the repatriation problem generally, Australia seems to be rising to the occasion, and I believe that if everybody can be induced to do his ,part we shall make a great success of the scheme. We must not be disheartened if we make mistakes. We are out on an uncharted sea, and with such vast problems confronting us it is not to be expected that we shall invariably do the right thing at the first attempt. When the soldiers realize what is being attempted for their benefit, they will do all they can to make the scheme a success, and with Parliament’s earnestness in the matter we may expect to achieve big results. Notwithstanding what was said by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and others, this Parliament will be able to take a big hand in the work, and will be in very close touch with all that is being done. . The scheme will be financed by this Parliament, and we shall not vote money month after month, and year after year, without knowing how the work is progressing. As time passes this Parliament ought to become very well acquainted with the whole ramifications of repatriation work. My only fear is that the States may desire to operate the land settlement too much- according to their own ideas, and not in full co-operation with the Commonwealth. But so long as the States co-operate with’ us and carry out the scheme as this Parliament intends we need not worry about the fact of so much of the work being intrusted to the -States. If suitable land is selected the main difficulty will have been overcome, and if we place the right man on the right block we shall establish an asset for the country, and the community will get its money back in time. We cannot expect more than that. This scheme has been unduly delayed, but the present outline contains possibilities of a great success. In Senator Millen we have the right man to administer the new Department. He is well acquainted with the various phases of Australian life, his ability is undoubted, and I am certain that he has an earnest desire to do his best for the men who have done so much for us.
.- The nature of this measure offers very little scope for other than a debate upon general principles. In the skeleton put before us, no opportunity is afforded for close attention to details. Necessarily, the discussion must be general in character, and I think that every honorable member can approach the subject without airy trace of party feeling, remembering only that, in regard to this subject, we are members, not of a political party, but of the Australian Parliament.
– That should be so always.
– It would be a good thing if it were so, and one can only hope that the day will come when party divisions will melt away, and some better political system will be instituted. The dominant factor in the mind of every honorable member will be the sense of our responsibility to the men who have gone abroad to fight. Therefore, the whole matter of repatriation must be dominated by the one consideration that we are doing justice to the men, and are not making any pretence of offering them charity. My fear is that, through the red-tape, machine-like methods of our Government Departments, this repatriation scheme may develop into a sort of pensions system, or charity administration. Such a state of affairs would be very reprehensible and I hope we shall be able to avoid it to a large extent. When we invited men to enlist, very lavish and profuse promises were made as to what we should do for them while they were away; what we should do for their dependants who were left behind, and what we should do for the men when they returned. Soon we shall be asked to deliver the goods. Already about 30,000 men have returned.
– Twenty-five thousand men have been discharged.
– I do not think we can feel any particular satisfaction in regard to our methods of dealing with the men who have already returned. Our repatriation machinery ought to have been in order by this time; but such arrangements as do exist for disposing of the various funds, which have been so generously contributed by the people, and have been under the control of the Pensions Department, have left very much undone that ought to have been done, and have done much that, ought not to have been done. Now we are setting out on a bigger -scheme - not something in the nature of an immediate proposal, but something which will establish and perpetuate in concrete form evidence of our intention to be true to our promises, and to be honest towards the soldiers.
This repatriation business looms larger the more one thinks of it. In a general way, we freely recognise it as a duty ; but, when we come to consider its application and operation, we find ourselves confronted with some very serious and peculiar difficulties. I, for one, am prepared to give the Government every considera”tion, and a great amount of latitude, in seeking to establish such a scheme as is now proposed. We are sailing across an uncharted sea ; we are experimenting with something that has. never been tried before.
– We have had a couple of years of experience.
– Neither this nor any other country has yet faced a repatriation proposal, and we have nothing to guide us in launching this system.
– The treatment of disabled men in the Old -Country furnishes a very valuable experience.
– There have always been schemes for the treatment of disabled soldiers, but we can find no satisfaction in recalling them. Our most recent experience was that gained in dealing with the men who returned from the Boer war. I should be very sorry if the experience of the men who served the Empire in that war, on returning to Australia, were repeated in this case.
The people have subscribed most liberally, and thousands of pounds have been raised. I saw a list of questions that were submitted to returned soldiers on their return from South Africa, and to which they were invited to provide replies when seeking assistance from the funds provided. Speaking from memory, there were about thirty-four questions - questions which had no concern whatever with the work in which the man had been engaged. They related to the position of his father and mother. He was asked where they were born; when they came to this country; what money they had in the bank; whether their lives were insured; what property they possessed ; and many other questions. The position I take up is that these men have rendered a service to the country, and are entitled to consideration and recognition irrespective of their social or financial position, or that of their parents or relatives.
Our experience in regard to previous wars - I do not refer to those wars in which Australia has been specially engaged - has not been very commendable. We read a good deal about the glory of the British arms, and of the splendid victories of our troops. We hear fine eulogies of the officers and men,, but when the war is over the men are forgotten. Nothing in the past has been more pathetic than the spectacle of crippled soldiers struggling, if not begging, for a living, or having to pawn their decorations to find the wherewithal for food.
It shows that the world, after all, is advancing when we in this country are realizing that there’ ought to be something more than that for old and disabled soldiers. If Australia in this matter can give a lead to other countries so much the better for our credit. Australia, in submitting a scheme of repatriation, has, perhaps, opportunities that few countries possess. We have vast reaches of idle land. We have new industries to build up. We have far from overtaken our own internal requirements in most of the industries we have. There are fields for expansion - opportunities for extension - in every direction. I question whether any country could found a repatriation scheme more easily than Australia. I think, therefore, that the patriotism of the people of the Commonwealth will find a very useful salutary and happy outlet in this repatriation proposal.
It is provided in the Bill that the various Repatriation Funds that have been so far collected shall be merged in the one general repatriation scheme, but there is a provision that moneys collected locally may be retained to an extent for local purposes. Senator Millen, who introduced this Bill in the Senate, stated that £109,355 had been collected, and that with the Government’s contribution of £250,000, they had thus a total of £359,355. .
– That is only in respect of the central fund.
– Yes. We know that there have been a number of collections in local centres for this purpose, and with these it is not proposed to interfere. My feeling is that immediately the Government undertake the financial arrangements for repatriation, voluntarism with re- gard to the finding of finances will almost, if not entirely, cease. There will be little or no inducement for local patriotic or charitable effort since those who give in that way will have to submit to a double dose, so to speak, having regard to the taxation which tlie Commonwealth will have to impose in order to raise the money required for this purpose. I do not think the Government need worry themselves very much as to the voluntary contributions that may flow into the fund after this scheme is launched. We shall have to depend upon taxation either to find the money itself or to find interest on the money.
I am entirely opposed to the proposal to borrow for repatriation purposes. Nothing could be more insulting to the soldiers themselves than to tell them that we are prepared to borrow to assist them, and that they must hel p in paying interest on and in the- repayment of that borrowed money. That is a position in which no returned soldier should find himself. He should not be asked to join with others to repay what has been borrowed to assist him.
– He is, practically, asked to repatriate himself.
– Yes. He is asked to do what he could do better by himself and for himself. I believe the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League, if organized on a repatriation ‘ basis, could handle and finance such a scheme .on its own financial stability in these circumstances with better results than could be expected from the circumlocutory methods which are, unfortunately, attachable always to Government Departments. If the returned soldiers are not going to be freed in some way from financial responsibility with regard to- the repayment of this money it is unfair. The whole principle of borrowing money for repatriation is unsound. I believe the people are expecting and ready to pay taxation in such measure as to enable them to fulfil their promises to the men, and thus to do honour to themselves.
Coming to the proposals for the administration of this system, I have various objections to the scheme as outlined, i approve entirely, however, of the appointment of a Minister to supervise it. I do not think that any one can possibly envy the Minister his position.
Mr.- Mcwilliams. - If there had been a Minister in charge of repatriation in the last twelve months there would have been three changes of Ministers. That is a fatal blot.
– There must be at the head of this scheme some one who will be responsible to the Parliament and to the people.
– We must have a permanent head, who will be a link between the Commission and the Parliament.
– Exactly . This Parliament should not relax its hold upon the repatriation scheme.
I have some objections to offer to the constitution of the Commission. Under the Bill the Commission is to hold officeduring the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral. Senator Millen, in introducing the Bill in another place, stated that the Commission would be composed of private citizens, and that he had already received quite a large number of offers from people who were qualified to serve upon it. The constitution of this Commission will be the first .thing that will either give the citizens and the returned soldiers confidence in the scheme, or, on tlie other hand, will make them think that it is a political move - that it is either an employers’ or an economic move. All sorts of suspicions will attach to it, and the Government cannot proceed too carefully in the appointment of the members of the Commission. I object, therefore, to the appointment of the persons to serve on this Commission during the pleasure of the Governor-General. A man having been appointed, it will not be very easy to get rid of him, should he be careless in the performance of his duty or unsatisfactory to the people. I should be prepared to see the members of the Commission appointed for a specified time with the right, if honorable members desire, to re-appointment at the end of the term if satisfactory.
– A man might prove unsatisfactory before his term had expired.
– It would be much easier to displace him at the end of his term than to retire him if he were appointed during the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral, which would practically mean for life.
– But the positions are to be honorary.
– I am aware of that. I presume it is intended that the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League shall have a representative on the
Commission, and also a representative on each State Board. That is most essential^ The league should be invited to appoint its representative to the Commission ‘in its own way, and for such term as it desires. The term of his appointment should be entirely a matter for it and not for the Government to determine.
There should also be two ladies on the Commission. I quite expected that statement to be greeted with a laugh. There are special reasons why there should be ladies on this Commission. If for nothing else than the recognition of the magnificent services that the women of Australia have rendered in connexion with this war, they deserve to be represented on the Commission. There is the still stronger reason that the Bill proposes to deal, not only with returned soldiers, but with the widows and children of deceased soldiers, and also the wives and children of incapacitated soldiers. It is, unfortunately, all too true that, however willing and sympathetic men may be in regard to women’s affairs, we have to recognise that in dealing with women and children we want to get the women’s point of view more than we have done.
– We shall get the women’s point of view from the Local Committees.
– I fancy that women always prefer to be judged by men.
– I do not think that the laws on the statute-books of the world, in regard to the treatment of women, are very satisfactory or eulogistic of the attitude of men. If women had direct representation, there would be a difference in the laws, which discriminate against them in the most unfair way. It is suggested, by way of interjection, that we shall get the women’s point of view from the Local Committees; and I hope that we shall. I hope that lady inspectors will be employed to investigate cases, and, further, that, both on the State Boards and the Local Committees, there will be lady representatives. Do honorable members for one moment suggest that the women of this country have neither the intellectual capacity nor the administrative ability to occupy a position on a State Board? The answer to that question is to be found in the Red Cross and other patriotic organizations that are being managed almost entirely by women.
This is the answer to any suggestion that they lack the administrative ability, patriotic fervour, or genius necessary in representatives on this Commission.
I hope that the Commission is not going to be a Victorian body. The Minister, I notice, suggested that the members of the Commission need not be paid, because they will not be required, or expected; to devote very much of their time to the work. To my mind, that discloses a weak spot in the system. If this repatriation business is simply going to be a sort of side line, it means that a few Victorian gentlemen, with, perhaps, one or two from New South Wales, are to be the Commission, and that they will occasionally meet to ratify the decisions of the Minister, and the suggestions of the Director. That is not what this Parliament requires. We require men, and, I hope, women, who will devote themselves to the work, making it the leading feature, though not necessarily the only feature, of their lives, and giving it enough time and attention to insure that it is well done. If it is to be left to the Minister and Director, and the Commission is simply to be a sort of advisory body, with no power of veto, and very little of suggestion, we might as well allow the Minister and Director to take full charge and responsibility, while we in Parliament expressed our views on those occasions when they came to us for money.
– Why does the honorable member speak of the “Director”?
– The “Director” does not appear in the Bill, but there is to be one, as the permanent head of the new Department to be created. I see no reason why, in addition to the Minister, there should not be a member of this House on the Commission. We are charged, particularly, with the financial responsibility, and the Government of the day ought to appoint a member of the House of Representatives to be deputychairman of the Commission. The enormous variety of cases, and the multiplicity of matters that will have to be looked after, demand that there shall be, in either House, a man in close touch with the work who can be appealed to at firsthand when we are discussing repatriation questions. Let me give a simple illustration. Over and over again, complaints have been made in this House that the Minister for Defence occupies a seat in another place. His is a huge spending Department, and it has been repeatedly admitted, when Defence matters were under consideration, that the Minister for Defence ought to be in this House. Of course, we could get over that difficulty, if we were not so unfortunately conservative, by arranging that a Minister in charge of a Bill should be able to appear and take charge of a measure in either chamber. I feel sure that if a measure with that object in view were introduced, honorable members on both sides would be found quite willing to agree to it.
It is suggested by the Minister that this Commission shall be a permanent body, in order to secure uniformity and continuity of policy. I can understand that object quite well, and, therefore, although I object to members holding office during, the pleasure of the Governor-General, I do not suggest that they should all retire at the same time. If we are to have a continuous policy in regard to repatriation, we must of necessity have some continuity on the Commission. That, however, does not necessarily mean that the whole personnel of the Commission must be permanent. There would be a decided advantage in replacing, say, after two or three years, some of the members by men with new ideas and new methods, so as to secure a fresh stream of life. In the Senate, we preserve continuity by changing the personnel every three years; and it will be admitted that, especially in the case of bodies intrusted with permanent! work along certain well-defined lines, it is necessary that the personnel should be more or less of a permanent character. Otherwise, there must be a disadvantage to the Commission itself, because it will be prone to become conservative, and so wrapped up in its own point of view as to be impervious to any new scheme or idea. If this Commission launches on a certain line of work - as it will do - it will be very impatient of criticism, naturally thinking its ideas right, and the members of this Parliament and the general public may criticise to their hearts’ content. With a -Commission appointed practically for life, what chance is there of getting new ideas or methods adopted ? In review a. three years’ term would be a fair one, and at the end of that period a certain proportion of the members might retire, and make room for others. I have much the same objection to the const i-. ition of the State Boards, so far as [ understand it from the Bill. The me ,i,bers of these Boards are to hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General, and in regard to them I wish to go a step further.- “ I suggest that not only should the returned soldiers and sailors of the Imperial League have a representative, and that there should be two lady representatives, but that a senator, as the representative of his State, should also have a seat. I am not now dealing in any way with the method of appointment, or how the senator should be elected.
– The honorable member realizes that, during the long sittings of the Senate, it would, be difficult for a senator to get in touch with these bodies.
– Is that meant for a joke?
– I am referring to the meetings of the-Senate under normal conditions.
– The normal condition of the Senate seems to be to sit as little as possible, and to adjourn because there is nothing to do. What I submit is that Parliament should retain, not only the responsibility in regard to the scheme, but some control over it. Each State is vitally interested, not only as part of the Commonwealth, but in regard to its own particular State action; indeed, that is recognised by the appointment of the State Boards. The senator representing the State is naturally the man to be selected, because he has previously received the votes of the .people of the State, and seems to me a most appropriate representative of Parliament on such a body. We must find some means whereby members of the Federal Parliament may be kept in close touch with the operations and management of the repatriation scheme, and I know no better way than the one I have suggested.
For these reasons, in the case of the Local Committees, I go a step further, an.d submit that, in selecting their provided for in the Bill, the idea should be that of the Federal electoral division, and that the member for the House of Representatives for the division should have a seat. Some time ago, it was decided to launch on a recruiting scheme, and a Recruiting Committee was appointed in each electorate, with the member for the electorate as chairman.
– And he never could attend.
– Admittedly. I was not able to attend many meetings of the Brisbane Committee, but, as chairman, I kept myself in close touch by correspondence. I have no complaint to make, although the rest of the Committee and myself were in entire opposition 6n the question of voluntary as against enforced enlistment. As I say, I was able by correspondence to know exactly what waa going on, and, of course, the other members of the Committee were, by the same means placed in possession of my opinions. I hope that I was able, by offering various suggestions, to assist them in their work, and when I was in Brisbane I attended their meetings. Although, as I say, the gentlemen comprising the Committee were all conscriptionists, with the exception of myself, we were quite able to work amicably together in seeking to forward the voluntary system. Of course, that Committee has been disbanded owing to the attitude which the other members took; but I found it to be an advantage to be a member. I knew what was going on in regard to the voluntary recruiting campaign, and I hope that the Committee also found some advantage from my membership. And so, in regard to the repatriation business, I wish -personally to know what goes on in the Committee in Brisbane. If I receive no more information than does one of the general public, I may stultify myself in discussing questions in Parliament. I want to be able to come here when repatriation proposals are under consideration and tell Parliament what I know is going on in my own electorate. The information which I will then he able to give to honorable members will be first-hand, and not second-hand.
– Does not that remark apply to every Department?
– Perhaps there would be a difficulty if it did. But no other Department will have Local Committees scattered throughout the country to offer advice as to its operations.
– The Lands Department has activities throughout the country.
– But there is no organization connected with any other Department such as it is proposed to establish under this Bill.
– I have not seen any indication of members of Parliament taking an active part in the scheme.
– I am ready to take an active part in it on behalf of our returned soldiers. I am willing to do everything that I can for them, and I think that I can be of service to the Local Repatriation Committee in Brisbane. Every honorable member ought to be in the closest possible touch with the Local Committee in his own electoral division in regard to the operation and management of this scheme. I do not anticipate that the scheme will -work satisfactorily at first. Some time must elapse before that result can be achieved, and in the initial stages there is bound to be a little trouble. Honorable members all have a direct interest in carrying on the war in connexion with Red Cross Committees and organizations of that kind. Are we, of all people, going to be the first to drop that work when the war is over? Rather should we show the community that, after victory has been achieved, our interest in the management of the funds which have been either subscribed or taxed from the public will not be lessened, but strengthened.
– The honorable member forgets that in his own electorate there will probably be twenty Local Committees.
– The honorable member for Wannon has overlooked the suggestion which I have already made that the areas covered by the Local Committees should be identical with the areas of the Federal electoral divisions.
– That would be in direct conflict with the provisions of this Bill.
– No. In introducing the measure in another place, Senator Millen stated that the areas to be covered by the Local Committees was a matter for arrangement later on. I, therefore, suggest that the areas should be limited to the areas covered by the different electoral divisions of this Parliament.
A good deal has been said regarding the necessity for some arrangement being concluded between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to land settlement for returned soldiers. The more the settlement of our soldiers upon the land can be effected, the better will it be, not merely for the men themselves, but for the country generally. But I think that land settlement is a very small feature in the whole scheme of ‘repatriation, as compared with the other avenues of employment -which “will have to be provided. It has been stated that 40,000 of our soldiers have signified their willingness to take up land on their return to Australia. That is about oneeighth of the total number of men who have gone to the Front. I do not suggest that it accurately represents the proportion of men who have enlisted in the towns and country - seven from the towns and one from the country - although recent events would lead one to believe that there is a very much larger number of eligible men in the country than there is in the towns. It has been declared again and again that it is the men in the towns who have failed in their duty during this enlisting period.
– So it is, too.
– I dispute that statement absolutely.
– Visit your races and the football matches.
– Why nob assume that both have done their duty, and endeavour to do the best we can for them ?
– Judging by the number of men of Splendid physique who are alleged to have come down from the country to fill the places of the men on strike there must be an enormous reservoir of eligibles there.
– The “ honorable member has been quite nice till now. He should not spoil his speech by introducing references of that kind.
– It has been stated that 40,000 of our soldiers, are prepared to go upon the land.- I do not agree with the suggestions which have been made that the Commonwealth should take over the land for our returned soldiers and should control both men and land under the one repatriation scheme. It seems to me that it would be very much better for us to adopt the provisions for land settlement which have been provided ,DY the various State Governments.- They all have different methods, and they all know their own particular conditions and necessities. Under the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act, Queensland has set apart 60,000 acres at Beerburrum, 17,000 at Pikedale, and 157,300 acres in the Innesfail district, or a total of 234,300 acres. Other portions are being selected and reserved for the settlement of discharged soldiers. But if we endeavour to tie Queensland to a scheme which will suit
Victoria or Tasmania, obviously we shall be confronted with difficulties which there will be no hope of overcoming.
– Will the honorable member be good enough to outline the Queensland scheme?
– Yes. A pamphlet has been issued by the Queensland Government which deals with the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. The land which has been acquired in the districts I have mentioned, is suitable for various forms of agriculture.- No deposit is required to be lodged with the application to select, nor is any rent or survey fee payable during the first three years of the terms of the lease. The survey fee is payable in ten equal annual instalments without interest, commencing at the fourth year of the term. From the fourth to the fifteenth year the annual rent shall be 1^ per centum of the capital value of the land. The annual rent for each- succeeding period of. fifteen years shall be determined by the Land Court. Particularly favorable conditions have been introduced into the scheme, so that it is much easier for a discharged soldier to settle and stay upon the land ‘there than it is for anybody else.
– Have they not a very fine form of inspection there ?
– I do not wish to enter into details regarding the Queensland scheme, although I heartily approve of everything that is being done there. I think that Queensland has a much better scheme in operation than has been evolved in any of the other States. Some time ago an offer was made by Mr. Ashford, Minister of Lands in New South Wales, in connexion with the settlement of soldiers on the land. He promised to assist to the extent of 15,000 acres. But the soldiers themselves say that his offer would be of no use whatever, because each farm has already cost £2,000, and on the top of that each soldier settler requires assistance to the extent of £500. Obviously, therefore, any land settlement scheme on those lines would be outrageously expensive. Any scheme, therefore, which will suit either Queensland or Western Australia will probably prove so unsuitable to the other States that it will break, down. What we need to consider is not so much how the soldier is going to work his -land, but how he is going to get it. So long as he can obtain an area upon which he is prepared to settle we should be satisfied to stand at bis back and give him all the assistance that we can. I see no reason for the suggestion that the Commonwealth should accept responsibility for the purchase of land for returned soldiers. While I am becoming increasingly favorable to the idea of unification, I do not think the time has arrived when we should take over the lands of the State either in whole or in part..
– That suggestion has not been made here to-day.
– Yea, it was made very emphatically by the honorable member for Kooyong . (Sir Robert Best).
There are two or three other suggestions that I wish to make. I think that the measure of co-operative control that we should exercise should be in the direction either of the States having a representative on the Central Commission, or of each State Board having a representative on the State Lands Department upon it. An officer, preferably the Minister of Lands in each State, should be a member of each State Board.
– The principal officer of the Lands Department would be the best man.
– I fear that, under this Bill, we are in danger of exaggerating the land settlement proposal to the disadvantage of other proposals. Even if 100,000 men are willing to go upon, the land, there will still be left more than 200,000 soldiers whom, obviously, it would be foolish to put on the land, and who, if they went there, would only make a failure of it. Two-thirds of the men who will come back to Australia will desire to obtain work in industrial occupations. These are the individuals, to whom more persistent attention will have to be given, than will need to be devoted to the men who go upon the land. The latter will have the better of the deal. They will have permanent employment, and they will have some guarantee of the reproductive character of that employment. The artisan, and, to a greater extent the unskilled labourer, amongst the returning soldiers will feel the pinch when the war is over. We shall have a good deal to say by and by as to the conditions which will govern the return of these men to their jobs, if what has already happened is to be taken as an indication of future possibilities, and if the fact that a man is receiving a war pension is to be used as an argument for cutting down rates of wages. If that kind of thing is continued, honorable members may be quite sure that there will be lively times ahead. Whatever else the people of this country will stand, they will not put up with any reduction of the industrial conditions which have made Australia what it is, and have enabled our men at the Front to do what they have done.
We should devote more attention to the industrial occupations to be provided for returning soldiers. The heaviest part of our burden and the most intricate and perplexing problem we shall have to solve is the finding of employment for returned men, who will prefer industrial occupations. To what extent do we guarantee under this Bill that these, men will ‘be provided for ? What new industries are we going to start? What existing industries do we intend to extend ? We shall not have much difficulty in solving this problem if we have the courage to face it. We are importing millions of pounds’ worth of goods which could be better made in Australia, and in the manufacture of which occupation could be found for returned men which would provide for them satisfactorily. Fortunately, the war has opened our eyes to some extent to the possibilities of development in this direction. It has made it plain that industries can be started in Australia with comparatively little capital, and for the output of which there is an immediate market. Industries are already in existence that can be readily extended. One has only to consider the array of goods that we import to realize that we have immediately available the means to provide employment for returned soldiers, which will secure to them a satisfactory living for themselves and their dependants.
– The Minister in charge of Repatriation should also be made Minister for Industry.
– That would be a good proposal. As an immediate suggestion, I think we should recognise our responsibility by adopting the principle that no man shall be discharged from the Army until employment or some position has been found for him whereby he can make a decent living. His military pay should continue until the country has reinstated him in his previous employment, or has found a new occupation for him. I have called attention to the fact that quite a number of returned soldiers are walking about the streets of our cities to-day absolutely penniless, and with nobody to help them. Only to-day I received a letter, which pained me very much, from a man who gives his number, name and battalion, and tells me that he had to go into a benevolent asylum in Brisbane because he was penniless, and had not a friend in the place.
– Surely the Government could look after him.
– I have sent the letter on to the Minister charged with such work, and have asked him to make inquiries into the case. Still, it hurts to think that any returned soldier’ should find himself in such a position.
– The honorable member should not have mentioned the case until he had made inquiries into it.
– The man wrote to me from a benevolent asylum.
– But there might be a very good reason for his entering the asylum.
– There can be no reason for a returned soldier being so penniless and so friendless as to have to go to a benevolent asylum.
– It is not only a reflection on the authorities, but on the whole of the community.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. It hurt me to read the letter.
– There are two sides to that story, I should think.
– I fervently hope that there is another side to the story, but there are the facts.
– The honorable member should have heard what is to be said on the other side before mentioning the case.
– I say that it should be impossible for any such case to exist. No man who has served the country at the Front should ever find himself in such a position as to have to go to a benevolent asylum. To prevent anything of the kind, I contend that the men’s military pay should continue until employment is found for them.
I go a step further, and I say that the Commonwealth Government should recognise their responsibility to the widows, and children of deceased soldiers to a greater extent than they have yet done. We give them a pension, it is true, but honorable members know” what a struggle it is for any woman to bring up a family when their breadwinner is gone.
– By the amendment which has been announced, they will be brought under the operation of the Bill.
– I know’ that an amendment is to be proposed, which will bring the widows and children of deceased soldiers under the operation of the measure. I do not see why the Government should not accept the responsibility of guaranteeing to these widows and children a house to live in rent free for the rest of their lives. We should immediately recognise that, so long as the widow of a soldier lives, and remains unmarried, she should be guaranteed a house to shelter herself and her children.
I have spoken much longer than I originally intended, but I wish to ask the Minister in charge of the Bill what provision he has made in it to assist nurses returning from the war?
– The definition includes any member of the Army Medical Corps or nursing sister accepted for service outside Australia. _ Mr. FINLAYSON.- It should be distinctly stated in the Bill that its provisions shall apply to nurses as well as to soldiers. I am sure that we all have an especially high regard for the women who have done such splendid work as nurses during the war. Any assistance that we can give them to find suitable opportunities for the exercise of their abilities should form an essential part of our repatriation scheme.
This scheme may be launched with feelings of patriotic fervour to-day, but we have to guard against the wheels becoming clogged and running stiffly as the years go by. The public, unfortunately, have short memories, and there is a danger that the cry for economy may create such a strong public feeling that we may forget our duty to the returning soldiers because of the expense involved.
-We shall always be reminded of their claims upon us.
– I have no doubt that the members of this Parliament may be relied upon to maintain their enthusiasm, because they have been brought into such close contact with what has occurred during the war. But the personnel of Parliament changes, and there is a danger that other things looming largely in the future may obstruct or distort the vision, and cause Parliament to forget its responsibilities. We should lay them down as solidly as we can in this Bill» so that our successors, whoever they may be, will not seek to lessen them, or attempt to reduce the assistance and support which should be given to the men who have rendered such noble service to Australia during the war.
– I have listened with very great interest indeed to the debate on this important Bill. Previous speakers have clearly demonstrated the wisdom of introducing the measure in a skeleton form. We have had some adverse criticism of it, but no suggestions as to the way .in which we should remedy what is said to be deficiencies in it.
I take it that Senator Millen had it in mind that . his speech in introducing the Bill in the Senate should be regarded as interpreting the measure and suggesting what might be done under it by regulation. If, with the little experience we have had, we were to attempt at the present time to lay down concrete proposals, we might only limit the power of the Minister and those in charge of the scheme to carry it into successful operation. This Parliament will have control over the operation of the scheme, because a responsible Minister of the Crown is to be in charge of it. He will be subject to the criticism of Parliament. There is no better means of compelling the Government to act upon the lines that honorable members approve than that of having a Minister subject to the criticism of Parliament charged with the carrying out of the scheme. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has made an able speech. He is in a position to speak with authority on this subject in view of the grand work which he has himself already done in connexion with repatriation; but I do not share his fears as to results likely to arise from the operation of this scheme. If honorable members work heartily together on the lines proposed, I see no reason why we should not pass the measure, which will be conducive to the welfare of the returned soldiers.
Under this Bill our first object should be to place the men who will return in satisfactory employment. No greater calamity could befall a country than to have men out of work. Every man out of work is a burden on the country. Some one must keep him. When a man gets out of work he begins to drift until he may finally become what we have so far not seen in
Australia, but what is common in the Old World, and that is an unemployable. We do not want to have any submerged tenth in Australia, and that is why I am sure we are all anxious that our returned soldiers, whether incapacitated or in good health, should be taken in hand and immediately placed in some healthful occupations that will return wealth to the country and be good for the men themselves. The expenditure has been spoken of. It is not a matter of expenditure, but of the way the money is spent. If we judiciously spent £50,000 or £500,000 a year, we should get an immediate return. It will bring wealth to the country, and we shall have the men placed in useful occupations. The money spent along lines that will return ten or twentyfold will be helpful, not only to the men, but to the nation generally.
All wealth coming from the land, we naturally jump to the conclusion that the land is the place on which to put a number of these men. That is all right to a certain degree, but my recent experience shows that a man requires training to go on the land, just as for any other occupation. I recommend the Minister to be very careful indeed in the selection of the men as well as the selection of the land on which he puts them. The land should be the very best, close to the market, and within easy access of railway communication, and there should be good roads in the vicinity. There should be .telephonic communica-tion available where the men are placed. All this will make the land attractive to them, and the work attractive also. If that is done, the men will remain where they are put, but if they “are asked to go away back, land settlement will not be a success. There are many suitable areas of land available if the States are willing to pay for them. Cheap land is no good for closer settlement, or, in fact, for any class of settlement. In some of the States that I know a little about, the failure in land settlement has been brought about owing to the Government going away back into the interior, and cutting up lands that were not suitable. If land is selected within reasonable distance of a market, and is good, we need have no apprehensions. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) spoke this morning of the excellent land he saw in Tasmania.
– There is excellent land in every State.
– Yes, solongas it is purchased in the right place. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Manifold) told me this morning about land at Koroit, where a man could make a splendid living on from 10 to 50 acres.
– But that land is worth £120 an acre in the market.
– It is far better for us to pay a big sum if we can get the land, and get the men on to it, than to put them on poor farms where they cannot make expenses.
– They can get some areas of land in New South Wales of the same kind for under £20 per acre.
– Good basaltic land near Burnie, Tasmania, owned by the Van Diemen’s Land Company, can be purchasedon good terms at from £18 to £30 per acre, and will give a splendid return for the expenditure of labour on it. If that class of country is secured, and closer settlement instituted on it, we shall have the’ men close together, they will be able to co-operate, and work the land under conditions which have been applied with great ‘success in parts of Tasmania. Land in the vicinity of a place called The Kendron, in Tasmania, would never have been settled at all but that the people who are on it came out together on one or two ships. They settled in the one place, and co-operated heartily with each other, each lending labour to the other when required, with the result that to-day they have splendid homes, and an excellent settlement under closer settlement conditions. Conducted on those lines, land settlement is made much more attractive than under the system existing in some places. I was very much impressed with a still closer system of settlement that I saw in France. Even the houses were not separated on the farms, but the whole of them were built close together. I was told that this method was adopted in the first place for the purpose of mutual ‘protection, but is continued now for the sake of the social advantages. I find that wherever there is closer settlement the telephone is playing a most important part. A settler connected up on a party line can converse with his friends, and get in touch with the nearest town. This has been done on the north-west coast of Tasmania, where the telephone has revolutionized closer settlement. . I hope this idea will be more extensively followed, for I am sure the Minister will readily realize the indirect value of the telephone in making the land as attractive as we desire it to be.
It has been intimated to the Minister that 40,000 men are willing to settle on the land. No doubt, many of them were trained on farms before they went away. They will come back even better fitted to take up land, and they should be allowed to do so without having to bear a great interest burden. Surely we can devise some means by which they will not be asked to pay interest, at any rate, for four or five years, or until the farm is giving them a good return. In fact, I question whether we should ask them to pay interest at all.
– Hear, hear! We should give them a sufficient amount to provide a living.
– And we should let them pay the principal back over a number of years. The return to the Commonwealth will be great indeed if we can get settlement under those conditions. The Minister (Mr. Groom) very effectively pointed out that, even before the war broke out, Australia was spending huge sums of money annually in trying to settle people on the land, and competition was going on between State and State to obtain settlers. If we do not ask these men to bear the burden of interest, but spread the repayment of the capital over a considerable time, land settlement will be made most attractive, for nothing tends more to satisfy a man than the knowledge that he is getting something above the bread-and-butter line. When he finds that the place is giving him something in return, and that he will not have to go out looking for work once more, it makes him feel that what he is doing is well worth while.
We should go still further by helping him in the marketing of his produce, and should not allow him to be at the mercy of anybody who desires to do that work for him. The supervising body should watch that his produce is put on the market in such a way as to give him the best possible return for his labour. Such a system as I have outlined will reproduce wealth to the community, and, instead of losing money, the country will gain it. The proper selection of the products to be grown on the land should be attended to. Wheat cannot be grown in Tasmania with its moist climate in competition with that produced in South. Australia, the Wimmera, and other wheat-growing areas. We should, therefore, he very careful not to place men on wheat-growing land in Tasmania ; but we can produce there potatoes, beet, fruit, and peas as well as on the best land to be found even down Warrnambool way.
If any men are to be trained for the land, the excellent colleges available in Australia should be utilized. I always find great pleasure at the Royal Agricultural Show in watching the exhibits of these institutions, and noting the willingness with .which information is given by the experts in the employ of the Victorian Government. If we can gain so much knowledge in one or two days there, how much greater would be the knowledge gained by intelligent young men if they were put at some college of this kind long enough to learn at least the rudiments of farming? Those institutions can be used along these lines with profit, and, if necessary, the Federal Government could subsidize the State Governments for the good work they would do in that direction.
– At the Conference, it was recommended that the Commonwealth Government subsidize the training of men for fanning on the basis of a fi for £1 contribution.
– I am pleased to hear it, because it shows that the matter has been given consideration.
I do not fear the failure of these young men on the land, because they have had such vast experience abroad. The education they have received in the Old World will be invaluable. If they visited some of the farms I saw in Scotland, and other parts of Great Britain, and on the Continent, they will be able to adopt systems of working under closer settlement . that should be invaluable. I am delighted to find that our returned men have been very observant abroad. I have laid myself out to get in touch with them to see if they have observed anything outside the fighting -line, and have been delighted to learn that they have been much impressed with the intense cultivation they have seen in other countries. One young fellow had gone closely into the manure question. He observed how carefully they prepare the farm manure before putting it on the land in the Old Country.
He said that if his father had done that, they would never have suffered from the weed trouble they used to have from the
Use of stable manure.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– Though the Commonwealth should exercise some control over the expenditure in connexion with land settlement, I fail to see that it would be an advantage to centralize all control, because the’ States have very effective machinery already in operation, and as their officials have had long experience, it would not be wise to create a Commonwealth Lands Department to work side by side with the Departments of the various States. An official acquainted with Queensland conditions, if engaged in administering the Commonwealth Department in the southern States, might endeavour to adopt measures which, while suitable in the case of Queensland, would not be suitable in the southern States. I feel confident that the Commonwealth money will be judiciously spent by the State Departments in this direction. In any case, the Treasurer of the Commonwealth will always have an effective control over State expenditure. This was clearly demonstrated during the last recess, when Sir John Forrest intimated that he ex,pected the various States Governments to repay Commonwealth advances, and 1 know that in one State, at all events, there was a considerable curtailment of expenditure a3 a result of the Treasurer’s announcement.
On the industrial side it seems to me that there is an urgent need for the efficient training of our young men in the various trades to which they apply themselves. I can quote my own experience as an illustration of our faulty system. I entered the engineering trade, and was put on to clean castings, which is not engineering work at all, and I have no doubt that my experience was similar to that of many others who are kept on month in and month out doing work that is of no earthly use. In Germany, on the other hand, a comprehensive system of training is insured to all young men in industrial occupations. If a lad enters the engineering trade he learns first the rudiments of blacksmithing, how to sharpen tools, &c, then goes on to the bench, where he is taught how to use the hammer, chisel, and file. “ Then he passes on to the lathe, afterwards to the fitting shop, and tha dynamo room, and finally into the laboratory. In addition to this training, he is required to attend a technical school at the expense of his employer. Eight throughout, the super- vision is effective and complete. Australia will have to adopt some such system in’ the future training of her young men, as sectional work is not to be desired. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) recently invited me to inspect a factory in which I was very much interested, but I found that .the work had to pass through forty or fifty different hands.
– What factory was that?
– A boot factory.
– You will find that principle observed in every boot factory in the world.
– That may be the case, but it is not a system under which a young man will learn his trade. Before any lad signs his indenture papers, those who are responsible for his apprenticeship should have a definite understanding that he will be taught his trade in its various branches, in order that afterwards he may qualify for a foreman’s position.
I have no fear for the future of the young men who, before going to the war, had served portion of their time at certain trades, because if they have an interest in their work at all they will take advantage of every opportunity when abroad to increase their knowledge by visiting workshops on the other side of the world. Experience has shown that Australians are doing remarkably well everywhere, and it is not likely that there will be any necessity to subsidize employers to finalize the teaching of these young men upon their return. But I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that, careful supervision will be necessary to see that no injustice is done to these men, because if an employer could secure a subsidy for smart apprentices who have already served a portion of their time, he would have an advantage over his competitors in the same trade. I know of a firm of engineers who employed an improver on marine work. The young man was paid only £1 a week, but the firm charged 12s. a day for his work. As a matter of fact, I do not) think that many firms will desire to be subsidized, because they will realize that they owe a duty to these men who went to the Front to fight their country’s battles.
The position here is not to be compared with that in the Old Country, where many businesses have been entirely ruined because of the withdrawal of employees for war service, and as employers here have not been seriously inconvenienced by comparison, but, on the contrary, have been able to carry on as if there was no war, they will not charge a returned soldier with not being up to his standard of workmanship before the war. Australian employers are not likely to adopt that attitude.
– You are the most optimistic man I have heard of.
– Well, I think I know the Australian employer; but if any employer adopts a different attitude, I feel sure that if the Government do not take action, public opinion will see that the returned soldiers do not suffer. Let me give an illustration of what I mean=- I noticed in a crowded tram last evening that two ladies insisted upon making room for a returned soldier to sit beside them, and at Mordialloc yesterday a large number of returned men were entertained as a mark of appreciation for the services they have rendered to their country. This feeling of gratitude, I am sure, is deep seated right throughout the Commonwealth, and it will insure the proper treatment of our soldiers after this war.
– I wish you could induce those who run our patriotic funds to get a move on, then.
– They are doing very good work in this direction.
– Are they? It would take a microscope to find it.
– Splendid work is also being done in the honorable member’s own district by those noble women of the Anzac Society.
– Yes, I admit good work is being done there.
– All this is evidence that our men will never be forgotten by the people of this country .-
– Some of the people are forgetting it already.
– That might be the case in the honorable member’s State, but it is not so in any other State.
– The New South Wales Government promised to make up the difference in pay between military and civil pay, but they have since withdrawn that promise.
– I do not know anything about that, but I do know that private citizens and members of Parliament do not turn a deaf, ear to the complaints of the returned men.
– Cases have been brought up before the Sydney City Council of employers refusing to reinstate employees. «
– These employers should be exposed, and if that were done public opinion would deal with them. Let me put the other side of the case. I know of a big firm which is paying the difference between the military pay and that which the men received before they went away. I understand a number of firms have pursued that policy. That there are hard cases I will admit, but they need careful inquiry.
I will now refer to the case of a man who returns from the Front broken in health. Few persons, even in Melbourne, are acquainted with a splendid institution in its vicinity for treating men who have come back maimed and in bad health. 1 believe that I am safe in saying that one of the most up-to-date hospitals in the world exists at Caulfield though few persons know of its existence.
– The soldiers say it is the best hospital in the world.
– I believe that it is, because the best methods have been adopted from all parts of the world. Adjacent to the hospital is’ a huge area of ground. I do not see why suitable buildings should not be erected, so that a man suffering from a nervous breakdown could occupy his mind just as long as he cared to do such work as was suitable.
– The proposal is to establish curative workshops for such cases.
– I. am glad’ to hear that remark. No doubt they will be found to be most useful institutions. I learned from a specialist that one of the best cures -for nervous cases is to keep the men occupied at some other work than that which broke down their health. It will be a fine thing if the men can receive such training at Caulfield. I think that a young man who is maimed, and is to be trained at an institution, should be given a say in the selection of the trade he is to take up. Scores of young men spend five or seven years in learning a trade, but as soon as they get out of a workshop they drop the trade for all time, because they were unsuited to it, and. therefore, did not like the work. If, however, a young man is consulted, and asked to say what occupation he would like to follow, he will take a great interest in the work to which he is put, with the result that he will “ progress by leaps and bounds. It is well known that one of the greatest violinists in the world never touched a violin until he was fifty years of age. This shows that a man is never too old to learn. When a man states that he is too old to learn it indicates a lazy spirit. My belief is that a returned soldier will take up suitable work if it is offered to him. That is what we must always keep in view in attempting to place the men.
The Returned Soldiers Association have in each State a man to look after the interests of returned .soldiers, and the result is that he becomes thoroughly acquainted with their wants. He learns the mind of the men, and hence he is the best representative they could have. One of these men, I think, should have a seat on the State Board. Inspectors, too, should be employed to watch the men and advise the Board ; I do not mean that inspectors should be employed to pry into the private affairs of men, but to see how they carry out the work, and whether it is agreeable to them. I shall be very pleased if a representative from Queensland will deal with this point, because I understand that in that State returned men have been engaged as inspectors with splendid results. They are doing great work. My informant is a returned soldier, Quartermaster-Sergeant Foster - who went up from Tasmania to look into the Queensland land system. On his return he informed me that it is the best system existing to-day. If that is so, we should adopt the system wherever it is deemed suitable for the various interests which we shall have to consider. I believe that much advantage would be gained, too, if the Minister for Repatriation called upon a body such as the Trades Hall, or any other association of workmen to elect a representative’. From practical experience he would know the conditions under which men should work, and his inclusion would tend to bring about harmonious operations.
The caste system has, in my opinion, been scattered to the winds by the war. That has gone for ever, because in the trenches wealthy men are to be seen fighting side by side with the poorest men. Men of all classes of life have been brought into close touch with each other, and, consequently, caste distinctions have vanished. When the soldiers return we shall have to proceed along these lines if we desire to secure beneficial and good results.
None of us can say or do too much for the soldiers who have rendered such splendid service to Australia and the Empire. It is very questionable indeed whether we should be free to-day but for their brave deeds. When I rose this evening to address the House, the thought uppermost in my mind was that there was something more to do for the men than to lend them money at interest. In my opinion, no interest should be charged, and the repayment of the capital should be spread over a considerable time, so that the obligation shall not press too heavily on the men. We owe a duty to all these men, and we can never repay them sufficiently. No matter what money we may give them, and no matter how we may place them, we cannot make sufficient recognition of the magnificent work they have done under the voluntary system. They are entitled to the fullest recognition for the great sacrifices they have made in the interests of our country. With that idea uppermost in. my mind I shall endeavour to assist the Minister, who, I recognise, has an arduous task to perform. I feel certain that this measure will have to be amended times without number before it is anywhere near perfect. We cannot expect the Minister to make good suddenly, but from experience he will learn-, and probably bring down an amending measure time after time, with But one object in view, and that is to do the best he can for the men who have done so much for us.
– While I agree with others that this is a non-party Bill, I recognise that there is bound to be much difference of opinion as to what are the best methods to adopt in order to bring about a successful system of repatriation. But I agree with the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) that it is useless to think that at the present time we can perfect a system of repatriation. It is nonsense to entertain such a thought. The Bill will have to be repeatedly altered to meet the changing situation ; but all the same, we ought to get a move on. As a matter of fact, a start ought to have been made much earlier. I am not too hopeful . in regard to the future, because when the men return in very large numbers I do not see much prospect of them being handled successfully, seeing that for the men. who have already returned we have not attempted to do anything. While I agree that many associations have contrived, and that some have endeavoured with less success, to do much towards relieving the condition of returned men, still it has only been repatriation of a patchwork kind, and not repatriation which reflects credit on a civilized community.
When the work of demobilizing the Army is really begun it will be an enormous job, and if we do not move more quickly than we have done of late, there is sure to be chaos, and we shall hear more curses than blessings from the returned men. There will be a great many men who will not ‘ be willing to resume their former occupations. There will be a good deal of grumbling, and in many cases rightly so. Men will say, “ We have performed certain work and have no desire to go back to the drudgery of our former life.” It will call for a lot of arrangement to meet the various objections. Many men, unfortunately, will be physically unfit to take up any work. It is such an enormous proposition to tackle that one feels that whatever may be done will not satisfy everybody, not even a large proportion of the community. Something new will have to be conceived to meet the situation.
I am not one of those who believe that the scheme of placing a large number of men on the land is going to be a success. My opinion is that only a very small proportion of the men will become successful settlers.
– Sixteen per cent, is the estimate
– I do not think that anything like that percentage will make a success of land settlement. We hear much talk about persons getting on to the land . A number of persons think that all that a person has to do is to go on the land and make money. Butt we know from experience that men who had money and were willing to work were not successful. There have been just as many failures on the land as successes. If the’ land question is to be dealt with as it has been dealt with, in Victoria during the last fifteen years, it is doomed to failure from the start, because all that the acquisition of laud by the Government for closer settlement has done has been to raise the price of land all over the State, and leave in the hands of the Government an enormous acreage, which has been useless ever since, but which at one time was put to some purpose.
– You do not mean to say that it has been all a failure?
– No, it has not.
– Every estate which has been purchased at an enhanced price by the State-
– The purchase of the Walmer Estate, near Horsham, by the Administration of which Sir Robert Best was a ‘member, has been a gigantic success.
– I am talking about the effect of the land resumptions during the last fourteen or fifteen years. I do not think it can be disproved that every estate purchased by the Government has comprised a lot of useless land which has not been taken up by anybody. Some land was purchased at a high price, and the original owners still have it under lease at a peppercorn rental.
If we are to spend an enormous sum of money in purchasing land -the burden on those who settle upon it will be so great that they will never make a success of it. In my opinion, the State Governments own sufficient land on which to place those returned soldiers who are fitted for an agricultural life.
– Where is that land in Victoria?
– If there is no Crown land in Victoria available for the settlement of soldiers, of what use is it to talk about opening up the State to a large increase of population? Who knows what prices will have to be paid for land when the Government milch cow goes into the open market to buy estates? If the Government are desirous of giving ! to these men the full benefit of going on the land, they can open up new areas in Victoria by building railways and new roads. Let them start with the saw-mill, and get the profit out of the timber, instead of burning it off, as has been done in the past. I know that there are not millions of. acres of land available in Victoria for this purpose, but still there are certain areas which could be opened up in this way.
– After “licking” the enemy our soldiers are to come back to subdue the forest.
– It is better to subdue the forest than to attempt to subdue land-grabbers. The evidence taken at the inquiry into the result of closer settlement in Victoria showed that the moment the Government started on the job a lot of land-owners found great reluctance in parting with their land. Although the taxation they paid was on a valuation of 25s. per acre, the moment the Government wanted to purchase it went up to an enormous value, and its productivity was equally astonishing; and when one estate was purchased the value of the adjoining properties was enhanced to the extent of £5 or £6 per acre. The same thing will occur in regard to purchases of land for the purpose of settling soldiers upon it. Prices will be so enhanced that it will be impossible to settle men on the land so purchased with any hope of success. Experience has shown that many men who have taken up blocks in closer settlement areas have failed, though they were not lacking in money. Very often the land has not proved to be as good as it was supposed to be. There is a smaller number of settlers in Victoria to-day than there were years ago.
My opinion is that it will cost about £2,000 to settle each soldier on the land. Is it the intention to select one section of the returned soldiers, and give each man assistance to the extent of £2,000, and not give the same amount of assistance to men who are desirous of entering into business? If we differentiate between those who are anxious to go on the land and those who do not wish to settle on the land there will be immediate complaints.
– That differential treatment exists now, but there are no complaints.
– It will not be human if there are no complaints. I understand that more has been done in other States in the matter ,of assisting soldiers than has been done in Victoria. I have voiced frequent complaints against the administration of the Victorian Patriotic Fund administered by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and I have shown that the controllers of the fund are not carrying out the functions for which it was brought into existence, but I understand that good work is being done by committees formed for the same purpose in Queensland and New South Wales. I am not hoping for too much success from the scheme for placing soldiers on the land, because the land will be loaded with such a heavy price that it will be doomed to failure from the commencement. My view is that the Government should get the benefit of the enhanced value of the land, and pass it on to the men, and that can easily be done by opening up new districts. If I am met with the answer that the Government of Victoria has no land that it is possible to exploit, then I say it is a bad day for Victoria. It means that the State can never hope for a greater agrarian population than it now has.
– Plenty of good land is available at Canberra.
– That is true. The suggestion which was made the other day, that if money was to be spent in this direction it could be spent with advantage at the Federal Capital was laughed down. The men at the Front follow every possible calling, and if there had been no war they would have been drawn upon to build the Federal Capital, and work the land in the Federal Capital Territory, where there are great avenues for giving men employment. Any increase in land values there would go to the Commonwealth, whereas any other scheme for settling returned soldiers on the land will lie nothing but a make-believe; while it may be regarded as an effort to repatriate our soldiers, it will really be an attempt to increase the land values of private people.
We are told that now is the time when the industries of Australia should be increased, and that we should produce commodities that we have not produced before ; but we are also told that this cannot be done unless sufficient Customs duties are imposed to prevent the importation of those commodities.. We know that a country which is not prepared to supply a commodity upon which a duty is imposed is really doing harm to the community unless some attempt is being made to produce it. In my opinion, the Government could initiate the production of many commodities until they reach a certain standard. For example, the manufacture of artificial limbs could be initiated under Commonwealth supervision by the men who have returned from the Front.
– Steps have been taken to deal with the matter.
– I endeavoured to get the Government interested in the matter nine months ago.
– What the honorable member asked to be done is now being done.
– I hope it is. Men who have been in the Old Country have spoken of an establishment for the manufacture of artificial limbs on which a New South Wales gentleman spent thousands of pounds, breaking all records, and quite putting the British and American manufacturers of artificial limbs into the shade. I understand that the British Government were asked to take over the concern, but that! they did not do so, and that it was left in private hands. However, some of our men who were employed there have returned to Australia possessed of the knowledge necessary to proceed with the establishment of the industry here, and I am glad to hear the Minister say that it is proposed to make a commencement. I hope that the matter will be pushed on with.
The production of hand-woven woollens could be considerably increased. As a preliminary step the Government should at once proceed with making preparations for the manufacture of yarn. We are already making wool tops. Previously we lost a lot of money in Australia by allowing our wool to go away without attempting to make it up, but a start has now been made with the manufacture of wool tops, and, as a result of the war, it is a paying concern. In fact, we were told by the Prime Minister that the Government have already made a profit of £40,000 in one year from the export or wool tops, and there is no reason why the production of this article should not be extended. The natural corollary to it is the manufacture of yarn. Let us get down to the manufacture of woollens in Australia properly. It is a matter that the Government could easily undertake, and the expenditure of £1,000,000 in this direction would be better than throwing it away on land propositions and in enhancing the price of land in the hands of private owners. There are many propositions of this kind that the Government could conceive in order to make a success of repatriation. “Unless it is done, our scheme will be a failure.
I do not intend to keep the House long. This is not a fighting question. We are all desirous of doing what is best in the interests of the soldiers. Naturally, we have .different ideas as to what should be done, but out of our differences we may arrive at something in common. I do not think that the Minister in charge of repatriation has a rosy time ahead of him. Parliament will be condemned for doing this or for not doing that, but whatever is to be done let us push on with it.
I wish to say a few words in regard to the bodies that are to control the work of repatriation. I have no desire to see a number of expensive establishments brought into existence, but I do not expect much from honorary work. We may want a business man in charge, but above all we should have a man with sympathetic feelings towards those who are coming back. But whoever comprise the Commission, all shades of experience should be represented. At the head of the body we must have men with a knowledge of business and finance, but we shall also require men who have been to the Front, and have a stronger sympathy with the soldier than the civilian has. Therefore, the returned soldiers themselves ought to be allowed to appoint at least one representative upon the Commission to watch their interests. Amongst the ranks of the soldiers are men from every walk of life. Many of them are of a fair age ; they have gained experience of how to handle men, and they know the soldiers’ desires and aspirations. I do not say that officers only should be appointed. All ranks should have representation of some sort so that no complaint can be made that the man of high, rank gets better consideration than the ranker. I feel certain that, unless representation is given on’ the lines I have indicated, there will be grumbling. Whatever is done, I hope the State Governments will not be allowed to have an upper hand in the management. The Federal Government will have to find the money, and whilst the taxpayers are the same for both authorities, I believe that, unless this Parliament holds a tight rein upon the finances, some State Parliaments will follow the lines that have been followed in the past, and the land settlement portion of the scheme will not be a success. We know what was the experience of Victoria; the scandals associated with the placing of people on the land under the Land Acquisition Act stank in the nostrils of the people, and any repetition of them would cause a revuision of feeling, and bring discredit upon all those associated with the scheme..
.- It is with considerable diffidence that I rise in uniform to address the House, because I hold that when a man dons uniform, he does it in order to do things and not to say things. But as to-night we are pioneering legislatively, as our fathers pioneered geographically, I wish to endeavour to blaze’ one of the trees along the track, because I believe that this measure, skeleton though it be, is one of the greatest proposals with which this Parliament will ever be called upon to deal.
The first consideration that ‘ appeals to me is the quality of the men with whom we shall have to deal. Iti has been said in this Chamber .to-day that when a man enters camp, he gets an altogether different view of life; there is no doubt he does. And the trouble is that, in handling the soldier, we shall be dealing with an absolutely uncertain quantity. We do not know how men who have been through the stress and struggle, the perils and privations, of modern warfare will’ be able to face the situation when the time comes for them to settle down in the ways of ordinary life. But I do know that men who went away in the prime of life, and in the fullness of their strength and activity are coming back almost like children. This problem of repatriation entails not only the finding of occupations for men in the ordinary way, but the refitting of men for the occupations which they followed before they joined the ArmY. A man who has been in camp, and has had opportunities of seeing, what goes on there, especially if he has been in the Base Records Office, or the Pay Office, is apt to be extremely pessimistic, because, although he will see some noble records there, the things , which he can discover in those branches of the Defence Department to-day are such as to make’ him wonder to what depths of degradation human nature can descend. And these are the things with which our soldiers are coming into contact every day. Many of the men who are going to the Front are amongst the best that Australia can produce, but some are also among the worst. It is not a bit of use trying to gloss over the situation. We shall have to face it as it will be in reality if we are to do justice to the good men. Without saying any tiling derogatory to the men who have returned to date, it is only fair to the great body of men who will be returning when the war is over to say that, so far, we have not had a fair sample. Some of the best men have gone and returned. But it stands to reason that the majority of those who have returned so far are men who have broken down for one reason or another. Amongst them are a great number of disciplinary cases, and they are not a fair sample of the men who will come back after the declaration of peace. We have to bear that fact in mind when we are considering the situation in its present aspect. But there is more than that in it.
The soldier is a man who stands apart. He is told when he joins the army that one of the greatest qualifications he can obtain is steadiness on parade. No doubt steadiness under fire is a still greater thing, and he is told to attain that, too. But steadiness in the ordinary walks of civil life is neither looked for nor expected. It has become a tradition with the military the world over that when a man is off duty he should go the pace. Unfortunately, Australians are only too ready to do that, and if any one will look at what is now being done by our boys in London to-day he will find, amongst his own relatives in ‘many cases, that they are spending more money in a month than they would have spent in a year before. They seem to lose all knowledge of the value of. money, because they know that while the war lasts, and they live, they have an assured position, regular meals, clothing, and free board and lodging, and the money they receive’ is generally used for seeking pleasure. That is the natural tendency of the soldier, for, however philosophical ‘a man may be before he joins the army, when he has once donned the uniform he is something like the blackfellow, who lives to-day because he does not know what will come to-morrow.. The soldier has swaggered through the centuries. He has always been looked on as a being who lends brightness to the scene, and there are many people in every country, who in the drab world of every-day affairs, will give their souls for a touch of brightness. Mention has been made this evening of how women in the community will move aside to make a seat for a soldier, and I can assure the House, in addition to that, that half the girls and women in the community give the “ glad eye “ to the soldier as he passes.
– This is the best recruiting speech I have heard.
– I shall say nothing which will hinder recruiting. My experience leads me to believe that the single man who does not join the military to-day does not know what he is missing. He is offered an opportunity of a free trip round the world, and of seeing life as he will never see it while he remains in civilian attire. In addition to the influences I have mentioned, the recruiting speeches throughout Australia are leading those in uniform to believe that they are the only men’ in the community. All these things are creating a false idea and a wrong impression in the soldier’s mind. We do not desire the men in “uniform to believe that they are any better than any other men. They are going to the war because they see that to be their duty, but many men are remaining at home because that to them is a paramount duty. A lot of false sentiment has been talked about the men who have gone and are going to the Front. We know what it means for a man to cut off his home ties, take his life in his hands, and go abroad with the prospect of not again seeing those who are near and dear to him, but many a man is eating his heart out in Australia because- his home ties will not allow him to go away. Therefore, I think a lot of glamour has been thrown about the soldier which should be removed. We must face the repatriation question from a businesslike stand-point, with, a view to making the scheme a success when our men return.
History gives the soldier a great deal of justification for his jauntine’ss. He knows that industrialism cannot live without him. War may live without industry, but industry cannot live without war. A lot of rot is talked about pacificism, and of this war being the end pf war, but can any man who has ever learnt the teachings of history, or gone into the interior and seen the fight eternally waged there, believe that it is in the way of human nature that war should ever cease ? The soldier knows that war is esential. He is taught to realize - it is the atmosphere of militarism - that the world cannot exist without fighting; and he is right. And all this nonsense about permanent peace is the talk of children - children in intellect, at any rate. Men have simply to go and look into the ways of Nature, and go into the backblocks and see the fight our pioneers are waging every day to realize that we cannot do away with war. The whole theory is too ridiculous for words. The soldier knows it to be so, and to-day he is inclined to demand more from the community than he has any right to demand. I have no wish to decry the worth of the soldier. Some of the best men bred in Australia have gone to the Front, many of them never to return. But I say Australia is overdoing the laudation and praise of its soldiers. The military man has always to take himself seriously. He is taught to have more regard for himself and his appearance than a civilian has, and that in itself is trying to most young fellows, but when in addition the whole world lends itself to giving him adulation and flattery, sometimes of the grossest kind, the danger, not only to the men but to the community, should be exposed.
I was pleased to see that in this scheme the idea is to draft the men straight from their units to their work when they return. There is to be no lapse of time between the discharge of a man and the placing of him in his future calling.
– That is not provided for in the Bill.
– A definite announcement to that effect was made in another place by the Minister (Senator Millen) who introduced the measure there.
– There is no such statement contained in his speech.
– If the honorable member will read the speech, he will see that there is. It is one of the announcements that I hailed with delight. There is to be no lapse of time, I repeat, between the discharge of a soldier and the placing of him in his future calling.
– And the desire is to get registration before discharge.
– Tes. All the machinery for reinstating the soldier in civil life is to be ready as soon as he arrives. Another point is that no more cash than is absolutely necessary is to be advanced to a returned soldier during the period of his transition from military to civil life. The dangers arising from our soldiers having too much money to handle are greater than most people realize. It should he remembered that those who have enlisted are chiefly young men, and that their disposition is to spend their money on pleasure as soon as they receive it. The Government will be well advised if it adheres closely to its determination that these men shall be transferred direct from their units to their future occupations, and that in the interval they shall receive as little money as possible. I do not wish it to be thought that I am decrying our soldiers, or affirming that we are going to do too much for them. But I do emphatically express the belief, after having mixed with them -for some time, that we are making too much of them before they go to the Front, and that there will be a disposition, I fear, when the war is over, to make too little of them on their return. There may be a spasm of enthusiasm when they come back, but after that, I fear, the interest in the men who have done such excellent work for the Empire will die out. Above all, it is imperative that we should extend, to the dependants of those who will never come back our sympathy and kindly encouragement, which very often mean more to them than hard cash. Every honorable member must have witnessed these cases of bereavement and suffering, and the public generally should realize that a word of sympathy spoken at the right time frequently means more to these broken-hearted women and children than anything we can offer them, in the form of money. ‘Cold cash is cold comfort, but a kindly message of encouragement may, perhaps, mean all the difference between hope and despair. I trust that I shall return to this House to assist in the administration of this measure. But when a man goes overseas to engage in” this great struggle, as I hope to do shortly, he may never return. At any rate, he knows that ‘he is taking more risks than is the individual who stays at home. I repeat that we are disposed to. make too much of our soldiers before they go to the Front, and that we are doing too little in the way of supporting the widows and orphans who have been- left behind.
The Honorary Minister (Mr. Groom) in introducing this Bill, said that all the members of the State Boards, like the members of the Central Commission, will act in an honorary capacity. Personally, I do not approve of that. Whilst the war is in progress, these men will probably act in an honorary capacity most earnestly and enthusiastically; but when the struggle is over, it is only human nature to suppose that their enthusiasm will cool. That is one of the gravest faults of the Bill. It is absolutely essential that we should have paid officials attending to this matter, not only here at head-quarters, but in every State. I agree that there should be Local Committees- to handle the details, but the general administration should be in the hands of paid and thoroughly qualified officials. Upon his return to this’ country the soldier will be placed in a very curious position. He will have to get his land from the State, his financial assistance from the Commonwealth, and he will be settled upon the land by men who are working in an honorary capacity. He will thus have to deal with three different authorities, so that he will not know what to do, and, being in a highly tense state, I am inclined to think great trouble will result. I hope that the Government will simplify the procedure that is to be adapted, so that the soldier may know exactly to whom he has to appeal.
A good deal has been said to-day in reference to the land upon which returned soldiers are to be settled. I do not propose to deal with the industrial side of this question, because I have lived all my life in the open spaces. I know ‘the conditions under which men turn out the raw products, but I do not pretend to know the manufacturing side of the business. I have heard adverse criticism of the land which is being resumed for the settlement of our returned soldiers. I have made inquiries as to the estates which are being purchased for the purpose by the New South “Wales Government, and also as to the prices being paid for them. I can assure honorable members that those estates comprise the very best lands in New South Wales, and that they are being acquired at very reasonable prices. Although there are land sharks in the community, who will rob the Government or anybody else whenever the opportunity offers, there are, nevertheless, amongst land-owners as many high-minded” and patriotic men as are to be found in the ranks of any other class. These men are to-day offering their lands to the Government at less than their real value. They realize that they should do something to show their gratitude to the men who have gone overseas to defend them.
– Did the honorable member look into the charges of Mr. Trethowan, the president of the Farmers and Settlers Association?
– I did. He is a man whom I know very well, and he is a hard-headed land-owner. But in the case of the property with which he dealt he was somewhat misled. I have very good reason for believing that he was absolutely misled, and that he has since regretted his action.
– He still insists upon his charges.
– I have not seen him personally since he made those charges, but I have seen some of his friends, and they tell me that he has made the greatest error of his life. The Government of New South Wales, I repeat, have made very good bargains in the estates which they have acquired for the settlement of returned soldiers, and the men who go upon that land ought to make a success of the venture. Of course, I know that many soldiers who will go upon the land will be absolute failures. Senator Millen will know that very well.
– The history is on the map.
– The astonishing thing is that while most people imagine that the majority of those who go .upon the land get their money very easily, if one chooses to take any large property in Australia from the date of its settlement to the present moment, and capitalize the money which has been spent upon it, he will find that it has not paid. If one considers the compound interest that has accrued upon it - -
– Except where a man has stepped into a property after the pioneering work has been done.
– Hard cases make bad laws, and exceptional cases ought not to be quoted here. To the man who has invested his money in land the average result is not nearly as good as is the average result to the man who has invested his money in other lines of industry. Senator Millen, in introducing this Bill, said -
The value of a settler’s own labour to the block he occupies is in inverse ratio to the size of his holding. The smaller the holding, the more important,, relatively, is the man’s own labour in developing it. On a 10-acre block the settler’s own labour will, in a comparatively short time, convert it into a fairly improved property; but the same labour would pass unnoticed on a farm of 1,000 acres.
Now, Senator Millen has had a long and practical experience of land owning. Others of us are similarly situated, and I absolutely disagree with the honorable gentleman’s statement. In most cases a farm of 1,000 acres will show more return for a man’s work in a short period than will the 10-acre block. In the majority of instances the latter will cost a great deal for clearing, whereas the 1,000-acre farm will probably only need a fence around it, one or two fences across it, and a dam upon it. But when it has been stocked it will not be as easy to look after. as we have been led to believe. One honorable member told us that the stock would look after themselves. My experience is that in these days of foxes, flies, and other pests the stockowner has as busy a time as has anyother man in the community. When we talk of men living on small areas we are apt to forget that very often they really do not live on those areas, but on the tourists who come to them. There is in Australia today a great tendency to cut down these areas below what is sufficient to insure a decent living in average seasons. At present, the returns from stock are abnormally high, and it seems probable that those high returns will continue for some years; but it is a great risk for a man to run.
The Government, also, in a way that may not have occurred to many, are taking a very great risk in this matter of repatriation and settling men on the land. What guarantee have the Government that the men who accept the £500 to improve their properties are going to stay on them? Knowing the state in which most of the men will come back, can we believe that they will be able to settle permanently on the land ? It is quite possible that many of them will desire to go into the country for quietude and rest for ayear or two; but perhaps in a much shorter time their nerves will get the better of them, and all their work will go for nothing. What guarantee are the Government going to give the public for the protection of public property ? A man may play with the people’s money, and, when it is done, say, “ I have had my time; I took the risk, it cost me nothing, and now I am going back to the city.” It is essential that some safeguard should be provided by the Government.
– In every land settlement scheme there is a certain proportion of failures.
– That is so; but in this case there will be a larger proportion, in spite of every safeguard that human ingenuity can suggest. Here is an open door for fraud, and that’ is not fair to the people. I know soldiers here to-day who are prepared to go on the land and play with the £500. They say openly, to their comrades, at any rate, that if, when the £500 is done, they have “ made a mess of it,” they can go back to where they were before. If there is that feeling, we ought to protect the good men against the bad, and also protect the public.
It should be made a condition that each man must spend a certain amount in improvements each year, and that he shall only get an advance corresponding with the value of the improvements he has put on the land.
– That is now being done in New South Wales.
– It is not mentioned in the Minister’s speech.
– It is so provided in the State Victorian Act, and security is taken over the improvements.
– It is done under the Closer Settlement Acts of the States, but there is no indication of anything of the kind under the Bill.
– There is nothing in the Bill.
– But there is a good deal in the speeches of the Ministers who are in charge of the Bill. This measure means either a great success or a great failure; andI merely desire to assist in blocking up the leaks so that the ship may sail safely into harbor. This scheme will be either the salvation or the degradation of Australia; the future of Australia after we have won the war - though we have not won it yet - depends upon the way in which our soldiers are treated, and the view they take of their responsibilities to the State. While I point out the weaknesses of the soldiers, I also point out the weaknesses of the scheme. I take an interest, not only in the Government, but in the soldiers and in the future of Australia, and, because of that, I desire to make the Bill as nearly perfect as possible.
I suggest that there are other ways in which the soldiers might be employed. Some of these ways have been suggested by the Government, and others have been suggested during this> debate, with a view to bringing these men back to their ordinary avocations. One of the greatest’ problems is to make their life worth living to them, and to make them of real use to the community. Are honorable members aware how pessimistic the great number of our returned soldiers are? Their nerves are racked to such an extent that they think every man’s hand is against them; they believe that there is no good left in the world. They have seen the seamy, rough, coarse side of human nature - things which try men’s faith, not only in this world, but in the world to come. It is our duty to restore these men to sanity and an ordinary moral level - to give them a real interest in life, and make them of value to the community as a whole.
I have here Professor Gregory’s book, The Dead Heart of Australia, in which he writes at some length of the centre of the continent, and what may be done with it. He states that Lake Eyre was at one time almost a Garden of Eden, but that when it lost its waters it became what we know it to-day, the centre of what is practically a desert. Professor Gregory says -
Accordingly Lake Byre lost its outlet; its waters were henceforth removed only by evaporation; the salts, carried into the lake by the rivers, were concentrated, until the .waters became salt, and the, fish and crocodiles were all destroyed. As the lake shrank in area, less and less rain fell upon its shores; the vegetation withered; the once green, succulent herbage was replaced by dry, spiny plants; the giant marsupials died of hunger and thirst; hot winds swept across the dusty plains, and the once fertile basin of Lake Eyre was blasted into desert.
What appeals to me as an inlander is the fact that we have lost what used to ameliorate the climate for all the western divisions of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Before ever I heard of Professor Gregory’s book, hardheaded practical .men, who had travelled the interior of Australia - north, south, east, and west - had drawn my attention to the fact that all that Australia apparently needs to make it the garden of the world is to restore, as nearly as is humanly possible, the conditions which obtained in the centre a few hundred years ago. Professor Gregory goes on to say -
The revival of the “Dead Heart of Australia” appears to depend on the chance of restoring to the surface the waters that now lie useless underground.
That may be one way out of the difficulty. There is a vast body of water under all the westernmost part of Queensland, New South. Wales, and Victoria, and it is also believed that there is a similar body of water under Central Australia. But there is another way which has been often suggested, but which Professor Gregory rather decries, and that is that the sea should be let in to Lake Eyre from Port Augusta. I have heard it stated that, as Lake Eyre is above sea level, that idea is impracticable, but I think that” people get confused between Lake Torrens and Lake Eyre. Lake Torrens, which ‘is on the road that would be taken by a canal from Port Augusta to Lake Eyre, is 100 feet approximately above sea level, but the water of the Lake Eyre basin itself is 39 feet below sea level. What the depth of the lake is I do not presume to know, but it is stated, not only in Professor Gregory’s book, but in other books, and by a New South Wales [professor within the last few years, that there is a sufficient area below sea level round about Lake Eyre, and further north and east, to make an inland sea which would soften the climate, and give an increased rainfall to the whole western division of New’ South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.
– Have not engineers said that this would require a canal 200 yards wide, and that the evaporation would be such as to render the scheme impossible ?
– Engineers have made that statement, and Professor Gregory says that’ the distance from Lake Eyre to Port ‘Augusta is 260 miles, and that the cost of construction would be too great, and also that evaporation would fill the lake with salt. This only shows, however, that Professor Gregory does not understand geographical and meteorological conditions in Australia. Every man who has been in the interior knows that every few years there comes down a flood which fills this area, and which, if it were given an -outlet, would run into the sea. Professor Gregory, in decrying the scheme, says that the maximum depth of the lake would be 21 feet, though he states two pages further back that the surface of the lake is 39 feet below the level of the sea. He further tells us that in thirty years the whole bed of the lake would be slowly choked with salt owing to evaporation.
Professor Gregory should have realized what every practical man who has studied the weather conditions knows, that possibly ten or fifteen times in thirty years, when the rain falls abundantly in the Northern Territory, or north-west Queensland particularly, there comes down a flood of water into the central basin. With the increased rainfall that would certainly eventuate on the realization of such a scheme, we should add millions of pounds to the wealth of each of the States affected. It needs only about 2 inches more rain over the western districts of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland to make those States more’ productive than people have ever dreamt of. There is only a very narrow margin between the districts which to-day are the best producers of wheat, wool, and meat, and this dry interior. Then, as Professor Gregory and the New South Wales professor states, the dew itself would probably be quite sufficient to make a vast difference for many miles around the great inland sea.
I mention this subject to-night, because I think it is one that ought to be thoroughly inquired into. If such a scheme be feasible, we have a magnificent way of absorbing much of the labour of our returned men. It would be an ideal proposition from their point of view, because it would keep them out in the open, in large camps, where they could obtain the same sort of entertainment that they are accustomed to. Not one, but, perhaps, a dozen practical men have expressed the opinion to me that such an idea is feasible, and, if that be so, it would be one of the finest outlets possible for the energies of our returned men.
– Have you any idea as to the cost?
-Professor Gregory says the cost would be about £30,000,000. Bub what is £30,000,000, if it will add another inch or two of rain over the central district of this vast continent? It is a mere bagatelle. No man can realize what it would mean to Australia if we had an inland sea instead of a desert. As mentioned in Professor Gregory’s book, instead of dry dust and sand, we should have a tempered wind sweeping across the continent ; instead of the outback districts being smothered with sand, the hot winds would be, to a large extent, cut off, and the shifting sand held with a growth of herbs and grass. No man can compute the additional wealth which this would mean To the community as a wholes
– What would be the surface area of that inland sea ?
– Some thousands of square miles. The lowest estimate is 2,000 square miles, and the highest is four times that area. The matter has never been fully gone into. Some inquiry, I believe, was made into it by the South Australian Parliament, but ‘ it has not yet been looked into with that thoroughness which such a possibility deserves, and itis in this respect that I commend it to the consideration, of the Government.
– In whose constituency would it be?
– It would mean many new constituencies.
– The honorable member would out-do Mr. Balsillie.
– No, I do not think the rain-making idea will, so to speak, “ hold water.” I believe that by some scheme of this sort which must come somewhere in the future, we would recreate the “dead heart “ of Australia into a life-giving area, and save all those districts which are to-day blasted by the winds that blow across the desert.
I do not wish to delay the House much longer, but I would impress upon the Government the desirableness of fulfilling its promises in every respect. One of the things which is injuring recruiting to-day, one of the things which is rendering men uncertain as to their future, and causing them grave doubts such as should not exist in the minds of men who are doing their duty as they are, is that the Government has so far not fulfilled its promises as fully as they think it should meet them in the future. Although the men who are going out to fight are quite prepared to put up with all the stress and struggle and trials of modern warfare - are prepared, if necessary, to lose their limbs and, it may be, their lives - they do want to make sure that those who are left behind are going to be cared for. That is the consideration that comes home to every soldier. He takes his life in his hands. That is a matter of everyday occurrence with a man who has in him any of the blood of manhood. There is no question as to the bravery or otherwise of our men. I believe that ninety -nine out of every hundred in Australia would be quite prepared to go and -face the worst that the world could do for them if they knew that those whom they left behind would be thoroughly cared for.
I want to impress upon the Government the necessity for instilling, by their actions, that belief in the minds of those who are going abroad. Up till now the men have some reason to doubt that these promises will be fulfilled. I have had brought under my notice even recently cases that often proved misleading - cases which, when probed, proved to be without foundation. There have been made in this House n.any statements in regard to soldiers which I am sure, from my own experience amongst soldiers, .would have been found groundless if honorable members had inquired into them. Honorable members will find that tha Government is not nearly as bad as it has been ‘ painted ; that most of these cases are brought up by men who would not make good in any walk of life. Whilst the best men in Australia - and they are the best who have gone - have volunteered, the worst have also gone with them in many cases, and one can only accept the word of every returned man for what it is worth. Even if they, were reliable when they went away, some of them have been ruined oversea, and hardly know what they are saying. I have been on recruiting platforms with many of them who seem quite sane and normal under ordinary conditions, but who, when given the extra excitement which is engendered at public meetings, go over the edge, and one has to help them away. That is the state in which many are coming back, and it is due, not only to the stress and trial and nerve-racking experience of modern warfare, but to the fact that they never felt sure in their own minds of the promises so many received as to what would be done to them when they came back, or of the promises as to what would be meted out to the wives and children - the widows and orphans, it might be - of the men they were persuading to go oversea.
Just recently the Government issued a statement that it would help the parents of boys at the Front who were suffering from a financial stand-point because of their enlistment. I brought before the Government a case which, to my own positive knowledge, was as genuine as any that could be put. It was a case of real hardship, where the parents put all their capital into the educating of their son,~so that he might be equipped in a reasonable way for modern competition, and assist to provide for them in their old age. When the call came they knew .what it meant to send their boy to the Front. They knew they were sending him where he could not carry on his profession, in which he was doing well here. They knew, further, that they were taking the risk of losing him altogether, and of getting a small pittance, which would mean very little to them. But they sent him. They sacrificed everything. Thank Heaven, the boy is alive to-day, and we hope he will return. But those two old people are, or were, in danger of losing their home, because they sent that boy - their only son - to do what they believed to be his duty to the Empire. When the Government promised to relieve cases of that kind, these old people, much against their grain, put in an application. It was turned down. That sort of thing should not be possible.
– On what ground was it turned down?
– I do not know. I only know that the letter I received stated that the authorities had made inquiries into the case, and had regretfully turned it down. I am not speaking from hearsay, or of a case which I do not know to be thoroughly genuine. I know this case from beginning to end, and it is such incidents that are breaking down quite a number of men at the Front. There is also the fact that- men are induced to join up and be sworn in here by promises which lead them to believe that they will be treated differently from what they are treated.
– This is the time and opportunity to make it impossible for genuine cases to be turned down.
– That is what I am trying to do. I mention these facts, not because of a desire to harass the Government in any way, but because I believe these men, whose cases are quite genuine, deserve further consideration, and deserve, above everything, to know that the promises of the Government are going to be made good. When a man enlists he is made various promises as to how he is going to be treated. I know a man of independent means, over forty years of age, who stepped down from a good position to enter the ranks. After much struggling he was allowed to qualify for noncommissioned rank. Having achieved that, he qualified for a commission. But, after all the promises that have been made, after all the inducements that have been held out to him, he is told that he cannot get a commission until he goes to the Front. What is more, he is told by those who have been to the Front, and have returned, that he has a very poor chance of securing a commission there. That is another factor which is operating against our men, not only in the way of recruiting, but- in causing them worry and anxiety. Surely the trials and struggles of modern warfare are sufficient to strain a man’s nerve, without his having any doubt concerning his own position or that of those whom he leaves behind.
I have dealt with this Bill from the point of view of a man who is inside. I have endeavoured to show as emphatically as I can the dangers in which the public are apt to he placed because of oversentimentalism in respect of our soldiers. But I wish to impress most forcibly upon the Government the fact that this House is responsible for having sent thousands of men oversea on promises that were made to them, and that this House should see to it that those promises are fulfilled to the letter. The true soldier wants only fair treatment. He does not want any sentimentalism or adulation or flattery. The only thing the Government and this House have to do is to see that the promises made to these men and to those whom they have left behind - some of them, alas, never to return to them - are fulfilled to the very letter ; to see that the men who go abroad, and who are often lying in hospitals oversea for months, shall know that whether they come back or go over the Great Divide, those whom they have left behind will be safe in the great comforting arms of Australia.
.- The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) who has just resumed his seat, referred to this Bill as a great pioneering measure. Such a statement serves only to show what short memories some have, since this is the second Bill we have had before us to establish an Australian soldiers’ repatriation scheme. A Bill entitled “ The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund Bill”- Act No. 7 of 1916 - “ to make provision for the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund,” was assented to on 30th May, 1916. A careful comparison of that measure and the regulations made under it with the Bill now before the House shows that this Government has not advanced one inch in dealing with the question of the repatriation of soldiers.
– The Bill of 1916 was not introduced by the present Government.
– No; but the present Government have had about eighteen months’ experience in dealing with the question of repatriation, and I repeat that the measure now before us does not go one inch further than that which was assented to in May, 1916.
– I had no,interest in the framing of that measure; but in this case I have a responsibility.
– My honorable friend was in Parliament when the last measure was dealt with, and the records will show whether he availed himself of the opportunity to suggest any amendment of it. When we go into Committee weshall be able to deal with this Bill in detail. We all have our responsibilities in connexion with it, and if it is a mere skeleton, with no life in it, it is our duty, if possible, to put some life into it.
Let me take the opening paragraphs of the two Bills with the object of showing that their scope is practically the same. Section 2, sub-section 1, of the Act of 1916 provides -
What does the new Bill now before us propose in that respect? A couple of clauses are taken up in repealing the provisions of the existing Act, and then the definition clause reads -
State Board “ means a State Repatriation Board appointed for a State. “The Commission” means the Repatriation Commission. “ The Minister “ means the Minister of State for Repatriation or the Minister for the time being administering this Act. “ Prescribed “ means prescribed by this Act or the regulations.
These are practically . the opening clauses in the two measures, and it will he seen that while there is a difference in words, there is practically no difference in the scope of the two. The only difference is that, whereas the previous Government passed an Act to constitute a Board of . Repatriation Trustees, this Bill abolishes the Board of Repatriation Trustees, and empowers the Minister to constitute a Commission.
It is said that we are now starting out to make a Minister of the Crown responsible for the administration of repatriation, but, under last year’s measure, a man was made responsible for the administration of repatriation who has had most to say about the war and our duty to the soldiers, namely, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). He was definitely charged in that measure with its administration. He was Chairman of the Board of Repatriation Trustees, and associated with him were a number of leading public and business men of the country. To merely repeal that measure and appoint, instead of tEe Prime Minister and a Board of Trustees, Senator Millen and a Repatriation Commission composed, it may be, not of better men, but of some different men, does not effect any advance or reform in dealing with this question.
– What are the names of the public and business men referred to?
– I shall quote them as thev appear in section 4 of the Act of 1916, now to be repealed. That section reads -
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth ; Arthur Sydney Baillieu, Esq., of Melbourne, in the State of Victoria;
The Hon. Sir John Langdon Bonython, K.B., C.M.G., of Adelaide, in the State of South Australia;
The Right Hon. Sir John Forrest, P.C., G.C.M.G., Member of the House of Representatives ;
John Joseph Garvan, Esq., of Sydney, in the State of New South Wales;
Edward Grayndler, Esq., of Sydney, aforesaid ;
Samuel Hordern, Esq., of Sydney aforesaid;
The Hon. John McEwan Hunter, Secretary for Public Lands, of the State of Queensland ;
The Hon. Sir Wm. Hill Irvine, K.C.M.G., Member of the House of Representatives;
Senator the Hon. James Joseph Long;
Senator the Hon. Edward Davis Millen;
Denison Samuel King Miller, Esq., of Sydney , aforesaid ;
The Hon. James Page, Member of the House of Representatives;
The Hon. Alexander Poynton, Member of the House of Representatives; and
Owen Morrice Williams, Esq., of Melbourne aforesaid; shall be Trustees of the Fund.
– It sounds like a board of directors.
– That is what it is.
– A number of those gentlemen may be on the Repatriation Commission.
– I am pointing out that there is practically no difference . between the Act passed last year and the Bill we are now considering. There is a change from a Board of Trusteesto a Repatriation Commission. Two or three of the men included on the Board of Trustees may not be members of the Repatriation Commission, but practically all that is being done is to abolish one Board and substitute another for it, and to substitute Senator Millen for the Prime Minister as the presiding genius. There is no great reform or advance in that.
There is in this Bill no provision to raise a solitary penny for the repatriation of our soldiers. No Bill so far passed by this Parliament provides for the raising of a solitary penny for that purpose.
– Except the Income Tax Bill we passed the other day.
– Not so. A statement was made by the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest) that it was intended under that Bill to raise money for the purpose, but honorable members may search it from end to end and they will find that from the comparatively small total sum to be raised by the special tax to be imposed on single men who have not enlisted there is not a single penny earmarked for the repatriation of our soldiers. We have frequently heard these promises by Treasurers that moneys < -raised in a certain way will be expended upon a particular purpose, but they are worth nothing. Such promises do not carry beyond the first temptation of the Treasurer to use the money for other purposes. If the Government are in earnest in this matter let them put the provision in the Bill.
– It is in the Treasurer’s Budget speech.
– That cannot be referred to as authority for the appropriation of moneys for this purpose later on. The only thing that can bind the Treasurer is what appears in the Act itself.
The country is being deluded by this Bill. The public will take the speeches of Ministers in introducing the measure for the Bill, whilst everything depends upon what is in the Bill itself. If the Government are in earnest and intend to give effect to the promises of Ministers, let them make the necessary provision in the Bill. If that is done we shall have some guarantee that the promises will be fulfilled. We have no such guarantee now.
I have here a copy of the Act passed last year, to which I have referred, and a copy of the regulations made under it, and I find that practically everything that’ has been referred to by the Ministers who have introduced this measure in this House and in another place, is provided for under these regulations, and is being carried out at the present time by the State War Councils and the Repatriation Committees of these Councils in each of the States. As a member of the State War Council for New South Wales, these matters come under my notice at its regular meetings. I have here one of the reports submitted at those meetings, which shows the number of men dealt with between the date- of one meeting and that of the preceding meeting. It is unnecessary to refer to the cases in detail, but in the report submitted to the State War Council of New South Wales on the 16th July of this year there is this summary : - The total number of applications granted up to 12th July, 1917, inclusive, is as follows: -
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), in the course of his speech, mentioned the amount of money in hand collected for the various patriotic funds for this purpose.- This money seems to be ladled out in the most niggardly fashion. The advances on the date I have referred to, in New South Wales, amounted to £40,000.
– The War Council® are doing a lot of work.
-H. CATTS.- That is quite true. Some good work is being done, although, unfortunately, in New South Wales we have a regular list of unemployed returned soldiers tlo show that there does not seem to be sufficient provision made for their rehabilitation in civil life.
I am pointing out that, under the Act passed last year, a fund is being administered by a Board- of Trustees. They make advances of certain amounts to State War Councils, and these bodies, through their special Repatriation Committees, are now dealing with the matter of repatriation. This Bill does not carry us one” inch further. I have a table here which shows the headings under which applications for assistance are considered. Honorable members will know when they hear them read that these have been referred to in this debate as something new, although they have been recognised in the work of repatriation during the last twelve or eighteen months. Application’s were dealt with under the following headings:
These cover practically everything that was referred to by Ministers in introducing the present skeleton Bill. What is there of advancement about iti It is most disappointing that, after the active administration of the Repatriation Fund for the last eighteen months, the Government should have brought forward a Bill which in no one particular guarantees work or help to returned soldiers, and does not raise a single penny for repatriation.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– We have a Bill before us now which has been referred to by the last speaker as pioneering repatriation, when, as a matter of fact, it pro- vides for nothing that has not been done under the measure passed last year. It provides merely for the substitution of a Repatriation Commission for a Board of Trustees. That is the sum total of our advance ‘in dealing with this question after eighteen months’ experience. We are neither pioneering repatriation, nor are we making any advance upon our pioneering experience.
This Bill does not keep the promises of the Government to the soldiers. In a manifesto issued by the Prime Minister directly to the soldiers, in a Government publication entitled All for Australia, dated 12th April, 1917, the right honorable gentleman said -
Wo propose to raise£ 22,000,000 for the purpose of settling soldiers on the land; and an additional £10,000,000 by a special tax on incomes for the purpose of repatriation.
There is nothing in this Bill, nor in any other Bill or Act, to carry out the promises which the Government made to the soldiers and to the country before they were returned to power.
What was the promise made by the present Labour Opposition ? In a manifesto issued by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) on behalf of the Australian Labour party, and under the heading “ Repatriation,” there appears the following statement-
– Is not this a criticism of the Government rather than a discussion of the Repatriation Bill ?
– It is both. The Government should be criticised for not carrying out their promises, and the House should insist upon these promises being treated as more than mere “ scraps of paper.”
– It is only fair to add that the first Bill to which the honorable member has referred does not belong to the period of the present Government. It provides for trustees from both sides of the House.
– That is so. It was passed at a time when a shouldering of responsibility between both sides was provided for, and the administration of the Repatriation Fund was to be carried out by representatives of both sides. Apparently, the present Government propose the abolition of the association of the two political parties in the administration of repatriation, and intend that it shall be a purely party matter, since they take unto themselves the whole of the administration of this measure.
– I hope that the Repatriation Commission will be nonpolitical.
– It is to be hoped that it will, but the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has pointed out that the Government are, in this measure, abolishing the association of the two political parties in the responsibility for repatriation.
The manifesto of the Australian Labour party contained the following, under the heading “ Repatriation “ : -
The restoration of our brave soldiers to their country and civil employment should be the grateful duty of the Government. Present methods are inadequate and slow. The Repatriation Fund will be reimbursed from time to time by a Labour Government. Money will bo lent without interest to returned soldiers who may wish to go on the land or engage in business, or trade, or professions. Immediate steps will be taken to secure employment for others.
Employers who do not keep open the positions occupied by employees who have enlisted for active service will be called upon by Act of Parliament to show cause why they do not re-employ their men.
– And there it ends.
– It is at least a little more definite than is the manifesto of the party to which the honorable member belongs. He knows very well that it is impossible to incorporate an Act of Parliament in a political manifesto.
– But I would not quote it as a contrast to what is proposed in the Bill before the House.
– It is a contrast to this measure, which provides for nothing. Surely a proposal to do something contrasts favorably with a Bill that does nothing.- Will the honorable member inform me of one thing this Bill proposes to do beyond abolishing one Commission and appointing another? In addition to the Bill, I have gone very carefully through the speech of the Minister who introduced it in the Senate.
– It was a good speech.
– Certainly. The honorable senator is an adept at making good speeches. From his long public experience and his ability he has acquired the art of the advocate in a very rare degree. I have taken ‘his speech and carefully analyzed it, grouping his points under a number of headings.
– Yes; his speech refers to various subjects.
– -The Postmaster-General forgets that headings were cut out after his nine hours’ speech.
– But on that occasion the Postmaster-General very skilfully had all the headings incorporated in Hansard by reading them out one after the other to show what had been cut out of the report.
Senator Millen dealt with the line of demarkation between voluntary and Government effort. He pointed out that there would be a registration immediately, and upon the soldier’s discharge the Government’s responsibiltiy would commence, whereas prior to that he might be assisted from patriotic funds. What is called demarcation is the line drawn between the activities in connexion with the various patriotic funds for this purpose and Government activity. On the question of registration Senator Millen said -
The real work of repatriation is to reinstate the discharged soldier in civil life. The first necessity is to insure registration as early as possible. Much delay can be avoided by effective registration prior to discharge.
There is nothing new in that. Every man is registered now immediately upon his discharge at the office of discharged soldiers, which is now an existing institution in each of the States. Senator Millen added -
Registration having been effected, the repatriation authorities will proceed to deal with the applications.
That is what is being done at present.
The next heading is “Labour Bureaux,” under which the Minister said -
As a very essential feature in the work of repatriation, it is proposed to establish, in the Central Office of each State a Labour Bureau.
The Amelioration Committee of the State War Council have a Labour Bureau in existence, so in that regard the Bill proposes nothing that is new.
Disablement. On this point the Minister said -
We turn now to the men who come back with their efficiency impaired as the result of wounds or of illness. It will be necessary to give them training to fit them to take up a new calling to which their present disablement presents no bar.
At the present time, and before this Bill was ever thought of, each State had experts under the State War Councils in every State dealing with this question.
Curative workshops. On this the Minister said -
The first provision will be curative workshops attached to the hospitals.
There is now, and has been for some considerable time, a curative workshop at the Randwick Military Hospital, with all the necessary scientific instruments to help men, by working them in different directions, to regain the use of paralyzed or partially paralyzed limbs. The Bill, therefore, does nothing new in that respect..
Private employers. On this the Minister said -
Advanced training will be provided by an arrangement with private employers, under which the latter will pay in proportion to the value of the amount earned.
That means that the Government will apparently subsidize private employers, but in many cases these have already agreed to take the men back into their employment. The Government apparently intend to side-step the insistent demand that private employers shall .carry out their contracts to their employees upon enlistment.
– I think that most of them are keeping their promises.
– I am not referring to most of them. Most of our labour laws are designed for the purpose ;of keeping the unscrupulous employer up to his obligations’ and protect the fair employer from unfair competition. The same principle should be incorporated in this Bill in regard’ to returned soldiers.-
There are cases in which private employers are not carrying out their promises to the returned soldiers. The New South Wales Government aire not doing it. The Commonwealth ‘ Government, who are directly charged with the conduct of the war and the repatriation of the soldiers, have it in their power to see that all these things are done, if necessary by legislation, so that when the glamour of the present time has passed away, those who have been making these extensive promises will be compelled to honour them. The matter of dealing with private employers was the subject of a question put in the Senate during the short reign of the Government which came in between the last Labour Government and the present one. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister then, and the present Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) was Minister for Defence then. The reply of the then Minister for Works and Railways (Senator Lynch), recorded on page 10043 of Hansard, was to the effect that it was not within the proper domain of the Government to compel private employers to reinstate their workmen returning from the war. I assert most emphatically that it is within the proper domain of the Government to see that all promises that are made to the soldiers are faithfully carried out.
Apprentices. The Minister in the Senate referred to apprentices in these terms -
An opportunity to complete their indentures will be afforded to apprentices who had to break off when responding to the country’s call. The country must accept the responsibility of supplementing their wages to enable them to do so.
I never heard of that particular proposal before. That insignificant proposal is the first new suggestion ofthis much-boomed Government, and even that is not in the Bill.
Hostels. The Minister said -
Some of the incapacitated men will require constant care and attention, and for them special provision will be made, first, by providing special hostels for them.
There are such hostels now, so that there is nothing particularly new in- that idea.
Sanatoriums. The Minister said -
It is proposed to establish sanatoriums for tubercular cases.
There are such sanatoriums now.
Medical Attendance. On this point, the Minister stated -
The initial steps have been- taken to provide medical attendance for discharged soldiers at . local hospitals.
That is done now.
– It is not done in many cases.
– It may not be so in all local hospitals, but it is certainly so at the big hospitals in the cities.
– It is the country men who are at a disadvantage at present.
– As far as I know, our hospitals are treating returned soldiers without question, whether they be city or country institutions. No case has yet been brought under notice where any difficulty has existed; but I will tell the honorable member what the Government are doing.
At the Randwick Military Hospital, in Sydney, there are upwards of 200 men who were discharged from the hos pital before they were fit to be discharged, and after being outside for some time they had to be taken back for treatment. Their pay has been stopped, and they have been getting a very small pension of from 7s. 6d. to 15s. a week. This means that the Government have robbed those soldiers of their pay for a considerable period when they should have been on the pay-roll of the Government for the whole time, and in the care of the hospital.
– Was not that the fault of the medical men who discharged them?
– No, it was the fault of the directions issued to the medical men under which they were compelled to act. It was not done at the wish of the officers in charge of the administration of the institution.
– To what regulation do you refer?
– I do not know the number. That is a very good catch question.
– You are talking about a regulation. Let us know what it is.
– The Minister is endeavouring to side-track me by asking for the number of the regulation. He could not himself give the. number of one single Defence regulation dealing with any question, although he helps to pass them.
Senator Millen, in his speech referring to the manufacture of artificial limbs, said -
It is proposed to establish a factory for the manufacture of limbs, with branches in the respective States.
I point out that at least six months ago a Committee was in existence for the purpose of carrying out this proposal, so there was nothing fresh in what the Minister said.
– Is the honorable member trying to make out that repatriation is not needed ?
– The Minister for the Navy has just come into the House, and does not know what I am referring to. What I am saying is that this Bill does not show that we have gained anything from the experience of the last eighteen months in the administration of a repatriation scheme. It is proposed, however, to abolish a Commission upon which were representatives of both sides of the House, including the Prime Minister, and to place this matter in the hands of another Commission to be nominated by Senator Millen, and to carry out this work under his administration. It has not been shown that there is any real difference between the scope of the two measures at all. Senator Millen referred to finance, and he remarked - “ Land settlement is a big proposition.”
Of course, everybody knows that. The Minister spoke of the Conference, held last February between the Commonwealth and. the States on this subject, and said -
The Commonwealth Government undertook, therefore, to make advances to the States, to be in turn advanced by them to the settler, to enable the latter to effect improvements, purchase plant, seeds, stock, &c. The limit in every case was to be ?500. The advances to the settler were to be upon favorable terms as to interest and repayment.
The Government, like a Jew money lender, must extract its full pound of flesh from our returned soldiers. I repudiate this demand for interest. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 2nd April of this year, there appears the following statement -
Melbourne, Sunday. - At a meeting of Rus sians on Saturday night, the Consul-General for Russia, Mr. A. D’Abaza”, stated that the Commonwealth Bank had agreed to advance ?20,000 without interest towards the cost of repatriating Russians.
If we can advance money without interest for the repatriation of Russians, why cannot we advance money similarly for the repatriation of Australians ? After all, we shall be giving them nothing, if we advance them a sum of money and require payment of interest and principal.
Let us infuse some life into the dead bones of this Bill, and see that our soldiers get an advance, without repayment of either principal or interest, of an amount necessary to enable them to’ provide for the support of a family. If we do that we shall have done something of a practical nature for our soldiers in return for what they have done for us. Senator Millen went on to say -
The States undertook the responsibility of paying to the Commonwealth the interest, “and repaying the principal of the amount so advanced. . . . Queensland, through its representatives, intimated its inability to fall in with the arrangement, and for the present, therefore, the agreement is limited to five States.
I point out, however, that the Queensland Government is doing more than the
Government in any other State, and more than the Commonwealth Government propose to do under this scheme, because Queensland is offering good land to returned soldiers, irrespective of the State from which they come. British or Australian soldiers alike may get an advance to the amount of ?1,500.
– I think all the States are doing that under an agreement made by Sir Rider Haggard.
– They are not doing so much as Queensland. In New South Wales the whole of the land settlement work is removed from the Repatriation Fund, and the State Government is arranging for the settlement of the men.
Senator Millen also stated that some 40,000 soldiers had indicated a wish to go upon the land, and added -
It is difficult, therefore, to state the average
Amount required for a holding, but if - the present forms of settlement are continued, it may be estimated at ?1,000. If to this is added the ?500 for improvements, &c. then a total of ?60,000,000 is involved.
Does the Government propose to do anything about that? I see no provision for it in this Bill.
– What do you think of the scheme for shifting sand?
– I noticed that the honorable member who preceded me conceived a brilliant idea that our returned soldiers should be put on to dig a canal - in the heart of the desert in the centre of Australia - from Port Augusta to Lake Eyre, and that this proposal to spend ?30,000,000 for shifting sand was rather enthusiastically acclaimed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald).
Senator Millen went on to say ;
Forestry. - A considerable volume of labour could be employed in forestry development. . . . Another and larger undertaking which, whilst having a distinct and important bearing on Australian development, can also, I think, be made a useful adjunct to the work of repatriation, is the Murray River scheme. . . . I am inquiring to see how far it may be practicable to provide a joint employment and settlement scheme in connexion with this work…..
It is reasonable to assume that many of those returned may desire that the assistance to be rendered shall take the form of assistance in the establishment of residences in urban areas. This, to some extent, is also being done at present.
At the present time the Government of New South Wales is providing homes for the widows of deceased soldiers, andso far has provided relief in about 300 cases. If the Commonwealth Government wants to advance along progressive lines it might very well imitate the work done in New South Wales by making it apply throughout the Commonwealth, as has been requested by the War Councils in the respective States.
We are told by Senator Millen that in regard to administration - there will be an honorary Commission of seven, of which the Minister will be chairman. The Commission will include two returned soldiers, and will prescribe by regulation the nature and extent of the many beneficial activities embraced in the work of repatriation.
In all this there is nothing representing any advance upon the administration of repatriation at the present time.
Members .on this side have a few definite proposals to make with regard to this important subject, and we hope they will be fairly discussed by the House before this Bill is disposed of.
– I hope so.
– I cannot too strongly emphasize, the point that unless guarantees are put in the. Bill the promises made will not be very much good. Those of us who have had experience of legislation know that all sorts of things are promised at election time, in the heat of the moment, when some sentiment is prevailing, such as there is at present. It is an occasion on which wholesale promises are made, but they are forgotten very soon. We shall have no guarantee to the returned soldiers unless it is put in the Bill. It should not be left to the mere whim and caprice of any Minister or set of Ministers to say whether things are to be given effect to or not.
One provision we would like to have in the Bill is that all totally disabled returned soldiers, and widows of soldiers, and dependent children of deceased soldiers, shall be housed free for life by the Government.
– Until after they are grandfathers?
– No; I said while they are dependants.
– You said “ for life.”
– I mean until they reach the age of sixteen years. We want a provision that widows and totally disabled soldiers shall be housed free for life, and that the dependants of deceased sol diers shall be housed while they are dependants - that is, until they get beyond the age of dependency. Here is a definite principle which could be incorporated in the measure, and would be a legal guarantee to all those who go to the war.
Another provision we want is that returned wounded or otherwise incapacitated soldiers shall be kept on the pay-roll until provided with employment. Then we should not have returned soldiers walking about the streets unable to obtain employment as we have at present.
We also want a provision that employers promising to keep positions open for those who enlist shall register such promises, with the names of the men enlisting to whom it applies, and shall be compelled to honour their contracts on the return of the soldiers. This provision should also apply to public authorities and to all inducements, such as promises to make up the difference in pay, to pay insurance premiums, <kc.
Further, we want to provide that where assistance- to returned soldiers is necessary to establish them in civil life, the amount required to enable them to support a family shall not be subject to the payment of interest or the repayment of principal.
In these three groups we deal with dependants of soldiers, who, without question, are a proper charge on the country. In the second group we deal with private employment for the men where their reemployment has been promised upon return from the war. And -thirdly we should make some guarantee to those who will have to be dependent upon tlie Government for their re-establishment in civil life. It means that in those cases which are not provided for by private employers, and in those cases where private employers have promised to reinstate the men on their return, the Government shall take- on its shoulders the responsibility of seeing that the men’s interests are properly protected and advanced. If we do that, we shall cover the whole range of the returned soldiers and their dependants. If we wish to show our sincerity towards the men we will put these provisions in the Bill, so that there can be no dispute that these matters have to be dealt with. We ought to give in the Bill an instruction to the Commission regarding the principles on which it shall operate the Repatriation Fund.
I would like to see some financial arrangement introduced, because, after all, there is not much use in having these proposals for the repatriation of soldiers and the care of dependants unless the necessary provision is made for that purpose. No such provision has been made by the Government.- I understand that in a Bill of this kind it is not possible to incorporate a financial arrangement for carrying out the fund, but we can certainly lay down -an instruction to the Commission as to what we desire it to do, and thus give a statutory guarantee to the soldiers. That is the least which we can do now, and if we do anything less than that we shall fall very far short of keeping our engagements.
In the Postal Advocate of 18th September, which came to hand to-day, I noticed . a report of a case which has occurred in the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, and as the PostmasterGeneral is present I should like to refer to it. An employee who had returned from the war was reinstated, and because he ‘ had not worked for the whole of a year he was not given the ordinary leave. He was told that for this year his leave was forfeited because he had been working in the Department for only a certain number of months. It is stated that if a man starts to work in the Department nine days after the beginning of the year, he forfeits his right to holidays for that year. Surely that was never intended !
Another case came under my notice where the Postal Department went back on a promise to pay an insurance premium on behalf of one of its employees who had enlisted.
The New South Wales Government promised that in regard to its employees who enlisted it would make up the difference between the military pay and the railway service pay. It had- a sum of money voted on the Estimates until this year, when the item was withdrawn. It has absolutely gone back on the promise it made to the men. There have come under my notice other cases which fall into the same category. In one case the State Government promised to employ a man when he came back from the war.
– The matter of leave at the Post Office is a matter for the Public Service Commissioner to decide, as you know.
– The Minister cannot shunt the responsibility for the administration of the affairs of this country on to the Public Service Commissioner.
– That is where the responsibility lies.
– The Public Service Commissioner is a public servant. The responsibility rests with the Government, and if the Commissioner were instructed as to its policy in- regard to employees who enlist for the war he would carry it out.
– He has the law to guide him.
– I challenge my honorable friend to issue a memorandum or statement telling the Commissioner what is -the policy of the Government in regard to employees who enlist for -the war. If he takes that course, and the Commissioner then stands on his legal rights, and refuses to give effect to the Government policy, we can say, at least, that the honorable gentleman has done something to give effect to this principle. But it is of no use to say it is the fault of the Commissioner if the honorable gentleman or the Government has done nothing to alter the state of affairs, even by so much as making a request.
In New South Wales another case came under my notice, where a man was promised that he would be reinstated on his return from the war, but the promise was not carried out. Several applications were made, but no satisfactory answer was given.
Instances have been brought to the notice of the Sydney City Council of private employers having refused to honour their obligations to soldiers. Distinct promises had been given to reinstate them, but the employers had refused to do so. Cases have been taken to Court, and, in some instances, employers have ‘ been compelled to honour their contracts. As the last speaker has pointed out, -many soldiers return nervous wrecks. Is it fair to expect these men to tackle large companies, and take them through all the Courts .of the land, in order to have promises redeemed? The proper thing is for the Commonwealth Government to assume the responsibility. When promises are made they should be registered as are ordinary contracts or bills of sale, and the Repatriation Board which is to attend to returned soldiers should take up these cases, and see that contracts made by employers with soldiers are honoured.
– We must first be satisfied that a man comes back quite capable. If he is incapable it is the duty of the Commonwealth to look after him.
– Of course; but there should be some authority to take the matter up, and see whether it is a genuine case or not. There is no machinery for that purpose.
– That is why we are anxious to pass the Bill.
– The Bill makes no reference to it. If the honorable member is anxious to pass the Bill for that purpose I hope that he will support an amendment that I shall move in Committee to give effect to the principle. The measure makes no provision that was not in the last Bill. It merely abolishes the Prime Minister’s responsibility for administering repatriation matters, and places it in the keeping of the projected new Minister for Repatriation. There is much to be done in framing the Bill. It makes no provision for honoring the promises made to soldiers, and I hope that all honorable members who have taken interest in the question will join together in Committee, so that when the measure passes this House it will have incorporated in it by legal enactment what this Parliament recognises as its obligations to the soldiers of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Corser) adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Wood Pulp and Rock Phosphate Bounties Bill.
Shale Oil Bounty Bill.
Loan Bill 1917.
War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill.
War-time Profits Tax Bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Aggregate Balancesheet at 30th’ June, 1917, together with the Auditor-General’s Report thereon.
Public Service Act - Promotions of -
Order of Business - Informers against
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
As the debate on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill has been adjourned at a comparatively early hour, I appeal to honorable members to assist us in getting the Bill through the second-reading stage as quickly as possible to-morrow. The Government hope that the second reading will be agreed to by the dinner hour.
.- Last week I asked the Prime Minister the following question: -
The Prime Minister replied - 1 and 2. In such cases, the source of any information supplied by the Government is not disclosed.
I have a letter dealing with a German named Umlauft, a baker, of Epping, who has made several disloyal statements. For instance, he told one woman who had lost her son at the Front that her boy had only been food for German guns. This letter, which is addressed to the Department of the Attorney-General, is written by a Mr. Frood, and is as follows: -
I write to ask if it will be possible for us to have a disloyal naturalized German interned without having recourse to the Courts. The actual case which has brought this matter to the fore is as follows: -
Umlauft, a baker, of Epping; just outside Melbourne, has made several disloyal statements. He told one woman who has” lost her son at the Front that her boy had only been food for German cannon. I have a further letter this morning from another person at Epping, who states that Umlauft said that England had no right to interfere in this war. He has annoyed the people of Epping to such an extent that they are prepared to go a long way to have this man removed; but, owing to the fact that there are many German residents living in the district, the shopkeepers especially are loath to appear, in Court in support of affidavits, which otherwise they are- prepared to make. I have personally investigated this case, and I have discussed the matter with Major Hogan, O.C. of the Intelligence Department. My request is, therefore, that affidavits made -by the citizens of Australia may be treated as confidential by your Department, and only subject to confidential investigation by any officers of your Department other than the Court.
I am quite sure you will see that it is a very hard matter that people who have been insulted, as undoubtedly this man has insulted many residents of Epping, that the)’ should have to - bear insults, and have practically no redress, short of intimidation, loss of business, and annoyance from the remaining German residents, owing to their having to appear in Court. If I might be allowed to make a suggestion, I would submit that any affidavit made under these circumstances should be certified to by the magistrate before whom it is sworn as to the credibility of the signatory.
On 22nd August, Sir Robert Garran, Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department, sent this reply -
With reference to your letter of the 13th ult. and 15th inst., I have the honour to inform you that advice has been received from the Defence Department that inquiries made regarding Mr. Umlauft have failed to disclose any information that would justify action against him.
That letter shows that apparently important communications do not get beyond the Secretary of the Department to the Ministerial head. In this instance, the citizens asked that in a case in which a man was known to be disloyal, and was intimidating a whole district, an investigation should be held sub rosa; but the departmental head, instead of bringing the matter under the notice of bis Minister, apparently submitted it to the Defence Department. The latter, which, I assume, is not accustomed to the sifting of evidence, presumes to say that the correspondence fails to disclose any information that would justify action against the man. To whom did the Department go for evidence ? I submit that there is a substantial grievance here. If the citizens of the Commonwealth are being intimidated by Germans they have a right to be protected by the Government. I have no
Mr. Palmer. hesitation or delicacy about submitting this particular case to the House as one in which a matter has been submitted to the Minister, who says that he is not aware of the answer that has been returned. I think he has a right to be made aware of it, and I take this, opportunity of bringing the matter under his notice. I ask the Government to see that the case is properly investigated, and that those who are prepared to give evidence receive the support mentioned in the first answer, namely, that the sources of any information supplied to the Government are not to be disclosed.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the House a case of most infamous and brutal treatment of a soldier’s wife by a landlord. I have here the rent book of Mrs. Violet Clarke, living at 28 Dickensstreet, North Carlton, which shows that her rent has been paid up to next Saturday. She was known to the agent, Mr. William Dodd, who is the reputed owner, before she took the house, but a notice to quit was nailed to her door ; the agent had not the decency to call. For the last twoyears and four months Mrs. Clarke’s husband has been at the Front fighting for the liberty of this brutal landlord, and I have been informed by a neighbour that this man has dared to take this action in time of war because the lady is a Socialist. I regret that Parliament is about to adjourn for some weeks, because when Parliament is not sitting there is no opportunity for ventilating cases such as this and the one mentioned by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer). So far Parliament has done nothing of importance, and I take this opportunity of protesting against an adjournment at this time of the year. I shall hand the rent book andpapers to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, and I know that the matter will be attended to. But is it not time that the War Precautions Act was utilized to prevent actions of this kind ? .
– Regulations to deal with rent are now being framed, and will be issued immediately.
– In those circumstances I have nothing more to say.
.- I am informed that during the strike in Sydney some German mechanics were taken from the internment camp at
Holdsworth? for the purpose of working in the Eveleigh’ railway shops. When, however, they :were informed that a strike was in progress they refused to start work.
– I would like to make a bet in regard to that statement.
– It seems a little far-fetched, but the statement is being made, and it ought to bo inquired into.
– Inquiries will be made at once.
– There is another case which I understand relates to the Department of the Navy. I am told that the National Service Bureau in O’Connell-street, which has been engaging so-called free labour-
– Volunteer labour.
– The Bureau which has been engaging volunteer labour - Nationalists, blacklegs, loyalists, or whatever they are called - has been prepared to employ Germans for coaling work.
– Will you disclose the source of your information?”
– I dare say I could do so. When I have made some further inquiries I shall be able to a0 so, unless the Minister has up his sleeve, so to speak, some regulation under which he would punish the person making the statement.
– That is unworthy of the honorable member.
– Strange things have been done by this Government. If the Minister’s request is bond fide I will comply with it.
– The honorable member repeats in public anything he hears instead of first. making inquiries. .
– I have made some inquiries. The information I have in this matter I believe to be reliable. It is that in one case a German applied at the Bureau for employment and was accepted. When he informed the officer in charge there that he was a German, they told him that that did not matter.
– - I would have a bet on that.
– I will take it up. What does the honorable gentleman want to bet?
– Order 1 This is not a betting establishment. ‘ pin
– If it were in order I would take up the honorable member’s offer; I am prepared to see him outside on the subject.
This matter ought to be inquired into. We should ascertain whether the so-called National Service Bureau in O’Connellstreet is prepared to engage Germans. Surely when accidents are taking place on ships going to sea there should be no question whatsoever as to the men employed on them being loyal Britishers. I do not say that the fact that a man is a unionist or a non-unionist, or is prepared to uphold the strike or to try to break it, has anything to do with his loyalty to the Empire. - But in the carrying on of these internal disputes care ought to be taken that the Government’s enthusiasm for smashing up the unions and breaking a strike does not extend to the employment of any one merely because ho applies for work.
– The honorable member first asks whether it is a fact, and then alleges that it is.
– I do not allege that it is. I do not say that the Government have gone so far. The information given to me in this case, however, has all the appearance of reliability. The person who informed me of it has never informed me wrongly concerning any .matter, and I have known the party for many years. I shall give the Minister the name of the man who applied for employment. Hia name is Lahyer, and it ia said that he applied at the National Service Bureau’ for employment as a fireman on a steamship, and was accepted.
Mr.- Greene. - And said that he was a German ?
– After he had been accepted he told them that he was a German, and they replied that that did’ not. matter. Here is a concrete case which should be inquired into.
– Is it alleged that the man was an unnaturalized German 1
– I do not know.
– Did he obtain the position ?
– He was offered the position, but refused to take it. He waa” not prepared to take a position, but took this action to test whether the Bureau was prepared to employ Germans as firemen on b team-ships. The matter will surely be on record at the National Service Bureau in O’Connell-street, so- that the Government can definitely find out whether or not the statement is correct.
Another case I am informed of is that of an armature winder in the tramway shops at Randwick. I am informed that a German who was interned, but subsequently regained his liberty, has been, and, is now, employed there whilst Australians who have committed the offence of striking are unable to obtain reemployment. These are cases which should be brought to the notice of the Government, and inquired into. Were it not proposed to close the session almost immediately, 1 should have waited until I couid make detailed inquiries, but because it is proposed to adjourn almost immediately I am compelled to mention these cases before I have had time to obtain detailed particulars, believing that once such statements gain currency they should be thoroughly investigated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170924_reps_7_83/>.