7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had received a return to the writ issued for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Flinders, in the place of the Hon. Sir William Irvine, resigned, indorsed with a certificate of the election of Stanley Melbourne . Bruce, Esquire.
Mr. BRUCE made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
-Does the Government propose to advocate the breaking of any more commandments now that “ Honour thy father and thy mother “ has been recalled by their action in inducingboys of eighteen to enlist without the consent of their parents?
– Although the phraseology of the question sounds scriptural, the language is hardly complimentary to the Government. The matter to which the honorable member refers is at present under consideration, and I hope to make a definite statement regarding it later in the week, possibly on Friday.
Release of CRIMINAL
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked me the following question, upon notice -
Is it a fact that a person of the Italian race, convicted of the mont serious capital offence, and serving in consequence a life sentence of imprisonment or other extended term, has been released from civil custody and enlisted with the Italian conscripts in Australia V
I replied “No.” At the time’ when the question was answered there was no record of this man in the lists submitted by the Italian Consul of those Italians who were to be embarked, and inquiries in the Department disclosed no information regarding him. Further investigations, however, have revealed the fact that a man called Soro was released from a civil prison, where he was undergoing a life sentence for murder, by an arrangement between the Italian Consul and the State Government, an arrangement of which this Department and the officer in charge of the Italian repatriation had no knowledge. It is regretted that an incorrect answer was given,- but the Defence Department was quite in ignorance that this action had been taken by the Italian Consul.
– A week or ten days ago I asked the Acting Prime Minister a question on this subject, and he said that he was not aware that Soro had been released. I ask him now is he aware that the man was released on the 3rd April?
– Ail I know about the matter is contained in the answer that I have just heard read.
– I have here a letter, signed by Mr. Callaway, of the Chief Secretary’s Department, Victoria, which bears out my statement. Will the Acting Prime Minister cause inquiries to be made with a view to preventing Italians who are being compelled to leave this country to serve abroad from having, to keep company with Soro?
– The Leader of the Opposition knows that it is impossible for
Ministers to keep in personal touch with all matters coming under their administration. I heard with surprise the statement of my colleague that this man was released by a State Government. I shall make inquiries as to the representations on which the release was made, and the reasons for it.
– In this morning’s newspapers is published a statement concerning the proposed Commonwealth and State guarantee for wheat production. The Acting Prime Minister is reported to have said that the Cabinet, on the facts before it, could not agree to the course that has been recommended. Is that decision final? If not, will the honorable gentleman allow those who represent wheat-growing districts an opportunity to place their views on this question before him prior to a determination being arrived at?
– The honorable gentleman has opened up a very important question. The decision of the Cabinet last night was to the effect that, on the facts before thom, Ministers Were not justified in acceding to the wishes of the States concerned, but, in order that the matter might be thoroughly ventilated from both the Commonwealth and the State point of view, I was authorized to’ invite the Ministers for Agriculture of the four wheatgrowing States to confer with the Commonwealth Minister, Senator Russell. We hope by this conference to get our information enlarged and clarified. If, in addition, members representing the wheatgrowing areas in the four States concerned desire to place their views on the subject before the’ Government, I shall see that they have an opportunity to do so.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister received any information regarding the recent arrests in Ireland, other than that which has appeared in the newspapers? It is cabled that the Daily News demands that the arrested persons shall be brought to trial in a Court of law where the charge -of trafficking with Germany can be proved, and says that “No formal .charges have been made against the prisoners, who. have been served with copies of the deportation order.” Has the Acting Prime Minister any information regarding the alleged trafficking with Germany, or is the charge like that brought against the members of this party, who were said to be receiving German gold in payment for opposing certain acts of the Government?
Mr.WATT. - I know nothing of the matter, beyond what has appeared in the newspapers.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Maribyrnong asked for information respecting a large quantity of butter which has been in store for a considerable period. The butter in question is privately owned, and consists of 24,220 boxes. Of these, at the time of storage, 11,550 were first grade, 3,202 were second grade, 570 were third grade, and 8,898 were unknown. On being regraded recently, out of the 11,550 boxes of firstgrade, only 1,088 were graded first grade, the balance being classed as seconds and thirds. As the regrading took place about two and a half months ago it is estimated that at present less than 1,000 boxes would be fit for the Australian market. Owing to the price paid for the butter and the accumulated storage charges, it is doubtful whether the butter could be sold at the existing proclaimed price without incurring a loss. The butter was not taken out of store, because those who owned it refused to put it into the Imperial Pool. They wished to export it, and get the full profit of the English market. The Government refused to allow them to do that, and the butter has remained in store ever since.
– I am receiving quite a number of letters from country merchants who have hitherto had the handling of cornsacks, and I desire to know whether the Minister will make a statement of a general character as to how the distribution is to be carried into effect, and how these merchants are to be treated ?
– I made a statement in the House a little while ago in relation to this matter, saying that, so far as the distribution was concerned, it will be through the ordinary channels, in exactly the same way as heretofore. In regard to price, I was unable to say exactly what would be done. Negotiations are still going on with the Indian Government, and I hope to finalize the question of price within the next few days.
– I desire to ask the Acting Minister for the Navy whether representations have been made to him, on behalf of some colliery proprietors, to apportion the supply of the coal necessary for Australian requirements between the respective mines, and thus provide equal employment for all collieries and employees? If so; in view of the fact that the Government have appointed Boards to control wool and wheat in the national interest, will he act similarly in regard to coal, which is so essential to the national welfare?
– It is true that representatives of the coal-owners waited on me this morning, and, as a result, a deputation from Newcastle will meet me on Tuesday next. The representations of that deputation, together with the representations that were made to me on Saturday last, will be placed before the Acting Prime Minister.
– On the 17th of this month the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked me -
The replies are as follow: -
Club, and certain documents of an incriminating nature were seized. Among such documents were found forms of a petition, all of which were unsigned. A return of these blank forms was offered to the representative of the Italian Club if he would give an undertaking not to disseminate the matter before referred to.
Use of Australian Timber
– Will the Min ister controlling shipping inform the House who is responsible for the tenders now being invited for the construction of iron ships, numbers 1 to 6 ? The whole of the tenders for wood work stipulate for white pine, Oregon, or kauri, with the exception of the one small item of red gum for the windlass bed. Have any steps been taken to ascertain whether there is any wood in Australia suitable for this work?
– I have not had my attention called to this matter, and I am not sure that it does not refer to some private matter.
– I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know to-morrow.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister rather a delicate question in reference to the application of fourteen industrial unions made through Mr. Beeby, the Minister for Labour and Industries in New South Wales, for reregistration before Mr. Judge Heydon, of the Arbitration Court, and the refusal of that application by the Court: Is the Prime Minister aware that the same evening Mr. Holman, the Premier of New South Wales, speaking at Aberdeen, said he was not quite prepared to say whether a special session would be convened, owing to the strong opposition in Ministerial ranks to that course? If that be so, will the Acting Prime Minister take such steps as may be necessary to carry out the desire of the recent Conference called bythe Governor-General to promote recruiting and remove obstacles in the way of a better feeling in the community ?
– I have had no communication with the Government of New South Wales since the refusal of Mr, Judge Heydon to re-register these unions. I presume that the New South Wales Government will, in proper course, communicate with the Commonwealth Government. I should not like to indicate at this time in any embarrassing way what - action will be taken, except that both the State and Commonwealth Governments will co-operate in honouring the promise so far as they are able.
– Is it a fact, as announced in the Age to-day, that the authorities propose to prohibit the export of butterfrom Victoria to the other States? If so, is that not in direct conflict with the Constitution, which gives absolute free trade amongst the States? Is it intended that the price-fixing authorities shall rise superior to the Constitution?
– The position is that the price in Victoria is higher than in the other Eastern States. If we permit butter at 162s. in Victoria to be exported to the other States in the west, in preference to the cheaper butter in Queensland and New South Wales, it will mean that the price in Western Australia will have to be raised still higher. It is to obviate that, and to endeavour to bring about, as far as possible, an even balance in the prices in the various States, giving the eastern States, in which at present the price is lower, a preference in the western trade, that this action has been taken.
– Is it true that a quantity of tea, condemned and seized in 1916, and placed in the King’s Warehouse, Melbourne, has, by special permit granted in February of this year, been released to the persons who imported it, and, if so, what are the reasons?
– I am unaware of any such thing having been done, but I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know to-morrow.
Discrepancy in the Figures.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to statements in the New South Wales daily press to the effect that, in his financial statement to the House a few days ago, there was a discrepancy of £19,000,000. If. so, does the honorable gentleman propose to make a statement in regard to the matter ?
– My attention has been directed to an analysis of that financial statement, not in the New South Wales press, but in the Geelong Times or Advertiser. I called for a report from the .Secretary to the Treasury, and, though I have not the papers with me, I may’ say that he explained that there was an error in the typing of one figure which I used in the House, and that this led to the misconception. The £19,000,000 is safely accounted for - nobody appears to have handled it improperly - and I regret that, in the hurry of the moment, I was led to use figures which have created a journalistic misconception of the position.
– I should like to ask the Acting Attorney-General whether the regulation governing the actions of landlords against tenants who are widows or dependants of soldiers is still in force ? If so, why is it that soldiers’ wives and widows are still being victimized by avaricious landlords?
– If the honorable member will furnish me with particulars of the cases to which he refers I shall, if possible, furnish an answer to him tomorrow.
– Have any further conversations taken place between the Acting Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland in regard to the relief proposed to be given to those who suffered in connexion with the recent cyclone in the Cairns and Innisfail districts of North Queensland ?
– There have been no further conversations except those which took place in Sydney and which were not final. Only yesterday, in order to finalize the matter, I directed the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department to telegraph the Premier of Queensland for further information. That information is not yet to hand, but when it arrives I hope to come to a decision quickly.
– Is it true that the people of the Malay States have subscribed £120,000 for the relief of the sufferers by the recent cyclone in Central and Northern Queensland? If so, has that money been intrusted to the Federal Government for distribution, and will the Government see that the sufferers in Central Queensland get a fair share of the relief ?
– I have heard nothing of such a subscription, but if the honorable member will give notice of his question I shall make inquiries. -
– (By leave).- On Friday last the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) asked me certain questions in regard to butter, and, later, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked me to make a full statement regarding the butter position” generally. I therefore submit to the House the following particulars: -
A good deal .of criticism has been directed against the Government on account of the recent rise of the price of butter in Victoria caused by the shortage in this State. The heavy shipments during the early months of this year have been criticised also, and I propose to give, as briefly as possible, a statement showing the position generally, and in particular in relation to Victoria, and if honorable members follow me carefully, they will see that the disparity between the Victorian ‘and New South Wales prices i3 not nearly so great this year as in former years when there was a shortage in this State ; and further, that the shortage was caused by circumstances over which the Government had no control.
I have considered very carefully proposals put forward to pool transportation charges on butter between States, and charge an even rate right through, but there does not appear to be any better reason for doing this with butter than with any other commodity moving from State to State, though I purpose giving further thought to, and making further investigation into, the proposal. For this year prices will follow the usual course, subject to control, each State bearing its own cost of importation, and Victorian prices will come back, as soon as she has an exportable surplus, to the summer level. Negotiations are now in progress for the sale of next year’s exportable surplus to the Imperial Government, and as our dairymen are evincing a desire not to follow the example of New Zealand and ask for 175s. per cwt. , but to be content with the price given last year, viz., 151s., f«o.b., I am very hopeful, if shipping is available, that the Imperial Government will close with our offer.
In the spring of last year the Imperial Government notified us that they %were prepared to purchase Australian butter up to 30,000 tons, promising, as the butter was urgently required, to make the necessary arrangements as to freights.
In every State, after providing for local requirements, all surplus butter, except a curtailed and strictly limited supply to enable the Eastern trade to be kept together, was purchased on account of the Imperial Government, whose needs were very urgent. The Imperial Government placed butter first on the priority list, even above meat, and subsequently instructed us, irrespective of quality, to ship every pound available. So urgent were their requests that some time ago the question was raised that, should sufficient shipping be available, it might be necessary to ration the Australian people for this article to enable a full supply to be sent to Great Britain.
It must be borne in mind that, with the exception of the small quantity of butter shipped to the East, all the surplus output was purchased by the Commonwealth Government, and the whole has been consigned to the Food Controller in England. Certain firms tried to get some shipments to England on private account, but the Government declined to sanction such export, and has never given way on the point.
As the butter was purchased it was placed in cool store, awaiting shipment in the original State of production. The question as to which State the butter should be shipped from was conditioned entirely by the .requirements of shipping from an Imperial ,point of view. It would have been quite impossible, for instance, when we were informed that a vessel would load at Melbourne, to have directed that it must go to Sydney or Brisbane merely to pick up butter.
It became apparent towards the end of February that shipping would not be available to lift the whole of our surplus production, and the Government at “ once called a conference of representative men engaged in the butter trade to make arrangements to store sufficient butter of a high grade to supplement our winter supply, and prevent an acute shortage. There is always a shortage of supply in Australia during the winter months, prices never remaining at a sufficiently high level for a period long enough to induce farmers to go to the expense necessary to maintain the supply. In pre-war times this was provided for by merchants and others, who relied upon a natural rise in price during the winter months to pay for ‘the cost of storage and furnish a profit on the transaction. Arrangements were made to store butter in the three principal producing States - Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, which graded 92 points and over. This standard was chosen to permit of a certain amount of deterioration, as butter grading less than 90 points is practically useless for the grocers’ trade in Australia. Hence it was no use storing butter grading 90 points, which would come out of store at a lower grade.
It is, however, extremely difficult to forecast the probable production from the soil of any product, and with none is this more difficult than with butter, the output of which is subject to the most rapid fluctuations.
In January this year the production in Victoria was 6,048,000 lbs., and in February it fell to 3,653,944 lbs., roughly 40 per cent., as against a production of 5,170,896 in February, 1917. It will be seen, therefore, that the total surplus available for storage in Victoria rapidly reached a very low ebb. But that was not the sole reason. It has already been pointed out that butter stored for winter requirements must be of a very high standard, and I regret to say a very large proportion of the Victorian surplus has consisted of low-grade butters. I append herewith a statement showing the whole of the surplus ‘butter in Victoria for the months of February, March, and April : -
The whole of the butter stored in February was shipped for reasons already given, but even had it not been so dealt with, it will he seen that out of 43,389 cases stored in February, March, and the early part of April, only 431, or less than 1 per cent., came up to the standard required for winter pool purposes.
When the shortage occurred last month we were only able to get out of the surplus stored in March and the early part of April, 1,871 cases fit for the grocers’ trade. Of course, this is not a fair reflex of the whole output of Victoria. The ordinary consumption would absorb a large portion of the better grade production, but the fact remains that very little superfine butter is being produced in Victoria, and I note with pleasure that the dairymen are now approaching the State Government, and asking them to introduce a compulsory cream-grading scheme, which alone, in my opinion, can cure the evil.
It may be urged that steps should have been taken sooner to store butter in Victoria, but it is hardly necessary to point out that, as it is a perishable product, the longer the storage, the higher must he the grade, and the higher the level to which prices would have to be lifted to pay the storage charges when it is brought on to the market. There is also the factor of uncertainty of the season. If the supply kept up, butter stored for a long period could only be sold at a dead loss.
I now pass on to give the figures for exportation, and append a table showing the exportation from the Commonwealth’ for the months of January, February, March, and April for 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1918.
It will be seen that the year 1918 shows a considerable increase, caused partly by the seasons and partly by previous storage, and boats arriving to lift it. This latter cause is illustrated by the Victorian ex-, ports for this period -
It will be seen from the figures I have previously given that, though the export in .February was 6,359,032 lbs., the production in that month was only 3,653,944, showing clearly that the exports and production in any month are in no way related under the conditions which obtain to-day, and that exports were governed solely by shipping facilities as they became available.
Practically the whole of the surplus of Victoria was lifted in the early months of this year.
– ;So as to create a shortage here, and lead to a rise, in the price.
– I have already pointed out that that butter had been purchased by the Imperial Government, and that they were asking us to send over every pound we could. Even if Australia had to go short, provided that the shipping was available, it was our duty to send every pound we could.
– That is a “ gag “ ; it was simply to increase the price of butter here.
– I shall deal with that question. When the honorable member was Minister for Trade and Customs, and had the same power as I have in this regard, prices in Victoria were higher than they are to-day, and the difference in the case of the New South Wales price was three times what it is to-day.
It has also been urged that Victoria should have ceased to supply the western States earlier; but, even supposing Victoria had sufficient superfine butter to’ store of a sufficiently high grade, this would mean penalizing those States with heavy additional shipping and other charges to obtain butter- from the eastern States earlier than necessary, which would be strongly resented there.
The following table shows the wholesale prices of butter in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland for the months of May and June in the years 1915, 1916, and 1917 :-
It will be seen that in previous years when there was a winter shortage in Victoria, which this year was caused by a dry spell in the principal dairying district of the State, a - much greater difference existed between New South Wales prices and those we have to-day, which are now 149s. 4d. in New South Wales, as against 162s. in Victoria. It will be necessary to lift’ the New South Wales and Queensland prices to 1543. this week to enable us to bring stored butter ou to the market- hy the arrangement we have made this will cause no variation in the Victorian price - and in these two States it will be necessary to give a slight increase again later on to 158s. Sd. to avoid making a loss on the stored butter; but I do not anticipate any further rise in this State during the winter. With the recent rains, granted normal conditions, Victoria will probably have an exportable surplus early in August to meet any shortage in the eastern States, which generally reach their lowest point of production about that time, in which case the Victorian price would be lowered to permit of export over the short period until all States are producing enough for their own consumption, and we revert again to 149s. 4d. for export, assuming that the Imperial Government purchase our surplus on the same terms as la3t year. Though these prices are not on a level with those generally obtained during the winter months, it is thought, in view of the summer price granted, in all the circumstances they are fair and reasonable, and I think, on the whole, will be found to work out equitably as between State and State.
– Will the Minister have copies of his statement available for honorable members’, so that it will not be necessary for them to wait until Hansard appears? Otherwise it will be impossible for honorable members to discuss the matter when dealing with the Estimates.
– I am quite willing to do all I possibly can to facilitate honorable members getting copies of the statement.
– What will be the position of the Victorian Co-operative Butter Factories, which, by reason of the general excellence of their output, have made a reputation for Australian butter overseas as well as securing our own markets ?
– There is an acute shortage of butter in Victoria, and we cannot permit the factories in Victoria to go on exporting butter and raising prices in other States. The people of Western Australia would have a very serious grievance if we allowed it, or if we put the starting point at 162s., and added the shipping charges which would be the net result. If I permitted export to go on freely from Victoria it would necessitate very much heavier charges in the other States.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is still permissible to export to soldiers at the Front parcels containing comforts such as sugar, and, further, whether it is still permissible to forward parcels addressed to the care of a relative in England, provided that the name of the unit is clearly stated? I should like to explain that it often happens that a soldier on being wounded is sent to England, with the result that a parcel addressed to him at the Front does not reach him; its contents are distributed among the members of the unit to which he belongs. By allowing parcels to be addressed to the care of a relative in England, and giving the unit to which the soldier belongs, this difficulty has been overcome, and I desire to know whether the practice is still allowed.
– Parcels of foodstuffs may be sent to any soldier, sailor, munitions worker, or representative of the Red Cross or the Young Men’s Christian Association in England. I see no objection to soldiers’ parcels being addressed to the care of relatives in England, as long as the units to which they belong are clearly set out. It is only reasonable to assume that if a soldier is on sick leave his nearest relative in England will know of his address, and I am, therefore, prepared to permit this practice to continue.
– Last year, sections of unions which had cases before the
Arbitration Court, went on strike; and, in consequence, according to the dictum of Mr. Justice Higgins, the unions concerned were put out of Court. Seeing that there is at present an endeavour to show a little more conciliatory attitude towards unions than is usual, will the Acting Attorney-General see if these unions cannot have their cases revived, so that they may avoid the enormous expense entailed in commencing proceedings afresh ?
– If the honorable member will supply me with the names of the unions, I will inquire into the circumstances, and advise him later on the subject.
– On the 2nd instant, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) asked -
As the result of inquiries, I have now ascertained that the replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Self Determination Policy
– A statement appears in the London Daily Mail of the 11th March to the effect that considerable uneasiness exists in Australia lest the people of German New Guinea be consulted at the end of the war as to whether they wish to go back under the control of Germany or not. I would like to know if the Government have considered this matter, and if the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy have been fortified with any decision of the Cabinet in order that they may advise the Imperial Government as to the wishes of Australia in regard to the future of German New Guinea?
– This is’ another, illustration of the application of the well-known maxim, “You have to go away from home to gather news.” I am not aware that there is any uneasiness in Australia in regard to this matter. I do not pretend to know any more than other honorable members may know about it; but I think that if that feeling of uneasiness does exist, we would have heard of it in this chamber. The statement of the Daily Mail is without warrant, as far as my judgment enables me to speak. In regard to the other part of the honorable member’s question, as to whether the Prime Minister is fortified with the views of the Government on the matter of holding on to German New Guinea after the war-
– And the other islands.
– The honorable member particularly referred to German New Guinea ; but, so far as the Government are concerned, the whole lot can be put in one box. The Prime Minister is going to do his best, as far as that best will allow, to represent to the Imperial Government that the holding of these islands is vital to the interests of Australia.
– The trading interests ?
– No, I do not speak of the trading interests.
– It is a scandalous misrepresentation of the views of Australia.
– Order !
– The honorable member is entitled to his opinion, and he will probably keep it.
– Yes, and I will express it.
– Order ! Honorable members are not permitted to debate replies to questions.
– I am not anxious to throw the apple of discord on the table, but I am desirous of expressing the views of the Government. We regard the holding of these islands as vital to the defence interests of Australia in the near future.
– Trading interests, pure and simple.
– No; defence interests.
– On the 16th instant, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) asked the following question: -
In view of the serious dissatisfaction existing at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, for the. last ten weeks, will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence consider the advisability of appointing an independent tribunal to investigate matters connected with the working of the Factory, and of providing that such tribunal, if appointed, shall not be restricted by the regulations under the War Precautions Act?
The Minister for Defence is not aware of any matters requiring investigation by a tribunal at the Small Arms Factory, but he will give consideration to any specific charges made by responsible persons.
On the same day, the honorable member also asked -
I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether employees at the Small Arms Factory who have been thrown out of employment have received one week’s pay in lieu of a week’s notice, in accordance with the award made by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court?
It is difficult to decide whether the circumstances of the case entitle those discharged from the Small Arms Factory to payment of a week’s wages in lieu of notice; but the Minister for Defence has approved of payment, irrespective of technicalities.
– Is it a fact that boring for oil in Papua has been suspended for an indefinite period, and that one of the two expert drillers imported from America has been sent back to that country in order to obtain up-to-date machinery for carrying on the work, while the other has been loaned to the New South Wales Government?
– Operations have not been suspended, but they have been delayed to some extent by a slight maladjustment of the new rotary machinery, which has not affected the general work. I have been going very carefully into the matter, and I can give more information upon it later on. I saw the two drillers in Sydney. They will be required for the new boring plant which has been ordered, but I thought that I could save expense by allowing the New South Wales Government to have the services of one of them until they were required by us. The other returned toAmerica, where his services may be used in seeing that no mistake was made in regard to the class of machinery which had been ordered.
– Is he a reliable man ?
– He is one of the best, - and was recommended from America.
– Is he an off-shoot from the Standard Oil Company ?
Mr.GLYNN. - No. He had worked for that company.
– I ask honorable members not to interrupt a Minister who is answering a question by interjecting a number of further questions.
– I have no evidence to show thatthere is anything sinister about the matter. No delay has been occasioned recently, except in commencing operations on No. 8 bore with the new rotary machinery ordered about two years ago. I have been going into the matter for the purpose of ascertaining who has been responsible for the delay. Dr. Wade is now in Melbourne, and the matter is being inquired into.
– Last week the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked me - .
My interim reply was that -
Inquiries are being made with a view to ascertaining whether there is any information relating to this case in any of theCommonwealth Departments. So far, I have not been able to ascertain.
It hasnow been ascertained that a Mrs. Buhmeyer obtained a passport in February last to accompany Mr. and Mrs. Hall on their trip abroad. Mrs. Buhmeyer was born at Young, in New South Wales, her maiden name being Chesworth. Her husband was born at Rangoon.
When application was made for the passport, Mr. Hall stated that he was prepared to give an undertaking that Mrs. Buhmeyer would return to Australia within four months. Mrs. Buhmeyer was to leave Australia on the Nikko Maru, on 24th February, and no information has been received by any of the Commonwealth Departments in regard to her alleged internment in Japan.
– Is the Assistant Minister for the Navy in a position to say how far the shipbuilding programme of the Government has advanced, and whether Queensland is to have her duc share of the work ?
– I hope to make a statement some time this week regarding the whole position. I am keeping two ships of the Isherwood type for Queensland, a firm in that State having sent a representative, who has had a long interview with Mr. Curchin, and has returned to report to his principals, from whom I expect to hear in time.
– Will all Queensland firms have a chance of tendering for the work?
– The work is to be done at a fixed price, and copies of the specifications, have been made available. All firms will have a chance of tendering for work of various kinds, apart from the building of the hull. There is only a limited number of ships to be built, so that we cannot arrange for shipbuilding in every port; but I am doing all that I can to induce Walkers Limited, of Queensland, to undertake the construction of two steel ships.
– On Wednesday last, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) asked if I would lay on the table a return showing -
The return- is as follows : -
– Is the Minister re- presenting the Minister for Repatriation aware that the system of vocational training which has been instituted by the Department is looked on with great favour by returned men, but that the office accommodation and staff are limited, and there is only one doctor to examine applicants? Will the honorable gentleman inspect the accommodation, and increase it and the staff, and provide more doctors ?
– It is the desire of the Minister to deal with all cases as quickly and justly as possible. I am not aware of the facts, hut I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister.
The. following papers were presented: -
Commonwealth Winter Butter Pool 1917 - Statement of Profit and Loss.
Rabbit Skins Trust Fund - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure from 7th June, 1917, to 19th February, 1918.
Public Service Act - Thirteenth Report, on the Public Service (1916-17) by the Acting Commissioner.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Case op Harry Hyde.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether he has had his attention drawn to a statement made in the Bankruptcy Court, Sydney, by a returned soldier, Harry Hyde, alleging harsh treatment at the hands of the Repatriation Committee ?
– The following particulars have been received from the New South Wales district office:: -
Prior to the inauguration of the present scheme, the State War Council, Sydney, acting on behalf of the Repatriation Trustees, granted Hyde a loan of £90 for a confectionery, fruit, and cordial business at Portland, New South Wales, to be repaid at the rate of £ 3 per month.
Two instalments were paid, and, after investigation of the position, repayments were suspended for the period from July, 1917, to March, 1918, on the representations of Hyde that, owing to considerable industrial troubles in the district, he could not meet this obligation, and even experienced great difficulty in keeping his business together.
Later Hyde called at the State War Council and stated that, as he was no longer able to carry on the business, he desired to relinquish it, and notified his intention of leaving the premises the following Saturday. This proposal was indorsed by the Local Committee, and the business was accordingly disposed of. The sum realized totalled £47 7s. 5d., representing a loss of £36 12s. 7d. on the amount loaned.
Had the Board of Trustees relinquished its claim, the proceeds of the sale would have been distributed amongst other creditors. The Board of Trustees could not see their way to grant money for this purpose, as it would establish a dangerous precedent. There was nothing, however, to prevent Hyde being assisted from the fund in other ways, and thus making an endeavour to place himself in a good position.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– It is assumed that these questions relate to compulsory training in the Citizen Forces. The answers are as follow : - 1 and 3. This is a matter of State law, and cannot be dealt with by the Commonwealth Parliament.
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the news contained in the following press paragraph : - “ London, March 4. - Replying to a question in the House of Commons to-day as to whether copies of all treaties, secret or public, and all other memoranda of other agreement to which Great Britain has become a party since August 4, 1914, have been communicated to President Wilson, Foreign Secretary Balfour said : ‘ President Wilson is kept fully informed by the Allies.’ “ Is Australia similarly informed by Britain?
– The Commonwealth Government is kept well advised on all matters in which the Empire generally is interested. One of the purposes of the visit of the Prime Minister to England is that he may be fully informed in regard to. these and other matters of a kindred character.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether the works at the Federal Capital site are under the control of his Department; if the works undertaken there are under his control, why are they not specified in Digest No. 29 issued under the authority of the Minister?
– The Department of Works and Railways executes works at the Federal Capital, but, just at present, the Commonwealth Government’s expenditure is practically on maintenance works and completion of works commenced some time ago. I will see that a statement is included in the next issue of the Digest, and, meanwhile, I shallbe glad to afford any honorable member any information I can in regard to Federal Capital works matters.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 1st May, vide page 4299).
.- I wish to move-
That the amount set down for the Department of Defence be reduced by £1, as an instruction to the Government that this House condemns the proposal of the Government to enlist for service abroad youths of eighteen years who have not obtained the consent of their parents.
– No amendment of the schedule is permissible. This being an Appropriation Bill, the whole of the items in the schedule have been agreed to on the Estimates. An amendment of the character proposed would not be in order.
– Do you rule, sir, that it is impossible to move an amendment on any of the four supplementary Appropriation Bills now before the House? I assure you and the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that I am anxious to have a vote taken on the question that I have mentioned, and do not wish to move a motion of no confidence.
– A member cannot move now to reduce any amount in this schedule.
– If it is impossible for me to move to amend this Bill, it must also be impossible for me to move to amend any of the three supplementary Appropriation Bills which are to follow. The question that I wish to have discussed is one of the most important with which we have had to deal, and I want to get a vote on it. We are told that Parliament is likely to prorogue shortly, and to-day we have received from the Defence Department a statement of the arrangements for permitting honorable members to view itsvarious activities. These include a visit on King’s Birthday and other visits duringthe week after next, when, it seems to be assumed, the House will not be sitting. As I say, I am anxious that there should be a vote on the question whether the Government are to allow boys of eighteen years of age to enlist without their parents’ consent. There are several ways in which I could raise the question, but I should like to raise it on the measure before us. It is a matter with which we ought not to trifle, though all we have from the Acting Prime Minister is that the Government are considering it. In my opinion, there ought to be a decision of the House as an instruction to the Government that they have failed in their duty, and do not represent the people of Australia in regard to this enlistment of youths. Organizations on the Government side, including the Women’s National League, have decided against the proposal of the Government.
– The Minister for Recruiting has made an eloquent speech against it.
– At present I am awaiting the Chairman’s decision as to whether I am in-order or not.
– The honorable member for Yarra submits an amendment to the effect that the first item shall be reduced by £1, as an instruction to the Government that the Committee condemns the proposal of the Government to enlist for service abroad youths of eighteen years of age who have not obtained the consent of their parents. I told the honorable member that it was not competent to move for the reduction of any item in an Appropriation Bill, as the votes had already been dealt with in Committee on the Estimates-in-Chief, and the report submitted to the House had been adopted. I have authorities here that I can quote if necessary, and which have been previously quoted. In 1904, when a similar question arose, Mr. Speaker, in reply to the Honorable Andrew Fisher, read the following from page 561 of May: -
The latitude permissible in debate and amendment on going into the Committee of Supply does not extend to the stages of the Appropriation Bill. Debate and amendment on these occasions must be relevant to the Bill.
The principle of relevancy is also strictly applied to debate and amendments in the Committee on the Appropriation Bill. No grant of supply is effected by the Bill; its provisions are solely administrative; the sole subject of the Bill is to ensure the application of the grants made by Parliament to the objects denned by the resolutions of the Committee pf Supply. Accordingly, debate or amendment must be restricted to the matter of appropriation; and the conduct of the officials or of the departments who receive the supply grants cannot be challenged in the Committee on the Bill; nor can amendments bc moved to omit clauses, or to the schedule, to effect the reduction of the amount, or an alteration in the destination of a grant. Nor arc the enacting words of the Bill open to amendment.
I do not wish to weary the Committee by quoting other decisions that I have here, but on those I have read I now rule that the proposed amendment of the honorable member for Yarra is not permissible.
.- I desire to move that the word “ Military,” on page 16 of the schedule, be struck out with a view-
– From what I have just said, and from the rulings I have quoted, the honorable member must see that it is not permissible to amend an Appropriation Bill, which is purely an administrative measure.
– May I say a word or two on the question that has been raised?
– It seems ridiculous to place before honorable members a proposal that they may not amend.
– Tlie honorable member has heard the ruling of the Chairman, which is not unfamiliar to myself and older members, arid the reasons for which will become plain on reflection. May I address myself through you, sir, to the Leader of the Opposition. That honorable member seeks some assurance from the Government, indirectly, of an opportunity to deal with this question. He desires an opportunity on one of the money Bills on the notice-paper, which, however, in our judgment, would be neither in order nor appropriate.
– I could do what I desire on a clause of the Bill.
– That remains to he’ seen. I tell the honorable member plainly that he may do what he desires either on the
Defence Bill, which we shall attempt tt> pass before we rise, or on the Defence Estimates, which we will pass before we rise. I have assured him four or five times that there will be no sudden rising of which the Opposition is not apprised. The honorable gentleman will have ample opportunity also to deal with the question on the Estimates as a whole, because before we rise we intend to pass the Appropriation Bill; and the honorable member will appreciate what that means. I therefore ask him not to strain the forms of the House at this stage. I say nothing on the merits of the question.
– You agree that I could do what I desire on the Defence Bill ?
– I would sooner the honorable gentleman did it on the Estimates, which afford a proper opportunity.
– T would prefer the Defence Bill.
– That I shall confer with the honorable member about. There will be an excellent opportunity to deal with the merits of the question, and, as I have indicated, I shall not fail, I think, to give him some information as to the attitude of the Government.
– You indicated that a fortnight ago.
– I am referring to my answer to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) to-day.
– Your answer was that the Government are considering the question.
– No, that we were dealing with it, and it comes before the Cabinet to-morrow, though at present I cannot say any more as to that. The honorable member will have an excellent opportunity to test the question as he wishes.
– I wish to draw attention to the introductory remarks of the Treasurer when he introduced this Bil], with his very accurate pose and usual excellent elocution. The honorable gentleman said that he would not attempt to apportion the blame for the fact that we are now considering the Estimates for 1915-16, and that in the future he will see that these measures are introduced more promptly. I was naturally very embarrassed to find Estimates for 1915-16 coming up at this date, in view of the fact that the Treasurer had said that I was Treasurer for five months after these Estimates had become due.
– After the yearhad closed, I said.
– Well after the year had closed. I am afraid that the Treasurer knows that I left office four months after the financial year closed, and that it was impossible for me during my term to introduce this measure, seeing that it could not be brought up until after the Auditor-General had made his report.
– Do you mean to say that Supplementary Estimates cannot be introduced until after the AuditorGeneral’s report is received?
– I was assured by the officers of the Department that it was impossible to introduce the Bill earlier.
– I do not know what was possible departmentally, but I know that what the honorable member has said is not an accepted principle.
– The fact is that I left office on the 27th October, 1916.
– With much regret !
– I wonder! I really cannot say now. However, I only desire to point out, in fairness to myself, that I am not responsible for the delay that has taken place.
.- It is about a fortnight since a question addressed to the Acting Prime Minister elicited from him a promise that honorable members would have an opportunity to discuss the question of the enlistment of minors at an early date. The honorable gentleman and his Government have waited patiently in the meantime to ascertain the trend of public feeling, which has so far developed that, as we are pleased to see from the newspapers of yesterday and to-day, the Government have decided to reconsider its position. That is an advance for which, I suppose, we should be devoutly thankful. But it is not sufficient, because we recognise that while the Government is gauging public feeling, we are setting dangerously near to the close of our present sittings. I have not sufficient confidence in the Government to depend on what they say during the currency of these sittings as a guarantee of what may take place after the sittings close. Honorable members, I think, know that inside and outside I have. expressed my strong disapprobation of the inducement that is being held . out to. mere youths in this country to disregard the wishes of their parents, while they themselves are still under the age of nineteen years, in this important matter of enlistment. I have acquainted myself with some of the speeches delivered previously on this subject in the House. I have referred already to the speech by the ex-member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) - not the present member whom we welcomed to-day. Sir William Irvine was not the only honorable member who spoke in strong condemnation of that proposal. I do not think he was supported by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), because I judged from an interjection that he thought youths of eighteen might be safely enlisted.
– I did not. In any case, I do not think they ought to be taken without the consent of their parents.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say so. Amongst those who spoke at that time against that policy was the present Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard), who made a strong appeal to the then Government not to enlist youths of eighteen years of age for active service abroad. At that time there was no question of their enlistment without the consent of their parents. It was merely a question of whether or not boys of that age should be allowed to serve abroad, and the strongest speech in opposition to that policy was made by the honorable member for Nepean. The Government are still undecided ; popular indignation is yet immature; the Government are not quite satisfied as to the volume of public opinion in condemnation of their policy, and so we are not clear as to whether or not the Government will insist upon calling for boys to do what is more than man’s work. A parent came to me, and said that one of her sons had been wounded at the Front; and a younger son, eighteen years of age, wished to enlist. He presented himself at the Town Hall and was rejected, on the ground of physical unfitness. After this new regulation was promulgated, he presented himself before another medical officer, and was accepted for military service abroad, without the. consent of his parents; and in opposition to their wish, lie entered camp. I am happy to be able to say, however, that as the result of the protest of those parents, who still think that they should have some control over the conduct of that. boy,the Defence Department has decided to discharge him, on the ground of physical unfitness. He has been discharged, not on that ground at all, but because the Government are ashamed of their action in enlisting a boy, physically weak and only eighteen years of age, in spite of the opposition of his parents. We are told that we may discuss this matter at some distant time before the House adjourns; but it is not clear when that time will be. If the Government can be induced to abandon this proposal, I do not wish, and never did wish, to treat the matter from a party stand-point, because I know that there are many honorable members on the Government side who are heartily ashamed of the Government’s policy in this connexion.
– Order! I have allowed the honorable member a considerable amount of latitude, but I cannot permit him to proceed further. The policy of the Government is not open for discussion on an Appropriation Bill. I have already quoted May on that point, and since my ruling was given, the Acting Prime Minister has assured the Committee that honorable members will be given an opportunity to discuss the question to which the honorable member for. Batman has referred. I therefore ask honorable members not to further discuss the matter at this stage.
.- I desire to say something about enemy trading, with special reference to the Standard Woollen Company, which has had rather an interesting history. Originally, the company traded under the name of Johann Wulfing, of Lenep, Germany. Later, the name was altered to the Wulfing Woollen Company. It carried on its affairs under that title until one of the Hardts, of Hamburg, came out and assumed control, and changed the trading name to G. Hardt and Company. After the commencement of the war, this firm was declared an enemy firm. Immediately that was done, a transfer of the business to E. Schroeder took place, and the title was altered to the Standard Woollen Company.
– The remarks of the honorable member are not applicable to the Bill which is now before the Committee.
– Do I understand that on this Bill nothing but what is contained in it can be discussed?
– That is so. Apparently the honorable member does not see the distinction between the Estimates and the. Appropriation Bill. When the Estimates are before the Committee it is permissible for an honorable member to discuss each and every item, and the Government policy in relation thereto, in any way he thinks proper. But after the Committee of Supply have approved of them, and dealt with the Government policy in regard to them, and after the Committee has reported to the House, and the House has adopted that report, there follows an Appropriation Bill, which, for administrative purposes, appropriates the money which has been already voted by the Committee of Supply. I have no desire to curtail debate, but it is my duty to point out that the honorable member’s remarks are in no way relevant to the appropriation measure.
– Do I understand that your ruling is that, though the Committee may discuss the Government policy when dealing with the resolution of Supply, we cannot discuss it on a Bill such as that now before the Committee! I remind you, sir, that from time immemorial it has been the practice in the Mother of Parliaments to discuss the whole policy of the Government when granting Supply to His Majesty.
– On this Bill we are not granting Supply.
– I think, sir, you are making a distinction without a difference. Unless there are very grave reasons, honorable members should not be deprived of their right to discuss the whole policy of the Government when granting Supply.
– I am under the impression that at this stage of similar Bills in the past discussion was allowed.
– The Committee is not being deprived of its rights by the ruling I have given. There is a vast difference between a resolution in Committee of Supply and a discussion on the Appropriation Bill which follows the decision of the Committee of Supply. In Committee of Supply it is permissible to deal with every item, and the policy of the Government in connexion with it, but we have passed that stage. We are now dealing with a Bill for the appropriation of money the expenditure or which has been already discussed and decided upon by the Committee. The resolution of the Committee was reported to the House, and adopted. The honorable member for Maribyrnong seems to be of opinion that this is the first occasion on which such a discussion has been prevented by the Chair. That is not so. Perhaps the honorable member was not present when I quoted the ruling given by Mr. Speaker in 1904, and supported by quotations from many authorities, in which the distinction between discussions in Committee of Supply and on an Appropriation Bill was pointed out. Honorable members may exercise their right of criticism in Committee of Supply, but at this stage we cannot go behind the report from the Committee, that these items of expenditure shall stand. The House having adopted that report, the Committee is now asked to appropriate money for the purpose already approved.
Mr.Fenton. - May I not, on this schedule, make some reference to butter supplies ?
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
.- I do not know that there is anything seriously wrong in the proposal to pass this Bill. In dealing with the Estimates for the year to which it relates,we agreed to certain items which appear in it, but the appropriations in respect of which have been exceeded. For instance, the item in the Estimates, “Allowances to officers acting as secretaries to Prime Minister and Leaders of Opposition in Senate and House of Representatives, £155,” was exceeded by £19, and the difference was made good out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account. It was necessary, therefore, to bring forward this Bill to legalize that extra payment amongst others. In Committee we have not been allowed to discuss such items, and my objection to the Bill, therefore, is that it has been passed through Committee without due consideration. I hope this will not occur again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee: Consideration resumed from 19th April (vide page 4095) -
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
.- I should like to ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether you have re-considered your decision as to the point which I raised a few moments ago, when we were in Committee on the previous Bill. On page 4 of this Bill, there is an item in respect of “Naval Bases, Works and establishments, labour and material,” representing an appropriation of £194,801, which has to be read in lieu of an item of £200,000 for the same works in the Estimates agreed to by us some time ago. In that case there is a reduction on the amount originally passed. The point that I wish to make, however, is that where an amount agreed to in the Estimates has been exceeded, and this Bill is brought forward to legalize the extra payment made in respect of it, the Committee ought to have an opportunity to say whether that extra payment shouldbe made. I fear that an important precedent may be established by the ruling you gave a few minutes ago, that we may not amend any items in the schedule to a Bill of this kind, since they have already been passed in connexion with the Estimates. I hold that they have not been passed; otherwise it would not be necessary to bring forward this Bill to legalize the additional payments made in respect of certain items in the Estimates for 1915- 16.
– It has probably escaped the honorable member’s memory that it is only some four weeks since we dealt with the very Estimates to which this Bill relates. I did not rule that there could be no discussion upon the items. My ruling was that there could be no amendment of items in the schedule, nor could there be a discussion on any matter of policy, since honorable members had had an opportunity to deal with the items and to discuss questions of policy when the Estimates were submitted in Committee of Supply. I adhere to my ruling.
– I do not wish to disagree with your ruling, sir, but I think that an honorable member should be allowed to discuss the items provided he confines himself to the giving of reasons why any of them should not have been increased.
– An honorable member should be allowed to ask for an explanation as to why the increases have been made.
– Quite so. We should be allowed to ask the Minister in charge of the Bill why these increased items were agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee : Consideration resumed from 19th April (vide page 4095) -
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Appropriation of £672,088).
– I desire to refer to some public remarks made by the Acting Prime Minister in regard to the Pacific Islands. The honorable gentleman has stated that the Government have deliberately determined that the Pacific Islands taken from the enemy should be retained by the Allies in the interests of the Commonwealth, and that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) have gone to London to tell the Imperial Conference that that decision represents the opinion of Australia.. I sincerely hope that it does not. Without a referendum, we have no means of ascertaining whether it does or does not represent the opinion of the people of the Commonwealth. I do not believe it does; but in any event, I am opposed to it.
– Does not the honorable member think that the result of the last referendum was practically an expression of opinion on the subject? The question of annexation was put very clearly to the people.
– No; the issue put before the people was quite a different one. When I have drawn attention in this House to the vast area that we have in Australia, to the smallness of our population, and tothe unwisdom of our trying, for instance, to secure the New Hebrides
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that matter.
– This is an appropriation of Supply which has already been passed.
– I have had time to reconsider my position as a member of this Chamber who desires to see that every item of expenditure is properly scrutinized, and I have come to the conclusion that I would be failing in my public duty if I did not take the stand that this Bill, being a Bill to appropriate a further sum out of Consolidated Revenue for certain purposes, is one that should be debated.
– Order ! I am sorry to have to intervene so often. It is not the desire of the Chair to prevent legitimate debate at any particular time, but I have already given two or three rulings on this matter to’ which the honorable member has previously acquiesced. The passage in May which I shall read must appeal to the honorable member as an old parliamentarian. According to it no Chairman who recognises the responsibility of his position would allow debate upon this Bill upon the lines upon which the honorable member wishes to proceed.
– What may be discussed?
– I have already pointed out that a month since, when we were in Committee of Supply dealing with the Estimates covered by these Appropriation Bills, honorable members had every opportunity to debate whatever item they wished to discuss. This opportunity was presented, not in 1916-17, the’ period to which the Estimates apply, but a month since, when this expenditure was covered by Supplementary Estimates with which the Committee dealt. This Bill is in exactly the same position as that of the Bills which have just preceded it.May is very definite on the matter. On page 562’ of the tenth edition we find- the following : -
The principle of relevancy is also strictly applied to debate and amendments in the Committee on the Appropriation Bill. No grant of Supply is effected by the Bill; its provisions are solely administrative; the sole object of the Bill is to insure the application of the grants made by Parliament to the objects defined by the resolutions of the Committee of Supply. Accordingly, debate or amendment must be restricted to the matter of appropriation; and the conduct of the officials, or of the Departments who receive the Supply grants, cannot be challenged in the Committee on the Bill; nor can amendments be moved to its clauses, or to the schedule, to effect the reduction of the amount, or an alteration in the destination of a grant.
It is perfectlyclear that the Committee, having already dealt with the schedule attached to this Bill item by item, and having agreed to adopt it as printed, the honorable member has no longer the opportunity of debating it. If he did not take advantage of the opportunity afforded to him to do sopreviously, it was his own fault. At this stage he is certainly not in order in debating items which have already been decided in Committee of Supply and adopted by the House.
– I have no wish to transgressthe ruling, but may I ask whether I will have the opportunity of discussing the items in the schedule attached to the Bill so long as my remarks are relevant to them ? May I move “ That an item be reduced by the sum of £10 “ ?
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing so. I have already given my ruling.
– The honorable member for Capricornia could not have been in the chamber when the Chairman gave his first ruling, which, as any honorable member with experience will see, was perfectly in accord with the constitutional practice. “When the House has gone into Committee of Supply honorable members can speak generally on grievances on the old theory that a member of Parliament is entitled to ask for redress of grievances before he grants Supply. That practice has been followed even down to modern times. Again, when the Estimates were in Committee the honorable member could have dealt with any item in them. The Estimates covered by this Bill have already been debated, and the report of the Committee of Supply upon them has been adopted. In accordance with that resolution a Bill to appropriate the money passed by theCommittee has been brought in and presented to the House. The only question before the House now is the actual appropriation.
– Are we to be silent on this Bill.?
– Honorable members are to be silent outside the point of relevancy, otherwise we could never get to the end of our work.
– Is it possible to discuss anything under the Bill ?
– Nothing more than the actual appropriation. The stage for discussing items is past.
– I quite agree with the ruling that the principle of relevancy must be strictly applied. I was discussing another matter on a previous measure, but now I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister in charge of the Bill the fact that although a sum of £50 was provided for the year covered by this Bill as an allowance to officers acting as secretaries to the Prime Minister and the Leaders of the Opposition in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, the actual expenditure was £210. Appropriation for the excess is now asked for. I wish to know whether the Minister has any information on this matter.
– My information is so precious that I do not believe in giving it at the wrong stage.
– I wish to see that these items have been expended judiciously.
– The time is past for inquiring in that direction.
– The Government have a majority, and they say that the Opposition have no rights.
Mr.Groom. - Thehonorable member is forgetting himself.
– We shall have a word to say on the general Estimates unless the Government “ gags “ them through.
– I cannot understand why the Minister asks for a further appropriation out of the Consolidated Revenue. If the money is not wanted, why is it asked for ? If fresh money is asked for, may I not ask why it is being spent?
– Order ! It is painful to the Chair to have to intervene so often. A. month ago the honorable member could have taken all these objections when the Estimates were under consideration. The Committee has already decided that the items as they appear in the schedule to this Bill shall stand. The Bill is merely an administrative step to cover the action of the Committee by an appropriation from Consolidated Revenue. I do not intend to repeat my ruling.
– Do you rule that we cannot speak on the schedule?
– Honorable mem.bers can speak on the question of the appropriation of the money, but the destination of the moneys covered by the schedule cannot be discussed at this stage. That matter has already been decided by the Committee “of Supply.
– I was endeavouring to speak about the appropriation of the money. Why do we have the words “ in lieu of so-and-so “ ?
-The honorable member has seen the Supplementary Estimates, aud as a member of the Committee of Supply has already approved of those very words as they appeared in those Estimates, which this Appropriation Bill covers.
.- I would like to know whether those Estimates were worded in exactly the same fashion as is the schedule to this Bill.
– There is no variation at all.
– We are substituting certain sums of money for other sums. I think the Minister will admit that we are dealing with the measure under exceptional circumstances, going as far back as 1916-17; and the members of the Committee should be entitled tq exceptional treatment.
– All honorable members have already had an opportunity of going into the matters covered by the Bill.
– Many honorable members who considered themselves well acquainted with the Standing Orders seem to be under the impression that they are being deprived of some privilege. Honorable members should be exceptionally jealous in guarding the privileges to which they are entitled. This is the first time in my experience in which honorable members have been denied an opportun itv of discussing matters when in Committee on an Appropriation Bill. Although this money has been spent, and although a discussion of the items might be nothing but a post-mortem examination of something which- occurred two years ago, it is helpful to scrutinize the expenditure of every penny. Some honorable members were going to make serious complaints about the way in which money has been expended in the past, and it was their intention to warn those who are in charge of the public purse to day that they must be exceedingly careful in future. However, we are denied the opportunity of doing so.
.- The Estimates on which this Bill was founded were dealt with on the 19 th April, when I was attending a Conference convened by the Governor-General. I am sorry that promises made at that Conference by the Premiers of the States have not been kept.
– What about other promises?
– I have honoured the pledges that I have made. There will be a chance to discuss the subject that I wish to raise when the Estimates for the present year come before us; unless we are gagged as we were in September last in connexion with the War Loan Bill, in order to exempt from income tax the interest on war loan stock.
– The honorable member is going beyond the Bill.
– I regret that I have not had an opportunity to discuss the items contained in this Bill.
– The Bill i3 based on Estimates for which the” Treasurer of a Government in which the honorable member was a Minister was responsible.
– No; it is based on Estimates for which the honorable member himself is responsible. I left the Ministry in September, 1916. Some remarkable things have happened since that time. Early in March, 1917, there was an extraordinary resignation of a senator on account of illhealth. We do not know why a certain case was settled out of Court, or why the Prime Minister paid the costs. I should like an opportunity to deal with several matters in which the public is still interested, notwithstanding the disinclination of Ministers to give information. When the Defence Bill comes before us, I shall move an amendment that will enable us to discuss the regulation which allows boys of eighteen to enlist without the consent of their parents. That I cannot move such an amendment now should be a warning to members .to decline, while Parliament is sitting, all invitations to attend to other matters, however urgent.
– The honorable member would leave the public under the impression that something has been done by the Ministry to curtail his rights of debate ; but that is not so. We have merely fulfilled the obligation by which we, as well as the Chairman, are bound, to see that the ordinary rules of debate are observed. If these rules were not enforced, the time of Parliament would be frittered away in irrelevant discussions. All the items in the schedule could have been scrutinized when the Estimates were before the Committee of Supply. We are sorry that the honorable member was absent then, but it is not for him to raise the general implication that he cannot discuss certain matters now because of action taken by Ministers to block him. There has been no such action. This is an Appropriation Bill, and the authorities on procedure state that its discussion must be strictly confined to matters relevant to it. That is why the honorable member cannot indulge in criticism for which an opportunity was afforded at the Committee of Supply stage.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill reported from Committee without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the report be now adopted.
.- I suggest, in view of the need for economising the time of the House and expenditure on paper and printing, that the Government should not waste time and money by bringing forward Bills which we may not discuss. My attempt to show that certain expenditure was unwise, and might have been reduced, was cut short, Ministerialists, at the invitation of the Minister in charge of the Bill, scoffing andjeering at what I had to say. He invited his followers to hold me up to ridicule and contempt.
– I would never dream of doing that.
– Some of them had too much respect for the dignity of this
House to accept such an invitation, but others decried my efforts to obtain information from the honorable gentleman. What is the use of occupying the time of the House with measures that we cannot discuss ? Is the Minister playing with the House as he is playing with the Federal Capital?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the consideration of Orders of the Day Nos. 5, 6, and 7 be postponed until after the consideration of Order of the Day No. 8.
.- The Ministry should say why they propose to postpone the consideration of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill. The Repatriation Department is becoming a by-word among returned soldiers. Statements appear in the press from time to time about the treatment that is meted out to returned men at the Repatriation Office. We do not know whether the Bill is to be proceeded with this session.
– The honorable member knows that it is.
– I do not. I do not know how long Parliament is to sit. The Acting Prime Minister said this afternoon that the Estimates would be considered, but not a word was said about repatriation. He said, too, that probably the Defence Bill would be considered. I shall require to know whether the Defence Bill is to be proceeded with, so that I may have an opportunity to move the amendment of which I have given notice, to discuss the enlistment of boys under eighteen without their parents’ consent. Why is the discussion of the Repatriation Bill, the Defence Bill, and the War Loan Bill to be postponed? Apparently, repatriation is asubject of no account with Ministers. I ask the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who has taken a keen interest in repatriation, if he is satisfied with the way in which the Department is working ? When supporting the original Repatriation Bill, I said that experience might require us to go back on our tracks and undo all that we had done.
– Parliament made a cardinal blunder when it farmed out repatriation to an outside body, and gave itself no further chance of dealing with the subject. I received no support when I moved to prevent that.
– We on this side got no support except from the honorable member and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) when we put forward several amendments. None of our amendments were embodied in the Bill. The Act has not been the success that it was expected to be. Yesterday it was stated in the press that returned soldiers, being able to draw a sustenance allowance of £2 per week, are giving up positions that had been found for them.
– The honorable member is now discussing repatriation.
– I am pointing out the inadvisability of postponing the Repatriation Bill until after the adjournment.
– It is purely a matter of procedure.
– The Government deliberately arranged the order of business as we find it on the notice-paper, and, therefore, there must be good reason for adhering to it. On Friday last the war loan measure was sprung’ on the House ; indeed, I do not think a single honorable member outside the Ministry knew that it was to be submitted. If that Bill was urgent on Friday, it is urgent to-day, and yet the Government desire to introduce other business.
– The honorable member is quite beside the mark in making the statements he does. The Government intend going on with the repatriation measure at the earliest possible moment - they have no intention to indefinitely postpone its consideration.
– Then why not take it now?
– Because certain necessary information regarding it reached my hands only a few minutes ago, and I am not in a position to go on, although that had been our intention this afternoon. The Bill with which we desire to proceed is a small one that we are anxious shall reach the Senate in order to provide work for that Chamber.
– What will come on immediately afterwards ?
– The second reading of the Defence Bill.
– When shall we have the Estimates?
– Honorable members seem to be asking to haveeach Bill on the notice-paper considered first. The Repatriation Bill will be brought on in the House at the earliest possible moment this week.
– Perhaps to-night?
– I cannot say definitely as to that, but I may be able to move the second reading to-night at any rate, if not to-night, the measure will, beyond doubt, be before us to-morrow, or some day this week. In the meantime, repatriation administration is not suffering in any way, and the Bill, when it is before us,will enable honorable members to discuss the whole question of repatriation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a small measure which will not take up much time in the explanation of its exact purport. Under the Constitution, Ministers are appointed as Ministers of State for the Commonwealth, and are members of the Executive Council. The Crown has also the right to call to its counsels other persons as Executive ‘Councillors. The practice has grown up in the Commonwealth and in the States of having a Cabinet consisting of Ministers of State and Honorary Ministers, who are sworn in as members of the Executive Council. Owing to the exigencies of government, Honorary Ministers assist in the Departments in connexion with the administration of various Acts.
– I thought they were known as “Assistant Ministers.”
– Whether they are called “ honorary “ or “ assistant,” they are sworn in as members of the Executive Council, and I am concerned with them only in that capacity. That is the constitutional position they occupy, and, as I say, they assist in the various Departments. Honorable members on both sides will, I think, admit that we could not carry on the government with the number of Ministers of State fixed by the Constitution, and from the very inception of the Commonwealth it has been necessary to appoint members of the Executive Council to assist.
– A very bad habit!
– That may or may not be so, but it is the adopted practice, and, on the whole, we can say that it has worked to the good of the Commonwealth. In many of the Acts of Parliament the word “ Minister “ is used as meaning generally the Minister of State administering the Act, as in the case of the Naturalization Act, the Electoral Act, and so forth. There has, however, been no uniformity in the use of the word *’ Minister.” At one time it means the Minister of State who is specifically mentioned, and, at another time, it means generally the Minister of State administering the Act. The Acts Interpretation Act 1901, section 19, provides that -
Where in an Act any Minister is referred to, such reference shall, unless the contrary intention appears, be deemed to include any Minister for the time being acting for or on behalf of such Minister.
The effect of that is that where in an Act the Treasurer, for instance, is mentioned, the expression includes also any other Minister of State who is acting for him. In the Departments where Honorary Ministers are assisting, it has often been found inconvenient to have things held up awaiting the authority of a Minister of State; and it is desirable to give these Honorary Ministers the power to act on behalf of Ministers. We propose to amend the law by inserting “ or member of the Executive Council “ after the words “ be deemed to include any Minister.”
– An Assistant Minister will be allowed to take the full responsibility of the constitutional Minister in signing documents, and so forth?
– No; under this Bill only in connexion with the administration of certain Acts. The Honorary Minister will be able to perform duties on behalf of a Minister of State.
– Will that include the GovernorGeneral, who is a member of the Executive Council?
– No. Moreover, His Excellency does not act for oi” on behalf of a Minister, but only on the advice of the Executive Council.
– The Bill will allow him to act for a Minister.
– But the GovernorGeneral is a member of the Executive Council ?
– No. He is the representative of the Crown and presides over the Executive Council, and, under the Bill, he will not be included in the authority.
– The Bill includes him.
– No. The Bill includes only any member of the Executive Council acting for or on behalf of a Minister.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) could act under the Bill, for he is a member of the Executive Council.
– If the honorable member were a member of the Cabinet appointed, he .could, of course, do so. He has now no authority to act for or on behalf of any Minister, though in the distant future’ he may be called upon.
– If the Government go on making so many mistakes the time is not so far distant!
– However, the general principle we are asking the House to affirm is that wherever “ Minister “ is mentioned in an Act it shall include any member of the Executive Council called upon to act for or on behalf of the Minister.
– What Act provides for Honorary Ministers?
– They are provided for in the Constitution, as members of the Executive Council who are called upon to act-
– Where is the phrase “ Honorary Minister “ to be found in the Constitution?
– Section 62 of the Constitution provides -
There shall be a Federal Executive Council to advise the Governor-General in the govern-, ment of the Commonwealth, and the members of the Council shall be chosen and summoned by the Governor-General, and sworn in as Executive Councillors, and shall hold office during his pleasure.
– Where is the. phrase “Honorary Minister”?
– It does not occur. I mentioned earlier that the Bill deals only with Honorary- Ministers who are members of the Executive Council. This amendment will be of great convenience to any Government. For some time the
Honorary Ministers- have been performing important duties in connexion with various Departments for and in behalf of Ministers, and it is desirable that they should have the statutory authority which this Bill will confer.
.- In the present Government there are no less than five Honorary Ministers, and this Bill, if carried, will give to each, while acting for the Minister controlling a Department, exactly the same power as is possessed by the Minister himself. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) mentioned recently that we might reach a stage, at which the Government, by increasing the number of Honorary Ministers, would comprise the majority of members in the House. I referred to this matter when speaking on the Ministerial Statement about four weeks ago, and the Prime Minister said that he could recollect an occasion on which I gained a position in a Ministry by the skin of my teeth. There is not on either side of the House any honorable member who will say that I eyer went about canvassing for votes for myself in connexion with any Ministerial position, or any other official position in the Labour party. When the Prime Minister made that statement I had no opportunity of replying, but he must have known very well that I have never resorted to the tactics adopted by some honorable members on the Government side who were his colleagues in the last Ministry, and are his colleagues in the present Government. I make that statement knowing that if it is wrong there are at least half-a-dozen honorable members on the opposite side who can contradict me. If the Government continue appointing three or four Honorary Ministers at a time, there may come a day when we shall have more Ministers than private members, and by this Bill we shall be conferring’ upon each Honorary Minister the full status of a Minister of the Crown. As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) interjected, the Constitution makes no provision for Honorary Ministers. I well recollect that when this Parliament was considering the first Supply Bill, a discussion took place as to the propriety of providing for any Honorary Ministers at all. I think Sir Philip Fysh and Mr. Richard O’Connor were the then Honorary Ministers. There was a feeling in Parliament at that time that the appointment of Honorary Ministers was not quite regular. The practice should never have been started, but instead of its being discontinued, the present Government are the greatest sinners in that respect.
– Every Ministry with which the honorable member was connected had a number of Honorary Ministers.
– Never more than two or three, but the present Ministry have appointed five.
– The number does not affect the principle.
– The number of honorary Ministerial positions is constantly growing, and if we agree to this Bill we may later be told that as the Honorary Ministers are doing Ministerial duty, and have full Ministerial status under the Acts Interpretation Act, Parliament should vote an additional £5,000 to increase their salaries to the £1,650 which each Minister is supposed to receive be- ‘ fore the money is put into the pool from which the Honorary Ministers are paid.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Honorary Ministers are paid?
– I know that they are paid. There is no need for the title of Honorary Minister.
– Why not call them Assistant Ministers ?
– They may be called by that or any other name. I realize that sometimes circumstances arise in which it is desirable that Assistant Ministers should be allowed to sign certain papers. For instance, when I resigned from the Customs Department, the Prime Minister had to do my work until a new Minister was appointed. Honorable members will realize that there are certain papers which can be signed only by the Minister himself. If we are to continue having Honorary Ministers, they should be regarded as assisting in the administration of the Departments, practically for the purpose of getting a training that will stand them in good stead later. I hold that it is impossible for a person to walk into any Department, and grip the whole of the details at once.
– Having regard to the present number of Ministers of State, whatever party were in power, it would be necessary for the Government to have the assistance of some Honorary Ministers.
Mr.TUDOR. - I realize that it is impossible for the Minister to grip every detail of any Department. Of course, if a Minister is willing that the head of his Department shall do his work for him, he need only attend at his office about halfanhour each day. He can make his work hard or easy, according to his desire to do it conscientiously.
– But assuming that every man does his duty.
Mr.TUDOR.- Even so, I do not think there is a necessity for five Honorary Ministers to-day. I realize that two Ministers are absent from the Commonwealth, and I should like to know what will happen when they return. I should not care to have the responsibility of deciding which two of the Honorary Ministers shall go out of office.
– They will not go out.
– Perhaps the honorable member foresees, as I do, that later we shall be asked to increase the number of portfolios.
– I do.
– This Bill may be merely the forerunner of a request that Parliament shall grant full Ministerial salaries to the men who are now designated “ Honorary Ministers.”
– That is why I do not like the Bill.
– I wish it to be distinctly understood that in voting for this Bill I have no intention of later conferring full Ministerial rank and salary upon the Honorary Ministers. I hope the Government have no intention of springing such a proposal upon the House
– The Bill intends to do nothing more than I have explained to the House.
– We have heard such tales before. I do not wish it to be said at some future time that I voted to give Honorary Ministers full Ministerial rank, and that, therefore, they are entitled to full Ministerial salary.
– This Bill will not confer upon them full Ministerial rank. It only relates to matters in connexion with which the Minister is mentioned in the Act.
– The Bill provides that where, in the Customs Act for instance, the Minister is referred to, the reference shall be deemed to include any Minister acting on his behalf. That means that the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen), the Assistant Minister (Mr. Massy Greene), and the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) may sign certain documents which the Act says must be signed by the Minister.
– The two last named may sign only if they are acting for the Minister under the Act.
– Of course. The Minister is bound to be absent from his Department at times, and other Ministers will be called in to sign documents for him. Complications are sure to ensue. I mentioned to-day a quantity of condemned tea, which was seized in 1915 and placed in the King’s warehouse. Honorable members are aware that when material is seized in those circumstances, it becomes the property of the Crown, and must be destroyed. I have been told that that tea has been re-shipped by special order. The Minister has promised to inquire into the matter, and if somebody, either an officer of the Department or a Minister, has made a mistake, we should be told. With responsibility extended over two or three persons, there is likely to be confusion. I think a preferable policy would be to appoint one man as Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, and provide definitely that he may act for the Minister only when the Minister delegates to him certain authority, as he does to-day to the Collectors of Customs and to the Director of Quarantine. The Minister should know by whom his delegated power is to be exercised, and be guarded against the confusion which may result if any Minister has authority to enter the Department in the absence of the Ministerial head, and sign certain documents.
– Is not the honorable member aware that, at the present time, Ministers sign documents for each other?
– Salaried Ministers do. When in office, I signed papers for practically all my colleagues.
– But the honorable member was a constitutionally appointed Minister.
– That is so.
– And he did not deal with new matters.
– No. I dealt with matters which had been under consideration by the responsible Minister. Any new question brought forward had to be definitely explained to me by the responsible officer. On the other hand, if this amendment of the law be made, the five Honorary Ministers will be authorized to discharge the duties of any responsible Minister, and I do hot think the result will be beneficial to the administration of our public Departments. If, however, the Government say that this Bill is necessary, I shall vote for it.
– Does the honorable member say that if an Honorary Minister were acting for the Minister for Defence for a week, he could not sign papers as a Minister ?
Mr.TUDOR.- The Act specifies thatcertain matters shall be dealt with only by the responsible Minister.
– But those matters represent only a small section of the work of the Minister for Defence.
– I was referring more particularly to the provisions of the Customs Act. I fear that we shall create a very dangerous precedent by giving this authority to Honorary Ministers, and I wish it to be clearly understood that, although I shall vote for the Bill, I have no idea ofsupporting any proposal to increase the Ministerial allowance on the ground that Honorary Ministers are doing full Ministerial work. They will not be doing anything of the kind, and consequently I shall not support any increase in the Ministerial allowance.
.- This Bill should be passed. The object which the Government have in view is perfectly clear, and I do not think it will have the dangerous effect suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). If I thought it would, or that the Bill was being put forward merely as a stepping-stone to the creation of new Departments to be placed under the administration of the Honorary Ministers, so that an increased Ministerial allowance might be obtained, I should certainly oppose it. But I accept the assurance of the Government that it. will be used only in the way mentioned by them, and I regard it as a perfectly innocent measure. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Cook) were about to leave for England, we were freely led to understand that, on their return, two of the newly appointed Honorary Ministers would retire. That is an understanding which I intend to see honorably fulfilled. If the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy do not return, the position will be different, but if they resume their Ministerial work here, I shall certainly expect this understanding to be carried out. I have no fault to find with the personnel of the new Honorary Ministers, and 1 certainly believe that they will do effective and honest work for the Commonwealth.
– I object to this Bill, because of its patch-work character. We have obviously to make provision of a temporary character to meet a temporary expedient. A number of Honorary Ministers have been appointed for certain governmental purposes during the absence of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy, and the Government think it necessary to give them full status as Ministers. I am quite prepared to believe that there should be an increase in the number of statutory Ministers. Parliament agreed tothe principle last year, when it passed a Bill providing for the creation of the Repatriation Department and the appointment of a Ministerial head of that Department. But the appointment of five or six Honorary Ministers, in order to cope with what the Prime Minister, before leaving, said were the enormously increased activities of the Federal Government, does not seem to require that they should be given full status. If it is necessary to create a number of new Ministerial positions, then there is a constitutional and permanent way of doing it. I think the House recognises that there are some very strong reasons for the appointment of new Ministers, but the objection that I have to this Bill is that it will give Honorary Ministers such a status that two of them, with the Governor-General, will constitute a meeting of the Executive Council, and will be able to pass regulations.
– Members of the Executive Council do that to-day. Honorary Ministers have a right to attend, and to take part in the meetings of the Executive Council.
– Would the GovernorGeneral and two Honorary Ministers form a quorum of the Executive Council?
– A quorumis fixed.
– We have a lively recollection of a certain regulation that was rushed through the Executive Council just before the first conscription referendum. This regulation was drafted by the Prime Minister in Sydney, and sent by .him to Melbourne, where it was put before a meeting of the Executive Council attended by the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen), the then Treasurer (Mr. Higgs), and the then Assistant Minister for Defence (Senator Gardiner). Senator Gardiner and the then Treasurer ‘(Mr. Higgs) refused to ratify the regulation, and the Minister for Trade and Customs then took it back to Sydney, where he joined the Prime Minister, and they, with the GovernorGeneral, constituted a meeting of the Executive Council, and approved the regulation.
– An Honorary Minister could not draft a regulation and have it passed; but at a meeting of the Executive Council he could vote for or against a proposed regulation. For instance, if the five Honorary Ministers, with the Prime Minister, attended a meeting of the Executive Council, and a regulation drafted by the Prime Minister were brought forward, the Honorary Ministers could reject it; but they could not of themselves bring forward a new regulation.
– I quite understand that. A regulation which had been agreed to at a meeting of the Executive Council so constituted would have all the authority of law, and yet might be wholly in opposition to the feeling of Parliament. These Honorary Ministers, we are told, have full authority to take part in the meetings of the Executive Council, so that it would appear that this Bill is not going to affect them as members of the Executive Council, or in the administration of the Departments. According to this Bill it will not be necessary for Honorary Ministers to have delegated authority from the Ministers in charge of Departments. They will he able to act on their own responsibility. I do not see much wrong with this principle, but it would be far better if the Government would not adopt this course as a temporary expedient, but would make up their minds straight out upon -the matter, and say, “ It is necessary to have a number of new Departments and an extension of the number of Ministers.” If necessary, let them introduce an amending Bill for the purpose. In the Ministerial statement presented to this House it is stated that the Attorney-General is to become the Minister for Labour. We have .heard nothing more, about that matter. We have ho indication as to whether there is to be a new Minister or whether the position of Attorney-General and the position of the Minister for Labour are to be associated in the one Minister. However, we have a clear statement that it is proposed to create an entirely new Department, although we are informed that it is to be a branch of the Department of the AttorneyGeneral. The time has arrived when the Government, and, indeed, the House, should determine how many additional Departments it is necessary to have, and how many full-portfolioed Ministers are required, with all the responsibilities attaching to their positions. Then we would be acting on a safer and more equitable basis than is provided by an amending Bill such as this.
.- I welcome this Bill, not only as a measure of emergency, but also as a sign that the Government recognise that it is desirable to take formal business out of the hands of Ministers of State in order to liberate them, I presume, for their real work, namely, thinking, and not merely acting as registering machines. This afternoon we heard something from the Leader of the Opposition about a Minister’s signature being a necessary and statutory safeguard. “ How,’’ he ventured to suggest, “ would .an Honorary Minister liberate a Minister from this highly important function?” For about fifteen months - I forget the brevity of the time - I was acting -as Minister of a Department. For all practical purposes I was the Minister, just as for all practical purposes the Honorary Ministers in this Government are Ministers for the work delegated to them. What was done in reference to those special signatures of the Minister? The necessity for obtaining the special signature of the Minister .was investigated by me, and in every case when a document went along to the Minister for his signature he signed as a matter of course. The man who takes the responsibility should put his signature to it; the man who does the work should leave the record of his signature on it. It is ludicrous to ask another man to sign for .something pf which he knows nothing. A great deal of the time of our Ministers is taken up in affixing formal signatures to pieces of paper.
– They do it often at the instruction of their own officers.
– Of course. Is it wise administration? Contrast that course of action with the way in which a large business is run. The man in charge of a large business concern wisely chooses subordinates, and he will not allow them to put on his shoulders the responsibility that does not properly attach thereto. His business it is to exercise general supervision, and see that the men .whom he trusts have proper control and the opportunity to do their work, and do it well.
This Bill aims at making the Honorary Minister responsible for the work delegated to him. The bulk of the work done by an Honorary Minister does not require the signature of a Minister of State. I suppose that there would probably be not more than one document in 200 requiring the signature of a Minister of State. In the, case of the Works Department, which I controlled as Honorary Minister, the documents requiring the signature of the Minister were usually concerned with the extension of the service of temporary employees, or matters of that sort, which, through the folly of a previous Parliament, required the signature of a Mini.ter of State. If that Minister investigated all these things, or even made a pretence of investigating them seriously, the whole of his time would be taken up in considering John Smith’s claim, and he would not have a moment to spare to give attention to the business of the country. I hope that there will be no cavilling at this Bill.
The Government might very well consider the possibility of getting closer to the British idea of Cabinet organization. My own idea is that Cabinet should not consist of Executive Ministers in the Australian sense, who all the time -are bothered with details concerning their Departments. The men sitting in Cabinet should be free to think out broad problems and new problems; they should constitute the brain of. the community as a whole. So far, since the Federal Parliament has met, Cabinet has not been in that sen3e the brain of the country as a whole. What happens at a Cabinet meeting ?
– The honorable member is not allowed to tell.
– I am not going to give away any secrets. I propose to deal with broad phases of human nature. In every Department you hear the remark, “ This is an important and difficult subject; we will refer it to the Cabinet”; and the weaker the Minister the more matters he refers to Cabinet. Ten or twelve honest men get together once a week, and the whole object of those ten or twelve men is to get their difficulties solved by the others, and the Minister who has the loudest voice is the one who gets his difficulties solved. When a Minister cannot make up his mind to take a wild plunge on some trivial subject, he says, “ I am going to have a talk with my colleagues about this.” That means that he is going to Cabinet. And as every one has trivialities to bring before Cabinet, the result is that that body never does consider broad policies] and never does look to the future. The only occasion on which it really does consider the future is just before it is going to face an election.
– There is another occasion : that is, when the Address-in-Reply has to be framed.
– The honorable member is correct. There are two moments in the lifetime of an Australian Parliament when the Commonwealth has a brain, and that brain is in Cabinet, one when it is sitting immediately after an election, and the other when it is sitting immediately before an election. In the intervening time, Cabinet is merely a registration place for the weaknesses of various Ministers in matters of departmental triviality. The sooner Ministers become Ministers of State in the British sense, and trust other persons with control over the mere details of departmental administration, the better it will be for the country. As T feel very strongly on the point, I welcome this Bill as a change in a sound direction.
I have only one word to say in con elusion, and that is in reference to what I thought was an unnecessary statement from the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson). He referred to a question which, I am pure, all honorable members concerned do not wish to have raised, and there is no man with any sort of generosity of temperament but would deprecate the raising of it: that is the problem of whether any Honorary Ministers are to retire in due course. In my opinion, some of our Honorary Ministers are the best men we have in the Cabinet. Perhaps it is due to the fact that they have not been in office long enough to be found out. We have considerable brain power and enthusiasm among our Honorary Ministers, and I hope that a place can be found for them in the future as well as at present. However, if we give work to Honorary Ministers, let us give them the responsibility also. It is the only sound way of dividing labour, and it is the best way of getting the best out of a good man.
.- I am quite satisfied that the proposal of the Government is not shown on the surface of the Bill. It is their intention to increase the number of Ministers. Once Ministers get into office it is impossible to remove them. Some years ago Sir Henry Parkes received a deputation, of which I was a member, and which asked for the establishment of a Department of Technical Education, and in reply to a suggestion that it was merely a matter for an Honorary Minister, and would not entail any great expenditure, he said something to. this effect: “If we appoint a Minister he cannot open his office door, or hang up his coat without a messenger, and it would be infra dig. for him to write a letter or cut open an envelope. He must have a staff of clerks to assist him in doing the work. It it utterly impossible for a member of Parliament to perform any work without some emolument. Consequently in less than four or five weeks there would he & staff of servants and messengers attached to the Minister and a number of messengers attached to the staff as well.”
I know that we want to find employment for returned soldiers. They can be employed as messengers. I recognise that, if Ministers wish to carry the dignified title of “ Member of the Executive Council,” it will be necessary to have additions to the office staffs, which means the erection of buildings. This will create a certain amount of work. If any honorable member thinks that, on the return of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy, those who are now in office can be shifted, he is making the greatest mistake he has ever made. We will still have those Ministers in office. We will be told that certain staffs have been created, and that it will be necessary to retain them in order to maintain the dignity of the various positions which have been created.
Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) I am afraid that there may be some confusion in the matter of” the signatures to be attached. If more Ministers are needed, the Government should have the courage to say so, and propose to increase the number, making arrangements for their proper payment. If all the Ministers had the same dignity and position, there would be no dispute as to the validity of a signature. On one occasion, I referred to the honorable member for Wentworth, who was then an Honorary Minister, as the lap dog to another Minister. I did not mean to be personally offensive, but it seemed to me then that. responsibility in connexion with the Teesdale-Smith business, and other troubles, was being thrown on him which an Honorary Minister should not have to bear. Men should not be in such positions. The labourer is worthy of his hire, and if extra Ministers are needed, they should be appointed, and properly paid. But the public should not be misled in a matter of this kind. I am certain that, before long, provision will be made for extra Ministers. Why is not the position met now? The country would be willing to pay whatever may be necessary to provide for the proper administration of its affairs. I hope that the time will come when the Australian Parliament will be the only Parliament in Australia. Other parliamentary institutions are mere shams. There should not be two Parliaments doing the same business. While I have been a member of this Parliament, I have tried to keep this position to the fore. This Parliament should have the respect of every citizen of Australia, and I have based my conduct on that view. “It is because Ministers lack courage that we are not asked to provide for new appointments. At the same time, I have no hesitation in saying that the Labour Government which preceded this did more work than this Government have done. It established various factories, sent away nearly 250,000 men, carried on a recruiting campaign, and did all this without increasing the number of Ministers. If payment is to be- by results,, which is the statement made- in connexion with . the shipbuilding, this Ministry should not get as much as its predecessor. Of course, a Ministry whose members came from the industrial community would be more capable of doing its work, than a Ministry whose members came from the commercial community, or represented the vested interests, because industrial life is more strenuous than any other. The late Chief Justice Lilley, of Queensland, once said that the brains of the world would come from the industrial community. It is the industrialists who are producing the children who will become our future Ministers. Ministers thus derived will be more capable than those who come from parents in easier walks of life. The other day the Prime Minister of Tonga was present.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question.
– I thought that I was doing so. I read up the Standing Orders about once a week. The present Government have a comparatively easy task, because of the immense amount of loan money they have to handle. I hold that all the members of a Ministry should be on the same footing - all those at the Executive Council table should be equal.
Sitting suspended from 6.82 to 7.bS p.m.
Mr. HECTOR LAMOND (Illawarra) £7.45]. - I share the regret of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) that in the recent re-organization of the Ministry some nearer approximation to English methods was not adopted. The addition to the number of Ministers of State seems to me to make the Cabinet too unwieldy, and to account for much of the delay in attention to public business, of which we have continually to complain. I understand that at present there are fourteen gentlemen entitled to take -part in the deliberations of the Cabinet, and if that be so, I can hardly imagine how, under such conditions, they get through their .business at all. It oan only be by their taking a great deal for granted, and by weakening the responsibility that ought to attach to the various offices. I hope to see the time when the
Commonwealth will be governed by a much smaller Cabinet, and the various Departments administered by gentlemen with the rank of the Under-Secretaries of the Old Country, or holding the positions of the Assistant Ministers here, with salaries and duties defined, and responsible directly to Parliament for the administration of their offices, but without a part in the discussions of the Cabinet. With regard to most of the criticism of this proposal, one has to bear in mind that it is not intended that the system shall continue. The position of the Commonwealth is a temporary one, and we have to contemplate the day when peace will be declared, and when suddenly the Government will be deprived of the greater portion of the powers it now possesses and exercises by reason of the war. When that day comes, six months after the actual declaration of peace, there will be no work for most of the present Ministers to do, for Departments that are now very extensive will practically disappear.
– You will find that their numbers will never grow less.
– That is as Parliament wills. I am little impressed by the argument that because Ministers are appointed now they will continue for ever, for that is as the people themselves may direct.
One of the results of the war, I think, will be that the public of Australia will be compelled to consider the continually increasing expense of all her Governments, and to take such action as shall create a Parliament and Ministry with supreme control in the government of the continent.
While there are what are called “Honorary Ministers.” - and I object very strongly to the use of the word “ honorary “ in connexion with gentlemen who receive salaries-
– They are known as Assistant Ministers.
– I am told that they are officially designated in Ilansard as “ Honorary Ministers.” I have no objection to the word “ assistant,” but, up to the present, these gentlemen have been called “ Honorary Ministers “ ; and many people regard them as patriotic citizens, who render their country service for nothing.
– So they are so far as the country is concerned.
Mr.HECTOR LAMOND. - I have a good deal of sympathy with some of the observations of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). I think that the Government, having found work for a number of gentlemen, should have come down to the House and asked for money with which to pay them. To-day the salaries of the Assistant Ministers are being paid by the Ministers of State ; and it is quite unworthy of the Commonwealth that, in present circumstances, we should tax our Ministers to pay the Assistant Ministers, whose services Parliament recognises are required for the proper conduct of the business of the country.
– Unfortunately, parliamentary expenses are always going up.
– That is so.
-Besides the Honorary Ministers, there are three Whips paid out of the same fund.
– That is a different matter. The Government saw that it was necessary to create an additional office, and it seems to me that if that be so, an additional salary should have been provided. As to a Minister for Recruiting, I take that to be a purely temporary office, and the sooner it comes to a termination the better we shall be pleased. I have not heard the reasons why it was considered necessary to have a Minister for Recruiting, and, in any case, it does not seem to me to be an office that ought to carry Ministerial rank. I shall vote for the Bill, but I hope a time will soon come when we shall have a smaller, more responsible, and better-paid Government, and when the junior offices will be filled by men directly responsible to Parliament, and paid in accordance with the importance of their work.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat was corrected by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) when he spoke of these Assistant Ministers as “Honorary Ministers,” and was told that they are called “ Assistant Ministers.”
– I said they were known as “ Assistant Ministers.”
– In the list of Ministers attached to Hansard, I see that these gentlemen are all described as “ Honorary Ministers.”
– They are honorary so far as the country is concerned.
– That I understand, but I am sure the honorable member would not say that the honorable member forIllawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) was wrong in contending that “ honorary “ can hardly be applied to any office which carries salary !
– Quite right.
– Why is the House not informed ‘ how much is paid to these Assistant Ministers? For aught we know, they may be paid £1,250, £1,500, or £1,000. I take this opportunity to enter a protest, which, I think, will be voiced outside by the public generally. In these days not only the newspapers, but honorable members, are preaching economy in every sense of the word. Speaking with over a quarter of a century of parliamentary experience, I know of nothing that causes ill-feeling so much as the difference between the remuneration of members and that of Ministers, and from this time forth I shall advocate that the salaries shall be the same. I consider that £600 a year is good enough for any man, no matter what his services to his country may be. If patriotism swells the breast of young men who enlist for 6s. a day, and are prepared to offer the supreme sacrifice, I think a minimum wage of £12 a week is a very fair one, for which men ought to give, not the fag end, but the best, of their time to their country.
– Would you increase members’ salaries ?
– Seeing that members have to face their constituents, and are elected, I think the salary paid to them should be the highest in the whole Public Service. I suggest that if, for instance, the salary were £1,000 a year, the member might be paid £500, and the other £500 retained., and in case of his failure to be returned, or of his becoming incapacitated, like an old-age pensioner, paid out to him on an actuarial basis. The old-age pension is a right, but, unfortunately, the stigma of poverty is attached to it, through its not being available for every one.
– You have made the whole House smile with pleasure at your suggestion !
– The honorable member may rest assured that this idea will not stop in this House. I think that if, on the public platform, candidates were asked whether they would go, as a member of Parliament, on such terms as I have indicated, there would hardly be one who would not agree, just as in the days before Federation men were willing to serve in the State Parliaments for nothing.
– Do you suggest that we should revert to the system of non-payment ?
– The honorable member knows that I suggest nothing of the kind. Every man is worthy of his hire; but every man ought to give his best to his country ; and I believe in one man one billet.
Let us remember an eventful occasion when the present Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes) quarrelled with his party, and walked out of the party room, along with thirteen others. Of those thirteen, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter), the Prime Minister himself - who” for a fourth time consecutively, without interregnum, has been Prime Minister of Australia, an unprecedented event in parliamentary history - the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen), the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), the honorable member for Darwin (Mr.Spence), the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Webster), and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), all became paid Ministers or officials, only three out of the lot remaining a private member. Then there was the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), who sat in the corner, and who was the fourteenth.
Let us have something straightforward and above-board. What is the good of putting the cloak of hypocrisy over our actions ? Let us know what these Assistant Ministers receive by way of salary? Can any honorable member say that he knows what they receive? Is there anything to hide - any disgrace about the business ? I am merely asking these questions, because I assume there is nothing to hide. But would it not be more straightforward and honorable to let the country know the amount it pays those men?
– Has the honorable member ever known how the £12,000 voted for Ministerial salaries was allotted?
– I have been told that the money has been allocated in varying amounts according to the greed and avarice of different Prime Ministers.
– Did the honorable member ever know how the £12,000 was divided amongst Ministers of his own party ?
– Speaking from memory, which, of course, is not always reliable, I believe that the so-called Honorary Ministers in the Labour Government received £650 each in addition to their parliamentary salary, making their total salary £1,250 per annum.
– Did the honorable member hear that authoritatively, or was it mere hearsay?
– I heard it from one of the men who received the money. Will the honorable member for Parkes, who has had thirty years of parliamentary experience, tell me what the present Honorary Ministers are receiving?
– I confess that I do not know.
– Will the honorable member deny that the public who pay the money should know?
– Does not the extra emolument of an Honorary Minister come out of the Ministerial pool?
– It is all paid by the people.
– The honorable member knows that the Ministers proper are paying the so-called Honorary Ministers out of their own pockets.
– The honorable member knows that the people pay the whole of the money.
– They pay it in the first place to the Ministers.
– Of course they do. If the initiative, referendum, and recall were in operation, would the people continue to pay these salaries? I enter my protest against the present system. In these days, when the need for economy is so great, the wage of the Minister and the member should be the same, and then we should get rid of the beastly intrigue that is too rampant in our midst. The honorable member for Parkes has not passed through all his years of political life without knowing the marmor in which many Ministers were appointed in New South Wales.
– The position in New South Wales is no worse than it u here. I have seen the same sort of thing in this Parliament.
– I was not suggesting that New South Wales was singular in that respect, but knowing that the honorable member had been a Minister and a member of the State Parliament of New South Wales for many years, I thought he would naturally know more of New South Wales politics than I do, just as I know more of Victorian politics than he does.
– I think that things just as questionable are done in this Parliament as have been done in the Parliament of New South Wales.
– I am a little bit sorry to have to agree with the honorable member. I know the intrigues that took place in the Victorian Parliament whenever there was a likelihood of a Ministry being defeated. Men who had the support of the daily press could always command a position in the Cabinet. I hope that some day this Parliament, in its wisdom, will elect its Ministers. I have been an advocate of elective Ministries ever since I entered Parliament, but I hope that such Ministries will be controlled by the power of the initiative, the referendum, and the recall, and then only will that suspicion of bribery and corruption which is rampant outside be removed. I repeat again that the wage of £12 per week ought to be sufficient for both member and Minister, and the only additional reward of Ministers should be the honour of representing the people in the Cabinet. That should be sufficient to induce men to offer their services as Ministers, for the benefit of their country.
– The Government having introduced this measure, the responsibility for it should be upon their shoulders, and unless the House has very good reason for opposing it, the Bill should be supported. I intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill. The debate, so far, has illustrated the misfortune which Australia suffers at the present time through hav ing an active and strong Opposition of a party character. If this measure were being considered in England, or in any other part of the Empire, or in any allied country, there would be no debate of this character, because in all those other countries there is a Government representative of all sections in politics, and commanding the united support of Parliament and the country. It would be recognised that it is essential for the proper conduct of the war, and the efficient government of the country, to have an extension of Ministerial responsibility. That development has taken place in England. Can any honorable member say what is the strength of the Imperial Cabinet to-day? It must be nearly double the size of the original Cabinet. Since the war, there have been created Ministries of Munitions and Pood, and other additions to the Cabinet have been made. The Government thought those increases necessary, and the House supported them without question. The salaries attaching to the new portfolios may not be as high as those received by the members of the original Cabinet, whose emoluments in some instances amount “to £5,000 per annum. Australia suffers every week and every month by reason of the continuance of party warfare. There should be no wrangle over a measure of this character. In these times, the only opposition should be of a constructive character - not of a destructive kind; not for the purpose of delaying the business of the country, and, not for the purpose of harassing those who are responsible for its government.
I have never been strongly in favour of the practice of appointing Honorary Ministers. A member should be either a Minister of State or a private member. If the efficient carrying on of the Government necessitates the creation of a new portfolio, it should be straightforwardly created, and a salary should be openly attached to it. Honorable members on the Opposition say to us, “ Why do you not do’ that?” What would be the result if the Government did make such a proposal ? They would provide an excellent opportunity for the Opposition to block the Bill °for a week, and to wander all over the country talking about extravagance and waste of public money. The last matter that would be discussed would be whether the welfare of the country demanded that the additional portfolios should be created. Australia is not so poor as to be unable to pay for the efficient government of the country. My experience has been that cheap labour is bad labour; 1 do not care whether it be the labour of a Minister of the Crown, or of a working man. Cheap labour is dear, because it is not worth even the price that is paid for it. Therefore, I have always advocated that a man should be paid according to the competition for the services he is able to render. What salary is paid a bank manager, or an insurance manager, or the head of a mercantile business ? The standard fixed by those concerns represents the salary that should attach to one of the most responsible positions in the country, that of a Minister of the Crown. I think the Government have been making a tactical mistake. The Opposition have no responsibility for the war, but that does not absolve us on this side from feeling our responsibility. But the Government, rather than face the turmoil of party conflict, prefer to create honorary positions, and pay the additional Ministers out of the Ministerial pool.
– Our principal Ministers are not getting more than half the salary that we pay the. manager of the Commonwealth Bank.
– The salary paid to the manager of the Commonwealth Bank is high, because the Government, when making that appointment, had to go into the market and secure the best man. That man was entitled to certain pensions and privileges in his then employment. The Government had to make it worth his while to enter another service. The world is not conducted on benevolent lines; and, having regard to the high position which Mr. Miller occupied in the bank in which he was formerly employed, the salary that is paid to him by the Commonwealth is not extraordinary.
Let us consider what has been the practice of the Imperial Cabinet for the last twenty or thirty years. I can recollect that in my youth the Imperial Cabinet numbered eleven, and was extended to thirteen only on one occasion, about fifty years ago. At that time, there was a feeling among leading statesmen on both sides of the House of Commons that big Cabinets were undesirable. The Government have overcome that objection. To-day there is an inner Cabinet of four or five men, and practically the whole responsibility for the government of the country is on their shoulders. Very seldom is a meeting of the complete Cabinet called. Our Cabinet system of government has grown up according to the requirements and exigencies of Australian political life, and that fact makes our Constitution, in my opinion, one of the best in the world, because the unwritten portions’ of it are probably better than those portions which are laid down in black and white. If there is a Cabinet of fifteen or sixteen members, circumstances will force the creation of an inner Cabinet. In fact, I should not be surprised to hear that there is an inner Cabinet in connexion “with the Commonwealth Government; and I am inclined to think that there was an inner group in the earlier Australian Cabinets that largely controlled the Government at that time. The Government are responsible for the ‘Bill that is before us. They are of opinion that this amendment should be passed, and, placing the responsibility on them, I propose to cheerfully support the measure. Will any one say that the appointment of a Minister for Repatriation was unnecessary? I have no desire to reflect on any one, for we know that yeoman service in the cause of repatriation was rendered throughout the country by many voluntary workers, but there can be no doubt that since the work has been placed under the control of a responsible Minister there has been an immense improvement. Then, again, take the one hundred and one questions with which the Government have been called upon to deal since the outbreak of war. We are now largely governed by war. regulations, and, while the war lasts, must continue to be so governed. Price fixing, for instance, is a most important matter, and cannot be completely dealt with by any one Government. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Greene), who is in charge of it, seems to have a good grip of the question, and is doing his best. Some say that price fixing will not last, but I am sure that it has come to stay. We have to build on a sound, scientific basis, and we ought to display a little more charity in our criticism of Ministers and officers who have to deal with such questions. Prior to the appointment of the additional Honorary Ministers, two-thirds of the time of the Prime Minister was taken up in dealing with large and extraordinary questions which arose as the result of the wa r. By means of regulations under the War Precautions Act we have done much in the way of organization, but after the war is over we shall return to the glorious days of disorganization and the sovereign rights of the States. When that day conies we shall probably regret that we have not the opportunity that we enjoy to-day to deal by regulation with many questions of great public importance. Honorable members opposite may take a different view, butwe shall probably pine for regulations of the kind in force to-day. At present, by means of war regulations, we can do much in the way of the organization of industry. The future of Australia depends, not on disorganization of the kind that prevailed prior to the war, but upon the complete organization of the whole country so as to secure the proper development of its resources. It will be a sorry day for Australia when the people fail to appreciate that fact, but I have faith enough in them to believe that they will always be equal to the occasion. We are told that the war regulations have deprived many people of their liberty and their freedom. I have never felt them irksome.
– Honorable members opposite and their supporters have every freedom.
– What you want is not freedom, but unlimited licence, to say and do what you please. When I speak before my supporters I am free to say what I please, but if I try to address a meeting of supporters of the other side I am howled down by a pack of dingoes.
– Coming events are making the honorable member irritable.
– I am prepared to meet the honorable member on the public platform whenever he pleases, provided that he will keep the dingoes quiet. I have only to say, in conclusion, that since the Government tell us that this Bill is necessary in the interests of the country, I throw upon them the responsibility for it and intend to support it.
.- I have considerable doubt as to the wisdom of inserting in section 19 of the principal Act the words “ or member of the Executive Council,” as proposed in clause 2 of this Bill. I understand that the Governor-General and the Ministry of the day constitute the Executive Council.
– The Governor-General presides over the Council.
– Does he take no part in its deliberations ? Some time ago certain, proposed regulations relating to the voting at the first conscription referendum were approved at a meeting of the Executive Council, consisting of the GovernorGeneral, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen). May I ask what objection there is to the insertion of the words “ or Assistant Minister instead of “ or member of the Executive Council,” as proposed in this Bill?
– We are adopting the terms of the Constitution.
– I understand that ex-Ministers are also members of the Executive Council.
– But they are not called to it while a Government is in office.
– It seems to me that if we amend the principal Act, as proposed by this Bill, it is quite possible that an ex-Minister will be able to act on behalf of a Minister as a member of the Executive Council.
– That would not be in accordance with the constitutional practice of the Commonwealth.
– But we are living in days when constitutional procedure is not always strictly adhered to. We know that the meaning of certain Acts was strained in order to get certain men into camp when it was thought the people would vote for conscription. While it may not be the intention of the present Ministry to avail themselves of this amendment of the principal Act in the direction I have indicated, we do not know what a future Ministry might do, and I want to be sure that we shall not give to ex-Ministers a power which they should not possess. I think that the use of the words “ or Assistant Minister “ would meet the object which the Government have in view.
– No such person as an Assistant Minister is mentioned in any Statute or in the Constitution.
– Is their office extra-constitutional ?
– No; they are appointed as members of the Executive Council, and they assist Ministers. The term “ Assistant Ministers “ describes what they do.
– Is there a distinction between “ members of the Executive Council,” on the one hand, and “ Ministers “ on the other?
– Under the Constitution Ministers of State control our big Departments, and must be members of the Executive Council.In addition to them other persons may be summoned to the Executive Council as Executive Councillors.
– We seem to be getting back to the position which I indicated a few moments ago. The Constitution provides that -
The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such Departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.
Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council. . . .
– That covers Ministers of State. Now look at section 62.
– Section 62 of the Constitution provides that -
There shall be a Federal Executive Council to advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth, and the members of the Council shall be chosen and summoned by the Governor-General and sworn as Executive Councillors, and shall holdoffice during his pleasure.
It appears to me that there is some distinction between the Federal Executive Council and the Cabinet.
– Yes. Technically, the Cabinet is a body which is not known to the law. It is the same under the British Constitution. The Cabinet has grown up gradually until it has assumed a constitutional existence which every one recognises, although the law knows only the legally-constituted Ministers of State and the Executive Council.
– Am I to understand that there are certain Ministers, whether they are termed Assistant Ministers or Honoray Ministers or Executive Councillors, who are occupying positions which are not strictly constitutional ?
– I do not say that. The idea of a certain number of persons meeting in Cabinet is a practice which has grown up under the British Government, and is known as Cabinet Government. Ministers meet together in Cabinet, and decide questions of policy.
– We have a certain number of Cabinet Ministers in the Commonwealth.
– They are legally called Ministers of the State. As a matter of fact, they meet together and constitute the Cabinet.
– There are ten of. them. In addition to being Ministers of the State, they are also members of the Executive Council. The other five Assistant or Honorary Ministers are members of the Executive Council, but constitutionally are not members of the Cabinet.
– They may also be members of the Cabinet.
– If they are members of the Cabinet, and are also members of the Executive Council, I cannot see why the Government cannot obtain all they wish by the use of the term “ Assistant Minister.” If, according to the statement of the Minister, ex-Ministers are also quiescent members of the Executive Council, it leaves it open for decisions to be registered in Executive Council by men who are not responsible to Parliament. I feel very dubious about granting this power. I understand that the Governor-General presides over the proceedings of the Executive Council, and that he constitutes part and parcel of that body. Under the proposed alteration he would have power, as a member of the Executive Council, to issue regulations.
– Not under this Bill.
– Does he not come under the heading of Executive Councillor 1
– He will not be a member of the Executive Council acting on behalf of a Minister. It will be impossible for him to issue regulations.
– I accept the Minister’s word. He says that the objection to substituting the term “ Assistant Minister “ for the words “member of the Executive Council “ is that it will mean the use of phraseology which is unknown to the Constitution.
– We have not created any Assistant Minister by any statute. So far we have only created Ministers of State and members of the Executive Council.
– I arn anxious to know whether or not the use of the term “Assistant Minister” would be illegal, or whether it would interfere with the duties that an Assistant Minister would carry out.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) had some idea that by voting for this Bill honorable members will commit themselves to an increase in the number of Ministers. That is not the intention of the Bill, nor can I see how a vote in support of the measure can in any way be deemed to be an admission on the part of any honorable member that he ought to favour an increase in the number of Ministers. The Bill is intended to do nothing more than is shown on the face of it. Section 64 of the Constitution Act says -
The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such Departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.
Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall bc the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.
The intention of the Conventions was to enable the principle of responsible government, as known in the United Kingdom and in the several States, to find a place iri our Constitution. I think the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) knows very well what constitute the principles of responsible government. They are carried out in this country by what is known as the system of Cabinet government. That form of government grew up iri the United Kingdom by a gradual constitutional evolution independent of Statutes. It was a gradual development to meet the necessities of the country. It enables responsible Ministers, who constitute the heads of Departments, to meet together, quite apart from the Crown, and deliberate amongst themselves secretly as regards their policy. Any decision in regard to policy where necessary has later ‘on to be carried into effect through the Executive Council. Cabinetcan register its decisions through the Executive Council, but it is not referred to in any Constitution or in any Act.
– Is that not merely because it is a question of etiquette ?
– The peculiarity of tha British Constitution is that it has been evolved. It has grown by evolution. It has not been created by any Act of Parliament. It has simply bee.n evolved to meet the needs of the people, all the time giving more and more control into the hands of Parliament and into the hands of the people as the democratic movement made progress. The Cabinet, generally speaking, is not known to the law. In a Queensland Court of justice an attempt was made to prove that something had been done in Cabinet, but the Judge ruled it out by saying that the Constitution did not know of the existence of such a body. The persons who are known to the law: are Ministers of State and the Executive Council. The Ministers of State are placed in charge of Departments, and. are appointed by the Crown. If the honorable member turns up the debates of the Federal Conventions, he will see that the words “ Ministers of State” were put into the Constitution for a definite purpose. Owing to a decision in a Victorian case, some doubt had been cast upon the power of Ministers, and the words were put in in order to make it clearer what the position of Ministers of State was to be. Other persons than Ministers of State who are members of the Executive Council are also called to the Cabinet meetings. In Australia we have been in the habit of including in our Cabinets members of Parliament who are Honorary Ministers and members of the Executive Council, but who hold no office as Ministers of State. Section 62 of the Constitution says -
There shall be a Federal Executive Council to advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth.
That Federal Executive corresponds with the Privy Council in the United Kingdom and the Executive Council of the States, but there is a distinction. In England a privy councillor when appointed in practice holds his position during life, and under the Federal Constitution a member of the Executive Council once appointed is a member of that Executive Council, and holds his office during the pleasure of the Crown. He does not cease to be an Executive Councillor after the resignation of the Ministry. I believe that the same practice exists in the State of Victoria, but
I understand in some other States, a member of the Executive Council continues as a member of that body only until the Government of which he is member goes out of office.
– Will the Minister explain why the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) and his friends were not called into Council?
– I was about to point out that we have responsible government in Australia. The Cabinet represents the predominant party, and it is usual to summon to the meetings of the Executive Council only those persons who really constitute the Cabinet of the day, and who are responsible to Parliament for the advice tendered to the Crown. That is the reason why the honorable member for Capricornia and his friends are not summoned to attend meetings of the Executive Council.
– The Minister says, that the Federal Executive Council are appointed directly by the GovernorGeneral. That is so according to section 62, but later on the Constitution provides that the Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such Departments of State of the Commonwealth as the. Governor-General in Council may establish. If the Executive Council consists of the Ministers it simply means that they appoint themselves to the various offices.
– The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such Departments of State in the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish. The first Executive Council was appointed before Parliament was elected. They had to decide what Departments of State should be established, and they declared what those Departments should be. The number of Departments to be constituted was governed by section 65, which said that there should be seven Ministers of State. The Departments were constituted’, and Ministers were appointed to administer them. There were, in the first instance, only seven Ministers: of State, though there were nine members of the Executive Council. The Ministry consists of those members of the Executive Council, who are under summons, and the Executive Council in practice consists of the Ministers of State and the Honorary Ministers summoned.
– The Executive Council, with the Governor-General, is something apart from the Cabinet.
– The meaning of executive councillor is defined by law. In practice, the Cabinet is formed of those members of the Executive Council who are under summons.
– I wish it to be made certain that the work to be done shall be done only by a Minister of State or an Assistant Minister.
– Under our constitu-, tional practice that will happen ; the working of the principles of responsible government will bring it about. The Constitution speaks only of Ministers of State and executive councillors; Assistant Minister is a term which is not used there. It is not intended, as some members seem to think, that all the members of the Executive Council shall be endowed with the powers of a Minister of State.’ The Bill merely amends the Acts Interpretation Act so as to provide that where, in an Act of Parliament, reference is made to a Minister it shall include the Minister or member of the Executive Council for the time being acting for or on behalf of such Minister. The acts to be done are only those imposed on Ministers by Statute.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 19 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1916 is amended by inserting therein, after the word “ Minister “ (second occurring) the words “ or member of the Executive Council.”
.- We should know definitely how long this provision is to have force. At the present time, with two Ministers away and many functions being performed by the Government which ordinarily are not within the province of Ministers, there is more Ministerial work to be performed than has previously been the case, and more than will have to be done after the war. We should have the assurance, therefore, that this provision shall not have force after the war.
I wish it to be clearly understood that if this measure is the forerunner of an application for an increase in ‘the remuneration of Ministers I shall oppose any such application. Nothing has been said on the subject so far. Members will have to make sacrifices just as other persons are doing, and I want to make it clear that if,later, the attempt should be made to increase the amount set apart for the remuneration of Ministers, I shall oppose it.
– In my second-reading speech I stated distinctly that the Bill had been introduced for the specific purpose that I then mentioned. I said, too, that no action taken in regard to it would bind any one in regard to future legislation dealing with an increase in the number of Ministers, and the same remark applies to future legislation dealing with an increase in the sum set apart for the remuneration of Ministers. The recent increase in the number of Honorary Ministers has not increased by a penny the payment to Ministers by way of salary out of the Consolidated Revenue. Any vote that the honorable member may give now need not hinder his action in respect to future legislation.
The honorable member is under a misapprehension in thinking that the Bill has been introduced to meet a difficulty created by the war; it meets a difficulty that has been felt under several Administrations, the present state of the law leading to delays. The effect of the proposed amendment is not wide spreading. It covers only a limited number of statutory Ministerial acts.
– It gives very strong Executive powers.
– No. It merely enables certain statutory duties to be done for and on behalf of an absent Minister. No person who is assisting a Minister would venture to take upon himself any serious change of policy in a Department, nor would he perform an important act without consulting his chief.
– If extra Ministers are needed, Parliament should be asked to agree to their appointment.
– The Bill has been introduced merely to facilitate the transaction of public business.
.- I move -
That all the words after the word “ or “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Assistant Minister.”
I listened carefully to the explanation of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), but the only reason he seemed to give for opposing my proposal was that the words ‘ ‘ Assistant Minister ‘ ‘ are not found in the Constitution Act. The experience of Australia of late warrants us in being very careful in the phraseology that we employ in Acts of Parliament, and to my unsophisticated mind the words “Assistant Minister” would do what the Government says needs to be done. We are amending, not the Constitution Act, but the Acts Interpretation Act. We have found in regard to the administration of the Defence Act that the Minister’s authority respecting prosecutions has been delegated to military officials. We have seen, too, that different Ministers interpret matters differently.
– Of what is the honorable member frightened?
– I am frightened that Ministers will not stick to the reasons they have given for altering the Act.
– The adoption of the honorable member’s amendment would not make any difference in that regard.
– Then why not accept it?
– Because the words “ Assistant Minister “ are an unknown term under the Constitution.
– Other tilings unknown to the Constitution are occurring in Australia.
– Not by legislation.
– No, by administration.
– That is a different thing.
Mr.CONSIDINE. - I am glad that you admit it.
– I do not admit it; I say that administration is a different thing from legislation.
– I understand that ex -Ministers are members of the Executive Council, and if the clause is passed as it stands persons who are not Ministers of State or members of the Cabinet will be able to perform certain Ministerial duties. Therefore the term “ Executive Councillor” is too wide.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the consideration of Orders of the Day Nos. 5 and 6 be postponed until after the consideration of Order of the Day No. “7 (War Loan Bill).
.- Earlier in the clay I suggested that the Government did not know its own mind as to the order of business. After the passing of the four Supplementary Appropriation Bills, the Repatriation Bill had to come on; aud i presume that that measure is just as urgent to-day as it was on Friday last. However, the whole of the other business was thrust aside in order to make way for the Acts Interpretation Bill; and now that that is out of the way, we are asked to consider the War Loan Bill. When I desired earlier to move an amendment on one ‘ of the Supplementary Appropriation Bills, having reference to the enlistment of youths for service abroad, and I was prevented, 3 was assured that there would be an opportunity either on the Defence Bill or on the Estimates, the latter of which were sure to be dealt with, though the Defence Bill was doubtful.
– I expressed no doubt as to the Defence Bill, but I gave a definite promise in regard to the Estimates.
– If the War Loan Bill be passed to-night, goodness knows what order we may find the notice-paper in to-morrow; and, perhaps, it would be better for me to move my amendment on this Bill, when I shall be sure of a hearing. Under this Bill, money is to be spent in connexion with the war, and part of it, no doubt, will be devoted to the boys who are enlisted at eighteen years of age - that is, if the Government adhere to their intention to send them into camp. I object to the Government emasculating the business-paper in this way. If the Minister will say what is really the order of business it may help matters a little, but I intend to vote against any further postponement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The statement which I had the honour to “make in Committee, when the GovernorGeneral’s message was before us, was deemed by some honorable members sufficient for general purposes. I explained so far as I was able what loan expenditure we had incurred,- and what authority for raising money we had from Parliament. But the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Higgs) suggested that I might, at some stage hefore the Bill disappeared, give a fuller explanation of the indebtedness of the Commonwealth and of the States; and, without overburdening honorable members with information, I desire to give some figures showing the public indebtedness in some cases up to the 30th April this year. I shall deal first of all with the figures relating to the Commonwealth, and then, in general terms, with the figures relating to the indebtedness of the States; and I shall be glad of the attention of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), because he is, perhaps, more especially interested than any other member of the Opposition.
– Why not give a forecast up to the 30th June, the end of the financial year ?
– I am dealing with actual expenditures and debts to the most recent date possible, and that is three weeks ago. I have been able to complete them to that date in the case of the Commonwealth, but in the case of the States, to no more recent date than the 30th June last year. The following table shows the Commonwealth indebtedness : -
That represents an interest bill based on the figures I have given, and including transferred properties and debts of the kind to the States, of £10,747,820.
– There is a big interval in the case of the Forces. Will there not bt about another £9,000,000?
– No. About eleven months have to be added, but precisely what the amount will be cannot be calculated. The difficulties of adjusting between London and Australia make it impossible at this stage, and at short notice, to bring the figures up to a more recent date. I wish honorable members generally to understand that I am supplying this information as fully as I can - that, I am sure, is the desire of the House - and in some cases we have not been able to make certain adjustments; but with a possible fault or two of a minor character, these figures should be of value to honorable members and the country.
– What is the interest owing to the States now for the transferred properties ?
– It stands at 3£ per cent. ; it was 3 per cent, originally, but I think, on strong representations from the States it was raised per cent. The interest on the transferred properties debt amounts to £377,641 per annum.
Now, as to the Commonwealth relationship in loan finance with the States, I think I ought to give briefly the records of the transactions that .have occurred during the war time. The following table contains the figures : -
The foregoing does not include £3,000,000 which the Commonwealth has undertaken to raise for the States for their ordinary public works for the vear 1918.
– Does that loan of £18,000,000 to the States out of the note issue correspond with the loan of £18,000,000 which the Commonwealth undertook to raise abroad for the States ?
– The honorable member will remember the circumstances under which that promise in regard to the £18,000,000 was made by the Hon. Andrew Fisher, when Treasurer. T myself then directed attention to a misunderstanding which might easily arise owing to the fact that the Commonwealth had raised £18,000,000 for war purposes in London, and almost simultaneously had lent the same amount of the note issue to the States: but on due consideration, and after inquiry, I was convinced that the British Government understood the whole transaction. The only danger was that the British Government might be misinformed and mistaken as to its nature, and I am now satisfied as to that.
– To how many States are there loans for silos?
– It was generally promised to all States that desired it. but as to how many have taken it up for actual silo construction. I cannot say, further than that Nev/ South Wales and Victoria are going on with the work. As to South Australia and Western Australia, I am not in a position to inform honorable members.
– Victoria is not going on.
– Our commitment to Victoria is that when the money hypothecated by the Commonwealth is required, it will be available. That represents for silo construction £2,850,000 by the end of the next financial year.
– Is that £2,120,000 for land settlement a loan to the States?
– All advances in connexion with land settlement for repatriation purposes will be loaned to the States. The money advanced for silo construction also is loaned, but the arrangements made at the Repatriation Conference, in which the Governments of the States concurred, was that the Commonwealth, when it advances money for the settlement of soldiers on the land, shall treat it as a loan to the States, and -the States in turn shall lend it to the soldier settler.
– When is the money to be repaid by the States?
– That is a detailed matter into which I need not go at the present time.
– Does the Treasurer think that any of us will be here when the States commence to repay the money ?
– I am not bothering to think on that question, but am going straight ahead.
– How do those figures compare with the large sums mentioned at the Repatriation Conference? I recollect £22,000,000 being mentioned.
– That is the total estimated to be expended when large numbers of our soldiers return, and have to be placed in civilian life. We are dealing now with the provision for the first three financial years - .£20,000 for the first year, £100,000 for the second year, and £2,000,000 for the third year. What the amount will be in 1920, a future loan and the progress of the war will determine.
– Is this money for the purchase of land only?
– No; for improvements for which the Commonwealth agreed to advance money to the States if they undertook to .provide the land. Where Crown lands are applied by the States to this purpose, they do not pay for the land ; they merely allocate it for soldier settlement .purposes.
In addition to the requirements for Ordinary . Avar purposes, consideration must be paid to the Commonwealth commitments in connexion with ship construction, as well as advances to the States, for the erection of silos, and for repatriation. In 1916-17, £2,302,477 was provided for the purchase and construction of ships. During the current year, it is expected that £788,000 will be expended, and that, in the financial year 1918-19, the sum of £2,657,000 will be expended. The Commonwealth is committed to advance altogether to the States for silo construction £2,850,000. As far as can be seen at the present time, not more than £135,000 ‘will be advanced during the present financial year at the pace at -which the States are working. The balance of £2,715,000 will probably have to be provided in the financial year 1918-19.
The settlement of. returned soldiers on the land has been undertaken by the States, who will provide the land while the Commonwealth will make loans to the States to provide for advances to soldiers to cover stock, seed, plant, and implements as well as fixed improvements. It is estimated that, at the 30th June next, only £120,000 will have been advanced to the States, but it is expected that at least £2,000,000 will be required, to cover this expenditure in the following year 1918-19.
The repatriation activities for which the Commonwealth is directly responsible, as distinct from the land settlement in regard to which the Commonwealth operates in conjunction with the States, cover the erection, maintenance, and conduct of homes, sanatoria, hospitals, workshops, Sec-., the payment of sustenance allowances, vocational training, and transportation, and advances by way of loan for the purchase of approved businesses, plant, and stock. It is impossible to forecast the extent of the Commonwealth’s commitments in this direction-, but” it is certain that a very large amount will be involved. A grant of £250,000 was made for this purpose in 1915-16, and the expenditure for the current year will be about £200,000. A further amount of £1,500,000, if not more, will probably be required to meet this expenditure for 1918-19.
The repatriation expenditure for which the Commonwealth is directly responsible will be paid from revenue, and the advances to the’ States for settling returned soldiers on the land will be provided from the War Loan Fund. This estimate^ cannot be regarded as definite; whatever” happens in the war will determine the expenditure to be incurred when the boys return.
I think I have set out in a fairly comprehensive way the extent to which we are indebted, and what we have to face in the way of expenditure from loan and revenue in the near future; This statement would, be incomplete if I did not furnish as well: a- general survey of the indebtedness of the States of Australia, because, although they and the Commonwealth operate through different institu tions and organisms, the two sets of institutions serve the one people. Both authorities have to be financed by the one set of taxpayers, and the credit of the same people is pledged when either the Commonwealth or the States operate. The public debts of the States were estimated bv the Commonwealth Treasury to be as follows on the 30th’ June last -
Of that total, £245,461,621 is owing to the British lender, and £129,951,366 to the Australian lender. I should like honorable members to keep those figures in mind, because I think they have altered substantially during the last decade. At one time the State indebtedness, though much smaller, was relatively larger to the British lenders, and smaller to the Australian lenders. Adding the £246,199’,946,. which the’ Commonwealth owes, to the £375,412,987, which the States owe, we have an. apparent national debt of £621,6.12,933. But a close examination of the figures will show that the moneys which the Commonwealth borrowed for the States in London appear in both sets of figures. Deducting £12,000,000 for these borrowings, we get a net indebtedness df £609,612,933 as at the 30th June last in the case of the States, and at the 30th April, 1918, in the case of the Commonwealth.
– Does that total include the £43,000,000 raised by the Commonwealth last month?
– Yes; and it assumes that the whole of that amount has been already paid, and standing to our credit, although, of course, that is not. so, owing to the operation of the instalment system. I wisE to state how the States’ loans mature, showing what load of conversion operations will be thrust upon the States or some authority operating for them.
– Does the total indebtedness include the £33,000,000 which the Treasurer mentioned, last week ?
– It represents the actual debt authorized by loan authority. That amount is in process of payment at the present time, and is adjustable every week. It would confuse the sum if I brought it in, and for that reason I have left it out.
– Has the Treasurer included our indebtedness to Great Britain for the upkeep of our men at the Front ?
– The current indebtedness in that respect, which is running into arrears, is not included, and is not regarded as a bonded debt. As a matter of fact, we are paying it off. In introducing the Governor-General’s message, I informed honorable members that, on behalf of the Government, I had taken the responsibility of assuring the British Exchequer that henceforth Australia would promptly meet its indebtedness in that respect; and apparently the British Exchequer is satisfied with that assurance.
The following table shows the annual interest charge on the public debts of the States at 30th June, 1917: -
Of the total of £14,314,563, £9,382,297 is payable in London, and £4,932,266 is payable in Australia. If we add the interest bill of the Commonwealth to that of the States, the grand total to-day on the figures I have stated, is £25,062,383 per annum. As the Commonwealth interest bill includes £650,000 which is repayable by the States, the net interest bill of the Commonwealth and States may be set down as £24,412,383. It would, of course, be unfair if I were to allow the public to assume that these figures represented the national interest bill for which there are no assets. Honorable members, probably, will make their own discriminating selection of the facts bearing upon the matter; but Australia does well to recognise, and will do well to tell her lenders, that, in the ordinary European sense of the word, the whole of this amount is not a national debt. For instance, as against the £375,412,987 which the States owed to their lenders on 30th June last, there are very substantial .assets, reproductive and interest-bearing. It might be safely said that, in good and bad seasons alike, considerably over £300,000,000 of that amount will pay its own interest bill and provide its own sinking fund. The balance, namely, that which must lie met by taxation, is the true national debt of Australia in the sense in which the matter would be dealt with by British financiers and European thinkers. It is but fair to the States to make that acknowledgment. The bulk of their raisings has gone into vast public undertakings, which are more or less reproductive, and to the extent to which they meet interest charges and cost of raising and conversion, they must be omitted from any comparison of the national debts of the nations.
One of the most important features of the study of these figures is as to what lies ahead of the States in the way of conversion operations during the next ten years. None of us would venture to predict when hostilities will cease, or what the money market of Great Britain and Europe will be in the period that immediately supervenes. Honorable members will find the financial judgment of the Old Country as far asunder as the poles in regard to the question of whether interest is to be low or high, and as to whether money and credit is to be plentiful or contracting. One might almost say that, in calculations of this kind, the world seems to have lost its financial base. No man can dogmatize upon the question. That there will come a period of uncertainty to the financiers of all nations” is beyond doubt, and in that period of uncertainty, which stretches from 1918 to 1927 inclusive, this is what the States have to do in regard to loans falling due and having to be met or converted -
In every year an exceptionally heavy conversion operation inevitably falls upon us. In 1925, strangely and luckily enough for us, since it is in that year that our first conversion operation for the 1925 war stock will have to be dealt with, only £1,140,326 will have to be met or converted by the States.
– What have we to pay in that year ?
– The first four loans, totalling £79,415,500. In 1927, when our second war loan stock falls due here, the States will have to meet or convert £8,318,841. The total for these ten years is £225,262,299. That amount has not to be paid, because the resources of this country would not be sufficient to meet it, but it must be either met or converted in the usual way; £136,518,961 of it has to be dealt with in Great Britain, and £88,743,338 of it in Australia. I could give other figures, but think I have put before the House sufficient to show the debt in which the people of Australia are necessarily involved at this moment, and some of the considerations surrounding the prospects ahead.
In that spirit of sobriety with which we ought to face all the big financial problems that are going to confront us, and some of which ‘ are already before us, we should authorize this extra loan expenditure. I am well aware that some people may ask, “If we are already pledgedto this extent, why spend any more on the war?” The presentation of these figures will open the door for that kind of argument, but the Government and the party for which I have the honour temporarily to speak, in their determination to prosecute the war, are not in any way concerned at this stage with the money conditions of Australia. It is plain, I think, even to honorable members opposite, that we have to go on and to raise the money as far as we need it for war loan purposes within our own country. We should lean as lightly as possible upon the Mother Country until the end of the war. If we do that, these huge obligations to which I have referred, and the bulk of which were contracted in London, are more likely to be viewed in a co-operative and cheerful spirit by the financiers of the Mother Country when they have to face the position than would be the case ifwe wereto funk the financial responsibilities of the war andto turn our backs upon them now. .
– Has the Treasurer any idea as totheprobable date of the end of the war?
– The honorable member has held office, and is in just as good a position as is any one to calculate what is taking place.
– But the Government get special information.
– Quite so ; but what is the use of mere calculations, predictions, or hopes? How many hopes havebeen frustrated in connexion with this war? It seems impossible for a man living an any of the belligerentcountries topredict with any degree of certainty the probable date of the termination of the Avar.
– Then what becomes of the various predictions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and Mr. Lloyd George?
– Ifwe needed any good reason why men should not hazard prediations, surely the experience of the Prime Minister and Mr. Lloyd George would in itself be sufficient. Lloyd George, full of hope and courage, has often given indications ofwhat he thought would happen, but his predictions have not been fulfilled. The Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. Hughes) may have made the same blunder. It only shows the folly of endeavouring to predict somethingwhich is beyond human comprehension.
I recommend this Bill to the serious consideration of the House. We are going, apparently, to spend a littleover £80,000,000 a year on the war as long as our Forces remain at their present strength, and Ave ought to raise that money ourselves. This Bill is an authority and a charter to do that, and it is in that spirit that it is brought forward by the Government for the consideration of the House.
Mr.TUDOR (Yarra) [9.40].- It is to be regretted that the figures quoted this evening by the Treasurer were not made available to us when we were considering the Governor-General’s message last Friday. The honorable member forIllawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) interjected very early in the honorable member’s re cital ofthesefiguresthat it was impossible for honorable members to grasp their significanceoffhand, and, having regard to the magnitude of those subsequently givenbyshe Treasurer, itmust be recognised that it is quite impossible, on the spur of the moment, to realize their full purport. We can only say that in round numbers, at the end of this year, theCommonwealth andStates have a loanliability of £609,000,000, and that of that amount, speaking roughly, £375,000,000 represents the loanindebtedness of the States, and that against that indebtedness they have certain assets. Then, again, of the total State indebtedness some £245,000,000 has been raised in Great Britain, and about £130,000,000 has been raised here. I agree with those who say that if we have to borrow at all it is best that we should raise in Australia what we require.
The Treasurer has said that, so long as we have men at the Front, Avemust provide for their payment. I am averse, however, to one action taken by the Government to increase the enlistment of recruits, and the cost of which will have to be paid for out of this proposed loan. I, therefore, move -
That after the word “That” the words “ this (House -condemns the action of the Government in enlisting for service abroad youths of eighteen years who have not obtainedtheconsent of their parents” be inserted.
– Why not deal withthat matter when the Defence Bill is before us?
Mr.TUDOR. - I have been waiting all day for that Bill. I propose that it be dealt within connexion with thismeasure.
– This is a dirty bit of business.
Mr.TUDOR. - The honorable member is welcome to so describe it if he pleases. I was anxious that the Government should deal with the business in the order in which it appears on thenotice-paper. That has not been done, with the result that the Defence Bill has not yet “been proceeded with, and I have decided to move this amendment to the motion for the second reading of this Bill.
– But you attach it to a proposal which must be carried.
– The effect of carrying the amendment would be to defeat this War Loan Bill.
Mr.TUDOR. - The Acting Prime Minister may say what he pleases.
– The new Government could bring in another Bill.
– I was anxious that the Defence Bill should come on for consideration to-day, but the Government have taken very good care to see that that Bill will not come on, so that we may not have the opportunity of moving an amendment to it. I was wondering whether another Cabinet meeting had been held to see whether or not the system which has now been in operation for about a month could be amended. For the first time in history a responsible Government have deliberately said to youths, “ You can enlist, in spite of the opposition of your parents.”
– It has been done in Great Britain. We are merely bringing our practice into line with what is done in Great Britain.
Mr.TUDOR. - Do I understand that without the consent of the parents,and even in. face of the parents’ objections, youths in Great Britain are allowed to go into the Army under the voluntary system ? .
-That is the case.
Mr.TUDOR. - Then I do not believe in following a bad precedent, for such it is, by encouraging youths to break away from parental control. My son enlisted with my consent and with that of his mother. He would not have done it without our consent. The Government are practically claiming that youths have the right to enlist apart from the consent, of their parents. Captain Burkett, Inspector of Recruiting, stated at a meeting at. St. Kilda the other night, that the reason for the great increase in the recruiting figures at present was the enlistment of minors. I know that the Director-General of Recruiting denied this assertion on the following day, and gave figures for the week ending the 11th May, but in order to compare the figures for the purpose of seeing whether there had been a large increase in the enlistment of minors, we ought to have had the number of enlistments of those whose ages run from eighteen years to twentyone years.
– You give youthspermission to join your unions without their parents’ consent.
Mr.TUDOR.- The union to which I have had the honour to belong in three continents does not admit any person as a member until he is twenty-one years of age.
– What does it cost to join your union?
Mr.TUDOR. - An apprentice coming out of his time pays 13s. A journeyman coming from another part of the world with a clearance pays nothing.His clearance is good enough. My Australian clearance was good in England, and my English clearance was good in America.
– One person was asked to pay £39.
– That might happen in the case of a few strike-breakers or men who had come out under contract.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.
– I was asked a question, and if I did not answer it, it would be said that I refused to do so.
– I ask honorable members not to interject. It only leads to irregularities and disorder.
– I trust I have given a sufficient answer so far as my knowledge goes of the union of which I was an officerbearer here, and also abroad.
The Director-General of Recruiting gave the enlistments of persons whose ages run from eighteen years to twentyfive. It would have been far better if we could have had the figures of those whose ages run from eighteen to twentyone years, and we should also have the figures for several weeks, so that we couldmake a comparison. It would have shown how the numbers had been increased by the enlistment of those who may not have had their parents consent. I am not a lawyer, and I do not pretend to know whether a parent is or is not responsible for the acts of his children who have not reached the age of twenty-one years; but I understand that youths until they are twenty-one years of age are regarded by the law as infants. Seeing that parents are responsible for the actions of their children who have not attained the age of twenty-one years, it is a wrong principle for the Government to say to these youths, “ Defy your parents, although you have just turned the age of eighteen years, and enlist. W-e will take you.” Every honorable member has an experience of youths having enlisted under the age of eighteen years.
– A nephew of mine was killed at seventeen and a half years after twelve months’ service.
– I have had parents coming to me. We all know that there have been cases of boys who have been taken out of camp because they had enlisted without their parents’ consent, and who have re-enlisted under- other names. Others have forged their parents’ consent. One boy walked to Ballarat and adopted a father up there. Having ascertained the name of the person living in a certain house, he enlisted, stating that his father lived at such and such a number in such and such a street, and on being told to bring back his father’s signed consent, he returned with a document bearing the alleged signature of the person whom he represented to be his father. He was accepted, and embarked before he was seventeen and a half years of age. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) said to-night that the Government are giving a new reading to one of the Commandments. Instead of “ Honour, thy father and thy mother,” the Government say, “Defy thy father and thy mother, and volunteer for the Australian Imperial Force.” Although I stand for voluntary recruiting, I will not stand for that form of it. I am bitterly opposed to it. One of the strongest speeches ever made in this chamber was that made by the former member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), when he denounced the Government for accepting the services of any youth, and urged that the responsibility of fighting should be thrown on men and not youths. He said that the Government should allow no person to go to the Front who ‘had not reached the age of twenty-one years. That speech was made soon after the outbreak of war, and had no connexion with any conscription proposal. At another time the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Orchard), who is now the Minister in charge of recruiting, made a strong speech condemnatory of the enlistment of minors. The public conscience has been shocked by the action of the Government in this respect, and I hope that the House will by no uncertain voice let the Government know what they think about it. If the matter had been made the subject of a no-confidence motion, honorable members could have taken shelter behind party requirements, and said, “ We cannot vote for this because it will mean dis7 placing the Government, and we will do anything on earth to prevent the Opposition from going over to the Ministerial side of the Chamber.” My amendment is not one of no-confidence in the Government. It will merely give to the House an opportunity to express its opinion upon the action of Ministers. One feature of Australian life is the lack of parental control over youths. When the Defence Department were bringing the compulsory provisions of the “ defence scheme into force, the greatest trouble lay with youths of seventeen years upwards who had practically got out of their parents’ control after leaving the discipline of the schools. Boys of fourteen years of age, who had just left school could be easily disciplined. It was more difficult to deal with boys over fifteen years of age, and still more difficult to deal with those who were sixteen years of age, but any area officer will admit that his greatest trouble was with boys who were seventeen years of age, and they caused the trouble with the younger cadets. The action taken by the Government, if it is persevered in, will be something which it will be almost impossible to undo. Therefore, I urge them to reconsider their decision, and to admit that they have made a deplorable blunder in encouraging youths to defy their parents and volunteer for the Australian Imperial Force.
– May I suggest that the amendment is not in order, as it is irrelevant to the issue presented in the Bill, which is an authority for the raising of £80,000,000 as a war loan. The question which the amendment interpolates is not in any way incidental to the raising of money for war purposes. -
– I have given consideration to that matter. In my opinion, the raising of a loan for war purposes covers the payments made to all serving in the war, including those referred to in the amendment. There is precedent for ruling that the amendment is in order.
.- I desire briefly to support the amendment. On the 8th May I asked the Acting Prime
Minister (Mr. Watt) if there were any truth in the common rumour that the Government had decided to recruit boys of eighteen years of age in spite of the objection of their parents. His reply was that he did not know that there was a common rumour to that effect, but that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) had stated the decision of the Government in the matter, and he added that if I desired more explicit information, and would give notice of the question, he would get it for me. The honorable gentleman’s combativeness and belligerency are so well known that I hardly think he will shirk responsibility for the action that has been taken by the Minister for Defence, and of which the Government have approved. It has been stated by Captain Burkett, as a comment on the remark that there has been a revival of recruiting, that there has been no such revival, and that the increase in the number of recruits is due to the fact that boys of eighteen are enlisting despite the wishes of their parents.
– That statement is not correct. The Director-General of Recruiting drew attention to it immediately.
– The honorable gentleman will not deny that there are in camp hundreds of boys, who have enlisted notwithstanding the objection of their parents.
– Boys of the ageof eighteen years are not being taken into camp.
– Such boys are enlisting, and will be taken into camp when they have reached the age of eighteen and a half years. The other day I referred to an extraordinary statement in the press, which had not been censored, that the British Government are sending to the firing line English boys with pink cheeks and slender bodies. Apparently, we are coming into line with the British Government on this matter. Before the censors commenced to suppress the publication of letters from the Front, I read the statement of one correspondent, that what pained himmost was to hear wounded boys of eighteen crying for their mothers. I know that some boys of eighteen have won the Victoria Cross; but I invite the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who has won his seat so handsomely, to say whether, in his opinion, this is a war which ought to be fought by boys of eighteen and a half years of age, or whether it should be fought by men of twenty-two to twenty-five years of age.
I shall not speak at length on the general question now, because I hope to do so later. I trust that members will vote for the amendment if Ministers do not say to-night that they are prepared to back down on the decision arrived at about a fortnight ago.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) has given us another instalment of his promised financial statement, and a wider review of the nation’s finances, but before criticising it I wish to say a word on the amendment. In view of the Treasurer’s statement that there would be a reconsideration of the question raised in the amendment, the action of the Opposition may be considered as a “ get-in-in-time “ movement, taken because it is feared that before tomorrow morning the opportunity for it will have passed. Whatever chance the amendment had of obtaining support from this side is lost by reason of its being tacked on to a Bill for the raising of £80,000,000 for the discharge of war obligations, about which there cannot be the slightest possible doubt.
– Nor is there.
– That proves the insincerity of the amendment. If there is no desire to carry it, it must be regarded as an attempt to make political capital, to get in in time before the question is re-dealt with.
– Strange to say, the Labour party and the Women’s National League are on the same side on this matter.
– There have been strange political happenings of late.
I pass fromthe amendment to the statement of the Treasurer, which I welcome. Although I do not blame the honorable gentleman, I feel that it, like others that we have had, comes rather late. We have been told of the mounting up of gigantic national obligations. The Treasurer stated the financial obligations of the Commonwealth and of the States, but he omitted to mention the £30,000,000 representing the unpaid maintenance of the Australian Imperial Force abroad, which have been discharged by the Imperial Government. Taking them into consideration, the obligations of the Commonwealth are not £246,000.000, but £276,000,000. We here have boasted that Australia has j- - - - - . — ~ equipped and maintained her Forces abroad at her own expense, and. I was pleased to hear the Treasurer say that in future that obligation would be met. As to the £30,000,000 that I have mentioned, that obligation could be met now only by raising a loan, or by some funding arrangement with the British Government. The Treasurer said nothing about raising money to enable this amount to be refunded to the Imperial Government. I regret that in reviewing the state of our finances the honorable gentleman did not give the slightest indication of his proposals for meeting our increasing obligations. Our obligations are growing, our interest bill is growing, and our administrative expenditure is growing because of the establishment of new Departments, pensions are increasing, and there is increasing repatriation expenditure. The Treasurer told us that our financial obligations in respect of repatriation, outside land settlement, would be met by direct taxation. That will cover at least 90 per cent. of the expenditure on returned soldiers who require assistance, and affords us a basis of calculation . So far as it is a definite statement in regard to the meeting of our obligations, I welcome it. In every branch of administration our expenditure is increasing. Our interest bill is increasing, our pensions bill is increasing, our repatriation expenditure is increasing, and money is being spent on shipbuilding, the Science and Industry Department, and on other new Departments, so that our indebtedness is getting bigger by leaps and bounds. We are spending money at a prodigal rate, and it will be impossible for the taxpayers to meet the cost of the conversion of over £600,000,000 of national debt if the present rate of expenditure is maintained.
– The Treasurer will deal with that matter in his Budget speech.
– ThisBill, which authorizes the raising of £80,000,000 for war purposes, is part of the financial scheme of the Government, and I hoped that we should have from the Treasurer some outline of the Government’s financial policy, including taxation and economy in administration; that we should have been told how the ledger was to be squared. We cannot continue to’ meet our increasing debts every half year by raising a fresh £40,000,000 loan. In the midst of prosperity, whether artificial or otherwise,the time has arrived when we must tap some of the money as it flows along the stream. This ought to be done before the money gets into fresh investments, and we should at once boldly give the people an indication how much will be required in taxation to meet the needs of the country. This Chamber has not yet set itself the task of facing the financialposition, but I hope that before these sittings close the Government will give some vivid forecast to the taxpayers of what they will have to face. It is no use allowing the present prodigal standard of Jiving to continue in every city of the Commonwealth, while meeting all our needs by loan. I emphasize here, and shall continue to do so, the opinion that we are on a financial “ drunk,” and meeting the bill withIOU’s. This cannot continue, and we must make a start in paying our way more in spot cash. We will find, shortly, unless something is done, that a great proportion of the money so urgently needed for the development of industries has gone beyond our reach with this huge national borrowing system. Were I sitting in opposition I would never stop talking until a financial policy was forthcoming under which Australia would pay her way as she goes.
– I wish to express my pleasure at seeing the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) present, and I hope he will give close attention to this debate. I congratulate the honorable gentleman on the energy he is displaying, and on the new methods so successfully adopted. I heartily wish he may continue as he has commenced in his very courageous efforts to promote recruiting. It is most delightful to see the new spirit creeping into the recruiting movement, and for this I think thecredit is due in a great measure, if not altogether, to the Minister.
– What about the Scottish regiment ?
– I believe a Scottish regiment is on its way, or, at any rate, that the Minister is in no way- opposed to the idea. As a matter of fact, I a little time ago interrupted a teteatete between the honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston), and I feel sure that the subject was that of a kilted regiment-. I have an idea, based on certain rumours, that the Minister himself is not strongly in favour of the proposal of the Government in regard to the recruiting of youths -that it -is somewhat against his wishes that the permission of .the parents is not to be thought necessary in order to secure the ‘enlistment of boys under twenty-one.
The objection has been raised by the Acting Prime Minister, and later by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is out of place in connexion with this Loan Bill. I regret that the amendment should have been moved on this measure, ‘but whatever regrets there .may be on my part, or whatever doubts there may be as to the procedure, they are due entirely’ to the Acting Prime Minister and the Government, and not .to the Opposition. The Acting Prime Minister was well aware that the Leader of the Opposition intended to move the amendment, .because an effort to move it was .made earlier in the day, and it was -then ruled out of order on a technical point. At that time the Acting Prime Minister said that the amendment could be moved at a later stage on some other -Bill; and probably he .would have -been ,prepared to choose the time, but the Opposition cannot allow the .honorable gentleman to dictate their movements.
– Does the honorable member realize that we are asked to vote on two questions?
– Yes, and -also that the honorable -member is heartily in favour of ‘both, just as I am in favour of the Bill -and of the amendment.
– Supposing the amendment was carried, what about the War Loan Bill?
– The Bill would be gone.
– The amendment does not affect the introduction of the War Loan Bill. If there is any unfortunate circumstance in regard to the amendment, that is for the Government to face and arrange as they choose; at any rate, the Opposition feels so strongly on the question that we elect to bring it forward at the first opportunity.
– And you would stop supplies going to the Front!
– The _ honorable member knows that that is a lie.
– And I withdraw the words -sir. On two different occasions the people of Australia have rejected any other system of enlistment for service overseas than the voluntary system, and the Government have now clearly stated that the latter is their policy and the policy of the country. Whether the policy be right or wrong is not -now the question under consideration. From the beginning of the war the voluntary system has been accepted, and for the future, or, at any rate, for some time, it will be the system, with one exception. ‘Voluntary enlistment is not allowed in- the case of minors unless with the parents’ consent. We know that married -men with large families, and important and responsible positions, have sacrificed those positions, and, in some cases, perhaps, evaded their responsibilities by enlisting. If some of these cases were pointed out to us where married men Avith families have enlisted,
Ave should ‘be inclined to say that they ought to have remained here in view of their responsibilities here, but the’ Defence “Department imposes no limitation, and any -man, if he can pass the medical test, is at liberty to join the -Forces. The Department do not consider his family or other responsibilities of any consequence ; and, therefore, the only limitation in the voluntary system is that. which I have mentioned. Why is that limitation imposed? Obviously, first, because minors are not legally responsible for their actions. The parents, under the law,.. are held responsible for their actions, and exercise control over them.; .and, therefore, under any legal qualification or discrimination boys cannot be accepted without the parental consent. The other reason, I think, is a much stronger one. It is recognised not only in the British dominions, but in every other country, that, for the rigours of a campaign and the arduous toil that is imposed . on men in the military forces, boys under twenty-one are not sufficiently physically developed. Over and over again we have had protests from the military officers abroad, statements repeated publicly, that only men of full physical vigour and in the prime of life are fit to stand a campaign. Remembering what these men have had to go through iu the past, and what they are going through now, one wonders that human endurance is capable of such experiences. It is no wonder that the campaign finds OUt quickly any constitutional weakness or any predisposition to disease. Whilst many boys under twenty-one are remarkably developed, and a proportion of them are just as physically strong as many men much their senior in age, the fact remains that by and large boys f those tender years are. not physically fit foi- a military campaign.
We have these two reasons why minors should not be allowed to enlist without the consent of their parents - tone being the legal responsibility, and the other the physical disabilities. The Government propose that these two limitations shall be ignored. I desire to know what has happened to justify their attempt to ignore these two diverse, and reasonable, and legitimate considerations. Their action means, first of all, that parental control is to be ignored, that legal responsibility is of no value, and that the boys know better than their parents. That, perhaps, is not an uncommon thing, because it is a kerb-stone platitude that boys and girls of eighteen years of age know as much as their fathers and mothers ever knew.
– Some of them think they know a lot more.
– Of course they do. The boys of eighteen and twenty think they know exactly all that is required, and that they can fit everything Alto a splendid plan that will remedy every abuse the world ever knew. When I was at that interesting age, I thought E could see a meth’od of reforming the world, and I “was very dogmatic and cocksure in my opinion. As we grow older we become wiser, and we live to lea I’ll that there are many things we do not know. But here in the unfortunate fact that the Government have now arrived at a decision which puts into the minds of boys the saying and the thought that they know better than their parents what is their duty to their country, and what is their proper line of conduct. I do not think the present position of affairs justifies any policy of this kind. Are the recruits so very few, are the reinforcements so seriously depleted, is there such ‘ a pressing need for men that it is necessary to remove the parental restriction on young boys? I think not. The Government will find it very hard to discover any authority of value which will show without equivocation that there is such a tremendous and urgent need for men that it is necessary to enlist boys to reinforce the Army.
One of the regrets continually voiced on the platform of this country is in regard to the decadence of home life. One of the serious and perplexing problems confronting social reformers to-day is the danger of parental control being so slackened that boys and girls’ become practically the determinators of their own future. We know that the future and strength of a nation is based on the homes of the people, and when anything happens in any country to weaken the home life, the decadence of that country has already begun . The Government are aiming a blow at the home life of the people of the Commonwealth. They are interfering with the parental control over boys and girls just at the very time of life when they need every ounce of control to keep them to the right path. In Melbourne, and every big city of Australia, we find boys and girls of tender years roaming the streets till midnight. Young people of from sixteen to twenty years of age are openly, and in defiance of parental authority, taking upon themselves the responsibility for their own future. That is detrimental to the best interests of the country, and destructive of that home life and development which’ alone can make for the future prosperity of a country. The Government should be the last to take any step that would weaken the home influence. Instead of doing anything that would cause disruption in the home - we have had enough of that in the past - instead of doing anything to cause the breaking- of family ties, the Government should encourage parents in every way, so that the future citizens of the country may be made to recognise their responsibility, not only to their parents, but also in connexion with the future of Australia. In this regard, may I point out that young boys and girls, particularly from the ages of eighteen to twenty-one years, are just at the critical age when it is easy to direct them to the right, and just as easy to divert them to the wrong, and control of their lives at that time is exercised more through home influence than in any other way. . That being so, the Government will realize that this is a matter affecting, not only the present generation, but the whole future course of Australian history. The action of the Government simply means that the home influence is to be destroyed, and whether the Government mean it or not, the natural effect of their policy will be to practically deprive parents of control over their boys. And if boys are able to do what they like in this respect without reference to their parents, it is only a matter of time when the girls, claiming equal rights and privileges, will also refuse to recognise the authority of father and mother. That would be a tremendously unfortunate development.
May I revert to the matter of physical fitness. I previously remarked that it is recognised that boys under twenty-one are not considered sufficiently developed physically to stand the rigours of a military campaign. What has happened within the last few weeks to give the Government the idea that boys under twenty-one are physically fit? Has the removal of parental control suddenly enabled these boys to become physically fit? Some are fit, but they are in small proportion to the number who are not. A medical officer, viewing these boys for the first time, and seeing them in the full flush of their manhood, would naturally be inclined to say that they were all right, but the medical officer who has merely seen the boys for a short time, and can only form an opinion on expert medical examination, is not so likely to know the real constitutional strength or weakness of the lads as are their parents, who have studied them from birth, and know exactly their natures and predispositions to this, that, and the other thing. Yet the Government say that the medical officer is more able to decide the physical fitness of a boy than are his parents. Obviously, the Government are anticipating that, by some magical process, the mere removal of parental responsibility, the dispensing with the parents’ acquiescence in their boy’s enlistment, will suddenly make a number of them physically fit for military service. That is ridiculous. There are not many boys who have such physical fitness as would make them capable of standing for any lengthy period the rigours and hardships of the present campaign in Europe, and I do not think that the Government should set themselves up as an interfering authority between the boys and their parents, and take up the position that they know better than the parents whether the lads are fit to go to the Front or not.
There is another aspect of this matter. When the Bill for the first referendum regarding compulsory military service was before the House, and also in connexion with the second referendum, arrangements were made for the soldiers to vote, and the franchise was extended to every soldier who was over twenty-one years of age, whether or not his name appeared on the electoral roll. On the first occasion I moved an amendment to remove that age limitation which the Government were placing upon the soldiers, and I urged then, and later, that the mere fact of men having been accepted for military service should be the sine qua non for eligibility for the full privilege of citizenship. But the Government declined to give the vote to men under twenty-one years of age. That is a state of affairs I cannot tolerate, and I hope that When the amending Electoral Bill which the Government propose to bring forward is before the House they will accept the reasonable proposition that if eighteen years of age is to be accepted as the age for military service, it should be accepted also as the age for citizen service. If men are physically fit to serve their country militarily at eighteen years of age, they are much more likely to be mentally fit to perform their duties as citizens.
– In connexion with the last referendum the soldiers exercised their vote irrespective of age.
Mr.FINLAYSON- The Government refused to give the vote to soldiers under twenty-one years of age, but they propose now to give them the right, not only to undertake military service, but also to defy their parents in that regard. They accept the principle that these boys are sufficiently mentally developed to judge for themselves in regard to military service, but they refuse to admit that, they are sufficiently mentally developed to discharge their citizen duty. That is such an anomalous position that one wonders how sane men, such as Ministers are supposed to be, do not realize that the present policy cuts right across the previous attitude of the Government in regard to boys under twenty-one years of age. Many boys who have gone to the Front, especially those who left homes in which there were brothers, went on the distinct understanding and arrangement that the younger brothers should stay at home and keep the family interests going and the home fires burning. Itwill be a tremendous shock to them to learn that their younger brothers are now to be relieved of parental control and to be given military freedom just as if they were of full military age and possessed full citizenship qualifications. These elder brothers who have gone to the Front, leaving their younger brothers under the control of their parents, will, I think, give a very discriminating criticism to this proposal onthe part of the Government. They never anticipated thattheir younger brothers would be thustempted to defy their parental control in order to get to the Front. I respect, honour, and am inclined at times to admire the enthusiasm of youths between eighteen and twentyone who are so anxious toenlist.
– Why sit on a rail and make all sorts of apologies for your attitude ?
-I am offering no apologies for my attitude, and certainly am not sitting on a rail. I was merely expressing the view that these youthsare to be admired for their expressions and exhibitions ofpatriotism. But one knows that boysbetween eighteen and twenty years of age are notalways the best judges of right and wrong. They are not capable of judicially and correctly estimating what is right andwhat is wrong.
– Nor are some of their parents.
– Nor, according to some people, are all members of Parliament. Unfortunately, these boys in the enthusiasm which they manifest, not only in military but in other directions, and which excite our admiration and appreciation, merely exhibit that impulsiveness of youth which cannot be accepted as a safe guide of conduct. A boy of eighteen is not a reliable guide in matters affecting the conduct of life, and yet in this, one of the most serious affairs of life, he is to be deprived of his trusted guides. He is to be deprived of parental control just at a time when in every department of life a guiding hand is most needed by him. There is no more dangerous period in the life of a young man or a young woman than that between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one years. And it is just at that particular period, when danger is most threatening, that we should throw about them every possible influence of good rather than encourage them to defy the control provided by one of the grandest institutions of our country. What would any ofus have been butf or theguiding control of ourparents at the criticalperiod of our lives? The -Government cannot : afford to take upon themselvesthe responsibility of depriving these ‘youths of the control of their parents,or of relieving parents of their responsibility inthat respect. The Government, by this proposal, are creating in Australia,unconsciously it may be, but undeniably, an opposition to every form of military training.
– This sounds like John Bright on factory legislation.
– If I could only leave behind me such a reputation as John Bright has done I should be satisfied.
– With respect to factory legislation?
– Or anything else. His name and reputation would be good enough for me.
– But he madea mistake with respectto factory legislation.
– A manwho never makes a mistake never makesanything. Do the Government realize that this interference with parental controlis going to make parents very nervous in regard to out system of universal training.
– That will be very useful to the honorable member’s party at ‘the next election.
– No, it is hurtful, from my point of view. “Our duty is to develop and encourage the universal training system, and I congratulate the Minister for Recruiting on his determination that there should be less of military training andmore physical training for our youths. But just when the youth of Australia are beginning to realize that by means of the universal training system they are fitting themselves for the best service they can render their country in defending it from invasion, and just when the parents are recognising the value of that system, the Government come forward with a proposal that, I am afraid, will incite tremendous opposition to it. There is in Australia a growing number of people opposed to the universal training system. They have a dread of militarism. This war has created in them feelings of opposition to international quarrellings and fightings, and they will seize upon this action on the part of the Government as an argument against universal training. I hope the Government will realize that it is necessary to have the good-will, and not the opposition, of parents if the universal training system is to be successful. The parents must be taught to recognise that they have, through their children, a duty to their country, and the Government must do everything possible to encourage the boys to respect rather than to defy the control of their parents.
– The Government will lose the votes of these parents at the next election.
– Surely the Opposition are not crying over our losing votes ?
– I do not think the Government could have considered that aspect of the question, which, after all, is a very sordid one. If they had they would have realized that their proposal would certainly lose them votes. I do not advance that as an argument. My desire is not to look for votes, but to ascertain how we can best establish in Australia feelings of responsibility to the country, and those feelings which will make for harmony, and not for division, among the people.
We have read with horror of the number of beardless youths that Germany, more particularly, has put into the field. We have read, with something akin to despair, of the capture of prisoners who were mere boys. We have been told over and over again that Germany, in order to secure reinforcements, has had to draw upon the 3’oungest classes of its male population, with the result that many of these lads have been found in ‘battle, tears streaming down their cheeks, calling loudly for their mothers. We have had the unfortunate information also that among our own Army there are mere lads who, when they have gone into hospital because of Wounds or some unfortunate disease, have cried for their mothers. It is a good thing, too, that the first appeal to be made by them should be to their mothers. I do not understand how we can look with horror on the enlistment of boys by Germany, and yet regard with pride the proposal to employ boys in the Australian Army at the Front. Has the Australian Army sunk to such insignificant proportions that it is necessary to reinforce it with boys?
– The reinforcements have sunk very low.
– Are the Government to have no regard to the future of Australia in considering this question? The Commonwealth is being denuded of its strongest and most virile men. Many of them, unfortunately, will never come hack. Their graves are oversea. Many who are coining back are maimed for life. Many of them will never be the men they were before. There will always be associated with them a certain measure of unfortunate weakness. It could not be expected that men who have spent some time at the Front could completely recover from the shocks, the sounds, and experiences they have suffered there. On whom, then, are we to depend for the future of Australia? What of the future fathers of the nation? How are we to build up a strong healthy body of citizens ? If we are going to rob Australia of every fit and available man, and, at the same time, to rob the guardians and- responsible advisers of our youths of every vestige of authority, we may well look with trepidation to the future of Australia. .Surely Ministers have not rushed into this proposal without some consideration. I venture to suggest that, after a more calm, judicious, and thoughtful consideration of the principles involved - those principles of high and noble conduct which are ingrafted indelibly upon the history of mankind - they will recognise that they have made a mistake; they ought certainly to recognise that no Government has a right to interfere with the honour due to fathers and mothers. I do not wish to force the Government, or to make this amendment in any way a wan t-of -confidence motion. I hope sincerely that Ministers will appreciate the tremendous significance of their proposal to deprive boys of eighteen and upwards of parental control, and. that they will see fit to withdraw it.
– At this late hour, I do not propose to discuss the merits of the amendment; but I wish to* say a word or two about the procedure adopted by the honorable the Leader of the Opposition. At an earlier stage of this sitting, I was asked, without notice, a question upon this very subject, and I intimated then that the matter was receiving the consideration of the Government. In ordinary circumstances, whether a matter was important or whether it was insignificant, that answer would have been accepted by honorable members on either side; but the Leader of the Opposition has seized the opportunity to pin upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill something which is thoroughly irrelevant to it.
– That is not fair.
– No doubt, the honorable member’s conscience is smiting him.
– It is a fair way to deal with some of the honorable member’s supporters, who have said that the action I took was a dirty one.
– I am not using terms of opprobrium. In the fair language of debate, I am entitled to criticise the procedure adopted by the honorable member. If the effect of my motion would be -to carry a Bill for a war loan of £80,000,000, the effect of introducing the amendment would be, if it were carried, to defeat the Bill. It would certainly supersede my motion by another, the effect of which is to express an opinion in an academic form upon an important military question - using the language of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) . I have offered the Leader of the Opposition two opportunities for the discussion of the matter - on the Defence Estimates or on the Defence Bill, whichever he chooses, and neither opportunity will be many days off now, I hope. This matter was considered by the Cabinet. It was treated as important. As soon as our decision was made known, representations came to us as to the necessity for altering some phases of our decision. The Leader of the Opposition has dealt with one phase only. As soon as the facts became known in relation to the matter, I suggested to Cabinet, long before my friend opposite asked me anything about it, that the matter should be reconsidered. It was considered up to a certain stage at yesterday’s meeting of the Cabinet, and the final facts in relation to it, after being compiled, are to be submitted to a special meeting to-morrow. I am not in a position to make a statement now as to any modification which may be effected.
– I was not at the Cabinet meeting, and did not know what the Cabinet decided.
– It is not usual to announce Cabinet considerations of this kind in open House, but I have taken this course for a very obvious and necessary reason. To-morrow I shall make a statement in regard to what Cabinet intends to do in the matter, and I want honorable members on both sides, those who have made representations to me on this side in respect to it as well as honorable members opposite, to understand that nothing which has been said to-night, and no tactics which have been adopted by honorable members opposite, will modify the decision of the Government in regard to the matter.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nicholls) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- According to a statement made by the Minister for Defence in yesterday’s press, the Defence Department is about to make arrangements in order to catch up the leeway of the last three or four years in regard to military aviation, a leeway for which I do not blame the officers in charge of the aviation organization at Point Cook. The Navy Department is now undertaking the consideration of naval aviation, and it is quite possible that, on further consideration, the Government may come to the conclusion that the aviation of the future in Australia will be more naval, and not so much military. In all probability the aviation that will be required after the war will be mainly for intelligence purposes or for naval purposes, but whether it be for intelligence purposes along our coast, or for naval purposes in connexion with our Fleet, undoubtedly the only sort of plane we can use will be one which will be capable of alighting on the water. If honorable members or the Government will look at the topography of the eastern coast of Australia, they will realize that it is quite impossible to use land planes for coastal patrol, as they could bo used elsewhere, where green fields take the place of the rocks and bushes that are the main characteristics of our Australian coast line. I therefore suggest to the Government that they should consider this matter as a’ whole, and give some earnest thought to what is likely to be required after the war is over, and to use every effort now to get a knowledge of what we will want when that time is reached. We have military fliers returning to Australia in considerable numbers, and an effort should be made to see what is required to give these men the additional information necessary to make them valuable for coastal reconnaissance purposes, and to keep their enthusiasm alive. At present, I am afraid very little is being done with that object. Colonel Reynolds, who is coming back to take charge of the whole thing, however excellent and deserving an officer he may be generally in defence administration, has not bad any flying experience. He had no flying experience before he left Australia,’ and I think hewas too old under the English and Australian flying conditions to get that experience on active service. Every inducement and every encouragement should be given to our own flying men, who are returning from active service, and I hope an effort will be made to enrol them in the big organization which I believe the future will require Australia to undertake.
.- I am sorry to have to try the patience of honorable members, but I want to refer to a matter that affects a great number of people in my electorate. I have asked the Minister representing the Minister For Defence to have certain alterations made respecting the working conditions at the Small Arms Factory, and I was given the assurance that the matter would be gone into, but, so far, nothing has been done. There are still somewhere in the vicinity of 600 men unemployed, some of whom are practically in a state of starvation. I have pointed out before in this House that a system of victimization has been in operation at the Small Arms Factory, and I have particulars of about twenty specific cases. I regret that time will not permit me now to read them all, but in order to give honorable members some idea of what is being done, and in the hope that the Minister representing the Minister for Defence will take immediate steps to have victimized men reinstated, I shall read particulars of one case, though I do not care to give the . man’s name. The following are the particulars : -
Re the matter I mentioned to you on Saturday night about black-listing. You have all the facts of my case. They were sent along to you last week by Mr. Webster. This has taken place since then: - I went down to the ironworks to look for a job on Tuesday, 14th, I asked one of the foremen for work. He told me he could give me a dozen jobs, but my name had been sent alone from the factory with word to the effect that if I came down for a job I was not to be started.
This man held a clean record at the Small Arms Factory, and he furnished me with copies of two testimonials, the first of which is as follows : -
Small Arms Factory,’
Lithgow, 14th April, 1918.
To Whom it may concern,
This is to certify that the bearer …. has been employed between 20th May, 1912, and 14th April, 1916, in this factory, as a turret lathe operator, and during that period his character and conduct have been good, and heis a good workman. He is now leaving on his own accord. (Sgd.)F. R. RATCLTFFE,
The following is a copy of the other testimonial -
Wireless and Electrical Works,
Avoca-street, Randwick, N.S.W. 21st October, 1916.
To Whom it may concern,
This is to certify that the bearer …. was employed at these workshops by the Shaw Wireless Company, and latterly by the Department of the Navy, as a turret lathe turner, mainly on the production of H.E. shell. He entered into the service of the workshops on 22nd April, 1916. He is now leaving on his own accord. His work, while here, was performed in a very satisfactory manner. He is a good timekeeper, possesses a very good character, and is a conscientious workman. I shall be glad to hear of his future success. (Sgd.) A. E. CORNWALL,
These, testimonials, I think, are sufficient evidence that this man is a competent workman, and that he has been victimized. Though I have made repeated applications to have the grievances of the men rectified, no notice has been taken of my representations. During the last fortnight I have tried on twenty-two different occasions to get into communication with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) or the Secretary for Defence, but up till as late as 6 o’clock this evening I was unable to do.so. I also communicated with the Manager of the Small Arms Factory, because I thought it might be possible to overcome some of the minor difficulties by interviewing him. I wired to him, and his reply, which I shall read, will illustrate the manner in which officials of the union and representatives of Labour are being treated by this class of individual -
Small Arms Factory,
Lithgow, 11th May, 1918.
I received your wire requesting me to meet you on Saturday at 8 p.m. with the union officials to discuss the position at the Small Arms Factory, and beg to inform you that I am daily in communication with the union officials, who are cognisant of my every action. There is, therefore, nothing to discuss.
I would, however, point out that as you have once or twice publicly made use of my name as the cause of the trouble at the factory through my “ weak management,” and, lastly, my treatment of the men in “ a most inhumane manner,” 1 believe you are the only man in Lithgow who thinks so, or who has said so. I must, therefore, decline to meet you as you suggest, but will be pleased to see you at any time at the works in the presence of one of my officers, and will then afford you any information which you may be entitled to receive. - I am, sir, ‘ ,
In view of these facts, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence (Mr.Wise) to give me an assurance that he will have a competent tribunal appointed to deal withthe cases. I ask, also, that the tribunalshall not be hampered by the . War Precautions Act Regulations,but that each man will be able to state his case freely. I understand that there have been at least sixty distinct cases of victimization at the Lithgow Factory, and that men have been discharged, not on account of their work- . manship, but because, perhaps, they have bad heated arguments with the management on some previous occasion. ‘ It is strange that the great bulk of the men who, it is claimed, have been victimized are those who are holding official positions in their unions. I again appeal now to the Minister to mete out justice to the men, many of whom are out tramping the roads, practically barefooted, and without food.
– I think the honorable member could not have been in the House when I answered one of his questions to-day. On the 16th May he asked -
In view of the serious dissatisfaction existing at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, for thelast ten weeks, will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence considerthe advisability of appointing an independent tribunal to investigate matters connected with the working of the factory, and of providing that such tribunal, if appointed, shall not be restricted by the regulations under the War Precautious Act.
I said I would submit the request of the honorable member to the Minister for Defence, and the answer given to-day to his question was as follows: -
The Minister for Defence is not aware of any matters requiring investigation by a tribunal at the Small Arms Factory, but he will give consideration to anyspecific charges made by responsible persons.
As the honorable member has not yet given any names-
– I beg the Minister’s pardon. I gave the name in the one case I quoted.
– I remember the honorable member saying he did not care to give the name, so I presume ho did not. But, as I have already said, these matters will now be submitted to the Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180522_reps_7_85/>.